Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Ladder

Today, Daisy and Cybi had an agility lesson that focused primarily on core work and body awareness. It was a bit of a new one for both of them, but they did both do very well, albeit with some unscheduled entertainment. Both dogs are getting quite good at "offering" behaviours in the absence of specific instructions, so getting a reward for putting one paw on the wobble board quickly advanced to two, then three, then all four (for Daisy anyway - Cybi was not leaving the ground with that fourth paw for any reward! Next time.) Then we had a go at wobble cushions, which Daisy, being quite coordinated, figured out without an issue, and in fact could change position on a biggish cushion without any sign of even noticing that the surface under her feet was wobbly. Cybi was decidedly unconvinced by the whole "moving surface" thing, but could stand on the spot ok.

Then, we had a go at cavaletti. The idea is to teach the dog to think about all four limbs, rather than just let the hind legs follow where the front ones lead, and to begin to use the hindlimb muscles to help power the dog along. I think (not an expert on this) it's similar to the changes asked of a horse before jumping, so that it learns to propel itself along with its back end, rather than being off balance over its front end.

The one at the training centre is a box with poles that can be slotted in depending on the size of the dog and whether it is walking or trotting, but I can't find a picture of that exact thing. Kind of similar to this, only with all the poles in:

We're going to be using cone-cavaletti at home, because they are easier to get hold of:

Daisy tried it first, and high-stepped over each pole like a little Hackney show pony. Didn't touch a single pole.She has pretty good limb awareness, so that wasn't a big surprise. Then Cybi had a go. Poor little chap doesn't understand that he has hindlegs at the best of times, and as far as he's concerned poles are for leaping over. He initially demonstrated that he could clear the entire box from a standing start, which was impressive, but not quite what I'd asked for, so I ended up bribing (I believe the technical term is "luring") him into taking it a bit more steadily and stepping over the poles. It was very hard to keep a straight face, as he first of all followed the treat by walking his front legs out as far as they could go, leaving his hind legs on the spot,  then realising he was at full stretch and he hadn't got the treat yet. Then he tried jumping his back legs up to his fronts, leaving all four limbs crammed into the same small area between the poles. We took it even slower after that, and he at least got the idea that all four legs had to move - but partly because he has no idea where his limbs are and partly because he tries to do everything at a million miles an hour he bounced off most of the poles with most of his feet. No dogs were harmed in the training of this exercise, but I couldn't help but laugh at him, bless him. I think it will be very good for him for us to do lots of work on pole awareness and paying attention to limb placement, and hopefully he will figure it out in time...

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Dog Ease Wound Protection

Last week, the company I work for exhibited at the London Vet Show, a huge exhibition and conference aimed primarily at the veterinary profession. One exhibitor near us was Dog Ease Wound Protection, a new, seamless, single-use body suit and surgical site covering made from bamboo. It's still in the early stages at the moment, in that the design has been completed but it isn't in full manufacture yet, but it got a lot of interest, and I think is going to be extremely useful. I'd have liked it to have been available when Daisy was spayed, as I think she'd have found a non-irritating bodysuit covering up her stitches rather easier than wearing a bucket to stop her biting it.

Sunday, 23 November 2014


This week, I attended the London Vet Show, where I acquired some samples of Dentaflex to give my pair. Dentaflex is being fairly heavily advertised on TV at the moment, and given my two are already developing signs of plaque on their teeth I'm keen to give them anything that will help me keep their teeth in good condition.

The product has two active ingredients, Sodium Tripolyphophate and Zinc Sulphate, bond with the calcium in a dog's mouth and slow down the build up of tartar. In addition, the chew is a slightly abrasive material and shaped so that it will rub against the surface of the teeth while being chewed.
The recommendation is to feed two a week to help with doggy dental care.

Before feeding, I had two concerns: first that one stick is 6.5% of a 10kg dog's recommended weekly calorie allowance, so relatively high in calories for one chew, and the chew contains animal derivatives. While I don't consider this a huge problem in itself, unlike many dog owners, I prefer to have a good idea of what I'm feeding because Cybi is quite an itchy, fretty little creature and some foods just plain don't agree with him - it's easier to make an educated guess on what will work if I know what's in there. But we gave the Dentaflex a go, to see how it worked out.

Cybi liked his, and made short work of it. Daisy sort of pushed hers around on the floor, nibbled the corner of it, chucked it about a bit and then decided she didn't like it. I tried offering it to her again, but she really wasn't keen and just took it off me and rather sadly dropped it on the floor. I felt so bad that I had to give her a rawhide instead - she's got puppy dog eyes well figured out!

So an experiment worth doing but probably one we won't repeat - one dog out of two doesn't like Dentaflex, and the dog that did like it needs a reasonable amount of care with his diet and so ideally wouldn't have unspecified animal derivatives. Back to using a toothbrush it is.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Doggy Headcollars - Which one to pick?

The Halti Headcollar Halti is made by the Company of Animals and was the first headcollar that was commonly seen on dogs. It works in a similar way to a horse's headcollar, with the point of attachment to the lead being under the dog's chin. The idea is that it's easier to turn the dog's head than when the lead is attached to a collar, and so when the dog pulls it can be steered back into position.One concern with the way the halti was initially designed was that with the lead connection under the chin, as the lead went tight and the halter activated, the nose loop could ride up into the dog's eyes. This has been minimised in later designs, but is a product of the way the headcollar is built so can't be eliminated completely.
Pros: easily available, good control, easy to put on
Cons: webbing can be a bit stiff (older types - newer types have got padded straps), nose loop can ride up into eyes. If the dog pulls suddenly out to the end of the lead there is the possible risk of neck damage as its head is pulled around sharply.

The Dogmatic
This is a more complicated version of the Halti, which still has the under chin attachment, but has extra straps to prevent the nose loop riding up.
Pros: good control, available in leather or soft webbing. Won't ride up on nose, and gives a point of control under chin
Cons: needs to be ordered direct from site, so best guess on fit
K9 bridle 
This is intended to work in a similar way to a bitless bridle on a horse. When the dog pulls, there is downward pressure on the bridge of the nose, and pressure behind the head. The attachment point for the lead is behind the animal's head, between the ears.
Pros: no risk of damage to neck as the head is not turned, manufacturer claims that incidences of aggression can be decreased because downward pressure on the nose can break eye contact. The point of attachment is immediately and centrally behind the dog's head so pressure is applied symmetrically to the face. The nose loop runs into a ring rather than a clip, so doesn't need adjusting to lie flat against the neck
Cons: can be fiddly to put on, only available from website so best guess on fit (the K9 bridle does have an adjustment, but no clear instructions on site as to how to get fit completely right)

Similar in mode of action to the K9 bridle, this headcollar also puts pressure on the nose and behind the head. However, it is slightly simpler to use and fastens under the dog's right ear. The collar runs in a figure 8 aorund the dog's muzzle and then around the back of the head, with a plastic clip under the chin holding the two loops of the 8 in the correct orientation. The Gencon can be bought as an integrated head collar and lead - probably best for use with a separate lead attached to the dog's every day collar in case the headcollar slips off.
Pros: easy to put on (similar to halti), available online and through retailers. No risk of damage to the neck.
Cons: Point of attachment is off centre, so pressure applied slightly unevenly to the face and neck.

Gentle Leader
The Gentle Leader is a hybrid of the halti-type and the K9bridle-type of headcollars. It is fitted in a similar way to the halti, with the point of attachment being under the chin, but is effectively two loops, one around the muzzle and one around the back of the head, so that when the lead tightens, pressure is applied both to the muzzle and the head.
Pros: easy to get hold of, easy to put on, uses a combination of steering from under chin and pressure on scruff and nose to reduce pulling. Very cheap in comparison to others (except Halti)
Cons: As with others that fasten under the chin, there is a risk of damage to next if pressure is applied suddenly
Similar in action and structure to the Gencon, this collar fastens behind the dog's head, and is a simple figure 8. It puts pressure on the bridge of the dog's nose and behind the head.
Pros: no risk to the neck, simple mechanism
Cons: slightly fiddly as needs the clip under the chin to lie flat for the collar to work

Monday, 3 November 2014

Dentasticks: minty rawhide!

Dentastix are currently on offer at PetShopBowl, and since I am already a little concerned about the visible build up on both my dogs' teeth I thought I'd take the opportunity to give them something to chew on that's supposed to help. Admittedly, you're supposed to use them every day to get maximal dental care benefit which isn't going to happen, but I'd be fine with replacing other chews that they get so that they'd be chewing on something that might clean their teeth a couple of times a week if it looks like it might be effective.

Opening the pack was slightly disconcerting, in that the chews were dark green (not a colour I usually associate with health!), and smelt exactly as you'd expect a mint-flavoured rawhide chew to smell. It's not the best to humans, but it certainly got the dogs' attention.

In fact, I was surprised by how enthusiastic they were about the chews - Cybi will eat anything, but snatched his and didn't move from the spot, while Daisy, who is going through a picky phase, had to think about it for a minute or two but then settled down to eat hers too - and defended it noisily when Cybi tried to nick it.

I'm sure actually brushing their teeth is my best bet, but since they were so well received we will stock up on these while they are on special offer.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Dog Headcollars - why we are trying one out

Cybi is an odd little dog. When we are training in a "formal" environment like Good Citizens class or at obedience he is incredibly switched on, focused and driven to get things right. An absolute pleasure to work with, in other words. Outside of the classroom, not to put too fine a point on it, he's an absolute pain in the butt.

He applies his collie laser focus and then will not be swayed from his course. It's making walking him fairly miserable - I made a big effort to take him out without Daisy to practice walking on the lead, but he just pulls and pulls and won't be distracted from pulling by the bribe of treats, or a toy waved in front of his nose, which instantly blows the theories from training class out of the window because they rely on the dog being willing to work for a reward from the handler.
The only thing that makes him stop pulling is letting go of the lead completely (I assume because it takes away his safety net - he knows he can pull because he knows where I am due to pressure from the lead, and once that's gone he has to pay more attention) but obviously that isn't workable as a long term solution, or even a short term solution on roads, given he's had to be trained out of car chasing and still occasionally tries to indulge if a particularly noisy one passes us.

I have even tried taking literally one step at a time, and stopping each and every time he pulled ahead of me. It took us 40 minutes to get to the end of our street and by the end of it he was agitated, stressed and spinning on the spot with frustration, and I was about ready to rehome him. I'm joking, but only just.

With normal dogs, taking one step and stopping when they pull quickly teaches them that until they come back to their designated place (by my side) they don't get to go on a nice walk, with the extra bonus of being rewarded with treats for walking in position. With Cybi, all that happens is we stop, and he pauses where he is, at the full extent of the lead, facing away from me, and poised to take his next step. And I wait for him to realise that he is out of place, and come back to me, and he waits for me to take another step so we can keep moving forward. And I wait, and he waits, and I wait and he waits, without ever moving position. I can wave a high value treat or a toy in front of him and shout his name til I'm blue in the face, it doesn't get his attention. Even physically guiding him from where he is standing back to the correct position by my side doesn't dilute his focus on being out in front, so when I take my very next step he'll be back out at pulling at the full extent of the lead. Which is how it can take 40 minutes to travel 100 metres. when every step involves stopping, waiting, and then physically adjusting his position from in front of me to next to me.

Anyway, having tried him on a harness, to no effect (except having even less control of his pulling) I'm at my wits' end on how to get him to respond to me when we are out walking on lead, so I'm going to give walking on a headcollar a go. My thinking is that if I can turn his head when he pulls, he will have to be deflected from his chosen path, which gives me the opportunity to get his attention without yelling or pulling on the lead. I'm currently taking a good look at the range that's out there, in an attempt to get the right one for the job. I hadn't realised there were so many options until I needed one!

See the rundown of the options here:

Monday, 27 October 2014

Spooky Pupkins for Halloween!

We were sent a link today by the Guide Dogs, to their Guide Dog Pumpkin Carving templates. They look absolutely BRILLIANT! I wish the mad collies or I had any artistic skills at all - we'd be all over this. Might give it a go anyway, though it won't look like this once we're finished...

See more images and get the templates here.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Sniffity sniffity sniff, or, scent tracking for beginners

A few days ago, Daisy, Cybi and I went for our first tracking lesson with Heather Donnelly, of Tracking Lines. I've been wanting to try tracking training for a while, especially with Daisy, while she's such a "sniffy" little dog, so I was looking forward to our introduction to it - I want eventually to try working trials with my pair while trials seem such a good hybrid of obedience, agility and scent work, but I'm a bit intimidated by the whole sport. It seems like such a small group of people doing it,  there are so few clubs and the dog has to be at such a high standard even to do the basics! My thinking is if I do some sessions that cover the different elements then perhaps I'll have the nerve to take them along to an actual club, and we can see how we get on.

