Dover – Calais: our first ferry trip

I’m sure I have been on a ferry before as a child but never as an adult and certainly not with the added responsibility of bringing a dog.

Now that the van is converted into a camper, it seemed only right that we take it on its maiden voyage to the continent and so we booked a ten day France/Belgium road trip with Kubo along for the ride!

He seemed wholly unfazed at being woken up at 2:30am after having only been asleep for a couple of hours. He wagged his way to the passenger seat and promptly fell asleep for the duration of the drive despite me trying to keep him awake so he’d sleep on the ferry.

We sailed with DFDS Seaways and despite our nerves, found the experience easy and pleasant.

Upon check in we were told that we would be able to arrange to visit our dog mid-journey with a chaperone which was such a pleasant surprise. Everything I had read said you couldn’t return to your vehicle. The lady also gave us a dog biscuit – top marks from Kubo!

We were in a specific queue for vehicles with animals on board and I frantically scoured the internet whilst waiting to establish how to turn our vehicle alarm off. We hadn’t even considered doing this but thankfully I read the animal safety leaflet I was given at check-in. Once parked up, we left the windows and skylight ajar to circulate the air whilst Kubo settled down for the journey in his crate with a tasty beef tail and bowl of water.

We originally decided that we wouldn’t go to see him during the crossing so as not to disturb him but when we were waving goodbye to the white cliffs of Dover to the sound of car alarms we decided that maybe we should. The noise downstairs must have been so scary for him with all these alarms blaring and droning engine noises. As it happened, by the time we had finished drinking tea we were rapidly approaching Calais so he coped for another 10 minutes alone.

He was super happy to see us but honestly looked like he had done a fair bit of sleeping. What a relief!

One thing I have learnt is to stop at more services on the way to Dover! We only managed to stop in a layby before the port where he refused to go to the toilet and there is no exercise area or easy place to let the dog out that we could find. Poor Kubo had to wait until we found a layby services to relieve his bladder in France.

Overall the ferry experience was a pleasant one. The staff were all very nice and I felt that animals were considered.

Canine enrichment and how much is too much protein?

Apparently protein is not always a good thing. All the information out there about what to feed your dog is so contradictory but we have a new diet to try thanks to advice from Kubo’s behaviourist. Also, in an attempt to keep our pup mentally stimulated, his meal times have been becoming more and more enriched …

Canine Enrichment

We have been working on ‘enrichment’ and different ways of feeding Kubo his standard meals which he is loving! The idea is to keep him more mentally stimulated, rather than just dumping the food in a bowl for him.

It really started when he was much younger as he gulped food down like he had never been fed and was very gassy because of it (swallowing lots of air with the food). Rather than buying an expensive ‘slow-feeder’ bowl, we bought a smaller metal bowl which went upside down in his bowl. This slowed him down in a similar way to these bowls as he had to eat round an obstacle.

We then toyed for ages with the idea of getting an interactive toy for him where you fill compartments with food and the dog needs to push, pull or lift various things to release their reward. The problem with this however is that Kubo would pick it up so quick that very quickly it would not be a challenge at all and it would not take him long to release  the food. These gadgets also tend to start from about £15 for a decent one and for something he would only get any real challenge from two or three times, it seemed like a waste of money.

Instead we purchased a rubber puzzle ball. Food goes in one end and there are obstacles inside the food must travel through before coming out of a hole at the other end. It was a big success! Kubo will nudge it round with his nose dislodging the kibble and getting one or two bits at a time as they come out. Yes, he has figured out what he needs to do very quickly but the action itself cannot be quick and he has to work every time to get the food.

entertaineze treat snack puzzle ball
the first puzzle ball

It all evolved from there. We recently purchased another similar ball one by iQuties from a pet shop when we were in Cornwall. This one requires you to remove a plastic insert which goes some way through the ball to fill the inside with snacks. This insert has slots in it that allow the food to be released. Kubo finds this one much more of a challenge as it needs to be moved in a different way.

iquties snack attack puzzle ball
snack attack puzzle ball

Some dinner times he gets food in one, or both of these but another thing we have started doing is ‘find it’. Food is hidden round the house in corners, under things, behind things etc and he must sniff it out. It can be made as easy or as hard as we need and often will have some food in a puzzle ball.

I recently discovered that a lot of his rubber toys have a large-ish hole in them that I can pop some pieces of kibble in. This is really handy and now often in his ‘find it’challenge I  will include some pieces sneakily hidden in random toys, too.

The difference between putting food in his bowl and him having to work for it is incredible. Ignoring the obvious time factor, he actually enjoys working and solving puzzles. A good ‘find it’ will take him 20 minutes or more and the whole time he is as happy as … well, a working collie! He gets excited when the puzzle balls come out, rolling them with his nose or batting with his paws, occasionally picking them up and dropping them so they bounce around the room.

Last night we tried a new ‘find it’. His kibble was hidden entirely in toys: stuffed into ripped soft toys, tucked into others where possible, inside puzzle balls and Kongs that were all put away in his toy box. He absolutely adored taking every toy out and having a different challenge to get the food from each one. His tail was in the air the whole time and it took him at least 40 minutes to get every last piece (and of course double check each one!)

We have purchased and are waiting for the delivery of a Kong Gyro as another food dispensing option to keep things new and interesting. I have also seen people making their own things such as the bottle on a string, or hiding food in a ball pit … so many different things for us to try!

canine enrichment bottle feeder
something for us to try

We also do the good old classic of filling Kongs with various things from kibble with peanut butter to frozen with watermelon as a treat.

Too much protein? Time for more carbs

When Kubo was younger, Dave did some research and decided that he should be on a relatively high protein diet. We wanted to keep him on dry kibble however rather than a raw diet or any of the other many options for feeding so he used to have Orijen (a whopping 36% protein at least) and later switched to Guru (approx 26% protein).

We have now been advised by his behaviourist that the percentage of protein in his diet is potentially a bit too high.

Protein is obviously very important for healthy growth and repair as well as an energy source. The best protein in dog foods should come from meat or fish as dogs have evolved to easily digest and use the nutrients. Or at least that would be best. Meat is a bit expensive as things go and so lots of brands on the market substitute with a cheaper protein such as soya meal, potato or vegetable protein which are apparently harder for dogs to digest.

There is so much information out there and it all seems to contradict! ‘High protein diets cause kidney/liver problems and will make your dog fat’; ‘low protein diets will leave your dog’s skin flaky and your dog will have no energy’; ‘high carb diets will result in excessive energy’. I really do think it’s a bit of a minefield. We both scrutinise references on articles and check research (which always seem to be done or sponsored by the manufacturer – I wonder where the bias would be?!) but knowing what to feed is still complicated. I guess it should always be individual to the dog and its lifestyle.

Now we are told that diets with a protein content over 25% are being linked to behavioural problems and excessive energy. Interesting, since we moved to a high protein diet to try and target excessive unwanted energy. Though when you think about it, working dogs will often have more meat/protein so does it give just as much excessive unwanted energy?

We have now begun upping Kubo’s carbohydrate intake and there is some interesting studies behind this is to do with altering the transfer of amino acids. It focuses around  tryptophan and its conversion into serotonin which can be aided by B6 and having a starchy diet. High protein levels can lower brain tryptophan levels therefore resulting is less serotonin being produced.  Reactivity and activity levels can be increased when there is less serotonin present whereas with more serotonin, reactivity can decrease and learning and decision-making can be improved. I am happy to share the information I have received on this but I would always suggest doing your own research and checking references! I am not saying that this is fact or the absolute way to do things; this is advice that we have received from one qualified professional and we are trying.

Kubo’s dinner is now being supplemented with various carbs and there are lots of options: potatoes, rice, carrots, oats and pasta. We’ve been told to feed the additional carbohydrates about 3 hours after his normal meal.

I imagine that it will be difficult to say what difference the diet itself has made as we have stepped up the training and changed the way we handle things. Not a very stable experiment! But I am happy to try the new diet: it is not particularly taxing for us and Kubo has enjoyed getting an additional rice-stuffed Kong for the last three evenings!

 

border collie banana pancakes
though he’d prefer dad’s banana pancakes …

What is the point of having rules?

Rule: an accepted principle or instruction that states the way things are or should be done, and tells you what you are allowed or are not allowed to do (Cambridge Dictionary)

A pretty simple concept. Yet one people seem to struggle to grasp.

This weekend we camped at a beautiful campsite in Penzance which had some pretty simple rules to follow:

treen farm campsite rules

All sounds pretty straightforward. One of the rules was further solidified on another blackboard:

campsite rules dogs

So I really don’t think that there could be any misunderstanding at all that dogs must be on leads – “no exceptions“.

We opted for a pitch on the campsite in a corner at the far end of the field as we know we have a sometimes-nervous dog. It has been almost a year since he last went camping. With some of his behaviours recently we were unsure how he would find it. We have an 8 metre plastic coated wire lead (so he can’t chew through it!) which allows Kubo to get around the whole van and have some freedom without being able to go too far or be a nuisance to anyone. He could not stray any further than our pitch. We also had a wind break up for some privacy.

We were alerted to our new neighbours opposite by Kubo barking and letting out a series of low growls. They had a dog. Who was off the lead. The dog was trotting around near them whilst they were setting up camp. I was a little frustrated however the dog was causing no real issue so we calmed Kubo and went back to our business.

Cue more growling. The dog was approaching our area. I got up to calm our dog and the owner called their dog back. Fine.

One of the campsite owners came cycling over and had a word. Good, I thought, that will be the end of it. Maybe they hadn’t seen the huge blackboard with the rules. It is possible.

Not half an hour later Kubo was back to barking his head off and this dog was nearby again. I’d had enough by this stage but I must admit, I remained very calm. I went over to woman and nicely let her know that my dog was nervous and would she mind please keeping her dog on the lead. “That’s the campsite’s rules anyway,” she said, “the kids have the lead though.” OK, so she did know and would keep her dog on the lead as soon as the boys came back. Good.

However this didn’t happen. The dog was on the lead for a little bit but generally was off. Wandering around, sniffing around other people’s camps and generally upsetting Kubo who would growl and bark as this dog came near.

I don’t know why he was so fussed with this dog since actually he is generally fine with other dogs. Maybe it was because he was tied up and this one wasn’t? Maybe because he felt our little area was his territory and this was an intruder? What ever the reason, I had told them that he was nervous which could have meant any manner of things, and they did not keep their dog away.

Yes, their dog may have been fine, I appreciate that. I’m sure it wasn’t aggressive. But it was not well enough behaved to stay exactly with them and how do you know what trouble your dog may get in to if it is not with you? Maybe it is not a vicious dog, but what if mine was? What if it scared a child? What if it stole from my BBQ?

Our dog is in training and we chose to stay somewhere where dogs should be on leads at all times “no exceptions” as this should have been a safe space for him to continue our training and not allow issues to worsen.

The rules are not just there to annoy you. They are for everyone’s safety and comfort. It is not fair on other people (or dogs) to be left frightened or nervous because one person cannot follow rules.

I spent several days with this; worrying about our Kubo’s comfort, hoping it did not escalate – I don’t know what he is actually capable of! and generally being irritated by this group’s total lack of consideration for the rules or people around them.

It will forever out stand me how ignorant and selfish people can be.

I need to post more often …

We have been quiet recently and that is always a sign that there are struggles. The reason for starting this blog was to allow an outlet and a safe way to express my thoughts and feelings so I need to use it more and not be afraid of backlash, others’ opinions or appearing stupid/like a bad dog owner. I know it helps me to write things down so I need to continue to do so.

So the big news at the moment? We have enlisted the help of a behaviourist. Not because we have a particularly troublesome dog currently but because we could end up with a troublesome dog and we are trying to be responsible and do everything to help him be as well rounded as possible.

I have kind of been avoiding talking to people about it as I am afraid of judgement and I am also struggling with some of the things we are trying to do with him and the changes it will mean in our lives. I will do a separate post on this in the coming days as I do need to put my feelings down about the situation.

There are lots of positives though, one of which is that Kubo and Soda seem to be becoming quite attached to each other. It started with Soda taking a liking to Kubo’s bed and just hanging out in there. When it came to actual bed time, Kubo would get in with him and Soda would still not move. He had to be forcibly removed!

Soda joins Kubo in his bed
‘Mum, what’s this doing here?’

This has now evolved into Kubo trying to snuggle up with Soda when he is on a mat or lying on the floor. I’m not sure the cat is 100% impressed but he puts up with it. It’s been kind of cute seeing Kubo take a chew and finding Soda just to lay near him and eat. He hasn’t become as enamoured with Cally yet but they put up with each other more and more and she has begum to start head-butting him. He also gives her a lick now and then but it’s hard to see her appreciating his big slobbery tongue!

Kubo is also still really enjoying Flyball and I am actually enjoying going too.  The only thing I am worried about is that so far I have always attended with Dave but if I go this week, I will need to take Kubo on my own. As an anxious person this scares me a little. Everyone seems to have struck up good friendships (granted most people have obviously known each other for ages!) and I do sometimes struggle to interact until I know people. But to get to know people I have to interact … what a catch 22! The other scary part for me is the driving in and out of the venue. For obvious reasons, I can’t take a dog in the 2-seater on such a long journey but I have witnessed Dave struggle to get the van in and out of the gates  – it only just fits! I am a confident driver but knowing me, I will panic, misjudge and end up scraping the van. It really is a tight fit and I do find it challenging to judge that vehicle anyway. I would then certainly be in the bad books and out of pocket. I could probably message and ask them to open the second gate but it has never been open before and I don’t want to cause problems and be that difficult person who can’t drive her own vehicle. Equally I don’t want Kubo to suffer and not go to training …

I am being a total worrier at the moment!!

He also really enjoys agility which we haven’t managed to get to for the last 2 weeks (bank holiday and misc commitment) but we will definitely be back next week.

Agility first jump
And we’re off!

I am starting to get the hang of it a bit more however I still struggle to automatically know my left and right with quick instruction while trying to direct Kubo to the correct jump. I also seem to forget the ability to count when I am in the middle of the ring looking for the number of where to go next! I’m sure it will come with practise, though.

This week we will be taking a long drive to go camping in Cornwall. Kubo came with us last year when he was very young but it will be his first time camping since so we are hoping for the best!

I am trying really hard to stop being such a worrier and I will post again very soon with our experience of seeing a behaviourist and everything that comes with it!

Arianna x

Flyball Session No. 2 and Flyball Help!

OK, so actually last night we did Flyball session no. 3 at a different club again however I have not posted about our second experience so I thought I would …

I was sad after our first Flyball experience that Kubo couldn’t make the training again for at least a month so we found another local group and went along to one of their training sessions.

We had a completely different experience to the first group we were in. First and foremost, the training was outside. This was quite nice as it was a pleasant morning, though I could imagine that in the cold and wet it wouldn’t be as great! Since I suffer with Raynaud’s, I can really struggle in cold, outdoor situations. This club had been running for a shorter time so had less people (although I understand it just happened to be a quiet week anyway) and only one run set up. We were the first to arrive which was really nice as I had some time to chat to the Captain. She had a van and as we pulled up in the car (we weren’t in our big yellow van this time!) we were greeted with lots of barking – this seems to be becoming the norm! She had a lot of dogs with her, from memory about sixteen – and to think I still struggle to live with one – but they did all wait in the vehicle.

border collie in t5 transporter
Kubo likes the driver’s seat

The people were equally as nice and potentially because the group was smaller, or maybe just because it was a new group so the members hadn’t been there too long, I found it easier to talk to people. It may have even been, I suppose, that I had already been to a Flyball session before, so I was not a totally ignorant newbie!

Rather than the runs being on mats, the jumps were set out over grass with fencing around to keep the starters on track. I really thought Kubo wouldn’t like this at first but he had no issue at all. As we had done at the previous class, we practised Kubo running back to me (but without me running alongside) and he was perfectly happy to do so. He still hates being held though, apparently!

Very soon we moved on to me letting him go to get the ball and coming back to me which he did really well. We started one jump away and then moved back bit by bit. Each time he stayed pretty focussed (apart from once when he went tearing off out of the fence to find his Dad!) and always dropped the ball for me. Admittedly, I did remember his tuggy rope and he loved the play reward since he was so psyched up from the fun he was having. I did struggle to get him to let go of the tug a few times, which is actually unusual for him.

When we had a break, he was allowed to socialise a bit which was really nice for him and something we didn’t really get a chance to do before. Since we were in a large field, we could stand near enough to the run for us to be able to watch but without Kubo disturbing the training dogs. We did put him in the car a couple of times so I could watch a bit closer and Dave learnt how to load the box. It was nice for him to get some hands on experience and to be able to understand a bit more about what was going on, especially as I always handle Kubo and he tends to have to watch. Although it probably sounds really stupid, I didn’t know how the box worked and it was nice to see the ‘real’ Flyball dogs in action!

border collie laying in grass

On Kubo’s next turn, he had to work quite a bit harder. The box was involved. We had established that he was left pawed which sounds about right; he often put his left foot forward first. I’m pretty sure I have heard somewhere that male cats tend to be left pawed and female ones right? I could be totally wrong and I don’t know if this even applies to dogs, but it may do. We learnt to teach him box turns (I think that’s what it’s called) and he is slowly starting to get it.

Now, after joining another Flyball training session, I have even more questions than before. If anyone can help, please do:

  1. What does competing entail? Do I pay? Are there prizes? I have looked around but it all seems so unclear to me!
  2. Why are there two Flyball clubs in the UK? Is one better? Should I join both?
  3. Can I train with more than one group? If not, how do I choose?
  4. Can I compete with more than one team? If not, how do I choose?
  5. Do I have to keep my dog in a crate/car when not running?
  6. What is a good speed?
  7. What happens if a dog knocks a jump?
  8. Are competitions done on mats or other surface?
  9. Should I teach my dog to turn both ways?
  10. Where can I get a decent fleece tug? I have looked online but I can’t tell the quality.

There are so many other things I am unsure or nervous of! I know I could ask one of the Captains but I don’t feel I can ask them about joining multiple clubs. What if that’s a big no-no taboo and super rude? – I don’t want to offend anyone straightaway! Or maybe it’s perfectly fine to train with different groups and lots of people do it.

At the end of the session, once we had all helped pack up, all the dogs in the van were let loose and it was so much fun watching border collies, lurchers and other breeds tearing across the field and playing together. Kubo was put in his place by a male who continuously tried to hump him and so keep seeking help and hiding by any human he could. I must admit, I really don’t like it when other dogs do this to him but I suppose there’s nothing really that can be done. This was the point we felt it was probably time to leave and save him the embarrassment!

Happy Birthday, Kubo!

dog birthday cake

Yesterday was Kubo’s first birthday and like any member of the family, he was a little spoiled on his day …

I’m pretty sure he had a wonderful time with long visits to the park with both me and Dave and agility in the evening. We had a cake from Twinky’s Pet Bakery which he adored – it was quite funny watching him trying to figure out how to eat cake though! He did lots of licking it before finally getting his teeth involved. We didn’t go mad with toys as he has so many already but a new Frisbee and ball was part of his stash.

Although he was clearly in no way impressed by it, I also commissioned local artist Queen of h’Arts who painting a gorgeous portrait of both Kubo and the cats. Do check her out on Facebook and Instagram – I highly recommend her and she does work internationally.

So many happy returns to our troublesome monster and we are looking forward to all the fun and adventures the next year is sure to hold! Including a road trip to France with him … what could possibly go wrong …

PS: visit my discounts page for some deals and freebies on Twinky’s Pet Bakery

border collie portrait
Clearly excited by this gift!

Cat Attack

We took a trip away this weekend to the Peak District where we stayed in a caravan in someone’s garden (I love the things you find on AirBnB!). We were so lucky to have gorgeous weather as you never know what it will be like in Britain this time of year. The owner of the caravan did falconry and we were able to handle the amazing birds of prey and we enjoyed some beautiful walks over the long weekend.

We visited Bolsover Castle and many other stately homes and historical buildings, or at least the outsides of them. As much as we love having Kubo around, it does somewhat limit what we can do. Unless we leave him in the car we are normally restrained to the grounds only; it is completely understandable although with one, we weren’t even allowed to go onto the grounds. Often it is not suitable to leave him in the vehicle: this weekend it was just way too. He is part of the family anyway so we wouldn’t want to leave him really. Luckily, with two of us, we tend to have one person manage the dog whilst the other goes inside to ave a nose and learn.

a girl and her border collie
Enjoying the views from Bolsover Castle

We found a cavern in Castleton which allowed dogs inside. This was a pleasant surprise – we are getting used to not being able to do as much due to having the dog with us but it was lovely to be able to do this! Kubo was very well behaved, despite being pretty bored. He made up for the boredom by trying to eat all the sheep poo he could once we were out whilst we desperately tried to stop him doing so.

Dog friendly cavern in Castleton
The Blue John Cavern in Castleton

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about was what happened near Chatsworth House on Sunday morning. The sun was up and it was set to be a beautiful day. We’d had a lovely weekend so far so we decided before our falconry experience in the afternoon, we would visit Chatsworth and have a walk around. To allow Kubo some time off the lead we decided to walk in the non-livestock fields behind the garden centre. The entrance to the fields was up a single track road with farm houses on either side. Kubo found huge sticks (branches) to run around in in the fields with as well as many mucky puddles but we didn’t mind – after all, a muddy dog is a happy dog. It was a perfect start to the morning, walking alongside the river with lambs prancing around on the opposite bank and we planned to visit the café for a well earned breakfast.

As we came back through the gate to the road we noticed that the last house had their dogs out in the lane. Kubo was back on his retractable lead and greeted the two Labradors nicely. I saw a fluffy black and white cat sat a little way off watching but thought nothing more of it as Kubo was occupied with the dogs and hadn’t even noticed the cat, much less caused it any bother.

We were about to start walking away when before I knew it, this cat launched itself at Kubo, taking him completely by surprise. Claws were extended as it jumped onto his face, hissing.  He just rolled over onto his back, submitting to his attacker and was yelping whilst the feline screeched and clawed at him. He managed to get up and ran to hide behind me but this cat followed and kept advancing with its attack. I unblocked his lead so he could get further away (it has an 8 metre range) and he did run away from this house but the cat chased him down, jumping on him and all the while making horrible screaming sounds and yowling. Kubo fell down again crying and yelping. It was heart breaking. The cat was going straight for his face while he was down. I screamed and presumably the cat’s owner began calling it. The noise of the animals was horrendous and I was nearly in tears. I had no idea what to do and the only thing I could think of was to kick this cat to get it away from my dog who was clearly very afraid and sounded like he was in pain. All I could think of doing was trying to save him.

I ran towards the commotion and in the meantime Kubo managed to get up and start running away again with the cat still in pursuit. He managed to get enough of a lead and the chase stopped before I had to intervene. Thankfully.

It really was a horrible ordeal and as soon as we were round the corner and sure of our safety, we checked Kubo over for any signs of damage – I was mostly worried about scratches to the eyes as I have heard horror stories of dogs who have lost their eye sight due to cat swipes. Other than a few scratches to his nose and understandable nervousness, he seemed OK.

Border collie in field
Kubo enjoying the fields

I have been left with mixed emotions after the incident and although it was only a small cat, it was so vicious and the whole thing was rather scary and seemed to go on for such a long time. I guess I am glad that Kubo is not an aggressive dog and did not fight back as if he had decided to retaliate he could have easily injured the cat quite badly, if not killed it. I know it’s much harder to control a cat; it’s not like it can be muzzled or kept on a lead. I feel if this had been a canine however it would be reported and I imagine either it would have to be put down, or kept under control in some manner. Kubo was lucky the cat did no real damage as it could have been considerably worse. Of course, I do also feel sorry for the cat to some extent as you don’t know what has happened to it in its past for it to react that way to a strange dog. Maybe it is just collies and it has had a bad experience with the breed specifically?

Kubo was on edge the rest of that day, barking and growling at shadows and even a bronze deer, generally keeping near to us: I can’t blame him! I just hope this doesn’t affect him long term as he isn’t the most confident dog anyway and I really don’t want him to become aggressive towards cats or particularly fearful. I am so glad that when we got home later that evening he didn’t take it out on Cally or Soda and still seems fine with them. Let’s see what happens next time he meets an unknown cat.

Kubo tries Flyball

Now that Kubo is nearly a year old, we are able to do a little bit more with him and we had always known that as a Border Collie, something to focus him would him be a good idea. We have been considering Flyball and Agility as potential sports for him and last week went to our first Flyball session.

I had been talking to the captain of the team beforehand via Facebook who asked what his recall was like … this made me worry straightaway. His recall is OK … most of the time … assuming there is nothing else he would rather be doing! I was honest about this and expressed my concerns. My main worry was that he would decide going to say hello to all the other dogs which would be an awful lot more fun. Thankfully, he is good at dropping the ball so that’s something. Little did I know at the time that he wouldn’t actually be going near a ball.

I was very nervous going in with no idea what to expect. The car park was full of 4x4s, vans and estates: when we got Kubo out of the car, they all erupted in loud barking. We were warmly greeted by the captain and told that we would be running according to the schedule stuck on the board. She then continued her duties and I stood with Kubo, unsure of what to do next. As someone who does get shy and nervous I panicked a little. How would I know when we were due up? I didn’t know any of the other dogs so I couldn’t use them to figure it out. What did I do when we weren’t training? Most people didn’t actually have their dogs on them and they were all discussing races and shows with lingo that I barely understood. I did get talking to a couple of nice people, obviously about their dogs, although I never actually got their names (I do know the dogs’ names).

The club was indoors at a sports hall and I learnt that when we weren’t running or involved we were sat on plastic chairs in the corridors, watching through the long glass window. It reminded me of when my Dad used to take me to swimming lessons when I was a child and he would sit in the spectator seating (probably falling asleep!) with all the other parents.

We were called in within the first half hour which I was grateful for but I really had no idea what to expect. I was told Kubo would be held, I would run next to the lane calling him and he would be released to run towards me and the finish line, getting a treat at the end. Simple enough but I would have to run?! I was not expecting this. Sure, I’ve seen Flyball before on the odd video but I’m not sure I ever paid that much attention to what the handlers were doing. Suddenly, the women in workout gear made sense and my jeans and Converse felt even more out of place. Before we could even get started I had to empty all my pockets for fear of my mobile, hair clips, assorted change, dog treats, poo bags and anything else lurking in the depths, flying out. The next challenge was getting Kubo to be held. He did not like a strange person holding him around the back legs (I’m sure there’s a term for where they hold the dogs…) which was totally new to him and he thrashed and fidgeted. Once I started running away though, his focus kicked in and after ‘Ready, Set, Go!‘ he was off!

flyball run training
One of his first runs … blurry due to epic speed!

He did come to me and had his treat (a little piece of beef) but the next minute he was gone! He didn’t go, as I expected, to greet another dog but instead had spied a tennis ball on the floor and being all exited, zoomed off to grab it and play. Once I’d managed to get him back with me and the floor was cleaned up of rogue balls, we tried again. It is no surprise that he is a much faster runner than me so I had to start further forward and run quicker to ensure I was past the start line but the time he got to me so he learnt to run past the gates.

A few more runs and I was knackered! He was actually really good and after the first ball incident he didn’t run off again. He was never keen on going back to be held but he clearly enjoyed the running after. I unfortunately forgot his rope as a play reward but luckily with such a food focused beast he was content with my excitement and treats as a reward.

We were then done for a while and sat back in the waiting area, watching through the glass. Kubo did not go back in the car even though almost everyone else put their dogs away. Interestingly, a lot of the dogs didn’t interact. Considering how many were there, Kubo only met a handful. I really thought it would be a bit of a social for the dogs but actually a lot of them I found didn’t mix well with others.

We waited a really long time before he got to go in again. We learnt a few more of the dogs names (no idea on their peoples’) and we overheard many conversations full of jargon I didn’t understand. Kubo fidgeted while I tried to keep him entertained and calm and I mostly played with my phone once I ran out of contributions about the common topic we were there for. I did say something to someone about trying Kubo on agility too to find which he prefers. They queried why I wouldn’t let him do both to which I replied ‘I need a life too!’… I was laughed at. Apparently I am quite naïve.

I spoke to one family who had multiple dogs in the household and I don’t mean two or three but six or seven! They had a really impressive van which inside was fashioned in a way that reminded me of bunk beds for multi-level dog housing.

The second time we went in, we continued running up and down the mat, but this time with another dog running the opposite way at the other end of the hall. Each time we brought the dogs closer together until they were running on lanes next to each other. Kubo held his focus and watched me, in fact, his biggest issue was by far going back to the scary lady who would hold him by the back hips – I was actually really proud of him!  After this exercise that was us done. The training was still ongoing but we had been there for several hours already and I wasn’t sure how I could contribute so I managed to slink off.

Due to holidays, their shows and other generic life events, it looks like we won’t be able to go back to the club for at least a month which is a shame as despite all the sitting around, when he was working, Kubo really enjoyed Flyball.

The experience has left me with lots of questions though such as what is the etiquette in joining multiple clubs (since Kubo would have to wait so long before going back to this one)? If we go regularly will I really end up with no spare time for myself? I expected this with children but I don’t have them yet! Do dogs always go back into crates or cars when not working? Will I be expected to do the same? Why do people run other people’s dogs? How do people live with 7+ dogs? Will I ever understand the lingo? How long does it take a dog to get used to the hold?

It was a very strange feeling to be proud of a dog for essentially running up and down a mat but I was just really nervous that he would go off and do his own thing, maybe even be asked not to come back if he was a real troublemaker, so maybe a lot of it was relief!

We will be back and see how he gets on as there is a lot more to learn. In a couple of weeks I will also take him to agility to see how he gets on there. I kind of hope he really doesn’t get on at either one of the two as having to choose may be difficult and I do still want a life …

furry dog border collie moulting
Because one dog is not enough!

 

 

Shadow hunting and evil strawberries

We have been a bit quiet lately over here. As so often happens, life can get busy and stressful and things just pile on! I have been finding it difficult to have any down time and the stresses have built up a little.

Over the last month or so things with Kubo have been hard, also. Firstly, he got ill. I was so worried and as much as his relentless energy can be a huge pain in the backside, when he just wanted to lay around and sleep all day it was totally heartbreaking. For 4 days he would hardly eat anything: he would have one or two pieces of kibble and then go and lie down. We tried other foods and soaking his kibble but he always just took a small amount and then gave up, walking away dejectedly. He didn’t want to go out or go for walks and was stuck by my side, wanting to just lay down near me. I cried a fair amount as it was so sad to see and I can be a worrier. It turned out to be nothing in the end (thankfully) – we took him to the vet who said she couldn’t find anything much wrong. His temperature was normal, stools were fine and there was no vomiting. After another couple of days he thankfully starting eating again and his energy picked up. Before long he was totally normal and back to himself. I guess the vet was right, puppies do just pick up things, or eat something that doesn’t agree with them and have a few ‘off’ days but when it’s your pup it is so scary! I don’t think you realise how much you love your dog until there is a possibility that there is something wrong.

The other thing that has happened with him which has now started taking up a lot of time is a fixation on chasing (or looking for) lights and shadows. We are aware of how this can turn into a bad OCD, especially for collies, and so are putting in a lot of work to distract and redirect him but it is really hard. It zaps your energy. Our kitchen lights cast lots of shadows so the evenings I am on my own consist of desperately trying to cook by the under counter kitchen lights whilst simultaneously doing my best to distract him from shadow hunting. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried cooking in semi-darkness but it is not fun. He stopped laying calmly at my feet when the attention was not on him and instead busied himself with this behaviour. After a long day at work it is exhausting as you cannot sit down for 5 minutes. He is getting lots of walks and runs (as much as he should have considering he is not yet a year old) and we are still training him and teaching him new things every week. It just takes time but we will crack this. I can completely see why this develops into a serious problem for dogs if left to continue.

This weekend we are taking him to a local Fly ball team’s training to see how he gets on. We are hoping that it is something he enjoys and takes to as it would be good to get him focused on something. I am nervous as I don’t doubt he’ll run to get a ball but the likelihood of him then running around to show every other dog the ball and ignoring me is quite high! A new environment and new dogs? I feel I have no chance! I will report back how his first session goes – you never know!

The only other vaguely interesting dog-related news is that I have found a food Kubo does not like! Considering he is the most food focused beast I’ve met who will try to eat anything (including t-shirts and  his own fur he finds on the floor) this was a bit of a surprise to me. The offending food? Strawberries. He will take a piece if offered, spit it out, and look all hurt about it! ‘Why didn’t you give me something tasty?’ he look says, dreaming instead of beef, kibble, cucumber or literally anything else.

strawberries

Well, that summarises our last month or so. I look forward to sharing Kubo’s first Flyball experience and as always, if there is any advice on the shadow obsession I will gladly take it on board!

Arianna x

 

 

What do you feed your dog? Raw? Cold Pressed? Wet?

It’s a question other dog owners asked us; the vets asked us; our family and friends asked us. Of course everyone also has an opinion on the matter! ‘You need to feed him a raw food diet’; ‘He should be on leftovers’; ‘You must feed him grain-free’; ‘You need to feed him xyz brand’. The choices were exhaustive. It felt like there was so much pressure to do the right thing. I am a great believer in that there is no set solution, no one size fits all, both for humans and our animals and you should do what is best for your individual dog.

Me being ever the bargain hunter, when Kubo came home with us I nabbed sample packs and trial packs, I wrote to companies we were interested in and asked to try their food, all in a bid to find out what we should feed our boy and what he preferred.

The vet advised us on several large brands and to always go with a food which has a calorie amount on the bag. I was originally all for feeding him Royal Canin as this is what the cats have always been on, it is recommended by vets and I have never had any issues with it however, Dave became a lot more involved in researching different types of food.

border collie puppy
A younger Kubo

Kubo was hyperactive (isn’t every puppy?!) and Dave had read somewhere that a high carbohydrate diet can cause excess energy. So he began researching foods with a high protein content which is a lot better and we ended up trying a cold pressed food. When we switched to cold pressed Kubo took to it really well. His stools we less frequent, he generally just enjoyed his dinner even more, seemed happy and healthy. His energy levels did also seem to settle though I accept this could have coincided with him just getting a bit older!

What is cold pressed dog food though? I had no idea! It’s something I had never heard of before. It turns out that cold pressing is a relatively recent new method of creating dog food; ingredients are ground, mixed together and then cooked very quickly at a low temperature (normally 40-75 °C) which keeps more of the essential nutrients and creates a more ‘natural’ product. Cold pressed food also releases the nutrients slower, dissolving from the outside which can help to avoid bloating.

We were happy with the food he was on (Orijen) until December last year when we got our Christmas Barky Box. I wrote about it in an earlier post here: Kubo was desperate to get into the box in a way he had never been before and it was all for a Trip Bone by the dog food company Guru. I have never seen him so desperate for  a particular treat before even though he is very food orientated.

I began researching the company and instantly fell in love with Guru, their people and their ethos. Kubo’s next delivery of food was 2 big bags of their Surf & Turf food, not to mention some more Trip Bones and their Venison Sausages. First and foremost I must say that the Venison Sausages are the absolute best treat ever according to Kubo. He will listen to us more than he ever had for even one of these and I am happy in the knowledge that they have the best ingredients in them, not like some of the treats on the market – I am surprised by how much junk can be in some things!

Guru cold pressed dog food
Well this Surf & Turf smells good, mum!

Kubo’s love of Trip Bones had not diminished either! He loves them just as much as the first one he had and will try to sneak into the cupboard if we let our guard down to pinch one! It is a great treat for him when he gets one and they certainly keep him quiet for 10 minutes.

But what about the food? Kubo seemed slightly unimpressed at first as according to the feeding instructions, he had less than he would have of other kinds of dry food. Not that this made him hesitate much – he wolfed down his first bowl very happily! I am sure that he was fuller for longer and when I gave him a choice of foods for his next meal, his nose went straight into the Guru bowl! 

cold pressed bone, guru trip bone
Kubo’s first Trip bone

Ultimately, the food we buy is driven by our dog but I will always have a soft spot for start-up companies and specifically local or UK-based ones. I like to connect with a company and really highly value great customer service, interaction with customers, a friendly tone and values that I align with – all of which I have found in Guru.  

I will be honest and say that I like the convenience of dry dog food – wet food smells and is messy and raw food takes so much preparation – but there was always a worry it wouldn’t be the best thing for our dog so I was willing to feed him whatever would be best. I can certainly say that since switching to cold pressed food both us and the dog are happier; Kubo’s stools have smelt less and are better formed which is a huge win for the humans as the picker-uppers! His breath also has been much better and he really is more focussed with his energy – it is not so ‘mad’! One of the big pluses for me is that we can feed him less whilst knowing that he is still getting the right amount so there is a financial saving for us although all this means is that he ends up having more money spent on treats and toys! Despite all of the positives that we have found with cold pressed food, for us my number one favourite thing is how much Kubo loves it. Above all the happiness, welfare and wagging tail of our dog is what matters and Guru ticks all of the boxes – we are proud to be ‘Geeksters’!

Guru cold pressed bone
Winner for us!

 

 

Car/Bird/Squirrel Chasing (or ‘herding’)

Border Collie in the park at sunrise

I was told that Border Collies have a very strong ‘herding instinct’ by numerous people before we got our pup. What I later discovered was that everyone actually meant a ‘chasing instinct’! I really wish someone had actually explained that to me as I would have been more prepared and done more reading before a problem started to develop.

His chasing instinct seems very strong to me, but the reality is that I have never have a dog before, so it is probably just the same as any other young dog or Border Collie. He is now 9 months old and when he locks onto something I cannot do anything at all to distract him. I have tried very hard but it is something that we still struggle with daily and is a great cause of frustration to me for several reasons:

  1. I lose control of my dog – this is both embarrassing and frustrating
  2. It has begun to cause damage to our property
  3. I’m afraid of him getting injured/lost

When we first got Kubo we followed advice and walked around the streets with him (in our arms) before he could walk on the floor to get him used to the sights, souBorder Collie fixated starnds and smells. By the time he was able to walk on his own he seemed OK however at some point he began to notice cars and from then on would go bonkers trying to chase them. We followed the advice of a trainer and found a path offset from the road, walked him up and done focussed on us and gradually brought him closer until he could walk alongside the cars and pay attention to us (with the help of some chicken or sausage!). This works on the residential 30mph roads and we continue to do this daily but near quicker roads we do still lose his attention. I must admit I find this kind of training on bigger roads very hard to do as it is stressful, to be honest. We need to go slightly further afield so need more time, it also is not a nice fun walk or training session and it is very draining so it is way too easy to just avoid walking him next to busier roads, or take him out at unsociable hours when the roads are quiet, even though I know we need to keep the practise up.

He also never seemed to have any real interest in chasing other animals outside of the house and when we started letting him off the lead he was good as gold. We wouldn’t let him off anywhere near a road as I just don’t trust him with cars and we will only let him off when we are both present due to how nervous we are. About the 4th time we ever let him off lead I was on my own and out of the blue for some reason he noticed a bird. He had never paid them any real attention before. He took off after it and no amount of me calling him, running the other way or trying to lure him with toys and treats helped. He was fixated on this bird who by this point was flying (circling) with Kubo trotting underneath. The bird tried to land a few times but with the dog chasing, it kept flying back up and Kubo kept at his chase. Eventually, after what seemed like hours but was only minutes of course, the bird found a tree, leaving Kubo jumping up the trunk underneath it. I was in tears of worry as I knew wherever that bird went, my dog would have followed – what if it had gone towards the woods? Or the other way to the road? I was so relieved to be able to approach and get his lead back on and naturally when I eventually got his attention away from the bird I was super excited with him and gave him treats and toys but clearly he enjoyed the bird chase as he then spent every walk looking up at the sky, hunting for more birds. We have never been able to shake this bird (and also now squirrel) habit. Sometimes he will give up the chase and come back when we call but other times he will not. We tend to try and walk him round our local reservoir as there are no roads he can access and he can’t really go anywhere but we find this a huge restriction as there are many other places we would love to go. We have taken him to woods and parks and he does always eventually come back after a chase but the time he spends away, fixated, is nerve-racking and I am concerned he will lose his way, or worse, find himself in the path of a car, and I’ll be one of those people putting up missing dog posters. It breaks my heart to think of losing him.

Another relatively new development of his in trying to ‘catch’ other cars whilst we are driving. We finally managed to get him happy in the car on the backseat on his own however he spends the entire time snapping at cars that pass on the other side of the road. The bigger and faster the better! I have had to stop opening the rear window for him as he has begun trying to launch himself at the cars he wants to catch but this just means he scratches his teeth up against the glass window instead which is now causing damage to the glass. I have again tried to distract him with treats and attention but he just locks in on them and we lose his attention completely. He just becomes so task orientated. His seatbelt cannot be tightened enough that he can’t reach the window.

Dog funny face border collie car

I find Kubo to be a very stubborn dog. When the cats are upstairs he is relentless at jumping up and making lots of noise. My banisters are full of scratches and flaked paintwork. If you can get him to change his attention focus he will only do it momentarily before running back to the stairs. We cannot seem to switch his focus at all, only distract him for very short periods.

The advice we have been giving is to keep practising recall training around birds, which we do. If the cats are making noise upstairs I try to sit with him and reward him for being calm and quiet. Is it a case to carry on with this and eventually it’ll just get better? What else can I do? It is so frustrating, especially when I need to cook or do something other than be tied to him and he is just going crazy. I try to shut him in the room with me but this doesn’t help, he just has a go at the door instead.

As always I welcome any questions on anything we have done or tried and any advice is greatly received. I don’t want my dog to be in danger and I’d rather not have any more damaged caused to our house or car!

Kubo meets a puppy

Kubo has always been a submissive creature and even sometimes slightly nervous, but he is super friendly and playful and so when my friend got a puppy this week we thought Kubo would be one of the best dogs for him to meet.

He will almost always roll onto his back when greeting another dog unless it’s a Labrador … for some reason he is nervous of them and whenever a Labrador approaches our boy he hides behind our legs (no, he has never had a bad experience!). We had never seen him meet a pup before though so had no idea how he was going to react.

He bounded into my friends’ house with all of the energy and then sees this tiny 8-week old puppy and his whole demeanour changed; he became cautious and acted scared. He sniffed it and ran away and when the puppy got too close he hid behind us! I had not expected this behaviour at all. We thought he would be excited and playful rather than fearful.

It didn’t take him long to come out of his sborder collie and puppy boxerhell again but he did not want to interact with the puppy – all he wanted to do was steal the pup’s toys and run around with them, playing with the humans and avoiding this small creature at all costs. I was devastated! I had gone on about how playful Kubo was but he wanted to do anything but play with this unknown beast! The pup was desperately trying to get involved but clearly didn’t know what to do. It was so super cute watching his little tail wag furiously whenever Kubo walked past him.

Once we took them out into the garden however everything changed. The puppy had gotten braver by this point and Kubo was finally happy to interact as long as it involved chasing! He grabbed and stick and tried to get everyone to chase him.

It was so nice to see him finally relax and behave like the dog we know.

Back inside he then did the cutest thing I have ever seen our dog do: he laid down on his back and let the small puppy climb all over his face, play-biting and swiping, all the while being as good as gold and letting him do it (with the occasional gentle push).

It melted our hearts to see him being so gentle and playing so nicely with such a tiny creature!

I still don’t know why he was so afraid initially. I have read that older dogs may be fearful of puppies due to them getting more attention, intruding in their house or v27747269_10156112019476350_226570463_oying for status but due none of these seemed to relate. I guess it was just being in a new place with a new dog who had never met anyone but his siblings before. He was probably behaving strangely and I can only imagine Kubo, not being the most dominant dog, didn’t know how to react to this. If anyone has any insights into why he was so nervous I’d love to hear them!

They will keep socialising and hopefully grow up being friends as Kubo will not be the bigger dog for long!

(it was impossible to get a decent picture of these two once they had started playing!)