Category Archives: Dog doc – reader’s questions

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!


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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


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


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.


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!


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!


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.

Equipment list for your new puppy

New puppy? Everything you need to get started


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Most puppies love snuggling into a piece of ‘Vetbed’ or similar. This is a synthetic simulated sheepskin, which is hygienic, machine washable, totally non-allergic and relatively resistant to chewing. It can also help to prevent pressure sores on bigger dogs. Buy at least two pieces so you use one while washing and drying the other.


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Your puppy needs its own space and safe place.  The crate or cage keeps it safe and out of trouble when it is alone, rather like putting a baby in a cot or playpen.  It also helps to teach the puppy that it does need to rest and so do you.

When ordering a crate for your puppy, buy one big enough for it to lie in stretched out and standing up in when it is fully grown (medium). Make sure that the mesh is not too big as puppies may get their mouths caught.  Put some bedding inside and tie some toys in the far end of the crate so the puppy has to go in there to play with them. Gently place your puppy in there whenever it falls asleep. Leave occasional treats in the crate for the puppy to find, so the puppy learns to love going in there.

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A handy hint to ensure that your puppy is eager to enjoy the safety and calm of the crate is to feed him in there, with bowls like these. Then, quietly close the door. Puppies love to search and sniff for pieces of food, and once they have found and eaten everything, they often settle down and drift into sleep for an hour or so.

This gives you a chance to do other things without worrying about what the puppy is up to, and it is a good experience for the puppy to curl up and sleep in the cot by choice.  You can gradually increase the time the puppy stays in the crate and initially this should be whilst you are in the room with it.

More information about crates can be found on this separate post.


Ellie-Bo Heavy Duty Modular Puppy Exercise Play/ Whelping Pen, 158 x 158 x 100 cm, 8 Pieces

A dog run, or playpen, like this one 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. You can put down paper, or puppy pads, so that they don’t have to toilet in their bed.


Dogs & Horses UK – purple rolled leather collar

Dogs & Horses make beautiful collars and leads.  They are hard-wearing and comfortable for you and your dogs.  I highly recommend them!

Choose a comfortable collar that is suitable for the size and age of puppy. Puppies grow rapidly and collars should be checked almost daily for condition and fit. These should not be so loose that they can slip over your puppy’s head or so tight that you cannot slip two fingers underneath. Some are connected by a plastic catch, remember they are not as strong as the traditional buckle.


Choose a lead that is suitable for the size of your puppy, not too long, too short or too heavy. A good rope lead is both strong and comfortable on your hands. Chain leads can hurt your hands, but may be useful if you have a puppy that likes to chew or carry its lead in its mouth. Nylon leads are strong, but can hurt your hands. Whatever type you choose, make sure you attach it to the ‘D ring’ of the collar and not onto the split ring that attaches the identity disc to the collar, as this is not strong enough to take the weight of your dog.  Particular attention should be paid to the catch/ clip which must be strong and not liable to break or straighten. You can also use a harness to help manage a pulling dog.

Please do not use an extendable lead – it will teach your puppy to pull against it all the time and stop him from having a good run around.  Before they are able to go out, practise the recall in the garden, with lots of treats.  Then when you do go out, let them off the lead straight away.  The outside world will be big and scary and they will want to come back to you, trust me!  Give plenty of praise and treats and keep on recalling and rewarding all through the walk.  Before your puppy is 3 months old you will have a good strong recall and no need of an extendable lead.

If you really feel that this is going to be too difficult, buy a Long Line.  This is like a piece of rope around twenty feet long.  You put the puppy on one end and stand on the other end.  Let him go off for a wander and then call him back after a few minutes.  If he doesn’t respond, give a gentle tug on the line to attract his notice, then call and reward.  Do NOT pull him back to you – he has to want to come back.  The line is for your security, that’s all.  Please DO NOT chase your dog, you will not teach him to come back to you that way!  He must want to come back to you on his own.

