Wednesday, 29 February 2012

1 week weights

First of all, the poll result: the heaviest by a mile - or perhaps only a half a kilometer or so - at the weigh-in on Sunday was Toes at a whopping 760 grams.  From now on, we are calling her Big Toes! I must say I was surprised she beat Brownie, who looks like a stonking big boy, but the real surprise was Hopea who was second-smallest at birth and, at 746 grams, was second-heaviest at 1 week. 

The graphs and tables I like to produce will follow, but first, for those of you less enamoured of coloured lines on a grid, here is a cute video taken this morning.  How big these puppies are looking now!  And don't miss Claw up on his feet staggering around.  He wasn't the first to start walking though, that was Brownie.

And so to the comparative weight info.  Does this stuff matter at this point?  Not really, no.  I keep a close eye on the puppies' weight just to be sure they are developing as they should and that no one gets left behind.  Apart from that, the numbers don't have much meaning.  But I just like to compare and watch trends.

First, the numbers (click the images for a bigger size that's easier to read):

Then the comparison puppy-to-puppy throughout the first week:

And, finally, the average weight of the litter compared to previous litters.  Those of you who are new to the blog should be aware that the Tuisku litter (shown in yellow) had one enormous puppy whose weight skewed the averages slightly upwards.  Said enormous puppy is a lovely normal-sized boy now.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

week 1 portraits

It's been rather, er, busy in this house since I got back from my travels late last night.  As a result, they are a little late, but here are the puppy photos - in birth order, as always.  While I was away Jay did a great job of capturing the babies on their 1-week birthday, and that's really not an easy task single-handed. 

You can just about see how the wolf sable colours are developing in Brown Wolf & Little Ilo, but they are more sable-y in the fur than in the pics.

 Brown Wolf




 Little Ilo



Tomorrow the weigh-off and poll result.  And because today the puppies are very near to opening their eyes, after the weights will be a new poll... and eventually I'll get around to sorting out my photos & revealing what I've been up to all weekend.

Monday, 27 February 2012

five ways to keep your dog fit & healthy

Having previously been on the subject of weight and how to manage it, here are a few ideas for keeping your dog fit so that those extra pounds don't get the chance to creep on.

1.  Make sure your dog gets at least one walk every day.  Walking should be more than just pootling along sniffing the ground (For your dog, that is.  You are free to pootle & sniff if you wish).  If when released in a safe place your dog doesn't choose to run and play, then put him on a lead and take him on a brisk walk. How far you walk your dog, or for how long, will depend on the breed/mix of your dog.  A high-energy, medium-sized dog like a Finnish Lapphund, Border Collie or Labrador needs at least an hour a day.  Half of that time, or more, should be free running/playing or briskly walking.  (Just so we're clear: a puppy will need much less than an hour each day.)

2.  Don't over-feed your dog.  Again, how much to feed your dog will depend his breed, size and what you are feeding.  As a general rule, feed 10% less than advised on the bag of dog kibble.  If your dog is gaining too much weight - or if he is already overweight - then it cut by an additional 10%.  Dog food companies are in the business of making money by encouraging you to use as much of their food as possible and so buy more of it.  Usually, the recommended daily amount is way too much.  If your dog or puppy has loose, runny poos, chances are you are giving him too much food.  Take advice from your breeder.  Take advice from your vet.

A bunch of fat-bellied puppies busy growing into strong & fit dogs.

3.  Keep the treats under control!  Everybody likes to give their dog treats, but consider how much junk food you would allow your child to have and allow your dog to have less than that.  Treats should be earned and should be given in moderation.  My idea of  "moderation" and yours may differ enormously, but consider giving small portions - like only half a gravy bone or Bonio instead of a whole one.  And, yes, one is most definitely enough!  Consider swapping treats with food value for other kinds of things your dog enjoys: a game, a belly rub, a walk.

4.  Keep an eye on your dog's weight regularly - both how he looks and how the numbers look by having him weighed at the vet.  Most vet surgeries have a scale in the waiting room and you can pop in there and weigh your dog anytime free of charge.  Dogs' weights vary widely, of course, depending on the size, breed, etc, so the numbers should be a guide only.  How does your dog look?  You should be able to feel his ribs as you run your hands down his sides, but he should not be so skinny that they are very prominent.  Even with a fluffy dog like a Lapphund, you will still feel faint ribs.  Also, look at your dog from the top - he should have a distinct narrowing at the waist.

5. Consider training in one of the doggie sports like agility, obedience or Rally-O.  Agility, in particular, is excellent exercise for you and your dog.  Any of this sort of training will increase the bond between you both as well as improving how well your dog listens and responds to you generally.  You can find a wealth of information on finding training clubs in your area from the Kennel Club

Friday, 24 February 2012

weights & a poll

Another of the great worries of the first week is whether or not the puppies are gaining weight.  We expect them to grow by about 10% of their body weight each day.  That's actually rather a lot and as a result they change so much from day to day.  You feel like if you sat and watched them constantly you would actually see them get bigger and bigger. 

To make sure everyone is developing as they should and that no one is being left behind, the puppies are weighed everyday during this week.  We don't expect the puppies to be all the same size or weight so long as they are all gaining a reasonable amount each day.  They will certainly all develop at different rates and the puppy who gained a lot today might not grow so much tomorrow.  By keeping a close eye on the weights daily we can make sure each puppy gets a fair chance at the milk bar.  Often the bigger, stronger puppies will muscle the smaller ones away from the rear teats, which are the more productive ones.  I have frequently pulled a fat, sucking puppy off those teats and swapped it with a smaller one who needs a bit of help.  Feels pretty mean, though!

And so to another poll.  You can find the puppies' birth weight back here.  Not that it means a lot when it comes to guessing how heavy they will have become at the end of their first week, but it's fun for comparing.  The result is pretty much up in the air at the moment.  The only thing I will say is that it won't be Little Ilo, who is the smallest.  The question is this:  At the weigh-in on Sunday, who will be the heaviest?

As if having a litter of pups in the house wasn't enough to keep me occupied, I have another little adventure planned for this weekend.  Watch this space - all will be revealed next week!  In the meantime, I won't be back until Monday night so the one-week puppy update and poll result will be posted late.

The puppies might be small at this stage, they might be deaf and blind, but they sure can get around the box without any problems whatsoever.  Here, for your amusement, is The Progress of a Puppy as she travels from the hinterland of Behind Mum's Tail to the jackpot.  The brothers and sisters catch on fast and follow suit.

Over the sister - over the tail - under the leg

Over other leg - past sister who overtook on inside - then ahhh, relief!

Thursday, 23 February 2012


In the first week of the puppies' life, there's plenty to worry about.  For the 48 or so hours before they're even born I've already got a low-level niggling concern about everything going ok.  There is so much that can go wrong.

Once they have been born and all are good weights, all are strong and suckling ok and mum is also ok, then the first flush of worry drains away.  Then I'm left with the pressure of getting them all through that first stressful week.  Once the puppies get to a week, then they're usually well away.  And by the time they are 2 weeks I can start weaning them if necessary.

But in the meantime, there are all the things to get right.  First and foremost at this time of year is to make sure the pups are kept consistently warm and free from any chilly drafts.  Puppies this young have no ability to regulate their own temperature and even a brief chill can easily kill a newborn pup.  This is agony for the poor Lapphund mum, of course, who wishes for nothing more than ice and snow.  Especially while she's got all these hot little bodies clustered around her for so much of the time.  I keep the temperature in the room around 20 or 21ºC.  When it starts creeping up to 23, as it often does, then Keksi starts to get very uncomfortable.  It's also obvious that the puppies are plenty warm too because they migrate away from each other in the box rather than cuddling up in a heap. 

Keksi has been brilliant about keeping the puppies warm, and during their second night when we had a hard frost and the temperature in the puppy room dipped to 16ºC, I don't think she left the whelping box at all.  When I checked on them in the small hours and realised how cold it was I put the heating back on for the rest of the night. 

2 days ago - keeping warm between mum's big paws


Then there's making sure no contagious bugs come into the house.  This is a tough one in a house with more than one dog, and it seems to be particularly tough in our village where diarrhea bugs and kennel cough just seem to go round and round all the hundreds of dogs who live here.  To keep the possibility of cross-contamination from our dogs to a minimum, no one is allowed to say hello to Keksi during her brief forays downstairs on her way out to do her business. We also take Keksi to a less-used area of grass outside that most neighbourhood dogs in passing don't bother with.  We also make sure that all our gang have up-to-date kennel cough vaccinations before any pregnant ladies like Keksi come to stay.

Whenever any people come into the house, even though they are going nowhere near the puppy room upstairs, we spray their feet and lower legs with a solution of Parvovirucide disinfectant - the same stuff that we use to clean the box and all puppy-related equipment.  And when the puppies have moved downstairs at 4 weeks of age, we add the requirement that everyone who visits is required to clean their hands with antibacterial gel.  

Sometimes the biggest worry is making sure mum gets enough to eat and drink.  This isn't only important for the health of the litter's dam, but it's of paramount importance to the puppies too.  The fuel that Keksi consumes will be converted into milk to feed the puppies.  If she doesn't eat, then there is a danger that her milk will dry up.  That would mean 2-hourly hand-feeding a litter of previously strong and healthy puppies.  Otherwise known as a disaster.

When Neka had her litter of 9, it was a full-time job trying to keep her fed and hydrated.  While she was nursing, the puppies took so much out of her that I was constantly worried she was not getting enough fuel.   Even Keksi, who will by everyone's experience, eat anything and everything in plentiful amounts, is now turning up her nose at the puppy food I want her to eat.  Before the puppies were born, she gobbled up the puppy food no problem.  Now, it's the same old routine trying to find something she will eat without throwing it all over the room.

Last night she chucked her bowl of food around the floor and then ripped up some newspaper to bury it with.  Later on she happily ate it from my hand though. 

I'm sure Daniel & Jim will be thrilled that Keksi now requires hand feeding.  Kidding!  I have no doubt she will be back to her usual greedy self in no time, and long before she goes home.  

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

don't you have insurance?

There has been quite a lather around the dog world lately about two large banks who have pulled out of the pet insurance business leaving high and dry those customers who bought from them "lifetime" insurance policies for their pets.  Beverley Cuddy, the editor of Dogs Today magazine, and others have been encouraging people to kick up a fuss about it.  After all, it will ultimately affect animal welfare most of all.

I'm sure Lloyds TSB and Halifax saw the insurance market as yet another excellent way to make money off people without having to provide anything in return.  After all, that is what banks do best.  So when they were increasingly called upon to actually provide something in exchange for their charges, it was not really a great surprise that they dropped out of the pet insurance business quicker than you can say "rising premiums".   Disappointing?  Yes.  Disgraceful?  To be sure.  But surprising?  Sadly not.

The companies blame the vets and their escalating charges.  Originally I thought that sounded like a cop-out - a typical bank response to blame everyone else for the things they do to ensure their enormous profits and bonuses are not adversely affected. 

Today I'm not so sure.

Today we took Maija to the vet to have a wart removed from her leg.  It has been bothering her, she's been trying to chew it off, and it was getting infected and disgusting.  So, get rid of it, we decided.  A very straightforward procedure, took very little actual time.  I didn't enquire as to the cost in advance - perhaps it was foolhardy, but I did assume it would cost no more than, say, castrating a dog.  Or certainly no more than spaying a bitch, which is fairly major surgery. 

"Three hundred and seventy-nine pounds and twenty-five pence," they said.  £379.25 - it doesn't look any better in figures than words.  I was quite flabbergasted and I must have looked like a cartoon: my head jutted forward on my neck, my jaw actually dropped, my eyes bugged out.  "How much!?" I said. 

When I queried the amount, the receptionist said, "Don't you have insurance?" as if such extortionate charges were perfectly normal and acceptable.  She's used to them, dealing with it everyday, I suppose.  I explained that I do indeed have insurance but that I don't claim every little thing on it because, of course, if you do that your premiums skyrocket and you end up paying over and over for every procedure every year forevermore.  I save my insurance for something really expensive, like a potential condition that will need medication for the rest of my dog's life, or major surgery after, say, a car accident, or heart surgery, for example.  Not for a 10-minute procedure.  Not for removing a wart.

The vet practice in question is St David's Veterinary Hospital in Exeter.  I've been going there for almost 13 years.  The staff are wonderful, the vets knowledgeable, professional and supportive, and the equipment state-of-the-art.  I've trusted them with both my cats, all 4 of my dogs and all the visitors, breeding bitches and litters of puppies who have passed through our doors.  They have always been just a little more expensive than other, smaller practices, but I thought it was worth it - after all, the welfare of my animals was at stake.  Even when I moved out of Exeter, I continued to support St David's even though it involves a 30-40 minute drive each way some days. 

But not so long ago, this formerly large, independent and beautifully run practice was bought by a corporate veterinary company, CVS (UK) Ltd.  And the prices started to rise.  Fast.  And dramatically.  Today, St David's is a full 30% more expensive for routine procedures than my local surgery.

But that's ok - the insurance companies will pay for it, right?  Have a look at your insurance policy.  Lloyds and Halifax are not the only pet insurers who reserve the right to withdraw their cover anytime they want.

So it is with regret that me and my 2 cats and umpteen dogs are leaving St David's.  But if any of their fine vets go back into independent practice, I hope they'll let me know. 

And when you're looking for a veterinary practice, I urge you to support your independents.  Big businesses are interested only in profits.  Only.  That is what they do.  They really could not care less if an animal dies because someone cannot afford to pay extortionate vet bills or because they have lost their insurance.  At the very least, check to make sure your vet is not on the extensive CVS list, because if they are, then you are almost guaranteed to get a better deal elsewhere.

pup tip - house training II

Before I get completely caught up in the wonderfulness of new puppies in the house, I must finish the entry about house training puppies.  Following on from the tips published earlier,  I thought it would be worthwhile to mention a few more additional toilet training ideas.  Advanced house training for puppies, if you will.

1.  Did you know that you can train your puppy to just do his business in one corner of your garden, for example?  It's true.  When you begin the training, always put your puppy on lead to take him out, and always take him to the same spot.  Wait for him to go, give the action a command ("Have a wee/have a poo/get busy") and then give praise and treats when he does his thing in the right place.

2.  Having said that, be very careful to make sure you train your puppy to happily go on many different surfaces.  Without giving it much thought, I took Neka out to the grassy park next door to do all her wees when she was a puppy.  Everyday there was always plenty of grass in the places where we walked.  What I didn't realize was that I was teaching her to wee and poo only on grass.  One night when we were in a city with not a blade of grass to be found, my poor frantic and bursting 6-month-old puppy was desperately searching for somewhere suitable to have a wee.  Eventually she gave in and did it on a pile of leaves.  After that night I made a point of teaching her to go on lots of different surfaces.  Now she will wee on pavement, gravel, mud, whatever.  But her favourite surface is still grass.

3.   Remember to catch your puppy before he has a chance to get it wrong and show him how to get it right.  Always praise your puppy for getting it right but never scold him for getting it wrong.

4.  Finally, one thing you need to know that everyone always forgets, is that dogs don't generalise well.  In terms of house training, this means that while they might be perfectly clean and trained at home, they won't necessarily equate that with being clean and trained in someone else's home.  So when you go to visit the mother-in-law you will definitely need to keep an eagle eye on that 12-month-old puppy who has been reliably house trained for more than 7 months. Treat it like starting all over again and catch him before he has a chance to do anything.  Don't say I didn't warn you...

So, what happens when an adult dog starts to soil inside the house for no apparent reason?  Take him to the vet.  In my experience, this only happens when a dog or cat is ill and needs to get your attention about it. 

Sometimes, of course, there is a perfectly apparent reason, although you might not spot it straightaway.  For example, the pair of year-old brothers who both (separately, in their separate homes) wee'd on their owners beds after coming home from their first stays in a kennel.

Today,  here is a row of sweet little tails and an illustration of how the holding box (where the puppies go while I'm cleaning out their box) won't be big enough for very long.

Row of tiny tails

Gonna be needing a new box very soon...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

green stuff & black stuff

Contented mum & growing babies

Remember when the 2 cream puppies of the last litter turned green?  I don't think I ever got around to blogging about why that happened.  Amazing, really, considering the gory detail I usually savour on this topic.  The green thing seems to happen to every litter, but it only becomes apparent on light coloured puppies.

For a couple of days after the puppies are born, bitches have a dark greeny-black discharge.  It's related to the placenta juice, to be blunt about it.  Eeuw is what I have to say to that.  I've had a couple of new experiences with this litter, one of which was my very first glimpse of a placenta.  Keksi was nursing her brood and dozing after delivering the 7th when I saw a slimy black mass under her tail.  I managed to scoop it up and get rid of it before she gobbled it up. 

And so, all that's left as evidence of the placentas is a couple of days of the sticky green stuff that stains everything it touches.  Most of it stays in Keksi's very furry tail and when the puppies burrow under her tail, they get greened with it.  I'm pleased to say that Hopea doesn't appear to be a tail-burrower as she has managed to stay more or less white - apart from the initial newspaper inking, that is. 

Tomorrow I'll give Keksi's back end a quick and gentle bath to get rid of the dried in muck.  It's not a nice thought to have the puppies nestling in there and it must be very uncomfortable for Keksi.  That will help to keep the bedding clean too.  At this stage it gets changed twice a day and gets grubby pretty quickly.

As for the black stuff, well I was pretty impressed with the way Keksi handled the black tarry placenta poos last time. This time?  I'm even more impressed.  Not only did she manage to expel the entire lot in one go, but Jay was the one who took her out to do so.  Result!

Having said that, there was still the - four? five? more? - trips outside during the night last night with squits.  Keksi's, not mine, you understand.  

And because I'm a bit tired from interrupted nights, I can't write much, but lucky you are getting this instead.  Check out the sleepy little brown contortionist as Keksi cleans his bottom.  And then there's the one who cries because she's stuck away from the milk bar but then takes off again after being rescued.  And the paws waving in the air.  Oh, and then there's the little wagging tails as they nurse.  I'm warning you now, it's all just too cute.

And in today's news: the puppies are really motoring around the box now.  I'm amazed by how strong this bunch are.  They're not usually so mobile quite so quickly, are they?  Oh, their lucky, lucky new owners!  But first, my several weeks with their active little legs.

Monday, 20 February 2012

the 'riemu' puppies

The pollsters got it right, more or less.  I admit I was expecting 8, although Keksi's belly was lopsided, suggesting more puppies on one side than the other.  She did have 7 puppies - 7 good sized ones too - so well done you majority poll voters.  Especially Mark who even called the right number of dogs v bitches - very impressive!  Ok, or lucky...

Number 7 appeared more than 5 hours after number 6 - and that's a very long time, even for Keksi.  But unfortunately he was unable to eat, even when I tried to feed him myself.  He wouldn't stick on to Keksi, and when I tried to feed him drops of puppy milk from a tiny syringe, he didn't swallow it, just let it drain from his mouth.  Keksi knew he wasn't going to make it and two or three times she actually pushed him away from the rest with her nose.  I kept him inside my top to keep him warm, but bit by bit he faded away and died 3 hours after birth. 

As someone said to me, it is certainly much better to lose him now than later.  But it's still sad.  I realise that until now I've been so lucky - 4 litters before this one and I've never lost a puppy before.  It's hard, even if you try to steel yourself against it and even if you know it's the right thing and that nature is just doing her job.  Keksi knew and just accepted it.  I aspire to a little of her dignity and grace.  RIP little black Lappy.

But the remaining 6 are strong & noisy.  Fingers crossed they all continue to do well over this first crucial week.

You can find an explanation of the name 'Riemu' here.

Brown Wolf - Puppy 1

Colour:  brown wolf sable
Sex:  female
Birth Time:  21.32
Birth Weight:  362g

Named for her cousin from Taika's litter, Grey Wolf.

Hopea - Puppy 2

Colour:  cream
Sex:  female
Birth Time:  22:00
Birth Weight:  344g

"Hopea" is Finnish for silver - and this girl is definitely silvery-white, just like her half-sister Marja, who was the Marilyn of Keksi's last litter.  She looks like she has a very nice wolf sable-y cast to her fur here, don't you think?  Yeah, but that's actually just newsprint!  Hopefully she'll be a bit cleaner for her next portrait. 

Toes - Puppy 3

Colour:  black, tan & white
Sex:  female
Birth Time:  22:58
Birth Weight:  393g

Named for her 2 white toes - her only really distinguishing feature.  But I couldn't call her 2 Toes, because that name was already taken by one of her cousins too.

Ilo-ette - Puppy 4

Colour:  wolf sable
Sex:  female
Birth Time:  23:08
Birth Weight:  332g

Named for her dad because she is the wolf sable one with the flashy bright markings, just like him.

Claw - Puppy 5

Colour:  black, tan & white
Sex:  male
Birth Time:  1:10
Birth Weight:  343g

Named because his only distinguishing feature were his white claws on dark tan paws.  It was going to be White Claw, but just Claw is a more butch version.  I'm sure he'll appreciate the gesture when he grows up.

Brownie - Puppy 6

Colour:  brown, tan & white
Sex:  male
Birth Time:  2:16
Birth Weight:  382g

Named because he is the brown one, obviously.  Also, my grandfather's dog was named Brownie, the first dog I ever knew.

Puppy 7

Colour:  Black, tan & white
Sex:  male
Birth Time:  7:30
Died:  10:30
Birth Weight:  339g

RIP little Lappy - Anniebear will take care of you at Rainbow Bridge.  I will always wonder how you would have turned out.

So, there they are: 6 puppies - 4 bitches, 2 dogs - 1 brown, 1 wolf sable, 1 both, 1 cream, 2 black.  And now things are going to start getting really busy around here.

Sunday, 19 February 2012


I'm sitting enjoying the first coffee I've had in... actually I don't know how many months it's been since I've had a coffee.  But a fairly long time.  The occasion?  We are celebrating the arrival of Keksi's puppies last night.  I say "celebrating" but, in truth, there might be the tiniest bit of self-preservation in there too as the first puppy arrived at 9:30 last night and we've been going all night.  This is the 2nd night of no sleep for Keksi & me, and even after all her hard work, she's definitely doing better than I!

At the time of writing (9 am on Sunday), I'm still not 100% certain she's finished, as number 7 arrived only an hour & a half ago, more than 5 hours after number 6.  Number 7 is a bit slow to get going, as you might expect, but he's moving & making noise so I'm hoping he will make it.

So, without further ado, welcome to the Riemu litter!

Mum & babies

For these puppies I've chosen the litter name "Riemu" (pronounced ree-moo, approximately) as a way of carrying on the family name tradition on their sire's (Glenchess Ilolas) side of the family.  Riemu is a Finnish word meaning "joy" or "elation".  Ilolas's pet name is Ilo (pronounced ee-lo), another Finnish word meaning "joy".  His kennel name, Ilolas, is the Saami form of that word.  His father, Lapinlumon Elämänilo, is also called Ilolas, and Elämänilo's father is called Ilo.  So, as you can see, there's plenty of joy in the family.

I've chosen another word with the same meaning, as I feel there are quite enough Ilos and Ilolases in the family tree already - not to mention a little lady, Neka's half-sister, who lives here in the UK on the south coast and is also called Ilo (although it's pronounced it differently with a long I-sound as eye-lo). 

As with all things related to the Kennel Club, though, the name Riemu is subject to their approval, so I hope I don't run into any problems there.

We have a little bit of a rainbow, colour-wise.  There is a black tricolour girl and 2 black tricolour boys, a brown boy and a brown wolf sable girl and what I think is a wolf sable girl - but at this stage it's difficult to tell, frankly.  She might be black tricolour too.  And, of course, a cream girl who is looking just like her half-sister Marja (Marilyn) from the last litter.

Individual photos up tomorrow.

Friday, 17 February 2012


Another great reason to teach your dog to "Leave It" is when he gets into something he really shouldn't.  There are plenty of dangers to your dog just lying around waiting to be sniffed, licked or picked up.  Some of them are really very dangerous poisons to dogs, and it's a good idea for dog owners to make themselves familiar with the sorts of things dogs and puppies really shouldn't have anything to do with.

Tarkka enjoying chewing a (clean, safe) plastic plant pot.

1.   Antifreeze - just one lick can be fatal to a dog.  And, what's worse, dogs are attracted to the scent of it.

2.  Some human foods - as discussed in an earlier post, some common food is toxic to dogs.  Keep them away from grapes & raisins, chocolate, fruit & fuit seeds, all alcohol and xylitol, which is a sweetener found in many things like chewing gum, candy and fizzy drinks.  Even a small amount of this stuff can cause a potentially fatal drop in blood sugar or liver failure.

3.  Insecticides -  consider sprays, bait boxes, ant powder - all very poisonous to dogs, even in small amounts.  When applying spot-on flea treatment, be careful to apply it to the back of the dog's neck where he cannot lick it.

Viivi sharing a stick with her big bro Jaska.  I've also got stuff to say about dogs chewing sticks... but that's for another time!

4.  Rat/mouse poison - Awful stuff for rodents and dogs alike.  And remember that your dog can even be affected by the poison if he picks up or - ew - takes a bite out of a dead rat (there's that "Leave It" command coming in handy again.)

5.  Humans' drugs - lots of common medications are potentially lethal to dogs, so it's best to keep them away from all drugs.  In particular, they are in danger from NSAIDs like ibruprofen, other painkillers like acetaminophen, antidepressants like Prozac and amphetimines like those used to treat ADD/ADHD.  Even veterinary pain medication can be fatal if ingested in large amounts.  Keep them all well out of reach.

6.  Household cleaners - bleach is the obvious one, but also keep all the sprays and polishes away where they cannot be accessed by a nosey or bored canine.  Especially if they have a plastic nozzle.  Especially if your pooch is one of the many who has a penchant for chewing plastic (see Tarkka above).

7.  Many, many common house & garden plants, and other garden dwellers like fertilizer and cocoa shell mulch.  Have a look here on the Dogs Trust site for a list of plants that are poisonous to dogs.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

pup tip - house training I

This is also known as "toilet training" for dogs, although it doesn't actually involve toilets, as such, just toilet-ing.  In American publications you might see this referred to as "house breaking".  Basically, it means teaching your dog where it is and is not acceptable to wee and poo.

Start house training as soon as you bring your pup home.  As with all training, timing is the key to early success and you will need to be committed to the cause in the early days.  Remember the consistency I'm always banging on about?  Well, that applies here too.  Big time.  If you catch your puppy in the act of getting ready to wee indoors every time and you say no every time and quickly hustle him outside to do the deed every time, then he will learn very quickly that that is what he must do every time.  If your puppy manages to do an indoor wee without being stopped, then he will learn that he can wee indoors.  Even if only gets away with it sometimes.

So, what happens if you scold your puppy for weeing or pooing indoors?  Even worse - what if you punish him for doing so?  What will happen is he will hide away from you to do it.  That's a fact and that is why you should never, ever scold or punish your puppy for relieving himself indoors.  He has to go somewhere and he simply does not know any better.  It is up to you to teach him where is allowed to go.  You simply show him what he is allowed to do rather than telling him off for doing what he is not allowed to do.  That means you need to keep your eye on him and take him out a lot in the beginning.

Taito squatting for a wee in the garden, aged 8 weeks.

And what do you do when your puppy does his business outside?  As with all training, you give him praise and treats. You act as if he just accomplished the most outstanding feat of puppy amazingness.  Make him feel good about relieving himself in the correct place. 

It's up to you to know when your puppy is likely to need to relieve himself. And, in the beginning, it will be often.  Very often.  These are the times to take your puppy outside for a wee and/or poo:
  • As soon as he wakes up
  • As soon as he finishes eating
  • Every 20 minutes while he is awake or playing
  • If he is busily walking around sniffing the floor, particularly when going in circles
  • Every time he asks to go out
You might need to have a bit of an eagle eye for recognising that your puppy is asking to go out.  They start asking really surprisingly early on.  Even the little 6-and-7-week-olds start asking before they ever leave us here.  But it doesn't necessarily mean your puppy will go up to the door and bark or scratch.  That comes much later.  At first look for the puppy just hanging around or sitting next to the door.  Or keep a watch for your puppy gazing at the door.  Or just barking frantically for no apparent reason.

Neka gave us a challenge.  She was asking to go out really quickly in her training, but her way of asking was a casual glance in our direction as she strolled across the living room towards the back door.  Funny girl.  It took us a while to catch on that this was her sign, but once we spotted it, we had the house training cracked.

For more on house training, have a look at this later post.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

five (make that 3) more things you should teach your dog

Following on from my earlier post, five things you should teach your dog, here are a few more absolute essentials that didn't make the cut on the original five.

1.  Leave - Also known in some training classes as "Leave It".  The addition of the "it" may have something to do with the fact that dogs hear hard consonants better than soft sounds, so finishing the command on a hard T gives it a bit of extra punch.  Otherwise it can sound to a dog a bit like any other eee-word.  This really is an essential command for every dog.  It's useful for getting him to part with treasures he finds such as tissues, shoes, disgusting things found in fields, or, as in the case of Keskiyo a few years ago, a live and rather surprised pheasant.  Keskiyo, whose leave is really excellent, dropped the pheasant, albeit probably as much in shock at having caught it as in response to my roared command.  Nonetheless, drop it he did, and it survived to wind up another dog on another day.  Leave also works as in "leave that other dog/cat/person alone."

Karhu:  "May I please leave this bath?"
2.  Heel - Otherwise known as walking nicely on a lead.  This can be a tough one for Lapphunds.  Neka took an absolute age to finally stop pulling on her lead, regardless of how much training we did.  And we did a lot.  When she was about 5 months old she actually pulled me over into the street in the path of a bus.  Lappies pack a lot of power for a relatively small dog and they go from 0 to 60 in a split second, usually off to the side, taking your shoulder out of its joint as they go.  There are lots of good products available to help with the really stubborn pullers, and I eventually went the harness and head collar route.  These days she's excellent on her lead.  Unless she sees a squirrell, of course.  Or a cat.  Or occasionally a squirrell-shaped blowing leaf.

3.  Off - This is the all-purpose command to mean "get all 4 paws on the ground".  Use it to mean "get off the sofa," or "get off the street from the path of oncoming taffic and back onto the pavement," or "get off the stairs."  The real biggie, though, for this command is to stop your dog jumping up on people.  Some are happy to have their dog jumping up occasionally for a quick cuddle.  After all, it's certainly easier to reach them when they jump up to you rather than you bending down to their level.  However, if you do that you need to beware that they will forevermore equate jumping up on people with affection and therefore they will jump up on other people at every opportunity.  Don't let your dog jump up on other people, people.  Little folks don't do too well with dogs jumping up on them.  Equally old folks.  Not to mention folks dressed in their nice clothes.

Kallio illustrating another excellent use for the "Off" command.  Obviously he thinks anything the cat can do is fair game.

There are lots of things you can and should teach your dog, but I've reached the end of my list of absolute essentials.  Hmmm, maybe I should have kept point one from the first list as separate entries: sit, down, stay. That would have nicely filled out 2 sets of 5.

What has been the best or most important thing you ever taught your dog?

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

one last Keksi update

During the 2 weeks that Keksi was back at home, Daniel was joking with me that she looked as though she was carrying many puppies.  Many.  Eleven, he said.

Now, before you get excited, he doesn't actually know anything, so his little joke was just that - a little joke.  (To be precise, he does actually know stuff.  Lots of stuff.  And much knowledge.  He is a scientist with a PhD, after all.  However, his knowledge does not extend to how many puppies Keksi might or might not be carrying.)

But... just look at this belly.

Pretty impressive, no?

And, for comparison purposes, here she is from the same-ish angle as the previous belly updates.

This is what Neka looked like at a similar stage of development when she was carrying the current record-holding litter of 9.

So, do I think that Keksi is carrying a litter of 9?  No, of course not... well, maybe.

And, on that note, here's the poll.  It's just for fun, there are no prizes for right answers, but you can participate at the top right-hand corner of the blog.  The question is this:  how many puppies will Keksi have?  The poll will run until the puppies are born - about a week.

And do not ask me why the girls are wearing leads in those photos.  After all, with those bellies they can barely walk - where exactly did we think they were going to run off to?

Monday, 13 February 2012

mama has arrived

Yesterday we had a quick trip to our usual meeting point, Leigh Woods, to hook up with Daniel & Jim, have a little stroll in the mud, I mean, woods, and bring Keksi home for the duration of her pregnancy.

Kuura was looking gorgeous after his big moult.  He's still very fluffy at each end - around his neck ruff, trousers and tail, although he's lost most of his undercoat now.  Here he is back in the car which is showing the muddy evidence of our walk. 

And Keksi?  Well, she is looking ready to burst, frankly.  No wonder Daniel was having nightmares about her giving birth before making it to Devon.  Oh, she's big.  Really big.  The puppies are due to arrive in approximately a week.  Tomorrow an update on The Belly and a little poll on the size of the litter.  I'm saying more than 5.  Definitely more than 5. 

Friday, 10 February 2012

product review - Yumega oil supplement

Yumega Essential Omega Oil for Your Dog's Coat and Skin

Available In:  250 ml bottle

Price:  £10.69 plus delivery.
You can find it slightly cheaper online but best value is to buy 6 bottles for £59.25 or get a deal at a large dog show like Crufts.

Ingredients:   Golden flax oil, starflower oil, vitamin E

Manufacturer:  Lintbells


What it Claims:

From Lintbells website:
"YUMEGA Dog is a unique blend of natural Omega 3 & 6 oils from coldpressed golden flax and starflower, proven to generally improve dog health, coats and skin.

YUMEGA is proven to:
  • Reduce excessive dog moulting
  • Improve dry, flaky skin
  • Develop the perfect coat
Trusted and recommended by thousands of breeders and vets, Yumega Dog is easy to use and will improve your dog's skin and coat condition in as little as 3-6 weeks."

How it Works:

Flax seeds and starflower (borage) oil are the best known sources of Omega-6, an essential fatty acid which has proven benefits for skin and hair, amongst other health benefits.  The primary source of Omega-3 is oily fish, but it is also found in flax seeds.

What I Did:

On the advice of a friend who had great success with Yumega, I bought 6 bottles to use on my 3 dogs.  It is administered in their food and introduced slowly at the rate of half a normal dose for the first week.  In the end I didn't give any to our Akita, Annie, as she was already on various oil supplements for her joints, so I used 2-and-a-bit bottles in total on 2 dogs over a period of a few weeks after they had finished moulting.    For a medium-sized dog, the dosage is 5 - 7.5 ml per day, so one bottle approximately equals a month's supply for one Finnish Lapphund.

Did It Work?

I didn't actually see an enormous difference after using Yumega.  Their coats were slightly more shiny, but there was no change in Neka's itchy skin condition.  As my dogs get a varied diet rich in fish oil, anyway, it's possible they were already getting much of the benefit that Yumega offers.  There are certainly other Lapphund owners who swear by the product for maintaining their dogs' coats.  The reviews found online are a similarly mixed bag.  The benefits seen probably depend on how much Omega-3 & 6 your dog gets otherwise. 

I stopped using the product and gave the remaining bottles away to very grateful friends and raffles.

Pros - easy to adminster
Cons - a bit pricey at more than £10 per month per dog

Woof Rating:  3 out of 5

Thursday, 9 February 2012

five things you should teach your dog

Even if you have no intention of ever attending a formal obedience competition, all dogs should be enrolled in obedience classes when they are young, at least.  Training your dog is good for you both.  Quite apart from the socialisation that your dog receives at such classes, the training increases the bond between the two of you, and it gets your dog in the frame of mind for doing as he's told.  If you're inexperienced at training, you learn how to do it, and your dog gets to learn all the basics that he needs in order to be a responsible member of canine and human society.

And even if you have never attended any kind of dog training class, there are some things every dog should do on command.  Here are five of them.

1.  Your dog should sit, lie down and wait/stay on command.  These are basic doggie manners that you will use again and again. The more impatient and fidgety your dog, the more important it is that he will respond to the basics.

Keskiyo learning to stand on command.

2.  Every dog should have a reliable recall.  Now, I can actually hear the legions of Finnish Lapphund owners howling with mirth as I type this.  You see, Lapphunds are renown for finding every person, dog, squirrell (twig, blade of grass, etc, etc) so absolutely captivating that they will leave you waiting until they are good and ready to come back.  However, if you ever plan to allow your dog to run freely off-lead, then you must have at least some prospect of getting him to come back to you when you call him.  If you are lucky enough to have a greedy, food-motivated dog, then the recall is much easier to train - and much more likely to work in practice, even when there are extreme distractions involved.

3.  Every dog is likely to have an injury during its lifetime, whether it is a major one requiring vets and surgery or just a minor one like a skin graze or splinter in the paw.  If you - or the vet - are going to be able to find the problem safely and without frightening or further injuring your dog, then he needs to be accustomed to being examined.  You should therefore teach your dog to willingly submit to being gently handled from head to toe, in his ears, nose, eyes, mouth, belly, paws, between the toes and the sensitive bits under the tail.  You should teach him to accept such intrusions while he is standing, while he is sitting, while he is lying down and to expose his belly for examination too.

4.  The instant down is one that I credit with saving Neka's life - perhaps more than once.  The ability to get your dog to immediately stop what he's doing, drop to the ground and stay there is a vital skill to keeping your dog safe.  It will also possibly keep the local squirrell and cat population safe too, as the very best instant down will even stop your dog in mid-chase.

5.  Finally, one great skill for dogs is to have what is known as a soft mouth.  This is also known as bite inhibition.  Dogs with good bite inhibition will take things from fingers without grabbing and they will hold things in their mouth without biting down hard.  It's this capability that means your dog will instantly let go when his teeth encounter human skin.  In playing with people, he won't accidentally bite, and in a scuffle with another dog it really will be all noise and fur with no actual damage done.  My favorite places to go for all things training, including soft mouth, are Gwen Bailey's Perfect Puppy and and Ian Dunbar.  Online, you can get some good Dunbar advice in a free pdf from Dogstar Daily.

 Quite apart from anything else, good training ensures you can occasionally get your group of dogs together for a photo opportunity.
 L-R: Keksi, Keskiyo, Neka (back), Maija

Already I can think of at least 2 more essential things that every dog should know.  I feel a five more things you should teach your dog post coming on...

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

pup tip - start as you mean to go on

Right from the first day in his new home, a puppy should be exposed to the normal daily routine he will be expected to abide by for the future.  I always recommend that people take some time off work when they bring their new puppy home.  You need time to sort out the house training, do some bonding, spend a few hours puppy-worshipping, get him sleeping all night, do lots of short and fun training sessions, and prepare your puppy to spend time alone.

First Night

A puppy's first night or two away from his mum & littermates will probably be absolutely awful for him - and for his new owners.  He will cry and howl and be quite pitiful.  There are other methods, but I recommend the tough love approach - keep him awake in the evening so that he's really tired, put him to bed with a few bits of food and some safe toys, and then turn out the lights and go to bed.  And put in your earplugs.  And don't return to him no matter how heartbreaking his cries.

Ukko at home in his crate during his first week home.

Because you know what happens if you return to him and give in, right?  Yes.  He will throw a tantrum everytime he wants something, secure in the knowledge that if he barks and howls for long enough, he will eventually get his own way.  And he will do the same thing every single night when he goes to bed...

It usually only takes a couple of nights for him to give up and go to sleep.  Then once he is happy sleeping at night, if he then wakes up and calls, he almost certainly needs to wee and/or poo.  In the interest of his house training, it's then a good idea to drag yourself out of bed and take him out to do his business so he's not forced to do it in his sleeping area.  He would rather not soil his bed, but if he has no choice, then he will do so and will thereby learn that it is acceptable to do so in the future.

Alone Time

The other routine your new puppy must learn is to spend time alone.  Again, being alone will be all new to him.  Each of my puppies gets to spend a few minutes alone as part of my socialisation programme, but that's very different from learning to stay at home while you go to work for a couple of hours.

So, whatever you do, don't wait until the day before you go back to work to start worrying about leaving him.  Start the alone routine straightaway on his first morning with you.  You take him out for his morning ablutions, give him his breakfast, take him out for more wees & poos, do some playing, more house training, and then when he's tired, put him in his crate with some toys and leave him alone.  Get him started on what is going to be his normal morning routine.

Even if you don't work and you plan to spend most of your time with the puppy, he will still need to learn to be left alone, so it's a worthwhile exercise regardless.

Furniture, Chewing, Upstairs

Finally, you need to decide what your adult dog is going to be allowed to do and what he is not going to be allowed to do and then apply those rules to the tiny, adorable puppy.  If you don't want your big galoot of a wet dog to lie on the sofa, then don't let the irresistible 8-week-old ball of fluff on the sofa either.

Neka wasn't allowed on the furniture, so she would sleep with her head on our feet.  So cute!

And then we decided that having the animals on the furniture was actually ok with us.  Just as well.

If you don't want your dog jumping on people, then don't let the tiny puppy jump up either.  The same goes for letting the tiny puppy chew your fingers.  At first it's quite cute.  Then it really isn't.   In fact, the same goes for chewing anything.  Decide what your puppy is allowed to chew, which rooms he is allowed to use, whether or not he is permitted upstairs, and then enforce the rules rigidly.  Rigidly.  Don't make exceptions - ever.

Why not?  Because the important thing with all matters of successful dog training and raising a well-mannered, well-behaved adult dog is consistency.  Do the same thing everytime and demand the same behaviour of your dog all the time and at all occasions.  The bottom line is this: your dog will do whatever you teach him to do, and whatever you allow him to do.  If you allow him to do something once, he will think he can do it forever.  So be careful to only ever let your puppy learn what you want your adult dog to be.  

Sounds, easy, doesn't it.  Uh huh.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Keksi update

Daniel reports that Keksi is enjoying her pregnancy, and is her normal happy, chilled self.  Here is the Lady of the Growing Belly relaxing ... in front of the fire?  Surely it wasn't lit.  At any rate, I'd say she's blooming.

She has been on slightly more food for a week now and has just started daily worming so that the puppies have the best possible start.  In a week she will come back down to us to settle in and have her puppies and she will stay until they are weaned.

I've been busy compiling all the stuff we'll be needing like the disposable whelping box, rubber gloves, round-tipped surgical scissors and clean towels.  And newspapers?  You may recall that I ran out of them last time and had to send out requests to my neighbours for emergency supplies.  This time I've got plenty.  I'm quite sure it will be plenty.  Well, plenty for a normal sized litter, anyway.  Daniel is threatening me with 11, though, based on the rapidly expanding girth.  Shhh - don't even think it!

Then there is the small matter of cleaning out the puppy room - a mammoth chore each and every time.

In the meantime, I've been told that Keksi performed another expert and impressive bin raid and that Daniel had a hard time retrieving all the bits of ripped up cardboard before she scooped them up.  Between the wood and the cardboard, I'm beginning to wonder if she's planning to have a litter of beaver pups. 

Not long now and we'll find out.  Tiny pointed tails?  Or tiny flat tails?

You get an idea of her changing shape from the photo above, but here is a belly update too.

Monday, 6 February 2012

rain or shine

Regardless of the weather, your dog needs exercise.  If you are lucky enough to have a Finnish Lapphund, then you will find yourself walking in all sorts of disgusting weather.  Lappies were bred to work and so they have a lot of energy.  That energy needs to be channelled everyday and I have found that the worse the weather, the better the Lapphunds like it.  Heavy rain?  They scoff at all sorts of rain, sleet and even hail.  Wind blowing trees horizontal?  They love that!  In fact, there is little so likely to bring the puppy out in my dogs than a gale force wind blowing through their coats and up their tails.

Apart, perhaps, from snow.  Lots of dogs love the snow, and Lapphunds - appropriately - seem to have a love of snow bred into their genes.  There were lots of happy Lappies around the UK over the weekend when there was a large amount of snow dumped over a 24-hour period.  Here in Devon we had a tiny sprinkle but then the rain moved in.

Neka enjoying a rare Devon snowfall last winter

Photo: Wendy H Gilmour

Karhu coming over all puppy-ish in the snow with his stick

And if the weather is just too disgusting for much of a walk, then your dog will need entertainment and exercise more than ever.  Here, from Dogster are some ways to keep your dog happy and occupied when you can't go outside.  Or even if you can, because these games are great fun for you and your dog.

Friday, 3 February 2012


All dogs like need a good brushing from time to time.  It helps if your dog also likes to be groomed and you can help this along by gently brushing your puppy a little everyday to get him accustomed to it.  With perseverence and a smidgen of luck your dog will grow to enjoy quiet time alone with you to be groomed.

Some dogs need more grooming than others.  You might think that a Lapphund, with its long, thick coat, would need agonising hours of brushing, but not so!  Their coats are surprisingly easy to maintain - a bath once a year or so (providing they don't roll in something disgustingly smelly, that is), and a good brushing through the thick undercoat down to the skin once a week.  Ish.

Young Lappies and dogs with softer coats will need more brushing rather than less.  The soft fur around the ears and legs will need regular combing to prevent matting.  As the dog matures, the coat becomes coarser and easier to maintain.  When they get muddy, just wait for them to dry and the dirt simply falls off.  Ideally somewhere easy to clean up rather than the sofa or your prized antique Turkish rug.

Lapphunds don't lose much hair in between moults, but when they do moult once or twice a year, then it can make quite a mess.  Your Lappy puppy's first big moult is an experience like no other you will have had.  The undercoat comes out in - literally - bagfuls, yet there always seems to be more to be brushed out tomorrow.

Daniel with 13-month-old Kuura after one good brushing session during the boy's 1st big moult.  You can see from his woolly coat that there is plenty more to come.

I generally advocate the use of 2 or 3 specific grooming tools.  However, after using the same things for several years, I'm now in the market for a couple of new dog brushes, so watch this space for future product reviews.

No discussion of grooming would be complete without mention of trimming the nails.  Oh, the trauma!  Oh, the drama!  It is an event in itself and so warrants a blog post to itself too.

But, until then, the helpful folks at have produced this handy guide to brushing a dog.  Keep in mind that an adult Lapphund will have a very thick, long coat and you will need to brush it in very small sections to ensure you don't miss any.