Friday, 30 November 2007

Should dogs eat frozen bones?

Earlier this year Penny had a major tooth removed because it was broken. I felt awful about that (and I still do) and I've always wondered how it happened. We think it might have happened when she was eating a bone, because she cried out and stopped eating, but at the time we didn't realise what the problem was.

Our vet assured us that, generally, dogs can safely eat bones, and we are careful to choose the softer ones, like brisket bones and chicken necks. Dr Tom Lonsdale, whose work I admire, says:
Dogs are more likely to break their teeth when eating large knuckle bones and bones sawn lengthwise than if eating meat and bone together.
(The address for this article is

It seems that bones are generally safe if they are contained in a carcass, like a whole chicken carcass or a rabbit. (I bought a rabbit today and was horrified to find that it cost $25! I remember the 'good old days' when rabbits were dirt cheap.)

The other vet at the clinic said that Penny's teeth (the remaining ones, sigh...) are in excellent condition and he commented that she must eat lots of bones.

The question that bothers, me, though, is whether the original bone that did the damage - if indeed it was that- was frozen. At the time we used to let her have frozen bones. We don't now.

On the Barfworld site I read that:
Wild dogs do not eat regular meals. Nobody plans their meals. Nor do they have an all meat diet. On the other hand, no one single meal is complete and balanced. Raw bones with meat are a major part of their diet. Lots and lots of it! In the winter they dig up and eat frozen food. They eat offal such as liver and heart. They eat raw eggs. They eat decaying material. Food that is slightly off.
I notice that it doesn't refer to frozen BONES.

At an interesting and informative site about canine dental health, the author, Dr Pitcairn, says you should give dogs bones because, even though we can put our tongue in between our teeth and the inside of the cheeks to clean out remaining food, dogs can't, because their teeth are too sharp. Wild dogs keep the outside teeth clean by gnawing on bones.He says that if you watch your dog eating bones you will notice that she uses her side teeth in a sliding motion along the bone. This scrapes off any leftover food. His tips for feeding with bones are:
1. Feed bones that are too large to be swallowed.

2. Give only raw bones as cooked bones will splinter and can cause stomach or intestinal damage when swallowed.

3. Do not give frozen bones as they can be too hard and cause the teeth to break.

4. Start animals young with this practice and they will adapt to this with intelligence. The older animals, first introduced to this practice can try to swallow pieces too large.
Tom Lonsdale, on the other hand, says also:
Raw meaty bones can be fed frozen just like ice cream. Some pets eat the frozen article; others wait for it to thaw. Small carcasses, for example rats, mice and small birds, can be fed frozen and complete with entrails. Larger carcasses should have the entrails removed before freezing.
After weighing it all up, I've decided that Penny won't get frozen bones in future, no matter how much meat is on them. (As I write this she is patiently waiting for a bunch of chicken necks to thaw out.)

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

dogs in Germany

Penny's not likely to go to Berlin, but if I go there I could buy her some interesting presents, according to Canine Shopping in Berlin. I must say, I find it interesting to do a little vicarious world travel and discover how dogs live in other parts of the world. That's why I enjoy reading other dog blogs.

I thought these gumboots for dogs looked rather interesting, also. My German is a bit rusty, but I think it says they are for keeping dogs' feet dry and safe from the salt that is put down on icy footpaths. They are made from soft PVC - I think...

Monday, 26 November 2007

training a dog to be aware of the movement of her rear legs

Penny is quite good at backing up but we still have a lot of learning to do. We practise in the kitchen as Cindy at K9 Kompany taught us to do - Penny stands on something marking the spot, for instance, a piece of cardboard, and I circle around her and reward for agile movement of her rear end. I've just noticed a very clear video of this type of training, using a phone book, by one of my all-time favorite YouTube dog-trainers, bigtoe7

Sunday, 25 November 2007

dogs playing soccer

Penny has learned to 'push' a ball into a small soccer goal and has fun pushing a giant tennis ball around the kitchen. I was quite pleased with her progress until we met a dog in the park tonight - I think she is a Jack Russell. Her name is Zoe.

She is such a good soccer player! And, unlike Penny, she doesn't need constant encouragement to keep pushing the ball. She runs around the park shepherding the ball with her head. And she can 'head' the ball beautifully. Here are two short videos of her at work.

We will have to practise to get up to her standard. I'm thinking that she might have a genetic advantage, if she is indeed a Jack Russell, as they seem to be perpetual motion machines.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

gifts for dogs at Christmas

I've just visited Felicity at and taken up her offer to use the web-graphic she composed. She has the lovely idea that we should try to take on the “No-Buy Christmas” challenge this year. She intends to make as many presents as she can, for her family and friends.

I'm sure Penny would be happy with a home-made Christmas present. Some ideas that come to mind are:
a cardboard box - an old pizza delivery box would be a hit with her, I'm sure;
a plastic milk container (lid off) with a few pieces of dry food in it;
a small packet of possum poo;
a pot-plant with fresh grass growing in it;
an old tennis ball collected from the park.

