Saturday, 31 August 2013

One day, I will say 'Go find Bouncy' and he will respond...

When I was young, my Grandma had a dog called Sandy.  I remember two things about her; she had a very human scream and a pink ball with a smiley face.  Sandy loved her pink ball so much that she became rather irritating with it.  In fact, she once irritated my Grandma so much with it, that she took it off her and put it on top of the fridge.  Sandy spent the rest of the day sitting by the fridge and staring hopefully until my Grandma had no choice but to give it back to her.

Caesar is the polar opposite.  Balls hold no excitement for him at all, which is odd considering how much he loves to chase other things.  Tug toys lose their appeal after seconds and you are left growling like a maniac and flapping your arms around with a redundant piece of rope.  Despite his lack of interest in toys, Caesar's toy box is full of tried and failed attempts to get him to play.  The only toys that he appears to have any interest in (aside from ones that contain food) is ones that are dangerous because he's broken them!  My Grandma, unaware of Caesar's strength of jaw, brought a pack of bright plastic balls for him to try.  Within seconds, he had crunched them into sharp shards of plastic, which we ran around trying to grab.  Annoyingly, these were the only things he wanted to play with!


A key problem is that many toys fall to pieces as soon as they see Caesar.  He has a way of breaking things and this isn't always accidental either!  I spend my time looking for hard wearing toys in pet shops.  Unfortunately, often, 'hard wearing' still isn't good enough for Caesar and he can waste through pounds worth of toys in seconds.  Perhaps the fastest record was the 'tiger tough tennis ball' priced at £3.  I gave him it, he took it from me carefully and two seconds later it was in pieces.  The other toy that he loved (mainly because it dispensed treats) was his 'Eggstraordinary Baffler' by Ruff and Tuff, unfortunately though it was neither rough nor tough enough for my mischievous mongrel who decided that, rather than knock it around in the hope that it may dispense treats, he would just bite through the plastic instead and steal all of the treats. I suppose it makes sense really...

 Caesar loved his 'Ruff and Tuff' "Eggstraordinary Baffler"
...but had destroyed it within hours of me giving it to him.

When I spotted 'Bouncy' who is actually a '3-Peaks Bounce Ball' in Pets at Home, I thought 'it's worth a try'.  The ball looked strong and durable and I'd love that to be the reason that I bought it but unfortunately it isn't.  The reason that I bought it is purely because it's EXTREMELY bouncy.  I bounced it in the floor of the shop and immediately fell in love.  It looked so much fun!  Unfortunately, Caesar is taking a little convincing, but he will chase it for treats.....sometimes.

Say hello to 'Bouncy'.  I will train Caesar
to like this ball.  Purely so that I can
use the command 'go find Bouncy!'

Is your dog a Sandy or a Caesar?  Do they love toys or are they completely indifferent about them?  Do they have a favourite toy?  Let me know with a comment.

Little bit of love:
A big thank you from Caesar and I to all our regular readers and all those who've taken the time to comment and contact me.  I've had a great response from you all and I have loved hearing about your own experiences.  If you would like to keep reading, I've added a subscription bar where you can subscribe using your email address, Google+ or a range of other fangled following things (you can always unsubscribe later if Caesar ever gets boring - sorry, not going to happen).  Big wags to all of you! 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Two steps forward...

I'm the queen of procrastinating.  If I know that I have to do something, I find every other important thing to do before I address the important task.  Yesterday, I had lots of work to do so naturally I; updated my blog, called my parents, visited my parents, went to the supermarket, visited my grandparents and finally arrived home with two trees for the planters which I then intended to plant.  This is when I got a text message asking if I wanted to go out tomorrow.  I did.  So I thought to myself 'Come on Sian, if you want to go out tomorrow, you really must get some work done.'  

'OK.  Now what needs to be done?'  I checked my blog stats, my emails, my social network.  These were not things that needed to be done.  "Shall we take the dogs for a walk?"  It was now eight o'clock and, since sitting down to 'get things done' at ten in the morning, I had done none of my work.  However, after yesterday's success, I was keen to show Damien how well behaved Caesar could be.  I was going to take him off the lead on the beach.  It was bound to be fairly quiet at this time of night and I, if a dog did appear, at least we could be confident he wasn't going to hurt it, at least not purposefully.

