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!

July Q & A

I thought for today we would have a little fun with a Q & A! So over the last couple of weeks I have been asking you guys on Instagram what questions you want me to answer! Lets jump straight in!


What made you pick a Border Collie?
The way their brain works. I just love watching them figure things out! Give them a goal, add an obstacle or two and watch them figure it out. I love how fast they figure out brain games, and how willing and wanting they are to learn all the time. I love teaching new tricks and sculpting new behaviours so, personally, I think I fit with a BC pretty darn well.

IMG_3547
Bandana: Indie from Luna’s Loft

What is the best thing about Border Collie’s in your opinion?
Personality. I love how sensitive they are, well sensitive may not be the right term to use here. I mean the kind of sensitive that a woman looks for in a man – albeit rather hard to find. They are caring, loyal and they always know when something is wrong. But on the other side they know when it’s time to have fun – which to them is most of the time. The only time they know when to stop the fun is when they can tell that I’m emitting any kind of negative energy. If I’m upset, Luna will come cuddle me, and I mean she literally cuddles and this is not a behaviour that I taught her, with her reactive side and very rough past I thought this would me too close and invasive for her, but she does it on her own! But if I’m stressed or angry she will just come and sit quietly by me and give me puppy eyes which normally brings me out of it just enough to calm down. She always knows what I need and I will be eternally grateful for that. This is one of the reasons that I would love to train her as a therapy dog for myself but her reactive nature makes this rather impossible. Although sometimes we like to think of as many as six impossible things before breakfast…

IMG_3706
You appear to have put this on wrong mother…

If you were to own a different breed what would it be?
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. I have a stupidly long list of dog breeds that I would like to own one day. But when I worked as a hydrotherapist some of my favourite clients were Tollers. I just fell in love with their personalities. They remind me a lot of Border Collie’s but everyone that I have met has been a fair bit calmer. One of the owners also owned a BC and she said the Toller’s were like a Collie with an “off switch”, and I feel like they would fit pretty well into our pack. The next which I just have to mention are Cocker Spaniels, I love their energy! I see it as a different kind of energy to a border collie, almost more positive (and perhaps a little bonkers at times – I think that’s what draws me to them). Others on the list are Australian Shepherd, Irish Wolfhound, Poodle, and Northern Inuit, all for very different reasons.


Who is the cuddliest dog?
For those of you who don’t know I also live with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Ollie who is the family dog and a Chihuahua names Tiff who belongs to my sister. Tiff and Ollie are definitely the cuddliest dogs in the house, followed by Luna who mostly just knows when I need it, and finally Aurora who really isn’t that keen on affection unless she’s in the mood, she prefers to sleep, run and play!

3
I’m sure she dreams of cuddles

What the hardest part about living with a reactive dog?
Walkies. Walking is definitely the hardest thing, mainly due to other dog owners. When Luna is walking she wears a bright yellow coat that says “give me space” on both sides of it, and she wears a bright blue muzzle. Now please, somebody enlighten me as to how these idiots still miss this and let their off lead dog charge at her anyway. How?! She’s a bloody beacon when we’re out walking!
Anger aside now, I always try to walk at quieter times of day and take her to places where I know we won’t meet any dogs but sometimes this just isn’t possible. I do everything in my power to make sure that all other dogs are protected from my reactive pup, but other people do not do the same for me. Please, if you don’t already, I beg of you. If you see another dog approaching on lead, or see that the owner calls their dog back to put them on lead, please do the same. Personally I see that as common courtesy when out walking. Put yourself in the dogs shoes for a moment, if a strange human came charging up to you and shoved their face straight in your face you would be likely to shove them away pretty aggressively. That or just curl up into a ball and panic. Either way it’s not a nice experience so please don’t let your dog make any other dog feel like this – unless of course said other dog is absolutely fine with this, but please check with the owner first!

h2
I do not want you in my face. Please GTFO. PC: Graham Cherry Photography

If you could ask anything of other dog owners what would it be?
Be more sympathetic. This is something that I, myself, also need to learn. The points mentioned in the previous question would also be said but this would be close to follow. Before we continue can we just note that it was humans who caused Luna to be like this in the first place, if a human had done to another human what was done to her, they would still be in jail by this point and many more people around would be much more sympathetic of her behaviour. Sympathy is something that we as humans seem to lack a lot. Rather than using your opinions to ram down someone’s throat, stop for a minute and think about how they feel about the situation. In this case you need to put yourself in both the owner and the dogs shoes. I have to remind myself that not everyone knows what it’s like to own a reactive dog. Although shouting at them for being stupid and letting their out of control dog charge up to mine, setting her training back a lot, feels pretty good at the time. Instead I need to stop and educate said owner, hopefully they will listen, but we all know that sometimes it can be like playing chess with a pigeon. And to those of you who shout at me for having an aggressive dog, how about you stop yourself and think about why she’s aggressive, or even better, ask me! But you better have the tea an biscuits ready… And tissues depending on how sensitive you are.


What are the dogs most ridiculous nicknames?
Luna: Noonoomoomin
Aurora: Doispaff
Tiff: Feefanaba
Ollie: Olliesnonsnon
I don’t even want to explain myself…

IMG_3671
Love my new bandana from Whiskers and Stitched

How much should a Border Collie Weigh?
I HATE this question! All dogs are different! Even a single breed can come in many different shapes and sizes! Take my two for example, Luna weighs 12.7 kg and Aurora weighs 16.5 kg! Look at the bloody difference! And I promise you they are both of a good weight, Luna is just a lot daintier than Aurora, and shorted in height and length. I will not give you a set answer to this question, instead I suggest you read up on body condition scores. This is what your vet should also be doing, my vet has a body condition chart up in every room for both cats and dogs. In short you should be able to feel your dogs ribs with a slight covering of fat (and I mean slight), you should see the shape of a waist from above and the abdomen should be slightly tucked when viewed from the side. Of course every breeds body scoring will be slightly different (e.g. Sight Hounds bones will be slightly more visible and abdomen more tucked etc.). If you want more information on body scoring speak to your vet, and here’s a basic body condition scoring chart.


What advice would you give to a new dog owner?
Be grilled. If you aren’t grilled, go somewhere else. Whether you’re thinking of buying a puppy or re-homing a dog you should expected to be interrogated to the highest order. This will help prevent you from getting a dog that is not suitable for you. And if one place tells you that you are not right for that breed of dog, or temperament or whatever, don’t just go off and get one from somewhere that will let you have one. They obviously don’t give a crap and either are in it for the money or just want the dog/puppies gone, that of=r they may well be too shy, but this is no excuse. If you’re a breeder or re-homer and are reading this, please don’t be shy, it comes across all wrong. If you’re too shy to say it out loud then make a paper questionnaire! Prevent your puppies and dogs from going to the wrong home then ending up in a rescue centre after a couple of months with no home to call theirs forever. I’m not one for preaching about KC papers at people, personally I don’t really give a crap about them if you don’t want to show, so long as parents have had the correct health tests – but please make sure they have proof of health tests.

HannahsWitney
Grilled? I’ll grill this ball real good. PC: Aura Photographs

What bed would you suggest for a dog with orthopedic issues?
Memory foam. Not the super squishy memory foam crumb that you get in a lot of the cheaper beds, but the nice firm memory foam. The kind that costs quite a lot. I’m sorry to say it but if you really want a bed that’s going to help you’re going to have to splash out. But the positive to buying a more expensive bed is that – providing you don’t own a chewer, shredder or downright destroyer – it will last you a really long time! However mine have always been more inclined to destroy a bed stuffed with fluff than one with a solid filling (thankfully they haven’t destroyed beds in years. In regards to a bed suggestion, you want to go for a nice firm memory foam, something that holds its shape well to support them, and that also makes it easier to get up – ever tried to stand up on something really soft and wobbly? Not easy! You also want something they can stretch out on if they want to, so a small round bed with sides isn’t ideal.
Now I don’t have one of these myself yet – I’m saving for Luna! Poor little tyke has Hip Dysplasia – but I had a good look over Tuff Mutt’s ‘Muttress’ at Crufts this year, and I think they’re perfect! Before I carry on my ramble about them I want to make a point of saying that this little review is most certainly not sponsored by them in any way. It comes in many different sizes and thicknesses – we’re wanting a nice big and thick one! And although fashion isn’t a worry for us, they do look rather stylish and can be made with many different cover options. Even better, you can also have a waterproof cover! Here’s the link for the waterproof bed and here’s the link for the luxury dog bed.

5.JPG
Did someone say new bed?!

So that’s all for today’s Q & A! Please share your thoughts on my – rather opinionated – answers! If you have any questions you would like to see me answer in future Q & A’s just let me know.

 

None of the companies mentioned above have sponsored this post in any way. They are products I have bought and tried or inspected off my own back.

Should I Get A Border Collie? 

Should you get a border collie? My answer to most people that I have had this conversation is “Nope, don’t bother”. Hearing this can be very disheartening, especially if you have been set on having one for years. They are definitely not easy dogs to have around, seriously, I’ve lent my two out for a day to friends so show them what they’re really like and most have returned asking what other breeds might suit them. Lets start by running through the day to day life of my girls, before you think further about being owned by a Border Collie.

4
Aurora “Why is that woman screaming at her poor collie?” Luna “The blithering idiot obviously didn’t know what she signed up for when she got that puppy!”

Early morning wake up call!
 Forget about your lie in, any day of the week! Unless of course you can be lazier like me and get your partner – who has to get up for work ridiculously early – to feed them every morning for you! Aaaaand back to sleep for an hour… Zzz

8
Aurora “Bitch please, I’m all about the lie ins.”  (She’s not, she’s lying, she’s the bloody alarm clock!)

Walkies!
 Time for our first walk of the day! Making sure there has been 2 hours since they were fed of course! Everyone has far too much energy first thing, so if training isn’t put into place, arms are out of sockets… Mine have a mad 2 minutes and then calm down to walk at a reasonable pace up to the field. It’s an hour and a half walk first thing in the morning, which honestly, I really enjoy! Nice fresh way to start the day!

IMG_3512
Luna “Walks are freedom, it’s the only time where I can get a bit of space from this nutty family.”

Training time! A little chill out after the walk while I manage to squeeze some work in and it’s time to do some training! We like to do 10-20 minute training sessions twice a day for tricks or a half an hour session once a day – normally in the evenings – depending on what and where we’re learning (bearing in mind I have two so it’s double that time!). It also depends on their attention span, as some days you can see they’re just not up for a long session so I keep it basic and short but other days they want more! It’s tailored quite a lot by them if I’m honest, because as much as we all enjoy the training, we also know we mustn’t force it.

7
Luna “Take that, stupid human!” PC: Sputnik The Sighthound

Naps all round! Time for them to have a snooze while I try and get some more work done. Seriously though, if I don’t do all these activities with them they will be going stir crazy by this point. Luna paces around not knowing what to do with all her pent up energy, which normally leads to trouble like trying desperately to get into the bins! And Aurora just sits and stares at me with a toy in her mouth until I do something with her! Thankfully Aurora isn’t one to go looking for trouble though, but Luna definitely does if she’s bored! It’s very rare that situations like that occur, however sometimes the routine is broken due to emergencies, very important work commitments that need to be completed at a certain time, and illness. I know better than to let these things slip, but we are all human and sometimes you just can’t help it, that’s how I know how they act in those circumstances. But the thing to remember in these cases is that IT’S NOT THE DOGS FAULT. It’s YOUR fault, even if you can’t help it, it’s YOUR fault they emptied the bin, it’s YOUR fault they chewed the table legs and it’s YOUR fault that they shredded their new bed. If you can see that they only do these things out of boredom then you shall be forgiven, rectify the situation as soon as you can and don’t hold a grudge with them, because they don’t understand why.

Sorry went off on a little rant there, but I do believe that ramble is extremely relate-able to any owners of highly strung working dog breeds, especially Border Collie’s. Too many times I have seen people who can’t control them and blame the dog, 99.9% of the time the handler is to blame. I was taught that in agility and I believe that it applies to all aspects of life!

1
Luna “Definitely didn’t empty the bin and end up with a greasy head. Really I have no idea why I deserved this awful treatment, showers are not for good dogs. I am a good dog.”

Anyway, after the naps it’s back to yet another walk! Now in the evening their walk often gets swapped out for swimming, running or cycling! Honestly It kind of depends on how myself and Carl are feeling and how much time we have! If I don’t have much time then a run or bike ride is perfect to burn off their energy in a shorter time. Cycling takes longer as I can only cycle with one at a time through the streets of our town before we get to the field. Running is perfect but it takes quite a bit more effort from myself! I have a running belt with a bungee line and lead divider with two pulling harnesses for them – this website is great for running gear: Running Gear. To make life easier they also know left and right commands, and on and off the path commands – if you want to know how I taught any of those please let me know! Swimming requires a drive from where we live which requires more time, however it does mean us humans can be lazy while the girls get some seriously good cardio in! Swimming really is great cardio, for humans and dogs! We often just sit on the bank throwing a ball in with a ball flinger – or whatever you choose to call them, assuming you know what I’m on about, if not here’s a link: Chuck It Ball Launcher.

IMG_1373
Aurora “Did you say SWIM?!”

It’s then an hour wait until dinner time! The wait is essential to help avoid bloat! If you don’t know about bloat, I suggest reading this little article – Bloat Info – which will give you a little more insight into bloat and how to avoid it! For dinner we like to feed a raw food diet, which we would love to share more about in the future. In short the main reason for the raw switch is that Luna has a lot of allergies, but I saw such an improvement in her general well-being as well as her allergies that I swapped all 4 dogs to the raw food!


After dinner it’s a two hour chill out before either a little play time or training session depending on how engaged I am feeling. If I’m feeling worn down then play takes a lot less mental energy than training! And a good game of hide and seek or catch is always fun. Or if it’s been a hot day then maybe even a play in the pool!

IMG_3595
Aurora “Can you tell I’m a water baby?”

So that’s a general day to day routine, but we have to remember that some days they need more simulation than others. For the days that they never want to wear out but I still need to get work done I love Puzzle Toys for them, or just filling a Kong up with yummy treats to keep them busy. Here are a small list of boredom busters that we have and love!

Nina Ottoson Dog Tornado

Nina Ottoson Dog Smart

Kong Classic – Red

Tillypop’s Rustle Tussle


This was a run down of our weekday routine, and we love to spend our weekends really tiring them out! Whether that means attending a fun dog show, country show, meetups, a 10 Km run, an extra long walk through the countryside or something entirely new altogether! We love trying new things with the dogs, so if you ever have any suggestions or fancy meeting up just give me a shout!

HannahsWitney-41
Aurora “We love meeting up with pals, so long as Luna approves…” PC: Aura Photographs

Something else I would like to mention about Border Collie’s is that they constantly challenge you, and are very sensitive! Sometimes I like to say that they are too smart for their own good, for an example we’ll go back to the bin situation. We have bought so many different bins to try and prevent Luna from getting into them but she always figures them out! Which meant removal of the bin from the room! Even though it’s more awkward not having the bin where we used to, her safety is obviously paramount. You need to be prepared to change your life to fit around them, including aspects that you might not expect! And regards to sensitivity, Aurora used to love car rides, but something spooked her in the car one day and she suddenly because terrified of it. It’s proving very difficult to help her overcome her fear! If you have any tips on dogs with travel fear I would be extremely grateful, we have tried a lot of techniques but always looking for something that might help us progress faster.

3
Luna “Does this really look like a face that would empty the bins?”

Do not forget that Border Collie’s are a life commitment! Will you be able to commit these changes to them for life, not just a few weeks or months? You can’t just drop out when you get bored, because that’s a dick move, and if you do, you’re the reason there are so many collie’s in rescue’s across the world! Do you want to be responsible for another poor pup stuck in a rescue with no forever home? With the potential of never finding another home, and being put to sleep? No, didn’t think so. Never take the decision of purchasing or re-homing any dog lightly, especially highly energetic working breeds like Border Collie’s.

4
Aurora “Please don’t be another reason for hundred of us in rescues”

After what I feel to have been a mildly negative post on owning Border Collie’s, I would like to finish with a few words about how awesome I think they are. Yes they are a lot of hard work, but if you’re willing to put all that hard work in, they are SO rewarding! They can make you feel wonderful, and they have so much personality. Luna, for example, knows as soon as I’m stressed or upset, and comes straight in for a cuddle, often showering me in kisses to cheer me up! And Aurora is an absolute star to take anywhere. After years of training I can now put her in a down and stay just about anywhere and she will not move. She showed this off so well this weekend when a gazebo took off at a dog show. I wanted to help grab it and tame the wild beast, so told her to move away, down and stay, which she did! And she doesn’t even like big things moving around unexpectedly – something we’re working on, don’t worry! But this was such a huge step forward for her, made me so, so, SO proud! I would personally say that they are definitely worth all the hard work and daily effort, but remember that not everyone will feel the same.

So do you think you have what it takes to be owned by a Border Collie? Let me know in the comments below, and if you’re feeling generous let me know why! Once again, if you got this far, thank you for reading my ramble!

11
Luna & Aurora “Think you’ve got what it takes?”

P.S. I’ve just read over this and noticed how much I over-use exclamation marks! Did that bother anyone else?

Easiest Tricks To Teach Your Dog

Hi guys! I best start by saying that these are the 6 tricks that I personally find easiest to teach most dogs. This may not be the case for everyone! If you’re new to trick training I find these tricks a great place to start. Some of you may say that these are not all tricks, but basic commands. Whatever you want to call them they are still behaviours that you teach your dog to perform!

The tricks I’ll be covering today are:

  • Sit
  • Down (/lie down)
  • Stand
  • Paw (/shake)
  • Hi-5
  • Wave

Before I start on each trick there are a few things that will apply to all of the tricks below.

The first is that when I first teach a dog a new trick do not use a verbal command until they understand what I want. For example, I would lure them into the position, and once they are in the position I then give the command.

Secondly do not over use the command, and I see this so often. If you keep saying the command and you’re not getting a response you’re basically teaching your dog that they do not have to complete the command the first time that you say it – plus nobody likes being asked more than once to do something, it’s just bloody irritating! I do know that occasionally there are times where, after they have been taught the command, you may end up having to ask once or twice if they are distracted, but try and keep this to a minimum. If they are distracted easily teach a ‘focus’ command and use this to re-gain their attention rather than mindlessly repeating the same word over and over again – otherwise I might just gently beat you over the head with a stick covered in marshmallows! I will go through a focus command in the future for those who are interested.

Lastly make sure you have all training aids ready before you start. Most importantly your bum bag/treat bag complete with treats, or your toy if you’re using that as the reward. And also have your clicker ready in hand, decide which hand is easiest for treating and which for clicking!


Sit

Step 1: Whilst standing/kneeling in front of your dog, use a treat to lure your dogs head up and back slightly – nothing drastic, don’t be silly and make them bend their neck back as that’s just not comfortable. Also never use physical force to put your dog in position, I’ve seen people pushing on their dogs bum to make them sit and it’s not good for their joints! Makes me want to go and jump on their shoulders until their arse hits the floor!

Step 2: When their head comes up their bum should lower

Step 3: As soon as his/her bum touches the floor click and reward (it is key to click and target that precise moment! Don’t forget to click first then give the reward, if you have correctly conditioned they will already know that reward is on the way when they hear the click!).

Step 4: Start adding the command, I do this by saying sit once (and only once!) and then luring into position again.

Step 5: Repeat process multiple times until your dog starts to sit without the lure.

Step 6: Wait slightly longer each time before giving the reward (count 1 second then reward a few times, then 2 seconds and reward a few times, then 3 seconds etc.) but do not move away from them as this is venturing into a stay/wait command.

Aurora sit Badbury
Because obviously you don’t know what a sitting dog looks like…

Down
(Must know sit first)

Step 1: Stand/kneel in front of your dog with a treat and ask them to sit.

Step 2: Once sitting put the treat in front of their nose, and using it as a lure move the treat slowly towards the ground. Try not to bring the treat forward too far as their bum may come up so they can step forwards!

Step 3: As soon as their elbows are on the ground click and reward!

Step 4: Once they are comfortably performing ‘down’ every time you lure them add the command. Say the command once then lure into position again.

Step 5: Repeat process multiple times until your dog starts to lie down without the lure.

Step 6: Wait slightly longer each time before giving the reward.

3
Luna showing off her capability to lie down…

Stand
(Must know sit)

Step 1: Stand/kneel in front of your dog and ask them to sit.

Step 2: Use a treat to lure your dog forward.

Step 3: As soon as they straighten their back legs click and reward!

Step 4: Once they are standing still from a sit position start adding the command!

Step 5: Repeat process until your dog is standing without the lure.

Step 6: Wait slightly longer each time before giving the reward.

7 square
Aurora showing us how to stand, because you didn’t know what that looked like either…

Paw
(Must know sit)

Step 1: Stand/kneel in front of your dog and ask them to sit.

Step 2: Hold a treat in a tightly clasped hand near your dog and slightly to one side to encourage them to shift their weight off the leg you want them to give.

Step 3: Encourage your dog to get the treat. After a few moments (and probably a few licks, potentially some nibbles!) they should use their paw to try and open your hand. Click and reward as soon as their paw touches your hand!

Step 4: Once they are using their paw without encouragement, introduce the command.

Step 5: Once they are responding to the command try removing the treat from your hand and offering a flat palm when asking ‘paw’ (or whatever command you want to use, you could use any word you like!)

Step 6: Repeat the process until your dog is giving paw consistently without the treat in your hand.

Step 7: Wait slightly longer each time before giving the reward.

The key to creating a solid paw command is not to grab your dogs paw when they give it to you! Otherwise you could make them feel uncomfortable about giving their paw int he future! Let’s be honest, how would you like it if I grabbed your hand rather than just asking you for it. I think “Sod off you blithering idiot!” or potentially stronger words to that effect may well be used.


Hi-5
(Must know sit and paw)

Step 1: Stand/kneel in front of your dog and ask them to sit.

Step 2: Use the hand signal for your dog to give paw but don’t use the command. Once your dog lifts their paw, quickly switch your hand from a flat palm up to a flat palm facing your dog – as if you we’re going to hi-5 a human, but don’t move your hand towards them like you would a human, only humans hands deserve a slap – then click and treat as soon as their paw meets your hand.

Step 3: Once you have met your dogs paw further up a few times start adding the command.

Step 4: Once your dog is responding to the command start offering your hand in the Hi-5 position straight away rather than in the paw position first.

Step 5: Repeat the process until your dog is Hi-5ing (it’s not a word, but oh well!) consistently with your hand in the Hi-5 position only.

You don’t need to worry about waiting longer with this one. Lingering around in a Hi-5 is just an awfully awkward situation, and if you’re doing that with people, I suggest maybe you re-think your strategy.

14
Hi-10 mum! Because I’m far too advanced for just one. It’s definitely not just because I like to slap my paws everywhere… Nope, not that!

Wave
(Must know sit and paw)

Step 1: Stand/kneel in front of your dog and ask them to sit.

Step 2: Use the hand signal for your dog to give paw but no verbal command. Once your dog lifts their paw move your hand back to you and wave at your dog and click and reward. Make sure you only click while your dogs paw is in the air.

Step 3: Once you have clicked and rewarded the behaviour a few times start adding in the command.

Step 4: Once your dog is responding to the command, start waving at your dog without giving in the paw position first.

Step 5: Repeat the process until your dog is waving consistently.

Again don’t worry about hanging around with this one, waving for too long is just tiring. Seriously, sit and wave with your arm up for more than a minute, it’s not enjoyable. The queen must have some serious arm muscles!

IMG_3352
Begging and waving?! What is this sorcery?

 

I hope you found the methods above useful! Do you have a different way that you teach any of the tricks? I’d love to know, as there’s never only one way to teach something! Some dogs that I’ve helped train previously have made me think really outside the box before now. So if you’re stuck on anything just pop me a message, I’m always happy to try and help!

What tricks do you want to learn next? Let me know in the comments!

IMG_3388
We call this ‘Paws on’ although apparently Luna seemed to think that one was quite enough, apparently it was more ‘dramatic’… Do you want to learn this? Subscribe! 😉

Clickers and Trick Training Basics

I thought, before I went running off and showing you guys how I teach certain tricks, it would be best to first explain my teaching methods and some of what I use. Now I am by no means a qualified trainer, and you may well have your own methods, but for those of you who are interested I’ll crack on!

11
Sitting Pretty doesn’t just happen overnight!

 


Starting out

Start out simple! If you have never done any trick training before do not throw yourself in at the deep end! This may seem obvious to a lot of you but I’ve seen it so many times before, and then people give up because they become frustrated with their pup! Not their fault If you haven’t done much trick traing start out with the basics and trick I personally consider easy to teach (this is not always the case, every dog is different!).

Tricks I consider easy to teach:

  • Sit
  • Down (Lie Down)
  • Stand
  • Paw
  • Hi-5
  • Wave

Follow the blog if you’re interested in learning any of the above tricks in the near future! I’ll be combining these 6 basic tricks into one post!


Treats

Small training treats are best suited to trick training, and the smaller the treat the better! We don’t want those pup’s getting chunky!

I use a variety of treats, but I need to know that they are okay with my dogs tummies before using them, as we do go through quite a lot even in a short training session!

Having a set of treats can be useful too. I have either 2 or 3 sets of treat with me for a training session. A basic treat, a slightly more sought after treat, then something amazing! If your pup is taking longer to pick up a certain trick then it may be worth increasing the value of the treat, as this often helps speed up the process!

Some training treats I use:
Mixed Sausage Bites – Can be broken/cut up into really tiny pieces
Guru’s Venison Sausages – I still have yet to take a knife to their heads but they break up okay
Lily’s Kitchen Little Liver Rewards – Can be snapped up smaller but are the hardest of all mentioned
Pet Munchies Sushi Training Treats – Can be easily broken in half

 

1
Not a training treat, however holding something this yummy and resisting the urge to gobble it down is not without Training!

Clicker

I use a clicker for a lot of my trick training, I find it’s much easier to precisely target the specific behaviour that you are trying to teach.

What is a clicker?
A clicker is a small handheld device which makes a clicking sound when you press the button.

How does a clicker work?
You must first ‘condition’ your dog to the clicker. You do this by pressing the clicker then giving your dog a treat/reward immediately after. When I first condition a dog to a clicker it normally takes 1-3 days depending on the dog. I will normally condition 2-3 times a day for 1-2 minutes each time. This will teach your dog to associate the sound of the clicker with a reward!

How can I tell if my dog is correctly conditioned?
Wait until your dog is not paying attention to you, and click. If they react quickly to the sound and come to you expecting food, or whatever you have decided to use as a reward, you know it has worked!

What if I can’t get/forget a clicker?
Now I’m possibly one of the most forgetful people you will ever meet. There are many occasions where I’m stuck without a clicker, so my back up is a sound that I can make consistently, that is also not a sound they hear often. My personal sound is a whispered ‘yessssssssss’ so I hiss at the end like a snake! It isn’t as consistent as a clicker, however it is still better than just your normal voice!

The Best clicker?
there are loads of different clickers out there and they all do their job just fine! Personally I like to use one that I can clip to something because I’m forever dropping and losing things!

Here’s a link to the clicker I use: Petface Clicker

IMG_3634


Bum Bag

To me a bum bag with several pockets is essential! Mine has 3 zip compartments and a Velcro pouch. The Velcro pouch carries my poo bags (essential!), biggest back pocket is used for toys, the middle compartment for treats and the front carries my clicker and any other small equipment I may need for that training session. If you feel ridiculous in a bum bag, a treat bag that you can clip to your trousers will suffice. Personally I get annoyed with most treat bags for not sitting open well enough or being too easy access for the dogs to stick their noses in and self-serve!

I actually take my bum bag on all dog walks, because general walks can be used as training time too! For those fashionista’s out there, you can buy yourself a fancy bum bag in lots of places now too! Just be sure that it has a waterproof lining so it’s easy to wash gross treat bits out!

Here’s the link for my Petface bum bag: Petface Bum Bag

2
Our command for this is ‘Shame’

 


Toys

If your pooch likes or prefers a toy as a reward then great! My advice on toys is to try to use something that doesn’t take you forever to reward them with (for example throwing a ball miles every time you want to reward your pup will make your session take forever!). If you use a ball then just asking them to catch it I have found to be much more productive. Tug toys are a great quick reward too!

Luna and Aurora’s favourite toy reward are Kong squeaky balls!

Here’s the link for the squeaky balls: Kong Squeakair Balls


Environment

Remember that your environment can affect your trick training! It is best to start trick training in a very familiar, indoor environment where there are little to no distractions.

With every new trick I teach the girls they always learn it either in the living room or in our bedroom. These are the places with the least distractions for them. When I am confident that they understand the trick, and only then, will I begin to try to move it outside. First I move to the garden, which is familiar, but with more distractions, including sounds and smells! Then once I’m confident they have it in the garden I will move to a quiet public space and get busier and busier!

10
Our command for this trick is ‘Hide’!

 


Attitude

Your attitude will have so much impact on a training session, and I cannot stress this to you enough! You MUST be positive, because why would your dog want to listen to and cooperate with you if you were in a crappy mood? I personally am someone who feeds off the vibes of others around me, and I believe a lot of dogs to be the same way!

If you are for whatever reason frustrated, stressed, angry, upset, or any other negative emotion, and have a training session planned, cancel those plans. Go have some chill out time instead and save the training for another time, because you don’t want to be undoing all your hard work and breaking that special bond that trick training helps you and your dog build! It’s supposed to be fun dammit! You fun sponge! But seriously don’t panic, we all have those days.

Unfortunately I can’t give you a link to buy a better attitude, sorry!

2
Sitting still is an essential ‘trick’ for every day life in my opinion!

I don’t have time to trick train

Yes. You. Do.

