Nothing In Life Is Free

Beanie, Biggles and the two of us are all feeling a lot more relaxed after our session with Heather Smith this morning:


A fully chilled Bigglet, for the first time in several days

From our description of recent events and past Beanie/Biggles behavior, and from her own careful observation of our two in their home, Heather agreed with us that Beanie’s attacks all seemed to have a resource motive, and prescribed a two week course of NILIF – Nothing In Life Is Free.

In a way this programme applies almost as much to us as to our Beagles. Beanie and Biggles will now have to perform a trick or other desirable behavior for just about every good thing in their lives, even things like being released from their crates. The flip side of this is that we have to be vigilant toll-keepers and not leave anything lying around (toys, plates, cups etc) that our pups could get for free. Treats, cuddles, strokes and other demonstrations of affection only happen when we decide they’re appropriate, not when Beanie and Biggles come looking for them, and all doggy meals will be hand-fed rather than served up in a bowl. As an aside I rather suspect that Biggles and most especially Beanie will see the hand feeding as a huge and unexpected reward rather than a restriction. During her puppyhood she once went on hunger strike and would only accept the very tastiest morsels from our fingers; after all, bowls are for commoners! Still, it’s in the programme and we’ll stick to it. Also in the programme is a temporary ban on access to the sofas and our beds, and on play sessions between Beanie and Biggles, but they can play with us. In fact Heather showed us a tuggy game designed to increase our two Beagles’ self-control and help them quickly calm down from an excited state. We’ve needed something like that for them for a while, and it’s fun for us too.

To ensure that Beanie and Biggles recognize that we are both equally in charge we’ll now be swapping dogs on a regular basis. This will make our next agility lesson very interesting; I’ll have to be much faster with my verbal commands and footwork when I’m handling Beanie, and Susan will certainly have her hands full with the Bigglet. Also, when we’re out canicrossing Susan and I will either run along side each other or one of us will take both dogs – we won’t have either one of our Beagles trailing behind the other and possible feeling excluded from the pack any more.

Finally, if Beanie should attack Biggles again, we’ve been given tips on how to deal with it. Specifically:

  • Refrain from shouting; it’s instinctive to shout to try to break up the fight, but at best it’s ineffective and at worst it could actually spur on the attack
  • When pulling the dogs apart, avoid any lifting motion on their collars; just try to draw them apart horizontally
  • Either put Beanie on her side (partly to give her the message that the attack is unacceptable, and partly to calm her down) or put her in a sit, and exclude her from the group for 20 mins or so.
  • Don’t make a fuss of Biggles, and don’t force him to stay near Beanie either, but make sure that it’s Beanie who feels excluded after the attack and not him
  • When things have calmed down, a side-by-side walk outside is a good idea.
  • When reintroducing them to the same room, try to have Biggles enter the room and settle first, then allow Beanie to enter.
  • Position Biggles so that he feels he has an easy escape route if he’s acting fearfully

Looking through all this, it seems like we got some things right over the few of days prior to Heather’s visit. Using the baskets to give our dogs a set location to stay in was a good move, as was walking them together after each attack (although we should have had a longer cooling off period before starting the walk). We did try the NILIF approach too, though not as comprehensively as the one given to us by Heather. That said, we didn’t have much confidence in what we were doing, and that’s where it really helps to call in an expert that we both trust: we’re now more confident in our dealings with the two Bs, and this in itself helps put them at rest.



By this evening Biggles was behaving much more like his normal self, and repeatedly tried to invite Beanie into a play session. She would have been happy to accept, but of course we didn’t allow it. Still, it brought a big smile to my face to see him back on form! He really should be getting “danger money” though. It reminded me of the Monty Python sketch in which a dim-witted accountant thinks he’s ready to become a professional lion tamer.

[Please note that Heather has no problem with us sharing what she told us, but it’s important to remember that her advice in this case is specific to our situation and our dogs]

The nature of the Beagle is irrepressible?

Recently we called on our Heelwork To Music Trainer Heather Smith to give us a hand getting Beanie to behave herself in the presence other girl doggies. Heather’s methods have already worked wonders with Biggles, and we’re hopeful that we’ll get the same results for the Beanster.

The first session was all about gently but firmly letting Beanie know who’s boss when other females are around, and managing the introductions so they don’t get off to a bad start. It went very well, and the next day we bought “proper” control leads from Pets At Home that have enough length to let you loop them across the dog’s chest (yeah, I know, there’s always an excuse for a trip to the pet shop). We actually broke the new leads out of their packaging and used them while we were walking around the store with our little vandals. They worked brilliantly; within a few seconds our two were no longer straining to get at everything on the shelves, although when my concentration lapsed Biggles did get to nibble the corner off a huge bag of biscuits. Nobody saw him do it though, so it’s just our little secret.

On the way home from the store we felt like true pack leaders. We’d finally turned the corner; from now on we’d be the ones in charge in our home. No more wailing if we’re late with a walk or puppy nosh, and no more embarrassingly vigorous humping sessions from Beanie when one of us has crashed out on the sofa!

Of course you can probably guess what’s coming. I’d barely put away our control leads when I heard a boinging session in progress in the kitchen. When I got there I found Beanie & Biggles demolishing a pack of cream crackers. In about 10 seconds they’d consumed about 2/3 of the packet. That has to be some kind of record – I mean I can’t eat more than two in a row before my chewing gear grinds to a halt, desperately in need of lubrication. I guess it helps if you bypass the chewing process and just swallow.

Since then we’ve lost 2 toilet rolls, a kitchen roll, a couple of tea towels and there’s a big hole in the rear lawn. On top of that, Biggles did two pees in last night’s heelwork to music class. I wasn’t there (Susan took him), but apparently Biggles kind of excused himself, trotted into an adjoining room and let loose with a power widdle before cheerily returning as if nothing had happened. Initially Heather gave Susan a single sheet of kitchen roll to clean it up. I’ve seen the adverts for the extra absorbent kitchen towels – you know the ones – “one sheet does plenty”. Yeah right! One sheet does sweet FA when Biggles has emptied himself! Later in the class he did it again, just to prove that he could. I guess what you win on the swings, you lose on the roundabouts..

Ticked Off!

Back in June we all went up Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran. On the ferry back, a couple we got talking to warned us to check Beanie & Biggles for ticks; apparently Arran has a big population of these unpleasant little critters. We carried out a half-arsed examination of our two pups but unsurprisingly found nothing, so the whole subject was completely forgotten.

A couple of days later, it became apparent that our tick search should have been much more thorough. Now fully engorged on our dogs’ blood, they were really easy to spot. Beanie had one on her eyebrow and one on her neck, while Biggles had a couple in the area around his naughty bits! We didn’t have a proper tick tool, so I grabbed a pair of tweezers and proceeded with the extraction. It was actually quite easy to remove Beanie’s ticks, because she held very still while I got a good grip, twisted and pulled. As far as I could see I got both ticks out fully (without leaving behind their mouth parts) though they kind of exploded from the pressure of the tweezers once I’d got them clear of Beanie. It was way, way harder to remove Biggles’ ticks. He’s never liked anybody, human or dog, messing about around his joy department and he wriggled about like a thing possessed. Trying to bullseye ticks with the tweezers while he was struggling like that was difficult in the extreme. It would have been easier to play “Operation” on the top of a washing machine doing its spin cycle. Anyway I eventually pulled the ticks, or at least their bodies, off my boy and happily neither our two dogs nor us suffered any ill effects.

The experience convinced me that we needed a proper tick extraction tool, so I hunted about on Amazon for a bit and eventually ended up with an “O’Tom Tick Twister‘.


It was the only device that didn’t seem to be a variation on tweezers and had good reviews. I popped it in our doggy care kit and promptly forgot about it – until yesterday that is! A couple of days ago we had a long walk around Culzean Castle, and then yesterday Susan spotted a tick on Biggles as he rolled over for a tummy tickle. Curiously it had chosen to attach itself to his nether regions again. Biggles’ nethers have always attracted other male dogs, but now they’re clearly a magnet for ticks as well. It’s a hard life being a Bigglet.

I went to get the tick twister, while Susan prepared to put our new Biggles handling routine to the test. Happily both the twister and the handling worked beautifully. Biggles struggled for a couple of secs then calmed right down, allowing me to go to work unhassled.

The twister kit contains two different sized plastic er.. well, let’s call them “forks” for want of a better term.


The idea is to slide the appropriate sized fork in around the tick’s attachment point. Once the tick’s mouth is securely gripped by the “V” of the fork, twist slightly and pull the nasty little critter off your dog. When I tried this on Biggles it worked perfectly! The tick came away intact and alive, so I wrapped it in toilet paper, squished it and gave it a burial at sea (flushed the bugger down the loo).

So now we’ve got a tick remover that really works and a little boy that doesn’t mind us handling him as long as we go about it the right way. We do however still have a spoiled little girl who tends to get stroppy if she doesn’t get her own way. We’ve been taking care to win all our little battles with her, but she still vocalizes her indignation when her demands aren’t met, as evidenced by this photo from our visit to Culzean:


Beanie seeks an answer from the heavens! It’s time for more treats but the humans aren’t taking the hint! Why??!!!

A couple more shots from our dreary but still enjoyable day at Culzean: