Posts Tagged ‘Pets’

Oscar the dog teaches children new tricks

From the moment Laura-Jane Muscroft saw Oscar, a Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen cross, she fell in love. Today, four years on, Oscar is her right-hand man, accompanying her to primary schools to educate  young children how to care for dogs. Here, Dogs Trust’s Laura-Jane (LJ) talks guessing games, converting petrified youngsters into dog lovers and Oscar’s comedy moments.


LJ with Oscar (right) and new puppy Polly

LJ with Oscar (right) and new puppy Polly

Four years ago, Oscar arrived at Dogs Trust from Ireland, where he’d been rescued from a puppy farm along with his brother and sister. LJ, who’d been working at Dogs Trust for two years at the time, took one look at Oscar and had to take him home. These days, LJ and Oscar tour schools to educate the next generation of dog owners how to care for and understand their four-legged friends.

“When Oscar and I go into primary schools,” explains LJ, “we want to get the message across about responsible dog ownership and how to stay safe around dogs in the community. For the younger year groups, I do a workshop called Oscar’s Bag of Needs. This bag has everything Oscar needs to stay happy and healthy. The children love guessing games, so this is great for getting them really engaged.”

Children who guess correctly what Oscar needs – water, dog food, veterinary treatment, toys, walks, etc. – are invited to the front of the class to demonstrate that particular need. For example, they listen to his heart beat to represent veterinary treatment, give him a brush to demonstrate grooming and fill up his water bowl to hydrate him. “We even have some pretend poo to pick up!” laughs LJ.

Millie, seen here, is a resident at Dogs Trust Leeds and has been living at the centre for most of her life

Millie, seen here, is a resident at Dogs Trust Leeds and has been living at the centre for most of her life

In sessions with older children, LJ shows them a DVD called It’s A Dog’s Life, before asking them to role play at being rehomers and match certain dogs with the best home for them, explaining why they have chosen their answers. “In one school, I put It’s A Dog’s Life on and Oscar sat up in his bed, turned round and watched the entire DVD from start to finish. The children thought this was great!” adds LJ.

At the end of each session, the children are taught how to stay safe, with tips like never running away from a dog or stroking a dog without permission. This advice seems to go down well with the children, as LJ explains, “I had just finished my workshop at one school and the children went out to play on the grass. I was swapping Oscar’s lead and he spotted the children playing football, so he ran onto the grass and started to play with them. All the teachers were laughing, as the children stood still and did the ‘X factor’, where they cross their arms and stand still if there is a dog running around the park – this is one of the things I teach them to do in the safety part of the workshop, so it showed they had listened.”

While Dogs Trust is well known for rescuing and rehoming dogs who have experienced neglect or maltreatment, the education side of the charity plays a key role in preventing poor welfare of dogs in the future. By educating the dog owners of tomorrow, the charity hopes to prevent many dogs from experiencing cruelty or neglect – and feedback has been great. “The feedback I have had has been unbelievable. The children have been so engaged throughout the sessions, which is brilliant. We want the children to go home and tell their parents what they have learnt, and explain how to care for dogs correctly and how to stay safe. After all, they are the dog owners of the future!”

On occasion, LJ gets to see an immediate effect on the children she teaches, which is very gratifying, “I went to one school where a girl was petrified of dogs. She couldn’t go near them. After a one-hour workshop, however, she loved Oscar to pieces. She was stroking him, playing with his ball and even walked past everyone in the corridor holding onto his lead to take him down to reception. It was as if something had just clicked! Oscar has a very calming influence on children.”

LJ is also a passionate advocate of adopting rescue dogs. She has nine dogs herself – plus horses – and the latest addition to her canine family is Polly, a Cockapoo who is around 19 weeks old. LJ was taking one of her school groups around the Dogs Trust centre for a VIP tour when Polly arrived looking for a new home. “We walked through to the puppy section and there she was – I couldn’t say no!”

When it comes to rehoming a rescue dog, LJ recommends you do lots of research into the different breeds to find out their energy levels, temperament and characteristics. You should also consider the age of the dog as, with puppies, you need to be around most of the time at the start to properly train them. She also advises that you think with your head and not your heart, and don’t get carried away. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help with your dog’s behaviour issues. If you adopt a dog from Dogs Trust, you get free behaviour advice for life,” she says. “When you find the right dog, it’s the best feeling ever to know you have just rehomed a rescue dog.”

If you work for a primary school that may be interested in one of LJ’s free educational workshops on responsible dog ownership and safety around dogs, contact her at More information can be found on the Dogs Trust website.

Remember: A Dog Is For Life.

Laura-Jayne’s key to responsible dog ownership

A Dog Is For Life

A Dog Is For Life

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst

2. Freedom from discomfort

3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease

4. Freedom to express normal behaviour

5. Freedom from fear and distress

6. And lots and lots of LOVE

Coming up on the blog on Friday – meet the Leeds Dogs Trust sponsor dogs. They’re gorgeous.

Words: Aislinn Kelly


Photographs copyright of The Mighty Pooch Dog Photographers.

Dachshunds might fly: Sam the Super Dog

We know chocolate is poisonous to dogs and they must never get their chops round it. But the trouble is, our dogs don’t know that. In his youth, one dog I know would go to impossible lengths to get his paws on the forbidden fodder – and he’s less than one foot tall, so it’s no mean feat. He is Sam the miniature dachshund and he’s infamous in his home village due to his impossible antics.


The miniature dachshund - a force to be reckoned with!

The miniature dachshund – a force to be reckoned with!

I think it all started with a kit kat. As dogs don’t possess thumbs (yet, but I reckon they’re working on it), you don’t really expect them to open your kitchen cupboard, carefully remove a kit kat from a multi-pack, unwrap it with precision and then proceed to ‘take a break’, putting their paws up and munching away happily. Well, you don’t until you get home and see the smug expression on your little friend’s face and the evidence that a dog burglar has been at work.

So, from kit kat-gate onwards, it was clear that Sam was Not To Be Trusted in the kitchen. A lock was put on the pantry door, chocolate was placed way above head height and the family was warned. We have a tiny thief in our midst.

While we were busy congratulating ourselves on making our kitchens dachshund proof so Sam couldn’t steal from anyone in the family, it is now clear that Sam had moved onto greater plans. A master plan, if you will. How he learnt to use a needle and thread I’ll never discover, but somewhere in the house I just know there’s a little red and blue cape with a large S embroidered on the back, just the perfect size for Sam to shimmy his diminutive frame into. Because I now know that dachshunds can fly.

It was Easter a few years back. Sam’s human had been given a huge tin of chocolates as a gift. She knew what to do. She climbed on a chair and placed the tin on the highest shelf inside her wardrobe, shutting the door with a click. Then she went out to lunch with friends. And Sam sprang into action.

Assumedly, he raced with glee to his secret hiding place, where the cape was tucked away. In a ceremonious sweep, he whipped the cape over his front paws (inside leg two inches at most) and swooshed it about his shoulders, before taking flight to the top of the wardrobe, grasping the tin between his teeth and landing gently back on the carpet with the smuggest of expressions. He took care to hide the cape again, before ripping the plastic off the tin and beginning, one by one, to unwrap the treasures within and chew happily.

When his human returned home, she found Sam halfway through the tin. She was aghast, while he was in heaven. The wardrobe door was open, a good number of the sweets unwrapped and a proud little chap sat in the middle of the mess with complete pride. And absolutely no side effects, thank goodness. The guy must have a stomach of steel.

How a foot-tall dachshund managed to get a tin of chocolates down from the top shelf inside a wardrobe we’ll never know. Maybe he spent an hour crashing against the wardrobe until the tin unbalanced and fell, knocking the door open as it did so. Maybe he willed it down with one of those hard stares. Me? I reckon he flew. And I’m going to keep searching for that cape!

NB: Chocolate is very bad for dogs and can be fatal. Like us, do all you can to keep it out of their reach. Oh, and no dogs were harmed in the writing of this article!

More of Sam’s antics to come in Crazy Dog Lady …

Words: Aislinn Kelly

A beachy dog photoshoot: pic of the shoot two

Buddy on his latest photoshoot at the beach

Buddy on his latest photoshoot at the beach

An insight in to the world of a dog photographer.


Buddy the dachshund (who also has a bit of King Charles spaniel in him) is well known to us and, frankly, pretty darn adorable. At five years old, he’s become the wise member of Bruce’s little pack of chums and he’s always a delight to photograph.

Due to his ginger coat, Buddy looks fabulous on the beach. The beach is his catwalk – well, dog walk – and so the golden dunes provided the ideal location for his latest photoshoot. We can’t just ‘snap away’ on a photoshoot and cross our fingers for a photograph in focus, though. Each photograph has to be planned beforehand.

Buddy is not a fast mover. We already knew this, having photographed him before, so it didn’t take long to get the set-up of the shot right. We decided to leave the sky at the top of the photograph, as the horizon dips towards the right of the image and draws your eye from left to right and down towards Buddy. We wanted him to look to his right, so that he’d be looking into the frame and also at the light source (the sun). He’s got fantastic, human-like eyes and we wanted to ensure they could be seen clearly. The tall grass to the left and right of the image provides a natural frame to the photograph and the colours are lovely, even down to the faded-denim blue sky.

This is one of our favourite Buddy images to date.

Check out the first pic of the shoot: Bruce in the snow.

Next time on pic of the shoot: A boxer on a mission …

Words: Aislinn Kelly

%d bloggers like this: