Posts Tagged bull terriers

Cats and Dogs

My cat often comes out with us on local walks. Does anyone else’s do this? We get some funny looks and the occasional person tells us their cat used to do the same. What upsets me though is when children tease my cat; one little girl was hissing at him last week and my daughter told me about two boys who exclaimed they couldn’t coax him into their garden now. Why would they want to do that? Another young boy tried chasing him by riding up to my cat on his bike then screaming at him! WTF! You hear people say things loud enough for you to hear but they rarely say it to your face. Rude.

Admittedly my cat (his name is Lego) can be annoying at times…he demands his bowl be topped up with food even though there is only a tiny bit of the bowl visible underneath the cat food already in it. He will demand to be let out of the front door even though the back door is wide open. He pounces on you as you walk up and down the stairs or if you ignore him while he is making one of his numerous demands. Even my dogs, Bull Terriers of friendly sweet disposition are under his thumb. if said kitty has been in a fight, the stress it creates causes him to bat one of them if they dare to pass by him. If he is drinking from the water bowl they will form an orderly queue behind him. If he is sat by a doorway they will wait for him to move first. Yet you often hear people say cats and dogs are natural enemies. I’m confident my dogs would not hurt the cat. But I’m less than confident about the people in my neighbourhood.

Lego has an excellent recall. I love it when we are a little ahead of him and he yowls that we are too far away so I turn and call him, he runs toward us then right between the dogs while they are on lead. They don’t fuss or get excited. Sometimes if off lead one of them will be really playful and try to invite him to play with them. He doesn’t.

I’d love to hear if anyone else has such a cat!


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Quadrants: the cornerstone to training

My time with the Academy for Dog Trainers may be have only been a short while thus far, but man have I learned so much already! Including that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did and that my brain is quite good at thinking in quadrants; something I never even thought possible! The syllabus is taught by breaking down everything into easy to assimilate bite sized chunks, therefore learning is easier and highly effective. Awesome stuff and Jean is a fantastic critical thinker and mentor, nothing is too much trouble for her.

So, what do I mean by quadrants? They are the cornerstone to training it would seem, something I already did know on a certain level but the training the Academy gives you makes you see everything in quadrants! Honestly, I am taking examples from everything including my own behaviour in everyday life. It all made my head explode at first as I’m so used to feeling bad about using the words punishment and negative when applied to behaviour but in order to use Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) you have to think in quadrants! They are how you decide if a behaviour has increased or decreased and how.

Reinforcement & Punishment. Negative and Positive.

R+  R-

P+  P-

Positive and Negative Reinforcement increase a behaviour. Positive and negative Punishment decrease a behaviour. Simples.

Over the last few years there has been an enormous movement in attitude toward the positive reinforcement part of the quadrant with trainers saying they only teach positive reinforcement methods. I included myself naively in that. The dread evoked from using the words negative and punishment smacked of old school Alpha methods and aversive (force) training. It’s simply not like that though. If you withhold a treat from a pet because he didn’t sit for you on cue that’s not positive, that is negative. It’s not wrong, it’s part of the quadrant and that is science based fact!

The way to deal with getting your head around using the words negative and punishment in training is to think of them as the mathematical symbols, plus and minus. Plus means add and minus means take away, right? So if you increase a behaviour it’s on the plus side of the quadrant and if you decrease a behaviour it’s on the minus side of the quadrant!

If you decrease a behaviour it’s been punished, if you increase a behaviour it’s been reinforced.

So now to help me decide if a behaviour has increased or decreased I use the quadrants, ask some questions about the behaviour and it’s consequence (the outcome of the behaviour). Thank you Jean Donaldson, the Academy is truly, the Harvard of dog training!

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Product review: Safestix (Say no to sticks!)

With so many play products for pets on the market, ranging from puzzles to tug toys, squeaky to treat dispensers it’s sometimes difficult to choose a great toy for your dog. One product which recently captured my interest was Safestix a dog toy designed with safety in mind. The company director’s, a husband and wife team set up the company after their dog was injured playing with a stick. Knowing that not only do many dogs like playing with sticks but that many owners do not realise the dangers this poses to their dogs, they went about designing and marketing their idea for safe stick for all dogs to play with. Play is an important aspect of a positive relationship with our pets and can be a beneficial exercise, canine friends enjoy playing together too so if playing with sticks is a no no what can you give your dogs to play with instead?

There is a wealth of information out there concerning the injuries dogs have sustained from playing and chasing sticks, many vets advise against this seemingly harmless activity yet when you read and see the evidence you begin to realise that playing with sticks with your dog is potentially an accident waiting to happen. There are some great links on the Safestix website concerning this, have a look. I for one used to allow my dogs in the past to chase and play with sticks, other than the occasional cut gums nothing major happened to them but since becoming involved in the behaviour field I haven’t allowed with my recent canine companions.

A client recommended the Safestix to me after purchasing one for his active collie, sparking my curiosity as the toy itself to me looks rather bizarre. It’s made of durable non toxic rubber, has a twisted ‘stick’ centre and either end is rounded into a bulb. It’s fairly pliable and tough enough to withstand a good chewing. It is currently available in 2 sizes, I bought the bigger size 70cm for my 3 Bull Terriers. Koda and Cassini enjoy a good tug game with each other and I partly chose this toy as they could take hold of either end safely and the toy itself would not rip apart like most tug ropes do (within minutes with those two!). Tallulah is not interested in toys except Kongs and only if they’re stuffed with something to eat.

The Safestix doesn’t splinter like sticks do, the rounded ends stop it from sticking up out of the ground, it floats in water making it a great retrieve toy, it can be tossed for the dogs to chase and is so brightly coloured (orange) it would be difficult to lose! The dogs also seem to like the textured twist design, they spend a while having a good chew on it as well as playing with it.

All in all I find the Safestix a fabulous addition to the toys my dogs enjoy playing with, I’m happy knowing they cannot injure themselves on it and it’s joined the list of products I recommend my clients. The company have excellent customer service and the product arrived quickly and is becoming more widely available through retail agents. Say no to sticks!

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Free stuff: dog and pet training advice, resources

Having teamed up with an artist (Charley from LabraDOODLEZ) recently, I am very pleased to launch my information sheets! These are visual aides designed to help dog and cat owners  learn a bit more about their companions behaviour and body language in an easy and effective way. Combining a small amount of text and colourful illustrations these sheets are handy guides to build into a portfolio you can refer to again and again. They will be available for absolutely free for anyone who wants one and if it helps prevent just one dog bite or one senseless waste of innocent life then I consider that payment enough.

These sheets are downloadable from my websites and  We aim to produce one of these a month.

Preventing bites with children              Pulling on the Lead visual advice

Feline Body Language 101

Canine Body Language 101                      Enjoying Walks on the Lead

BEFORE You Get YourPuppy ebook pdf           AFTER You Get Your Puppy ebook pdf

The illustrator I worked with was a wonderful, talented lady called Charley from she worked on lots of sketches and helped me compose the final posters, thoroughly professional in addition to being amazing with art! We have come up with so many ideas for these sheets and beyond so I am really looking forward to working with Charley in the future. Charley takes commissions for pet portraits and caricatures so please visit her website to see and learn more of her artwork and packages plus her passion for deaf dogs.

I’d also like to thank April (known as @Lilacsky215 on Twitter) for putting me in touch with Charley, April is an upcoming dog-trainer. Thanks April!

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One step at a time: how a little dog made big leaps

We moved into our new home six months ago and is in need of professional help; it needs a lot of refurbishing and one of the things which needs replacing is my flooring. The previous occupants had installed cheap laminate flooring downstairs and tiling on the kitchen floor. These tiles get very slippery when wet and I will be replacing the flooring throughout all the house in time, I’m just useless at DIY so it’s not done yet. So over the summer the dogs have had the luxury of access to the garden and often come running in after a good play in the garden, all full of beans and excitement and sometimes muddy or grassy too! A few times the floors have just been mopped and they have all slipped a bit, Koda more than any of them. Sometimes with the doors open if the front door is open the back doors will slam and a few times this has happened when Koda has been eating. His feeding station is in the kitchen next to the back door.

Just over a week ago I noticed he was slipping and getting stressed and panicky when coming in from outside, I had cleaned the floors again as Tallulah is in season so mopping the floors a couple of times a day is nothing new. However this particular day when it was time for a walk Koda refused to come out into the kitchen then as the day progressed he would not come into the hallway either and stood shaking at the living room doorway for a few moments before returning to his bed. This was distressing for me to see but hoped he would be ok a bit later on. Teatime came and I had to carry Koda into the kitchen where he refused to eat; he kept looking at the back door and looking at me and making stressed noises, his fur became dull and his tail tucked up under his bum. The poor little lad seemed scared of the door which I could only assume had slammed one too many times while he was stood next it. The straw had broken the camels back and my own dog had a behaviour problem.

