Friday, November 27, 2009

We should pay our vets more...

We – by which I mean we pet owners – don’t pay our vets enough money.

No, honestly.

Most vets are dependent on commercial organisations to help supplement their income. They get sponsorship, fees, research grants and training from pharmaceutical companies and other organisations such as dog food manufacturers.

They also make commission from selling everything from medicines to, of course, food. Indeed, many small animal practices earn as much as a third of their revenue from dog and cat food sales alone.

If we pet owners were willing to pay more in fees then maybe vets could free themselves of their dependence on businesses that so obviously have a vested interest in providing support.

I would go so far as to say that an unwillingness to pay vets what they are worth has led to the fact that the whole veterinary profession is geared towards curing problems instead of preventing them.

This is because there is money in cures but not in prevention.

The wonderful Mrs. Self and I have just been to Vienna where we were given a tour behind the scenes at the Spanish Riding School. After looking at the stables, which house several dozen horses at a time, Mrs. S asked: ‘How often do the vets come to visit?’ The woman showing us around thought hard: ‘I mean maybe every two months, maybe not so often.’

The point is the School knows how to care for their horses so that they don’t get ill and don’t become injured. Interestingly, the School doesn’t use commercial feeds, but grows much of the horses’ food themselves on their own farms.

It is expensive being a vet. First you have to study for at least seven years and then, if you want to set up in practice, you have to invest a great deal of capital. Unlike, say, solicitors they haven’t trained their customers to pay substantial fees (my solicitors, by no means a fancy firm, don’t think twice about charging me £250 an hour and sometimes more).

As I say, if we were willing to pay more then maybe vets would be less susceptible to offers of help from unscrupulous commercial interests.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why dogs bite people II

An interesting discussion this evening with a dog behaviourist who was explaining to me that domesticated dogs are being kept in a state of permanent puppyhood. In the wild they would lead a very different life. Instead of being taken from their mothers they would, at the appropriate moment, be pushed away. They would be taught how to fend for themselves and, in particular, how to capture prey. In due course they would have to fight for/find their place in the pack. Also, they would receive very little petting and love. I half knew all this but it was good to be reminded. Meanwhile, I must thank everyone who has been sending me 'why dogs bite people' photos. I have spent a happy ten minutes wondering what sort of conversation took place in the home where these poor dachshunds were photographed. 'Dearest, I have had a brilliant idea.' 'Really?' 'Yes, let's buy five banana suits and dress up Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch.' 'Genius, but I don't think Titch will go for it.' 'No, perhaps you are right. I'll only get four.' 'They are going to be so happy.' Evidence that domesticated humans, like domesticated dogs, are also being kept in an equivalent state.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Instant recall. How to get your dog to come.

On the right we see Laura, my daughter, then aged about nine or ten throwing her arms back and calling: 'Daaaaaaaarling!' On the left, out of sight, Darling is racing up the hill as fast as she can keen to obey her mistresses' (have I got the apostrophe in the correct place?) voice. All my dogs have pretty much instant recall and the way I have always trained them is this. I don't feed them for a day. The next day I divide their food into ten little plastic bags and take them into the garden (well, field, to be strictly accurate) and after they have romped off I call them - just once. If they come (and with a bit of prompting, sit neatly in front of me) they receive one tenth of their daily food. If they don't they are down to nine tenths. Repeat, as it were. The first day most dogs end up with about half their daily allowance of food. The second day they tend to stick to one like glue making it hard to put the system into practice. I've never come across a dog (apart from my ex-partner's standard Schnauzer, who has no interest in food) that didn't respond to this method. If only I could train the children as easily. I often have to call: 'Laurrrrrrraaaaaaa!' a dozen times to get her attention...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

One of the first campaigners for raw food

Hurrah for Ros Walters, the leading British canine nutritionist. She may be in her 80s but she is still taking on private patients, advising vets and campaigning for raw dog food. Although Ros is not known to the general public, she was one of the first experts to challenge the processed dog food industry. Vicky and I went to see her on Friday in order to discuss some new biscuit recipes she is working on for us. Ros thoroughly disapproves of our cheese and peanut butter biscuits on the basis that neither of these ingredients are to be found in the wild. Instead, she has suggested we offer biscuits containing health-giving herbs. Which is what we are going to do from next year. As you can see she has two beautiful corgis.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Playing dead

The wonderful thing about making your hobby (in my case dogs) your business is that it gives you an excuse to spend time doing something that you would otherwise feel guilty about. When Marianne, my wife, caught me searching for the best ‘play dead’ videos on YouTube I was instantly able to reassure her that it was for work. You may judge the result of my efforts for yourself.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yes, we follow BARF principles. No, we don’t make a fuss about it

For the last two days we have been at Discover Dogs meeting dog owners who are interested in the BARF diet, offering tips and advice and giving away samples of our dried liver treats. I am not quite sure how many people attended in the end, but 26,000 were expected and I feel I may have shaken hands with most of them.

