If you go down to the woods today..

You’re in for a Dog Surprise!

Had a lovely walk this afternoon in the woods – the light was great for taking some pictures.  I was lucky enough to have Kate from Kate Everall Photography giving me a lesson in shooting angles and light, although we had six dogs to manage, so it was a bit of a challenge.  Some interesting results though, don’t you think?

I think some of these could do with a caption – please send me your thoughts?  Which photos do you like?


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Sisters at Play

How do 6 month old puppies play?

Silently.  Watch this video clip and you’ll see something remarkable.  This is Ounce playing with her sister Pixie.  They are having a great game, very interactive and pretty lively, but they make no sound.  As I am saying in the clip, it’s as though they don’t want you to know what they’re up to!

I think for dogs, when it really is just a game, they don’t make any noise.  As soon as one of them is not happy though, you can hear something.  This was demonstrated perfectly (though not filmed, unfortunately) later on in the visit.  Ounce came to have a fuss from Hollie, Pixie’s owner and Pixie didn’t like it.  She was a bit jealous, so she immediately started growling.  In fact when it happened again a bit later, they were right on the edge of a full-on fight.  I yelled at them and it stopped, fortunately.

Funnily enough we were talking about fighting at school yesterday when I went in with Busy.  We discussed ‘play fighting’ and whether it was OK.  We decided it usually isn’t, because someone gets hurt.  “It’ll end in tears” is said for a reason, after all.

With dogs, a bit of lively play is completely fine, if the pair are evenly matched and the play is supervised.  I would never leave two pups this age together without being present; I know it would end in a fight and someone would get hurt.

When Pixie first arrived and they had overcome their initial shyness and started playing, I grabbed a camera to video it, but they then stopped, as they had already run out of steam.  They started again later, but it went on like that, with them taking a break now and again.

I believe that dogs (and children) are much more likely to fight properly when they are bored, tired or hungry.  That was the approach I took with my sons anyway, and I think I do the same with my dogs.  If trouble starts, there are no recriminations.  I just separate them and distract them.  I expect it to happen if they are allowed to carry on for too long and I do not expect them to manage themselves particularly well.

Oh and by the way, do you think Busy was pleased to see her daughter today?  No, she wasn’t.  She doesn’t like other dogs much and having a stupid puppy trying to say hello is just annoying, quite frankly.  That’s why it is not possible to get a pic of Busy and Pixie next to each other.

Finally, have a look at this clip.  What is this game called?  Peekaboo? Hide and seek? Let’s see how long we can play this before the curtain get ripped?  Funny girls.  It was lovely to see Pixie, Sarah and Hollie today.  I am excited to see the Hollie and Pixie partnership up  and running in the future – great things may happen!


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A new trick? Something to make her look sweet

Teaching the youngest dog new tricks

Over the Christmas holidays, I was sent a link to a video from Sarah showing how to teach a ‘head down’ trick.  Here is the video:

The Head Down Trick

Now here is my effort to teach this to Ounce:

I think you can make a number of observations from watching these two videos.  First of all, Sarah and Smurf (and Wilma) are professionals; they really know how to put on a show.  We have much to learn.  Smurf is clearly extremely talented and obedient, as well as being quick to learn.  He is able to follow commands at a distance, which is the main thing we are not yet able to do.

I have waited to post about this because I wanted to video our very first attempt to learn it.  I thought this would be more interesting for my followers than showing Ounce being able to do it already – it’s all about the learning process.

So this is literally me switching on the video and beginning to teach it.  Because of that, it is not the finished production.  You cannot hope to teach a puppy a trick in one sitting.  What you can see, hopefully, is some progression.

To start with, I hold the bottle cap (I didn’t want to use a coin, too hard to handle and was worried she might swallow it for some reason).  I try to get her to touch it with her nose, when I say ‘yes’ and give her a treat.  Can you see how inept I am at doing this compared with Sarah?  You might notice that I don’t have to put a treat behind the cap for Ounce to touch it with her nose.  That is because I have already taught her to ‘touch’ something – a bigger lid – on one or two other occasions.  Just holding out something is enough for her to sniff it.

You can see in the middle of my video that I am trying to get her to sit.  I want to try and put the cap on the floor between her feet.  But she doesn’t really know ‘sit’ as a command on its own, or if she did she has forgotten it.  Instead, she offers me a whole range of other tricks; twisting, lying down, giving a paw etc.  Bless her heart, she is eager to please!

We get there in the end.  She then lies down and I manage to put the cap between her front legs.  Ounce looks at it but doesn’t touch it, twice.  I should then wait for her to figure it out. This is called ‘shaping’, where we wait for the desired behaviour.  Unfortunately I interfere and move the cap, which gives her a massive cue to do what I want.  I do then manage to reward it, but again, it’s pretty poorly managed.

I am not beating myself up about it – it’s hard!  I am trying to demonstrate that even though it is hard, it is manageable.  You can get there, you just need to persevere.  And be patient.

I will try again tomorrow.  One of the things that is confusing me at the moment is the use of the voice commands.  Sarah doesn’t say anything until she has the coin on the floor.  When Smurf starts to put his head down, she says ‘head down’.  I started off saying ‘touch’ meaning ‘put your nose on the lid’.  There are two things wrong with that.  One is that I want ‘touch’ to mean ‘go to the end of the agility equipment and stop with your front feet touching the ground’ and secondly that if I am saying touch the lid, how will Ounce know what to do when the lid is not there?

Hmm.  Maybe you can teach a young dog new tricks but this old dog is finding it quite a challenge!


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Ounce’s Showreel! Clever puppy :)

Look what the puppy can do now!

This is mainly a demonstration of my poor handling – sorry Ounce.  We muddle through though and I believe we demonstrate the following:

  • Stay
  • Come
  • Sit
  • Down
  • Twist
  • Spin
  • Roll over
  • Through legs (various ways)
  • Paw 
  • Speak
  • Tug
  • Touch target
  • Standing spin (we don’t really know that one yet!)
  • Back (definitely needs work)
  • Retrieve
  • On bed (needs work that one)
  • Open door
  • Into bed
  • Shut door (poor equipment with these)

Above all, I think what this video shows so clearly is how keen Ounce is to please.  She wants to do it, whatever it is.  She offers me things I don’t ask for constantly, just in case that is what I want.  How lovely is that?

The video also demonstrates the importance of rewarding what you do want.  A couple of times when I have the target, (the lid) I miss her touching it, so she immediately loses confidence.  We haven’t practised it much, so need to work on that a lot more.

Here are my ideas for what else I want to teach her:

  • Bow
  • Hide face
  • Back through legs
  • Feet on feet
  • Carry a bag
  • Pick up keys
  • Bang on a door to shut it
  • Give high five (she gives a paw but I want more of a high five)
  • Wave
  • Cross paws
  • Play dead (lying flat on her side)
  • Tidy up her toys

What else? Please comment and let me know what you think she should learn to do? Some of these are quite complicated sequences of actions, so need a bit more tuition.  I don’t know how to teach some of these, so will need some help.  I also need to reinforce quite a few of the ones I’ve done already, as they are a bit haphazard still.

Thanks to Sarah Humphreys again for the training and Adam for the video.


If you want to know more about Ounce’s Adventures, 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.

Ounce’s first snow adventure

It snowed!

I’ve been waiting ages to take some beautiful pictures of collies looking cute in snow.  Hmm, seems I shall be waiting a bit longer…

It was still snowing hard when we went out.  It eventually stopped, but even at the time we went out, the ground was quite churned up.  Plus, it was the wrong sort of snow!

It was wet and sticky, not dry and fluffy.

Chris commented that collies are a bit boring when it comes to snow – they aren’t that excited about it, because it is the sort of weather they are designed for.  Even though it was Ounce’s first time in the snow, she just ran about as usual.

Their coats are double layered, so they have a top, silky layer which is fairly waterproof, and a bottom fluffy layer which keeps them warm.  So why are they wearing jumpers?  

My dogs live inside, in a centrally heated house.  Going out into weather that is around freezing is always going to be a bit of a shock to the system, even if you are fluffy.  I think it’s only fair to add an extra layer of warmth.  They certainly don’t object.  And often they don’t have a full coat of their own, so appreciate a bit extra. 

The light quality was poor – I think I had the camera on the wrong setting, but they do still look pretty, don’t they?

I’d really love a pale blue jumper for Busy..

And a lilac one for my puppy.  She looks OK in her granny’s jumper though, doesn’t she?

Silly puppy with snow on her nose!

Shake it off, just shake it off. Let’s hope for some better conditions next time..

Crates, Cages and Kennels – What’s the point?

Dog Doc Question 11: Why would you keep your dog in a cage?

