Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Sand baby

It's been another hectic week with barely time to stop and think, and it's just as well that Bingley still sleeps a lot because he's had to spend a few mornings and a couple of afternoons by himself; though never for more than a two or three hours at a time.

We've been having some good fun on our walks, but I'm sorry to say that the bouts of agoraphobia continue. Patience, treats and lots of encouragement seems to lure him out of his reluctance to move on after one of these episodes, though it's often followed by a mad dash to get that particular part of the street out of the way.

I still can't think of anything that might have caused this behaviour, and it isn't consistent: unlike full-blown agoraphobia where the dog simply won't leave the house, Bing gets giddy merely at the idea of a walk, and he can't wait to get out there. But throughout the walk, and especially on the streets, I'm now used to spending regular periods trying to encourage him to continue. There are definite indications that this phase is starting to pass, but if it goes on much longer then we'll have to go and visit the vet just to make sure that everything's ok.

The perplexing thing is that besides that everything else is fine and most of the walks go really well. The only other issue is his now well-honed ability to vacuum up anything that looks remotely edible as he passes it by. He's so quick at this! Today it was a black banana peel followed by someone's discarded apple. The banana peel I was too slow to catch and he sucked it up like a length of liquorice before I could stop him, the apple I didn't even know about until I heard him crunching.

He's also, it appears, got a taste for fox poo - something we encountered for the first time on Sunday morning. And whoa, does that smell awful or what?! Nevertheless, Bingley being Bingley finds it irresistible and gobbled most of it up before we could stop him: he really is disgusting at times!

But nothing excites him more than sand (though thankfully he hasn’t started eating it!). Parts of our walk cover Gateshead International Stadium’s new cross-country course and parts of that are sand covered. I’m not sure if Bing knows about cross-country yet but as soon as he gets onto one of the sandy patches he’s off like a shot, bum-tucking backwards and forwards like a mad March hare. He’s obviously a sand baby and loves running on it. Goodness knows what he’s going to make of the beach when we finally get down there!

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Baffling Bingley

A couple of posts ago I said that Bingley’s walks were returning to normal, but I’m afraid that I spoke too soon! Walking Bingley continues to be a source of pleasure and frustration, with the bouts of agoraphobia cropping up at the most unexpected moments. It's difficult not to suspect some wilful minded stubbornness at play here; that certainly accounts for some of the episodes, but there are times when he really does become quite distressed.

The early morning walks are normally ok, and when he stops and digs his heels in I usually only have to wait a few moments before trying again with more success. But I've been attempting to incorporate some much-needed socialisation into our lunchtime outings because, as any visitor to the house will testify, Bingley can be exhaustingly enthusiastic when it comes to greeting everyone who calls to see us. Unfortunately he’ll also jump up at anyone who gets close enough on our walks, and he can get himself into quite a state of over-excitement if he’s given the chance. Avoiding people was a short term tactic which worked, but it clearly isn’t sustainable; so I’ve been trying to include busier areas on our afternoon walks. I then make him sit and just watch people walk past, and when he doesn’t try to juggernaut his way towards them I give him lots of praise.

At least that’s the plan!

Implementing this is proving to be a challenge in itself. Today was a good example: we happily spent a bit of time on Bingley’s Field, and then I tried to take him onto the streets. He was fine for a few moments, but when it came time to cross the road we got only half way over before he stopped walking; and to make things worse he wouldn’t go back again – so I ended up stuck in the middle of the road with a puppy who wouldn’t budge.

I’m now a little more prepared for this, so I’m selecting to cross only very quiet roads; consequently, I was able to sit there with him whilst he settled down and agreed to come back to the pavement.

There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to this behaviour: with roads, for example, he’ll sometimes cross, he sometimes won’t; and it doesn’t seem to matter whether the area’s quiet or noisy, built up or exposed.

It’s a mystery.

Of course I’m pretty certain that this is just ‘a stage’ which he’s going through, so I’m more frustrated than concerned. Nevertheless, I hope that this stage doesn’t go on for much longer – I’m looking forward to getting Bingley down to the beach.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Dog breath

The average adult dog has 44 teeth, but I'm not sure how many a puppy starts off with. However, the way Bing's going there can't be many of his original teeth left - he's lost two today alone. I found a little pre-molar this lunchtime, once again on the lounge rug. And just a short while ago I spent half an hour watching him trying to mouth out yet another tooth (rhythmically moving his jaws around and licking his teeth, all the while making a sound like a little wonky water pump). I eventually made him sit front of me whilst I opened his mouth and had a look: and out popped another little fang! His jaws really are filling up with new teeth very quickly, but there are still plenty of empty gaps which haven't yet been occupied and there is, quite frankly, a bit of a dog breath smell at the moment!

That will pass of course, and it doesn't stop us from leaving the baby gate open most of the time so that BIngley can come and join us whenever he wants. Which is always. In fact he'll follow us from room to room, and even when we've left him fast asleep he'll sense that we've snuck away and come and find us - usually only to fall asleep again as close as possible to the nearest pair of legs. Or underneath the kitchen table.

Smelly or not, he’s adorable when he’s like this!

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Dogs & Cats

Bingley's daily walks are gradually returning to normal, though he's definitely become very particular about which route we choose. He now often wants to walk around an invisible object which has stopped him in his tracks: a foot to the left, or a foot to the right and we're off again; but go straight on? No way!

As I've mentioned, I'm pretty certain that all this is somehow related to his teething; but at the rate his teeth are falling out there can't be much longer to go before that's all over and done with. I actually watched him spit one out on the lounge rug yesterday evening: we were sitting in front of the fire and I could see him moving his jaws around and licking his teeth, then out popped a lovely little upper right canine. Checking Bingley's mouth this morning, the adult tooth is already well on it's way. Amazing! I had no idea that they grew so quickly.

But of course, even though Bingley's getting bigger each day he's still very much a puppy. I’ve actually started referring to him as ‘little boy’ simply to remind myself that he’s just 5 months old and only a baby: at nearly 23 kilos that’s sometimes easy to forget. However, I suspect that even when he's older he'll still find it difficult to not chase cats, and we had our first taste of that on Sunday when, after discovering a new set of fields for Bingley to explore, we let him off-lead. We'd already spotted the cat who was bathing in the early morning sun (it really was a lovely morning), and the cat had certainly spotted Bingley. But it was quite a way off and didn't move away, and Bingley, oblivious to this temptation, wandered off in the opposite direction. It was only much later that he spotted this little black thing with headlamp eyes. He took a couple of steps towards it, and then stopped. At this point we could have gone over and popped his lead back on, but he often sits and watches the rooks and seagulls on Bingley's Field without chasing them - so we thought that we'd just wait and see what happened next (and by all means laugh, or gasp, at our naiveté!).

I've got to say that he caught us unaware by wandering off in different direction at first: but that was clearly some atavistic instinct to feign disinterest in his quarry, because he then suddenly spun round and made a beeline for the cat. Once the little feline realised that standing up and arching its back wasn't going to stop this 23k of ambling energy, it turned and sauntered away. Bingley of course followed, and by this stage Jane & I were starting to whistle and call. (Yeah, you're right - what were we thinking?!). Ignoring his adoring parents, Bing started to catch up with the cat who then wisely decided that it'd better start running, which of course was all the encouragement Bingley needed. He blurred out through the field gates and down the road before we could catch our breath. People often talk of their lives flashing by in front of them during critical moments; well, Bing's flashed in front of mine on Sunday. Luckily, the cat ran onto a quiet cul-de-sac and then up onto a fence; by the time we caught him, Bingley had given up on the idea of catching this little ball of fur and was lolloping back towards us with a definite ‘that was great fun’ look on his face.

Once our heart rates had returned to normal we resumed our walk, some of it off lead - but more closely supervised. I know better than to think that this will never happen again, it’s what dogs do (even I know that!); but next time I won't be so complacent!

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Thursday, 11 October 2007

The Wrong Teeth

After the distress of Sunday's walk, it was a relief to return to normality on Monday. But unfortunately Monday was the last time that we had a decent outing with Bingley. On both Tuesday and Wednesday, and again this morning, I couldn't get him to leave the area of the back gates. He's absolutely refused to take the same walk which we've been doing twice a day for the past 2 months; instead we get a few feet away from the gates and he lies down refusing to move. It isn't like his usual stubbornness which can be overcome with patience and few treats; this is a genuine reluctance to leave home.

Neither of us can think of anything that might have frightened him: as I mentioned, when this happened on Sunday there was nobody else around and there was certainly nothing obviously scary.

He's teething badly at the moment, and although his energy levels, interest and appetite aren't affected, he must be in some discomfort. I can only wonder if this is the reason for his sudden agoraphobia.

In the past few days we've found a couple of his teeth: Jane's bare foot discovered one on the kitchen rug, and I spotted one in his water bowl. They're beautiful little things and suddenly the dog-tooth pattern in architecture & design is much more meaningful! But rinsing out a tooth as you have a drink of water can't be much fun. And neither is stepping on one in your bare feet! The only amusing aspect is how quickly the new teeth are appearing! Bingley's jaws hardly seem big enough for all these additions: it's as though he's popped in someone else's dentures by mistake, and now when he sits there panting at us he looks like an old cabaret singer from the local club. Put him in a rocking chair and he'd look like Val Doonican.

Poor thing. I snuck a walk out of him this lunchtime by leading him through the front door. It took a couple of attempts: the first time he just belly crawled his way to the door and then ran back inside. But after running up and down the lounge rug a few times, he was brave enough to extend that gallop and dash out into the front garden. This isn't the first time he's been out there, but that was hard to believe. After a thorough exploration of the garden he plucked up the courage to go back inside through the front door, then back out through it again. Then back in again. Eventually, lead attached, I let him walk me out of the garden and pretty much wherever he wanted. Which turned out to be Bingley's Field and the little grassy hill. Then it was back home the old way - through the yard gates, easy peasy.

Will I have to do the same thing tomorrow? I hope not, but I’ll let you know.