One of our adopters has contacted us, she felt that sharing her family’s experiences with adopting a Dalmatian from British Dalmatians Welfare. We hope that reading Max’s blog will inform Dalmatian adopters new and old and maybe his blog will help potential adopters decide if our gorgeous breed is or them or not? Please scroll down to the bottom of the page for the latest updates.
We have Spots!
We are a family of four from Gloucestershire. I am Nicki, my husband is Mark and we have two children. We also have 3 cats, a rabbit and a horse! This is our blog and experience of rehoming Max, an 11-month-old Dalmatian introduced to us by British Dalmatian Welfare (BDW).
My work situation changed recently enabling me to work from home and this gave us the chance to really consider bringing a dog into our family, something we had talked on and off about for a few years. We did our research and kept coming back to Dalmatians, not for the cute factor (although that obviously contributed a little bit!) but for their loving, loyal nature and their need to be exercised – a lot! With an 8 year old and a 12 year old it can become easy for computer games and social networking to take over and we wanted to encourage our children to be more active. We made contact with British Dalmatian Welfare because we wanted to rehome a dog, we knew we didn’t want a puppy and we wanted to give a dog a chance for a better life. We went through the vetting process without a hitch and then waited. Once we had made our decision to rehome a dog, waiting was difficult but we knew from the start we needed to be matched with the right dog. Then we had a phone call and life changed!
Max’s human families circumstances changed which meant he was being left for long periods of time alone and not being exercised regularly. His family made the decision to rehome him and luckily for Max and us they chose British Dalmatian Welfare to help them. Max arrived with us 9 days ago and it has been a pretty intense period with highs and lows. We hope our blog helps you to plan for your adopted Dalmatian and to know what to expect. We have done some things that haven’t worked and some that have but it’s a learning curve every day and we are just trying to settle Max into our home.
Max arrived late evening. We were initially surprised at his size, he is the size of an adult dog but he was a beautiful looking dog and I think we all loved him straight away. He came with a few belongings but not many, mainly food and water bowls, a lead and harness, a few soft toys and some blankets. We had got prepared and had been loaned a crate (because we were told he chewed when left alone) and had bought him a bed, some chewy toys, pigs ears etc. Everything was set up and ready for when he got to us and we just let him explore at his own pace to start with. He had a good sniff around the garden and the rabbit and after a while we left him too it and settled in the lounge. Max soon found us and had soon plonked himself next to me on the sofa, he was so warm and I could feel his heart beating against my leg. Then he fell asleep! Max arriving late evening worked well for us because the children went to bed not long after he arrived so the excitement was quite short lived and Max could settle in. When bedtime came is was obvious that Max hadn’t slept in a crate before and he wasn’t overly impressed but he went in, settled quite quickly and slept until morning.
We wanted to start a good exercise routine with Max from the start so the next day I took him with my friend and her dog for a walk around a nearby field. Max didn’t know me and didn’t trust me so getting his lead and harness on was a long, drawn out process! Once I finally had managed it I then had to persuade him to get into the car – again a long, drawn out process. We knew very little about Max, what he did or didn’t do or like or not like, we didn’t know what commands he knew so we really were starting from scratch. I wasn’t confident in letting him off the lead as I didn’t know if he would come back to me or how he was with other dogs so the plan was we would walk around the field a few times. I soon found out that Dalmatians are strong, very strong. Max pulled on the lead from the off, his harness didn’t feel to be doing much and he was quite anxious. He wanted to run and play with other dogs but I couldn’t risk it today, so pulled around the field I was. I started lots of recall training, calling his name and when he turned back to me he got a lot of praise and a treat. That first walk didn’t feel successful at all but I knew the pulling when on the lead was an area of training that would be a priority. When we got home he slept for ages.
Elizabeth, a volunteer from BDW and fellow Dalmatian owner visited. It was lovely to hear Elizabeth remark how settled Max seems and that she can see an attachment forming already.
Another walk this evening with all of us, again we were not sure enough to let him off the lead yet. He has so much energy though and we really want to see him run and burn it off.
Bedtime tonight was stressful, Max refused to go in his crate for ages and we had to put in him. He howled and barked for about 40 minutes before finally settling to sleep. We had put a blanket over the crate after advice from various people and gave him a Kong with peanut butter in but neither persuaded him that the crate was a good place to be. He was awake and howling at 6.00am, so it was an early start for Day 3.
Mark had gotten up very early with Max because of the noise he was making and Max promptly fell asleep on the sofa! We know we need to be firm and set clear boundaries but we don’t feel experienced enough to know how to do this so are taking things as day at a time. A family walk was planned for today and we decided upon the canal towpath as Max could only run ahead and then back to us so the risk of him running off felt less. Max came to us with a harness and flexi lead and we dislike both, I cannot stress enough how strong he is pulling on the lead and walking him is a chore, hurts and not a pleasure at all at the moment. The children want to hold his lead but it’s not safe so they are disappointed but we explain we need to teach Max to walk nicely – we just haven’t worked out how yet! The walk turned out quite positive, we let Max off to run and boy did he run. The energy and agility he has is breathtaking and this is how we want to see him, not pulling and fighting against a harness. We practised and rewarded lots of recall, which he is getting the hang off really well now. We met a few kindly dog owners who encouraged Max to say hello to them and their dogs so we began to see that all he wanted to do was say hello and play. We have also noticed today how much Max barks at other people we meet out or come to the house, he has a deep bark and sounds aggressive but we know that isn’t his intention but still we need to address this. When we stopped for a coffee en route Max barked at almost everyone but also soon settled down whilst we had a bite to eat so again gained lots of reward and praise. Its difficult with an iconic dog like a Dalmatian because they attract a lot of attention but we found with a quick explanation of the newness of our relationship with each other most people have been very understanding and friendly.
We continued the recall training in the garden at home and Max already was seeking us out and coming back to us, which felt hopeful. Beth also spent lots of time in the garden with him trying to teach him to jump over horse jumps, which he loved and showed us his agility. He loved praise and treats from Beth and you can see the bond forming.
Again Max slept for most of the afternoon, usually cuddled up next to Beth and Thomas on the sofa – the first of our pre-agreed rules to go out of the window!
Again it was a difficult start to the night with the crate, Max still doesn’t like going in and is noisy when we leave him for the night. He took much longer to settle tonight, a good hour and only became quiet and settled when we went up to bed.
We all needed to be up and out this morning, Max had woken us early by crying in his crate and getting ready for the different activities we had planned was chaos. Max is downstairs, anxious and is scratching at the doors and barking, we decide to let him up knowing this isn’t really the right thing to do but we are needing to all get ready and without the right training in place then we have no plan yet as to how we are going to respond to this behaviour. We don’t blame Max for how he is behaving; he is in completely new territory with strangers, new smells and new rules probably. He has lived a lonely life up to now and is now being exposed to so many new experiences. In hindsight I wish we had organised training from day 2 although we wanted to settle Max in he is anxious and has no boundaries in place.
Thomas had rugby this morning, Mark takes him and they walk there so it seemed sensible to take Max along. I don’t think Mark felt it was a sensible decision for long, Max again pulled on the lead and was very barky towards everyone there and it was pouring with rain! Mark was a tad stressed when he got home. Max enjoyed the rub down with the towel though! Once we get going with the training its all these walks out that Max can hopefully enjoy and benefit from.
This evening we were invited for some doggy play at Elizabeth’s house to introduce her Dalmatian Dominic to Max. This was such a kind offer from Elizabeth who has been an amazing support and generous with lots of advice and guidance, it was also invaluable in helping us get to know Max better. We learnt so much about Max this evening, to see him play with Dominic and watch them tear around the garden was a joy. Again we practised lots of recall and Max did pretty well. It was such a confidence boost to see Max playing friendly, Dominic put him in his place a few times but as such a young boy that doesn’t do him any harm.
It’s another night of barking and howling in the crate but ignoring him seems to work in the end and he does settle. We feel like ditching the crate because he hates it but if we do then don’t know what we would do with him in the day when he does need to be left for short periods. We are feeling confused.
Max was still asleep when the alarm went off this morning so it gave us a good opportunity to let him out the crate when he was quiet and give lots of praise. He had to go back in when I went to take Thomas to school and it was difficult to get him in, he certainly doesn’t do as he is told! When we left he was barking and crying but the house was quiet when I returned. I took Max for his first walk of the day straight away and we headed for the local park, a great big open space where lots of other dog walkers go. After last night at Elizabeth’s and the positive recall training I had decided I was going to let him off the lead. The walk to the park was stressful to be honest, at the moment Max is in total charge and I can hardly match his strength but once at the park he was a joy, he loved meeting all the new dogs and playing and came back when asked to, always rewarded with a treat. It is a special moment when Max stops in his tracks, looks for me then when he spots me bounds over to say hello. He is getting to know and trust us. Back at home Max slept, I worked and it has been a peaceful day. Max loves playing with his soft, squeaky toys and chewing on a dried pig’s ear. He is very affectionate and loving, I now know why Dalmatians are called Velcro dogs – he is never away from your side. I made contact with a dog trainer today who does group classes but these don’t start for another 3 weeks, we had a good chat about the crate issue and she gave me some tips but to be honest we have tried most of them. Mark and I chat about the classes and we really feel we can’t wait 3 weeks to learn how we need to train Max. His potential is so clear, he is a lovely boy who needs some stability and not to be confused as to who is in charge so we decide to make some enquiries into home based training. Valerie from BDW texts me today and I let her know how Max is doing and send her a couple of pictures, we really have felt supported and know that everyone wants Max’s new home to work out. Max loves it when the children come home from school, is thoroughly spoiled with cuddles and fuss and we have another evening walk together. I take them back to the field and feel a real sense of accomplishment when they see how well he comes back to me when I call him, they love seeing him run and bound about too.
I joined the British Dalmatian Club on line forum tonight and introduced Max and myself, we receive a very warm welcome and have some positive discussions about how Max is settling in.
We attempt a different approach to the crate tonight and go to bed ourselves when we put Max to bed and he settles much quicker and without too much fuss. It’s a good feeling and we go to bed hopeful we are making progress.
Max and I were invited to go for a woodland walk with Elizabeth and her dog, Dominic this morning. Getting Max in the car was a bit of a rigmarole, not knowing the commands he is used to we have no idea how to let him know what we want him to do. He does get in the car eventually and we drive to Elizabeths, by the time we are there he has settled in the car and has sat down when asked to – a bit more progress which feels good. We have a lovely walk with Elizabeth and Dominic, Max is good off the lead and enjoys some freedom and a run with Dominic. It is quite a sight seeing these two handsome boys together. Once again, Elizabeth gives me some helpful tips to use with Max such as ensuring I go through gates first to establish me as pack leader and not him which we practice. Elizabeth also sees how much Max pulls on his lead and agrees his strength is hard to control. When we get back to her house she lets me try Dominics Halti on Max in the garden and I am shocked at how much of a difference this makes. Max doesn’t pull at all, he tries to rub the halti off for a few minutes and paws at it but after a couple of laps around the garden he was walking like a dream. I cannot tell you how chuffed with this improvement I was and telephoned Mark at work to tell him and we agreed he would pop into the pet shop to buy one at lunchtime.
I look after my 2 year old Niece on a Tuesday and when choosing the right dog for our family she was an important consideration too. She is used to and likes dogs but I am still conscious of Max’s newness and us not knowing each other very well still. My sister is great at helping Leah get to know Max and explaining to her that despite his size he is a baby still. Max is so gentle around her and even when she has her lunch he keeps his distance and doesn’t try to steal her food. He even tolerates her pinching his teddy and giving it a cuddle!
On a high from the success of the day I decide to take Max to collect Thomas from his after school club. School will be quieter at this time and I really want to get Max out as much as I can to show him the life he can have. There are roadworks along our road and the pathways are narrowed. Max is very pully on the lead and I didn’t have the halti yet so we are still using the harness and flexi lead (which I hate), we meet a Dad of my daughters friend and his Basset Hound along the way and Max gets really anxious and starts jumping up and barking. I feel a bit out of control and embarrassed. Max has a very deep bark and is very tall when stood on his hind legs so looks intimidating, he continues to bark at anyone we see and I don’t risk taking him near to school and Beth runs along to get Thomas for me. Max pulls all the way home and I feel silly for making such an error of judgement – and a bit stressed!
The crate was successful tonight and he hardly barked at all, a positive end to the day.
When Max came to us he was on a fairly unhealthy brand of dog food and had been fed a lot of human food. We planned to change this from the start and have purposefully not given him a lot of scraps, we are also aware of keeping him on a low purine diet to avoid kidney stones which we have been told Dalmatians are susceptible to. We have chosen what we plan to feed him and have been introducing it slowly to his diet, Max has taken to it well and not turned his nose up to the change.
We take Max for a walk using the halti and the change is incredible. He doesn’t pull at all and walking him on the lead is, for the first time, a pleasure. We cannot fathom out how the halti works or what it does but whatever it is we are thrilled and even the children can hold him on the lead which they have been desperate to do.
Max still does not like going in the crate when we have to leave him for any length of time, he lies down and cowers under the table and cannot be coaxed out even with a treat so before we go anywhere it is a battle and we always leave him crying and howling. I can only describe the experience of having Max as like having a baby in the house again, our whole routine has changed. We cannot just pick up the keys and go out but have to sort Max out so he is safe and got everything he needs and then end up feeling guilty for leaving him! – even though he has only been left for half an hour at a time. He also still does not like to be shut out away from us, if he goes in the garden he likes the backdoor open, if it is closed he scratches and howls and if we shut him out when we eat tea (to stop him begging and being a nuisance hoover) he does the same. It feels a bit like he is calling the shots at the moment but we know we will get some rope back when the trainer comes later in the week.
So we have all survived a week together ☺ we have had some trying and challenging times and it has not been an easy week but Max is already a much loved member of the our family and we wouldn’t go back to life without him. We know that he is warm and snuggly, we know that he has a soft spot for chewing hairbrushes, socks and pinching oven gloves, he plays with other dogs with exuberance and kindness, he doesn’t like small, yappy dogs and runs away from them, my coat pockets are full of poo bags and dog treats and we have lost the end of our sofa to this lovely boy of ours.
There is still no consistency with how Max settles in the crate at night and this now remains our main issue. He never settles well in it in the daytime and night-time varies between settling straight away to barking and howling for anything up to 30 minutes. We have tried various things other Dalmatian owners have suggested and will persevere.
I have to go to a meeting today and leave Max for about an hour. When I arrive home and pull onto the drive I notice straight away a very excited Max stood on the back of the sofa wagging his tail to greet me. I am confused as I know I shut him in his crate when I left. I go in and ignore his greeting and go into the dinning room to discover this;
Max has dragged the blankets that were over his crate through a very small gap, widening the gap and he has managed to get out! (Sorry Elizabeth!) thankfully there isn’t any lasting damage but I think we are going to have to cable tie the crate together from now on! I can’t decide if he is very clever, very naughty or both?
We have a lovely long walk tonight and I end up searching for dog poo by mobile phone torch light in our friends field – the things we now do!
Today is another turning point. The dog trainer came to help us understand Max’s behaviours and respond to them correctly to bring about a change. We are not experts in dog training and I can only share our experiences, I am neither endorsing or suggesting you try the methods we have been taught and if you disagree with them for any reason then I would just ask you to understand that we are new dog owners just trying to give Max a better, more settled life. I had discussed Max with the trainer before he visited, given him his history as we knew it and what our main points of concern were.
As soon as we let the trainer in, Max true to form started barking and jumping on the sofa. Without any interaction with us the trainer squirted Max with some water and verbally commanded assertively ‘enough’ and also used an ‘ahh’ sound. Max was immediately perplexed and ran to Mark and jumped on his knee! Mark did what came natural to him and gave Max a ‘there, there’ cuddle – mistake no1 apparently. This, the trainer explained, would be seen as a reward by Max for the behaviour he had just displayed and behaviour we wanted him to stop. Mark encouraged Max down and once again he began to bark and jump, the trainer repeated the water squirt and command ‘enough’ and encouraged us to use the same command. Max responded well and sat calmer and he was given lots of praise and attention. Once Max was calm the trainer explained that he used the squirt of water as a distraction and the the command ‘enough’ was one we should use consistently. He explained words like ‘no’ are so often used in homes, especially where there are children, that their impact becomes diluted and the effect lessens so this should be avoided and replaced with something like ‘enough’. The trainer explained Max was displaying the behaviour of a very nervous dog, which is understandable given his recent move to us and unsettled life before. He felt that Max hadn’t had the opportunity to meet very many new people and so was just showing his fear and nervousness through his behaviour. The trainer pretended to leave, stayed outside for a few minutes before returning once again and we repeated the exercise with Mark and I responding to Max with a squirt and command when he barked. Max barked once and then went to sit calmly by me, we were amazed at how quickly he did as we asked him too and he got much praise and attention. So far so good….
