Heat is going on

Weekend’s heatwave doesn’t seem to go away: up till the latter part of this week there is more of the same in the weather forecasts. This makes training itself almost impossible, and risks of all kinds rise their head. Sunstroke being the first one, not due to excessive sun, but due to loss of water and nutrients.

But this isn’t enough: due to the fact that the dog uses more energy to dissipate the heat, it also consumes more energy. This energy has to be replaced. We noticed that our dogs started to lose weight even though we had the same amount of the same food available all the time from ‘normal’ temperatures till the heatwave was on it’s third day. The remedy is to feed them clever, not more.

One has to remember that fat, when metabolized, releases water. Instead of adding energy from carbohydrates (easiest way), one should add more fat into the feed of the dog. Sounds controversial, but if you think of the metabolic functions of the dog, it makes perfect sense. The dog is meat eater, specified to consume meat and fat. It’s metabolic system will burn the fat effectively to water and energy (and other things), helping the body to keep up with the water need.

So, by adding more fat to the food we are actually helping the dog to drink more. Clever, eh? The amount eaten isn’t changed considerably while the dog’s system is being helped to cope with the excessive heat.

This doesn’t take away the requirement of cool, fresh water being available to the dog all the time. And over time, the dog will acclimatize, become accustomed with the warm weather, which in turn will help the situation.

Take care to fix the food later on as the weather cools down: the added energy isn’t required anymore and will result excessive weight gain… which a good exercise will take care of!

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Heatwave

Oh my, oh my. We’ve been hit by the first real heatwave here in Finland. The daily temperatures go nicely above 25 deg C, meaning that the dogs are completely out of order during the day. Only at evening, or night to be precise, are we able to do any reasonable walkies with them. Like yesterday.

Hot weather can be dangerous to the dog, just as it can be dangerous to us people. What makes it more difficult for the dog -especially a dog with scruffy coat like Irish Wolfhound- to endure excessive heat is the fact that the dog has so limited ways to naturally cool herself down. The dog sweats only from her paws. The heat exchange is only through panting, aka mouth and tongue.

So how to cope with the excessive heat?

First of all, take care the dog has water, preferably cool water, available all the time. Not cold because that is considered to be one of the reasons to gastric torsion bloat. Which can be fatal – and very often is.

Naturally, spraying water on the dog is a good way to cool the dog down, but only as long as the water can dissipate from the coat naturally. I would prefer having a cooling mantle for the dog, or a blanket which you can tie on the dog. The blanket can be drenched with water and it cools the dog down by the same way as the water sprayed on her: dissipation of the water requires quite an amount of energy, thus cooling down. Wet blanket/mantle is the best external way to keep the dog cooled down.

But. There is always a but in these guidelines. Do not rub the the water into the coat and then put the wet mantle on top of that! This creates a steam bed inbetween the dogs sking (which is warm) and the exterior of the dog’s coat (which is insulated by the water which cannot dissipate due to the cooling wet blanket) and this can create even more heat on the dog! This applies also to the dog who has been swimming: do not put a wet towel/blanket/mantle on her!!!

The best way to cool down a dog -both in hot weather and after an exercise- is to dip her into the water as deep as her belly: the next-to-hairless area inside of the dogs legs have some massive veins, and thus the blood is fast cooled down to cool the rest of the body. After all, blood runs through the heart at the rate of a couple of times in a minute, even faster when exercisign, so the cooling is very effective through the “internal route”. This works also as a first aid in a situation where a dog has ‘over exercised’ and needs fast cooling down.

The cool water dip is also a good way to speed the recovery after a heavy exercise or competition.

Of course, the best way to keep the dog well in a hot summer day is to keep her in the cool shadows and not force her to work in excess of relieving herself.

Take care of your dogs and don’t leave them in the car or in direct sunlight!

Search engine answers

I’ve been lazy and haven’t updated the blog as often as I should. That’s about to change, as I’m going to write some texts into drafts first and put them on publishing queue. That’ll teach me something, I think… If nothing else but to stay on schedule.

Now, however, I will tackle the search engine terms I have received hits from. I will leave out the one I’ve been commenting time and again (being “dog breed which doesn’t need exercise”). I will also use some of the terms as topics for complete posts, so I won’t mention those.

