Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Important issues

I was listening to radio four this morning waiting for my favourite programme( apart from The Archers, I dare you to mock!) 'Our history in a thousand objects' when a lady was explaining how she hadn't been taught physiological security. Now I felt she had struck gold, whereas in childhood she had been given all her physical needs yet she hadn't been taught how to cope when life threw problems in her path.

Now I often see this in dogs, as you know cos I am always banging on about it. So I though I would blog about blind dog training and police horse training.

When you train a horse you have to get them used to( desensitise them) not only a rider on their backs but traffic, plastic bags, silage bales wrapped in plastic and all manner of scary objects....horses are prey animals so if in doubt they run. Now obviously even if you aren't horsey you can see why this is a seriously dangerous behaviour, did you know it can take years to get a horse to be safe in traffic?

Then we have Guide dogs for the blind, we all know they go out with puppy walkers, learnt to cope in all situations. They clearly do this as later in life somebodies life will literally be in their hands( or paws).

So this is obviously very relevant for me with Flute but even more relevant with older dogs who start to react and panic with new experiences. Inevitably this then means the owners restrict where they take their dogs as they don't want them distressed and then a dangerous cycles starts where the dog world is made more restrictive and less stimulating and they are able to cope with less and less.

So what can you do?

Desensitisation! If they are scared of bags start rattling a bag near food time, then once they recognise this as a precursor to food then start using the bag in different situations, groom you dog with the bag, this is a huge subject and I have limited time so I just want to see how these things occur and to understand that avoiding those scary objects that it actually escalates the problem....soon you dog will be scared of innocuous objects just because he hadn't got physiological strategies or security to cope with it.

Familiarity breeds contempt?

Quote from yesterday: 'I need some training for my dog', said a customer
'Ok I am aiming to do some training sessions on an evening in two weeks time', said I
'Sorry? I meant to say I need professional help for him', said the customer.
'Erm, what am I'?!

Funny old thing dealing with people, we all put each other in boxes and no longer see them as a whole.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Nice to see you guys

Ah it was lovely to catch up with Dex and Gus. Gus was so chilled and happy to see everyone and played. I thought Poppy might self combust with excitement and I felt so bad not allowing her to play with her favourite boy.

Dexter was a very good boy, Emma had slightly anxious look on her face, after telling me how good he was I am sure she thought he was just about to make a liar of her! Fergus seemed a little put out when the chief bottom biter was back as Fergus now considers himself the bum biter extraordinaire. In order to strut his stuff he decided to really try it on with Lola and promptly squeezed her bum and in a moment Fergus was reminded to remove any thoughts of tushy tackling whilst she had a tooth in her mouth!

They ran around the stubble field, they found a ball and ran around even more. Truffle put the ball down, they inched closer...Truffle gave them the look calmly picked it up and off the went running and running. Soon some of the dogs drifted off and then the bum chaser started his own game, Dex couldn't even get close enough to Louie to bum bite as Louie is designated rabbit so the more Dex tried to suck some spots the more Louie ran.

Lola and Fergus ran as fast as their little legs could carry them, Lola using her voice in true beagle fashion to speed herself up......Jasper was now in a fix instead of fixating on Louie what to do!? now there was Dexter and Louie what if they were heading in opposite directions? So he had to run harder, faster and more noisily than ever before!

On the next walk thing were a little calmer although Dexter's rather amorous intentions on Archie( he's into blondes of the male variety but we aren't going to hold it against him) did cause a bit of a stir initially! Leia must have enjoyed the feeling of the wet stubble under her feet as she ran and ran, she did eventually need to be on the lead as she was struggling to hear us next to the road at the top of the field. Hugo was quite taken with Emma and every time she chased him he ran for his life before promptly turning in a circle ready for the next game. The first time Emma goosed him was a treat and he became all silly and giddy before gamely trying to manly join in with Izzo, Archie and Dexter playing.

Eeh it so funny watching them all interact with each other!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Travelling out and about in vans

Ahhh I thought it was a good time to discuss travel.