Finding the actual field proved to be the most challenging part of the whole undertaking, as it turned out - I got to the general vicinity without a problem but then took the wrong minor road (there were two to choose from, and the unerring ability to pick the wrong path is a universal in my life - who knows, maybe it's some kind of metaphor?!) But we got there eventually, and got started.

Daisy had eaten her harness a few days earlier. She executed a surgical strike on the clips, leaving the fleece untouched, the the little horror. (Side note: the guys at dog-games-shop deserve an award for their customer service - I emailed them to see if they did repairs: they don't but they sent me replacement clips for nothing) so we had to borrow one from Heather - a beautiful tracking harness made from bridle leather. If tracking was something either of them end up being good at, I'd seriously consider buying one. And then keeping it well out of chewing range.

Teaching the absolute basic track using lots of treats was fairly straightforward for both of them, as both my dogs have quite a lot of confidence in going ahead of me, and enjoy figuring things out for themselves, and so they really quickly got the idea that they could follow a (short, straight) marked track and get lots of lovely treats along the way, as long as they sniffed them out. Even at the very start of their training, it's obvious that Daisy is quite careful and methodical and enjoys actually working her way down the track, where Cybi is motivated to do a job (in this case track) and is rewarded by the praise and treats he gets at the end.

Thanks to Heather's expertise, they learned to do their first corners (apparently tracks that are laid for competition are made of a series of straight legs, linked by 90 degree corners) and also figured that out quickly. Based off our first lesson, it would seem that it's me that is going to be the weak link - I now need to learn about tracking line handling, track setting (including paying attention to wind speed and ground conditions), encouraging the dog at the right moment, knowing when to let them work it out for themselves....fortunately, I have a handout covering the basics, but I'm sure I'm going to be the one screwing it up for a while yet.

Here are the tracks we learned over the course of two hours (the second two also repeated with the corner going the other way):

The dog started from the bottom of the track in each case, and the dotted line marks the "walk in", or where they learn to pick up the scent they're going to be tracking. The triangles are posts with flags on them - first post to indicate the start of the track, and the second to show the end  (or a corner). These later flags will be phased out over time but are there for the moment to give the dog (and me) confidence that they are going in the correct direction.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Doggy ASBOs

As of yesterday (20th October) the law was changed in England and Wales to provide an extra level of support to those dealing with problem dogs. While the new laws seem like a very good idea on paper, I have to admit to a little scepticism about the merits of the changes in practice.

I like that there is a non statutory component to the recommended way of dealing with dogs causing issues in their community (such as "acceptable behaviour contracts") because for any owner who has the dog's welfare at heart there's less of a social and financial burden to bear in being issued with a contract imposing certain conditions, rather than being taken to court. This is likely to increase compliance, rather than have the owner simply give up and have the dog rehomed or put to sleep - and practical application of the ABC by Eastleigh Council and Hampshire Police shows this to be the case. with 15 contracts in place and 15 dogs with improved behaviour that are no longer an inconvenience to their community.

My concern comes (as with any law related to dogs) with that small percentage of owners who have the dog as a tool or status symbol and treat it as disposable, rather than a member of the family. In much the same way that these dogs are unlikely to be microchipped when the law on identification changes, neither are they likely to be taken to a training class, or walked only at specified times.

If the non statutory approach does not work, then problems can be escalated via Community Protection Notices (I'm not a lawyer, but these look similar to an ASBO for people); an Injunction or a Criminal Behaviour Order (primarily where someone is using the dog for intimidation or has trained it to fight) .
The new legislation also allows the creation of Public Space Protection Orders, which prevent or require certain activities in specified areas (e.g no dogs in kids' play areas, dogs must be on leads etc) and are used much as Dog Control Orders were historically.

The down side to yet more dog-behaviour related legislation is it requires more knowledge to ensure that remedial action is taken via the most appropriate path way. For a lot of low-level irritation to the community (an owner persistently allowing a dog to foul, dogs that can escape and stray at will) these approaches create an addition to the local council or local police's arsenal, where previously their options were "do nothing" or "escalate via Dangerous Dogs Act or Dogs Act into the Court system", so in that case the advantage is fairly clear. For other issues (bites, damage) the issue is less clear cut.

That said, hopefully the new rules will decrease the cost and increase the efficiency of dealing with nuisance dogs, and thereby bring the average level of dog behaviour across the country up. One of the problems of being a responsible dog owner, or at least trying to be, is that often we don't get the benefit of the doubt because someone's mind is already made up on dogs due to unpleasant experience in the past. If this could be minimised, interactions between dog people and non dog people could be an awful lot less fraught.

Press release from
Guidance on the administration of the new scheme

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Our first show

Daisy and Cybi have been somewhat on hiatus from training while I've been recovering from surgery, but last Thursday was their first week back in obedience class, and then this weekend was their first show. I debated not going, as I didn't really know what to expect of their behaviour, but then decided that since it was a Companion Show and there were lots of novelty classes as well as obedience, it would be a good day to get them out and about in a busy show environment to see how they got on.

Cybi did both his obedience rounds as training rounds, since we were ineligible for the bottom class as I've won things in the past, and to do the middle class he had to do a retrieve of an article. Currently his retrieve involves going out to fetch something, bringing it halfway back, lying down and plain refusing to budge or, when training from the "hold" first (ie getting him to hold the article first before slowly getting him to pick it up and then bring it back) he will touch the article with his teeth, then let go like it's hot and just stand there looking miserable. Most normal dogs seem to try to do something when they're left in a vacuum, and Daisy figured out the "hold" because when she didn't get a treat for just mouthing the dumbell she experimentally took it out of my hand and then got her reward. But Cybi is a super focused little dog, and is perfectly fine with just waiting....and waiting....and waiting....for his next instruction. Which means somewhere along the line I have to find an interim step to teach between him closing his mouth quickly round the dumbell and then letting go and actually holding the thing.

It's going to be a slow process, but we're in no rush.

Daisy got to do the class with the retrieve (and heel free - I had no idea if she was actually going to even walk next to me, but she was actually very good!) as her lower class. I was very proud of her - she tried ever so hard, and managed to stay switched on for long enough to get through the whole round. It was also the first time she'd ever worked a round without clicker and treats, so I was delighted that she kept her focus (albeit with much more verbal encouragement and claps and noises to keep her attention than normal). And she pulled a beautiful retrieve and recall out of the bag from somewhere, which was great.

The judge commented on what a happy little dog she was, which made my day as well, possibly even more than the eventual outcome...

Yep, third, in her first ever obedience round. It might not be much to people who are working Test C week in, week out, but I'm chuffed to bits.

Her second round was another thing of beauty, but for all the wrong reasons. We ended up going very late in the day, and Daisy was tired and getting silly. Her heelwork was all over the place, apart from one bit that the judge said was lovely. What the judge couldn't see, as she was walking behind me to mark, was that Daisy was hanging onto my sleeve with her teeth. So her back end was perfectly in position, while her front end was pretty much off the ground and swinging on my jacket. I decided not to share that information though...
Unusually, the class had a "learner" sendaway and a "learner " scent, both of which were new to Daisy. The sendaway just involved going to a pot that contained treats, which was close enough to a game we play where I hide treats for her and she runs off to find them that she figured that out very easily. The trainee scent test was another matter. It was ten cloths, all pegged securely to a line so they couldn't be moved, and then one cloth which had the handler's scent on it, which was loose. The judge took this one cloth and placed it somewhere in the line of cloths, and then the dog was sent off to find the right one. It was very impressive how many dogs, having never done scent before, figured out what was expected of them.
Daisy watched the cloth be put in line by the judge, then rocketed off to the nearest cloth and tried to pick it up. But it was securely held in place so she couldn't. So she pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and kept pulling to try and get the first cloth in line, while the spectators, judge, steward, judges in the other ring, show sponsors and random passersby all fell about laughing at her efforts to pick up the damn cloth.

She gave up after a good five minutes of effort (during which time I neither encouraged her nor discouraged her, just left her to figure it out while trying not to laugh too hard at her) and the second she stopped pulling the nearest cloth she obviously scented the correct cloth, trotted over to it, picked it up and brought it back like it wasn't a big deal. So that was a successful end to a fairly entertaining exercise.

I also entered Cybi in the "Most outstanding ears" class and Daisy in the "waggiest tail". Sadly they both spectacularly failed to get placed, but I'll forgive them because they behaved beautifully and it was for charity. So a grand day out was had by all, and with my housemate having been placed in a breed class with her Aussie and winning the "best cross" and being placed in the "best trick" with her beautiful Aussie x collie we had plenty of rosettes to decorate the kitchen.

Monday, 6 October 2014

The problem with fireworks

Neither Daisy nor Cybi have yet had to deal with a proper bonfire night - Cyb because he wasn't born until a fortnight after November 5th last year, and Daisy because she was only 9 weeks old and in foster care in a remote area. Knowing their personalities, I expect Daisy will take it in stride: she might jump a bit at the loud bangs, but in general she deals well with most things that life throws at her, and as long as the people around her are cheerfully unconcerned she is unfazed. Cybi I'm a little more concerned about. He does respond quite negatively to loud and unfamiliar noise, and can be reactive when he's fearful.

As an attempt to minimise the possible impact of fireworks on and around Bonfire night, we've started working on safe spaces and desensitisation training early. Cybi was crate trained when I got him, and has always used his crate as his little hideaway when he's stressed. He's also recently started using an area among the storage boxes under my bed as a secondary place to go when the world gets a bit much, and while it's a nice small space (smaller than his crate) that seems to make him feel secure I've been encouraging him to take his timeouts there. By nature, Cybi is quite prone to sensory overstimulation, poor little chap, and sometimes he gets so worked up and stressed that he doesn't really know what he wants to do. Gently guiding him into his timeout space, which is quiet and dark, just gives him a few minutes to calm down and reset, and then he's completely ok again, and as boisterous and happily outgoing as usual.

For noise desensitisation training, I'm using the excellent Sound Proof Puppy Training App (link is to the Android version; also available on iPhone) which has 26 pre-recorded sounds ranging from a crying baby and barking dog to a train and a helicopter. There's also a space to record your own, but when I thought about it, I couldn't come up with anything that my dogs would be exposed to regularly that wasn't already on there. The sounds start quiet on the recording and get progressively louder, and the volume can also be controlled by the volume on the phone.

At the moment, I am only really using the fireworks sounds regularly, with occasional quiet plays of crying babies, barking dogs and kids. Once Bonfire night is over, we'll do much more on these three, as Cybi particularly immediately focuses intently on the source of the sound whenever he hears them, and usually answers the barking dogs back, no matter how quietly the recording is played.

I started by playing the fireworks sounds really quietly in the background when the pups were being fed, progressing to increasing the volume at dinner time and playing them quietly when we had just got back from a walk and they were tired. By gradually increasing the volume and introducing the sounds at odd times of day we are now at the point where I can play the recorded sound at maximal volume as background to anything else that's going on, and neither dog will react at all. I've always been careful to never react myself, as in the early days when they still acknowledged the noise they were waiting for behavioural cues from me as to how to respond. They never got praise for not reacting and we just treated it as completely normal that there were now firework noises emanating from some part of the house, which has meant over time they have also considered it completely normal that for example the sofa has suddenly started to sound like a Catherine Wheel.

The next step is to hook the phone up to my speakers and slowly ramp the volumes up to the kind of level that the dogs will experience if someone near the house has a Bonfire Night party , while making sure that they both (but particularly Cybi) are clear that they can take themselves off to their safe spot at any time they choose. If the pair of them continue to progress the way they have I'm pretty optimistic that by the time 5th November rolls around they'll take the whole thing in stride.

Daisy failing to react to rockets going off across the room

Post updated to add: a couple of non-UK readers want to know what the big deal is about 5th November anyway. "Remember, remember the 5th of November!"

Friday, 3 October 2014

Sumo vs Kong...the clash of the dog toy titans!

