Monthly Archives: September 2012

Fun dog show

We went to a fun dog show today about a 45 minute drive away.  Was expecting Spencer to be a complete nightmare but he really surprised me.  He wasn’t perfect, his loose leash walking was non existent and he lunged towards a few dogs he wanted to play with but overall he did absolutely great.  We entered into the Waggiest Tail competition and Most Handsome Dog.   We didn’t even manage a 3rd place in either.  Didn’t really expect it to be honest, Labs aren’t the flashiest of dogs after all and although Spens tail can clear a coffee table in one sweep it’s generally not the crazy wagging you see in spaniels or some other breeds.  But we had fun anyway.  Think we should have entered the My Dog’s Got Talent competition though, think they only had 2 competitors and from what I saw neither of them actually did anything so we might have stood a chance there lol.

Spen was sooo excited to see all those dogs and people and smell all the interesting smells.  We let him off leash on the nearby enclosed field and he became a speck in the distance very quickly.  He kept an eye on us and did return now and then so that’s good.  At the show itself he was able to lie quietly most of the time he was asked to although other dogs kept coming along and sticking their noses up his bum which of course made him leap up and invite them to play.  He lay quietly while I sat on the grass next to him and ate fish and chips, had a sniff in the direction of my dinner but didn’t attempt to steal it.  He got what I didn’t eat.  Nor did he pay any attention to the pony rides going on a short distance away from where we were sitting.  In fact at one point after we’d eaten he actually initiated a training session by nudging my hand and sitting there staring a hole through my head with his tail wagging.

Hubby got a lot of pics, unfortunately they have me in them as well as Spencer and I HATE photos of me.  But I’ll post a few of them anyway, just to show you how well Spen behaved in the ring.  Well, except for when we had to walk around it anyway.



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Rehoming pets

First off I will say that there ARE people who need to rehome their pet for genuine reasons, this is not aimed at those people.  Sometimes no matter what you do a particular pet is just not a good fit for a particular owner/family/situation and will be better off in a different home.

But there are many more who rehome their pet because that’s what’s more convenient.  The most recent one I’ve seen is someone “devastated” because they have to rehome their “beloved” pet.  They got a lot of advice about how they could just change one thing and they’d be able to keep the pet with no problems.  Their answer?  “I don’t want to do that though”.  Well why the hell not just say in the first place that you can’t be bothered looking for ways to keep your pet and just want it gone now that it’s become an inconvenience?

I see a lot like this though.  Especially from dog owners who have been allocated a flat instead of a house with a garden.  “It’s not fair to keep the dog cooped up all the time”.  More like having no garden means you’ll have no choice but to actually walk the poor dog and you can’t be bothered doing it.  Doesn’t matter how many people reply saying that dogs can do perfectly fine in a flat provided they get sufficient walks and opportunity to go out for a pee they just don’t want to know and want the dog gone.  Now okay, if you’ve got a baby, 2 toddlers and have been given a 3rd floor flat you’re gonna find it really difficult and maybe it would be best for the dog to be rehomed.  But there’s no way I’d consider rehoming my dog just because I’ve been given a flat!

And it seems even out here the majority of dogs being rehomed are adolescent males of medium size and above.  Seen the odd female and the occasional older dog but most of them are between 6 months and 2 years.  I was told not long ago that this is the case in rescue and shelters in the UK, apparently adolescent males are generally the most difficult dogs of all.  Guess I must be a sucker for punishment since that’s what I’ve taken on twice.  People get a cute puppy, love it, play with it, neglect to train it or even teach it just basic manners.  Adolescence hits and…well, this happens.

This is the phase Spencer’s going through at the moment and while he’s not too bad, mostly a case of selective deafness with him, it can be absolutely horrendous.   But it IS just a phase and it will pass and with consistency and continued training they tend to come though it just fine.

