Trick Training – My Experiment

Good evening my lovelies! That almost sounded sinister didn’t it… Sorry. I’m not comparing you so a small golden ring or anything, that would just be weird.

First off I would like to apologise for the radio silence. We had a crazy amount of orders to get ready for Christmas so I was working 12 hours most days with Christmas Markets in-between! But everything has taken a little calm spell so I’m making the most of it! Apologies for the lack of “explanatory” photos in this one, I couldn’t get anyone to take photos for me! But hopefully you’ll find it an interesting read anyway.

As the title suggests, recently I’ve been performing a bit of an “experiment” with the girls in regards to a training video I watched a little over two months ago on YouTube. I came across the video thanks to one of my lovely readers who commented and mentioned the channel. I’ll link to the original source below for those of you who might like to watch his video’s. Definitely worth a watch if you like training or want to learn more.

So the experiment came from this video, which suggested that rewarding your dog in a certain manner would increase the effectiveness of your training sessions. What this entailed was verbal praise, rewards and physical praise (massage/scratch/petting whatever you want to call it). The type of physical praise here was the main key to my experiments. The video talks about targeting certain areas of the body which are “wired” to the “pleasure centres” of their brain when giving physical praise. These areas included the chin and chest, directly in front of the ears, the shoulders, sides of the body, the base of the tail and the backs of the thighs.

IMG_8390-2
Luna: “Please fuss me mum? If you don’t I’ll poop in your pillow case.”

Luna was easier with physical praise, as she loves a good fuss! So with every training session from here on out I was to use this new “reward system”. Although with Luna having hip dysplasia it was best to avoid her “sensitive” areas, such as the base of her tail and backs of the thighs. Just be sensible about where you fuss if you know your dog has sensitive areas too.  I still use my trusty clicker or marker word of course, so here’s how the rewarding played out:

  1. Ask for trick, trick performed correctly.
  2. Click/Marker word
  3. Reward (toy/treat)
  4. Verbal praise
  5. Physical praise – Luna’s best spots are ears and base of the tail, she can be a bit unsure about under the chin which relates to her rescue background so we avoided here.

Numbers 2-5 were all performed within very fast succession of each other and some simultaneously where possible (e.g. verbal praise with reward and physical praise).

Luna didn’t hesitate to lap up all this extra affection right from the start. Actually I would say at points she got a little over-stimulated and I had to lower my tone and calm the praise down a little to stop her jumping around like a loon and not focussing.

Once I had got her into the swing of this new regime with tricks she already knew we then put it into practice with a new trick. This new trick was quite simple, the command is “Middle” and the behaviour I’m wanting is for her to come and stand between my legs. Luna picked this up in a single 10 minute training session in the house. I was definitely impressed as I proofed it several times later that day, asking for the behaviour when she wasn’t expecting it. Usually it would take 2-3 sessions for Luna to pick up a positional behaviour like this.

Testing it further we moved this outside to a place with few distractions and proofed it there, she performed “Middle” with no problem when starting her from an easy position (level with or behind me). When then asking for it while she was in front of me she became confused so we took it back a step to her being level with me, and lots of the rewarding method at this stage. I then asked for it while she was slightly in front of me, rewarded and took small steps until she could perform when right in front of me.

We then proofed while out walking unexpectedly and she was perfect. This experiment with Luna only took ONE DAY, which is crazy fast for performing a distance behaviour like that in my personal experience.

IMG_8410
Aurora: “Stay back, don’t stroke me. You can have cuddles at a time I choose which is most inconvenient to you.”

I then completed the same above experiment with Aurora. Now for her this was harder as she’s not a “fussy” dog. She has never been keen on being stroked, she doesn’t hate it, just doesn’t care much for it. Unlike Luna, cuddles and fuss are on her terms. Luna will take cuddles and fuss anytime, anywhere! I think this showed through with my experiment with Aurora as it was not as effective with her. Within the first training session she made it obvious to me that she didn’t want to work for the physical praise as she actually became disinterested in the session altogether. We tried this over a period of a week, only for a few minutes each time. Each time we got the same response and a serious lack of focus. So I actually abandoned the technique with Aurora. She works much better her usual way.

21931573_10155584033363400_1104891560_o
Eva: “Cuddles? Please? Please cuddle? Cuddles please?”

As it was a very 50/50 result I then decided to try this technique with Eva. Eva is a one year old German Shepherd cross Border Collie rescue who I look after for a few days each week. I already knew Eva loved fuss and cuddles so I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get the Aurora response. I performed the same experiment with Eva as with Luna, with similar results. Eva was slightly slower to pick it all up than Luna, but I wasn’t surprised as Luna has been trick training for years, whereas Eva only has for a few months, and she is much younger. However I was surprised at how much faster Eva picked up this new trick to how she has done with other tricks. It took her 3 days of 2 x 5 minute sessions in the house for her to understand where I wanted her to be without luring.

We then tested outside in the garden with the same quick response as in the house. Moving outside to a new but low distraction area however posed a few more problems. It took her longer to respond than in the house, and in the garden for sure. But I would still say faster than she would usually respond to learning a new positional behaviour.

Overall I do rate this method highly. I will continue to use this with Luna and Eva as it definitely sped up the learning process for them, however I think it will be unlikely to be used with Aurora. I will try again with her, as she has some days/weeks where she is feeling more affectionate. I will time her testing of this method to as and when she is enjoying affection more. If we get anywhere with it I’ll be sure to let you know. Otherwise she’s still the crazy toy driven and food driven nut as per usual.

I hope you enjoyed this read and let me know if you test out this method with your dogs, and how you get on with it if you do.
If you’d like to see us try other training techniques to see how we get on, or want to learn how to teach a certain trick, please feel free to drop a comment, DM us on Instagram or send us an email: colliecomforts@gmail.com.
Don’t forget to tag your training photos and videos with #colliecomfortstraining

Please remember I am not a qualified dog trainer or behaviourist! Just someone who enjoys training sharing my journey and how I do things.

Here’s the link to the channel of the video as mentioned.

How To Teach And Improve Your Dogs Beg

Some people see beg as a very basic trick, but more often than not, they forget how difficult it is for a dog to perform! Now before I go into anything with this trick I want to make you aware that some breeds will struggle more than others with this trick due to their build. It does not necessarily mean that they cannot do it, but it does mean you need to take things much slower. If a dog is not engaging their core correctly while begging then they are putting extra strain through their spine and back muscles, so we must be very careful. I have found the smaller dogs, such as our little Chihuahua, Tiff, find begging much easier than our friends lovely German Shepherd cross Border Collie Eva. Now begging takes a lot of balance and body awareness from your dog, this is another reason why you need to take it slow. A very short period of begging in the correct position is much more beneficial than a longer period in an awkward position. You want their position to be correct before you can move onto the next trick I’d like to show you all. All this body work is especially good for working and performance dogs, as building up the core muscles helps to protect the spine and can help to prevent injury. But muscle-building isn’t just for working dogs! It’s great for helping to keep your companions healthy too and can help prevent injuries from happening in their walks and day-to-day life!

IMG_5771
Luna: “Excuse the muddy nose, there was a ball that needed saving from under Aurora’s Paw.”

How To Teach Your Dog To Beg

You Will Need:

  • A solid “sit” command in place
  • Clicker/Marker word (if using a marker word, throughout the method, where it states to click, say your marker word instead)
  • Lure/Reward – For my girls I have found treats to be the easiest but you can use a toy if need be!

Method:

Step 1: Stand or kneel in front of your dog with the clicker in one hand and your lure in the other. If you’re aiming to use a separate item to lure and a separate to reward, make sure the reward is at the ready and easy to access!

Step 2: Ask your dog to sit in front of you but do not reward at this stage – if you’re still teaching sit, wait until you have completed this training.

Step 3: With the hand holding the lure, lure your dog up and back ever so slightly. Do not more it back too far as they will obviously fall backwards! But if you’re holding the lure too far forwards they will likely just break their sit and stand or jump to get the lure. Keep the motion as slow and controlled as possible.

Step 4: As soon as both of your pups paws leave the ground, click and reward.

Step 5: Start to ask for slightly more height before click and rewarding, and gradually increase the height until your dogs back is completely straight. Please note that it may take you several days of short training sessions to get to this point, as your dog will gradually be building the muscles and balance required to perform this trick.

Step 6: Add in the command. Say the command once (I have used beg or sit pretty for various dogs), then lure your dog into position, click and reward.

Step 7: Once your dog is responding to the verbal command, gradually begin to turn your lure into a visual command. Say your verbal command and try to more your lure hand slowly away from your dog, only for a brief moment, then click and reward. Keep gradually moving your lure away, and the end result should be a small lift of the hand as a visual cue at the same time and saying your command for them to then perform a beg/sit pretty, whatever you want to call it.

IMG_5761
Luna: “Wave them paws in the air like you jus– Stomach… Weak”

Now at this stage a lot of dogs are still very wobbly. I would still expect a dog to be wobbly after 2 weeks of training when trying to extend the length of time in a beg. As for improving your dogs beg, this comes with their position. Now for the perfect beg and to give your dog the best chance to balance they need to be performing a “square sit”. A square sit means a straight sit, so no legs out to the side or leaning to one side, they need to be central with the back paws and hocks on the ground and knees flexed (bent) to find their centre of balance. I will write a short tutorial on square sits and insert the link when I have done so. Any dogs that aren’t sitting square will struggle with begging so they will likely build up an understanding themselves as you go through the basic method. But you don’t want to worry TOO much about their sits remaining square if you’re just training for a bit of fun. However if you want a sturdy beg that you can progress and add in to other tricks you need to worry about their position a lot. Here are the key points for improving a beg:

  • Go back to training your sits and make sure they are square every time. From now on, only reward for square sits.
  • Only ask for a beg when a square sit is performed. If they are “wonky”, lure them to stand and ask them to sit again until you get a square sit.
  • Once your dog is responding well to the beg command you now need to reduce the length of time you ask them to beg and now only reward for a more controlled movement. As always don’t as for too much, too soon, for example:
    • If you have a pup who “flails” their paws up into the air when they beg that’s normally because their core hasn’t developed correctly to control coming up slowly. Luna is a prime example of this, but because of her hip dysplasia she finds square sits to become uncomfortable after a few minutes of performing them so we have to build up extremely slowly. As with everything the more often we do it, the stronger her muscles will become and this in turn will support the joints. This means we have to ask for tiny improvements at a time, so going from flailing, even if she doesn’t flail as much I would consider that an improvement so I would reward for it. Then as soon as she starts to flail (anyone else think flail has lost its meaning yet? Flail, flail… Flail…) more I would stop training beg and move on as this would indicate her muscles are becoming tired.
  • If you can see their begs are starting to lose some of the control that they have gained within a session, you need to stop. Continuing to ask them to beg at this point will cause them to compensate, meaning they won’t be using the muscles you want them to, causing the resulting trick to be off centre. A straight beg is the most impressive kind of beg after all, and a straight beg allows for more advanced tricks in the future.
IMG_5768
Luna: “Walk like an Egyptian?”

I hope these points help you in training your pup to beg, and that I have explained it in a way that you might understand – I doubt it, this is Hannah logic we’re talking about here, sorry, I’m awful at explaining!

All this beg training will come in super handy for the next trick we want to show you guys, which is the “cuddle”. A cuddle to my girls is where they beg, then wrap their paws around something and hold onto it!

I hope you enjoyed today’s trick tutorials, let me know if I’ve waffled too much and I’ll try to keep it to a minimum for the next tutorial – HA! Me, not waffle? Who am I kidding?

As always, if you get stuck with anything pop me a message, always happy to help if I can! You can contact me by leaving a comment here or messaging me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. I’ve managed to help a few lovely owners and cute pups with their trick training now for positive results which is super awesome! Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss our future trick tutorials!

Hannah, Luna and Aurora x

IMG_5808
From beg I have taught Luna to pounce. This is Luna pouncing forward, she seems to love this trick. She always gets super excited when it comes into a training session! Let me know if you want to learn pounce.

 

Will Luna Take The Plunge?

Hey guys, welcome back! Our last blog post was all about Luna’s Hip Dysplasia, and a brief overview of her rehabilitation. We mentioned quite a bit about the hydrotherapy, so I thought it would be good to show you a full pool session at Woozelbears! Before we start, if you want to learn a bit more about Luna’s Hip Dysplasia, you can do so here.

Now with the Hydrotherapy, you can’t just rock up on the day and expect them to be able to squeeze you in for a swim! First off, the Hydrotherapy Centre will need a referral form from your vets, even if it’s just a fun swim! You will have needed to been in for a recent checkup, so everything is up to date. It will tell them all about your pup, whether they are healthy, or whether they have had any problems in the past that may affect the hydrotherapy – for example, a heart murmur, or a previous muscle injury that isn’t related to the condition that they have been referred for. All these things are crucial for the hydrotherapist to know before the session begins.

For her most recent trip, Luna needed an updated referral form as she hadn’t been for so long! So off we went to the vets for a checkup. Even though Luna is a sensitive soul, she doesn’t hate going into the vets, thanks to choosing the right surgery for her and desensitisation. She doesn’t mind being poked and prodded terribly, unless it’s her hips, which means I have to really keep her focus when the vet is testing her flexion and extension. We got the go-ahead from the vet for Luna to return to hydrotherapy! He filled out the referral form for us and sent it straight off to Woozelbears.

Time to book in an appointment! I called up to book her in, and get your pen and paper ready when doing so. Not only so you can write your time and date down, but so you can jot down the information they need to give you, which includes feeding times around the hydrotherapy, exercise restrictions on the day, what to do if your pup is ill etc. It is all crucial! I had one case where the pooch was fed too close to the appointment, and the owner neglected to tell me! This is a messy affair because if it is too soon, the pressure of the water may lead to them bringing up their breakfast. Not to mention other health issues it can potentially cause. But if you take all their advice then of course you and your pup will be perfectly safe.

Hydrotherapy day! The big day was here, so we packed all the essentials – Luna-safe-and-approved treats, drying coat, her special shampoo, muzzle (in case we had to pass other dogs, although the team are very good at preventing this from happening) and collar and lead! When we arrived I left Luna in the car outside the building to check that the coast was clear from any other dogs. There were a couple of forms to fill out and sign, as well as a few important questions from the hydrotherapist about Luna’s lifestyle – how she is at home, how much exercising she does, whether she has any allergies etc. Once all the forms were completed, I went to get Luna from the car, who was so excited once she realised where she was!

We sat in the waiting area until Lianne, our hydrotherapist for the session, called us up. Luna was extremely alert coming through the gate, and pulled me up to the top! Lianne fitted her with a life jacket – Luna used to swim in a harness, but we gave her the extra buoyancy initially as she hasn’t swam in warm water for so long. It was then into the bath for a shower off, to make sure there was no dirt in her coat and also to warm up her muscles for the session.

IMG_6069
Luna: “Can we skip this business and just jump straight in please?”
After the shower, Luna then started whining because she realised she was going into her favourite thing, the pool! Lianne jumped in the pool, ready to help Luna in from the inside, while another hydrotherapist held onto Luna on the outside so she was safe going up the ramp and gently into the pool. We all know Luna by now, she’d have jumped in from the top given half a chance! Nutter! How do you explain to her that this is not dock diving after a summer of leaping?

IMG_6002
Luna: “Human, let go! I want to show off my best belly flop!”
Once in the water Luna was asked to stand in the water for a moment to help her muscles acclimatise to the temperature of the water further while she had a little massage to loosen up her muscles. Then it was time to go, did she really remember it after all this time?

IMG_6045
Luna: “Ball?!”

IMG_6046
Luna: “Don’t worry ball, I’m coming to save you!”

IMG_6047
Luna: “Human! Let go! That ball can’t save itself!”
She sure did, and Lianne had to hold Luna back! Otherwise I think she might have jumped all the way to the end of the pool! Lianne then performed figure of eights up and down the length of the pool to ensure Luna was using the muscles in both sides of her body equally. After a one minute interval it was back to the ramp for a rest and another massage. But Luna doesn’t much like the idea of rest, so she’s kept entertained with a bit of ball catching while she waits.

IMG_6032
Luna: “Does this mean I get the ball now? You know I could have picked that up for you, right?”
Rest is crucial, even for a dog that swims a lot in the cold waters of our country. Swimming in warm water is different as the temperature causes the blood vessels to dilate, meaning more blood will flow around the body to their muscles. In turn this causes their cardiovascular system to work harder, so they get out of breath much faster! But it’s a non-weight bearing exercise, which means a great workout for the muscles but minimal-no stress on the joints. Not only that but the temperature and pressure of the water helps to reduce inflammation within the joint.

IMG_6014
Luna: “Relinquish that ball, foul beast!”

IMG_6017
Luna: “YES!”

IMG_6018
Luna: “Thank you, kind bean.”
After the rest it’s back to swimming. I think Luna successfully soaked Lianne with every entry back into the water, best hope she had a change of clothes! As you can see Lianne has a stopwatch to carefully time the amount of swimming Luna does. Despite her Hip Dysplasia, she’s a very active dog and has done hydrotherapy before. Luna managed 7 one minute intervals within her half hour session, which is a lot for a first time back! Depending on their fitness, many dogs will only be asked to perform 4-6 shorter intervals of around 20-30 seconds in their first swim. But they still get the full 30 mins in the pool (providing they are not stressed), just standing in the water is great, as it lets the natural properties of the water take effect and they get a good massage in that time too.

IMG_6022
Luna: “Ah, her eyes are close, now is my moment to strike!”
The life-jacket really is crucial, as you can see here Luna’s back-end is starting to “sink” into the water more than usual. The life-jacket prevents her rear from dropping too much as this would put too much strain through her back muscles. All dogs in their first session int he pool will wear a life-jacket until their legs and other muscles needed are strong enough to keep them level.

Next up, exercises! There aren’t a huge amount of different exercises that can be performed in the pool, most are performed in the aquatic treadmill (which fills up with water). But the balance board can be introduced in the pool, which is fantastic for dogs that compensate. The balance board makes them use all their legs equally – provided they are central on the board. And if you want them to use a specific leg more to increased use and muscle you can tilt the board slightly towards that leg. Luna has less muscle in her right hind so the board was tilted slightly back and right to engage those muscles. Some dogs require an extra helping hand, so two hydrotherapists would be in the pool to support them, but Luna knew exactly what she had to do, even though it had been almost 2 years!

IMG_6049
Luna: “Piece of cake, I’ve ridden waves on one of these before!”  |  Side note: Can you spot Luna’s weird, floppy rear dew claws? Also, so tiny without all that fluff!
After all this exercise it’s time to get out and into the spa! The spa is basically a hot tub for dogs, neat right? But it has many beneficial qualities, again they are stood in water, so all the same as above applies. On top of that, the bubbles massage their muscles and help them to relax after all that hard work, helping to remove lactic acid and to help prevent them from becoming too stiff after the session. The stiffness is very likely to set in regardless but this will help it from being too severe. The reason for the stiffness, even after what seems like a small amount of exercise, is that they are using muscles that they have likely not used for ages! Especially pups with injuries or clinical conditions.

IMG_6062
Luna: “Now this is the life.”

IMG_6054
Luna: “Mother, be a dear and fetch me some pawsecco and sausages.”
Once we’re finished in the spa it’s time for another shower down to warm down the muscles and rinse the chlorine out of their coat. Woozelbears offer a complimentary shampoo once a month, but no more than this unless it’s a prescribed shampoo, otherwise you can cause dry skin by over-shampooing! Shampooing too often is something I see very regularly, causing dry flaky skin or itchy spots. By shampooing too often you take many natural oils out of the coat, causing all sorts of problems. Luna just had a thorough rinse off as she had recently had a shampoo at home.

IMG_6063
Luna: “Ahh, a shower down is just what I need after that, I can’t be strutting around smelling like Chlorine now, can I.”
After your rinse or shampoo it’s time to dry off, first they towel them down with their super absorbent Aquasorb Towel! Woozelbears offer a range of drying equipment. They seem to have an endless supply of towels, as well as a quiet blow dryer and a huge blaster for the more confident dogs! Most are unsure to start, Luna was herself initially but over her first few sessions we managed to build her up to the big dryer. And now she quite enjoys it! They also have a cabinet dryer, which the dogs can sit in while air is blown more quietly all around them. While in the cabinet they are watched at all times, and not left in there for any more than 10 minutes at a time. They are a very handy piece of equipment if used safely!

IMG_6077
Luna: “I do enjoy a puffy hairdo!”
Blow dry complete, it’s time to get all our gear back on! To prevent Luna from getting cold when she goes back outside, and to absorb those last bits of moisture, we bought her a Ruff and Tumble Dog Drying Coat from Woozelbears. These are perfect at this time of year, ours comes everywhere with us now that the rainy and muddy seasons are staring to kick in. Along with our Aquasorb that we mentioned earlier. You can purchase the Aquasorb online here. But if you want a Ruff and Tumble Drying coat you’ll have to get in contact with Woozelbears via phone or email to see what they have in stock. It’s worth doing at the moment too as they’re offering 10% off all Ruff and Tumble coats! Get yours before it’s too late! All the contact details for Woozelbears can be found below.

IMG_6090
Luna: “Okay, I’m pooped, time to go mother! I need my beauty sleep.”
That’s our full hydrotherapy session complete, Luna stopped for a quick pose outside before hoping back into the car and I went back in to speak to the therapist about her future program. Being happy with her session in the pool, it was decided that Luna’s next session would be back over to the aquatic treadmill! The treadmill offers different benefits to the pool, which I will run through with you next time. The hydrotherapists are very thorough in planning out a program for each individual dog. Bearing in mind that they see many injuries and clinical conditions, such as Cruciate Ligament Ruptures/Tears/Repairs, Elbow Dysplasia, Osteoarthritis, Paralysis, Muscle Tears etc. There are so many conditions they have to cater for, and no two cases are ever the same!

IMG_6094
Luna: “Do we have to leave? There were a lot of treats in there that looked pretty lonely!”
We hope you enjoyed reading about Luna’s hydrotherapy session. As always if you have any questions please leave us a comment, or message us on InstagramFacebook or Twitter. I’m always happy to help with any of your queries or concerns, especially if related to hydrotherapy. I used to be a hydrotherapist myself, but sadly a chlorine allergy meant I had to leave the career behind. Gutted is an understatement! If anyone finds a cure or needs a tester for chlorine allergies let me know!

I know most of you that read my blog like your social media, and you can find Woozelbears on InstagramFacebook and Twitter! Be sure to follow them to get updates on their lovely patients. If you check out their Facebook, you might just be able to make a last minute entry into their giveaway, which ends today!

Get in contact with Woozelbears, Witney Branch:
Phone: 01993 772 882
Mobile: 07792 049758
Email: info@woozelbears.com
Address: Unit 5 • Eagle Industrial Estate
Church Green • Witney • Oxon • OX28 4YR

If you live closer to Swindon, they have a branch there too!
Phone: 01793 953 222
Email: swindon@woozelbears.com
Address: Unit 11 • River Ray Industrial Estate
Barnfield Road • Swindon • Wiltshire • SN2 2DT

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Woozelbears also have a shop! Lots of goodies on offer, treats, food, toys, supplements, accessories and beds (including orthopedic beds). What more could you need?

And to finish off, some more photo’s of Luna enjoying herself.

IMG_6037
Luna: “I call this one, resting ball face.”

IMG_6039
Luna: “Wingardium leviosa!”

IMG_6041
Luna: “Aww poop, forgot my wand”

IMG_6034
Luna: “Well, these legs aren’t going to massage themselves!”

IMG_6005
Luna: “That’ll teach you for throwing the ball away from me!”

IMG_6026
Luna: “Human, how is this a fair race to the ball if you’re holding me back? CHEAT!”
 

Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on any of our trick tutorials or our next trip to Woozelbears!

Luna’s Hip Dysplasia

Hi guys! So for today’s post I though I would throw in a bit of variety from the usual “how to trick tutorials” and talk a bit more about Luna. Now I’ve spoken briefly in the past about Luna’s Hip Dysplasia, but let’s go into a bit more depth. Luna has Bilateral (BL) Hip Dysplasia (HD), BL meaning it is on both sides. Clinically she is almost equal, only ever so slightly worse through her right hind (RH), however symptomatically she always was considerably worse through her RH and left fore (LF). The reason for her LF is that she used to use it to compensate. Now without sounding big-headed – it’s going to, I’m sorry – most pet owners probably wouldn’t have picked up the signs that I would until much later in life. However working in the hydrotherapy we learned a lot about gait analysis, so I started picking up on a few subtle signs – slightly less extension through her left hip (extension from a join is how far it “opens”), very occasional bunny hoping and a lack of flexion (how much a joint “closes”) from her LF. In this time she never actually limped, but I was a paranoid mother and I was straight off to the vets for an examination, which further led to an X-Ray and diagnosis.

You can read more about Hip Dysplasia on Fitzpatrick’s website.

At this point I was pretty devastated as we had just started competing in agility and were placing after just 3 shows. But I wasn’t really that concerned about competing, I was more concerned about just how much she loved agility. Luna’s always loved to trick train, but anything high energy really hits the spot for her. Of course I backed off from the agility altogether initially. I was thankful that I had found out as early as I did, as HD cannot be cured, but the earlier it is found, the better it can be managed to create a better quality of life immediately as well as in the future.

1
Luna back in the day! This was not long before we started competing.

So how did we go about treating Luna’s new-found condition? Well I was also thankful that I was in the position that I was! I was a fully qualified hydrotherapist at Woozelbears Hydrotherapy when I found out, which meant super easy access to great rehabilitation for Luna! When we found out, we measured Luna’s muscle mass, she had muscle loss through both hind limbs (right was 2 cm small then her left) and excess muscle through her LF (1cm) where she was compensating. Certain muscles were also really tense where they had either been supporting the joint or used as compensation. So we started Luna’s hydrotherapy program with 2 sessions a week in the pool at first to help reduce the inflammation as much as possible. After a few weeks we then moved her over the aquatic treadmill (a treadmill that fills up with water) as her muscles had become more supple and she had gained a small amount of muscle. The treadmill will still help to reduce inflammation thanks to the natural properties of the water but the treadmill will build muscle much faster than the pool as well as help to retrain their gait as it makes it much harder for them to compensate. I won’t bore you with all the in-depth stuff but if you want to know more drop me a message! Woozelbears also had a gait analysis treadmill, with pressure sensors under the belt, which helped us to track her progress very carefully, and tailor her hydro program to suit her, with the correct exercises and amount of hydro that she needed.

IMG_6026
Luna enjoying her swim! Seriously focused on that ball at the other end of the pool.

So I’ve spoken a lot about the hydrotherapy just now, but it wasn’t just the hydrotherapy that helped Luna. The vets immediately offered me NSAID’s when we found out, which I was absolutely not happy about and neither were they with her being so young. So I set out to find a more natural alternative, which is when I found out that turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory. Upon finding this I then found out about Golden Paste (GP), which helps with a lot of ailments in both humans and animals. Golden paste contains turmeric powder, coconut oil, water and black pepper, if you want to find out more or how to make it please click here. So I got Luna on the Turmeric paste, as well as a glucosamine supplement. There are so many different glucosamine supplements on the market, and I treated dogs on many of them in my time as a hydrotherapist. Some have minimal effect, most work, some work well and some work really well across all cases. The one I had seen the most positive cases with was Yumove. It was the only glucosamine supplement on the market at the time that was clinically proven, and it contains many other ingredients – such as Green Lipped Mussel and Chondroitin – that are beneficial to joints and muscles. You can find out more about what ingredients are included and the benefits by visiting their website.

On top of all this we had to restrict many aspects of her life throughout her rehabilitation. This included preventing her from jumping up onto furniture, into the car, not allowing her to use stairs, shortening her walks drastically etc. We also had to start including a lot more on lead walking – not only to prevent sharp turns and high speeds, but lead walking helps to build a lot more of the correct muscles that you might think, because dogs find it harder to compensate at a slower speed. We also had to remove ball throwing – potentially one of the best things I did for both collies was much less ball throwing, I didn’t realise at the time the negative effect it can have on their mental state, creating an obsessive and fixating mind. Okay in the right amounts, everything in moderation as they say! The agility was scrapped, and so were our 4 hour treks across the countryside! Luna’s life changed massively, and honestly she wasn’t happy at first. Some people and trainers like to say that dogs “can’t/won’t resent you” but I swear she was sulking, I don’t care what the naysayers will say. That dog was sulking and she hated me the most in that time. I definitely got less affection off her, but other people in her life still got the usual amount, it felt like the bond had been broken. BUT it was for her own good! She wouldn’t be where she is now if we hadn’t done all this!

Anyway I wanted to fix the bond between me and her that had been broken, which is where I began to dip my toes in with my first bit of trick training. Of course she already had all the basic commands, and knew a couple of tricks, but I thought back to when she was learning them all and she used to love it. So I introduced trick training back into her life. I had to tailor the tricks around her hips to make sure she wasn’t going to cause them any harm, but there were plenty that we could do. As I soon found out a lot of tricks are actually great for helping to build muscle, if you want help or more info about this be sure to ask, I’m always happy to help when I can. Before I knew it Luna was much happier in herself and she was close to being back to her usual crazy, loving self!

IMG_5771.jpg
Luna: “Are we done yet? This is seriously working my core!”

A few months passed and Luna had improved considerably! She was down to needing only once weekly hydro sessions after the third week and continued at this until this point. The Golden Paste (GP) and glucosamine had really taken effect, as had all her life changes, and her muscle had improved greatly! Her muscle mass had increased through both hind limbs and her right was now almost equal to her left, with there only being 5 mm difference. Her left shoulder was now equal with her right too where she had stopped compensating, but with all this muscle work both her shoulders had increased! Her range of movement had improved too, flexion and extension of all joints. At this point we started to gradually reduce her hydro, down to once a fortnight and start lifting those mean life restrictions one at a time. If anything set her back at any point we just went back a step and continued for longer until trying again. Eventually she no longer needed hydro, providing I perform regular exercises with her at home – given by a physiotherapist – as well as continuing her glucosamine and GP.

Luna can do much more again, and we regularly keep an eye on her to ensure we aren’t causing her any discomfort, looking for all the subtle signs, especially when we introduce something new or ask a lot of her! She’s a classic case of the mind is willing but the body is not! Luna now leads the life of a normal dog most of the time, and it’s all thanks to her strict rehabilitation program. It makes me sad when I can see a dog that is clearly in discomfort but the owner is uneducated, blind or just ignorant. I know a lot of this isn’t cheap, and circumstances change so you can’t always afford what you could when you first got a dog. But at least do what you can, and especially don’t expect them to walk miles and shout at them when they can’t keep up! For those people I hope a flock of seagulls crap on you simultaneously while your mouth is open. It’s cruel and I wish I could take your dog away from you. But if you do have insurance a lot of this is likely to be covered within your policy! Luna’s was all covered by Direct Line for us!

If you ever have any questions about rehabilitating hip dysplasia, or any other clinical conditions or injuries, or if you just want some moral support, please drop me a comment or message. You can message me on InstagramFacebook or Twitter, although I’m most active on Instagram!

Next up: Luna’s Hydrotherapy Session at Woozelbears! We’ll be writing about one of our recent trips to Woozelbears for Luna’s hydrotherapy session. Be sure not to miss it by following us pr subscribing to our emails! Blog posts only, no junk, I hate that crap!

IMG_6046.jpg
Luna: “Stay tuned to watch me make a splash!”

How To Teach Your Dog To Hold

I’ve had a few requests of how to teach your dog to hold something in their mouth. Many of these people are trying to start out too complicated too soon, for example a friend was trying to teach their dog to bring them the remote but didn’t even have a hold it command for something the dog deemed comfortable. And Can you imagine holding cold hard plastic between your teeth? Not the most comfortable, and even worse if you’re already unsure! The same follows for training dummy’s, they aren’t the most comfortable so not all dogs will want to hold them from the off, opt for a softer object. So let’s go over the hold it command.

IMG_3891
Luna: “Soft and Squishy is great for me, I like to give it a real good squeeze!”

You Will Need:

  • Clicker or Marker Word
  • Reward – Treats/toy plus praise – if opting for a toy, keep the reward toy separate from what you want them to hold.
  • A toy your dog plays with on a regular basis and you have seen him holding in his mouth by choice. Nothing too over-stimulating though as this will cause too much distraction!

Method:

Step 1: Kneel/Stand in front of your dog with your clicker and what you want them to hold.

Step 2: Hold the object in front of your dog, close to, but not touching their muzzle. Click and reward when they touch the object with their nose or mouth. If it’s only a nose at firs still reward that, don’t ask for too much too soon, however bonus(!) if they’re already offering to put their mouth around it.

Step 3: When your dog is touching the object every time you want to move onto opening their mouth on the object. Some will do this naturally, so when they do, click and reward, but others need more encouragement – Aurora definitely did! How I encouraged her to touch the object with her teeth was by using a treat and holding it on the object with one thumb, whenever her teeth so much as brushed the object when getting the treat I would click and reward. It took some time but eventually she began to understand.

Step 4: Now when you present the object you want to wait until they grasp it before you click and reward. Even if they only grasp it for a millisecond you will want to reward. Make sure you are still supporting the object at this point, do not expect them to take the weight.

Step 5: Put in your command, repeat step 4 but start adding in the command as you present the object to your dog. Remember to only say the command once, try not to repeat the command! I use “hold it” for both Luna and Aurora.

Step 6: Begin to increase the time before you reward, very gradually increase the time of them holding the object in their mouth with you still supporting it before clicking and rewarding. Keep it at a few repetitions each time you increase the time, move up to half a second, repeat 3+ times , then a second, repeat 3+ times, then 2 seconds, repeat 3+ times, then 3, repeat 3+ times, so on and so forth. If at any point they start dropping sooner, move back to a duration they were comfortable, and repeat for longer in that duration before trying to move up again.

Step 7: Once they are comfortably holding the object with your support for at least 5 seconds you can now ask them to start to take some of the weight of the object. Ask them to “hold it” and begin to slowly take your hands away from the object slightly, dropping the duration back to half a second. Click and reward as usual, if after a few tries they keep dropping go back to the previous step and stay there for longer before trying to move on again.

Step 8: Completely remove your support from the object, click and reward after one second and repeat several times.

