Monday, 29 February 2016

Labrador ceramic jug by Simon Olley

Labrador Jug by Simon Olley - stoneware pottery fired to 1260 degrees C

I sold this jug at a fair last Christmas and rather regret it – it was one of the first jugs I fired in my own kiln and while I was experimenting with a new style of decoration. I'm using it on my Open Studios page this year, so I am going to have to make another one, or some visitors may be disappointed. The sketches are of my own Labrador of course.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Dog treats

We all like to treat our dogs and what pampered pooch doesn't enjoy a quick scooby-snack? Uly isn't harshly treated and gets to have a Bonio biscuit last thing at night. The routine goes something like this: Late evening, Uly goes to back door, I let him into the utility room and get a Bonio out of the dog buiscuit tin on the window sill. Uly sits with mouth watering. I raise my right hand which he watches with keen anticipation. I then wave my hand away and at the same time say "Bed". Uly rushes into his bed ands sits watching me, I hand him the biscuit which he gently takes from my fingers – I use the word 'gently' and he has got used to not snatching now.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Best new bed

Uly sitting on his nice new memory-foam bed – it's bigger than it look in the photo!
Uly's got a separate bed in the utility room for night-times, but this newly purchased memory foam bed is far better than the old one he had. It is super-comfortable! We bought it from Pets at Home for about £30. The cover comes off for washing.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Retrieving tennis balls

Here's a short video of Uly retrieving tennis balls, in some sort of order. My plan is to have a go at the 'dog snooker' competition at the Gun Dog Fun Day on Sat 14 July in West Sussex. 

Friday, 17 February 2012

Mis-use of the whistle

I've noticed in training there are owners who simply haven't got a clue how to use a dog whistle. I mentioned this to my wife and she said she would be uncertain using one. Some people simply have not ever used a whistle! Hard to believe I know, but perhaps most men get a lot of whistle experience as boys, both whistling tunes through their lips and using the standard ACME or Boy Scout's whistle.

Watching one lady (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons), she used so many different blows on her whistle, her dog was clearly confused. Often the lady ended up calling the dog in by name.

If you are one of those people who don't have whistle experience, consider getting out in your garden without your dog and just practice for a bit. Imagine you have a dog with you and commend it appropriately using the whistle. Once you've got the hang of it, introduce your dog to it.

The whistle commands I'm using and seem pretty standard are:

One peep = 'Stop'

Three peeps = 'Come'

Two peeps (peep-peeeeeep) = 'It's there' (use when dog is close to prey/dummy).

I use the whistle loudly when the dog is at a distance, more softly when the dog is nearby.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

The night dad lost Hamish the hamster

Walk on the North Downs with Uly, brother-in-law Geoff and our neices
On Friday 5th of November 2010 I brought home a big black labrador called Uly and our houshold was never the same again.

It was on that fateful Guy Fawkes night (or at least the next morning) I discovered that one of the doors to my daughter's hamster cage didn't close properly. I mean, what a good dad I was, remembering to feed Georgina's hamster his special piece of tasty broccoli on the night she was having a sleepover and I was so busy with my new and very excited dog.

Not feeling so clever the next day when Georgina came back and found little Hamish the hamster had disappeared into thin air. Oh, we took the utility room apart, removed all the kickboards from the cupboards, pulled out the fridge, the washing machine, it's surprising what you find lurking in these places: old socks, carrots, mediaeval coinage, but no Hamish. We even set up bucket and broccoli traps outside in the garden in case he'd slipped outside.

Now I should say that having a new dog in the house did rather distract my daughter from the loss of her hamster. It shows just how quickly a young girl's pet allegiances can swap when the choice is between a tiny fluffy rodent that sleeps all the daylight hours and a big, demanding dog that likes being tickled.

The hamster didn't show up again, at least not in our home. The footnote to this tale is that some weeks later we discovered that our neighbours had evacuated their house because of rodent activity in their loft. They'd heard scampering about above their bedroom ceiling on anumber of nights but had never been able to track down the cause, so being petrified of rats and mice the wife had to decamp to her mother's house down the road. After a visit from the local pest control man, the noise eventually stopped but no body was ever found.

*If you lose your hamster put a piece of broccoli into a bucket set on the floor. Use a strip of wood to create a ramp from the floor to the edge of the bucket. In the morning, with luck, your hamster will be in the bottom of the bucket.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Pheasant in utility room

Great excitement for Uly, there's a cock pheasant strung up in our utility room adjacent to his bed. I was give it last night by Inger and I'm going to use it for training – a consolation for the cold game day having to be cancelled due to bad weather coming in. Plan is to use it for a couple of retrieves in the garden. Will wait 'til Lesley gets back so we can takes some pictures.

