Monday, 26 February 2018

Cold weather survival guide for you and your dog!


As the first flakes of snow drop in Brighton & Hove it pays to be prepared!

Wrap up warm

This is advice for you rather than your dog!  It means you won’t be in a rush to come home because you are cold.  Your dog already has a fur coat and most do not need an additional coat.  The exception is breeds with low body fat such as greyhounds or whippets.  If your dog is very young or old they may also need a little extra insulation.  If your dog is not well then check with your vet if they are okay to go out in the cold and if they may need a coat.  Perhaps hold off giving your dog a hair cut so he keeps that extra fur for insulation.

Clean your feet when you get home

This is also advice for you so you don’t stomp snow into the carpet!  It can however be a good idea to wash your dogs paws when you get home in case he has walked in salt that has been put down.  The salt could be an irritant for his paws and you would also not want him licking it off since that could make him sick!

Go play in the snow

This can be good fun for the both of you!  Don’t use the cold weather as an excuse to not walk your dog.  He still needs exercise and mental stimulation so as long as you are sensible he will not mind the cold weather.


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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

When should I neuter my dog?



One of the questions I am regularly asked by new puppy owners is “how old should my dog be when I neuter him / her”.

A very simple question without a simple answer.

It is one of those “hot-button” topics for many people that can evoke equally passionate arguments from pro and anti-neuter advocates.

I always try to take a pragmatic view in dog training so that seems like a reasonable way to approach the sometimes emotive question of neutering.

These are some of the things you may wish to consider:

·         The physical health of your dog.
·         The behavioural well-being of your dog.
·         The needs of the owner.
·         The needs of society.

The physical health of your dog.

What does your vet say?

A visit to your vet should answer this question, right?  Well, no.  You are likely to get a range of opinions from your vet.  In my experience some will say do it as soon as possible, some say wait until about six months (or after the first season for a bitch), some will say only do it if required for veterinary reasons.  No consensus at all! 

A common reason for neutering given by some vets is the reduced risk of cancers.  In bitches this could be mammary tumours and male dogs testicular or prostate cancer.  Ask your vet to talk you through this. 

What does the research say?

Research into the consequences of neutering should inform your decision.

This research however by its nature is difficult the conduct.  The ideal, but impractical, method would be to follow a group of neutered and unneutered dogs of both sexes and multiple breeds over their lifetime to determine the consequences of neutering.  An alternative method has been to retrospectively analyse data collected to look at significant effects.  Good research requires good data with reasonable sample sizes.  In the US research with Golden Retrievers (a very popular breed) has given some insight.  However it would be wrong to assume that the results of studies on one breed can be generalised to all.

The behavioural well-being of your dog.

Asking your trainer or behaviourist should give you an answer then?  Again, there is little consensus between different trainers or behaviourists.

It is widely believed by owners that neutering will “calm down” a dog.  This is however a major simplification.

Some male dogs will have poor recall because they have an overriding drive to seek out a mate.

Some male dogs will get themselves into trouble with other dogs by attempting to mount.

Does your male dog “have” to be kept on lead because of his hormone driven behaviours which restricts his general quality of life?

Neutering, however is not a “silver bullet” to behavioural problems for all dogs.

The needs of the owner.

Do you have more than one dog in your home?  How will you prevent unwanted mating.

Do you have good general control of your dog?

Can you cope with a bitch in season twice a year for three weeks at a time?

Do you plan to show your dog and therefore are required to keep him / her entire?

Do you plan to breed from your dog?  Is he / she a perfect example of the breed with no health or behaviour problems?  Have you considered all the implications of breeding?

The needs of the society.

In the UK there are thousands of unwanted dogs in rescue.  Many of these got there through sellers wanting to make a “quick buck” by selling puppies to owners who did not research dog ownership sufficiently.  Deliberate or accidental breeding of your dog just adds to this problem.

Is your dog a sex pest?  Does he try to hump everything in sight making life stressful for other dogs and owners?

What do other owners do?

I asked the question “At what age (if at all) would you neuter your dog” on a Facebook Group that advocates positive dog training methods.  The group is used by trainers and dog owners interested in training.  This is not a scientific study but just a snap-shot of opinion! 

I received 638 responses within 24 hours.  The four main responses were are as follows:
·         Between 6-12 months: 25%
·         Between 12-24 months: 44%
·         After 24 months: 12%
·         Never: 19% 

Conclusion

Some people have very strong views pro or anti-neutering.  For those people who do neuter there has been a general shift in opinion from neutering at six months to waiting until 12 months. 

Do your own research since everyone’s circumstances will be different!



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Monday, 28 August 2017

Review: tug-e-nuff rabbit skin bungee tug

There are many excellent dog toy products on the market but unfortunately many more that are not fit for purpose.

One product I always take with me to a training session in a tug-e-nuff rabbitskin bungee tug



Why do I like it?

