Monthly Archives: July 2016

Don’t Be A Bystander – Stand Up And Be The Change!

The other day I rescued a dog off a bus. You can read about it here:

Afterwards, those who knew me asked me why I did it. Actually, come to think of it, the ones who really know me never had a doubt that I’d done the right thing in saving that dog that day, and they would have never asked why I did it, because they would have done the same had they been in my shoes. 

So this post is really addressed to the ones who Don’t really know me.

Yes, I COULD have sat there on that bus and pretended not to notice anything out of the ordinary. 

Yes, I COULD have let the bus driver and the dog’s owner battle it out. It would have no doubt been an entertaining piece of gossip to talk about at home. The bus driver COULD have quickly persuaded the owner to take himself and his dog off the bus. Or, it COULD have taken a long time and involved the Police being called, or turned nasty for someone or the dog. 

But NO. The second that dog got off the bus by itself I just HAD to get off after it. I HAD to make sure it was safe from passing traffic. I HAD to clip my leash to its collar and make sure it didn’t go running down the road on its own. I just felt compelled to.

On looking back, I think that was the moment I realised that I was being called upon to Be The Change. Everyone else was sitting there waiting for Someone to Do Something. And in that split second before I stepped forward, I realised with a jolt that on that day, at that very moment, that Someone was Me.

Here are some inspirational thoughts curated from Pinterest, which I hope will encourage you to be the best you can be, to do what’s right every time, to stand up for the helpless, to be a strong voice for the voiceless. 

When faced with doing the easy thing, or doing the right thing, ALWAYS choose to do the right thing.

Behaviour Case : LILY – No Recall and Door Reactivity

Client Zara approached me for help with her rescue dog Lily, and in my previous posts I have addressed the following issues:

1. Pulling on lead. I also touched on Recall.

2. Dog reactivity

Now ​we shall concentrate on Lily’s ability to Recall consistently and reliably.

Does Lily always come to you when you call her name? Do you reward her with treats or a toy or game? You will need to train Lily until she comes to you every time you call her name, regardless of where you are and what you are doing. You can either train her to just come to you and sit, and quickly give her a treat and praise her every single time. Or you can train her to go to a specific spot, such as her dog bed. That will come in useful for when the postie or strangers come to the door. 

Over time, and with many, many repetitions, you can train Lily to associate the ringing of the doorbell, or someone knocking on it, with “go to your bed and wait quietly”. You could even train Lily to watch your movements and follow your finger when you point to her bed.

However, if you don’t have the time or patience to commit to this every day, a quick solution would be to call Lily and put her into a closed room, where her dog bed is, and give her an enrichment toy, whenever someone is at the door. You need to make sure the toy contains high value treats, so she associates someone at the door with yummy food and a toy, and not with running to the door barking. 

Dogs always go for the thing with a higher value – think chicken versus carrot. The chicken being the room and her bed, and the toy with the yummy food in it; the carrot being the activity at the door – boring!

Another “lazy” option would be to install a baby gate at the entrance so that even when the front door is open, Lily can’t rush past your feet and out into the street. If this is what you choose to do, do research the various types of gates that are available, and make sure the rails are properly spaced so Lily can’t squeeze through them, or worse, get stuck between them. There are clear or frosted perspex versions of these barriers, if you’d rather not have rails.

Until Lily has a consistent recall rate and can be relied upon to come to you, it’s best to avoid any situations where she has the opportunity to slip past you out into the street and risk getting injured or lost. 

Behaviour Case : LILY – Reactive Behaviour towards other dogs

Zara has been having problems walking her rescue Chihuahua cross, Lily. Lily has been showing signs of reactivity towards other dogs while out on walks – lunging, barking, snapping. 

Previously, I answered Zara’s enquiry about Lily’s pulling on the lead and having no recall. I have asked Zara to work on Lily’s recall, and to investigate different types of no-pull harnesses for Lily.

Today, we are concentrating on Dog Reactivity, why it happens and what methods could be tried.

