First groom.. that’s not my dog!

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Separated at birth? – Ivy and Rod Steward

Following the demise of a second pair of my tights at the claws of Ivy, I decided that perhaps it was time for a pedi (for her, not me!). I’m pretty comfortable cutting our cats’ claws, even if they’re not comfortable having it done, but Ivy is a different kettle of fish. Her claws are much thicker and she’s a bit of a wriggler, so I figured this might be one for the professionals.

So I took her down to my local pet store and since they had a first groom puppy package at 50% off, I decided to book her in for a shampoo too, just to get her used to it. The deal included trimming the fur on her paws, an ear clean, shampoo and a fringe trim. I pointed out that I didn’t think she needed her fringe trimming as it wasn’t in her eyes, and left her in the capable hands of the groomer.

One hour later I returned to pick her up. When I first clocked her, I wanted to cry! That was swiftly followed by an uncontrollable desire to laugh. Her fringe and the hair on top of her head had been trimmed.. she now bore a striking resemblance to Rod Stewart! The top was bouffant and a bit spiky (classic Rod) and her ears resembled his signature mullet! WTF!

Don’t get me wrong – I like a bit of Rod (I might have even once had a bit of a crush on him, shhhhh!). But never in a million years had I wanted my beautiful little Ivy Rose to resemble my childhood idol!

But it got worse. I picked her up to whisper some words of comfort in her ear and.. whoooaaaaaa! What is that smell?! She smelled like a tart’s parlour  – pungent cheap perfume wafting from my fur baby – not the delicious post-shampoo smell  I had heard spoken. “Oh yeah, we give them a bit of a spritz once they’re dry” said the groomer. Seriously?!

As she trotted out of the shop, the hair on her head and the rest of her body bobbed and swayed gently, like seaweed underwater – which finally pushed me over the edge of hysterical laughter.

I took my poor baby home to endure the hilarity of the rest of the family, so I supposed the whole experience was not without merit. The next day I took her out in the rain to sort out her ‘do’, but it took a good few days for her to start smelling of Ivy again!

We’d love to hear your dog grooming disasters!

Our family’s top 7 cat characters

Cats have featured heavily in books films and cartoons over the decades in all shapes, sizes and colours. And whether chasing mice, sauntering down the alley or destined for royalty, they remain firm favourites for family films and children’s books. We were discussing our favourite cat characters the other day, so I thought I would fill you in with our top 7. Why 7? Why not?!

Famous Cat Names1. Garfield

I asked sons Dylan and Noah who they thought wasthe most famous cat character and they both gave an emphatic ‘Garfield’! I am guessing this is probably a generational thing, because Garfield wouldn’t be my first guess. Garfield was originally a lazy, cynical orange comic strip cat created by cartoonist Jim Davis, before becoming an animation cartoon cat.

 

tom and jerry2. Tom

In husband Ollie’s opinion, Tom, most famous for his ongoing rivalry with mouse Jerry, is the most famous fictional cat and I am with him on that (though still not my favourite!). I must have watched dozens of episodes of Tom and Jerry in my childhood – an absolute classic that this generation of kids have missed out on.

 

aristocats cats3. Thomas O’Malley

Thomas O’Malley (the ginger one!) is my absolute favourite fictional cat. I loved the Aristocats as a child, in fact it was my first ever LP record and I sang along to it incessantly! My favourite song was Thomas O’Malley, which despite my atrocious memory, I can still sing verbatim!

 

 

4. Cat in the Hat

This Dr. Seuss character has iconic status among our litter of literary cats. His peculiar and oh-so familiar face will be a favourite for children for generations to come. I would read these books over and over as a child and it was with pleasure that I introduced these books to my boys as bedtime reading.

 

 

Screenshot 2019-01-02 at 18.48.54.png5. Top Cat

Another favourite of mine, I would watch episodes of Top Cat back to back and sing along to the opening jingle so eloquently I could have written it myself (well, at least that’s how I remember it!).

