Friday, 28 December 2012

The B-I-G Breakthrough

We’ve told you how Cairid, in four homes before his first year, didn’t have the benefit of early socialisation with other dogs.  He doesn’t see this as a disadvantage of course.  It’s just us.  It’s our aching shoulders, our frayed nerves, our disillusionment and impatience with fellow dog-walkers who don’t understand and don’t give a damn anyway.  You see them look at you, while you fight to keep control of a strong dog who lunges on the end of a lead, with an expression of incredulity on their faces.  They clearly say without words, “Why are you allowing this?  Why are you not severely chastising this dog?”
It’s a long story, but in brief we’ve been working with Cairid the best ways we know how.  We’ve tried everything available, as long as it doesn’t involve punishment which we know would make his insecurity with other dogs worse, and which we do not believe is ever effective in any case.  But we are only human.  Sometimes we get it wrong, or can’t be bothered to think about it.  Other times we feel despair.  No matter how much effort we put into it, nothing improves.
But – wait a MINUTE!! – today was major red letter day in our calendar!  We’ve been using a clicker – first associating a click with getting a treat, then using it in the house and garden for easy things like “here” and “sit” and “lie down”.  Then we started taking the clicker for walks with us.  We do random recalls, but not too many so he doesn’t get bored with it.  Cairid is on a long line during all our walking in the forest, but has off-lead spells on the beach where we can see if other dogs are approaching.    When we see other dogs coming, we do a fairly large “curve” past the other dogs.  The minute Cairid stops looking at them and trots back to us he gets a click and a treat.  He may have lunged.  That doesn’t matter.  We ignore that.  We just reward the coming back to us after seeing another dog.  Cairid desperately wants to chase, play rough, and generally make himself a nuisance – probably not from most other dogs’ points of view, but certainly from their owners’.  Our worse-case scenario is a small barking dog running.  Cairid will chase till he catches it, and has been known to grab it by the leg, although not to its injury.  Hence, no freedom around other dogs!  Anyway – I digress!  Let me tell you about this morning, bearing in mind this is MONTHS after we bought a clicker.

We’re walking along when suddenly around a bend comes a barking beagle, a confident retriever and a disinterested black lab, followed by their owners.  We didn’t have time to curve, and besides, the retriever and the beagle were approaching fast, off lead.  Dislocated shoulder time.  A brief conversation with the owners led us to believe that they wouldn’t have minded if we’d let Cairid off for a play.  We carried on, muttering.  About an hour later we were on the beach, throwing a ball into the sea for Cairid.  Along came the same three dogs and owners, and we clipped Cairid on his lead.  Another brief conversation on the way past while we answered questions about Cairid, and we parted company on friendly terms.  When we were well past we again released Cairid and threw the ball into the sea.  Off he dived, throwing himself with great vigour over the waves.  He’s swimming back with the ball, when suddenly we’re aware that the retriever has left his owners and come racing back towards us.  Oh heck!  Well, we could do nothing but watch.  The retriever runs into the water to watch Cairid swim towards him.  When they’re out of the water, the retriever bounces up and the two dogs are looking at each other (I wish we could have filmed it to see in slow motion.) then the retriever starts to run.  He has his tail down, and Cairid chases him.  Then the retriever stops and turns around and Cairid stops, as though he doesn’t quite know what to do next.  At that point, we did a recall.  And for the FIRST TIME EVER when there’s been another dog on the scene, he came back to us, and the retriever ran off without Cairid attached to his tail.  You’re probably thinking SO WHAT?  Well, it’s a breakthrough moment, that’s what!  He can do it.  He DID do it.  And the chances are that he will do it again.  Because he got the best treats ever and the most wonderful attention.  And we love him.  And we think these other dog owners are pretty cool too.  Life is good.  Sometimes.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Happy Xmas

Wishing everybody who passes this way a Merry Crimble and a' the best for 2013.

Remember our four legged friends -  keep them warm, safe and happy.


Hear the dogs sing Jingle Bells - Ho Ho Ho !!

Sunday, 16 December 2012


Having just downloaded the PDSA’s latest 69-page report and read it cover to cover, we thought we’d comment on it.

