All posts by Dentbros

Dog Breeding – Conformity vs Individualism

Opinion piece: What do you want your dog to look like?

Jeremy Vine does a series of pieces entitled ‘What makes us human?‘ on Radio 2 and this is a picture that sums up a viewpoint I have realised over the past few days in relation to this question.  It is similar to a picture I saw on social media with a man in camouflage trousers and a neon top with the caption “do ye wanna be seen o’ no?” (Scottish) Lol.  Here I am, with my camouflage jacket and my bright purple hair.

What’s the point I am making?  We want to be the same as everyone else. We are desperate to conform, to fit in, to be seen as ‘normal’, to go unnoticed.  AND we are desperate to be different, to stand out, to be memorable.  In order to achieve these two opposing and confrontational goals, we will buy the latest fashion, follow the trends, look carefully at what others are doing and copy it.  There are many entertaining social experiments about people going along with a crowd, performing in increasingly bizarre ways, just to do the same as everyone else.

Equally, there is a constant battle to be just a little bit different, to be memorable and not the same as everyone else.  We give children ridiculous names, or spell their names in ridiculous ways.  We get tattoos, with our own versions of patterns or pictures making us look a bit different from other people (while following the fashion for body art).  We dye our hair.

How does this relate to dogs?

I watched the Catherine Tate programme Saving the British Bulldog the other night (watch it, if you haven’t already, it’s really good).  Catherine presents a really clear, balanced picture of what has happened to the bulldog breed and why this has taken place.  In my view, this represents  this same dichotomy between conforming and being different.

The Kennel Club have a breed standard for the British Bulldog. It says right at the outset:

“A Breed Standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance including the correct colour of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential.

“Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed.

There it is, in black and white.  So what’s going on?  Breeders are breeding for health and to produce the best examples of the breed, conforming to the ‘standard’ set.  BUT people don’t want all dogs to look the same.  They want them to look different. People want a dog, but they want it to look like a baby.

As the programme demonstrates, this make the dog unhealthy, because it becomes deformed.  This is NOT the fault of the Kennel Club, nor the breeders, but the buying public, who are trying to find a particular ‘look’, no matter what that costs.

Health comes first

Surely we would not deliberately buy something that was unhealthy, would we?  We wouldn’t choose to have an unhealthy child, would we?  So why would we choose to have a dog with inherent health problems?

crufts best in show 2018If we only cared about dog health, we would all have dogs that are shaped like dogs.  A bit like this year’s Crufts Best in Show, Tease the Whippet, (Collooney Tartan Tease). The Kennel Club says that the Whippet was originally bred for rabbit coursing, with gambling on racing in the North of England.  It goes on to say:

“Although Whippet racing continues on a very minor scale, the breed is now hugely popular in the show ring where its elegant lines and smooth daisycutting action has won many admirers. As a family companion, the Whippet is gentle and affectionate and enjoys the comforts of domestic life.”

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?  But we don’t all want Whippets, do we?  We want something different.

The same, but different

This is all just an excuse to talk about my puppy, Ounce.  I LOVE that she is different – pretty unique in fact.  She is a lilac and white Border Collie, which is a colour that is found in only around 1% of the breed.  In addition, she has blue eyes, which is even rarer.  Blue eyes are definitely not part of the breed standard.

At the same time, Ounce conforms to the ‘show type’ of Border Collie, because she is from those lines.  So she is more ‘stocky’ than a farm-bred, working sheepdog type Border Collie.  She has the pedigree Border Collie broad, short back and head, and she has a thicker, longer coat than a working sheepdog.  She has very even markings, with a white blaze, full mane, white socks and white tail tip.  Ounce is also a ‘typical collie’ in her temperament and behaviour. Lovely.

The evolutionary compulsion

In my opinion, there is a biological reason why we want to conform and be different.  We need to ‘fit in’ so that we can be desirable to others, but we also need a diverse gene pool and we need to attract a mate.  To meet these needs, we are prepared to do almost anything and ‘variety is the spice of life’.

Going back to the health issues, we are, unfortunately, prepared to do many things in order to be ‘attractive’ to others.  People have always been happy to mutilate themselves and each other in the name of beauty, eg stilettos, makeup, piercings, FGM.  This is well documented, so I do not need to detail it here.

