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The beach can be fun!

17 Jul

At 6 months old, so far Max hasn’t been keen on the beach, and even less keen on swimming! In fact, he hates getting wet. Until today!

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First it all started with me getting my feet with. Just as a did with Maya, i took the dogs to the beach when it was calm and warm, took off my shoes and socks and in i went. It never takes long before they follow me and tip toe (or paw) into the sea towards me.

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Ok, so he wasn’t sure at first and just hovered around where it was shallow. Each time a wave came he tensed or ran back.

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Maya on the other hand, already knows how to swim and loves it! She loves it even more when she has a friend to swim with and seemed to be really happy that i joined her in the sea! Something i’ve not really done properly since she was a tiny pup. She quite literally swam circles around me!Image

So, what was it that eventually got Max to get right in the water and go for his first real swim? Seagulls!

Both of my dogs love chasing seagulls along the beach, and little Max never gives up on a chase, so in he went!

Of course, Maya was there to make sure he was ok!

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Trying our hand at agility

28 Jun

Agility is something that i always thought seemed like a fun idea, for both myself and my dogs. What i didn’t want to do (at this stage at least) is sign up for agility classes. The first reason being that they cost a lot, and we wouldn’t be doing it competitively anyway, just for fun. The second reason being that classes cost a lot. 

Instead. i went on amazon and for thirty quid bought myself a set of six weave poles which also convert into three jumps (you can vary the height, which is handy). 

 

Weaving:

 

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So, out in the garden we set up our poles, and had our first attempt at weaving! 

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For a first effort, both Max and Maya did great! Max was speedy but not overly accurate, and Maya was slower but accurate. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVllvSvh9Iw&feature=c4-overview&list=UU6FWQDj_3lK9B-ezM_sraag

 

So, ive never done any agility before, and although i have read up a tiny bit about it, i kind of just went along with what i felt like. Starting at the end, i guided my dogs through the weaves, starting at the left (i seem to remember that you always start at the left). Instead of putting my dogs on the lead to guide them through, i just tempted them with food. Food always works when you own a labrador!

 

Jumps:

The jumps were the best part, and actually tired out the dogs before me! (bonus)!

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NOm_2Kc7VM&feature=c4-overview&list=UU6FWQDj_3lK9B-ezM_sraag

 

Breaks:

In between agility training we took breaks where i got the dogs doing some of their tricks and obedience training and also spent time playing with them. 

 

Relax:

All of that running and jumping about tired us all out. The sun was shining so we all laid down and sunbathed before it was time for our walk. 

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Stormy sky, rough sea, sandy beach

23 Jun

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Oh, and two dogs.

Dew claws: what claws?

2 Jun

Those of you who regularly follow me will know that Max had an issue where he needed to have his dew claw removed, which in turn cost a fortune and took weeks of bandage changes following an operation (including being neutered much earlier than most dogs in the uk).

So, first things first, what is a dew claw?

Well, basically the dew claw is just an extra claw (the equivalent of where the human thumb would be). They have no real use, although some people might suggest that they have seen their dog using them for example to aid in holding a bone. Many dogs are born with dew claws on both front legs (and these generally cause no problems providing they are looked after). It is the dew claws on the hind legs that often become a cause for concern. Some dogs have them, others don’t. usually if your dog has them, he will have a pair (on both hind legs for example), lucky for us, Max only had the one. These claws grow up higher on the foot and do not touch the ground when the dog stands (so if your dog has one and it is not removed, be sure to make sure that it does not become overgrown as it wont be filed down through normal wear and tear like the other claws).

Dew claw removal:

There is some debate whether removal is necessary, and often these claws are not removed.

However, in some breeds they are removed in order to achieve a sleeker and neater look, in these cases they are usually removed when the puppy is very young and the procedure is simple. Other breeders will also remove them early, simply to ensure that no problems ensue later in life (i.e. snagging, overgrowing etc).

In Max’s case, the dew claw was not removed by the breeder and by the time he came to live with us (10 weeks old) the dew claw had become ingrown and had to be surgically removed. In this case he was put under anesthetic (and we had him neutered at the same time). When surgically removed the healing can take a long time, requiring stitches, numerous bandage changes and of course, no walks.

Overall, unless there is any cause for concern, it is down to the owner to decide whether or not dew claw removal is something they want to go through with.

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Poor Max with his cone of shame and bright green bandage.

You don’t need much to make a fun game

29 May

Just like us, your dog needs to be physically AND mentally stimulated. Bored dogs often result in destructive and otherwise unwanted behaviour (i.e. attention barking).

 

Of course, you will have seen the amount of different dog toys and puzzles available on the market, and the majority of these are great, but ever noticed how expensive they are? You don’t need to spend a lot of money to please your dog. Here i decided to create a short list of a few things you can do to mentally stimulate your dog, without hurting your wallet.