Identity Disc

You are required by law (The Control of Dogs Order 1992) to inscribe the name and address of the owner on the collar or on a plate or disc attached to it. You must comply with this, even if the dog is microchipped, and you can be fined up to £5,000 if you do not. You may also want to put your telephone numbers on the tag, but you do not need to put your dog’s name on it.  Engraved discs are better than barrel types, which often undo and lose their contents.  

Interesting toys

It is very important that your puppy has a range of toys to play with, otherwise it might chew on your things, instead of its own. Chew toys also provide mental stimulation, help to keep your dog’s teeth clean and allow it to exercise its jaws. Select toys for your puppy carefully – some may be too small and might choke your puppy whilst other items might splinter. You should also have toys that you can play with interactively, like balls on ropes and tuggies, so that you can have fun with your puppy.

Do not let your puppy play with sticks, golf or squash balls. All these things can easily get stuck in the throat and cause damage or even death. For this reason, it is important to bear in mind the size of your puppy and the size of the chew or toy you decide to purchase. If a chew becomes too small after a prolonged period of chewing, do not take the risk, throw the chew away. Remember, spending money on toys is preferable to having your house and furniture chewed!

Kong chews are invaluable for keeping your puppy entertained while you are away from them.  If you fill it with treats and freeze it, this will keep your pup busy for quite a while!  It is also good for when they are teething.

Food and water bowls

You will need separate bowls for water and food. Make sure fresh water is always available for your puppy.  Metal bowls are unbreakable, safe from chewing and easy to keep clean.

These are the best water bowls for the car, as they do not spill (although they can be a bit of a pain to fill up!)

 Prestige Road Refresher Non Spill Pet Water Bowl


I feed my dogs Royal Canin.  I give them the Medium Starter first of all, moving onto Puppy when they are 8 weeks old.  I feed the adults a mix of Royal Canin Adult and Aging, depending on the amount of work (agility) they are doing.

There are many different types of dog food and many arguments for and against each type.  You can read my thoughts in this post. I feed Royal Canin because they eat it, I can order it online in large sacks and they look and behave well on it.

Car harness, travelling crate or dog guard

A dog should travel either behind a dog guard, secured with a car seat harness or, ideally, in a travel crate or fixed car crate. A crate gives a dog its own space and ensures both safety and comfort. If you have space for a crate then this provides a safe haven for your puppy in the car. There is nothing worse than seeing a dog squashed in a car with luggage piled up around it.

Accustom your puppy to car travel with short trips at first ideally when the puppy is tired so it will go to sleep. If the puppy is car sick try fixing the crate on the back seat as the car sways far more at the back which can cause travel sickness.


It is a legal requirement for all dogs to be microchipped and for this to be done by the breeder.  You will need to change the details of the registered owner with Petlog – details will be provided in your packs.

Poo Bags

You are required by law (Clean Neighbourhoods & Environment Act 2005) to clear up after your dog in public areas and dispose of the bag in an appropriate bin, so you will need a supply of poo bags, sandwich bags or nappy sacks to take with you whenever you are out with your puppy.

Grooming equipment

Border Collies do not require a great deal of grooming, believe it or not! Other breeds might need a full grooming kit, but Border Collies need a rake style brush to clear out the undercoat, nail clippers and a tangle teaser to ease through the matted bits that collect around their bottoms. See the post about grooming for more information.

Doggy toothpaste and toothbrush

Gum disease is far too common in middle-aged dogs and can lead to all sorts of health problems, so it pays to brush your puppy’s teeth. Use special canine toothpaste, which comes in tasty flavours and does not foam (unlike human toothpaste) with a special rubber thimble for dogs’ teeth.

Dog shampoo

Dogs only really need to be bathed when they have been swimming or have rolled in something smelly. Use a dog shampoo or a mild human shampoo and put a non-slip mat down if using the bath. Towel drying your puppy is important and will get it used to being dried when it comes home wet from a walk.  Ketchup is a great way to get rid of the smell of fox poo.  Rub it into the area, then shampoo out.  Works like magic!

2nd dog: why, when and how

Top tips on getting a second dog

When you have a great dog, whom you love to bits, it’s very natural to think that having a second one will be fantastic. Twice the love, twice the fun, twice the happy times, right? Usually, that’s true. However, I know people who keep their older dog muzzled in the house to make sure it doesn’t kill the younger ones. I know someone with stair gates all over their house to keep their dogs separated. There are people who find their lives ‘ruled’ by their dogs; they can’t go out for too long, or they can’t have visitors, or they don’t go on walks because it is too stressful.

second dog
Mother and daughter – always together

Why bother getting a second dog?

What are the advantages of adding a second dog to your family? As I’ve said above, it should mean, twice the love, fun and happy times. In reality, the number 1 reason is: to make your first dog’s life better. Your first dog should enjoy having another dog to lie around with. They should play together and run about together.

Why have one couch potato when you can have two?

If you regularly leave your dog, especially for long periods, then a second dog should make that much easier. The two dogs can stand and bark at everything together! Seriously, if you have a dog that barks or howls when left, you probably need to tackle that issue first. Having a second dog could easily just mean twice the noise! Yes, they will be happier, but your neighbours might not be..

Ask yourself: What is my dog’s current life like? Do they seem happy with just me (and the family) for company? Do we hang out together, most of the time? Or do they just prefer to go off on their own? Not all dogs are sociable – some prefer their own company. When you are out and about, does your dog desperately want to rush up to other dogs to play? Or are they happy pottering along with you? If other dogs come over, does your dog say hi? If they aren’t really that bothered, they probably won’t be that fussed about another dog in the house.

Playing happily

When is the right time to introduce a second dog?

This is a tricky one. Most people don’t really think about it, or only in relation to what they want. Some people love their first dog so much they can’t wait to get more. Other people struggle with the ‘puppy stage’ and it take them years to consider going through that again. Or they might feel that it’s better to get a rescue, older dog to add to their family.

Don’t forget – twice the dogs means twice the mud!

Consider what your dog wants? When I got my first dog, a re-homing from my mum, she was 8 years old. She’d been fourth in a pack of five and had got ‘lost in the crowd’. Rue adored being my dog and being with my sons who were babies at the time. She kept to herself and enjoyed coming along with us.

Then we got a puppy, Buzz, when Rue was 11. It was a mistake from day one. Rue hated the intrusion. She was old and set in her ways and was a bit stiff. He was a really sociable, outgoing dog, who loved to chat to others when he was out, unlike Rue. When Buzz was 8 years old, after a few years of him being on his own, we got Sunny.

second dog
Buzz (left) gazing adoringly at his Sunny.

Buzz was SO HAPPY! He absolutely loved her! Buzz spent the next seven years following her lead, enjoying being with her and engaging with whatever was going on. It really improved his life to have her. (She completely ignored him.)

Not too young, not too old

One more story: When Aura was just 18 months old, I got Busy. This was not planned, but hey ho, there she was, my fourth dog at the time. Again, Aura hated her! Eventually, they talked to each other, but they’ve never played together. Aura is a jealous, demanding dog – she’d love to be on her own with her owner – it would suit her far better.

second dog
Not really friends, exactly

I won’t home my puppies to someone with a dog aged much more than 8 years old. If you’ve got that far with just one, you should stick with it. Likewise, I would never choose a home with a dog younger than two. You need to have your first dog mature, well trained and established.

Dogs do get jealous in my opinion. They do feel resentment and they do have friends. Don’t expect it will be brilliant. It might not be. Pay attention to what your dog wants, please?

Second dog
A happy family

How to introduce a second dog?

Just a brief guide to bringing that second dog into your home. It’s exactly like when you have a second child. Don’t expect it to be easy, or quick. Take it slowly and pay attention to your older dog.

When the Lovely Litter went off to their homes, three went to families with older dogs. All three puppies were initially ignored by the older dog. The owners made sure that they were never left alone together. Allow for the fact that a new dog, whether a puppy or a bit older, will be annoying. So manage their time together? Watch them playing, or just being around each other.

second dog
These two are NOT friends

Top tip from a dog training friend I heard this week: take turns giving them treats. Say their name, give a treat. Then the other one’s name, give a treat. They understand turn-taking. Give attention to both, starting with the older one. Feed the older one first.