The list is endless...

It will be more of a challenge to think of presents for the humans in my life, but it's a worthwhile project. I've had some lovely reactions in the past when I've given those gifts that come in charity catalogues - for instance, I gave one colleague a card explaining that a goat was to be delivered to a needy family in the third world, and she was thrilled.

Now that I think of it, that could be the way to go with Penny's present. She loves chewing on cards.

On the other hand, if you want to go with the purchased presents, Dolittler, veterinary blog for pet lovers, vet voyeurs and the medically curious, has a list of fascinating ideas for pet gifts.

walking the dog on Australian election night

We strolled along the top of the cliff overlooking Darebin Parklands tonight and gazed across at the lights of the city of Melbourne. It was strangely quiet in our suburb - perhaps everyone was inside listening to the pundits discuss the progress of the election counting.

We stopped off at a little park to let Penny run around chasing her night-time ball. She sure looks scary when she bursts out of the darkness at your feet with the red ball glowing.

When we got home Penny plopped down in front of the tv to listen to Kevin Rudd making the victory speech for the Australian Labor Party - certainly a new era in Australian history...

Friday, 23 November 2007

dogs off-lead around native birds

Today Penny, Jabari, Jabiri's mum and I walked in a new spot- Bulleen Park - where there were plenty of birds feeding on the ground and in the air around us.

The red-rumped parrots seemed quite undisturbed by the two dogs. When we approached them, they flew away about four or five metres and continued feeding on the ground nearby. I tried to take a picture with my phone but they were camouflaged in the grass. But here's a lovely close-up I found on flickruploaded by M G Jefferies.

The crested pigeons were also wandering around on the ground, looking as beautiful as ever. There's a great picture of one on flickr.

I think we must have been disturbing insects as we walked across the grass, because flocks of swallows were diving and swooping around us. The pee wees didn't seem to care where we went.

As for the occasional magpies, they ignored us, thank goodness. I think if it came to a confrontation we would come off second-best. I must say, they are one of my favorite birds, but it's scary when they swoop you!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

a dog's nose and her sense of smell

Penny and I have fun playing scenting games. Two favorites start off with me telling Penny to 'wait'. In the first, I show her a piece of tasty food and let her smell it and then I go away and hide it somewhere up the other end of the house.

Penny puts her nose to the ground as she makes her way to where it is hidden, so I assume she actually follows the scent of my movements rather than the smell of the treat itself. When I tested this by adding a loop around our lounge room, she followed this trail exactly.

The second game involves me hiding at the other end of the house and calling 'come'. It's great fun to hide in cupboards and crouch down behind boxes, listening for the slow click, click of her nails on the floor as she searches. I feel young, rediscovering the excitement of a childhood game of hide-and-seek.

When we walk around the streets, if she is 'free' rather than being expected to 'walk nicely on lead', it's a slow trip, as she has to sniff every post, clump of grass, wall, lamp-post, rock...I'm sure you get the idea.

Smelling is obviously a delight to her. I read a fascinating description of the role of the sense of smell in a dog's life by Randy Kidd, DVM, PhD, at

The summary at the end of the article says:
The dog’s nose may be his most powerful organ and it is certainly one of the most dynamic of all animal systems, with activities that range from basic smell detection, to sensing fear, to memory, to emotions, to mate- and pack-selection, on to a genetic history carried from one generation to the next. Fortunately, disease doesn’t often waylay its functional capability, and fortunately again, most of the diseases of the nose are easily treated naturally.

The entire article is worth a careful read, but some of the highlights for me were:
The dog collects scents by air-scenting (sniffing volatile oils that are traveling in the air) and sniffing the ground. A dog’s nose is ideally made for sniffing – the outer nares are mobile and allow for expansion on inspiration and contraction to prevent the entry of unwanted objects. When a dog sniffs, he inhales the scented chemicals into his nasal cavities, where they are trapped in mucus and processed by the sensory cells. Expiration forces air out the side of the nares so that its exit doesn’t interfere with odors still in the air or on the ground...

In addition, the dog has devoted a tremendous amount of his brain tissue to olfactory cells. (Some estimates allocate one-third of the dog’s brain to the chore of scenting.) All this adds up to a canine scenter that has thousands to millions of times the ability of his human counterpart...

In my opinion, the best “nutrition” we can give to a dog’s nose is a daily dose of natural odorants, generated from the fields and woodlands out of doors – the perfect way to build up the reserve of sensory cells and brain connections related to smelling.

An article called Dogs Smell!also has a discussion of dogs' sense of smell and there I read that different breeds have a stronger or weaker sense of smell according to the length of their nose - which seems pretty obvious. It's interesting, though, to wonder how these differing muzzle lengths come about, when all breeds of dogs are so similar genetically.In an interview with Raymond Coppinger, Juliet Clutton Brock and Robert Wayne,
Jonica Newbysays:
All dogs start life with a small muzzle. Then, at 8 weeks of age, the genes for growing noses suddenly switch on, until, from about 5 months they gradually switch off again.

