Our thoughts on #BrookeHouts

At some point, every dog owner gets frustrated with their dog.  Maybe something minor, like them not coming when called, or something a bit more drastic, like tearing your favourite armchair to shreds when you’re not there.

What you do in these situations is often just between you and your four walls (and the dog).  There’s a whole scale of frustration, from eye rolls all the way up to unreasonable physical reaction.  Whatever your response is, does anyone ever see it? If a tree falls in a forest, did it fall if you didn’t see/hear it?

They do when you’re a “famous” youtube star, apparently.  There’s a whole thing going viral today about Brooke Houts.  A youtube vlogger with 300,000 ish subscribers who owns a Doberman and managed to film (and publish!) herself slapping and spitting on her dog, pushing it away. Out of frustration.

Sidestep what she actually did for a moment… here’s the thing.  She videoed this, she published this.  In my head, she wouldn’t have done that if she thought her actions were unreasonable.  Or would she?

I’d never heard of her before her name went viral.  But I certainly know about her now.  What little we know about vlogging is that the more subscribers you have and the greater ‘hours watched’ your channel racks up, the more you earn.  So, can we please bear in mind that this video she posted of unreasonable physical action against her pet is earning her money every time someone watches it to see for themselves what she actually did.  Even if she takes that video down, you can bet people will be watching her other videos to see if there’s anything else in there they can find of her mistreating her dog.

Back on track, now. Have I ever beaten my dog because they did something I thought was wrong? No.  Absolutely not.

Have I tapped their butt when they’ve acted out? Yes – instinctively, usually when I’m the target of whatever they’re doing and to turn their attention off shagging my arm.  Have I shaken a can, squirted a water thingy, made a loud noise? Yes.

Our problem as humans is learning about expectations.

The more we anthropomorphise our pets, the higher our expectations of behaviour become. Because we’re treating them as “babies” we’re expecting them to act like children, not dogs.  They’re dogs! Expect them to behave like dogs, not “yes, ma’am” preppy kids out at the Country Club for lunch.  If you want a well-behaved dog, learn to communicate on their level, not yours. Go to classes, read the books, watch the training videos.  Repeat.

Ultimately, the frustration we feel when our pets don’t do as we ask is no reason for any sort of punishment towards our pets.  We should be chastising ourselves more – that we were expecting perfection perhaps but didn’t communicate it in a way we should be expecting our pets to respond to – at their level of understanding.

If you’re frustrated with your dog, Brooke – before you spit on him, you perhaps need to train yourself better.  There are classes for Reactive Dogs out there, maybe there ought to be one for Reactive Humans?

Multi-Dog Households

For those adding a puppy into a household with another dog after many years, you almost forget what puppyhood is like. The toilet training, the obedience, the sharp puppy teeth…  On top of all the usual puppy behaviours, you still have your older established dog to love and teach.

It isn’t easy.  Will they get on? How will the older dog react? Will this ruin our relationship?  When do I step in if trouble is brewing? Is there a hierarchy? Should they be given separate time?  All questions we have dealt with since Olia joined us at Easter 2019.

Nearly 4 months later, there have been moments of despair, joy, desperation and triumph.  There are some schools of thought which suggest you simply “let them work it out”. I’m not a fan of that.  I know Chuck, I know his foibles and “issues”.  He resource guards things like his food, the kitchen space, the sofa.  We manage his problems fairly well as a lone dog, but with the puppy in tow, “letting them work it out” will not be a suitable method of successful integration.

The dogs are fed separately in our house to avoid aggro; there is no hierarchy between them fortunately because they are motivated by different things.  Olia will do anything for food and Chuck will do almost anything for affection (or a digestive biscuit!).  This has enabled Chuck to not see Olia as a threat, so he hasn’t felt the need to protect anything from the new puppy.

Fortunately, Olia (whilst being a very annoying puppy) has developed a deep respect for Chuck – she has learned not to upset him too much and to give him space, with his and our guidance.  Unfortunately, she really doesn’t like rain, so whilst she is toilet trained, she still has accidents inside when it’s raining outside.  We’re working on that – she’s only 7 months old.