Then there are those who rehome a completely unsuitable pet because they didn’t bother doing their research.  Great Danes, Wolfhounds, St Bernards and other huge breeds being rehomed for getting “too big”.  WTF?  Did these people not know they were getting a giant breed and that giant breeds get kinda big?  Surely they saw the pups mother at least?  Did they think she was just a freak or something?   People working full time, getting a puppy and leaving it alone 10 hours a day then rehoming it because it’s impossible to house train or destroys the house.  People who don’t want to go for long walks or do a fair bit of training getting high energy, intelligent breeds who need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation then ending up rehoming them because they’re “hyper”.  I think one of the most common reasons I’ve seen while out here though is “Husband is away, I can’t cope with the dog, has to go ASAP.”  All I can say is that I hope the husband is aware that the wife is rehoming their dog while he’s away.  I know what my reaction would be if my hubby were to rehome my dog behind my back!

On the flip side there are people who have done everything they possibly can to try to keep their pet and yet have still ended up having to find it a new home.  People who really ARE devastated to have to do so, who truly do love their pet and have tried their best.  Yet these people get lumped in with those who haven’t even tried and just want their pet gone ASAP.

Okay, rant over for now.  Just sick to death of seeing pets being rehomed for no good reason.  I’m sure if the pet really isn’t wanted in its home it’s better off elsewhere but people should put more thought into getting one in the first place.

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Reward based training makes your dog fat.

Many people seem to think that using rewards means they’ll end up with a fat dog.  Or a dog who constantly begs for what they call “people food”, whatever that is.  Now okay, if you give your dog an entire Bonio or something every time you want to reward him then chances are he’s gonna get pretty fat pretty damn quick.  But I probably give Spencer around 50 or more food rewards each day and he certainly isn’t fat!

When it comes to using food as a reward size matters.  The smaller you can make each treat the better really.  Within reason of course, the dog does need to be able to taste it.  They really don’t need a huge piece of food to see it as a reward.  The treats I use for Spencer are generally cut into pieces the size of my little finger nail.  For those with really tiny dogs I imagine you can use even smaller treats.



These are the treats I often use with Spencer.  Garlic sausage and Gouda cheese.  About 40-50g of each makes for a hell of a lot of tiny training treats.  The two tubs will last us several days depending on how much training we do.

It’s also possible to use your dogs regular food for training purposes.  Easiest one to use is dry food since you can simply put it in a treat bag and feed a piece at a time as rewards.  It’s probably not going to cut it in interesting environments but at home a lot of dogs will work for it.  Wet food and raw might be a little more tricky.  Or at least a little more messy.  I suppose cut up raw meat wouldn’t be so bad, you could wear gloves.  But the thought of carrying raw tripe around and feeding it bit by bit…no thank you!  I’m not that brave lol.  Maybe if he ever really needs his food limiting a lot I’ll do it but for now I’m sticking with the less messy stuff.

Some dogs will also work for vegetables.  Spencer likes frozen peas and will happily work for those at home.  Same with pieces of raw carrot.  Again, not high value treats (or not for most dogs anyway) but for around the house or boring environments they can work well.

Food rewards aren’t the only thing I use to reward my dog.  Sometimes he’s rewarded with a game of tug or fetch.  Sometimes with us going for a walk, sometimes with fusses, sometimes by being released to go sniff at an interesting patch of grass or tree.  Basically anything your dog wants could be used to reward him for doing what you want him to do.

So, does reward based training mean you end up with a fat dog?  No, it doesn’t.  Over feeding and under exercising means you end up with a fat dog.  As do certain medical conditions.

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Another nice walk off leash

Definitely getting brave and letting Spen off leash more easily now.  Only where I can see other dogs before they’re in that distance where he’s likely to go running up to say hello coz I don’t want to be one of those owners I used to complain about all the time when I had Rupert.  I’ve no doubt at some point he’s going to bog off and leave me red faced and apologising to someone whose dog he’s gone racing up to, probably when I least expect it, but I’m going to do everything I can to make it as unlikely as possible.