Above all, make sure you spend plenty of time with both dogs individually. This is vital to ensure you bond with the younger dog and train it effectively. You won’t get as much focus or engagement from either dog when they are together. If you can, try to ensure you have some special time with your older dog each week. They will really appreciate it.


Should the second dog be related to the first? I don’t think it makes that much difference, to be honest. They will either get on, or they won’t. You can manage that and make it happen.

second dog
Happy days

Sometimes though, the personalities clash and they just don’t get on. If they are not improving each others’ lives after a few months, it’s probably worth re-homing the younger dog. Of course you need to give it time and make the effort to train both dogs, but maybe a different home is a better solution. Good luck!

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?


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.

Fireworks and Dogs – how can we help our dogs?

Fireworks: What can I do to help my dog cope?

If you have ever had a dog who is terrified of loud bangs or fireworks, you will know how agonising it can be.   Symptoms include:

  • panting, drooling and whining
  • restlessness and fidgeting
  • anxiety and aggression
  • hiding or scrabbling at furniture.

I remember on the eve of the new Millennium, Buzz was left at home while we went to a neighbour’s to celebrate.  We came home to find he had destroyed a door, trying to escape.  Poor boy!

fireworksIt’s really hard to know what to do.  We want to reassure them, but they don’t really want to hear it.

Ignore it and it will go away

When I first went to training classes with Sunny, I remember being told very clearly “Don’t make a fuss if something scares your dog.  If you cuddle them and fuss them, you are drawing attention to their fear and ‘rewarding them’ for wanting your attention.  Just ignore them and they will realise there is nothing to be afraid of.”

I do understand where this advice is coming from.  If you are anxious about your dog being anxious, they will become more anxious, because they are feeding off your anxiety!  I see this most often when we are out walking and we walk past someone whose dog is ‘nervous of other dogs’.  They have the dog on the lead and are gripping hold of it.  Or they might even be clutching the dog to them – I’ll protect you!  Even if they are just holding the lead though, the owner’s anxiety is being transmitted down that lead to the dog.

It’s a vicious circle; the dog is afraid so you become afraid, so the dog thinks “there must be something to be afraid of” so becomes afraid.  This ‘transmission of emotion’ also happens with horses, as anyone who has been nervous about riding a horse will tell you!  Another example is when you are faced with a dog you don’t know and aren’t sure about – you know that they can ‘smell your fear’.  In fact it is true; dogs (and horses) can smell fear and will react accordingly.

Fireworks – training or ignoring?

Getting back to the fireworks then, how should we tackle it?  If we completely ignore it, we are not helping the dog to cope with it, we are just being mean!  What we need then, is a strategy to positively develop coping behaviour for the dog. There are a number of ways we can tackle this:


  • Provide alternative noise to counteract the bangs, such as a loud radio playing
  • Use a Desensitisation CD for dogs (paid ad)
  • Provide a safe place for the dog to go into, such as a dark corner with a comfy bed or blanket
  • Shut curtains and move the dog away from the bangs if possible
  • Put the dog into a Thundershirt (paid ad)
  • Give the dog medication, obtained from your vet, or buy some calming tablets (paid ad)

The Training Solution

Distraction is a crucial factor in persuading your dog that there is nothing to worry about.  It’s not about ignoring them when they are afraid, as about ignoring their fear – making light of it.  If you can clearly project to them that you are perfectly fine with whatever is going on, in fact you think it’s time to have a game, then the dog may be able to move past it with you.  You need to be convincing!  But if you can get their attention on you and persuade them to play fetch, or do tricks, or even just a bit of rough and tumble, then they are less likely to be thinking about ‘that scary thing’.  So go on, play with your dog?

This works if you are out and another dog goes past.  Thinking to yourself “that’s not an interesting dog, playing with you is much more fun” will help to encourage your dog to ignore other dogs.  They won’t feel the need to protect you.  This also works for bangs and loud noises.

