Tales of Teddy

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Teddy Loves: Fat Lama

fat lama www.talesofteddy.com

I’ve discovered a new website that chimes nicely with our New Zealand adventure and it’s worth sharing with fellow dog-owners. Fat Lama – described as ‘Airbnb for stuff’ – launched in the UK in 2016. It’s a website that helps you rent out your things and make a little return on your goods. I like it in a way that I might not have had I not been here.

There’s a make-do-and-mend culture in New Zealand. People aren’t quick to chuck things out – no doubt the knock-on effect of being miles from anywhere – and they are only too happy to lend their stuff. In fact, I’d say that lending is a way of life.

In the past month we’ve taken up various kind offers: garden secateurs, a chilly bin, kayaks, sailing kit and even the use of a swimming pool. Typically English, at first I was reticent to accept. I hate the thought of breaking something or damaging someone’s prized this or that. But I’ve relaxed. It’s a two-way street and it makes everyone feel good.

While Kiwi resourcefulness and generosity is a friendly way of paying it forward, Fat Lama is a business and money changes hands. Still, the fees are not exorbitant, and there’s a similar feel good factor on both sides: the lender can be pleased that they are making unused goods pay (and freeing up some storage space) and the borrower won’t waste money on something that will only be used once. At first the most popular goods on the site were short-term rentals of creative stuff – drones, DJ equipment, camera accessories. Now, though, the remit is expanding (from tuxedos to camper vans) along with demand. Dog crates currently top the dog-related rental list. Any dog owner will know why. I wish Fat Llama had been around 5 years ago, when we bought all the puppy paraphernalia that Teddy so quickly grew out of. Not all of it was crazily expensive, but it took up much-needed space and things like the puppy play pen and the puppy crate, were only used for such a short time.

Fat Lama is operating in the UK and currently rolling out in New York, too. While it might not quite match the altruistic Kiwi approach, this take on a sharing economy is clever and ridiculously easy to use. It’s also quite fun to browse. Last time I looked, the Flintstones Fruit Machine caught my eye, and I’m pretty sure that renting the hydraulic dog-grooming table once in a while would make brushing Ted (who prefers to wander off, mid-brush, see above) a whole lot easier.

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Teddy Loves: A Dressed-Down Dog Lead

“Oh look, he’s even got a cool little lead,” said one of Teddy’s daily admirers yesterday. Freshly groomed, Teddy was sporting one of our newly minted, Tales of Teddy Better Rope Leads. It must be said, Teddy was working a good look. The Better Rope Lead is an entirely different proposition to his usual, super-smart Tales of Teddy leather Better Dog Lead, and that’s exactly why we’ve made it: because sometimes you want to dress up but at other times, you just want to wear jeans.

This hemp rope could indeed be the dog lead equivalent of denim. Hemp rope softens with age (a winning result of the natural fibres and oils in the rope), it is utilitarian and its history lies in practicality – and what a history our Better Rope Lead has.

We have worked with The Historic Dockyard Chatham, where they’ve been making rope for almost 400 years, furnishing important sailing ships such as the Cutty Sark and the Victory and supplying plenty of non-maritime customers including churchs, zoos and, unsurprisingly, adventure playgrounds.

Go there today (if you get a chance, it’s a great place to visit) and you can walk the Victorian Ropery, a long room that you might well have seen featured in period dramas (the movie industry likes to film here). This is the place where exotic fibres are twisted to make ropes ranging from gargantuan in size to tiny – all with a specific use and look. There are skeins of rope hanging along the Ropewalk that cannot be touched, so old and rare are their provenances. Stand still and it’s not hard to imagine the industry, the sweat and noise that echoed about these walls all those years ago. See our Instagram for some of my favourite images of the place including the ancient graffiti, in beautiful script (Banksy would be proud). A little of that history percolates through to our Better Rope Lead that The Historic Dockyard Chatham have handmade in our house colour (khaki) exclusively for us – complete with distinctive hemp scent.



