Choosing a treat bag

We always recommend using a treat bag when training with food. How do you choose which one when there are so many?

If you train your dog using food treats/rewards, whether clicker training or otherwise, we always recommend using a treat bag. Not only do they keep your pockets clean, they really help to minimise the distraction of using a rustling plastic bag (a nuisance in any training class), and signal to your dog that training is in session. With so many bags to choose from, which one is right for you? Here are some of the key points to look for:

Bag Size/Capacity

Consider the length and regularity of your training sessions, and how many treats you may need to use. A bag that is too small will need to be constantly refilled, not ideal as it breaks concentration, and one that is too big can spread your treats too thinly making them difficult to grab in the bottom of the bag.

Bag Opening/Ease of Use

It is important to be able to get to the treats easily and in a timely manner, so think about how and where the treat bag will be used, and the kind of opening you might prefer. Bag openings include zips (such as the Training Lines Treat Bag, or Hip Bag Baggy Belt), drawstrings (Deluxe Baggy or Maxi Snack Bag), and ‘snap openers’ (Terry Ryan Treat Bag, Petsafe Treat Bag Sport, Dog Activity Goody Bag), and some may be more suitable for you in certain situations than others.

Drawstring bags will keep treats secure but if you need to move around or run during training they can be a little inconvenient. Snap opening bags are great for opening and closing quickly, but are usually larger.

Attaching the bag

Typically, treat bags have either a belt clip to attach to your clothing, or their own belt which you wrap around you or place over your shoulder, and some may have both, such as the Hurtta Motivation Pro Treat Bag. If you are likely to be training in, for example, a coat or long jacket, a belt clip may not be ideal unless you can clip it onto a convenient pocket. Belts are usually long enough to go around your outer clothing, but you should measure first to be sure.

For those ‘Lara Croft’ moments, the Dog Activity Hip Bag also has an additional leg strap for added stability.

Extra features

In addition to carrying treats, many bags also have handy extra features. More pockets for example, or hooks/rings for holding your training accessories.  If you are choosing a treat bag for the first time, these extras may not seem very important, but established trainers often choose a bag for these additional features and consider how they might enhance their training sessions.

For example, the 2 in 1 Baggy Snack Bag has a small outer pocket on one side, and a bag dispenser pocket on the other, the Petsafe Treat Bag Sport has a ‘pocket within a pocket’ feature, which allows you to separate high value treats easily, and the Maxi Snack Bag has a removable insert for easy cleaning.

However you dispense your training treats, there is a treat bag available that will make things easier.  Our comparison table below shows some of our more popular bags, or you can see the full range on our Training and Behaviour page!

 

Example treat bags:

Bag

Size

Opening

Attachment

Extra Features

Hip Bag Baggy Belt

17x12cm

Zip

Belt

Extra pocket and pouch, ‘D’ ring

Deluxe Baggy Treat Bag (Large)

14x10cm

Drawstring

Belt clip

None

Clix Pro Training Bag

15x22cm

Magnetic Popper and Drawstring

Belt clip

Rear pocket, front pouch, velcro strap

PetSafe Treat Bag Sport

19.5x16cm

Metal Snap Opening

Belt and Belt Clip

‘Inner’ pocket, outer pocket, elastic loops

Mini Treat Bag

9x7cm

Drawstring

Trigger Hook

None

Hurtta Motivation Pro Treat Bag

23x15cm

Metal snap opening

Belt and belt clip

Extra pockets (one with poo bag ‘pull through’, Metal Caribiner

Maxi Snap Bag

18x20x14cm

Drawstring

Belt

Additional pockets, D-ring, removable insert

Terry Ryan Training Bag

16x22cm

Metal snap opening

Belt and belt clip

Extra front pocket

Dog Activity Goody Bag

11x16cm

Plastic snap opening

Belt clip

Extra front pocket

Training Lines Treat Bag

17.5x21cm

Zip

Caribina

None

Lambing live

Our most successful year, ever

Lambing is always a stressful time here at the croft and this year was no exception. It’s filled with sleepless nights watching restless sheep and anxious days peering at fragile looking lambs wondering if they’re feeding properly. This year was made a wee bit easier by the installation of our CCTV cameras. Instead of spending hours in a chilly shed, we could monitor all the activity from the warmth of the house, only needing to venture out when a lambing was actually in progress.

