Monthly Archives: March 2016

Staffy-type dogs

Yesterday’s post showcased non-Staffy breeds of dogs at that come through the Refuge. Today’s post is about the Staffy and Bully types that we get and rehome.

As Mum to a Staffy-Mastiff cross, Shelagh, I’m rather partial to the type myself. I say type, rather than breed, as generally speaking, most Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Bull Terriers and any crossbreeds of the two get lumped under the “Pit Bull” label. And to many people, the label “Pit Bull” denotes an aggressive, fighting dog.
And that, in turn, leads us to Breed Specific Legislation, which tars most short-nosed, short-haired, stocky, barrel-chested dog with the same “dangerous dog” brush. Which could not be further from the truth, actually.

When and how did these famous “Nanny” dogs suddenly become “Dangerous” dogs? The most dangerous animal by far is us human beings. We are the ones who have manipulated the genes of dozens of dog breeds, to satisfy our own whims, for fashion and for profit.

And it’s the dogs who suffer because we refuse to acknowledge our hand in all this, but blame the breed every time a person gets bitten.

Typical human egoistic behaviour. Shame on us. We are the reason so many of these beautiful dogs end up in Shelters, many of them euthanized just to make room for even more Staffy/Bully types in the Shelters. And still people keep breeding these dogs for fighting…

Luckily, the Refuge is a no-kill shelter. Unless a dog is too ill or has bitten someone badly and is unpredictably aggressive, the Refuge will do its very best to rehome it, or find it a long-term foster home.

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Some unusual dog breeds

Just some photos of various dog breeds that the Refuge has rehomed. We get a lot of Staffy/Bully breeds surrendered to us, which is not to say they are more aggressive than other breeds, but are more a reflection on their previous owners. I will at some stage write to dispel the myths around Pit Bull types – basically any short-haired, stocky, broad-chested, short-snouted dog. But for now…

These photos are of some non-Staffy/Bully breeds. Some are purebred, some are mixed breed, a few are indeterminate. If you can positively identify any of the scruffy terrier types, do share your knowledge! 😊

Enjoy!

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Not to brag, but…

So on Easter Sunday night I stayed up late to finish Unit 11 of my Diploma in Canine Psychology coursework. I’d been meaning to crack on with the coursework for weeks now, but my new job is never-ending, it seems, and there are just not enough hours in the day to do what I want for myself, anymore.

Mind you, I love my job, it’s highly unusual and creative AND I get to work and play with dogs, so I’m not complaining about that. But, having said that, it’s like having a new baby – every few hours I have to feed it, change its nappy, wash it, play with it, then put it down again for a nap. And then do it all over again. It’s relentless, and goes on every single day, even on weekends and public holidays. I’m just thankful at least I get to sleep through the night!

So, before anyone asks me how my long Easter Weekend went, here’s your answer already. Some people have complimented me on making a huge difference to the Refuge’s Social Media platforms since I took over from my predecessor just 5 weeks ago, Thank You, you know who you are!

But anyhow, back to my Diploma. I’d set myself the task of finishing Unit 11 by the end of the Easter weekend. And I managed to finish it by 11pm on Easter Sunday, and duly emailed it to the fabulous Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, founder and Principal of The International School of Canine Psychology and Behaviour (aka The ISCP). Bear in mind she’s in the UK, which is around 8 hours behind Australia.

And I woke up this morning and found that I’d been awarded the Intermediate Certificate in Canine Behaviour by The ISCP. (Yes, that is my real name on the certificate. I’m an international Woman Of Mystery 😉).

Yay, me! Makes everything that I’ve done and am doing worthwhile. And it also somewhat restores my faith in my own abilities. Thank you, Lisa! 👍👍👍

Only a few more assessments to do, and hopefully I’ll get the full Diploma before my next birthday. This old bird still has it in her 😄. Can’t wait to see what other letters I can add after my name, and what I can then do to help owners of dogs with behavioural problems.

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How to win a dog’s trust

The following is from my ongoing coursework for the ISCP’s Diploma in Canine Psychology.

Q:
What could you do to enable a dog to trust you?

A:
When approaching a fearful dog for the first time, if it’s in a room or kennel and you’re on the outside, keep your body language low and slow. Keep your voice low, soft and soothing too. Avoid direct eye contact with the dog, as most dogs find eye contact with total strangers confrontational.