Olia has attended ringcraft training since joining us, and has already entered 3 championship shows, coming third, second and 4th respectively.  Interestingly, late 2018/early 2019 was a bumper crop for show quality Welsh Terrier bitches! So there are usually at least 5 in her current class.  Coming third in her puppy class qualified her for Crufts 2020, so she incredibly has qualified on her very first outing.  She really enjoys showing and when she calms down through experience of shows, she will improve her rankings.

Chuck and Olia get along remarkably well, and she’s in the middle of her first season right now whilst has gone very smoothly and with nearly no interest from Chuck!

Watch out for our next pupdate!

 

Creating a Dynasty

What’s the purpose of a dog show? We’ve vaguely covered this in previous blogs – it’s primarily breeders who want to raise the profile of their dogs, promote their lines and improve on the standard.  We all do it for fun, but it’s really a showcase of improvement, heritage and planning.

When we fell into the world of dog showing, we had much to learn about the breed and all that comes with it.  We at Bolhaus, are determined to promote this vulnerable native terrier breed, and ensure that for generations to come, owners have the opportunity to have a pup that is the very best we can breed, with fewest health issues, and the very best terrier type.

Along the way to this point, we have learned about anatomy and physiology, hereditary issues from a broad range of lines, genetics, and all sorts.  We are now in a reasonably informed position to really create a dynasty of Welsh Terriers  for the future.

We have Chuck, the dog with superb temperament and shape.  Over the past year we have been searching for just the right bitch to join him, our Foundation bitch with whom to begin our breeding journey.

She needed to be:

  • As unrelated to Chuck as possible (and that’s not easy in a vulnerable breed)
  • Of sound health, with good hereditary genetics
  • Of sound temperament, possibly a little more “fesity” than Chuck, to balance him out a bit.

That all sounds easy to tick off, but in reality, we could tick requirements two and three but requirement 1 was our sticking point over and over again.  The KC has recommended percentages for the maximum inbreeding (COI) tolerable for all breeds, and with Welsh Terriers, because there are so few of them, it’s tricky to get anything below 15% with any domestic UK born pup who also fills requirements two and three.

We are delighted, therefore, to have found our girl – and she was imported from the Loire Valley, France, in early April.  Look out for Princess Olia in weeks to come!

When actors become animal experts (apparently) and everyone applauds…

A week or so ago, a chap called Peter Egan, did an interview with the Radio Times.  This chap is an actor and self-proclaimed animal rights activist.  In this interview, the actor (and animal rights activist) questioned whether Crufts and show dogs in general is nothing more than a dangerous beauty pageant.

So the Crufts-bashing has started once again.  Delightful. Last year, we took a look at PETA storming the Crufts arena.  This year lets take a look at the statement made that Crufts “perpetuates pure breeding which leads to harmful genetic conditions, with the dogs health secondary to its appearance”.

Let’s break it down into its two main statements:

  • Dog shows = appearance > health
  • Pure breeding = poor quality genetics

There is a difference between a dog show such as Crufts and a competitive grooming show where quite literally appearance is everything.  We’re not going to talk about grooming shows here, because that’s something else entirely.

As with all animals, whether canine or human, fish or fowl, the greatest physical sign of poor health is appearance.  An unwell dog will usually physically appear unwell.  What the actor chap meant, I assume, is the underlying structural and genetic conditions you can’t see with the naked eye.  Nobody will take a lame dog into the show ring.

Health is a huge part of a show dog’s life.  Let’s take Welsh Terriers as an example.  You will not believe how much time has been spent in the breed desperately trying to ELIMINATE (yes, that’s right – get rid of) genetic diseases inherent in the breed.  I’m talking about PLL – primary lens luxation – an eye condition which is painful and hereditary.  There is a test for it, and you can be clear, a carrier or affected.  If you’re clear or a carrier, you won’t get the disease.  If you’re affected, you will.  If you breed two carriers, you’re going to be affected.  If you breed a carrier with a clear, none will be affected but some will be carriers.  I don’t need to tell you what will happen if you breed an affected dog with a clear or a carrier… it’s obvious.

Now, if you don’t test for PLL, you don’t know whether your dog is clear, a carrier or affected. All respectable and responsible breeders in our breed have tested for PLL.  If you’re an exhibitor at a show like Crufts, you’re probably a breeder or intending to breed and you know about PLL, you’re going to make some serious enquiries before mating or breeding.  We spend a lot of time looking at this.

When we’ve tested for PLL we then look at the percentage of inbreeding.  With rare and vulnerable breeds, inbreeding is going to happen.  The best we can do is minimise it and balance that with the need to eliminate PLL amongst other genetic problems.  It’s called the COI% and is FREELY AVAILABLE on the MyKC website.  You can literally create a login and calculate the likely inbreeding percentage of any two registered dogs.  Each breed has a target percentage to work below.   With Welsh Terriers, you’re going to be lucky to get anything below 5% and PLL clear.

We are not inbreeding brothers with aunts with sisters with sons.  There’s a likely chance a great great great great great great grandsire might be related.

Physical structure is important, and I will admit that there are “trends” people follow.  The shocking German Shepherd with the banana back should never have been put through to Best of Breed.  But that is not the fault of Crufts.  It is the fault of the Breed Club and the judges.

Each breed of dog has a published ‘standard’ which is about physical structure, temperament and so on.  This standard is maintained by the breed clubs, KC and judges.  It is up to this triumvirate to ensure that the standard set is promoting the health and good structure of a breed, NOT a show committee or a TV presenter.  If there is something that looks ‘off’ with a dog, or physical structure is being ignored, report it to the Club committee which upholds the standard.  Question it.  Don’t take it out on the dog show – they’re merely facilitating judging.  Judges are appointed and approved by Breed clubs, councils and finally the KC.  It is they who select their chosen best of breed and therefore judges who should ‘know better’.  In response to all of this, the Kennel Club did start a Judges Competency Framework, which includes many hours of training, seminars and mentoring to ensure that banana-gate doesn’t happen again.  The KC is learning from its errors and we should applaud all it does to promote correct training of judges.

Where the wheels fall off is when “hobby breeders (and worse)” who think dog shows are pathetic and a waste of time start breeding. 

They don’t check for genetics.  They often don’t check COI%.  They breed because there is a demand and a market for puppies.  These dogs have NOT been “gone over” by a well-respected judge with many years of in depth breed knowledge to say that yes, these dogs are good quality terriers.  All they have is a vet health check, if they’re lucky.  Now that is important, but it is only one factor to consider.

So you buy a cross-breed instead, because you can’t face having an inbred sickly pedigree dog.  Ok, that’s your choice.  Congratulations on your new puppy.

Tell me about the traditional temperament of your cocker-wotsit-multi-poo-bull around children? You can’t.  You won’t know whether it’s more cocker or poo.  Yes, of course how it was raised as a pup will affect that answer, BUT is it genetically predisposed to herd? To protect?  No idea.

What are the health signs I should be looking out for as it gets older? Is it more likely I should look at potential heart conditions, so ensure a less active lifestyle in its senior years? You won’t know. It’s a lottery.

So, I ask you, when you tune in to Crufts, take a long hard look at the dogs.  More time, knowledge, health tests and money has been invested into that dog than your designer mutt, bred because it’s the “new thing”.  That dog’s lineage can be traced all the way back.  That pure-bred “circus animal” has the appropriate temperament, structure and quality to represent ALL of its kind.

The actor (and animal rights activist) owns a pure-bred black labrador, by the way.  Literally years of breeding, testing and conformation (and yes, potentially a bit of inbreeding) has gone into the creation of that pup.  Probably at some point, an ancestor has been a show dog, culminating in the birth of… oh, wait…. the actor(and animal rights activist)’s black lab pet.  Say what, now?   

What has Social Media ever done for us (dogs)?

We’re going to have to suspend the imagination for just a moment.

Clearly @chukkabennett isn’t actually the dog himself typing away.  Though I’ve suspected for a long time that he can read, he clearly doesn’t actually type his own tweets.  And anyway, if he could, they’d be in Welsh.

This dog has over 3,000 followers on Twitter. That’s more than an organisation I recently worked for.  It’s 2,900 more than I have on my human twitter profile. One of his other doggy friends on Twitter nearly has 10,000 followers.  Is the world insane? What is going on!?

