Carry on socialising

I’m answering a Frequently Barked Question today.

FBQ: My Great Pyrenees (Pyrenean Mountain Dog) is nine months old and shows no signs of being protective. He wants to be friends with everyone and everything we meet. Should I stop socialising him to encourage him to be protective?

Clowie: Carry on socialising! When he’s a little older, he will be protective if there’s danger. That’s the short answer, now I will explain.

It’s important to continue socialising him. Socialisation will not prevent him from being protective of his family when it’s necessary, but it will enable him to make sensible decisions about when you need his protection.

The fact that he’s friendly and relaxed shows you’ve done a great job of socialising him so far. You should continue to give him as many new experiences as you can.

Clowie , Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees, smiling

I like to be friends with everyone, but I’m always watchful

Nine months old is still very young, Great Pyrenees are not considered mature until two or three years old. Our protective instincts are very strong, but the age at which they’re first noticed varies from dog to dog and depends on circumstances.

An insufficiently-socialised dog worries about too many situations and becomes too protective. An adult dog that is nervous and overprotective can be difficult to handle – we are large and very strong.

A well-socialised adult Pyrenean Mountain Dog will be relaxed and confident in most situations, although he will always be alert to the possibility of danger and ready to act if needed.

Many people have been surprised at how quickly their relaxed and friendly Great Pyrenees acted when he saw danger to his family. Our presence is often enough to keep danger away from our loved ones. We like to find a pleasant spot where we can observe everything that is going on, so that we are the first to know if there is any danger and we can act if we need to.

We are very good at multi-tasking, whatever we’re doing you can be sure that some of our attention is reserved for keeping an eye out for danger. I had to reprimand a naughty Border Collie who had his nose in my biped’s bag at obedience class when I was not quite two years old – my biped thought she had my complete attention doing heel work!

I think my biped was less surprised when I warned the pushy man who tried to stop her from closing the front door, as I was more mature then and she knew how watchful I am.

My bipeds laugh because I can sleep through all kinds of normal household activity, but I will be wide awake and on my paws in an instant if there is the slightest unusual sound.

Clowie, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, sleeping

Don’t be fooled by my snoring – I can still hear everything!

Keep up the good work and continue socialising as much as you can – it really pays dividends for you and your dog. However soft and friendly a Great Pyrenees is, he will always protect those he’s close to when there’s danger.

See you next Wednesday!

A walk on the healthy side

Going for a walk is one of the highlights of my day. Most people know that the exercise is beneficial to dogs and humans, but I think a walk is about so much more than getting some exercise so I’m going to talk about some of the other benefits.

For me, it’s quality time with one, or more, of my bipeds. I don’t have to share them with any of the many tasks that bipeds find to do for most of the day, their focus is on enjoying the time with me. The cats stay at home while we’re out for a walk – I love the cats but it’s lovely to get all the attention from my bipeds for a while! Quality time together improves the bond between dog and humans.

It is mentally stimulating for me to be able to sniff and find out what is going on in the neighbourhood. Humans miss most of the messages left by other dogs and wildlife, which is surprising as the messages are usually left in obvious places – on trees in the countryside and on street lights in urban areas! This means that even a short walk near to home is interesting as I get to know who has been in the area and when they were there.

Clowie, Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Great Pyrenees strolling in the mountains

I’m just strolling in the mountains – biped in tow

I have my favourite walks – they all include a stream. I love having a splash in cool water and the opportunity to take a drink – it always tastes better than the water my bipeds are carrying. I also enjoy it when we walk somewhere new because it’s an adventure!

When I was younger we always did some training while we were out. It was often things I’d been doing at home in our garden and I was asked to do them while we were out – it’s always much harder when there are distractions! I also encountered all sorts of people and animals while out on my walks as part of my socialisation.

I still get to show off some of my skills, and keep them honed, when we’re out on a walk. People often want to make a fuss of me and I’m always polite. Sometimes they just want to talk to my bipeds and I sit and show how very patient I am.

Most of my walks are in the countryside as that’s what we enjoy the most, but sometimes we go to a busy place where I see lots of traffic and people. I show that I remember to wait at the kerb until my biped says that it’s safe for us to cross. Sometimes someone will touch me unexpectedly and I take it in my stride (pun intended)!

I try to ensure that my bipeds focus on me during a walk, this is because I think it’s a special time for them to relax and forget about all the day to day things that concern them. I also help them to enjoy the simple pleasures of life such as splashing in a muddy puddle or pausing to sniff a wild flower. I’m not sure why they like sniffing flowers when there are always more interesting things to sniff, but they seem to enjoy it and it gives me more time to sniff things that are interesting!