But when you scramble the timing of those growth genes, you can get a long nosed dog. Or a short nosed dog. Or a dog that doesn’t grow up at all. That’s how nature gave us all these weird and wonderful shapes and sizes.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

world records held by dogs

Penny doesn't hold any world records, which I think is a rather good thing, because I like her just as she is - maybe fame would go to her head, as it seems to do for humans.

However, when browsing the web I read at Canis online,a German blog, that Augie, a golden retriever,holds the world record for having tennis balls in the mouth - five balls. Of course, I had to see that for myself, so I went to Guinness World Records and saw a picture of her performing that feat.

Equally amazing was the record for the fastest time that a dog has unwound a car window - 11.34 seconds. Thank goodness Penny doesn't know how to do that.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

dogs interacting off-lead

Penny and I dragged ourselves down to the park at 6 am today, as it was predicted to be very hot again. It was surprising to see how many others were there also.

She had a swim and a run around and then her favorite activity, chasing a ball. As we played, a group of other dogs came past and, as usual, Penny didn't want to interact with them while she had a precious ball to guard. One friendly golden retriever was determined to keep sniffing Penny's rear end and she seemed to be quite irritated but the other dog either wasn't picking up on the body language or didn't care. Eventually Penny snarled at him, but of course that's a tricky thing to do when you have a ball in your mouth!

I wasn't sure whether the sniffing was in fact a friendly gesture, so I was interested to come across a site on the Net that has detailed descriptions of dog body language accompanied by sketches and photos.

Two interesting items were:
Some confident, dominant dogs will roll on their backs, exposing their bellies, in an attempt to reassure a more shy or submissive dog, or to get that other dog to play. They will be relaxed when they do that, and usually still look the other dog in the eye. Sometimes mounting ("humping") another dog is a sign of dominance, but not always; this often-misunderstood gesture can also be used by a lower-ranking dog to try to demonstrate his allegiance with a higher-ranking animal.

Note that among dogs, the hierarchies are usually maintained and demonstrated very casually and almost always by more submissive members of the pack. Very high-ranking animals very seldom demonstrate their rank, unless they lack confidence. Most demonstrations and almost all fights that occur over rank are done by the middle-ranking or unconfident members.

The article was by Stacy Braslau-Schneck and ended with a list of lots of links with more information.One was a body-language quiz. I managed to get most questions right, but not all.

Monday, 19 November 2007

dogs and hot weather

The hot weather that started last week has not abated and Penny is feeling the heat. We were supposed to go to training tonight but we didn't go because it was still about thirty degrees at 7:30 when it was time to go. (That's in the mid eighties fahrenheit, I think). It's predicted to be up around the high thirties (mid to high nineties fahrenheit) tomorrow again. It's unusual for such high temperatures to continue day after day in November.

I found a video that discusses the early symptoms of heat stroke in dogs and I tried to watch the video but it took a long time to load and there was an advertisement about pet insurance before the main video clip. Synptoms to look out for were excessive panting, redness around the eyes, weakness, irritability, vomiting, and finally, collapse. They suggested giving cool water to drink, not cold, as cold water may make the dog vomit. In a mild case of overheating you could sponge the dog down with a cool wet towel and have her lie in front of a fan. In a case of seriously dangerous heat stroke, where she has greyish gums and a blue tongue, they said you would place her in a cool bath and call the vet.

I also came across an article by Lori Verni with good tips for keeping a dog cool in summer. I was interested that it said not to remove your dog's natural insulation by clipping the fur too short - we haven't clipped Penny at all because I had been told the coat insulates and also prevents sunburn. Penny doesn't seem to have that hot double coat that some breeds have.

Another tip was to remove bedding from the bottom of a crate so the dog can lie on the cooler bottom. Penny's crate is available for her but she always tends to lie on the floor near the crate if she is hot - often, upside down to expose her belly to the air. I know myself when I'm trying to grab some sleep on an unbearably not night I will often lie splayed out rather than curled up, so I think I know how she feels!

Champlain Islander, has hot weather tips also. One section discusses whether to clip your dog's coat in summer and says
Many people clip or shave their dogs in the summer time with the logic that less hair will allow for a cooler canine. However, Dr. Karen Campbell, a veterinary dermatologist at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Urbana, Ill., explains that clipping your dog may be counterproductive. The canine coat is designed to hold heat near the body in the winter, but also to insulate against the heat from the sun in the summer. Leaving your dog's hair coat intact will actually provide a cool microenvironment for your pet. Your pet's fur also helps act as a sunscreen to protect its skin from ultraviolet radiation. Yes, dogs can get sunburn as well.

Dr. Campbell does concede that a dark-colored dog will get a lot hotter in the summer due to his color (dark colors absorb more heat energy from the sun). If you do own a dark-colored dog it may be beneficial to clip it despite the loss of the insulating properties of their hair coat.

