Tales of Teddy

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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.

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Teddy Loves: Dog Blankets on Fireworks Night

dog blankets

Whenever life gets a bit much – too many children rushing and screeching, too much vacuum cleaner action, strange visitors sitting on the (his) sofa – Teddy retreats under the coffee table. He’ll be there tonight – Bonfire Night – when the firecrackers and noisemakers make him jump and shiver with nerves.

It’s about this time of year that dark murmurs seep onto the social media feeds of animal lovers. With Diwali just gone and Bonfire Night upon us, there are plenty of dog owners who would like to ban all but professionally organised fireworks displays. I get it. Although I love seeing multicoloured pompoms glitter in the sky and I can watch Catherine wheels until I’m dizzy, the firecrackers and noisemakers make life hell for our pets.

How brilliant the Italian province in Parma that recently brought in laws forcing residents to use silent fireworks in order to lessen the stress to local animals. If the last few nights are anything to go by, Hampstead residents have not yet discovered the noise-free option. While there are many ways to help alleviate the stress of fireworks night for your dog, (see Dogs and Fireworks), we will be doing two things that work for Ted.

First, we’ll make up his customary, super-cosy nest. This year it will be tricked out in some style, using three of our Better Dog Blankets. We wind them round and pile them high to make one seriously cosy sanctuary. A couple of Teddy’s preferred fluffy toys will be woven in, and the whole lot stowed in his safe place, under the coffee table. Once he’s curled up tight, with his head tucked into the pile, the shivers abate and he’s just about oblivious. I’m happy to think that, quite aside from their lovely looks, our Better Dog Blankets – with all their softness and cosy heft – are sincerely valued.

The other precaution that we observe at this time of year in cracker-crazed Hampstead is a tip from The Dog Nanny: on evening strolls we ensure Teddy’s collar is tight enough that should he bolt, he won’t be able to slip it.

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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 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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Teddy Loves: Football Scarves for Dogs (Dog Clothes)

dog clothes

We’ve seen Arnie– a stylish little Mini Schnauzer, often tricked out in smart accessories and dog clothes – trotting about Hampstead for a while now. Both he and Teddy clamour to get close to each other, and then enjoy an intricate face-off when they’re nose to nose.

Of all the Hampstead Schnauzers (Teddy, Arnie, Toby, Max, Humphrey, Clemmie – and counting), Arnie has always been most easy to recognise from afar: he sports a vintage-look golden bow tie.

We saw him recently though, and discovered that he’s moved on from bow ties to football scarves. His human has set up an online store Arnie’s Petshop selling dog accessories, specializing in football-scarves-for-dogs.

Very kindly, Ted was presented with one, so now he can proudly display his allegiance to this urban dog’s favourite, Chelsea FC. Fingers crossed that this small hairy hooligan doesn’t disgrace the team.

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