Sunday, 24 January 2016

Gatsby Service Announcement: Stop and Smell the Air

Gatsby would like to remind you to stop and smell the wet grass... or morning air... or the delicious perfume of the raw beef you may have dragged out to the grass. Mmmm!

Monday, 18 January 2016

The Moral: In Which Melon Learns That Everyone Likes Puppies (Which Everyone Else Knew Already)

Penne stayed with me for a week. It took less than that for this little girl with a big head to win everyone over.

The difficult part was that being a cavoodle and only six months old, she could fit through one of our property gates and -- even more worryingly -- the fence surrounding our pool. So I could only take her outside on leash. To top that, this past week turned out to have either scorching temperatures (40°C / 104° F) or pouring rain, so we had to be inside all the time.

The easy part was that she's a very, very well-behaved puppy. She was shut inside all the time and never once asked to go out. In fact, once in a while we would suddenly remember that she toilets outdoors so I would leash her up and take her. And once again -- no accidents inside.

This, along with her cute face, meant that my parents loved her. Mom told me she was cute, and if we were relaxing she'd suggest we join Penne in the living room. I went downstairs every morning to find Penne with a new toy -- usually a ball Dad had dug up from somewhere.

Sure, they liked Gatsby fine. She was well behaved when she was here too.

But I knew Penne had hit the jackpot when one day I ducked out for a quick lunch and came home through the front door. I didn't hear her alert bark, or the jangle of her tags from the hallway. She wasn't at the little gate when I reached it either. The baby gates shut her into that area; there's nowhere she can go by herself. I was too puzzled to think of panicking -- and then I spotted her on the other side of the glass door, sitting calmly on the patio watching me with that cute face. My eyes followed her leash to see it secured to a verandah pole with a professional-looking rope and carabiner.

Another glance showed me Dad doing his gardening. I was so surprised I asked him if he had leashed her himself. Of course, he said.

There hadn't been anyone else home, it was true. But I never would have guessed he would figure out a way to secure her on the verandah so she could be outside and watch him garden. Those of you who have family or friends who don't 'do' animals, who don't touch them or handle them, will understand my surprise.

And me? Well, I'm not a puppy person. I'm really not. I am drawn to larger dogs and older dogs. I always thought I'd adopt an older dog -- I don't think I'd ever want a puppy. But last night, just after Penne went home, I didn't hesitate to agree to help with something puppy-related, which is still in the works (nope, I am not telling yet!).

And if you asked me to comment on Penne, my automatic reaction is: she's cute. So cute. I mean, look!

So, I guess everyone likes puppies.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

An Introduction: In Which Melon Finds Her Newest Victim

This is Penne.

This little cutie belongs to my neighbours. She's a six month old cavoodle (Cavalier King Charles x Mini Poodle). I met her the day she arrived home when I dropped off my 'welcome, new puppy' present. To be honest, I was a bit concerned because I wasn't sure her peeps knew what they were getting into with a puppy! My welcome present consisted of two dog training books -- one a comprehensive guide for the teens/adults and the other a Usborne children's guide to dogs and puppies for the younger kids -- and a homemade toy I whipped up out of fleece. 

young caramel puppy 7 weeks old
Timid pup the day she arrived, all of 7 weeks old

Luckily, Penne is a sweet, happy-go-lucky dog who has settled in well to her new family. She even still has the toy I gave her on day one -- intact!

And yes, as you may have guessed, her people are on holidays so I've dognapped her for the week to love on, practice my training experiments on play with and pretend she's mine. Her family (except their oldest teenager) have gone away twice this month and the first time I went over to 'entertain her' (as requested) as much as I could when he was out. The second time, though, I've just dognapped her to stay at mine! Her parents are happy, teenager is thrilled to be relieved of dog duties and, well, do you think I mind this cutie living in my family room?

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Sunday Selfie

Gatsby half face - one eye, half nose
How do I use this thing?

Gatsby selfie with arm
Huh. This is harder than it looks.

Gatsby selfie, slightly blurry
Close enough.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Book Review: On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals

Turid Rugaas is a Norwegian dog trainer who took in a stray little Elkhound named Vesla. While observing Vesla's behaviour with other dogs change over time -- from aggression and violence to calm communication with others -- Rugaas discovered that dogs have behaviours they use in stressful situations to calm both themselves and others around them down. She calls these 'calming signals'.

Rugaas was encouraged to write her theory on calming signals down, so she wrote On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals. The book is a short and easy read, because it's essentially a list of calming signals and how dogs use them. There is also a sentence on each signal suggesting how humans can use it, and this is furthered in the third chapter titled 'Case Histories' which gives examples of how she has used calming signals to rehabilitate her clients, who tend to be fearful or aggressive dogs.

It was a fun read really -- haven't we all wished we knew exactly what dogs were saying?

But in fact I think Rugaas deserves credit for not writing/marketing this book as a dictionary translating dog language. At least, I didn't get that impression. On a second read, I discovered she does claim that calming signals apply universally to all dogs (and wolves), that they will tell us what dogs are feeling, and encourages us to observe and use them ourselves. But I didn't get the impression of any ego involved at all. Even if the exact words say otherwise, I'm left feeling that the book doesn't claim any more than it should. All it says is what Rugaas has observed and used.

I have no idea if calming signals really exist or work the way Rugaas says they do. I don't have and have never had a dog of my own to observe. But I will certainly start following her suggested method of training myself to look for them, because the humble way Rugaas presents her observations in this book gives me the feeling they just might be accurate.

Are you aware of behaviours your dogs display when they are stressed? Are you aware of ways your dogs communicate to other dogs? What happens when you use them yourself?