This compulsion is transferred to our dogs.  We want the same as everyone else, but we want ours to be better.  More beautiful, more unusual, more extreme, more fierce and so on.

My mother has passed down a family expression to me, which my sons now say.  It was said by my great-grandmother; “It’s a good job we’re not all the same, or we’d all want to marry the same man.  And it wouldn’t be you Charlie.”  Poor Charlie!  My conclusion is that we strive to be different, while fighting to be part of the human race.  It’s what makes us human, but also what makes us part of the evolutionary process.  Purple hair, purple puppy, something different.

Hopefully, we can recognise the need to promote the healthy ‘normal’ while celebrating the beautiful variety of life.  Pedigree dogs should be healthy, but this is only true as long as responsible breeders can produce enough dogs to meet public demand. Once we clamour for more and more ‘designer dogs’, unscrupulous people will see a chance to make big bucks by compromising standards, as Catherine Tait’s programme demonstrated.  Please bear in mind what a dog should look like when considering what to get for your best friend?


If you are buying a dog, start by looking at the What Dog? page, then contact me?  Or if you want to breed, read this Dog Breeding Blog and then please CONTACT ME to discuss this, as I may be able to mentor you?

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.


Ticks and Fleas – prevention or cure?

How do you cope with parasites on your dog?

Aargh!  Just found a tick on Aura’s face!  Didn’t expect to see these so early, but I suppose that just because the weather is still totally sh*t, doesn’t mean ticks aren’t hatching.  It’s not a problem, we just got our trusty tick tool remover and it came out, perfectly cleanly.

I love these tools, they work so well.  We cuddle our dogs all the time, so we find ticks pretty much straight away.  They can’t get attached in long, thick hair, so tend to be on the face or legs, and are easier to spot.

WARNING: I’ve just googled ‘dog with ticks’ to find a picture to show you (having disposed of Aura’s straight away) and now feel really sick. Don’t do that :-(.  This picture shows all you need to know.  See the tick?  Get the tick tool, slide it between the tick and the dog and twist until it comes off.  Then kill it.  Yuck.

With regards fleas, we did have a flea infestation a few months ago, thanks to a visiting cat.  We then had to use treatments (see below).  However, normally, because I have leather sofas and hard floors, and I regularly wash the dogs’ bedding, I don’t have to treat the dogs (or the cat).

Preventative Treatments

If you are worried that you won’t notice fleas or ticks, or cannot keep on top of it, you can use a ‘drop-on’ preventative treatment, such as Frontline.  These seem straightforward and easy to use.  However, they do contain strong toxins, which are not ideal to have on your pet.

At one time I was using a different brand and managed to get a drop of it in Sunny’s eye.  This caused an ulcerated cornea, which led to weeks of treatment with drops, followed by sedation and a ‘scratched cornea’ to heal it.  Which is another reason I don’t use it unless I have to.  :-/


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How much exercise should your dog have?

Dog Doc Question 23: How far should you walk your dog?

Yesterday I talked about gardens and how much outdoor space your dog needs.  Today I am talking more specifically about walking and exercise. I do provide a comprehensive guide to exercising your puppy in my puppy packs.  All KC Assured Breeders must do this as part of the requirements of the scheme.

Let’s start by talking about puppies and exercise.  How much exercise would you give this person?

Would you take her for a two hour hike?  Would you go for a run with her?  Would you take her out with a load of friends and other, older children and let her run around with them?  She’s raring to go and full of life, so that sounds about right, doesn’t it?  A puppy is like a toddler.  Just because they look like a dog and dogs need to be walked, doesn’t mean they can go wherever you want.  Be sensible, please?

Growth plates in dogs

There is another, important reason why puppies should not be over-exercised.  They have things called ‘growth plates’ which have to close.Growth plates are soft areas that sit at the ends of the long bones in puppies and young dogs. They contain rapidly dividing cells that allow bones to become longer until the end of puberty.  If you allow a puppy to do too much exercise, they will damage their bones and often suffer fractures.  More information about appropriate exercise can be found in this article.

How much is too much?

Puppies are self-regulating.  This means that when they’ve had enough exercise, they will stop.  So if you took a puppy out for a walk and they lay down, that means they’ve had enough.  It doesn’t take much.  You might think that they run around all day at home, but if you actually sit and watch them, you find that they run around like crazy for a few minutes, then stop and rest.  Then start again. Stopping and starting is their self-management.  If you watch Ounce and her sister at play, you will see that it’s actually quite laid back.

As a general rule of thumb, 5 minutes per month until around 6 months works well.

This means that a 3-4 month old puppy needs just 15 minutes of exercise per day.  That’s hard to do – it’s not much!

Adult dog walking requirements

What does an adult dog need?  I said yesterday that some people walk their dog several times daily in order for it to go to the toilet.  That’s not really any use in terms of exercise, and even less use for mental stimulation.

A fit dog needs at least 30-60 minutes walking per day.  The duration and frequency of exercise should remain consistent and any increases should be gradual. For the majority of dogs, exercise is an important part of their life and so they will take as much as you can give.

Dependant on breed and temperament and mobility, a dog will normally be capable of walking to the same capability as its owner, however as a dog becomes older, exercise should be reduced and your dog should be allowed to walk at its own pace.

Walking is really all that is needed to keep you and your dog fit and healthy, maintaining a good weight.  Of course it is easier to manage your dog’s diet than your own!  But if you provide good quality exercise, you should both be fit.

Factors to consider when walking your dog

  • How much on-lead vs off-lead walking they have – preferably 90-100% off lead.  the more time they are on lead, the further they need to go.
  • How often they do the same walk – ideally they should have several completely different areas to walk in each week and completely new areas every month or two.
  • How often they meet other dogs – it’s great for dogs to have some interaction with others, but this needs to be manageable and stress free for the dog.  Meeting the same dogs on a regular basis allows the dog to get to know others and say hello without fear of attack.
  • What other issues or challenges are there on the walk – are there lots of cyclists and runners?  Can you manage your dog around these?  Do you go near roads? Is your dog likely to run off after squirrels or other wildlife?
  • What breed and size is your dog?  It is true (and obvious) that some dogs do need more exercise than others.  But it is NOT true that big dogs needs more than small dogs.  The big, heavy breeds of dog cannot go for mammoth hikes in the mountains.  Small terriers can keep going for miles, but toy dogs don’t need as much.  Which isn’t to say they won’t enjoy a nice walk every day.

Training and routine are the key

Before you even start walking your dog, you should practise recall training, which I have already talked about that at great length.

Dogs (like humans) really love a routine.  It is important to be consistent.  Just as you wouldn’t run a marathon without training, you can’t expect your dog to suddenly go for a long trek.  Whatever you are fit enough for, that is what your dog can do too.

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

A Dog’s garden – what do they need?

The Perfect Play Area

Owning 5 dogs is quite unusual across the population as a whole.  Not amongst my friends and acquaintances of course – but then I am now officially a ‘dog person’.  I am spending increasing amounts of time with my dogs and mixing with other dog breeders and multiple dog owners.  I am therefore becoming increasingly aware of a dog’s needs.

When I am vetting owners for puppies, one of the questions I ask is about the size of the garden.  I also ask if it is secure – that is definitely important.  There is a general expectation that the bigger the dog, the bigger the space required for them.  There is also a feeling that more dogs require more space.  In fact, neither of these things is especially true.  However, they definitely need easy access to some outdoor space.

A dog’s needs

Many people take their dogs for multiple walks each day, thereby encouraging their dogs to toilet elsewhere, rather than in the garden.  Personally, I prefer my dogs to be able to go to the toilet as required, rather than having to rely on me taking them.  Of course they do toilet on the walk, but dogs still need an area to go to the toilet.  They will toilet on patios or gravel, but they do prefer grass, even artificial grass.

Dogs also need some space to run around.  How much space again depends on how often they are exercised and how this is managed.  My dogs have a long walk, entirely off lead, giving them plenty of opportunity to run around together. They are walked in different areas each day, meaning they have plenty of mental and physical stimulation.  They are also taken to training sessions and shows, ensuring that they are fit and challenged regularly.

My dogs also have plenty of space to run around indoors, as I am fortunate enough to have that.  And because I am around all day, every day, they are not ‘shut up’ anywhere.