Dogs are curious about other dogs, especially as they can smell their signatures on lamp-posts and trees. Because Lily was in a kennel environment before and had little contact with other dogs, and this was further complicated by having kennel cough, and then getting desexed, her isolation from other dogs may have made her fearful of them. Barking and lunging at other dogs while out on walks is a way of telling other dogs to leave her alone, because she’s afraid of them. She can’t run away from them because she’s on a lead attached to you. In the absence of Flight, there are only 2 other things a dog can do in any situation – Freeze or Fight. More timid dogs will simply tuck their tails right under their bodies and hide behind your legs for protection. Others, like Lily, resort to barking and lunging, in an attempt to look bigger and braver than they are, warning other dogs to please go away.

Sometimes, though, and you’ll need to observe the dogs closely so as not to confuse action with reaction – a dog may have noticed another dog and simply wants to go say “hi” to it. However, its Human handler then tenses up because they’re unsure or afraid, and they pull the lead tighter. The dog now finds it can’t get closer to the other dog, and because dogs have a tendency to pull forward the more you pull backwards, it becomes a tug of war instead, with the dog straining to get to the other dog, and barking and lunging out of frustration. So – which happened first? The dog barking and lunging, or you pulling the lead tighter?

You’ll need to desensitise Lily to the presence of other dogs. This can be done by gauging the distance between her and the other dog, to find out the “safe” distance. When she notices another dog, she may stiffen and become super alert, fixated even on the other dog. Get her attention with a treat or toy, and move on in a curve away from the other dog. If you proceed straight towards the strange dog, Lily’s instincts will kick in and she will start one of the Freeze, Flight or Fight reactions. You want to avoid that. You want her to notice the dog, get her attention away from it, and move on.

Leave any socialisation or group training classes for the time being, and practice avoidance instead when out with Lily. Every time you let Lily get past the “safe” zone and she reacts and YOU react, you’re reinforcing in her mind exactly the behaviour you wish to avoid. 

To set Lily up for success, you need to slowly acclimatize her to the presence of other dogs. Ideally, if you have a friend with another dog, you could practice this with them. Meet at opposite ends of a field, let the dogs on lead notice each other, remember to break away at the first sign of reactivity. If all’s still well, walk in a curve around the field, in ever decreasing circles towards each other, again breaking away at any reactivity. Eventually the distance will be close enough that the dogs are able to sniff and greet each other.

If you don’t have a buddy to pair up with, next time you’re out with Lily and see a dog coming in the other direction, try practising the “safe” zone and curving on your own.

Let’s assume you’re practising this with your friend and her dog. If everyone is still calm by now, one of you can walk ahead with one dog, and the other can follow behind with the other dog. That way the dog behind gets familiar with the smell and look of the dog ahead. Switch directions after a few hundred metres, to give both dogs the same opportunity.

After a while, you can try parallel walking. This just means you walk parallel with your friend, and the dogs walk on the outside of each of you. You don’t have to walk very close to each other, just close enough to be able to talk to each other and communicate. By placing yourselves between the dogs, you are giving them a visual and physical barrier. Dogs like routine and rules as it makes them feel safer and reassured.

After a few successful parallel walks, you can slowly remove one person from the middle, and later the other too, so that the dogs are now walking parallel to each other.

This all takes time, patience and repetition. There is no fast cure or remedy for proper socialisation. It could take weeks or months. Lily may even be one of those dogs that hates other dogs, (it happens). In which case you may have to walk her in quiet places only, and where there are no other dogs around.

If you are worried about other people’s dogs running up to Lily and starting a fight, it may be a good idea to get one of those colour-coded leads or harnesses. The colour codes generally follow traffic light codes – Red means Dog is reactive, stay away. Orange means Dog is in training and please do not disturb unless invited to. Green means Dog is friendly and social. The problem with this system is that not many people in Australia are aware of it, and there are also a great many irresponsible dog owners who let their dogs run off-leash everywhere and anywhere, and then have no way of recalling their dogs, or choose to ignore you when you ask them to call their dogs.  

