Discussing dog breeds, dog-adoption, and the human-canine connection.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bull Terrier, Collie, Labrador and "Walkies"

When it is walk time in our house there is an order. Particularly since I'm in recovery mode from surgery and can't take more than one dog out at a time. Although as an oldest child I have a certain sympathy for the argument that age should be allowed precedence in many matters, when it comes to dog walking I always start with the baby of the family. Lil is the youngest, least patient, and weakest bladder. The one most likely to make a mess in the house is the one most likely to go out first.

Since Lil has a lot to learn about walking she takes her walk with a Gentle Leader head harness. She learned within her first walk with it, how I expected her to walk on it. In the dog world we call this "trainable". Lilith is one of the most trainable members of our family.

Waiting in the wings is walker number two, Gracie. Grace knows she is number two to be walked, so when she sees Lil and I arriving on the front porch, she stops watching out the window and moves over to the door to sit and wait her turn to get hooked up.

Gracie walks on a Gentle Leader harness. Unlike Lil, Gracie does not rank so high on the trainability scale. Fortunately, I'm probably the most trainable member of the family after Lil. So when Gracie and I tried using a Gentle Leader harness with Gracie and that didn't work - Gracie proved capable of walking on her back legs and ripping the head harness off her face all at the same time - I realized I needed to try a different dog walking technology with her. We have found this particular kind of harness works well for us.

Meanwhile, the patient, oldest dog waits in the wings, watching for her turn at walking. Jenny and I are both slowing up just a tad with age; it takes Jen a little longer to hop out of the window and get to the door.

But she makes it by the time Gracie and I are walking in.

Jenny walks on a collar and loose lead. Unlike the puppies, Jenny and I are interested in taking in the scenery as we walk. We don't rush through our walk but enjoy. Sometimes we stop and smell the flowers. Sometimes we spend a little longer and go a little further because we are in sync and having a good time.

Lil is a snuffer and huffer, she likes to sniff everything with such intensity that she sucks things up her nose; walking Lil is kind of like walking a vacuum cleaner. Gracie is a charger, she likes to march through the neighborhood and see what everyone is doing and grumble if she doesn't approve. Jenny is a quiet observer. She sniffs a little, watches a little, strolls a lot. If she sees someone she perks up and maybe wags her tail.

Three dogs, three walks, three different experiences.
What about the rest of you? What is walk time like at your home and how do your canine companions shape the walk experience you share?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cats find a use for Dogs

In our house cats and dogs coexist. While Jenny and Snug Bug can share a couch they do their best to keep from actually touching each other. If Snuggers could move over another foot on their little couch she would.

Some cats and dogs actually enjoy each other's company.

Notice that Breezy actually allows her leg to rest against a cat - and is not suffering any ill effects as a result. In fact, these housemates have discovered the advantage of sharing body heat. It turns out that cats have discovered this is the one thing that dogs are good for - providing heat.

There is the cat and dog tuck and cuddle - cozy and allowing the cat to glare if anyone should actually witness this - cats are great at giving the stink eye.

Then there is the cuddle under the ear - this works best when there is a certain size difference between the cat and the ear providing cover. Really young cats don't think to hide this kind of dog consorting behavior from prying eyes.

And finally we have cats who simply lay on top of dogs - perhaps the most effective method of making use of the dog's body heat. What really young cats don't always realize is that rather than just making use of the dog for heat, done properly a dog can also provide extra cushioning between a delicate cat and the hard floor.

A dog's body can provide the best cushioning between a floor and a cat - but it is important to find a correct sized dog to really maximize the comfort for the cat.

It isn't just a matter of finding a dog that is big and cushy enough to be cozy on - a truly sensitive cat, a princess and the pea kind of cat, finds that even when using a couch a dog can provide a nice buffering level of heat and comfort.

Sometimes one can see a young cat and see the making of a true cat genius. Small yet able to control their environment...from a dog's point of view these might be considered cat evil geniuses.
Beware my doggy friends - the evil cat geniuses are already planning how to harness your heat and comfort for their own benefit...they really do think the rest of us are here just to serve them.

And now a little update: Is the following a picture of:
                               a) a kind senior citizen cat grooming a young dog
                               b) a crafty old cat lulling a young dog into a false sense of security
                               c) an average cat mesmerizing a dog so the dog will later do his bidding
                               d) some other possibility that only another cat would know....

Who can truly say?
For while The Shadow may know what evil lurks in the hearts of men, no one tends to know what is going on in the mind of a cat -- evil, kind, or otherwise   ;-)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Gracie the Bull Terrier: She Stands on Guard for We Other Three

At least she starts out standing on guard for us...the truth is that running a one dog neighborhood watch demands a lot of Gracie's time and energy.

Eventually, it wears her out. So the alert stand has to eventually give way to a slightly more relaxed stance.

On the other hand, she is watching.
Please note that Jenny is just trying to catch a nap in some of the sunbeams. Left to Jenny, we would have no one vigilantly watching out the window.

Lil is even worse.

Instead of even being near the window at all, she is siting on the floor near my feet - sounds very faithful but she's going to be the last to know, except for maybe me, when villainous invaders storm the house. Gracie is the best hope we have for sounding an alarm.

Of course, watching out the window in a very quiet neighborhood is not the most exciting job in the world.

Eventually a girl has to be forgiven for having a seat - note still near the window - just relaxing a little from the vigilant posture of keeping constant watch.

And sitting in the sun...well, it can make it hard to keep one's eyes open. So after a while even a great watch dog's eyes start to droop closed.

Eventually, it gets a little hard to be totally and completely vigilant. As long as she's near the window, ready to begin watching again though, it doesn't matter if she relaxes a little bit, right?

Although, once the sun quits shining as brightly, well, a girl's nose starts to cool off.  That means tucking the nose up to keep it nice and toasty warm. Thus, what started off as a vigilant guard dog ends up looking a little more like a little baby taking a nap on the end of the couch. Take my word for it though, that curled up little napping dog is one fierce watch dog - if you dare wake her up!

Beware the sleeping Bull Terrier...really fierce when she wakes up and looks back out the window :-)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

More About the Chinese Shar Pei

Fawn horse coat meat mouth male Shar Pei, acceptable tail curl

It takes a mouth full of adjectives to properly describe a Chinese Shar Pei.

Is the dog bone mouth or meat mouth, horse coat or brush coat -- fawn, red, cream, silver, chocolate? And then for the Shar Pei people, what kind of tail? The above adult dog has a tail that has the proper cork screw bend over the back; many Shar Pei actually have a looser, less proper tail...but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. One detail at a time.

Fawn horse coat bone mouth female Shar Pei

First, the mouth types. While Shar Pei are usually thought of as The Wrinkle Dog, it is in fact their mouth which helps create a big part of their distinctive look. Americans are commonly used to seeing meat mouth Shar Pei, which have thick, heavy lips. Originally though, bone mouth --which lacks the heavy lips--were just as common amongst the Chinese bred Shar Pei. The bone mouth makes a dog look distinctively different.

Black bone mouth

I would suspect that a bone mouth Shar Pei actually looks, to those not familiar with the breed, more like a mix breed than a purebred. In the original breed standard however, there was no preference for either mouth type. In AKC show rings though, I can't remember even seeing someone attempt to show a bone mouth for over a decade.

Counter clockwise starting top left: Fawn horse coat, Cream brush coat, Black brush coat

Next, coat types. The slightly more preferred coat type was traditionally the "horse" coat - very short and almost bristly the coat was named for the similarity it bore to the type of coat distinct to horses in China.  Shar Pei were bred to be guard dogs who lived in a family's courtyard and protected the family from intruders. The Shar Pei was also bred to withstand attack by the dogs of invaders. The loose skin allowed the Shar Pei to turn on a dog that tried to grab it by the neck; the horse coat was meant to be uncomfortable in another dog's mouth. The brush coat was slightly longer - giving the dog a fuller, almost puffier look. It has become more popular amongst pet owners because petting a brush coat is a little like running your hand over crushed velvet.

Red brush coat

Chocolate or Silver horse coat

In North America, the brush coat is increasingly common - and sometimes a coat that is just too long is found - anything over an inch long was supposed to be a disqualification amongst Shar Pei. Remember that originally, Shar Pei that were not smart or brave enough, or who were otherwise found lacking, qualified for culling and could end up in the stew pot. Now they just supposed to be excused from breeding.

Cream brush coat

The tail is supposed to curl tight - the curl comparable in tight size to a coin - although a tail that curls loosely over the shoulder is acceptable. A loose tail that just stands or loosely falls over the back is also supposed to be a disqualification.

Red brush coat with tight curled tail

Fawn brush coat with loose tail

As far as wrinkles go - who is surprised to learn that North Americans prefer the most wrinkles possible? While there have always been a few individuals who were very wrinkled, it is more common for the adult Shar Pei to retain loose skin around the shoulders and neck but to outgrow most of their other wrinkles. American breeders sometimes focus on shorter heavier dogs that also keep more wrinkles.

Cream horse coat

While it is the unique looks that originally draw many people to the breed, it is the personality that either keeps people admirers of the breed or makes the breed unsuitable for some individuals or families.

 I became involved with the breed because of their reputation for being an intelligent, independent dog that did best with an experienced dog handler. I enjoy training dogs that demand something back from their handlers.

Fawn horse coat bone mouth

My first Shar Pei was a black horse coat bone mouth male; I eventually also owned a black horse coat meat mouth female and a fawn horse coat meat mouth female.

I spent a great deal of time doing education with people about the breed, including some public speaking at dog events. Originally people thought the Shar Pei were some kind of Pit Bull mixes and the breed's stern look scared some while others were attracted like magnets, not necessarily for the right reasons.

The Shar Pei is often suspicious of strangers but very devoted to their family members. They can be wonderful with children although, like most breeds, they do best when introduced to kids from a young age.

Cream horse coat meat mouth

They can also be very good with other animals - they tend to be aloof with other pets and enjoy the company of other dogs, particularly other Shar Pei. Shar Pei have a unique way of playing that is a combination of wrestling and boxing - they love to have another Shar Pei to wrestle with but will play with any willing other dog.

Multiple Shar Pei household

I loved my Shar Pei dearly and in fact, I still have such strong affection for each that it is hard to imagine finding a Shar Pei who could live up to the memories of my former trio. Each had a unique personality.

Black bone mouth horse coat

Sha T'an was a gentleman who lived to please and protect his people. He was polite, sensitive, and keenly aware of his environment. He had reflexes like a cat and was similarly lacking in fondness for getting his delicate paws wet.

Black meat mouth horse coat

O.J. (not my name choice) was always aloof to begin with...even with her family she could be a little standoffish. But she was such a clever girl and she was willing to be a clown - she liked to work a room for a laugh and had an excellent sense of humor. When she and Sha T'an first saw each other they both stopped dead in their tracks, then ran at each other like long lost best friends and immediately began wrestling.

Fawn meat mouth - coat boarders between horse and brush

Ning, or fat baby, was a little different. She was the most "American" of my Shar Pei, not as out and out clever as Sha T'an or O.J. but still very trainable and always devoted to her family. She was as good a kid's dog as I have ever met and children could do anything to and around her - not that we encouraged them to - but children can be unpredictable and no matter what happened around Ning she proved unflappable. Once a child even tripped and did a full out fall right on top of the sleeping fat baby - the air 'ooofed' audibly out of her lungs but her tail wagged and she didn't move, even as she woke waiting for the child to move first so she didn't knock him over.

Fawn meat mouth brush coat

While a fairly compact and very muscular dog, the Shar Pei is also a breed that is not for everyone. They do best in a home that is experienced with dogs and socialization - this breed does best with early socialization and firm but sensitive training. They don't respond well to yelling, crossness, or overly aggressive handling. This is a breed that has developed the capacity for intelligent disobedience for several thousand years ... don't expect that you will be the one to change the basic nature of the breed.

Fawn bone mouth


Fawn meat mouth

Some people have been working on changing the nature of the look of the breed. People have tried miniaturizing the breed and breeding for spotted Shar Pei. My only comment about this is that scientists were able to show that genetic problems ran hand in hand with the genes responsible for smaller size...there are smaller, spotted dogs already  out there in the world....

Fawn meat mouth horse coat

In my opinion this is a fun breed that is best suited to people who like a breed that can be independent but that doesn't like to be alone for long periods of time. They love to be with their people and they enjoy having someone to watch over.