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Teddy Loves: Dog Portraits

dog portraits

Could there be a better gift for a dog-lover than a portrait of their dog? I think not. But then again…

Buying a picture for someone else can be a tricky business – art is a personal thing. Add to that the fact that a dog portrait must capture all the beloved nuances (head tilt, lofty whiskers, skew-whiff tail etc) of that furry friend and things can get problematic.

I’ve discovered a way around it: her name is Caroline Towning. The artist is currently causing a bit of a stir with her dog portraits, beautifully painted in oils and captured between sweet vintage glass frames. Part of her popularity must be that she manages to brilliantly convey the personality of a dog yet her modus operandi is painless. No sittings were required when she painted Ted. I sent off a couple of decent photographs and a week later, a beautifully be-ribboned box appeared with an incredible portrait of Teddy inside. And it really was Teddy – not just any old whiskery Schnauzer. I look at the picture and I’d know that dog anywhere, the fix in his beady eye is spot-on (he’s just seen something he likes the look of – could be a squirrel, could be a round of Brie).

Really, that’s Caroline’s art. When you have a dog, you know your dog and for someone else to recognise your four-legged friend’s character and make-up is the ultimate charm. I have several portraits of Teddy – from loose sketches to cartoons and pastels – the thing that binds them all is that each artist has ‘got’ Ted. So, if you’re needing inspiration for a dog lover this Christmas, get in touch with Caroline. Her pieces take around a week to complete and they can be personalized with names / tags / a particular collar. Each one costs £250, including free P&P in the UK.

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Teddy Loves… Bring Your Dog To Work Day

bring your dog to work day

Sad but true: there are plenty of moments in my working day when either my concentration is shot, my eyes are screen-sore or, more drastically, I feel as though I need to re-boot my brain. It’s at times like these that having a highly-huggable, ever-playful dog in the office makes an awful lot of sense. When I push back my chair, Teddy’s eyebrows twitch in a state of high alert: he’s ready for a feisty tug of war, a brief chat, a therapeutic cuddle, whatever – it’s win-win for both of us. He achieves his forever goal (more attention) and I switch off my work head, have a moment or two of soft fluffy interaction and feel all the better for it.

Today, Friday 23rd June, is the fourth annual UK #BringYourDogToWorkDay. It’s organised by ethical pet care product company HOWND, who are encouraging businesses to welcome their employee’s four-legged friends into the workplace and raise money for the excellent charities All Dogs Matter and Animals Asia at the same time. (There are some fun ways to donate online, including a Dog With a Job Hall of Fame – for more information, CLICK HERE)

While it makes sense to put some rules in place if this one-off event becomes your business’s norm (I wrote a blog about this a while back: Friday Find: Bring My Dog To Work), there’s plenty of evidence to suggest having well-behaved pets in the office is a good idea. The International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that dogs lessen the impact of stress for their owners and make the job more satisfying for everyone they come into contact with. Day to day stress level scores fell by 11% among workers who had brought their dogs to work, while they increased 70% for those who did not. Wow!

I get it: there are so many benefits. You won’t got to work and feel the guilt of leaving your four-legged friend home alone. Lunch time walkies are a good way to clear the head and a dog sitting in the office makes people – fellow workers and visitors – smile. I’ve never met someone who didn’t love the idea of Teddy sitting in on a meeting. You might have to think about the toys you bring with you (trying to extricate a squeaker from a dog mid-chew during a conference call is not ideal) but otherwise, what’s to lose?

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Teddy Loves: Dog Training Tricks

dog training tricks

On Wednesday mornings for the past six weeks Teddy and I have toddled off to Hampstead Heath to join The Incredibly Clever Canine Circus. The idea is to have some fun and pick up some clever dog training tricks along the way. In our six one-hour sessions we have been taught place-training, going around a cone, rolling over, leg-weaving (Ted’s quite the agility dog), unrolling a mat (with his nose – ta-dah), spinning, bowing and sitting-pretty.