Many people, when choosing a pet care service, want to know how long their dogs will be out and where they will be. Some are concerned about their dogs being in the vehicles they are transported in for too long. So here is a list of some peoples concerns.

They will be bored.

How do I know they will be walked.

What happens if the dogs don't get on?

Are they secure?

Is it safe to keep them in in hot or severely cold weather?

What happens if there is an accident?

So I may surprise you on the boredom question and I am sure I will be providing bullets to fire to people who want to shoot me haha. You know what? In the real world dogs, like people, need to learn how to cope when they are bored, or frustrated or even angry. What we need to do is make sure it doesn't overwhelm their lives, to make sure all their needs are catered for and their wellbeing in the forefront of our care. So do our dogs get bored, I am certain there will be times they suffer from boredom, just like the dogs left at home after being walked for an hour. The difference is the other dogs sharing the van environment are also in the same situation so the dog is more likely to just settle, start dozing or even just watch the other dogs.

The other interesting thing is it teaches them to wind down. I have found with high drive dogs or young dogs that walking them then taking them home can sometimes leave them frustrated and wound up, an empty house can leave them with a bit of a vacuum after their simulating walk. Stimulating doesn't mean diving about and being wild, just the smells, sights and sounds that all walks provide. So our younger guys or hyper sensitive guys learn that after a walk there is a time spend winding down, settling and dozing.

So yes they sometimes get bored, we are nannies not dog walkers and we are heading towards a goal at all times....we aren't about exercise we are about manners, learning, long term happiness and contentment and lastly and often forgotten giving them strategies to cope in most situations.

The next question is a good one but has nothing to do with the van, it is all to do with trust and knowing your dog. Most people will genuinely know if their dogs are getting walked. What of course you never truly know is for how long and how. You can only hope, ask and check up on your walker, nanny. We try to be as transparent as we can and if this means I have to explain myself I will.

The next question is one that probably causes the most distress, what if your dog doesn't get on with their cage mate or neighbour? Of course it can happen and lets face it dogs relationships are very like our and are fluid, depending on their needs on that particular day. A different way to look at it is why would your carer risk putting dogs who really dislike each other in together? It is just not worth the consequences, stress or aggravation from a cold hearted point of view. What many people don't take into consideration is what it can be like for a steady dog to be in a cage with a playful dog. We all know the feeling of having to put up with some enthusiastic oik. Again this is down to the skill of your carer to limit anytime that a dog has to 'put up with' annoying behaviour.

Again we are in an enviable position where our guys all know each other, we know what combinations work and who likes to mix with whom, this can change and obviously things like a sore hip in an older dog can change things significantly.

So yes without doubt care has to be taken but then when doesn't there? Every moment that you have a dog in your care you are wholly responsible.

Are the dogs secure?
Mmmm now this one is one I have to weight up the risks with the benefits. If I have the dogs in the van, no matter what I can see to them and ensure they have all that they need. No matter of hold ups stop me from getting to them, to let them toilet and to have company. I can get them to the vet if ever they require it. Yet I do believe there is some inherent risk having the dogs in the van. What we do is ensure we take all possible care to ensure they are as secure as possible. We have lockable cages, we leave them so they can be watched and are well known so people inevitably know to watch for any suspicious behaviour. Just because in 12 years we have had no problems doesn't mean it can't happen. Managing even the simple things help, when the middle doors are open and the gate is locked we always ensure we have a barky dog who is willing to huff themselves up if someone takes an interest.

When we require extra ventilation we use a fantastic device called a ventlock which allows you to leave the back doors open but securely locked, you can't even hacksaw them off.

I will continue to be aware there is some risk but we take all precautions recommended by the police and am happy that the risk is minimal.

