Tag Archives: dog


Crufts horror at deformed animals, unless we intend to eat them

Today’s post is kindly sponsored by Mekuti – Life in balance




It’s Crufts time again; the time to celebrate the wonder of dogs and to recoil at the horror of the ruining of some breeds by unscrupulous breeders.

The pivotal documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed thrust the Kennel Club into the limelight and resulted in both the BBC and RSPCA distancing themselves from the show.

While this public stoning of the Kennel Club helped raised awareness of this issue, the footage from the 2016 show indicates little progress, particularly with some specific breeds.

A friend was shocked to hear I was watching Crufts as she was so upset at the way in which animals had been bred, saying she would never buy a pedigree animal, it got me wondering about the similarity between the animals bred for food that the majority have no concern about, and these dogs that have received national sympathy.

Much like this time last year, the best if breed German Shepherd has shocked a nation of dog lovers, and rightly so.

The roached back of these dogs is shocking and we should be ashamed to have turned a once athletic dog into this deformed creature. With its ataxic gait, it is clear that walking is not easy for these poor souls, however, lets compare a German shepherd to a modern broiler chicken.

A show German shepherd showing the dog placing weight on its hocks

Now contrast the German shepherd with these modern broiler hens.

Both have been selectively bred by mankind for a wanted trait. With the dog, the ‘ideal’ dog is one that fits a specific guideline, with the chicken, the ideal chicken is one that grows big and fast – so big and fast that its skeleton cannot grow quick enough and it often collapses under its own weight.

So I ask you, why is the dog suffering unacceptable but the broiler chicken an example of good modern breeding?

The next example, is the modern dairy cow. An animal that we have bred to produce up to 6000 liters of milk every year. In order to produce this volume of milk, farmers have bred cows to have larger and larger udders. So large in fact that they can strain their own udder ligaments under the excessive weight of milk and may need to wear an artificial udder support.

Is this more acceptable than the cavalier king Charles spaniel with a brain too large for its own skull or the Neapolitan mastiff with skin so profuse it can’t see?

Do farm animals not matter?

I firmly applaud those standing up for the insanity of trait exaggeration at crufts, but firmly believe our efforts must be shared to all animal that we have inflicted our horrific breeding practices on, not just the fluffy ones we share our living rooms with.


The culture of canine care – is the UK lifestyle damaging our dogs?

Spike's World

Moving from the UK to Slovakia was sure to be a culture shock – the language barrier, the weather, the crazy traffic; it’s easy to think that life in Eastern Europe may be more stressful than back in the UK, but what about life for Slovak dogs?

When I first moved here I was amazed at how relaxed and well behaved the dogs are. Many pet parents walk the wide pavements with their dogs off the lead, or on a very loose lead. There is little to no barking, no dog aggression, no pulling on the lead, no jerking of leads, just lots of very chilled canines.


I can’t help wonder why there is this massive cultural difference between Slovakia and the UK… Now, I’m not saying that all dogs in the UK are crazed canines, but we certainly have a generation of dogs that in all honesty, are under exercised and under stimulated. The ‘weekend warrior’ pet owner with a dog that only sees the outside world at weekends (if it’s lucky) can be spotted a mile off buy conscientious dog owners.

Pulling on the flat collar attached to a lead can damage a dog’s delicate trachea

Here in Slovakia, it’s common to see dogs being walked at all times of the day and joining their pet parents in the local bars for drink or accompanying them to the market (even helping by carrying a basket!).  Could this greater integration of dogs into family life be the key to their well mannered behaviour?   It certainly is food for thought.

Basket dog

This beautiful German Shepherd was carrying a wicker basket to the market. Note the way it walks on a relaxed, loose leash.


Finally an update…

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It’s been a month and I’m ashamed to say this is my first update from University of Veterinary Medicine and Pharmacy in Košice, Slovakia.  The past four weeks have been an emotional whirlwind of new languages to learn and new subjects to get to grips with.

While our courses are taught in English, much of the veterinary terminology is delivered in Latin – having only used Latin to describe species, learning the intricacies of Latin grammar has certainly got the old grey matter working, but I can see how essential this terminology is for medical terminology to cross borders and languages.