We’re human, we’re dog-lovers and giving “voice” to the animals we so dearly love isn’t anything new.  Consider Scooby Doo, Muttley, Sweep… We have always anthropomorphised our canine companions, but perhaps before, it was on a more private scale.  Social media has just gone and made the whole thing way more public.  And I for one, think it’s a good thing.

We bring joy to others.  So many comments on Chuck’s posts have been about how his photos and videos (sometimes bordering on the indecent) have brought a smile to the face of a stranger hundreds of miles away.  If that one photograph I posted has brought a chuckle for someone who really needed a laugh at that moment, then my job is done.

We educate.  Chuck is a pet.  Chuck is also a show dog.  An industry which, in some very loud corners, is absolutely despised as the pit of all wrongdoing and abuse.  If being a show dog means Chuck is abused, then all hope is lost for the dogs who really need your help.  Sharing his daily stories is my little way of giving a bit of insight into the life of a show dog.  Along the way, I’ve offered tips on grooming, feeding, training and all sorts.  For free, by the way.  Sharing is caring.  As a community, we share information on missing dogs, news updates on diseases and tragic events.  And together we raise money for all sorts of causes which might otherwise not have got quite as much screen time!

We nurture relationships.  In a world where making new friends, and I mean REAL friends, is probably getting harder and harder, Chuck and his twitter profile has afforded me the opportunity to meet real, human friends.  People who by virtue of also having profiles for their dogs, have a shared interest in all of the above.  We laugh, we cry and we meet up from time to time, with and without our dogs.  If I hadn’t created @chukkabennett, I would never have met these wonderful individuals.

We’re participating in fancy dress on the internet, basically.   A love letter to our dearest companions, and it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I bloody well hope Chuck is flattered! It’s a cathartic way to express our thoughts which perhaps as our human selves we wouldn’t otherwise do.  We can let ourselves go just a little bit.  And that’s liberating.

Crufts is nearly here.  Crufts is an important date in my diary for obvious and not so obvious reasons.  Yes, it’s all about Chuck and his show career, but secretly I’m actually more excited that it’s the anniversary of our twitter meet-up.  Having chatted to each other and met individually here and there for a year, at Crufts 2018, nearly all of us came together for the first time.  Our little group of terrierists has grown since then, but that core group – without Twitter I wouldn’t have you.  I am certain there are other stories out there just like mine.  Liberated by their twitter dog profile.

Some people might find all of this ridiculous and pathetic.  Well, do you know what? @chukkabennett is a dog.  He doesn’t care!

2018 in Review

Now I’ve finished the shows for the year, I’ve done some number crunching…

10 Shows, 2 best of breed awards, and 3 qualifications for Crufts 2019:

  • 8 Championships
    • 5 1st placings and a BoB
    • 2 2nd placings
    • 1 3rd placing (WDS)
  • 2 Open
    • 1 1st placing and a BoB
    • 1 2nd placing

Overall, seven 1st placings, three 2nds, and a third.  Two Best of Breed placings, one at a championship and one at an open – both new awards for me! A significant improvement on 2017! The third was in the Open Class at the World Dog Show, where you have to enter according to your age, not your prior wins, so I was up against champions and I still beat a couple of them to get 3rd! My only Championship second place of the year was at Crufts where the standard was a lot higher than usual, too.

I was also out for 4 months after Crufts with a shaved leg, so missed out on 4 shows, too!

Back on the (Chalk)Block

It’s been a while.

A week after Crufts, it snowed.  I ate some snow which had been poisoned with weedkiller/antifreeze and was rushed to the Vets to be put on a drip for a few days, get it all out of my system.

They shaved my leg fur for the drip on one leg (they don’t have to, to get the needle in, they were told not to, but they did it anyway).  My leg fur takes AGES to grow back, so despite me feeling better a week later, I wasn’t able to show until my furnishings grew out.  It was mid-June before I was back in the ring.

In the meantime, the humans had got new jobs, oops North, starting in September, so were panicking about housing, showing, grooming, finances etc etc

PS if you want a 4 bedroom detached house in Buckinghamshire with built in kennels INDOORS, I have the home for You!

We went to Amsterdam in August – that’s a whole blog post on it’s own! I held my own against champion dogs and came third, beating some serious competition.

and now… I live in Cumbria, I still go to dog shows all over, but won my first best of breed in Darlington, which basically makes me King of the North!