We all know now that it is simply not safe to leave dogs in vehicles in hot weather or severe cold. Our vans have both temperature controlled systems, they are able to be left
securely wide open and when the air is still we are able to take the guys back home at any time. We don't even leave the dogs and rely on the cooling system as I know nothing is infallible so by leaving the van doors open if the worst should happen the dogs are still able to lie in comfort. LAst year we had severe cold and we were all so grateful of the heaters! The guys spent less time in the van as there was more chance of people sliding into us and us getting stuck. This is why we never go over our comfortable number of dogs, we always need to be able to get to all our dogs no matter what the weather, traffic throws at us and so far we haven't failed( touching wood, suspicious moi?).

Now the dreaded one! Whilst accidents are fortunately rare they can happen and on one occasion I had to leave my van quickly ( something on the road damaged the underside of the van and I could see sparks so we got out very promptly until I could be persuaded tat there was no risk and the offending item removed), remove all the dogs and sit by the side of the road despite spending every day training for every eventuality even I was amazed when the guys settled down for a sleep whilst my doggy transport arrived. By travelling in cages we are doing all we can to provide a safe environment if an accident should happen, it if often more about planning for the worst in this 'job'. Having another van on the road certainly helps if this should happen and I have a good back up system if the worst should happen. I was once struck by a hit and run driver whilst taking the two St Bernards home, they were totally unaware of the incident( unlike me who was shaking like a leaf), I had to wait for the police and the girls dozed by the side of the road out of harms way and a lovely gentleman pulled over( the only one out of hundreds I might add) and regretfully asked if I needed a lift with the girls, he had a right to look so worried he had an immaculate Merc with pale leather seats that had clearly never even seen a dog in it's life! He was so grateful I was ok!

So I am sure I haven't covered everything at least I have hopefully tackled some of the worries people have( funnily enough I am rarely asked these questions by my customers).

Dog walkers

I have never quite understood why other dog walkers pass negative comments to strangers about other businesses and their practises when there are many different ways to walk a dog( I am not going to go down the skin a cat route!). Takoda's mum was out walking when another dog walker started talking to her. When she said she used Petnanny he quickly said he hated dogs in vans. I often wonder why people dislike dogs in vans. I also genuinely feel there is the right dog walker out there for every dog and human, that is what is so wonderful, so why be unprofessional about another dog walker? Our way definitely wouldn't suit any dog just as walking locally with only their housemates wouldn't suit some dogs.

Surely to pass comment you need to have some knowledge on what you are passing comment on? Maybe individual customers should be able to make their own judgement on what they feel is best for their pet in their current situation? I KNOW each dog walkers customer really feels they have picked the right dog walker and who am I to think they are wrong?

I judge everything I do one what my dogs and my customers want, like and prefer. I am wrong on occasions and will change to suit the moment just as I need to .

So how about anyone who has questions, reservations or opinions comes out, meets us, the guys and the vans( lily and Izzy) speak to our customers about their guys then I am happy for them to comment and to understand why we do what we do.

Be professional, see that competition is healthy and normal, revel in this wonderful job and celebrate our mutual love rather than bitch( excuse the pun) about our differences.

I am proud, Sam is proud and I hope you are all proud or your guys!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Dogs just love to surprise you

Walking with owners is such a valuable tool! Today we walked with Sherleen who has the lovely Charlielab. Charlie loves his walks is very sociable with the guys and just loves to run run run with those fabulous legs....

Today however it was more important to him to be next to his mum, not just next to her but even trying to control her movement, jumping so high he could see the top of her head! He was using his mouth( gently) to control and genuinely was wound up. Now this is a new thing that we have never seen before.

So it showed me that there was no longer a healthy balance between loving his mum and feeling anxiety about her not being by his side. So it was likely that today was just an overspill of what was happening at home. How do you get the balance? To be adored by your beloved dog but not have them unable to cope when you are near them but not having their undivided attention?

Many dogs find it hardest to cope when they know their owners are there but they can't be with them so we will work on that.

If your dogs is used to a cage use this as an aid in the beginning.

Find something that is visually striking, I have used a bell in the past for example as it makes an unusual noise and is visually shapely.

Pick a good programme on tv or a good book or even if you want talk to your other half( not compulsory).

Here we go!