The report focuses on diet, behaviour and preventative health measures and emphasises that greater awareness of welfare requirements is needed among pet owners.  Almost 4000 pet owners were surveyed.  In the behaviour section, some of the ideas proposed are great:  dog-free areas for children (we assume this means areas within parks);  a change to “deed not breed” because all dogs are capable of aggression;  promotion of education.  Two that we don’t feel so enthusiastic about are the need to attend training classes – any training classes – and compulsory microchipping.  Training classes can be great, especially puppy classes, but a poorly run class can have undesirable effects, especially if aversive techniques are used, or if the dog is older than a few months and has not been around other dogs before.  To be put into a situation of such close proximity with other dogs can be devastatingly scary for some dogs.  (Interestingly the statistics quoted for 2011 and 2012 show that dog aggression towards people increased, and dog-dog aggression decreased, while attendance at classes decreased in 2012.)

There is still debate about the possible side-effects of microchipping and whether in fact it would be effective if a dog is found or goes missing, because different types of chip readers are used, among other things.  If microchipping is to be made compulsory, there needs to be a universal chip reader and a single data bank.

We noted that “87% of owners think people should face tougher penalties if their dog attacks another person or animal”.   We broadly agree with this, but feel there needs to be some caveat to this.  In order for the world to be safe for people and dogs, people need to be aware that dogs talk a different language.  Here are just some scenarios:

·         Someone approaches your dog with a big smile on their face.  To a human this is a warm and friendly gesture.  To a dog this is a THREATENING GESTURE (baring teeth).
·         A child runs up to your dog and tries to hug him.  Humans do this as a show of affection.  A dog sees this in an entirely different light.  It is restricting and uncomfortable, and threatening if your dog is unused to this.
·         When a dog approaches a human, said human bends over him and tries to pat his head.  In human terms these are pacifying , reassuring gestures.  To the poor dog, however, this is at best a threat if he doesn’t know the person, and at worst, a sign that he needs to (and ultimately will) defend himself from this perceived attack.

We speak a different language from dogs and we expect them to comply with our every gesture and put up with odd behaviour from complete strangers.  It’s surprising how many dogs react to these gestures with no more than an attempt to shrink away.  People, including children, need to learn dog language because only then will they be safe.  Dogs don’t speak English.

It’s great to read that

·         80% of adults believe that any breed of dog can be aggressive.  At last we have a chink of light – aggressive dogs are NOT breed specific.
·         CAREFUL early socialisation is very important.  Don’t just toss your pooch into a ruck of other dogs or into an unstructured training class and ask him to get on with it!  He will, but maybe not the way you want.
·         The PDSA advise us to “think about the time and cost of owning a pet”.  We must take as many steps as possible to reduce the need for re-homing a poor dog just because it doesn’t fit into the niche that someone first thought it would when they looked at the ball of fluff portrayed on the card they got for their birthday!  We think breeders have a huge part to play here, and it’s good that more and more responsible breeders are recognising the need for early socialisation and the need to vet potential homes.

In the diet section, it was noted that “71% of owners are aware that food meant for humans shouldn’t be part of a pet’s diet.”   This we think could be misleading.  If they mean all the junk food that humans often consume, then yes, kill yourself but not your pet!   “PDSA advises owners to speak to their vet before making major changes to their pet’s diet.”  And in addition …..”….vet practices offer a wealth of information about pet diets.”  They certainly do, because pet food manufacturers sponsor them to do so, and additionally sponsor their training in nutrition (which I understand is minimal).  There is an increasing bank of evidence that says human-grade meat and vegetables are probably a good deal better for our dogs than some over-processed dog foods.  I have the greatest respect for vets and the work that they do,  but have some reservations about their reportedly limited training in this one area.  The number of   obesity cases among dogs and cats has increased substantially, and there’s no doubt that something has to be done about it, the same as with human obesity.   (We say thank goodness for Jamie Oliver!  Could he do something for dog food? )

A final comment on vaccinations and annual boosters, which understandably the PDSA are promoting.  It seems to make sense doesn’t it.  And yet, more and more pets are falling prey to horrible illnesses despite all this vaccinating.  There is now a titer test available, which your vet can use to determine your dog’s immunity level, which evidence suggests lasts  a lifetime following initial vaccination, in most cases.