You do not need all the time in the world to do some trick training with your dog. Personally I spend 5-20 minutes every evening before we settle down and watch TV doing some trick training. But you don’t even need to do that much, 5 minutes 3 times a week is enough for your dog to start learning basic tricks. Set aside 5 minutes of your usual walking time to do a bit of trick training, as mental stimulation can be just as tiring as physical stimulation!

I find it easiest to set out a schedule for trick training, because I’m a horrible procrastinator! But if I plan things, I’m much more likely to get them done!


 

I hope you find some of these things helpful. Of course this is not gospel, this is just my madness, however there is occasionally some method in my madness, so maybe you’ll find something helpful?

Let me know in the comments if you enjoyed this post, if you found it helpful, what you found helpful and if there’s anything you think I have missed and/or would like to know more about in relation to trick training. Also let me know if there are any tricks you would like to know how I train or want to see me train the girls in the future! Basically I want a whole customer survey from you, by the end of the week. Chop, chop!

If you happened to be one of the poor souls that made it this far through my ramblings, and you possibly enjoyed the post, feel free to click that follow button and subscribe to my future posts!

Welcome

IMG_0218Welcome, welcome… Welcome?
It took me far to long to figure out how to start this post, and anyone who knows me, knows that I am a waffler who just dives in at the deep end. So I guess this first post should just be a bit about me, my girls and what I plan to write about? Well that’s what you’re getting anyway!

Hi! I’m Hannah, nice to meet you, please don’t shake my hand, it makes me turn into the most awkward ball of goo that you have ever met. I’m a dog obsessed, overprotective, controlling, illness ridden, socially anxious human. I used to be a canine hydrotherapist, which I still miss an awful lot, and I now draw animals and love to create pet accessories! I don’t like to talk much about myself, however I can talk about dogs all day long. And on that note lets learn a bit more about the girls…
4

“I don’t have trust issues, I just know better!”

Luna was my first ever Border Collie, and I very much threw myself in the deep end with her. She was rescued from a very abusive home, when I first met her she was a terrified bag of bones, who had nicks, scars and bruises everywhere. Her right ear never stood up, and my assumption was; another dog she lived with had bitten it as there were scabs there when we first met. She was trapped in a small room with another dog who was not entirely friendly towards her, and we can only assume that the little they were fed went mostly to bigger dog! She had many behaviour flaws (honestly, who can blame her?!) which I will talk about more in-depth in future posts. Many of you will know just how stressful it is living with a reactive dog, and for those who don’t, strap yourselves in when I re-trace that awful, yet rewarding, journey! Now Luna is a dream in the house and although she still has her issues out and about, she is so much better! Let me know if there are ever any specific topics you would like me to cover on reactive dogs!

2

“Don’t think twice, it’s alright”

Now onto Aurora. Doris, Doispaff, Floofypoof, Aurorasaurus-Rex, Arooroo. Yes, she probably has the most ridiculous nicknames in this house. We got her as a puppy from a farm – before you scream about health tests at me, I know, trust me, I really do – who are good friends of ours. She is one of the most hilariously cute dogs I have ever met – I know I’m biased, go away – who shows affection by batting your face with her paws then slobbering all over you. However you have to be pretty darn special for her to kiss you! She’s not particularly taken by most other dogs to start – not aggressive, just ignores them –  but once she’s gotten to know them she plays like a goon!

I live for doing anything that entails the dogs – if you invite me out for dinner, it better be dog friendly! – and I’m sure they keep me fit! We like to do lots of trick training, running, cycling and swimming together, they even come surfing with me and my partner! I love to attend dog shows with Aurora, and also enjoy tarting them up in fancy collars, leads, bow ties and bandanas! How on earth did I slip back to talking about myself?!

I plan to post mostly about their lives and my past, present and future experiences with them! I will be led by my readers, the few of you that may exist *inserts laughing smiley, turning to the most awkward face you could possibly imagine*. You’ll probably learn quite quickly that I go off on quite extreme tangents and, as mention previously, I waffle a ridiculous amount. My main planned topics are living with a reactive dog, trick training, how I keep my dogs healthy and the occasional days out. If there’s ever anything specific you want me to write about, drop a comment, email, tweet or direct message me on Instagram (Instagram is my most heavily used platform, so expect the fastest response there!).

So yes, I hope you enjoyed my waffle (just call me McWaffleton!) and hope to see you again soon!