Once the dog accepts your presence and isn’t lunging at the fence trying to bite you, or barking its head off telling you to go away and leave it alone, then you may proceed further by throwing in some treats. Obviously, if the dog is lunging at the fence or barking at you, it’s not ready to engage in social niceties with you, much less trust you, so it’s best to remove yourself and try again at a later time. But, if the dog has not indicated that your presence is unbearable, and if it’s taking the treats you’ve thrown down for it, then you could entice it to come closer by throwing the treats closer and closer, until the dog is right opposite you, separated only by the fence. Let it sniff your fingers, so it gets used to your scent, and continue giving it treats – it may shy or startle when first it sees you moving your hands to your treat pouch and back to its face, but when it sees the treat coming it will soon learn that only good things come from you.

Once you’re satisfied that the dog isn’t going to lose its confidence and run away from you, enter the kennel slowly and cautiously. Keep your body low, as most dogs find tall people intimidating. Crouch down near the dog, still avoiding direct eye contact, and toss more treats, repeating the previous process above, until the dog is eating out of your hand. If the dog is starting to trust you, it will wag its tail, and it’s body will be relaxed. It might even take the initiative to nudge your hand for more treats. If it accepts being patted, it might even seek more by leaning into you. That’s a sure sign that you’ve gained its trust.

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Easter Shelagh

Happy Easter, everyone! Here are some photos of Shelagh today, sorry there aren’t any of Scruffy…he moves too fast and is never still enough for a good photo. Shelagh, on the other hand, is much more placid and laidback, and thus a better photographic subject.

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The “scratchies” are called “From Frank”. We won $5 on one of them, enough to purchase another card. Yay! 😄

Practice, practice, practice

My new job involves quite a bit of dog photography, and then making up warm fuzzy prose to go with the photos. I sometimes like to collage my photos, so people can see the same dog in different poses.

I recently rediscovered Snapseed on my mobile phone. I say rediscovered, as I hadn’t been using Snapseed much in the past year or so. It’s gone through a few updates since then, and it’s even more powerful than ever.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m hardly a newbie when it comes to photo editing. Actually, I’ve only been practising mobile photography art for the last 6 years. I started out with an iPhone 3G in 2010, then upgraded to the iPhone 4. Then I defected over to Android with a Samsung Galaxy S3, then the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. One thing for sure, I have no intention of going back to an iPhone.

Imagine my happiness when I realised I could flex and hone my creative, artistic muscles in my new job. Yay, happy days again! Granted, the subject matter is mostly dogs nowadays, but at least I get to scratch that itch lol.

Here are a few examples of what I’ve done to standard, unedited photos, using Snapseed. The other Apps I use a lot for editing are Pics Art, Photo Editor and Pixlr, and for collaging I use Pic Collage, Moldiv, Collage Maker. I sometimes like to dabble and test out new Apps.

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Scruffy Dogs

Just a compilation of scruffy dogs, both wee and ginormous. Scruffy dogs have a special place in my heart – I have one at home. He’s of indeterminate breeding, I’ve not been able to figure out what he is, but he’s just the sweetest, cutest and well, scruffiest dog I’ve ever had. I love him to bits. He has the most imaginative name possible for a dog of his description – Scruffy. 😄

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The following images have been curated from my favourite site, Pinterest. All copyrights remain with the original photographers.

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Active vs Passive Submission in dogs

(The following is from my coursework for the ISCP’s Diploma in Canine Psychology)

Q:
What is the difference between active and passive submission? Give examples of dogs you have observed displaying both of these.

A:
Active submission is when a dog does the action on purpose, to avoid confrontation with another dog, or to show to humans that it isn’t a threat, that it doesn’t want conflict or is not interested in engaging.

Once in the park, my dogs were disturbed in their play by the arrival of a couple of dogs on lead – a large Bearnese Mountain Dog and a yellow Labrador. The Labrador was old, and made it clear that it didn’t want to engage with my two dogs, by promptly sitting down and looking away. The younger Bearnese Mountain Dog and my Scruffy engaged in a friendly sniff-and-greet ritual, followed by play-bows and excited lunging by the younger dog. When my Shelagh went up to the Labrador, it showed her that it did not feel like playing or even getting to know her, by lifting its lips over its teeth and then pointedly looking away. It then licked its lips and gave a yawn and looked really disinterested, until Shelagh went away.

This was clearly a dog that knew what it was doing, and what it wanted to avoid. It was an older, wiser and no doubt confident dog. And Shelagh, having correctly read its body language, knew to stay away and not engage.