First of all, the latest: How fast wolfhound. I gather the question has been how fast a wolfhound will run. In our case -in lure coursing- this means the speed an average competitor gains on the zig-zagging track which is about 700-900 meters long. I would say that it depends on the dog, the track and the terrain.

In general, if we think of a greyhound, the fastest recorded dog breed in the world, is considered to be “45 mile per hour couch potato” with it’s top speeds recorded up to 72 km/h, the sheer size and body mass of Irish Wolfhound makes this impossible. However, in a lure coursing event, the calculated average speed of a champion level dog can easily pass into the 40-45 km/h range, which is quite a feat for such a large dog. The Finnish oval track record gives a top speed of 32 km/h on 480 meter track.

But that speed is the striking speed or the final attack speed of the dog. Where a greyhound can easily kill itself by chasing the prey for a prolonged time, Irish Wolfhound has been bred to chase large game animals and wolves, hunts which are known to last for hours: the endurance and the speed of this chase is of crucial importance. The Woflhound cannot let the prey escape, so it must be able to cut it’s turns. If an elk runs at the speed of 25 miles per hour (40 km/h), then the wolfhound has to be able to follow this speed and make a kill after the elk has wasted her strength. However, I think this speed is the top speed of an elk, and the actual trot is something way lower.

So the simple answer would be that a good, fit and fast Irish Wolfhound may well run at top speed of 40-50 km/h, even though the track speeds tend to show lower values.

This is just my opinion and not a recorded fact.

The next would be food for wolfhound. This is a touchy subject I have to write about sometime. I would say that enough to keep the dog healthy but little enough to keep her from gaining extra weight. The more energy the food contains, the less it should be given. And never, ever trust the amounts suggested on the package if you’re giving kibble: watch how your dog reacts to the food and how it affects the dog’s health.

Best way to train dog for coursing. I gather it’s for lure-coursing as live -or park- coursing is next to prohibited around the world. I think only in Ireland this is still done, but for how long, that is the question. I will write more about my thoughts on how to proceed later, in fact this was something that is long overdue.

I’ll have to mention something about muzzles, blankets and other lure-coursing gear at some point, too. Including the lure-coursing lure and pulling systems, though I have very little experience on those. Maybe I’ll get some visiting author to do a post about them, who knows. Volunteers? There is also space for a post about typical lure-coursing track, if anyone is interested.

I’ll end this recap with one of the most disturbing searches that have ever found it’s way to this blog. The search is simply “my irish wolfhounds have sores all over“. First of all, if this happens, take the dog to a vet, immediately. If it doesn’t help, take her to another, until you find a) the reason to this, b) the remedy for this and c) get the dog well. To keep a dog, be it Irish Wolfhound, Chihuahua or Bulldog, in pain and suffering for prolonged time is torture. If you are planning to do something like this, take a hammer and pound the bones in your feet to pieces. That would be quite enough to remind you that no creature should be harmed and kept in pain.

That’s all for now. My own ‘exercises’ with our dogs can be followed from my Sportstracker account. Mind you, this contains only my walkies, not my wifes, so rest assured the dogs have plenty of good exercise day in, day out, not forgetting the rest. It’s high time, as the European Championships in Marianske Lazne are within one month!

Puppy love

Naturally there are puppies delivered almost around the year, but it seems that there are excessive amount of them going around right now. In the Club Show I mentioned earlier there were loads of puppies and I know of some batches just about to leave their home. Puppy love in it’s best.

I’m sure the puppies will get excellent, loving and caring homes for the most part. And as natural as that is, there are those who will find home only after one or two tries, which is very sad in it’s own way.

Every breeder has their own ‘rules, regulations and guidelines’ on how you should feed and care for your new puppy. All meaning well, all aimed for one thing only: the wellbeing of the Irish Wolfhound puppy in it’s new -hopefully- permanent home.

The question is, what is the only way to do it right?

Like I said, every breeder has their own set of guidelines, which have things in common, but have vast differences, too. We have the guidelines from three breeders, and they all have their differences. In some cases even very big differences.

