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Shock Collars (Blog 11 #oneaday)

January 25, 2010

shock collar for humans, tshirt, dogsI originally started this article with the sentence ‘I would never use a shock collar on Rory’. However, that breaks one of my rules, to never speak in absolutes, so i’m amending that slightly. I can not see any reason why I would ever use a shock collar on my dog.

People who do use them often say ‘what if’. What if he was likely to bite a stranger and be put down? What if he took off whenever he was let off lead? What if he almost got run over by a car? The simple answer to all of these things is I would not let him get into the situation where he put himself or someone else in danger. Take steps. If your dog continually escapes, get a larger fence. If he continues, then think about not letting him out unsupervised. If this does not work then think about rehoming. It’s harsh, but is it harsher than using an electrical collar. That really is the question.

There are two types of electric collars, containment and training.

The intention of a containment collars is just, as the name suggests, to contain. They usually achieve this through an ‘invisible fence’ system. A ring of wire is placed around the garden area which initiates the collar when the dog comes within a certain distance of the boundary. The more modern containment collars often incorporate a warning system of some kind, a buzzing, beeping or low level vibration to warn the dog when it is getting close to the boundary. If the dog continues to the boundary it will receive a shock. Now I’m not getting into the whys of why people would use this but suffice to say it spreads from those trying to prevent livestock chasing, to those who own escape artists. I have heard of dogs learning how to avoid the shock by either running very quickly across the boundary or jumping the barrier.

Also, interestingly, a study has shown that dogs ‘trained’ by use of the containment collar are likely to attack people on the boundary line, and without giving any warning signals at all. This study, which can be found here, was only based on five subjects but four out of the five showed aggression. This begs the question what would happen if the study was expanded.

Electric collars can also be purchased for training. These give shocks when initiated by the ‘trainer’. A study, which can be found here, split a group of closely related Beagles into three groups. The first were subjected to ‘aversion’ training, which involved the collar administering electric shocks when the dogs were performing a specific unwanted behaviour. The second group were ‘shocked’ when they did not respond to a command. The third group were ‘shocked’ at random periods of time. The first group did not suffer any notable ill effects from the use of the collars. The second and third groups suffered from increased anxiety and nerves.

Arguably this study shows that when used correctly, electric collars can be a useful training aid. However, training of this type requires impeccable timing, something that most of us general public do not have. Do you really want to risk the mental health of your dog on the assumption that you are in that minor percentage who reacts quickly enough? You would also have to have a great knowledge of canine behaviour and body language to be absolutely sure that the dog was associating the shock with the behaviour and not something nearby. A dog shocked with a child in the vicinity may associate the unpleasant shock with the child. I do not need to tell you that this is not good.

Similarly to containment collars, when electric collars are used to ‘train out’ aggression it can actually just lead to severe aggression, without warning of the attack.

Recently, the lovely owner of my local pet shop, Claire suffered abuse at the hands of someone trying to buy a shock collar. Claire does not stock or supply them. This abuse makes me angry. Studies have proven that in the wrong hands these collars can be incredibly damaging to the mental health of dogs and make them dangerous. Weigh in on whichever side of the fence you wish, but do not resort to rudeness and do not try to impress your ideas on others, particularly when they are probably more informed than you.

Cesar Milan has recently come under fire for his use of electric collars in his TV programme, The Dog Whisperer. I have only seen episodes where he has used them when the dog is in danger of harming itself. I want to make it clear that although I would never use Cesar Milan methods at home, and fully endorse positive training as the way forward (Victoria Stilwell, It’s Me Or The Dog style), I do not think that he is the devil. He is using a different type of training, with dogs that no-one else has been able to help. We may not agree with his methods, but look at his past experience, rehabilitating successfully, guard breeds such as Rottweilers on doggy death row. This is worlds away from most dog owner’s issues. I think the real problem is the ‘try it at home’ culture, which IT IS CLEARLY stated at the beginning of each Cesar Milan show you should NOT do.

