www.naturallyhappydogs.com - The online dog video magazine

Wednesday 23 October 2013

A day at the Animal Health Trust

We had a lovely day with the AHT (Animal Health Trust) in Suffolk where we were made to feel wonderfully welcome.

First stop was the hydrotherapy pool where we filmed two techniques used to help agility dogs: one was the use of the pool itself and the other was an underwater treadmill. Jo Handley Howard explained the use of each type of equipment and the different benefits they provide.

Then we met up with Farrah Stevens in a beautiful sunken garden. She gave us a very helpful overview of the work of the trust. After that, we were treated to a delicious lunch in the on-site cafe.

Our last stop was the highlight of the day. It is hard not to be won over by 7 bundles of wriggling gorgeousness - 5 week old Bull Terrier puppies. Once they'd had an opportunity to play and fill their tummies, they all grew very sleepy. That meant that they could stay happily relaxed through having their hearing tested. It was fascinating to see how this test is carried out. Julia Freeman, who performed the tests, explained how the signals on the equipment are interpreted. As for the puppies, they didn't seem to mind a bit and in most cases, slept through it.

Huge thanks go to the staff of AHT for making the day so enjoyable and for enabling us to capture on film some of the valuable work they do.

Sunday 20 October 2013

To cap it off

We have cause to thank the great Toni Shelbourne again for her time, filming some more articles around using TTouch for rehabilitation, and in particular talking to us about the 'Calming Cap' - a rather strange looking piece of equipment that can be helpful for dogs reactive to visual stimuli.

The cap doesn't stop the dog from being able to see, but reduces the intensity of the visual environment around it, allowing the dog to cope better.

We also filmed very interesting articles about "Conversations in the Park" (both canine and human!) and behaviour around livestock.

We look forward to bringing you these articles soon.

Book review: "Toby's Tails" by Susan Keefe

Toby's Tails by Susan Keefe

Book reviewed by Sally Marchant, www.naturallyhappydogs.com

Toby's Tails is a children's book about the first year of life of a young Border Collie, Toby. The book is told from Toby's point of view: from the moment he opens his eyes and discovers the other animals on the farm through to going to his new home and learning all about life in general. This provides an unusual perspective and one that supplies a good opportunity to explore and empathise with Toby's feelings such as when he is scared of the camera and the TV.

Seeing the world through his eyes also enables the author to educate in an interesting way. When Toby, for example, wants to relieve himself, he discovers that he gets praised for going outside so decides that he will do things in this way again. This explains to children the concept of how to teach housetraining using positive reinforcement techniques that the puppy will understand.

The language is generally simple, readable and appropriate for children but the author doesn't shy away from using mature language where appropriate such as 'rhythmic', 'reprimands' and 'desolate'. This can be considered a good way to extend a child's vocabulary.

The only question mark hangs over whether the author should force themselves to be constrained by the basic premise they have set up. Should the puppy's understanding and that of the creatures around him be limited to what animals could, in reality, understand? Should the language of the people in the story sound like natural speech? Or are the characters in the story just a vehicle for education? Toby discovers a lot by asking Lucky the Golden Retriever he lives with and through conversations with local wildlife. He learns about birth and illness, the lifestyles of the animals around him, why colostrum is important to the farmyard goat kids, how bats use sonar to locate their food, and the difference between warm and cold blooded animals. The only difficulty with this is that much of what the animals discuss would, in reality, be beyond their understanding and as such feels rather unnatural. A child may well not have a problem with this and may just find it a fun way to learn about a range of interesting subjects.

The dogs within the book also understand every word of English said to them by the humans in the story, such as when they are going to get fed or what town they are in. Unfortunately, the belief that dogs should understand our spoken language often leads to problems with people and their pet dogs so it might be worth ensuring that children were aware that this ability is within the constraints of this book and not actually a reality. 

Overall, it's a nice little book that would be suitable to read to a younger child, or for an older child to read to an adult or even to themselves.

Friday 11 October 2013

Road trip

We've just returned from a trip around the M4 corridor, taking in some more topics from our Homeopathic Vet Nick Thompson, as well as a couple more breeds for our library, and some more new subjects too.

Have you heard of Schutzhund, otherwise known as IPO? It is little known here, but in Germany it is a huge sport. Schutzhund means 'protection dog' in German, and it is an obedience/tracking/protection combo mostly practised with the German Shepherd breed. Indeed, most GSD's will have a Schutzhund champion somewhere in their heritage, as this sport shaped the development of the breed. We spoke to one of the premier UK kennels practising this sport for a fantastic couple of videos coming soon.

We also caught up with Pen Farthing, an ex-marine who now runs a rescue and charity called Nowzad Dogs, which is doing some fantastic work in Afghanistan pioneering the rescue effort over there. Nowzad will be our charity of the month when their videos go live.

The Portuguese Podengo and Hungarian Puli were the breeds we filmed for the breed library, we thank their very experienced owners for their time. All in all, a very successful trip and we look forward to bringing you these articles soon.