And that is where the owner comes into the play: how clever, interested and curious she is about the dog, the breed and the overall handling and wellbeing of this puppy. Will she do whatever the breeder has stated, even if she sees that the guidelines are not working for this puppy? Will she have the nerve to make her own decisions? Will she have the courage to call the breeder and ask even the most stupidest thing if she’s not sure about it?

We have been blessed with three things: magnificient breeders from whom our dogs came from (especially the first one, for she paved the way for the interest in the breed), great interest in doing the best for the dog (and the breed in general) and some prior experience about dogs before our first gentle giant.

Because of the fact that the breeder trusted us so much that we got to do our own decisions from very early on (she insisted that we should use our common sense), we have experimented with feeding, excercise and training in general. We have learned from our mistakes, corrected them on the way and rejoiced from our successes.

And noticed how little we really know.

One of the questions I got asked in the Club Show was that how can one start training this 10 week old puppy to become a lure courser. What could I say except to love her, to play with her and just live with her. No restraints, no limits and no demands in the beginning. I citated the Holy Triangle several times, as that has proven itself to be valid and solid foundation for a healthy Irish Wolfhound.

What usually seems to be difficult to understand is the movement of a puppy: most of the breeders emphasize that you shouldn’t make your puppy run excessively at young age, and that long walkies are especially bad. Long meaning walkies over 15 minutes at a stretch. For us it has been so that the puppies have had full freedom in our yard from very early on: they can run and play as much as they want. There is one thing I’m very strict about: the puppy will do what she wants and when she wants (except eating). If she wants to sit, she sits: no-one should force a puppy to move when she’s resting. The puppy may sit down in the middle of a shorter walkie: she should be given the time to get up herself.

That is the only thing I would forbid from a new puppy owner completely: forcing the puppy to move. Free running and playing is for the good of the postural muscles, which pays in the long run in better agility and balance. Forced movement (pulling from the leash, urging the puppy to continue when she’s resting and so on) only causes damage to both the body and the mind of the dog.

But then again, the last one applies to the whole life of the Irish Wolfhound. They are clever enough to get along without forcing them to do anything.

Really.

The best for a new puppy: unconditioned love and loads of free movement with set feeding times and ample resting.

I could live with that, too!

Proper thinking

Last weekend was the Club Show of The Irish Wolfhound Club in Finland and what a bunch of lovely dogs there were. We attended for one day, mainly because I was helping with the arrangements. Mostly that meant that I was holding the dogs of the people running in and out of the show ring. Don’t ask me how many dogs passed through my hands. Nor the names of the dogs. I lost count after the first five (which were not our own).

However, I had several nice discussions about lure-coursing as a hobby, fitness requirements and evaluation of a lure coursing dog. With a few persons, naturally, and not at the same time. There were some issues which came prominently up in the discussions with people who either had a running dog already or were thinking of ‘training’ their newly gotten dog to be one.

First issue: you don’t have to have four hour walks with the dogs every day of the week. I heard more than once that we should take this or that puppy for a training because we have those extremely long walkies daily. Which isn’t true. It’s the same as I say about feeding the Irish Wolfhound: don’t feed more, feed smart. Meaning in longer way that you should feed the dog properly quality wise rather than enough in amount wise.

The same goes with walkies: it’s not about the long walkies every day, but high quality walkies over the week. By not planning you are planning to fail. Running from one training session to another will bore the dog. Having a long, slow paced walkie every day will bore the dog. Having a high intensity training everyday will hurt the dog. All of which is bad. Instead, plan your week beforehand, if not more but the mere skeleton of the ‘exercise schedule’ if you don’t have time (or you feel stressed about your schedule). Make the walkies and exercise fit your calendar.

And stick to that: at least three roughly planned walkies a week with a pull or hill running. Rest in between the trainings. At least 2 hours of -more or less- constant movement for the dog.

That should be enough to make the dog fit enough to lure course. And keep it fit otherwise, too.

You see, it’s not science, let alone rocket science, to train a dog for a lure coursing event. It’s just thinking proper things in proper way. Resulting proper performance in the end.

Due update

We took a short walk in the woods yesterday with our prime runners, Ness and Zaida. Our intention was just to take them out to walk and maybe take one or two sprints up a slope on the trail we were going to. Ness’ toe, which was almost cut to half about 1.5 months ago, has healed well, even though we still try to protect the soft new skin from further tearing and damages.

So he had a protective boot on his foot, tied with some self-adhesive bandage so the boot wouldn’t fall off if he decided to sprint into the woods.

Your guess is as good as was mine when we arrived to the beginning of our trail. First of all, just before parking we saw a raccoon dog sprint into the bushes. Not a good sign, because this means that there will be scents which drive our dogs crazy and drooling. Nevertheless, a decision is a decision. Besides, that raccoon dog ran to the opposite direction than our trail was going, so off we went.

The beginning of the walk was just nice, brisk going: we got to walk ourself the speed we wanted to, which is quite normal in the beginning. The dogs were going from one side of the trail to another, finding scents and looking for something to chase. Whether a bird, raccoon dog or a deer, that usually doesn’t matter.

Like I’ve described, all went a bit too well, considering that Ness was without a leash: we thought that the boot would take care of the paw and weren’t even concerned over it. And we have noticed that the mere presence of the boot makes him move a bit more cautiously than normally. A lot, actually: it’s like a constant reminder that his foot is sore.

We were talking about the dogs, work, kids and such, when either of us made a notion that the dogs were drooling unnaturally lot. Their mouths were covered with foam, actually.

And just as that was said… off they went. Zaida came back on the third whistle. Ness, however, took of to an area from which the trees had been harvested a year or two ago: area filled with branches, twigs and broken earth, just the same as the area where he hurt his toe!

We could see him run, jump and sprint around the area, some 100-150 meters from us, taking no heed on our calls and commands. He was circling the area and trying to find something. When he came back after a few minutes (only!), we noticed that his boot was gone. As expected I might say.

We searched for it for a while, but the ground was so covered with rubble, it’s a bit mudd and broken and all in all it was impossible to say where this genleman had roamed, so we decided to call it as lost.

Back to home and that was it.

The positive: the paw is now in such a shape that it can withstand a normal walking and running. I doubt, however, it will endure a good sprint on gravel, though.

All the while I was tracking our walkie with Nokia Sportstracker service. Click here to see where, how and how long it took for us.

Lazy in the weekend

As it happens, last weekend was something I had been waiting for a long time: no pressure and nothing to bother with. So the dogs had a lazy weekend, too. To be exactly honest, on both days they went for a walk, about one and a half hours on Saturday and almost two hours on Sunday. I attended to the Saturday one myself, but decided to leave the Sunday one for my wife: she enjoys the walkies more than I do, even if the weather was as good as it was.

I was lazying so effectively that I forgot to update the Serenity Sunday post. I was enjoying my life, forgetting everything else ┬áin the process…

This brought to my mind a thought, about which I could talk for quite some time.

People want to do what ever pleases and amuses them during their free time. At the same time they may well restrict their dogs to do what they would find amusing and pleasing. I bet dogs would like to run around freely, lay in the mud when warm and roll in the horse manure when available, but we human’s don’t find that amusing. Instead, we take them to shows to show them off (like the dog would know a jack about the finesses of different evaluations), let them chase a motorized bunny either on a track or in lure coursing event (when they would much rather chase the real bunny) or wash and groom them ‘just for fun’ (as if the facial expression would mean a lot to them).

On top of this, we humans tend to take our pleasing and amusing hobbies way too seriously: in more times than I care to count, the owners of the dogs are trying to gain something for themselves in making their dog’s perform in shows or races. The dogs are actually tools to succeed.

It’s almost -no, it’s even worse- than the parents who are living their lost youth through their kids, making them excel in sports or arts. But it’s similar in a way that the person himself isn’t actually doing anything or acquiring anything: he -or she, for the matter- is taking credit for the successes, whereas the real champion is someone -or something- else.

So it’s proper to relax, take a step back from the routines we’re following and really asking whether this is what the dog -or child- wants to do, enjoys doing and/or craves to do. And take a long, warm sleep over the issue, cuddling them and dreaming of a better world.

After all, it’s amazing how little we know of what our closest ones really want and enjoy doing.