The Cinnamon Trust

I’d like to mention The Cinnamon Trust, a charity based in the UK. They assist the terminally ill and the elderly to look after their pets. They have a network of volunteers who will do things like taking a dog for a regular walk.

Update on Milo

I interviewed Milo when he was a cheeky young pup and I told you that he was accepted for guide dog school. He’s now a working guide dog. Congratulations and very best wishes, Milo!

Milo's tweet about qualifying as a guide dog

See you next Wednesday!

More about Milo

Do you all remember that cheeky young pup called Milo? His ambition is to be a Guide Dog and he was kind enough to visit for an interview which you can read here: Spotlight on Milo – Trainee guide Dog.

Milo

Milo

He’s been doing some growing up since then and he’s about to finish his 16 weeks of basic training. He will soon move on to his advanced training – this takes 10 weeks and during this time he will be matched with a biped who needs his help.

Milo’s 12-week report, part 1: Milo is a bright, happy, affectionate dog. He has settled well and loves learning! He is working in harness.

Milo’s 12-week report, part 2: Milo is a lovely boy, good on public transport and loves his toys. He will soon move to advanced training.

Congratulations Milo!

I’d also like to mention Milo’s puppy walker, Allie. She is the person that socialised Milo and ensured that he had all the experiences he needed to be ready to do his training to become a Guide Dog.

Congratulations Allie!

I have mentioned before how important socialisation is. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association (UK) do everything they can to ensure that socialisation of their puppies begins early. And Guide Dogs for the Blind (USA) also stress the importance of socialisation.

Milo, when he was much younger, dreaming about being a Guide Dog when he's grown up

Milo, when he was much younger, dreaming about being a Guide Dog when he’s grown up

Good luck in the advanced training, Milo!

See you next Wednesday!

The cute face of puppy farms

Puppy farms

Puppy farms, also called puppy mills, are breeding establishments that are run for commercial reasons, with little regard for the welfare of the dogs. You can read more about it and watch a video on the Pup Aid website here.

Physical health

Puppies from puppy farms are often weak and sick. You don’t have to search very far on the Internet to find heartbreaking stories of puppies that don’t live long when they go to their new homes because they are so ill. The parents are not cared for properly and the bitches are bred too often. The puppies are often taken away before they are fully weaned.

A reputable breeder will only breed from adults that are physically healthy.

Mental health

The mental health of an animal that is going to be a part of the family is just as important as the animal’s physical health.

Puppies from puppy farms can have issues caused by lack of socialisation. Puppies need to hear household noises and have human contact at an early age. For more information on this, read my posts “What is socialisation?” and “A trip down memory lane“.

A reputable breeder will only breed from adults of sound temperament. They will also ensure that the puppies get off to a good start by giving them human contact and the socialisation experiences that are appropriate for their age.

The cute reflex

Most people know that humans have some physical reflexes – things that happen without engaging their brain. A couple of examples are the leg jerking when the knee is tapped, and eyes closing if something gets too close.

Humans also have emotional responses to some things and don’t stop to think – advertisers have been using emotional responses for years. Most baby animals are cute and there is something I like to call the “cute reflex”. This video will give you an idea what I mean – you won’t be able to watch it without smiling at least once!

The puppy farmer encourages you to act on the “cute reflex” and buy a puppy, in contrast a responsible breeder will encourage you to think about the adult that the cute ball of fluff will become.

The cute face of puppy farms

Puppy farms don’t want you to visit their premises, as you wouldn’t like what you see.

Fewer pet shops sell puppies now – this is a result of public pressure when it was revealed that many of the puppies came from puppy farms. The puppy farms advertise in many different places and use middlemen to sell their puppies.

They are increasingly using social media. They are very good at using the “cute reflex”. They generally have a nice avatar and share pictures of very cute puppies. The “cute reflex” works so well that some people who know about the horrors of puppy farms are not stopping to think – they are talking with them and sharing the pictures of available puppies to their own followers.

Warning signs

If the person is advertising a constant supply of puppies ready to go to new homes, it is probable that these puppies come from puppy farms. Reputable breeders do not have new puppies always available. They only have the number of dogs that they can give a good quality of life and they do not breed them all the time.

If the person is advertising a wide choice of breeds, the pups probably come from puppy farms. Reputable breeders tend to focus on one or two breeds and have a wealth of knowledge about them.

If the person is willing to get a puppy delivered to you without asking you any questions then they don’t care about the puppy. A reputable breeder will ask you questions before parting with one of their pups. They will also be able to answer any questions you have about caring for the puppy. They can also tell you a lot about the breed – temperament, exercise requirements etc.

