Seven things to keep a puppy calm (or how we survived our puppies broken toe)

When the Border Collie, Cynder was about four and a half months old she started limping one evening after waking up from a bit of a nap. The girls had been running around a bit crazy in the backyard the whole afternoon and we didn’t hear anything go wrong, or see anything happen so we were a bit concerned as to what was going on. We put the girls to bed and when we checked on her in the morning she was still limping and avoiding walking on her right back foot altogether.

A quick check-over of the foot confirmed that something wasn’t quite right so straight off to the vet for X-rays which confirmed that she had indeed broken her toe. What did that mean for us? It meant a cast for four weeks and trying to keep a four-month old Border Collie puppy quiet for the next month. Luckily for us Cynder is quite a calm puppy generally, but here are seven things that helped us to get through Cynder’s broken toe:

  1. Her Crate: Thankfully we decided to crate train Cynder from the very beginning. This made things a lot easier because if required she could go to the crate with a treat or a toy and this would keep her calm. Luna was often wanting to play with her so it was important to keep them separated. Cynder is quite calm when she is in her crate and I was also able to take her to work with me sometimes which meant she needed to be crated during the day.
  2. Kongs: These are always a great way to keep both of the dogs calm. Each week I collect up all their stuffable toys, add treats (I’ll post a Kong stuffing recipe in the coming weeks), and then freeze. These worked a treat as they would keep Cynder’s mind active and she would stay calm and focused.
  3. Nina Ottosson Toys: Another way of keeping the mind stimulated. We have the Dog Tornado and it’s a great toy which provides much-needed mental stimulation as they attempt to work out how to get the treats out of it. We would usually try to get this out every week for a while and play it a few times. It’s really interesting to watch Cynder as she is doing this as you can actually almost see the cogs ticking over in her head. Being a Border Collie, mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise.
  4. Pig Trotters: As an occasional treat these were great as Cynder absolutely loves them and they take her a little while to actually chew through them. She was quite happy to sit in her crate for hours and chew through one of these treats.
  5. Her Hippo: One of the first toys Cynder got as a puppy and she still loves it. It gives her something to snuggle into whilst sleeping, and she also enjoys playing with it as well. It’s so different having a dog who doesn’t destroy every toy they touch!
  6. Training: Whilst we couldn’t do anything major that required walking, we could still do some of the basic training things like sit, shake, etc. as well as a few other things like high five and wave. It just goes to show that even with a broken toe there is always a new trick to work on!
  7. Her Ball: Cynder is a little crazy about her little blue ball with the bell inside. She’s really good at playing quiet games with it and will lie down rolling the ball around with her paw. This actually keeps her amused for quite a while so it’s handy for when she needs that little bit of time to play quietly, the only issue with this was that Luna couldn’t be around else she would want to play!

After four weeks the cast was off, she had a few pressure sores from it so had to stay a bit quiet for about another week. Thankfully now everything is better and she is running around like nothing ever happened! I wish I could of added walking to the list, as this is always helpful for calm puppies, but she was having a lot of issues with actually walking on the foot and it was causing her pain so this wasn’t possible.

What are some of the things you do to keep your dog calm?


The Six Levels of Treats (and how to determine their order)

One of the first things I learnt when I entered the crazy world of dog training was the different levels of training treats.

Being a typical Beagle meant that sometimes Luna would be happy with something, and then the next day wouldn’t bother even sitting for it. We quickly had to think up and organize her treats into levels so that if she was starting to lose focus we could mix it up for her. I never thought I would have the same issue with the Border Collie, Cynder, but she can also be a bit selective on what she will work for on a specific day.

Why Have a Treat Order?

Having different levels of treats also allows for that extra special reward for a really good job, for instance, a recall under complete distraction (3 or 4 dogs hanging around) or a trick that they’ve never learnt before. As you progress with learning a move or trick using a positive reward based training method the treats are slowly phased out until you are giving them random rewards mixed with praise at other times. This also helps to reduce the ‘will only work for food’ mantra.

How to Determine the Treat Order

You can determine the treat level system for your dog quite easily, have your dog on the lead and place two different types of treats on the floor just out of their reach. Let them see the treats for a good 10-15 seconds and then release them from the lead, make a note of the order in which they eat the treats. Try it again a few times and see if you get a consistent result. Make a list of treats that you can refer to if you ever find yourself at a loose end!

The List

From my experience there are six different levels of treats and the order in which they are preferenced can change from dog to dog, but this is a general guide and the level in which the Beagle and the Border Collie prefer their treats:

  • Kibble – Fairly low down on the list, and only really used if there is nothing else available, is their everyday kibble. They get it for free twice a day (though not without sitting patiently first) so why work for it? Plus it’s usually hard and requires chewing which can mean distraction!
  • Cat kibble – For similar reasons as dog kibble this one is pretty low down on the list (though they don’t get it everyday, actually usually not at all unless we just happen to have gotten some in a pack or something and can’t find someone to give it to). As cats are fussy eaters their kibble is generally coated with a layer of tallow which gives it that little extra appeal to dogs.
  • Extruded Treats – This category includes treats which are made from meat, but generally highly processed (and often full of salt). Treats like beef, chicken or liver treats can all be types of extruded treats. They are an ok occasional treat, but a bit fiddly as you would want to cut them up into smaller pieces first, even then a little bit of chewing required so your dog may lose focus.
  • Semi Moist Treats – A few different things fall into this category. Biscuits, chicken treat balls and the like. When we first started training Luna we used many treats that would have been classified as semi-moist which worked well at the time, but again, Luna would lose focus due to the chew factor, etc. When we made the switch to higher value treats it was such a shock the difference it made!
  • Moist Treats – This is probably the level of treats that we use most often and even have sublevels of treats in this level as well. The main treats which we give are: Devon(luncheon meat), Strassburg and Boiled Chicken. The first two in only small portions as they can be high in salt, but we find this stuff really works a treat! It can be cut into small enough pieces and is quick and easy to devour which means you can move straight on to something else.
  • Raw Meat – If you can handle it, raw meat is one of the best treats out there and can be used for really high rewards. I would only ever use this one for some really hardcore training and very sparingly so it always has that appeal. Things such as diced steak (cut into small enough pieces that can be eaten quick) or a chicken neck (which can be reserved for a really awesome recall or something as they take a little bit to chew) really work well in this category.

Luna at trainingThe best kind of treats are small (so that they don’t fill up quickly), don’t break apart easily (if you drop some treats, generally they will go scavenging for it and get distracted from the task at hand) and keep them motivated to continue training. It’s important to note that not all dogs will be treat motivated and instead prefer a game or praise. This is perfectly ok and means you can get creative with rewards. Also, remember to use a bridging word, such as ‘yes’, when training as this lets the dog know that a treat is coming and whatever they just did is the right thing! We will be talking more about this at a later stage!

Big thank you to Nicole Beasley of Planet K9 for her assistance with the treat levels!


What treat have you found work best for your dog? or if they aren’t treat focussed, how do you keep them motivated?


A New Beginning

Luna the Beagle PuppyWhen I first entered the world of blogging back in 2011 with Luna, a dog’s life… I wasn’t really sure where I would end up. Then about a year in things got a bit hectic with moving house, Cynder breaking her toe and then finally the breakdown of the relationship between Antz and I. Blogging fell a bit onto the back-burner and I started to waver in motivation and commitment.

After attending the 2012 Problogger Event in Melbourne I realised that what I was lacking was my own personal touch to the blog. I had been blogging under the guise of the puppies but always felt I was missing something a little extra. I’ve always enjoyed blogging about pets and have had quite a few opportunities come through blogging, I often felt, however, that Luna, a dog’s life… wasn’t the right platform for me to talk about everything I wanted to.

Kevin the Dog Dancing Guy

Kevin the Dog Dancing Guy

After discovering Dances with Dogs earlier this year and committing myself to training Cynder to competition standard in not only DWD but also Agility I found that it was very rare for a guy to be involved with the sport of DWD, especially in Australia. So “that dog dancing guy” was born!

This will be my own (and Cynder’s, with the occasional appearance from Luna) personal journey through Dances with Dogs, Agility and pet ownership along with some helpful tips along the way! The next year will hopefully be filled with training, treats, toys, trips and who knows what else! Who knows, there may even be a post about cats every now and then (looking at you Jarrod).

Join us each week for photography fun, tips to get that perfect picture of your pet, training advice and things that I’ve learnt along the way.