One thing is for certain, dogs that are outside in the summer heat should be properly groomed. Dr. Campbell reminds us that a matted coat will trap moisture on the skin providing an excellent environment for skin infections or even worse problems.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

the lilydale show and dog training demonstration

Penny and I had an energetic but hot day at the Lilydale Show today. K9 Kompany, the dog-rescue and training company where we train each Tuesday, was having a demonstration of a typical lesson as part of the Lilydale agricultural show this weekend. We went along as part of the demo class.

It was a hot, hot day and we had to wait our turn at the little pool while other dogs cooled down.

Before our session, Cindy, our regular teacher, suggested Penny go and check out the livestock around the area, so she wouldn't be tempted to investigate the interesting smells during the session. In fact, she wasn't interested at all and concentrated well in the demo.

We participated in two sessions and then had a walk around the show to check out what was interesting. Penny found:
two pieces of hot dog
one hot dog bun
one piece of tomato
one onion slice (wasn't allowed to scoff it!)
eight chips
Some lovely smells to roll in.

We then went back to watch the teachers working with their own dogs. They showed doggy dancing, agility and games. It was fun to see their dogs racing to pick up soft toys and put them in a bucket.

We also saw their dogs performing tricks.

Penny was quite upset with me when I booked her in at the mobile dog wash to get rid of the nice smells she'd collected during the day. I thought it would cool her down, but as it turned out I needn't have worried, as the rain pelted down for five minutes and she would have been wet anyway.

Finally we went to the arena to watch the Grand Parade, which unfortunately wasn't very 'grand' because it was missing the horses. I haven't visited this Show before but apparently the horses are a big feature of the Grand Parade. The horse events had been cancelled because of the widespread outbreak of equine influenza that has caused so much trouble lately in Australia.

However, having read Wayfarer Scientista's blog and realised that dog sledding is such a popular sport in her neck of the woods I loved seeing the Aussie version of sledding as it went past in the big parade.

Friday, 16 November 2007

dna testing of shelter dogs to find dangerous breeds

When people ask me what breed Penny is, I just say she's a mutt. I've had lots of fun wondering what genetic heritage she has and I was mildly interested, as I blogged on 7 October, to discover that it is possible to test dogs' genetic heritage and work out what breeds are in their ancestry.

However, I have just read an opinion piece in seattle about the possibility of insurance companies demanding that household insurance policies specify the genetic heritage of dogs living in the home.It seems like science fiction, but who, twenty years ago, would have foreseen the technologies that we take for granted today?

The writer, Dee Carlson, suggests that it could be required as part of home insurance for you to analyse the breed of a shelter dog before you take it into your home.

On reading the 'comments' section of the article, I found that one person accuses Dee Carlson of having a hidden agenda because she breeds akitas. I did a Google search on her and found an article she has written for akita owners about the dangers of letting these dogs interact with children or other dogs. I guess if you follow the recommendations set out by ARMAC (Akita Rescue Mid-Atlantic) you can be sure your dog does not get into trouble, but it seemed to me you would have to have a special love of this breed to keep one.

It was the list at the bottom of the akita rescue site that astonished me. It is a list of the breeds that have been declared 'dangerous' in different parts of the US. There are seventy-five breeds! Amongst them are labrador retrievers and airedales!

I was so taken aback by this huge list that I searched for more information and came across a book called Fatal Dog Attacks. The write-up of the book says, in part:
There seems to be an ever growing expectation of a "behaviorally homogenized" dog - "Benji" in the shape of a Rottweiler. Breeds of dogs with greater protection instincts or an elevated prey-drive are often unfairly viewed as "aggressive or dangerous". No breed of dog is inherently vicious, as all breeds of dogs were created and are maintained exclusively to serve and co-exist with humans. The problem exists not within the breed of dog, but rather within the owners that fail to control, supervise, maintain and properly train the breed of dog they choose to keep.

Any dog, regardless of breed, is only as dangerous as his/her owner allows it to be.

The Kennel Club in the UK also discusses the issue in a page titled The Kennel Club Proposes Alternative To Dangerous Dog Amnesties Here's a quote from that document:
Research shows that this is influenced most by the dog’s owner, the environment it lives in and the training it is given. In the wrong hands, any breed of dog can be dangerous - the number of dog attacks by breeds other than those on the dangerous dogs list illustrates this. Similarly, any dog that has been trained by its owner appropriately and sufficiently should not be outlawed or destroyed based on its breed alone.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

dog personalities rated by their owners

Johann the Dog, whose prolific blog I visit regularly (because it covers such a wide range of topics - and because Johann is so gorgeous-looking) has an item about an online study in which owners assess the personality traits of their pets.

I followed the link to Quirkology and completed the survey, which is very simple and takes about a minute. It is an ongoing study and you can arrange to follow the results. Johann also has a link to the Telegraph, a UK newpaper that has a report on the Quirkology study. People report that the longer they live with their pet, the more the pet seems to resemble them. Well, I guess it stands to reason that it pleases us to think our pets are like us. And I guess when humans see themselves in their pet the more likely they are to continue the relationship. No one's asked the pets what they make of it all, of course.

