Category Archives: Dog doc – reader’s questions

Quin’s Story: Week 6 – Socialisation

How do you socialise?

When you meet someone, do you rush up to them shouting ‘Play with me’? Do you insist that everyone you meet talks to you and gives you a hug? Or do you calmly walk up and look at the person to see if they are interested in talking? Let’s think about how dogs need to learn to say hello?

Border collies
How do you do?

If your small dog runs up to my tiny puppy and chases it, do you think ‘how sweet they’re playing’? I don’t think that. My puppy is frightened. He doesn’t know your dog, so why would he want to play with it? What will happen when Quin grows into a big dog (the size of a lab) and your dog runs up to him and chases him? He might turn round and say ‘go away’ and snap his teeth, which might catch your dog and draw blood. Who’s fault will this be? You taught him that dogs are scary and rude. 

Border collies
lounging about

Call your dog. Get it under control. Walk calmly towards me and say hello to me. If I stop to chat, your dog and mine will say hello. They might even play!  I teach my dogs to ignore everything they pass, as a starting point. But if I say hello to someone, they can say hello. Calmly. It’s not that I’m an anti-social bitch who never talks to anyone. It’s that I want a calm, relaxing walk, with no stress, shouting or running away.  No barking or lunging. No pulling on the lead. No lying down until other dogs go past and then leaping at them.

How to socialise your dog

Teach them to be calm and focus on you. Like this:

Other dogs just aren’t that interesting. There is no need to panic and run away. Nor is there any need to bark or lunge. This other dog is not a playmate, I am exciting and will play with you! One of the crucial parts of this process is how I behave with my dog. I MUST stay calm and positive. If I am nervous, particularly if my dog is on lead, my dog will know straight away and that will impact on how he reacts.

Ignore it, it’s boring

Here is some more training to ignore. With a bit of recall thrown in at the start:

You can see in this video that there is a lot of feeding of treats – in this case, cheese! Look how small he is though! Such a baby still. I am not going to feed him this much indefinitely, but at this point, I need to get commitment from him. NB: I feed my dogs treats as rewards for the whole of their life!

The next step

When you are confident that your dog is calm and feeling happy, you can try a bit of greeting:

You can see in this clip that he is not that confident. He thinks about running away, but is reassured by me standing calmly. Quin then comes through my legs, so nice and close to me. He enjoys saying hello. So much in fact he jumps up! He nearly gets rewarded for that, but fortunately he remembers he’s not supposed to do that so is rewarded for sitting down.

Look at how he is with the other dog. He doesn’t really want to engage with it. The other dog would like to sniff him, but it is on lead, so can’t get there without pulling. Because he’s pulling, he can’t reach Quin and Quin isn’t interested in talking to him (perhaps because he is pulling?) So then we calmly walk away.

What is socialisation? Why do we need it?

What is the ultimate goal here? I am aiming to teach my dogs to calmly pass other dogs on their walks. But I also want to be able to have them walk alongside other dogs, if I meet up with friends.

If you only have one dog, these issues are bigger and more difficult to overcome. If you have a breed of dog (or a mix of breeds) that are not particularly confident, such as a poodle, or a toy dog, you will find these issues more challenging to train.

Border collies
Two families together

Border Collies want to learn and to please. They are more intelligent than other breeds and will pick up training more quickly. But that doesn’t mean you can’t train other dogs – of course you can. You just might need more time, more effort and maybe some professional help from a good dog trainer.

Other training progress

I’ve started teaching Quin to ‘wait’. This takes a long time, but is an essential command, one that I use every day.

I will be adding time, distance and distraction over the next few months.

Finally, I am very pleased with his on-lead walking. I don’t walk him on lead very much, but is vital that he is able to do so.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think of this post?  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

7 Ways to be A Perfect Dog Owner

How to give your dog its best life

With so many first time dog owners appearing over the past 18 months, it is hard to recognise just what it takes to do the best you can for your dog. I know people who absolutely adore their dogs, but they do not necessarily have all the right attributes that their dog would want.

I’m going to start off by saying – buy the right dog! That doesn’t mean the most expensive, or the one I like (Border Collie). It’s what’s right for you. Choose the right breed and buy from the right breeder.  Or get a rescue. I don’t mind. It’s you that will be living with it for the next 10-15 years. That’s longer than you’ll have your car or your sofa. After that, it’s up to you..

1: Interact with your dog

Talk to it, play with it, stroke it. You’d be amazed how many people like having a dog around the place, but don’t actually engage with it. NB: Don’t cuddle your dog unless they ask to be cuddled. Above all, be there for your dog so it doesn’t need to rush up to other dogs and people.  It should NOT be desperately attention-seeking. It should be happy with its own family.

Border collies
We love you (you have the ball!)

2: Be present as much as possible

Dogs are sociable and like hanging out together. If you’re going to be out all day, make sure you do plenty with your dog when you’re in. Hire a good dog walker, who walks dogs in groups. Have another dog. Or a cat.

Border collies
Just hanging out

I’m not saying you can’t have a dog if you work. We all have to work at some stage in our lives and I don’t think people should deny themselves a dog just because they are out. Dogs sleep for the majority of the day anyway, provided they have had a good walk in the morning and some play, training and interaction later on.

3: Groom your dog

Check your dog over daily for parasites, grass seeds, sores etc. Just stroke it! Brush when you can, but often. Little and often works wonders. Even if you dog has long hair, tackling it for 5 minutes a day can make a big difference.

Border collies
Beautifully groomed

Many of the poodle crossbreeds need regular professional grooming, which does take time and effort to organise and of course costs money! Take that into consideration when choosing the right dog for you? Don’t wait until it is a horrible matted mess that has to be shaved to the skin. We have created dogs in different shapes and sizes, so it is our responsibility to care for them properly.

4: Feed your dog sensibly

A well-balanced diet makes for a happy dog. Pay attention to the level of activity of your dog, rather than what the bag says. Is it active enough? Or too hyper? Too fat? Or too thin?  You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs, not see them.

A healthy, happy dog

We all know that obesity causes terrible health problems, so why inflict that on your dog? ‘Just a few treats’ is no good if your dog suffers as a result. You have the power to control your dog’s food intake and therefore to manage its health proactively. Pay attention.

If you have more than one dog, don’t think you can feed them all the same food and don’t just chuck the food down and walk away. Control the food you give and watch how it is eaten. Manage it. Personally, I feed a nutritionally balanced kibble because it works for my dogs. I am not knowledgeable enough to feed them food I have concocted myself. And I can’t be bothered! It’s easy to feed ourselves rubbish, but why should our dogs have to suffer? Raw food carries bacteria which may be leading to antibiotic resistance, which could be fatal for us all. I do not recommend this.

5: Walk your dog

Walk your dog slowly, so it can sniff and experience the world around it. An hour wandering and sniffing is far better than a pavement trudge several times a day. Don’t take it for a run! Dogs don’t naturally go ‘out for a run’ it’s not really their thing. They might run around chasing each other in a game, or chasing prey, but it’s not really necessary for our dogs. Let them be active in their own space, at their own pace.

Border collies
Active on her terms

Doing the same walk every day is useless – dogs need variety. And of course Let. Them. Off. Lead. You wouldn’t go for a walk with a blindfold on. Don’t torture your dog – here’s a lovely place you can’t experience, because I am holding onto you! Here are dogs to say hello to, or be frightened of, but I am hanging on to you so you can’t deal with that yourself. Teach your dog how to behave when they are out and about and they can enjoy a relaxing walk. Which brings me on to..

6: Train your dog!

Teach your dog to come when you call it. Stand in a different room from your dog and call it. Does it come? If it’s barking at a squirrel in the garden and you call it, does it come? If you open the fridge door, does it suddenly appear? Hmm, maybe a bit more work on recall is required… It is absolutely NOT difficult, nor is it rocket science. It just takes effort. And lots of practice. With cheese.

Border collies
Starting young

You don’t have to teach tricks to your dog, but it’s fun to engage your brain and theirs. Going to classes can be about focusing on your dog and sharing your experiences with others. Teaching your dog manners will save you both a lot of heartache.  Basically, the more effort you make, the more you will enjoy your dog.

7: Say goodbye with dignity

Don’t put your dog through complex or invasive treatments, especially if they are a reasonable age and have had a good life. Let them go, with love. And be there to hold them as they do.  It’s hard to part with your best friend and constant companion, but don’t make them suffer because you don’t want to say goodbye?

Border collies
If you love them, let them go

They make us laugh, they are there for us, bringing so much joy. Don’t they deserve a good life?  These points should all have been so obvious they don’t need saying, but can you tick them all?

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think of this post?  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Quin’s Story: Week 5 – Jumping up

Don’t jump up!

A dog that jumps up at people is annoying. Fact. People rarely like it. Unless of course it is their dog, when they might actively encourage it. Which is a bit of a shame, because it makes training a lot more difficult.

If you are out walking your dog though, chances are you do NOT want them rushing up to strangers and leaping into their faces. So why do they do that? And what can we do about it?

Why dogs jump up

With this litter, my tenth, I finally realised why dogs jump up. When they were just a few weeks old, the mum is not with them all the time. She arrives into the den or run and they rush to greet her. Initially this is just for milk. They scrabble around to get onto a teat and when they are too big to fit lying down, she will stand so they can get into position underneath her.

border collies
the milk bar

A few weeks later, they have started to eat solid food. In the wild, this consists of her regurgitating food for them. The puppies all rush to her mouth and ‘kiss’ her, licking and pawing at her.

Steps to stop jumping up

It is perfectly possible to stop your puppy from jumping up at you. But it takes CONSISTENCY and you must be PERSISTENT. Here are the steps:

  1. Sit down with all members of your household and agree that this is a behaviour you want to stop. You can have plenty of cuddles with your dog, without letting them jump up when they see you.
  2. When you come into the room with your puppy, DO NOT give attention if they jump up at you. Say nothing. No eye contact.
  3. If they persist in jumping, turn away from them. Walk away from them, ignoring them completely.
  4. When they stop jumping up, bend down and give lots of praise and fuss. Ideally, say ‘yes!’ as you do this. You are rewarding the correct behaviour. Great.
  5. Model this behaviour for your family and friends. Ask them to copy you.

Out on walks

Ideally, you then need to continue this good practice when you are out and about. You should initially stop your puppy from greeting people on walks. Call your dog to you and reward their attention. Then when they are calm and still, the person you meet can bend down and make a fuss of them. Perfect!

What is rewarding?

There are various things that your dog finds rewarding:

  • Praise – your dog loves you and anything you say in a positive voice is rewarding to them
  • Patting – a gentle fuss around their head or ears is tremendously rewarding
  • Play – activity with a toy is great fun!
  • Food – (can’t think of a way to say food beginning with p). Of course food is a great reward. Tiny amounts though.
food is not the only reward option

If you push your dog off you when it jumps up, you are rewarding it with ‘patting’. If you shout at it, you are rewarding it with ‘praise’ by speaking to it. Have a look at my ‘fun quiz‘ for more ideas about how not to reward your dog…

Managing visitors to your house

Of course not everyone you know will understand the importance of good dog behaviour and they may be really pleased to meet your dogs. But some visitors may be quite nervous around dogs and definitely don’t want to be leapt on!

border collies
a calm hello

When people arrive, put your dog away. Every home should have a separate space, even if it is just a bathroom. Ideally, it should be a room that the dog is used to being in on its own, so that it doesn’t try and wreck it if left for a few minutes.

Greet your guests, bring them in. Ideally, you want to get them seated and settled before you bring the dogs in. Then calmly let the puppy in. If people are sitting down there is less chance of them being jumped on and it is easier for the visitor to bend down to stroke them.

If the puppy jumps up, try calling them away. Calm them down, then let them try again. If they get too excited, take them away. Do this by calling them, not dragging them. Put them away again, preferably with a treat.

Good manners cost nothing

It’s just a bit of time and effort. You want other people to love your dog, so try to teach it to behave politely? I did train Ounce not to jump up, more or less. Here is the post of her progress at around this age.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

Quin’s Story: Week 4 – Biting puppy?

Puppy biting is such a problem, isn’t it?

Puppies have VERY sharp teeth – everyone knows that! When they first arrive home at 8 weeks of age, they can be really bitey. Children soon go off their cute, fluffy puppy when it nips their ankles and chews their fingers.

Border Collie
Quin

I see so much about people being exasperated with their puppies biting so much. Now I have a confession to make: I have never been bothered by a biting puppy! I’ve been pondering about why this might be and have come up with a few reasons. Here goes..

  1. Don’t let your puppy become overtired. My puppies have a pretty calm life. I do play with them and I do make sure I spend some time every day training them. Apart from that, nothing much happens in our house. Even when my sons were small, we were not a household full of shouting and running around. It’s hardly ever hectic. So my puppies don’t get to that ‘overtired’ stage, where they just don’t know what to do with themselves. That’s when they can’t control their biting and it gets much more frequent and harder!
  2. Tell your puppy that it hurts! When puppies play with each other, or with adult dogs, they do occasionally hurt each other. You always hear a yelp when this happens. They then stop playing and look at each other. Then the play starts up again. So when a puppy accidentally bites me too hard, I yelp. Or at least, I say ‘Ow!’ Well that seems reasonable, doesn’t it?
  3. Let them know it is not acceptable. If my puppies are behaving in a way that is annoying, I say ‘No!’ and then call them away. I might even give them a tap on their nose if they are really getting carried away. Or just push them off and leave them alone for a minute. Again, this is the same way the adult dogs behave. Puppies are quick to learn.
Border Collie
Puppies need plenty of sleep

Teething

Of course puppies do need to chew and bite, especially when they start to lose their baby teeth and replace them with adult teeth. Again, I’ve never particularly found this difficult. My top tip: provide plenty of things to chew! Frozen carrot sticks are supposed to be good. Or food put into a frozen ‘Kong‘. Equally good can be alternatives to bones. We don’t give our dogs bones or sticks these days, because there is a risk of choking. (That doesn’t mean they won’t eat sticks from the garden if they can!)

Border Collie
Sticks are so great!

Give it up!

I’ve noticed that Quin is very good at finding things in the garden that he then doesn’t want to give up. He will run away from me if I try to get it off him.

DON’T CHASE HIM! He’ll love that game! I have to call him, standing still, with a treat in my hand. If he thinks what he has is particularly fantastic, I might need an extra tasty treat – a bit of cheese. I offer him the treat and make sure I am being positive and exciting. He drops the bit of mud/hair/stick and comes to see me. I then slide round him to pick up the discarded yuck. Nice!

Border Collie
Dogs are not allowed on sofas

It’s worth remembering to limit access to the garden at this age. It’s a whole world out there, full of mischief to make! Holes to be dug, plants to be chewed, poo to be eaten. Of course it’s tempting to leave the door open, so that he can go to the toilet when he needs to, but it’s just not worth it.

Toileting – getting there

Trying to cover one topic per week is clearly hopeless – there is so much to deal with! Quin is being really good with his toileting, on the whole. When he wakes up, I take him out and then give him loads of praise for going. I also have to remember to do this after he’s been playing for a while. And after he’s eaten of course. But the good news is that he can hold on for a while. He isn’t going to the toilet indoors most of the time, with just an occasional accident (not usually on my watch :p)

Border Collie
Butter wouldn’t melt

Finally..

A quick training update – we have been practising our ‘down’ command. Every day, a few times. Then a few more times. I start by bringing him down with my hand, holding a treat. Then I try using the hand action without a treat, then giving the treat once he is down. You need to start without really saying anything, then add the word ‘down’. Say it in the same voice every time, if you can.

The final stage is to give the command and wait. Don’t move! See if he knows what you’re on about. If not, use your hand. Then try again. If he isn’t getting it, move him a bit and try again. The video is not great, but we’re getting there. Clever boy!

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

Quin’s Story: Week 3 – First Walk

First time out for a walk!

It’s a day you look forward to, but also secretly dread. How will your puppy behave when they go out into the world? What will happen? Will you be able to manage?

Quin is my 8th dog. I remember taking one puppy out for their first time on lead, 35 years ago and being amazed at how they danced around and dangled on the end of the lead! Coping with the lead is very much the first battle. Nowadays I make sure that puppies have met their collar and lead well before their first walk.

