OODLE'S OF POODLE'S

In the last 5 years there has been a boom in poodle crosses, they are everywhere and are of every variety! They are the new age dog and they have allowed people who previously haven't been able to have a dog, perhaps due to an allergy, know the pleasure of dog ownership. It has also brought about another type of owner who didn't have dogs because they shed and are generally dirty. It seems perfect, right?! Labradoodles, Cockerpoo's, jackapoo's, everything else apoo's!! I understand these dogs can seem like the answer to all your prayers and the breeders are having a field day!! I have known these dogs to fetch in excess of £1000; breeders must be laughing all the way to the bank for what is effectively a mongrel!! The issue is that a lot of these dogs are very...I’m not sure how to describe it…...Poodle!! The poodle is a lovely breed, very intelligent (only second to the Border collie, who I also don't believe make a good pet) and are of course a working dog. They are a highly active breed that thrives on mental stimulation. The problem with super intelligent dogs is that they are too intelligent for their own good; they also have the ability to rule inexperienced owners. I always say to my clients that the dog’s greatest skill is manipulating our behaviour; dogs are selfish creatures by nature and will do whatever they wish unless we train them otherwise. The poodle is extra good at this and therefore I've seen big problems in these types of dogs that are less common in more averagely intelligent dogs. One of the most disturbing behaviours is aggression toward their owners; it’s a testing type of aggression where they are trying their luck at getting their own way. Things like, not wanting to get off the sofa, and even just moving the dog around by its collar. These behaviours often occur during adolescents but can happen at any time, experienced dog owners will deal with this situation early and never have any further issues but most people unfortunately don't and then it spreads like a virus. Before you know it the dogs becoming aggressive toward the owner every time it wants its own way! Other common issues revolve around erratic recalls and general "I'm going to do whatever I like" attitudes. I'm not saying these dogs cannot be great because in the right hands of course they can be, the simple fact is though that people are getting a labradoodle and expecting a lab and getting a poodle. There are of course lots of poodle crosses that are more true to their original breed than the poodle but you can never tell until it’s too late. Those of you who know me will know I'm a bit advocate of the Labrador as a family pet, to me they tick all the right boxes for size, temperament and intelligence. Most people when looking for a dog get carried away with their looks and uniqueness rather than thinking about its temperament. A similar phenomenon happened a few years ago with the husky, everyone got one because they looked like wolves and they expected them to have a Labrador temperament. They are nothing like Labradors, the only thing they have in common is they have 4 legs and a tail! What ended up happening are lots of these dogs came up for rehoming as their owners couldn’t deal with them. We are fairly new to the poodle crosses but I’m sure the same thing will be happening in years to come. I want to stress that every dog regardless of breed can be excellent and you get lots of variations of temperament in all breeds, you get mad labs and quiet spaniels! If you put the required time in with dogs you will get results and dogs can be trained to do amazing things, I just want people to think twice about this new phenomenon and really research the poodle breed before making a decision. Don’t just choose a breed because it doesn’t shed you want a cleaner home or because it’s the new kid on the block. Too many people are being caught out with a dog they don’t understand and didn’t expect. Get the help of a local trainer early on to guide you through any issues you have and give your dog the best chance to be great. For those of you who have a Poodle cross and are struggling to occupy its mind, teach them tricks, it’s the simplest way to challenge your dog each and every day. I will be writing a further blog on this subject.

Until next time, enjoy your dogs, because in the end that why we have them :)

SHOULD I NEUTER MY DOG?

I often talk to new puppy owners about getting their dogs neutered. There seems to be endless conflicting advice from vets and other professionals regarding this topic and not in regards to if it should be done, but WHEN.

 I will start with if it should be done?

Yes it should be done; nearly all professional dog people and anyone with any common sense will understand that all dogs should be neutered. It will come as no shock that vets push it heavily and that’s because spaying and castration are a bread and butter income for vets but there is much more to it than that. Dogs do not need to breed; we have too many dogs as it is (UK dog population stands around 9 million) and far too many of them are unwanted.

Most people who have a new dog shouldn’t even consider breeding from it unless they are extremely experienced in caring for and raising dogs. I say to my clients that they should be focussing on making the dog the best it can be before even considering breeding from it. Unfortunately dog breeding is a big business and if there is money to be made people will take advantage. When people bring home their new French bulldog they have just purchased for £1500+ and I mention getting the dog neutered you can see their dreams of making a quick buck diminish with haste.  The old saying goes “if you make money out of breeding dogs, you aren’t doing it right” I truly believe this. The most common thing I hear when people (mostly men) try and justify not castrating boys is “how would you like it if someone cut off your balls”! This is utter tosh! I have many dogs castrated and I can guarantee you they have no idea they are gone after the initial healing. No dog mopes around dreaming of his lost manhood!

 I’m not going to go into any detail regarding the health benefits or risks of neutering as this is best left to Veterinary professionals; my view comes purely from a behavioural stand point.

The biggest and most notable outcome of dog castration is how well the dogs interact with other dogs, especially other males.

Simply put, its makes them nicer to other dogs. Dog on dog aggression is a huge problem and a horrible experience so anything we can do to limit it should be done. It’s worth noting here that most dog on dog aggression is fear based but the two are often very interlinked. Dogs that are entire tend to be more wary (fearful) of other male dogs, they see them as a threat. The hackles go up and they do the ‘stand tall ‘pose and the next thing you know it’s all biting and barking! The other dog may have been a young male who is just checking things out and then bang he’s being attacked. The outcome of this encounter is now two possibly fear aggressive dogs.

The next benefit of castration is focus; dogs that are looking to mate do not focus well on us. When you are trying to teach your dog that all important recall and he’s too busy with his nose in an inappropriate place or trying to hump, it makes things difficult. The dog is overrun with an innate desire to mate so of course his focus will be elsewhere, castrated dogs are much more likely to retain their focus. Other benefits can include reduced humping and less straying when out on walks, it will not ‘Calm the dog down’ this is a myth I’m afraid!

When it comes to spaying Bitches the benefits are more physical that behavioural but I do believe it tends to make them more sociable with others dogs, especially when the bitch is in season. The worst dog fight I have ever witnessed was between two bitches, one of which was in season.  The mess and smell that bitches create is the biggest benefit of spaying and also not having to worry about interest from males during their season.

So we have covered the IF now it’s time to discuss the WHEN….

When it comes to bitches I would recommend speaking to your vet but generally it should be done before the bitch is two years of age, some vets will spay before the bitches first season and other will insist they have one season. I don’t see the difference between the two regarding behaviour benefits so whichever your vet recommends.

The’ when’ in dogs is far more of a controversial topic and my personal view is they should be done at no later than 6 months. The counter argument you may hear from vets especially regarding larger breeds is that the dog’s growth can be stunted by removing the testosterone this early. I have spent a long time around dogs and have seen literally thousands; I have never yet come across a dog that has had stunted growth due to an early castration. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen and I’m sure there are examples to be found but I’ve never seen one.

 I recommend getting dogs castrated as early as possible to see the full benefits, once the testosterone starts to take hold it’s difficult to reverse its psychological effects. Think of it this way……he will never miss what he never had! People often wait until there is an issue then hope that castration with solve everything, don’t risk it, and get those balls off ASAP! If you must wait then 18 months should be the absolute latest as in my experience if you do it after this you are mostly wasting your time if you are hoping for a behaviour change.

Get it done and get it done early! Until the next time, enjoy your dogs!! That’s why we have them!!!