Canine Origins The Wolf In Your Dog

Guest speaker is Roger Tabor and the conversation is hosted by Colin  Tennant.

visual of a wolfFrom watching this DVD I learned that early humans did not possess the skills necessary to tame the wolf and that they had no reason to even want to although it is broadly accepted now that our domestic dogs do originally come from wolf type canids. Food availability and geographical landscape are major factors in the development and distribution of dog types. Archaeological, DNA and historical evidence have converged to make the strong case that humans did not befriend the wolf and selectively breed them for tame types but rather the wolves self-selected to become more adaptable to human proximity and their food sources.

Tabor Tabor explains how through DNA research (Parker) we know that some types are more closely related to the wolf such as the spitz types but no-wild dogs have curly tails which can be explained by the genetic mutations that come about from the domestication of a wild breed (Belyaev). Tabor’s expertise and knowledge comes bursting through in a lively and amenable fashion throughout the video.

He concedes that Coppinger has a strong case for his theory of the proto-village dog evolving from wolves but the timing of the village food sources do not explain the dog types found earlier than the time of agriculturalism and food dump surplus. He contends that the theory is still relevant but with earlier hunter gatherer humans and the by-product food sources of animal bones and meat surplus. Humans may not have intentionally domesticated the wolf but they have provided the conditions for the self-selection of wolves to domesticated animals to thrive.

In turn dog trait selection by humans for various reasons – including cuteness –  (plus climate and regional landscape variations) has resulted in the many different types of breed we see today.

Dali, the territorial work of art

On Thursday we went to the Blaydon Races to see our better halves run a neat 10k friendly race. My friend brought her dog, Dali, along. Dali the dogShe is ultra cute looking and really well behaved untill we settle down and within a short time she gets very territorial and barks at anyone getting too close. It almost seems to be a kind of boredom from her telling her owner that she has had enough and wants to go somewhere else. To keep her from barking and snapping we give her treats to re-direct her and eventually we get up to go. This could be a sort of “reward” in the dogs mind though – a reinforcement that if she gets territorial she will be able to change the scene. I tried to reward her calm behaviour with treats and not her anxious excited behaviour.  It is very difficult to see when this change from happy go lucky to territorial occurs.I couldn’t really figure out any way to stop it but I guess that’s why I’m studying.

Previous history of my experience with dogs

My experience with dogs has always been good bar one. Our first dog was an Alsation (we called her an Alsation in those days) that my dad brought home one day from work. She was thin, nervous, hungry, abandoned and the guys at work used to feed her scraps and call her Judy. My dad was always a bit deaf and mis-heard them telling us her name was Julie. So Julie it was. They were inseparable and totally focussed on my dad so she wasn’t what you could call a loving family dog. Her death hit my dad really hard and his grief lasted a long time.

Our second dog was another abandoned pup – a white boxer. True to form my dad kept up the tradition of basic girl names and we called her Sally. She was fantastic with kids, really well behaved in public spaces (especially pubs) but a bit crazy off leash and we never got a decent recall with her when we were out and about. Again my dad was the focus of her attention but she was much more sociable than Julie. When Sally died we knew dad wouldn’t have any more.

The only other dogs I know are my friends and neighbours’ dogs. I used to regularly walk a neighbour’s husky and have dog-sat a few times for friends. I love meeting all my friends dogs. Because of work commitments we don’t have a dog – but I tell the cat it’s because we prefer cats. And that’s why I volunteered for the Cinnamon Trust. This way I can be around dogs and other pets and do a good deed for the elderly at the same time.

My one bad experience was being pulled through wild nettles by an eager Staffordshire bull terrier when I was about nine. Not recommended.

Starting my CIDBT foundation course

It took me longer than I thought to read all of the PDF introductory files from the Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour & Training but I managed it in one afternoon and then spent another couple of hours figuring out how I might complete the modules and display my work and research in a simple format. Although a word document is required for the final submitted course work I fancied trying to blog all my activity and categorise this so that my tutor and other folk can see what I’m up to. At least this shows when I started it!

Jacob – my first Cinnamon Trust charge

JacobI noticed Jacob skipped a little more lightly today  – the effects of the anti-inflammatory from the vet were plain to see. I let him off the lead for a good long roam across the rugby pitch and he started to jog by himself. He doesn’t seem to like open spaces as much as the wooded areas so I re-called him when I was near to the goal posts and he responded well to that.

Being a solid 45 kg he’s not the sprightliest of black labs. Even though Terry, his owner, brushes him to keep him cool in the summer heat I still spent 10 minutes today picking out lumps of matted fur from his hind legs. Because Terry is registered blind I guess it’s easy for him to miss the bits at the sides. Terry is also agoraphobic so he was very thankful for me helping him take Jacob to the vets. At last Jacob is back on his Hills-lite diet so we should be starting to see his weight come down in the next few weeks which in-turn will alleviate the strain on his arthritic back legs.

Last week he suffered in the heat and plonked himself down on the grass and refused to budge until he caught his breath. I tried to give him water from my water bottle and from my hand but he was having none of it. Waiting for him to recover made me late getting back to Terry and I regretted taking him that far from the house. This has made me more mindful of my time keeping while walking him as a service. I am only four walks in to my new helping roll for the Trust but already I have met loads of other dogs and their owners out and about. Because Jacob is an ex-guide dog his manners are impeccable and there is never any trouble. I would say I have been very lucky with my first CT case.

Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training by Karen Pryor

visual of book jacket - Don't shoot the DogThis is my first ever “dog book” and I enjoyed reading it. For me it opened my eyes to training with positive reinforcement and Prior made a great case against punishment for any creatures as a training method. To me it seems tempting and obvious to scold a dog or child for doing something you don’t want them to do but this book made be re-think that mindset.  Stop telling people and animals off and start thaking them and praising them for all the “right” things they are doing! This is very powerful and a really nice way to change your own behaviour.

The part about shaping behaviour for one’s own bad habits left me a little cold however. As a lip and cheek chewer I am finding it really difficult to self-train an incompatible behaviour etc. It’s a good starting book for me as I am left with the feeling that there is a lot more to learn. My next book is Dogs: A Startling New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behavior & Evolution. Can’t wait to get stuck in.

Cats welcome at our holiday cottage

Cat harnessI would love to meet all the pets that come to stay at our holiday cottage in Bellingham. But alas this is not possible. One of my favourites so far though has to be the cat, “Benson”. He was so good and so well-travelled. His “parents” have always had him in the car with them on trips and he loves it. He was run over as a youngster and our guests basically taught him to walk again by putting him on a leash and taking him out every day a few steps at a time. Now he’s going great guns and his owners told me that they had a great time with him in the cottage and that Bellingham was “the friendliest village in the UK”!

p.s. the photo isn’t Benson – just a nice photo of a cat harness.

I don’t use a harness for my cat but they can be a safe way of letting your feline friend roam outside if, for example, there is a danger of traffic or other predators in the vicinity.

If you want try a harness make sure that you introduce it very slowly day by day with treats and fuss. Only slip it on when your cat is in a calm and happy state and then only for a few seconds. Repeat many times with treats and fuss and build up the time that she wears the harness. Eventually she will associate the harness with nice things and then you can let her wear it around the house before you attach the leash. Let her get used to the leash by leaving it always in a slack position. Do not try and force the cat into the direction you want her to go – she will not appreciate this. Instead try and coax her with a gentle pull in the right direction and as soon as she is going that way loosen the leash. Once outside let her roams for herself and just follow along holding the leash loosely. A gentle pull in the right direction with treats should get your cats walking nicely but they are not “walkers” like dogs.

In time she will learn to love the harness and enjoy her outside time as much as Benson.

It’s curtains for us

I love updating the décor of the Bowery. It makes me happy and I know our customers appreciate it. This week we have new curtain poles and curtains to put up. I will be able to put the poles up tomorrow and pin the new curtains to length but I’ll have to take them back home to sew and make the matching cushions with the surplus fabric. I know I have the ability to make a basic cover with a zip no problem but one with Oxford type edges? Zip free? Hmmm. I’ll obviously Google for guidance.

Photos to follow.

Settee covers and a smile

Our settee and lounge chairs were looking decidedly shabby. W didn’t want to throw them out as the carcasses are in perfect order. Buying a quality new suite is also expensive. Welcome to the world of settee covers. We realised quite quickly that there isn’t much competition in this market so we phoned Plumbs, booked an appointment for a home visit and waited for the hard sell.

Dave came round to measure up had us in fits of laughter from the start and it couldn’t have been a better experience. I was totally suprised at how casual it all was and it was no problem for him to help us choose for our taste and budget.

We waited about eight weeks for them to be made and delivered. Dave came back to fit them for us. We went for piped decoration in a luxury cotton blend. Dave threw in all the scatter cushion covers too and it came to about £750 which we thought was a great deal. It sounds a lot but another company who offered a copy service with no piping or extra cushions were quoting around £1000 – no fittng just postal delivery.

Plumbs is simply massive – they buy all their fabric in bulk and everything is automated in a gigantic factory so the costs of materials is kept very low. The service is great and I would recommend them to anyone thinking of updating their sofa with new covers as opposed to new settees. They look amazing and it keeps your old settees out of landfill for a few more years!

Our fabulous swallows in summer

“Swallows are small birds with dark glossy blue backs, red throats, pale under parts and long distinctive tail streamers. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing. They are widespread breeding birds in the Northern Hemisphere, migrating south in winter. Recent declines due to loss of habitat quality in both their breeding and wintering grounds mean they are an Amber List species.” RSPB

We have two swallows nests happily nesting in the archway between our house and the neighbours. It is a moment of pure joy to see them arrive in the spring and very sad to see them go when it gets cold.
Swallows are fierce protectors of their nests and I have seen them on numerous occasions swooping down at an unsuspecting cat in an agressive fashion (including my own cat). Every morning I can see them through the bathroom window as the perch on the telephone wire preening themselves in readiness for the day’s hunt of flying insects.

Here is a marvellous peom about swallows from just over the boder.

The Swallow
The swallow, bonny birdie, comes sharp twittering o’er the sea,
And gladly is her carol heard for the sunny days to be;
She shares not with us wintry glooms, but yet, no faithless thing,
She hunts the summer o’er the earth with wearied little wing.

The lambs like snow all nibbling go upon the ferny hills;
Light winds are in the leafy woods, and birds, and bubbling rills;
Then welcome, little swallow, by our morning lattice heard,
Because thou com’st when Nature bids bright days be thy reward!

Thine be sweet mornings with the bee that’s out for honey-dew;
And glowing be the noontide for the grass-hopper and you;
And mellow shine, o’er day’s decline, the sun to light thee home:
What can molest thy airy nest? sleep till the day-spring come!

The river blue that rushes through the valley hears thee sing,
And murmurs much beneath the touch of thy light-dipping wing.
The thunder-cloud, over us bowed, in deeper gloom is seen,
When quick reliev’d it glances to thy bosom’s silvery sheen.

The silent Power, that brought thee back with leading-strings of love
To haunts where first the summer sun fell on thee from above,
Shall bind thee more to come aye to the music of our leaves,
For here thy young, where thou hast sprung, shall glad thee in our eaves.

Thomas Aird 1802 – 1876

Thomas Aird

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