1. Plastic bottles. 

This is an absolute favourite of my dogs (and also my previous dogs). If you are like me and drink bottled water, or have the occasional bottle of something fizzy, save the bottle. Remove the cap and that little plastic ring and you are good to go. Your dog will probably spend an unbelievable amount of time playing. They are light and can be tossed around in the air, they make crunchy noises and you might even consider putting some treats inside for your dog to try to get out. Filling them with water can be fun in the summer, but do supervise your dog to make sure that they don’t hold the bottle up and end up choking on the water (this happened to Maya when she was a little pup).

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Plastic bottle are probably one of Maya’s favourite things in the whole world!

 

 

2. An empty bone. 

If your dog is like mine, and just eats the middle (or the marrow) out of the bone and leaves the rest, save it. You can fill it with something else delish, and make them work for it once more. I often put a tea spoon of peanut butter inside an empty bone, and this usually takes Maya about half an hour or so before she has cleaned it back out again. To buy bones anyway is usually not too expensive, and will keep your dog satisfied for hours.

3. The hose.

Mine aren’t so keen, but if it is warm out you might want to try turning on the hose and playing with your dog. Many will love running in and out of the spray, cooling off and burning some energy at the same time.

4. Puzzles.

Instead of buying one of those fancy puzzles try making your own. All you need is a few treats or a small portion of your dogs food (remember to be food wise and do not overfeed) and something to hide it in. You could try putting out several cups and hiding food under just one or two, then letting your dog search for the food (don’t let your dog watch whilst you are preparing or they will know where to go!). I sometimes use their food bowls. These are heaving and when put on the patio they are flat against the ground and so it takes them some time to figure out how to flip them up and get the treats.

5. Agility. 

You can make your own agility equipment with things laying around your house or shed. You could try making some jumping poles out of old pieced of piping for example. Once you have created a small obstacle course, you can spend time with your dog teaching it your own little agility course.

6. Tea towels. 

You can make a tug of war rope by using an old tea towel. Just twist it up and secure the ends and there you have your very own tugger.

7. Hide and seek. 

Yep, hide and seek, the game you played as a child. This might work best if there are two of you so that one person can hold and distract the dog whilst the other person hides. But it could work just as well if you hide when your dog is distracted by something else. Once you have hidden call your dog and wait for him to find you. This is also a great game for working dog breeds, particularly those with instinct to retrieve.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmhetShkylw

 

 

8. Bubbles.

You can pick up a tube of bubbles for about a pound or so. You could even make your own using washing up liquid. Some dogs absolutely love to chase bubbles around. It really gets them jumping and moving around and their brain working as they try to locate them and then work out why they have disappeared.

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9. Sticks. 

Yep, sticks and other bits and pieces you might find in your garden or out on walks are perfect. You could easily spend hours playing fetch with a stick or a pine cone, and they have something to chew on afterwards.

10. The sock.

Dog’s love socks. I don’t know why, but they just do. There are all sorts of things you can do with a sock. Make them into a ball, put some food in one and tie the end so they have to work out how to get to the food, or you could even make them crackle by sandwiching some plastic or something between two. Have a think and see what ideas you can come with.

 

Ok, so there we go, ten cheap and easy way to stimulate your dog, both mentally and physically. See if you can come up with any ideas.

I’d love to hear how you get on with any of these suggestions and if you have any of your own. Comment or send me a message! 🙂

Training session rules

26 May

I guess it’s pretty much up to you how you train your dog, but there are some hints and tricks that work pretty well that you might like to follow!

 

1. Keep it short.

Think you don’t have time to train your dog? What if i told you each session only really needs to last 5 to 10 minutes? Really, that’s as long as it needs to be!

2. Keep it fun. 

Only train if you are in a positive mood. If you are enjoying yourself, so will your dogs (and they will be much more likely to respond). I often take short breaks during the session (particularly with Max) to do something fun, like throw a ball a couple of times. If it’s nice out, i will always take them out into the garden after training for a few minutes play time.

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Max is great at fetch and this works well both during training and afterwards as a way of keeping things fun.

 

3. Stay positive. 

Reward them when they do something right, ignore it when they don’t. The opposite of reward, is no reward. NOT punishment.

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Ok, so there wasnt really a picture i could use for this one…so, ill show you a smile instead

 

 

4. Motivation. 

Why would your dog want to sit and wait patiently for no reason? They need some reward. This means choosing your reward very carefully, you need to use something of high value. If your dog is very food orientated (most are) then use food based treats (or some of the breakfast/dinner). Food treats need to be small, no bigger than a finger nail, something that they can gulp down quickly without getting distracted by it.  If your dog is toy orientated, use a toy (or several). If praise is enough, reward them with high pitched, singsong tones and lots of enthusiasm.

