Thursday, 29 May 2014

Crazy collies bouncing off the walls

The weather here has been fairly unspeakable for the last week or so, and so it's been even harder than usual to drag myself out of bed to take Daisy out. Consequently, she has been somewhat underwalked, and I have been wracking my brains to come up with anything to keep her amused while we are stuck inside together - it's amazingly hard to work when your dog is practicing her cornering on the kitchen floor, and experimenting with missing some or all of the stairs on the way up and down during laps of the house.
On the slight plus side, she has developed a fixation with tennis balls, so at least I can keep her somewhat amused by chucking a ball for her at the same time as trying to work.. (This is not without its drawbacks, as I don't really look where I'm throwing it - there have been some near misses on the windows, furnishings, pot plats etc etc).
And I have been working on the creativity for Kong-filling recipes to keep her amused. My ideas mostly involve treats with melted cheese, peanut butter or pate stuffed in as a kind of glue, though there's some pretty impressive Kong-recipe creation out there - see here and here for a few ideas. I might try freezing one next - at the moment it doesn't tend to keep her occupied for that long before she has emptied it, so maybe a solid version might do the trick. She has already destroyed her puppy kong, but the red version seems to be bearing up, so far...
Or, I might just take advantage of the break in the weather to get her out to burn off some of that energy. That's the trouble with crazy collies - they aren't really up for a quiet day inside!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Looking after your dog, with data

In my day job, I work on a software product that is aimed at vets (in case of interest it's a cloud-based practice management system that also uses big data algorithms to make the data meaningful. It's pretty cool - if you're an animal nerd or a data nerd. I'm both, so double win.) One of the most interesting elements of what I'm doing at the moment is based around "dog wearables", the output from them, and how they have a role to play in preventive healthcare for pets. There are several either on the market or close to launch at the moment, each with their own strengths. Thy're the canine equivalent of the jawbone or fitbit and track similar metrics - where the human ones are largely glorified pedometers, with the advanced ones (like the Atlas Wearable) also learning "other" activities, the canine ones are generally:
  • an accelerometer unit which can determine how much your dog is moving and resting (e.g. Fitbark or Whistle)
  • a GPS unit that tells you where the dog is (e.g. Dog Tracker or the new Whistle with inbuilt GPS, to be released in 2015)
  • vital signs monitoring hardware that measures the dog's heart and respiratory rates (e.g. Voyce)
These things are mostly just for interest now, but I genuinely think that at some point in the near future the output from the various types will be available in a format that can be used by vets and owners to monitor the ongoing health of an animal and be an early detector of changes related to illness, injury or age.

I'm about to have a Whistle (current iteration without GPS) shipped over from the States, to see what it makes of Daisy. My long term goal is to try all of these different types of hardware out to see which provides the most useful info in terms of looking after a dog, so watch this space...

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Another pal for Daisy? AKA becoming a crazy dog lady phase II

It didn't work out with Jack, unfortunately. We went to see him several times, and while I thought he was lovely (and by the end he was beginning to interact with me) he just didn't want to know where Daisy was concerned. So while he would have been a great addition purely from the perspective of adding a cracking working dog to the tribe, ultimately I'm looking for a family member first and if the addition wants to engage its brain at some dog sport then so much the better. I've been a little bit wary of looking at any of the many collie rescue sites that I know about, because there are just SO many dogs that need homes, and they're all GORGEOUS. I'd end up hip deep in collies before I knew it - though to be honest the prospect of becoming a crazy dog lady is actually pretty appealing. I already have 8 rabbits (all rescues) so it's not like I'm not used to a house full of animals :o)

But then, one particular dog appeared in my facebook feed from one of the smaller rescues. He is a collie x kelpie and was rehomed as a pup, but recently returned to the rescue for being too boisterous around the kids. Apparently he has taken to herding behaviour and having the odd nip - nothing that's broken the skin, but enough to worry the parents. So he's looking for a new home. The pics of him didn't really do anything for me when he was a baby, but now he's a few months old he has turned into this lovely, gangly, leggy creature, with ears that have a mind of their own. I currently have my fingers very tightly crossed that he and Daisy get on, and he and I get on, and he can come and join us. He's being fostered an awfully long way from us though - about three hours from here in South Wales. It'll be a bit of an undertaking to get down there, but worth the trip to make sure it's worth proceeding with the rescue having to spend time on a home check.