I recently temporarily mislaid* one of the terrible twosome's red Kong toys, and while giving two dogs one Kong and expecting them to share is a recipe for disaster, I wanted to acquire another one to keep them amused for a few hours while I was on a series of conference calls. Minor disaster struck when it turned out the local pet shop had run out, so in an attempt to find something similar we ended up with a Ruff N Tuff "Sumo" (like this one listed on Amazon - Ruff N Tuff Sumo Large Treat Dispenser, though doesn't seem to be in stock at the moment. It's also not over a foot tall, despite the description's claims. It's just about the same size as a "large" Kong)

First impressions were that the Sumo is not a great substitute for a Kong - it's much less flexible (so less "chewwy"), and the hole in the base of the toy is much larger, so you need to be more creative in terms of what goes into the toy to make it challenging for the dog to get out. My smaller dog (Daisy) initially lost interest very quickly, as her snout was little enough to be able to shove part of her face into the hole and easily extract the treats within, and even the big dog figured out that just grabbing and shaking meant lots of treats everywhere

However, once I'd thought about it a bit, and put some longer chew strips folded inside the toy so the treats were wedged into place the sumo really came into its own. The pups threw that thing around the place like it was alive - they absolutely loved it! And the more vigorously they chased it, the more strangely it bounced and the more excited they got about chasing it about.

Cybi waiting for the sumo to start flying around the room, after a pause to refill it

So a worthwhile purchase, albeit a dismal failure for the original purpose, which was to keep them quiet while I was working. In fact, things got so excited that while on one particular skype call the guy on the other end wanted to know if I needed to "go break it up". Fortunately he is also a dog lover and has big dogs, so was pretty familiar with large, playful chaos, but still...embarrassing while trying to appear professional!

*it wasn't me, but I don't know who it was that caused it to end up inside my welly boot

Sunday, 28 September 2014


As my nod to the fact that it's World Rabies Day today  (the 28th September), I'm taking a look at the changes to pet travel legislation that comes in at the end of this year.

There's a very good overview of the current situation here, care of The Animal Welfare Blog but, in brief, Rabies-susceptible animals are prevented from entering the UK unless they have an import license, or are exempt from needing a licence because they are being moved under the Non-Commercial Movement of Pets Order 2011, which mainly covers animals travelling under the EU Pet Travel Rules.

As of 29th December 2014, the Pet Travel rules are being slightly updated to strengthen enforcement of compliance with the rules and to harmonise the rules across EU countries. There will be a new style of passport with more detail in it, but if the animal already has a passport it doesn't need to get a new one (unless all the treatment spaces in it get filled in). The new passport needs the vet to fill out their details on the passport, and include their contact details when certifying vaccinations and treatments.

The other changes are:

All countries in the EU are now required to carry out checks on pet movement. As such, it's likely there will be more checking of passports at other borders, and the animal must be fully compliant with the terms of the travel rules before leaving the UK. This means that the Rabies vaccinations must be carried out 22 day before the travel date (vaccination date is day 0, and then there needs to be 21 days between vaccination and travel)

A minimum age for travel - under the old rules, the puppy or kitten had to be 12 weeks before the vaccination was given, because there are no vaccinations available for animals under that age. However, individual countries could allow in unvaccinated animals under that age that were travelling with their mother or had never left their place of birth and so couldn't have been exposed to Rabies. Whether to keep this option is now under discussion, primarily because it could only apply from one Rabies-free EU state to another, and definitions of "Rabies-free" vary.

Transporting of more than five animals now needs to take place from a registered place, using an authorised transporter and with their movement logged on the TRACES system (the EU import and animal movement tracking system). However (as before) this is not required if the animals are travelling to shows though owners will now need to carry evidence of the need for the exemption (details of the show and of their entry) and may be asked to sign a declaration that the animals are eligible to make use of this exemption.[NB as of August 2014 the exact nature that this declaration will take is still being finalised]

If the animal travels separately from the owner (eg by freight) pet and owners now need to travel no more than five days apart - at the moment there is no time constraint

Finally, the definition of animals allowed to travel under the Pet Travel Rules has been updated to make it specifically the domestic dog (Canis lupis familiaris), domestic cat (Felis silvestris catus) and domestic ferret (Mustela putorius furo). This is to prevent wild animals being moved under rules designed for pet transport. In practice, this will only affect owners of hybrid animals such as wolfdogs, or owners of certain cat breeds such as the Bengal (Felis lybica) or Savannah (Felis catus x Leptailurus serval)

More detail on the changes is available from DEFRA for pet owners, and for vets from the BVA.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Wet Nose Day! 26th Sept 2014

Wetnose Animal Aid was founded back in 2000 to provide support and assistance to smaller rescues that are buckling under the pressure of vet and food bills as more animals need rescue places and there is less cash available to go round. They don't have any animals directly in care themselves, but instead, raise money which can be passed to those rescues in need to help them care for sick and vulnerable animals both nationally and internationally.

Modelled on the human "red nose day", it's "Wet Nose Day" tomorrow and just as with the human variety, you can get black noses to show your support on the day. I decided Daisy and Cybi's noses were wet enough - especially Cybi who has a knack of sneaking up and plonking his wet nose on my leg or in my hand (thanks, bud!) - but I have acquired a couple for myself. I'm sure I shall model them in due course.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Watching your dog work

While I was hobbling around on crutches, my dogs went off to an agility foundations training camp without me. Or at least, they were worked by one of the instructors, and I sat in a lawn chair with my feet up.
It's a fascinating experience, being able to watch your own dogs work, especially when I was watching someone who is extremely experienced coax exercises out of a dog they don't know. In fact, it was pretty difficult to tear my attention away from what my dog was up to for long enough to watch how they were being worked to try to pick up positioning and cueing tips.

What was interesting was that Daisy worked far, far better for the female instructor. She was polite when worked by the male instructor, and did as she was told, but it was a noticeably more restrained, and less engaged experience with far less enthusiasm. Cybi, on the other hand, was completely the opposite. He seemed to respond better to a more assertive handling style, and got a bit silly if not being given very precise, firm instructions with few extra comments. I tend to default to working Cybi the way I work Daisy (very light commands, lots of happiness, occasional stops mid exercise for a "well-done" cuddle...) and it looks like I might be doing him a disservice by not working to his learning strengths.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Kids and Dogs

When I got Daisy at 14 weeks I had lots of plans for puppy socialising that involved taking her to meet lots of people, going for walks on busy streets so she could learn what buses were, making sure she met lots of older dogs and so on. One area that I did not think specifically about was making sure she met kids - I don't have children myself, and so don't really interact with them very much. She met plenty of tweens and older, not least because random passers by wanted to play with the puppy but wasn't really exposed to anyone under the age of about 12. Fortunately, it turned out ok, and the very first time she did meet a five year old, she instantly identified a playmate and the pair of them ran around like idiots under the watchful eye of the child's mother and me. Later on, she met my friend's toddler, again under very close supervision, and seemed to know instinctively to be very quiet and calm around him (though she did give him lots of kisses, which he seemed remarkably nonplussed by).