Not one I can’t fix though! Initially we all tried encouraging and enticing him with his favourite treats and toys, his meals etc but the fear was overriding the desire to eat and please us. Then I tried clicker training him using praise as a reward but still he would move from one rug to another but freak out, panic and begin slipping and skidding along the floor. I tried ignoring it and using over the top praise when he made any attempt to go into the house or into the hallway. Nothing was working. Over the week my ideas crashed and burned. Then I realised he  has a fear, I need to work with him like I would any other fearful dog. So I began initially walking behind him, literally walking him forward one step at a time physically moving his two front legs which brought his body upright a little and speaking in hushed tones. I was attempting to recreate muscle memory for him as he was seizing up his back legs, splaying his back feet up and then would begin shaking meaning his motor coordination was reduced. I then moved onto allowing him to do this on his own but with encouragement and physical help. Then came the magic. I got an ACE wrap which is thick elasticated bandage about 2 foot long and stretchy enough for me to use.

dog behaviour

What I did was simple yet effective. I put the wrap under his belly, holding it above his hips so that it supported his rear end. By keeping this end up it allowed Koda to walk, fully supported by the bandage which had enough give to tighten if I needed to give him further support but loose enough that it seemed he was doing all the work. I walked along slowly telling him ‘one step’ which I had previously conditioned and he could walk forward one step at a time without panicking and slipping plus it had the added bonus of me not actually bending over him as he walked. Within just three times of using the wrap Koda walking back into the house by himself and after the fourth time he was going into the hallway on his own. I was delighted for him! If he continues to improve and remembers to go slowly and one step at a time and not run (I have also taken the added step of removing the water bowl from the living room where I put it during this retraining period and also I removed the kitchen door to prevent it slamming!) then he should be fine long term and prevent a recurrence. What a result! I’ve filmed as much as I can as I can which once I’ve sorted out things with my new web design company will be available for everyone to see on YouTube. I’d love to hear if others have similar experiences!

UPDATE: Nov 2011-

In September I visited Tilley Farm for a client day where TTouch students can practise their skills on real animals. There I met another Bull Terrier admirer, the lovely Sabina from Holland. This is her website BullysCastle Sabina and Christine who acted as her translator gave me some great TTouch advice including changing Koda’s harness which I did as soon as I got home and began practising the TTouches immediately which Koda and my other Bull Terriers have always enjoyed.

Koda continued to improve using the conditioned cue and TTouch ACE wrap and TTouches. I also moved a small rug for the last hurdle as he would into the hallway on his own but would pull short of the kitchen and begin panicking again. The rug was removed 8 days ago and he has been walking into and out of the areas perfectly normally with no visible signs of distress. Go Team Koda!

He has since has surgery to remove a tumour on his elbow, which thankfully and much to my enourmous relief was benign. Thank you to my brilliant vet Martin Brice and his team at Emerson Vets who have once again helped me with one of my dogs with sincerity and professionalism most deserving of their Vet Practice of the Year 2011 Award.

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In tribute to my sweet Jellybean 2005-2011 RIP

A loving tribute to the memory of my sweet baby Jellybean Lollipop (Kennel name-Tallulah Sunrise 2005-2011), my rescue Bull Terrier who passed on 6th April 2011 after losing her brave battle with kidney failure. RIP my angel until we meet again, mummy loves you.

Our journey began 3 years ago after a phone call from Joan Kenway of Bull Terrier Welfare, she asked if I could take on a young female Bull Terrier still in her previous home needing to be re-homed as soon as possible. So Tilly as she was called then joined my family. We renamed her Jellybean Lollipop on the way back from collecting her because she was such a sweetie and I love Jellybean Factory Jellybeans!

Jelly was overweight (which made her a great pillow), had bad teeth, undershot jaw, smelly breath and a dolphin shaped marking in her red fur. Cassini, my other rescue red female, has a stingray shaped one so this was fate! My vet Martin Brice diagnosed a heart murmur which had gone unnoticed at her old vets and he let me devise an exercise and feeding protocol to tone her up and ease the bowel issues she had. Feeding this young girl was no problem she really loved her food but I had to work on her food aggression as well as her other issues.

Jelly had hyper-excitement issues, meaning if she saw a blade of grass (no, not kidding) she would tip from normal to yowling to high pitched incessant barking looking like she was high in seconds. Wow what a chemical rush this girl was getting! It made my mini Bull Terrier Koda stress and he wouldn’t go near her in the fields. It took approx 6 months of sub trigger/threshold work, positive reinforcement and retraining to get her to the point where I could open the car without her exploding out and making open area visits calm and pleasant for all of us. Kodas reactions and her passing out a few times were enough to motivate me early on to sort it out. She had hormone related reactivity issues as well!