Step 9: Begin to increase duration. As always be sure to increase the duration very gradually, Even more so if they have been unsure of any of the recent steps!

 

If you want to move onto harder objects to hold, move back as many steps as necessary with the new object. Some dogs will apply it to other items with ease, while others will find it harder, so just break it down again for them, potentially going right back to step 1!

1
Luna: “This is self-control kids, it’s taking every ounce of my being to not gobble this up! But don’t get cross, that’s what food is for right?” | Trip Bone: Guru Pet Food

So that’s how I taught Aurora to hold it. I was extremely lucky with Luna because she just held items naturally, I had to use some of these steps to ask her to hold things that she found less comfortable though, and food took a seriously long time to teach! But with patience you will get there! As always this is just the method I’ve used for my dogs, there are so many different ways that people teach tricks. No one knows your dog better than you, it’s just a case of seeing the end result and working out what steps it needs to be broken down into for it to work for them.

We’ve had some great feedback from our other trick tutorials, if your dog knows the tricks we are sharing or you’re using our methods to learn to teach them please share with us! Use the Hashtag #CCTrickTutorials on Instagram, and we might just feature you in our story. Also if you get stuck with any tricks drop me a message on InstagramFacebook or Twitter, I’d be happy to try to help. We are most active on Instagram though!

What trick would you like to see our method for next? Leave us a comment and don’t forget to subscribe for more trick tutorials!

10 Facts About Luna and Aurora

As Luna’s Birthday was only a couple of weekends ago I thought we’d do something a little different. I have lots of Birthday photo’s I want to share with you, as well as mine and Aurora’s day out to Countryfile Live with Sputnik the Sighthound, but I didn’t want to make you read another boring old post about what the dogs did on their Birthday, I see enough of those about as it is. So instead I thought I’d write you a boring old post on 10 facts about Luna and Aurora.

1. Luna was rescued when she was 6 months old
Poor little tyke had such a bad start to life. This might not be a new fact for some of you, as I know a lot of people already know, but if you didn’t, you do now! This is the reason for her reactive behaviour, which I have already spoken about with you. But she’s with us now, and enjoying life! If you’re one who abuses animals, you really are an evil bastard, and I hope karma bites you on the backside.

IMG_3834
Luna: “Okay, can I open my presents now?” – How on earth could you abuse a little face like that?

2. Aurora hates travelling
We honestly aren’t sure why, she loved travelling as a puppy! But one day something switched and she hated it. Now when she gets into a car she just shuts down and won’t respond to anything. It’s awkward for me to help her as I don’t drive but I am in the process of lessons and getting there! Once I can drive I have a plan set in my head of how to help her, but if you have any tips on this I would be extremely grateful! I believe it always benefits to be open to different techniques when it comes to training, never be closed minded! Fool!

IMG_4087
Aurora: “I had lots of fun visiting the Guru Pet Food stand, I love their new venison sausages!”

3. Luna has Hip Dysplasia
Another negative for this lovely little girl. She was diagnosed with Hip Dysplasia at the age of 3. The only reason I noticed so young was thanks to agility, we noticed that she was knocking poles and couldn’t turn as tight on one side. So with me having a bit of a canine medical background, I was straight to the vets with her once it had happened for a few sessions – so we knew it wasn’t just a one off. We got her x-rayed and sure enough the x-rays showed mild Bi-lateral Hip Dysplasia – BL = both sides. In short we got her in for hydrotherapy and I do simple physio exercises – given by a professional – with her at home. She is now almost in perfect condition and went back to agility, clearing poles etc. no problem. We always monitored her closely and as soon as she showed small signs of tiredness we stopped. I’ve got a long post planned on her HD, so I won’t bore you with the details just yet!

IMG_3837
Luna: “I might have Hip Dysplasia but it doesn’t stop me from tearing into my prezzies!”

4. Aurora is a face batting alarm clock
Exactly what it says on the tin. It’s pretty cool really, Carl has several alarms in the morning to help him get out of bed – we’re not morning people. Each alarm is a different song, so Carl knows how close he is to really needing to get out of bed. Aurora has figured out which alarm is the last one! When the last one goes off she jumps on Carl, paws on face and some kisses and nose nibbles until he moves!

IMG_4054
Aurora: “What can I say? You humans are lazy and need getting up earlier!”

5. Luna loves agility
Luna really does love her agility and misses it I’m sure! We’ve had to limit how much she does because of her hip dysplasia, which is sad, but she can do a little every now and again. It’s sharp turns and high jumps that we have to be careful with. In the moment she is enjoying herself so much that she doesn’t think about it! But afterward she pays a price and can be really stiff if we let her do as much as she wants, so we have to monitor what she does for her sake. But that fact that she can do any is fabulous! This is thanks to her hydrotherapy and physio exercises that I do at home with her, it helps keep her muscles strong which supports the joints and allows her to do what she loves!

luna
Luna: “Excuse the old photo, but this was my first ever ribbon in agility!”

6. Aurora’s favourite fuss is a belly rub
Aurora is not a ‘fussy’ dog, she’s not keen on cuddles, unless it’s on her terms, and even then she doesn’t hang around for more than a few minutes. But she will lie there for a considerable amount of time if you give her a good belly rub!

IMG_4137
Aurora: “Did you say Belly rub?!”

7. Luna’s favourite fuss is a scratch behind the ears
Luna is a very cuddly dog, as soon as I sit down she’s on my lap! Her favourite thing is in the evening, when we’re settling down in bed, she likes to curl up next to me and I can send her off to sleep pretty quick by just scratching slowly behind her ears. Doesn’t take long for her to start dreaming!

IMG_3844
Luna: “Love my beautiful collar from Bramble and Friends! Thanks Mum! And my new tag from We Love to Create – Pets

8. Aurora sucks her fluffy beds when she sleeps
This is strange, I’ve never met another dog that does this, so if your dog does, please let me know! She will only do it to soft, fluffy beds, but she literally lays down, sucks the bed and ‘puds’ it like a cat – you know what I mean, when they press on something with either paw at a time and put their claws in it, are you with me? But yeah she’ll do that until she falls asleep! Funny Puffy.

IMG_4091
Aurora: “Suck my bed? Me? Nope… I think you’re talking about that other Collie over there…”

9. Luna has rear dew claws
Yeah, they’re strange. Hers are literally just flappy bits of skin with a claw attached to it. They’re quite gross really, bleurgh – I just looked at the spelling correction for that, burgher, is that like her burger? Do you get burghis? Anyway back to the claws, oddly Luna’s rear dew claws have never bothered her. I always though she would catch them on stuff all the time, but it turned out that she always caught, snapped and twisted her front ones! So she still has her rear ones but her front ones have now been removed. The front ones were a nightmare, and she had to be put under every time she snapped them to fix them and I didn’t want her to have to go under that often – not good for the body to be happening that often!

IMG_4149
Luna: “I even got to spend my Birthday with the wonderful Mr. Mash!”

 

10. Aurora’s favourite phrase is “where is the ball?”
Aaaand cue head tilt. She will tilt her head the first time you say it, then if you say it again she will start to search. If you say it a third time she starts squeaking, making tiny little whining sounds until she finds it! If she can’t find a ball after a few minutes she will start barking out of frustration!

HannahsWitney-33
Aurora: “GIVE ME THAT BALL RIGHT NOW!” PC: Aura Photographs

I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the girls! I know this is quite similar to a Q & A, but I feel like some of these are not questions you guys might ask about! Don’t forget to drop a comment if you have a question that you want me to answer. Whether that be about my girls, or a general question about dogs, or just my opinion on a certain topic! Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow and subscribe if you haven’t already!

Here’s a few more photo’s of Luna’s Birthday! We didn’t take the camera out for the walk, we just let them have fun and be dogs! There is on thing I would like to note, and that is how fantastic Faerytails were about Luna’s Birthday cake. Luna has a LOT of allergies, and they were super helpful in making sure Luna could have her cake and eat it too! 😉

IMG_3910
Luna: “Thank’s Spuddy for my new tuggy! Although, could you tell your girlfriend to get off it…”
IMG_3891
Luna: “Thanks again Spud for my new squeaky football and the new bandana!”
IMG_3864
Luna: “Paws up for my Birthday! And for my Bramble and Friends Reversible Foxes Bandana
IMG_3857
Luna: “So many presents! As I’m already wearing my Luna’s Loft bandana I thought I could wear my new Whiskers and Stiched one on my head!
IMG_3849
Luna: “A girl can never have too many treats!”
IMG_4153
Luna: “My W & S bandana is better…” Aurora: “If you say so, Birthday girl… My LL bandana is good enough for me!” This fabulous cake is from the fantastic Faerytails!
IMG_4163
Luna: “Whoever said you shouldn’t have your cake and eat it too was wrong, someone get em’!”

