Watching dog behaviour, when you don’t have a dog

One of my fave dog walking spots

One of my fave dog walking spots

So our new house is a ten minute walk away from a beautiful country park, with lakes, woodland, open spaces…pure dog walking perfection! (Part of me is seriously considering taking on new clients, I just feel so at home there and I’d love for a couple of dogs to benefit from it too, but we still don’t know how long we’re staying here for). Usually when I’m in that kind of environment, I’m with a dog, so my focus is on him as well as the dogs around me. Now I’m without a dog, I find myself just watching them.

Now I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve taken a break from dogs that my ‘behaviour brain’ is taking over, but I’ve started to learn again. I ‘attended’ my second webinar by Sarah Whitehead recently, and have spotted a good illustrated body language book too. Sometimes I think not having a dog makes certain theories in dog behaviour clearer, as individuals can be so complex, your judgement becomes clouded when you keep referring to a particular dog in your mind. I’ve been thinking about how anthropomorphic we are with dogs too, and trying to understand why a dog would do such a thing rather than putting my own emotions upon them. In fact it has seemed a little easier, maybe because I don’t know them? Previously when I’d take on a new dog walking client for example, I’d be watching them, figuring out how they work. So why not try and read dogs in the park? How does he greet strangers? What do his vocalisations suggest? Is he nervous? What is his tail positioning? What commands do they have in place? Any signs of aggression? What are his play patterns? I’d really recommend it, especially switching off from your own dog, as there’s such a miscellany of behaviours you might see one that your dog doesn’t express very often, or even something that your dog does all the time, you just don’t notice it anymore. I’m sure you’d be surprised and inspired in some way.

Our new Country Park

Our new Country Park

Last week I watched a pair of inseparable Labradors in utter bliss in the water, and a couple of dainty little whippets hopped past too. Some things I’ve watched frustrate me, I’ve witnessed alot of people giving their dogs a ‘yank’ to correct them or allowing them to run to the end of their flexi lead and almost choke themselves *sigh*. But the majority has been nice, and our dog owning day will come…We have however, got a new family member, who I will introduce you all to soon! You can tell by the title of this post that he isn’t a dog, but he is asleep on my desk right now…

Mind games, 3 in 1 puzzle toy by Dog it

Choosing a gift for someone who has everything is hard! Even if that someone is a dog! After doing some research at Christmas time, I ended up investing in the ‘Mind games 3 in 1 puzzle toy’, by ‘Dog it’ for Jess and Max. I set a budget of £20 and under, mainly because I’d spent enough already but also I noticed a lot of the puzzle toys out there were very similar in their function and logic, but just differed in their shape or material. For example, you could pay £24.99 for a toy with the same mechanics as a £4.99 one, but one was wooden and the other plastic. I paid £12.49 + free postage for my chosen toy and I suppose the main thing that appealed to me about it, was the fact it was 3 puzzles in 1 (in an attempt to get my moneys-worth!)

imageSo here it is, set up ready for the first and simplest puzzle. The dog has to lift/push the green caps to find their reward underneath.

imageThe green caps have a rim around them, which enables them to slot/click into place between the two white parts of the toy. This makes them slide around the board without lifting up, creating puzzle number two. It was actually my 12 year old brother that figured out how to slot them into place! I was (embarrassingly) baffled!

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Puzzle number three involves a sliding green disc, that the dog has push around to find their treat.

So how did we find it? Well this was Jess and Max’s first puzzle toy, so when I presented it to them both they had quite unimpressed expressions! With a little encouragement Jess was the most keen, which is always the case. She is highly food motivated, never gives up on a Kong and picks things up really quickly. Once she had the scent of the hidden roast chicken she whizzed through all three of the puzzles, although I’d say she found puzzle three the hardest to figure out at first. Here is Jess using puzzle three, I like how she uses her teeth to try and lift the disc!

Max on the other hand can be a fussy eater and he quickly loses interest in tasks such as training or emptying a Kong. He will just walk away, and this was the case with this toy. However, I have noticed he likes to eat alone and that he’s a slow eater. So maybe if he wasn’t so close to us with the puzzle toy (away from me and my camera) he would interact with it a little more, and wouldn’t feel under pressure to rush it. I also wonder if he finds things like this more difficult having a flat face/snout. Jess can nudge the disc with her nose whereas Max has to stick his full face in there! There may have been a little social learning too, as Max watched Jess complete the puzzle before having a go himself. Here he is using puzzle three:

Overall, I think the way both dogs interacted with the toy reflected their own personalities. It was pretty much what I would expect from them both. As for the toy itself, the plastic is sturdy, and it has suction pads on the bottom to prevent sliding (which I didn’t notice straight away). The fact that it’s three puzzles in one makes the price reasonable, in comparison to others. It does it’s job in providing a puzzle and something novel for the dog, and it’s cute to watch them pawing and figuring it out! But if you’re looking for a puzzle that takes a while to crack this one may not be the one, I think it’s a great starter puzzle though before moving onto something more advanced. I’m open to suggestions to modify/add to the toy if anyone has any ideas!

We made the cover!

Image courtesy of Manchester & Cheshire Dogs Home

Image courtesy of Manchester & Cheshire Dogs Home

I’m thrilled to shout out the words ‘we made the cover!’, like some sort of celebrity hitting the tabloids! But this is much more important; Max has been chosen as one of the many dogs to feature on the Christmas cards by Manchester & Cheshire Dogs Home!

They recently opened a competition via their Facebook page, asking for Christmassy dog photos. I entered both Jess & Max (Jess being a MDH dog), and although Jess isn’t starring on the cards, Max will of course be representing them both :) Can you spot him? Fourth row down, fourth across! These are the photos I entered…

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There are four card designs, and the cards along with a stunning calendar can be purchased through their website :)

Dog show weekend – Day two

white gsd

The second dog show we attended recently last month, (I have been soo busy!) was Pets in The Park. It was hosted by Pet Respect, an animal education charity here in Hull.

There were certainly a ton more dogs than the previous day, particularly a whole lot of Staffies and Huskys. One of the event organisers announced on his microphone that over 100 dogs had entered classes, Sam and I were no. 65! Of course Sam made sure we didn’t leave empty handed, and bagged fourth place in ‘Dog the judge would most like to take home’! Before the class, I heard a worried youngster exclaim ‘but what if we win, will they take our dog home?!’ Aaww!

dog show  fourth place  dog show ring

I also took Sam over to the Hull Animal Welfare Trust stall, his previous temporary home, and they were very proud to learn he’d won first place the day before :) There were also lots of other dog charities in attendance, mini agility, flyball, groomers, our friends from Just Poochie and trainer Jess of Canine Pride, who kindly gave out lots of fishy free samples! Who doesn’t love free stuff?! 

Mowgli  Free stuff  Mowgli

Yet again, Sam wowed me with his patient and calm behaviour, and we spent alot of time with my little buddy Mowgli, a Jack Russell. It was the dogs’ first time meeting, as I met Katie and Mowg dog walking at work. The weather was a huge contrast to the day before when we got soaked! It was pretty warm, and Sam was starting to lose interest by the end of the day. We were ready for home after a busy weekend and retreated to our beds!

Sam by Neil Cameron Photography

dog photography

During our recent dog show weekend, Sam & I met local photographer, Neil Cameron. We had a chat and he was kind enough to take Sams photo. The end result is just lovely, a pleasant surprise; as I recall Sam wasn’t posing very well! But who could blame him, so many people asked to take his photo that day! No wonder he won most handsome dog ;)

We also got to meet little Murphy, the subject of many photos. This is one of my favourites, ‘Murphy On The Beach’.

To see more of Neil’s work see his website :)