BARF stands for Biologically Appropriate Raw Food and the BARF diet of fresh, raw meat, bone and vegetable is starting to gain popularity. Darling’s Real Dog Food is based 100% on BARF principles. The key difference is that Darling’s saves dog owners a great deal of time because:
  • There’s no need for you to do any nutritional research.
  • There’s no need for you to source all the different ingredients.
  • There’s no need for you to make the food up every day.
This latter point shouldn’t be underestimated. It can be a yucky business preparing and serving raw dog food. With Darling’s, on the other hand, the food itself comes in neat little packages.

Generally speaking you will notice that we don’t make a big thing about BARF on our website and literature. Why not? Firstly, it is a political and ethical movement and we don’t think it is right to try and cash in on its goodwill. Secondly, we are a little prudish about the acronym with all its associations.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Why we sound so friendly on the telephone

Thanks to modern technology all our managers work from home. Your calls come in to our main number and are automatically routed to whoever is free. If they are all engaged then the call is transferred to our answering machine. The message you leave is transcribed and then forwarded to whoever is best qualified to deal with your query. We don’t have a call centre, we don’t have scripts and we don’t record any calls ‘for training or service quality purposes’. We feel that this approach allows us to offer a genuinely personal and friendly service.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jackie’s Dog Grooming Services

Why are all the best known hairdressers male? I can think of half a dozen world-famous stylists and not one of them is female. Happily, there is no such discrimination in the dog-grooming world. And if ever a dog-groomer was going to reach international star status my guess is it might be Our Jackie (‘Our’ Jackie because she is one of our own managers). If you are in Wiltshire (or close to it) then I have no hesitation in recommending her. Her number is 0750 202 8679.

Friday, November 13, 2009

More about canine digestion

“Dogs do not produce the necessary amounts of enzymes in their saliva (amylase, for example) to start the break-down of carbohydrates and starches; amylase in saliva is something omnivorous and herbivorous animals possess, but not carnivorous animals. This lack of the necessary enzymes, places the burden entirely on the pancreas, forcing it to try to produce large amounts of amylase and cellulase to deal with the starch, cellulose, and carbohydrates in grains and plant matter. (The carnivore's pancreas was not designed to secrete cellulase to split the cellulose into glucose molecules), nor have dogs "evolved" to become efficient at digesting and assimilating and utilizing gains or plant material as a source of high quality protein. Herbivores do those sorts of things. Read Canine and Feline Nutrition Case, Carey and Hirakawa Published by Mosby, 1995.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beagle escape

The Canine Reader’s Digest Concise Version of The Great Escape – only 90 seconds long but with all the thrills of the original. (unfortunately it couldn't be embedded).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We need more studies like this

“In December 1995, the British Journal of Small Animal Practice published a paper contending that processed pet food suppresses the immune system and leads to liver, kidney, heart and other diseases. Dr. Kollath, of the Karolinska Hospital in Stockholm, headed a study done on animals. When young animals were fed cooked and processed foods they initially appeared to be healthy. However, as the animals reached adulthood, they began to age more quickly than normal and also developed chronic degenerative disease symptoms. A control group of animals raised on raw foods aged less quickly and were free of degenerative disease.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Free liver treats if you visit us at Discover Dogs

Only four days until Discover Dogs at Earl’s Court. Vicky and I decided some time ago that we would give away a small packet of our 100% dried liver treats to anyone who visited our stand (206 if you are coming to the show). Why do dogs love liver more than almost anything else? Instinctively they know that it provides them with the richest and best source of nutrition. When dogs kill prey in the wild it is what they devour first. Normally, we bake our liver treats, but for the show we are experimenting with an air-dried version. Judging by our own dogs’ reaction it makes no difference how we handle the preparation.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Three interesting facts about canine digestion

Fact 1. A human intestine goes on for yards and yards (up to 28 feet) whereas a dog’s intestine is never more than two and half times its length. What is the significance of this? Dogs simply can’t digest all sorts of things that humans can, including grain. I mention grain specifically because there’s a lot of it in processed dog food.

Fact 2. Human digestion really starts in the mouth. Our teeth are designed for chewing and our saliva begins to break the food down long before it reaches our stomach. Canine digestion is different. All the serious action takes place in the stomach. Canine teeth are made for ripping and tearing, not for chewing. It is why dogs gulp much of their food.

Fact 3. In the wild a dog will digest its food in 4 or 5 hours. Processed food, on the other hand, can take 8 to 15 hours to break down, clear the stomach and pass through the small intestine.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A complete waste of two minutes

How many times did this poor dog have to listen to John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in order to perfect his moves? And was it worth it? If you have two minutes to waste then you can decide for yourself.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Why dogs bite people

An email is doing the rounds with the subject: Why dogs bite people. I didn't mean to open it. I didn't mean to look. I didn't mean to smile. I didn't mean to post any of the photos on my blog. But these ghost dogs are too good not to pass on.