Next was a walk. Our aim for Max is that he walks on a normal slip lead without the need for a halti or harness and the trainer felt this was achievable. We put on the slip lead and again true to form Max took control and pulled us down the driveway. The trainer took over and within minutes and one or two ‘ahh’s’ Max was walking beautifully by his side. We were completely shocked and couldn’t believe this was the same dog. The trainer asked us to have a go walking Max and said we should decide how far forward we felt it was acceptable for Max to go, we agreed his head shouldn’t pass our knee. The trainer explained that every time Max goes ahead of this point, we use the ‘ahh’ sound and pull gently on the lead twice, something I can only describe being like pulling gently on a bell rope in a ding-dong type movement. It took us longer to get Max walking nicely, I think we both felt a bit self conscious and we were not assertive enough with our voices but the trainer was really supportive and encouraging. We realised really quickly that many of Max’s behaviours have been reinforced by us and that we have to change our behaviour and reactions to help him change his. Max was walking beautifully within and hour, I cannot tell you how amazing this felt and I think Max and us breathed a huge sigh of relief. A big part of the training was rewarding Max when he behaved as we wanted to, so there was lots of ‘well done Max’ and ‘Good boy Max’ . The trainer was confident that with consistency from us Max would be walking like this from now on. He also suggested we use the water squirt and command ‘enough’ when Max scratches at doors and barks in his crate.
We took Max on his evening walk, a little nervous that our good work from earlier and progress wouldn’t last. We also had the distraction of the children, whom Max adores, so we went out with some trepidation. I can’t say that keeping Max focused is easy, it was hard work and he needed constant commands to remind him what is expected but he walked beautifully and didn’t pull, we even managed to walk passed men and other dogs without him barking at them so we were really pleased. He certainly enjoyed his run on the field tonight and promptly fell asleep for the remainder of the evening when we got home.
That is until bedtime when the usual barking and howling began, we tried the water squirt and command but if anything this made him worse. It took until 1.30am for him to settle tonight.
Mark is away all day today and it is the first day home alone with Max and the children. Thomas and I plan a walk to the field to give Max a run about and play with his doggy friends. Max doesn’t walk nicely naturally, all of his instincts are to stop to sniff and spray and to chase Thomas around so to keep him walking how we want him to does take effort and I seem to be ‘ahh’ing’ and ding-donging his lead every few minutes. However he does manage it but I just want to explain that the training session with the trainer wasn’t a quick fix, we still need to put the effort in as much as Max himself does. When we get to the field it is full of football teams playing matches, being new to dog walking we didn’t know that the field is not dog friendly on Saturday mornings. Poor Max, after all of that effort he is not even able to be rewarded with a run about and play. We take a long walk home.
Once home I shut Max out in the kitchen to dry off and to continue his training around not scratching at the doors. It only takes one squirt and an ‘enough’ for him to quieten and settle and when he is quiet he is rewarded with lots of praise and a dog treat. We repeat this through the day and Max does really well and has stopped jumping up and scratching at the door completely by the evening.
I had to take the children out and once again we had the difficulty of getting Max into the crate. I feel exasperated with this and hate it, I hate the crate and hate putting Max into it as I truly feel he is scared in there. I text Mark and tell him how I feel. Mark replied by reminding me that when we had the children we had to use our instinct and we mostly got it right. Mark asked me what my instinct was saying about the crate and I said to not use it anymore and so we agreed that we would try Max sleeping out of the crate tonight. We decided to trust Max not to chew and see what happened. At bedtime we moved everything tempting we could see and put his blanket on the sofa where he usually sleeps when we are home. This is where Max slept….
Another rule out of the window!
Today is another turning point, Max slept with Beth last night but was settled and happy. She is thrilled as she adores him and we all woke feeling less anxious. We have taken the decision to take the crate down completely and just manage what ever comes next.
We take Max to the woods where we walked with Elizabeth and Dominic this afternoon and some people we meet think he is Dominic to start with. Max is definitely becoming more confident about going further away from us but comes back to find us when he hasn’t seen us for a little while. I can’t say we are completely comfortable with him off the lead as we still don’t know him really well and Thomas especially worries when he goes ahead out of site but we are being consistent with the recall training and he hasn’t not come back yet.
Max was left alone for a short period of time at home and had the run of the lounge, dinning room and kitchen. When we return home he is asleep on the sofa, there is an oven glove on the rug but it is in one piece and he has instead chewed the pigs ear we left him.
Beth and Thomas try some training with him this evening and start to teach him some agility runs and to give his paw and say thank you for treats. Max loves this time with the children and will do anything for them. I did spot him jump up onto the trampoline with them at one point!
Tonight we found that Max had been poo-ing in the spare room, we don’t know when but it has obviously been more than once. We show Max and show him we are not pleased but don’t feel we can do anything more than make sure the door is locked. He hasn’t done it anywhere else so far and asks to go out when he needs to so we are putting down to part of the settling in process.
Bed time comes, we clear up and lock up and Max goes and finds his spot with Beth and settles quickly to sleep. I know we have made the right decision for us all.
Max is being castrated today. Dalmatian Welfare recommend this procedure if you do not intend to breed your dog and as we don’t we have decided to go ahead. We talked a lot about when the best time was for Max to have the operation. We were very aware he had not been with us long and had probably had a stressful few weeks but we also want to start a 6 week course of puppy classes in a couple of weeks and he cannot do them if he has stitches in still, which he would have for 10 days. So we decide to get him ‘done’ sooner rather than later. Max is dropped off at the vets at 8am and we collect him at 4pm. Mark said Max didn’t notice him at first when he picked him up but when he did he got stupidly excited and pleased to see him – another one of those moments when we notice how much he is getting used to us. Max came home glassy eyed and walking like a giraffe on ice! He doesn’t have a plastic trumpet collar and we need to watch him in case he licks his stitches. He has been discharged with some painkillers and we have been advised he can only have 2 x 10 minute lead walks for the next 10 days ☹ Max has a quiet night and is very sleepy but so far has left his wound alone and enjoys some spoiling.
Max is a bit more perky today after his operation and appears to be recovering well. He doesn’t seem to mind the short walks and again has slept quite a bit. He hasn’t been off his food, been sick or had an upset tummy as we were told he may have.
Beth has gone to a friends for a sleep over tonight and at bedtime Max is confused, he goes straight to her bed to find her but finds an empty bed. We leave him to settle where he wants to and firstly he goes to find Thomas but as Thomas has a cabin bed he can’t get up to him, somehow he ends up on our bed – another rule broken and another opportunity for ‘I told you so’s’ from our dog owner friends.
Today is a different story, after our 10-minute walk Max is climbing the walls, you can see he needs more exercise and stimulation. On our walk I notice he is spraying posts, fences and bushes a lot less but is crazy for sniffing which is distracting him so our walk is much harder work that it has been lately. Once home Max is really unsettled, he is pacing and where he would usually settle down he is in and out constantly. He keeps pinching things he knows he shouldn’t have and taking them up the garden and trying to wrestle when I attempt to take them of him, he hasn’t done this before. I will see how he goes and ring the vets tomorrow to see if we can increase his walk if he remains hyperactive.
When I go to get Beth and we return he is beyond excited to see her, I am less excited to see the empty pot of gravy granules deposited on the lounge rug! In an attempt to settle him we sit and watch some TV with him, the programme is about training sheep dogs and it is hilarious to see Max trying to play with the dogs on the TV, he can’t understand why he can’t catch them.
A fortnight on and life with Max has settled, it hasn’t been easy but he is here to stay and we feel he has started to love and trust us. Max gives us so much love and he is an affectionate dog. We know that our life as it was before has changed and we were prepared for some of that and not so much for other parts. Adopting a rescue dog is incredibly rewarding but not easy; not knowing the dog’s history necessitates starting again but we feel this has helped us get to know Max. We have had to change our minds on some things we had decided were no go’s (sleeping on beds!) but we feel ok about all decisions we have made because they have been in the best interests of us all.
As life has settled we will write a weekly update from now on, thank you for taking the time to read Max’s blog so far, we hope you have enjoyed his story……….to be continued.
Beth (12) has written Max’s blog this week – we hope you all enjoy.
