Weds 1 Aug: Can you talk Dog?
I had to keep checking that my air conditioner was working today as it battled vainly against the the stifling heat, the prelude to yet another typhoon perhaps? I hope not, but I suppose that’s what summer is about. My Lamma dogs make good use of their dog pool but even then by the afternoon the water is practically boiling, and even too hot for me to comfortably stand in. I used to have some shade for it but all the gazebos have long since been blown away, so now it sits in the direct sunlight. No wonder there’s a queue at the gate whenever I leave, and the escapees (always Amber and Smartie) dash down to the beach and straight into the sea for a swim. I don’t know why Amber loves water so much, but if she had the choice she would love to live right next to a water source, whatever it was. She’s the one always standing in the bucket at Whiskers’n'Paws or lounging in the pool at home (when the water’s cool enough that is).
Even after all this time I’m amazed at the different quirks and personalities that dogs have, and how they develop certain behaviour habits. That’s why it’s impossible to have set rules when it comes to training, and by that I mean you can’t expect every dog to respond in the same way. Some dogs are really smart and get it immediately, while others are either a bit slow on the uptake, or just plain stubborn.
Morris, a little black girl who was mistakenly given a boy’s name but it stuck, is well ahead of her class. From the moment she arrived she was totally at home with the big dogs, and is the only dog or puppy that I know who was accepted by everyone. She’s even allowed into the ground floor bathroom, the exclusive “bedroom” of Halo, Bali and Gigi. Nobody is welcome in there without permission, but Morris even lies in the beds without being told off. There’s just something about her that the other dogs see and understand, though quite what it is I don’t know. I hope this bodes well for Morris’s future, and at least she’s very friendly and affectionate with people even if she is a bossy little Miss with other puppies, always shouting at them and telling them what to do.
Have you ever listened to puppies talking to each other? It’s an non-stop chit chat of noises, yips and barks. It’s very amusing to watch and hear as they bicker and argue, and it must play a big part in their development because they all do it. Even adult dogs have a ‘language’ which includes a variety of barks all having a different meaning, whines and woofs and even singing. Murphy has quite a large vocal vocabulary, most of them demands for me to do something like take him outside, feed him, play with him, follow him (yes, I am his slave). He also likes to sing, and I always know when he’s playing with the other dogs because I can hear it. Learning to recognise all of these vocal signals is an important part of bonding with a dog, as well as being able to understand the more subtle body language. I’m quite sure dogs must think we humans are pretty dumb because we can’t understand what they’re saying, and it’s worth bearing this in mind when you expect your dog to understand everything that you say. They don’t talk Human, they talk Dog.
I always recommend the Dogs Trust website (www.dogstrust.org.uk) when it comes to easy puppy (or dog) training advice, and they have a great series of training videos too. I’ve also only just discovered that Victoria Stilwell, TV star of “It’s Me or the Dog”, also has a series of puppy training videos, easily found on YouTube (just type in Victoria Stilwell Puppy Training, and here’s one on play biting or mouthing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwHk3o3P5cw), so there should be no reason for anyone to have problems after adoption. That’s wishful thinking though, as we know only too well, and often the first hint we get that there are any issues is when the dog is returned. So one of the things I was doing today was updating the Puppy Information sheet that is given to every puppy adopter, to include all of the above links and also the email of Cactus, our Education Manager (firstname.lastname@example.org). Cactus is herself a certified dog trainer, so she is our front line when it comes to any behaviour or training issues. If there are more serious behaviour problems she will pass these cases on to Foster or Eddie, both of whom are experienced in dealing with things like aggression and guarding, two of the most common reasons for a dog to be given up. There are often settling in issues which require patience and understanding, and God knows I’ve been tried and tested by some of the puppies I’ve looked after so I know very well how frustrating it can be. You just have to give it time and know that there will come a time when it all falls into place.
It was just as well that we had at least one adoption at Ap Lei Chau today as there will be a fresh intake from AFCD tomorrow . Loretta the beagle was the lucky girl, but we have many more waiting if you are looking for that special little friend.
We have an urgent need for a new home for Hema (I’m told this means gold in Hindu), a very sweet golden retriever who has to be moved from her current foster because she is being beaten up by the resident dog. Please email me if you can take her, even on a foster basis (email@example.com)