The tug-e-nuff rabbitskin bungee tug has these features that make it perfect for working with a dog outside:
·         It’s real rabbit skin!  This will trigger your dog’s prey drive.
·         The bungee part means when the dog grabs the toy the tug is super rewarding and acts as a shock absorber for your arm!
·         It has a loop handle so I can keep hold of it securely.
·         It is very high quality.  I have had mine for 2 years now and it is still going strong.

So how do I use it? 

I use it exclusively as an interactive toy out on walks.  Dogs that are distracted on walks need something to break through to grab their attention.

When I first present it to a dog they don’t grab it.  They just stand and sniff it intently for a few seconds.  This is why I use the rabbit skin version!

They then grab hold of it and tug.  I get them into a super exciting tug game to reinforce it strongly.

Once it is primed for the dog I then put it back in my pocket ready for action.

Dogs that have a desire to chase bikes, skateboards, joggers etc can then be given the tug game as a super motivating alternative.

It can also be used as a reward for a dog with poor recall, especially for dogs that are not very food motivated.

To maintain the toy’s high value, I only use it when outside on walks.  I would never leave it down as a chew toy since being rabbit skin your dog will likely want to “kill” it as quickly as possible.

Please let me have your feedback if you have tried this product.

Do you need help with your dog chasing things he shouldn’t or with his recall?  Please contact Rainbow Dogs for help training your dog in and around Brighton, Hove, Shoreham, and Worthing.


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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Some like it hot – but not dogs!


Some like it hot – but not dogs!


When the sun comes out in the UK we tend to get over-excited and common sense goes out the window.

Dogs are one of the most adaptable species on the planet and have evolved to live in most countries of the world.  We therefore do not need to over-react and keep them inside once the sun comes out but we should use some common sense.

Hot Surfaces

Have you ever walked barefoot on hot sand?  You will run, hopping and yelping until you get to the sea or some shade.  A good test is to hold the back of your hand on the ground for five seconds.  If it is too hot for you then it is too hot for your dog.

Dogs are barefoot all the time so if the sun is very hot then so is the pavement.  The simple solution here is to seek out shade.  In town, this may mean crossing the street to get the shade of buildings.  Where possible walk your dog on grass verges rather than the pavement since it will be much cooler.

Cooling down

When we get hot we sweat to cool down.  Dogs don’t!  Although they sweat a small amount through their paws the main way they cool down is by panting.  We sensibly take a bottle of water out with us when it is hot so do the same for your dog if you will be out for a while.  Fold-flat water bowls are really handy.

Have a rest

Chill out under the shade of a tree for a while.  This gives you both a chance to cool down.

Don’t run a marathon

Dogs are generally much more active in the park than we are so leave the ball at home when really hot since the motivation to play may override the motivation to rest.  If you do want to give your dog a good run then go out earlier or later in the day when it's cooler.

Garden

Have water and shade available in your garden.  A doggy paddling pool can also be great fun!

Grooming

When we are hot we can take a layer of clothes off.  Give your dog a good brush to get out the undercoat and remove matts.  Some breeds i.e. terriers can be stripped to reduce hair and some breeds can be trimmed.

Young, fit, and healthy?

A dog who is young, fit, and healthy will do fine in the sun with sensible precautions.  You may however need to be extra careful with puppies, older dogs, unfit dogs, or dogs with health conditions.  Seek your vet’s advice as appropriate.

Brachycephalic (short nose) dogs

Breeds like the very popular Pug and French Bulldog need extra care.  These dogs have been breed to have very short faces meaning they have more difficulty breathing generally and cooling down when hot.  Brachycephalic breeds can therefore quickly overheat. 

Heatstroke

If you are concerned that your dog may be suffering from heatstroke then get him into shade immediately.  Cool him down gradually with water but not rapidly with cold water or ice. Contact your vet for advice. 

Cars

It should go without saying now that dogs should never be left in cars on hot days.  Even if it does not seem very hot, if the car is in shade, if left for short periods, or if the window is open!  The temperature inside the car will quickly make it very unsafe for a dog with the possibility of heatstroke and death.  If you see a dog in a hot car don’t delay but call 999 for help.



Contact Rainbow Dogs for help training your dog in Brighton & Hove.


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Thursday, 29 December 2016

My dog is not interested in food!



My dog is not interested in food is something I sometimes hear from new clients.  When I look down I often see a well feed or overweight dog looking back at me.

Food is a biological need for all of us including our furry friends. 

What owners usually mean is their dog is not interested enough in the food they are offering at that moment in time. 

Most puppies start their life with us enthusiastically eating what is put in front of them but over time some realise that if they wait us out then we will give them something “better” e.g. a little bit of gravy poured over their dry kibble or even a tin of wet food.  As time goes on they may wait for some fresh chicken to be mixed in.  We have then created a “fussy eater”.

 It could be time to get your dog weighed and reduce his food a little if necessary.  It’s great if you are spending time training your dog with treats but you may need to reduce his daily food allowance a little to compensate.

