Monday, 18 January 2016

My Week With Pablo, the Dog Whisperer and Dog Psychology.

I am going to start this weeks blog with a warning, if you are not a big fan of dogs you may want to skim read, look at the pretty pictures and wait for next week's blog.  The reason I am saying that is because this week I have had Pablo pretty much all to myself, with Jimi leaving at 6:30 AM and returning at 7.00 PM Pablo has pretty much been my full responsibility. I guess you could say we have quite an extreme regime with Pablo and we put a lot of time and effort in deciding how we wanted him to fit into our lives before we got him.

I have a huge soft spot for dogs, for me they are probably one of the biggest pleasures in life, my love of dogs and generally all animals goes back to when I was a very young child, I was lucky enough to have grown up with a beautiful German Shepherd dog called Rocky. We got him when I was five years old and he was with us till the age of 13, he was as much part of my family as any of us were and I still have a framed photo of him in my house today.

When I was in my early 20's I started to get a really strong urge of wanting a dog, however with my very busy schedule and career and all the teaching and performances and competitions I was doing it was pretty much impossible. Luckily I was quite strong minded and even though I wanted one so badly I knew that I should be fully responsible for looking after it and therefore I didn't get one till 16 years later. Can you believe that I actually waited 16 years!!
I have to be honest in all that time not one year went by when my urge of owning my own dog wasn't there.
So you must be asking, how did you do it ? how did you manage to wait so long?  Well, Seeing as I knew I couldn't have my own dog for a very long time I decided that window shopping was the next best thing, so I decided to buy books on different breeds of dogs and I started reading about them. I learnt about utility dogs, working dogs, toy dogs and so on. This made me realise that I had so many options as far as what was the best for me it gave me a great excuse to take plenty of time to investigate and find the perfect breed. 
As my search and hobby of all things 'Dogs' Continued over the years I was lucky enough to come across a TV program that some of you may know called 'The Dog Whisperer' by Cesar Milan and thats when I got really interested in dog psychology.

I remember thinking" this is the best thing ever" and having a real admiration for Cesar. It was incredible he could turn a dog with behavioural issues around in what seemed like minutes, in reality it was probably a few hours he spent working with the owners and dogs condensed down for the purposes of a tv show but even so it was still amazing! 

I watched episode after episode and the more I watched reoccurring problems and heard Cesar talk to the owners the more I became interested in the mind of a dog. It certainly made me realise that owning a dog was not as simple as I first thought, and that pretty much all behavioural problems stem from us owners not the dogs, as Cesar says he 'teaches people and rehabilitates dogs'. 
Therefore I made a decision that when the day came that I was able to own my own dog I would abide by Cesar's methods and I would put them to the test in the hope that I too one day could have a 'balanced dog'

If your'e wondering a balanced dog is a dog that has definite leadership in its owners, it is a dog that is completely fulfilled in life by us the 'owners' prioritising the animal, the dog, the breed and finally in my case Pablo.  I am not sure if that makes sense but in essence it means that for example 'Pablo' is firstly an ANIMAL, to be precise he is a DOG with specific BREED instincts and finally he is known to us as Pablo. Most people (as would I if I hadn't watched 'the dog whisperer' and read so many books) would simply think of him as little cute Pablo and rather than provide for his actual needs would smother him with affection, affection, affection and not a lot else.

The other amazing thing I learned watching so many of the episodes from the show was that most behavioural problems stem from dogs not getting enough exercise, some breeds,(but I'd say most) have a huge amount of energy and this has to be released by them in some way. So if it's not being done by going on productive walks it will be passed on into other areas most probably through excessive barking, jumping, over excitment and so on. I've learnt and strongly believe in Exercise - Discipline - Affection in that order. 
When we first got Pablo we made a real effort to use these rules to try and establish ourselves as 'alphas', we would come down in the morning and not make a big fuss over him, we would then take him on a good 20 minutes walk making sure he was staying by our side when he was on the leash, we used and still use treats as a reward and also to lure him back to us when off leash. 
When we got back home we would feed him (which in his mind is the reward after the hunt) and finally after all these things had happened in this order we would give him a good old cuddle and fuss. The great thing about sticking to this order is he would be in the right frame of mind, he had exercise, discipline and was now calm and relaxed ready for affection.  There are so many basic things that we did religiously with Pablo when he was was a puppy that we still do today because they become a part of your daily life and when you see the results in your dog, why do it any other way. 

I'm certainly not saying that this is the only and correct way to own a dog, as I believe everyone has different ideas on what sort of relationship they want with them. I believe some people actively want an excited, boisterous dog who sleeps on their bed and leads the walk, and to be honest there's nothing wrong with that its just a personal choice. I simply wanted to share my personal experience having seen the results of the methods we use with Pablo, for us he is an absolute delight and a joy to have around. 

If I wanted to cover every single aspect of dog psychology I have read over the years this would be a very long blog, For those of you who would like to find out more about it below are several books available by Cesar Milan and other authors I have enjoyed reading. Most of the books talk about the various methods but also the authors life stories too, and how they found themselves working with dogs. 

Another person who's books I've very much enjoyed reading is Jan Fennell, interestingly so many of the methods of dog psychology she uses are very similar to Cesar's, there are only a few slight differences which I believe are down to where they both live. Cesar is Mexican and lives on a ranch in LA whilst Jan Fennell is British and lives in the UK. The great thing is you can pick and choose methods from each so you have the best of both. 

A slightly more recent book I read was by Ian Dunbar, again there are many crossovers in their methods but also some slight differences too. I came across Ian Dunbar through one of Cesar's books, knowing that him and Ian had a few differences in opinion he actually went to meet Ian and share and compare their methods, it was a great touch to the book and emphasises that you really need to take in all the information you can and do what works for you.

Luckily having Pablo keeps me very fit whilst not on tour, we go on 2 one hour walks or there about's a day. We don't mess about either sometimes it feels like we are power walking and I can certainly feel the benefit that's for sure. He's often in the gym with me too trying out some of the equipment as you can see below. LOL!

We have another week of intense walking and preparation to get me feeling good for our opening week in Southend on 26th January with 'The Last Tango' tour. And at the moment we are well on track. I'm going to miss him very very much when I'm on the road. 

If you have any questions and would like to speak to a professional for advice or guidance then check out 'Dog Trouble' in Wokingham, Jo is a good friend of ours and has worked with Cesar in the past. Visit Jo's website here

Video Of The Week

Here's a very inspiring video

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

My Week - Christmas, Clowns, Russell Grant and Ted the Pomeranian!

Firstly I'd like to say I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. I have to say it is been one of the best Christmases I've had in a long while, last year being in the West End was an incredible experience over the Christmas period, however it was a different sort of Christmas where you have to consistently concentrate on a task and of course my task was Dance 'til Dawn, that was my priority and other things have to be second in line. This year I have had probably the longest Christmas I've had in years, my decorations and tree were up by the 4th of December as I wanted to make the most of my break, I managed to spend lots of time with family and friends which is a rarity for me. One of the highlights of my Christmas this year was a theatre show that I went to see with Jimi and some of my family, it is called 'Slava's snow show' at the Royal Festival Hall in London. I've not seen all that many theatre shows however this was one that left me and my family talking about it for days after, we absolutely loved it. It was created by Slava Polunin, the show in essence takes you back to your childhood dreams it helps the audience to be released from the jail of adulthood and rediscover their forgotten childhood. The cast are all clowns but not clowns as we know them these clowns are able to portray a tragi-comedy and magically fuse drama with laughter. It is a great show for children however at times a little scary just like children's dreams can be, I believe it is the adults in the audience that really engage with what's happening on stage and are left with the magic of the show for days after. As my dad said it is a show not to be missed and I would love to go back next year and relive the same experience over again. 


Here is a short Poem from the 'Slava snow show' programme 

I Love Theatre
Born of dreams and fairy-tales,
A theatre, ritualistic and magical, a festive spectacle,
A theatre arising from images and gestures, from play and imagination,
A theatre where spectators and actors create together,
A theatre of hopes and dreams, suffused with solitude and longing, premonitions and disillusions,
A theatre that is like a joyful bridal procession, where I attempt to 'wed' all the facets of life,
A theatre on the edge between art and life, tragedy and comedy, absurdity and innocence, cruelty and tenderness,
A theatre that is constantly changing, that thrives on spontaneous improvisation and dearly respects tradition,
A theatre that eludes all definition and uniformity, and all attempts to usurp its freedom.

Just after the new year I had  a lovely surprise visit from the one and only Russell Grant my very own Mamma Rose. I was given a gorgeous copy of his new colouring book which is now number one seller on Amazon, I am so pleased for him, he asked me to say a huge thank you to everybody that read my previous blog and purchased a copy. We were talking about future projects that are in the pipeline for both of us and we were also remembering some of the bizarre thing that we have been asked to do in the past, I think Russell's list is probably a little longer than mine as I shy away a little more from out of the ordinary requests, having said that some time ago Vincent and I did dance with a vacuum cleaner!

You can Order Russell's book on Amazon here

As we were going through some photos and videos we came across this!! Russell Grant as the Love Guru filmed last year.... Love it! 

Here's Russell! But I think i remember somebody else being a Love Guru at some point LOL

Russell came to see me with his lovely friend and driver Matt who has a gorgeous Pomeranian dog called Ted, there is always room in my blog for a photo of me and a cuddly dog lol, don't be jealous Pablo! 

It will not be long before I will be back on tour with Vincent and our fabulous cast to continue our tour of  'The last Tango' this will take us all the way to July, our first venue will be the week of 25th of January and our 1st show will be on the Tuesday at the cliffs pavilion in Southend. We will then be moving onto Bristol, Sunderland, Wimbledon, Crawley and many many more theatres all around the Uk, Scotland and Ireland. we hope to see many of you at some of these venues.

You can see our Tour ScheduleBuy Tickets and meet the New Cast for "The Last Tango" here