Thursday 31 August 2017

Update on Leisha, a poodle who is staying with us while she looks for a new home

Leisha does well meeting individual dogs one-on-one outside off lead. She is a little nervous on lead with other dogs, but from what I've seen so far this isn't a serious issue and can be worked through if she is given space and time to build confidence. She's done really well going for walks off lead with the two puppies, which surprised me because Saffi is pretty silly and as a 6-month-old doesn't have a lot of grasp of personal space, and on another longer walk with Hobsey. I took her out this morning with four other dogs and she coped but really they were too much, mainly because Adhara and Otto were playing together very loudly and roughly near her and it was making her stressed. The sort of dog she is most comfortable with is a calm one like Hobsey and Indi who isn't eager to play or bouncy and noisy. There is no reason I see why Leisha cannot live as a well-adjusted dog who can socialise with other dogs who are sensible and well behaved.

Leisha does get stressed from being in the house with other dogs, and her stress tends to cause other dogs to be stressed in turn as they can tell she is afraid but can't understand why. She will do OK if a dog is lying down quietly in the same room as her. I am trying to avoid getting into a situation where another dog has to pass her in a narrow space such as a corridor, as this sort of situation has the potential to make her panic. Most of the time when she is not outside, she has a bedroom to herself and she's very quiet and calm there. Yesterday when I was feeding the dogs, I shut the other dogs outside and Leisha followed me around the house while I was getting the food ready. So she could see the dogs from somewhere secure, I fed her in the room we use to keep puppies when they are little, which has a child gate across the door to the sitting room, and let the rest of the dogs back in to eat their food in the sitting room. The other dogs distracted Leisha from eating, and after a short time she jumped out into the room with the other dogs. For about half a minute she stood there looking stressed, and then she made a beeline to the opposite side of the room, towards the bedroom which is her safe place, and Adhara wet herself (she was the one standing closest to where Leisha was trying to go).

Leisha's difficulties are all to do with personal space and fear of other dogs invading it. Once she has a stable home where she feels safe and supported, this will give her a firm base to build confidence and overcome them.

Also it is good that Adhara cannot read, as she would be very upset if she knew I had written about her wetting herself on the Internet!

Tuesday 29 August 2017

Leisha Poodle

Leisha is now reserved and will soon be joining a new owner in a home where she will get the love and calm she needs.

We have a three-year-old spayed girl poodle who is looking for a new family.

Her name from her previous home is Leisha, but I feel she would benefit from having a new name to give her a fresh start. Her registered name is Vega so her new family could use that, or choose something new. Dogs are complicated social creatures, and in order to help define the sort of home this girl needs, it’s necessary to explain some of her history.

Leisha was born and bred here and is from health-tested parents (both BVA eye tested clear, clear SA biopsies, genetically clear vWD NE DM, BVA hip scored 3+4=7 & 2+2=4). She went to live in a household with several other dogs. Her best dog friend was a GSD boy the same age as her, and she also got on well with another, older standard poodle. Unfortunately she did not get on with a small-breed fear-aggressive male dog. This situation escalated when her owner unfortunately had to go into hospital and Leisha sadly ended up having to stay in kennels at this time. Her owner was unwell for some time after the incident, and Leisha became stressed and clingy and the situation with the small dog deteriorated further, and in particular because of the size difference this became a risky situation and is the reason she is looking for a new home.

Like some of her relatives, Leisha is a very loving and human-oriented poodle who has the need to bond closely with a person. She is rather less in tune with other dogs, and her play with them tends to be quite rough and often she isn’t very observant of other dogs’ body language. She has met each of my dogs individually for one-on-one assessment and she behaves well, but gives clear signals of stress when dogs come into her personal space to smell her, which most likely comes from negative experiences with fear-aggressive dogs. She will need controlled interactions with safe dogs to help her build confidence (continuous advice and support will be provided). She has done scentwork and recently has been working as a therapy dog at a nursing home, and she needs a home where someone wants to work with her to build that special connection she craves. She needs a home where she is either the only dog in the house, or will join a very sensible and calm dog who is as big or bigger than her, a confident working or guarding breed would be ideal as she can draw mental strength from another dog’s confidence. A couple or single person would be ideal, but households with teenagers (the sort who study hard rather than party hard!) and other situations with settled adults would also be suitable. She is well behaved with children, but needs a calm home environment.