Ever since I was much younger I've been on a mission to own a pure collie/sheepdog.  I still haven't managed it...and if this little guy joins the family I might as well just accept that my role in life is to have weird and wonderful collie crosses instead.

Scamp (this dog) is being fostered by Lily's Border Collie Lifeline. A few of the other groups doing awesome work on rescuing collies (and this is quite aside from the many wonderful groups that take in allcomers, including collies) whose websites I try hard not to look are at: Protecting Preloved Border ColliesValgraysBorder collies needing homes and Border Collie Trust GB.

And that's before you get into the heartbreaking ads that are so common on Gumtree and Preloved where someone is selling a 6-12 month old collie puppy because the landlord has told them they can't have a dog, or because they've realised that if you leave a pup alone all day every day it'll wreck the place, or because it turns out that the advice about not keeping a collie in a flat with no garden was sound...I try very hard to give folk the benefit of the doubt on rehoming, but sometimes it's hard to stay polite about their reasons.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Marmite and Cheese Breadsticks

As mentioned previously, a photo of my pup won the "prettiest puppy" class in an online competition run in aid of Battersea Dog's Home by Beau's Bakery. As a "well done" to her (not that she did anything except look super cute) I also bought a hamper of the Bakery's home-made doggie treats (again, all profit from which go to Battersea).

She sat to have photos taken...for a while...before concluding that this hamper was too good not to sample:

In addition to the hamper, I bought a pack of cheese and marmite sticks. Opened them first when the box arrived, and Daisy and I sampled one each (the treats are all advertised as being taste-tested by humans as well as dogs, so I was only verifying the veracity of that statement...honest!) First impressions: these are FAR too good to waste on little dogs. So she can have some of the other packs, which I'm quite prepared to believe are delicious but don't feel the urge to try (sardines and liver are really not my thing) but I'm confiscating the cheese and marmite ones.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Looking Pretty

Daisy is a smooth-coated girl, so grooming is generally pretty cursory and more to do with getting the mud off than it is sorting out matts and tangles. She does have a few areas of longer hair - she has a fluffy tail and feathery legs, and lovely, soft, longer hair behind her ears but I tend to ignore them for the most part. However, even for a short-coated dog, she is leaving a colossal amount of hair all over my house at the moment, so yesterday was her first introduction to being brushed in an attempt to get the worst of it off the dog and onto the brush, rather than off the dog and onto my carpet, sofa, clothes....

Initial meeting between dog and brush didn't go so well:

but she figured out pretty quickly that grooming is nice, and lay sprawled out on the floor with her eyes closed while I brushed her.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014


In the last two weeks, Daisy has figured out what I'm asking her to do at agility. The change has been quite remarkable - I don't think it's anything I'm doing (possibly my confidence has increased?) but she has suddenly developed the understanding that I'm asking her to work away from me and go over the jumps, rather than run next to me and clear the jumps because they're in her way. This has had a few effects:
  • she has stopped running back to me and jumping up to mouth my arm, which only ever occurs at training and I assumed meant she didn't understand and was getting frustrated;
  • we are starting to get just a little bit of fluidity in sequences, as she has begun to look ahead to the next jump rather than leaping all over me for reassurance and;
  • everything is happening much, MUCH faster. I need to get my sprint fitness up to speed! I think we probably need to begin to think more about distance work as well, so that I'm not the speed limiting factor for her.
Anyway, after last night's session, where she was (mostly) both accurate and quick we have been promoted out of the absolute beginners class. Yeah, go us!!