Sunday, 30 November 2008

dogs are in danger if they eat Xylitol sugar substitute

Reading Dolittler's blog today I was surprised to learn the extent of the danger the sugar-substitute Xylitol presents to dogs.

Since I read her previous posts on the danger of this product I've been been warning my friends not to feed anything with artificial sweeteners - but I didn't realise that Xylitol is used now in Rescue Remedy and in some multivitamins.

Dolittler (a practising vet in the US) says that more dogs are poisoned by TicTacs than by any other product, partly because they have such a high level of Xylitol and partly because they are so ubiquitous.

An online article by Sherrill Sellman says that the Finns rediscovered Xylitol during a sugar shortage in World War Two, making it from birch bark. It had been first manufactured in 1891 by a German chemist. has an account of a nearly fatal accidnet where a dog ate a couple of pieces of chewing gum.

I guess the message is, don't feed your dog anything produced for humans, unless you research the ingredients first.

Monday, 24 November 2008

toys to enhance a dog's intelligence

I've been talking to Johann's mum about her post regarding Nina Ottosson's toys for intelligent play and I've finally figured out a way to get one - a friend is going to bring me the Dog Tornado from Clean Run in the US when she comes over here for Christmas.

Fingers crossed that it gets to her before she leaves and that it's not too heavy!

In the meantime, Penny's still extending herself to solve the puzzle of the balls that disappear into a game I made out of pvc pipes in December last year. Because we're experiencing a drought here, we've had water tanks put in and there were some old pipes left over, so I've extended the pipe game. Here's Penny trying unsuccessfully to use the techniques that worked with the shorter version.I had to put it on YouTube because I couldn't get it uploaded to Blogger.

She thought we were going to help her, but we weren't, so she tried again - this time she gets it right. I love the way her tail is wagging throughout.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

protecting a stunned blackbird from a dog

Yesterday, in the middle of some wild weather a blackbird flew into our back window. The last time this happened, I wasn't quick enough to stop Penny racing out to see what had happened and picking up the bird in her mouth. Needless to say, that bird didn't survive - perhaps it died from a crushed ribcage or maybe it died of shock.

But this time I was quick off the mark. I shut the baby gates.

The bird stayed in the same place for about two hours, first lying on its side and then sitting upright.

I'm pleased to say it flew away eventually. Let's hope it was well enough to survive

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

dogs protecting crops from king parrots

An important part of a dog's work is to protect their humans from predators. And Penny was on the job today.

Now, if you look at this photo you might see beauty, not danger...

Ahah! But what if you were the gardener who had lovingly tended your cherry trees, waiting, waiting, waiting as the tiny fruits swelled with juicy tenderness? What if you had strolled outside to admire your burgeoning crop - only to see this fruit thief brazenly scoffing your tender little fruitlets?

What if you were minding your own business and this stealer of crops came tapping on your window, demanding you come out and feed him? (Not satisfied with the cherries, you note!)

I think you might be glad that your dog, having practised each night on possum-chasing, transferred her skills to king parrot duty. Penny did her best, but being a ground-dwelling mammal, her parrot-scaring abilities were limited.

In fact, I'd say the parrots didn't give a hoot. Secure in the knowledge that they are incredibly beautiful and attractive, they just got on with the business of seducing the humans into feeding them.

Okay, I'll have to admit it. I forgave them for the cherry theft.

Yes, I did feed them.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

dogs at the Lilydale show

In the last post I mentioned that Penny took part in a demonstration by K9 Kompany at the Lilydale Show today. It was a tiring day because she participated in four sessions, but her tail was still wagging at the end of the day, so I'd say she had a great time.

Here she is showing 'stand calmly for a vet's examination', one of the items from Ideal Dog.

We enjoyed All Sports, which is a mix of tricks, obedience and agility. Penny loves the seesaw and it was great to have so many turns on it.

dogs train for film work

Today the K9 Kompany presented a series of demonstrations for the public at the Lilydale show.

Penny and I took part in two types of demonstration - Ideal Dog of Australia and All Sports.

But we were onlookers at the highlight of the day, Animal Actors, because we're not in that class.

It was interesting to see how the tricks we're learning in All Sports could be developed into film work. Cindy and two students demonstrated that dogs need to learn to do tricks at a distance because the trainer can't be visible in the film.

A small piece of tape on the floor marked the nearest point the trainer was allowed to approach the dog during filming. I've taken a shot here from a different angle, showing the trainer's hand at right - you can see the dog watching her.

The story behind the filming was that Cindy was reading the paper and the dogs would try to get her attention. One of the dogs jumped up on the couch with her, barked and laid its head on her leg. When all this failed, it pushed a roller across in front of her.

In this shot the trainer is not in view - this is how the shot would appear in a film.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Inspector Rex plays music, clever as always

Penny and I watched the Austrian crime show Inspector Rex again tonight and Rex was a canine genius as usual. One trick was to play a toy that involved pressing a section of the game to make a musical note sound. The part to be pressed was large and easily manipulated by a dog's paw.

It was an episode from season four, when he is with Brandtner - a story about a classical pianist who wants his son to be a famous performer. Of course, seeing it's such a great show for us dog-lovers, I won't give away any more of the plot.

He learned to play four notes, repeating them after a child character played them a couple of times for him. I think the piece that was played repeatedly in the show was Kinderszenen by Robert Schumann, and maybe the notes Rex played were from that piece. I've got a memory like a sieve, so the memory of what Rex played was gone half a minute after he did it.

But I'd certainly like to get my hands on the toy. I reckon Penny and I could have fun on it. I'd love to know how many notes she could memorise and I feel sure she could learn the basic idea of pressing buttons - for treats, of course. Penny's not inclined to work without being paid a fair wage!

I've browsed the internet, searching 'musical toys' but I guess I'd have to be lucky to stumble across the toy I want. But, as they say, you never know your luck in a big city, so I'll keep my eyes open when I'm in toy shops.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

German dog toys

I bought a new ball for Penny yesterday and it has proved to be a favorite for both human and dog.

She loves it presumably because it tastes, smells and bounces just right. (It must smell good because she was fixated on the bag before the ball even came into view.) I like it because it's colorful, tough and bouncy.

When I noticed the address of a German website on the label I dashed inside to check it out, because I find the European dog toy companies often have a good range of toys for intelligent play, which is one of my interests. Sure enough, when I went to Trixie, I found lots of dog equipment listed, and a selection of learning toys.

I really, really want to buy the 'Dog Activity Gamble Box" but I think the site is for wholesalers, not private buyers. The owners of my local shop recently attended a trade fair in Germany - maybe that is why the Trixie balls have suddenly appeared in the shop - but I haven't yet convinced them they should import the wooden range of learning toys. Aggghhh! It's so frustrating living on the other side of the planet from Europe.

I think the ball we have must be a hedgehog ball, but I'm not sure, as the description says this ball is soft and the one we have is quite hard.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

birds can warn dog owners of snake danger

Pay attention to the behavior of birds and you could save your dog from a snakebite.

This is the message I read in a letter by Steven Katsineris to our local paper, Heidelberg and Diamond Valley Weekly. It reinforces the message from our local park ranger, which I posted about recently. He had said to listen for constant chatter by nearby birds and try to see where they are looking, because they will have their eyes on the snake.

Steven Katsineris adds to that. He says he has seen birds diving at snakes - he specifically mentions noisy miners, little wattlebirds, eastern rosellas, magpies and says others will dive at an intruder also.

I respect Steven Katsineris' information (as I do that of our experienced ranger, of course), because Steven writes a column each month in a great little garden magazine, Australian Better Gardens and Home Ideas, that is available free at nurseries around Victoria. I enjoy all their articles, because I love my garden; but I particularly love it because it welcomes articles from freelance writers.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

campaign to rehome dogs Home 4 the Holidays

Penny's blog received a comment a few days ago, asking me to promote a pet rehoming project called Home 4 the Holidays, which aims to place at least 1 million pets in loving and happy homes over the holiday season (Oct. 1, 2008 through Jan. 5, 2009).

I hesitated for a while because I have a policy of not engaging in any marketing (except for the ads that appear if you click on my world map - I love the free map so much I couldn't resist it). The Home 4 the Holidays Program is backed by the petfood company Iams.

However, it is such a good cause that I think it deserves promotion.

These Australian shelters are taking part:
1. Greyhound Fan Club, Sydney NSW
2. NSW Animal Rescue Inc, Toongabbie
3. PetRescue, East Vic Park
4. PetsHaven, Woodend
5. RSPCA, Fairfield Gardens
6. Save Our Strays, Sydney NSW

1. Greyhound Fan Club, Sydney, is sponsored by Nutrience, which I take to be a subsidiary of Iams, and, strangely, they have an address that ends with .ru - a RUSSIAN web address. They have an adoption page with stories of dogs now in loving homes.

2. I rang NSW Animal Rescue, because at that stage I hadn't found their great site, with its sad and happy photos and stories of the work they do. Steve Austin is their sponsor. They are a voluntary organisation and have taken part in the Home 4 the Holidays program for the past few years. I spoke to one of their volunteers, who was most helpful.

3. PetRescue, East Victoria Park is a listing on a national register of rescue organisations - the actual name is 'shel', and at that site is listed as having rehomed ONE animal in the last year. I couldn't find out any more about them via the Web.

4. Pets Haven in Woodend in Victoria has its own site and lots of 'happy ending' stories of rehomed animals. They have a policy of keeping animals as long as possible, rather than euthanasing after a set time.

5. I guess the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) needs no explanation. Probably our best-known animal welfare agency.

6. Save Our Strays, Sydney NSW - I couldn't find an individual site for this organisation but they have lots of successful rehomings listed on PetRescue.

Here's the original comment that I received:
My name is Victoria, and I'm with Rocket XL, a marketing agency working out of Los Angeles. I wanted to invite you to join in a great project we're working on to help homeless dogs, cats & animals everywhere. We're working on a project for one of the world's most successful pet adoption drives, Home 4 the Holidays, which has set a goal to place at least 1 million pets in loving and happy homes over this holiday season (Oct. 1, 2008 through Jan. 5, 2009). In fact, Home 4 the Holidays has 6 shelters participating in Australia alone this year!

With some help from animal-supporting bloggers like yourselves sharing the word about the program, and this year's Home 4 the Holidays celebrity spokesperson, Felicity Huffman and her beloved adopted dog Tucker, we know we can reach this goal! Last year alone, this pet adoption program helped nearly 500,000 families experience the joy of pet adoption. In fact, since it began in 1999, Iams Home for the Holidays has helped place more than 2 million pets into happy homes.

Monday, 3 November 2008

an assistance dog thinks of everything

Penny was resting at home today while I was sitting in the doctor's waiting room. In a new magazine - called, appropriately enough, Waiting Room - I read about a dog called Adonis who warns his owner of her imminent epileptic seizures. I can't give a link to Waiting Room itself, as it is a magazine only available to medical practitioners, but I did find the story of Adonis on the Net. (You have to click down three screens to find the story of Adonis.)

This is the part I loved - after alerting his owner, Alison Brennan, so that she could lie down and wait for help as she lapsed into unconsciousness,
Adonis opened the front door to let the ambulance officers in, dragged out his orange jacket identifying him as an 'assistance dog', brought over the house keys and picked up a backpack the officers assumed was his owner's overnight bag.

The ambulance raced Ms Brennan -- Adonis still by her side -- to a nearby hospital where it was discovered the assistance dog really had thought of everything. When the backpack was opened, it revealed, not a night-gown and toothbrush, but Adonis' favourite dog toys.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

happy dogs make a wordle

I was browsing Johann's blog (which I love) and saw a great image called a Wordle. I followed Johann's link and used the text from my post about whether dogs recognise human laughter and came up with this fun image.
I love wordles!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

robber jumps into police dog's yard

Penny and I love watching Inspector Rex. Well, I love watching it and Penny loves the chance to get on the furniture - she's allowed to lie on her special doona on the couch beside me when I'm watching the show.

Today I read in the Courier Mail an account of a suspected robber who jumped the fence into the backyard of an off-duty police dog in Brisbane - the article compared the heroic dog to Inspector Rex, when he chased the guy down the street and held him for the police to arrest.
I loved the bit at the end where the dog jumped into the police car to sit beside his prisoner. Yep, just like Rex.