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Click, then reward

 

5. Timing is key. 

You probably all know by now that i highly recommend the use of a clicker. It is important that you can place a marker of exactly when your dog does what is asked. A clicker allows for this. For example, if you ask for a sit, you click as soon as your dogs bum is on the floor. They know exactly what they have done right, and then receive their reward for it just seconds later.

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Maya and Max know the clicker well. As soon as they hear it, they know a tasty treat is on its way to them.

 

6. Short commands.

Dogs generally only absorb the last syllable of every word you say. Therefore a short command works best. Whilst you might use “lay down”, really all your dog is hearing is “down” so why not stick with that.

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7. Vary the routine. 

If you carry out the same routine over and over again, the dog will learn this. Whilst that is very good, it doesn’t really mean that your dog is listening and obeying you, more that it knows what you expect. Do you hate your day job where you do the same thing day in day out? Yeah, that’s the way your dog feels about doing the same training session over and over and over. Its boring. Remember number 2? Keep it fun!

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8. Take your time. 

To begin with, your dog might only stay sitting in one place for a few seconds. It may only focus on training for a couple of minutes. If you want to increase the time, you need to take your time. Training is a slow and gradual process, and a life long commitment. Work on your basic obedience first before going onto “tricks”. A dog that can sit and wait can avoid potential danger, a dog that can spin in a circle, not so much.

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Maya is great at waving, but she is always practicing her basic obedience which needs improving still when on walks.

 

 

9. The environment. 

To begin with, you want to train somewhere with no distractions. This means no sounds, no toys, no other animals or people. Gradually switch things up. Eventually you should be able to get to the point where you can stop in the middle of the woods or along the beach and have a quick five minute training session during your walk.

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Before you can get a nice sit outside, you need to work on it indoors

 

10. Eye contact. 

By eye contact, i really mean focus. This isn’t a rule as such, but something i have come to appreciate. I can tell when my dogs want to please me, when they are enjoying their training and really focusing on me and what I say because they make eye contact with me.

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All of their focus is on me. It’s the same when i give them their food, they look at me, they wait until i say go, then they eat.

 

 

Happy training!

 

 

 

Adventures in the sunshine

26 May

Now that Max is finally able to go out for walks again (after having his dew claw removed), he is getting up to all sorts of mischief with his big sister. Lucky for these two sun loving hounds, it has been a beautiful weekend, and that of course, means i have had my camera out.

 

 

A long, long walk:

 

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The best thing about the sunshine is that we can go on nice long walks (until it gets too hot that is). This was Max’s longest walk yet, through the woods, to the beach and back again!

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            You want to point that camera at me? Here, is this close enough?

 

Going for walks is a great time to keep up with practicing recall training. The dogs have a great time roaming about and having a sniff, but every time they get to a certain distance (i go with the approx length of the garden), call them back, whistle, whatever you do. See how quickly they come running, its great practice for when you need them to come back in an emergency.

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Coming back to the whistle like pro’s. Both with a “smile” on their face, bonus!

 

Here Maya spotted a deer in the distance. This time, she just stood and watched for a moment before we called her back. Later in the day a deer jumped out right in front of her, and off she went, hot on its heels. Don’t worry, she came back once she had had enough! In this isntance, the deer was much more exciting than her recall response!

 

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The best thing to do when the sun is shining and it’s hot out? You got it! SWIMMING!

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   Fancy a dip anyone?

 

 

One of the nice things about where i live, is all of the bird reserves. Here we are taking a peek from one of the hides. Max was particularly interested, we didn’t see many birds though!

 

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After all of those adventures, we wondered if little Max would even make it home. He hopped straight into the car and collapsed.

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A long walk makes a tired puppy!

 

Oh look! The sea!

Ok, so this little trip wasn’t entirely planned.  When the dog’s get messy, what is the easiest way to clean them off? The beach!

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Sorry we got so mucky and smelly…. we really didn’t mean to “fall” in the swamp.

 

Really, when you have two “big” dogs, bathing them isn’t always easy. We try not to get into situations where we have to put them in the bath, its dirty, smelly and they scratch the porcelain. Then of course, too many baths isn’t good for these dogs anyway. Why bath them when you can take them swimming in the sea anyway?

 

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Maya is much happier to go in the sea now that she is a big girl, little Max wasn’t so keen to follow her. So, my shoes and socks came off and in i went!

 

Sunbathing:

 

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Maya was born for the sun

 

 

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Even indoors these two find the sunshine and make the most of it!

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Garden fun, and bubbles!

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floppy ears! The bubble is getting away!

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Come on! Blow some bubbles!

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Just before the big jump!

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Throw the ball! Go on, throw it!

 

The end!

So, sorry again for being not posting much lately, but hopefully these pictures of the terrible two will make you smile!

 

Licks and cuddles from Maya and Max, keep wagging!