Using a Crisis to Create Focus – Why training your dog should be your priority


We are in the weirdest time known to the current majority of people. Social distancing is something crated by the COVID-19 Pandemic and hopefully something we’ll never have to repeat.

While we should all be socially isolating from people, and this means staying at home unless you are one of the super star key workers and those key to the supply chain. We still have an obligation to our dogs to walk them, and keep them sane as they don’t understand the situation. We can’t be lazy and we can’t be dismissive. We have an opportunity here as dog owners to help our dogs at a time like no other.

One good walk a day is going to not be enough for some dogs, and some owners. As a country where 1 in 4 houses have a dog, we know that our dogs part of our world and such need to maintain some semblance of consistency in this madness.

We then owe it to them to use this time stuck at home to our advantage. Right now no one is going to run up to your dog demanding to touch it as its ever so cute. No one is going to be walking up the road towards you for spite as they see you struggling with your dog. No one is going to stop you and ask you about your dog. We all all social distanceers!

This is now a time where we have control of our dog training, and how other can behave towards us. Regardless of hitting a stagnant patch of training, not getting opportunity to practice at your pace, we have a chance now to make some real progress in our training without the excuses. We now have a few weeks to remedy out dog training goals.

Dog walks are no longer rushed to work around your busy work day. You have time to prepare yourself and the dog for the new routine, a routine you will be maintaining once your back at work as well. Break the bad habits and build in new ones!

A new routine where the dog doesn’t door dash or focuses on you on walks better because your no rushing, you have time to put the restart or revisit the basics, as well as having the luxury in many cases of less distractions.

You have an opportunity here to break down the training issues your having into bite sized chunks to work on daily. Not to break the habit of a life time, but to right here, right now help your dog cope with the current situation and maintain your sanity.

Lets take reactive behaviour as an example:

Whats the trigger? People

How do they start out on the walk? They are hyped up and alert before we leave the house, and once were out they drag me down the road.

Reaction to the trigger? Lunge, Bark, Redirect

Can you get them to focus? Yes once the person has gone I can focus the dog, but not during.

Does your dog understand a No and Good Boy? Yes but as soon as there is a trigger they will go mad.

Break the Behaviour Down:

  1. The dog has no focus so we build in focus games such as watch me, go find and recall, stay and get it with a toy. Using an arsenal of food, treats and toys! We start this in the home and repeat in short bursts a few times a day. Focusing on the dogs understanding this while stationary.
  2. Focus while on the move. We all forget when were out we generally want the dog to focus on us while we are walking. We only tend to practice training while stationary in the house as were still getting used to being a trainer, and we tend to start risking injury while on the move! So start asking that dog to maintain focus while walking, building in that heeling as you go.
  3. I would also start building in an understanding of the word no here. Or something that means “your doing it wrong”. We are not screaming at them NO to stop, but as soon as they start to mess about or become unfocused then say the no and re engage the behaviour you want. This is not to scare he hell out of them but is instead there to teach them to stop messing about when you want them to focus. I understand dogs are not machines but they still need to understand whats going to get a reward and what isn’t. Once they’ve reengaged reward the hell outta them!

But you need to be asking yourself at this stage what does my dog like? Because if he is checking out all the time, then there is an issue with the reward, or how your interacting with them. Try different food, or skipping meals to build motivation, or changing to a tugger toy. B. F. Skinner one of the first to study how animals learned found that with the right reward rats could learn something in one repetition, but if the reward wasn’t good enough for the rat it would take 20-500 repetitions. 

Level Up to the next stage:

  1. Bring this into the garden or with distractions from other family members becoming the distraction by jumping about or calling the dog, when you are focusing them.
  2. Build duration and distance as well as distraction in separate training sessions.
  3. Break down the usual exit routine in order to create calm and have a plan before you exit. No jumping, barging, pushing, barking or dragging.
  4. Exit the home and change your normal routine. Don’t feed into the choas by going the same places and getting the same reactions where possible. It might be harder during lock down but it can still be done.

Start to Engage the “Enemy”

Once you have a rock solid focus and the dog which understands what you want it to do, then you can start to go hunting for the enemy.

I often advise people to not walk their dogs for a few days to reset the stress in the system. You are probably feeling what they feel daily before the evening news. The feeling of will the numbers rise, will they put a total lockdown in force, when are we going back to normality? All worrying thoughts. No imagine being your dog feeling that. Why not allow them a few days to shut off from the madness to reset the system, and the start a afresh with less stress, less worry and a new outlook on life. It also means you can replace the walks with one to one play and training, building your bond stronger.

Now we are all social distancing we can avoid or keep things that would trigger our dogs at a safer distance. This means when working with them out in the real world we have more time to react  and focus the dog, as well as a dog less likely to react as the thing that is stressing it isn’t as close. Less triggers = more progress in training. Selecting you routes will also take some checking out as there could be some busier places as everyone heads to the same place. You could use a rest day for the dog as a day to leave them settled at home while you check out the local routes you want to use in order to plan ahead, to maximise success.

Even if you have a new puppy in the house hold or a giddy dog these ideas still apply. Break it down. You don’t want the puppy to jump at guests the teach it what you want it to do at the door without distractions, then practice practice. Then use yourself as a distraction opening and shutting the door, or getting other people in the home to come in and out.

Regardless of the outcome of this time, we all have a bit of time to focus on our dogs and should spend the time wisely. Spending time back on the basic level makes a huge difference to our dogs, and our progression in training. Even if its just practising the sit and getting it straight or keeping it while you do a stay, its all progress and all useful.

Kathryn Jones

Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour

The Comfort Zone in Dog Training

I saw a excellent image on another trainers page the other day. Saying all dog owners should get out of their comfort zone, take different dogs to seminars, learn a new skill or push your dogs boundaries if fearful.

Comfort zone 1

I originally thought it was a good graphic, and made sense. But after some thought I realised its total bull crap.

Your comfort zone with your dog is where all dog owners strive to be. You work hours and hours training that recall so your comfortable on walks knowing your dog will come back. You spend days socialising your puppy to the sights and smells outside your home, so you know they won’t freak out when you decide to go to the cafe after a long walk. You might even spend money on a trainer to help you get there, money invested in your future with your dog.

You don’t get a dog to make your life harder, you get it to complete it.

Step out that comfort zone? I don’t bloody think so. I work with hundreds of owners a year striving to get into that comfort zone and stay there. Yes some owners want to push themselves further and learn more join sports, and strive for that perfect dog. I work hard and push myself out of my comfort zone to learn more to be able to teach you, but I also am very happy to return back to my comfort zone and just walk my dogs without worry or thinking.

I’m currently out of my comfort zone, I’m on holiday (dedication to you guys to be working on holiday),I’m in a foreign country and away from my dogs. I’ve enjoyed it, but I can honestly say I’m ready to get back to my comfort zone. Ready to have that feeling of calm and happy.

I realised for my dog owners this feeling is only there in part of your life with your dog. Mainly in the evening when your settled on the sofa, dog next to you sleeping. When your walking your dog you’re out of your comfort zone because your dogs nervous or reactive, or because you know they have high prey drive and next doors cat has started a war. It didn’t matter the reason why, what matters is you need to keep extending that comfort zone as much as you can, while maintaining your own self care.  Leaving that zone causes all stress which we learn from in small doses, but in large doses daily it can effect us mental and even physical.

I’m not on about stopping walking your dog, I’m on about ditching the routine and maybe playing with a flirt pole on a walk first to help your dog relax, and you calm. Focusing on learning a new command or trick. Joining a social club or training group, maybe not to become the best agility start but to push your boundaries in a way that means other are around you. Getting a trainer who understands your dogs needs, and your emotions. Sometimes solutions to problems, instead of management are the best way of expending your comfort zone.

Some days its ok to be be snuggly in your comfort zone, and others miles away from it. But what ever happens do not feel bad for sitting in it some days, and don’t feel down if things don’t go to plan when you do go out of it. Its always easier to do with support but dip a toe out now and then.

I want all of us to be more like this graphic:


I am guilty of not helping with my own self care, and I think all dog owners should be conscious of it. There is no right and wrong in dog training in general, but there is what feels right with us and wrong with us. Be that training methods, our dogs behaviour, other dogs behaviour and our behaviour to others.

Kathryn Jones

Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour

The Success of Failure in Training Your Dog – We All Make Mistakes.

We’ve all been there, working on something that starts out a joy and something you look forward too.

Little things start to go wrong, these spiral into bigger things.

Suddenly you feel awful working on that thing, your motivation disappears.

You stop wanting to work at all, convince yourself you have other things to do.

You give up, you convince there is no options left. You feel a failure.

Their are always options.

Failure is not a permanent, it is changeable.

The definition of failure is a lack off success, not never being successful.

You should see each perceived failure as a learning process. There is always a solution to the problem.

With dog training I often hear from clients that they have tried everything. That I couldn’t possibly solve their dog training problem. They have read every page on the internet, read every book on the shelf and talked to every dog owner with a well trained dog. But yet here you are on the phone to me. Looking for that answer so your failure isn’t permanent.

Often the reason for failure isn’t because of a lack of knowledge, or lack of training. Is is due to a lack training in the real world, proofing the behaviour in the real world. We often reflect on the things we did wrong instead of the things that went right, sending us into the spiral of blame. Blame yourself, others, the dog and the environment.

We need to reject our old beliefs of “I can’t do this” or “He’ll never be trained”, replacing them with “Their is a solution” and “I need to find the right way to solve this”.

You can lay blame on yourself from over working, from setting unrealistic standards or goals, and comparing yourself to others. This self criticism will attempt to destroy your work towards change or bettering your training. Getting past it can be tough but accepting your weaknesses as well as strengths, make them less scary. Remove that self critical voice, and making a mental list of all the things that are going well  with the training, and focus on that.

Uncertainty within your training can create an internal conflict, but it can also be a change to experiment and learn. Reasonable options might not always work, but there are other options. We turn to trail and error with our dog training, this can work in some cases but often it leaves our dogs confused and without consistency. It also drains us emotionally and mentally, turning each session into a workout for your brain.

Learning from mistakes and trying little things one a time, often lead to the right result. A side effect of failure is innovation. See each little failure as a way to build and improve the training you are doing, as well as help innovate your own self.

Anything that goes awry is progress, it might not be in the direction you wanted but it is progress. We can’t predict each training session as there are many factors out of our control, but regardless of it each walk is a training session. Setting us to learn from, good and bad. A Bad walk can help us pinpoint the areas we need to focus on, a good walk helps boost those focus areas.