This is all a bit boring

Not just fireworks

It is useful to enable your dog to cope with loud bangs, not just for when the fireworks are around, but for all sorts of other things.  Thunderstorms are an obvious one, but also bird scarers, gunshots, hot air balloons, cars backfiring, starter pistols etc.  In fact if you want your dog to become a therapy dog volunteer, they will need to cope with someone dropping something loud beside them.

Eventually, we want a dog who is secure and confident enough to find loud bangs and flashes a bit boring.  Don’t think that you cannot cuddle your dog if they are scared, just make sure that you are not afraid of their fear!

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2021 for sale within the UK.  You pay £10 + p&p and any profit goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one?  BUY NOW!


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.

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Ball Play – what are the rules?

Ball games: how should you play with your dog?

All dogs love to play with a ball, right?  Not quite.  Most dogs do like a ball, but this can range from being happy to chew a ball to pieces in two seconds flat, to being completely ball obsessed.  I thought it might be useful to consider whether it is useful to have your dog play ball with you.  Is it a good game to play?  And what are the rules?

ball gamesDifferent breeds, different interests

Not every breed of dog is going to be interested in playing with a ball.  If you have read my Breed Blog you will already have seen that different dogs definitely have different characteristics.  Terriers are tenacious and persistent; they will hunt down their quarry and well, kill it!  So a ball probably won’t last that long in their company.  Certainly a squeaky toy is not going to last.  Gundogs and Working breeds are all pretty likely to enjoy destroying the toy more than playing with it.

ball gamesToy dogs are not really bothered about a ball.  They don’t have a prey drive, so won’t bother to hunt something down.  They won’t bother with much, to be honest, as they are designed to sit quietly and be fussed.  A toy dog, such as a Bichon Frise, has been carefully constructed to be generally undemanding.  That’s not to say they aren’t divas!

Any dog from the Pastoral breeds, including the Border Collie, will be more likely to enjoy ball games.  They enjoy chasing something and they like to run around.  So if you fancy a having a dog that will play for any length of time, then go for a dog from this group of breeds.

What is the purpose of ball play?

As I see it, ball games serve a number of purposes:

  • physical exercise – this can be really important if you only have one dog, or if you don’t have much time to go on long walks.
  • mental exercise – waiting for you to throw a ball, watching where it goes and chasing after it, then bringing it back are all mentally demanding tasks for your dog.
  • bonding – playing a game with your dog of any kind will improve your relationship.  The more you play, the more likely your dog is going to want to stay with you.
  • training – playing with a ball can be very rewarding for your dog, so if you want them to work on something, it can be a fantastic ‘release’ at the end.

Problems with ball games

The biggest problem with ball games is that the dog won’t bring the ball back!  This takes training and patience, as with all activities you do with your dog.  It is worth persevering, but for some dogs, they just don’t really get it.  Sometimes a dog will struggle to see the value in the game, although this may be because you are not sufficiently exciting!

ball chuckerAnother issue with ball play is that you overdo it.  This is easily done, particularly if you have a ball chucker.  It’s a great tool for making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, if they need it, but it can easily cause injury and be over-used.

My top tip: Don’t overdo it!

Watch your dog and make sure they are not becoming exhausted, or over-stimulated.  Pay attention to the weather so that they don’t become over-heated.  Make sure they have plenty of time to experience their environment, to sniff and wander. Remember the reasons for walking our dogs?

Another problem with ball games is that the dog can easily become obsessive about having the ball thrown ALL the time.  You are in charge, so you decide when enough is enough.

Getting started

If your dog is not that interested in ball games, you will need to start slowly.  Begin at home.  Throw the ball a few feet away and wait for the dog to look at it.  Click or say ‘yes’ and give a food reward.  If the dog approaches the ball, reward.  If the dog touches the ball, reward.  When the dog picks the ball up, reward.  And when the dog turns towards you, big reward!  The more excited you are about the game, the more likely you are to succeed.

ball gamesAnother problem many people have with ball games is that the dog won’t give the ball back.  This may be because they are tired and don’t want to have to run after it again!  But it may be because they haven’t learnt that part of the game.

