Today’s Training your Human subject is a delicate one for all lurchers. We have already pointed out that human beings are quite incompetent as a species. They can’t catch cats or squirrels, don’t run very well and so forth. Their methods of communication are primitive, and they can’t smell a fox from two feet away. Tragic, really. Nowhere is this incompetence more obvious than in the area of mating, so read on and learn what YOU need to know…
Every dog has his day, and every lurcher has her or his bottom, whether a lean, wiry one like Chilli, or a great muscular kangaroo-rump like Django. And make no mistake, a good lurcher bottom is a blessing indeed. It’s somewhere to attach that whippy, waggy tail, for starters. But it has its dark side, and that’s where we must travel today. Where the sun does not shine, there is mischief. And there is poo…
Come back with us in time, dear listener, to a very special moment. Picture, if you will, two attractive, light-hearted people, very much in love and determined to do good in the world. Now forget that. Burn the picture. Replace it with an eccentric Yorkshire drunk who works in a pub and a tough Sarf London girl who has just finished university. Add the fact that they aren’t exactly going out, and are constantly arguing, and you have today’s True Story…
Note: This may be seen as a cautionary tale of two inexperienced people doing it wrong, or a heart-warming story. We do NOT recommend it as a set of dog rescue guidelines.
So, it is 1979 (probably). She who is now our editor-in-chief finds this dog wandering the streets. It is a sad dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier who looks very lost. It has a name and a phone number on its tag. It is called Rocko. Obviously, after consultation, we call the number. Again and again. There is never any reply. The police can get no further than we can, and we’re pretty much pre-chip or database times here. Days later, no Rocko or similar Staffy has been reported missing, and no-one we ask can think of anything helpful.
We are stuck. We have never rescued a dog before. We don’t know where Rocko came from, and we don’t want the dog to be put down. We’ve been told the dog pounds may go down that road. Thirty plus years into the future, of course, we will have lots of options – shelters and rescue organisations we can trust. But we are young, so we try to look after the poor soul.
Rocko is soft. This is the sort of dog who looks at you apologetically if you tread on its paw by accident. The aggressive urges of a lump of plasticine. And Rocko is a she. We call her Rufus, because we do not like the name Rocko. Then we find that our editor cannot have dogs in her bedsit, due to an arsy landlord. Fortunately, the rest of the team (your not-as-drunk-as-he-used to-be author) is temporarily living in a disused room at the university when not assisting Tetleys Brewery in their life=beer mission. As we are not really supposed to be there, Rufus might as well not be there at the same time.
Rufus is delighted to have a new home (single room piled high with books and old crates). She is walked, well-fed and cuddled. She has teeth which can bite through a tin of dog-food – and do – but never gives so much as a nip to people. She is lovely. Dogs need company, so we don’t want her on her own too often. So one day, because of work shifts, sunspots or something else we completely forget now, Rufus is sent to stay with a mutual friend who has some spare time and access to a bit of grassy wasteland. During this time she wanders off, causing panic, but soon toddles back, and is overjoyed to be re-united with us.
We realise that she needs a proper home. So we take her to some parents far away from where we live, parents who do not know that they have always wanted a dog. They certainly don’t know that they have always wanted a large hungry Staffordshire bull terrier with a boy’s name and a girl’s parts.
After a certain amount of sarcasm, Rufus is housed by the sea with people who are there all the time. A perfect ending. Except for the fact that Rufus turns out to be not only pregnant (thanks to that grassy wasteland expedition) but very heavily pregnant. Parental sarcasm gets close to boiling point, but is survived.
Rocko who is Rufus is now Rusty, as a certain mother refuses to call a pregnant Staffordshire Rufus. A large litter of confusing pups is born. Some look Staffie-ish, some look more like golden retrievers. Amazingly, these are all farmed out to various other sarcastic relatives, and at last Rusty is comfy at home. She becomes a basking seal who occupies the sofa every day and is doted over by that certain mother. Rusty is always delighted to see us when we head coast-wards, and lives to a ripe old age. Actual perfect ending – in the end.
So what’s this got to do with lurchers and longdogs? Hang in there. Many years later, with another old dog at home but a bit worn out, editor-in-chief goes to Battersea Dogs’ Home and struggles back up north with a young, utterly bonkers dog found roaming the streets of London.
It has clearly been damaged by some horrible experience(s), and is rather hostile to anyone except the immediate family. By hostile, we mean a tendency to bite people’s calf muscles when alarmed, by the way, not merely bad-tempered. To the family, this little bundle of legs is loyalty exemplified, and like Rocko/Rufus/Rusty, is hugely affectionate, with never even the hint of a nip to our young son.
It is, yes, a lurcher. It is also definitely a she, and she is Jade. Spayed this time, thank goodness. Although she’s gone now, again at an advanced age, we loved her very much and she is one of the reasons why this site is called greydogtales. And she began our deep affection for lurchers. So there.
Next time: The obvious feature to follow this one – an interview with the owner of Swan River Press, Ireland’s only publisher of Gothic, fantastic and supernatural fiction…
Get the bandages out, it’s time for some violence – although this may not be what you think. We’re not talking about horror stories where body parts get eaten or pulled off, or weird stories of people’s heads going wrong today. Instead, we’re back among the lurchers and longdogs, and we have some guests along for a change.
Not only are there some jolly good photos provided by Mandy Locky, Gina Beck, Richard Woolley and Julie Stringer, but we have an American guest, Katrina Stumpf, as well to share something from her blog. More about them in a minute, but first, the Great Game…
Lurchers are weird. Yes, they do share many characteristics with other dogs, but they have peculiarities which seem to be seen more often in the type. We’ve said before that many lurchers don’t like to sit, that their deep chests and joint articulation give them a gait and posture of their own, that they like sleeping upside down with their legs in the air and so on.
And though almost all dogs play, our extensive scientific studies show that bitey face is more common in lurchers and sighthounds than in other dog breeds or crosses. You might be able to prove us wrong, but do you really have the time and resources of the dedicated greydogtales research team to do so? We think not.
Bitey face is a game well known to lurcher enthusiasts. Basically, it consist of two or more lurchers posturing and doing play-bows, bums in the air and tails wagging furiously. Before you can say “How sweet,” and pour another cup of tea, they are launching themselves at each other with their jaws wide open.
It is, on the surface, a game which looks like two insane predators trying to eat each other. Teeth clash audibly, heads end up in mouths, ears get put at serious risk and so on. You think it’s over, and then one of the little darlings does that play-bow again, and they’re off for a second or third round.
The play-bow is, incidentally, a good sign that your dogs are having fun, not itching for actual violence. Bodies are generally relaxed, they will take pauses, and sometimes swop who’s on top. There will be fur grabbing and snapping, but not ‘sink your teeth in’ biting.
Lurchers may have long, slender muzzles, but they still have serious teeth. Django has teeth which belong in Jurassic Park. Let’s not kid ourselves – bitey face is an alarming sight. The first time our neighbours saw it, they were almost shrieking with concern, convinced that Django and Chilli had decided to murder each other. Two pleasant, licky dogs had turned into a blurred ball of bared canines, wild growls and quite a lot of legs. The dogs were fine, but we did have to sedate the neighbours. Who’d have thought chloroform was so expensive?
Is bitey face actually dangerous? The general answer is no. Dogs aren’t stupid (except the odd one who is). A lot of the time it’s only a fun muzzle-rubbing bit of rough and tumble. The dogs take it in their stride.
OK, they can very occasionally catch each other’s lips, noses and ears by accident. Ears, for some reason, bleed like a blood transfusion centre during a January sale, even though the wound itself is quite minor. But we’ve not had a bitey face game so far where anyone got seriously damaged, so we don’t worry about it.
If it’s getting out of control, and we’re sick of the noise and the over-turned chairs, we spray the dogs with a house plant sprayer full of cold water. All this does is surprise them, and they stop the game to see what’s going on. Bitey face is an important part of their play. They don’t unplug your television, so why should you stop them enjoying their own entertainment?
Bitey face on the run is hard work to monitor. Once they get up to speed and start snapping at each other as they charge (their idea of fun and egging each other on), the lip cuts get more likely – not because they’re being nasty, but their momentum is so great. Even then no harm is usually done. As we tend to run ours with open basket muzzles on, the loudest sound is of them bashing the plastic muzzles together, which they seem to enjoy.
We have heard of humans trying to play a version of bitey face with their lurchers. We do not recommend this. Firstly, you will lose. Make sure that you haven’t wagered any money (or chicken carcasses) on the outcome. Secondly, there may be parts of your face which you quite like. We suggest that you hang onto them. Time alone will do enough damage there without helping it along.
It may also be relevant to point out that the pain of having a dog’s tooth accidentally rammed up one of your nostrils is, well, not to be sneezed at. We have experienced this. Trust us.
Finally for this section, we were sent a couple of short bitey face videos by a nice chap called Richard Woolley, who clearly knows the phenomenon well. Richard says “We adopted Maggie in August. A very shy and timid girl and didn’t come out of the kitchen or conservatory for about 6 weeks! That’s when she bolted out of the front door! Missing for 4 days. At Xmas we adopted Rudy, a big lump who loves attention but very calm and a great influence on other dogs including Maggie. She’s much better but still very timid, still keeps her distance but the two of them are joined at the hip.”
Here’s one of the vids – Maggie and Rudy.
You’ll notice that we sort of cheated in some of the pictures above – some are actually greyhounds – but that’s still cool here. Katrina Stumpf is an American from Virginia who is involved in rescuing retired racing greyhounds. We were looking for neat pictures of bitey face, and came across her lovely blog fastgreyz, which covers all sort of greyhound-related goings-on.
Her current pups are – Cody, a black male 7 years old; Lizzie, a white/red 3 year old female and Cora, a white/brindle 9 year old female who had 4 litters of racing greyhounds after her race career. She also has a non-greyhound Roxi, a 3 year old hound/spaniel mix adopted from local adoption group who rescued her from a high kill shelter in West Virginia.
Unlike us, Katrina has a very fast camera, and picks up photographic gear specifically for action shots. Which is why her pictures show dogs at play in close detail, whereas many of ours show dogs’ bums disappearing off the edge of the shot.
Katrina supports local rescues, and there are tons more great photos on her blog, which you can find here:
We thank all our contributors, and wonder if we actually managed to match all the right dogs and people in the photos. Probably not.
Do join us again on greydogtales at the weekend. It may be weird fiction or art next time, we’re never quite sure…