Leisha is (as one would expect from an adult dog) fully housetrained and knows obedience commands well. She tends to be settled and quiet indoors and prefers to curl up in peace on a sofa or bed, ideally close to a person. She doesn’t bounce around barking at noises (Adhara, I’m looking at you) or use the furniture like it’s the set of Gladiators (Otto and Saffi, the same). Outside, she enjoys walks and walks well on a loose lead. I’ve not let her off lead yet while she gets used to us, as all the paddocks have animals in at present. She has thus far shown little interest in farm animals.

If you think you can offer Leisha the loving home she needs and deserves, please get in touch. While Leisha will of course stay here for as long as it takes for the right family to be found, finding her a permanent home is a priority as she is in desperate need of stability and a clean start after what she’s been through, and unfortunately she is not going to thrive here where there’s an established group of 5 other dogs. I would be grateful if this post could be passed on to anyone who may be suitable.

Sunday 27 August 2017

Costa del Paca

Trebuchet is a lot stronger than he once was, and has spent most of the summer in the 'Salad Bowl' (when you have grazing in different paddocks to rotate animals around, you tend to invent silly names to identify them) where his body condition improved significantly. A few weeks ago, we moved Trebuchet and Trident to a new area of grazing (the Eucalyptus Triangle) as it's becoming established. Unfortunately Trebuchet started losing condition again, and as Trident is much bigger than him, he tends to pick on him. Trebuchet's mother Olivia is obese and did not feed Trebuchet properly when he was young, and she ideally needs to be separated from the lactating mothers who need the best grazing. Olivia unfortunately was not pregnant, and more unfortunately we did not realise this until a year after she was mated, and furthermore it now turns out that Bess and Poppy's last matings have not worked either! After a lot of consideration, I have decided to buy another, mature male alpaca as a solution to all these problems.

This nice rose-grey 4-year-old boy is Costa and he's here to be a companion to Trident as well as a mobile pregnancy test and a mate this year for the females who have reproductive problems (i.e. everyone other than Poppy).

Yesterday, I drove to get Costa and upon his arrival home he got to meet the girls here. He chose to mate with Bess first and afterwards went in with Trident to spend the night. This morning he mated with Olivia. Hopefully with Costa on hand to do spit-offs I should be able to find out when Bess is losing her pregnancies if it happens again, which might give some insight into how to stop it happening. Bess is a good mother when she does manage to have a cria. It is also hoped that if we can get enough weight off Olivia she will lactate better, and if that can be achieved, being pregnant and having a cria to feed should help to keep her in better condition. Poppy will be mated soon to the same boy she mated with last year, to produce a brother or sister of little Fleur.

Here's a video of the Three Amigas (and an amigo) and of Costa is settling in and getting to know the emus.

Friday 25 August 2017

How to Scissor a Poodle Puppy

If you have a puppy, you have hopefully been washing and drying your poodle and clipping its muzzle, feet, base of tail, and around the bottom every four weeks or so to keep the puppy clean and get it accustomed to grooming. Puppies can often manage up to 6 months old without needing anything done with the rest of the coat provided it is dried and brushed out properly each time. A lot of people get a bit daunted by the idea of having to trim their fluffy puppy and opt to go to a groomer instead, and this can work, and even if you can only do basic clipping and drying at home, it can still work out much cheaper than having to rely on a groomer every 4-6 weeks. I have written this post for people who'd like to scissor their own pup but aren't sure where to start.

If you've never scissored your puppy before and it's coming up to 6 months old, after it's been washed and dried it will probably look fluffy and a bit shapeless, with a halo of thin fluff sticking out. Often the dog's bottom will look disproportionately fat, and as though the back end is higher than the front end. You might also find that the hair on your dog's head a few days after being washed tends to form into curly locks that are quite thick close to the skin, but thin into ratty ends. This is because the pup's coat thickens as the puppy grows and its skin area increases. The coat that forms the ratty ends and the halo of fluff is the coat that was there when the puppy was first born and was six inches long, and it has been growing ever since.