Dog training isn’t easy. It can lead to tears, arguments, frustration and a breakdown in relationships not only with your dog, but also your family and friends. I often think people are shocked at how much something that was destined to join their life to make it better often makes it worse, until we find the solution to the problem.

Dog training always has a solution, but it isn’t always what is expected. Thinking outside the box and understanding your dog better is often the best way to find a solution. Understanding is learning, and learning about your dog. Its habits, and real motivations, not the ones we want them to have. Looking at your dog as the same as others, using food when your dog isn’t motivated by it, or using your behaviour as a reward in the wrong way.

The main point to all blog post is this. Don’t let yourself stand in the way of your dog training goals, and journey. There is a solution to every problem, but sometimes there needs to be failure to be learned from.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB
NTIPDU, MoGDT, ABDT, CFBA, IACP – A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

Investing in YOUR Canine Education

When you start training your dog, you are investing in your relationship together. Building the bond, and teaching them about the world they are in.

So why are you going in blind? I see so many owners teaching their dogs things, but without the knowledge themselves. Watching things on TV, or reading books is very different to applying it in the real world. It seems a very long winded and difficult way to do dog training, when you have other options there to guide you though the whole process.

There is very limited advice for you as dog owners, aimed at education before getting a dog (I’m working on this!). But that is a crap excuse for not get help as soon as you get that puppy, re-home or rescue. There is so much education going on for when you add a dog to your life, such as classes, webinars, Facebook groups and one to one training.

My biggest gripe and why I’m writing this blog is to urge people to get educated in the issues their breed faces, what a dog could have training issues in and understanding the dog is more than an ornament programmed to do what you want. Understanding your dog as a dog.

So many people contact me saying they are struggling with things like recall or lead manners but they are trying to train their dog in a way that doesn’t suit the breed. Training a Spaniel with food can be done, but so many are prey motivated that they leg it off. There is no treat good enough for a recall from a fresh bunny on the move. BUT if you have a puppy you’ve trained on play with you to pent up prey drive, you tend to have a much better chance of getting that recall around distractions. This is because you are controlling the prey they want, be that a ball, tugger or disc. The toy comes through you so why would they go else where?

Some breeds prefer reward from you in the form of eye contact, verbal and physical praise. These might be your more people based breeds such as Doberman, Shitzus and Collies. These breeds can’t always be bribed with food and thrive on consistent and calm behaviour from their owners, calm and confident can’t really happen if you are not sure what you are actually doing in dog training.

Education can come from speaking to other dog owners before getting a certain breed, or meeting breeders who are passionate about their puppies and breed. These people are the people in the know, they live with and own these dogs. They are often very honest and to the point about the breeds good and bad points. They will point you in the right direction for advice, and knowledge.

Seeking professional help is right, but it can be so very wrong if you go to the wrong person for you. Talk to the trainer/behaviourist first, before you commit to anything. Speak to someone who actually knows how to teach, lots of people in the canine world are fantastic with dogs, and have terrible people skills. Call them up and ask questions, ask what they are achieved with their own dogs and clients. Look for real experience and training, instead of a cheap price. This is your future you are investing in, do not skimp on the education you and your dog will be getting.

Dog trainers are training you to train your dog. It is a weird concept, as you call in a plumber to fix the boiler, not to give you the advice on how to fix it as well as a plan on how it can be done, and then demonstrate it. They fix it. Dogs are so different from any other part of the family and household, they need specialist considerations which means a different way of learning for you, as well as the dogs. Think of dog training as learning a new job, your learning new skills and applying them to the job at hand. The biggest issue is the dog has its own mind about things, so its not just applying knowledge but it is also about adapting and building on that knowledge to match your dogs change.

It is TOUGH! Being a dog owner is one of the toughest things in the world. You are there to look after this being that needs you, but also doesn’t understand your world and often not even their own if they haven’t been socialised. These tail wagging, slobbering and bouncy beings are there because we choose to have them, not the other way around. We owe it to them to educate ourselves about how they learn, how they understand the world and how they want to live, instead of fumbling about missing ways of preventing issue that stress us and the dog out.

Go educate yourself as a dog owner, or future dog owner. No matter how many dogs you have owned, there is always new knowledge out there. Investing in your education, is investing in your dogs happiness, as well as your own. There are books, webinars, online coaching, one to one training, classes, telephone consults, workshops, breed seminars, behaviour seminars, experienced owners, breeders, and the internet. While it can be overwhelming to start, it soon makes more sense and broadens your horizons in order to benefit you.

Invest in that knowledge and then apply it. Lots of dog owners think 8 weeks of training is enough to build a bond forever and have a well trained dog, its more like 8 years of hard work and bond building. Once you know what your doing keep applying it daily, re training the things you know to build on and further your relationship. Keep the basics in every training session you do, and apply it to real life.

Invest in your education, to better your future together.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

Dog Training Classes or One to One Consults? – Which one is best for you, and your dog?

Many dog owners are faced with the choice of one to one training, behaviour modification, or classes in a bid to help with issues such as recall, reactivity, and focus.
Classes are readily available and frequent. Offering owners the structure in training they might often need. An hour a week to focus on you, and your dog. Around other dogs. Often seen as the best way to “socialise” your dog around other dogs, and get focus under distraction.
Classes are ideal for owners wanting to further their skills as owners and, work in an environment that is consistent and progressive, but it can also be a confined mosh pit of pulling to get to another dog. Feeling like a failure as Max the Springer can’t do what Lola the Schnauzer can. Your dogs feeling of being trapped, dictated to and only learning to perform in the class, or at the worst reinforcing fear, anxiety and aggression as coping mechanisms.
Classes have their place, and should be a must for many dog owners, as they provide the supported structure that many dog owners need. Set times per week that you train with your dog, really needed in this day and age where we don’t always get the time we want with our dogs to train them. Classes are more than sit stays, they’re opportunities to learn new skills. Nose work, trick training, agility, fly ball, rally or disk dogs. They provide a way for owners to try new things, and push themselves out of their comfort zone. They also provide a social connection with other dog owners, meeting like minded people. Maybe those with the same breed, same goals or just similar personalities.
Classes create a way for you to push your boundaries and build your bond with your dog in a supervised way. Trainers instructing the class can spot issues as they happen, and see the progress each week. Classes can also provide a lot of conflict. Conflict when your dog can’t focus in such a highly enriching environment. Conflict when you can’t get your dog to do what others can. Conflict when your dog won’t perform the same out on walks. Conflict when you want more help but don’t want to ask, or feel like your’re not being listened to in a group. Conflict when the trainer can’t meet all the needs of the individuals in the group. Conflict when your dog gets worse not better. Classes are 90% not the place for dog-reactive dogs. Its like putting them in a mosh pit, or prison riot. Enclosed space; dogs being “friendly” when entering your dogs personal bubble, owners not understanding that your dog needs space; instructors often just leaving you to your own devises because they can’t accommodate you in the class environment. This often leaves the owner disheartened, the dog can also start to recognise the class environment as stressful, and begin to preempt the worry with stressful behaviour outside of class such as mouthing the lead, barking or urinating.  But some classes can suit the reactive dog, like tracking classes where there is space. Many halls are just too small to provide enough space, and the strong smells and noise affect the dogs greatly.
Training indoors is convenient, warm and predictable. But unfortunately life isn’t like that, and often dogs will perform beautifully in the training hall but struggle outside. Leaving owners baffled why their dogs are “choosing” to ignore them. While many venues might have a lot of smells and sounds, they are predictable. Dogs love predictable and can focus in a predictable environment. The walks in the fields, pavements or beaches aren’t predictable and your dog will get focused on what catches its attention most.
One to one training can have loads of positives that help dog owners succeed. Training alone is hard, but enlisting a trainer or behaviourist to help can mean tackling problems with support, knowledge, and the right tools for success. Training with someone on your own means you get 100% of their attention. A pin point focus on you and your dog, building the bond with the information tailored to you. Every dog and every owner has different learning styles, and in a class environment it is difficult to suit them all.
Experienced and educated one to one trainers will work towards your goals, using the right methods. This does mean finding a trainer who actually has qualifications or experience in teaching, as many don’t in the dog training world. Being good with only dogs, not people in some cases. A good one to one session will involve you starting with limited distractions then adding them in at your pace. Especially for dogs lacking focus. Focus needs to be reinforced and built up over time, classes can throw you in the deep end. Where as in a one to one set up, sessions can add in the distractions as and when you progress through the training. This helps you learn in your own time, keeps your dogs stress below the threshold and increases his/her learning capacity.
There’s no comparison in 121 training, no Suzie next to you with Polly Poodle walking to heel, while your Beagle still thinks it can smell food from yesterday’s WI meeting. It is individual to your breed, dogs personality and your learning style. You can ask questions, try different things and do it at your pace. Comparisons put extra pressure on you to gain certain things. Things that might be out of your grasp at the start but achievable after a little work. This pressure increases your stress, which can lead to you being erratic, moody and possibly lashing out at your dog. None of which are helpful to training. One to one training can spot and cure behaviour issues before they happen.
They are also perfect for dogs with dog to dog issues, or fear issues as they are working on a low stress basis and many good dog trainers have excellent stooge dogs for building dog to dog confidence. This kind of focused training means you can try out different techniques that might distract others in a class environment. Such as play toys, whistle training, squeaky toys or throwing balls. One to one training is obviously slightly more costly, but on the other hand you get one to one attention, and for personalised training it isn’t as much as it seems. Classes cost on average between £5 and £10 a class, where as one to one training is considerably more; however, you are paying for considerably more in terms of time, coaching, expertise and improvement.
Dog training classes are often run by people interested in dogs, such as a dog enthusiast, someone who has done a little agility training or attended up to Gold Level Obedience. They have knowledge, they have skills, but they are not really qualified or experienced to deal with teaching groups, all levels of experience and different breeds. Training classes can be run by qualified trainers and behaviourists, and you’ll generally see the price go up to match the skill level your receiving. Also they tend to be specialist classes such as for reactive dogs, problem solving or more fun classes like advanced clicker training. Invest in what suits your dog, not you.
Money might be a factor but we all find the money to buy luxuries such as a new pair of jeans or boots, that latest gadget. Investing in a little more than a months classes can set you up for a lifetime of enjoyment with your dog, instead of a limited fix to what could be a bigger issue.
In summary you will need to make your own choice about things and see what suits you, and your dog. Sometimes that takes a little trial and error, but it always come right in the end. Never stick with what you don’t enjoy or feel comfortable with.
Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB
A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

Rewarding or Releasing Behaviour in Dog Training?