When Sunny was a young dog she would bring the ball near me, throwing it towards my feet.  I was at training with her and my trainer told me to wait for her to bring it right to me.  I stood and waited.  Sunny got really annoyed!  She kept picking up the ball and throwing it towards me, then barking at me, basically shouting at me to throw it again.  However, she eventually picked up the ball and put it in my hand.  Now whenever I say ‘hand’ she will do this, albeit rather crossly!  One way to get the ball off your dog is to swap the ball for a treat.

Ball games with multiple dogs

Just a quick word about playing ball games with many dogs.  Obviously different groups of dogs will have different dynamics, but please make sure that your dogs are happy playing together?  When I throw the ball with my girls, Aura is the only one allowed to pick it up. She then drops it for Sunny, who usually brings it back to me.  Or Aura brings it back to me herself.  Occasionally Busy runs past and sneakily picks up the ball.  She will then run in circles until Aura is not looking, when she drops the ball, so Aura can’t find it.  Dogs!

Have fun with your dogs.  Just remember to allow them time to sniff, even when they continue saying “THROW THE BALL!”

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £10 +p&p and £2 goes to the charity.  Please CONTACT ME to order one?  BUY NOW!


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.

NB: If you read my posts in an email, you may be missing out on the lovely pictures!  Please click through to my website to see the post in all its glory?

Instruction Manuals: Should a dog come with one?

Instruction Manual for Dogs

I’m not a great one for reading instruction manuals.  Who does?  Well I can tell you – engineers do.  They know how things work and pay attention to the manuals, so they can fix it when it’s broken.  That’s (one of) the reason for marrying one :D.  They are clearly useful, but are they essential (manuals, not engineers)?  Should dogs come with one?

instruction manualsThis morning on my walk I met a couple with a young Border Collie.  Well I say met, what happened was this: I was walking across the field and the dog appeared from the other side, running flat out towards me and the girls.  ‘What a pretty collie’ I thought.  She said hello to mine, who remarkably didn’t mind (they often do).  I waited for a few minutes for the owners to come into view, shouting loudly at their dog to come back.

She’s friendly!

When their dog ran off in another direction after a Labrador, I released mine so they could cross the road onto the footpath I was heading down.  I was aware of continued loud shouting for the dog.  Then I looked round and she had reappeared, crossed the road and run to my dogs again.  Oops!  I called mine back to me and told them to wait.

The couple crossed the road and  were able to grab their dog.  This is what they then said to me:

  • She very friendly, just wants to play
  • Are yours Shelties as well
  • She’s only young
  • We’ve only had her for two weeks
  • We know it will take a year to teach her to come back

They had absolutely no idea what they were doing!

instruction manualsFirst things first

I could have started swearing and shouting (I was tempted) but I tried to help.  I said a few things, including “make sure you always have LOTS of treats”.  They said “She’s not very food driven”.  I managed to find a few treats in my pocket, which I gave her.  She loved them, of course, sweet girl.  “Oh maybe she is food motivated” they said.  One of them produced a huge biscuit which she did eat.  I told them about the treats I use.  These are great for the following reasons:

  • cheap to buy
  • readily available
  • nice and small
  • easy to break into smaller pieces

Be exciting!

The next thing I talked to the couple about was how they needed to be MORE exciting than the things their girl was running off after.  I have talked about this A LOT already, here are some of the posts:

instruction manualsOff lead

I did also mention to them that I hoped they wouldn’t start keeping her on lead.  It is a relatively simple thing to teach a collie to come back to you and they are not the best dogs to walk on lead.  Again, I have talked A LOT about being off lead and why it is the best way forward, in my opinion.  But sometimes you need a safety net, and I think that a Long line offer that brilliantly well.

