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Tall Tails from the Four-legged Stars

I was amused to hear Lord Hatersley on the radio recently reading extracts from the memoirs of Buster , his brindle Staffordshire Bull Terrier-cross German Shepherd.
Some listeners may have been reminded of Buster's earlier foray when he killed a goose in St. James Park, in London.
Lord Hattersley took the blame and was fined 75, but has remained tongue-in-cheek, remarking that Buster " has stuck by me despite my conviction.

I enjoyed the reading, but feel that Buster has some way to go before he can emulate Millie , the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel whose memoirs, ghost-written by George Bush's wife Barbara, became an instant best-seller, earning her more in 1991 than the ex-President himself.

The Clintons own two pets - Socks , the First Cat , and now Buddy , the First Dog .
Buddy is developing quite a persona himself, initially while the nation waited in suspense to see whether Bill would have him neutered - which he duly did, much to the dismay of most American men.
This was followed by depression for Buddy , that is then some misdirected minor aggression.
However, if Buddy decides to eventually put paw to paper with insider tails of the White House, that really would be something, probably the animal book to beat all animal books.

Personally I think Public Prosecutor Ken Starr is barking up the wrong tree interviewing all these humans. The animals would be a far better bet.


Socialisation Scheme for dogs

Some dogs are abandoned when they become too difficult to handle.
Many of the problems can be avoided, often quite simply, if action is taken at the puppy or adolescent stage.
A number of vets throughout Glasgow and Scotland have set up puppy socialisation classes and these have proved to be extremely popular.
Joyce Scott is also a dog behaviourist and some of the episodes she describes of dogs whose anti-social behaviour is so far advanced, are harrowing in the extreme.
She said " If real care is taken at a young age and this results in just one puppy being saved later on, it has all been worth the effort. "
Further details can be obtained from your local vet's surgery.

Postman's Knock Can Spark a Riot

When I was a postman - many moons ago - I soon realised how territorial dogs are when a stranger approaches their house.
I have still to make up my mind whether their aggression to me was because I was not their usual postman - just a student delivering Christmas mail -or because they regarded the visit as the bright spot in a dull day.
I delivered the post in St Anne's, near Blackpool. The rows of Coronation Street-style houses were fine, but the bungalows of suburbia were another story.
Sometimes the problem was locating the letter box and even then you might have to contend with furry draught excluders and extra-strong springs.
The worst were located a few inches above floor level. I only ever got bitten twice -once by a cat - and each time the animal was clearly sitting ready to pounce on the other side of one of these low-level flaps.
It was with considerable sympathy that I listened to statistics given by a spokesman for Houston Post Office in the United States.
Apparently, 2500 letter carriers - as postmen are called there - get bitten each year in Houston amounting to 4.5 million bites each year over the whole of the USA.
So if you own a dog (or aggressive cat) spare a thought for your postman or woman.

Huskies to the Rescue of Mountain Rescue Teams

Some years ago. I spent the summer in North-East Greenland where I became fascinated by the huskies owned by the Danish air base there.

These Greenland huskies were pale wolf-like dogs, not the Alaskan Malamute type with the attractive markings which are popular across Britain and Europe.

The Greenland huskies were considered redundant after the invention of snow mobiles, but have one major advantage - they don't break down .

Watching teams of sled dogs competing in snowy conditions is an exhilarating experience and it's not difficult to see where famous author Jack London drew his inspiration from for his books Call of the Wild and Wild Fang.

In March 1999, West Highland-based Alan Stewart 43, and Antarctic experts Rick Atkinson and Alistair Taylor, managed to surmount Britain's second highest mountain, the 4265ft Ben Macdui, and cross the Cairngorm plateau in whiteout conditions with an eight dog team of Siberian huskies and one German pointer (Alan's pet).

The whole adventure raised a considerable sum of money through sponsorship for the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team .

Canine Genome Project

SHIRLEY and John Davies, of the Honeymist Bedlingtons, at Struthers Kennels, Kilmarnock, have been staunch supporters of the Canine Genome Project .