How To Teach Your Dog To Spin

Hey guys! We’re back again with another how to! The most requested trick I’ve had recently is how to teach your dog to spin. Now I like to teach the dog to do this in both directions, one question I’ve had was “what commands do you use?” Personally I use “left” and “right” for a single turn in either direction. I use their lefts and rights as opposed to my left and right when they are facing me as I also use “left” and “right” to ask them to turn when we’re out running or cycling and they are attached to and in front of me. Some may argue that I need different commands for these things but I know that my girls understand the commands in each situation as both situations are very different. If you feel your dog may become easily confused then yes, please give them separate commands! If I were to train this with my Cavalier I would be sure to use separate commands as he’s likely to get the two confused. Now I do have a separate command for multiple repetitions of spinning, and for this I use “Spin” and “Twist”, the girls then know to expect to keep spinning in each direction until I ask them to stop.

We had the lovely Sputnik the Sighthound join us for a training session!


Single Turn

You Will Need

  • Clicker – Make sure your dog is fully conditioned to the clicker, if not you can follow our how to here.
  • Reward: Treats/Toys – if you have a choice I find treats easier initially.

Method

Step 1: Stand in front of your dog with a treat/toy in one hand and clicker in the other.

IMG_4021
Spud: “I see you have food. Well, what are you waiting for?!”

Step 2: Show your dog the reward, get their nose on it and use it to lure them in your chosen direction – do not give a command at this point.

IMG_4040
Spud: “Gimme that sausage, stupid human!”

Step 3: Once they have completed a full turn to face you again, click and reward.

Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 several times until your dog is turning in a circle fluently. Make sure you are always asking them to turn in the same direction at this point.

IMG_4028
Spud: “I warned you! Now your hand is going with it!”

Step 5: Introduce the command, say your command only once, then lure them in the circle, click, and reward. Repeat this process several times.

Step 6: Still using the command only once with each repetition, begin to hold your hand slightly higher as you lure them, so their nose is no longer right on the reward, but still make a big obvious loop in your chosen direction with your arm. If your dog still understands what you are asking you can gradually bring your arm higher so you are not bending over, and you will gradually be able to make the visual cue (loop) with your arm smaller and smaller. Make sure your do not come up too fast or make the loop too small too quick otherwise you may confuse your pup!

Step 7: You should get to a point where you only need a small circular flick with your hand as the visual cue, say your chosen command and your pup should turn in your chosen direction.

 

To teach the other direction repeat all the same steps, but turning your dog and your visual cue in the opposite direction. Also be sure to give a separate command, and do not start to teach the second direction until your dog definitely understands the first direction!

Don’t forget that, if at any stage something goes wrong, go back a step or two and start again from there. Things don’t always quite go to plan, so if ever, at any point you or your pup get confused, take a breather and come back in at a step you found successful and go again from there.


Multiple Turns

You Will Need:

  • To have a single turn command for both directions
  • Clicker/Marker Word
  • Reward

Method

Step 1: Ask your dog to complete a single turn once, then again and then click and reward.

Step 2: After several repetitions of step 1, ask for 3 turns, then click and reward. Keep adding on one extra ‘turn’ after several repetitions of each number until you reach 5 consecutive ‘turns’.

IMG_4012
Luna: “I’m so fast, even mum’s crappy camera can’t catch my tricks!”

Step 3: Add in your new command, I know some people choose to only say the command once but repeat the visual cue for each ‘turn’ and then integrate a stop command. However I like to repeat the command for each turn they do. The only reason I give a separate command is so the girls know that they are likely to have to keep spinning and therefore will do so faster, their single turns are performed at a slightly slower speed.


I hope you enjoyed this trick tutorial and that some of you find it useful! Does your dog already know spin, or has this inspired you to teach them? Also let me know in the comments if there are any tricks you would like to learn how I teach! I have had a couple of requests now for ‘cuddle’, which is holding an object with their paws tight to their chest while in a beg/sit pretty position. This will be a slightly more advanced trick tutorial and I’m letting you know now that you will need to have a solid beg command in place, and your pooch have the ability to hold a beg for a long period of time! A beg takes a LOT of core strength for a dog, so you must build up duration slowly and be patient with them. If they are struggling to hold a beg position it is likely that they simply are not strong enough through their core and the only thing that will help is patience and perseverance. If anyone is struggling with beg duration also let me know, happy to help if I can!

IMG_3312
Luna: “Get your Meerdog on! Strengthen that core! You think Balto led that team with a wobbly belly? NO! Drop and give me 20!” Collar: Mischievous Mutts

Remember, as with all of my trick tutorials, this is just the way that I have taught it. I am a great believer in that there is always more than one way to teach a trick, and each dog learns differently so this method may not be for you. However be sure to not give up too fast! My Collie’s learned this trick at a very young age – Luna 6 months, 2 weeks after I got her, Aurora at 10 weeks old. It took them both only a day to understand the command, but my Cavalier and Chihuahua both took about 3-5 days of 1-2 training sessions!

Thank you for reading, and don’t forget to enter our giveaway, we have three prize packs to giveaway with some wonderful companies such as Bramble and FriendsWhiskers and Stitched, Luna’s Loft, PitPat Pet and Guru Pet Food. Head over to our Instagram @colliecomforts to find out how to enter!

 

Disc Dog Day and Interview with The Wonder Collie’s

Evening my lovelies! Now today I want to talk about something very exciting with you… Disc Dog! It’s something I’ve had my sights set on for a little while but honestly, I’ve had no clue how to go about it. Luna has always liked frisbee’s, so I thought she’d love it from the off. Aurora however, whenever I had thrown a frisbee in the past she would always wait until it hit the floor before trying to collect it. Of course I’m not the kind of person to say “Oh, it’s just not for her”, I knew that it was me being a dummy and not knowing what she needed to show her how to do it correctly! Remember 99% of the time, the problem is the handler, not the dog! I thoroughly believe in that saying, you can teach a dog almost anything, you just might have to completely switch things up (in most cases, I know there are the odd exceptions).

5
Luna was in her element with the frisbee’s, haven’t seen her this happy since stopping agility!

Now I’ve been friends with the wonderful Sputnik the Sighthound for a while as many of you will know. When I saw Emily and Spud had made an awesome new friend who was teaching her how to get into disc dog, I of course had to meet this new friend. Said person is the super talented Sian and The Wonder Collie’s! They are incredible! Picture proof!

IMG_4326
Sian and Ellie being incredible!
I got to spend a whole day with Sian, Storm and Ellie as well as Emily, Spud and Lady. We had such a lovely time, first out for walks to make sure grumpy Luna would accept everyone – which she did! Although she seemed to like obsessively herding Lady; a collie herding a collie, fancy that. We had a few points in the day where Lady was trying to herd Luna while Luna tried to herd her, then on top of that Storm trying to herd to the two of them! It was a sight! After a long morning walk it was back to the house to chill out and eat lots of food – we all appear to be large quantity consumers, was nice not to be just me for a change. And then out for the afternoon for some disc fun, training and photo’s! Firstly I got to watch and photograph Sian with Storm and Ellie, they really are awesome and left me gobsmacked! I then got to watch Emily with the lovely Lady and Spectacular Spud show off what they know. Spud showing the world that the sport isn’t just for Collie’s. Sian gave me lots and lots of tips and told me off for being silly and doing things wrong. She’s not really a bully, she’s lovely but to the point and doesn’t beat around the bush which I like! I needed to hear these things, and made her aware that Luna’s bloody brilliant but I can’t throw a tennis ball into a swimming pool, let alone a frisbee. I have been given lots of things to learn, teach and practice which I am so grateful for! Thank you Sian! Hopefully she’ll deem me to be not entirely useless and will come back and save my girls from my lack of co-ordination again.
IMG_4437
Spud: “Move over Storm, there’s a new Disc Dog in town, and this town ain’t big enough for the two of us!”
As Sian is so awesome at disc dog and already competes and performs all over the country, I thought it would be nice to have a little interview with her. I scribbled out a few questions that you guys might like to know the answer to, so I hope you enjoy this.
Q: How did you first hear about disc dog?
A: “I actually first saw disc dog through some accounts on Instagram and instantly fell in love! I knew straight away it was something I’d love to take part in one day when the right dog came along!”

Q: Did you find a club to train with initially?
A: “When I first started out in disc dog there was a grand total of two other UK disc doggers, so no. Everything I did when I started out was all self-taught, or us following advice from disc doggers around the world I had contacted for help. However, now that the sport is growing in popularity and therefore opportunities, I would highly recommend finding classes or a workshop to help you get into the sport!”

IMG_4274
Storm: “GIMME, GIMME, GIMME GIMME!”

