Long silence

It seems I haven’t been updating the blog as often as I should. Biggest part of this is due to the fact that the season in here is over and the life is more or less the same routine with the walkies and feeding as ever. Everyone with dogs lives the same way in their own life. Though the current hunting season has changed our walkies quite a bit due to the fact that our normal routes are around the most active hunting areas in the neighbourhood.

This being said, the updates may come every now and then, but I will not put up nor work with a set schedule.

Thank you all for commenting and visiting: keep visiting, because you never know what or when something might pop up.

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The safest way

What I learned yesterday on our long walk was that the safest way you think is not necessarily the safest anyhow. Simply because you have to expect the unexpected all the time.

And because accidents happen.

We had been walking about 20 minutes when a rabbit decided to test his skills in speed and agility, pitting his existence against three Irish Wolfhounds in decent fitness. All warmed up and ready to go.

And off they went.

It was a short chase, though, because the terrain and undergrowth of the forest gave the rabbit a distinct competitive advantage. Two of the three came back all intact, while the third, the most keen on the living prey, came back slightly limping. After a short inspection we deducted that it was nothing, just a small scrape on her toe, which we tended there and then.

We continued the rest of the walkies, total of 2 hours and 15 minutes, and noticed how this dog was not up to her standard movement, as if she was sore all over.

At home it became apparent that she has injured herself in a way or another: most probably the rabbit has taken straight 90 degree turn to the left, cutting in between two piles of logs, and the dog has done the same, spraining something in doing it. 5 kg causes much less strain to the body than 45 kg, simple physics.

So she’s forced to rest. The European Championships are a bit over a week from here.

She’s giving the other competitors a head start.

Early life of a future lure-courser

This is an adaptation from general guidelines for whippet and greyhound owners: their needs and physical traits differ slightly from Irish Wolfhounds, which makes some things a bit different.

Puppy bin

As lure-coursing isn’t exactly a sport nor a competition as greyhound racing, and thus the speed isn’t the most decisive factor, you should always select the puppy you feel most your own. If you really want to select one from the litter, try to select an active and brave puppy, which is interested in it’s surroundings. The best advice is to check the puppies feeding time: the one who is most brutally interested in her food should be your safest bet on natural chasing instinct.

Why? Because it’s food that’s running away from you.

Coming Home

In addition to normal visits to the yard the puppy needs walkies and exercise. This should be without restraints of anykind, the puppy should be able to run as she wishes and as much as she wants. And preferably in as many different terrain types as possible. The more the puppy is moving without the leash, the more it’s internal muscles develop and the overall agility improves. This is of crucial importance at latter age, when the structural bodymass starts to develop.

The puppy should be induced into different social contacts and should be growing mentally also. This requires contact with other dogs and playing. The first is simple to do: just meet as much different dogs in the local dog park or equivalent, and/or visit other people who own dogs. The experiences should be positive overall and well planned beforehand. Well planned means that you don’t take your precious puppy to a dog which you know to hate puppies, for example.

Playing is completely different story: the puppy shouldn’t be forced to play anymore than exercising. If you want to administer the playing, remember to keep in mind that the function of play for a dog is to rehearse the chase and capture of prey. Chasing a rag, tearing a piece of fur and chasing a ball are excellent ways to simulate the chase.

Remember to quit the playing when the intensity of the play is at it’s height! This way you are enhancing the instinct instead of fullfilling the need. The enhancing of instinct is what we’re aiming to, to create a lurefast runner!

You should be creative with the different games: chasing a ball or a frisbee, fetching a rag, tug of war, all have their function and should be changed day in, day out.

Rewarding the puppy is extremely important: a good reward is enhancing the effect of the play. However, a pet and praising the dog is quite enough, there is no real need for snacks as reward.

The best place to play is outside and my opinion is that the puppy should be trained from early on that inside is for resting and feeding, outside for playing and games. You should also remember that the puppy needs to rest, and when the puppy goes to rest, she should be left there. It should be made known to everyone in the household that when the puppy rests, she is not to be disturbed in any way.

You see, the most of the development of the muscles and mind of the dog -as well as us humans- happens during sleep and rest.

The muscles, tendons and the body of an Irish Wolfhound grows in extreme measures. From 500 grams to 50 kg within a year is the worst genetic disease this breed has, surpassing every other hereditary ailment. This should be kept in mind when working with Irish Wolfhound puppy: do not force her to exercise, let her rest when she rests and know your dog to notice any ailments well in time.

Nature has it’s ways, and this holds even with Irish Wolfhound.

Monday diary post

Thus far my entries have been pretty much on a topic: this is the first, though not the last ‘diary type’ posting I’ll make in this blog. The reason? I’ve covered the crude basics in the earlier posts, so now it’s time to move on.

Last week was merely recovering our male, Ness, from his paw injury: seven stitches in one toe is enough to keep this guy reasonably still for a couple of weeks still. However, the less he may move, the more he has energy and stamina to actually run! Which makes the normal visit to the yard an adventure at the best, a nightmare at the worst, when he bursts out of the door with the rest of the pack! Then again, when on leash, he acts like the gentleman he is: no pulling, no stretching the handler’s arms.