Cybi is a different matter. He came to me at 7 months old, by which time he was already a decent size. He's pretty boisterous, and not jumping up is still a work in progress - and he was born in a very quiet and rural area (he's a failed sheepdog). I can only assume he had never met children before he arrived with me, but we live near a school and there have been a couple of occasions now where kids walking home have invaded his personal space while we've been out. We're working on it, as obviously it isn't a good thing that he feels threatened by young children (and he's so silly that if he realised they were fun to be around he could have an ace time playing with them) but I've been a little bit surprised by the attitudes of both parents and older kids (which I assume comes from the parents) around dogs they don't know. Maybe it's the default assumption that all dogs are friendly, but there have been times when I have actually had to put myself in the way, and explain to a parent that their child should not continue to approach my dog while he is retreating behind my legs and even starting to growl. Most of them have been ok with it, if a little surprised (and I always feel very rude saying "no, I'm sorry your child can't stroke my dog") but the odd one has suggested that it's in some way my fault that I need to fend off their small child because my dog isn't totally kid safe. And it's always the ones who come rushing in arms outstretched and looming over the dog, generally while making some kind of a loud noise, that have the parents who take it personally that I'd prefer my dog stayed away from their child! Sigh.

Anyway, the RSPCA has recently started an education campaign aimed at parents, to try to decrease the risk to children. It's not quite the same as my situation, in that it's primarily aimed at people who have both kids and dogs, but I can't help but feel that if it was circulated widely it might help my cause with Cybi while I continue to work on him.

RSPCA dogs and children infographic
Dogs and children - an infographic created by the RSPCA

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

All the things for all the one place!

All photos by PATS
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the PATS trade show this weekend as part of my day job. I generally work more on veterinary products and services, so to be able to get a look at the advances and innovations in the pet world was pretty awesome. Exhibitors ranged from the large distributors down to the little "single-product" manufacturer (seriously, who wouldn't want a Mr. Men poo bag dispenser?)

I also got to listen to a half hour talk by Dr. Roger Mugford, founder of The Company of Animals, and probably one of the reasons I got interested in animal training and welfare in the first place. I was given his book, Dr Mugford's Casebook when I was....not very old (it was around 20 years ago!), and it sparked a lifelong interest in animal behaviour. Dr. Mugford's methods sit very much in the middle of the two styles of dog training that we see on the TV - the "positive only" at one extreme and the "dominance based" at the other, but I have noticed that in some quarters his methods have passed out of favour. My understanding is that he is what I would term a "balanced" trainer, in that he advocates the use of both positive and aversive methods in training, but as he was at pains to stress during his highly entertaining and informative talk, "aversive" is not the same as "punitive" - merely withdrawing attention from a misbehaving dog is sufficiently aversive if they are sensitive to human affection (as most family pets are). I think in the wider pet training community often punitive and aversive have come to mean the same thing, and so almost by definition if you are not a "positive only" trainer you are an advocate of the use of physical punishment. And while I personally would never lay a hand on my dogs, I wouldn't think twice about withdrawing affection or offering a verbal rebuke if my pair were knowingly misbehaving. Which to be fair to them they don't do very often - it's more likely to be insufficiently reinforced training, misunderstanding or my lack of supervision that leads to them metaphorically heading off in the wrong direction.

The thing that utterly blew my mind though was the sheer scope and variety of pet (especially dog) food on display. How anyone ever makes the right decision on what to stock in their stores - or what to buy for their pet - is beyond me. I instantly fall back on the hard work done by the founder of All About Dog Food when I need answers, but that just isn't practical on the PATS scale.

All photos by PATS

Friday, 12 September 2014

The good that men do... oft interred with their bones. But the evil that men do lives on and on
 - Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) sort of paraphrasing Marcus Antonius in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

Last night showed off the best and the worse of our treatment of animals. Manchester Dog's Home, a charity that cares for over 7,000 stray dogs each year burned to the ground, in what's believed to have been an arson attack. As of this morning over 60 dogs have died, having burned to death or due to the after effects. More than 150 were rescued from the flames. many people turned up to volunteer help and support, and to bring blankets and food that individuals wanting to help were eventually asked to stay away because the rescue and firefighting effort needed more space. Collection points for donations of things - food, bedding, crates, bowls, leads - have been set up round the country. Two men scaled the fence and rescued more than 20 dogs. Hundreds of people have volunteered to foster dogs. And a fundraising page put up by the local paper has, at the time of writing, raised more that half a million pounds for the home, with more pouring in.

It's tragic that these dogs were unwanted enough to end up in the rescue system, and that the actions of an individual have deprived them of security and stability again. But it's also a reminder that most people care very deeply about the welfare of animals - something it's all to easy to forget in the face of constant tales of cruelty, ignorance and neglect that we hear about all too often.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Compulsory Microchipping (part 2)

As discussed in Part One of my thoughts on compulsory microchipping, dogs are going to need to be chipped, by law, from 2016 onwards (in England - earlier than that in Scotland and Wales). Arguments in favour of compulsory chipping cover a range of outcomes, from cost savings, to making it easier to document hereditary health issues, to improving the ease and speed of reuniting owners with their lost pets.

By Reinraum  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

But the argument that compulsory microchipping will "improve traceability generally"  is an interesting one. Admittedly, if a higher percentage of the pet population is chipped, then in theory it should be easier to reunite pet with owner. But as we can see from research, even if a microchip is found, in a significant proportion of cases the contact details associated with the chip are incorrect.

American researchers carried out a study at a local shelter to determine the impact of being microchipped on rates of return home. In all, of the microchipped animals arriving at the shelter, 72.7% were able to have their owners contacted. Of the remainder, the majority had incorrect contact details registered, or the owner couldn't be contacted through the given details, with a much smaller proportion having a chip that wasn't registered in any database. This last is less of an issue in the UK, as the action of inserting the chip and the action of registering the animal are both done by the vet at the same time. In the US, the owner is often left to carry out the registration.

By Steffen Heinz (Caronna 14:47, 20 February 2007 (UTC)) (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( o via Wikimedia Commons

On top of this, the issue of traceability is muddied by the fact that many vets don't scan new patients for existing microchips, and rescues are under significant time and financial pressure, sometimes meaning that pets aren't scanned as thoroughly as would be ideal. Couple this with the fact that there is no obligation for the Highways Agency or local council to scan deceased pets on the roads, and that a microchip doesn't act as proof of ownership, and suddenly using a microchip to identify and return your pet becomes a lot less clear cut.