Unfortunately, there were more people on the beach than I had anticipated and I walked Caesar for a while on his lead.  Eventually, I found a stretch of deserted beach and hastily unclipped him.  The sky was darkening and the sand filled with shadowy shapes.  Is that a dog or a piece of flotsam?  Did I just see something moving?

It was hard to make out the shapes on the beach.

After a while, I suggested we turned around.  Time was moving on and the beach was getting darker.  Soon it would be hard to find our way back to the car.  In the distance there were two shapes.  They appeared to belong to a couple of teenagers who we had passed earlier.  They were playing on the sand.  Caesar was impeccably behaved and trotted only a few metres away before returning for a treat.  "Good boy!" I'd say in my comedy voice handing him a smelly piece of meat.  These treats stunk and I was pretty sure they weren't good for him, but, at the end of the day, he responds to them because he loves them and he knows when I've got one because it stinks.  "I wonder how fast he can run..." Damien mused as Caesar came haring back to us for treats.

Caesar, where are you going?

A little further down the beach, Caesar's ears pricked up.  He could see something that interested him.  I looked around but there was nothing apart from the teenagers running back and forth.  I assumed he had mistaken a nearby piece of tree for another animal and carried on walking.  The next moment, Damien's question had been answered and Caesar took off at a sprint towards the running teenagers.  Panic stricken, and remembering the time that he took me down on the same stretch of sand by lunging at my legs, I bellowed for him to come back but he just kept running.  Luckily, the two shapes seemed to know what to do, they stopped running and began to walk towards Caesar, perhaps offering to bring him back.  The instant that they stopped, he was no longer insterested, he turned on his heel and galloped back towards me and Damien, the thrill of the chase was gone.  My heart returned to normal pace after a few minutes and I immediately clipped Caesar's lead to him.  "You silly dog!"

Not what you want to see running towards you
at full speed!

I couldn't believe, when we had seen the light at the end of the tunnel with one problem, we immediately come across another.  Is there no end to his antics?

Does your dog chase?  Have you or your dog ever been chased?  What would your reaction be to seeing a dog running after you?  Let me know in the comments section.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Breaking News!

Making new friends is never easy.  This is particularly true if you are a 23kg Staffy crossbreed who lacks social awareness.  Luckily, a year ago Caesar and I found two great friends, following a rather eventful hour of attempting to do agility.  Amazingly, for once Caesar's irritating screeching had caught the right person's attention.  Emma and her dog Tango found us after the session and Emma offered to help me to socialise the noisy dog.  We've never looked back since.

Caesar and Tango on one of their first walks together.
It took Caesar 3 walks to stop barking and jumping
towards Tango.

Until Emma moved around an hour away from here, we had walked almost weekly but over the past months it had been difficult with holidays and Fly Ball season in full swing for Emma and Tango.  So, Emma suggested we visited her in her new house one night after work and, reluctantly, I agreed.  It wasn't that I didn't want to visit Emma and I really looked forward to seeing her new house, my worry was that, now that she had moved in with her partner, there were four dogs living under their roof.  Caesar struggles to manage one dog.  I expressed my concerns to Emma who tried to calm them with promises of long walks and crates and treats.  I tried to feel better but I couldn't help but worry.  What if Caesar did something to one of her partner's dogs?  'Hi, my name is Sian and that's my dog Caesar, the one that is mauling your pet...'

When I pulled up outside Emma's house, an hour after setting off, I already felt stressed.  I don't love driving at the best of times and after my recent breakdown meltdown, I didn't feel particularly confident.  "Give me the lead," she said.  "You're stressed and Caesar will feel the tension."  Seeing me stall for a second, she repeated calmly;  "It's fine.  Give me the lead."  I didn't feel fine.  I felt like saying; 'Nice to see you Emma, lovely house but I'm off home now,'  however, I'd come this far so I steadied my hand and passed the olive green lead to my friend.  I would trust Emma to the end of the earth with Caesar.  She knows him inside out and back to front.  Perhaps, in hindsight, she knew more about him than I did.  The person I didn't trust, was myself.  If Caesar did something, I would freeze, I knew it.  I liked to be in control, that was things didn't happen and I didn't have to react to them.  "I'll let Tango in first," Emma was saying, getting Tango from the car, "Caesar can follow him in."  Tango was exhausted, he'd been at 'daycare' all day where he has plenty of time to swim and play but comes home and wants to relax.  Tonight, he would have no such joy as his boisterous Staffy friend wanted nothing more than to play.  As soon as Caesar saw Tango his tail started to wag and he let out a few token barks.  As we entered the house, and to my complete mortification, Emma glanced over her shoulder at me and said "I'm going to drop the lead now."  I didn't think this was a good idea and said as much.  Emma looked at me reassuringly, "it's fine." she said, "he'll be fine.  And if he's not, we will pick the lead back up."  Caesar bounced into the front room, three of the four dogs were there, including Tango, who was certainly not in the mood for his antics.  Tonight, I would find out the truth about Caesar's reaction to dogs.

Tango was in no mood for Caesar's antics after a day of swimming and playing.

Jumping, barking and playing, Caesar was having a whale of a time.  I stood, hands on hips, shaking my head in disbelief.  Emma was smiling too.  He sniffing and jumping on all of the dogs.  Yes, he was boiserous and, at times, silly, but the reason behind his noises was confirmed; he wanted to play.  All of this time, all of this crazy behaviour and the bottom line was that he only wanted to play.  Unfortunately, the other dogs didn't and, at times did have to tell him this quite firmly.  Caesar didn't appear to understand that they didn't want to play with him so pushed them to the limit at times but when he eventually did get the point, he backed away barking and howling confused by their reaction.  I was amazed to see that Emma and her partner were more concerned that their dogs hurting Caesar.  "You're joking aren't you?" I laughed.  I let out a sigh that I'd been holding in for 18 months.  There was nothing malicious about Caesar at all.

After only half an hour at Emma's house,
Caesar (left) goes for a walk with four other dogs!

Fifteen minutes after we'd first entered the house, Caesar was in the garden with four other dogs.  I watched in amazement as he found his feet with them.  "He just wants to play," Emma told me, confirming my thoughts.  I nodded.  The walk that followed was the best we've ever had.  Emma lives near a forest that is rarely used and suggested we allow Caesar off for a run, now we were certain that he was only being friendly.  "OK." I agreed, a little more enthusiastically.  Caesar ran around in the forest and surrounding fields for almost an hour and a half.  He found a new friend; Zac, who possibly didn't like being chased as much as Caesar thought he did.  Caesar liked him so much that he would not let him out of his sight, everywhere Zac went, Caesar followed over enthusiastically.  He also found time to follow Pebbles and Phoenix, paying the least attention to his old friend Tango.  I felt sad about this but concluded that, after a full day of swimming and playing, Tango was probably glad that his over-enthusiastic friend had turned his focus onto someone else for a change.  

That can't be Caesar!  Is it?

After our ninety minute walk, we sat and enjoyed a pizza while chatting about our success.  Zac even began to lick Caesar in a show of affection, though he didn't like it when Caesar tried to sniff him back.  It was ten o'clock before I knew it and, with an ongoing feeling of elation at our success, I popped Caesar in the car and, thanking Emma, set off for home.  Caesar was silent for the whole trip and only woke up when we pulled up outside the familiar townhouse that we call 'home'.  Making new friends is tiring work!

Did he just say 'pizza'?

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Walking with an Anxious Dog

For us, walking is always a major event that requires planning and equipment.  The first stage of planning is to identify a good walking location; if the weather is bad, then the beach is good, if the weather is good then the beach is the worst place to go.  Among his other issues, Caesar likes to scream and run towards other dogs.  It's highly embarrassing, particularly when people seem to see this as a threat and either freeze or move quickly in another direction.  Dogs, on the other hand, seem to see this as an invitation and many come over and investigate the strange noise thus making Caesar cry even louder.  This odd reaction has led me to believe that Caesar is not any threat to them and therefore the noises are either excitement or untamed nervousness.  In short, when we go for a walk, Caesar needs to remain on the lead and on his head collar at all times.  I feel sorry about this as his favourite thing is to have a good run and his recall is excellent so I would never have to worry about him running away.  My only concern would be what he did before he came back!

When we walk, I use an 8m extendable lead to keep control of Caesar and I'm well my way to becoming a pro at the 'click and yank' method, which is helpful for reeling him in if another dog gets to close.  As I explained before, Caesar has both an electric blue collar, an electric blue head collar an electric blue extension lead.  Why then do people feel that it's acceptable to allow their dogs to run up to him despite the combination of warning signs provided by me and the fact that he is screaming?

Yesterday, on the beach, I came across two women and a very energetic Labrador.  The Labrador was bouncing around the beach reasonably far from them as they chatted and wandered along.  Gemma was off her lead and, as a rule, is very good with other dogs but as she has been known to be defensive if they approach her, I quickly snapped her lead back onto her harness.  It took two seconds but it was a good job that I did!  The Labrador bounded up and put its young face uncomfortable close Gemmas.  She barked a warning at it but it paid no attention.  By this time, Caesar was inconsolable and was spinning in circles, wrapping me up in his lead as he did.  This odd behaviour interested the Labrador and he instantly moved his focus onto Caesar.  For a while, he followed us along the beach to the tune of Caesar's barking, howling and screaming without a word from his owner to bring him back. Sometimes I wished that I was more outspoken and could just march up to the couple and explain that every time something like this happens, it has a negative impact on Caesar, who was beginning to manage to ignore dogs who were running close by.  I wanted to shout at them all of the things we've been through to try to get him to accept other dogs.  How, unbelievably, we'd just sat in a cafe with a dog at the next table and he hadn't screeched or tried to get to it.  And how this major improvement may just have been undone by the fact that she was too busy talking to her friend to do anything about her out of control dog.  Of course, I didn't say anything.  

I'd learnt a few weeks after adopting Caesar, how ignorant people can be to dogs with his disposition.  As I had stepped down onto the beach one spring morning, I was relieved to see there was only a few people out walking their dogs but, as the tide was out, they were a safe distance away.  The nearest person was by the sea with two Golden Retrievers that were chasing each other back and forth.  Despite their distance, Caesar noticed them immediately and began to screech.  The next moment, the two Golden Retrievers were sprinting up the beach towards us, their owner was a dot in the distance.  My dad grabbed Caesar who was now struggling and writhing on the end of his lead and called to the man to 'bring his dogs under control please.'  I couldn't believe it when moments later the man began marching up the beach towards us, he was yelling something at me that I couldn't make out.  The dogs were either side of Caesar and were sniffing around at him.  Caesar was howling so loudly that it was impossible to hear the subject of the stranger's shouting.  As he moved closer, I suddenly realised the horrifying truth behind his yells "dog's like THAT shouldn't be in a public place like THIS!" he yelled at point blank range.  "You're dog is out of control!  Get it off the beach!"  I felt a lump start to form in my throat as I took Caesar's lead and marched him back across the sand.  I had garbled something about rescue dogs and unfair comments but the stranger replied with equally painful comments about Caesar's breed and nature.  

The truth is, many dogs are not bomb proof and dogs like these Labradors may well end up being injured by a dog who is on lead and, as much as possible, under control.  My heart truly goes to other owners who struggle with an anxious dog as, on this day, I learnt how cruel and arrogant people can be.  Luckily, as I previously stated, Caesar does not appear to be aggressive towards other dogs and I've never seen him attempt to hurt one.  However, there are plenty of dogs that, given a stressful situation such as this, would.  It was months before I braved the beach again.

A fantastic website for dogs with similar problems to Caesar is and, if the screaming alone does not do it, indicates to other dogs that your pooch needs space.  Caesar and I are awaiting our first yellow dog jacket.  It makes me sad as his behaviour around people is impeccable and the coat may mean that he loses the opportunity for a fuss but I have concluded that it may well be worth it.

Does your dog have any phobias?  Do you know a dog that does?  Have you ever heard of or used Yellow Dog?  I'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Softening the edges

Initial reactions to Caesar vary dramatically, from comments about his good looks and handsome face to people lifting their children from the ground close to him or crossing the road.  Some people get angry that others can be so narrow minded towards certain breeds but I feel sorry for them.  I remember one mum taking her son by the hand as he pointed at Caesar and chorused "doggy, mummy, doggy!"  I smiled at her as she told him, "yes, but we don't just go and stroke doggies."  Sensible advice if you ask me and I agree entirely.  What upset me was that, a little further along the street stood a man with two border collies.  "Go and stroke those doggies instead," she advised, pushing her son in the direction of the dogs.  "They're beautiful," she said to the owner, as the dogs bustled around her little boy.  Caesar sat calmly by my feet never moving an inch but something about him had warned her away.  I looked down, seeing only his floppy ears and wide brown eyes.  I saw nothing in him that looked at all unnerving.

As I drove home, I suddenly remembered the first picture that I ever saw of Caesar.  I remembered how I felt intimidated by the aloof looking dog in the photo.  I remember how my parents had questioned my motives for choosing 'that dog' when I showed his picture to them.  I remembered how I'd asked myself the same question.  His nature had won me over almost instantly and from that moment, his looks didn't worry me too much at all.  In fact, the longer I know him, the more I see a placid, gentle and friendly face and it's hard to see anything else.

Part of Caesar's problem is that he has an extreme reaction to other dogs and it takes him a long time to calm himself after he has seen an unknown dog, particularly if it is off the lead.  His noise level and energy draw the attention of passers by who generally move as far away as possible Recently, we visited a town where a dog had been left tied outside a shop at one end of the high street.  As we walked towards said dog, Caesar literally parted the crowds who walked at either side while we walked through the middle.  It's embarrassing!

I set about softening Caesar's edges fairly soon after his adoption.  I began by replacing his thick black head collar with an electric blue head collar with bright yellow puppies on.  But I did not stop there.  I also bought Caesar an electric blue Superman collar to match.  'It's impossible to look intimidating when you're wearing a Superman Collar'  I thought.  Of course, being Caesar, the Superman collar lasted around three days before he'd scratched it so much that the ink came off, leaving white marks all over Superman's face but in the first 72 hours of owning it, we got at least a few 'aww's.  Next, we purchased a red spotted dickey-bow and matching  fabric collar thus converting him into the perfect gentleman.  This had a more pronounced effect and people stopped to ask me where we got it and spent a minute fussing him, even when he was being noisy.  By Christmas, Caesar had a further "Ho Ho Ho" collar featuring a small sledge and reindeer, a reindeer jumper and matching red leg warmers.  Could people possibly find him intimidating in this?  Surely if the dog that is coming towards you screeching and yelling, is wearing a reindeer jumper and leg warmers then that makes them at least half as intimidating.  Doesn't it?

Now, Caesar has an array of 'edge softening' paraphernalia including:

  • A batman collar
  • A superman collar
  • Two dickey-bow ties
  • A "Ho ho ho" Christmas collar
  • A Scooby Doo collar
  • A set of leg warmers
  • A few t-shirts including "Best pal" 
  • A blue bone fleece
  • A fleece hoodie with friendly looking dog bones on

I refer to him by his collar bound name when he begins to play up in public, lightening my tone with phrases such as "Come on Scoobs" or "Let's go Rudolph!"  People smile so I suppose it must work.  Either that or they think I'm totally mad...

I'd love to hear you thoughts on dog accessories.  Do you agree, disagree or are you neither for nor against.  Let me know with a comment.

Thanks to Brown Bee Collars and Classet Comfort Pet Designs for the beautiful collars.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Kitchen Defence

Perhaps you have seen the humerous video of the dog who has the bin lid stuck on its head.  If not, it's definitely worth a watch and never fails to invoke a giggle on first viewing.  The guilty look of the dog in question is one that I have become particularly familiar with myself.  Although many will argue that dogs cannot and do not experience guilt, Caesar certainly shows a guilt like reaction when he is discovered doing something that he shouldn't be that raiding the bin, stealing some food or sitting on the window sill.

Like me, Caesar wears his heart on his sleeve.  He has huge eyes and extremely expressive eyebrows which give him away immediately.  You can tell instantly when he's feeling scared, excited or fed up just by looking at him.  When we come home from work, he will either be waiting at the door to greet us, or he won't.  It's better when he is.

Exhibit 1:  Evidence of lounge destruction. 

We had only had Caesar for a few weeks when we discovered that he had a habit of raiding.  Caesar raids anything that he feels may contain something of value.  He has ruined shelves to get his paws on oatmeal hand warmers, broken doors to help himself to chocolate and kindly decluttered my coffee table for me in order to find a salt dough sculpture made for me by an ex-pupil which he then attempted to eat.  When we adopted Caesar neither us nor our house was ready for this.  In the past, I had known only dogs that could be left for periods of time in a kitchen environment and trusted not to raid the bin and plunder the cupboards.  Sadly for us, not only did we quickly learn that this was not the case, we also learnt that a simple door was far from powerful enough to keep the mischievous mongrel from ransacking this treasure trove.

Exhibit 2: Perhaps we should rethink our kitchen defences...

The evening after Caesar's first unwelcome kitchen visit, I called my dad.  Caesar had consumed a plethora of sugary foods which included two packets of breakfast cereal, fourteen breakfast bars and a box of Thornton's chocolates.  He was quite literally bouncing off the walls and was unable to stop running erratically around the house despite numerous walks to get the sugar out of his system.  I was past myself.  "Can you fit a slide bolt?" I asked my dad, explaining the urgency of the situation.  Luckily, dad is super helpful and, within a few hours, he was there and had fitted the lock.  It took Caesar almost the same amount of time to learn to open it and we returned the following day to find the kitchen ransacked once more.  I began to question myself.  Did I lock that properly?  Surely he can't have opened a slide bolt!  I didn't have to wait long for my answer as later that evening I glanced downstairs from the landing to see Caesar supporting himself on the door while nudging the slide bolt with his face.  It took him seconds to do and the kitchen door swung open.  I couldn't believe it!  'Now what?' I thought perplexedly.  'I'm dealing with the Houdini of the dog world!' 

We finally managed to successfully implement a working kitchen defence system when a colleague of mine, who owned a pair of mischievous cats, suggested a door knob as a solution to my problem.  Simple yet effective, Caesar has never to this day managed to open the shiny silver knob.  Hooray for door knobs!

  Exhibit 3:  Award winning kitchen defence mechanism!

I'd love to hear about your own home defence systems.  Share them in the comments section.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Major achievement: the caravan is still in tact!

When I see a static caravan park that states 'dogs welcome' on their website, I think of two things; dog hairs, and smelly furniture.  To sum up; second rate accommodation.  Although, for some, this may be a major issue (one traveler commented that there were 'dog hairs in the bottom of the shower) for me it's almost a relief.  I'm not saying that I want to holiday in a place that stinks of dogs and has hairy mattresses, but at least if this were the case, you wouldn't have to worry about the damage your own dogs could do, particularly if one of them has separation anxiety which increases in severity when left in an unusual place.

You can imagine my panic, when I pulled up to the caravan park late on Wednesday night to find a caravan with cream carpets, perfect wooden furniture and a spotless cream sofa!   I was beside myself.  'There must be some mistake,' I thought, checking the name of the caravan on the plaque outside.  'This caravan is far too nice to accept dogs.'  Still pondering this, I looked up just in time to see Gemma squat and do a wee on the cream carpet!  We can't have been there more than a minute.  Thank goodness I thought to bring stain and odor remover in case an incident occurred!

Apart from having to wrestle Caesar off the furniture, where he liked to stand and eyeball the dog on the other side of the road, he seemed to settle very quickly and I could hardly believe it when I awoke at nine o'clock the following morning to the sound of silence!  Caesar's sleeping arrangements needed to be thought out carefully;  he couldn't stay in the kitchen as he is known for raiding bins and stealing food from cupboards, he couldn't stay in the spare bedroom because he would undoubtedly wait until we'd gone and then climb onto the bed and he certainly couldn't sleep in the can work that one out for yourself.  So, there was only one option; the hall.  It was pokey and dark and I was convinced that things weren't going to go well.  I had visions of waking up to claw marked doors and torn up carpet but from the moment we shut the door, he made no further sound.  In fact, at one point I began to worry that something dreadful had happened to him and had to check!

Caesar took to chewing his toy rather than the furniture!

Aside from the odd bit of sand and an unavoidable muddy paw print here and there, the caravan remained unscathed for the entire time of our visit.  Perhaps even more miraculously, despite the fact that Caesar quickly taught himself how to open the caravan doors, he decided to use his skills for good instead of evil and having granted himself access to the kitchen, decided to return to bed.  On the final day, as Damien prepared the caravan for our departure and I drove off to find a garage to fix the car, Caesar decided to get a breath of fresh air and skillfully opened the main door and disappeared.  Luckily, Damien found him almost immediately.  He had found a patch of grass close to the static van and was sunbathing on it, blissfully unaware of the panic that he had caused!

As I helped the dogs into the car for the final time, I couldn't help hosting a mini-celebration.  We had succeeded in our first caravan park holiday without Caesar doing any damage to the caravan whatsoever. Hip hip hooray!

Caesar, Gemma and I on our first ever holiday together!

Breakdown Meltdown

Travel is daunting at the best of times. But it's particularly nerve wracking when you have two dogs in the back who have taken an instant dislike to the less than effective dog guard that you have just purchased.  So, you can imagine how over the moon I was when, after an hour and a half, my car decided to show me its pretty yellow genie lamp light which actually means 'pull over, there's something wrong with your oil'.

As I pulled into a lay-by on the side of the A66, I flung the bonnet open to the tune of Caesar shrieking in the boot. His shrill barks effectively saying "are we there yet?"  No Caesar, we're exactly half way to where we're supposed to be going.  Too far to go back, too far to carry on. Typical.

To call the RAC or not to call the RAC? That is the question!  As I pondered this, I heard a shout from behind me.  In a desperate bid to free themselves, the dogs had broken down the barrier. Caesar is now sitting in the drivers seat of the people carrier and Gemma has her head stuck in the picnic basket.  Now what? If I open the doors, Gemma will jump out and we risk her running out onto the A66.  Caesar's awareness of cars is marginally better and thankfully, although he's not the best traveller, he does usually stay when you tell him to.  Usually.  

Do the RAC deal with this sort of thing? Oil light showing and designated driver usurped by rogue Staffordshire Bull Terrier?

"Someone will get to you in around seventy-five minutes." Said the friendly RAC call handler.  "Is that ok?"

At least I could blame Caesar for the responding growl.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Starting small

When we adopted Caesar, the only issue that the rescue centre knew of, was that he would 'drag' people along rather than walk beside them when on a lead.  The rescue had worked tirelessly to solve this problem and eventually bought Caesar a small black head collar to combat the pull.  Ironically, pulling on the lead turned out to be the least of our problems when we actually brought him home.

Caesar's issues are numerous and include anything from running crazily at other dogs, for what reason we are still unsure, to destroying areas of our previously well-presented home.  Gone are the days when I could rest assured that I would return home from work to find my furniture in the same state in which it was left.

However, Rome wasn't built in a day.  Actually, I'm not sure at all how long it took to build Rome, but I'm willing to bet my fairly new, slightly damaged, beautiful wardrobes that they had made more progress than I have over an eighteen month period. Sometimes, we decided, it's important to start with the small things like lead pulling and have a wider time frame in which to work towards the bigger issues like destroying things and terrorising other dogs.  So, wisely, we began by working on the pulling first and ignored the fact that the contents of our house were slowly reducing themselves to a pile of broken furniture around us.

Caesar's special anti-pull head collar is made by Dogmatic and is, or should I say was, bright blue.  It is decorated with small yellow puppies dancing around.  I felt that the colour scheme radiated 'friendly dog with slight pulling issue' and was less serious looking than his previous jet black head collar which we inherited when we rescued him.  Unfortunately, it seems that many people still aren't sure what these head collars are used for and I was shocked when an old lady asked me "he has a little bite sometimes does he?"  I assured her that the head collar was only for his pulling problem and that, if he wanted to bite her while wearing it, he could.

Saving Caesar

Caesar, like so many others, is a rescue dog.  Nobody knows much about his past because he was found tied to a fence near the local rescue centre but he has told us as much about himself as he can.  He does this by small gestures such as tearing apart the living room; this means 'please don't leave me shut in the living room, it's not very nice'.  Also, barging full force into my legs on the beach and leaving me lying face up in the sea at nine o'clock at night; this means 'I don't like this muzzle you've put on me, take it off please!'  And finally, snapping his fifty pound canvas crate into tiny, unfixable pieces; 'I don't like this crate, please don't put me in it.'

As first time owners, Caesar has taught us just how trying pet ownership can be.  He has shown us the true meaning of the words 'frustrated' and 'hopeless' but he has also taught us the importance of forgiveness and in turn we've taught him the true meaning of the words 'sit,' 'stay,' and 'go to your bed and don't come back!'  

I embarked upon the adventure that became 'Saving Caesar' just one year ago but already Caesar has taught me more about ownership than every dog handling book in the library could ever dream of.  He has issues that can't be identified using any internet site, makes noises that I have never heard before and, despite my early fears about his breed, is the most placid dog that I've ever met, at least with people anyway.

Caesar is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross-breed and this blog will follow his progress.