Tales of Teddy

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Samantha Greenway

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Teddy Loves: A French Dog’s Life

dog friendly holidays

An Englishman we came across in the south of France told us his wife wouldn’t forgive him: he’d not let her bring the dog on holiday.

“I didn’t realise! You can take dogs everywhere over here. Even into restaurants,” he said.  “It’s strange. The only place that they are banned from is the beach.”

Maybe it’s not so strange. The French like their dogs and the beaches down south get ridiculously hot. But in clothes shops, boulangeries, smart hotels, cafes (I didn’t check out the boucherie because that would be too much like temptation for Ted), dogs are welcome.

When we travelled up the coast and wanted to hire bikes to cycle around Ile de Re, Teddy was provided with his own special tagalong trailer – we didn’t even have to ask. He was grateful for the water bowls frequently on offer. I was charmed by the various ladies who often stopped to admire Teddy’s sharp summer haircut. Teddy was a bit of a rarity. Local dogs wear their hair shaggier, look altogether more windswept – in this smart French version of the seaside, which doubles as Paris-on-Sea, the tousled hairstyles beloved of French Vogue clearly extend to canines, too.

One evening we sat in a glorious courtyard in the middle of France, all old stones, wild flowers and pretty ironwork, in a chic little restaurant surrounded by vineyards. While we ate, Teddy happily patrolled beneath the table. We counted six dogs escorting their owners that evening: a perky Jack Russell with a pink diamante collar, a small Yorkie sitting quietly on the lap of his owner (a man in white denim with long, flippy, hair just like his dog’s), a statuesque white greyhound who sat bolt upright on her own travel rug, two conked out poodles and an utterly huge Bouvier des Flandres, who proceeded to park his massive furry flanks directly across the serving route, right between the tables. No one suggested moving the hot dog. Instead, a waiter smiled indulgently at the living, panting rug, brought him a trough of water and spent the rest of the evening carefully negotiating the space around him.

None of the dogs whined, growled or cocked their legs. Perhaps they’d all read the memo about How Dogs Should Behave in Restaurants. Or maybe it comes au naturel to dogs (even English ones) when they are in France.

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Teddy’s Tales: How many dogs should a dog walker walk?

dog walkers


Teddy was waiting calmly in a queue with his friend Flo, my sister-in-law’s Hungarian Vizsla. Then along came a Pug. Ever since a young Pug bit him on the nose, Ted has held a grudge. He feels the need to warn-off each and every wheezing one.

Teddy gave a growl and stuck his chest out as the innocent little Pug went past. And suddenly Flo followed that up with a volley of barks that knocked us for six. Mild-natured Flo, who rarely raises even a whimper, clearly felt the need to back-up her friend: “Your enemy is my enemy.” Impressive in the camaraderie stakes, but it made me think on, when later that morning I counted nine dogs being walked by one person on Hampstead Heath. How much control would that one walker have if those, for the moment docile, dogs kick-off when they are in a large pack?

There are plenty of outraged posts on social media about the amount of dogs being exercised by single, professional dog walkers on the Heath – not just in terms of control but, as one post put it, “Think about the poo – there’s no way that one walker can keep track and pick-up all of it.”  There are no laws regarding the number of dogs walked by one person on Hampstead Heath, but is that a good idea?

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Friday Find: How Bright is Your Dog?

dog training

When Teddy jumped into a stagnant pond so green with algae that it resembled a verdant field, he promptly sunk and gave himself a nasty shock.
“He won’t do that again,” I said confidently, when we skirted the pond a few days later. “He’s not stupid.” Famous last words. He ran straight over and bounced right in. I pulled him out and again, he was shaken, outraged at this pond-camouflaged-as-lawn.
I like to think that Ted is a bright dog. Others, including my sons, do not agree. They talk in awed tones about ‘clever Collies’ and the feats they achieve. They point to stories of mutts that, against all odds, cross continents to find their way home, and Guide Dogs diligently interpreting the human world for the visually impaired. I tell them it’s all a question of dog training, although I only really believe that up to a point…
So I was pleased to find that, in the How Clever is Your Dog? test, our modest Mini Schnauzer scored top marks. 21 out of 25 puts him in the Clever Dog category (just).
Although I can’t help wondering, as most of the tests revolve around food, could it simply be that Ted has a very good nose and/or is a bit of a pig? But no, I shouldn’t query it. The stagnant pond was clearly just a momentary aberration.

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Teddy’s Tales: To Hug or not to Hug?

dog training

Does your dog love being hugged? Dr Stanley Coren, a canine expert and professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, thinks probably not. His study constituted big news in the online world of dogs this week. He analysed 250 pictures of dogs being hugged, and found that eight out of 10 of the animals looked uncomfortable.

How does a dog ‘look uncomfortable’? Clearly growling and teeth baring are indicators of extreme discomfort (and who would hug a snarling dog?), but there are subtle signs of doggy anxiety that all dog lovers could do with knowing if they don’t want to stress-out their four-legged friends.

– Ears folded down
– Half-moon eyes
– Head turned away to avoid eye contact
– Eyes closed
– Lip-licking
– Yawning
– Raising one paw

Yes, that sounds like a lot of signals to remember, but there is a simple way to think of it. Does your dog reciprocate a hug? If you’re in any doubt, look at the Do Dogs Like Hugs? YouTube clip from Clinical Animal Behaviourist Danielle Beck.

Teddy is a lap-hogger, head-nuzzler and a side-leaner – but he is not a hugger. I’ve come to realise that in this, at least, Ted is a master of restraint.

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Teddy’s Tales: Go Growl at Some Cats

loss of a pet

Maggie the sheep dog, who lived on a dairy farm in Australia, reached the grand age of 30 before she died this week. She was inseparable from her farmer owner.

I saw some video footage of the broad, grizzled dog in her dotage, being carefully carried about by the farmer. He set her in his farm buggy, so she could accompany him on his rounds. “We were great mates,” he said. “It is a bit sad.” For all his understatement, I imagine he’s in bits.

Apparently Maggie was wandering around the farm, still growling at cats, in the days before her sudden decline. She was over 200 in equivalent human years – what a life for a dog!

Makes me feel guilty about having a dog in the city. It must be that healthy dogs – like healthy people – do better and last longer with plenty of fresh air and exercise. And companionship. I must get Ted out more so that he can go bother some cats.

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Teddy’s Tales: Ted on the Movie Set (with Brad Pitt)

brad pitt

It’s not often that a morning dog walk transports you back in time to the 1940s, but that’s what happened today when we walked onto the set of Brad Pitt’s new movie being filmed at the end of our street.

A thick layer of grit and sand obscured the painted white and yellow lines on this Hampstead road. A bicycle shop with beautifully painted old signage had been erected over night in someone’s everyday garage pull-in. A pretend wall, styled to look like beautiful old brick, hid the scaffolding of some very modern-day home improvements; an anti-aircraft gun stood alongside some lovely old cars and a rag-and-bone man complete with horse and cart.

There were several actors – boys in grey shorts with scuffed knees, women with carefully painted faces wearing nipped-in 1940s tailoring. And of course there was Brad Pitt, glowing in a conker suede bum-freezer and grey flannel trousers. He had on a lot of makeup.

Ted was not impressed. Rather than stand near’ish Mr Pitt, Ted posed in front of a carefully assembled prop stand: the vintage dustbin station. Each bin bore a label: ‘pig food’, ‘tins’, ‘paper’, ‘food’. Ted stood next to the ‘bones’ bin. The slogan above this old-fashioned recycling station: ‘Let your conscience be your guide’. Ted clearly has his priorities.

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Teddy Loves: Shades of Schnauzer

dog show

While I watched Crufts dog show last week, I listened to the television commentators shower praise upon the toy dog group.

These dogs were “Stylish and curvaceous” and “Fine-boned, dainty and freemoving”. We witnessed a “Gorgeous silky top coat”, some “High stepping action”, a restrained but no less welcome, “Level top line”, as well as a pair of “Lovely candle flame ears”. Perhaps the sweetest tribute was to a Pomeranian who was aptly described as, “A little ball of fluff on fine dainty legs.”

Dog show or fashion catwalk? When Crufts comes round it inevitably reminds me of my old job as a fashion editor. All the effort, the judging and the jargon appear so eerily familiar. Although there is one aspect that doesn’t bear comparison: the majority of handlers who take the dogs through their paces are missing a sartorial trick and I can’t work out why.

If my aim was to show off the glorious results of getting my dog’s bone structure right, the coat immaculate, ears at the correct tilt and tail just so, I would do my utmost to make sure that whoever was holding their lead, faded into the background and let the dog shine. The thing I can’t fathom is how it isn’t second nature.

After two years of living with Teddy, in all his tones of glorious grey, I can’t seem to get dressed without pulling on some semblance of #shadesofschnauzer. It’s seeped into my subconscious. My wardrobe is full of it. My home is full of it. And it’s no coincidence, I’m sure, that Teddy gets copious compliments when he’s sitting on a grey sofa/rug/blanket or when we’re both dressed in shades of dove, granite or steel. I’m very happy to take the back seat. Over to you, Dalmation fanciers.

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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.

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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.”

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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.