If ever in doubt, just practice avoidance. It will be less stressful for both you and Lily. For the moment, until Lily is able to tolerate the presence of strange dogs, it is better to avoid group obedience classes, dog parks or the dog beach. 

(Image Source: Google Images)

Behaviour Case : LILY -Pulling, Lunging on lead, no Recall.

This is an actual Question from a client, Zara, who has been having trouble walking her 1 year old rescue dog, Lily. Lily is a Chihuahua cross, and Zara has only had her 6 weeks. For the first 2 weeks, Lily had kennel cough and had to be isolated. Then she was desexed and again had to be isolated and crated. Now that she’s well enough to go for walks, that’s where the problems have started. 

For confidentiality, I have changed the names of the dog and her owner. 

Here is my initial Assessment. Zara initially approached me via email, and I have responded in kind, with a couple of suggestions for her to try first, before arranging to meet up for a practical session. 

How do you indicate to Lily that it’s time for a walk? What is her reaction when you indicate this to her? If she is bouncy and excitable, what have you tried to do to calm her down? Does it work?

Most dogs are naturally excited about going out of the house – all those tantalising smells, sights and sounds! The mere clink of her lead being brought out can act as a trigger for Lily’s excitement and anticipation. Chihuahuas can be quite vocal when excited.

When you say she does not listen to commands once out of the house, what kind of commands do you mean? Do you carry any treats with you? Is Lily food-oriented, or what is the thing she likes best? Most dogs are food-oriented, however some are toy/play oriented. Bear in mind there is a threshold in their brains for these “incentives”, and if the stimulus around them is overpowering, no amount of treats or invitations to play will get through to them once they’ve gone past the “Red Zone”. In that case, the only thing you can do right then is to remove Lily from the stimulus, i.e go back into the house, put away the lead and carry on with your usual activities. And try again later, once Lily has calmed down.

What sort of lead do you use for Lily? Have you tried a dog harness? Many small dogs have fragile tracheas, and constant pulling on a lead attached to just a collar around the throat can lead to collapsed tracheas, a serious condition for which there is no cure apart from expensive reconstructive surgery. 

There are dozens of harness designs on the market, for dogs of all sizes. For a small dog like Lily I’d recommend one that’s padded across the chest, to protect her ribcage as well and take the pressure off her throat.

You can also try a Halti or Gentle Leader on Lily. This is a strap that goes across her nose and attaches to her lead. When she pulls, the strap tightens towards you and her head will get pulled towards you too, stopping her from pulling forward. Some dogs are head shy, and putting it on may prove difficult.

Another harness is the Balance Harness, which clips on the front of the dog’s chest instead of at the back. When the dog pulls forward, the lead will pull it to one side, stopping it from going forward.

All these harnesses are not a cure-all but just aids to help you with training your dog to walk nicely and not pull.

Teaching Lily to come to you consistently whenever called i.e Recall, is very important, and will help you when out walking with her. We will cover Recall later.

(Photo from Google Images. Photographer: Daniel Nicolucci)

My Little Adventure

​I was on the No.27 bus at 3pm heading back from the Refuge to Perth CBD today (Wednesday 27th July 2016). This guy got on at Kings’ Park Road, and a chocolate brown dog got on too – it was off-lead. The bus driver said dogs weren’t allowed on public transport. The guy said “It’s not my dog. I’ve never seen it before”. I went over and asked if anyone could see any tags on it. A lady said “Yes, there’s a name disc with a phone number on it”. I said “I walk dogs at the Dogs’ Refuge Home, I have a lead in my bag. I’ll take the dog off the bus and contact the owner”. It was holding up the bus, you see.

That’s when the guy said, “Ok, it’s my dog. He’s a Service dog. He’s my Seeing Eye dog”. This guy was wearing a high-visibility vest, work clothes and carrying a radio, he certainly was NOT blind! The bus driver said, “It’s not wearing a Guide Dog vest. Sir, dogs are not allowed on the bus”. The guy turned to the dog and shouted “Get out of here!”, and the poor dog turned and ran off the bus. I couldn’t risk that poor dog getting hit by vehicles, getting lost, biting someone, or worse…so I got off the bus and clipped my lead on the dog. 

