19 September 2011

Cheesy Marmite stars

My maiden name before I married was 'Baker', and so to live up to family tradition, I like to create a new recipe once in a while, usually a dessert of some kind, but today's offering is a doggy treat! 

'Cheesy Marmite stars' are made with potato flour, making these tasty, crunchy biscuits a nutritious treat for gluten-intolerant dogs, and suitable for dogs whose owners choose to feed them a cereal/grain-free diet.  You can buy potato flour from health food stores (e.g. Holland & Barrett).      

Ingredients (makes about 120-140 biscuits):

250g potato flour
50mls cold water
2 generous teaspoons of Marmite
50g finely grated mature Cheddar cheese
1 large free range egg


Preheat over to175C and line a large baking tray with a sheet of baking parchment.  Mix together flour and grated cheese in a large bowl.  In a jug, beat together water,
Marmite and egg.  Add Marmite mixture to the cheese/flour and mix to a stiff dough.  You may need to add a little more water.  If you have never used potato flour before, if you add too much water the dough will resemble silly putty and be too runny to roll out, so add any extra water a tiny bit at a time.  If you do end up with silly putty, add a little more flour.  Once your dough is at handling consistency (it may be a bit sticky, but this is okay), place onto a floured board and roll out to around ¼ - ½ cm thick.  Using a small (3 – 4 cm wide) star-shaped biscuit cutter, cut out one star at a time, placing each on the baking tray before cutting the next.  The reason for this is that potato flour dough doesn’t hold its moisture very well, and if you cut and leave each biscuit in-situ with the intention to place them all on the tray once you’ve finished cutting, they will have stuck to the board (trust me, I’ve made this mistake!)  Bake near the top of the oven for 30 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire rack.  Once cooled, store in an airtight container. 

And don’t just save them for the dogs – if you're a Marmite lover like me, they make a tasty savoury snack for humans too!

16 September 2011

Jumping, fetching and running about.

I filmed our training session on the paddock yesterday – just for fun and with no intention to blog about it, but also, as I have learned from filming training sessions in the past, it’s a great way to see why a dog won’t do this or that or appears confused by what is being asked.  Being able to watch yourself train with your dog is a real eye-opener, and I can guarantee that 100% of training mistakes are due to handler error – this handler included.  The point is, that once you’ve got over the embarrassment of seeing yourself on film (I still have a problem with this, I’ll never be a TV celebrity ‘dog expert’) you can start to learn from these errors, rectify where you are going wrong, and get it right.  Believe me, this can truly be revolutionary, and if you’ve not had the benefit of a dog professional’s analytical eye upon you, learning to be your own critic is essential to your role and progress as an owner/handler.

These days I have learned to recognise immediately where I go wrong and I take that extra couple of seconds thinking time to avoid mistakes.  I didn’t make any glaring training mistakes yesterday, but I did walk into a jump (ouch) and a while later, tripped over Beau who was minding his own business truffling for treats in the grass.  To save myself unnecessary embarrassment I’ve left these ‘You’ve Been Framed’ moments on the cutting room floor, and the video is made up of the ‘best bits’ of our session – not the perfect bits, I’m a pet dog trainer, I don’t train to competition standard in any discipline, I simply want to see happy, responsive dogs enjoying what they are doing.  So this 5-minute film is a mix of agility, obedience and retrieving, and when I watched it back this morning it struck me just how much my dogs have had to learn in order to achieve all this – and that’s the reason for this article, to let you know that there are no short-cuts, just lots of learning from mistakes, and that it takes time, patience, knowledge and effort to make things look easy.  So I hope that you enjoy watching our little session, and that the explanations for each clip provide some insight into how we did it:

9 September 2011

Take the Canine Mind Temperament Test

Before I work with a dog, I spend a couple of hours on the phone talking to the dog’s owner and noting down its case history.  I start by asking the owner for some very basic and standard information – contact details, vet details, dog’s medical history and the like – and then we spend some time discussing the main behaviour problem.  I then ask the owner another series of questions, and as we start to go through them I often detect an air of ‘why is she asking me this?’ from the other end of the phone-line.  At that point I explain that although the questions may not seem to bear any relevance to the problem itself, the answers will enable me to gain an insight into the dog’s general temperament.

Temperament is an important factor in working out how best to resolve a behaviour issue.  Temperament determines how an individual dog responds to the world, and so provides me with a predictable foundation on which to base a dog’s behaviour therapy and training plan.

Take the Canine Mind Temperament Test!  Which set of the following temperament traits best describes your dog?