 

Famous Cat Names6. Sylvester

A treasured Looney Tunes character, and one of my favourites. I spent many an hour watching Sylvester torment Tweetie Pie and mimicking his spittle splattering lisp when he said “Sufferin’ Succotash!”

 

 

Famous Cat Names

6. Hello Kitty

More of a brand than a character, but Hello Kitty has taken the world by storm for more than 40 years and it doesn’t look like that’s slowing down anytime soon. She features on everything from T-shirts to tableware and her simple features are unmistakeable. Once the sole domain of young girls, she is now deemed ‘cool’ by teenagers and young adults. Now, where’s my Hello Kitty pencil case..?

 

 

Famous Cat Names

7. Cheshire Cat

The Cheshire Cat can be found lurking in the pages of the book Alice and Wonderland. I wouldn’t necessarily describe him as a favourite, but he has certainly stuck in my mind. He kind of gives me the creeps and has done since I was a child. But the shivery good kind of creeps rather than scary creeps!

And there you have it! Below are some more we thought of. I wonder if we have missed some out. We’d love to hear your comments on this – who are your favourite fictional felines? Get involved in the discussion below!

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7 top differences between cats and dogs

Most people would describe themselves as either a ‘dog person’ or a ‘cat person’. I used to be a ‘cat person’, but now,  I’m both! And most people who own a cat or a dog could tell you the real and perceived differences between the species – knowledge often gained from cartoons and lists shared on social media. Well I am here to tell you that most of those ‘perceived’ differences are actually true! So here are is what I have observed to be the most obvious differences between cats and dogs, from my scientific (ahem..) observations of Coco and Sadie (our cats) and Ivy (our dog)!

1. Emotions

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Dogs and cats show their emotions in very different ways. In fact, to be honest, cats don’t show much emotion in an obvious way at all. I know when Sadie and Coco are happy and content by their loud purrs when they come for a cuddle. I can also guess they are happy when they are stretched out blissfully in a sunny patch. But that’s about it. Their inscrutable stares don’t give much away. Dogs are different. Dogs put it all out there! Every morning when I come downstairs, Ivy greets me as if I have been away for a year! She jumps up and down, tail wagging frantically – her enthusiasm makes me feel like a superstar! She rolls over for tummy tickles, scampers after balls and barks with excitement at anything that moves. She even makes little satisfied noises when she’s asleep or when we give her a cuddle. Ivy is pretty much permanently happy, except when we leave the room, when she then lets us know her displeasure by continuous barking.

2. Unconditional love

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Dogs love their humans. Unconditionally. They love you if you are happy. They love you if you are sad. They love you when you are a bit cross with them. They love you when you are asleep. They love you when you are awake. They just LOVE you SO much! Ivy loves me so much she even growled at my husband this morning when he tried to kiss me goodbye! Cats? Well, they do show their love, but they also show their displeasure. And it doesn’t take much. If they are on your lap and you so much as sneeze.. whoosh! They are gone! They love you when you are doing exactly what they want to you to do and the way they want you to do it. Otherwise, they are having none of it! Sadie will ‘accept’ my attentions and even enjoy it, but one wrong move, one stroke of her fur in the wrong direction.. game over!

3. Personal hygiene

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Ivy loves mud. She also loves rubbish – discarded wrappers, half a sandwich, an orange peel, a squashed banana.. but most of all she loves mud. She will dig holes and then dash through soggy muddy puddles and rub her whole face in it just for good measure and to ensure maximum coverage. If she had her choice, life would be one great big mud bath! And when she is done, she feels no need to clean off the mud. One of her favourite pastimes is doing the pre-wash in our dishwasher. Open the door and she’s in, licking the plates and saucepans, cups and saucers, knives and forks. On New Year’s Eve we had sticky toffee pudding. It has taken me a week to get the toffee out of her fringe, because she didn’t seem bothered by it at all! Coco and Sadie however are fastidious with their cleanliness. They can spend hours licking and washing and preening themselves. One hair out of place or one bit of dust or moisture heralds thorough all over ablutions!

4. Licks for their humans

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Dog’s tongue smooth as silk. Cat’s tongue rough as sandpaper. That is all!

