Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Drawing and Painting Dogs

Bella, by Louise Lambert
I have recently taken up sketching again, and the other day decided to try and draw Bella. Even though she was asleep, she kept changing position slightly, which wasn't very helpful. The trouble is I can only really draw her when she's asleep; she's not really up to 'sitting' for long periods! I could of course have taken a photograph, but that would have been less of a challenge, even though many artists have to resort to the camera in order to get a good likeness. A local artist I know takes commissions for pet portraits and only works from photographs.

Yorkie on Log, by Michaela Kelly

Way back before cameras were in common usage, artists did not have the luxury of taking snaps to capture their subjects in fixed poses. This made painting animals particularly challenging. Victorian artist Briton Rivière (14 August 1840 – 20 April 1920), specialised in painting animals and in an interview published in Chums Boys Annual (No. 256, Vol. V, 4 August 1897), he explained some of the practicalities of painting both tame and wild animals: "I have always been a great lover of dogs but I have worked at them so much that I've grown tired of having them about me. However, you can never paint a dog unless you are fond of it. I never work from a dog without the assistance of a man who is well acquainted with animals..... Collies, I think, are the most restless dogs....greyhounds are also very restless, and so are fox-terriers..... The only way to paint wild animals is to gradually accumulate a large number of studies and a great knowledge of the animal itself, before you can paint its picture....". (Source: Wikipedia)

Riviere's life would have been so much easier if he was alive today, but I doubt if the paintings he produced would have been any more realistic!

Sympathy, by Briton Rivière (1877)

The Long Sleep, by Briton Rivière (1868)

If you're interested in learning how to draw dogs, check out this helpful step by step tutorial. I'm certainly going to give it a try, using a photograph as my source obviously! 

Posted by Louise

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Healing Power of Dogs

Since they first became domesticated thousands of years ago, dogs have helped us in so many different aspects of our lives - hunting, herding, pulling loads, protecting, assisting police and military, and acting as guide/assistance dogs for the blind, disabled and deaf.

Dogs are first and foremost pack animals, which makes them great team players so they have readily taken to the jobs we have given them. But aside from these 'learned' skills, they have a natural instinct for helping other members of the pack or family without the need for any kind of training. Which is why over recent years we have come to value them for their innate ability to provide us with emotional support as well. Ask anyone who owns a dog, and they will recount many instances of how their much loved pooch has helped lift their spirits in some way or another.

There are many organisations around the world who work with dogs to bring comfort and psychological healing to people. Here are a couple in the UK that I have recently come across.

Pets As Therapy
Goal: to provide therapeutic visits to hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, special needs schools and a variety of other venues by volunteers with their own friendly, temperament tested and vaccinated dogs and cats.

Today there are currently around 4,500 active PAT visiting dogs and 108 PAT cats at work in the UK. giving more than 130,000 people, both young and old, the pleasure and chance to cuddle and talk to them. The bedsides that are visited each year number a staggering half million.

Dogs For Depression
Goal: to highlight the healing benefits a dog can offer in recovering from depression. Their premise is that "dogs can help symptoms of depression because they are pack animals and instinctively form close bonds with other members of their 'pack' or family. By their very nature, they will help provide emotional support to other members of their pack by being loyal and affectionate companions."

Dogs for Depression's twin goal is to promote the rescue and adoption of abandoned dogs and encourage dog welfare.

Has a dog brought comfort to you in some way? Why not share your story with others by posting a comment.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

How to Help Your Dog Enjoy Christmas

Christmas is a time for families and festivities, and as our dogs are part or our families we naturally want them to have as good a time as we're having.

But dogs, as we all know, are creatures of habit and are not keen on their routine being disrupted. At Christmas, routine tends to go out the window as we invite people in, go out more frequently and spend more time eating than at other times of the year.

With that in mind, here are a few tips to make sure your dog is kept content and safe over the Christmas period.

Keep the following, potentially harmful foods out of reach from your dog
  • Left over turkey - The bones and skin of turkey can cause choking.
  • Grapes and raisins - These can cause kidney failure.
  • Christmas cake - It contains raisins, sultanas etc (see last point).
  • Chocolate (especially dark chocolate) - It contains a substance called theobromine which is poisonous to dogs.
  • Onions and garlic - These can cause anaemia.
Christmas decorations
  • If you opt for a real Christmas tree, remember that pine needles are sharp and can get stuck in your dog’s pads and throat, and that tree water can make your dog sick. If you do have a particularly curious pet, perhaps an artificial tree would be a safer option.
  • Make sure your tree and other Christmas decorations (including balloons) cannot be reached and avoid using edible tree decorations, especially chocolate ones.  If you're worried about baubles falling and shattering, get unbreakable ones that are too big for your dog to swallow if they do fall off.
  • Unplug your tree lights when you go out. 
  • Keep all wires and cables tucked away.
Other precautions you should take
  • After the presents have been opened, make sure all the wrapping paper, bows, strings and the presents themselves are put at a safe distance from your dog.
  • If you have children, make sure their toys are not left lying around, especially if they have small parts that your dog might be tempted to chew on.
  • Don't leave your children unattended while they are playing with young animals as over-excitement can lead to accidents or someone getting hurt.
  • Keep houseplants out of your dog’s reach. Many of them - including Poinsettias and mistletoe - are toxic.
To help your dog enjoy Christmas ...
  • Give them some lean turkey (no skin or bones) as part of their regular feed and even some raw vegetables.
  • Keep them amused with an interactive toy, such as a Kong or activity ball. If it's new for Christmas, it will keep them entertained and they probably won't even notice all the activity going on around him.
  • Make sure they get their regular walks.
  • Give them the same amount of attention as they are used to getting.

I hope you and your dog(s) all have a very Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Top Tips for Looking After Your Dog on a Budget

The economic downturn has made us all very careful with how we spend our money (no bad thing I suppose!). But when it comes to our dogs, we don't want them to suffer as a result of our tighter budgets. We want them to have the best possible care, just for less if we can manage it. Well, of course we can and Battersea Dogs & Cats Home offers a helpful advice sheet suggesting a number of ways we can go about it.

So, if you're concerned that you're still spending more than you'd like on your dog(s) but don't know where to cut back, try some (or all) of the following tips:
  • keep your dog stimulated with simple games and exercises (playing fetch in the park, practising obedience while out walking) rather than leaving them to amuse themselves with expensive toys 
  • limit toys to the ones you have, alternating their use to keep your dog's interest 
  • use a complete dry food rather than pouches and tins of food (which are more expensive) 
  • use part of your dog's daily food allowance for training purposes rather than buying separate treats 
  • take your dog with you on holiday (to dog-friendly hotels and cottages) rather than forking out for boarding kennels 
  • insure your dog (to avoid huge vet bills should they become ill or injured).

The advice sheet (which was written in November 2008) is available to view/download from the Responsible Owners page of the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home website.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tips for Avoiding Kennel Cough While Your Dog is in a Boarding Kennel

Thousands of pet owners will be travelling during the upcoming holiday season and leaving their pets at boarding kennels. But with so much traffic going in and out of these kennels, the chance of your dog catching kennel cough greatly increases.

Kennel cough, or Tracheobronchitis, is caused by a highly contagious airborne virus, and is a type of upper respiratory infection in dogs. The symptoms are dry, hacking cough that may sound as if the dog has a bone caught in his throat. Even though kennel cough is rarely deadly, it can be very expensive for your vet to treat.

If you are boarding your dog this holiday season, here are a few tips to help stop them from coming home with kennel cough.
  • Make sure the kennel has an effective, daily clean-up process and follows a strict schedule of disinfecting with the proper chemicals. 
  • Make sure the kennel provides clean, individual water and feeding bowls for each animal.
  • Make sure the kennel requires the proper immunisation requirements to help prevent other dogs infecting your dog. 
  • Make sure the kennel has proper climate control and that the animals are protected from the elements. Cold temperatures can increase the chances of your dog contracting kennel cough.
  • Clean all your pet's toys, bedding, and anything else you supply both before and after boarding. 
  • Check to see if the kennel or boarding facility you are using is a member of your national kennel or boarding association. 
Article Source

The photograph used in this post is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license