Vaccination restrictions

As a breeder, I don’t vaccinate my puppies before they go to their new homes. This is because each veterinary practice has a different brand of vaccine and a different regime for giving these. My vet gives the first vaccine at 8 weeks and the second one three weeks later. The puppy can go out straight away after this, although not swimming in lakes and rivers for another month.

border collie
Ounce sets out

Please make sure you follow the guidance given by your vet and respect their regime.

Going out out

Just because the puppy can’t go out for a walk, does not mean they cannot go out! Of course I have taken them out for microchipping, hearing and eye tests and their school visits! Then they travel to their new home.

Border collies
Baby Ounce

I hope that my puppy owners have taken their puppies out for visits to friends’ houses. Or carried them along to meet people at the school gates. They might even go out for a walk in a puppy sling. (I can’t do that with Quin – he’s too heavy already :p).

Finally though, the day is here and they are ready to go out out.

Off lead – surely not?

I ask my potential puppy owners when they should let their puppy off lead. Sometimes people say ‘Six months?’ A six month old puppy is fully grown. They can run – fast! Even a small toy breed can shoot across the ground at that age. So you’ve got absolutely no chance of catching it.

When you first take your dog out, you are their whole world! You are their comfort blanket, their familiar, loving, caring food provider. You should also be their fun playmate.

If you really don’t believe they will come back to you – get a longline. Then you can let them wander away from you, but still have some control. You can gently tug the line as you call them. If all else fails, you can hang onto the end and go and get them.

You shouldn’t need to do that though. If you have done the practice recall around the house and garden, and played with them, you should be able to go for it!

How long should first walks be?

When you take your puppy out for their first walk, 15 minutes is long enough. It’s an intense experience for a dog. There are so many smells! So much to look at! All that noise! Added to which you are making them think about coming back to you.

Border collies
tired puppy

Do not imagine you need to ‘tire out’ a puppy. They will play all day long, unless they are asleep! Puppies are extremely active, but also sleep for long stretches. They must be able to regulate this activity level themselves. Enforced activity can do untold damage to joints. Not to mention the more you force a dog to exercise, the fitter they will get.

You wouldn’t take a 2 year old child on a 3 mile run, would you? Well don’t do it to a puppy either :(. Keep it short and sweet. A positive experience for you all. Then do it again tomorrow.

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

NO PUPPIES AVAILABLE

6 Tips to Deal With Problem Puppy Behaviour

Damage Limitation: 6 ways to help you manage your puppy

This week I have been asked for advice from a few people having to deal with all the usual puppy issues. I thought it would be helpful to share some of my experiences and thoughts with you.

Puppies are so annoying and challenging! They just don’t do what we think they will. We imagine our life with a wonderful dog and it just doesn’t seem like that straight away. I have written about this a few times, including in the post about getting the perfect dog. One of the biggest problems is that we don’t ‘speak dog‘ and irritatingly, they don’t speak human! I saw a post about an app that claimed to help you speak dog (it was rubbish).

Problem puppy
Gorgeous Rusty

Seriously though, there are ways of understanding our dogs and coping with their behaviours. Sometimes, it’s about managing that behaviour, rather than trying (and failing) to change it. Here are my top 6 annoying behaviours that you might find it easier to manage than to train away.

Barking at the doorbell

The doorbell rings, the dog barks. Fact. I was thinking this morning about how you might train this association out of your dog. You might be able to do this by sitting calmly with your dog, completely ignoring the doorbell. Acting as though nothing has happened.

Of course you can’t do that, because if the doorbell rings, you MUST answer it! So what happens when the bell rings? You react. You get up, you go out, you answer the door, you speak. In the past, someone would then enter the house. These are all actions that are exciting for your dog. So if you have to answer the door, your dog very quickly learns that they MUST bark!

Problem puppy behaviour
Luna is better than any doorbell

Our natural instinct in this situation is to shout at the dog to be quiet. SHUT UP! What the dog hears now is you joining in with the barking. That’s a brilliant game! He barks, you bark. How exciting!

ACTION: When the doorbell rings, calmly put the dog away in another room. Don’t speak to your dog, or touch it more than you have to. Shut the door and go and answer the front door. It’s not very exciting for the dog and nothing much happens. NB: You will NOT stop your dog barking. Don’t try. Just manage the situation.

Barking at squirrels, cats and birds from the window

This is almost exactly the same as the doorbell situation, with a pretty similar solution. Barking at squirrels, cats and birds is a dog’s job. It’s what they live for. So if you have a dog that can sit at a window and watch other animals in the garden, they will obviously bark at them. You should be saying “Good boy! Well done for barking and doing your dog job”. I’m guessing you don’t do that?

Problem puppy behaviour
It’s a CAT!

ACTION: Don’t let your dog sit at the window and bark, unless you like him doing it. Don’t shout at him (joining in). Just move him away from the window. Move your furniture around if you have to. Block off part of the window with frosting. Best of all, put your dog in a part of the house with no access to a view of the garden.

Then spend time with your dog, just chillin’. Watch TV together, or sit and work, with your dog lying calmly at your feet. Then take him for a nice walk, off lead, where he can chase those pesky squirrels and bark at all the birds!

Coming when called

Recall of your dog is the subject of whole training courses. I have written several posts about recall on this website (search ‘recall‘). But it’s a massive issue for everyone and the one thing that causes endless hassle. Because if your dog doesn’t come when you call it, you can’t let it off the lead. You can’t open the front door without worrying he will run off. You’re always on tenterhooks in case he runs onto a road.