I remember Rhianne, a young Kelpie pup at the Refuge that I fell in love with last year. She was very fearful at first. I’d gone into her enclosure to take her out for a walk, but ended up spending 15 minutes just sitting with her getting to know her, and for her to get to know me first. When I approached her, she ran to the other end of the enclosure, tail between her legs. When she realised there was nowhere to hide, and I was still approaching her, Rhianne did the only other thing she could do to indicate that she was no threat, as a plea for me to be gentle with her. She lay on her side, rolled over and exposed her belly. As I crouched down to give her a pat, she urinated.

I felt so sorry for poor little Rhianne. I sat down next to her and just waited, speaking to her in a low voice and keeping it soft. After a few minutes, she jumped up and ran off to the other end of her kennel. I stayed where I was, still speaking to her and not looking directly at her. I held out a treat. Rhianne’s curiosity got the better of her, and she trotted over to take the treat. Once she was taking food from me, I knew I’d gained her trust. I spent a few more minutes patting her and giving her treats, and learned that Rhianne was very smart and knew several basic commands already. By the time I decided to clip on her lead and take her out for her walk, Rhianne was quite a different dog, jumping onto my lap and giving me face-licks, tail wagging with excitement.

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(Image sourced from Pinterest, copyright 2010 Dogs for defense K-9 http://www.dfdk9.com)

Confident and Fearful Dogs

(From my ISCP Diploma in Canine Psychology coursework assessments):

Q:
How do you know when a dog is confident or fearful? Give examples of dogs you have observed.

A:

A confident dog appears open and friendly, and will come up to you happily, even exuberantly. A fearful dog will cower in a corner, with its tail tucked between its legs, and avert its gaze. A dog’s body language speaks volumes about how it feels, or what type of personality it has.

Otto the mixed breed dog at the Refuge I’m involved in is an example of a confident dog. The minute he sees me near his kennel, he comes right over, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and sticks his nose out the opening of the door. If I put my hand in, he’ll give it a snuffle and a lick. If he’s feeling super happy, he’ll jump up and down at the door and may even bark excitedly. When I do get into his enclosure, I sometimes have to turn my back to Otto, to get him to stop jumping up on me. He’s not trying to dominate me, he just wants to lick my face in greeting.

Otto will do anything for treats. He’ll sit, shake paw and roll over, again and again, and his body language just screams Joy and Excitement. When people pass by his kennel and the other dogs start up, barking and yelping with excitement, Otto may join in, jumping off the walls of his kennel with sheer exuberance. He’s a really confident dog.

Trevor, a new arrival at the Refuge, is a fearful dog. He’s like a little miniature Rottweiler, with black and tan markings. His body is long and low, like a Jack Russell’s. Trevor is a Pound Special, having been picked up by the Ranger and brought to the Refuge.

When I first saw Trevor, he was crouched down on the floor in a corner, and his whole body was trembling. When I called his name, he gave me a sideways look, showing the whites of his eyes, but did not move from his position. I crouched down in front of his kennel and avoided looking directly at him, occasionally throwing chicken pieces in front of him. After a couple of minutes, I sensed that Trevor had been brave enough to emerge from his corner to eat the chicken, and that he was now standing quite near me.

Keeping my voice low and soft, I spoke to Trevor. At first he startled, and backed away a step or two. I threw more chicken to him, speaking to him all the time. He ate the chicken. His tense body began to relax more, and he came up to the fence on his own accord. I put my hand against the fence, palm facing him, and Trevor had a sniff and then a lick. He could smell the chicken, and clearly wanted more. I withdrew my hand slowly, took some more chicken from my treat pouch, and this time I shifted my body so it was turned towards him. Trevor didn’t run away, but waited for his treat. I gave him the chicken, then slowly stood up and opened the door of his enclosure.

Trevor seemed uncertain, but not as fearful as before. He backed away, but gave me a few appeasing, low tail wags. I closed the door behind me, and slowly sat myself down in his kennel. I held out some more chicken, and he came up to me on his own accord. I gave him the treat, then slowly brushed my fingers on the side of his face. He wagged his tail again. I brushed the side of his shoulders. He did not pull away. I hazarded a stroke of the length of his body. Trevor actually leaned into me then. By now he’d had a sniff of my hands and had made direct eye contact with me, he’d let me pat him, and he knew I wasn’t going to hurt him. I’d gained Trevor’s trust.

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A Tale of 2 Dogs: Part 2

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(Image by: AlyZen Moonshadow)

Continuing from yesterday’s post, this is an account of a dog’s life written from Dog #2’s perspective.

