You may wonder why a dog like Tommy who loves to snooze needs to learn to chill out? Well as an anxious high energy dog Tommy rarely truly relaxes. He's always listening out for a change in situation such as people leaving and arriving. Any knock on the door or loud noise is reacted to. As Tommy settled in with us over the past 5 years we've noticed this behaviour get worse and consulted a behaviourist for advice. The first stage of what we have been advised to do is simple; teach Tommy to chill out. This is easier said then done when all Tommy wants to do is run around all day!
One of Tommy's favourite things to do is run around in the woods! photo by Emma Bearman
The technique we were told to use was to get a mat located in an area of the home where it wouldn't normally be. Tommy is encouraged on to the mat with food and given food to stay on the mat. Just before each time Tommy is given food a clicker is used to signal correct behaviour. Then the gaps in when the food is given are lengthened. This stage really showed us how much Tommy struggled and he winged and barked for attention (and the food!). As soon as Tommy barked or moved we were told to calmly say 'wrong' and move away for a second or two. Then Tommy is encouraged back into position and given more food closer together.
Tommy on high alert, not relaxed, body stiff and concentrated on where the food is
Then as Tommy gets better at staying in one place (and not barking) the gaps between getting food are increased further and we have been able to start leaving rooms without Tommy moving. We have also used this training method when getting ready to go out as Tommy gets so excited and barky. So while we get ready, Tommy has to relax on the mat and is regularly given food for staying in one spot
Tommy chilling out a bit more notice the 'side pop' to the hip so the body is less tense
To progress to the next level of chill out training we all have to patiently wait. This part of training can be done with a collar and loose lead to help keep the dog in position. This is known as self settle training and is something we're going to work on a lot more to work on Tommy being better when visitors are around. This is a simplified overview of chill out self settle training and is worth leaning more about if you have a high energy dog like Tommy! It's always worth finding a dog behaviourist to help show you the correct technique for you dog. Let us know if you have tried any training like this?
Tommy finally gets his head down but still has some work to do to fully relax
As nature shows signs of blooming the anticipation of summer shows grows stronger. We’re working on new ideas in the hope that we’ll have something fresh to launch. Our new character development continues and we’ve started to research product development options. Here’s a snap shot of our work in progress and some doodle of the day work we’ve been using to get the creative juices flowing.
To keep up to date with our progress please follow Tommy Doggy on twitter, facebook and instagram. We've got Monty the black labrador and Daisy the border collie but we need some name ideas for a Westie character and a 'bundle of fluff' mixed breed. Let us know if you have any ideas you could help us with?
To help showcase our ideas we've launched an Etsy shop called Tommy Doggy Designs and have some great deal on 2016 stock. There are two different packs available with a mix of 'thank you' and 'birthday' designs.
Lessons in nutrition
As part of showing how great life with a rescue dog can be we're learning about dog behaviour and how good nutrition can help. Tommy has been eating a new food called Breakthrough for 6 weeks now and we’ve not noticed any major improvements in his behaviour. He does appear to be more attentive during training but he doesn’t seem to like the food. An important part of our training regime is to have a food that Tommy enjoys working for, so we decided to try something else. As we were going to Crufts we thought it would be a great place to investigate a new food. Before going we did some research and had some discussion points around; is grain free important and should we try a raw diet? When doing our research we also realised that we had to be practical. As Tommy goes to day care the food has to be easy for everyone to prepare and for training the food has to be easy to handle. We also liked the idea of avoiding large pet food companies that have lots of similar claims and are hard to tell the difference between.
So we ended up on a small stand by the healthy option pet food company. We were attracted to the stand due to a homeopathic remedy that we were interested in but also liked their approach to dog food. So we learnt;
As a rescue dog blog we can't avoid the issue of dog breeding just for appearance. Team Tommy Doggy saw some fantastic relationships between dogs and owners at Crufts but also weren't so sure that all the show dogs enjoy it? Here is a blog by the RSPCA which helps explain what we felt. We hope that dog shows can become more about the well being of dogs and celebrating what they can do instead of having to stand still for long periods of time.
Along with the researching food and treat options the main aim of visiting Crufts was gift shopping! We went to pick out the best in show for greetings cards and gifts. Here are our highlights ...
Don't forget our Dogs Trust card range is still available to buy on www.animalgiftclub.com
The Tommy Doggy greetings card range launched nationwide at the Spring Fair at the NEC in Birmingham. The full range of 8 designs was displayed at one of the biggest UK greeting cards trade shows by publisher Otter House. Hopefully you will start to see Tommy Doggy cards pop up in shops around Britain and they can also be bought online from animalgiftclub.com.
The most crucial piece of feedback that we got on the first card range when it was developed last year was that Tommy Doggy needed some friends. One of the main inspirations behind the Tommy Doggy range is to show the fun and mischievous side of dogs. So the new characters need to be playful and cheeky with illustrations that depict a range of dog personalities. The work on the new characters is still in the early stages but here’s a sneak preview of Monty the black Labrador and Daisy the border collie. As the illustrations develop over the next few months we’ll tell you more about them. If you have any character ideas to share with us to help inspire the range we’d love to hear from you.
Our new year’s resolution was to increase our behaviour training because Tommy is an anxious and reactive dog who needs help to de-stress. In January we met with a new dog trainer who had been recommended by the Dogs Trust. The main areas we have been advised to work on are …
2. Trying a new food. The behaviourist recommended that we try a new food called Breakthrough which has been developed to help to try and calm dogs with anxiety issues. We have been sent some food to trial and will see if we notice any behavioural changes in 3 – 6 weeks. In this first week we've not noticed any obvious changes but he has started to not eat it all in one go and has started to break from eating and then return in a few minutes. We're not sure if its because he doesn't like the food or if he's becoming calmer around food. We’ll repawt back in the March blog.
3. A main behavioural issue we wanted to tackle is Tommy’s behaviour around visitors. With the trainer we learned settle training which rewards the dog when they start to relax in a certain spot. If any attention seeking behaviour such as barking is shown then the dog is removed from the room and only allowed back when the barking stops. With the dog trainer it took nearly an hour for Tommy to calm down. We were told that average dogs only take 10 -20 mins. So a daily exercise is to encourage Tommy to settle in his bed whilst on a lead is in progress. With no strangers in the house he normally relaxes in about 10 mins so it will be interesting to see how he behaves when the dog trainer visits again.
Our training treats of the month are from Beautiful Joes; they are dried liver which are great for keeping attention levels high. The wonderful thing about Beautiful Joes is that for every bag of treats you buy they donate one to a rescue centre. As we have learnt a key part of a rescue dogs day is training and good treats to do this are an important part of the re-homing process. So it's a big well done woof woof to Beautiful Joes from us!
The story so far …
In 2016 Tommy Doggy achieved the dream of having a range of greetings cards published in aid of the Dogs Trust. At the start of a new year it’s now time to reflect on what we have learnt and make plans about how our work can grow.
The main aim of starting the Tommy Doggy business was to promote rescue dogs and help raise money for the Dogs Trust and other charities. This will continue to be our main focus but we’d like to increase the money we donate and the coverage we get. So here are our main resolutions for 2017 ...
New friends and partnerships?
We had some great feedback about our card range launched in 2016 and this is the main point we will develop this year by adding some doggy friends. There is some stock left of the 2016 range so we’ll look to set up an online sales system and try to get some local shops as stockists. You can already buy 8 designs on animalgiftclub.com.
Last year some of our best experiences were at Dog Shows and we want to look to do more of this in 2017. In addition to our cards we'd like to sell other gifts that could be for humans or dogs. We’ll look to develop some new Tommy Doggy products but also wonder if other companies may benefit from us selling their products at fundraising events? If you have a dog related gift product you'd like us to sell for you please get in touch.
Training for treats and holidays
A big aim for 2017 is to increase our training to learn new tricks and help improve Tommy’s behaviour. Tommy is an anxious dog who hates being left alone and is scared of certain dog breeds. We aim to find a behaviourist to help work through these issues so Tommy can become more confident in all aspects of his life. We’ll share our progress through our facebook page.
When training, Tommy responds well to treats with high meat content and our quest for high value easy to use dog treats continues. So far we have had good success with Feelwells and Vet's Kitchen, these soft treats are easy to break up so the training fun can carry on for longer.
Of course hard work also requires holidays and in 2016 we went on a dog friendly holiday to Suffolk. We stayed in a lovely village called Orford in a converted barn (www.suffolkcottageholidays.com/property/121/The-Stable-Orford). Orford has a wonderful bakery (www.pumpstreetbakery.com) and is well worth a visit. As we live in landlocked Nottingham we love holidays near a beach so hope to plan another adventure in 2017. If you have any recommendations for good dog friendly beach holidays in the UK please let us know.