Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One big long whinge about Americans and dog behaviour

I have to admit, I am finding the American approach to dog behaviour a little confusing. First of all, one of the neighbours tells me that another of the neighbours puts her dog in an "alpha roll" to 'show' her who's boss. Words fail me, I mean, how utterly draconian. Don't these people know anything about inter-species communication?

Secondly, when I had Roxy up on the trail one morning and she approached one of the neighbour's dogs a little bit nervously and therefore not coming across as uber-friendly, the woman had a fit, grabbed her dog and told she'd "appreciate it" if I would put Roxy on a lead because she didn't want to take her dog to the vet with a dog bite. Dog bite? Erm, hello!!! For goodness sake, all they were doing was sounding each other out. Said woman with her skittish behaviour made the situation much worse than it needed to be for everyone. I have refused to walk our dogs anywhere near her ever since.

Thirdly, a group of three boxers and a fourth dog, all belonging to the same owners, chased and terrorised a little Airedale in the dogpark the other day, causing him to screech in terror. Other dogs joined in and people (not the owners) started chasing the dogs to try to stop them. Eventually one of the owners dragged himself over there and called the dogs off and the other owner yelled over from her seat to ask if the little one was okay. But did they go over to check, or, dare I say it, apologise? Of course not. I went over and so did one other lady and luckily the dog was fine, but I thought the attitude of the owners was just appalling.

Fourthly, we walk our dogs (two at a time) on a trail at the end of our road sometimes. This involves walking past the house at the end of the lane which is home to a large dog who barks like crazy as we go past and continues as she sees us go up on the trail. We have walked the dogs with this neighbour and this dog sometimes, with no issues. But just lately, because they leave their front gate open, she has started rushing out, lips up, teeth bared, growling, and jumped on one of our dogs (whom we keep on leads to go past to avoid them going anywhere near the driveway). So far she's got Louis twice (he's now so scared he doesn't want to walk down the road and especially not past this house) Daisy once, and Roxy once.

The first time I was not prepared at all, but luckily the neighbour heard the dogs barking and me shouting and came out and lifted their dog off Louis, who slipped out of his collar and ran straight home. He could've gone anywhere. Later we found two bite marks on him. The second and third times we weren't totally prepared either and it was a similar scenario. Today, the fourth time, I was totally prepared as I had heard the dog barking at us as we came down from the trail. I had Bertie and Roxy on their leads on the other side of the road and was marching past, yet still she came charging out at us, teeth bared, growling and snarling. It was really scary. I yelled at her before she even got to us but there was nothing I could do to stop it. Roxy had the brunt of the attack, but luckily was not hurt as far as we can tell, although she was covered in the other dog's saliva.

I was furious, and also very scared. The neighbours heard me screaming at their dog and came out to call her off, and I made off quickly up the road. They yelled something after me which I couldn't make out but I shouted back that maybe they could keep their gate shut, to which they said "it's her (i.e. the dog's) home". In other words, why should they. How goddamn arrogant. So it's okay that their dog can run out and attack any random dog that walks past their gate? I don't think so. Thankfully our dogs do not fight back. Not yet anyway.

The first two times it happened they didn't even have the courtesy to apologise or ask if our dogs were all right. Yesterday and today at least they said sorry. The fact is, the trail on which we walk the dogs is on their land, but everyone who lives locally uses it to walk their dogs. That portion of land is actually up for sale. Nowhere does it say that the land is private. Fact is also that our dogs have been attacked when being walked, on leads, on the other side of the road to this house, before the beginning of the trail. Surely the road is a public right of way for all, and therefore one should expect to be able to walk ones dogs there, on leads, without the fear of a big dog rushing out every time and attacking them. We are doing all we can to avoid this situation and manage the problem, and they are not even prepared to meet us halfway. I mean really, how hard would it be to keep the gate shut? Would it really make that much difference to the dog's quality of life? She shouldn't be running loose anyway, especially if there's a chance she could hurt another dog. So it looks like our only option is to try to find another trail that avoids walking past that house. They could see how scared and upset I was but, needless to say, they didn't bother themselves to come up later and apologise or see if Roxy was okay. I get the impression they think it's our fault because we haven't spent loads of time socialising our dogs with theirs. Well sorry guys if our schedules do not fit in with when you walk your dog. And regardless of socialisation, this seems to be more of a territorial issue. I don't really think it would make much of a difference. The arrogance is simply staggering.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hitting the dog park

After some more not very successful encounters on the canyon trails this weekend (i.e. barking at strangers and snarling at other dogs), we decided to step up the socialisation process a notch and hit the dogpark today. We were apprehensive, and yet everyone behaved impeccably, just as we know they can. So why don't they? Largely the lead issue probably, and the feeling that they are not in control, combined with a need to 'protect' us. So we went to the dogpark twice, once with problem pair Louis and Daisy and then again with 'easy' pair Bertie and Roxy. The results were amazing. Four happy dogs either ignoring other dogs and people, or socialising appropriately with other dogs and people. Louis let the side down a bit with a couple of snarls at other dogs, but dogs, being the smart creatures that they are, read his signals a mile off, accepted them, and left him alone. No problem. The owners were all very cool as well, and there were at least 40 dogs in the park and probably as many people. When we went to leave and put the dogs back on their leads, hot and tired, they even walked past other dogs and people without batting an eyelid (unheard of). This is our ultimate goal! Suddenly it seems a lot more manageable, and relief is one of the most powerful reinforcers of all.

Friday, November 6, 2009


The boxes start stacking up and Jeffrey starts to explore.

Bertie and Daisy are thrilled to be reunited with their beds.

Spencer loves all the paper, while Curtis is happy to curl up with a Chinese porcelain cat.

The cats seem to be bonding amidst all the excitement: Loulou with Spencer; Curtis with Finlay...

...Jeffrey with Curtis; Spencer with Finlay, as always.

Mini Me is so happy to see the sofa she peed on it within minutes of it being unpacked. Welcome home sofa! Spencer tries out the dog bed and likes it.

Not for long though, Louis and Roxy have waited far too long for this moment. And so the unpacking continues...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Normal service resumed

Our furniture etc is finally being delivered tomorrow after six weeks at sea and two weeks in the port, being cleared. The dogs will be thrilled to have their beds again and the cats will be delighted to have stuff to climb all over and scratch again. No more lying on cold, hard concrete floors and cramming onto narrow window ledges!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween dogs

The dogs put on their special zombie look last night before they went out trick or treating.

Feline friends

The cats are getting a lot more settled now. Finlay's leg is better, Jeffrey is a lot stronger, eating well and taking his meds, and finally Loulou is starting to emerge from her hidey-hole and explore a little bit. Also, now the cats are all shoved together in one house as they are not allowed to go outside because of the coyote risk, they are getting a little better acquainted (with mixed results), while enjoying the views and the sunny spots.

(clockwise from top left: Curtis, Loulou, Mini Me, Finlay & Jeffrey, Loulou & Spencer)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dogs in the rain

Everyone got soaked to the bone and muddy as hell down in the canyon this afternoon. And then Daisy refused to get out of the car when we got home. Unsurprisingly, the house smells of wet dog and there are muddy pawprints everywhere.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wet wet wet

First storm of the season and it's been raining for 24 hours up in the hills now. I took the dogs out yesterday and, surprisingly, they seemed to enjoy themselves. They were very happy to get home again though! Poor things have been shivering as they are so cold with their short hair and thin little coats. Bertie was quite happy to borrow an oversized t-shirt, which Daisy and Louis found fascinating. It will be great when their beds arrive next week so they'll no longer have to sleep on the cold floor.

It was so cold and windy this morning that they refused to go out, but in the end I kicked them out for half an hour. They have to have a toilet break sometime after all. They were running around enjoying themselves for the first 10 minutes, and then reality kicked in and they wanted to come back inside. Never mind, mission accomplished. Am just trying very hard not to freak out about the muddy paw prints all over the floor for now.

The cats are even less impressed and are not so patiently waiting to see what it takes for us to light the fire.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back to square one

Just as we were doing so well with the dogs' socialisation training! I had got them into a nice little routine, Daisy and Louis first for an hour, then Roxy and Bertie for an hour. Sometimes I'd hike the uphill trail with them, sometimes I'd walk or run the flatter, narrower, leafier trail with them. It was all going great. Most of the people and dogs we met were very cool and they socialised pretty well, given that they were not restrained on the lead and were on neutral territory. Except for Louis of course who was snarly, growly and lungy the first few times but even he was starting to improve.

But yesterday we suddenly came across kids and adults on bikes and Louis and Daisy were scared to death. Louis freaked out and put the brakes on in the middle of the trail and wouldn't move, yet the bikers just kept on coming at them. Erm, hello, I thought the rules of the trails were that bikers give way to pedestrians and horses? And yet they had the cheek to look pissed when I asked them to wait a moment as the dogs were terrified and I needed to get them under control. The kids were great of course, but one of the two guys with them looked very put out. I mean, come on! So that was that, and we all got over it.

But then today for some reason Louis and Daisy took a dislike to a couple who were walking their dog. I didn't see them in time to rein Louis in fully on the long line and Daisy, offlead, barked at them, quite close up. Louis started snarling at them even though he was a way away. The couple started acting nervy which I don't blame them for, but it did make things worse. All you have to do folks is just ignore and walk right on. That is what works. You freak out, the dogs freak out, that's how it goes. As I calmly moved Louis and Daisy away I heard the woman exclaim "oh my goodness!" as if they were the worst, out of control monsters on the planet. I was unimpressed. Although I was disappointed with the dogs for not handling the situation better, I was more disappointed with myself for not pre-empting it better. And yet, when they have met other people and those people have been calm and relaxed, the issue has not arisen.
We've even made some friends out on the trails, believe it or not!

Bertie and Roxy, usually the better pairing, also barked right in the faces of a couple of runners yesterday. Thankfully the runners were just awesome, stood still, ignored them and calmly waited till I moved the dogs on. The way people respond makes such a difference and it was all over in a flash. But you can't expect everyone to react the right way.

So I decided we'd better all go back a step. We'll go back to the one on one training on the canyon trail. The weather seems to be getting cooler which means more people seem to be out and about, and one dog alone is firstly a lot easier to control and secondly, behaves a lot differently. They are a lot more confident in a pair.
And it just means I'll get even fitter which can't be a bad thing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


All this fresh air and exercise is taking its toll on the furry ones...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Trial and error

Patience is a virtue. Methods we've tried so far to get Jeffrey to take his meds:
  1. Epakitin powder stuffed into empty pill capsule, azodyl already in capsule form, then loaded into pill popper - Fail (capsule breaks/major biting or scratching/vomits immediately/powder goes everywhere)
  2. Mixed in food - Fail (won't eat it)
  3. Mixed with tuna water and syringed down throat - Fail (major biting or scratching/goes everywhere except down his neck/makes him gag/vomit)
  4. Mixed with dry food and enclosed in a ziplock bag all night so the food absorbs the powder - Fail (won't touch it)
  5. Mixed with veal flavour babyfood to make a paste and spread on fur when he's calm and not really aware of what you're doing - SUCCESS! (sometimes goes all over the place but usually he licks it off - at least he's getting most of it)
It's taken us about a week to get to this point after much anguish, distress, frustration and stress for everyone. It also took several days to find a couple of foods that he really loves, so now he is eating without the anti-nausea meds or the appetite stimulant. This is much more than we could have hoped for just over a week ago when he was so thin and refusing to eat. He's a tough boy from the street though, we wouldn't have expected him to give up so easily. Great to see him up and about again. Go Jeffrey! And a huge thank you to all our friends on Twitter who provided the most incredible support network at a time when we'd just all arrived in a new country and barely knew anyone. You made it all so much easier to bear, and we got there in the end!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


The dogs have been doing great with their training out on the trails. Daisy, Bertie and Roxy are already offlead, but Louis is still on the long line as I'm not sure we'll ever trust him again after he bolted last year and we lost him for 48 hours. But he's doing well nonetheless, although he hasn't been too keen on the other dogs we've met. The other three have been nervous around other dogs, but behaved well, and the owners have all been great, very friendly and supportive, and fascinated by the story of The Barmy Army (with one notable exception who seemed to think the alpha roll was still an acceptable dog training 'method'. Note - just because Cesar does it does not mean it is okay! It's immoral, aversive, unethical and belongs firmly in the dark ages, from where it originates).

How to medicate a cat. Or not

It's been a rollercoaster week with Jeffrey. But finally we have found a food that he will eat and treats that he loves. Had all sorts of dramas giving him his meds, some of which resulted in total failure, others which were moderately successful, and some that were in between. At the moment we are trying to get him to take it in food as he kept vomiting if we forced capsules down his neck. Other options might be getting a pharmacy to compound it into a fishy paste, putting it in butter and spreading it on his fur so he'll lick it off, putting it in tuna water and syringing it down his throat... We need to find the most effective and least stressful. We're about 20% of the way there at the moment. The good news is he's putting on weight, is eating without the anti nausea and appetite stimulant meds, and is up and about, so obviously feels better. He's been getting reacquainted with the other cats (pictured here with Finlay) and enjoying the view. Mini Me, Spencer, Finlay, Curtis meanwhile are just chillin'. Loulou is still lying on the suitcase in the cupboard. Hope she doesn't want to go back to Dubai.