Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dog Christmas, birthday and get well greeting cards

One of the many nice things about being owned by a dog, is the photo opportunities. Having had dogs all my life, and being dogless for 10 years, I decided my new other half had better get used to me having dogs again. I was determined not to have a puppy and go through all the puddles, chewed shoes, teething and sleepless nights that ensue, so off we trotted to the local shelter. Here in this part of France it's SPA Creuse.

This being rural hunting country, many of the dogs are hunting breeds. We looked around them all - some tiny terriers, some hounds built like horses, some with massive problems that perhaps I could cope with but not keep a marriage intact at the same time. I also wanted a male, for some reason I prefer them. We couldn't see one that said "take me home", so in desperation one of the volunteers said "we've got some puppies". OK, I'll just take a look, I thought. So here is Raffles:
Take me home!

How could I resist the waggy tail and licky tongue. He was 4 months old, and his papers say he's a Griffon Korthals though he looks nothing like one, I'm inclined to think there's more Bleu de Gascogne in him (wiki). He certainly has the same markings but his ears are tiny in comparison.

I decided to go for crate training from the start. Some people seem to think it's cruel, but getting a dog used to a crate is a real boon. If you do it right, it's a safe haven for them, and if they have to stay at the vets or be contained on a car journey, they're already used to it - in fact, more often than not, he sleeps in his crate with the door open.

The first few nights, as expected, there was a bit of crying, but I slept on the settee and he soon settled down. House training was super easy - he just doesn't want to go on his own territory. Teething was another matter, it was a whole year before he grew out of play biting.

Training has been a bit hit and miss, a) because I can't devote much time to it, and b) being a scent hound he has an incredibly high prey drive. I doubt if I'll ever be able to let him off lead safely in an area that's not fenced, because he's just off after a deer, a boar, a bird, a leaf, a spider...! So, he'll come when he's called, maybe, if there are no distractions, he can sit, lie down, roll over, give alternate paws and weave in between my legs.
He'll leave a kibble placed on his paw, but just try to get him to give up a dead mouse! He does get a run in the woods in the summer, when he's hot and not so energetic, but he'll still disappear for 20 minutes. One major problem we had with him was him wanting to chase cars - it's a fear thing, he's not very brave. It took me 18 months of feeding a treat and making him sit when a car came past to stop him lunging at it. He's almost cured of it now.

Two years on, we decided it would be nice for him, and he was mature enough, to have a girlfriend (neutered), so we went back to SPA and found Ginny. I think she's a Patterdale terrier, or at least a mix of that breed. I was worried that she might be a bit small for our bull-in-a-china-shop Raffles, but they get on famously, and Ginny usually has the upper hand. She's a real sweetie but with a high prey drive again, so she's either full on or in couch potato mode. Couch potato wins most of the time! She was about 3 when she arrived, and apart from one wee on the floor in the first few days, and pulling like a tank engine on walks, she's been no trouble at all.

We have a very small fenced garden, so they rely on their walks to let off steam. We're lucky enough to have a fenced paddock that we keep for hay, so for most of the year they can chase each other round to their hearts' content, and dig for voles which is their other hobby.

Winter can be a tricky time for keeping dogs occupied. One game we devised that works for us, is
putting some kibble inside a box, sometimes inside a box inside a box. It satisfies the chewing habit, needs a bit of brain power, and is fun for the humans too! It helps if you drink beer. You can also use empty loo rolls folded at the ends. Another 'game' involving food is throwing kibbles - it's a bit more tricky with two dogs as they have to be thrown in opposite directions. Raffles get's his thrown up the stairs while Ginny charges around the kitchen after hers. If the weather is dry, I throw a handful of kibbles onto the lawn - it takes them a little while to find them all in the grass. There are all sorts of variations - if your dog is sensible with plastic, you can put some kibble in a plastic bottle, but be warned, it's extremely noisy on a hard floor! Before Ginny came along, I used to let Raffles outside, then hide treats on various ledges around the house - good for teaching them to look for something.

Back to photos, dogs are characters, each with their own funny little ways, and if there's one thing that Raffles has got in spades, it's pathos, which makes him very suitable for get well and 'sorry' cards. Here is a selection with Raffles and Ginny, including Christmas cards, and some other dogs as well. Photographing dogs romping in the snow can be quite tricky, especially with a black dog on white snow, it took many many photos to get these few!