Nice walk up through the woods today.  Had to stop and squeeze into a gap between the nettles to let a load of soldiers go running past.  Thankfully Spen was on leash at this point, he can cope with one or two people running past but a whole bunch of people is a bit too much and he wants to join in.  Once up to the fields he was off leash and running around though.  He doesn’t go too far, further than the long line lets him but he’s never just been a speck in the distance.  I bet that’ll happen at some point too then I’ll panic and get all upset lol.

Anyway, some (many!) pictures from today.







As you can see, he seems happy enough.  Can be a bit ignorant when he’s sniffing something but generally his recall and “this way” are good.  Just need to work on them around distraction a bit more I guess.

Other than off leash walks been working on him finding heel position while I’m standing still.  He’s not quite getting it yet and would much prefer to shove through my legs than be on one side.  Mat work is apparently boring, probably coz he’s expected to just lie there no matter what’s going on, so we keep those short and go on to do something fun.  101 things to do with an item is a firm favourite and he gets so into it.  Recall is obviously ongoing and again something he seems to find fun a lot of the time.

We seem to be getting there though.  I’ve had a few comments about how calm he is and how well behaved.  I’m not sure what sort of dog behaviour these people are used to coz the last word I’d use to describe Spencer is calm lol.  But on the other side of the coin I’ve had  people telling me I should just “let him be a dog” and not “force him to work” when we’re out.  And another telling me I should punish his enthusiasm.  Why on earth would I want to punish him for being enthusiastic about what I’m asking him to do???  And I don’t “force” him to work.  He’s on a 10m line, he doesn’t have to come anywhere near me if he doesn’t want to.  Yet he chooses to lie there and stare a hole in my head until I give in and do something with him.

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First off leash walk

Took Spencer out yesterday and had him off leash most of the walk.  First time I’ve done it on my own and without any other dogs.  I’m sure it’s no big deal to your average owner but it’s been years since I was last able to enjoy a walk with my dog off leash.  Rupert had a tendency to take off and kill other animals so he was on a long line unless it was a secure area.  And really secure areas are few and far between, there’s almost always a gap in the fencing or something that you don’t spot until it’s too late.

Anyway, Spen was great.  Behaved really, really well.  He kept coming to me for a treat, stopped and waited if he got too far ahead of me, raced to catch up when he realised I was getting too far away and came to me when I called.  I did stack the odds in my favour, walking at a time when we don’t tend to meet anyone and having banana bread on me.  Apparently I also pick dogs with weird taste in foods, Shadow had a thing for cinnamon, Rupert for vanilla ice cream, Spen for banana bread and those super nice biscuits you get with coffee in some places that never seem to be sold in any shops in the UK.  Such healthy treats aren’t they?

Spen had a great time.  He knew he was off leash but didn’t seem to see it as a big deal and although he wandered further than he can on the long line he behaved the same way he does on it.  He did have a moment of panic when he thought he’d lost me though.  He ran on across the bridge and because the path slopes and bends I disappeared behind some nettles and other plants.  By the time I got onto the bridge he was heading back with a very worried look on his face.  Apparently he was so overjoyed by the fact he’d found me again that he just couldn’t handle it, he got the zoomies in and out of the stream soaking both of us and coating us with mud.  Once again I went out with a yellow Lab and returned home with a black one.

No pictures as I was too paranoid about him disappearing over the horizon or seeing another dog in the distance and deciding to race over to say hi and getting bitten and ending up like Rupert.  I’m sure I’ll get over that worry in time though.

I do have this picture.  I had nothing to do with this, the sheet was on top of his crate and he pulled it down and somehow arranged it around himself.  He slept like that for hours too so I guess it was comfy.


Oh, we had the vet out and he did have an ear infection.  He’s been an absolute star about having his drops put in, doesn’t like it but sits quietly since having it done means he gets one of those biscuits I mentioned earlier.  Infection seems to have cleared up now.  I’m hoping it was a one off and I’ve not got another dog with chronic ear issues but apparently Labs are prone to ear infections.

And here’s a 2nd picture just coz I like it.  This is how Spen sits with my husband at pretty much any opportunity.

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