Due to my work and other activities, I haven’t been on the longer walks lately: my wife, however has done some with the bitches. Much to her annoyance, the girls are even more active than before. Maybe the fact that the ‘alpha male’ (Ness, not me) is lacking gives them the ‘right’ to be more active.

Their longer walk in the forest on Sunday was an excellent example of that. The girls ran to and from for the first two and half hours before they settled even remotely to a ‘manageable pace’ and were anywhere near to be controlled! The leader of this activity was the youngest one, our one year old Duana, who certainly is going to have a some kind of lure coursing/running career ahead of her.

If she stays fit and doesn’t break herself with all the fuzz and fury…  But as long as she’s regulating her own movement and exercise, she’ll be fine.

But you never know about the accidents that are bound to happen when the dog’s roam on their own in the woods. 

You can only hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

Breed specific exercise needs

I just checked out of curiosity the search words used to find this blog, as it is about a month old now. Much to my pleasure the blog had been found by “lure coursing” quite often. Then again, much to my utter surprise someone had been looking for “dog which doesn’t need exercise“. Thankfully that search found my sarcastic post on the subject, and I hope the visitor had the guts to read that one through and change his mind.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that very few people think about the requirements of their dog. Even less about the breed specific needs of their pet. Recent ‘global dog news’ about President Obama’s new dog has risen this issue to the discussion, as the Portuguese Water Spaniel which they decided to get ‘for the girls’ actually needs quite a lot exercise and activity to stay fit, both mentally and physically. Does the White House staff have time for that? Just asking, because Mr. and Mrs. President most probably won’t, and you should never, ever give a living animal to your children alone as a pet without supervision, let alone as a present. The horrifying warning was seen in Britain earlier this week. Not for the faint!

Each breed has their own, breed specific needs for exercise. Chihuahua most certainly isn’t the best partner for a long jog, nor a Mastino Napoletano with it’s bear like movement. Quite on the other end of the spectrum would be a Whippet for an elderly people to stay in the confines of four walls and a window. By recognizing the requirements and natural affinity of the breed should be one of the first things to note when one is selecting a proper breed for themselves.

Like I stated in my earlier post about this issue, there is no such breed which wouldn’t need exercise: daily walkies to the nearby lamp post and back isn’t sufficient for any dog of any breed. To avoid unnecessary criticism I have to add that this applies naturally to the healthy dog with no medically related restrictions. For a healthy dog the daily walkies should be at least 1.5 hours a day, as much of it without a leash as possible. That actually comes up pretty fast if you think that you take her out for a 15 minutes six times a day… Which I think isn’t quite enough for an active dog.

For an Irish Wolfhound as a breed it should mean a healthy free running about for that hour or 1.5 hours at a time. In addition to the several visits to the lamp post. Sighthounds are creatures which have been made to run, so they should be given this opportunity to express their inner need for sprinting. Irish Wolfhounds, which are bred especially for the big game hunting and long lasting chasing, should be able to run that hour or so constantly: that would be the approximation of a healthy Irish Wolfhound which would be capable of fulfilling the expectations of a mighty hunter. Or a lure courser.

I’m not saying this should be daily: for us the longer walkies are done every other day, maybe 3-4 times a week, while the daily routines outside of these walkies fulfill the minimum requirements.  This is merely because our dogs are roaming free for about 2 hours on a normal trip to the woods and about 3-4 hours during the longer one during weekend, and they have to rest properly if they take off to chase anything during the trip. 

Which they so often do… So they really need the rest of an easier day every now and then.

Sure, Irish Wolfhounds are the easiest and nicest creatures when they are at home: sleeping or laying across the floor, taking very small space and acting very graciously and quietly. But this appearance -combined with the size- gives people the false assumption that Irish Wolfhounds don’t need any exercise. And as much as I hate to think of it, this leads to the fact that so many IW’s in their maturity are way overweight and suffer from joint and/or back problems.

Have you taken care of the breed specific exercise needs of your dog?

How about your OWN breed specific exercise needs?

I thought so… 

To cool down

After a trial or competition, a human athlete doesn’t pack his pack and cram himself into a car. Instead, he takes his time to recover from the strain, slowing down the heart beat and breathing, walking or gently jogging to keep the lactic acid moving from the muscles to the blood stream and stretching the muscles gently to relieve any stiffness caused by the strain of the muscle cells. And naturally, he’s drinking to overcome the water and nutrient loss of the trial.

However, the dog athlete is often walked to the car or cage, let to relieve themselves on the way and offered something to drink, water most usually. And then she is crammed into a small confined space to rest before the next trial.

What is wrong with the picture?

The dog athlete will do its maximum performance each and every time it works. This means that the muscles are strained to the maximum, and the micro-damage of the muscle cells causes severe loss of nutrients and iron from the body. Next time your dog does a long and very straining exercise, check her urine: don’t be alarmed, though, because the blood red urine is natural sign of an excessive strain to the muscles. I have seen this happen only when our dogs have chased a moose for over 5-10 minutes at one strech. But it shouldn’t be a norm, only after a very straining exercise!

But every dog -how long a sprint it ever is- is generating lactic acid because the full speed gallop is an anaerobic exercise: the muscles do not have enough oxygen to function and the metabolic system turns into a form in which the energy is created without oxygen. This results lactic acid, which in turn is harmfull to the muscles (lowering the acidity and causing cramping) and takes somewhat longer time to get out of the system. Heart muscle actually burns lactic acid off in it’s functions, but this happens slower than the muscles create it: this also requires the oxygen from breathing, thus making it neigh impossible during a race.

What to do, then? Cooldown.

As it was with the warm up, cooling the dog down doesn’g happen in minutes: it takes at least as long as the warm up to get the ‘body fluids’ moving and the real cooling down to start. The heart rate will stay higher than normal to burn the lactic acid away as effectively as possible, but the muscles will clear themselves out of this damaging substance. The main thing in cooling the dog down in this way is to slow the metabolic rate down by walking the dog gently. Also, it the weather is warm -as it usually is in the summer- the dog can be actually cooled down by applying water to the legs and belly: this will cool the dog’s temperature down while it evaporates. But never apply water into the dog’s pelt: the water will go down into the fur and get trapped in there, generating a layer of warm water, insulating the dog even more effectively from the cooling air!

As mentioned, the cooling down walkie should be at least as long as the warming up to make sure that the fluids keep washing the muscles after the trial and that the lactic acid is removed from the muscles as well as possible. The routine should be similar to warming up, though reverse: starting from a slightly brisker pace, slowing down to gentle gait.

And of course, the dog should be offered water to drink as soon as she accepts it, and something slight to eat if there is another trial coming later: this is to ensure that the dog’s energy reserves are  at least partially replenished before another straining exercise. After the cooldown walkie and some refreshments, the dog can have it’s rest: usually this means that the dog takes a good nap, only to wake up to the next trial or at home, where the recovery is continued.

Proper cooling down makes the new start and the next competition more enjoyable to the dog, as it prevents excessive soreness of the muscles and cramping, which may be caused by improper warm up/cool down. The more the dog enjoys the trial and the routines involved in it, the more certainly and surely it will run the competitions, one after another.

This serves both the dog -who stays fit and likes to run- and the owner -who sees the results and enjoys the appreciation-, so it is mutually beneficial!

The holy triangle for healthy dog

The breeder of our youngest Irish Wolfhound told to me when I was fetching the newcomer to her new home, that the worst hereditary disease of an Irish Wolfhound is it’s rapid growth. Almost at the same breath she told me about the Holy Trinity, which would help to keep the young puppy healthy and safe from other ailments. As I have thought more and more about it, the same trinity actually applies to puppy growing, children and even physical exercise of a grown up.

And training of a runner, be it man or beast.

holy-triangle

It is very simple ideal, but very hard to apply properly. The three most important things to remember when training yourself, the dog or growing an giant breed puppy are:

1. Nutrition

Proper food with proper nutrients. Enough energy to compensate either the need for the rapid growth or the energy depleted in exercise. Adequate amount of protein, fat and energy. What makes this problematic is the fact that every dog is different: the same amount of same food makes one dog gain weight while another loses it. You have to know your dog and monitor it constantly.

2. Exercise

I already touched this subject yesterday and earlier, but I cannot emphasize this enough: the best possible exercise for any dog at any age is to run freely with her mates. They play may seem rough at times, but it seldom goes over. Also the dogs will be able to regulate the strain, resting when necessary. The less we have to force them to move, the better it is for the well being of the dog as whole.

3. Rest

I have crossed this subject many times already, and most probably will, but the dogs know inherently when to rest and when to go on. We have to give the growing pup or sprinting ‘trainer’ the luxury to rest if they think it’s necessary. Also, the muscles and nervous connections grow during rest, so it is more than advisable to have a full day of rest after a hard training or a competition: the less the dog suffers pain from the exercise, the more enthusiastically it will run the next time.

As long as the triangle is served well, the dog will move adequately, digest as much as needed for exercise and growth and rest to repair and grow the musculature. Usually the new Irish Wolfhound owners (and probably to all giant breed owners) are given the advice to prohibit the movement and exercise of a puppy so that the bones and joints don’t suffer any strain or injuries. The funny thing about that is the fact that the bones and joints actually need exercise and adequate strain to develop hard and flexible enough to carry the giant body later on! The bones actually need the ‘gentle beating’ the gallop provides.

Instead of confining the dog inside the four walls, take her out and let her enjoy the life. Feed her the food that suits her and allow her the luxury of rest and solitude.

The dog, afterall, is the man’s best friend. It’s our job to be her best friend in return.