Look what my puppy can do!  Thanks to Sarah for telling me how to teach this trick.  She’s supposed to shut the door as well but I’m not confident about teaching that bit yet.

People often say to me “I don’t like the idea of using a cage for my dog, it seems mean to put them in there.”  As you can see from the video, Ounce does not mind going in her bed, in fact she loves it!

As you can see from the photo, there is plenty of space for Ounce inside her crate.  I’ve covered it with a towel and she has her vet bed in there to make it nice and comfortable.  In fact it looks more like a kennel than a cage.  Here’s what I have put on the Equipment Advice page about crates.


Your puppy needs its own space and safe place.  The crate or cage keeps it safe and out of trouble when it is alone, rather like putting a baby in a cot or playpen.  It also helps to teach the puppy that it does need to rest and so do you.

When ordering a crate for your puppy, buy one big enough for it to lie in stretched out and standing up in when it is fully grown. Make sure that the mesh is not too big as puppies may get their mouths caught.  Put some bedding inside and tie some toys in the far end of the crate so the puppy has to go in there to play with them. Gently place your puppy in there whenever it falls asleep. Leave occasional treats in the crate for the puppy to find, so the puppy learns to love going in there.

A handy hint to ensure that your puppy is eager to enjoy the safety and calm of the crate is to feed him in there. Then, quietly close the door. Puppies love to search and sniff for pieces of food, and once they have found and eaten everything, they often settle down and drift into sleep for an hour or so. This gives you a chance to do other things without worrying about what the puppy is up to, and it is a good experience for the puppy to curl up and sleep in the cot by choice.  You can gradually increase the time the puppy stays in the crate and initially this should be whilst you are in the room with it.

Make sure your puppy has recently emptied its bladder and bowels before it enters and do not leave your puppy in the crate or puppy pen for more than a couple of hours during the daytime. Although most puppies are content to sleep in their crate overnight, they get very distressed if they have to foul near their beds, so you must be prepared to get out of your bed to let them out if they need to toilet during the night. If they have fouled inside the crate, you must clean it out immediately or the puppy will hate being in the crate.

Never use the crate as a sin-bin or you will teach your puppy to resent it.
Always remove the puppy’s collar when in the crate in case it gets caught up on it.

It’s a bed, not a cage

This is the crucial point.  It is not a way to contain your dog and stop them from moving about and enjoying life.  It is somewhere safe for them to go and sleep.

Five years ago, for our 20th wedding anniversary, my husband and I went to Norway to see the Northern Lights.  Part of that amazing holiday involved going out on a husky sled.  The dogs were great, but they weren’t very domesticated.  I was shocked to see that they were kept in individual kennels, which were little more than holes in the ground, out in the snow.  But I was told that if they were kept together they fought.  And during the summer months they lived a much freer life.  Those dogs were happy and healthy and quite honestly, they had a brilliant life.  They were outside, running about every day, howling at the moon all night long (we didn’t get much sleep!)

It really made me think about the way we keep our dogs and it is something I often reflect on.  I know many people with large numbers of dogs, who usually keep them in separate crates for large chunks of the day and night.  I don’t do that, but if I put a crate up, all my dogs will immediately go in it.  If Ounce isn’t in her crate then someone else will usually go into it (often the cat!)   So my dogs aren’t ‘kept’ in crates, but they don’t sleep on my bed either.

In this country, we want the best for our pets.  That’s great, as long as it is actually the best for the pets, not what we think is the best for them.  If your dog is left alone to chew up your house and you then get angry with it and want to get rid of it, that is not a great solution, is it? Give your puppy a safe, happy place to call their own.  They will thank you for it.


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Finding her feet – Exercises for Ounce

Preparation for agility – exercise number two

Here is a brilliant example of how to prepare a puppy for agility without doing any damage to joints, causing over-excitement, or causing them to get bored.  We are simply giving her something to think about.  She is moving slowly forward, not looking particularly where she is going, but becoming aware of the need to lift her feet over the obstacles.  Clever girl!

We want Ounce to be aware of her whole body, so that she has better coordination and well better agility!  It will really help her once she starts moving around a course of obstacles.  It also helps her with muscle conditioning and general fitness.

Thanks to Sam Lane of Daimonic Dogs for the training – we love it!  Sam competes at International level, so we are so grateful that she is able to train us – what a difference it has made.

Here a clip of Sam winning at Crufts a few years ago.