Bring out the Bell, give it a little rattle and place it in a place the dog can see but can't reach ( for when you don't use the cage).

Gently pop you dog in the cage you can put a word command on it or just do it using the bell.

Now the difficult/ important bit.

DO NOT even look at your dog, ignore everything including whining, crying lying on their backs and pretending to die in the most dramatic fashion. Even if they squat on their haunches and poop on your foot( yup it happened).

Read your book or whatever you want to do as long as it doesn't involve poochy.

Some dogs will continue to whine for so long that you simply can't wait until they give up so if you can wait and it isn't too traumatic for you both try to wait until they are quiet if not pick a moment when they aren't quite as loud pick up the bell give it a rattle and pop it away allowing poochy so see.

Open the cage and don't make a fuss, from this moment on you can carry on as normal allowing usual contact.

So what is this all about?

We want a visual and sound cue to let the poochy know you aren't going to take a bit of notice of them during the bell time. Not a look, no talking , cooing or petting. In time they learn that they may as well chill out and settle as nothing is happening. Using a bell allows them to understand faster when this 'rejection' will happen.

This must be done in stages so at first they are in their cage, then you can do it in the same room as them but no attention. Then you can leave the room and do jobs. Soon you should be able to roll around on the floor in gay abandon just cos you want to and your poochy won't bother to join in.

Now we could go into all the technical jargon ( I would have to look it up!) but what we are also teaching them is to cope with being with you without expecting something from us. Expectation is a curious thing.

You walk into a sweet shop owned by a friend and you are given a flump. Yum
You do this every week when you visit your friend and have a chuckle at a forty year old eating flumps.
One week your friend couldn't get any Flumps, whilst disappointed you, as a human, understand it can't be helped and anyway there is always next week.
The following week hey presto Flump ahoy.
But then disaster strikes, you go to get your Flump and there are no Flumps, well there are flumps but they are out of reach. You look longingly at your friend trying to send her give me Flump thoughts and nothing happens, do you ask, do you jokingly tell her to hand over the Flump woman? Oh no maybe I will have to buy one and then does that mean you have to always buy one? Is your friend upset with you?

See how even for a thinking human how hard it is when expectations are dashed! So all we can do is train our guys to understand we aren't always available, things aren't always going to go their way and anyway Flumps aren't good for you!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

There is an imposter in our garden

There is an imposter in our garden

Poppy and Roly were relaxing after a day with Petnanny when Roly decided he wanted to go out into the garden. Poppy wanted to stay inside so off he went on his own to play. Suddenly Poppy sensed something, oooh what could it be!!! She jumped up, front paws over the back of the settee and looked out through the conservatory window. Ohhh she wasn’t happy to see there was a little dog in her garden. How dare it!!! She barked and barked to try to scare the little dog away. By now Roly who was in the garden started to wonder what Poppy was barking at so he scurried back into the house as fast as his little legs would carry him. He started barking as if to say ‘What is it? What is it Poppy? I am here to help scare it away!!’ Both pups ran to the patio doors to see where the little dog was…..but funnily enough it had gone. They ran into the garden to chase away the imposter, they looked high and low but it was nowhere to be seen.

Eventually Poppy came back into the house and lay down, Roly decided that was too boring for him and off he went to explore in the garden again. Suddenly Poppy’s ears pricked up, she could sense something so up she jumped onto the back of the settee – Oh No!! that little dog had come back into her garden. So she started barking again in a ‘Go away little dog! Get out of my garden!’ type of bark. Little Roly again very bravely came to her assistance running back into the house to help her with the scare the impostor away barking, but of course when he got back in the house and looked out of the window, the little dog was nowhere to be seen. Well they weren’t standing for that so they both went out into the garden making it their mission to find that little dog. Where on earth was it? It was there before ‘cos Poppy had seen it and Roly had heard her barking at it so it must have been there. I kept explaining to them ‘Its only Roly!, there is no other dog there!’.. but they wouldn’t believe me! … and so it went on and on and on until I no longer found it funny and got tired of the barking & told them to SHUT UP!!!