5. Toilet habits

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In the same way that cats are fastidious about their cleanliness, so they are equally careful with their toilet habits. I don’t think I have ever actually seen a Coco or Sadie poo (sorry neighbours!). But I am sure they are very careful to relieve themselves in a flower bed and bury the evidence immediately. And God forbid you ever catch them in action. Awkward! Our dog Ivy? Well, anything goes. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go and your human will pick up after you, so why bury it?

6. Training

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Dogs love to be trained. It keeps their brains active and they are every eager to please. And if there is a tasty reward at the end of it, all the better. However, training dogs can take time, since we don’t speak Dog and they don’t speak Human. However, eventually they get the hang of what every you are trying to teach them if you do it right. Cat’s on the other hand do what they want! It’s easy to think that you have trained your new kitten to use their litter tray, but they only use it because they want to and you have shown them where it is!

7. Independence

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I love Ivy and she loves me. But while I can cope if she goes into another room without me, Ivy does not feel the same. The minute I stand up, so does she. I imagine the word ‘Whats up?’ racing through her head when she hears my chair scrape back. And as I begin to climb the stairs, so I hear the pitter patter of her little feet as she follows me like a.. well, like a dog! Ivy is my little shadow, following me wherever I go. Coco and Sadie on the other hand consider themselves to be free agents. They have a cat flap and come and go as they please. Generally I don’t see much of them during the day, but come evening they will grace us with their presence.. or not!

And there you have it. My definitive, although not exhaustive guide to the difference between cats and dogs.

Toilet training your new puppy!

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Toilet training will be the first bit of ‘training’ you do with your new pup. If you have cats you’ll know how easy it is with kittens. In fact normally by the end of their first day home they know where their litter tray is and how to use it. Of course there are occasional accidents, but it’s pretty much a doddle.

Dogs are another kettle of fish! The only place puppies really know not to pee, is their bed or anywhere they sleep. Everywhere else is fair game. What’s more, they can’t hold their bladder and bowels for very long and will pretty much need to go the minute they have a drink or something to eat and every 20 minutes or so in between!

The key to toilet training is learning the signals that your puppy needs to go and putting them outside quickly. But also putting them outside every half an hour even if they don’t show you those signals, just in case! So you pretty much need eyes in the back of your head to make sure you are on it!

Sounds easy right? Nope. Your new puppy will have lots of accidents in those first few weeks. And it’s important to remember that word, ‘accident’, because you it’s the only way you will temper the frustration when you think you’ve nailed it and then step in a little gift left for you! Toilet training takes time and patience, and when these accidents occur it’s important not to reprimand your puppy – they didn’t do it on purpose.

The flip side is praise, and lots of it. Every poo and wee they do outside should be met with a fanfare of praise and even a treat! But one of the best pieces of advice I received was not just to praise after the event. While they are peeing or pooing, have a phrase you intend to use in future when you let them outside and want them to do their business. Ours is ‘Go potty!’ which we said repeatedly while she squatted to pee. She now knows when we open the door and say ‘Go potty!’ that it’s time to ‘go’! It can be any phrase, but whatever you choose, be consistent and repeat it until they have stopped peeing or pooing and then follow with praise.

“Go potty!”

So now let’s talk about puppy training pads. We started using these as we had been advised to by quite a few dog owners. The idea is that you put the pad on the floor and train your puppy to go on the pad to avoid the mess. But here’s the issue (which, once explained to me, made perfect sense): if you want your puppy to pee outside, why are you training it to pee inside on a mat? Good question, right? It’s only going to prolong what for some new owners is already a long process. So, my advice would be not to use puppy training pads.

Next up, night time toilet trips. As mentioned before, puppies cannot hold their bladders for very long, so you will need to get up in the night to begin with to let them out to pee. We found that Ivy could hold for much longer at night, so the 20 minute rule does not apply at night. Within a week Ivy was sleeping through, however this does not mean the frequency during the day got less. I am not sure why that is, although puppies do hate to make a mess in their bed more than anything. And we found that crate-training was what nailed the night time bladder control. If she had been able to wonder round, she would have had accidents. But because she was all cosy in her crate, she didn’t.

