Monday, June 29, 2009

The red whistle...

I know that Beagles are bred to be scent hounds and have a reputation for being persistent when on the trail. This is great if you are training them to hunt. Not so great when you are training them to respond to a re-call. I decided to train them using a whistle. It is far more piercing than my voice which needs to penetrate a brain that has shut down all senses except that of smell.

Which is why it is very helpful to know what your dog was bred to do because it will explain a lot about their behaviour.

The other problem is that my dogs are far too friendly. When on the lead I have been trying to train them not to greet strangers by jumping up enthusiastically but to sit and wait for acknowledgement. Easy in theory but difficult in practice when you are restraining two very excited adolescents who think everybody and their dog wants to say hello and play.

Off lead they are positively embarrassing. Their overwhelming enthusiasm has sent one lady squealing in the opposite direction and an irate owner shooing my dogs away while they boisterously tried to persuade her little Fi-Fi to play.

They attach themselves to any party walking past, confident in the belief that they are welcome. And no amount of blowing on my red whistle until I am red in the face will change their minds.

I experienced first hand why it is so important to train your dog to react to a re-call. An electric fence surrounds our complex but every now and then our dogs stray too close and get a shock. When this happened to Jamie during a re-call training session, he was so dis-orientated that he ran all the way home and no amount of calling penetrated his dazed state. If this had happened in a public park he could have easily got lost or worse run over.

I am going to have to use mega treats to get them to respond when I venture out into public parks. I hope to gradually wean them off treats but off lead they are clearly not ready yet!

At home alone...

When it comes to separation anxiety, I don't know who worries more: Me or my dogs?
In fact the books say that it's often the owners who create separation anxiety problems by making a huge fuss over their dogs when they leave or return. So your dogs pick up on your anxiety.
Before I leave, I safety proof the area my dogs are going to be left in just in case they do something stupid and end up injuring themselves. I leave the radio on playing calming music, plenty of water and their box of toys. Then I slip out quietly without a fuss. But it is always a relief to return to find my dogs and my house all in one piece. But of course don't make a big deal about the fact you're back.
My dogs need to learn to cope with spending time alone because I can't always be there for them. So I was advised to start off with short periods of time alone eventually building up to longer periods. I recently asked my neighbour how my dogs reacted when I left. She said there was a bit of whining but they soon settled down. One way to check up on how they are behaving!

Another tip is never leave their collars on while you're away if they still rumble in the jungle with each other. Apparently some nasty accidents have happened with dogs been strangled by collars that have hooked onto something. It is also important that your dogs have time away from each other because you never know when you might have to leave one behind. I learnt the value of this when I had to rush to the vet and leave one of my pups at home. Both survived unscathed.
So don't stress when you leave the kids home alone. If you have taught them to cope from an early age, they will be OK.

Graduation day...

Finally after two months of taking the kids to school every week, Jemma and Jamie have graduated from Puppy School 1. They are really going to miss their friends if the level of excitement shown every Saturday morning is any measure.
But all is not lost. There is a Puppy School 2!
This is for Juvenile dogs aged between 10 weeks and 9 months. Experts say that during this period many of the characteristics of your breed of dog (what they were originally bred to do) will develop and may need to be managed very carefully. Who said teenage rebellion belonged to the human species only?
So my trainer urged me to continue taking my dogs to school. They need consistent, reinforced training and boundaries to be set. And it will continue to socialise and stimulate my dogs. And even better, trainers will offer advice and a shoulder to cry on when teenage tantrums become too much.
Check out Thinking Pets website for trainers in your area in South Africa.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why I got a black eye...

I wish that a had a dramatic war story to tell like I got involved in a road rage altercation, or my secret lover and I had a fight or I crashed off my bicycle going downhill at 80km per hour.

The truth is more mundane. In the middle of the night I heard my puppies breaking something.
Half asleep and disorientated I jumped out of bed and walked into a wall, hence the black eye.

But that is not the end of the trail of devastation. While playing my puppies crashed into one of my glass sliding doors which has now cracked in multiple places (At least it did not shatter letting in the freezing air temperatures). But it will also have to wait to be replaced when the recession recedes.
Suze Orman's prediction that the global economy will only stablise in 2015 does not help.

My last barricade of self defence is to pull my book case across the passage which accesses the bedroom wing (books facing inward of course). Imagine my surprise when I discovered my spectacles, pyjamas, facial wash and a shoe all lying in the garden. How had they spirited themselves through a solid book case and a closed door into my bedroom?

The little buggers had nosed open my window and jumped through the burglar bars into my room and vandalised it! These two are getting way too smart. They may have to go to the circus to earn enough to pay for all the damage. Meanwhile I am walking around with dark glasses in case people think I am a battered victim.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Things I can't live without...

Where I go, it goes. That's right: tea tree ointment!

Apparently a sharp whiff of tea tree deters your puppies from chewing the object of their desire.