The 'Bed!' punishment

This is as tough as dog punishment gets around here. When Uly did something really bad once – trapped and started plucking one of our white chickens (he didn't kill it) I adminstered the 'Bed!' punishment. Basically this involves telling the dog off in sternest possible voice and commanding it to go to its bed. This resulted in Uly, ears back, slinking off to the house to his corner of the utility room and lying low in his bed. He sure knows he's done something wrong. Boy did it work! Uly has never touched the chickens again.

I would say, I think this type of punishment although entirely non-physical, is extremely powerful. The dog doesn't like being told off, it humiliates them and as such I think it should be used only where absolutely necessary and definitely not often.

In the time I've had Uly, this is the most effective method of getting through to him that something must not be done. It works and my guess is it works for life. Don't overdo it!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Wild dog to placid pet

Uly in 'stick attack' mode when he was younger, amazingly (apart from one occasion when he and I both grabbed for the same tennis ball), he didn't ever catch anyone's fingers

Honestly, when I first got Uly, he definitely had a wild streak in him. He was so keen to play all the time, and this translated into a lot of jumping, play-biting and constant pulling on the lead. A number of my jackets and jerseys were ripped by him jumping and biting them, desperately trying to get me to throw a stick or ball for him. I was taking him onto the hills twice a day to try and get rid of some of this energy. One mustn't forget his working pedigree, this is a dog that wants to be on the go and will get frustrated if he can't.

All the regular training, the advice and expertise of trainers Inger, Gary and Sheila, a degree of firmness in handling him, and ensuring that everyone in the family is consistent about the commands they use, has started to really pay off. Of course, he is older now – about 21 months, so whilst still officially in puppy territory, he is behaving more and more like a mature dog. 
Uly resting in the kitchen this morning

This morning Uly's been up on the hills (North Downs, Kent, England) for an hour-and-a-half running in the snow, he's dried himself off (an hour spent in his bed in the utility room) and now he's just chilling on a cushion in front  of the kitchen dresser. Doesn't he look a lovely, friendly dog? We all think so.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Labrador barking at strangers

If Uly has one fault, he is apt to bark at strangers. I'm pretty sure this is either territorial or caused by anxiousness, or a bit of both. I'm rather hoping he will grow out of this trait. In the meantime, I try not to make a big deal about it – I don't want him getting a lot of attention from me when he barks. 

My response at the moment is to either tell him 'No noise', gently 'Shush-h-h', ignore him, or walk him away from whoever he's barking at. I haven't really worked out which is best and I think it rather depends on the situation. 

Of course, some people want their dog to bark at strangers, and I don't mind him giving one or two barks when someone comes to the door, but I obviously don't want it getting out of hand. More of this later, I think.

Uly enjoys traveling in lime-green Panda 4x4

My favourite picture of Uly enjoying a day out in the car, mostly spent eyeing-up the deer in Knole Park, Sevenoaks, England.

Don't forget to turn off the airbag if your dog travels like this. By the way, his lead is attached to the bottom of the seat, so he can't go very far or disrupt my driving.

Descending steps

I will try to find out how guide dogs are trained to do this. I've been using the 'Wait' command at each step as we go down, then commanding Uly to go down further by saying 'One step', again repeating the 'Wait' command whenever he appears to be going too far. I also, incidentally, keep one hand firmly on the handrail (where there is one available), in this way I am braced if he does go down too fast. Best of all though, is that 'Wait' command, now he really knows it, and the tone of voice that goes with it (sharp, commanding action), it pretty much stops him in his tracks (exactly as intended).

This will really come into its own when I have to take Uly down very steep stairs (such as on a boat), Being able to hold him (with my voice) on the steps as we go down could save a lot of grief.

We did take Uly on the car ferry across to the Isle of Wight last Easter, and we had to go up and down a number of flights of stairs. We sort of managed them, but next time will be much, much better I'm sure.

For readers unfamiliar with the UK, Isle of Wight is a small isle (10 miles x 15 miles approx) off the south coast of England. It is know for being a good place to find fossils, it was also a home of Queen Victoria who lived at Osborne House. A lot of sailing goes on around the Isle and of course hosts Cowes Week Regatta. We go to the Isle of Wight because it has a somewhat unspoiled, slightly old-fashioned feel about. It has some lovely beaches & coves, walks and country pubs.