I must say, I'll be going back to Quirkology to check out the other strange things they have investigated. One experiment asked people to write in and say whether they thought their career had been affected by whether their surname began with a letter in the first part of the alphabet or one at the end of the alphabet. The results were interesting... Read about it for yourself and have a think before you name your next puppy. After all, if it works for people maybe it's an issue for dogs. :-)

free dog agility equipment reposted

The post I wrote on Sunday 11th November about our home-made agility equipment lost all its pictures and I haven't been able to figure out why, so I've reposted it and the pictures are there now. It's still pretty weird, as the little boxes for the original pictures are dotted around and there are strange spaces between the blocks of text. But after days of trying to fix the problem I'm only too glad to see the pictures at all! It's down the list a bit now, as it is still dated 11 November.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

a dog sees her first snake

Penny noticed her first snake the day before yesterday. We were walking along the creek and when we came to the spot where I saw a snake last May I thought she should go on lead because I assumed the snake lives in that area. Sure enough, as we walked along the narrow path, Penny stopped to look at something in the undergrowth. I looked too and there it was, sliding gracefully towards the water. I thought its belly was light green but when I visited a site about tiger snakes I read that the belly is usually pale yellow, white or grey.

I called Penny's attention back to myself and was pleasantly surprised that she showed no interest in investigating further.

Coming towards us were a woman and a girl with a black labrador and I called to them that they might like to put the dog on leash as there was a snake living in this spot and we had just seen it. Her response put things in perspective. 'Oh, yes,' she said. 'That's a good precaution. After all, we are walking through his home.'

Jabari's mum pointed out to me that snakes are not likely to bite unless provoked and that they need to protect themselves if people (or dogs) come close, because their bodily structure is so delicate that we can fatally injure them even if we mean no harm.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Raw food or cooked food for dogs?

Penny gets most of her diet through raw food and, because we prepare her food in our kitchen, I prefer to use human-grade ingredients. However, I'm a great believer in compromise, so we do feed a variety of cooked foods as well, including the best of the pre-packaged pet foods.

In the debate about raw versus cooked pet foods people seem to dig in to a position and see no truth in the arguments of the opposite faction, so it was a pleasant surprise to see a link to a measured discussion of the topic - and by a vet - at ePetsDirect Insider.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

28 things about dogs - some of which I already knew

Found an interesting list of 28 Dog Facts That Might Surprise You

Here are a few:
Number 4 - dogs prefer playing 'keepings-off' rather than 'fetch'. No surprises there for me! Penny LOVES that.

Number 11 did surprise me - it says that body harnesses encourage dogs to pull.

Number 23. Some dogs lick their paws and then rub their paws on their head to clean themselves, much like a cat! Yess!! I've seen Penny doing this and I thought I was imagining things...

dog finds mammoth bone

Noticed an amusing story about a small dog who found an enormous bone on the beach in Britain. I'd have thought that a bone that is about two million years old wouldn't have any bone-smell about it. I wonder if the dog thought it looked like a bone, or if it did actually have a teensy tiny aroma? Seems impossible, though...

In part, the article, which was in the Daily Mail, says:
"Remains like this are quite common in the area, but it was a wonderful achievement for a little dog to find it. She may have thought it looked quite appetising and there may well be a very small percentage of amino acids still left in it.

"Chewing on the bone might help to clean her teeth, but she would not be able to extract any goodness or nutrition from it.

"It would certainly have been very tasty a couple of million years ago, when it would have had bits of fat attached to it - but it is now heavily mineralised with iron oxide."

free dog agility equipment

Penny and I have fun at home practising agility and the equipment hasn't cost me a cent. Most of it I've picked up on the street where neighbours have put stuff out for anyone to take. The first item I noticed was a short-legged table.

I collected it and it sat at home for months until one day I spotted this lamp, lying in a pile of bits and pieces on the side of the road. I didn't need the electrical part - I assume it had been thrown out because it didn't work properly, so I took only the bottom part and that became our first weaving pole.

Not long after, one of my own lamps stopped working, so the bottom of the stand became our second pole. The third one is an old stand for winding up a hose.

I had been searching the toy shops for one of the tunnels that small children play in but hadn't been able to find one, so I was pleased when I came across the striped tunnel pictured behind the weaving poles. It was outside a kindergarten and I guess they threw it out because it was so dirty. Not a problem! Penny doesn't care about a bit of dirt.

Some time later I found another tunnel and I wondered if perhaps I was becoming a bit obsessive when I collected it, because it was in bad shape, torn off the wire frame at one end. I also acquired a round thing that seemed to be a kind of doorway to the tunnel.

But...suddenly I realised that if I cut the loose wire off the end I had a kind of chute. Here are a couple of a pictures of the two tunnel/chutes and Penny coming out as she navigates our strange agility course.

Penny loves jumping and her concentration shows in thesr photos of her leaping over the last items in the collection - the jumps made from garden stakes and empty plant pots - we've got plenty of the latter since the drought (or should I call it the change in the climate?) killed our pot plants.