Instruction manuals are needed

The main purpose of this post though is really to talk about taking something or someone on without an instruction manual.  Why would you do that?  It seems incredibly naïve to think you can just get a dog (particularly one that is a year old, and a Border Collie to boot) and imagine that you will be able to manage it.  Oh she’s friendly!  Yes but lot of dogs are NOT friendly.  Once she has been bitten by a few, she will also NOT be friendly.  She will also be snappy and nervous and jumpy.  She may well run off if spooked by something. So much can go wrong!  Not least, she could have been run over this morning!

The key point I want to make today is that BORDER COLLIES ARE NOT EASY!  It’s so important, and so true, that I’m going to repeat it:


Actually, no dog is easy.  You need help learning about your dog.  There are plenty of people to ask and who are willing to provide practical, manageable tips, but you MUST ask for these!  Please?

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog.  This includes suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.


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.

If you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos.

Reactive dogs: how to cope

Reactive barking – what can we do?

I’ve just checked my post on reactivity in dogs, which I wrote in January 2018, and I am revisiting this because it is still one of the biggest problems people have with their dogs.  I did some more work with Aura on this same problem yesterday, because I realised she was getting worse again.  If you want to stop reactive barking, you have to keep on working on it.  It’s hard to be bothered!

reactive barkingI was asked by John about how to stop a dog from barking at everything out on walks.  Their little dog had apparently broken through into a neighbour’s garden and been ‘savaged’.  Understandably the dog was now afraid of everything.  Apparently it barked loudly whenever it saw another dog, or at lots of other things.  This is known as being ‘reactive’ and it is an expression of fear.

Step 1: Recognise the problem

The first step in solving the problem is to recognise that the dog is being reactive and that this is because it is afraid.  It is therefore hard for the dog to relax in any situation where it feels under threat.  This can be stressful for the dog.  Surely it is better if we can solve the problem?  John said the dog had become really reluctant to go out.

Step 2: Decide to take action

This might seem obvious, but honestly, it involves effort.  So there are three courses of action we might take;

  • do nothing
  • work around the problem
  • try to solve it.

There are some problem behaviours that you just put up with, either because you don’t see it as a problem, or because it doesn’t really bother you.  Aura’s squeaking is an example of this – she gets all silly when people come into the house (especially people she knows!)  But we just ignore it, on the whole, because it doesn’t seem that big a deal.

reactive barkingPeople also often take steps to avoid situations that have become an issue.  Unfortunately, with a reactive dog, this usually means that we can’t be bothered to take them for a walk, because it is just too much hassle.  Such a shame for you and your dog!

Let’s try and solve it then?

Step 3: Training to reduce reactive behaviour

My advice to John was to try and distract the dog and get her to focus on him, rather than on the ‘big scary thing’.  This means really paying attention to what is around you and being ready for something to come along, so that you can pre-empt this and act accordingly.

First of all, you need treats – lots of treats !  Grab the dog’s attention before she sees ‘the enemy’ and reward her for ignoring the monster and looking at you.  You need to be quick!

You need to remain calm.  If your dog is on the lead and the minute they start reactive barking, you begin shouting hysterically “Poppy!  Be quiet!  Stop that noise!” and so on, you are basically joining in with the barking!  That’s what your dog hears, anyway.

reactive barkingFinally, I suggested that walks are shortened to just a few minutes, to start with.  It is pointless working on the issue for a while and then getting bored and letting her bark for the rest of the walk!  Go out, work really hard for 5-10 minutes, creating a happy experience.  Then go home and have a cup of tea and a piece of cake.  You’ve earned it!  Short, sharp sessions are much more successful when teaching a new skill.

Practice makes perfect

If you work at it, you will be amazed at the result you can achieve.  You need:

  • practice
  • patience
  • persistence
  • praise

Easy, when you know how!

When I’d given this advice (sounding as though I knew what I was talking about – amazing lol) I got home and found a very similar question being asked on a Facebook group.  With a brilliant video demonstration of the training.

Much better than my efforts with Aura!

Ask for help?

You are very welcome to CONTACT ME to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog.  This includes suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my service.


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.

If you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos.