Attitudes and expectations have changed in the thirty plus years since we rescued our, little Sophie.
Sophie, a white miniature poodle, was rescued from a home nearby. We had been on the look out for a dog, but the furtherest breed on my radar would have been a poodle. Never-the-less, what’s one to do when you hear about a dog needing a new home….. And then when you go and take a look, and are greeted with a dirty, matted, flea infested bundle of something, chained up in an outside laundry with a chain heavy enough to secure a Rottweiler. Clearly, she was a dog in need of a new home.
Sophie cleaned up beautifully and went on to provide great companionship for the family for around 13 years. Along with the companionship, we developed an appreciation for what owning a poodle means.
Despite the 80’s upbringing of Sophie, she thrived. Being a poodle, she required regular grooming, mainly in the form of hair cuts. The tight, curly wool of a poodle isn’t easy to brush, but fortunately, cutting is usually sufficient to keep them clean and tidy. She didn’t lose any hair, didn’t get any of the odour usually associated with dogs, and the poodle intelligence meant training was a breeze.
When it came to getting another dog, the choice of breed was a no-brainer. It had to be part poodle so as to get the non-shedding coat, and to get the intelligence that would mean easier training. But it had to be a cross breed too, so as to get something a little less haughty than Sophie tended to be.
And so we chose our little Labadoodle. The choice of dog out of the way, then comes the rearing of the dog.
Sophie was feed a diet of canned dog food, a bit of kibble (but that wasn’t really the thing in the 1980s), table scraps, and left over bones from any cooked legs of lamb. We knew cooked chicken bones could be dangerous for her, but never-the-less she managed to survive many a bin raid devouring the remaining carcass of any roast chicken dinners. She was a brat for managing to open the kitchen bin, especially if she could smell chicken.
Not only did she survive eating cooked chicken, she ate her fair share of chocolate too. She survived scoldings when she did something wrong, (even if we discovered her misdemeanour many hours after the event). And she only went to the vet a few times throughout her entire life. We did our best to keep her flea and worm free with over the counter products. Her vet visits consisted of being sterilised, a couple of necessary operations to remove grass seeds from her ears, and I think there may have been a couple of vaccination shots administered over the years. We certainly never considered a yearly check up was necessary, and as far as I remember, no-one considered such a thing for their pets.
My, how things have changed.
And thanks to the wealth of information now available at our fingertips, things are no longer simple. Kibble is definitely in….. Canned food is a maybe, as is raw food. Table scraps are a definite no. Cooked bones of any sort can now cause cracked teeth or impactions that may require surgery (I wonder why that wasn’t a concern in the 1980s, and how Sophie survived all her cooked lamb bones unscathed).
Raw bones, particularly chicken necks are something to consider – depending on which vet you talk to, or which internet site you look at. Some vets say absolutely not, some seem okay with it. However, without bones, dogs teeth deteriorate at a very young age. The choices for cleaning (if raw bones aren’t fed) seems to be manufactured dental chews, and/or brushing your dogs teeth…..
One thing that has, without a doubt, changed for the better is the flea and worm treatments now available. These are now given periodically orally, and seem to do a great job. The rest of the changes though are soooo confusing!
Vet visits – Our first chosen vet was adamantly in the Kibble only diet camp. Absolutely nothing else. As we’d already done enough research to have decided raw chicken necks and wings were the way to go for dental health, we didn’t stick with her to find out how Tilly’s teeth cleaning was to be managed.
So, onto vet number two. Now, I need to digress back to our breed and breeder selection here. Once we’d decided on a Labradoodle, we needed to select our breeder. We chose a small, accredited breeder, Eungai, in Perth’s hills. Mandi, from Eungai chooses her breeding dogs carefully, given due regard to temperament, and very importantly, to hip dysplasia scores. Labrador’s, and subsequently, Labradoodles are extremely prone to hip dysplasia which can result in painful arthritis from an early age. Breeding from dogs that have good hips helps minimise the chances of this happening. So, after lots of internet research, we chose Eungai for our breeder – more on how happy we’ve been with that choice at a later stage – this post is already so lengthy that it’s almost a book!
So, vet number two – stretches Tilly’s legs out checking for signs of hip dysplasia. One leg stretches out easily, the other not so easily. The vet, being almost positive that Tilly is already showing problematic signs of hip dysplasia, advises x-rays under aesthetic. $680 later the results are back, the Penn hip scores are in. Tilly has near perfect hips…… So, thank you Mandi for the care taken in choosing your breeding dogs. The tightness in the offending leg was then put down to a sore muscle, and, wait for it – a dog physio was recommended. Hell! his muscle can’t have been that sore, he wasn’t even limping….. Anyway, we declined to go there.
We’re sticking with this vet for now – I don’t know why, but we are. Mr Tilly’s on monthly check ups until he reaches six months of age, with his next check-up next week to check his teeth are coming through correctly. What will be recommended if they’re not, I have no idea. But if, and when anything unexpected is advised, we’ll decide at the time if we’ll continue on with this path, seemingly down the road to ensure we have a perfect labradoodle specimen. A few less than perfect traits I think could sit okay with us……
I think there was dog training 30 years ago, but it wasn’t the norm. Now in 2017 not only is dog training recommended, but also puppy school, and pre-puppy school. The odd clout on the bum or snout is definitely out, even stern growling (unless its at the exact moment a mis-demeanor is discovered) is also out. All training now is to be done only with treats. Kibble diets, which seem to be the main diet recommended, need to be weighed and dogs should never be fed more than the recommended amount so as to prevent obesity.
Exercise needs to be supervised, just enough – and not to rigorous for fear skeletal damage could result. Goodness, how negligent we were with Sophie – in comparison to the dog-rearing guidelines now it seems we weren’t far ahead of the people we rescued her from.
So, with everything about as clear as mud, and totally confused, we’re going with what feels right to us.
We took Tilly to pre-puppy classes, and for now have decided to consolidate the things we’re aware he needs to learn from those lessons. We’ll probably pick up on some further dog training next year, but we decided not to continue on immediately with further formal training. Most of his training is done with treats, but he is still sometimes the recipient of some stern words, and sometimes (rarely though) even long after he’s committed a misdemeanour. Goodness, we’re only human after all, and sometimes frustration comes into play over and above common sense, and the 2017 dog rearing rules. He’ll just have to deal with his imperfect owners the best he can! Honestly, though, he’s such a good dog, and needs little in the form of any reprimands.
The vet visits – well the juries out on where we’ll go with that in the future. Definitely, Tilly will be having his yearly vaccination boosters, and we will be administering his flea and worm medication as required. More than that I think will be on the needs of the dog, rather than the whims of the vet.
Exercise – well we walk him every day. Sometimes we let him run off the lead on the beach, but his re-call is still hit and miss, so we’re cautious with that. If, when he’s off the lead, he runs to fast, well we’re going to let him – negligent dog owners that we are!!
And his diet – well we’ve chosen what seems to sit right with us, and yes a good quality kibble forms the bulk of his diet. It’s such an easy way to go. We’ve opted to forbid any table scraps – mainly so as to prevent him begging for our food. The only people food we share with him is a few slices of raw apple. We feed him a few raw eggs a week, a few spoonfuls of natural yogurt over the week, and some raw meat. We mainly keep the raw meat for training treats, but most days he gets at least some. Today I’ve frozen some pieces of sheep hearts in small blocks of iced water, and I plan on using these as hot day treats that he can lick at, with meat rewards in the centre for when I’m grooming him. And every few days we give him either a raw chicken neck or a raw wing. He takes his time, chewing them thoroughly, and I know we run a risk of impactions (and resulting surgery) from the bones. We figure though that the bones are a better way to go for good dental health. Brushing a dogs teeth just seems wrong, and we’re not going there.
So, for better or for worse – that’s how we’re rearing our little Mr Tilly in 2017. It’s vastly different than the way we reared Sophie – but hey! I think Sophie did okay, and I think Till’s could have done a lot worse than to be living in our care, near the shores of beautiful Geographe Bay. I think come winter, when we head up to sunny Broome and beyond, he’ll be thinking he’s in ‘doggie heaven’. I can’t wait. He doesn’t know how good life can be yet – But he will…