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Wednesday, 11th June 2008
I said sit.

The words printed on a hundred humorous items. It is also a the last cry from exasperated dog owners about the globe. Little puppies are great fun but once the house training has been achieved and the newspaper is off the floor it could be that you want to make your dog a little more obedient. Indeed being able to train a dog is one of their great appeals. Try communicating with a cat for example. My dogs trained themselves thankfully and a lot of dogs will do most of the hard work for you by sheer will to please.

However there are always grey areas, my muts choose when to obey. Try getting them into the dog baskets before they think it is time suddenly a peculiar deafness descends upon them. Strangely the pup is more problem than the older dog, a familiar story I fear, although the older dog does not sit about complaining about the fact they were not allowed to stay up so late when they were young.

Senior Service with the series of 48 medium sized cards have thought of all this and more for the would-be dog owner/trainer. The cards are actual black and white photos of the dogs in question. Although there is a small description of the dog the majority of the back is devoted to training tips. The set is a mixture of single dogs, full length, fully grown dogs, pups, multiple subjects or just dogs heads.

Details from Card 27
Order the pup to sit when it is already sitting and give him scraps, repeating the word and signal (open hand palm down, waist high). At other times begin gently forcing him into a sitting position, and patting him and feeding him as he sits.

The first six cards from the series deals with the purchase of a puppy. Now most of us know what this experience is about. Full of ideas of what you are looking for you come away with the runt of the litter because it looked so sad and lonely. Well no matter these dogs are good pets, perhaps not good hunter-killers but there is no harm in that. Card 5 gives us all hope, 'some breeds such as spaniels and sporting dogs...the pups most likely to turn out best are not very prepossessing when young.'

card 7 deals with mongrels quickly (the front of the card depicts Griffons, this is not a mongrel set). It mentions that people think mongrels are more intelligent than the pure bred dog. The card makes the point only intelligent mongrels survive but purebreds bred for brains will be more intelligent.

Card Nine depicts a Great Dane the reverse makes the point about being able to offer the dog enough exercise and be sure it does not grow up to big. This is more than sound advice when you realise just how much running even a small dog has in them.

Ever wondered how people can age animals by their teeth? Well card 14 gives us an insight into this practice. Did you know a puppy has between 40 and 44 teeth. How the blazes you are meant to keep a puppy still long enough to find this out is not discussed. These will fall out between four and ten months. The front upper jaw dog teeth will come first and then the lower jaw and then the back teeth in the same order. The canines are last to arrive. Unfortunately the card does not give details of the times this happens. Perhaps it is a trade secret. I am not sure it is very impressive to say the dog is younger than a dog that does not have its back upper teeth. You never know though.

A good number of the cards seem to suggest physical characteristics bear a strong correlation to the temper of the dog. This sort of thing was pretty popular in human psychology with all sorts of nonsense about foreheads denoting criminals etc. These things still get babbled about in talkshows when fiery redheads drop in to be fiesty and blondes come on and purr about how much more fun they are having. Anyhow perhaps it does hold for dogs so card 15 should be read. Yellow eyes denote a bad temper, reddish or dark eyes denote a trustworthy dog and a good companion dog has wide open, alert looking eyes. The card gives a stern warning about purchasing a pup with small, half-shut eyes, these are found in terriers of decandant strain. An excellent phrase which reminds me of some of the village inhabitants as described by H.P Lovecraft. You know the villagers which go 'glup' and commune with the fishes.

Did you know? A hounds temperature should be 101.3° (Card 21)

Card 17,18,19 deals with Dogs dietary needs. It suggests town dogs need fruit (card 19 says they like orange), although fails to say why. Mine don't which I presume means they are not town dogs. Don't like grapes either but an omelette is a real treat. By the time they are 12 months old they should only be having one meal a day. If there is food which the dog is not particularly keen on (but you are keen it should eat) the card suggests you leave it with the dog overnight.

There will always be an occasion when a dog does something naughty (it is usually reserves the really embarrassing moments for public display) Card 23 gives the sage advice that a dog should associate a particular sound/word with stopping doing whatever it is doing. Apparently professional trainers use the guttural, 'ugh' but a more reserved, 'no' is also good. The card seems to think that dogs know 'ugh' instinctively (why?) but have to be trained to 'No.' My dogs are not quite at this stage of training. 'No' seems to work for minor problems; leaping on the newspaper whilst it is being read, wanting to play tug with the sock whilst food is being eaten. Other times only 'You little bu**er get away now.' along with a lot of newspaper flapping and leaping up and down seems to do the trick. But there you go my little bruts will not be winning any doggy awards this year. The card says the main thing is to always use the same word. Card 26 touches upon the tricky subject of discipline. At least it is tricky now, back in the days of cigarette cards, bundling small kittens in sacks and popping in the river was considered reasonable. Anyway the card is mighty restrained in its suggested methods. 'Never beat a pup, except for biting or snarling or repeated and deliberate disobedience.' The alternative is throwing a light stick at the dogs legs. The card explains the dog is not being hurt but will be impressed by the length of the masters arm. 'For bad shots gravel is equally good.'

Card 30 deals with dogs that yap. One of my little blighters yaps when the phone rings (nearly goes into a fit is perhaps more appropriate). The card suggests I cuff him and say quiet. This is very tricky when something about the size of a reasonably large book is leaping at your ankles. Persistent yappers should be dealt with by sneaking out of the room and waiting for the yapping to begin at which point go in and stop them. Neither very effective for the phone problem but when these cards were issued dogs yapping at phones was not a big problem. The first few seconds of the phone call is usually quite confused as the person phoning often wonders why the dog is savaging someone and voices are raised in anger. All very professional.

Card 33 was written for a different age when it says a dog that has to be kept continually on a lead is a nuisance. Fact is a dog is not allowed on the local beach, let alone off the lead nowadays. As an aside two police horses went down the road the other day and left huge piles of steaming effluent behind them. A case of one law for the law and one for those that pay them.

A good few cards are devoted to retrieving. One of our dogs is a natural retriever the other is somewhat of a couch potato. The cards explain that the couch potato has lost its instinct to retrieve but does not say how I can arrange for the other one to loose his.

Card 47 seems over optimistic on the subject of begging. It considers it a rather unpleasant habit a dog should not really indulge in. However if need be to teach a dog to beg you sit it upright on its rear quarters say 'beg' and feed it a scrap. It will never forget says the card. Try it at home.