It all went much more smoothly than usual and of course we could see which lambs were feeding and which ones needed a bit of help. One particular boy (we named him Polka-dot, after we marked him with a blue spot so that we could recognise him instantly in the crowd), spent his time standing hunched in the corner. We eventually came to the conclusion that he wasn’t getting enough milk so with the aid of an obliging goat, we supplemented his mother’s milk. He is now fat and healthy.

Most of the births were straightforward, the ewes producing mainly twins but there were a couple of singles. No triplets this time which is good for the mothers as it’s easier to cope with two. However, we did have one first-timer that gave us cause for concern. After watching her all night on camera, she finally got started in the early hours, but the lamb was going nowhere. It was stuck fast. Thanks to the assistance of our obliging neighbour, an experienced sheep farmer, now retired, and some baling twine, we managed to heave the enourmous lamb out.

Despite the fact that it took quite a while and its tongue was blue, it survived and is now thriving. What a relief and we were so grateful for the help, you learn something new every year.

Only one left to lamb now and she is certainly taking her time. All the rest are ready to be vaccinated and move on out to pastures new.

In other news, Fin seems to be responding to the medications and is feeling a lot more comfortable now.

The ginger one

Getting to the bottom of Fin’s problem

It’s been a difficult month with regard to our 13 year old rescue boy Fin.  We adopted him from Vigil German Shepherd Rescue when he was just 2 years old (who can resist a ginger GSD!), and for most of his life, he has been fit and healthy.  However, last year he was struggling to go to the toilet, and since he absolutely refused to be examined the nearest diagnosis we could get for his symptoms was colitis.  He had a course of steroids which affected him quite badly at the time but seemed to cure the problem, along with a complete change of diet.  He was doing pretty well until recently.

The symptoms were back so we returned to the vet and this time he was sedated to allow a thorough examination.  The conclusion was anal furunculosis, also known as perianal fistula, which may have an underlying allergic or autoimmune cause.  We had no knowledge of this horrible disease so set about researching it online and joined a group dedicated to it, which was very useful.

Although steroids helped last time we didn’t want to risk the side effects again so, along with our vet, looked for other options.  The most popular treatment seemed to be Cyclosporine (Atopica) which is incredibly expensive and although we were offered an alternative drug, it ran the risk of pancreatitis.  We rejected that and plumped for the cyclo, combined with Ketoconozole, which reduced the cyclosporine dose and therefore the cost.  Having agonised over it and made the decision, we discovered that the keto had been withdrawn due to severe side-effects in humans.

We were back to the Cyclosporine on its own, although once the problem was under control, we could use a cream to keep on top of it.  We requested a prescription from our vet, which they gladly supplied, and sourced the cyclo from an online pharmacy at a considerably lower cost.

Once again we had to change his diet to a “novel” protein to try to rule out food allergies.  Given that our dogs are raw fed and we raise a lot of our own meat here on the croft, it was difficult to find something that he had never eaten.  Buffalo or kangaroo came to mind!  In the end we chose duck.  He has started his diet and seems quite keen on it and we are awaiting the arrival of the drugs.

We will let you know how he gets on and if anyone has any experience of this disease or advice to offer, we would be pleased to hear from you.

On another note, lambing has begun with three sets of twins so far and the cameras are worth their weight in gold – no more spending hours in the freezing cold watching the sheep puffing and panting!

 

Scanning

We gear up for lambing

It’s been a busy month.  With lambing imminent there were many preparations to make.  All the pens needed to be mucked out, the hay moved and new lights installed.  The weather was a worry, we bought all the ewes in for a week to get them out of the wind and rain.

Every year we muddle through and sadly lose a few lambs so this time we decided we wanted to take the guess work out of it.  We tracked down a lovely man who came along one evening and scanned all our possibly pregnant girls.  It was very exciting and we discovered who was in lamb, how many they were having and their estimated due dates.

It was all very useful but we went one step further and installed CCTV cameras in the lambing shed.  We are now all hi-tech and can monitor the ewes from the comfort the house!  We are thrilled that we will be able sit in the warm kitchen instead of trudging down to the shed through the mud or snow, in the middle of the night.

There is also an added advantage.  Some of the ewes seem to hide their birthing signs when we are watching them close up, so by using the cameras we should be able to see what is really going on without disturbing them!

At the moment all that we can see are a few chickens and cheeky mice but we are looking forward to the next month or so when all the ewes will be tucked up in the straw beds with us observing from afar.

Waiting for Santa Claus

Christmas eve and the dogs are chilling

It’s been a busy month.  We have been packing and posting parcels from morning until night so now we are all enjoying a little respite.

We finally got the beef back from the butcher and it was absolutely delicious.  No prizes for guessing what we’ll be having for Christmas dinner!

The weather has been pretty dreadful, but not for the usual reasons.  Instead of inches of snow, we have had to endure gale force winds for weeks and unfortunately, lost the roof of the cow shed.  Luckily we no longer have cows to fill it.

Rather than trying to fight our way across the field with bales of hay and buckets of water whilst nearly being blown off our feet, we decided to bring all the sheep indoors where they are easy to manage.  They are all tucked up on a thick straw bed and very happy

We are looking forward to a few well-earned days off over the festive period, although they’ll be no respite the croft chores.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

The lamb after the storm

We discover a sickly lamb, just in the nick of time

We were doing our morning rounds after a particularly wild and stormy night when we noticed that one of the lambs was missing.

After racing over to the paddock, we discovered her laying on her side in a muddy puddle unable to get to her feet.

Luckily she was still alive but only just.  We immediately bundled her into a wheelbarrow and rolled her back to the shed.

Once inside we tipped her out onto a thick bed of straw, propped her up with a square bale and then hung the heat lamp above her to try and stop her shivers.

Next we had to try and get something inside her and since it was obvious that she was in no condition to eat anything, we filled a syringe with a ketosis drench (used for twin lamb syndrome) and squirted that down her throat.

For the next few hours we monitored her progress as she gradually returned to the land of the living, giving her another drench and making sure she had water and some hay to nibble on.

Within a couple of days she had made a remarkable recovery and could was eating normally but was still off her feet, so we lifted her up and held her until she got her balance.

She is now back to normal and baaing loudly for food every time we walk into the shed.  She will soon be fit enough to re-join the others outside.

Even though they have a shelter in their field, they rarely seem to use it, so we think she must have fallen over in the storm and wore herself out trying to get back up.

Thankfully this time it was a happy ending.

 

 

Lexxie puts safety first

Lexxie wears her Flashing Safety Vest

Like most dogs Lexxie loves going out for a walk in the park, but her dark coat makes it very difficult to see her even when she is quite close by.  To complement her lighted collar, she now wears a Safer Life Flashing Safety Vest which has a lighted band and reflective detailing and paw prints.

The lighted band is situated right across the back of the dog, giving it a wide angle of visibility.  Plus, it prevents the hair on long coated dogs from obscuring the light, as can occasionally happen with lighted collars.

Lexxie’s mum is pleased with the result.  “We are delighted with the vest and would have no hesitation in recommending the product. It has actually encouraged me to get out more on those dark nights, I can let Lexxie off in the park and see her, the reflective motif is also highly visible along with the light.”

Lexxie looks pretty happy too, and very dapper indeed!

The cows have left the croft

We say goodbye to our Dexters

This month our last two cows, Rosie and Albert have gone away to be dispatched.  It ends our dabbling in cow husbandry which, if we are honest, wasn’t a great success.  Although, if you tasted the beef that came out of it, you may not agree.

We initially wanted a housecow, a quiet beast that we could milk.  Shetlands were our preference but somehow we ended up with a Dexter, supposedly the perfect cow for a smallholder, not too big and easy to handle.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t our experience.  Maybe we were just unlucky in that we managed to buy a highly strung beast and then breed more highly strung calves.  Or maybe it was just our lack of cow-handling skills.

We bought a crush and heavy metal gates to allow us to safely carry out routine TB testing or AI, but actually getting them into the crush was very difficult.  When there was a need for some sort of procedure, we would “train” them for weeks beforehand by constructing a pen feeding them only inside it, until it was possible to close it up without them spooking.  Even so they were jumpy and if we shut them in and they heard the dogs barking at the arrival of the vet, they would start looking for an escape route.  In fact once, Pippa, the start of all our troubles, managed to lift the gates up and get out.

Of course, it wasn’t all bad, and we had 4 calves born on the croft, the last of which we reared on goat’s milk as the mother wouldn’t let him feed.  We never did manage to milk any of them, hence the reason we got the goats.  But the one thing we can never criticise is the quality of the meat.  Best beef we have ever tasted by far.

We are sticking to sheep from now on, they are far easier to manage although those rams can be a challenge at times!

Sheep turnovers

We get the sheep in a spin

This month has been all about sheep.

At the beginning of the month, Animal Health carried out routine testing for brucellosis.  Thankfully we were all clear, it hasn’t been present in Scotland for years now, so we didn’t want to be the ones who upset the apple cart!

Later than we hoped, we managed to separate the ewes that were to join one of our tups.  We were aiming for the beginning of September but were two weeks behind schedule.  Nevertheless they are all together now and we will be looking forward to lambs around March next year.

Once we had those sorted it was time to pick the lambs from this years crop that we would keep.  There was no real formula, just ones we liked the look of or who came from our favourite ewes.

With that done the remainder would be sold at the local mart.  Before that could happen they needed to be smartened up for their appearance in the ring.

We built a pen and rounded up a couple of ewes and the rest of the lambs.  All without the aid of Jack, he’s not quite ready yet, but he has been practising!  The only exit from the pen, was our “new” (to us anyway) sheep turner.  Our beasts are not small, they are probably the size of a shetland pony and are not easy to upend for routine work.  This device grips them securely and then turns them upside down so that you have full access and they can’t get away.  It still takes a bit of muscle to flip them but it’s much easier than alternative methods, plus the fact you no longer have to bend.

With them incapacitated on their backs like a beetle, we happily trimmed their feet, re-tagged any that were necessary and chopped off any grubby fleece.

We were done in no time and they were looking smart.  Hopefully they will command a good price at the market.

The goat hotel

Upgrading the goat pens

This month we have been busy upgrading the goat accommodation in the shed.  The goats were living in one large pen but that was giving us no end of trouble.  More than a year on and Lily’s kid Lulu will just not stop suckling.  We have separated them for months at time but as soon as they are reunited, she’s back on the milk.

Both Lily and Belinda are milked twice daily and we use that milk for cheese, butter and ice cream so with the now nearly fully grown kid taking a huge part of it, it’s a real problem.  We have tried taping Lily’s teats with micropore and painting on Stop ‘n’ Grow but whereas this might deter a nail biter, it seems goats like the taste and the tape was soon removed.

We decided to split the big pen into three and spent several weeks building their new living quarters.  We have learnt a thing or two about goats since we built the original pens.

  1. Put the hay racks up high.  Goats mostly stand on their hind legs to eat it where they take it out of the top of the rack and scatter it all over the ground.  Once it’s been on the floor, they won’t touch it.  It gets trodden into the bedding and wasted.
  2. Don’t put the water bucket anywhere near the hay.  They won’t drink from it if there is a strand of hay floating on top.  But more importantly mount the bucket on the wall, higher than their tails (to avoid accidents)!

The new pens have been made from fence posts and recycled pallets and now they are finished look very professional and also cosy.

We have put Lily in her own room as since she’s such a softie, the other goats tend to bully her.  Next to her is her naughty kid, Lulu so that they can remain close but she cannot get access to the precious milk.  She is housed with the other kid Betsy, who belongs to Belinda.

Belinda herself is back living with her original roommate Anastasia.  Those two seem to rub along fine with just the occasional head butting session.

In addition to the above, we have also built a second milking table so now we are able to milk two goats at the same time – progress!

With the girls all happily settled in their new homes, that frees up the rest of the shed for lambing time – a way off yet but it’s best to be prepared.