In the UK, there is a campaign called "Vets Get Scanning" to raise awareness of these issues. Initially I was sceptical as to the value, since I (wrongly) assumed that every agency associated with stray animals and animal welfare would scan as a matter of course, but this assumption turned out to be spectacularly incorrect. I've also come across some horror stories of the owner having done everything right but the chip not having been read within the statutory seven days when a straying animal is held and so the animal passing into the rescue network and being rehomed or worse.  It seems like such a small thing, to make it at the very least "best practice" to scan a new dog at the time of registration with a vet, or (if at all possible) if it is unfortunately found deceased.

The Vets Get Scanning group also believe that a microchip should act as proof of ownership. At the moment, it does not, which leads to issues where an animal is passed on to a new owner having entered the rescue network after straying or having been stolen, and the chip shows up as being registered to another person. Data Protection laws prevent the old owner being given any details of where the dog is now, and as a result if they are notified that a dog registered in their name has turned up, the original owner has to resort to legal action to get the name of the new owner released, and potentially go to the small claims court to get the dog back. While I have no problem with the data protection law as it stands, it seems a little silly that there has to be a legal dispute over the ownership of the dog, when the original owner's details are on the chip.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

A beautiful memorial

I was out coaching rowing this morning at a river I'm not that familiar with. I'd normally be clattering up and down on a bike, but while I'm restricted to hopping places I had to be slightly more tactical about standing in the right place to maximise my view of what was going on on the water.

And conveniently, I found an ideally located bench. It was a beautiful morning, just the right amount of chill in the air, clear and quiet.

And while I was sitting there in the quiet, waiting for my rowers to round the bend so I could see them, I noticed the memorial plaque on the bench. 

An incredibly touching idea, to commemorate the miles walked together with a much loved dog

Friday, 5 September 2014

Where's mum? Banning the sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops

Yesterday, the House of Commons debated a ban on the sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops. This has been driven by the campaign group Pup Aid which was founded to highlight the problems of puppy farming in the UK with the ultimate goal of getting it stamped out all together.

Pup Aid recently launched a campaign to heighten awareness among would-be puppy buyers, to remind them always to ask "Where's mum?" before buying a pup. This attempts to address the gap between the fact that over 95% of the population in the UK (according to a Dog's Trust survey) say they would never buy from a puppy farmer, but many thousands of people do just that every year, purely by not knowing that that cute pup in the pet shop, advertised on the internet or sold by a neighbour has actually been separated from its mum and shipped to the point of sale.

As a part of this campaign,Pup Aid created an e-petition, which collected over 110,000 signatures, to ask the Government to ban the sale of puppies and kittens unless the baby animal's mother was present. As the petition got over the 100,000 signatures marker, it got its debate in the House of Commons yesterday. (Details in Hansard - the document of report for all Parliamentary business). The discussion focused particularly on a very specific topic, namely that of the sale of puppies and kittens in pet shops. While this is only one part of the problem, as recognised by Robert Flello, MP (taken from his speech to the Commons):
"We consider ourselves a nation of animal lovers, where a dog is a man’s best friend and a pet cat or dog is part of the family, but every day puppies and kittens are bought from pet shops and garden centres, become ill and all too frequently die as a result of the supply chain from irresponsible breeder to pet shop. I cannot think that a nation of animal lovers would allow this to continue. Are we at risk of becoming a nation of disposable pets?
Those behind today’s campaign want to end the cruel and unnecessary practice of puppy farming. We want to work with the Government to find a solution that improves the welfare of puppies and kittens as well as protecting the animals’ mothers and, importantly, their prospective owners. Tackling the supply side is difficult, but we can tackle the demand side by looking at where the animals are sold [...]. There are three main routes: the internet, the private dealer and retail outlets. In time, we need to address the first two, which will be hard, but there is already strong agreement on tackling the third route—high street premises and pet shops, garden centres and dog supermarkets, such as the one in Salford. Puppies and kittens are housed and sold without their mothers, and the presence of such retail outlets encourages impulsive buying, irresponsible breeding and the commoditisation of animals, as well as too often leaving prospective owners with the burden of the life-threatening health and behavioural problems associated with pet shop puppies. The Government could have an immediate effect, without excessive enforcement costs, by banning the sale of puppies and kittens on high street premises."
it is a part of the problem that could be dealt with quickly and easily (at least in theory - I get that the Government is kind of constrained by what laws have gone before so as not to be creating overlapping or contradictory legislation, but a bit of secondary amendment wouldn't hurt, surely?)

Unfortunately, the debate followed a well trodden path in terms of outcome. There was full agreement that "Something Must Be Done". But only 2% or thereabouts of pet shops are actually licensed to sell dogs and cats on the premises - around 70 across the country. And even for this small number, it turns out that legislation already exists at a local level to prevent the sale of puppies and kittens within local authority regions were it so desired, though it sounded from the statement that the Minister for DEFRA, George Eustice, made that most local authorities were unaware of this. The Minister undertook during the debate that his department would send out a clarifying note to ensure that local authorities knew they could decide on pet shop licence conditions on a case by case basis.

My personal view on this coincides with that of Robert Flello, in that while the legislation in place to determine the licence conditions of particular petshops (the Pet Animals Act 1951) exists, it doesn't cover some of the things that we now recognise as essential to the health of a baby animal, including its emotional welfare. So while DEFRA may be in a position to send out guidance on such matters as socialisation requirements, these are not covered in the Act and therefore aren't enforceable. Neither is the problem of young pups and kittens being taken from their mothers far too early and potentially being transported long distances to be sold - a key part of the puppy farming business model.

However, in the light of the debate, all is not total doom and gloom. While the House wasn't perhaps as decisive as might have been ideal, they did recognise that there is progress to be made, and called upon the Government to begin to take action. Baby steps, but baby steps in the right direction:
"[T]his House has considered the e-petition relating to the sale of young puppies and kittens; notes that puppies produced at large-scale commercial breeding establishments, known as puppy farms, and irresponsibly-bred kittens are separated from their mothers too early and often transported long distances, and as a result often suffer serious life-threatening problems including impaired immune systems, poor socialisation, infectious diseases and shorter life spans; calls on the Government to review existing legislation to ensure that it is consistent with its own guidance that prospective owners should always see the puppy or kitten with its mother, and to ban the sale of puppies and kittens from retail centres such as pet shops, garden centres or puppy supermarkets; further notes the support of the Blue Cross, Dog Rescue Federation, Dogs Advisory Council, Dogs Trust, The Kennel Club, RSPCA and others for such a ban; and further calls on the Government and welfare organisations to work together to raise awareness among the public about choosing a dog responsibly from only ethical breeders or by adoption from legitimate rescue organisations, and to consider further steps to end the cruel practice of irresponsible and unethical breeding of puppies and kittens in the UK."

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Postman's Knock

I have just had an extremely sobering experience.

The postman came today with a parcel that needed signing for. Normally when someone knocks on the door I send the dogs to their crate so that I can deal with the person at the door without having to field two inquisitive collies at the same time, but Cybi is in the teen phase at the moment and pushing his boundaries wherever he can. My front door is at the end of a narrow hallway which is quite cluttered with shoes and things that don't live anywhere else (you mean not everyone keeps their car's parcel shelf in the hallway?) and so opening the door fully while on crutches is a challenge at the best of times. It gets exponentially more complicated when you are also trying to fend off a collie who has decided that now is the right time to ignore what he's been taught AND you're trying to get to and open the door quickly because otherwise your parcel is going to get taken back to the depot.

I managed it, vaguely, and the postman took one look at me, and the oncoming collie and took a large step back. I can't blame him - there were 3300 dog attacks on posties last year and I'd imagine he was keen not to add to that statistic as my dog was blithely ignoring my commands to return to his bed - I know he's just being a pain, but the postman definitely doesn't. So balancing crutches and partially open door to prevent the dog getting out I managed to sign for my parcel. As I opened the door more fully to take said parcel, Cybi had another attempt at find out what was going on, and since I didn't have a hand free I just yelled at him. Fortunately he listened enough to back away from the door and return to the inside of the house.

At which point, I apologised to the postman and uttered the immortal words "He's just being friendly" Cybi and Daisy started playing in the kitchen. And as anyone who has bigger dogs will know, playing generally sounds like someone is being murdered.

"He doesn't SOUND friendly," said the postman.

"Er, no," said I. "They are just playing, though I can see how you might not come to that view if you didn't know them."

Awkward silence.

Anyway, it made me think once again about the recent change to the Dangerous Dogs Act. As of May this year, if your dog is "dangerously out of control" anywhere - whether public or private - you leave yourself at risk of prosecution. As with anything involving criminal prosecution, you have to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt, and a dog being dangerously out of control is a very grey area, but it does mean, more than ever, that responsible dog owners need to have their pets well trained and well behaved both out on walks and in the home. Attending a Good Citizen Dog Scheme class is a great place to start.
It also means (and this was what was really brought home to me this morning) that sometimes you need to think about your pets from a non dog lover's perspective. You know your dogs are just being friendly, but that random person in the park might not.

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Buster Collar

Given Cybi's ability to destroy the regular, veterinary-issued Elizabethan collar within minutes of having it put on, we opted very quickly for an alternative. The Buster Inflatable Collar got the vote (see previous post for why) and I had one rush-shipped to me to replace the increasingly tatty piece of plastic that Cybi had around his neck.

The Buster collar was, on the whole, a success. Cybi was much happier wearing it than he was the larger collar, and it didn't impede his view, to the benefit of my legs, Daisy, the door frames and his ability to get up and down the stairs.

Admittedly, he doesn't look amazingly happy in any of these pics, but you'll have to take my word for it that there was the odd tail wag while wearing this collar. And a lot less crashing and yelping.

The only downside to the Buster Collar I found was that since Cybi is a wiggly, bendy little sheepdog he did on occasion manage to get around the collar to the general vicinity of his stitches (he was castrated, so his stitches were as far away from his teeth as it's possible to get - had they been any further up his body towards his head he wouldn't have managed it). It took an awful lot of effort on his part though, so I got plenty of warning that he was going to try to chew, and so could dissuade him. It did mean he had to have his (heavily reinforced with duct tape) big collar back on when I went to bed, though.

And as a bonus, now he has finished with it, it can just be deflated and put in the dog cupboard until the next time one of them does something ill-advised. Unless I pinch it - while messing about it turned out that this thing can also be pressed into service as a travel pillow. Due to my extreme dislike of selfies I don't have photographic evidence of this, but if you have one that isn't too covered in dog slobber then give it a try - it's surprisingly comfortable and effective! The only thing you need to watch for is blowing it up - the first time I inflated the collar I was seeing stars and watching the ground rush up to meet me simultaneously, due to the effort involved.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Pound Shop Dog Toys

Daisy and Cybi are pretty hard on their toys, especially being as close together in age as they are (only 3 months separates them), and they play together a lot. It's usually noisy, generally boisterous, and often involves a tuggy toy. They love playing tug of war, whether what they are using is appropriate or not.

In an attempt to keep them from finishing off socks, shoes, paperwork, or anything else they can get hold of that looks fun, I try to have toys that they can play with permanently within grabbing range, either in their toybox or (more usually) strewn around the floor. We recently purchased a few from a local pound shop, to see how they stood up to the collie onslaught.

We got them four to go at initially.

Early reviews were that the beige one was the clear favourite for playtime, presumably because they can both grab an end each, and the orange one had to be removed from consideration almost immediately after it was offered to them, due to concerns about major injury to one of the tug of war combatants

(Yes that is one of my dogs wearing the toy while playing tuggy. Plainly even border collies have their less than stellar moments.)

So the beige toy has taken the brunt of the beating over the month that we've had them in the house, and I have to say, I'm pretty impressed. Given that this toy was, quite literally, a pound it's given them hours of enjoyment. I think it's coming up to the end of its life now (while I always supervise play with tuggies, I am particularly careful once they begin to "shed" swallowable pieces of fibre) but it's been worth every penny. Ditto the grey rope and the yellow and pink monstrosity, both of which Cybi loves to "kill" (I'd guess the single knot in the end makes it nice and weighty to throw around). The orange one had lots of potential, while it had both a plastic handle and an attached ball, but the risk of accidental strangulation of dog was too great to my mind, and so it's now adorning the end of my staircase instead.
Here's an overview of a month of the life of a tuggy toy in the mad collie household, taken at approx weekly intervals. We're hard on our toys!