Where’s Mum?

“Where’s Mum” is the tagline for a campaign by Pup Aid to ban the sale of puppies and kittens without the mother being present. There is more information on that page to help you decide whether the puppy may have come from a puppy farm.

The organisation Pup Aid can also be found on Twitter – @pupaid

Rescue centres

Rescue centres sometimes have puppies. They may have been rescued from bad conditions or they may have been an unexpected litter.

They also have many adult, or adolescent, dogs that need a home. They should be able to tell you about the temperament of the dog and any issues the dog has. Puppies are hard work, a well-adjusted adult will need less training to fit into the family.

Clubs exist for most breeds of dog and these often run a breed specific rescue. The people who run these are usually very experienced with that breed and will be able to advise you on any difficulties you may have.

Worldwide concern

The links I have given you are about the U.K. and the campaign for change there, but the problem is not limited to the U.K.

Not just puppies

I have been concentrating on puppies, but there are similar establishments producing kittens, rabbits, guinea pigs and the smaller pets for sale. They face the same health and socialisation issues.

Awareness

It is important for more people to be aware that these places exist. The animals kept in them have a miserable life and it is heartbreaking for the people who buy a sick animal.

It worries me when I see people who are known as animal lovers on social media sharing pictures of baby animals for sale that have been put there by businesses that I suspect of being involved in puppy farming. I feel that it makes these businesses appear reputable.

Cuteness fix!

If you’ve read this far, I think you deserve another dose of cuteness to put a smile back on your face!

See you next Wednesday!

Update

A fellow blogger has written a post “When is a rescue not a rescue?”  about some puppy farmers setting up their own “rescues” to get dogs adopted. You can find out some of the things you should watch for in a rescue centre.

A trip down memory lane

I’m inviting you to take a trip down memory lane with me this week, as I tell you a little about when I first came to live with my bipeds.

As soon as we left the house where I’d been living with my mother and siblings, my new bipeds carried me to the car. We didn’t have to go far at all, but I heard some passing youngsters say how cute I was! When we got in the car one of the bipeds sat with me and made sure I was comfortable and safe, so I settled down and went to sleep for most of the journey.

Memory Lane

This is how I imagine Memory Lane

Attribution: By Jongleur100 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When we arrived, they carried me indoors and took me to the kitchen. I had been allowed to investigate a little in my mother’s house, so I knew I was up to the task of finding out about my new home. I set off across the room and I soon came across a bowl of food. I later found out that the food had been intended for Pippin, the cat, but I hadn’t eaten for a couple of hours! I took every opportunity there was to eat while I was growing – I was always hungry!

After I’d licked the bowl clean, my new bipeds opened the back door. The doorstep was a bit tricky for my short legs, but I soon found my way out into the back garden to explore. I walked across the path and onto the grass. I hadn’t been on grass before, it felt springy under my paws. I wandered about while my bipeds kept an eye on me.

It wasn’t long before I heard some other people calling to my bipeds. One of my bipeds went and let some people called ‘the neighbours’ into the garden. They told me that I’m gorgeous and cute – I already knew that, but it’s always nice to hear! They enjoyed stroking me and rubbing my tummy. They didn’t stay very long and I went back to wandering about on the grass. Then I suddenly felt exhausted, so I flopped down for a nap. One of the bipeds scooped me up and carried me indoors and put me on a nice, soft blanket.

The next day I was taken to see a man they called the vet. He examined me and said that I was in good health. He talked with my biped about a number of things – food, vaccinations, worming, and where it was safe for me to go to socialise until the vaccinations took full effect.

Over the next few days I discovered a lot more about my home. My bipeds were pleased that I was already used to all the normal noises in a house, such as the vacuum cleaner and washing machine. I was accustomed to being handled by humans, but they began to do things like looking in my ears – I’m not sure what they expected to find in there! They also looked in my mouth regularly, sometimes touching my teeth and gums – I could have told them my mouth was empty. I’d had my paws touched frequently before, but they started to check between my toes – that tickled!

They brushed me every day. They had trouble persuading me to keep still to be brushed because I didn’t really like keeping still and I didn’t like being brushed. I love being brushed now and I can’t understand why I didn’t like it!

They also started taking me out and about to see more of the world. That was very exciting – I’ll tell you more about it another time.

I expect you’ve noticed that a lot of these things were in the Puppy Plan that I mentioned in my post about socialisation last week – some of it was confusing at the time but it all makes sense now.

I think you’ll enjoy this video of some Great Pyrenees puppies having some fun investigating an oversized drinking bowl.

See you next Wednesday!