They are particularly interested in the subject of copper toxicosis in the Bedlington Terrier.
For the last 10 years or so the Cambridgeshire-based Animal Health Trust has been carrying out the Canine Genome Project, an attempt to map the genetics of the dog and then to eventually eradicate most of the inherited genetic disorders.

Similar projects have taken place or are continuing in other species, inspired by the success of the Human Genome Project.

In dogs, there are 78 different chromosomes, along each of which are a number of genes amounting in total to around 100,000 in a dog. Eye problems are hereditary and there is some evidence suggesting hip and elbow displacements can be, too.

For many of these inherited diseases, only one of the 100,000 genes is altered. It is now possible to identify the problem gene and develop DNA tests to determine whether a particular animal has the disease-causing gene. This will enable breeders to avoid breeding dogs with such genetics.

The tests to establish this would involve taking a small amount of DNA from a dog simply by using a swab on the inside of the dog's cheek. This can then be processed in a laboratory.

While is might be early days just now and expensive, this will be routine in a few years time.

UK Favourite Dog Breeds

The 1999 Top Ten most popular dog breeds in the UK are:
  1. Labrador Retriever
  2. German Shepherd
  3. West Highland White Terrier
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Cocker Spaniel
  6. English Springer Spaniel
  7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  8. Boxer
  9. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  10. Yorkshire Terrier

Native American Song Dogs

Hot on the heels of Glasgow's Lakota Sioux "Ghost Shirt" saga, comes news of Sarah Harrison in Wales, who has imported Native American Song Dogs for breeding.

When the first Europeans arrived in North America it was estimated that there were probably 200,000 of these dogs in existence, but by the time of the massacre of the Sioux at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, these dogs had dwindled to just a handful.

Settlers and soldiers shot Indian dogs on sight and Native Americans, starving on their rservations, were reduced to eating some of the others.

Over the past 20 years, a part-Blackfoot Indian, Kim LeFlamme, has systematically searched out any remaining dogs, created the American Indian Dog Club and, together with other enthusiasts, has built the numbers up to about 200.

Mrs Harrison's first pair were immediately christened with distinctive Scottish names. Little Skye and Highland Storm are now rearing their second litter and interest is steadily growing.

In appearance, these dogs clearly owe their ancestry to mixtures of coyote and wolf blood. They get their name because they prefer to "talk" or "sing" in high pitched tones rather than bark.

For a booklet on American Indian Dogs or further information send 3.00 (including p&p) to:

Sarah Harrison, Ty Maesymeillion, Maesymeillion, near Llandysul, Ceredigion, Dyfed SA44 4NJ. (Tel: 01545-590384).

Stray Dog Population Survey 1999

Strong efforts are being made to reunite stray dogs with their owners and cut down the number being destroyed.

In August 1999, the National Canine Defence League published the results of a MORI survey it had commissioned to find out the true position regarding the stray dog population in the UK.

From April 1999 to March 1999, 133,400 strays were picked up throughout the British Isles.

Of these , 44% were reclaimed by their owners, 21% were sent to re-homing centres, 14 % were found new homes by local authorities and 16%; 22,000 were destroyed.

In an effort to reduce this total of destruction, many local authorities have instituted neutering and micro-chipping programmes.
About one in three local authorities in the UK now do this and the number is growing. This is a serious effort to reunite dogs with their owners and avoid euthanasia.

Eventually, of course, a systematic operation should permit a crackdown on persistent human offenders who lose or abandon their pets.

Winter Care of Your dog

Bad weather for dogs and cats presents other types of problems. Many cats don't like getting wet. They'll go to the door, take a sniff, then think better of it and retreat indoors again. Most dogs go outside no matter what, as they don't mind the harsher elements. For a start, they have to as they don't, generally speaking, use litter trays. However, dogs are also programmed to go for a walk as if patrolling their territories as they would in their far-off wolf days in the wild. Pavement ice and salt can create very real difficulties. Dogs' feet must be looked after. Nails should be kept short. After every walk, the feet should be washed free of salt and the pads checked for cuts. Keep a selection of rough towels handy so the joints can be dried off to prevent rheumatism later.

Colour sight for Dogs

I always thought dogs, cats, deer and most other creatures except monkeys, apes and birds could see only in tones of grey.
Now Japanese scientists say they have proved that dogs can actually distinguish colours.
Labradors and Japanese Shiba were taught that food was hidden behind red sliding panels and not behind the green ones. These panels were interchanged at random. All the dogs learned where the food was and could detect it correctly at least 75% of the time, according to a professor of animal science ay Azaba University in Japan. Readers may like to carry-out simple experiments of their own to see if this is true.

St Bernards on the Menu

Swiss animal activists were in the news in Spring 2000 when they urged their government to step in and ban the export of St Bernard dogs to Indonesia and the Far East, where they are apparently eaten as human food.

In the Far East there are even TV adverts propagating the St. Bernard as "cheap to feed, quick to grow and ideal for the culinary trade", which we in the West find incomprehensible.

Germans Get Tough on "Fighting Dogs"

Anyone who visits cities on the continent will have noticed many breeds of dog almost unknown over here or greatly restricted.
It is also noticeable that some of the more aggressive breeds are still having their ears cropped into a pointed upright style a practice illegal in the UK.

After a recent spate of attacks by aggressive dogs on adults and children, the German government appears to have run out of patience. In a disturbing article in an issue of the Scottish SPCA news magazine, it seems that 16 breeds have been singled out for an outright ban or severe restrictions under new laws enacted by the German states.

Under the new law, people are forbidden to buy or exchange any animals of the 16 listed breeds. Existing animals have to be registered, castrated, muzzled and leashed in public.

The breeds include:

  • all pit bulls,
  • American Staffordshire terriers,
  • Staffordshire bull terriers and
  • Japanese tosas among others.

The German Federal Minister of the Interior recently made a statement that his government may be lobbying Europe in an attempt to make the German legislation European law by November 2000.

Other European countries are either taking part or considering action against "fighting dogs".

Norway and France are considering legislation against Staffordshires and pit bulls. Italy has drafted laws covering the ownership of dangerous dogs and a range of laws in Holland will soon provide for an aggression test for several breeds.

Some of these restrictions apply to breeds not considered fighting dogs or particularly dangerous in this country.

German Dangerous Dog Scheme

The situation in Germany regarding dangerous dogs is hotting up. Germany now has a hit list of 16 "fighting breeds either banned, or subject to rigid conditions of ownership. These include some of Britain's most popular dogs such as the Staffordshire bull terrier, English bull terrier and bull mastiff, but not, interestingly enough, the German Shepherd.

There are half a million "Staffie owners in Britain who are less than chuffed at this criticism of a dog which has always been regarded as a near ideal family pet.

Dog owners are also concerned that other European countries are considering following Germany's lead.
The Kennel Club is now advising British owners of the breeds mentioned not to take them to Germany under the Pet Passports scheme as it is not worth the risk of having them impounded. Many German owners of these dogs must now conform to a list of measures such as:

  • muzzling
  • neutering
  • "fighting dog" taxesof around 500 and
  • lengthy tests.

If they don't co-operate, or a pet fails these tests, it could end up being destroyed.

Puppy Toilet Training

If your puppy will only do the toilet on shets of newspaper, move the paper steadily closer to the door and eventually outside. Gradually the puppy will become used to going outside and the newspaper can be discontinued, though of course poop-scoops should be used to clear up.

Puppies Alone

Puppies who cry when left alone are a far more difficult problem and often gets worse as the dog grows older leading to extensive damage of household fixtures and fittings. Contact a Dog Training Club as soon as possible, as the club's trainers and members will have encountered most problems before. Puppies should never be left on their own and it is up to you to arrange for a "puppy sitter" if you really have to go out.

Working Companion Spaniel

In Barnoldswick, North Yorkshire, lives an unusual Cocker Spaniel, called Denver, whose owner, Jeannie Crangle, 45, is confined to a wheelchair.
She sent 5 year old Denver to dog training to learn how to collect washing, carry shopping, pick up the telephone and collect the post.
On his return, the spaniel has astonished everyone by being able to sort the post. Denver recognises who the letter is for from the length of the owner's name.

If you know of any similar examples please let us know.