Barking in the garden

One of the issues mentioned by people is that when dogs are left outside for any length of time, or have free access to the garden, they may bark. This is clearly a potential irritation for neighbours and in fact can cause major friction and even prosecution.

Any dog will ALWAYS bark if there is a stimulus to do so.  When they are on their own property, they MUST bark if something comes into their space.  This will include:

  • squirrels
  • cats
  • big birds
  • other dogs going past
  • people eg postmen
  • other people going past

If your property backs onto a footpath, then your dog will stand at the fence and bark.  If your dog can see the front garden and path, they will stand and bark if someone passes.  It’s their job, it’s what they do.  You will not stop them.

So, if you want a dog space to which they have free access, it needs to be away from these stimuli.

Artificial grass

 Increasingly, dog owners (even those with only one dog) are turning to artificial turf to replace their turf.  Dogs are hard on grass; they cause patching through their urination (bitches more than dogs), they also wear out the grass through running around.  If left unsupervised, they will dig holes in beds.  They also rummage around in beds and bushes.  The more space you have, the more difficult it becomes to clear up after your dogs.  But if you don’t do this regularly, this will also cause damage to the garden.

Since dogs wear out grass, small gardens quickly turn into mud baths.  This is then tramped indoors, making the house dirty and dusty.  When the winter is as wet and cold as this one has been, the wear and tear on the house can be significant.

I have now created a section of my garden specially for my dogs.  They have plenty of space to run around and toilet and ‘grass’ on which to do this.  They are safe and contained.  They have water, sun and shade.  They can ‘use’ the beds to toilet if they wish to and if they wanted to dig, it wouldn’t matter to much.

I have simply placed the artificial turf on my patio, as I have large paved areas available.  I hope to keep my lawn at the back of my house, as I don’t want to feel that I am replacing everything natural.  It’s a challenge though, as I have big trees, a mole family (hopefully now moved on!) and 5 dogs.

Of course my dogs will be allowed to go into the main garden once the weather improves (it will one day!)  Meanwhile, they are enjoying playing in their own space, while staying relatively clean and completely safe.  Happy dogs!


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Exciting recall!

How to be exciting for your puppy – and checking names

Last week I talked about being exciting for your puppy – here is my demonstration!  Ounce doesn’t think much of my first attempt to call her, so she decides not to bother.  When I change my tone though, she rushes over.  In fact I am so exciting that Sunny and Luna decide I must want to give them sweeties as well 🙂

Name Checking

I also practice ‘name checking’ my dogs, to make sure they know their names.

You can see that the puppy is not so good at staying put when she thinks I am not looking at her!  But she isn’t too bad, considering.

I love doing this exercise with the girls.  Can they wait?  Do they know their names?  Can they come, neatly?  Can they then wait again?  I do this exercise with them periodically, making it harder or easier, depending on how well they are doing it and when was the last time I practised.  Variations include:

  • increasing the distance
  • spreading them out from each other
  • calling them in different orders (I started with Ounce as she is the worst!)
  • facing away from them

Finally, I tried to get a video of them going into a ‘down’ from a distance.  This was a poor example, because they are tired – it’s the end of the walk.  Luna in particular was distracted by a cyclist mending a puncture.  You can see that they do go down, but it’s not as quick and efficient as I would like.


Don’t forget, you must always, always have plenty of treats for your dogs.  Then they will do what you want!



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Dog Leads – only the best for my girls!

Fully purpled up!

dog leadsI absolutely LOVE these leads!  I bought my first collars and leads from Dogs & Horses four years ago, on my first visit to Crufts.  They were exactly what I wanted, beautifully made, rolled leather, in different colours for my different girls.

I started with three collars and leads in purple, red and pink.  I decided to go for green for Busy, before I realised she had one piercing blue eye – had to go for pale blue then!

When I had Ounce, I decided to go for lilac as her ‘colour’.  Surprisingly, this has proved difficult, but Dogs & Horses were able to produce a beautiful grey collar and lead for her.

Then I discovered that they were doing these split leads.  A perfect solution for my pack, and all in purple.  So on my visit to Crufts this week I decided to go for it.

They are a British company, offering great service and top quality products.  Thank you, Dogs & Horses


If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you have a problem you would like me to talk about?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.