I will not tell you not to use a shock collar because I am not in the business of preaching, but I will say make your decision based on the facts. And look at your dog, are the unlikely benefits worth the potential cost? They are definitely not for me.

Top image is from THEWHISPERER‘s Zazzle shop. You can buy a ‘I think they need shock collars for people’ t-shirt for £16.45 here.

Review: Orvis Stand-Alone Gate (Blog 10 #oneaday)

January 24, 2010

A few months ago I moved into a shiny new house. And rather than unpacking, my first concern was deciding where Rory was going to be allowed. In my old house he was allowed pretty much everywhere. In this new house I made the decision that he would only be allowed downstairs, and when he was wet he would only be allowed in the hallway (vinyl flooring, rather than carpet). How was I going to achieve this miracle? Well with the brilliance of Orvis Stand-Alone gates of course.

My mum was very generous and bought me two of these gates for my house. I use one at the base of the stairs and one across the door to the lounge when Rory is wet, or uninvited into the lounge area when some of my more fussy, non-doggy guests visit. I have both the small and the large sizes. The small fits nicely at the bottom of the stairs and the large across the lounge door.


This gate is smart. I refused to have a baby gate, as I think they look ugly and temporary. This was a good looking alternative.

It is hard wearing and long lasting. Made of hardwood, the gate is heavy and robust. It is up to everyday, long term use.

Both sizes of the gate are adjustable to exactly fit the space you need.

Although not designed for use at the base of the stairs, it is easy to remove the protrusion on one end of the gate so it will sit around the bottom step (for stairs that are up against a wall on one side). The gate is also build well enough that it will sit securely without one stabilising end piece.

It comes in parts but is very easy to put together. It took me about five minutes to assemble the first gate.

The gate is not very tall (see below) which makes it easy to step over. Brilliant for not tripping over while carrying items, and no fiddly catch to deal with every time you want to move around the house.


The gate is not very tall, even on the large version it is only 20 inches. This could mean that if you have a keen jumper it would not be an effective barrier. Rory is 25 inches to the shoulder and he has never jumped the gate. It seems that the gate provides a psychological barrier that he will not cross. This applies even when there are people on the other side of the gate. I guess this would very much depend on the personality of your dog.

Delivery time varies according to when you order and the stock available. I received the first gate within two weeks, and the second gate came a week or so later.

Although, as discussed above, you can use this gate for the bottom of stairs, it is not designed for this use. If you really feel strongly about having a gate designed for use with stairs maybe you should choose another design on the Orvis website. However, I have had no issues with using it as a stair barrier, and there is definitely no loss of either stability, or look of the piece.

The cost is expensive compared to the baby gate alternative. I believe however that it is worth spending that extra bit of money.

Overall, the Orvis Stand-Alone gate is smart, hard wearing and robust. I would definitely recommend it to others, particularly those aware of making sure the look of their gate fits in with the house decor. With a dog, a stair gate is often a permanent accessory, and so it is important that it fits with the rest of the house (particularly for us house proud people).

You can buy one from the Orvis website. Prices start at £105.


January 20, 2010

I have just launched my new photoblog which you can find here. Two of the photographs are of Rory. You can find 15 week old Rory here and 18 month old Rory here.

Publication of the Bateson Report (Blog 3 #oneaday)

January 14, 2010

This morning the ‘Independent Inquiry into Dog Breeding’ by Patrick Bateson was finally available for reading, and interesting reading it makes. You can read all 69 pages of it here.

Some of the key points are:

More education for those buying dogs on finding a good breeder.

From this point onward all recommendations should be made on a breed by breed basis enforced by scientific evidence gleaned from record keeping in veterinary surgeries. The goal to be a case anonymous database on which action can be based.

It will be made illegal for puppies to be sold without microchips, hopefully leading to indiscriminate breeders being tracked.

The creation of an independent body to develop breeding strategies to tackle inherited disease and extreme confirmation.

Changes to the Dangerous Dog Act so it is not restricted to known dangerous breeds, to tackle the growth of dog breeding for the sole purpose of fighting.

Promoting healthy breeds (and healthy examples of breeds) in the local show ring, all the way up to Crufts.

This is all good.

Problems I can see:

There is already education available for the sensible, informed dog buyer. Anyone who is researching into the idea of buying a dog, with the view to keeping it for it’s lifetime, will have usually done their research. Maybe shock tactics might stop  impulse buys in pet shops still licensed to sell puppies.

Those breeding dogs in puppy farms will microchip with microchips assigned to other breeders/ houses etc. making them hard to trace. The average dog owner will not own a microchip reader to check if their puppy is indeed microchipped. The puppy could be checked at his first visit to the vet.

All in all however, it is definitely a step in the right direction! Anyone who saw Pedigree Dogs Exposed was shocked by what they saw, and we are ready for change. Hopefully these recommendations will be taken on board and we will see change. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. But if even one dog’s suffering is prevented, then we will have achieved something great.

Comments on the Bateson Report:

Dogs Trust and Kennel Club statement
Times Online Article

Less Ironman, More Fudgeman
– Beverley Cuddy, editor of Dogs Today

Dog Biting: Blog Article

January 7, 2010

Interesting article here about why Everyone Loses When Dogs Bite.

Came across via @goldencaesar and @DrMartyBecker

Can You Give Keanu His Forever Home?

January 6, 2010

I just came across this story via the @dogstrust twitter feed and it broke my heart.

Keanu has been in the care of the Dogs Trust for SIX years. He is nervous and needs to be the only dog in the home. You can read more about him here on the Intellidogs Advent Calendar.

Can you give him a home? If you can’t, please pass the message on.

Video below was created by @wildpaw. You can find her website here.

4 Reasons Why Pubs Should Allow Dogs

January 3, 2010

Why should dogs really be allowed in all pubs? And really i’m talking bar areas here, not pub restaurants, because not everyone wants a dribbling boxer hanging all over their food.

Dogs should be allowed in pubs because really such a rule is self policing.

Here are four reasons why:

1) If an owner is brave enough to take their dog to a pub they clearly believe that they will be well behaved, and they will not want to spend every second in the pub policing their pet. Therefore they will be less likely to take a badly behaved one etc, etc.

2) Noone wants to be embarrassed by being thrown out, and the landlord/ lady/ bar wench will be quite within their rights to do so if the dog is misbehaving.

3) Other pub dwellers will not tolerate bad behaviour that disturbs their pub experience, even if the owners/ bar staff are willing to let it slide.

4) Dogs benefit from being well socialised and, as with most things, the more time they spend doing something, the better they will be.

And this is why I fail to understand why well-behaved dogs are not allowed in pubs, particularly now they are not being forced (along with the rest of us) to breathe in cigarette smoke.

Image is Kia, Pub Dog at the Inn on the Green at Ockley nr. Dorking.

Related is this news story from 2008 about a Lakeland Terrier, banned from her local, and then allowed back in if she wore a high visibility vest. No really.

You can see some of my tried and tested dog friendly pubs in the links on the right.

Bo has Online Presence

January 2, 2010

Since the very first moment President Obama was elected there was talk online of a puppy, possibly a Labradoodle, probably a rescue. His daughter Malia suffers from allergies and so the choice needed to be hypoallergenic. (There is actually no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog but that’s a whole other issue.)

In the end the decision was seemingly taken out of their hands by a gift of Bo, a Portuguese Water Dog, by Senator Edward Kennedy, who owned three of these dogs himself. Portuguese Water Dogs do not shed, and have been described as being ‘a lively outgoing character with a mind of it’s own’ by the Portuguese Water Dog Club of Great Britain. Sounds like they didn’t stray too far from the Labradoodle after all, in character at least.

The most interesting thing about Bo is his amazing online presence. Other First Dog’s have had some. President Bush’s dog Barney had his own website and regularly appeared in the ex-President’s official messages. But something about Bo has definitely captured peoples imaginations on a different level.

Bo was officially introduced on The White House blog on the 12th April (with several professional, shiny PR photographs available for you to download), but his life as part of the First Family had already been leaked. Previously called Charlie, a unofficial website had already been created around him with no sign of where the leak had come from. His introduction video on The White House Vimeo channel is the ‘Most Played’ out of the 527 uploaded, seen by over 27 thousand people. It also features in the top ten ‘Most Liked’, alongside videos of the President addressing Congress and one of his most iconic speeches addressing the Muslim world from Cairo. He has even spawned an unofficial blog here, which is both entertaining and informative. (How else would I know that there is a gingerbread White House with a marzipan version of Bo? Or indeed that there was a gingerbread White House at all?)

Bo has brought a softer side to the White House in difficult times. Recession and the ever increasing terrorism threats have led to a shaky world. And I don’t care if he is ‘just a dog’, he is a dog that is providing me with much online amusement. May his ever increasing online presence continue, and maybe, just maybe, we could all do with a little bit of Bo inbetween those important speeches.

Bo’s First Day from White House on Vimeo.

Bella MacPherson’s Modelling Deal

August 30, 2009

Is Elle ‘The Body’ MacPherson’s Labradoodle becoming the face of a good or a bad thing for Labradoodles as a whole?

Now don’t get me wrong, Bella is a lovely looking dog. And if you can receive 10k for signing her up for a modelling contract you might ask why not?

I’ll tell you why not. It is generally accepted that those interested in ‘fashionable’ dog clothing are all about the image and not so much about dogs being dogs. (This is not always a fair assumption. Rory has his fair share of dog coats (mainly practical ones I may add), and I really want a dogside scarf [please don’t mock me]!) BUT Labradoodles are not suitable to be paraded around unless you are going to put in a huge amount of work first (a whole bundle of training, lots of walking on the day, bathing etc etc).

Labradoodles are all about dogs being dogs. What do I mean by this? I mean that they are always in the nearest bog, before you even know there is a bog, and they will without exception drag this bog into the house. They are big, bouncy, and need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation or they will be destructive. Contrary to popular belief, a large number of them shed their coats. That’s right. They shed. All over your carpet, and your sofa, and your clothes. They drink from the ornamental pond in your garden and then bring it in on their beards and dribble it all over your sundress you just ironed and put on. Looking at Bella MacPherson you would never know this. Unfortunately potential owners do not do their research thoroughly enough to discover this before choosing their puppy. Suggesting that Labradoodles are the perfect breed to wear dog clothing down your local high street is laughable at best. It is implied by using Bella in the campaign and although i’m sure Elle means no harm it is reckless.

Unscrupulous breeders are already taking advantage of the Labradoodle craze. More publicity can only lead to more people cashing in. These breeders are selling first and second generation (F1/F2) puppies as guaranteed non-shedding, hypoallergenic, perfect family pets. They are not health testing the parents which is leading to the passing on of hereditary hip and eye problems. They are even selling collie cross and standard poodle puppies AS Labradoodles, leading to families having to give up their beloved pets when they find they aggravate their allergies, or that they are too big and bouncy to control. The Labradoodle Trust rehomed over 40 dogs this year alone and this does not take into consideration those in their kennels and foster care awaiting homes! We still have three and a half months to go!

I love my dog. I just wish people bred and chose dogs like him for the right reasons. I love his enthusiasm and intelligence, as frustrating as it is at times. Maybe this is the opportunity to get someone in the public eye to educate  people as to the ‘real Labradoodles’. I say we get Elle and Bella down for a Labradoodle walk and get the press involved. Lets see how much mud we can get covered in. And I wouldn’t say no to a free dogside coat.

News articles and opinions on Bella’s moment in the spotlight:

Telegraph Article

Beverley Cuddy (editor of Dogs Today)

Can Dog’s Look Guilty?

June 12, 2009

Interesting article from the BBC on research into whether owners can discern a guilty look here.

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