This week has been half term! Thomas and I have been off school so Max has had lots of fun and play at home. He has been a lot better behaved lately because we called the vets and asked if we could extend his walks, they said absolutely as long as we don’t let him off the lead. This has made a huge difference and he is better behaved at home! His walking on the lead, however, hasn’t improved much at all; in fact it seems to have got worse. He continues to pull and tug on the lead and not listen to any commands. We tried putting his Halti back on. This worked a treat and Max is now being a well-behaved dog on his lead.
I went to stay at the stables for two nights so Max decided to sleep in with my parents but soon got shoo-ed out! They decided to take the opportunity to try to encourage Max to sleep downstairs and not rely on sleeping with me. The first night Max was shoo-ed off their bed 4 times before giving up and going downstairs to sleep, the next night he only needed telling twice and last night when he came upstairs he was told to go and lie down and he did! Mum and Dad feel like this is a real achievement. When I returned home, he was over the moon to see me. He wiggled himself like a salmon, jumped up, licked me and was very excited! We took him for a walk down the canal and got soaked by the rain!
On Sunday, Max ruined his wound collar that he has been wearing to stop him licking his wound from his operation. He snapped it and there were lots of sharp bits; this is the second wound collar he has broken! The vet said to leave it off and see what happens. Max started off by having a good itch and a roll around and a small lick of his wound, the stitches were removed earlier in the week after the infection had cleared up. He enjoyed about half an hour of this.
This week, Max learnt to catch a ball and bring it back which he really enjoyed.
We enjoy a hobby called Geocaching, which is like a big worldwide treasure hunt using GPS signals. We like to hide caches for others to find as well as search for caches as well. To celebrate Max’s arrival with us we hid a cache in his favorite sniffing spot along his local walk. We have called the cache ‘We’ve got Spots’. Geocaching is a great outdoors hobby and Max will certainly get to enjoy the long walks we do looking for caches. If you want to know more about geocaching, you can visit the website at www.geocaching.com Mum did put a link to Max’s blog on the cache description but Geocaching wouldn’t publish it with the link on as we are not allowed to promote charities or business on the site ☹
We have also discovered that Max was scared of his bed and we think he associated this with his crate experiences. We moved his fluffy bed mat into the kitchen where there is under floor heating and called it his ‘mat’ rather than his bed. He loves this now and sleeps in there all night and during the day too! Max enjoyed his walk along the canal today (Sunday)! He met lots of other dogs but he couldn’t be let off his lead, as there were lots of people watching a rowing regatta along the banks. We walked for longer to make up for this though! Max can now run free off his lead after having his stitches removed. He really enjoys this now.
Max has been extremely well behaved when he goes to watch Thomas play rugby lately, he had a good roll in the mud today but wasn’t too happy when his nose got dirty! We have discovered the Zoom Groom grooming brush which has been great for giving Max a good brush as he is losing his summer coat and growing his winter one.
Soon, Max will be meeting my horse, Fleur. We hope they will get along so that we can take Max for walks whilst hacking Fleur too! Fleur likes dogs and Max seems to like horses too. We are slowly introducing the cats to him. We hope that we will eventually be able to have all of them in the same room together ready for the winter and Christmas.
Max was very good with the fireworks and did not get scared at all- he even slept through them all!!! Max is best-friends with my rabbit, Dozy. Dozy is very nervy but coped well with Max and they now sniff and nuzzle each other – they can even go to the vets at the same time! Max is being a great Wadley and he is great fun! He has lots of character and I love having him. I hope you enjoyed his blog ☺
P.S Max has been sat helping me to write this today and he seems quite satisfied with my work. To be continued……..
Firstly, many thanks to everyone who has taken the time to contact either us or Dalmatian Welfare UK to say how much you are enjoying Max’s blog – especially after Beth’s blog last week. We are thrilled that Max’s story is being enjoyed by so many of you.
Max’s wound from his castration has healed nicely and the infection has cleared, this has meant that he can now have a good run about again. Max has found not being able to run in the park frustrating and seeing other dogs out and not being able to run and play with them has been torturous for him. On Monday I let him off his lead and there were a few dogs in the field, which for Max was very exciting. However some of the dogs weren’t quite as excited about playing with Max as Max was about playing with them! Max has become somewhat of a nuisance at the field. His youngness is very apparent, as he cannot take a hint when some of the older dogs really do not want a bouncy, brown and white spotted toddler jumping at them and trying to quite literally bounce over them! When Max is focused on play with other dogs his recall is not good, it sometimes feels a bit more like luck than control that he comes back for his lead to go back on. It doesn’t help that he dislikes the halti so much but until we have his lead walking back on track I wouldn’t be able to walk him at all as he is far too strong for me. This really is now the only thing I would change about Max, we want to enjoy walking him and for him to enjoy it too. That said we are still managing 2 long walks every day. Mark needed to walk Max at 6.30am one day this week, when he got downstairs and got Max’s lead, Max took one look and put his head back on the cushion and closed his eyes, Mark managed to get him off the sofa and Max promptly went and lay down on his mat in the kitchen – he obviously isn’t a morning dog! He did have a lovely play one afternoon in the park with a playful 6-month-old Labrador called Nala. They played for ages and matched each other with energy and enthusiasm. Max was very unimpressed when it was time to go home and promptly lay down and refused to leave the park!
Since we have had Max, apart from one incident in the spare room he has been very clean and brilliantly house trained. It was surprising then to find this week that he had been to toilet in Thomas’s room – Thomas wasn’t impressed! It happened one morning whilst we were all getting ready for the day. Our usual routine is that Mark gets up, makes a drink and lets Max out for his morning ablutions. I think what happens is that when Max wakes up he is so desperate to see us and be with us that he doesn’t do what he needs to do when he goes outside then gets caught short when he is upstairs with us.
Thursday was puppy class day! There was a real mixture of dog breeds in the class, most of them were very young puppies. Max and a Rottweiler called Rambo were the eldest, both at a year old. Rambo was the best-behaved dog in the room, Max certainly didn’t share his impeccable manners! Poor Max all these potential playmates all in one room but having to stay on his lead not being able to get to them was frustrating for him – not that he didn’t try and try and try. He did his best leaping salmon impression and was on his hind legs more than on all four, to say he was the class clown was an understatement. At the start of the class the instructor brought round one of her home made, never fails dog treats. Max turned his nose right up at it! We weren’t sensing that we were making the best of first impressions. During the class we learnt, using titbits, how to make our dogs look at us, sit, lay down, come when asked to and stand. Max already sits beautifully when asked but he just couldn’t get the lying down. He did start to come when asked to which was reassuring after the recall issues in the park earlier in the week. The strangest thing we noticed was Max just would not look at us when we called his name. We were supposed to call his name when next to him, he should then make eye contact then get rewarded with a treat but he just wouldn’t. He does look at us at home when we are snuggling or playing but when asked to he just wouldn’t do it. This is something we will work on at home more. At the end of the session the dogs got to play with each other in size groups. Max and Rambo got to play together and had a great time, just what Max needed!
Also in the puppy group was a 12-week-old liver spotted Dalmatian called Dexter. Dexter was super cute with his floppy ears and big feet on gangly legs, his owners were taken aback to see Max at a year old, fully-grown and strong as an ox. I really think that until you have met and spent some time with a fully-grown adult Dalmatian then you cannot know the kind of dog you will end up with. Dexter had exactly the same full coloured ear as Max has, this was also a surprise for his owners as they had been told by the breeder that this was a unique marking for Dexter and they would never see it again and they hadn’t until Max trotted in!
Max has taken to showing off this week when I am working in the dinning room, mostly because he hasn’t found a comfy spot in there yet. He lets me know he is not happy about being able to be within touching distance of me by sneaking bits of kindling from beside the wood burner and taking them into the lounge to chew, of course this means I have to leave my work and come and retrieve the wood from him immediately – he is definitely not a daft boy! That and him sneaking odd play figures of Thomas’s, socks, teddies and anything he shouldn’t get hold of and running them up the garden for a fun game of retrieval has meant for a busy week 4! To be continued……….
Life with Max continues to be more settled as time goes on. Again this week we have been contacted by several people saying they can relate to our experience of adopting a Dalmatian, we really appreciate and enjoy people taking the time to contact us.
Max has completely enriched the Wadley family. When we are not with him we talk about him, we plan our days around him not being left too long and wonder and worry how we are doing for him. Previous to Max, the most used word in our house was without doubt ‘Thomas’ – those of you with or have experienced 8 year old boys will understand why! Now though, ‘Max’ has swiftly replaced this. I went to a conference this week and it was much easier to sort the kids out than Max not being left on his own too long. I returned home with a fabulous goodie bag, the children quickly swiped the biscuits and fudge that were in it and Max managed to sneak a carrot that had been included by an optician company! I never could have imagined how much mess could be made with a single carrot.
We set Beth and Thomas the challenge of counting Max’s spots this week J. After much giggling and the 3 of them rolling around the floor they have decided on 202 spots. Max is still growing spots too so we are going to try to keep a photo diary too to see how he changes.
We had the second session of puppy class this week. Being in the session is really challenging for Max still, he is completely distracted by the other dogs, over excited and non-compliant! However we do practice when we are at home and there are less distractions for him. Max is mastering waiting for his food until being given the command ‘ok’, waiting before crossing a road until told and he sits beautifully when asked to, which is a credit to his previous family and not us. We are working on the ‘come’ command, although distractions can interfere with this one when out and about. We have bought a 30ft training lead and use this when out to practice the recall ‘come’ command – there have been a few tangled legs along the way! So although we don’t achieve much in the class, apart from being shattered by keeping a boisterous Max in check we are achieving small steps at home. We are not looking for puppy classes or training to turn Max into the perfect dog, he is the perfect dog already for us but we want to help him be the best he can be to give him the best life he can have. Max isn’t a naughty dog at all but he is a strong minded, intelligent, strong and energetic Dalmatian and we need to be in charge to help him reach his potential. We know he is still a baby and won’t mature for a LONG while yet but we are prepared to put the work in we need to. We want him to be able to run free but also be safe and come back when we ask him to.
Dexter’s, the other Dalmatian puppy at puppy class, owners introduced themselves to us this week. Dexter and Max had a nice play together too. I am glad we got to speak; I felt it was really important that we got to explain to them that the Max they see at class isn’t how he is all the time – I think they were relieved! We chatted about separation anxiety, as Dexter whines and cries when left and how bouncy Dalmatians are. Even after a week Dexter had noticeably grown and he plays in exactly the same way as Max does, this usually involves jumping over his playmates and trying to nip their ears! They agreed to us including a picture of them together, which is below.
Lead walking has been much better at times this week and Max has achieved some walks just on a loose lead and no halti. He definitely behaves better on early morning and evening walks when there are fewer distractions – Autumn leaves rustling about and birds in trees are the nemesis of a 1-year-old Dalmatian in training! We joined a friend for a lovely long walk with her Staffordshire bull terrier, Jack. Jack is 2 and did a good job of keeping Max in check. They had some full on, energetic play but Jack would let Max know when he had had enough – Max did begin to take notice towards the end of our walk.
So all in all another positive week! Max has enjoyed porridge and scrambled egg, a Sunday lie in where he positioned himself firmly in between me and Mark and together we have found some beautiful walks right on our doorstep! Sounds pretty perfect to me! To be continued………….
Well here we are 6 weeks in and we continue to struggle to remember what life was like pre-Max. One of the things I was most worried about when we talked as a family about adopting Max was the all year round coat shedding that we were aware comes with Dalmatians. It seems funny now in that all we have been through with Max the one thing that worried me the most before he arrived is the one thing that we have hardly found an issue. Max does shed small, fine white hairs – a lot – but they hoover up easily and as he is a creature of habit any hair is usually confined to where he sleeps. Wearing black to a work meeting can be a source of stress, especially when Max without fail demands snuggles every 5 minutes. That said, its nothing a sticky roller doesn’t fix. We now have one on permanent standby in the hallway!
Max made us burst with pride this week at puppy class. If you have followed our story you will know that Max hasn’t been the best behaved in puppy class. This week we were set some homework to try and teach our dogs to do puppy press ups which is basically sitting then lying and back up again, lying again and so on and so forth – all on command. We were not feeling positive about this as Max can’t even sit still in class let alone perform tricks on demand but we duly began training at home, first trying to master the command ‘down’ where Max is supposed to lie down. We obviously haven’t given our lovely boy enough credit, as soon enough he was lying down on command. To say we were thrilled is an understatement. We videoed Max’s performance as we weren’t sure he would repeat this in puppy class with all of the distractions surrounding him. Soon enough Max was pushing out puppy press ups at a rate of knots and very pleased with himself he was too. Max is also responding well to the ‘come’ command at home and also when on his training lead. At puppy class Max surpassed himself, he was much calmer this week and even spent some of the class lying down! When asked to go out to the front of the class to perform the puppy press ups we had the usual sense of showing willing but not expecting very much other than a few sympathetic glances. Max had other ideas! He managed 2 puppy press ups then promptly led down, the trainer quickly reacted and told us how to get him to roll over, which he did beautifully much to our delight and that of everyone else. It was even commented that he was the best behaved puppy of the evening – that was stretching things a little but we’ll take it J Max had a nice time with Dexter again, who continues to grow into a very handsome boy. This week homework is to learn a new trick. Beth has plans to turn her and Max into Britain’s Got Talent’s Ashleigh and Pudsey in only a week and Max can be seen careering through Beth’s legs, turning in circles and bowing down all in the hope of a tit bit, then crashing on the sofa with a ‘leave me alone’ look on his face! I’ll let you know how the final result turns out.
The dog trainer came back on Friday and we concentrated on loose lead walking. Once again we made a lot of progress in a short space of time. He absolutely has faith that Max can be trained to walk beautifully but quite rightly puts the onus on us to be the ones who have to work at this and set the expectation and then critically be consistent. I think he hit the nail on the head when he commented that in his opinion we are reluctant to be firm with Max because we were scared it would affect him settling and bonding with us. He was really clear and showed us how much of a bond Max already has with us (when he was training Max, Max was seeking me out for reassurance) but he felt we needed to set firmer boundaries in the house to help establish good behavior when out on the lead. Things we have agreed to get better at are stopping Max bark at people coming to the house and Max demanding attention of us. We have a bottle full of coins to rattle at Max when he barks at visitors and have to nudge him away when he demands attention such as lying on the keyboard of the laptop or being a pain when we are eating and praise him when he performs the behavior we want to see. We also use the coins in the bottle to grab his attention if he is distracted out walking. We are hoping once we master these things we can move onto recall and getting that sorted. I have also ordered the Dalmatian Welfare Harness so that will hopefully help as well.
It has been a beautiful weekend, which has given us opportunity for some lovely walks. We are lucky to have both beautiful woodland, beacons and canal towpaths within short drives from home. Max is pretty good in the car now so we enjoy getting out. He has been out on his training lead both along the canal towpath and our local beacon. He was really good and didn’t bark at anyone we met which is a real achievement for him. He got into a tussle with a pack of 5 dogs which led to a calamitous situation in which poor Thomas got dumped onto the floor but after a once over and cuddle all was well. There was also a hilarious situation when Max and Mark got themselves tangled around a huge tree, the children and me unhelpfully looked on laughing hysterically which only served to excite Max more and make the whole situation worse.
Dalmatians have become like buses for us, we don’t see one for ages, Max arrives and then we see them everywhere! We met another 2 gorgeous Dalmatians today, an 8 year old boy and 2 year old girl. They were both black and white spotted but had the fluffiest coats I have seen on a Dalmatian so far. The boy was much bigger than Max and we couldn’t help but wonder if this was how big he would end up. We had a nice chat with their owner and really hope to bump into them again, though am sure Thomas will be hoping for less bumping!
Surprisingly one of the weeks highlights have been frosty mornings as well as how lovely and serene the cold, crisp mornings have been we have almost been falling over each other to be on dog poo clearing duty! This is what Max’s arrival has done to us! To be continued……….
This week has been fun with Max. First of all, we put our Christmas tree up (with the help of a very keen Max!). Max decided that the baubles looked like tempting toys, he tried to take them off the tree but has now learnt to leave them alone. He also looked great in his Santa hat and has his own Christmas stocking! I have bought him a toy and some treats for Christmas. The toy is a big ball and in the middle are lots of squeaky and chewy toys – I hope he likes it! Also, we might buy him a coat as today was very wet and poor Max refused to leave the house in such conditions (Which weren’t that bad). When we returned, he decided to keep him drying off towel on!
The past few weeks have also been great progress for Max with regards to our cats. We have an old (17 years) cat named Casper who Max now ignores as he has really stood his ground with him and Max knows who is boss! We also have two 2-year-old cats named Molly and Misty. These two decided that at the sight of Max, they should run but lately they have been also standing their ground which seems to be working great. They now come in, eat and even stay in their bed all day and all night with Max having free roam of the house too, which is amazing as winter is here now. I would hate for them to be out in the cold at Christmas so I am so happy that Max has learnt they are higher in the pecking order than him.
I am very excited about Christmas with Max; we have decided that he will sleep with me again on Christmas eve- just to save our presents from being opened early! I really love having Max. He is so funny and has lots of character. I made some Christmas brownies and savory things today and Max’s nose was constantly on the side! Also, I managed to get him to jump 1 metre high and 1.5 metres wide! He just springs over them! He is a built like an athlete!
Max continues to be really settled and his anxiety has lessened so much. The dog trainer we have been working with came back this week and gave us some really positive feedback about Max’s progress. He was surprised how much progress we had made with Max’s walking, he now walks beautifully and there is no pulling unless his interest peaks at seeing a dog or cat and this is our next area of focus with him. I think what has changed is that before we would have hoped for improvement and now we know he can and does learn well and as long as we are consistent and put in hard work too he can achieve anything. Max used to bark at anyone we passed when out walking but now he is calm and quiet as we pass people. He has also learnt not to sleep on the sofa but sleeps in his bed. This has been a real achievement for him as since he has been with us he hasn’t been able to be further than a couple of feet away. The trainer also noticed how much Max’s anxiety has reduced at home, although he still barks when people come to the house he now calms really quickly. Max has learnt to wait before coming into the house after a walk or before eating his food and has proven himself to be a clever and quick learner.
Puppy class has finished now and again the Max who started has progressed so much, he learnt every command the younger dogs did and although he may not have always performed them consistently in the class with the other dogs distracting him he will respond to them consistently at home. Given his short time with us and his inconsistent start in life we are really proud of him. Beth is amazing at teaching Max routines and tricks; I really think agility could be his thing.
Since our last blog, Max has enjoyed a sleepover with his Spotty friend Dominic. Elizabeth, a volunteer with Dalmatian Welfare has become a lovely friend and she agreed to look after Max when we went away for a weekend. We did a practice run where we all went for a walk and then returned to Elizabeth’s for a while and left Max for a couple of hours so he would get used to being left and us returning. Max did us proud and apart from showcasing his Houdini trick of opening shut doors he behaved impeccably. It is really good for Max to be around Dominic, who is very tolerant of his youthfulness but also isn’t afraid to put him in his place when need be. Elizabeth has been great at helping us find our confidence again at letting Max off the lead, we share their beautiful woodland walk and Dominic has taught Max about good play and coming back to us and again we have seen such improvement.
It isn’t always a rosy picture, we still are getting used to the responsibility of having a dog in the family. We have needed to do some very early morning walks as I have had 9am work meetings and we have less freedom to be out all day than we may have before. Max is brilliantly behaved when we go out but we feel very conscious of not leaving him alone for long periods, this has been part of our commitment to him. Today has been a perfect example of the downsides of being a dog owner – we woke to 3 piles of sick in the lounge, it has rained all day so I have got soaked twice walking him and the house smells of wet dog – we still wouldn’t go back though!
We would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone who has supported Max’s blog and been part of his journey a very Merry, Spotty Christmas. To be continued……..
Christmas and New Year Blog
Happy New Year Everyone!
Christmas was a fairly quiet affair for us this year but Max certainly joined in with the festivities. He enjoyed getting involved in helping Beth and Thomas open their presents, especially playing with discarded wrapping paper! We haven’t had too many causalities with new presents being chewed so far and the children have definitely learnt to be tidier.
Looking back over our past blogs the one thing that has been inconsistent with Max’s progress has been his lead walking and pulling. Over Christmas once again we took 10 steps back and we just could not identify why. It seems that Max will respond to training for a short while and then reverts back to pulling and not listening to commands, we can’t see that we have done anything different but we did know we needed a change. On Boxing Day we all looked forward to a lovely long walk, which we set out on excitedly together but it soon descended into chaos and stress! Max was pulling and pulling and neither Mark nor I could manage him. At one point it all felt too much and we really questioned for the first time if we had done the right thing in adopting Max. We came home, had a cuppa and I chatted on-line to some other Dalmatian owners who reassured us that we could have more realistic expectations and finally persuaded me to try the Dalmatian Welfare harness. I think I had been reluctant to try the harness until now because I felt we should be able to train Max to walk as we wanted him to and this had been reinforced by the trainer who had been working with us, so to not felt like failure. At the same time as ordering the harness (kindly none of the lovely ladies at Dalmatian Welfare said ‘I told you so’ !) Beth found a training video on the Dogs Trust website. This video took a completely different approach to training with the trainer suggesting each time the dog pulls you just stop, take a couple of steps back and wait for the dog to return to a slack lead. There was more training with treats as reward each time the lead was slack and this just felt like a much less stressful method to try. I don’t know if it was the element of surprise with Max but a different approach worked and after the harness arrived within a couple of days once again we were back in control and nice walking resumed. This lasted a week, when at which point Max decided the harness wasn’t for him and staged a sitting protest – literally bum down, steadfast refusing to move! This went on for 3 days!!! At first we gave him the benefit of the doubt and thought it was the horrific wind and rain that was putting him off but once that had past he was still showing his – lets call it his ‘stubborn side’! Again I turned to our Dali gurus at Dalmatian Welfare who basically said ‘he’s trying it on, don’t let him win’. So once again our determined head went on and with a firm but gentle pull each time Max went to sit we stopped him from doing so. Now we are another 10 days ahead and he is walking beautifully again, so well I felt confident to try to take him to school today and get him used to being around more people so he can learn to manage his excitement.
We really like the harness and would highly recommend it – just don’t take as long as we did to try it, I promise you won’t look back and you will by magic have a dog who walks nicely without pulling! It is soft and not clumbersome and doesn’t rub Max as other harnesses have done. Once we had worked out how to get it on, it seemed to work like magic and using the harness together with the advice on the training video normal, calm, service has now resumed.
Over New Year we embarked upon our usual Cornish get away with friends. They have always had dogs and this year now we had Max we decided to take the dogs along with us. Packing up the car was the first challenge and the luggage was packed carefully around Max and his bed in the boot. Those who have followed Max’s story will know of his dislike of crates so we secure him safely in the boot of the car in his bed using a seatbelt clipped to his lead and the rear seats. We stopped on route for him to have a wee and stretch of his legs, he is calm in the car and settles but dribbles loads, which Mark really doesn’t cope with! We had chosen accommodation that was recommended for dogs and had checked out that Max would be safe. When we got there although we were in a remote location there was a farmhouse nearby that had other dogs and no gate to stop him from running off to introduce himself whenever let out in the garden. This is where his 30ft training lead came in handy because we were able to give him the run of the garden and keep him safe. The other problem we had was that Max’s usual cleanliness in the house went and he pooed in the house every day – usually in Thomas’s room, much to his disgust! This was odd because it would be when we were there or just after he had been out. Luckily this has stopped on returning home. I would say the dogs tolerated each other rather than got on, Max was his usual exuberant, playful self but Pepper (a cocker spaniel) was not always keen so yapped him into place. That said when we left them alone they were always really well behaved and seemed to get on. The absolute best bit of the holiday was the walks we went on with Max, we did coastal walks when he just had so much freedom and a fantastic beach walk. Max had a play and paddle in the sea and enjoyed running freely on the beach playing with other dogs, only to be outrun by a lithe greyhound. It was a joy for us to see and a good reminder of how far we have come.
We have come to realize that Max truly believes that he is one of the children, he naturally gravitates to them and wants to join in whatever they are doing. Whilst this is cute to see and good in some ways, we do want him to realize he is a dog so we maintain the authority and still make sure we are mindful of the pecking order. We need to do this because of his stubborn nature and tendency to think he is in charge!
Once again, thank you for following our story. We hope you find some of it amusing but mostly that it is informative if you are thinking of rehoming a Dalmatian yourself.
Welcome back to Max’s Blog! We’ve been so busy with our cheeky little dally lately that we haven’t had time to share his adventures with you. Well, he has certainly come on in leaps and bounds since we last wrote and we love him more and more with each day that we spend with him. We left off at New Year and since then we have had so much fun and we would never ever go back to not having Max as part of our family.
I will start in January again and work my way to today – Easter day 2014. Max was over the moon on my birthday in January because he got to play with all of the wrapping paper. He loves it when I throw it to him to chew and play with ☺ I have to be quick he doesn’t eat it!. In February half term, we went to Cornwall for a few days. We were lucky with the weather and had an amazing time. Max was excellently behaved on the way down in the car and settled really well into the holiday cottage. He began down stairs in his bed but ended up sleeping with me on my bed- he is a very warm toasty teddy bear! We went on a big explore on the first day, which took us over two beaches and a beautiful coastal path. He loved running along the beach and made lots of friends. He stood perfectly still whilst we cleaned his paws in the rock pools too. He found the water fascinating to throw around and play with. On the way back, we stopped off at a small coffee shop for breakfast and Max was allowed to join us with his pig’s ear, which he found thoroughly enjoyable.
Max entered his first dog show in March and was very successful. He spent most of his classes lying down and rolling in the sand arena but the judge loved him and we came home with 1st in the most appealing eyes, 3rd in the prettiest dog and 4th in the Chase me Charlie where he was eliminated after dodging a 2”9 jump! He also met Fleur (My horse) that afternoon. Bless him, he found her very fascinating and whined until we brought her out of her stable. He sniffed her and licked her but Fleur was very patient with him and they got along very well.
A while ago, whilst playing in the field Max got nipped on the ear by another dog. The vets glued it and it stuck but recently, it has opened again and he had to have a small chunk of his ear removed. The vets did this under an anaesthetic and then bandaged his head and put a buster collar on him. He also had two ear infections. The one ear that was free had to have ear drops in twice a day and the bandages had to be changed it they slipped. Poor Max hated the whole thing. He felt so sorry for himself but he soldiered through. When he went back to the vets, he shook the wound out again and covered the whole vet room and us in blood. The vet took him back in and re stitched his wound. This time, he only had his ear bandaged and his buster collar. Within 12 hours, his collar was falling to pieces so he was given a new one by the vets whom he thanked by jumping onto the desk- he was quickly lifted off! His ear is on the mend and hopefully will be healed soon.
Our next-door neighbour, Don, organizes and leads fab health walks and he invited us to test out a new route and have a pub lunch after. We really enjoyed this and it was Max’s first walk since his operation. He still has his bandage and collar on so we kept him on his lead but took the collar off and he was really good and didn’t shake or scratch once.
Max wasn’t very impressed with the fact that he wasn’t allowed any Easter eggs today! He loved helping us on an Easter egg hunt this morning though! I have lots of plans for Max and soon we are going to be doing the Horse and Hound class at a horse show. It is where I jump a course of about 2”3 on Fleur then get off and do it on foot with Max. I have faith in both of them and I am sure that they will make a great team. We have a lovely lady called Amanda who walks Max for us when we are working. Max is still enjoying his walks with her and he loves her new routes that she has discovered!
We know that Max really loves us now because the other day when we were down the canal, he went exploring into a field. He couldn’t find us so he came out and followed our scent back the way we came. When he saw us, he ran as fast as he could and wouldn’t leave our side the whole walk! I can now walk Max around the block and he is so kind and tries to protect me by pushing his head into me and trying to walk in between my legs! He is very sweet. We love Max even more now and would never go back to not having him! ☺
You can see from Beth’s blog that life with Max continues to be busy. Our holiday to Cornwall was great and we had a lovely time but it wasn’t without challenge. Finding a cottage with a fully enclosed garden was difficult and we needed to consider Max with everything we chose to do, something we are still getting used to. We can’t just get up and go anymore, we have to plan our outings very much with him in mind, either so he can come along or we are not leaving him for too long. We are trying to get him used to settling whilst we eat in a dog friendly café or outside – a pigs ear usually keeps him busy for all of 10 seconds!
The ongoing saga of his ear wound has been particularly difficulty, not only seeing him have to go through two operations but also in terms of cost, liaising with the insurance company and the day to day challenge of keeping a Dalmatian from scratching at his ear. We would usually plan to go away at Easter and had we booked to there would have been no way we could have gone. We have been back and forth to the vets every 3-4 days and we have needed to keep Max slightly sedated to ensure he stays calm and curb his exuberance so he doesn’t bash the wound too much. The first operation and stitching didn’t work and he shook his head as soon as the bandaging came off, splatting us, the vet and her surgery in blood! The complication of the ear infections have compounded the problem as he obviously has sore, itchy ears which he shakes which is not good for the wound as it opens up. The second operation has seemed to be more successful, well until his bandage came off the other night and we awoke to a bleeding ear again – our hearts sank. I re-dressed the wound and we return to the vets tomorrow – so as you see it is indeed a continuing saga. With any dog an injury can be complicated but with a bouncy, energetic young Dalmatian it is incredibly difficult. We have been so sad to see Max go through this, the sedation has taken his spark and personality away and we have felt powerless to help him. He has had lots of TLC and it has been a blessing for us to be home as it’s been the Easter holidays. We have had incredible support and kindness from our friends at Dalmatian Welfare and on the Dalmatian Facebook group we belong too, Max has been in everyone’s thoughts. Dalmatian Welfare certainly don’t just home a dog and leave you to it, their support and guidance is on-going.
Socialising remains an area of difficulty for Max, he is a lovely, kind and playful boy but his size, strength, past experiences, and youth are not always in his favour. Max doesn’t know when enough is enough and many dogs end up getting cross with him. We haven’t wanted to stick to lead walks but until his ear is fully healed and we can plan some proper socializing then this is what we have to do. It doesn’t feel right that a dog with his energy can’t run and we try to get him to quieter areas at the weekend to do this but ultimately we have to keep his safe and healthy.
One of my personal highlights since our last blog was going to Crufts with Beth and her friend Lydia. We had a fabulous day, saw some bizarre sights and some very clever dogs but the day was made all the better by having the opportunity to meet some of the lovely people from Dalmatian Welfare who have been so supportive of us and Max. To get to meet Valerie who trusted us to adopt Max and give her a thank you hug was brilliant, as was it to meet Carol, Maggie and Darren and all their lovely spotty dogs who represented their breed beautifully. You never know Max may make an appearance on the Dalmatian Welfare stand next year!!
As the saying goes ‘how time flies when you are having fun’, having just re-read Max’s blog I cannot believe how much time has passed or how far he has come along since we have given you an update on how the Super Spot is doing. Well life hasn’t exactly been quiet and our journey of rehoming Max has continued to have both highs and lows.
One of the most bizarre of tales to share is ‘Max and the Muntjac’. Whilst sat thinking about going to bed around 10.30pm one Thursday evening a couple of months ago we heard something bang into our lounge window. Max was asleep in his bed in the corner of the lounge and myself, Beth and Mark went out to the driveway to investigate. As we walked out the front door we heard something smash through our lounge window and then chaos ensued! What we didn’t realize at the time was that a Muntjac deer had somehow found it’s way onto our driveway and in it’s distress ran into our window, through it and into our lounge.
The 3 of us were outside and the deer and now a rudely awoken Max were inside – together! Mark managed to get in and somehow separated them before too much damage could be done to either of them but with the injuries sustained to the deer smashing through the window and then the chaos between it and Max the house literally looked like we had washed the walls in blood. The deer sadly had to be euthanised but the whole incident had an impact on Max as well. His protection drive and prey drive went through the roof and his behavior regressed when out meeting other dogs and he began to chase wildlife, something he hadn’t really been focused on previously. We lost him on a walk for about 20 long minutes one afternoon when he took off after a deer in the distance. We were so scared as his prey drive had completely taken over, he just kept running after the deer and we just couldn’t get his attention. The only thing that worked was Mark shouting Max’s name in distress and pretending to fall to the floor (the things we do!). Max obviously believed Mark was hurt and returned to him, he was probably confused why he got a telling off for coming to his masters rescue!
We had to go completely back to basics with recall training and once again put in a lot of groundwork. We had some help from a dog trainer we trust and respect to help re-introduce Max to livestock in a calm way, something we still practice but there are still some places that it wouldn’t be safe to let Max off as we couldn’t be sure that he would not harm the animals close by.
The other big story in Max’s life since we last wrote for the blog is that he has been diagnosed as a stone former. I am sure most of you know that Dalmatians, especially males can be genetically predisposed to form crystals in their bladder that can build into stones and cause a life-threatening blockage. We had been feeding Max a low purine raw diet for about a year when one Sunday I noticed him (what I thought at the time) to be straining to poo. He was fine otherwise and I thought not much more of it until the same happened in the evening. Max was still fine in himself but I also noticed some blood on the end of his willy. A quick text to Valarie at BDW confirmed we should act quickly so we contacted our out of hour’s vet’s service and Max was seen straight away. He had to endure painful bladder scans and a bladder wash and the vet flushed out crystal sediment. An ultrasound confirmed there were still crystals in his bladder. Samples of crystals were sent to the USA for analysis and he was started on Allopurinol and antibiotics. Max had to endure further procedures and it a testament to his calm nature that he remained beautifully behaved throughout, he never showed any aggression at all and he even greeted the vet and nurses with his usual excitement every time he had to go back to see them.
The results of the crystal analysis eventually came back and it was confirmed that Max did have urate stones, which was the worst possible outcome as it meant that he was forming the stones himself and they were not being caused by any infection, which could be treated. Over the next 3 months Max continued to have daily medication and we really had to look again at his diet and also even more importantly his fluid intake. We hadn’t really noticed how little Max actually drank during the day so had to begin to think of ways to get him to drink fluids other ways. We now feed over 3 meals when we can and completely soak all of his food. Like I previously said we have chosen to raw feed Max, I am not going to try and persuade anyone to do the same as what we feed our dogs is an entirely personal choice but for Max a raw diet works. We felt we had somehow done something wrong when Max was diagnosed, we had always tried to do our very best by him and we were absolutely gutted for him. Our vet, whom we have a lot of respect for, desperately wanted us to switch to a low purine kibble diet and we had many robust discussion about this. We both had Max’s best interests at heart but we had seen the benefits of a raw diet and could not see how a completely natural, low purine diet could be worse for him than an artificial kibble diet. We had a lot of support from the Raw Fed Dalmatians group members on Facebook and they helped us to become much more informed so we could put our case for continuing with a raw diet across in a more articulate way. We relooked at the raw food we were feeding and made some adjustments. I am thrilled to say that Max is currently crystal and stone free, he has 3 monthly bladder scans and will be kept a close eye on but so far, so good and we have everything crossed that it will stay that way.
I would just like to mention the importance of good insurance, Max’s treatment and medication so far would have cost us in excess of £2000 if we had not been well insured. Max was a healthy, well cared for boy and this happened out of the blue one Sunday afternoon. It can and does happen and how many of us have a spare 2k in the back ready to pay for unexpected vets bills? I have also had a change in my work circumstances and Max had to be a big consideration in planning for this. I often say he is more difficult to sort out when we are working than the children! He has a lovely lady come and spend time with him at home to break up his day and then we walk him in the evening. He loves all of the attention and has adapted to the change in routine without any problem at all. That said there is still a cost implication in this and that is important to consider when adopting any dog, can you practically and financially adapt if your circumstances change?
Max will be 3 next month and I am told this is a magic age when he will begin to calm, we are managing our expectations on this one! In fairness he is actually already much calmer, he often comes out with us now to places we would have dreaded taking him even a year ago. Last weekend we went to a local country fair where there were as many dogs as people and also livestock and plenty of picnics! Max behaved beautifully and it was lovely to have him out with us. We even got to eat our lunch in peace with him sitting next to Beth hopeful for a sneaky chip! Our favourite canal walk has a handy café that we enjoy stopping at and Max now sits quietly rather than barking at every other dog that comes along. He is still exuberant and loves to play and has learnt to retrieve a ball. For a long time he would get the ball but want us to wrestle it from him. This never felt like good or positive play and so we wouldn’t join in. Now he will run to get the ball and then bring it back and drop it at our feet and wait for us to throw it again.
I did say it had been an eventful time, I think life with Max always will be but we love him very much and will continue to do our very best for him.
Update ***22nd August 2016***
Hello everyone, we thought it was about time we shared an update about our lovely Max. We receive so many messages saying how helpful this blog has been to people adopting a Dalmatian and people wanting to follow Max’s story.
The magic 3rd birthday has indeed brought a calmer Max, he is still bouncy and mischievous, but he also settles and is less attention seeking. We no longer have to go through the rigmarole of him bringing me sticks or one of the children’s favorite soft toys and chewing them in front of me when I work from home to get my attention, he seems content that I am there with him and as long as he can see me he just enjoys the company. He still gets excitable when the children play in the garden and can be a bit over-zealous – one of my sons friends still won’t come round to play after Max got a little too friendly with him one afternoon! He’s not turned into a goody-two shoes mind; he is still keeping up the Dalmatian reputation of causing chaos. On a recent walk with his holiday border he slipped away whilst she was trying to put him into the van, when she had safely put the other dogs into the van and went to look for him he was sat looking out of the window of the pub they had parked at, bemused at why she hadn’t torn after him in a panic. I don’t think she bought him a bag of crisps on this occasion!
His lead walking is so much improved and walking him on-lead is the pleasure we had hoped it would be. We continue to use the welfare harness and always will, he now walks beautifully with it on. I think it gives him security and a boundary and we all know what is expected of him when he wears it, him included. If we go somewhere new he can pull but that is sniffing out the new environment and he does soon settle. We have put in a lot of time training him to walk nicely and we have to be consistent, if you give Max an inch he will take a yard. If he pulls, we stop walk him backwards a few steps and start again, we have had to do this several times on some walks but he soon remembers what is expected of him. Off-lead we still have to be mindful where we walk him, he is unpredictable with recall and manners to other dogs, especially larger breeds and definitely entire males. I feel strongly that it is our responsibility to be able to control Max when we are out and that does mean that sometimes he can’t go off-lead if we don’t know how secure an area is or if there is livestock about, he would chase and possibly cause harm or distress. It also means that we have to be responsible and fair to him and make sure we take him to safe places he can run about off-lead. When you adopt a rescue Dalmatian, you don’t necessarily know how they will react and behave in certain situations and you have to be prepared to put in a lot of work to make them the best version of themselves they can be.
Max is a very loyal and protective boy, if we go out and one of us pops into a shop or café to buy drinks he won’t settle until we are all back together again. If my husband is away for any reason, I allow Max to sleep upstairs with me. It makes me feel safe to have him nearby. This weekend, Mark went to Old Trafford for an evening game and wasn’t home when I went to bed. Max was very aware he wasn’t at home and obviously thought that he was on for a comfy nights sleep snuggled with me. When I didn’t take him up with me he whined and cried and it didn’t click until Mark came home a short time later and he immediately settled what was the matter with him. Sorry Maxy!
Unfortunately Max’s health has not been as good as we would like for him. This week he has had three suspicious lumps removed which have been sent of for histology, we are keeping everything crossed that if they are malignant then having been removed is enough. You have probably gathered by now that Max is a persistent boy, so if he has surgery he will lick and chew his stitches (remember the ear saga???) and so comes home from the vets with the obligatory plastic cone of shame, which inevitably within a day ends up cracked, sections broken off and put back together with gaffa tape as he tears about the house and garden! . Max hates the cone and so do our legs and furniture so this time I researched alternatives. Valarie from Dalmatian Welfare once again kept true their promise of support for us as adopters and gave me some recommendations to try, they really have supported us every step of the way and always ask if there is any support we need with Max, particularly with his health issues. We opted to try the comfy cone, it wasn’t cheap at £30.99 but it has been worth every penny. Max is 27kg and we bought the 30cm size because one of his surgery sites is on his leg and we wanted it to be long enough to stop him reaching it. It is robust but soft enough to be comfortable whilst doing its job It doesn’t make that grating sound the plastic cones do and as it is softer it is much less rigid and is more pliable which is better for him. I can’t say Max ‘likes’ it but he definitely prefers it. I can also clean it easily by wiping it down with a cloth. You can alter the size using Velcro panels and the loops that his collar fits through are elastic so there are no hard bits at all, a much more comfortable option for him at a time when he is already in pain and discomfort.
He also worryingly has crystals in his bladder again, only very small ones but they are there and it is another clear reminder that Max is a complex stone former and any small change to his fluid intake or diet can tip him into crystal formation. Our vet continues to be supportive and she looks after another Dalmatian as well. I know she would like us to switch from raw feeding but respects our decision to continue – it didn’t help our case that whilst under anesthetic, Max pooed a chicken bone! I have never seen a bone in his poo and fellow raw feeders will understand that we are very familiar with our Dali’s ablutions! Cheers for that one Max! Great timing! I know I have said this before but insurance is an absolute must, in just one visit Max’s treatment has cost over £500 so far this week and that will increase as he has another two appointments booked in for removal of stitches and another bladder scan. I feel so reassured that we opted for the fullest insurance package, so far our insurers haven’t quibbled any payment and I would have had a few sleepless nights had we not got him insured and had that safety net. We’ll keep you updated on how he does and his histology results.