DOG #2
My name is Billie, and I’m a female staghound. I’m in a Dog Shelter, because my owner bought me from a pet shop and then decided, as I grew bigger, that I was too big for her house. I’m still only 7 months old, and I’ll grow even taller and ganglier.

The dog shelter is a strange and frightening place to be. I can hear other dogs to either side of me, but I can’t see them, unless I stand up and look over the wall and through the wire fence. Opposite me is a similar row of kennels, with other dogs in them. Sometimes when visitors walk past our kennels, we get all excited and start barking, but that’s because we all want to be the one chosen to go home with the humans. Sometimes I see my neighbours going out of their kennel to meet some humans, or even their cats or rabbits (I can’t see the cat or rabbit, but boy can I smell them!), and then they either get returned to the kennel, or they go home with those people. I wish I was the lucky one.

I can always tell when it’s feeding time, because all the dogs in the next kennel block start up a din. The food is invariably the same, though, but I need to keep my energy up to look good for visitors. The Shelter has volunteer dog-walkers and canine carers coming in every day, and I love it when one of them takes me for a long walk, so I can stretch my long legs, or even if someone just sits in my enclosure with me and gives me treats and teaches me new tricks. I’m a very happy and exuberant girl, and I can’t help jumping on people when I’m excited. Trouble is, I always get told to Sit when I jump up at humans. I can’t help loving people so much, I just want to go home with someone and give them lots and lots of slobbery kisses! I’ve found that if I comply with their cues to Sit or Give Paw, I get yummy treats, sometimes even chicken!
In the afternoon, the dogs get taken out again for a Toilet Break. This is only a short walk, until we’ve relieved ourselves. (My neighbour, a puppy, isn’t toilet trained and just pees and poos all over his enclosure, and then sits in the mess and wags his tail in it, ewwww!) Thankfully I’m fully toilet trained, and I know to hold it in until it’s time to go out again, before bed time.

I like to have a nap in the afternoon, when there are fewer people around, and fewer distractions. Sometimes a visitor will get one of us so excited that he or she starts barking, and that starts the rest of us off too. We have some dogs called “Boarders”, who are rather arrogant because they’re in the kennels while their humans are away on a strange thing called “holidays”, whatever it is. They have lots of toys to play with, some of them even have special food brought in for them, and they are only in the kennels for a few days, then they get to go home again. My human brought me to the Shelter, and I waited and waited for her to come and bring me home again after a few days, but she never did.

So now I wake up each morning, hoping to see my human again, or hoping to meet someone new who will take a shine to me and bring me home. I’m young, I’m sassy, I’m bright, I’m full of energy, I’m pretty, I’m friendly. Someone will come for me soon, I just know it.

Today, someone came to look at me. It was a young man and his girlfriend. As soon as I saw them approaching my enclosure, I bounded out of my bed and galloped towards them to greet them. I think I must have miscalculated my speed and the distance between my bed and the end of my run, because I damn near collided with the fence, and only just managed to skid to an ungainly halt. It made the man and woman laugh though, and I think that’s what clinched the deal. They stayed outside my run talking about me to each other, occasionally giving me a small treat. I think I impressed them with my cleverness at Sitting and Giving Paw on cue. They commented on how cute I looked, with my unusual black and white markings. Then they went away! Oh no, what did I do wrong? Come back!

A few minutes later, however, a member of Staff from the Shelter came into my kennel and slipped a lead onto my collar. She led me out to an exercise yard, where to my surprise and delight the same man and woman were waiting for me! I was so happy to see them again that as soon as the lead was unclipped from my collar, I did some crazy zoomies around them. I ran and ran and ran, until I was tuckered out. And then I trotted over to the couple, and tried to jump into their arms. They fell over, but they were laughing, so I took that to be a good sign.

And then I was put back in my kennel? Why??? I was shocked, to say the least, and distressed, so I paced up and down the length of my enclosure, unsure as to what to do. Did I do something wrong? It’s so hard to be happy one minute, confused the next!

Then suddenly, I was taken out again. But this time to the Office area, where a member of Staff took off my Shelter collar and gave me a brand new one. She also clipped on a brand new lead! The man and woman came over to me then, and started hugging me, you should have seen my tail wagging like a whirlwind, I was so happy! The man took the lead and I followed him and his girlfriend out of the Shelter and into their car. I’d been adopted, oh happy day! I was going home at last!