I then rang the number on the dog’s name disc. True enough, the guy on the bus answered the call. I said “Come off the bus so it can drive on, you’re holding everyone up. I have your dog Ponch on my lead, let’s take him home safely together”. He replied, “I’ve somewhere to go to in the City. YOU take him home for me!” He gave me his address and said to open the gate and leave the dog tied to his verandah. I said I couldn’t just go to his house with his dog, that would be trespassing and the cops could arrest me. He replied “I’m not getting off this bus. Just let my dog go. He knows the way home.”

Anyway, the bus driver then said he had to go, and so the bus drove off, with the dog’s owner still on it. I tried calling the Refuge, but the number was engaged. So I called the Subiaco Rangers instead. About 30 minutes later, Andrew the Ranger turned up. I explained the whole incident to Andrew, and he took Ponch the dog and put him in his van. The Refuge probably has Ponch now. 

I wonder what explanation Ponch’s owner had for the Ranger when he got a phone call from them. 

I did some research and found this info (attached) – the owner faces a fine of up to $800, for his negligence and irresponsibility.

What a day!

The “Moonshadow” Dog Harness

Well, after much deliberation and consideration, I have decided to officially call my “Deconstructed Dog Harness” the “Moonshadow Dog Harness”. I know, I know, not very original 😄. But it’s something I thought up and made up myself, so I might as well put my own stamp on it.

I took my original prototype “Deconstructed Harness” (back when it was called that) to the Refuge last week, and had a friend,Greg, test it out on one of the dogs, Laddy. We first took Laddy out on a Sporn Harness, got him to a secure yard, then swapped harnesses and Greg got to test it out. After it was evident that Laddy could not wriggle out of the harness, and that my seams and the fabric and webbing were strong enough to withstand the strain, Greg took Laddy out for a bushwalk.

Well, we got a big Thumbs Up from Greg. He suggested shortening the front Connector strap, as it was a wee bit too long. Thanks for the feedback, Greg! He said it worked on Laddy really well, as Laddy was quite a “pully” dog and reactive to other dogs. With the “Deconstructed Harness” on, Greg was able to control Laddy without any trouble.

Here’s Laddy and Greg in the yard.

Below is a closer view of Laddy wearing the Harness, you can see how extraeneously long the connector part is:

Laddy looks like a fat, rotund version of my own Scruffy dog 😄. So cute!!

Anyway, I told Greg he could be my test-pilot for the new, improved version of the harness. He said he couldn’t wait to try it out on his own dog, Poppy.

So, back to the drawing board, and 5 hours (and 2 broken needles) later, ta da! 

Pretty in pink! This is the whole shebang: my 4-in-1 convertible lead, the collar with the extra ring, and the harness. 

The Convertible Lead. 

The components of the Harness and Collar.

I present to you the “Moonshadow Dog Harness”. Or, more accurately, the “Moonshadow Front-Leading No-Pull Dog Harness With Collar”.😄

And who better to try it out on than my own faithful Muse, Shelagh. 

Here the lead has been shortened to a standard 4 foot length. (The grey collar around Shelagh’s neck has her registration tag on it, I should’ve taken it off before taking this photo). Isn’t that pink just shocking?!  😄😄😄 Cerise, I think the colour’s called.

Do you know how hard it is to source proper snaphook clips? These ones from China via eBay were tiny and came with rings to make them the 25mm size I needed. Not really ideal, but the big ones would have cost much, much more and I was also concerned about the extra weight on the dog’s body.

Basically, the “Moonshadow Harness” has a Girdle piece which goes round the dog’s body, behind its front legs; a small Top Connector that clips the Girdle to the Collar, and a Front Connector which connects the Girdle to the Collar between the dog’s front legs. 

The Front Connector also has a D-ring at the end, which slips through the Collar’s O-ring. The dog’s lead then clips to the D-ring. When the dog pulls ahead during a walk, the lead pulls the Front Connector, which in turn tugs on the Girdle round the dog’s chest, checking it gently. 

Here you can see how the Front Connector’s D-ring goes through the Collar and is attached to the Lead.

Shelagh can’t believe her eyes. The “Moonshadow Harness” Mach 2 matches the colour of her ball and its flinger!

Side view showing pretty much how the entire contraption is set up. Ok, we remembered to remove her grey collar this time. 

And we’re off to the park to test this out! I like this better than the Sporn or Balance Harness, that you can buy from pet shops (for between $35-45, depending on size). It doesn’t go under and round the dog’s armpits, so there’s no chafing from pulling. There’s also no strap going across the dog’s chest, which, if pulled from the back, may encourage the dog’s Opposition Reflex to pull forward. The Collar is basically a standard side-release clip collar with an extra ring for attachment, so it can be used as the dog’s normal everyday collar. 

Must.Have.A.Sniff! It’s funny how long the Front Connector strap appears to be, even after being shortened by 3 inches. This is such a pretty colour on Shelagh, don’t you agree?

Non-Conformist Quotes 

Curated from Pinterest, while researching my previous post topic on schools, society and sheeple. 

If you get it, you get it. If you don’t, don’t worry about it 😉.


Jack currently goes to one of the so-called “affordable” private schools, where I believed he would get a better standard of education and be encouraged to learn to think, and express himself, rather than to learn by rote and comform to the whims of society. We are not rich, we struggle to pay the fees, but I thought Jack at least deserved the oportunity to get a good education and with it good prospects in the workplace.

I guess I was wrong about that school. It has reneged on all 3 of its promises, namely:

1) to accelerate Year 7s into Year 8 a term early, so that by Year 12 the students will be able to reap the benefit of having an extra 3 months to prepare for their final exams;

2) that the school has a strict “No Bullying” policy, with strict expulsion rules for any student caught bullying. Jack has been the subject of bullying at that school since Year 7. He is now in Year 8, and not one of the bullies has been suspended or expelled;

3) streaming would happen after the Year 7 NAPLAN exams. This has not happened.

The school also has in its employment some of the most narrow-minded people, who dare call themselves “teachers”. One of these is very young, in her mid-to late 20s, and gives teachers a bad name. She hasn’t a clue how to enrich her students’ minds. She only knows perhaps what she herself was taught, and that is not much, I’m afraid.

Schools are supposed to be where young people are free to explore, question and therefore learn about the world. But instead, what I see happening only too often is that students are brainwashed into learning by rote, have drilled into them what Society says they should know, be discouraged to ask questions that may break with convention, and be trained instead to become mere robotic drones to replace their older robotic drone counterparts i.e their parents’ generation. Any active “Thought” is quashed or derided. We must all colour within the lines, and only use the colours we are given. 

Am I right, or am I right?

I’m a non-conformist, and proud of it. There is nothing to be ashamed of, by being the black sheep of the flock. No, scrap that idea – I am NOT a sheep, not even the proverbial black one. I am the Wolf in sheep’s clothing. As little children we’ve been taught to “Beware the Wolf in sheep’s clothing”. However, the older I get, the more I believe that the Wolf wears sheep’s clothing NOT so it can attack and devour the sheep without being discovered. But because it’s Camouflage. It’s the Wolf’s way of blending in and passing off as a normal sheep, when in actual fact it is much, much more than a sheep. 

I have great respect for these human Wolves, who have to live among these Sheeple. They are the game changers, the great thinkers, the movers and shakers. They are the ones who dare question “The way things have always been” and”tradition”. They dare oppose the status quo, the very tenets that the majority of Sheeple follow blindly. They are the ones who dare declare that the Emperor is butt-naked, while everyone else is busy licking boots.

Naturally, being such a Wolf isn’t ever going to be the popular option. First, you need to Wake Up and realise that the Life you thought you had all mapped out is actually what Society has decided should be the path you take. My own father dearly wanted me to become a doctor, like my brother. Damn, he’s soooo disappointed in how I turned out! 😄

But anyway, I wanted to talk about Jack’s school today. Last year, he had an English assignment on “Sustainable Living” and chose to do a presentation on the benefits of growing Hemp instead of trees. His English teacher, she who must not be named (and shamed), pooh-poohed and belittled his idea, saying “You can’t talk about Hemp, it’s illegal, and besides, everyone will laugh at you”. I kid you not, those were her exact words.

This year, that same teacher is teaching RAVE (religious ed). And she set a Holiday Assignment for her Year 8s, whereby the students have to volunteer at a charity and write up about it. What’s wrong with that?

Well, several things.

1) it’s the School Holidays. Many families take the opportunity to go abroad for their holidays. Parents have worked hard and saved up to pay for this family holiday, and have anticipated it for months… and instead some trumped up wannabe “teacher” expects them to waste their precious time approaching charities to ask if their child could volunteer for a few hours there? How about respecting the students’ right to a break from doing anything school related during the “school holidays”?

2) charities have set procedures and regulations for taking on volunteers. You can’t simply fetch up, put on an apron, roll up your sleeves and get to work. There are Occupational Health & Safety issues, and there’s also the small matter of Insurance. There might also be a waiting list or period.

3) there’s a minimum age restriction for most, if not all charities, for taking on volunteers. It’s usually 16 or even 18 years of age. Any minors will have to be accompanied and supervised by their own parents. Otherwise, the alternative would be for the school to communicate with the charity and arrange for its students to participate in a day’s worth of volunteering. Certainly Year 8s, who are merely 13 or 14, would not be able to simply volunteer. 

4) this teacher only gave hard copies of the Assignment, printed on 3 sides of A4 paper, to 5 out of her 16 students in the class. How she “forgot” about the rest, we will never know. But the fact is – those 5 privileged students have had 3 whole extra weeks to prepare for this Assignment, whereas the other 11 were only handed the papers last Friday, with the Assignment due in 2 weeks’ time. How is this fair for All students?

I’m writing all this down because I intend to write a strongly worded formal letter of complaint to the School’s Principal. In my experience, rather than deal with the issue at hand, such establishments will close ranks and instead make a scapegoat out of the person who dare complain or go against them. 

That doesn’t bother me one jot. I’d rather Jack goes to a school that’s less prestigious, (and less obsessed about their uniform attire standards!), but that allows their students more freedom of thought and expression. A school where Thinking is actually allowed, and encouraged. I’m not expecting Jack’s school to change its outlook or principles, but I will have it on record that a parent did object to the way they’re “educating” tomorrow’s leaders. 

This graphic below (that Jack himself showed to me on Google) expresses exactly what is wrong with today’s schools. 

Jack is my little Wolf in the making. And I’m very proud of him. 

Poppie the Maltese

I had the pleasure of taking little Maltese terrier Poppie out for a walk at the Refuge. All the other dogs had been walked already apart from Poppie, I didn’t understand why, as she’s such a delightful dog. Not the smoochiest or touchy-feely of dogs, and not one for doing tricks for treats, but still an adorable pooch.

As is my wont, I first took Poppie for a walk round the perimeter of the Refuge. I let her indulge in a sniff-fest, as she seemed keen to stop at every tree and shrub to find out the latest pee-mail gossip. Poppie showed herself to be most unladylike in her penchant for cocking a leg for a little wee, just like a male dog.

After doing a leisurely ramble round the Refuge, I brought Poppie to the Snuffle Yard and let her off the leash. She really enjoyed her time off-leash, running from one corner to another, happily sniffing away. And cocking a leg. From time to time she came over to where I sat, just to check in. She wasn’t at all interested in any treats or games, she just wanted to sniff and snuffle away to her heart’s content.

Poppie is so cute that I’ve no doubt she’ll be adopted before the weekend is over.

Lagenlook with Boots

Marrying two of my favourite things – Lagenlook and Boots. Lagenlook looks good on its own, even without footwear of any kind, but teamed with boots and you’ve got that extra oomph! factor, and an edginess.

So here are just a few of my Pinterest-curated images of Lagenlook with Boots. Enjoy!