That’s a fairly comprehensive starter kit of tricks (there are various levels of these courses, we started with the Fabulous Foundation Class – see the website for details). Of course, though everyone was taught the same manoeuvres, not all the dogs could do them straight away. Teddy mastered the bow fairly quickly. Clovis the Welsh Terrier was adept at rolling over. Cassie the chatty Mini Schnauzer had no problem doing the sit-pretty (where a dog sits and puts their front paws up, begging). When I asked Teddy to do this, he was reluctant. I could almost hear him say, “Why? Why would you want me to look sweet and soppy when looking gruff and reserved is my thing?”

We’ll keep working on it though, because these tricks travel very well. Place training involved getting our dogs to jump-up on a platform (calling out the cue ‘on the box‘ in best sing-song voice and using a treat as lure), then having them stay on the platform and perform there, all with the added distraction of other dogs, their treats and owners fairly nearby. Turns out that’s a pretty useful skill to have, even when you’re out for a drink at your local pub. The other evening I thought I’d try asking Teddy to jump up ‘on the bench‘ next to me (he’s not keen on benches – the slats make him unsure where to put his feet). Ted scooted up without a second thought. Amazing what practise and a decent treat can do.

Joining the Circus reminded me that it’s not just the dogs who have problems with training. Treat timing is everything – you must reward the behaviour you want, immediately. It sounds simple but I’m still not great at it. Co-ordination can also be tricky: weaving a dog on a lead in and out of your legs while executing what looks like a step from the Ministry of Silly Walks is not simple. The good news is that it’s fun – especially if you head somewhere like this to learn.

Apparently, with practise, just about anything is possible. We’ve seen the results and anyway, Deborah Colella (aka The Dog Nanny) says so. She’s the mastermind behind this dog circus and she is Teddy’s – and my – new favourite guru. While Ted follows her movements closely – his eyes fixed upon her hands, hoping for a super sausage tidbit – I’m happy to focus on her training bon mots. One in particular I’ve taken home with me and it’s a phrase she’s making her own: #traineverywhere. Simple and effective. We’ll keep trying.

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Teddy Loves: Black Dogs

black dogs

Do you know what a BBD is? It’s the acronym that animal shelters sometimes use to describe the dogs that are said to be most often passed over for adoption: Big Black Dogs. Apparently harder to photograph and often stereotyped as aggressive, they can fade into the background at rehoming units.  That’s one very good reason for featuring Hamish, this beautiful black Labrador-cross, above, on our latest Dogs in Need page. (Four-month-old’ish Hamish is a bright little chap. He was found wandering the streets in Cyprus and is currently available for adoption at Wild at Heart Foundation.)

There is now a National Black Dog Day, to draw attention to the loveliness of black dogs (October 1st). It’s interesting to note that four out of ten of the past Best in Show winners at Crufts – currently being held this weekend in Birmingham – have been black beauties: a Giant Schnauzer, a Flat-Coated Retriever, a Scottish Terrier, and a Standard Poodle. I’ll be dipping a toe into the world of all-things-dog at Crufts tomorrow. When I told a friend I was off to the world’s largest dog show, she said it was the mad-keen owner/breeders, not the dogs, that she would find most riveting. I know what she means. We all like to spot an owner that looks like their dog (I’m working on some eyebrows to match Teddy’s). Next week I’ll let you know who – and what – I find.

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Teddy Loves: The Dog House Giveaway

The Dog House Giveaway

At Tales of Teddy we love good quality everything. So when The Dog House Giveaway came up we got excited. This is a splendid chance for 20 dog-lovers to try out a fabulous new dog-training app free, post a review and receive some frankly superior dog treats made by Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux as a thank you. What’s not to like?

We all know that dog training needs to be constant and consistent if it’s to be truly effective – and The Dog Trainer in Your Pocket app aims to help owners in various ways. It’s the brainchild of Mark and Gillian Thompson, the couple behind The Dog House. Over the past twenty years, they have built an exclusive and incredibly loyal following centred around their dog activity holidays and training courses that take place on a 300-acre Welsh farm.

The app aims to help more dog owners train their dogs successfully, without having to spend heaps on special courses. It’s something Mark feels strongly about: “Having a happy well-trained dog shouldn’t be about money,” he says. “It’s about the right information.”

Simply downloaded onto a mobile device, the app can teach and troubleshoot on the go. Detailed tips and easy to follow exercises address specific challenges, and the hope is that this convenient method of dog training may also prevent issues developing in the future – especially if used from puppyhood. “Many dogs are abandoned because they are deemed too problematic,” says Mark. “This could potentially be avoided if people understand the importance of early education in a dog’s routine.” If you fancy trying out the app and posting a review – and if your dog would like to taste a Michelin-starred chef’s version of a dog treat (Teddy recommends them), see our rules of entry, below:

The first 20 people to email hello@thedoghousetrading.com and mention TALES OF TEDDY GIVEAWAY will receive a code allowing them to download the Dog Trainer in Your Pocket app free (normal cost, £4.99, downloaded from The App Store and Google Play). When they post a review of the Dog Trainer in Your Pocket app, they will then receive The Dog House goodie bag: a lovely large tin (250g) of Bedtime Biscuits and a handy little tin (50g) of Random Rewards for training on the go, sent in a smart The Dog House shopper. Deadline for entry is midnight (GMT) 17th March 2017. UK residents only.

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Teddy Loves… A Mini Schnauzer

mini schnauzer

Twice recently, I have caught myself sounding like a one-woman Mini Schnauzer fan club. It’s not that I’ve been sprinkling pro-Schnauzer propaganda about where it’s not wanted: I’ve merely aired my views to those who have asked but still – is there something odd about loving one breed of dog above the rest?

Apparently not. I’ve done a straw pole among friends and, similarly, they know the names of all the local dogs that are the same breed as their own. Perhaps it’s only natural that you gravitate towards the familiar. It can be handy, too: it’s the way I found out about a Mini Schnauzer’s tendency to pancreatitis and so got Teddy straight to the vet when he suffered a nasty bout.

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that many of my interactions on social media are with Schnauzer lovers or owners of dogs who are terrier’ish in appeal. Wire Haired Dachshunds, Airdale Terriers, Scotties, Wire Fox Terriers – maybe it’s because I appreciate the grooming requirements and temperaments of these rufty-tufty dogs (there’s common ground) or perhaps it’s simply because a dog with a beard and a stiff-legged stance like a table makes me smile every time.

Probably, though, it’s just bias. Every dog owner – whether they have a pedigree breed or a cheery mix of a mutt – thinks theirs is the best. (Heck, I decided to build up a business – Tales of Teddy – around mine.) So, at the risk of once again sounding like chief cheerleader, here are just a few of the brilliant things about a Mini Schnauzer like Teddy:

He is big enough not to be labelled ‘handbag’ but small enough to be picked up.

He sheds very little hair (handy when you have allergies in the family or if you like to wear black).

He is intensely loyal and values his human family over everyone else.

He is an alert little watchdog who defends with a bark, not his teeth.

He can take a decent walk, but is happy with a mooch around the block.

He has brilliantly expressive, twitchy eyebrows.

He has a beard that makes him look like an old man or a hipster, depending on your whim.

He’s not windy, smelly, or food obsessed.

He enjoys a game of catch and he does like a cuddle but is not obsessive about either which makes a great dog for a busy family.

I’m going to gloss over the grooming commitment (a traditional Mini Schnauzer cut requires a fair amount of brushing), the risks of fatty foods/pancreatitis (all pedigree dogs have their weaknesses) and the breed’s tendency towards what is kindly called ‘being vocal’ (thank heavens, Ted is not a yapper) and leave you with the fact that, in a recent survey, the Mini Schnauzer was rated ninth most popular dog in the UK. Only ninth?



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Teddy Loves…. A Snow Day

dog coat, dog collar, snow, snow day, dog coat

It’s trying hard to snow in London right now. The sky is white/grey and there are some snowflakes drifting down. This weekend, Teddy’s hoping for a proper snowy blanket. Two years ago, Hampstead had a good few inches of the white stuff (see above). Agreed, that’s not much by Canadian standards, but here in the UK, trains stop for less. Ted’s waiting, dog coat at the ready.