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Toilet Training a Pup

Today the refuge was closed so tonight’s blog is on a subject that we are asked a lot about, toilet training pups! Just like everyone has opinions on potty training children you will get lots of advice from everyone about toilet training your pup but at the SPA we recommend using crates to give the pups their own safe space and also for toilet training.

Toilet training is all about creating good habits. Young pups have very small bladders and very little bladder control so they need to be in the right place when nature calls.

To toilet train successfully in as short a time as possible you must take your puppy to the garden:

When they wake

After eating

After taking a drink

Before, during and after a period of activity

When you come in

Before you go out

Before bedtime

And every twenty to thirty minutes in between unless they are asleep.  During periods of activity change that to every ten to twenty minutes.

Take the pup outside and stay with your pup, don’t nag or distract him just stroll  about and once he has done what he needs to tell them him he is a clever boy.

If you have to take him back in and he hasn’t done anything outside then either confine him to his crate, sit him on your lap or tuck him under your arm (small breeds only) as you go about your chores and try again in five minutes.

It is imperative that you do this, especially if you have started off with newspaper down or puppy pads because your puppy may prefer to wee indoors and he could simply be waiting to be taken back in.  Give him zero opportunity to go wrong.

Here are a few common mistakes during toilet training:-

– Using newspaper or puppy training pads.  Whilst it may help the clearing up process it can be very confusing for the pup that is taught or permitted to toilet in the house to make the transition to going outside and will often result in a pup that when playing in the garden will simply hold on until they are back indoors because that is where the toilet is.

– Leaving the door open. This does nothing to teach the pup to toilet outside and reprimands for toileting in the house will result in a dog that believes you disapprove of what he did not where he did it and is damaging to your relationship with your pup.

– Giving treats for toileting in the garden, again the dog is being rewarded for what he did not where he did it.  Whilst this is not going to be as big a problem as the reprimand, the clever dog will learn to do lots of little wees and never fully empty their bladder.  The insecure dog may wee indoors to appease you if you get cross about something else because they know that this is something that pleases you and gets rewarded.

– Expecting your pup to tell you when he needs to go out.  Once a pup understands that outside is where the toilet is then he may start to let you know he needs out.  However if you are not there to ask or you fail to notice him asking then the house training will break down.  Far better to have a dog go out to the toilet on your schedule once they are house trained.

– Giving your pup an ensuite in his crate.  Do not encourage your pup to toilet in his crate by putting puppy pads in there.  If you have to leave puppy for a while and he is going to need to go then best to have the crate inside a larger pen or blocked off area and leave the crate door open so that he can get away from his bed to toilet.

During the night young pups will need to go to the toilet once or twice in the night for anything from a few days to a few weeks.

If your pup is sleeping in a crate in the bedroom with you, then they will wake and should let you know they need to go out.  Carry pup to the garden to toilet and then straight back to bed again. If you choose not to have his crate in the bedroom make sure you can hear him or you will have to clean up in the morning!  Don’t feel guilty about having a crate in the bedroom, Leaving a puppy to cry in a crate or downstairs alone is teaching the puppy to associate the crate and night time with being distressed. Should you wish you can move his crate further away as the pup gets older and can hold on all night.

The good news is that this stage doesn’t last long and as very few pups like toileting where they sleep, the crate will encourage him to wait. Before long you will have a pup that understands that outside is for toileting and will happily run to the door to do out!

Clever boy…outside is for toileting!

Puppy Weeing out side

Papers help with the clean up but you are teaching the pup its ok to toilet inside. You then have to teach him to go outside so this method takes a little longer.

Puppy wee papers

Two adoptions but five arrivals

Despite the horrendous weather the refuge did have some visitors and two dogs found new homes.

First to leave was Piglet. His French name was Marcassin, which is a baby wild pig. But his English name was Piglet, as with that name we were sure he would be snapped up. Sure enough a British couple came to adopt him today! It is all in the name, sometimes!

The other lucky dog was Farou, who had been with us since early September. Always a favourite with the volunteers, Farou was also popular with other dogs, as he is just so laid back and easy to get on with. One lady, Andrea, who walked him whilst on a visit from her native Canada, gave him such a glowing reference that I was sure he would be adopted immediately. However it took a bit longer for him to find his new family. He left today with a small jack Russell as his new pal.

Of the five dogs who arrived, three are micro-chipped and we expect them all to leave early next week, all things being equal. Of the other two one was a pre-planned abandon (due to illness) and the other was found and brought to the refuge this morning. Prepare for pictures of Cannelle and Simpson once I have tracked down my camera, which seems to have gone AWOL.

Thanks as ever to everyone who showed up today. After all, what is a bit of mud between friends!













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Darcey’s rant.

On an average week I upload about 350 photos to Facebook. I try to take pictures of our “oldies” when they are being walked by volunteers, in the hope that a new photo might attract an adopter who had previously not considered this particular dog. Sometimes it is just a different angle that shows off a dog’s personality and can make all the difference.

In addition I try and take photos of every new dog as it arrives. I am not at the refuge every day, and if Carole is too busy to take a picture of the dog’s arrival, I go to its cage as soon as I can afterwards to take a photo. This why some dogs only have photos behind the bars of their cage.

Of course the main reason for doing this is to find the dog’s owner. I spend literally hours every week uploading pictures to Facebook. Other volunteers help out and yet more volunteers and “sponsors” make album covers and wonderful montages which show all the information about a dog and are so effective for sharing on Facebook and other social media networks.

Like me, many of these people have jobs. And other animals. In short we are all busy. We do what we do because we want the dogs to find their owners; stop the refuge from becoming overcrowded and avoid having to resort to euthanasia.

So I get very cross when people are ecstatic to see that their dog has been brought to the refuge and come along to collect him or her, saying that they have been crying all night. If you love your dog so much, why is he or she not identified? Identification of dogs aged over 4 months has been a legal obligation since 1999. (http://agriculture.gouv.fr/identification) Why are you only agreeing to identify him now because the dog is in our “custody”?  The law does not allow us to release an unidentified dog, but quite often people try to make us do so, as if losing their dog once wasn’t enough of a lesson for them.

When you come to collect your dog from us, you pay the money directly to the vet. So effectively there is no penalty at all to you, the dog owner. You pay no more to have your dog identified than you would have had he not come to the SPA.  Maybe this is why you don’t bother. Had the dog not come to the SPA you would probably never have had him identified.

I get particularly frustrated when people come to collect a dog without having even phoned up first or made any effort to find their dog other than sit in the warmth of their home and check our Facebook page, while we are in the cold and rain looking after your dogs.

This anger and frustration is not directed at people whose dogs arrive at the refuge identified. You are the good ones. All the more so if your details are up to date in Paris. Equally this is not directed at the British community, as for the most part you travel with your dogs and for this they have to be micro-chipped. But if you are reading this and you have unidentified dogs, then consider this: In many refuges (particularly those that do not have an active team of volunteers or a Facebook page), your dog can be put to sleep or rehomed after the legal delay of 8 days. And you will never know his fate.

How much do you REALLY love your dog? Enough to pay for it to be identified? Or not really that much?

In the Paris area vets will not treat or vaccinate an unidentified dog. However all vets in the region have to agree to this policy at the same time. In Carcassonne people would just go to a different vet who is not as strict about the law on identification. Or worse, they will not get their dog vaccinated or treated, even in an emergency.

If anyone has any ideas as to how we can encourage irresponsible owners to identify their dogs, please let us know. I am getting to the end of my tether.

A micro-chip reader. Chipping your dog can save its life
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A tattoo does the same job, but your dog cannot travel abroad.

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Six arrivals in 15 minutes

If I only I had left the refuge a bit earlier today. Okay, it wouldn’t have changed the news, but at least I would have left with a smile on my face.

Despite the showery weather it was possible to walk, and a few volunteers showed up to take dogs out. Thanks to you all, as usual, it really does make such a difference to the dogs’ well-being and helps them to keep or improve their lead skills, as well as all round socialisation.

I was on the verge of leaving at 17H30, when things kicked off. Within the space of 15 minutes, we had six new arrivals. So in contrast to my elation of yesterday, today I am feeling far more like my usual miserable self.

First a beautiful shepherd/malinois cross arrived, along with her 4 puppies. Patrouille (Patrol) had been found by volunteer Isa in Montreal, and for four days they have been being looked after at a local business while Isa tried to track down the owners. Turns out Patrouille is chipped, but there is no information at all  on the central database as to who her owners might be. So we have to hope that they see Patrouille on the internet and come to collect her. However we are pretty sure that she isn’t from Montreal, so it is possible that she has been deliberately thrown out. Let’s hope not. A fifth puppy is still loose somewhere, too.

In any case, Patrouille is beautiful, very gentle and affectionate (in fact her need for affection made me think of Winter) and I am sure if she is not reclaimed she will find a new home soon

And things got worse. While Patrouille was still being “booked in”, yet another dog arrived.  This beautiful boy is not identified and was found wandering yesterday. He spent the night in a home with a toddler and cats, and there was no trouble at all, so it is possible that he has an owner (or that he is naturally well-mannered!).

So it was a bad day in many ways, but for Patrouille (and her puppies) and Tusk, the SPA is just a stepping stone to a new and better life.

New arrival Patrouille







Patrouille’s puppies (number 5 is still lost)








And magnificent Tusk






Well, only one news story tonight, but it is about the best news we could possibly have ! Fuji was reclaimed! Turns out that his real name is Sultan and he is 16 years old! His owners had just about given up hope of ever seeing their dog again; he had been missing for ages. Which explains his matted fur and the fact that he was so thin. He is a retired hunt dog, but one who is much loved. Seems that his nose is still in fine form, and it is that which led him astray!

The fact that our vet thought he was 11 years old is no reflection on the skills of our vet. Aging a dog is not an exact science, and the fact that Fuji is in fact 5 years older than the vet’s “guestimate” shows how well he was looked after before going missing. I am sure he will be the happiest of dogs tonight, and as for his owners, I can only imagine their joy!

We are absolutely over the moon at the news. Even when we thought Fuji/Sultan was 11, we were worried for him in the cold of the refuge. As it is, he has only spent five days there, and at least he was warm and dry and fed during this time.

But please don’t forget that we have other dogs of this age, such as Tom, who would love to have a home, too. Giving a home to an elderly dog can be extremely rewarding, and we salute all of you who are willing to do so.

One dog arrived and there was a reservation, but for now nothing can ruin my joy and I am sure that of everyone at the refuge and probably lots of you too!

Fuji/ Sultan- RECLAIMED











Tom- I would like a home too, please!


Two adoptions and a grooming session!

Today saw the adoption of Anouka! She arrived at the SPA in early September 2013 having had what can only be described as a difficult life. Apparently she had lived with a group of travellers and was left behind when they moved on from Carcassonne. She made her home in a local quarry, where she had to fend for herself and her puppies. Some dog lovers managed to capture the pups all of whom were rehomed, but Anouka was much harder to approach as she was terrified.

She was eventually brought to the refuge by the police and has gradually come out of her shell, thanks to the attention and love showed to her by the SPA employees and volunteers. Unlike certain other refuges we don’t threaten to euthanise dogs who are “unhappy” in the SPA, rather we work with them to help them to be happy.

Anouka spent a couple of weeks in foster with a good friend of the SPA, where we learned more about her character. Not great with cats, quite independent by nature (unsurprising after the life she has led), and initially nervous of humans but very affectionate. Finally she has found a home to call her own.  Excellent news!

Yet more excellent news was the adoption of Panini, who had been with us since the end of November. He is a fabulous dog and I am not surprised that he caught the eye of some visitors to the refuge. Surprised maybe that it didn’t happen sooner.

And a mixture of employees and volunteers spent two long hours grooming poor Fuji. He behaved like a true gentleman, even when we were getting close to his most delicate areas! He was in a terrible state, and quite honestly, I think he has been straying or at least severely neglected for some considerable time.  Let’s find him a lovely home in which to spend his twilight years!

Anouka – ADOPTED









Panini – ADOPTED












And Fuji in mid-groom. 10 out of 10 for patience and tolerance!


Ins and outs, ups and downs

Well, I think a record has been broken, but not a good one. I am not referring to the number of dogs who have arrived this year (over 40 so far, by the way), but the amount of time between a dog reaching his new home and being brought back. Laika (aka Fetide) was sterilised and left with a friend of her new owners on January 10th to convalesce post-operation. She joined her new family on Saturday, but by Sunday they had already contacted us to say that they were bringing this six year old setter back as she was not good with their cats.

The foster mum is a good friend of the refuge, so I will try not to be too critical, especially as her friend is an experienced rescuer. However I do wonder what is going through the head of this dog, who spent over two weeks in one home, then was moved to another 200 km away and then brought back to the refuge immediately afterwards. Perhaps I am a bit over-sensitive, but I for one feel sorry for her.

Laika should have no problem finding a home, as she is pretty and extremely affectionate, but if you have cats then she is not for you.

There are ways of integrating a new dog into a home with existing animals and we are happy to give advice on this should problems be experienced. There is no overnight solution, though, and time and patience (and a suitably flexible working lifestyle) are required.

In other refuge news, Adam and Eve were reclaimed by their owner and Albertine, was adopted. I am overjoyed for this lovely girl who was left alone in Quillan when her young owner moved back to her parent’s house in Lyon, leaving her dog behind.

In not such good news, lovely Fuji who arrived on Saturday went to see the vets, and he is 11 years old. This makes him, along with Tom, the oldest dog in the refuge, and getting them both a home has to be a priority, especially as the weather has just turned colder.

Fetide/ Laika is back









Albertine- ADOPTED













Adam and Eve – RECLAIMED
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And poor Fuji is 11 years old and needs a home!





Mother’s Milk Part 2

It is generally accepted that puppies need the discipline of their mothers and siblings in order to grow up to be well adjusted adult dogs.

Experts say that the best time in a puppy’s life to learn social skills is between 3 and 16 weeks of age. Some puppies arrive at the SPA very young, and this is why, where possible, they are looked after by foster families (preferably those who already have a dog or dogs to act as tutor). If they stay at the SPA, they are kept with their siblings. If you have a puppy from eight weeks (which is the youngest age at which we allow pups to leave the SPA), be prepared for more work than you would for an adult dog. That is where puppy school comes in, of course, and regular attendance can ward off many future problems, as can having an older, settled dog already in residence.

As an administrator of the SPA Facebook page I quite often see requests from people who want to wean a new-born puppy themselves, using a bottle and artificial milk. They think this will create a strong bond between them and the dog. No No NO! You are asking for a whole world of trouble. Maybe not initially, but studies show that many of the social and behavioural problems seen in adult dogs have their roots in too-early separation from the litter. Such dogs are frequently nervous, more prone to barking and biting and have a more difficult time with socialisation and training. And we know what happens when dogs start to misbehave in adult life….They are brought back to the SPA!

Males and females are not mixed at the SPA, unless one of the couple is neutered, so I am not sure where people think the new-born pups are coming from in any case! And no, we do not breed puppies to “sell”. Quite enough arrive as it is, thank you very much; why do you think all our adult females leave sterilised and that we insist that our female pups are sterilised at the age of six months?

One example of a skill taught by the mum is bite inhibition. This is where puppies are shown how hard they can bite without hurting the animal or person being bitten. If they are removed from their family too young, they are often teething. As with human babies, puppies’ mouths hurt and so they want to bite. If your hand or toes (or those of your children) are in the way, they will be bitten. And if your puppy has not learned any better, that bite will hurt. That is when problems arise.

New owners may think they have an aggressive puppy, whereas all they have is a baby needing the discipline they would have received from their mum or siblings had they not been taken away too early. Experienced owners can usually handle this quite well; however, new owners don’t know how to deal with it, and treat it as bad behaviour, often using “negative” disciplinary methods. Unfortunately, the negative corrections only make the problem worse and it becomes a vicious circle.

Now of course patience and dog training school can help you overcome these problems, and “club canins” are all over France. Please try to find one that uses positive reward-based training, not choke chains and punishment. But why go looking for problems by deliberately taking a puppy that has not had the basic skills taught to it by its mother?
Of course the problems of puppy trafficking are well known, and if you buy a puppy from anyone other than a reputable breeder, you have no idea where the pup comes from and what age he was when he was taken from his mum. Many puppies are brought to France from Eastern European and other countries’ puppy farms, where breeding mums are kept in appalling conditions. Don’t be fooled by the fact that you are buying the dog from a well-known shop. Gardening and DIY shops have no business selling puppies, in my opinion, and they are quite often unaware or indifferent to the origins of the pups. Go to a reputable breeder only, where you can see the mum with her pups!

Or better still, adopt a pup or adult dog from the SPA and be prepared to take him to puppy or adult dog school if necessary. At least you will not be putting money into the hands of dog traffickers, and you will be saving a life

PS If you are reading this in the UK (and I know we have followers there!) I am informed that many vets run puppy socialisation classes, as opposed to training per se. The pups get to play whilst the vet nurses explain what is healthy play, when to interrupt and why, and how to deal with mouthing etc . Once this socialisation has taken place the pups then go on to puppy class. However vets all agree that in terms of socialisation, nothing beats the firm but fair paw of a mother’s love!

These dogs are not at the SPA, but who can resist a beagle?!

Yet more arrivals…..

Believe it or not another five dogs arrived today, and although three of them were reclaimed, I am starting to feel really down. That makes thirty-eight dogs in this year.

Of course things have not been helped by the fact that the central database in Paris is down, so even if a dog is identified, there is no way of tracing its owners. No warning was given for this “maintenance work”, and all we know is that the site will be up and running on Monday. This reinforces my belief that it is a good idea to give your dog a collar with his phone number on it.

I was walking a dog today and I saw several dogs straying in the fields around the refuge. Now anyone who has visited us knows that the refuge has some interesting neighbours, and it is possible that these dogs belong to them. But it is also possible that at least some of them have been thrown out in the hope that they will magically make their way to the refuge. I am posting a photo here of a lovely looking girl who looks to be well looked after. Is anyone looking for her, perhaps?

Otherwise we had one (pre-planned) abandon, a 4 and a half year old Pyrenean Mountain Dog/ border collie cross who is okay with other dogs, children and cats. His owner doesn’t have time to look after him any more. The other arrival was that of a young dog who has an inverted eyelid. He may just be lost, or his owners may have panicked at the thought of paying a vets bill to have this cured. If by chance you are reading this, please come and collect your dog. The treatment costs nothing and this little boy deserves better than to be dumped for such a minor reason. Mind you, if that is the reason he has been dumped, maybe what he deserves is a better owner…..

This lovely looking girl is just hanging around in the fields. Does anyone know her?









Magnificent Dyson. Okay with other dogs, cats and children. 










Little Chino – minor treatment needed.


More arrivals, but two dogs leave….

This blog will be far more pedestrian after all the excitement of yesterday, but I will try to bring you up to date with the latest comings and goings.

Yesterday the owner of the little dog Galapagos, presumed brother of Ibiza, showed up to collect him. She was aware that identification is obligatory and said that she would get it done. Only it doesn’t work that way; no dog can leave us without identification, so one of the employees took Galapagos off to the vet and he left there with his owner. Better later than never.

The two other arrivals of yesterday are still waiting for their (perhaps) former owners, but otherwise should have no trouble finding new homes, as they are both small and youngish. Of the five (yes FIVE) arrivals of today, two have already been reclaimed and a third is identified but we have been unable to contact his owners as yet.

That is 33 dogs in so far this year, and it is only the 17th of January. This does not bode well for the year.

However, there is usually something positive to report. Yesterday saw the adoption of little Oslo (I could not understand why this little cutie had not left sooner), and today we said goodbye to little Sputnik. So that is two more in the warm.

Also yesterday Melanie worked her magic on Dingo, who came in looking like Bob Marley’s spare wig, after being left behind to fend for himself when his owners moved house. This tiny little chap should find a home without too much trouble, especially now we can see which end is which!










Sputnik – ADOPTED











Dingo Before and After
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