Monday, 25 February 2013

Penny meets a famous outback dog

Today when we went to Kepala for a swim, we were joined by Rosie and her human, Jane Coleman. I noticed Rose had difficulty with some movements, and asked Jane whether Rosie had been injured.

It was heart-warming to hear Rosie's story. Jane lived in Alice Springs at the time of Rosie's injury, but was visiting Canberra when she heard her beloved companion seemed to be paralysed.

You can read the story of how Jane abandoned her dream of a national violin tour and raced 5000 kilometres around the country to bring Rosie here to Melbourne for surgery. It seemed Rosie would never walk again, but I can tell you she looked fantastic today at the pool.

After the operation, the next phase of recovery involved ongoing therapy, once more an expensive and stressful time for Jane. You can read about it here.

I felt privileged to spend time with someone who put her life on hold to save her friend.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

when a successful behavior causes an injury to a dog

Dogs are very specific about behaviors they've learned. One of our favorites with Penny is to drop something as we walk along, and then after a minutes or two, cry, 'Oh, no, where is it?'

Penny races back, touches the lost item with her nose, we shout for joy, and she hurries back to us for her reward...
leaving the found object where it is, for a human to collect.

Pretty good trick, lots of fun for us all.

A couple of weeks ago, as we walked at Rosanna, Penny played in the creek and I was throwing her Whirl Wheel into the water, but I accidentally threw it onto the opposite bank, up a metre-high steep embankment.

In retrospect, I know what I should have done. Walked away, philosophical about the lost toy. After all, what did it cost? Fifteen measly dollars!

But I said those words - 'Oh, no, where is it?' and allowed Penny to laboriously pull herself up that little cliff, through the long grass, across the scrubby plants, until she found it. And, to my dismay, she headed back, down the cliff, across the creek and waited for her reward, having shown me where it was.

I had a second chance to let it go, forget the toy. But did I? No - I let her go back again and again, changing my instruction to the usually reliable, 'Find your toy! Get the toy!'

By this time there was a circle of humans gathered, cheering Penny on, and she received a spontaneous round of applause when she figured it out and came back with the toy in her mouth.

So I have only myself to blame that she now has a limp. We went to the vet a couple of days later and he thought it was a problem with the left shoulder, but that it showed no 'structural damage'. It should recover with rest. (By the way, he asked me what I thought I was doing, letting Penny go through grass that most likely hid a poisonous snake...)

But it isn't better. I think we didn't rest enough. (For instance, we went walking with our puppy friend.) So now we're having a no-walks policy for about five days. Lately it has been horrible hot weather here, too hot even at 11 pm to go out for a walk, so that suited us fine.

Today is cool - thank goodness! So I lifted Penny into the car, to convince her we were off for her usual walk, and then lifted her down at a local park that I'd normally consider too boring for a visit. She mooched around in the shade for seven minutes - don't know why I chose seven - and home we came.

She found some interesting smells, I contemplated nature for a while, and I guess it was a win-win.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Perhaps a cure for type one diabetes in dogs

Interesting post here about a study which resulted in long-term remission of type one diabetes in dogs.

Showing a puppy how to do it

When Pebbles, the cute Corgi puppy, grabbed Penny's lead, as we were walking at Westerfolds Park last week, Penny turned around to give Pebbles 'a look'.

It was quite a patient look, but Pebbles got the message and let go of the leash.

Penny was also willing to show Pebbles how a 'sit' should be done. Pebbles lay down to think about it.

Pebbles is gorgeous!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Observing the behavior of our dogs

One of my favorite blogs is The Other End of the Leash, written by author Patricia McConnell. Sometimes she posts a video clip and invites readers to comment on the dog behaviors they see in the video. She then analyses the behaviors and explains what the dogs have done. It's educational as well as entertaining.

I think watching her clips has improved my observation of Penny's behaviors. Yesterday I posted about her walk with a young puppy, and the owners of the puppy sent me the following clip. (I'm sorry it's so small, but I don't know how to make it larger. If you click on the square in the bottom right corner to make it full-screen it's a little easier to see.)

When I look at what Penny did after the pup dropped onto her stomach nearby, I see:

Penny looked at the puppy.
She looked away.
She looked back at the puppy.
She yawned.
She looked at the pup again.
She waited.

The humans attracted the pup's attention with a twig and then both dogs came back to us.

I thought perhaps the looking away told the pup Penny was higher in status and didn't want to be bothered by a 'little kid'. The yawn might have been an indication that she wasn't going to attack the pup. I found this paragraph on Dogs
Yawning is a type of appeasement gesture, something also referred to as a calming signal. Dogs yawn to deflect a threat. If a person or another animals approaches a dog, that dog may avert his gaze and yawn. It's a dog's way of saying that he feels threatened or anxious, but that he is not going to attack. Dogs use this type of body language to avoid conflict.

That implies that Penny might have felt uncomfortable with the puppy nearby, but I don't believe this was the case.
On the other hand...
three humans were staring at the two dogs, all three humans frozen in place with their mobile phones (cellphones) held high. Who wouldn't be a bit uncomfortable with the paparazzi crowding around?

I'm looking forward to our next outing together. Puppies change so quickly at this age that we'll probably have quite a different interaction.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

puppies and middle-aged dogs

It's six years since I posted a photo of Penny racing eagerly around the garden while her old friend Bonnie mooched slowly around, ignoring Penny's antics.

How times have changed!

Now Penny is the older (NOT old...) dog showing an enthusiastic puppy what dogdom is all about. Yesterday early in the morning, before the heat of the day, we met friends with their puppy, Pebbles, and ambled around Westerfolds Park.

Penny, as the senior of the pair, ignored Pebbles. Pebbles took one look at the giant getting out of the other car and raced back to her humans for protection. However, as we walked along, Pebbles was more and more fascinated by Penny, but thought it would be a good idea to drop belly down if Penny seemed to be turning back to look at her.

She also took the precaution at first of making sure one of her humans was between her and the monster dog.

On the other hand, Penny's tail was mightily interesting. The humans were murmuring, 'Not the tail, Pebbles, not the tail,' as  the puppy got closer and closer to the waving, feathery thing.

Fortunately, Penny's patience was not put to the test. Perhaps Pebbles has good instincts about how to behave around other dogs.

On the other hand, when Penny was walking near the cars, and I put her lead on, the temptation was too great...

'What's this thing holding me back?' Penny seemed to be thinking. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Penny Grinz

Just a silly picture!

Penny with the Grinz treat ball I bought at the Pet Expo.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

labelling types of dog behaviours

Should we let passers-by know something about how our dogs will react to them?
At the Pet Expo the other day I saw a dog walking around with a collar and lead that said 'blind dog' and I automatically moved aside to give him and his human plenty of room.

Later I came across this dog sitting on one of the stands.

Okaayy... so he's friendly. Does that mean that when he's out and about, everyone should pat him? I think that might be the reaction of the public to seeing such labelling of his personality. I wouldn't want to take Penny walking in a harness like that.

On the other hand, at training it could be useful, because when she's 'working', she focuses closely on me and really doesn't like it if other dogs come within her workspace (ie within a few metres of her and me). She might benefit from the harness labelled 'no dogs'. 

I can see a role for these types of harnesses, but I have my reservations.

Monday, 4 February 2013

pigs and rescue organisations

At the Melbourne Pet Expo, the emphasis was on dogs, but there were quite a few rescue organisations who don't focus only on canines. One of the most famous around here is Edgar's Mission, so when I saw this elegant creature saying hello to people, I thought I might have met the famous Edgar himself.

But it seems Edgar died some time ago, after a peaceful life at the Mission, and this was Polly. (As I should have realised, if I had looked closely.)

Of course, Oscar's Law was represented at the Expo, also.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

a blind dog does obedience performance

Today at the Melbourne Pet Expo, I saw an interesting new type of obedience training. It's called Rally O. It seems to involve basic obedience movements, and is reputed to be a more relaxed sport than traditional obedience (which Penny and I found stressful in the extreme). I've Googled the sport, but can't find lots of specific information about it so far.

As I was leaning on the fence watching handlers and dogs go around the course, I was amazed to realise that the dog I was observing was completely blind.

If you look closely, you will see that he had no eyes at all. His tail wagged happily the entire time he performed, in the noisy environment. What a great relationship he has with his owner.

I so wish I could show you a video of him performing, but I filmed it with my iPhone and it comes out all stretched and weird. If anyone knows a way I could put it on the Net for you to see, I'd love to hear.

Friday, 1 February 2013

feeding dogs bones

I didn't succeed with setting up a tooth-cleaning routine for Penny, even though I'd bought the toothpaste and the finger-toothbrush. I think I just wasn't prepared to put the work in. (I've still got all the equipment, though, so I can always try again another time.)

So, today I remembered I'd better buy Penny some meaty meals that would get her teeth working. I bought a few brisket bones, because a friend told me they are softer than most bones, and my butcher had confirmed this (sort of). I also bought a rabbit - fresh, not frozen - and the butcher cut it into six pieces.

She had a look at the rabbit in her bowl and decided it wasn't too appetising, but she took the brisket bone and ate it up in twenty-five minutes of hard chewing. So I guess that was successful as a tooth-cleaning exercise. Not all that successful as a meal, in my opinion, because it did look fatty and there wasn't much meat on it.

But the rabbit was still waiting on the eating mat, where Penny had dropped it. And she wasn't interested in it.

Until I picked up a plastic bag. Who says dogs don't have good memories? Months ago, if not years ago, when Penny left a piece of rabbit on her mat, I picked it up with my hand in a plastic bag and popped it back into the fridge to keep cool (in her special drawer in the fridge, away from our food).  So this time, when she heard the rattle of the plastic, she leapt to grab her unwanted rabbit and hurried out through the doggy door to bury it.

Of course she buried it right under a precious plant. Doesn't she always? Let's hope that if she forgets it, the thornless blackberry likes a bit of meat around its roots.

The dirt or the rabbit must have tasted okay, because she was licking her soil-encrusted mouth as she hurried back inside to check whether something tastier might have appeared in her bowl. (It hadn't.)

PS. I researching this article, I came across an interesting post about feeding bones to dogs. The writer says that we should take out the thin bone in chicken thighs, because it is very sharp. I had already come to the conclusion that the thigh is the only part of the chicken carcass that I don't think is safe for Penny to eat.