Unfortunately the scent does not last forever. I am constantly re-visiting the same areas over and over again (like my desk legs and the corners of my couches). My sister has suggested I dilute tea tree oil in water and spray it on everything. Maybe it will last longer.

While I dab tea tree ointment on objects, I often find myself dabbing it on bodily injuries like bite marks and scratches. So I don't go anywhere without my tea tree ointment.

Secondly, I always have my accident mop up kit at the ready. I never know when I'm going to need it:

  1. Basin
  2. Rubber gloves
  3. Cleaning cloths or paper
  4. Carpet cleaner
  5. A disinfectant cleaner (must not have ammonia which is a constituent of urine. Dogs go back to the places they've been)
  6. Vinegar (neutralises the smell of urine)
  7. Diluted vinegar spray bottle

Monday, June 15, 2009

Just when I thought it was safe...

I was rather proud of the progress that my puppies were making with their house training.

It had been several weeks since I had been greeted by a urine stain or turd on my floor in the morning. But I was congratulating myself a bit too soon.

It turns out that my puppies like their home comforts. Out of nowhere it rained one night. And the kitchen floor and passage were a mess! The little buggers were not prepared to go outside and get wet, I fumed.

Well it turns out I was wrong. At the next class everybody was complaining about how their puppies had misbehaved those couple of rainy days. "What did you expect?" asked Wendy.

Puppies learn house training by recognising the feel of the surface that they should be using as their toilet area. So when they feel dry grass, they know its OK. But wet grass has a completely different feel. " You have to start right from the beginning," said Wendy. "Stand in the rain with your umbrella and encourage your puppies to venture out and praise them if they perform."

Luckily that was the end of the rainy season and none of us had to catch pneumonia while training our dogs in the rain. I wonder if we will have the same problem when spring arrives?

Friday, June 5, 2009

How many bowls of soup does it take?

This was the third time that a bowl of soup had been upended on my carpet. But it is all my own fault. I know that I should be teaching my puppies not to jump up and send the tray flying off my lap.

When they are small and cute, it's difficult not to want to indulge them. But when they leave muddy paw prints on my smart business suit just as I am about to leave for an important meeting, it begins to sink in. This is why trainers go on and on about teaching your puppy not to jump up onto people. The moment they do it you ignore them, cross your arms and avoid eye contact. When all four paws are on the ground you praise and reward them.
And you need to get your visitors to play ball ( I mean co-operate).

A fellow puppy owner was boasting about how they never fussed over their puppy on arriving and leaving home, nor did they encourage jumping up. The result: a puppy that sits, does not jump up and does not whine when they leave the house.

OK, I know the theory and I am trying to put it into practice after learning the hard way.
However their destructive instinct is still going strong. I have heard puppies are most active at dawn and dusk. They definitely get restive around 4.00pm and I know its time to take them for a walk.

But there is not much I am prepared to do about what they are up to at dawn. Every morning I walk bleary eyed down the passage dreading what I will see. This sight greeted me the other morning.

It does not snow often in Africa. They had disemboweled the cushion they sleep on. They also steadily eroded the foam inside the basket itself.
Don't they know there is a recession on? Dog baskets are not that cheap! So I spent the morning washing tons of blankets and towels which will have to do until the recession recedes and my puppies learn to be more responsible!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jamie's got a crush on a blond...

Jamie's third set of vaccinations at 14 weeks by a pretty vet had its advantages, though the rabies shot hurt like hell.

"Who is this pretty blond?"

"If my heart rate is a bit high, it's cos I'm in love!"

"You want to give me a jab? Look can't we talk about this first... Get to know each other a little better?

"Get that camera out of my face. This is embarrassing enough!"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Breaking News: Puppies on rampage at Vet...

Our puppy school is a Eukanuba/Vet sponsored school. One of the classes includes a visit to a vet to learn how to behave properly and give your pup a positive experience at the vet.

But I think Johannesburg Specialist Veterinary centre did not know what had hit it one Saturday morning. Ten puppies ran amok in the waiting room.

This was despite advice from dog trainer Wendy Wilson that we should keep our dogs calm and quiet. The reason for this is that if they start a rumpus with other dogs, this raises their heart rate and blood pressure giving the vet a false reading. I am pretty sure that the way our puppies were behaving (like little hooligans) meant very high heart rates indeed.

Also interaction with other dogs can lead to the transmission of bacteria, viruses or even worse fleas (more about this later)!

The puppies had to practise being weighed on a scale without moving. Nobody won that competition!

Once on the vet's table, it's best to hold your puppy in a cradle position close to your body but loose enough to allow the vet to examine it. Otherwise use slow strokes to keep your pup calm as this body contact is reassuring for your dog as it is poked and prodded (gently of course).

Well I don't know how much of that lesson actually sunk in. But the puppies sure had a great time!