Q: How long were you training before you started performing?
A: “The length of time I had been training all of my dogs before they started performing differed a lot – obviously every dog is different so I really took it as a dog-by-dog basis! Storm and I had been trick training together for around five months before his first performance. It was much harder with him as neither of us had a clue what we were doing when we first started, we really had to learn everything together! Never the less, he didn’t let me down and started me on the path of performing! Ellie was much different to Storm (probably helped that I actually knew what I was doing with her, thanks to the experience with Storm) and successfully did her first performance after just two weeks! And at Dog Fest no less – talk about being thrown in at the deep end! Little Jet was the most complicated one, because trick wise he was easily ready to perform after just weeks of being with us. But behaviourally it was a different story, with his reactive nature. He’s a good case of needing to know your dogs limits and not pushing them to get what you want. After a long nine months he successfully did his first performance and I couldn’t be prouder!”

Q: Now that you have been performing regularly, how often do you train with each of your dogs?
A: “During the height of the show season, rather than planning sessions I tend to prefer to find opportunities and just incorporate tricks casually into their routines (such as on walks or while they’re having ‘play time’) to keep them fresh and stop it becoming too tedious for them. Storm will do almost no planned training in the house, Ellie will do a few frisbee sessions a week to make sure she stays in top form, but Jet does regular sessions as he isn’t performing yet and still has a lot to learn! Once the season starts to wind down we generally do 1/2 short sessions a day.”

Q: What’s your favourite thing about performing?
A: “My ‘job’ means I get to go to amazing shows and meet some great people, then go into a ring and play with my favourite dogs…what isn’t there to love?!”

IMG_4283
Storm: “IT’S MINE!”

Q:What’s the worst part about performing in a ring, if there is a bad part?
A: “I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing as such since it’s all part of the job, but as anyone who works with animals knows, they have their *cough* moments. At the end of the day, you are only half of the team, and its all too easy for your dog to just stick two paws up at you and bugger off! And in those times there’s not really much you can do but stand there and watch, or take a bow if it’s a really spectacular fail!”

Q: If someone wanted to start training disc dog, how would you suggest to go about it?
A: “Make sure your dog is fit and healthy first off – it never hurts to be given the all clear by a vet! But disc wise, find a classes or a workshop you can attend, ask people for advice (the disc community is a very friendly one and people are always willing to help each other out!), or find someone who’s style you like and just try it using YouTube videos/social media platforms as your guide! Obviously safety always has to come first, and never push your dog (or yourself) beyond your limits. Oh, and most importantly, always have fun!”

IMG_4336
That’s one spectacular back vault!
A massive thank you to Sian again for answering these questions! I sure know how she feels when the dogs occasionally “stick two paws up at you and bugger off”. I’m sure they do have days like us where they just think “Get stuffed, I’m not in the mood for that.”. Also a huge thank you to Emily for taking all the photo’s of me and my girls! I’d love to share more of our Disc Dog experience with you as we learn along the way, let me know if you want to hear more about it and whether you want to know how I have taught what they know up to this point!

IMG_4432
How lush are these two? I would have stolen them both given the chance!
The girls PitPat readings went through the roof! I was sure to use their activity monitors to make sure that both Luna and Aurora did not over-do it during this super fun, activity filled day. Ever thought about an activity monitor for your dog? I find them super useful, and just to note this little section is not sponsored by them in any way, I genuinely think they’re fantabulous! Go get your own PitPat here so you too can ensure your pup is doing enough/not too much every day!

IMG_4462
Aurora: “Mummy is always pressing that little button to keep track of my exercise”

We’ll finish off with a few more photo’s from today. I hope you enjoyed this post! Don’t forget to leave a comment, like and subscribe if you enjoyed it!

7
Luna: “Getting proud of my rebounds. Who am I kidding, I’m the best!”
6
Luna: “Already got this weaving business down to a T.”
4
Aurora: “I keep fizzbee, yes?”
1
Aurora: “You’re not getting away this time you son of a — Nom!”
IMG_4364
Lady: “You gonna throw that thing?”
IMG_4338
Lady: “Yes, ready mum, go!”
IMG_4377
Lady: “Ellie, this is my time.” Ellie: “Fizzbee?”
IMG_4443
Spud: “I shall slay thee, with-holder of fizzbee!”
IMG_4296
Storm: “I’m the king of the castle and you’re a dirty rascal.”
IMG_4298
Storm: “Cuddles yes mum?”
IMG_4324
Ellie: “I call this one the Kooky Kangaroo.”

How To Teach Your Dog To Touch

Hi guys! So for today’s little trick training how to we will be joined by Sputnik, AKA Mr. Mash!

IMG_4064
Mr Mash is so handsome! He even has his own Blog. Here he is posing on the Guru Pet Food stand at Countryfile Live!

Today I’m going to explain my method of how to teach your dog to touch your hand. It’s worth stating that I think teaching a dog to touch a hand with their nose is beneficial in day to day life! It shows our pups that an approaching hand is friendly, and not a threat. Something that was very helpful in Luna’s rehabilitation. And how to move touching a hand to touching a target stick, which is a super useful piece of kit to teach other tricks in the future! So without further ado, let’s get started!


Touch

You will need:

  1. A clicker – make sure your dog is conditioned to the clicker, see how to condition your dog to a clicker here
  2. A reward – normally small treats or toys

Method:

Step 1: Kneel/stand in front of your dog and present your dog with a flat palm. Do not try to touch your dogs nose just leave your hand in a static position. Dogs are naturally inquisitive and normally will investigate your hand to see whether there’s anything good there!

IMG_3916
Presenting a hand to Spud

 

 

 

Step 2: As soon as your pups nose touches your hand as they investigate, click and reward. Make sure your timing is right, as soon as you feel that nose on your hand, click!

 

 

Step 3: Move the hand you have asked them to touch behind your back, wait a few seconds.

Step 4: Present your hand again, and repeat steps 1-3 several times.

Step 5: When your dog is touching your hand as soon as you present it you can start adding in the command. I like to use “Touch” but you can input any command you like, I know some friends like to use “Nose”.

IMG_3955
Spuddy touching Mummy’s hand!

 

Step 6: Begin to offer your hand in different positions and say the command “Touch” but only once. When they touch click and treat! If your pup isn’t  sure what you are asking go back to step 5 and repeat a few times before trying to step back up to Step 6 again.

IMG_3966
Luna reaching higher to touch my hand! Touch can also be useful for dogs that you struggle to lure with food! Knowing the touch command allows me to lure Luna into the beg position without food – although I never struggle to Lure her with treats, such a foodie!

 

Target Stick
Need to know Touch

You will need:

  1. A clicker – make sure your dog is conditioned to the clicker, see how to condition your dog to a clicker here
  2. A Retractable Target stick – You can get a target stick with a built in clicker which is so useful! Rather hard to hold a clicker, target stick and a treat all at once! You can get one here: Target Stick With Clicker
  3. A reward – normally small treats or toys

Method:

Step 1: Keeping the stick retracted, stand/kneel in front of your dog and show them the ball on the end of the stick and ask them to touch.

Step 2: Your dog will hopefully understand what you are asking and touch what is closes to them (the ball on the end of the stick). As soon as their nose touches click and treat. Some dogs may try to go past the ball and touch your hand as taught previously, this is where your timing of clicking is crucial. Even if they brush the ball, click and treat! but make sure that they haven’t reached your hand before you click.

IMG_3973
“Love my Birthday present from Spud by the way, blue is definitely my colour!”

Step 3: Move the target stick behind your back and wait a few seconds.

Step 4: Present the target stick again and repeat steps 1 through to 3 several times.

Step 5: Once your dog has touched the ball several times consistently you can start to make the stick longer. Only push it out by 1-2 inches at a time and repeat steps 1-3 several times at each length until you have the stick fully extended.

If your pup is having trouble touching the end of the stick you can use something to lure them onto the end of it, such as cream cheese, Pâté or peanut butter (make sure it’s a dog friendly one! The ones that contain Xylitol are not dog friendly, please check the ingredients). Also be sure not to give your pup too much of these food items that are not made specifically for dogs, it can upset tummies! Use sparingly, it is only a lure after all, and they’re getting a treat after too!

Once your pup has mastered touching a target stick you can eventually begin to use it as a guide for more advanced tricks.

IMG_3996.jpg
“Look ma! No hands!” I can now use the target stick as a guide to bring Luna up onto her hind legs and follow it around. This is super helpful as with larger dogs, if you try to use your hand they tend to lean on you, most can’t reach when you’re using a target stick!
IMG_3990
“For fluff sake woman, hold that thing still!” Using the Target stick as a guide to ask Luna to trot in a circle around me.

 

Thanks for reading guys! I hope you find these little how to posts helpful! Next time will be how to teach your dog to spin both left and right, as requested by @My.locococo on Instagram! Please let me know in the comments or via message on Instagram or Tweet us if there are any tricks you would like to learn how to teach. If we don’t already know the trick, we will learn it with you! What is your dogs favourite reward when training?

 

Reactive Dog Ramble #1

This is a topic I talk about way to much, and I’m warning you now it’s going to be a ridiculous ramble. If you haven’t already I suggest you go make a bloody huge cuppa in a heat retaining mug or pour a large glass of wine and keep the bottle next to you.

Now, where do I start? I fear that this won’t have much structure to it, so I may just throw in the occasional paragraph here and there, but sod it, lets just go.

Walking is a nightmare. This isn’t always the case, but it happens a lot more often than it should. The amount of abuse I get hurled at me for walking an aggressive dog in public can be awful at times. And for someone that suffers with anxiety, it’s really not ideal. I’ve touched on this before so I apologise if I sound like I’m repeating myself with some of these points that I’m going to throw at you but I feel like some people just need it drilling into them before it really makes a difference. This is the normal situation that occurs before the anger and abuse starts (from both sides, I can give as good as I get when it comes to defending my dogs, you shit heads).

So Luna is walked in a bright yellow jacket that says “give me space” in massive back writing on both sides similar to this jacket and wears a bright blue muzzle like this muzzle but in blue – can’t find a blue one online, may need to contact The Company of Animals directly. Now you’ve got to admit, this dog is going to be pretty hard to miss even from a distance, a yellow and blue dog, not something you see every day. Unless you live around me then yeah maybe you might… So I like to let Luna run off lead when possible, but she has solid re-call, so even if she spots another dog really quite close to her, if I call she will come back to me. As soon as I see another dog I put her on lead and move off of the obvious path to give the other owner plenty of space to pass. Now at this point I believe it to be common courtesy for the other owner to call their dog back and put their dog on lead so they can pass easily and quickly while I put Luna’s training into place and use treats/toys to distract her from the passing dog. However about 50% of the time this is not that case. People have obviously looked at us and seen what I’m doing, yet they neglect to call their dog and put them on the lead. Some will shout “He’s friendly” or something along those lines, to which I have to reply “She’s not”. By now, they other owner has got a bloody good idea of what is going on, and thankfully by now about 80% of owners have gathered their dogs and passed. However there are some utter dickheads who still neglect to put their dog on a lead and knowingly let their dogs charge up to us! That or they have no control of their dog and no matter how much they scream they can’t get their dog back.

h2
“Pretty hard to miss me, right?” PC: Graham Cherry Photography

To those of you who have no control over your dog – what in gods name are you doing letting your dog off lead?! That is so dangerous! I don’t just mean to others but dangerous for your dog. What happens if Fido spots something he wants and legs it? And said something makes Fido run out into a road?! Why would you want to let that happen to your dog?! Or what happens if they run up to a reactive dog who isn’t muzzled? Because there are these irresponsible reactive dog owners about, or those in denial. Or maybe a dog that isn’t normally reactive but they scare the dog with their over-exuberant invasion and the now concerned dog lashed out at Fido. You could then end up with a reactive dog yourself! Not to mention an injured pup and potentially rather hefty vet bill, or worse. If you don’t know how to train your dog recall go to training classes. If you can’t afford that, follow a YouTube tutorial. Find that YouTube tutorial didn’t work, find another! There is always a way, even if it’s not the most conventional. Make sure your training takes place in a secure environment where you aren’t going to bother anyone else – e.g. rent a dog field nearby, or buy a long line (I’m not really a fan of extendable leads). If you’re one of these and want to change your ways but don’t know where to start then message me, I’m more than happy to help if I can!

thumbnail_luna21
“I always come back when mum calls!” PC: Graham Cherry Photography

To those dickheads who choose to ignore all warning signs and not even try to call your dog back, there’s a rather unpleasant name for you, and I’ll let you figure out what that is. Just put yourself in my shoes for a minute and think about how you’re making me feel, then put yourself in Luna’s shoes and think about how you make her feel. You’ve just allowed your ‘friendly dog’ to terrify another dog and set back the years of training I’ve put in. Luna is only reactive because she is scared. She was attacked numerous times by another dog she lived with as a puppy and her owner never did anything to prevent this. This is why she is so scared, and through her training to help her overcome her fear she became more confident. But with this confidence came a ‘want’ to ‘get in there first’ meaning she now doesn’t even give them the opportunity, if she is confronted with another dog she snaps to tell them from the off to leave her alone. She has never caused any real damage to a dog, however I would rather use a muzzle and not only protect other dogs, but protect her. If she were to snap at a dog and accidentally catch a human, if they were to prosecute there could be a rather awful outcome for her.

h4
“Mum likes to call me bane when I’ve got this thing on…” -.- PC: Graham Cherry Photography

However in ranting about how people act around aggressive, reactive and fearful dogs, I also get to see it from the other side. I have 3 dogs in total, Tiff – the Chihuahua – is fearful of dogs that are larger than her, so she is not a great example. But Aurora is good with other dogs provided they don’t jump allover her – honestly, who wants that? And Ollie – the Cavalier – loves everyone and everything. I love to let these guys socialise as and when I can take them out at a separate time to Luna. However I never let them charge up to other dogs, if the other owner leaves their dog off lead I will let them greet. The problem here for me occurs when someone with a reactive dog does not make it obvious. We get owners of reactive dogs who leave their dog off lead, no jackets or bandanas to say they need space, no muzzle, no verbal warning from the other owner and no attempt from them to leave the main path. They have so many warning options but none of them are used! This is the worst because now, how the bloody hell am I supposed to know that dog is reactive?! I then don’t find out until the dog has either shown body language to state they are not comfortable – in which case I will call mine back as soon as I spot the signs. Otherwise if the dog is ‘unpredictable’ – basically meaning that I don’t know that particular dogs warning signs – I don’t know until this dog has snapped or fully had a go at mine! Then I get abuse from the other owner for leaving MY dogs off lead! Me?! My bloody dogs?! Yours just attacked mine and you haven’t even tried to do anything about it! That is the worst kind of reactive dog owner! You’re getting a bad name for all of us!

HannahsWitney
“I’m just here to have fun! I don’t like scary dogs, I’d rather be with Mummy anyway.” PC: Aura Photographs

Stop ignoring this problem that you clearly don’t want or can’t be arsed to address and do something about it! If you don’t know where to start, putting your dog on a lead when you see another dog might be good – and rather obvious in my opinions, but hey, what do I know right? – and go and speak to a trainer or behaviourist. If you don’t know where to look for a behaviourist, a good place to get some advice is on the Facebook group – Reactive Dogs UK. This group is great for advice, or even just moral support when needed. I find breed specific groups on Facebook have a mixture of supportive people, and people who make you feel like absolute crap. But I don’t see that on Reactive dogs UK, I only see positive support and constructive criticism. There’s nothing worse than having some stupid know it all trying to ram false facts that they’ve materialised out of their own opinions down your throat. There are people like that everywhere, and if you’re one, stop it. Right now. Just stop. No one wants to listen to you with that attitude. A bit like me really, although I like to think that I’m open to others opinions and will definitely take advice, hints and tips from others. So no, I think I can distance myself from them, even though I am opinionated. Very opinionated. But seriously most of the time those people think that the same method should work for all, however I know that is not the case. I have to use altered or completely different techniques for training each of my dogs as they are not all the same! Just because one method hasn’t worked this does not mean all hope is lost!

h12
“I was a natural at recall once I fully trusted mum! Ollie, however, was pretty useless…”           Bow Tie: Luna’s Loft PC: Graham Cherry Photography

But on the other side, once Luna knows dogs and has been introduced correctly she can make friends! But charging dogs is not the way forward for her, this scares her and she normally lashes out. If you want your dog to make friends with her please ask, and ask me how to go about it the right way! It will take some time but eventually Luna will come to trust them! Provided they are not too boisterous, this is very negative in Luna’s eyes and must be controlled! When she is introduced to new dogs she always wears a muzzle until we can see that she is comfortable with them, safety first! Not all reactive dogs may be this way though, Luna has come such a long way since I first got her. She can be social in a controlled environment, but this may not always be the case so always ask! We wouldn’t have been able to do this 3 years ago!

HannahsWitney-41
“I have lots of friends! I just need to determine whether they’re good enough first…” PC: Aura Photographs Friends: Adventures Of Doodles and Silly Tilly Poodle

 

 

Well I think that’s quite enough for today’s reactive dog ramble. Bravo if you made it this far and thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts on area’s I’ve covered in the comments! Anything in particular you want me to cover on reactive dogs in the future? Let me know!