ACTION: Let’s get straight to it. The easiest way to get your dog to come back to you is TO PRACTISE! I don’t mean when you are out on a walk and you get to the end of it and want to put him back on the lead. I mean every 5 minutes!

Ounce is nearly 4 years old and I STILL practise recalling her a few times every day on our walks. ‘Ounce come!’ and then give her a treat.

Start in the house. Call your dog “Dog come!” Use their name, with the word come. Be clear and exciting, positive and purposeful. Wait for them to come and then give a reward. This can be a tasty treat, or a toy and a game, or a fuss and a pat, or just a bit of lovely praise. “Well done! What a good boy.”

When you dog comes to you around the house, they are more likely to come when you are out. If you are interesting and rewarding, why wouldn’t they want to be with you?

Running up to other dogs

Following on from the challenge of recall, we have the problem of your dog running up to other dogs. This is often an unwanted behaviour, because the other dog may not be friendly. Again, I’m afraid the solution is PRACTISE RECALL! It really is that simple.

ACTION: You need to teach your dog to have good manners. Your dog needs to be able to say hello politely and to come away when needed. It takes time and patience, but it can be achieved.

dog greeting, problem puppy
Nice to meet you

I saw a lovely example of a young German Shepherd puppy, around four months old, doing exactly this. The owner engaged the pup with a toy before we were near. As we walked past, the owner had gone ahead, so the pup inevitably came jauntily up to my dogs. They weren’t impressed, but the pup was already learning that bouncing and jumping were not required. The owner then called the pup and off it went to its dad. Hurray! How lovely. Of course it will get worse before it’s perfect, as the dog hits adolescence, but hey, it’s a work in progress.

Barking at other dogs

Dogs bark at other dogs because they are either excited or scared. When dogs are off lead they rarely bark at other dogs, so that’s the easiest action to take. Again, a good recall is vital.

If your dog is on lead, you can start by deciding whether he is desperate to play with the other dogs, or worried that they might come near you. If they are worried, is that because you are worried?

problem puppy behaviour
What do you think dad?

ACTION: Ignore the other dog. It means nothing to you. It is of no interest. Your dog? Your dog is fantastic! You want to play with your dog! The more exciting, interesting and confident you are, the less your dog will take any notice of other dogs. Please DO NOT stand still, anxiously gripping your dog’s lead and worrying that the other dog might rush over to attack you and your dog? Honestly, most dogs have better things to do.

Dogs who live together mating (or trying to)

I’m including this last point because someone contacted me about this specific situation. I was really disappointed that a breeder had sold her brother and sister pups and not told her how to deal with this situation. I also felt the vet should have advised getting the male castrated at 6 months. Although we like to try and leave neutering a bit longer these days, some situations make it more important to get it done. We do NOT want accidental matings, particularly of brother and sister!

So can you train this behaviour out of your dogs? You could more easily hold back the sea. Of course you can keep them shut in different rooms, but you may well end up with howling, scratching dogs, off their food and generally being a complete wreck.

Sisters and brother together

ACTION: Send one of your dogs (usually the boy) to stay with family or friends. This is another case of ‘damage limitation’ and honestly, it is much better to have peace of mind than try and manage it.

The first week of a bitch’s season is usually not too bad. Once they stop bleeding as much, they are fertile and that’s when the fun starts. So be prepared and take the easy action to manage your problem puppies?

I hope you find this helpful. Good luck with your puppy!

Remember..

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Enrichment Activities for your Dog – Guest Post by Karen Young

This post is taken from Karen Young’s website: Safe Hands Clinical Canine Massage

Is every day feeling like Groundhog Day?

Groundhog Day is an American custom held on the 2nd February every year. If the hibernating Groundhog comes out of its den to sunshine he will see his shadow. Legend states this will mean 6 more weeks of winter and so the Groundhog will return to his den and go back to sleep. If the day is cloudy with no shadows the Groundhog will stay out of his den and spring is just around the corner. I am definitely hoping for cloudy!

Of course, Groundhog Day is better known in the UK for the 1993 Andie MacDowell and Bill Murray film where every day is literally the same day, over and over again. With Covid restrictions, home learning and working and limited entertainment options I have a much better understanding of how Bill Murray’s character would have felt.

Resting dog
Life can be boring for our dogs

An opportunity for our dogs

But perhaps, this year has also given us an amazing opportunity to relate better to our pets and particularly our dogs. Most dogs live in a permanent state of Groundhog day. They are completely reliant on us and we usually set their daily routine at least during the week.

I realise that our dogs are no longer wolves, but if you compare the variety involved in a wolf packs day – socialising, playing, sleeping, hunting, patrolling, arguing, exploring and investigating throughout the day – with the average UK dog you may begin to see what I mean.

We have all been at home more over the last year and our dogs will have got used to our presence and our new routines. But as the metaphorical spring – with the roll out of vaccinations – is around the corner our routines are likely to change once more. This could mean our dogs will once again be left for extended periods of time and the days become even more regimented once more. There are likely to be some behavioural issues associated with separation anxiety, boredom and general stress for many of our dogs as they try to cope.

There are many blogs out there on helping your dog with separation anxiety so I won’t go into any detail here. But there are simple things you can do to help your dog break out of the routine and enhance your dogs quality of life.

Enriching your dog’s life can help your dog relax and cope

There are many things you can do to enrich your dogs life experiences, here are just a few:

Learning & Training

Most dogs love to learn, but many will only experience ‘training’ as puppies whilst we teach them the things we expect from them – toilet training, sitting, recall, stay, lead walking and oddly, give paw.

Canine Conditioniing
Karen’s dog Eva learning to pick up her feet

But dogs, like us, love to learn throughout their lives. Teaching new skills can be extremely rewarding – why not try to teach them to walk backwards, spin (both ways), shake on command, stretch, or take them to a fun agility class?

Your dogs ability to learn is often limited by your own imagination and you only need to watch dogs ‘dancing to music’ to see how much they can really do.

“Tidy Up” by Helen Greenley, Animal Behaviourist, Aberdeenshire

Feeding

For many dogs their dinners are the highlight of their day. But given that most dogs are fed in a bowl and the food is gone in seconds this highlight is very short lived. Feeding using interactive feeders will mean your dog is using their body and brain. Eating is slowed down making the whole process far more rewarding and also more natural.

Your dogs’ ancestors would hunt, catch, kill and eat their prey. Simulating some of this behaviour with scatter feeding, hiding food and feeding out of slow feeders such as Kong will all mimic their natural behaviours. Feeding raw bones, hairy ears and cartilage based food (such as tracheae, chicken feet and bird necks) can also take your dog longer to eat and will give them valuable nutrients. There are lots of excellent independent pet shops that will be able to advise you on this, my personal favourite is McGrumpy and Snuffles, in Aylesbury.

Little Mia, above, has some neck pain, so this fun food game is also really helpful for getting her to stretch her neck downwards.

Play and Exercise

Dog balancing on a fallen tree
Eva loves to get higher and walk on obstacles

All dogs need opportunities to express themselves and explore their world. This is one of the reasons dogs need to go out for walks, so why not look at ways you can enrich this experience for them.

Taking their favourite toys out on walks and hiding them for your dog to find can be super rewarding for your dog. If your dog is ball obsessed reconsider using a ball thrower – I have already produced a blog on why I don’t particularly like them. You can always use the ball as a reward for some impromptu training. Why not train a send away, reinforce the recall or a sit and stay?

Dog with legs crossed
Benji supervising my blog writing

Sniffing and exploring

Let your dog sniff and explore their area. I see too many dogs being marched around on walks with owners or dog walkers completely focussed on their phones. But walking the dog is a sociable activity for most dogs. If they were part of a dog pack they would often go off together to patrol or explore and they would communicate and interact with each other whilst on the move. If you are on your phone you are missing an excellent opportunity to really bond with, and deepen your relationship with your dog.

Dogs are incredible, intelligent, loving and loyal and deserve the very best from us. I would love to hear what you will be doing differently to enrich your dogs life.

The things your dog can learn are limited by your imagination.

Playing Dead

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

Thank you to Karen for letting me share one of her excellent blog posts. There is a lot more information on her website: Safe Hands Clinical Canine Massage. If you would like me to share one of your blog posts, please get in touch?

Top Tips to Finding A Dog Trainer

How to find a dog trainer to suit you and your dog

As an Assured Breeder, registered with and inspected by the Kennel Club, I am required to provide advice to all my new puppy owners. This puppy pack includes a few basic training tips, such as ‘let your puppy off lead on the first walk!

dog trainer

The Puppy Pack also includes advice about finding a suitable trainer for you and your puppy to attend. Before this year, my advice related to going along to classes in person. Now we have to consider alternatives, but I am going to talk about both options.

A trained dog is a happy dog

House training aside, every puppy needs to be taught good manners and have constructive lessons in basic control and social interaction. This includes:

  • Responding to its name
  • Learning how to greet and behave politely around other people and dogs
  • To come back when called (see my posts on recall for details)
  • To walk nicely on the lead
  • To sit down and stay on command
  • To allow itself to be groomed and examined by you and your vet
dog trainer

Dog training classes

Most if not all owners can benefit from attending good training classes, and training in the company of other dogs is very useful, because of the realistic distractions it involves. Ideally, you should start your classes as soon as your puppy’s vaccinations are complete, but classes can be invaluable for older dogs too.

dalmatian

There are various different styles of dog training and it is naturally important that you find a class and training instructors with the right approach for you and your puppy. You can find training classes by using the Kennel Club’s Find a Club service. You can also ask your vet and other dog owners for recommendations, or see my recommendation below. Dog training can be lots of fun and very rewarding.

A trained dog is a happy dog, and a happy dog makes for a happy owner too.

Finding the best dog training club

Before enrolling with a dog training club it can be beneficial to go and visit several classes first (without your puppy) to make sure you have made the right choice. Things you may wish to consider include:

  • Do you like what you see – are the trainers friendly, are people happy and enjoying training their dogs?
  • Are the dogs happily focused on their human family?
  • Are the instructors giving lots of encouragement and information to all attendees?
  • Are the instructors maintaining a controlled, safe environment for all?
  • Are instructors treating everyone fairly and meeting the needs of the whole group?

Some of these points still apply to online classes, but let’s consider these in more detail.

dog training

Online or In-person?

Since before the pandemic, dog trainers have realised that some elements of dog training can be done online. During the first Lockdown, we all had to adapt and good trainers have been able to transfer the majority of their training to be done remotely.

A good online dog trainer, will provide a range of tuition methods:

  • Live video calls to a small group, covering the topic for that week’s lesson
  • Use of a ‘demo dog’ to show how to carry out the instructions and reward the dog
  • The opportunity to watch the recording of the class later, for revision or if the live class has been missed
  • The chance to post videos of your own training to a private group
  • A way of asking questions and receiving feedback

There are pros and cons to both types of classes, in my view.

It is easier to attend an online class, especially if you can watch a recording later on. No travelling or parking issues. Very useful if your dog is not yet good at travelling.

You might feel that an online class will make it harder to ‘show off’ your dog’s training and discuss the issues you are having. I believe this is not the case. It is much better to watch the trainer’s explanations and demonstrations without your puppy messing around/ barking at other dogs/ weeing on the floor. Honestly, it can be really hard to manage your puppy whilst sitting in a draughty hall. Much better to sit calmly at home, paying attention to the lesson. Then go away and practice, in your own time.

dog trainer

Once you’ve mastered the lesson, or if you are having problems with it, posting a video showing where you’re at is a great way for your trainer to see what is happening. What might seem confusing and tricky to you will soon be sorted by your trainer. I highly recommend Adam Delderfield at Delders Dogs for expert online training.

Group interaction is so useful

One of the nice things about going along to an in-person class is meeting other puppy owners. You can show off your baby! It is lovely comparing notes and hearing that they are going through all the crap (literally) that you are going through.

But this can be done easily through a private social media group. These days we are pretty adept at communicating in this way. My Sweetie Litter were the first to have their own WhatsApp group and they talk to each other most days, even after 18 months! We are currently discussing neutering and relationships with our vets 🙂

Practice makes perfect

Whomever you go to for training, just going, engaging and practising the lessons will make your dog better. Building your relationship with your dog is the key element of the training sessions and the value of this cannot be over-emphasised. Please go and please practise and please, please put in the effort to train your dog? Your dog will thank you 🙂

For specific help with behaviour issues, I very much recommend a specialist such as Dan Callaghan at MK Dog Behaviour and Training.

Recommended trainers

As mentioned above, I recommend online classes at Delders Dogs and specialist behaviour support from MK Dog Behaviour and Training.

I also recommend Nicole Vento from the The Calm Canine Academy. Please visit the website to find out more about their training methods and the services they offer. When you book training with any of these people, please mention me? Thanks!

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

How to Say Hello

“Don’t worry, he’s friendly!”

This is the phrase most hated by dog owners the world over. I have seen many, many rants on social media over the years, with people furious that yet another dog has barged into their dog, causing a dust-up, resulting in injury, or worse, increasing the fear in their dog that the owner was working so hard to overcome.

dog greeting
nice to meet you – two polite dogs saying hello

Why is it not OK to let your dog rush up to other dogs? They just want to play, right? They don’t mean any harm, so it will be fine, won’t it? Your poor dog is desperate for some company and activity and dogs like each other, don’t they?

How would you feel?

Imagine walking along minding your own business. Enjoying the sunshine, listening to some music. Imagine a person running really fast towards you, then stopping two inches from your nose and saying “HELLO! Do you want to play with me?” How would you feel? Yes exactly. Well believe it or not, that’s how most dogs feel.

In fact in can be even worse for a dog. They might be old and infirm, well past their playing days. They might be recovering from an operation, or have an ongoing illness. Dogs can be quite shy and unsure, particularly if they don’t spend much time with other dogs. How would you know if a person felt like this? Would you still bounce into their face to say hello?

dog greeting
tell me about yourself – a calm introduction

It’s also much worse for dogs on the lead. If someone runs towards you looking scary, the natural response might be to run away from them. But if you are attached to a stupid great person, this is not an option. Aargh!

The final reason why a dog approaching another dog is NOT OK is that people become scared. And dogs know that. It is their job to protect their human. So when a dog doesn’t initially want to talk to another dog, their human tries to stop that happening again. But then the dog learns that ALL approaching dogs are scary, so tries to stop that happening. Poor dog.

What should you do?

Teach your dog some manners! You might think this will be difficult but it really doesn’t need to be! It’s exactly the same as your parents teaching you to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. You might remember them saying to you ‘Say please!’ or ‘what do you say?’

You can do that with your dog. When you see another dog, get the attention of your dog. You do NOT need to put them on the lead, but you will need lots of treats and/or a toy (paid ads). It is also essential that you are EXCITING! Be more interesting to your dog than anything else. This might be quite difficult to do, but I promise you, it will pay off.

Get your dog to ‘watch’ you. Say ‘watch’, repeat a few times. Then ‘click’ and reward. The click can just be you saying ‘yes!’ and then stuff some sausage into your dog. Then break off and play with them. I’ve talked about ‘playing with your dog‘ on this post, with a video of a game of tuggy. Have a great toy, (paid ad) and engage with your dog. You can then control their interaction with other dogs more easily.

Can you ever say hello to another dog?

Yes of course. But only when you dog is polite about it! Once you have built up your relationship with your dog and it has learnt some manners, together with a rock solid recall, you should be able to manage their greeting of other dogs. The photos show two beautifully behaved dogs enjoying some calm interaction. It is possible and it is achievable.

dog greeting
now we’re friends – perfect gentlemen

A polite dog greeting another dog is absolutely fine. Hello, how are you? Would you like to play? No? That’s fine, I can have fun with mum or dad instead. Yes? Great! Let’s play! Hurray! It’s lovely to see, isn’t it?

Don’t Panic!

It will go wrong. It’s bound to. Dogs, just like people have to learn and this takes time and practise. Please, please don’t think that because your dog has a ‘bad day’ or a bad experience, that they can’t be let off the lead again? That’s really unfair on your dog and lazy of you. Make the effort to continue practising and allow for some failure.

And if some horrible person starts shouting at you because your dog bounced up to their dog over-exuberantly, please don’t take it out on your dog. Please just apologise to the person and tell them that you are working on it with your dog, but if you don’t try, they’ll never learn?

Help is at hand

It is hard to teach these things and usually people need help. I recommend finding a reputable trainer. Here in Milton Keynes we are lucky to have Adam Delderfield, of Delders Dogs. Adam is now primarily an online trainer, but he gives lots of personal support.

I’m also very fortunate that my boy JB lives with Stella, who works alongside Adam. He’s such a polite dog!

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.

4 Ways to Get A Perfect Dog

How to make your dog perfect

perfect dog

If you have a dog already, you might think it is perfect. I do think that Ounce is pretty perfect. She’s certainly pretty! I love her sooo much, almost more than my sons and my husband (well I couldn’t love her more than them, could I?) Is she perfect though? Is anyone really perfect?

Before you get a dog, you have a picture in your mind of ‘life with a dog’. It includes long country walks, kicking up the leaves, with your dog trotting at your side. Is the dog running around off lead, but quickly returning to you when you call it? Or do you imagine a dog like Fenton?

Your ‘perfect dog’ picture might have you sitting on the sofa in front of a fire, with your dog’s head resting lovingly on your knee, while you stroke him. Is the dog farting? No, didn’t think so. Is your dog sitting ON you, so that you can’t really see the TV?

When you have children, they usually want a dog. They imagine a cuddly, fluffy puppy, who snuggles up to them and plays games with them. Perhaps it will be dressed up and pushed around. Or it will run around with them in the garden. Do they see it chewing up a favourite teddy? Or their shoe? Is it being sick on their bedroom carpet?

Here are my 4 key points to help you prepare for life with a dog:

1. Be realistic

Get real. A dog is not a toy. Nor is it a person. A puppy that is cuddly at four weeks does not stay that way. So by the time your puppy arrives home with you, it bites – a lot. The only way to stop this is to manage the behaviour, through distraction and plenty of downtime.

You will need a crate or cage (paid ad) to keep your puppy out of danger while you are not actively watching it. A dog run, or playpen, is ideal to help you manage your puppy. You can make sure they are safe, not chewing up the house, but they have room to run about and play. 

perfect dog

2. Be realistic

A friend with a puppy and a young dog shared a picture of both dogs covered in mud, having been digging in the garden. What a brilliant game for a dog! She did see the funny side of it, but also said “they know they are not supposed to do it”. Er, no. Dogs do NOT understand the difference between right and wrong.

A dog will dig. It will chew. It will destroy things. That is how they work. I was reminded of a little quiz I wrote a while ago about when you should punish your dog. When Busy was a pup she chewed a hole in my curtain. I moved the curtain. She chewed another one. I moved that one. She did it TWICE MORE! Why didn’t I learn the first time? Silly me.

3. Be realistic

Dogs need stimulation and exercise. If you leave a dog on its own at home all day, don’t expect it to be a model of perfection. I have written about separation anxiety and there are many sources of information and advice covering this topic.

Dogs do naturally want to be lying at your feet all day long. But they don’t have to do this. You need a lifestyle that is manageable for you and your dog. Being consistent is perhaps the best thing you can do, whether that is going out for 6 hours a day or just popping out now and again.

If you work away from the home, it is pretty straightforward to find a good dog walker. You need someone who understands dogs and is able to come regularly. A dog walker also has the advantage of walking a number of compatible dogs together, which ensures additional interaction and engagement.

4. Be realistic

Hopefully by now you have realised that getting a dog is NOT a perfect experience. It will only live up to expectations if your expectations are pretty low (and realistic!) You need to imagine the mess, the mud, the wees, the poos, the chewing and digging, the hair. Make sure you include plenty of disaster and a fair amount of heartache.

When I receive an enquiry from someone, I send them an Application Form. I ask them what their selection criteria are for their dog. They must tell me what kind of dog they want, so I can see if they are being realistic and specific about what they want. Do they know that they want a particular breed and why? Have they done some research about what makes their breed so special? Please read my breed blog for ideas on what makes dog breeds different? Or checkout the Kennel Club website, which has mases of information.

I ask people what is the best and worst thing about having a dog. My favourite answer is “getting distracted from chores because all you’d want to do is play with your dog”. Dogs definitely are a good reason not to get on – cuddles and play are always available! Of course the actual worst thing is when they are ill and dying – they’re not here for long and losing your dog will break your heart, I promise you that.

It is hard to imagine something we haven’t had and often the reality does not match our expectations. If you feel overwhelmed, there is plenty of help out there. It is essential to get support from a good dog trainer, such as Delders Dogs. I love that Adam focuses on building a community of people going through the same pain and sharing solutions to all the common problems.

It is hard, having a dog. Not just a puppy, any dog. There is a period of adjustment and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Much better to admit defeat and find a better home for your dog, than to keep struggling and making you and your dog miserable. I’m not going to say that all problems can be dealt with, because some things are just too difficult to solve.

Is it worth it?

Yes. Yes. Yes. A million times yes. Having a dog will improve your life. For better and worse. For richer for poorer (definitely poorer). In sickness and health. Till death us do part. The joy of having a dog is hard to imagine, but once experienced, almost impossible to live without.

When people say to me “I wanted to wait until the time was right”, it makes me sad. There is no better time to get a dog than right now. Well not right now, because there is a pandemic and we’ve run out of puppies. Because dogs do make things better, especially in troubled times. Good luck with your dog!

Remember..

Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.