Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Post Pandemic life - Preparing your Dog for Life after Lockdown

Last night, after Boris's latest announcement with regards to lifting lockdown, I virtually attended a webimar hosted by the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, on the subject of 'Preparing our dogs for life after lockdown'. 

It was fascinating, and run by an amazing 'Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer', Malena De Martini. I loved it so much I went straight onto Amazon afterwards and bought her book! 

With having almost a whole year with family at home, even dogs who have never experienced separation anxiety may have some challenges. Therefore it is important we all address this from today, including young puppies. 

If we prepare dogs now for life after lockdown, we will not find ourselves on our first day back at work, or off for a trip to the shops with a long awaited coffee and cake with a best mate, that our dog is experiencing tremendous distress and anxiety back at home. 

Sadly, many dogs experience true panic and distress in absence from their care givers. This strong emotion is very real to them, it may seem irrational to us but just like us humans we can experience true panic when flying, yet it is more dangerous to cross the road. 

This condition can be completely overwhelming and very distressing for all involved. True separation distress is a welfare issue, these dogs really are suffering. 

It is very helpful to video your dog when you are out to see how they cope and know if they are comfortable or not. Malena De Martini had found research that there is no correlation with separation anxiety to spoiling your dog, it also appears some dogs may have a genetic pre disposition to develop the condition. 

Some dogs will need building up to being left alone with small steps, with some dogs requiring an earlier starting point, where the care giver implements the desensitising process without even leaving the house.

You are ultimately aiming to reduce the anxiety associated with your departure, rather than attempt to treat the symptoms directly (symptoms being undesirable behaviours when the care givers are absent from anything from panting, attempting to escape, elimination in the house and many more). 

A good plan would be to have a series of planned departures with a gradual increase in duration, in small increments that dosent bring on any anxiety. The most effective way would be to increase the departure duration very slowly, but with the greatest number of short departures. 

To prepare for post pandemic life: 

* Have a video set up at home, as this is key in any diagnosis and to see how comfortable your dog is when left. 

*Practise now, regular but short and brief absences. Chilled departures, with warm and chilled out greetings when you return. It is also kind not to ignore your dog when you return home (Remember, most dogs when you do a rehearsed repetition of absences will get bored of the process and no longer get so distressed). 

*Keep your relationships maintained with your dog walkers and caretakers 

*When you are home, put some focus on enrichment activities and mental stimulation with your dog

With any separation anxiety and distress conditions, prognosis is excellent and it is never too late, neither is a case too bad to contemplate treatment (which is relatively straight forward)

Good luck with your preparation to life after lockdown! 👍

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Share the Praise.....words by Josh Hinds!

Hi Guys!

After a weird sort of stressed/agitated day I have decided to share some lovely words, written by a guy called Josh Hinds.
Read it and see where you can apply this with your relationship with your dogs, and see how it will benefit :-)

The Unseen Benefits of Doing Good
By Josh Hinds

I dare say that every day brings with it the opportunity to
share a kind act with another. Yet, if we're honest with
ourselves we can all recount a time where we have neglected
to do so. With life moving so fast, and all the demands it
can place on us it is no wonder we end up forgetting to pass
out those kind gestures from time to time.

Unfortunately, if we neglect to do so we also miss out on
the many benefits which are afforded to those who take the
time to do so. Not the least of which is the unique feeling
of happiness and fulfillment.

We justify our not giving a kind word or act by telling
ourselves all the reasons why the other person is
undeserving of our favorable treatment. What is perhaps most
sad is that when you give of yourself in the form of some
kindness you can't help but benefit from your gift of
kindness as well. It is a strange phenomena indeed. As you
give, so you receive. It's as though you put yourself into a
mode that allows you to better receive in kind what you have
given. I don't claim to fully understand how it works, but
I've seen it come to pass enough to know there's truth in
it. I imagine you've seen it happen that way too, right?

There is something very empowering about taking the focus
off yourself, if even for just a moment -- and placing it on
another strictly with the intention of making them feel good
or empowering them. Think back to a time where someone gave
you an encouraging word. Consider also how it made you feel
when you passed along that encouraging word to another. It
made you light up just a bit even though you weren't the one
on the receiving end didn't it?

That's the essence of what I'm suggesting here. Throughout
your day make a conscious effort to give deserving praise.
If you will make the choice to do so you can transform the
place you work and live. You can transform the interactions
you have with those in your life -- both personally and
professionally. It's not magic, rather it comes to pass over
time, sometimes slow, and other times they appear to pass in
the blink of an eye.

The benefits and the satisfaction we gain from doing acts of
kindness are vast -- and often beyond what we can possibly
comprehend. Life truly is like a boomerang, the more good
you throw out, the more you shall find that it makes its way
back to you.

The point isn't to be perfect. You will have moments where
you will miss the mark. Where you will look back and know
you should done this or that. That's what I like to refer to
as being human. We're not perfect and I dare say we couldn't
be even if we tried. That said, such a pursuit is
worthwhile, for as Les Brown so wisely said, "shoot for the
moon and if you miss you will still be among the stars" --
and that my friend is worth considering.

It's your life, LIVE BIG!
Josh Hinds

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Aggression is only a symptom...........

The other day I met a gentleman, and his recently rescued dog, Rover over our local park.

I had met Rover before when he was being fostered for a few weeks so I was aware when I came across him that he had only had him a few weeks.

When I asked him how it was going he said 'fine but he is aggressive'. This prompted me to ask many questions such as to when Rover shows the symptom of aggression, how and does aggression improve the result for rover.

The gentleman was very sweet and mentioned about the training techniques the guy was using who was fostering him before and the 'aftercare advice' he was giving to this lovely family.

They had been told to stand over him and be 'domineering' and also been advised to watch the ever so popular dog training program on the TV, by the guy who I would refer to as Marmite....you either love him or hate him!

Marmite I used to LOVE years ago before I learnt and studied what I have now. I used to be the gullible dog owner who would rave about his techniques and how he would always get the dog to do what he wanted!

Little did I know then that Marmite was using the techniques of Positive Punishment and Flooding. Both of these techniques DO NOT address the lying emotion of the dog when expressing the 'problem' behaviours.

Marmite is a very charismatic gentleman and the editing of the show is somewhat 'Sexy TV', showing quick results and advises owners to not try these techniques at home.

How on earth can families modify thier dogs behaviour if not allowed to try them at home?! Surely that should ring alarm bells?

What I would like to see is an education at a media level and all Television companies, as the media has a powerful effect on the population. If Marmite wasnt aired on the TV, I am SURE there wouldn't be as many 'aggression' related problems in the world and also a lot less dogs with stupid bl@@dy shock collars around their neck, and an approach of treat the root cause NOT the symptoms.

Why mask the symptoms with intimidating behaviour, leading to further escalated problems and suppression of emotions. Shutting the dog down and making the dog completely miserable, and fearful to offer ANY behaviour in fear it will be reprimanded, and punished.

I do wish humans would obey the law and only give out behavioural advice ONLY if they are QUALIFIED and EXPERIENCED in the field and to ALWAYS sought veterinnary approval beforehand to rule out any clinical physical reason as to why the dog may be exhibiting these behaviours. You know how it is to have a major toothache, it makes you grouchy right?!.....

To address and modify effectively any dogs behaviour you need to address the underlying emotion at the time of the behaviour being displayed. This can be done using positive reinforcement and respondent conditioning, with LOTS of time, LOVE, patience, CONSISTENCY and a clear plan of how to go about it.

Afterall, EMOTIONS drive BEHAVIOUR , and vice versa BEHAVIOUR drives EMOTIONS.

Change the underlying emotion and bingo it changes the behaviour!

Aggression is just a symptom, it is NOT a reason. Look at what is driving the symptoms.....

Please note it is also important to look at this as a whole and every dog as an individual case, taking into account things such as diet, genetics, past learnt behaviours, owner intervention, management, medical reasons etc, as these can all contribute to behavioural problems.

The most important thing to remember is to always take advice from a professional!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Dominance 'Fact or fiction'......

I am going to blog about the very talked about term of ‘dominance’. This term is widely used in the canine world.

When I think of ‘Dominance’ the following words spring to my mind....control, authority, power, having the upper hand, a dog trying to raise their status etc.

It seems today, especially within the media and amongst dog walkers and some trainers that the term ‘dominance’ appears to be a very misunderstood, and an extremely over used term. In most cases dominance isn’t even the case! People seem to be so obsessed these days of the ‘pack rules’ and dogs wanting to raise their status over us.

Since owning my own dogs and being a dog walker, I have seen many examples of people mis-interpreting dogs and labelling them ‘dominant’.

An example of a dog being labelled dominant in a dog/human context:

My second dog Mickey we rescued at eight months old. This is Mickey’s sixth home, so he has had a bad start in life. Firstly the whole litter was dumped at four months old (after the critical learning period), he then went to five homes in the space of six months. When I first got him he would barge through doorways and try to steal Molly’s food if she walked away from her bowl. This would in most people’s eyes be a sign of dominance, but poor Mickey has been from home to home, being rejected so many times, making him insecure. Having lived in many kennels hasn’t given him many social skills within a home environment. His house training in the past and as a puppy was to shove him outside in the cold and wet to do his business, thus teaching Mickey that it is ok to rush through doors. Deep down he is a fearful young dog, but slowly he has become a beautiful well mannered dog (most of the time!!!!), with continued consistent positive training, lots of love, exercise and a very good diet he will be one hundred percent J

An example of dominance in human/human context:

A friend of mine’s boyfriend is very jealous, always wanting to know where she is and phoning her at her every move. He gets mad at her and shouts if she gets dressed up. He could be named dominant towards her, but deep down he is very fearful she may leave him and very insecure. He uses this behaviour as his way to try and ‘keep’ her, so he will not be left alone.

An example of a label of dominance in dog/dog context:

My friend owns a miniature schnauzer. When the dog sees a puppy he goes crazy, runs up to it barking furosiously and pins the puppy down. Everyone looks and says ‘oh isn’t he being dominant’ when really if you know his history, he was mildy attacked as a puppy by a young ‘fluffy’ looking dog. Ever since then he has had an ‘active defence mechanism’ built in him, as he is ‘fearful’, and now when he sees young fluffy looking dogs, he thinks ‘if I make a load of noise and scare them away they cannot hurt me!’ .....He is not being dominant, far from it.

Here are some very varied examples of different dog trainers’ views on ‘Dominance’

Cesar Millan – “Dogs have ingrained pack mentality. If you’re asserting leadership over your dog, your dog will try to compensate by showing dominant behaviour”.

James O’Heare – “A dog’s brain has changed, it no longer thinks like a wolf because it isn’t a wolf. A dog has different values to a wolf. A dog values what he finds rewarding within his environment, toys, food, walks, agility, companionship.....”

Ray Coppinger – “ The natural selection model points out that the wolf qualities are severely modified. Dogs do not think like wolves, nor do they behave like them.”

Barry Eaton – “Dogs can live quite happily in a social group, why would they feel the need to be part of our ‘pack’. Our domestic dog has no reason to form a pack with his human owner as every need for survival is provided for – by us. There is therefore no need to ‘dominate’ our dog or be the alpha.”

Ray Coppinger – “I don’t think a dog knows what people are talking about when they exhibit this ‘alpha wolf’ behaviour. Dogs do not understand such behaviours because the village dogs didn’t have pack structure; they were semisolitary animals. Such behaviour by humans confuses them.”

Sadly, many humans label any behaviour from a dog that is not what the person wants as dominance.

These are some of the behaviours that get the label dominant:

Aggression - this could be a past learnt behaviour to back a dog/human off whom the dog may be fearful of.

Boisterous behaviour – Some dogs haven’t yet learnt from other dogs how far they should go with ‘playing’.

Having no manners – Good positive training and reinforcement should eradicate this.

Pulling on the lead – The dog clearly wants to get to the park quickly and has not been taught to walk to heel!

Sitting on sofas and beds – they are comfy aren’t they??!

Resource guarding – The dog is protecting their prized possession. A past learnt behaviour may cause them to show aggression when resource guarding. There are good positive methods that can help teach the dog not to resource guard.

Lying in doorways and top of stairs – Maybe they just like it there.....?

Dogs going through doorways first - This could be because, as puppies, dogs are taught to rush outside when young to do their toilet, to prevent any ‘accidents’, this learnt behaviour they take with them into adulthood, unless taught otherwise.

Paw-ing their owner for attention - This could be attention seeking as more than likely their owners have been at work all day.

Playing tug of war - A dog will not think he is winning status over you if he wins a game of tug of war, it is purely just a game of fun!! The only caution would be not to let the dog think it is his ‘trophy’.

How lazy and ignorant of some people to use the label of dominance, instead of looking at the dog individually.

Every dog is completely different. Here are some examples of what makes each dog individual:

Physical make up

Current and past medical conditions

Past learning experiences



Set up at home

Exercise levels

Are they spayed or neutered?

Emotional state...dog may be fearful, anxious, defensive, insecure etc

Training, if any at all

How much have they been socialised?

Owner’s temperament and mood may affect the dog.

The whole dominance theory and ‘pack rules’ came about through a study on captive wolves in the 1940’s. This study made people put a direct comparison with domestic dogs as we descended from wolves over 10,000 to 14,000 years ago.

Some researchers found there to be a huge flaw in the study. These are the reasons to prove it:

· The study was very short.

· It was based on the study of wolves on hunting. This makes a small percentage on any wolfs life.

· The studies observed (what are now known to be ritualistic displays) were misinterpreted and a ‘dominance’ idea came about.

The behaviour between a captive and wild wolf pack is very different.

Wild wolf pack – Alpha male and female (the breeders) usually initiate the hunting. The breeding male provides the food when there are cubs to feed. Most wild wolf packs live in harmony. There is also no need for individuals to compete for higher status as the ‘parents’ provide the food and give leadership to the pack.

Captive wolf pack – Captive wolves make frequent challenges to gain higher status. The pack will have different wolves of different ages and gender forced together. This provides significant tension, especially during the mating season. The captive pack is managed my man, so there is no need to hunt as food is provided for them.

A comparison if one should be made at all, between dogs and their distant cousins should be made between wild wolves and domesticated dog’s not captive wolves.

The long process of wolves becoming dogs has made dogs less like them through natural and artificial selection. Here are some of the things which make wolves and dogs so different:

Coat colours are all different

Size of ears and tail

Skull size

Size of limbs


Bitches have two oestrous cycles a year starting from six months when a wolf bitch will have a season only once a year and not until she is two years old...the list goes on.

Many behaviourists and dog trainers still use ‘pack rules’ and rank reduction programs to try to ‘cure’ what they believe to be dominance issues in dogs. This is unlikely to work as dogs do not learn positively, and more than likely it will cause the dog to become pretty miserable and fearful of their owner and only compound problems further. In the past rank reductions have worked well on some dogs. This is because the owner removed the dog’s rewards and altered expected events.

Rank reductions may well affect many areas of the dog’s life, when really the problem may only be a singular one.

Dogs live in the here and now, they are pretty straight forward, they do not have an ulterior motive! To put it simply....if left to their own devices, dogs will do what works for them and what feels rewarding.

Why would a dog want to raise thier status over us in the house? It is the owners who provide them comfort, food, a home, exercise, love, etc? Domesticated dogs are very dependent on us, they clearly would not survive in the wild, they do not have the necessary predatory motor patterns, so why would they want to be at the top and be the ‘alpha’?!

Dogs and wolves have very different values, a dog values what he feels rewarding within his own environment. A wolf’s value is pure survival. A domesticated dog has had all this provided for him.

In order to help prevent problem dogs and people labelling dogs ‘dominant’, it is important to start early in the dog’s life with positive, reward based training.

· Make resources more possible for the dog to have based on the dog’s behaviour. If the dog wants his food or a treat, Great, ask him to sit first. If the dog wants to greet visitors, he must sit and wait first, and so on.....it gives the dog a purpose and positive reason to be well behaved J

  • Reward respectful and considerate behaviour, rather than pushy behaviour. If one dog pushes in front of the other, the other dog gets the attention. The first dog to sit gets treated. Pulling on the lead gets the dog nowhere. Doors don't open until dogs are calm and the owner says they may go out. If you accidently reward unruly and pushy behaviour you will get unruly and pushy behaviour.

Domesticated dogs should be socialised from a small puppy and carry on right through its life, especially the critical development period of up to fourteen weeks.

There is no need to ‘dominate’ the dog and make its life a misery, if you give the dog a purpose, good training, a balanced healthy diet, regular checks at the vets and lots of love and exercise, I assure you that you will have a greater chance of getting in return a balanced happy dog and not a ‘dominant’ one.

Dogs are social animals like us, the home is a social unit not a pack. The study on wolves and the definition of dominance generally means as Barry Eaton states “A drive towards the elimination of competition for a mate.” This is not relevant for domesticated dogs. Dogs if they form a pack at all, will do so with their own species as dogs are con-specific. The truth is “Dogs are not wolves.”!


Dogs – Raymond and Lorna Coppinger

Be the pack leader – Cesar Millan

Dominance:fact or fiction? – Barry Eaton

Dominance theory and dogs – James O’Heare

Why does my dog? – John Fisher

www.clicker solutions.com





Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Blog by "Pedigree Dogs Exposed - The Blog": How to achieve perfect ears

With a huge passion for the wellbeing of dogs I thought I would share this post that was on the Pedigree Dogs exposed blog.
Pedigree Dogs Exposed - The Blog: How to achieve perfect ears: "First, up, how to glue a Border Collie's ears. Why? Because the breed standard calls for them to be erect or semi-erect. And here's how to..."

Saturday, 2 April 2011

The Veterinary Surgery Act 1966

This is my first blog so I have decided to write about a very important subject which is often overlooked - The Veterinary Surgery Act of 1966.

Many people give advice and treat our animals, but it is illegal to treat or give behavioural advice to an animal other than your own without veterinary consent.

The law in the UK is very clear about who can and cannot treat an animal. Not even a veterinary surgeon is entitled to give a dog a ‘complimentary’ treatment, unless he/she has been qualified in the chosen therapy.

The veterinary Act 1966 was passed to prevent lay persons from practising veterinary surgery on animals.

It states that only registered members of ‘The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ (RCVS), can practice veterinary surgery i.e. The Vet!

As quoted from the RCVS Guide to professional conduct 2000, Veterinary surgery is defined as

“........encompassing the art of science of veterinary surgery and medicine which includes the diagnosis of diseases and injuries in animals, tests performed on animals for diagnostic purposes, advice based upon a diagnosis......”.

Although the Veterinary Surgeons act 1966 is very strict it does have a few exemptions.

The exemptions cover Veterinary Nurses and Veterinary Students.

Complimentary therapies are also included in these exemptions, these therapies are governed by ‘The Veterinary Surgery (exemptions) order 1962’.

Complimentary Therapies under the exemption order 1962 refer to four categories –

Manipulative therapies - i.e. Physiotherapy, Osteopathy, Chiropractic, Acupressure, Shiatsu, Massage, Tellington Touch and Lymphatic drainage.

Animal Behaviourism – Behavioural treatment is exempt, unless medication is used where permission must again be sought from the Veterinary Surgeon.

Faith healing – permission must be sought from the veterinary surgeon before the ‘laying on of hands’

Other complimentary therapies – These are illegal unless the veterinary surgeon is qualified in the field.

The following are not allowed to be advised or prescribed by a non- veterinary surgeon, whether or not under the supervision of a Veterinary surgeon and whether or not there has been an exchange of fees. They are Aromatherapy, Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Bach Flower remedies, Tissue salts and Herbal medicine. If any of these therapies have been administered, there is scope for prosecution of the owner and the prescriber under the ‘Animal Welfare Act 2006’.

Veterinary Surgeons now recognise complimentary therapies, they are now fully aware of the options available to dogs. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons officially recognise the effectiveness and importance of manipulative therapies in the treatment of dogs (and other pets).

Massage and behavioural work are Complimentary therapies which can be administered and/or advised after proper Veterinary referral, and under the supervision of the Veterinary Surgeon.

Even though Complimentary Therapy has a very important part to play, it should never be used instead of veterinary care and advice from the veterinary surgeon.