So the secret is consistency, patience and taking ownership of the process. Potty training is your job, not your puppy’s. You need to realise it will take time for this little bundle of fluff to understand that his or her human wants him to go to the bathroom outside rather than inside. And it will take you time to recognise the signals that tell you your puppy needs to go.

So, what are those signals? When Ivy needs to pee, she starts turning in circles and when she needs to poo, she sniffs the floor while walking around. If you see your pup doing either of these things, pick them up and take them outside. When you take your puppy outside, again, you need to be patient… and boring! Puppy will instantly forget it needed to pee when faced with all those fabulous smells and sounds and the expectation that you are going to play with them! So stand still, don’t speak and wait. When she starts to go, you start saying your chosen phrase, ‘Go potty! Go potty! Go potty’ (seriously, you don’t need to say that particular one, it just makes us laugh for some reason!) And then when she has gone, lots of praise.

You will hear tales of some puppies being trained by 9 weeks. Don’t listen. Yes, it can be done, but very few people manage it that quickly. Every puppy is different and some take longer than others. Ivy was getting the hang of it by 22 weeks, but unusual circumstances or forgetfulness on our part still results in the occasional accident.

One aspect of toilet training that isn’t often discussed is the ‘clean up’. It’s really important to clean up thoroughly when your puppy has an accident. Puppy wee doesn’t really smell strong to humans, but to your puppy, even the tiniest residue will mark a spot where they will look to wee again. So, make sure you find a good cleaning solution to get rid of the scent of wee or poo.

And on that sweet note… we would love to hear of any top tips you have learned through your experience with toilet training, so feel free to leave a comment below!

New puppy – will I ever sleep again?

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I stumbled across this article two months after I really needed it and I simply had to share it! I am sure many new puppy owners share the same experience of sleepless nights when they first bring their puppy home. And while this article may not necessarily make things easy from day one, simply knowing why your puppy is crying seems to me to be half the battle and makes the sleeplessness easier to handle. In fact, the same goes for pretty much any aspect your puppy’s behaviour. Knowing why puppy does what puppy does can make managing their behaviour and making them feel safe and loved so much easier.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of the Cockapoo Owners Club (UK)

Let sleeping dogs lie… but never let puppy dogs cry!

In the wild, a puppy would stay with their mum for about 9 months. So when we take them home at 8 or 9 weeks, they really are still infants in need of a mother. Our job is to become that mother- to care for them emotionally and physically and to create an environment that allows them to grow and flourish, and most importantly, to feel safe.

This is a big commitment, requires compromise and sacrifices, and there are going to be times when it is difficult. But the benefits you will reap from making sure your puppy’s needs are met and that they grow up feeling happy and safe make it so worthwhile.

Don’t let them cry it out

For many years, the advice doled out to new puppy parents was to bring their puppy home, put them to bed that night (often in a cage in another part of the house), and then to ignore their cries. This, we were told, would avoid ‘rewarding’ their ‘attention seeking’ behaviour and lead to a puppy who could cope with being left alone. The same advice was given to parents of human children for many years, and today many people still adhere to it, for both canine and human babies.

But guess what?

It has been shown that the effects of not responding to infants (human or canine) does the reverse of teaching independence- allowing a baby to repeatedly become distressed in this way is damaging to their ability to establish secure attachments in the long term, and is more likely to lead to clingy, demanding children, with a deep sense of insecurity which can stay with them for the rest of their lives.

In my capacity as a dog trainer, babies are of limited interest to me! But science has taught us that mammalian brains all work pretty similarly. A lot of research done on mammalian brains has been done on rats (sorry rats!), and we know from this research that there is a period in the ‘infant’ stage of life where the caregiving that an animal receives has a life-long impact on how prone they are to being anxious. Rats whose mothers were nurturing and caring in their early days (which translates to longer periods in larger mammals who develop more slowly) had the genes for controlling anxiety turned on, whereas those who had ‘low-nurturing’ mothers never had these genes turned on, and suffered from anxiety for the rest of their lives. This is something which seems to be true across the board.

