Wednesday 25 April 2018

Introducing the Detector Dog Awards!

The sun has finally started to make an appearance, Spring is well and truly in the air, and what better way to spend your summer days than by training your dog in a new skill?

Last year, we published Detector Dog, a step-by-step guide to teaching your dog how to become a pro at scentwork in no time. With nothing but positive feedback for the book, it was time to take scentwork to the next level ... 

Talking Dogs Scentwork® has launched a new way for dogs and their people to get involved with scentwork. Author of Detector Dog, Pam Mackinnon, wanted to bring all the Talking Dogs Scentwork® resources together to form a new way for teams to achieve success when working from home or unable to attend regular workshops. This idea then became the Detector Dog Online Awards. 

By submitting film clips for assessment, teams can work through modules to earn certificates and awards, learning as they go. These Online Awards are suitable for every dog, no matter the breed, age, physical ability or skills – teams can start at various levels depending on their experience, from complete beginner to seasoned sniffer. 

So, how do the online modules work?
There are three levels: Foundation, Intermediate, and Advanced. Within those levels are: Key Skills, such as introducing scent, safety checks and handling skills; Level Searches, which increase in complexity as the modules progress; and Specialist Searches, including baggage, vehicle, and postal. 
Each module sets out what equipment teams will need, a list of resources, such as the Detector Dog manual, and what the films must show. And to help teams to stay focused, Pam has set out some learning goals for both handler and dog. When they are ready, handlers send in their video for submission; these will then be assessed. Modules follow on from each, building skills in a logical and practical progression. 

The first team to gain a certificate was Hazel Kemble, and her Vizla, Swift. They already had some scentwork skills, and so were able to begin at the Intermediate Level after successfully submitting some lovely searches. Check out Swift giving the certificate a good old sniff!

For more information on the Detector Dog Online Awards, and how to register, click here. Help turn your dog's favourite pastime, into your favourite hobby!

Thursday 19 April 2018

A ban on shock collars

By now you'll be familiar with our ethos here at Hubble & Hattie: to publish books that are of real benefit to the species they cover, whilst also promoting compassion, understanding and respect between all animals. For us, the wellbeing of animals is paramount, so when animal welfare makes the news, it always piques our interest ... 

There has been a lot of talk lately of the government introducing a ban on electric shock collars. The devices, which are used to aid training or to discipline pets, are often remotely controlled, and send an electric shock to the animal at the touch of a button. Wales already has in place a ban on such collars, with Scotland following suit imminently. 

Other so-called training collars squirt noxious sprays, which campaigners warn can disrupt a dog's acute sense of smell, whereas others can emit a sound painful to a dog's hearing. 

A recent survey carried out by The Kennel Club found that three quarters of those questioned would support a ban on the use of these collars. The same survey revealed that a third of dogs let out a cry of pain at the first use of a shock collar. What's more, animal behaviourist and veterinary surgeon Kendal Shepherd reports that she has seen evidence of animals with burns and scars, due to these horrific collars being used on pets. 

Speaking to The Guardian, The Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko said: "Training a dog with an electric shock collar causes physical and psychological harm and is never acceptable, especially given the vast array of positive training methods available. We hope that a ban on their use is imposed swiftly."

To help illustrate the point that shock collars should be banned in England, Dogs Trust teamed up with the Channel 5 show Do The Right Thing with Eamon and Ruth at the end of last month. One of the panellists, Roman Kemp, wore a shock collar on his arm for the duration of the segment. Presenter Eamon Holmes was in control of the button, and when pressed, the shock made Kemp jump out of his seat. "You kind of feel the shock throughout your whole body. It's vicious, it's a weapon," said Kemp of his experience. If these collars spark this reaction in a human, how can their use on animals be allowed?

You have until the 27th of April if you would like to share your views and support the ban on electric shock collars. To do so, please contact the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and do something good for animals! 

Thursday 12 April 2018

Life's a beach

Just down the road from Hubble & Hattie HQ is the quiet seaside town of Bridport and harbour settlement, West Bay. Part of the Jurassic Coast, and now more recognisable after being featured in the ITV series Broadchurch, West Bay and the surrounding areas are extremely popular with tourists, and while the ageing golden cliffs may be stunning, they can also be very dangerous. 

In February, the West Bay coast guard team responded to reports of a Labrador cross who had fallen from cliffs near Freshwater Beach. When they arrived, they found the dog at the base of the cliffs with injuries to her head, face and legs, being cuddled by her tearful owner: "I know it's silly, but she's a big part of our family."

Of course, our pets are a huge part of our lives, so it's only understandable that, should something of this nature occur, we tend to get upset. This dog had a lucky escape, and after veterinary care, returned home with her relieved family just 24 hours later. Other dogs have not been so lucky ... 

A few days before Christmas last year, coastguard officers from neighbouring Jurassic Coast towns of Lyme Regis and Beer had the unfortunate task of having to recover a two-year-old Springer Spaniel who had died after falling from cliffs at Goat Island, near Exmouth. After performing a rope rescue, officers returned the Spaniel to his devastated family. 

It's difficult to imagine what they must have gone through during what should have been a happy and festive period. Dogs are cherished members of the family, and we must do everything we can to protect them, as we would do any human member of our family. 

Knowing how to be safe on beaches is the easiest way of protecting your four-legged friends: keep them on a lead if you are near cliffs; if there are signs warning of loose rocks or a recent land slip – which are very common at West Bay at the moment – take the necessary precautions and stay away from the cliffs.

Between the 1st of May and the 30th of September, dogs are not permitted on either of the beaches at West Bay; this is similar for most beaches around the UK during the summer season. However, dogs are allowed in the East Cliff Beach and West Cliff Beach areas year round. Though they are permitted off their leads, all dogs must be kept under a watchful eye. The rest of the harbour operates a clean zone, whereby dogs must be kept on leads at all times. 

If the unthinkable does occur when you are enjoying a dog walk on the beach, dial 999 and ask for the coastguard. 

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Safety Fur-st!

For most of us, the recent Easter celebrations meant that a great many people hit the roads to go away on holiday. But have you given thought to how to travel safely with your four-legged family members? Or are you more inclined to stay at home due to fears about their safety?

A recent survey carried out by Volvo in the United States shows that around a third of drivers worry about the safety of their pets in the car whilst driving, with almost half of those questioned not having safety gear for their pets when they are travelling. 

The figures are similar for the UK, too, with Dogs Trust estimating that 48% of dog owners could be breaking the Highway Code by not properly restraining their dogs whilst in the car. Whilst nearly 60% of people feel that having an unrestrained dog in a vehicle is dangerous, one in five owners regularly travel with their dogs unrestrained! In a survey conducted by Direct Line, 22% of vets questioned said travelling without proper restraint was the main cause of injury or death of pets involved in a traffic accident. 

Rule 57 of the Highway Code clearly states: "When in a vehicle, make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly."

There are a number of ways to keep Fido safe and secure, minimise doggy distractions, and put your mind at ease while driving. If you want to have your pooch travel in the back seat of your vehicle, you can get a special dog harness that can be attached to a fastened seat belt, as shown below. It is recommended that your dog sits behind the front passenger seat, so that they are less likely to be a distraction to the driver, or the middle seat for cars that have rear and side airbags.

Although most estate cars and SUVs come with a built-in luggage guard, these will not suffice in keeping your pet secure, should you be involved in an accident. And if you think the worst that could happen is that your dog slips and slides into the back of the seats, you're very wrong. An untethered dog weighing just 50lbs (just under 23kg) – that's about the same as a Basset Hound, or a Springer Spaniel – would be thrown with the force of a 1500lb projectile if you crashed at only 35mph (1). For peace of mind, a crash crate offers even more protection, and is particularly effective against rear-end collisions or shunts. Some, such as the TransK9, even have an emergency hatch, so your dog can be removed even if the rear doors are blocked in a collision. It's also a good idea to add some external stickers or signs indicating that you have a dog on board; at the very least, other dog owners will probably give you a little extra consideration on the road!

Our book Dogs on wheels is packed full of useful information for travelling with your canine companion. From helpful advice, insights into your dog's world; guidance on choosing the right vehicle and pet restraints, this book covers it all. If you are still unsure about how to travel safely with your dog, you can discuss the matter with your vet – or a specialist supplier – for the best options available to you, your pet, and your vehicle.  

Be sure that all members of your family are safe and secure for the long road ahead!

(1) Katherine Miller, Director of Applied Science and Research for the ASPCA