If you’d like  more information on vaccines and the controversy around it, visit :

Overall, the PDSA have made a great effort here and this will raise awareness and debate about these issues, we hope.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Clunk CLICK Every Trip!

Remember that advert from long ago – ah the power of advertising!
However, this post has nothing whatsoever to do with advertising, or driving and seatbelts for that matter.

Clicker training.
Don’t know if you are anything like me. I’ve read a few books on this subject with some fascination. It is by all accounts the panacea for most things doggy and training. HOWEVER, having gone down this route with Cairid and not seeing any life changing difference, I kinda put it in one of those boxes in my head – you know the ones, only to be opened at Christmas, birthdays or bar mitzvahs.
That is, until I read ‘The Culture Clash’ by Jean Donaldson. Talk about a light bulb going off….! You START by associating the click with a reinforcer (treat). NOTHING ELSE. This is what all of the other books I’ve read have chosen to neglect to tell me. So, once you know that your wee soul clearly associates the click with the reward of a treat, THEN you can build in the cues or prompts like ‘sit/stay’ (click – treat). As is widely known, the ‘click’ has the distinct advantage of being the same sound every time, no tonal inflections or change of volume i.e. it is CONSTANT. Bingo! Just shows you that, as with anything else in life with our dogs, you do not start in the middle of something and work out. Get it right from the beginning and the rewards are there a) for you and b) most importantly for your dog.

That is just one of the fabulous pieces in her book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. She has an ethos that is totally true for all interactions with our dogs – there is only ‘black’ and ‘white’. No grey areas. Do yourselves a big favour and buy this, read it, and use it as your training manual from now on.

Monday, 12 November 2012


Nothing is taken for granted these days.  We no longer trust “authority” – whether it’s banks, politicians, or any other decision-making body that takes care of particular aspects of our lives.
Sometimes it feels as though you’re a lone voice, unheard or unheeded.  Gradually, though, momentum gathers and changes happen.

You could be forgiven for feeling sorry for vets at the moment.  A major source of their income comes from annual vaccines for dogs and cats, and increasingly, pet rabbits.  With a growing body of evidence suggesting that annual vaccines are unnecessary and sometimes – maybe often – harmful, more and more people are opting not to have their pets vaccinated annually.

Canine Health Concern are currently helping to make vets aware that there is an alternative, which means that pets will still get their annual check-up (something many people avoid because they don’t want to be talked into vaccinating) and vets will not lose income through not vaccinating.  There are titer tests available that check pets’ immunity, and every vet in the UK (and elsewhere in Europe and the USA) will receive a letter from Canine Health Concern giving information about this.  It’s good to know people will have a choice in future.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Dog in the bag …….

Interesting to watch how dogs behave in the city.  We are so used to beaches and forests it’s hard to imagine.  We were in Zurich this week, where all the dogs we met were unbelievably well-behaved, and all on leads and harnesses.  Waiting on a tram, we watched a girl with an elderly medium-sized black dog of indeterminate origin pick up her dog and, with the help of her partner, pop him into a shopping bag before getting on the tram!  Dogs were common on the trams, but not in bags.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Pit Bull Placebo Book Review

The Pit Bull Placebo:  The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression, by Karen Delise
Published in 2007 by Anubis Publishing
ISBN 10: 0-9721914-1-0
ISBN 13: 978-0-9721914-1-8

This is a book I couldn’t put down.  Apparently the author researched for this book over 15 years, and I can believe it.  No statement is made without supporting references.  For me it was an eye-opener.  Delise has examined the way newspaper reporting in the US – and the public’s perception – of dog bite fatalities has changed in the last 150 years or so.  She shows how, with media hype, dog types given the greatest publicity for fatalities very soon become the most popular dogs for what she calls “substandard” owners, i.e. owners who want dogs who will increase their sense of power.  She shows how, in nearly all cases of dogs attacking humans, the treatment of these dogs (starved, chained, no social contact) is the underlying cause.  She outlines how the media currently ignores or gives minimum coverage to fatalities involving dog breeds not of “the pit bull type”.  She sites the amazing statistics for children who die at the hands of abusive fathers or father figures, against the comparatively small number who die from dog attacks.   This manipulated focus on breed of dog, rather than cause of behaviour, has two negative effects:  one, no one believes that other breeds can be dangerous, and every dog is capable of being dangerous;  two, the actual cause of the behaviour and thereafter proper preventative measures cannot be established.  Did you know that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that pit bulls’ jaws “lock”?  Delise dispels all the myths.  All politicians and all Council officials in charge of dog issues should read this book.  Frightening how easily we humans are led up the garden path.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


We hope that this disease never comes to your front door, as it is heartbreaking.

It is generally associated with German Shepherds and is basically a gradual paralysis of the back legs of the dog. Whilst there’s no obvious signs of any pain, to watch a majestic dog gradually lose the power of his or her legs, together with ultimately their dignity (although I have been accused of anthropomorphising on that score!!), has got to be one of the most soul-destroying experiences of a dog owners life.

Kiebher (or Keebsie as she was affectionately known) was my, at the time, 6 year old gsd. I got her from German Shepherd Rescue at the age of almost three. To say that she was a sweetheart would be the understatement of the year. She was adorable and full of life, and love for both people and other dogs. At the age of six I began to notice a ‘wobble’ in her back legs which, at first, I kind of ignored. As it became a bit more pronounced I thought that it might be a good idea to have her checked over by the vet. I thought that it might have something to do with hip dysplasia. So I took her along for a check up. Encouraging signs were that he primarily thought that it COULD be dysplasia and, because she was a young-ish and fit dog, a hip replacement operation would be a distinct possibility. However, he wanted to have her checked over by a specialist just to make sure that there wasn’t a neurological issue underlying things.

I took her the two hour drive up to Fife and left her for the day. The specialist was lovely but concluded that there WAS something else going on and recommended that I take her to the Glasgow vet school for an MRI scan and various other tests. To cut a long story short, this I did, and on returning to collect her was told that it was one of three things :
Disc 3 displacement, cancer of CDRM! I immediately asked where the lucky ace card was as this sounded horrendous. I hadn’t even heard of CDRM at the time but is even sounded awful.

So a process of elimination took place and CDRM it was. There is no known cause of the disease (although it has been mooted that it can be hereditary) and, what’s worse is, there is NO CURE. I was told that the best I could hope for was 9 – 12 months before she would be totally paralysed in the rear quarter and……………………..

The first thing that I noticed was that she stopped wagging her tail – not that she wasn’t still a happy pup, just she did not have any power in it. And the gradual decline set in. All I seemed to have to look forward to was her tripping up, being unable to lift her paw back into place, and  losing her toenails by ‘scuffing’ them along the ground, not to mention incontinence.  I vowed to try everything within my power to attempt to reverse this horrendous diagnosis.

I contacted a homeopath in the South of England (Patricia Bryans – thank you for everything) who went above and beyond the call of duty to help, providing weekly medicines, rescue remedies and charts and bags of encouragement.

 My vet (John Baillie – a huge thanks to you too) gave her acupuncture and took a personal interest in her well-being. He would even open up the surgery on a Sunday evening and give the acupuncture himself. He also arranged for her to go to the local hydrotherapy pool for exercises twice a week.

I bought a book on crystal healing, read all about this, and bought all of the relevant crystals to place beside her (the book, Crystal Healing for Animals by Martin J Scott & Gael Mariani, even has a case study of a GSD who suffered from this illness).

Finally, I bought a cart for her to go into and took her in a harness to the local racecourse, where I could ‘hook’ her up and she could run and play and get a bit of quality of life.

It was around 15 months after the initial diagnosis that I had to let her go, because she asked me to. I will never forget the look on her face as she passed away, it seemed to be a mixture of relief and despair.

I guess what I have tried to say here is that you should not need to give up hope, even when you think that you have exhausted all avenues. Love and affection too go a long, long way in helping.

Aye Keebsie, I still love you to this very day, although I haven’t seen you for 5 years and more……….

Isn’t she stunning?!.......

          And in her cart, able to play again………..

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Sebaceous Cysts

Sebaceous Cysts

What are they? They are ‘lumps’ – yes, lumps! They occur when a hair follicle gets gummed up and sebum gets too thick to be excreted through the pore’s opening.

So, the lump grows – and, usually, the lump bursts, the ‘goo’ comes out, the lump goes away – end of… BUT, what if it doesn’t?

Go to your vet and have it checked. If it is too big and is irritating your dog, the vet will surgically remove it. Remember that a sebaceous cyst can get infected. Also, it is worth getting checked out as there might be something more sinister at play e.g. cancer

So, you get back from the vet and it is a plain ol’ cyst. Is there anything we can do to help? That is the $64m question!!

Our Cairid (below – gorgeous boy eh!!) has been prone to these for a number of years. Recently, one on his back became pretty large.
We monitored it – it got bigger!

It burst (the puss forms a crust and then falls off) – it never really reduced in size.

It grew a bit more and burst again.

Enough! – off to the vets (another story entirely but that is for another time!!!!!). Fortunately, she deduced that it WAS a cyst and not something more sinister and told us to monitor it but she was not ruling out having it surgically removed.

We searched the internet for anything that would help and the consensus of opinion seemed to be – adding cider vinegar and turmeric to his food. Now we all know that turmeric is an Indian Superfood,  renowned for its anti-carcinogenic qualities (and if you didn’t know, well you jolly well do now!). That was over a month ago.

Guess what?! – the cyst burst again BUT this time the swelling started to recede. What was a lump of around an inch (no – I don’t do metric – convert it yourself!!), or say the size of a large grape, in diameter is now around a third of that size and it is almost flat.

It may be too optimistic to say that this ‘wee’ change has made the difference, but hey! – the swelling is down, and this is the ONLY thing that we have changed with regards to his diet (or anything else for that matter). Way to go Cairid…………..

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Snippets from PDTE Meeting, September 2012

SO MUCH thought-provoking stuff here ….. altogether a very interesting weekend!  The great thing was that it was attended by people from all over Europe, giving a slightly different cultural slant from each speaker.  Here’s some of what we came away with – very briefly.

Dogs’ pulse rates go up when you throw a ball for them;  pulse rates go down when you scatter some treats on the ground for them to find.  So far, quite a small study, but really interesting.

When you CURVE towards a dog you don’t cause him stress.  When you walk straight towards him, you do.  Another fairly small study.

A vet agreed that they don’t learn much about nutrition at vet school.  We applaud her.

There’s a scheme in Germany where people open their gardens to other dogs while their own dog isn’t there.  It’s a safe place to sniff and allow freedom.

A Labrador rescue centre in England allows its residents to mingle, not stay in separate cages.  Nice.  Good for exchanging social info.

A Lab breeder in Spain keeps several generations of dogs who have freedom to wander and explore a large outdoor area and pups get shown by example of the older dogs how to behave.  No human interference.

There are no dog shelters in Norway.

Control yourself, not your dog, and NEVER shout at your dog. 

Agility and other fast games may not be good for dogs in terms of stress levels.  Take it gently and slowly, allow exploration of different surfaces and heights when on walks.

Focus on what the dog NEEDS - they need to fulfil their instincts to get happiness e.g. smell/dig/swim/run - even roll in smelly stuff!

The more your dog stays in a prolonged alert state, the more stressed he becomes

When youare assisting in a dog's behavioural problem, don't think about the end 'perfect' product - deal with the situation as it is NOW!

There is a centre for animals in Italy (FISIOPET) that provided top class physiotherapy for a whole range of disabilities - and it is TOP QUALITY

AND... we got to listen to Turid Rugaas IN PERSON! How good is THAT?!

Check out the PDTE website :

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Turid Rugaas

Turid is an amazing lady from Norway, who has been right at the forefront of canine behaviour for a number of years.
She has three books out that are compelling reading, not just because what is written in them makes so much sense, but also because they are written in such an empathetic manner. Every dog owner should buy these (they are only small so there is no daunting prospect of ploughing through hundreds of pages of statistical information etc etc!), so - what are you waiting for?

On Talking Terms with Dogs : Calming Signals (i.e. how our dogs communicate with us) - problem is that most of the time WE just don't listen. (Thats OUR opinion, not hers!!!)

Barking : TheSound of a Language (there are lots of reasons why dogs bark, and they use lots of different tones and pitches too). Everyone should be able to interpret their dogs' different barks.

My Dog Pulls : What Do I Do? (as it says on the back of the book - 'at last, a simple way to teach your dog to walk on a leash without pulling your arm off!)

Now - as if that is not enough to be going on with - Turid has a fabulous website with a few articles on it to help us all understand our furry friends. YOU can find it at

Last BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST, are you able to get to Edinburgh on the 29th and 30th of September? If so, you can book a place at the Pet Dog Trainers of Europe annual meeting, where there a right good few speakers giving talks on all things canine. From the speaker list and subject matter it would appear that this will be right at the cutting edge of training. And, GUESS WHAT, Turid Rugaas is one of those very speakers. Interested? Well check it out at

Whey hey - we just can't wait for this....................................

If you have an extra day, then the 1st of October sees Catherine O'Driscoll from Canine Health Concern running a workshop, covering :

In Search of the Truth About Dogs - an award-winning DVD about natural canine healthcare
How canine diet affects physical health and behaviour
Biologically appropriate food … the foundation of health and wellbeing; the functions of nutrients and their therapeutic uses
The vaccine issue: latest science on vaccine frequency
Vaccine-associated disease – the science
The human-animal bond
Human dysfunctionality: stress
How dogs mirror their owners and act-out their owners’ emotions
Emotional Freedom Technique – an introduction

You can book this too at :

Friday, 7 September 2012

Update on Survey

We are getting a great response to our survey, thanks to Dogs Naturally and Catherine O'Driscoll from Canine Health Concern (and of course, you guys who have actually completed it!!!!).


Once again, the link is :


Here we are again.  We’ve come a long way since the days when Abby never fully relaxed, ate everything in sight including her poo, had regular diarrhoea, was sick in the car every journey, toileted in the house and was always bothered with her ears, and was seriously underweight.  A lot of that would have been to do with stress, and stress has an effect on digestive systems.  It seems to be the case that diet has an effect on stress levels as well.  It was also clear that her learning capacity was impaired, and that hasn’t changed much!  Although very motivated by food, there’s little sign of her remembering what she got it for!  It takes some dogs longer than others to settle in a new situation – it can take up to two years according to some experts.  When Abby came to us she had had two major surgical procedures:  one to remove mammary tumours and one to spay her.  She’d also had teeth removed.  Grey about the muzzle, she looked older than her estimated 6 or 7 years.  It was pretty hard going for her, and for us.  Regular clean-ups of runny poo on the kitchen floor, clean-ups of sick, muzzled when she was outside so she couldn’t eat anything, regular visits to the vets for vitamin injections and weigh-ins.    Well, all that’s behind us now.  Even the muzzle has come off on the beach, and the seaweed is safe!  She’s a fine traveller now and she’s clean in the house.  Best of all, she seems happy and reasonably healthy, and now weighs 29 kilos.  A major change in the way we feed her has definitely contributed to her improvement, and it’s apparent in her weight, her eyes (previously cloudy) and her coat which is now free of dandruff.  If you’ve been following this you’ll know that she is now on raw food with cooked vegetables, and completely grain free.  Given the extremely poor circumstances she was presumably living in while on a puppy farm, we think this is as good as it gets.  She even has little plays on the beach with Cairid, and has become very attached to him. 


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Good news for dogs and toddlers!

Research performed at the Kuopio University Hospital in Finland has suggested that babies (up to one year of age) can boost their immune system by being in the company of dogs. Apparently this is because the dogs will bring dirt and allergens in from the big bad world outside and the wee ones will be exposed to germs early on in life which will boost their immune systems.

397 children were tracked for this purpose.

There are a number of articles that have been published with regard to this research, and you can read them here :

Here's to healthy babies and happy dogs!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 27 August 2012



We had a real disaster yesterday in that the website that hosted the survey was hacked into and completely trashed

(Kwiksurvey have reported this to the relevant authorities but they cannot guarantee that everything will be recovered)

However, the GOOD news is that we downloaded ALL of the completed surveys just hours before it crashed, thereby saving all the data to our own pc’s (almost 600 surveys!!)

We have also put a mirror of the survey onto ‘’ where it can be completed, just as before.

The new link is :

Friday, 17 August 2012

Away days!

We've been elsewhere for a couple of weeks but are now back and will be posting again. Stay tuned and keep coming back.
The survey is still ongoing, with over 600 responses now - keep 'em coming folks. Thanks to everyone who has completed one so far.

Here is the link again :

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


In the middle of a busy small city, a seagull was trying to make a meal of a still-living pigeon.  We couldn’t stand to watch it, and, rightly or wrongly, we shooed off the seagull and stood watch to make sure it didn’t come back to finish off the pigeon.  After an initial stagger around, the pigeon steadied and walked over to a shop doorway, seemingly not too badly injured.  Perhaps a spell of rest would see it recover.  Along comes a young woman pushing a pram, with a boy of around 7 trailing along beside her.  He kicked the injured pigeon.  Maybe the horror on our faces made the mother even more vociferous in her chastisements.  The boy quickly became tearful, and hopefully he will remember the incident and will never repeat it.  What makes a child want to do something like that?  The seagull was at least only trying to get a meal.

Most recently with Abby

Abby is in much better condition than she was just a few months ago, both physically and mentally.  After three months of raw food, in the beginning mostly minced raw green tripe but now including minced raw chicken, turkey, rabbit, lamb with the addition of an occasional egg, we are now introducing small amounts of cottage cheese, cooked offal such as hearts, and marrow bones.  These all caused extremely loose bowels in the past, but don’t do so now.  Even a hastily snatched piece of seaweed recently – a runny poo certainty in the past – had no ill effects.  She is now allowed on clear parts of the beach without a muzzle!  We are still giving fish oil capsules as well as cooked vegetables.  If we have rice left over from a meal we give her a small amount of that. Gradually we will introduce more variations to her diet.

Mentally Abby is now aware of her surroundings, more alert and more willing to engage in interaction with us.  We notice her doing a lot more sniffing out on walks than she used to – she used to just plod along behind us, only stopping if she found something edible.  Her coat is much better after a recent heavy moult.  The greasiness has gone.    Our main concern with her now is that her back legs remain quite stiff and this is something we are going to look at more carefully now that she’s stable.

We think that Abby’s turnaround is the result of two things:  one is her diet, and the other is that it has just taken this long – a year and a half – for her to feel confident and stress-free.  One thing probably has an effect on the other;  if she is stressed then this affects her digestion, and if her diet is not easily digested, this prolongs the stress.

She still looks a bit sad!  She is grey around her muzzle – much more so than Cairid who is supposed to be about the same age, and she is very much less active than Cairid.  But she shows affection now, and interest in her surroundings.  That’s a big step forward in our book.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Canine Nutrition Course

Last weekend we were on a Canine Nutrition course run by the Sheila Harper organisation, and taken by Sally Askew,Nutritionist/ holistic behaviourist.  A real eye-opener, we'd highly recommend this course.  We've added a couple of links if you're interested.  The big message is THERE IS NO DIET / FOOD TYPE THAT WILL SUIT EVERY SINGLE DOG!  And much much more.  Have a look on the Sheila Harper website.

Monday, 9 July 2012


Just to let you know that the kwiksurvey site is down at the moment, undergoing maintenance. We will let you know as soon as it is back up.
Sorry for any convenience

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Abby goes from strength to strength

It’s about 10 weeks since our last visit to the vet with Abby.  We had been taking her  for – at a guess – around 4 months for monthly B12 injections and weigh-ins.  At the last blood test her B12 was up considerably  the vet told us, but they wanted to continue it as it wasn’t quite at normal level.  She wasn’t gaining any weight to speak of, and on the last visit had lost a little weight.  She was 22.5 kilos, pretty underweight for a Shepherd, with sticking-out ribs.  We discontinued vet visits for a number of reasons:  her B12 was well up;  after months of visits she wasn’t gaining weight and we were no further forward in knowing why; and the final straw was when we were made to feel extremely uncomfortable by the receptionist following a discussion in which we stated that we did not believe in boosters (for Cairid).
Since then Abby has continued on a raw food diet with cooked vegetables and fish oil.  We no longer give bromelain.  She no longer has runny poos and is no longer sick in the car, though this may be because she’s used to it now.  We weighed her today, and she is 27.5 kilos – that’s TWENTY-SEVEN AND A HALF KILOS!!  Good old raw tripe!  She looks not too bad for an old girl!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Your dog in Your home

I was stopped this morning by a gentleman who wanted to make a huge fuss of Cairid (well who wouldn't, he is a handsome big fella!).
He told me tearfully that he had to have his own dog put down recently. I asked him why. Apparently someone came in his back door to 'see what was worth taking' and the dog bit him. The result was that the dog had to be put to sleep. Surely not I thought, but this man was very upset.

On looking into it, its true, especially for Scotland. The Scottish Government was emailed for clarification of the matter, and we received the following reply :

'Many thanks for your email. While it would not be appropriate for the Scottish Government to comment or intervene in specific cases, I can provide you with some general advice on this matter. Ultimately, the decision on whether a dog should be euthanised after biting an intruder/any person would rest with the court. The court has the power, on conviction to order the destruction of the dog if it is considered dangerous. An appeal procedure is built in to the provision to allow for a person to contest a disqualification order or a destruction order'.

Section 10 of the Control of Dogs (Scotland)Act 2010 amends section 3(1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 so that a dog owner or the person in charge of the dog for the time being can be held criminally responsible where a dog is found to be dangerously out of control IN ANY PLACE rather than only a public place or private place where a dog is not permitted to be.

All this seems to lead to the fact that it is fairly pointless to put up a sign on your door/gate etc saying 'beware of the dog' as this section contends that liability will be incurred IN ANY PLACE. That said, it would presumably help the case if these signs were in fact displayed in a prominent position on your premises.

Any thoughts on this subject?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Initial survey results

We have received around 160 completed surveys and thought that we would put some of the initial findings together. These can be download in pdf format from :

Obviously, we want to get more and more surveys completed and then do some in-depth analysis of the findings, so 'KEEP THEM COMING FOLKS'. (We have accosted people everywhere we go, including Dublin, Belfast, Manchester and Arnhem in the Netherlands - these is no hiding place from our cards requesting completion of the survey - you have been warned!!!!)

The link for completing the survey is still no longer valid - see new link above

Once again, thanks to all who have completed it. It is much appreciated.

Updates on Pet Food

We received confirmation from the Food Standards Agency that only Category 3 animal by-products may be used in pet food.  Category 3 ABPs are the lowest risk category. 

Category 3 material
Category 3 material comprises the following animal by-products:
parts of slaughtered animals which are fit for human consumption but are not intended for human consumption for commercial reasons;
parts of slaughtered animals which are rejected as unfit for human consumption but are not affected by any sign of a communicable disease;
hides and skins, hooves and horns, pig bristles and feathers originating from animals that are slaughtered in a slaughterhouse and were declared fit for human consumption after undergoing an ante mortem inspection;
blood obtained from animals declared fit for human consumption after undergoing an ante mortem inspection, other than ruminants slaughtered in a slaughterhouse;
animal by-products derived from the production of products intended for human consumption, including degreased bones and greaves;
former foodstuffs of animal origin, other than catering waste, which are no longer intended for human consumption for commercial reasons or due to problems of manufacturing or packaging defects;
raw milk originating from animals that do not show any signs of a communicable disease;
fish or other sea animals, except sea mammals, caught in the open sea for the purpose of fishmeal production, and fresh by-products from fish from plants manufacturing fish products for human consumption;
shells of eggs originating from animals that do not show any signs of a communicable disease;
blood, hides and skins, hooves, feathers, wool, horns, hair and fur originating from healthy animals;
catering waste other than category 1.

Catering waste
Category 1 catering waste is defined as catering waste from means of transport operating internationally.

A DEFRA leaflet PB11268 lists pet food plants (among others) as possible recipients for the disposal of uncooked meat, fish and eggs.

It is reassuring to know that road-kill and euthanased pets from shelters are NOT included in this list, contrary to many people’s understanding.  However, we understand that packs of hunting dogs and zoo animals have a different set of feeding standards, as will horses and rabbits who are not considered “pets” because they are sometimes used for human consumption.