It's best to start with the head and scissor the halo down to thicker coat to give your poodle a bonce with a more solid outline. Use curved scissors for this, and before you start try to separate the ear hair from the head hair. Use the clip line from the dog's eye as a guide and feel for the top of the ear, and comb the ear down and the hair above up. Carefully scissor the head while holding the ear down and out the way. It helps to do this with a white wall or a light source on the opposite side of the puppy to help to see. In the pictures above, Saffi has just been scissored like this for the first time. She doesn't look as fluffy as she did before, but over time the coat will regrow better and it won't separate so easily into ratty ends. You can see her ears still look a bit wispy as they haven't been scissored, and probably won't need to be until she's a year old or more as they have to grow longer. Otto was first scissored like this some time ago and has enough head hair to put a band in the front, and his head is starting to look fluffy but with a more solid outline. If you want to put a band in your poodle's head, don't try to shape or scissor too much in front of the eyes, as the coat here needs to grow first and will be shaped into the head later once there is enough to band.

The next part to look at is the tail. This probably tends to get quite ratty and spidery looking for the same reason as the head. The easiest way to shape the tail is to trim the top first, then the base, and then to join them together by trimming the sides. Comb the tail through and slide your hand down to the tip squeezing the hair flat, until you feel with your thumb the tip of the tail. Still holding on to the hair, use a pair of curved scissors to snip off the hair you've gathered up just after the tip. Now hold up the tail and comb the hair downwards, and scissor a curved base to the tail coming out of the clip line. Hold the tail up by the tip and comb the hair backwards, then scissor the underside of the tail into a straight line joining the top to the bottom. Work your way around the tail in this way to remove the thinner longer parts of the coat.

What remains is to shape the body, neck, and legs. This is harder to explain and more of a skill you have to develop than doing the head and tail, but with these parts done it should be easier to see and judge what to do.

It's difficult to get puppies to stand nicely on the table, but the hair on the dog's back end generally needs to be shortened, and elsewhere trimming just to remove ends is more suitable. Start by feeling through the coat for the dog's hip bones, and use straight scissors to try to level the fluff on the rump to a flat horizontal surface. Some people do an American style puppy trim by sloping upwards to the neck, other people will do more of a Modern trim and aim to make all of the back flat until it meets the neck hair, and other people will just stop and leave a lump on the back to grow into the mantle of one of the Scandinavian type show trims. Once you have the flat line on the top, you can shape the upper legs and croup and down the backs of the legs. The backs of the legs follow the shape of the dog underneath quite closely and start to flare out at the hock. The outsides of the legs blend from the top where they are quite close cut to being longer farther down. The coat is usually taken in slightly in front of the back legs to give a 'waist'. The dog's back end should look streamlined and defined, not fuzzy and bulky.

Usually the front of the dog is not shaped very much. Try not to cut into the neck hair, as this is the part that has to grow the most to make a balanced shape, but it can be a good idea to scissor off any wispy ends. If your puppy has started coat change, it is a good idea to use a #7 blade to clip from between the front legs and the armpits down to the groin so mats do not collect here. You can then use curved scissors to blend the rest of the coat in. It is also a good idea to trim the bottoms of the legs to stop the hair from hanging over the feet. Most of the scissoring in this trim is done with curved scissors, apart from setting the line on the dog's back.

The Approach of Autumn

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Seeking Loving Owner

A poodle I bred will be returning to me next week so she can be found a new home with a loving new owner. I should know more once she is back here and I've assessed her, but for the moment we know she is a three-year-old spayed bitch who loves people and has been doing therapy work at a nursing home, but needs to be in a single dog household, as a problem has developed between her and a small-breed fear-aggressive dog in her current family, which obviously is a serious situation because of the size difference, and her current owner is absolutely doing the right thing by acknowledging this. The best thing for this girl is that she find a suitable owner as soon as possible, so if you are looking for an already trained adult poodle and think you can offer the right home, please get in touch. At the moment I am looking for an adult or adult and teenager only household (I'm told she is fine interacting with children, but it is my policy never to place adult dogs who have grown up in families without young children in a household with them) without any other dogs. As with any dog I have bred, she will be rehomed with a contract and health guarantee up to her 5th birthday.

North Ronaldsay Sheep

I enjoyed reading this article so much I wanted to share it with my blog readers. It shows the importance of so many aspects crucial to rare breed conservation, and why rare breeds of domestic animal can be just as deserving and important as endangered wild species.

Tuesday 15 August 2017


Poppy mated a bit over 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately I suspect it hasn't worked, as she keeps coming up to people and rubbing herself all over me and kushing in front of me.

Monday 14 August 2017

Happy Birthday Indi

Happy birthday Indi, who is 3 today.

Unfortunately her daughter Saffi as well as Otto were not very well this morning and had diarrhoea. Saffi was evidently keen not to let it spoil her day.

A Useless Cock

Everyone who comes to look at the birds here always says how beautiful they think this Red Dorking cock is. Unfortunately, his beauty is only skin deep, at least from a breed conservation perspective. In his first breeding season in 2015 he was put with a Silver Dorking hen (the breed standard is identical apart from the colour controlled by a locus on the X-chromosome, and I predicted correctly from theoretical genetics that this would make red pullets and a 'gold' intermediate heterozygote cockerel form). Out of all the eggs, only three hatched, to produce two red pullets and a 'gold' cockerel. As Sod's Law decreed, the cockerel was dead one morning for no discernible reason before he was old enough to breed, and since this time the original cock has failed to sire any chicks.

A week ago I gathered up all the Dorking eggs laid recently and put them in the incubator, hoping there might be a couple fertilised and that I might get a cock to replace him. But the eggs are now devoid of signs of life. Nothing.

Red Dorkings are very rare and I was on a waiting list for 2 years to get hold of the eggs I got this cock and three hens from. I am going to have to see about buying in some Silver Dorking eggs to get a cock to breed to the hens before they get too old. Meanwhile, if anyone would like a very rare but equally useless male chicken as such as a pet, please get in touch.

Sunday 13 August 2017

Olivia's Obesity

Bess had a cria, Poppy had a cria, and as it turned out, Olivia wasn't pregnant and didn't have a cria.

Unfortunate that I didn't realise this earlier, otherwise I could have been more proactive about her weight problem then. Olivia was obese before she came to live here. She had a cria after a year (Trebuchet) and I hoped that being pregnant and having an extra mouth to feed would help get the weight off her. Unfortunately it didn't, and she didn't feed the cria properly, which may in part be due to the condition she is in, and Trebuchet was a runt despite human efforts to help, and Olivia continued to be a tub of lard.

I stopped feeding Olivia any supplemental food about a year ago when I realised she wasn't feeding Trebuchet properly, and hoped this might help. It didn't and she stayed fat all winter. Throughout the spring and summer, she had to live with two correct-condition hembras who were late stage pregnancy or lactating, and require good pasture and hay. The only other group I have is juvenile males, and alpacas cannot be kept apart from others as they are social animals. I don't have a group I can put Olivia in with nutritional requirements closer to her own. I didn't want to try anything else as she was hoped to be pregnant and I was concerned more desperate measures would hurt the cria. Now it's clear she isn't pregnant, it's clear more desperate measures are needed. Enter a grazing muzzle designed for small ponies, which I have adapted to fit her:

Before anyone complains that this looks horrible, what is more horrible and what is seriously inhumane is allowing an animal one is responsible for to continue to live in an unhealthy condition. It is not a trivial matter for animals to be obese. It is just as unhealthy as being emaciated.

For anyone not familiar with alpacas, if you put your hand on the back of an alpaca in correct body condition, the back should feel like a roof ridge (much like the ridge on the ramshackle house in the background of this picture). You should be able to feel the spine and there should be a straight slope either side. If the slope is concave then the animal is too thin; if it is convex, too fat. Olivia's back is so convex it's not even possible to feel her spine. She has a slab of lard covering her withers and back. She also has thunderthighs and doesn't walk normally.

Olivia started wearing the muzzle about a week ago. It doesn't seem to bother her unduly, but it took several days before I was sure she'd worked out how to eat in it! It's made from flexible webbing straps with gaps in between, so she can eat grass if she pushes the nose of it down and eats the blades that stick through the holes. The intention is to limit what she can fit in her mouth so she has to work harder over a longer period of time to graze. I think horses are rather brighter than alpacas. A lot of the early days were spent getting her into a pen several times a day so she could eat hay and a bit of concentrate so I could be sure she was eating enough. Hopefully things should get easier now, and hopefully it's enough to make a difference so that she will start to burn up her accumulated adipose stores.

This is very experimental at the moment, but if it does work I will write about it in more detail, as there seems to be a dearth of information on what to do with obese alpacas, other than the obvious and not always practicable suggestion of keeping them with other obese alpacas on poor grazing. I don't know at the moment if I am going to attempt to mate Olivia again, as although Trebuchet is doing better, he is still half the size of Trident and I don't think he's ever going to be normal. Certainly if she is going to have a cria again in future, it will stand a better chance if she's in better condition.

Poppy and Bess are doing fine and maintaining correct body condition, and their young cria are growing well.