And, finally, here she is jumping through the round nameless thing that I found with the blue and yellow tunnel. (She looks as if she's got no legs because she's got them tucked up under her as she jumps.)

Saturday, 10 November 2007

dog training in Darebin Parklands

Penny and I set out in the cool of the morning to take part in a special free dog training session in Darebin Parklands.

It was arranged by the City of Darebin Animal Management, and Lynne Hiscock was the contact officer who organised it. Darebin DOGs (Dog Owners Group) advertised it through their email contact group - Bruce, one of the organisers of the Darebin DOGs, is pictured here discussing the day with Lynne and making plans for the future. I'm very grateful for the work they put into this day.

A local dog obedience club ran the session.

It was an enjoyable morning, even though it quickly got very hot and we were all heading for any little bit of shade. I'm not much into formal obedience, I must say, but got a few good ideas for working with Penny.

The things I will practise are:
walking on the short lead without surging ahead;
doing a five-minute sit at home;
making sure the recall is very strong.

When Penny is on the long extending lead I don't care if she's out in front. I don't have any sense that she thinks she is leader of the pack when she's ahead. I think she is just aware that if she wants to sniff evey vertical surface, she'd better rush ahead so she can do it before I catch up and hurry her on. Likewise when she's off lead and going places with me I don't mind if she ranges out from me.

However, when we walk up to the shops it's great if she's walking nicely and I'm going to do what the trainer said. How we did it was that she walked on my left, as normal, and when she surged ahead I stopped and walked backwards a few steps, calling her if necessary and when she was level with me on my right I turned towards her so she was on my left and we walked a bit in that direction, before heading back the way we had been going. I think that was it...

I'd like to try the five-minute sit because, even though I'm not into dominance, it would be a good exercise to try occasionally to check that she does have the self-control to do it.

The recall was discussed at some length. I agree with the trainer that this is the most important obedience command. Although I may not like obedience training, I know that there are some things that MUST be taught to a high level. He reminded us that it is vitally important that all recalls must end with a pleasant experience for the dog and that we should never chastise a dog when it comes to us, no matter how irritatingly slow the return was.

It was a pleasant surprise at the end of the session to discover that there was a free bag of goodies from the 4-Legs dog food company. It's a brand of food that I do buy sometimes, when we're slacking off from the only-raw-food thing. I also use the 4-Legs Doggy Cool treats because they seem to have wholesome ingredients and they can be cut up into tiny pieces without falling apart.

We allowed Penny to have a look in the bag and she pulled out a bone-shaped rawhide treat and rested in the shade whilst chewing it. I don't think I would be buying them, though, as I don't like rawhide treats because I got a fright one night when she seemed to be choking on one (not a 4-Legs one).

Oh, course, seeing we were in the beautiful Darebin Parklands, it just wouldn't be a satisfying day unless it ended with a swim - and the water was crystal clear, today.

Friday, 9 November 2007

ask politicians what they think of selling dogs in pet shops

We've got an election coming up in Australia. Why don't we ask the candidates what they think about the indiscriminate sale of dogs in pet shops? Federal elections are about Australia-wide issues, and I think the killing of innocent pets is a blight on our society.

This post is prompted by the fact that I just saw a link from Bark Blog to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about a proposal by independent MP Clover Moore to ban the sale of cats and dogs in pet shops.

Here are a few excerpts from the proposed Bill:
Australia has the highest rate of pet ownership in the world. Yet the most recent statistics of the Department of Local Government show that more than 60,000 dogs and cats are killed each year in New South Wales alone. Those numbers do not include animals dumped in national parks where domestic animals die of starvation, are killed by other animals or harm the natural ecosystem...

This number does not include other animals such as rabbits, mice and guinea pigs that are put down...

...the Say No to Animals in Pet Shops there is a link between pet shops and the enormous number of animals killed every year at pounds and shelters. Its claim is supported by other animal welfare and advocate groups and has wide community support. That is because pet shops promote impulse buying and irresponsible breeding for profit...

The Animals (Regulation of Sale) Bill will protect the lives and wellbeing of dogs, cats and other mammals by prohibiting their sale in pet shops, fairs and markets. It will prevent the impulse purchasing of mammals by restricting sales to registered breeders, pounds, animal shelters and veterinarians where animals will be appropriately matched with buyers, who will be informed about special needs and requirements. Mammals will only be able to be kept at shops or markets and offered for sale if they are kept on behalf of animal shelters and returned to the shelter at night...

Only recently in Australia have pet shops become major suppliers of companion animals to the public. Previously animals were generally acquired either from breeders or, more commonly, from surplus litters in informal networks...

Impulse buying is acceptable for handbags or shoes, but pet shops sell live sentient beings, such as puppies and kittens, which need ongoing care and attention. Unlike most animal shelters, pet shops do not ensure there is a suitable match between animal and purchaser. An inappropriate choice of an animal can result in neglect of the animal...

Animal behaviourists claim that a pet shop is an inherently stressful environment for an animal. This is because the animal is often too young to be taken away from its mother and is subject to constant handling and lack of quiet times. Animal behaviourists say that this can lead to depressed immune systems and illness...

[Pet shops] sell animals without identification or microchip and without screening the new owner...

...a civil society would act to prevent this cruelty and reduce the number of unwanted animals that are killed or die of starvation or disease. It is a sobering fact that the average lifespan of a dog in Australia is two years.
Click here for the whole text of the Bill.

For some years I kept jacky dragons. Because they are protected native Australian animals it is necessary to have a licence to keep them and I had to keep a log-book about any changes in my ownership of them, for instance, whether I had changed the place where I kept them, or one had died, or they'd had young. Each year I sent in a form to the Government detailing this information.

It seems that dogs suffer from the fact that they are not a 'precious resource' like jacky dragons. Anyone can walk into a pet shop and buy one on impulse.

I'd like to know what my local candidates think about that.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

different dog barks as communication

Justin Bryce, at A Dog Blog, has an interesting overview of the possible meanings of a dog's different barks. It sounds accurate to me, as it matches well with the barking that Penny does.

Since I heard Jan Fennell on the radio the other day I've been doing as she suggests and thanking Penny for barking at the front door. It's a bit of a bother, but when she barks to tell us something is happening outside, one of us gets up and goes to the door and looks out. We do what Jan suggested, and briefly say, "Thank you" and go away again. Penny will usually give one or maybe two more short barks and then stop.

We had been in the habit of going over when she barked anyway, unless it was absolutely too much trouble, as we figure that it's her job to tell us there is something going on that we should be aware of, and therefore it would be rude to ignore her. Very anthropomorphic, I realise, but it makes us feel good. Also, it's a good excuse to have a break from the computer or whatever we're doing.

dogs jump rope

I just have to share this little gem that I saw on Bark Blog by Lisa Wogan. She got it from Active Canines, who in turn got it from YouTube. It's a viral world, isn't it?

I would LOVE to teach Penny to do this, and just for once I think I know how to go about it without any tips from others, because I have spent thirty years teaching little humans to jump rope. I'm a primary (elementary) teacher and I figure the way you get four-year old boys to do it will be the same as for dogs.

We used to jump a stationary rope, then a wiggly 'snake' (one person wiggling one end of a rope), then a swinging rope (side to side) and then one turning rope. I don't see Penny and I ever conquering two ropes, but who knows?

Monday, 5 November 2007

dogs saving people

When Penny nudges me I usually assume it's because she wants something. However, it often makes me think about the stories you hear about dogs that can sense a problem before a human can.

On Itchmo I read a story today about a dog that has enabled a young girl with epilepsy to lead a more independent life because he can give her five to ten minutes warning that she is about to have a seizure. The great thing, in my opinion, is that the dog was already living with her for four years before she was diagnosed and so the bond between them is based on pre-existing mutual love and doesn't just stem from her gratitude for his usefulness to her. She had rescued him from possible starvation when he was the runt of a litter and now he repays that debt each day.

There's another story in The Cairns Post about a neglected and possibly doomed dog that was rescued. He also has repaid the debt magnificently by saving the family's baby from a snake.

At ABC News there's a discussion by Nicholas Dodman, director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts about what might be going on when a dog warns a human of an impending medical crisis, like a seizure or a diabetic's low-blood-sugar event. Apparently scientists have found no evidence that dogs can sense changes in human brainwaves, but Dodman writes that there is still plenty of anecdotal evidence that dogs use some sort of cues to predict problems before they happen.

are dogs like their people?

Penny and I are both inquisitive and both have bad hair days. So I had a good laugh when I came across this photo accompanying an article at Itchmo, one of my favorite sites, that says News for cats and dogs - You And Your Pet May Be More Alike Than You Think

I think one of the reasons people and their dogs become more and more alike as time passes is that the human rewards the dog for certain behaviours. For instance, Penny has always been encouraged to explore and to experiment. That's why we have to put up with digging-up of plants, tearing-up of newspapers and slow walks around the streets.

We set off when Penny was young to learn obedience. I'm embarrassed to say we didn't even pass level three. The trouble was, I got bored and so did she. I wanted something more lively and so did she.

I'm the kind of person who is interested in many different things and that's probably why Penny knows a bit of obedience, a little agility and a few doggy dancing steps. My father used to say, 'Jack of all trades, master of none.' Well, that's me - and I guess Penny is doomed to be the same.

At All For Animals Karen Lee Stevens asks, 'Do Mutts Match Their Masters?' She seems to be having great fun sipping iced tea as she researches it but doesn't come to a definite conclusion.

Here's the study into pets and owners mentioned by Karen Lee Stevens. It appears to by a genuine study that decides that people might pick dogs to resemble themselves and that if the puppies are purebred the owners are likely to get what they want. However, Michael Roy and Nicholas Christenfeld point out that the study was published on the day before April first and suggest it could be a joke.
But an article in The Southern Digest treats it seriously and has a quote that I can relate to:
"People are attracted to looks and temperaments that reflect themselves or how they perceive themselves," said Gail Miller, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club. Miller, who has owned several bearded collies, described her "beardies" as gregarious, active dogs.

"I'm definitely like them -- very outgoing, likes to have fun and get active," she said.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

do dogs listen to the music in doggy dancing?

I think Penny and I know enough doggy dancing moves now to have a little fun with some music. (I'm stiff and clumsy as a dancer but I've decided to just enjoy myself in the kitchen, even if I'm not game to do it in public.) I had another look at Amber-Mae's dancing to encourage myself and off we went, twirling around the house to the music of Elvis.

Maybe the music encourages me to loosen up, or maybe Penny likes it too - whatever the reason, we are both more energetic with Elvis playing.

I thought I'd check out the Net to see whether there is information about how dogs react to the actual music and I came across the home page of Mary Ray. There I found a discussion of the origins of canine dancing and an overview of the sport around the world. It seems that Mary Ray might be the first person to put heeling work to music - the article says:
the researched facts are that the first authenticated performance of what we would call Heelwork to Music at a public event occurred when Mary performed in 1990.

Another discussion of dog dancing, as the author calls it, suggests that it began simultaneously in the UK and in Canada. There are a series of articles about the sport on this site and I found one about whether dogs actually listen to the music and use the beat in their 'dancing'. It was titled 'Do Dogs Dance to the Music?' The whole article is an interesting read, but in particular I thought this was a useful reflection:
An important role of the music is the context effect, that it becomes an occasion setter. It signals the dog that what comes next is the enjoyable training / performance session, including the enjoyable rewards contingent upon performance. To teach the dog to recognise the music as an occasion setter I start practising with music

¨ When I start working on sequences.

¨ When I make the training session enjoyable by varying the sequences, and by using variable and high value rewards.

In contrast, however, I use lower value rewards, practise longer sequences, and repeat the exercises more time (drill practice) in the absence of music.

Another article by Courtney Andersonhas a piece of advice that I think is valuable:
"You need to choose music that goes with your dog, not music that you like, Patridge explained. She said most dogs' walks go with hoe-down style music. "Sometimes, half of the class will walk with their dogs and then the teacher will ask the rest of us to decide what dog went with what music," Patridge said.

Patridge said other types of music that go well with dogs walks are Spanish or tango music and songs like the "Happy Days" theme song or "New York, New York."

"When I'm in my car I try to listen to the music and visualize my dog walking to it," Patridge said.
By the way, the writer of this article suggests that the sport began in Canada.

Friday, 2 November 2007

how do dogs think?

It seems to me that I can tell what Penny is thinking by observing what she is looking at. For instance, as she walks past the door handle where her lead is hanging she glances at it as if wondering whether she is going for a walk.

She often licks her lips as she glances at the shelf where we keep her food.

Because I'd like to know more about how dogs think I was browsing a local bookstore and came across a book called 'If Dogs Could Talk' by Vilmos Csanyi, a professor of ethology (the study of animal behaviour in a natural environment) in Budapest in Hungary. I dipped into it and I think I'm going to enjoy it because of the stories about his two dogs, Flip and Jerry.

The sections of the books are:
The Alliance of Two Minds
Similarities between Human and Canine Behavior
The Diary of Flip and Jerry
Scientific Study of the Animal Mind
Humans and Dogs

The last section is subtitled 'How to be a dog owner'. I'm going to start with that section, I must admit, instead of reading the book in the correct order, though I came across a review that says this is the weakest part of the book.

There was a short reference in New Scientist also.

However, the most interesting to me is an argument between Csanyi and Bruce Blumberg and Raymond Coppinger. I happen to have Coppinger's book 'Dogs' out from the library at the moment. I read it when I first got Penny and I want to revisit it, as I thought it was quite fascinating reading. If I understand the argument correctly, Coppinger and Blumberg are saying that we don't have to compare human and canine intelligence, because if we do there is a danger of measuring one against the other. It is more a case of noting that both species have intelligence specialised according to their needs.

The article where Coppinger and Blumberg review Csanyi's book and another one called How Dogs Think: Understanding the Canine Mind by Stanley Coren is in Natural History, published in Febraury 2005.In one part it says of Csanyi:
Csanyi is to be applauded for such focus on the everyday lives of dogs. And his descriptions of the many experiments done by his research group on the cognitive underpinnings of dog-human interactions are strong points of his book. But passages such as the diary entry are overloaded with anthropomorphic presuppositions about the very mental states he has set out to investigate.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to both books.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

dogs resting and active

This evening while I was looking at Johann the Dog's fascinating blog, Penny was resting in her paper box.

Johann has a link to a video of a dog running an agility course with a camera on its head. It's a wonderful dog's-eye view of agility:

While I was on YouTube, I also looked at another one, of mini dog agility. I should have woken Penny so she could have a look at dogs her size being energetic but I didn't have the heart to disturb her rest.