We may ask our dog to come back in the park and when he does we give him a dry biscuit.  The dog may have run back from playing with all his friends and so is a little disappointed and therefore next time does not bother to come back.  You could try mixing in a little bit of chicken or sausage with his treats as a special surprise to make his recall worthwhile.

Perhaps you have a nervous dog and when friends visit you ask them to offer him a biscuit but he still keeps away.  In this situation the dog does not want the treat enough to risk the meeting the scary visitor.

Your dog may not like travelling in the car so you try to lure him in with a treat but the fear of the car journey outweighs the pleasure of the treat.

Treats are incredibly useful for training your dog in a positive way but the benefit for him has to outweigh the cost. 

If you are worried about your dog not eating enough then please get him checked out by your vet to rule out any veterinary problems.

Please feel free to contact me if you need any help with your dog’s behaviour.







Thursday, 22 December 2016

Proprioception – what’s that?

Most dogs love their walks  They get to run around at full speed and play with the other dogs in the park.  Once they get home they sleep for hours until the next walk... right?

Some dogs, no matter how much “exercise” you give them still have energy to burn.  Border Collies come to mind.  Breeds of the “working” variety e.g. working Cocker Spaniels or working Labradors often don’t have an off switch either.

Perhaps the exercise they are getting is just half the picture?  The organ that uses most energy is actually the brain so how do you work that part of your dog?

Lord Nelson

Opening your eyes is the first step.  I recently went to St. Ann’s Well Gardens with a client with a high-energy Springer Spaniel cross.  He loves to run around but also loves to be with his human.  As we walked around the park we looked for things to do.  There is a long log that is on its side on the grass.  We lured Lord Nelson onto this with a treat which he was happy to take and then jumped off again.  He jumped off because he didn’t have the balance to stay on and was also moving quickly.  On his second attempt we used a second treat to keep him there.  This was great fun for all of us.  Next Nelson was asked to sit on the log, his back legs quivered as he did this as all the small mussels worked together to control this delicate manoeuvre. 

We then set off to the next adventure in the form of a tree trunk.  Nelson was asked to jump onto it which he was happy to do but did so at speed but then flew off the other side.  The next attempt he took it a little more slowly and managed to stay on.

Around the park we found an upturned tree with a 30 degree incline which Nelson happily trotted up but then had to work out what to do at the end.  He turned his body around slowly, a little unsure of what his back legs were doing, but managed it without falling off!

The next obstacle was the well itself.  Nelson’s task here was to jump on and slowly manoeuvre around the edge.  This was a tricky task since it was very narrow.  Another great success for Nelson.
When we got home Nelson crashed out on his bed struggling to keep his eyes open.

This brings me back to my original question “Proprioception – what’s that?”.  Proprioception is knowing where your body is in space.  Anyone who has practiced yoga may understand how difficult it is at first to control our body slowly.  With practice comes improved strength, flexibility, and balance.  Slowing down so the mind has awareness about what their body is doing has similar advantages for dogs.  The added bonus for a dog that has used his mind and body is he may then crash out after his trip to the park.

I call these training sessions Urban Agility since you use whatever your local park has to offer to mentally and physically work your dog.  I can train these sessions with you or as part of my Groundwork service where I work your dog for you.

Have fun with your dog!


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Sunday, 13 November 2016

Tellington TTouch Workshop

We have a guest blogger today, Maddy with Jake Dog A.I.D. assistance dog in training telling us about the Tellington TTouch workshop we attended.

Navigating the maze 

Myself, Jake my German Shepherd and our trainer Mike were kindly invited to attend a Tellington TTouch workshop held by Caroline of Stylish Fido in Steyning.  It's a fascinating subject with lots of novel concepts to think about and use such as non-habitual movement, where a variety of obstacles and surfaces are used to encourage dogs to become more aware of where their bodies are in space.  The dogs were taken around a type of obstacle course known as The Playground of Higher Learning at the beginning and end of the day; Jake started out clumsily knocking over every single pole balanced on cones with his back feet, but by the end was walking perfectly through the rungs of a rope ladder laid on the floor.  The challenge as always with Jake was trying to keep all movements slow and deliberate, when he wants to do everything at top speed!

We were shown how various types of body wrap helped aid calm and relaxed behaviour, one of which was demonstrated on a nervous dog who attended and seemed to make a real difference.  The TTouch harness that utilises a front as well as a back attachment point was also demonstrated, and the manner in which it works to prevent pulling explained; I was already a convert to this style of harness as the very similar Perfect Fit harness has revolutionised the way Jake walks on the lead.  Of course we also learned the touches themselves and came home with lots of ideas on how to use them, for example touching around the mouth and gums to help release stress that would otherwise be expressed via barking.  Overall it was a really interesting and informative workshop that I would recommend to anyone willing to think outside the box about canine behaviour.

Stepping over poles