Showing posts with label lurcher. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lurcher. Show all posts

23 July 2012

It's not the genes - it's how you wear them

We’ve always called Mina a greyhound but technically she’s a lurcher.  She looks about 99.9% greyhound but if you look really closely, you can see that her head shape and her stomach aren’t quite ‘full greyhound’.  Mina never raced and isn’t tattooed in her ears and she certainly responds differently to training than Stevie and Jasper (although this may be more to do with nurture, rather than nature – something I’d like to explore a bit more in the future).

In my training classes, I often ask clients to find out what their dog was originally bred for.  It’s not just that I like setting homework (honest!) but once you are armed with the knowledge of what your dog was bred for, you can use it to your advantage in training.  For example: a Border Collie is bred to be a working dog, herding sheep and to be busy., knowing this you can channel your Collie’s instincts into training and games that fulfil this need; likewise with retrieving breeds or using nosework to motivate the scent hounds.

Mina wonders what her DNA results may reveal
Mina wonders what her DNA may reveal
So, I was intrigued to see if there was anything in Mina’s DNA that would explain some of her behaviour.  After a bit of searching I plumped for the Wisdom Panel DNA test, which is easily available in the UK.  I only ever meant it to be a bit of fun, after all the DNA results state that they use - and what sounds to me, like a very complicated - computer algorithm to predict the most likely combination of pure and mixed breed dogs in the last 3 ancestral generations that best fit Mina’s DNA marker pattern.

The process of taking a swab of Mina’s DNA was really simple.  The test is easy to purchase via Amazon and costs around £59.99.  Everything arrived very quickly in pre-sealed, sterilised envelopes with easy to follow instructions.  The swabs themselves looked a bit like very small bottle cleaners (with bristles at the end) and all I needed to do was not touch the bristles and make sure that I took 2 separate swabs from inside Mina’s cheek/gums.

Betsy - the Cocker Spaniel. Any similarities to Mina?
So, swabs taken and returned to Wisdom Panel, all I had to do was wait.  Handily, there is an online results tracker which shows when the swab has been received and how it’s progressing through the labs.  In 3 weeks the results were through….

I thought Mina may have some terrier genes and I took the greyhound genes as read…. but the results revealed something I wasn’t prepared for at all!  So what did they say, I hear you ask?  Well, according the DNA markers Mina has Greyhound (no surprises there), Cocker Spaniel and Clumber Spaniel DNA!  I’m still somewhat dumbstruck by this, especially as the Clumber Spaniel is such a rare breed.

I’m not sure if I can really see any Spaniel traits in Mina – although for a sight hound she is incredibly sniffy on walks and does seem to spend a lot of time sniffing the ground.  It will be interesting to see how she gets on at the Sirius Sniffers Seminar this September, with Kelly Gorman Dunbar, as the seminar is dedicated to nosework.

Mina's Breed Ancestry Certificate
Mina's DNA certificate

So, what does Mina make of it all? Not a lot, I suspect.  She’s still the lovable, demanding, pretty greyhound/lurcher I fell in love with all those years ago and greyhound/spaniel or not, I love her just the same.

12 July 2011

A dog walk of rhubarb and cat-astrophes

Most of the time I love village life.  Quiet(ish) roads. Fabulous scenery.  Lots of open space.  Pleasant dog walks and plenty of poo bins! Chatty neighbours and a sense of calm and chance to unwind at the end of a hectic day.

Our village playing field
On other days it can really irritate me.  People who don’t cut their hedges back – making it impossible for me and the hounds to walk on the pavement, without emerging with scratches.  Roaming village dogs – with a tendency to poop wherever they like.  The looney drivers who seem to think the 30 miles speed limit doesn’t apply to them.

Tonight though, I was reminded why village life is great.  At the moment, I’m walking the hounds in two shifts.  Since Mina’s had her toe amputated, and the dressing has only just come off, I’m building up the duration of her walks.  It doesn’t seem fair to take her to the playing field where Stevie and Jasper can run off lead and where she’d have to watch from the side lines.

Shift one of the dog walk duties (Stevie and Jasper) had been completed and Mina and I embarked on shift two.  I thought we’d have a quiet walk – just the two of us – with Mina stopping and sniffing all the pee-mails she’s missed over the last eight weeks…however, I was mistaken, as Tula, our cat, decided to join us!

We’d only just managed to cross the road when I heard the tinkling of Tula’s bell and saw her crossing the road to join us.  I picked her up and crossed the road again and put her in our front garden and then re-crossed the road to start our walk.

Tula takes root in the garden
Who was I kidding?  In a few seconds I heard the unmistakable sound of Tula’s bell coupled with the sound of oncoming traffic.  I tried to call her to me but she was having none of it and was sitting very serenely in the middle of the road, with no intention of moving.  Cue for me to step out into the oncoming traffic in the style of a demented Traffic Cop/Lollipop Lady and put my left hand out to stop the traffic.  My right hand was holding onto Mina’s lead very tightly and once the traffic had stopped, my left hand managed to scoop up Tula.  Heaven knows what it must have looked like to the approaching drivers – a greyhound and cat nose to nose, with a mad woman picking up the cat.

After this escapade Tula was put back in the house and the cat flap locked, so she could not follow us again.  Mina and I set off again to complete the walk, with Mina stopping every 10 steps or so to catch up on the important and aforementioned pee-mails.

Mid-way into our walk we passed Arthur’s house.  Arthur reminds me of my much loved and dearly departed Granddad - he’s in his 80s, lives by himself, grows his own veg and always has time for a chat when we pass by.

Tonight was no exception.  On our way back, Mina and I stopped and had a quick chat (well I chatted, Mina looked up adoringly for a fuss) and before I knew it my spare hand was carrying a bag full of home-grown rhubarb.  All in exchange for a chat and the promise of a small rhubarb crumble as way of thanks.

If only Mina was called Roobarb and Tula was known as Custard – it would have been a real life version of one of my favourite children’s cartoons.
Mina does her best Roobarb impression

17 December 2010

The Lurcher in Red

The winter chill is continuing apace and the sub-zero temperatures have meant that the hounds aren't being walked as often as any of us would like. The pavements in the village are still covered with inches of compacted snow and ice, which makes any kind of walk rather hazardous.

So, you can imagine my joy when my parents agreed for Mina to come with me on my travels 'down sarf.' There was zero snow and lots of opportunities for long dog walks, or so I thought....

Today, we had a smattering of snow - about 1½-2 inches - but enough to turn the rather hilly roads and pavements into a slippery slalom. Luckily, I had thought ahead and packed Mina's winter weather gear. Her aptly named 'Blizzard Coat' came in very handy and she looked very smart with her red snood (think Anna Karenina, but in dog form). I couldn't resist taking a few photos...

Mina, the lovely lurcher in red

Mina, giving it her best "This isn't a Tolstoy novel, you know!" look

I'm not too sure whether Mina was impressed by her snow gear, but it certainly kept her warm and with Mina's track record for accidents and mishaps, the last thing I want is frost-bitten ears!

I'm hoping the snow melts over the weekend, so we can catch up with friends, have some great walks and on Sunday, lunch in a dog friendly pub.  In the meantime, whenever Mina's togged up in her snow gear, I still can't resist humming "The lurcher in red" to the tune of a song, that I'm not really very fond of... The Lady in Red!

28 November 2010

The First Snow of Winter

It's true - us Brits like nothing more than to talk about the weather.  As we live on an island where extremes of weather are fairly rare, any type of weather that is either too cold or too hot tends to make headlines.  This year, we've had very early snowfall in November meaning the roads grind to a halt, schools close, children dust off wellies and under-used sledges and us adults don our best snow-garb and get out there with the other 'big kids' and our dogs!

The hounds' favourite playing field

The hounds also seem to like the snow and the early snowfall this year has coincided with Mina becoming cone-free after the tail incident (see: previous post - Mina the canine catastrophe).

We've only had a few inches of snow, so it's not too deep for the hounds and they can enjoy a bit of a run and frolic in the snow.  I always worry that deep snow and icy pavements could mean broken bones, so I'm very careful where I let them walk and run.

I still want to enjoy the cold weather and want the hounds to enjoy their walks too, so here are my top tips for keeping the hounds safe and warm on winter walks:

Well wrapped-up against the cold
Coats -  Greyhounds have thin skin, very little fur and very little body fat and tend to feel extremes of temperature, so make sure that they have a waterproof, warm, fleecy winter coat to keep them protected from the elements. I like the coats that have a turn up to protect the neck. Alternatively a greyhound snood helps keep their necks warm.

Salty paws - Rock salt and grit may keep the paths and roads snow and ice-free but left on our pets' paws it can be a real irritant. When I get home I wash and dry the hounds' paws to make sure no grit has got stuck and that they can't lick anything that might be toxic.

A happy & cone-free Mina, enjoying the snow
Deep snow - Greyhounds have fairly delicate bones (in rescue we often come across cases where an owner has let their hound run free over uneven ground and the poor hound has ended up wtih a broken leg), so running in deep snow and on icy surfaces could be a recipe for disaster.

Dark nights - The old addage "Seen and be seen" really does ring true for winter walks - both for me and the hounds. I wear a reflective jacket and carry a torch. The hounds each have an Ancol Safety Halo (available from £3.99 at PetPlanet ) although I am saving up for the rather fab Leuchtie LED light collars available exclusively from Collarways 

Steaming hot mug of tea and open fire - When the walk's over, there's nothing better than putting my feet up with a good mug of tea and watching the hounds snooze by the open fire.

So, time to put my feet up and enjoy that cup of tea. Wherever you may be when you read this, I hope that you're safe and warm with your dogs at your side.

24 October 2010

Mina - the canine catastrophe

I'm beginning to wonder if Mina is just exceedingly unlucky, or one of the most accident-prone dogs I know.

Today, the hounds and I were all set for a lovely autumnal walk in the local woods.  Just as we were pulling into the car park, I heard a yelp from the back of the car.  I couldn't determine which hound had made the sound and thought no more about it.

All three jumped out of the car and seemed OK, but then I noticed some spots of blood on the bedding.  I checked all paws and couldn't see a thing, then Mina moved and I spied some drips of blood by her. On closer inspection I saw that she'd somehow cut her tail through to the tendon.

I then started a frenzied look in the car for something to stop the bleeding (boy, can tails bleed) and to bandage the tail with.  Unfortunately, the first aid kit was in the other car. Thankfully, I managed to calm myself and get my brain working and went to the little cafĂ©, thinking they would have a first aid kit. They did, and they saved the day.

After bandaging the tail, I called the vet and bundled all three hounds back into the car, vet-ward bound. 

Mina's tail injury, is the latest in a long line of incidents this year. I'm seriously considering retraining as a vet, as I seem to spend so much time at the vet practice with Mina.

This latest visit to the vet cost over £120 and as you can see, poor Mina's tail is completely encased by bandaging. She's feeling very sorry for herself and will be back on restricted exercise until her tail heals.

I am beginning to wonder whether I should wrap Mina up in bubble wrap before I let her venture out of the house, as she seems to be so accident prone.  She's just so full of life though, and I suppose her injuries are the price she pays for this.

What this latest incident has made me realise though, is how invaluable good pet insurance cover is. Mina's tail injury will be the sixth claim I've made this year on her policy. The insurer, More Than, has proven to be a good choice for us. With three hounds, we couldn't afford  lifetime cover, and opted for cover which provides up to £7,000 per new illness. This has been a godsend with Mina. This year alone, we've had to claim for:

  • Keratitis treatment, following her operation last year
  • Operation to remove caruncular mass from each eye
  • Hypothyroidism diagnosis and on-going treatment
  • Broken nail
  • Cutting her back leg through to her Achilles tendon
If we hadn't insured Mina, we would have had to find over £2,345 to pay for the cost of all these treatments.

I don't work for an insurance company and this isn't a hard sell to fellow dog owners to insure their pets, but I hope it does give food for thought. Lots of people I speak to don't insure their dogs, or have stopped the insurance - only for the dog to become ill and then be faced with expensive vet bills.

Working with a greyhound rehoming charity, all the hounds that are homed leave the charity with four weeks' free PetPlan insurance.  We strongly advise all our owners to take out pet insurance, but many don't and on occasion, come back to the Trust when a dog has injured itself and ask for the Trust to pay. As a small charity, this puts significant strain on finances.

What's more, a lot of people don't realise that if their dog causes an accident or damages someone else’s property, then you, the owner, could be held liable and sued/prosecuted. Most dog insurance policies provide liability insurance to protect against this.

I dread to think what the premium will be on Mina's policy when it comes to renew next year, but one thing's for sure: with Mina's track record, I'll be renewing the policy.  And, if anyone has any tips on how I can prevent Mina having further accidents, please post a comment.

03 May 2010

Finding my 'fido fix'

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will know that I recently started working in London, which means that in the week I'm living away from my husband, hounds and Taz, the cat.

Most weekends I plan to come home to Lincolnshire as I really miss the hounds in the week and by the time the weekend arrives, I can't wait to see them again (and hubby of course)! It also means that I can't help the Lincolnshire Greyhound Trust, the charity which I work for on a voluntary basis.

Last weekend, I spent the weekend 'down South' and by the Friday, I was really missing my 'Fido Fix.' So, thanks to the power of the Internet, I Googled to see if there were any local dog rescues nearby who allowed volunteers to come and walk dogs. Luckily I came across the wonderful Stokenchurch Dog Rescue and after a quick phone call on the Friday I was all set to walk Echo, a four month old Collie/Lurcher cross, at 10.30am on the Saturday.

So, Saturday morning - with the sun streaming down -  I found myself travelling down the M40 to Stokenchurch Dog Rescue. Despite all the years I lived down South and travelled this route, I'd never really noticed the rescue until now, or maybe it's just my memory playing tricks on me! After introducing myself, and filling in a volunteer form I was introduced to Echo - a four month old, Collie/Lurcher cross - who'd been found as a stray pup.

As you can see from his picture, Echo was a little bundle of absolute loveliness.  I was asked to walk Echo for 20 minutes, as being a pup they didn't want to overtire him.

I checked whether I could use treats before we set off and then we started our walk together. I'm generally used to walking dogs the size of my greyhounds and a bouncy puppy was certainly a different kettle of fish.  Echo was very excitable, but soon calmed down and took everything in his stride.

When he didn't pay any attention to the cyclists or the fire engine that passed, I made a big fuss of him and gave him a treat. However, when he showed too much interest in some of the other dogs (I'd been warned about this), we just walked calmly by (well I did, anyway) without a word from me.

At the end of the walk, I handed Echo back to the centre staff and was asked if I'd like to walk another dog. I readily accepted and was then introduced to Ben.

Ben was a 2 year old Patterdale Terrier, who had been rescued from his abusive owners. I was informed that Ben was afraid of men with deep voices and was wearing a muzzle to prevent any mishaps.

Ben was lovely but I could see how fearful he was, particularly of men. He'd obviously been trained to basic commands as he knew "sit" and "wait" but at the beginning of the walk he had a tendency to stop, drop to the ground and flatten himself out; not wanting to move or go on.

With gentle persuasion, and the use of some tasty treats, Ben became more accustomed to me. I used the treats as a reward for him coming to me when called and ignoring cyclists (there were a lot of cyclists out that weekend and apparently Ben's terrier instincts generally kicked in when he saw cyclists)! By the end of our walk, I felt I had gained a little bit of Ben's trust as he did allow me to stroke him without tensing up, or showing signs of stress.

The next weekend I stay down South I'll certainly volunteer my dog-walking services again. It was the perfect way to get my 'fido fix' and to build on my studies,  but more importantly it gave these rescue dogs the chance of a good walk, time away from the kennel environment and the opportunity to socialise with more humans.

Many dog rescues can't survive without the help of volunteers and if you have a few hours a week to spare, why not consider helping a local rescue centre? There may be no pay, but the satisfaction of knowing you've helped a dog in need is worth its weight in gold.

30 December 2009

The squeaker seeker and destroyer - aka Mina & her Christmas presents

Firstly, I can't believe that it's over a month since I last posted to the blog... I think I need to make a New Year's resolution to blog on a more regular basis.

Anyway, Christmas has been and gone for another year and whilst we were opening our presents, the hounds also got presents to open.

To begin with they each had an edible rawhide Christmas decoration, which went down a real treat. Needless to say though, I didn't hang the decorations on the tree as I quite like the Christmas tree in the upright position.

Out of all the hounds, Mina is the one who loves her toys and over the years has earned the title of Squeaker Seeker & Destroyer

Her prowess at destroying any toys is best shown by this slide show:

This year, I bought toys without squeakers & thought they would last longer..... however, Mina has still managed to start disembowelling them.  She's especially protective of her snowman.

Mina - no hu-mum or dog gets in the way of me & my snowman!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...