Monday 7 October 2013

Book review - "The Holistic Dog: a complete guide to natural health care" by Holly Mash

"The Holistic Dog: a complete guide to natural health care" by Holly Mash
Reviewed by Sally Marchant from www.naturallyhappydogs.com, the online video magazine.

At first glance, "The Holistic Dog: a complete guide to natural health care" by Holly Mash appears to be a small book but it is packed full of very good information.

It begins by clearly outlining what complementary therapies are and explaining what makes them different to conventional veterinary medicine. It explains each of the common types - Homeopathy, Herbal medicine, Acupuncture, Bach flower remedies, Tellington touch and Chiropractic and for each, explains how it works, what it's used for, how it is administered, dosages and how to find a qualified practitioner.

The language is a little technical at times, for example "serially diluting the active component in a solution and vigorously agitating it" but on the whole, the book is very readable, using the technical terms only where appropriate. The author gives plenty of examples to clarify any statements that are made and to add understanding to concepts throughout the book.

I was quite surprised that the book also includes helpful information for anyone considering getting a dog. It includes such topics as deciding whether you have the time and energy for a dog and the benefits of dog ownership. I had assumed that the book would focus on holistic treatments but it actually looks at every single part of dog ownership, from the initial decision about getting a dog, through to that 'final' sad decision at the end of the dog's life. Every aspect of dog ownership is considered from a holistic perspective, encouraging the reader to consider their decisions carefully. For example, the author posits questions like: Do you really want a long coated breed if you live in the muddy countryside? How might Bach Flower remedies be helpful for settling a new rescue dog? How can looking for 'qi' help to pick a suitable puppy from a litter? Throughout the book, 'standard' advice such as leaving a new puppy with a favourite toy for their first night in their new home, is mixed with 'complementary' advice such as the benefits of the homeopathic remedy aconite and TTouch when a puppy is teething.

The chapter on the canine mind is full of very up to date, modern thinking about training dogs, clearly explaining why 'dominance' based methods are outdated. Using pictures to illustrate, this section explains how dogs communicate, again including holistic advice such as initially visualising your dog's good behaviour before proceeding to teach it. The importance of exercise and playtime and the effects that feeding can have on behaviour are covered as well as training theories and techniques.

Following this is information about preventative health care looking at vaccines, neutering, worming and flea treatments from both a conventional and a complementary point of view. The author explains the pros and cons of each and also covers the benefits of combined health care such as what homeopathic remedies to give if your dog suffers a vaccine reaction. The nutrition section doesn't preach about what type of food one should feed, but gives clear information about what to be aware of when raw feeding and warning signs to look for on complete foods such as labelling terms, certification logos and whether the food is ethically sourced.

The supplements section gives information about each of the main dietary supplements, what they are and what they are used for, this section encourages the reader to ask questions such as where the ingredients are sourced and how much active ingredient is in the product.

There is some fantastic advice about looking after the elderly dog such as using different scents in different rooms as the sense of smell is often the last sense to fade. The author suggests giving the dog who can't get out and about some picked plants for him to sniff in bed for a bit of mental stimulation. This section also covers saying goodbye and what help and support is available. The last chapter covers typical holistic treatments for common ailments, including common symptoms, routine care and complementary treatments.

The book is full of large, lovely pictures which help to break up the information and often give helpful visual aids to what is being explained, and important points are often highlighted in coloured boxes. There is a useful 'addresses and further reading' section and a comprehensive index.

This book is not so much of a 'how to' in terms of treating problems or training dogs, but it gives a very clear and thorough explanation of the underlying concepts and ideas. Throughout, it advises if you have a specific medical problem; to seek advice from a veterinarian; for general training to attend classes and for major behavioural problems, to visit a behaviourist.

I would say this book is perfect for someone interested in natural care who is looking to get a new dog, or even those who already have a dog who want to look over their complete care of their pet to take into account holistic ideas. It is more of a 'reading' book than a 'reference' book, but whether someone reads it cover to cover or dips in to a chapter at a time, I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to lead a more natural life with their current, or future dogs.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

October 2013 dog videos

One of the less pleasant aspects of dog ownership is that they are prone to picking up unwanted guests like fleas, ticks and worms, but at least there is helpful information on hand on how to deal with them. In this month's issue we look at fleas. Other health related topics are a video on the uses of Hawthorn (Cretaegus) and another on the VMD's Product Information Database which tells you all you need to know about veterinary drugs.

On a practical front, we look further at dogs and air travel and at how pets can be affected by grief and loss when another dog passes away.

If you're looking for more information in relation to dog activities, we offer further videos on a couple of appropriate topics. In our Ringcraft series we look at handling techniques and in our Teaching TD Rally series, we look at spirals.

Finally, we find out from studies undertaken into wolves whether there is truth in the idea that we have to be the "alpha".