I am always happy to answer questions about my Beardies and it occurs to me that some of the answers might be of interest to other readers..............
On this page:
"How do you deal with parasites such as worms, fleas and ticks?"
"Why haven't you replied to my enquiry?"
"Do you have any puppies available?"
'Do you vaccinate your Beardies?'
'However do you cope with drying......?'
'Do you weigh puppies....?'
'What is a Working Beardie?'
'Why does my dog roll.....?'
"Your dogs obviously enjoy an active rural life style and I wonder how you deal with parasites such as worms, fleas and ticks?"
You might be surprised to learn that – in spite of having complete freedom to explore fields and forests which are also home to badgers, foxes, rabbits, feral cats, squirrels and a host of smaller mammals and birds – my Beardies very rarely pick up any parasites. And you may be even more surprised to learn that this is despite the fact that they are not ‘protected’ by the insecticides that are now so widely used.
This leads me to believe that today’s almost universal acceptance of the idea that dogs should be routinely treated with a systemic insecticide every two months and wormed every three months owes more to the powerful advertising campaigns of the drug companies than to any real need. I find this very worrying for several reasons – one being that I do not believe that products which kill parasites can be entirely harmless to the treated animal, especially when the treatment is repeated with the regularity and frequency recommended by the manufacturers and the many vets who sell their products. I am also concerned that the widespread over-use of these products could lead to the appearance of ‘super parasites’ which have developed a resistance to them.
My principle is that I do not treat my dogs for anything that they do not have. A thorough examination for fleas, ticks etc is an important part of their regular grooming routine and when I do find the occasional tick I remove it with my ‘O’Tom Tick Twister’ – a handy little gadget from www.tick-twister.com But it is many years since I have found fleas, lice or any of the other pests that we frequently had to deal with in the sixties and seventies. I recently mentioned this to a local vet, who replied that it simply wasn’t possible to have twelve untreated shaggy dogs running free in the countryside without having fleas. When I invited her to examine them she did so with great determination – but had to admit defeat.....
As for worms .... with the possible exception of pregnant bitches and very young puppies - there is no need for any routine dosing as there are specialist companies which will examine a faeces sample and give a detailed report on any traces of worms or eggs. Having previously done this via a vet, who sends the samples to one of the large, multi-purpose veterinary laboratories at considerable expense, I am now using www.wormcount.com which offers an excellent service – friendly, fast and efficient – at a fraction of the cost. They have just screened all twelve of my Beardies with both the standard test and an additional lungworm test – and given an ‘all-clear’ report on every one. Since most of my dogs have not been wormed since they were baby puppies – a good number of years ago for many of them – it seems that the claims of the drug companies are seriously misleading.
So, to return to the original question, with a summary of my ‘parasite plan’:
1) I don’t use any chemical insecticides but check all my dogs regularly for any sign of external parasites and physically remove any found.
2) All my dogs are screened by Wormcount.com . Between screenings I check visually for any sign of eggs or segments in faeces or around the anus. If any are found, the individual dog is wormed. NOTE: Interestingly, there have been no signs for at least a year, which suggests that the source of the occasional cases of tapeworms I found previously was not (as I thought at the time) the wild rabbits that the dogs catch and eat on our own land but the sheep pasture where we used to walk until a year ago.
3) I do worm pregnant bitches and baby puppies, using Panacur liquid wormer, which is the gentlest I know of, being given in small doses over a number of days. The puppies that stay here are then not treated again unless signs of worms are found – which means that they may never be wormed again in their lives.
"I wrote to you via the website but have not received a reply. Why?"
I receive a great many enquiries via the website and I do answer them all - usually within a couple of days. A surprising number of correspondents, however, fail to fill in their contact details correctly, with the result that my replies come back with a FAILURE notice.
If you have not received a reply to your message within five days, please do write again.
“Do you have any puppies available?”
This is by far the most frequently asked question to arrive in my inbox but I am afraid that the answer is not as straightforward as you might expect. Because my main concern is to make sure that all the Beardies I breed have the best possible chance of a happy life, I am extremely careful in choosing the best homes for any puppies that I part with. As you will have seen from the pictures, articles and videos on the website, my Beardies are very active and intelligent and thrive in a situation where they have plenty of opportunity to exercise both their bodies and their minds. They are also very responsive and love to form a real partnership with their people. They are certainly not suitable as ‘weekend dogs’ for busy people who are out at work all week – unless the Beardie can go to work with them, which some do with great success.
For all these reasons, I will not even consider offering a puppy without first meeting the potential owners and letting them spend time getting to know my Beardie family, so that they can get a real idea of what they are like to live with and whether they would fit happily into the new home.
This all takes time, of course, and when my visitors and I have agreed that one of my puppies might be right for them, they may have to wait a considerable time before I have a puppy available.
Do you vaccinate your Beardies?
No, I stopped vaccinating some years ago as I was concerned about the adverse affect that it can have on the immune system. I had already abandoned the use of 'boosters' several years previously and then decided to go all the way and stop vaccinating puppies as well. I have now reared several vaccine-free generations and have had no problems so far.
I recommend that my puppies' new owners should follow my vaccine-free lead, but, for those who do not wish to do this, I ask that they should at least wait until the puppy is three months old before giving any vaccine and that they should not give any boosters.
How ever do you cope with drying all those Beardies after a wet walk? I have enough trouble with two!
Well, I certainly wouldn’t be able to cope if my Beardies had show-type coats! Our coats are not only shorter and much less profuse but they are also of a very coarse – almost wiry – texture, which does not hold the moisture as a softer coat does. It also helps that they will shake themselves when asked to. But my ‘secret weapon’ is a shammy leather, which is vastly better than a towel as it is so absorbent and can be wrung out and reused again and again until the coat is dry.
If the dogs are muddy, I try to make sure that we walk through long grass before arriving back at the house but the shammy is very good at cleaning off any remaining mud. A bucket of warm water to rinse it between moppings is all that is needed to do the job.
Do you record weights of litters of puppies? And are the weights at birth and in their early weeks a reliable indication of adult size?
In my early days I always weighed puppies at birth and each week thereafter and found it a very simple and useful way of checking whether all were gaining weight steadily or whether some needed extra help. As I gained experience I found that I was able to judge at a glance or a touch whether puppies were thriving and the scales were only used to check weights of unusually small or large puppies.
With large litters, however, the scales can be a life-saver. My girls have always been inclined to produce large litters, with ten being commonplace and eleven being successfully reared on several occasions . In such large families, birth weights are likely to vary considerably and care is needed to prevent the smaller puppies from getting caught in a vicious circle in which they get pushed out by their bigger siblings in the scramble for the best suckling positions, so that they fail to gain weight, the gap widens and they have even less chance of getting the nourishment they need. In these cases, it is important to identify the 'at risk' pups at birth and then to help them to get plenty of time at the best teats. Daily weighing will show whether they are gaining or losing ground.
What the scales cannot do, of course, is to distinguish between a puppy which is underweight as a result of unfavourable pre-natal conditions - such as being squashed into an over-crowded uterus - and a puppy which is adequately nourished but is genetically programmed to be small. With experience, it is not difficult to tell the difference between a thin puppy and a small, plump one. With adequate feeding, the thin puppy will rapidly fill out and start to catch up, whereas the small plump one will just turn into a small fat one.
Breeze's ten-day-old litter of four offers a good example. Three pups are large, sleek and fat, while the fourth is small, sleek and fat. In such a small litter, where there is more than enough milk for all, the little girl is certainly not underweight and I would expect her to be a smallish adult - but I could well be wrong. Her mother, Breeze, was the smallest puppy in a litter of seven - so small that I spent several nights camping beside the whelping box to make sure that she was able to feed - but grew up to be the biggest in the whole family! While her litter sister, Tiger, was a big fat puppy who grew up to be a small fat adult - known at home as "Tiggy Dumpling".
So does birth weight give a guide to adult size/weight? All I can say is that it may do, but not reliably so. The same is probably true of humans : as one of a family of five children, I was much the heaviest at birth but much the shortest and lightest as an adult............
What is a Working Beardie?
The simple answer to this seemingly simple question ought to be that a Working Beardie is a Beardie that works but – as so often with simple answers - things are a great deal more complicated than that.
The term ‘Working Beardie‘ is commonly used to distinguish between the ‘Show Beardie’ and all others of the breed. But this is to use both terms very loosely, since it allows that not all ‘Working Beardies’ work and not all ‘Show Beardies’ compete at shows. ‘Show Beardies’ is usually taken to include all those eligible to compete in the show ring, regardless of whether they actually do so, so it might be better to refer to them as ‘Kennel Club’ Beardies. But here we need to distinguish between dogs registered on the Kennel Club’s Breed Register and those on its Activity Register (formerly the Working Trials and Obedience Register). The Breed Register is a closed register, which only accepts dogs both of whose parents are already on it. By contrast, the Activity Register is open to all dogs, regardless of breed or parentage but these dogs are only allowed to compete in agility, obedience etc and are barred from the show ring. Most of the Beardies on this register are from predominately farm-working stock and many of them are also registered with the Working Bearded Collie Society. But, just to make matters even more complicated, the Working Bearded Collie Society, although set up to protect the interests of farm-working Beardies, will register dogs of any background, including show dogs registered on the KC Breed Register.
The farm-type Beardie is a very versatile dog, capable of working well at a great range of tasks in addition to his traditional role as a sheep or cattle dog. Many enjoy success in agility, obedience, or other competitive sports; some are therapy dogs, working with patients and pupils of all ages, while others do equally important work on a less formal basis, acting as nannies and guardians to their owners’ children or grandchildren. All of these might be classed as ‘working ‘dogs but we then lose the distinction between the trained companion dog and the working farm dog. I think that it is a distinction that needs to be made and I reserve the description ‘Working Beardie’ for the full-time sheep or cattle dog, who has been specifically bred for that purpose from livestock-working stock . Thus I do not refer to my own dogs as ‘Working Beardies’, because, although they are all bred from Working stock and although I have done a little ‘hobby herding’ with some of them, this is not their raison d’etre and I therefore refer to them as ‘Working-bred’ rather than as ‘Working Beardies’.
Unfortunately, the term 'Working Beardie' is sometimes used by rescue organisations to describe any collie-size shaggy dog of unknown background. Since these dogs frequently have behavioural and other problems, their mis-identification as 'Working Beardies' may give the real WBs a bad name. The same is true of unscrupulous commercial breeders who advertise 'Working Beardie Puppies' from very dubious parentage. I would urge anyone responding to such an advertisement to insist on seeing the parents working before going any further.
As a further complication, dogs resulting from a cross between a Beardie and a Border Collie often inherit the Beardie coat pattern and are mistaken for Working Beardies. Many of these are lovely dogs BUT they are not Beardies and to describe them as such is dishonest. I have even seen breeders' websites advertising 'Working Beardie' puppies from such crosses - as if they thought that 'Working Beardie' is just another name for a Beardie/Border cross!
Why does my Beardie insist on rolling in disgusting smelly heaps - especially when I have just bathed him?
This winter's heavy snowfalls have been great fun for the Beardies and have also kept them beautifully clean - a welcome change from our usual mud. A recent visitor asked whether the dogs had just been bathed and was amazed when I replied that I never bathe them at all. "But surely you have to wash them when they roll in fox droppings!" she exclaimed. I don't think that she believed me when I told her that they don't roll in such things...........but this set me thinking...........
In my showing days, when my Beardies were regularly bathed, I certainly had a problem with them rolling in smelly heaps of all kinds - in fact they seemed to take a particular delight in doing so as soon as they had been washed and dried! But my working-bred Beardies, who are never bathed, never indulge in smelly rollings. Could there be a connection? I think there is.
Although we all know that dogs have an extraordinarily acute sense of smell, we are inclined to forget that the scents and perfumes that we enjoy may be unpleasantly overwhelming for our dogs. I was made aware of this recently when Hanner went to find my glasses for me ( her special responsibility, which she takes very seriously) and returned, not carrying them in her mouth as usual, but pushing the case across the floor with her foot. Puzzled, I asked her why she wasn't carrying the case and she made quite clear that there was something unpleasant about it - which, upon examination, turned out to be a faint whiff of the lavender oil that must have been on my hands last time I had touched the case. A faint whiff to me, that is, but not to Hanner!
Which made me think about the newly-washed Beardies who waft the perfume of those lovely dog shampoos wherever they go - until they manage to find an even stronger smell to roll in!