A little bit of respect…

As a dog owner I see dog’s understanding more than we give them credit for, they know when your upset, angry or any emotion. They learn to respond to that emotion with a response, this can be sitting by your side, moving further away or a whole host of different behaviours.

As a dog trainer and behaviourist I know dogs understand more than we realise. They know how to not only comfort us, but also manipulate us into giving food or praise. We might think we train them, but in most cases they train us to react in a certain way. To start shouting at them when they are barking at the door, to us its trying to silence them, to them we are joining in to back them up.

Dog’s were bred to be our faithful companions and working counterparts. They are intelligent almost to a fault. The deserve our respect as much as we demand theirs.

I always tell dog owners that dog training is all about respect. The dog needs to respect you enough to do as you ask, simple things such as sitting at the door, or not pulling on a lead. It’s not about alpha or beta, or dominance. It’s about respect. Respect me enough not to pull, and I’ll respect you enough to go of lead and not disappear.

Remember that a dog needs access to water, the correct nutrition, exercise and social interaction to put it into simple terms. Things like off lead running, treats and play with other dogs are not 100% needed for dogs to live. They are privileges, and they come with an earned respect.

Now respect is earned not though terror, fear or even treats. It is about the bond that is created while training and learning together. It is getting things right, and the dog trusting you to steer it right when things go wrong. You train as a team, you train as a pair and in the end respect appears. The bond can be built with any dog, young or old, rescue or puppy.

So many people expect their dog to respect them, just because they are a human and they own a dog. Dog’s respect those who show it them back. No one earned real respect though intimidating others, so why would your dog respect you for it?

I work not only with my own dogs, or even just other peoples dog. I work with dogs abandoned by society , known biters. Dog’s who often lost respect for their owners and turned on them as the only way to gain respect. It wasn’t genes that made them do it, the “He was born that way” line never applies. He was forced to do that to get his point across because no one was listening, no one was respecting him enough to listen to why he wasn’t doing as he was told, or was chewing, or was snapping at them.

These dogs have to learn to respect once again, a mutual respect between dog and handler. Some take days once they see they no longer need to display the behaviour, some take months to gain that mutual respect back. Dogs are more than possessions, or tools. They think and act, but these actions depend 90% on what we are doing, or what someone has done to them.

My dogs don’t work for me because I make them, they work for me because they want to. They want to make me as happy as I make them. They enjoy their jobs, be that defending me, searching for drugs or just walking at heel working with other dogs in a consult. They want to work for me, because of our respect and bond. How many dog owners out there can say they truly believe their dog is doing things for them, and not on their own agenda?

Respect your dog, and your dog will respect you. Earn it, don’t demand it.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB NTIPDU MGoDT

http://www.cleverfoxcanine.com

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

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Rescue Dogs – Why I do it.

When I take on a rescue, I don’t do it to make money. I rarely do. Yes the dogs I have are sold on in most cases, unless they need a specialist home. I am not a charity and do not get funding help. Every dog I take on is to protect that dog, and it costs me from my own pocket. Anyone who has a dog knows dogs are costly. In many cases the dogs I take on have behaviour issues, and might be those due for death row because of their actions. Or their just the wrong breed to find homes.

People think I make great profits on these dogs. By the time I have fed and done training, paid out on some medication or vet treatment, I am out of pocket.

I don’t do it for the money, I don’t do it to be able to parade round these dogs as amazing cases of training. I do it for the dogs. Dogs that need to find working homes, or need someone to understand their needs before they can become a pet again. Someone who has the knowledge and time to steer these dogs on the right course.

Unlike a rescue I get to pick and choose what I take on. That is my perk, and why I won’t register as a rescue. These are dogs with potential to be a working dog. Either a Security Patrol Dog, or a Specialist Scent Dog. These are the jobs I want them to fill, and often have them succeed in. Sometimes they need pet homes or other working roles, but the reason I pick the dogs I want to work with is so I have successes not failures.

I can see the potential in any dog, their is always a place for them to fit into. These dogs seemingly too aggressive, or fearful, or reactive, or manic or crazy to be pets are the dogs that suit me. The dogs that need my training in order to be the best they can be.

While my dogs are my best friends and companions, they also need to earn me something back. Be that working as a security or drugs do, helping out with my behaviour consults, or helping alert me to when people enter the farm. They have to have a role with me. To some that might seem harsh, or blunt. We bred dogs for a working role, be that guarding, herding, catching, fetching, or companion and I think each dog should fulfil that role.

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Yes I charge for them, and they can be into the thousands for a well trained dog ready to go to work, but this takes hours of training time, with not only me but volunteers and other professionals. Often a few hundred pounds is their price, but the cost I have imputed is more than that. Your paying for a well trained dog, instead of for a puppy where things can go wrong. Some people want the puppy, others want the trained. Either is fine, as long as the dog has the right home which will continue its training.

I take on these dogs on my own time, fitting them round my Behaviour Training, Security Work, my own dogs, family life and my rest time. So they come out of my down time. They each get the time they need and deserve out of my own time. Its not 9-5 its 7-11 every day, 365 days a year. Rain or shine.

Sometimes I ask for help off people, donations of blankets for winter are something I ask for as people throw them out, and for me their gold dust. The occasional bag of dog food, or bag of meaty bones never goes amiss either with the dogs loving the food they are given. Everything is used, and the dogs benefit from it all.

I eat, sleep, dream and breath dogs. I’m working hard to provide myself with a dog life, and work towards the dream home for me, but dogs are factored into this all the way through.

Even if I can’t take a dog on I always try to help the owner and dog, offering kennels for a few nights discounted. Offering training for the new owners, to advertise the dog on my website or Facebook page. Offering what ever I can. I don’t know many other industries where people work so tirelessly to help animals and people alike for no financial reward, only that warm fuzzy feeling inside.

So if people think after all the hours I put into training, all the food I feed these dogs, all the vets visits that mount up, that I actually make a profit on these dogs. You must be joking. What I get from it is pride, pride a dog that people didn’t understand is now a trained and amazing working dog. In a role they were bred for and excel at, instead of stuck in a home where their behaviour is labelled as problem or dangerous.

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Canine Microchips – Downfalls. Check Yours.

So this blog post is warranted by a recent incident. A client’s dog had run off after some birds, and has not returned for over an hour.

She did everything right, staying put and calling the dog. Asking passers-by if they had seen the dog. Then calling in reinforcement once things had become more desperate. I was called to see if my dogs could track hers (No they can’t), so I came along with my partner to offer another pair of eyes and a familiar face for both owner, and hopefully the dog.

After several hours of searching turning up nothing we all feared the worst, but never voiced our concerns out loud. Thoughts such as being stolen, stuck and hurt or dead came to mind.

I posted the lost dog description on Facebook (The most powerful local social media there is at the moment). Well it proved to be the owner’s saviour. I had a call about 15 minutes after posting I had a call from the Dog Warden telling me the dog had been found. Relief all round at this point.

He then informed me that it was only by chance a work mate had seen the lost ad on Facebook and decided to call. The dog had a microchip, but it wasn’t resisted to anyone. The perplexed owner collected her dog, unharmed by her adventure and returned home. She later informed me that she had never sent off the paperwork to transfer her details of ownership. This dog was an adult and had been running around with no details attached to her chip.

This happy ending could have been spoilt if it was not for a well-placed lost ad.

Another story is of a chip deactivating. The vet at a check-up happened to check the chip placement, and it was nowhere to be found. The owners then had to pay out for another chip to be implanted and now have two registered to that dog. The chip had failed according to the vet, not an uncommon occurrence.

It’s lucky the vet had checked it that day, many vets do not unless requested to do so. I have had to ask the vet to check my dogs chips on several occasions, never have they told me that they are going to check it without being prompted by me.

They can move as well, upon checking my own dogs chips are still working, I found that my adult male Shepherds has slipped down his shoulder blade. It took a bit of searching to find it, as I kept on his spine for a while and then went down the legs. If people only check the neck I would be stuffed.

Many people have the details for their microchips somewhere in the house. Usually in an unknown place, and they wouldn’t even have a clue of the number. Should your dog go missing, do you even know what company to ring? There are several and ringing the wrong one is a waste of time and energy when searching for a lost dog. Keep a copy of the details in a car, safe and easy to access where ever you are should your dog go missing. Knowing the number and company it is registered too speeds up the process of reporting them missing.

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Something like this would be useful, I keep this in my car with all my dogs details. 

Many people might lose their dog for whatever reason, but unless the dog warden finds it there is little obligation for people to scan the microchip from the council, and most dog owners don’t carry a chip scanner. Vets will scan them, but have no obligation to look after those dogs for any period of time. Even people that find them, they should report it to the police and dog warden, but if it is a desired breed or just a nice dog people will keep them. A tag with your details on is a much quicker way to get reunited with your dog, as people will call the phone number on the tag first before trying to get the dog to a vet or call the dog warden. It makes sense.

It goes to show how microchips are of little use unless people actually update them or check them regularly. So do just that, and keep your dog under control and trained. Avoid areas where they could disappear unless you have a good recall. Think about keeping your garden secure to avoid escapes or people getting in. Make sure you dog is wearing a tag, that’s also the law.

I have now purchased a microchip scanner to go round checking client’s dogs chips are working, and people know the numbers. I can’ confirm lost dogs, but I can start somewhere to help owners know if their dog’s chips are working.

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New Halo Microchip scanner.

http://www.nawt.org.uk/advice/compulsory-microchipping-information-owners
This link has a bit more detail about the law now and fines, but it’s nothing really that informative.

 

 

Muzzles: Training for Emergencies

So as a Security Dog Handler my dog have to learn to wear a muzzle to pass the course. Allowing us to work the dogs in them, should the employer request it.

Muzzles are seen as a tool in the Security Dog industry, but for pet dog owners many see them as an indicator for dangerous dogs when out and about. But for many their dog are muzzled for a completely other reason, such as for hoovering food/rubbish when out on a walk.

I think all dogs should be taught to wear a muzzle, regardless of breed, age and behaviour. They are often required in times of great stress, mainly after an accident. You are adding to the stress by making your dog wear a muzzle, it might be needed for the dogs own safety, but you can save a lot of unnecessary stress by teaching your dog to accept the muzzle.

Training can be one of several ways, the main ones I teach will be described below, but remember you can teach these things how ever you want. These are ideas based on common sense training and experience.

1. Just shove it on:

What it says on the tin really, and it is how I have introduced my own dogs to the muzzle. We put the muzzle on, made sure it fit and then walked the dog around until it learned to accept it as part of the training. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea way of doing it, but it has worked for all of my dogs and they are fine to wear it both for the vets and working.

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My White German Shepherd, a fully qualified NTIPDU Security Dog wearing a leather basket muzzle, for at work or emergency situations. He is happy to wear it, and works in it well. This type of muzzle is only for short term use as the dog cannot drink with it, but can pant. 

2. Teach them to put it on:

This is great to do combined with other training such as target training, or clicker training. I don’t use both as I find them difficult, but its easy enough to do with some treats and patience. Basically put the muzzle in your hand, as soon as the dog shows interest tell them how good they are and treat them. Basically you are going to teach them to see the muzzle as a good thing, and a treat dispenser. Once they get the idea is holds treats, then you start width holding the treats until they go closer, the put their nose in the muzzle. This builds up to them putting it on by themselves, and wearing it strapped on. It;s a long process but it builds up the dogs to be used to their muzzle without stress, or fear. You have to keep training it as a good thing. You can also do this training with a toy, or reward item. Making the dog work to get the toy via putting the muzzle on.

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My Springer Spaniel Drugs Dog, a fully qualified NTIPDU Scent Detection Dog. He is used to wearing a muzzle for emergencies. Which came in useful recently after he broke his dew claw and needed to have an operation. He wears a fabric muzzle which are only used for emergencies as if worn correctly, the dog cannot pant at all. It is supposed to clamp the mouth shut so the dog cannot bite. 

3. Bribery:

Bibery is not training with treats, it is basically popping something nice at the end of the muzzle like peanut butter (Good quality without xylitol), marmite or cream cheese. Anything that sticks to the edges, letting the dog find it and start licking it in the muzzle. Then putting the muzzle on with them still after the treat at the end. It’s pure bribery combined with distraction. Works well fro many dogs, and is actually very good for dogs with aggression out of the house, as it gives the owner confidence their dog can’t hurt anything and the dog is distracted by the food.

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My Female German Shepherd wearing a Baskerville muzzle. The most common type out there and perfect all rounder for both pets and working dogs. They are easy to shove treats into if needed, they can pant, bark and drink with them on without harming other dogs, themselves or people. OR for many they can’t eat things off the ground. 

 

However you decide to train your dog to wear a muzzle, please do train them to wear one. It is so much easier in stress situations if the dog is already used to the muzzle.

Also once you have trained them to wear one, keep practising the training. Dog’s can forget about them after a long period without them, so aim to practice at least once a month once they are comfortable wearing them.

If you are unsure of where to start with the training and need some help, then feel free to get in touch to talk about the training or have a one to one session to get it started.

Kathryn Jones
http://www.cleverfoxcanine.com
A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

 

What’s in my Pocket? – Dog Training Treats

Many dog owners ask me what treats I have in my pocket. after exclaiming that their dogs won’t touch their treats for training.

Well I’ll run you through the main three I have in my pockets for bribing, rewarding and distracting!

I try to use only high quality and ethical treats. I my mind if you feed your dog well, like us they will thrive. Training doesn’t mean you have to feed your dog crap, adding sugar and additives to their diet, which can cause digestive upset or erratic behaviour for some dogs.

1. Pooch and Mutt ” Calm & Relaxed” Dog Treats. 

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These treats are wheat free, and natural. They include chamomile, which is well known for its relaxing properties in people, and now dogs. It also has L-tryptophan which aids the formation of serotonin in dogs. I use these treats, not only because dogs love them but they are essential in my mind to help dogs de-stress when we are training, as training can put dogs closer to their stress threshold than usual. They are especially useful when working with behaviour modification for aggression, fear or anxiety. They can help with training to change a dogs behaviour. While they aren’t a cure for all, any little help we can offer is used to help.

Buy: http://www.poochandmutt.com/

2. Beautiful Joe’s Ethical Dog Treats

These treats are pure dried Ox liver, farmed here in the UK, and then dried here too. No cheap imported imitations will be accepted. These are irritable to dog’s nationwide. A great reward for recall to get the dogs to come in like a rocket. Fabulous for training dogs on threshold as a good reward they want to work for, instead of their boring kibble.
Although if most dogs eat too much they can get the runs, it is great used in moderation.
The best thing about it is that every packet you buy, a packet goes to a rescue dog! Adding the feel good factor.

Buy: http://beautifuljoes.com/

3. Fish4Dogs Dog Food

Superior Adult Complete Small-Bite

Fish is irresistible to most dogs, its usually reserved for a treat as dog food is mainly chicken, lamb or beef based. Fish also SMELLS great to dogs, and for even no foody dog’s they provide a good distraction. The smell sets their nose going, overriding what is in their sites in some circumstances. I also use this as a treat that can be used as the bulk of the treats for rewarding as its not high fat, its potato rather than rice or wheat, along with the fish so doesn’t convert to energy fast. It can be used in higher volumes than the other treats, and as its not a treat it’s self it can be used without much concern for digestive upset. I use it with all my own dogs, and dog’s I train with and I haven’t had any complaints yet!

Buy: http://www.fish4dogs.com/

You don’t need to use fancy treats for dog training, for a foody dog you can even use their own biscuit for training, just take some out of their normal daily ration to avoid them getting a lot extra food, and putting on weight.

You can also make your own treats, their are loads of recipes out there to make them. Which ever you use, think about the adding of sugar or loads of wheat based ingredients as they can effect the dogs behaviour.

Always remember treats shouldn’t be the only thing used for training. Your voice, body language and toys should also be used, so the dog is well rounded and happy to work with you as an owner, not a treat dispenser.

Why GOOD Dog Training Advice, Isn’t Free Advice.

I have countless clients come to me after “Trying everything”, it quite often goes like this…. They have a dog that jumping up in the home, and generally is out of control while guests are there. The owner is now at its whit’s end, threatening the dog with re-homing if it doesn’t sort its behaviour out (As if the dog has a clue it’s actually doing something wrong?). They have tried shouting, smacking, treats, pet correctors, water bottles and bottles of rocks! EVERYTHING they tell me, and then in the same breath go on to tell me that I’m now their last hope for this dog (Thanks for that pressure).

Dog training is just that, TRAINING! Dogs are that not born knowing they should not steal the roast dinner off the table, or jump up at every guest. Training is needed to teach a dog what they get rewarded for, i.e. sitting on their bed while you eat, and what gets them told off i.e. stealing food.

You can get all the free advice in the world, from Aunt Sue, John down the street, even Vet’s and Pet Shop Employee’s (Who I can tell you now are some of the worst offenders for offering out free “Advice” on dog training and behaviour, which is really not helpful). This free advice will cost you in the long run though, as your dog gets more confused with your every changing behaviour towards them, mixed messaged and down right just being horrible.

Training sometimes needs tools such as corrective interrupters like Pet Corrector, but this MUST ALWAYS BE COUPLED WITH A REWARD once the dog is doing what you want them to do.

You can try everything on this planet, but if the dog only ever gets told off, how is it supposed to know when it is right? Use some Clever Training and think about what you are doing to your dog.

The biggest cost it has is on the relationship between you and your dog, they can no longer trust you to be consistant in your behaviour, they don’t know when their doing right, so quite often the dog will act out more than before to get your attention. It isn’t the right way to get attention but negative attention is still attention to a dog, especially to one who has been starved of reward attention.

It’s a Behaviourist’s worst nightmare to hear people say “I’ve tried everything” as you know it is going to be hard to get the dog and owner to engage as a pair again, and find a method that works to sort out the behaviour issues. It will also take more sessions and more of everyone’s time to change the behaviour that has now appeared from all the constant changing, as the dog isn’t looking for a reward in some cases, and is content with being screamed at. Not a nice life for a dog, and it can be difficult to get a dog to re-engage.

A loss of a dog can be the cost of free “Helpful” advice. Someone people have re-homed dogs for simple training issues, such as jumping at guests. I don’t begrudge anyone re-homing a dog as it is a hard choice, but doing it for behaviour issues without getting in professional help first is lacking care. If you truly care about a dog you shouldn’t be listing off the things you have tried before re-homing the dog, but instead saying about how you worked with a professional but the dog is no longer getting the quality of life it deserves, or even that the professional has suggested a different environment for the dog to be happier.

Get all the free advice you want, ask people and try it. But when you pay for a Dog Trainer or Behaviourist, you get someone who will work with you one to one, teach you about your dogs problems, and most likely highlight yours as well. They will sort out the problem using one or two training  methods, and I can almost 100% guarantee it will work within the first method as long as you listened to the trainer, if it doesn’t then they will come back to help. Not everything works first time. I have offered people second consults if the first training methods haven’t worked, and we have re-evaluated. Most training issues take one to three or four sessions to iron out, as you are changing a behaviour completely. Its hard for many dogs, and owners to grasp, so it is not going to happen over night.

I never give you free advice without seeing the dog first, what might work based on what the owner thinks is wrong, can be very different to what is actually taking place. Dog’s are complicated, almost as much as humans are. Suggesting an approach for one type of behaviour change, that is actually another under the surface can send dogs backwards in their training, create a aggression or learned helplessness. I have to see the dog and owner together, take in the environment, previous training and situation they are now in. If I suggested things without consideration I would be a dangerous trainer.

Dog Training takes: Time, Effort, Commitment, Patience and the ability to Admit Your Own Faults. Good dogs aren’t just a select few elite, all dogs are good when trained right, but soon go “Bad” if let to do their own thing, trained incorrectly or just not appreciated for what their role is i.e. working line breed in a low energy home. Don’t look for quick fixes or ask for advice off those without the knowledge or training, but instead learn to work with your dog.

So waste hundreds on gadgets, gizmos and training aids. Or spend a little on some good advice and training from a professional. I know which one my training clients now wish they had picked.

Kathryn

Clever Fox Canine Training and Security

“A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour”

Puppy Parties, Puppy Classes and Puppy Training

So you’ve got a new puppy, your excited about all the new interactions you will be having soon! You have singed up to the Puppy Parties at the local vets office, and put your name down for a 6 week Puppy Training course in the local village hall, or called a Dog Trainer to help. But which is best?

I will note my take on each, and let you decide.

You do all these things, you think your ahead of the game and your puppy will be ready for anything. Instead of getting that feeling, you have a puppy who is worried about things outside on walks, whom doesn’t play nice and bullies other dogs, who doesn’t listen to anything you say outside of the class. Now the puppy is going on 9 months, and your struggling to control them in the house at all. Your considering re-homing the puppy as its nothing like you thought it would be? Considering asking advice online? Using extreme correction to try and gain control? Or calling in a dog behavioursit?

Puppy Parties and Puppy Training Classes are brilliant for many dog owners if ran correctly, by educated people with knowledge of bringing up their own puppies and the knowledge of the new science in training.It teaches them good manners with both people and dogs, and to be focused and attentive.

On the flip side if your entering a Puppy Party with loads of puppies terrorising each other, what is it actually teaching your puppy? Your teaching them to bully other dogs, or be fearful of other dogs. The memories they get from 8 to 16 weeks stick with puppies the most. If they get terrified at a puppy party ran by a vet nurse with out any dog training and dog behaviour what are they teaching you and your puppy? In my mind, very little. But they are setting you and your puppy up for a lifetime of issues. Going to a class ran by a competent dog behaviourist and paying a little more is well worth the cost, rather than attending one free class where you and your puppy don’t get the help needed.

The best example I have is if your child was being terrorised by a child 4 times its size, but the same age would you step in, stopping them being thrown on the ground, bitten and dragged about. They are clearly showing distress and all you are saying it “They have to learn to play”. THIS IS WRONG. How can you let this happen to a little Terrier puppy with a Labrador puppy? This is not teaching them anything good, but to fearful of other dogs that might beat them up, or learn its ok to bully other puppies. It also teaches puppies they can just run up to other dogs and do what the hell they like. It is not educated and safe.

If ran correctly, with the organiser letting the puppies play but those that are the same size and temperament. Stopping any bullying behaviour with time outs, and distractions. It also created good memories of the vets office, meaning it is a lot easier for dog, owner and the vet when visits are needed.

Puppy Classes are brilliant at offering owners time in the week where they work with their dog one and one, in a supportive environment, with like minded people. If ran correctly the puppies learn to work around distractions, listen to their owner and it gives owners confidence to carry on training their dogs. As well as offering owners to advance their dog skills with further classes.

It can be a place dog owners can strive to better their dog handling, but it can also become a place of worry for both owner and puppy. Puppies can be worried about the hall environment, it can be loud and distracting, as well as all the dogs already in there setting up some more nervous dogs to be worried about groups of dogs and people. Owners can start to judge the progress of their puppy against everyone else, and get disheartened about not progressing as far as other puppies the same age. Hall’s are not realistic environments unless you are going to be showing your puppy, training a real environment like the home, park or shop is more realistic for you and your puppy.

The biggest thing I have against classes is that dogs often learn to only work in the village hall, instead of the real world where they reside. Dog’s are very good at being context specific if you don’t teach them to work everywhere. So a dog that excels in he safe environment of the class room, might run off or refuse to sit when on a walk. It is very frustrating for dog owners, and I think more classes should be run outdoors. Or more emphasis on owners doing home work with their dogs at home, and showing evidence of it. Dog’s only learn with repetition, but class teachers often get so stuck doing things a single way, they can’t be flexible to finding other ways for different puppies. Classes not focusing on sits, but on socialisation and each dog as an individual are better suited for puppies, who are all unique.

One to ones with a dog trainer and well mannered dog can set puppies up for a lifetime of good interactions and manners. It allows the owner time with the trainer asking about dog behaviour. The dog trainer can help owners identify fear, or stress behaviour as well as happy. This one on one training can be a real boost for new owners who want the training help, without the pressure of class environment. Meeting a well mannered older dog can help puppies understand the rules of dog life, and have confidence about interactions. Many people are also more likely to get in touch with the same trainer for help in the future, when they need it order to keep their dog on the right path, than struggle alone. But like the others their are down sides.

A single dog trainer cannot have as many dogs as a puppy class or party, and even puppies can be frightened by well mannered older dogs if they are much larger than them. The progress of the puppy also depends on the owner putting in the hard work, going to a weekly appointment encourages people to keep working hard. Working with a dog trainer once or twice has little intensive for less driven people to work hard on their puppies interactions in a good way, rather than by chance.Dog Trainers can also be idiots when it comes to puppies, they can hand out bad advice as well as good, unfortunately one bad bit of advice can last a life time.

The biggest thing from all of this is not to attend something for a few hours a week,  or only work with your puppy when the dog trainer is there. But instead learn how to teach your puppy, your instructor for any of these puppy start ups should be teaching you how to not only solve the behaviour troubles you are having now, but also teach you how to teach them for the future. Giving you information on the next stages of life and how to avoid behaviour issues.

Puppy training can set dogs up for life, but training doesn’t stop at 9 months, 12 months or even 18 months old. It is a life time thing, teaching dogs to cope with new changes or learn new tricks. Training young can allow owners to predict behaviour, but it cannot stop dogs getting scared or attacked, which can lead to unwanted behaviour. No amount of puppy training can undo some changes, and this is when you need to look forward for training, not backwards in order to help your dog cope, and learn better reactions to this event or situation.

Cost can be an issue for some dog owners, but please don’t skimp on your puppies start because of cost. Puppy Parties are usually free provided by the Vets in order to get you to stay with their practice, and buy their products such as their own brand food, or wormer. Puppy Classes can be anything from £5 to £15 per class depending on the trainer, area. One on One Training with a Dog Trainer can be from £30 up to £50 or more depending on the trainer. I charge £40 for the first session, then £20 per hour for any sessions after, this also includes unlimited phone calls for advice and help. A Behaviour Consult for adult dog with aggression or fear issues is £60 and then you tend to need about 5-6 more sessions to sort it out, so which is cheaper in the long run?

How ever you choose to start your puppy off, don’t think one session training with a trainer or a 6 week course, means you don’t need to work with your dog for the rest of its life. Dogs are a 10-15 year commitment and training goes on forever with them.

I only offer One to One Training with puppies, using my own trained dogs to give puppies good interactions. I also guide the owners through the whole dogs life, working with the owner every step of the way, from toilet training up to introducing another dog to the now adult dog. Literally every step of the way. I am here to give the owners peace of mind they are not alone with their puppy, and their is always someone at the end of the phone. I have followed countless puppies from small bungles of fur into adulthood. It is a lovely role to have and I know some owners would have given up with the support and guidance. I also offer a puppy class focusing on good manners with other dogs and puppies, learning in a real environment by running it in a coffee shop. I help each puppy through the course with you the owners by their side learning with them.

Whether you use me as a trainer, or attend classes, or puppy parties. Ask questions, learn as much as you can from those who know. Don’t just allow yourself to be dictated at, learn more through your puppy and most of all enjoy that time learning together.

DSC_0434

Start your puppy off correctly and reap the rewards later on in life. 

 

April: National Pet Month Top 10 Tips

With April closing, and May beginning, I thought it would be good to put all my top tips into one blog post.

It’s not going to be anything fancy. A reference place for anyone to find all my top tips for dog ownership and welfare.

These are all just small details, or advice about maintaining or improving the welfare of your dog. They are not rule to live by or things I think suit every dog. Just ideas to hopefully give you, the dog owner, more ideas to do with your dog.

TOP TIP #1 for responsible dog ownership.

Get your dog used to being touched all over, teaching them to see it as part of normal routine daily and nothing unusual. Many dogs get stressed enough at the vets just from being there, you can make it easier for them by teaching them it’s normal to be touched. From early on make sure you can touch all over, check in their eyes, nose, mouth and ears. Do it when your training, do it when your cuddling, and especially when your grooming them. Grooming also be included in at least a monthly routine for dogs, even short coated. More frequently for long, curly or wire coated. You might think it’s a waste of time at the time, but in the long run it will help maintain the welfare of your dog. Making it less stressful for visits to vets and groomers, and a dog that is relaxed is happy. Making it easier to apply lotions, ear and eye drops. It is also our jobs as dog owners to care for them, this means seeking appropriate advice if you do spot something different on your dog, and you can only notice change if you know what’s normal. Training it is so easy, you don’t need a trainer, just a toy, a treat or rest time, just add checking them over into normal play and cuddles. Easy. Your dog will thank you for it, and you could very well save their life. Photos are of me just playing with my white boy, adding in teeth and eye checks, along with grooming into our one on one time.

TOP TIP #2 for responsible dog ownership.
Mental Stimulation over Physical Activity
Don’t be tempted to just run your dog ragged to tire them out, their brain needs as much work out as their body. More so for some breeds.

Think outside the box for activities, such as not just throwing a ball but hiding it for them to find.
Filling an empty plastic bottle with tasty treats and letting the dog learn to knock them out.
Ice cubes! Freezing stock and gravy with food in the middle for them to work towards, this can also include filling a Kong Toy with some tasty food and freezing it.
Filling a muffin tray with balls and hiding dinner underneath them, making the dog work to get them out.
Scatter feeding their dinner on the garden, making them use their nose to find their food.
Hiding toys in a ball pit or in boxes, letting them destroy the boxes to get to the toys.
Training the dog something entirely new such as a down stay, drop on recall, collect their toys into their bed/basket, or searching for family members.

There are activity toys on the market, but you needn’t break the bank as long as you think outside the box. Mental stimulation provides a better workout than physical exercise for the same time input. It also builds the bond between dog and owner.

 

TOP TIP #3 for responsible dog ownership.
Are you ready for an emergency?
When ever you travel, with or without your dog things can go wrong. Be a responsible driver and not only drive in alignment with the law, but prepare for the worst. An Accident.
I’ve got this very document in my van for when ever I drive. It has the key information for anyone whom should find me in an accident. It allows the emergency services easy access to contact details for next of kin for myself, and my dogs.
This is something you should have even if you don’t have dogs. The biggest difference for the dogs is the addition of the chip numbers so you can inform the local dog warden, and chip companies should the dogs get free and flee the scene. Much quicker than digging through old paperwork.
For each individual add in allergies you have, or medical details.
Add in where you would like to be taken for treatment, or if you are an organ donor.
While you might not like to think about the worst, you should prepare for it, for yourself and your dog.

TOP TIP #4 for responsible dog ownership.
Question your dog food!

Dog food is easy and convenient. Open the packet and pour, Right? Sure for some brands, that might be right. For other brands you might need to educate yourself a little.

So here’s a quick run through of what to look for in your packet of dog food. (This is a very basic run through, I am not a nutritionist. Do your own research, or ask a nutritionist if you want to know more).

1. The first ingredient should be MEAT. Not cereal, rice, wheat or potato. Ingredients run highest lowest, even if the percentage isn’t on the bag. This brand I use for my Iran dogs when I’m away working. It’s much higher than most brands, with the average probably being about 20-30% depending on the brand. The meat can be as exotic or mundane as you like, chicken to kangaroo! Make sure it’s dried or fresh meat, not ‘Meat and animal derivatives’ that’s the not so good stuff!

2. Rice, Cereal, Wheat or Potato are usually the next ingredient. Dogs aren’t really able to digest this so well and get very little nutrients out of it, but a lot of sugar. So the more of these the more your dog can have sugar highs and lows, aberrant behaviour or skin issues as the dogs body tries to reject it! Less or non at all where possible. But they make dog food kibble like.

3. Avoid colourants. If the kibble is red, green, yellow, or basically any colour than brown it’s good colourants in. Colourants mean E numbers, and E numbers mean mad behaviours! You know what happens to kids filled with skittles…. Same happens to dogs.

4. High protein doesn’t always mean mad dogs. Protein used to always be blamed for mad dog behaviour. While it is what gives the dog energy in basic terms, it isn’t the be all and end all of the food. Puppies need lots growing up to help grow right, adults need less and it needs to be based on their life style. But a high content doesn’t mean mad dogs, it’s the quality. If it’s based on a high meat content, then it’s good protein. If it’s based on a high plant content it’s not as easy to process and can lead to mad dog behaviour.

In my personal opinion the best food for dogs is raw meaty bones, meat, and organ. The Raw Diet. It’s natural, you know what’s in it so their is no crap! It’s easy to do once you’ve started, and you’ll dog will thank you. Their is loads of help out there. Just ask me where to start, or get googling! Companies such as Honey’s Real Dog Food Natural Instinct, Nutriment, and Nature Diet are all there to help you every step of the way.

The food label used in this image is Platinum Dog Food, it’s the closest to raw I can get for traveling about. Other brands I recommend are Fish4Dogs, Lily’s Kitchen, Pooch and Mutt, Barking Heads, and Nature Diet.

Don’t be fooled by the pretty dog pictures on a packet,or think because it’s approved by vets it’s the best. Educate yourself so your not blinded by the crap! I could go on all day about dog nutrition, but I won’t. Instead I encourage you the dog owners, to educate yourself for your dogs welfare

TOP TIP #5 for responsible dog ownership.
When a cuddle just won’t do.

Stress! All dog’s and people get stressed. Sometimes at the small things, and sometimes at the big changes. People and dog’s react differently depending on their experiences and personality.

While for some dogs training can help them cope, for others they need a little help. Help that can’t be provided through training.

Dog’s live in our world, not the other way around. They don’t speak fluent English (Knowing what “Walkies” means does make them fluent), but are expected to understand. Keeping routines and training on point can help those who are little more stressy cope with the changes, but for some constantly not being in control can effect their behaviour.

We can help them cope with our behaviour, such as cuddling, changing routines, and starting small changes early before a big one. Changes that can upset dogs can be house moves, new dog, new baby, new job, pretty much anything.

When training alone can’t help the dog, I turn to complementary therapies to help the dog calm from the inside. I don’t use chemicals, or drugs. But instead natural calming products, that I have used myself and that work.

1. Adaptil
A synthetic version of the pheromone a bitch produces when she has a little of pups to keep them, herself and other dogs quiet. Works really well to keep dogs calm.
http://www.adaptil.com/uk
2. Pet Remedy
A Valerian compound that naturally stops the neurotransmitters in the brain from firing. Stopping the dogs getting so stressed. It works on people as well! So very good helping the whole family.
http://www.petremedy.co.uk/
3. Rescue Remedy
A natural mix of essences from nature that help during stress or emergencies. Helping to calm and focus.
http://www.bachflower.com/rescue-remedy-information/

These are all to aid with training, they are not quick fixes but to aid with training and changes. I sell both Adaptil and Pet Remedy as I really think they work to help dogs, and their owners with change. So ask me about them during consults, I sell below RRP where possible.

Changes happen, but there is no shame in helping your dog cope. Making them and you happier.

 

TOP TIP #6 for responsible dog ownership.
Tasty Enrichment.

If you’re a biscuit feeder, then your dog will get the same meal every day. Boring ay?

Start enriching their lives with some tasty added extras, as a treat or reward.

You don’t need to go out and buy fancy sugary treats, when you will have most of these things in the house already.

1. Natural Yogurt. Great to hide pills, and supplements. It’s tasty, with no added sugar and dog’s go mad for it! Mine adore it off the spoon or on their food. Some also contain great probiotics, for digestion and health. (Some dogs can be lactose intolerant so be away of not feeding a huge amount).

2. Eggs. Scrambled for some dogs as a warm meal after lots of stress or illness. Raw with shell on their food, if possible. They are filled with Calcium and Protein for the dogs.

3. Carrots. While they don’t hold a huge amount of nutrition for a dog, they are great teeth cleaners and take some dog’s ages to chew down. Great boredom buster.

4. Fish. Skins off the salmon your cooking, a tin of sardines now and then. Lots will upset the tummy or as an occasional treat it’s great. Fab for eye, coat and skin health.

5. Seasonal Fruits. Come Autumn when the berries are ripe on the bushes my lot will go picking by themselves. With the power of frozen, they can have fruit all year round. A sweat natural treat, as a healthy alternative to sugary treats.

Improve your dog’s welfare by adding in extras, it engages their senses and gives them something to look forward too. They are also great for adding into activity toys and hiding pills in.

It also makes you feel like your treating them, without adding on the extra pounds!

 

TOP TIP #7 for responsible dog ownership.
Doggy Body Language.

This Top Tip is more brief than the others. Basically have a good read of the poster below, take some time to learn what your dog is trying to tell you. Many dogs are trying to speak to use when their scared, stressed, excited or angry and we are missing all the signals.

We need to learn to speak dog better, as we teach dogs to speak human.

Dog body language isn’t as cut and dry as the poster makes out, but it is a start.

 

TOP TIP #8 for responsible dog ownership.
Respect Other Dogs.

The rule when on a walk with your dog off lead is that if you see another dog on lead, then you put yours on. You do not allow your dog to run up to them, possibly scaring them, or causing a fight. It is not good manners, and its down right dangerous.

Unless your dog has a 100% recall then don’t let it off, to bounce other dogs. The other dog might be nervous, in pain, in season or in training. If your dog was in the same position would you be all that pleased if your dog was bombarded? No not really.

Think about the other dog before allowing your dog to run off, its so easy to achieve a recall away from other dogs back to you. Pop the dog back on lead and then talk to the owner if it is ok for the dogs to interact.

On the flip side if your dog is off lead, and their dog is off lead also it is generally ok for your dog to go in and interact with them. Just use some common sense, if the owner is on their phone not watching or they have no control of their dog, move on past. Make your life easier.

Dog’s don’t need friends, they need you, a home, food, water and training. Dog interactions are a privilege not a right.

Their is an organisation trying to promote and educate owners to add Yellow Ribbons to their leads if their dogs need space. It is a growing movement and should be talked about more!

Find out more: http://www.yellowdoguk.co.uk/

I also wrote a Blog post about this before, based on my own experiences:https://cleverfoxcanine.wordpress.com/…/aggressive-dogs-th…/

Use your common sense when out and about. If your dog is friendly that is great, but imagine what it is like for those that aren’t.

 

TOP TIP #9 for responsible dog ownership.

Noise Phobias.

Many dogs freak out at noises we understand, we know its a train, fireworks or even a thunder storm. We cannot explain that to our dogs, but instead teach them not to be worried by them.

Many dogs have panic when encountering a noise they do not understand. This can lead to them running off, harming themselves and owners with panic. It’s also not a nice feeling knowing your dog is upset and their is not an awful lot you can do to help, cuddling can help, as well as carrying on as normal to help the dog learn you see it as nothing scary, but since we don’t speak dog it can be difficult.

Thankfully their are ways to help your dog adjust to these sounds. Starting off with puppies is easier, but it can be done with every dog.

Its a process called Desensitisation, which basically means getting the dog used to sounds, so it no longer reacts.

You can get App’s and CD’s but I use trusty old YouTube for videos of sounds. Basically play the sounds very low, barely a whisper while your dog eats, plays and is settled at night.

You need to keep the routine as normal as possible, if you start doing things extra with the sound the dog will see it as a cue for change and upset some dogs. We play them when distracted so it becomes background noise to the dog.

Building up the volume to almost as loud as they would be in real life, over a period of time. This time frame might be several weeks or even months. Never rush this, only turn the volume up over time and when the dog is relaxed with the previous volume.

This can help all dogs, even those without fears that you know of now. Rescues can benefit from this before the noisy season starts in Autumn/Winter so you don’t have the stressy nights.

This is not a fix, but just an idea to help all dogs owners.

 

TOP TIP #10 for responsible dog ownership. (We finally got there!)

Cherish Your Dog.

Dog’s aren’t here forever unfortunately; they live shorter lives than we do. It is a sad truth, so we should enjoy every moment with them until then.

I am lucky enough to work with my dogs as my job, and it means I have a bond with them that will last their lifetime.

Dogs are not ornaments or show pieces, they are parts of the family, or partners in crime.

As such I think more people need to take time to spend with their dog, not just sitting on the sofa watching TV after a long day at work, but instead taking time to do things your dog likes, such as training time, walking in new places or meeting new dogs. While people might not thing dogs crave such things, and the science doesn’t prove it, but tell me when you haven’t seen a social dog happy after learning a new trick or going out with their owner somewhere new such as a dog show, even joining a dog training club. Dog’s nee praise and love, training them to do something new and praising them is the highest reward for them. Enjoy your time together.

Think about devoting as little as an hour a week to one on one time with your dog, I don’t mean going on a walking on lead or sitting on the sofa cuddling. Instead inputting your time to teach them something new, or going out on a doggy group walk. Time to spend with them.

It doesn’t have to be hours and hours, just enough time for your dog to know you do love them and appreciate them. Maybe were thinking too much of dogs as a species to have that sort of intelligence, but I think they do. Anyone that knows their dog, knows when they are feeling, happy, sad or upset.

Dogs: Before the Baby Arrives

You’ve found out you’re pregnant, congratulations! Now all the celebrations have died down, and your planning for the delivery in nine months, don’t forget the dog.

Oh no! Not a baby!

(Image Link https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/53/80/be/5380bec97e62b262fcb6f007a205f337.jpg)
Dogs and babies have a lot of bad media attention, with unfortunate attacks and bad situations.
Putting in some work in before the baby arrives can save you the worry, and heart ache of possibly re-homing your dog.

Here are some steps towards helping your dog adjust to all the changes to come:

Sound proofing your dog!

This isn’t getting them to be silent, but instead getting them used to all the sounds a baby will make. The fancy term is Desensitisation, and its essentially teaching your dog not to react to baby sounds, allowing them to be calm round the new arrival.

You can get Apps (https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/sound-proof-puppy-training/id700513321?mt=8) or CDs to help with this, but you can use sound clips online (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hS08XsI6Vg) . Play babies screaming, crying, gurgling, toy sounds, laughing, making any noise while the dog is eating, playing, while feeding treats, training and sleeping.

To start off with they will be interested in the sound, but over time they will learn its part of background life, nothing to be worried about. Some dogs get used to this quickly, others take time, which is why it is important to start early.

Continuing right up to when the baby is born.

Get the baby gear early

Get the gear up ready in the house. Have it all over the place so the dog can get used to it, and just ignore it. Were trying to introduce things early in order for it to be normal, when the new baby arrives, so the dog has less change all at once. This gear includes the pram. Your going to want to be able to walk the dog next to the pram, so teaching it before the baby comes is a great idea. Get it out and set up, introduce it in stages.
1. Have it set up in the house, let them learn to ignore it.
2. Go for a normal long walk, when you come home go straight out with the pram. One of your walking the dog, the other pushing the pram. Walk around the block, and then come home as normal.
3. Do the last stage until the dog ignores the pram, then take the pram out with the dog along side. Walk as normal, and don’t make a fuss about the change. This is also a good time to either teach, or reinforce the “Heel” command, so they walk nicely not drag.
4. Get them used to you fussing with the pram, and play those baby sounds in it as well. They then learn to ignore the screaming baby in real life.

Always watch your dog while walking, don’t run over their feet and make sure their not going to jump in the pram.

Baby Toys

Baby toys are of great temptation for dogs, as before the arrival the rule was if it’s on the floor or your interacting with it, chances are the dog is going to get it.

So teaching the leave it, and swap is great to introduce now if they don’t already know it.

1. Get some tasty treats and a toy they like, let them pick up someone of there’s and play with it.
2.Offer them the treat or other toy, as soon as they let go give them what’s been offered with the word “Leave it”, with a cheery attitude.
3. Keep practising this, until they drop it on the command.

You’re not the chase them to steal it off them, yanking it out of their mouth or removing it. That teaches them to keep things. If they do run off, ignore them pick up something else or just leave the room. If they come to find you having dropped the toy, or bring it to you reward them and take it off them.

Its a tricky one to learn, but much needed for when the baby toys arrive.

Fake Babies

Start carrying round a fake baby, carry it from room to room, place it in the new baby gear. Basically treat it as a real baby, so the dog gets used to you having your attention on something else. Add in the baby sounds with a phone tucked into the babies clothes or cloth.

The dog might try to jump up to see what you have, instead of pushing them down with a hand. Lift a knee up to push the dog off balance, it means you have both hands on the baby, and the dog stops. Make sure you reward the dog for sitting quietly, instead of jumping.

Sit on the sofa with the baby, again we’re teaching the dog to leave you alone when you have the baby, so push them away if their too interested, or best to teach them to settle else where is to give them a good chew toy on their bed so they settle while your with the baby.
Teaching the “Move Back” command is great to introduce when you introduce the fake baby.
1.Start off with some treats in hand, get your dog in front of you and show them what you have.
2. Push a treat towards their chest, just under their nose. They’ll start to move back in order to get that treat. As they take a strap back give them the treat.
3.Once they’ve done it a few times, they will start to shuffle back on their own. So start adding in the command “Move Back” (Or any command you want).
4. Once they start to get it more, then you can stop putting the treat to their chest and instead flick your hand in the direction combined with the command, and they should move back.
5. Well done you’ve taught your dog to move backwards, keep practising in order for them understand it. To progress it start waiting longer or move further back before you reward them.
This command is great for when your sitting with the baby, its being changed on the floor or playing on a mat. It gives you space, and teaches your dog that if it keeps out of the way good things happen, instead of being shouted at.

Busy Moments

Your going to have busy moments, where unfortunately the dog will be in the way. So teach your dog to be happy settled in a crate or shut off room, while your still in the house so they can learn to settle when your busy, or when you have guests about. Teach your dog to enjoy their time alone by giving them boredom busting toys filled with treats, or long lasting chews.
Good products are Kong Chews and Wobblers, Antler Bars, Pizzle Sticks, Dried Tripe, Filled Hooves, basically anything that your dog can chew on and spend time eating.
They won’t like it to start but coupling it with complementary therapies (Such as Pet Remedy, Adaptil and Rescue Remedy), and doing it for 10mins a day to start, will lead up to your dog settling down when your out of the room. Building up the time over the days.

Routine

Routine goes out of the window with the arrival of the little one, so get your dog used to the change gradually. Start off feeding at different times, sometimes early or late. Other times in two meals instead of one, change it up.

Walking needs to be more random, different times and locations, even different people. Once the baby is here you might not have the time, or energy to walk the dog so start enlisting friends and family. The dog doesn’t miss out, and you get chance to rest.

Look into a dog walker, they really help not only for walking but they mean your dog can have fun with other friendly dogs.

Look into local kennels, while they might not be everyone’s cup of tea they are a safe, secure and knowledgeable place for your dog to go in an emergency and stay for a period of time should it be needed. Go see local kennels, talk to the owners and see dogs staying there. Take your dog there on a trial evening, see how they react to give you peace of mind.

Extra Help

Training can produce great results, but looking into complementary therapies for calming and de-stressing aids can really help make the transition easier for your dog. Especially for helping during the most stressful times, but are great to be used from the very start.

Pet Remedy is a Valerian based spray that stops dogs felling stressed. It’s great for spraying on bedding, or a collar, as well as anything that worries your dog such as the pram or cot. They also do a diffuser so you don’t have to remember to spray. It really helps stressful dogs settle, or normally calm dogs to stop them ever getting stressed out by all the change.
Adaptil is a synthetic version of the pheromone a mother dog produces when she has a litter of puppies, its used to calm both puppies and mum. Its great for dogs of all ages, to help them relax and settle with any changes in the home. It comes in either a collar or diffuser form, making it easy to help your dog.
Rescue Remedy is a Bach Herbal remedy designed to aid in periods of anxiety and worry, its easy to add to food or water. Can be used any time, and is great to pop on a treat and feed to the dog for unexpected visitors or upsetting noises.

Babies Arrival

Babies coming, make sure you have someone set up to walk and sort your dog once the big day arrives. Possibly have a few people on standby, or a kennels ready to take them on so you know their well looked after while your in labour.

Introducing your dog to the baby can be a scary moment, but the best thing is to remain calm. Greet your very excited dog without the baby first, let them get the sniffing and wiggles out of the way. Settle down with the baby calmly, then bring the dog in on a lead. Let them sniff and look at the baby, once done get them to settle down with a chew or go out on a walk. Be calm and settled, you’ve been training months for this and it will go to plan.

Once the baby has arrived, don’t be tempted to let someone else walk your dog all the time, or shut them out with a chew. They are part of the family, and need your time as well. So make time for them, get them out with the pram on a walk or ask someone to watch your baby for an hour. You need the one on one time, as much as they do.

Re-homing

You’ve got a 9 month window to do this training, but should you feel your dog is going to be left out, or cause concern for the baby then think hard about re-homing them.

Do this re-homing before the baby comes, not the week after you’ve had the baby and you suddenly realise its going to be hard work. No one is going to judge you on making the best decision for your dog, but re-homing them after the baby has come confuses them more and can lead to behaviour issues in the new home. Deciding early to re-home gives you time to find the perfect home, contact local and breed rescues, dog trainers and friends to see about a home.

Don’t just settle, find the best. you want to work hard to help yourself and your dog get used to the new arrival, then contact a dog behaviourist or trainer. Get in an expert to help, whether that is me or any other trainer. It can make the training easier, and help with the transition.

Most of all enjoy the next chapter of your life, your dogs life and the beginning of another life.

This is just a short guide to help dog owners, it’s not a definitive guide by any means. All the training details listed are based on experience and my opinion on what to do.

Head Collars for Dogs – Useful Tool or Masking Issue?

As a Dog Trainer and Behaviourist I’m not a huge fan of equipment that just masks behaviour, instead of actually altering it. When I first started training, I really did hate head collars, I found them always ill fitting and people just used them to get out training their dog to actually walk nicely on heel. It was a frustrating sight.

As I got down off my high horse, and actually looked into the people using the head collars.

I realised some people really needed them in order to just be able to walk their dog.

Never mind dealing with other behaviour issues. They were using them to allow their dog the basic right to a walk.

I still think training should become before using equipment, and you should be able to do so on a flat collar, or slip lead. Its easy to achieve with any dog, but not everyone is a dog trainer, and they have limitations.

When dealing with behaviour issues such as aggression, fear and frustration. If the dog hasn’t got enough impulse control to not pull on the lead, their is no way other issues can be progressed as the dog doesn’t want to listen, isn’t focused enough or has been let to do do. Quite often people just want a quick fix in terms of behaviour issues, and really don’t want to listen to me teaching their dog to walk to heel. So rather than harping on about heeling, something which we can come back to I suggest a head collar in order to help the owner see some progress, then come back to the heel issue.

A dog that is stressed isn’t going to learn, it’s as simple as that. That stress can appear when a cue is seen, such as another dog, cat or car. Or that stress can start as soon as the door opens, their is scuffle as they both try to get out of the door first, and it ends in a manic few minutes. Followed by a walk full of stress, anger and plain disheartened feelings. It’s not enjoyable, and a dog should always be enjoyable.

The manic exit at the start of the walk can be undoing all the hard work the owner has been doing in training, its very frustrating to see.

Something as simple as a bad start to a walk, can send owners training back weeks as they start to expect a bad reaction therefore causing it.

If the owners feel they have control of the dog on lead, they feel much more confident when dealing with behaviour issues. Something as simple as giving them back control of the dog can change a persons decision to not re-home a dog, and continue training to get the dog they want.

So my change of heart experience. I had been given a Gencon Head collar by a gentle man at Crufts.

GENCON ALL-IN-ONE

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The Gencon sat in my room for a few months, gathering dust and generally being ignored. It wasn’t til I was working with a client over several sessions that it came to head that we needed something more than just a flat collar. The dog’s dog issues disappeared on the training field, but once we moved out to the real world the owner was struggling to hold the dog while we dealt with the reactivity. The dog was well behaved on the training field, but at home he reverted back to his usual out of control self. The owner was getting dis-hearted session by session, and struggling to even walk him at any time.

After some thought and planning I decided to use the Gencon in order to regain some control and manners. We stuck it on at the start of the walk (Not how it should be introduced really), he threw a tantrum of course but once we were on our way things were instantly different. The owner was smiling and relaxed as they walked her great hulking dog, their was no pulling or fighting for who was leading the walk.

Instead it was walking together in tandem, as a team.

Having the owner more relaxed instantly impacted on the dogs behaviour, reinforcing calm behaviour around other dogs. It had such a huge difference to the walk, that the owner could see improvement and wanted to work harder to help her dog. (We sorted the dog in the end, and now he’s a happy social boy).

While I think head collars aren’t a solution to all training issues, they can greatly help with confidence for the owner, as well as add in that much needed respect from the dog.

They do mask the issue of walking to heel nicely, which is basic manners. With the right training, most dogs can be weaned off them, but many people never both or the dogs get so used to the head collars that they won’t learn without them on.

One reason I so like the Gencon is that is transitions to a slip lead so easily, so once the dog has learned to walk to heel. This means actually training using the head collar. Walking and teaching them to heel, adding in treats and verbal praise, correcting or ignoring any pulling. Adding in the desired command. Then taking the leap and transitioning to the slip lead, adding in the chosen command to reinforce the position. It takes work to achieve.

Their are other head collars on the market, and they all work in their own right. Personal experience with the equipment has made me choose the Gencon over other brands as my starting point. I still show clients the other designs and find the right one to suit their dog, should they need one.

Masking one issue to work on another is training, its working on the hardest issue first to build back to the smaller one in some cases.

It’s not ideal for every dog, but works for some.

I try to be as open as possible to all equipment and methods, keeping both a physical stock of equipment and mental list of methods. This allows me to help every dog owner, no matter what the issue we are faced with.

As always this is just my opinion on an aspect of behaviour, training and equipment. I’m not being paid by Gencon or anyone, it’s just personal opinion.