A basic mistake in dog training I think all dog owners have made is to reward a dog too early, and accidentally release it from what your doing.  A common and good example I see is on the recall. The owner is calling their dog back, and as the dog is running towards them they shout, “GOOD DOG”, and the dog then runs off in the opposite direction, leaving a very frustrated owner (By now screaming “COME HERE POPPY!!!”) and a happy dog thinking it has done the right thing.

Here is what is going on, so when we get any dog, be that a puppy or a rescue we always start training in some way. Mainly it is the sit, we get them to sit then reward them with the “Good Dog”, then allow them to get up for a fuss, or walk away from what you’re doing. Releasing them from the exercise. You are telling the dog they are doing it right, so creating a learned behaviour, you are also accidentally teaching them that that combination of words means you’re finished now. This comes in to play a problem as the dog is off lead more or working away from the owners even in the home. When your dog is not directly focusing on you for one to one training and is distracted by the environment it is most certainly going to be seeing the “Good Dog” as a release word in order to do what they want, as well as please you. We see it as encouragement as that is how we interpret it.

We are the teachers of our dogs, and we need to get into their head a little bit and understand how they understand us.

Efficient and reliable dog training for any command requires you to put in the basics, and the mechanics for all the training. A good reward word, a good encouragement word/voice, and an actual release word.

To combat the reward word becoming a release, keep repeating the word along side the command. An example would be “Sit, Gooood Dog, Sit, Gooood Dog”, rewarding with longer words than short sounds are slightly less exciting, and less likely to pull the dog out of the position you want them in. Reward them for staying where they are. This elongation of words allows you to encourage the right behaviour from your dog, rather than them moving off every 10 seconds and you becoming frustrated. I sometimes also use a separate encouragement word such as “GoGo” to help maintain a behaviour at speed, like a recall. I am not releasing them from what were doing, but instead encouraging it.

An actual release word should be taught during training and is easy to teach. I do some basic training, such as the sit or down, and once I want the dog to be released from this training. I use a word such as “Ok” and walk away from the dog or throw a treat/toy for the dog to play with away from what they were doing. Do this for short time periods, then build it up over time. It is important that you allow the dog to do what it wants during these periods of time, and call them to re engage when your ready for them. What you are creating is a taught release, so the dog waits for you to release them instead of them deciding to move away. The release command is a consistent signal that you have finished training/focusing, the dog can do what they want. This can be used for training, or on normal walks where when you are walking throw in the “Ok” to allow the dog to sniff the grass, greet another dog or walk away off lead. If your dog doesn’t want to, then they don’t have to.

What I have found both as a professional, and as a dog owner myself that the power of being consistent to these words training has a massive impact not only on your dog, but also on the way you interact with your dog daily. Giving you the empowerment to head into situations and know how to continue your training, and know your dog is focusing on you for the time you need. It greatly improves recall, and focus around other dogs for some dogs.

This blog post is a little intro into the difference and training, rather than a full on guide. Its easier to show the training, then write it down. It is hopefully going to make your think about what your dog might actually know, rather than what you think it knows, or thinks about the words you are saying. No dog is too old to learn the difference between the release word and reward. Rewarding a dog is easy, but pin pointing the right behaviour is hard as dogs behaviour changes from second to second. Consistency is key, and always being 100% sure in your head what behaviour you are rewarding, as well as aiming for as an outcome.

In summary, use a word to reward and encourage the right behaviour, and teach a release word to end the training or interaction, an off the dog a way to do what they want to do. Think dog, and think human. No one wants to, or can focus all the time. Why should your dog?

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB


A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour



Adopting a Rescue Dog… Are you Ready?

Its a great thing to want to add a dog into your life, it’s an even better joy to bring a rescue dog into your home. It isn’t for everyone, but someone willing to bring a rescue dog into their home is starting a new journey with this dog.

Rescue dogs can be seen as something to fix, or change to suit your home. What people need to understand, that most of the time these dogs need someone, or some place to adjust to their massive change in circumstances. These dogs have had their whole life turned upside down, and need time to adjust to new things. While many settle into a new home quickly, some get over looked as their are not “quick fixes”.

Are you ready to walk into that rescue centre and not be drawn in by a look, but by that dogs personalty. Their behaviour, and exercise needs to suit you. To look past a fluffy breed, or a small dog in favour for one that really suits your home, and life. To be told no that dog isn’t suitable for you, no matter how hard you’ll work. Rescues are looking for homes that suit their dogs, not for you to change the dog to suit your home. These dogs need homes that match them most to help them settle in fastest, and forever.

Rescue dogs no matter how long they have been in rescue need time to adjust to new things. They need time to work out what is happening, and how their life is going to be. You cannot explain to a dog what is happening, they simply have to experience it. They cannot control their environment or day, but they can control how they interact with you. This little control is all some dogs have, and this is why they can lash out at the people trying to help them, why they turn into themselves or generally act out of character.

Even when that dog gets into a new home this behaviour can carry on. Dogs have no control of their life generally, and the choice to not got for a walk, or tell you to buzz off with growling is how they can make their own choices. Instead of deciding the dog is aggressive or not suitable see it from their point of view. See how all this change is huge for them. Yes your saving them, and offering them a new home, where they will be loved, but remember they don’t get to choose, and sometimes they want a choice.

When adopting a rescue dog, don’t dump them straight into the routine you want. Your busy life style might be great for them in time, but right now they might need a calm, and settled routine. They need to ease into the new life, of new walks, and new places. Of new canine and human neighbours. Of new home rules. Of new family. They need easing into the new home and its differences to their old home, or some dogs have never been in a home.

Do not expect a dog to just settle in straight away, they can do in time, but dogs need several weeks to feel at home in your home.  Some dogs takes up to 3 weeks to settle in a new home, this can seem like an age to most dog owners, and is why I often keep all my rescue dogs in for assessment for at least a month. After this time you’ll see the dogs true character. It is not uncommon for dogs to get worried or act out in order to cope with all the change. What you might see as normal, say having the family over for Sunday lunch, could be utterly terrifying for a new rescue dog. People coming in desperate to see them, cuddle them, or play with them. People this dog has never met, invading their new home. Well it is not surprising when this kind of crazy event takes place, that the very friendly dog suddenly becomes unfriendly.

Are you ready to commit time, training and your emotion into that dog? Is your family to make some adjustments to help that dog settle in, or work around their behaviour issues? Are you all ready for a dog that might take a year or more to become the dog of your dreams? If you are then a rescue dog is for you, if not you need to wait til your life can take one on. A rescue dog should never be an impulse idea.

Rescue dogs aren’t always hard work, they can benefit your life and change it for the better. Taking on a dog that needs lots of exercise can get your fitter, and healthier. A dog needing time to adjust to the world, can provide you with cuddles, love and attention. A young dog needing some retraining can help you sort out your organisation and time management skills.

Rescue dogs are amazing, and all deserve a home that suits them. But you need patience to help them settled.

Some top tips are:

  • Give the dog its own space, somewhere it can settle in the main room your use as a family, but not be bothered. The rule of thumb is that if the dog has taken themselves there you leave them alone, even if its time for a walk. Sometimes it is better to leave them settled then force a walk if they can’t cope with going out again.
  • Show them how to exit the house into the garden. This is a simple one. Most rescue dogs are house trained, and find it very stressful when they aren’t sure where to go to the loo. Showing them where the door into the garden is, and hovering there til they go, then rewarding it can help them settle.
  • Hand feed them, as long as the dog doesn’t have food aggression issues, then hand feed them. Show them you can provide them with the basic primal things such as food. In that food, add in the odd goodies such as chicken or treats. Obviously some dogs might be too nervous for this.
  • Look into a calming product such as Adaptil, Pet Remedy, or Rescue Remedy to help your dog settle in. They might need help to cope with the stress, and all this products can help de-stress the dog.
  • Play! Play is a huge bonding and learning exercise for dogs. They learn about you through it, it burns energy and reduces stress. Throw a ball about, hide treats for them to find, play rough and tumble games.
  • Seek help where needed, call the rescue and ask about the dog if theirs anything you need to know. Ask to work with a dog trainer when needed, to help nip some issues in the bud as soon as possible.

Also understand that sometimes the rescue dog you have chosen, might not be the one for you. You might be told by the rescue centre before meeting, you might have doubts after meeting them, you might not click in the home trial and you might find that over time, their behaviour still isn’t something you can deal with in 6 months time. Their is no judgement of anyone if a dog doesn’t suit you. Obviously rescues want dogs to find homes, but the right one, and they are happy to help anyone pick the right dog, but will also put their foot down if you are not the right home for that dog. You should never feel guilty for not being able to provide a home for that dog, because their will be the right dog for you somewhere.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour

Recent Behaviour Changes? Do Some Backward Thinking.

Recently a long term dog training client mentioned to me that their dog was chewing the end of the bed at night. Their routine hadn’t changed, the dogs normal behaviour hadn’t changed. Nothing was different when I asked the main questions, we carried on with our normal training.
Still stumped by the chewing thing.

Part of being a Behaviourist is working around an issue, asking questions and getting answers in order to find a solution.

Then I walked into the room and saw the dentastix, I mentioned if the dog was now getting them before bed? “Of course” cried the owner. Well there was my answer.
The dog was getting a sugar hit before bed!

I’m not going to go into what you should, and shouldn’t feed your dog (Do your own googling on that one), but I am going to stress, that tiny little changes can have a big impact on your dog.

In this case, adding in a bit too much sugar before bed was causing the dog to wake in the night and start chewing. Something she has never done, I could have applied loads of different training, and routine management to change it, but actually all that was needed was to not feed her sugar before bed.

Little changes can mean big differences for your dog.

Lots of behaviour changes in dogs can be environmental for small changes. Yes, sometimes they cause big changes but quite often subtle little changes in your dogs behaviour can be pin pointed by a small change.

Any unexplained behaviour changes must be changed out by a vets consult, in order to rule out any medical issues.

Uncomplicated things can make big differences. Think about the things you do with your dogs.


Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB


Clever Fox Canine Training and Behaviour

Dog Training Confidence – Have you lost yours?

Dog Training in your own home, on your normal walks and while juggling normal life can be hard work, disheartening and down right dangerous is done wrong.

It’s very easy to become stuck in the same old routine or avoidance, or just relying on the same behaviours your dog can already perform. Its easy to loose your confidence when things, go wrong.

Remember dogs have their own thoughts, feelings and personalities. They will do as they see fit, no matter how much training you put into them, and proofing, Sometimes they will just do things, don’t hold it against them, and don’t think they are suddenly bad dogs, or you are a bad owner.

It’s easy to loose confidence when working with dogs, it’s easy to avoid the problem and just manage your dog, and yourself. It’s easy to just exist.

It might require effort to get yourself out of the hold of no confidence, it might mean you have to work hard, and learn new things. But once your out of it you have a whole new world to explore, part of confidence building is not only re learning the old things but learning new things. I hope that when I work with an owner, they all learn at least one new things if not more. New things to build a bond, confidence and a well trained dog.

Changing the way you see a problem or obstacle can help with confidence, instead of seeing it as something negative, think about how the dog interprets it. Avoidance in dogs is a huge thing, some will avoid things like cars, instead of seeing it as an obstacle for going places, see it as a chance to bond with your dog via training. Making something positive by feeding a dog there, or adding in play time, jumping in and out of the car. Likewise you can see it as a chance to explore your local area, instead of relying on driving down to the beach and jumping out of the car. Walk your local area, follow other dog walkers to see where they go. Check out the local maps to find new foot paths. Explore and learn new things via your dog.

Instead of going on a walk in a bad mood, use enrichment toys to tire your dog, or scatter feed them. Play a game of hide and seek, anything that makes you smile, not dread a walk. Do something that makes you smile.

Confidence is something gained over time, not over night. If you really feel under confident about your dog, your dog training and how to move forward don’t be afraid to seek professional help, talk it over with friends or even take a step back and see how things go.

Never hold your dogs behaviour against them, they do the behaviours that suit them, and are based on their interpretation of the world. They aren’t doing it to piss you off, they aren’t performing that behaviour to annoy you, or make you stress. They are performing behaviour to make their life better, be that to remove a dog from their face via barking, to get a better view out of the window via jumping on you on the sofa, or to jump all over guests to get attention. Dog’s don’t plan things, they just do things.

I can’t change how you see the world, but re assessing where you are with you dog, this can help you change how you see the world.

Professional help to get you, and your dog back on track might just be the best choice you’ve made. Don’t get it get out of hand, get a professional plan in place to improve your situation and relationship.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB



A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour


Food Aggression in Dogs – Is your dog a grumpy growling guzzler?

Food aggression issues in dogs seems to be on the rise in my mind, I am seeing more and more cases of food aggression in dogs. Is it the way we handle dogs? Is it the food we feed? Is it genetics? Is is dogs being dogs? What ever it is, we need to address it.

This is one I have wanted to get written down for a while, but kept getting side tracked by other posts!

From young puppies, up to older dogs who have been displaying it years, it is a behaviour that can be remedied very early on in your relationship, and reduce so much stress. I have seen puppies develop it over a matter of days from the wrong training, and it has then caused issues for a life time. I have seen adult dogs become to food aggressive they can’t be fed in the same room as people, without feeling the need to lunge and bite.

For those lucky enough to have a dog without food issues, I’ll explain what I define as food aggression. Food aggression is where your dog will growl, posture or attack when they are eating, taking a treat or being given a chew. These dogs feel the need to guard their food, for various reasons, and can be driven to lash out at their owners in the need to guard the food.

All these behaviours are normal for dogs guarding their resource, it is normal for a dog to want to guard food to protect it from other predators. It is not normal for a dog to go over the top, and in the worst cases bite. That is human driven. Biting is a last resort for any dog, owners drive them to do this to keep owners away.
What should not be normal is the fact you want to take the dog food. I honestly don’t understand when owners feel the need to take the food off a puppy…. a hungry puppy whose food intake is dictated by you anyway. Food is a resource that they need, so they will guard it to protect it, if they feel the need to do so. I will explain some training to pre-empt the problem, but I honestly feel we cause more food issues than sort them as dog owners in some cases. So often we muck up being idiots, rather than being good dog owners.

There are some real old fashion ideas still kicking around on the internet and from other dog owners, that can lead to this food aggression appearing in puppies, or dogs of any age. One of them is “You should be able to take the food from a dog”….right? So when I steal your fudge cake mid bite, you’re going to accept it and just ignore me? Well you’re a weirdo if you do, you’re going to kick, scream and tell me how much you bloody well don’t like it. Yet we do it to our dogs, then have a go at them when they growl or snap? Lack of logic here it seems. Furthermore on this, the more you try to take the food, the more the dog sees it as a prize to be had. The more you want, the more they want it basically. By making food an issue, you are making the dog more likely to guard it.

I’ve seen countless puppies become food aggressive, because people want to take their food, chews or bones off them to “Assert their control”… The puppy wants to eat. Stop being an ass, and let your puppy eat.

Some people brandish the excuse “I should be able to take it out of their mouth without argument encase my child puts their hands in the bowl, or take their chew”….. It won’t cut it love. Your child should be taught to leave a dog alone while eating, if your child is not old enough to understand that/ doesn’t listen then either feed the dog elsewhere, or remove the child. You’re the adult, so control the situation. Excuses are not tolerated by me or anyone.

Whatever your reason for doing food aggression training, please do it right. Applying common sense, put yourself in your dog’s shoes, don’t follow what others say about being the alpha or you “should” be able to do these things. Train your dog to accept them, not force them. You’re the one that will get bitten not them. You’re also the one with a choice in all of this, they don’t. We dictate everything in their life, stop trying to lord it over them.

I have seen people loose chunks in their arms or finger tips over food issues. It is not a training model to be taken lightly, and should be approached with caution. Things can go too far if you piss a dog or puppy off. I have seen a puppy go from being fine with its food at 11 weeks, to try to attack its owner at 16 weeks. This was due to insisting on taking the dog food off them while eating, feeding in small dark area and not feeding enough to a growing puppy. You have the power in your hands, don’t fuck it up.

Some food issues can start at the breeders, feeding all the puppies from one bowl and not feeding enough. Feeding via several bowls, and feeding more than the puppies can consume in a sitting can stop a lot of food issues from the get go. But even you as owners can stop this issue early on by applying the same principle, feed more than the puppy can eat, this helps some puppies learn there is an overabundance of food. If there’s more food than can be eaten, then there is no point guarding it. If the puppy learns that, they won’t start guarding unless you make an issue of it. This means feeding more than the packet recommends, and applying a bit of common sense on how much the puppy should be eating. I am not a nutritionist or vet so I can’t tell you how much, and at what age, so look at your puppy’s structure, and weight. Food type, or brand is up to you. Do your own research on that one.

The location of your dog’s food bowl can make all the difference, why everyone wants to feed in the middle of the kitchen I shall never know. Feed where your dog feels safe, be that in a crate (This avoids kiddies bothering dogs as well), in the garden, hall way, where ever, so the dog has room to eat in peace. There is nothing worse than someone leaning over you as you eat, or trying to take your food, so give your dog space to get away from it all.
I personally feed all my dogs way from the kitchen, either in crates, or in other rooms. So, there is no stealing, as well as no one bothering them as they eat. It reduces the need to guard their food, and therefore the value you of it. So if I need to take something from them, their not fussed as it’s probably going to be swapped for something.

Swapping! Teaching your dog to swap chews, bowls and what not early on can help if you feel the need to bother them while eating. The best way to do it is give the puppy one food item, then throw another near by, as they go get it praise them, throw another bit of food, and praise them as they swap from food to food. Then throw the first thing the dog had for them. Keep swapping these things by throwing, until you dog is waiting for you to throw them, expecting a swapping. Then you can start doing it with a command. It is teaching your dog that you have more things to give them, you’re not going to guard them either and are happy for them to share.

Feeding your dog via scattering the food around the garden. Scatter feeding your pooch its tea via the garden is a great way to avoid guarding issues. Simple throw the biscuit into the grass, they are busy sniffing and searching the bits out to eat. While you get on with something else, be that in the garden or in the home. There isn’t a large bowl of food to guard, so the guarding reduces. Plus, they are more tired from using their senses to find food, and a tired, mentally stimulated dog is a happy one.

Feeding from our hands can help reduce food guarding. Instead of seeing your hands as something that is going to steal food, they see it as the giver of food. Not the bowl. This works well adding in higher reward foods as well as the normal food, to teach the puppy that you have all the good things, and it therefore worth being nice to you. It is all too easy for a dog to think food only comes from a bowl, not you.

If you already have a puppy guarding food, or a dog doing it then dropping in treats every time you pass by, or when in the area can teach the dog you bring rewards to the bowl, not take them away from them. You being near is a good things in essence, so it’s good having you near their bowl or feeder. The treats must be higher value than the food their eating, so something like dried liver or cooked chicken are great added goodies.

Feeding the meal over time, so feed a 1/4 of the meal to start, then once their eating food add in another handful, and continue until it’s all finished. Start off from a distance, or dropping it from a height, then putting your hand in the bowl if you so wish. Do this as much as possible, it is teaching your dog to expect food from your hand and that you being near their bowl is a good thing.

Think about the value of your food, raw bones and tasty chews can send some dogs into a more heightened state. Working with food aggression, means starting with as low value food as possible, which is usually biscuit. Start there and work your way up to higher value things, and expect that sometimes dogs will never give up on guarding some things. Some dogs feel the need to guard food no matter what, in this case management is key. Feeding outside, or in another room. Feeding lower value food, or low energy food. Management is sometimes a more successful option than training, and training wrong.

These are some simple food aggression training ideas, and management. These are by no means the answer to food aggression in many cases. This blog was to get some ideas off my chest, and have a little rant about people faffing with their dog while eating. Something that really annoys me, and I’m sure the dog as well.

Issues with dog to dog food aggression is VERY complicated as you are dealing with two individual animals, who see the other as competition. These training ideaa do not apply to dog to dog issues.

Extreme food aggression needs to be seen by a Behaviourist, it can lead to damage to people or other dogs. Do not attempt to do things on your own. Behaviour management or modification is very difficult, made more so by aggression in the mix.

These ideas, are not for ever dog and are to be under taken with caution and at your own risk. I’m good, but I can’t train via the internet.

Kathryn Jones FdSc AAB NTIPDU/MGoDT

A Clever Approach to Dog Training and Behaviour