It pays to know you noses – learning the anatomical differences between species is key to understand anatomy.

It is well known that veterinary medicine is an extremely hard degree and if I’m honest, I hadn’t imagined it would involve the level of work we have already had.  Studying in Slovakia is certainly different from a standard degree in the UK. For a start, there is no room for failure.  In the UK it is possible to fail a certain number of credits annually and still graduate – in Slovakia, all credits need to be passed to undertake exams and to progress to the following year.   As you can imagine, this pressure is very motivating – fail and the veterinary dream is over.


  Bones of all shapes and sizes can be studied in the university museum


There are some live animals on campus for some much needed horse therapy if time allows.

I will do my best to keep the updates coming, particularly with some of the exciting modules I have in store next semester. For the time being, it’s time to dive head first into more anatomy revision.


Do we have a nation of unemployed dogs?

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Last weekend was the fantastic SPARCS conference, an annual gathering of some of the finest minds in canine science. This event brings together researchers from a wide range of canine related fields, but if Twitter was anything to go by, it was clear that there was one standout word on the lips of everyone involved this year – EUSTRESS.

Eustress in essence means ‘good stress’ and was initially explored in model looking at stress in its many forms (Lazarus 1974). We often consider stress to be a negative emotion, yet many of us fail to recognise that the feelings of anticipation and even the joy at meeting a friend can all be considered stress, in terms of the physiological release of cortisol. Stress is managed through the activation of the HPA (hypothalamic, pituitary, adrenal) axis which is a group of organs that regulate the response to stress.



Responsible breeders strive to expose puppies to small stressors as they develop which helps in the deployment of this stress system. Experiencing an appropriate level of stress allows the HPA axis to develop resilience, stopping an overreaction to stress in adult life. However, too much stress can swing the pendulum too far into distress, so this must be carefully managed to not cause more harm than good.

How do modern dogs experience eustress?

Many dogs live very different lives from the lives their breed ancestors would have had. Very few pet Labradors spend hours retrieving game in our modern age and most border collies don’t have access to sheep – these dogs are unemployed. A study by the Kennel Club found 20% of dog owners do not even give their dogs a daily walk!

Lack of exercise and stimulation leads to obesity which has become all too commonplace in many of our animal companions, We have become accustomed to assuming Labradors must be overweight whereas this is far from the truth. Compare these two labradors, both of working type.

The lack of a job to do and the boredom that goes along with living an unstimulated existence swings the stress pendulum to the realms of chronic distress rather than eustress and can result in physical and behavioural abnormalities.

It’s important to understand that even dogs that do not show obvious outward signs of stress may be suffering – chronic boredom may result in general depression.

Small stressors may help build resilience. One of the most important gifts we can give our canine companions is the ability to cope in new and novel situations. How many of us know dogs that are happy and content at home but bark and new and novel sounds or objects? How many of us have dogs that startle easily when out of the home even though the same stressor may have been tolerated on familiar ground?

Resilience is a key life skill, particularly if a dog has to go into kennels in an emergency or has to stay at the veterinarian for treatment. Dogs that have never left the confines of a house and garden are likely to find this transition very stressful at the one time in life that they need to be kept calm and stress free.

So what’s the answer?

If you have an unemployed dog then it’s time to get them on the payroll.

Look at what motivates your dog and find them a job to do. Try obedience, dock diving, agility, lure coursing (chasing an artificial lure just to be clear!), scent trials, or just getting out and exploring somewhere new and exciting, GIVE THEM A CHALLENGE! Isn’t that why you got a dog anyway?

Dogs deserve to feel fulfilled and to have a life purpose. They have amazing senses adapted to see the world in ways we can only dream of and it’s sad that so many do not get to fulfill their full potential.

Give your dog a job and let’s stem the tide of unemployed dogs.



Lazarus R.S. (1974). Psychological Stress and Coping in Adaptation and Illness. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 5, 321-333.


Sea Treats – Making waves in the dog treat market

As facultative or scavenging carnivores, our canine companions have evolved to eat a diet of primarily meat and choosing a wholesome, species appropriate food for your pet can be one of the best ways to keep them fit and healthy.  But what about treats?


There are many treats on the market that contain unhealthy ingredients and while as people we have the choice to consume unhealthy treats, our dogs do not.  Luckily for them there are also some incredibly wholesome treats that are both tasty and healthy and I was recently thrilled to learn about the Sea Treats range of fish based dog treats.

Having a background in zoology and conservation, I was extremely pleased to learn that the Sea Treats products have full Marine Stewardship Council Certification. This certification guarantees the fish used to make these treats comes from sustainable fisheries.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on three of their products  – Premium fish skin and kelp seaweed treats, Salmon, whitefish, potato and seaweed biscuits and Small fish skin cubes.

Firstly, I was extremely impressed to see each product contained very few ingredients:

The Salmon, whitefish, potato and seaweed biscuits contain (as the name suggests) just salmon, whitefish and  potato.


The Fish skin and Kelp seaweed treats also contain just whitefish skins and Irish kelp seaweed.



The Fish skin cubes contain just fish skin!


It is a wonderfully refreshing change to discover a range with such wholesome ingredients and the fish skins in particular and perfect for those who choose to raw feed their pets.  Knowing the protein source we feed our pets is very important, particularly if a pet is on an exclusion diet or if a pet is on a protein rotation diet.  Many pet parents choose to rotate protein sources, for example, feeding fish for a few months and then turkey for a few months. There is a train of thought that feeding the same food for an extended period of time can cause food sensitivity, therefore, changing proteins regularly can be helpful.

But the key question is, how do they taste?

Today’s taste tester is the beautifully quirky Roxy. A Cornish dog through and through, she knows her seafood (it’s hard to avoid it when your daily walk includes running on beautiful beaches and exploring rock pools!).


All three treats went down a treat (excuse the pun) but Roxy’s favourite was the Salmon, whitefish, potato and seaweed biscuits.  All three have a satisfying crunch that can be tricky to perfect if using a home dehydrator to make homemade treats.


All three have a wonderfully fishy smell which for many dogs makes them super high value. Many training scenarios, such as recall require super high value treats and the fish skins in particular may be perfect for persuading wayward canines that coming when called is far more rewarding than chasing squirrels!


Not only are these treats tasty, they also contain Omega 3 and 6. Omega 3 has been shown to have a host of health benefits, from being anti-inflammatory in older animals, to aiding in puppy brain development. Puppies fed Omega 3 were even found to be more easily trained (Kelley et al. 2004).

With all these benefits, there’s nothing fishy about these treats and it’s clear that Sea Treats are making waves in the vast ocean of unhealthy pet products.

For more information and to order online, please visit www.seatreats.co.uk


Kelley R., Lepine A., Burr J., Shyan-Norwalt M. & Reinhart G. (2004). Effect of dietary fish oil on puppy trainability. In: Proceedings.



Sneezing staffie not angry staffie!

Spike's World




Following on from my earlier post about breed specific legislation, I read the interesting truth about one of the most familiar ‘dangerous dog’ photos used by the press.

This photo of a beautiful staffie is often reported to be a ‘dangerous’ dog, but look a little closer and the truth is much less threatening.

This photo was taken at a dog show and the dog in question is about to do a huge SNEEZE!

Doesn’t seem so angry now does it?  It just goes to show you should never believe what you read, apart from my posts of course!




Breed not deed

Spike's World

An interesting story hit the papers yesterday of a 6 year old girl that was bitten on the face by her neighbour’s cocker spaniel cross poodle (often known as a cockapoo).

While the details of this particular story are certainly interesting (the child wandered unaccompanied on to her neighbour’s property where the bite occurred), of equal interest is the public and police response.

It has become usual practice for a statement to appear in the press from the police after such incidents mentioning ‘ascertaining the breed of dog involved’.   For example, this dog bite that occurred in Liverpool mentions the breed of dog several times:


However, in the case of the cocker/poodle mix, there seemed to be no urgency from the police and no mention of banned breeds. The criteria for being a banned ‘pit-bull type’ is based on a set of phenotypic measurements and has no genetic basis. This leads many of us to question, does one bite incident deserve greater police investigation, simply because of the potential measurements of the dog involved?

The readers comments following the bite by this ‘fluffy’ dog seems to be very much in support of the dog. Most agreed that the child should not have been on the property and that the dog must not be blamed. I wonder if the comments would have been the same if this was a banned breed-type?

Breed specific legislation is outdated and not fit for purpose and this story shows that any dog breed or cross breed can cause injury in the wrong circumstances.


Do you really know what’s in your pet’s food?

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Deciding what to feed your pet is one of the most important decisions pet parents can make. As humans, we have the freedom to choose what we put in our bodies, and as such, food labeling is strictly controlled to ensure we have all the information we need to make informed choices. Our pets on the other hand, rely on us to make this decision for them, and thankfully there is a huge array of pet foods on the market to choose from.

Dog food

Do you know what goes into your own dog food? Every pet parent should read the ingredients list to see exactly what they’re feeding their pet

However, it would appear pet food labeling may not be as transparent as its human counterparts, as was highlighted on a recent episode of BBC’s ‘Rip Off Britain – Food‘.

This show reported the difficulty many pet parents have with identifying exactly what ingredients go into the pet foods we see on the shelves. For example, a food may be advertised as ‘chicken and rice’ but in fact, may contain just a minimum of 4% chicken.  That leaves a whopping 96% of the food that can be composed of any number of animal and plant proteins.

This flexibility helps to keep costs down for the manufacturer and potentially the customer, by allowing the recipe to be changed depending on which meat and meat meals are cheapest at that time. However, for diligent pet parents that want to control the protein source they give their pet, such foods may be totally unsuitable.

Pets with a range of conditions, may need to be placed on an elimination diet to discover if they are sensitive to consuming a particular substance, and such foods may be purchased in all good faith, without the knowledge that ‘chicken and rice’ doesn’t necessarily mean the food is composed of just those two ingredients.

Many pet parents prefer to give their pet a varied diet by rotating the protein source they feed to their pets. In doing so, it is believed that the development of food sensitivities can be avoided.  There is a train of thought that if an animal is fed one food for a long time, the body can become sensitised to those ingredients and therefore by offering for example, chicken for a few weeks, and then fish for a few weeks, and so forth, food sensitivities can be avoided.

Thankfully there is hope, and I was so pleased to come across two foods that totally buck this trend.

AATU dog foods contain a single animal protein source, either free run duck, chicken or fish and an amazing 80% meat. As facultive carnivores, this high meat content is evolutionarily appropriate for our canine companions.  It also contains some great herbs and botanicals.        

Challenge pet foods have a great range of single protein salmon based dog foods that allow pet parents to be confident in the source of their dog’s nutrition. Their sister company, Sea Treats offers MSC certified fish treats so even your pet’s treats are free of unknown ingredients.

That both of these companies have such clear, transparent labeling is a sign that the pet food market is changing and I hope that pet parents will start to demand clearer pet food labeling information.  In the meantime, I believe we should all show our support by voting with our pockets!


Belly lifts

Giving your puppy the Magic TTouch

Spike's World

Everybody loves puppies!  With their playful ways and cute appearance you can’t help but want to wrap them in cotton wool with many of the maternal feelings we have for our own children.  However in all too short a length of time they grow to become adult dogs and it is our duty to give them as good a start as we can.  In addition to puppy classes the Tellington TTouch can be extremely helpful in raising a well adjusted adult dog.

The Tellington TTouch is a unique and rewarding way of working with all animals. Developed over 30 years ago by Linda Tellington Jones, TTouch offers ways to help animals overcome a wide variety of behavioural problems without the use of dominance, fear or force.  Using a combination of bodywork and ground exercises the TTouch aims to improve the physical balance of the animal, as physical balance is achieved so mental and emotion balance follows.  The behaviour of an animal can be linked to its posture in many ways, animals with tension through the hindquarters can often be afraid of loud noises such as fireworks, they may be reluctant to being picked up and placed on a veterinarians table and may be badly behaved in the car.  With the use of TTouch these patterns of tension can be removed along with the unwanted behaviour.

Puppy brains are like sponges yet are beginning to show adult brain waves by the age of 8 weeks. Socialisation not only helps to influence emotional responses but also has been shown to increase the numbers of neural connections made within the brain, thus increasing the dog’s potential for learning.  A study was carried out with horses whereby their brain wave pattern were measured whilst being TTouched, consistently it was shown that all four brain waves (alpha, beta theta and delta) were produced when being TTouched.  Petting, stroking and brushing produced no change, only the circular TTouched produced this amazing change in the animal’s brain waves.  It has been proven that puppies raised in a stimulating environment have an increased ability to cope with stress in later life, so if we are able to stimulate our puppy’s brains with TTouch then the potential to increase their ability to learn is enormous!

Just like children, puppies have little idea of what the world expects of them and how to behave, ‘bad’ puppies are often showing signs of worry or anxiety or possibly reacting to pain or discomfort in their own bodies.  These behaviours are reactive and instinctive; nature governs how each animal will respond to the situation.  Some puppies will roll over in a submissive type gesture others will run away while others will mouth or bite.  By using TTouch it is possible to bring animals into a state of awareness whereby the animal is brought into a thinking state rather than the instinctive reactive mode normally seen.  This ‘thinking’ state does away with the need for the harsh, negative behaviour modification methods we are all trying to move away from.

As well as learning all about the world around them, puppies are also on a voyage of self discovery, if one considers how long a human baby has to learn how to coordinate its limbs of it’s own will it is amazing that a puppy can do all it can in such a shot space of time.  It is no wonder therefore ,that in the process some body parts get left behind of forgotten about, resulting in rather bumbling gangly puppies!  With the use of TTouch bodywork we can give the body feedback as to what is where allowing the animal to achieve a much more balanced posture and mind from day one.

Ear TTouch

Taking the ear in the direction it grows (Upwards for pointy eared dogs or horizontal for floppy eared dogs) and gently stroking from base to tip, with each stroke covering a different part of the ear you can soon help to calm an excitable or nervous puppy.  This is especially useful when you first take your puppy home to calm it without promoting an unhealthy attachment which will prove hard to rectify later in life.

Ear TTouch

Notice how this puppy is being settled with another hand, the use of the second hand helps to give a feeling of containment.  It is very important not to hold the puppy down at any time as it should always have the opportunity to move if it wishes.

Mouth TTouch

Many puppies will be mouthy or licky and most will go through a chewing stage.  Licking and mouthing are often emotional responses to fear or anxiety as can chewing objects. Mouth TTouches involve making small, light circular movements of the outside of the dogs mouth, with persistence you should soon be able to make the same light, circular movements on the INSIDE of the puppy’s mouth on the gums (Your fingers may need to be moistened with a little water first) This helps to calm to anxious, emotional behaviour commonly seen in new puppies.  The mouth TTouch also helps reduce the irritation caused during teething, reducing the puppy’s wish to chew every hard object you own!

Mouth work

This puppy is lying down enjoying the Mouth TTouch; however she still finds it rather unusual.  The Mouth TTouch is very light and not uncomfortable; dogs will often push you away to start with simply because it’s a strange sensation.  The Mouth TTouch is all the more important for puppies to learn to accept having their mouths handled for tooth brushing and vet visits.

Tail TTouch

As I sad puppies have to learn about their bodies in a relatively short space of time, often they are still unsure where they start and where they end!  By using the Tail TTouch we can give a puppy information as to where it is in space not only helping the puppy to balance but helping to prevent the usual clumsiness so common in adolescent dogs.

The tail TTouch involves very gently moving each vertebra from the base to the tip. I can’t stress enough how gentle these movements are as the tail is very delicate.  The Tail may also be gently circled at the base.  The aim isn’t to see how far the tail can be moved but to gently give the body information as to where its tail is and what it does!  It is also said that certain endorphins, or ‘happy hormones’ are released when the tail is moved in this way, helping to calm a puppy.

An overly anxious puppy with a continually wagging tail can be calmed by gently holding the tail, causing the dog to stop wagging, rather like a hysterical person made to sit to calm down, stopping the movement of the tail often results in an instantly calm puppy.

Tail TTouch

After an initial confusion, most puppies love the Tail TTouch, this puppy has become totally relaxed at the gentle movements.  When the Tail TTouches is being done, it is useful to feel for kinks and bumps as these can indicate levels of tension in other places.

Belly lifts

Have you ever noticed how you get ‘butterflies in your stomach’ when you feel worried? Puppies can suffer the same, often holding a great deal of tension in their abdomen often resulting in vomiting especially in the car.  Ideally we would like a puppy’s experience of the car to be as positive as possible to prevent problems in later life.  By using a small towel or your clasped hands to make slow, gentle lifting movements, you can work to reduce the tension through the abdomen.

Belly liftsBelly lifts

This puppy is having gentle Belly lifts with a piece of kitchen towel, the lifting movement is tiny, only 10mm of so.  Notice how, in picture two, the puppy has relaxed his spine allowing his back to be much more flexible, also he is now standing more squarely with both hind feet being level, as apposed to having one foot behind him as in picture one.

The TTouch offers a fun opportunity for the whole family to have a positive influence of the life of their new family member.  Children take to the TTouch movements with ease and it can be a fantastic way to teach a young child to interact with a puppy, counteracting their instinctive need to grab and cuddle!  Each TTouch movement is complete and every TTouch will make a difference.

Above all remembering that your puppy is often behaving instinctively and knows no other way,  with guidance, a lot of patience and the power of TTouch we can work to make the puppy phase run as smoothly and be as fun as possible, with a well adjusted adult dog at the end of it!


Nutrigenomics – your pets really are what they eat

Spike's World

If you’ve seen my previous post ‘Socialisation for the genes’ you will know I’m fascinated by the field of epigenetics.  For a few years now I have been wondering how we can use our new knowledge of epigenetic processes to help our pets live longer, healthier lives.  I was therefore extremely pleased to get my hands on a copy of Dr Jean Dodds and Diana Laverdure’s new book, ‘Canine nutrigenomics – the new science of feeding your dog for optimum health’ published by the fab Dogwise Publishing.


Nutrigenomics is an emerging field which looks at the way an organism’s diet effects the genes it expresses.  We used to think an animal was born with a set of instructions from its parents and that these instructions were set in stone. However, we now know that exactly which of these genetic instructions are followed is dependent on many factors.   Much like a light switch, genes can be either switched on or off. All animals and people are born with a huge number of ‘genetic lights’ but not all of these are switched on.  The diet and life experiences we offer our pets can profoundly affect the combination of genetic lights that become switched on and can either promote health or disease.

As human beings we are all aware that we should be eating a wholesome, minimally processed, varied diet to ensure our own health, yet for decades we have been told that it is perfectly acceptable to feed a single brand of highly processed kibble to our pets for them to remain in good health. In fact we have been told that changing brands should be avoided at all costs and that we should NEVER feed any human food, as it will cause digestive problems. To me it seems totally counterintuitive that the advice we follow for our own health and wellbeing is poles apart from the way we are told to feed our animal companions.

‘Canine nutrigenomics’ offers advice on how to create a functional diet for your pets based on nutrigenomic principles and suggests a range of ingredients and ‘superfoods’ that can help a host of health conditions.

Spirulina, a form of blue-green algae can have a range of health benefits for our animal companions

Of these conditions, canine allergies are covered in great detail. Having had firsthand experience of canine atopic dermatitis, it is great to hear this terrible condition being discussed from a functional perspective rather than simply applying a medical ‘sticking plaster’ to mask the symptoms.

After reading this book, it’s pretty clear that our knowledge has surpassed the age of mindlessly scooping processed kibble into our pets’ bowls and while the convenience was great when we knew no better, the time has come to feed our pets’ genes as well as their stomachs.