Monday, 20 September 2010

What are you waiting for guys?

Hugo and Oscar wondering why everyone is suddenly hanging around!
For once Izzo had the right idea, if you are hot go and cool down in the shade
I was trying to give them a rest after playing frisbee, they didn't agree!

Despite being shattered!

Puppy play update

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Bruce's attempt at being oblivious of Flutey Tuteys charms is clearly not working
Who's that in my garden?
Exploring his garden on his first day home

Well Flute and I are in a good routine now. Oh what a joy he is! I had forgotten how much fun can be had from the inside of toilet roll or pretty much anything that is lying around..

His current routine is to come out with me in the van of course separated from the guys until he is fully vaccinated. First thing he comes out in his bag whilst I check the girls, they aren't particularly impressed with him it has to said! Then he settles nicely in his crate whilst I do the pick ups then its wee time at mams before he has a nice nap whilst I walk the guys. Then he gets his lunch, which thankfully he now enjoys, then the fun begins, I try and do my computer work whilst watching a rampaging puppy!

After another nap I see to the guys again then off we go again in the van. Once home it is a toilet stop again before a good play with my old guys lying around and Tumble being his usual insane self. He has a kip whilst we eat and I draw then a play in the garden before taking him to bed in his crate. I am pleased he is not waking up at 1am then 4am now he is only asking to go out at 4am. We creep out still asleep and as soon as his feet touch the ground he wees and its back to the bedroom again trying to not open our eyes. Shame it is soon 6am!

Already he is learning new sights and sounds, learning to be left and learning to contol his frustration.

How does he control his frustration? Well he thrashes whatever is in his way, he yowls and he humps. Yup that's right at 7weeks oldhe humps as a displacement behaviour, whenever he feels upset or lonely he grabs his bed and air humps. His nickname is already rumpy pumpy and I am certainly not concerned at his way of coping I am just trying to focus his 'attention' on to a humpy teddy....his particular humpy teddy is a rather fetching leopard with an appropriate bemused expression( or is it shock) on it's face.

Ah the joys of puppyhood. Oh and I may have the only manly sighthound, why? He didn't scream like he was being murdered when he got his first injection!

It is a bit like showing your sons embarrassing photos to his girlfriend isn't it!

And just so you aren't left with that image in your mind here is one of Flute dozing in the sun.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A little bit different

Just being a 'mum'

Being a Petnanny seems to change how people see you. There are expectations and people presume all things dog come simply...sheesh if only that were true. My heart still ached when I brought Flute home, the first of eight pups to leave their siblings, family and everything they knew. Just because it has happened for generations and to millions of dogs doesn't make it less gutwrenching for all concerned. Bringing them home and settling them into a routine feels like the first time everytime.

Suddenly simple decisions become massive deals, do you leave him crying, when do you step in to stop the biting and when do you let it go. If they don't eat are you strong enough to hold off waiting for them to feel safe and hungry rather than feeding different foods hoping they will eat.

Yet all these things help to form a bond, help to see the wonder of a little individual forming, changing and evolving. Having a pup gives you a future one you can't presume to have with elderly dogs. What will he like, what will he hate? Whilst the beloved old guys become more pup like in their need for you, you find a pup starts to become less dependent on you.

So right now I am just a 'mum' to two old guys who stole my heart many years ago and still own much of it and to a little slip of a pup who I am yet to really know.

Another thing we can all share....everyone one of us. So next time you sit on the settee with your guy beside you think of all those people you know who are doing exactly the same!

We are back!

Well can you believe it? The guys have surprised us again.

Granted we got our usual hugs, kisses and demands to be in the van NOW...what we didn't expect was calm. Coming out of the van, calm. Into the field, calm. Playing with their mates, calm.


Normally we are on high alert in case they self combust with excitement, making sure the excitement of seeing their pals again bubbles over. Nope just a huge aura of contentment, now is that the best return present of all?

Watching the guys play, seeing them greet each other so affectionately is a sight I can't ever imagine tiring of.