Food aggression was quick to sort out, as was the hyper-excitement with toys. Leading a sub threshold life is not easy but I owed it to all of the dogs, us as well as a responsible owner. Jelly was a joy to live with, she was compassionate beyond compare and taught me this in a way no human has. Her playful, sweet, loving attitude gave us joy and helped me cope when I got stressed and my Asberger Syndrome (it’s on the autism spectrum) took over. She would nudge a dog, any dog if was hurt or seemed fearful. She would nudge us humans if we were not happy, she would come and lay down with you if crying and she would give calming signals galore if arguments broke out in the house, she was like me; not happy to be touched unless asked for and didn’t like confrontation. In fact she would nudge on walks, nudge when washing up or cooking. It was as if she was checking up on you, making sure you were ok. It wasn’t attention seeking there was care behind the nudge! I’d look down at her and her ears would prick up, so heart-warming. She was a lover not a fighter but would react to barking if barked at which I worked on with her to reduce it. She was lovely to train and work with; she did accompany me to work and met lots of friends because of it. She was shy, not scared shy but in a I’ll come to you if I want to then go away if that’s alright kind of way. Her recall was fantastic, aways came running back with a wagging tail and ears up, big smile and she walked by my side whenever I asked, kindred spirits.

When I felt she was fit enough to be spayed, I took her in to the vets and asked for pre-op blood screen. That’s when I was told the bad news. She had creatinine elevation and an ultrasound revealed she had congenital kidney dysplasia. An irreversible condition which was treated remedially but she would eventually go into full renal failure. To say I was devastated was an understatement but she was immediately put on medication, I changed her home cooked food to reflect the lower protein and phosphorous levels she needed and began the long road of keeping everything potentially toxic to her out including some of the dog treats I used to buy and chemicals in floor cleaners etc. Hard to maintain but so worth it; she was my angel.

Jelly’s mannerisms were to me so unique. The only dog I ever met which liked her scruff grabbed and rubbed from side to side, was ticklish on her muzzle too. She laughed when you rubbed her belly; she had subtle expressions in her body language and eyes which she altered when communicating with me when she wanted something, whether it was a treat, a walk or toilet. She tranced all sorts of things, doors were a good one. If you said no to her she would give you the big puppy eyes that so many other dogs use with their owners too, they made her look so adorable that it worked every time, those big brown eyes could melt my stony heart! I let her get away with more than the others, she was my baby and I knew she had less time with us every minute was a blessing.

During the last few months she slowed down. I had to teach Koda & Cassini to walk slowly for Jelly. She damaged her Cruciate ligament and I took her to hydrotherapy at Chapel Farm Hydro Centre for treatment, which helped her gain strength back but she was still slow. Happy to go out, she slowly walked by my side. Our last walk was only a short one, but we had a bit of a play and she seemed happy but had lost so much weight and was weaker. The day before we moved I was worried about her, emailed Martin in SA she had no appetite, laboured breathing, lethargy; Signs of kidney failure. Busy packing I fretted over her, tried encouraging her to eat and take her meds but she did gulp down some liver cake. She stabilised a bit and I took her to the surgery first thing before the movers arrived. Stressed and upset we moved house while my Jelly stayed in the vets, I was thankful she was being cared for while so much was going on. We visited her and she looked so pitiful. There was no spark in her eyes. My Jelly was fading away. Leaving her there that night was gutwrenching but with so much to do at the house (it had been left full of junk and 2 years worth of dirt) I had no choice. Upset and distracted I went to visit the next day and Laura Frascarelli the locum vet and all the vet nurses were so good, patient, understanding took great care of vet Jelly but I couldn’t leave her there on her own another night. We agreed I’d take her home for one last night then bring her back to be put to sleep the next day. It was the most precious night. My friend Rebecca, Jelly’s original breeder as fateful luck would have it came to say goodbye, she had always loved Jelly who was the first born of the litter. Jelly had raging thirst but we slept and cuddled together the whole night and woke to birdsong and glorious sunshine. I was crushed beyond belief but could not see my best friend suffer any longer. She died with her head in my arms at 1.20pm 6th April 2011 and was buried in the sunshine where she had been sunbathing that morning. I felt it fitting, she was a sun worshipper. I had wrapped her in her favourite blanket, put in her Kong, some liver cake and water and cried until I slept, exhausted. As she also liked hosepipes and moving water I will save up to install a water feature in memoriam by her grave. The pain of losing her is like nothing I have ever felt before, I have not had an easy life and coping with the emotional turmoil is alien to me, but I believe she and I were meant to meet and teach each other the things we did. Fate. She plays happily at Rainbow Bridge, free from pain until we meet again. Goodbye my baby. I will miss and love you forever.

Thank you to my children, dogs and cat for letting me bring another Bullie baby home, without you I am nothing. Thank you to BTW, thank you to Martin Brice, Laura the locum, Clare, Lisa, Sara, Jody and the team at Emerson Vets, Clair Hucker at Chapel Farm and a special thank you to Rebecca for making Jellybean for me.


Today April 6th marks the 1st anniversary of Jelly’s passing. I still cry for her, my heart dog. I still miss her. I felt her presence in places  she loved we visited for the first time since her dying, I know she she is joyful where she is free from her illness and this brings me comfort. I shall never forget how she never complained about her pain or how she gave love in such an honest way. Rest in peace sweet angel. Never forgotten,always loved.

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