We also know that when an animal becomes excessively stressed, the body’s response becomes destructive, negatively impacting the brain, emotions, the digestive system, the immune system. Excessive stress is simply not good for us.

And, we know that when a puppy cries, their mum always responds. This all makes perfect sense from an evolutionary perspective. Crying young alert predators to the presence of vulnerable, tasty youngsters! Dogs always do a very good job of rearing puppies, so we could do a lot worse than following their example.

So what should we do?

Dogs are social sleepers – they find safety in company, and without it, struggle to get the deep sleep they need. The ideal situation is to have your puppy sleep with a member of the family. Most puppies sleep longer and sounder when they are with you, so you might find the night is not as broken as you’d expect.

If you have a carpeted room and are worried about your puppy sneaking off to the corner for a wee (or worse!) during the night, a simple solution is to block off the parts of your room that you can, and cover the rest with a waterproof bedsheet- these usually have non-slippery cotton on top and a waterproof backing.

If you don’t want your dog in your room forever, as the puppy gets older you can gradually move their bed further and further from yours. Having their bed just outside your door with a dog gate rather than a shut door can be a good interim arrangement.

If they can’t be in the bedroom, camping downstairs with them for the first while can be helpful. You can then work on gradually increasing the time they are left downstairs.

Know when they’re tired

Puppies need a lot of sleep- upwards on 20 hours a day! But dogs are polyphasic sleepers- they sleep in multiple blocks throughout the day and night.

People often worry about their puppies sleeping too much during the day, and wonder how this will affect their sleep at night. But they need so much sleep that this is highly unlikely to be the case. In fact, depriving your puppy of sleep can have the reverse effect! Puppies who are over-tired can become hyperactive and restless and find it difficult to go to sleep at night. So if they’re resting during the day, don’t worry- it might help you get a better night’s sleep.

Here are some signs that your puppy may be tired or over-tired:

• Yawning;
• Eyes closing whilst sitting up;
• Red eyes (I once had a pom-chi in puppy class whose eyes used to actually get puffy when he was tired);
• Hyper-activity;
• Excessive nipping;
• Restlessness or not knowing what to do with themselves;
• Vocalisations (barking, whining)
• Grumpiness (snappiness).

If it’s too early for you to go to bed, if everyone just sits down calmly and leaves the puppy be, they will probably lie down and go to sleep. Offering them a food-based chew can help relax them.

Early starts

Dogs are naturally crepuscular, which means their most active times of the day can be dawn or dusk (many people report their puppies having a mad half hour morning and evening, and this is the reason). Over time, they adjust to our rhythm of life, but this is something they learn over time, not immediately. Be patient if your puppy is rising at 5.30 and ready to face the day!

Letting them out for a wee, and then encouraging them back to bed with a food-based chew can gain you an extra half hour of sleep!

Alternatively, scattering some of their breakfast in the garden can serve the dual purpose of tiring them out in a calm way by engaging their brains as they sniff around for the treats, and filling their tummies! Sniffing also lowers the pulse-rate and as such is a calming activity. You might well find they’re ready for another nap after the exertion. This is also a good exercise to do in the evening before bed.

Getting ready for bed

Keep everything calm and quiet before bedtime so your puppy is getting into the right frame of mind to sleep. Remember that adrenaline can stay in the system for 6 hours, so keeping them calm as much of the time as possible is actually a good idea!
Let them out for a toilet trip before bed.

Don’t withhold water- puppies can become easily dehydrated and need access to water at all times. If you are concerned about toilet training, offering them a wet food can mean that they get most of their required fluids with their meals and are less likely to graze on water throughout the day and night, making it easier to predict when they need to go.
If your puppy is struggling to settle, a calm nose game in the evening can help them get into a calmer frame of mind.

Get the night time routine right, and you can rest assured that you’re increasing your odds of raising a happy, stress-free puppy with a secure attachment, and hopefully getting a better night’s sleep yourself in the process!

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