Tales of Teddy

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January 2016

All Posts Friday Find

Friday Find: 2-in-1 Winter Dog Coat

dog coat

Teddy has recently been road-testing a clever little khaki jacket – one that has a nifty collar that can be turned up to give it a 1950s vibe. While I truly appreciate this Fonz-style detail, what’s better is that it’s also two jackets in one, which has come in handy during the crazy weather that has enveloped London this winter.

For the deeply un-wintery, warm but very wet weather, Teddy has been wearing the waterproof outer half of Danish Design’s Four Seasons Performance Dog Coat. Because it fastens with a neat reflective belt, it has kept his super fluffy chest Persil-white and dry. More importantly this picky character has been happy to wear it.

During last weekend’s snow we bumped-up the jacket with its second layer; a polar fleece lining. It did the job. Teddy bounced around, spent ages sniffing snow, chasing snow, biting snow and in the end it was only his snow-logged legs that cramped his style to such an extent that we had to take him home to thaw out.

All Posts Teddy's Tales

Teddy’s Tales: Winter Dog Safety

dog safety

Teddy has been looking exceedingly hairy and teddy bear-y recently, so this weekend we were set to take him for a haircut. That was until I read these tips from the largest dog welfare charity in the UK, Dogs Trust, on dog safety during the cold snap:

• Let your dog’s winter coat grow. If you have a puppy, short-haired or old dog, buy him a sensible winter coat – a high visibility coat will ensure your dog can be easily seen in the dark.
• Keep your dog on a lead if it is snowing heavily. Snow can be disorientating so he can easily become lost.
• Make sure your dog is wearing a collar and an ID tag and is microchipped. It is important to ensure your microchipping database is up to date with your address and contact details so your dog can be more easily reunited with you should he become lost
• Make sure you wipe your dog’s legs and feet when you come indoors after a snowy walk. The grit from the roads can irritate their feet.
• Never leave your dog in a car during extreme weather, hot or cold.
• Do not let your dog walk on frozen ponds – the ice may not be thick enough to take his weight.
• If your dog does fall through the ice never be tempted to go in after him; call the emergency services immediately.
• Antifreeze is highly poisonous but tasty to dogs. Keep it well out of their reach and mop up any spills quickly!

The ponds are lightly iced over on Hampstead Heath this morning. That tip about not going in after your dog? “More people die saving their dogs than dogs die going into icy water,” says Kevin-The-Trainer. “It can be great to have a dog that loves water, but the problem is that they don’t understand about ice. If you are lucky, when they see their favourite pond covered in ice they will back off.” But, as we see in news reports year after year, some dogs dive straight on to thin ice and they – and often their distraught owner, too – end up in trouble.

Kevin’s advice is simple but potentially life-saving: “If you have a water-obsessed dog and there is ice on the ponds, exercise them elsewhere or keep them on a lead. Alternatively, train your dog to go in water only with your permission, much as you would with children.”

All Posts Training Teddy

Training Teddy: Teaching Ted to ‘Leave It’

dog trainer

Is it a bit late in the day to be teaching Teddy new tricks? I had a masterclass in dog behaviour from dog trainer The Dog Nanny, aka Deborah Colella, recently. Ted has developed a habit of getting feisty with excitable dogs: often the terribly cute, rambunctious ones who bowl up to him and want to play. This is a problem for two reasons: I really don’t want to see Ted being unfriendly (the growling, the barking is pretty embarrassing), and I really want not to spend our walks with my eyes on stalks, looking out for the next bouncy pup – it’s stressy.

The Dog Nanny suggested teaching Teddy the ‘leave it’ command. We met on Hampstead Heath and, after a chat with me and a treat for Ted, Teddy was attached to a neon long-lead (read why this is a clever choice of training lead on the the following blog post Brilliant Long Dog Leash).

My job was to hold the lead loosely, while Deborah took Teddy’s favourite squeaky ball and placed it a metre or two away. Ted watched and I had to say ‘leave it’ in a positive, upbeat voice as soon as the ball went on the floor. When he, inevitably, went for the ball, I held him back. After straining for a bit, Teddy tore his attention away from the ball, and looked back at me as if to say, ‘What?” As soon as he did that, I had to give him praise and a treat.

After a few goes at this, Ted was looking back at me for the treat almost as soon as I said ‘leave it’. “Quick learner,” said Deborah. (Is it wrong that I was proud?)

Soon we had no option but to take it up a notch. A Labrador wandered over. Luckily he was lardy not bouncy, but with the lead loosely in my hand, and plenty to spare, Deborah talked me through what to do.
1. Check body language. In Teddy’s case, if he’s not on tippy toes, making direct eye contact or growling, say “leave it” and give Ted a treat when he looks at me.
2. If either dog gets potentially feisty, encourage Teddy away. Do something fun – with the lead in hand – like run in the opposite direction, make merry, and have it sound like a game.
3. Give him his treat and use the ultimate reward (a throw of his ball) after he has come away.

She also told me to breathe. I was more tense than Ted. And I’m sure, like all the books say, I was making things worse because I was expecting trouble where there was in fact, none. It all worked well – I only had to say ‘leave it’, then Ted looked to me and the Lab lumbered on.

Ted’s uptake was impressive and we weren’t out there long. Before she left, Deborah gave me some extra pointers.
1. Give Ted treats after every positive encounter with another dog, even if he has just ignored it. It’s called ‘rewarding desired responses’.
2. When there are more distractions about (ie. other dogs), reinforce that looking back to me is what I’d like Ted to do by saying ‘leave it’ again as soon as he turns back.
3. Eventually leave the long line dragging and only pick it up when you think there may be a situation brewing.

Finally, according to the Dog Nanny, “Doggy politeness is often not what everyone thinks it is. And anyway, no one needs to be friends with everyone.” Maybe that’s the point. I’ll let you know how it goes.

All Posts Friday Find

Friday Find: Brilliant Long Dog Leash

long dog leash

If you are thinking of buying a very long dog leash to help train your dog, it’s worth considering Dog and Field’s Tracking Line. I wish I’d found it earlier, The Dog Nanny put me onto it – it is perfectly practical.
1. It has been coated and protected to make it waterproof and durable. It will not rot or hold odour. If you’ve ever owned a plain webbing long line you’ll know how revolting it can be to clean after it has trailed behind your dog through mud and who-knows-what. This 10 metre version wipes clean.
2. It’s neon. There’s no chance of losing sight of it when you need to pick it up in a hurry and there’s no chance any other person can miss it and trip over it.
3. It’s well made – with a strong trigger clip.
Finally, it’s pretty jaunty, and sometimes doggy training sessions require a bit of extra cheer.

All Posts Teddy's Tales

Teddy’s Tales: dogs on Instagram

dogs on instagram

In the past few weeks I’ve focussed on dogs on Instagram. I’ve witnessed much dog life: the drama of dogs lost – and thankfully, dogs found -, dogs in shelters tugging heartstrings, sick dogs, cute pups, dogs wrapped in tinsel, dogs wearing stetsons(!), dogs sleeping (many dogs sleeping), dog-lovers sharing stories, all heartfelt, some tear-jerking, some absolutely hilarious… this has been the shape of my Instagram feed over Christmas. I’ve dipped in and out – at times I’ve been glued – and yes, I’ve added to the hubub with photos of Ted. It’s been a valuable diversion. Worlds within dog world. If you ever need a moment to step away, I can recommend it.