Category Archives: Dog doc – reader’s questions

Quin’s Story: Week 34 – Neutering

Neutering your dog – the pros and cons

Quin tried to hump his Auntie Luna this morning, so this seems likely a timely post! Neutering is not a simple issue and as with so many aspects of dog ownership, it is subject to fashion and cultural context.  When I was growing up, I don’t think neutering in dogs was done routinely; it was more often carried out when a dog was becoming a problem.  Male dogs were often allowed to roam the streets, looking for a mate and puppies were very often produced through a neighbour’s dog appearing in a garden one day.

Of course these things do still happen, but happily we are inching forwards to a culture where responsible dog ownership is becoming more commonplace.  There has been a view that dogs were who were not ‘entire’ would be affected in their personality; that this would be detrimental to their character.  Increasingly, I am of the view that any changes are positive, especially to male dogs.

Border collies
Ounce, full of puppies

Most recently, there has been a movement to ‘protect a dog’s rights’; it is illegal to neuter dogs and cats in Norway without good medical reason. However, there is plenty of evidence for good medical reasons.

Freedom to roam

In the past, dog owners who were being responsible would whip their puppy off to the vet’s to be neutered almost as soon as it was brought home.  When I got my first puppy, in 1987, it was expected that he would be castrated at six months, so that his behaviour would remain more manageable.  He still cocked his leg and enjoyed playing around with Sunny when she was in season, but he didn’t hump your leg, (which was good!) and he didn’t try to go off roaming the neighbourhood.

More recently, we are finding that it is good to allow dogs to reach full maturity before they are neutered, both male and female.  If you search online, you will find articles such as this one from the Blue Cross about neutering your dog.  This says that there are a number of health benefits to neutering early, such as reducing the chances of cancers.

Border collies
Should boys keep their bits?

However, another article cites the benefits of neutering later:

“When a dog’s testes or ovaries are removed, the production of hormones is interrupted, which affects bone growth. Because the bone growth plates may close earlier in dogs neutered young, orthopaedic problems such as hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament tears may result. Neutered dogs also tend to gain excess weight, further stressing the joints. But neutering does not equal obesity. It’s more difficult to keep neutered dogs in shape, but it can be done.”

Personally, I think it does come down to good management.  If you feel that you will struggle to cope with an unneutered dog, get it done from the age of six months.  You might be able to manage for a while, so you can leave it until the dog has reached maturity, which for collies would be around a year to 18 months.  However, if you can’t be bothered with the hassle, definitely get them neutered.

Coming into season

Elsewhere, I have written about what happens to a bitch coming into season and how to manage this.  If you are prepared for the need to pay attention to your dog every 6-8 months and make sure that they do not come into contact with uncastrated dogs, then you may choose to leave your dog unneutered.

Border collies

As I said earlier, I had my previous male dog, Buzz castrated at the age of six months.  My first bitch, Rue was done in middle age, having had two litters of pups.  Much safer to have the operation, I thought at the time.  I had planned to have Sunny spayed once she had had her third litter, but I hesitated because I felt that it was a major operation that she did not need to have. 

Neutering – emergency procedures

I wrote about this subject a few years ago, having brought Sunny home from the vet.  She had an emergency spay, aged 12 years, following pyometra, or pyo.

Pyometra is defined as an infection in the uterus. Pyometra is considered a serious and life threatening condition that must be treated quickly and aggressively.”


Symptoms of Pyometra include: 

  • Abdominal distention (from an enlarged uterus)
  • Vulvar (vaginal) discharge
  • Closed cervix
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent urination.

Fortunately for us, Sunny’s condition was picked up quickly and surgery was straightforward.  She stayed in overnight for observation, but she recovered remarkably quickly. However, I can’t understate the anxiety I have with all my ‘entire’ girls as they come into season and out again.

Other emergencies and health issues

Sadly, Luna had to have a Caesarian with her last litter and when the vet asked if I wanted her spayed as well, I thought ‘why not’.  I asked if it would make the operation more complicated and he said “No, it will be simpler, as it’s easier to remove everything.”  I then didn’t have to worry about post-op infection in her uterus as it had all been taken out!


Luna made such a great recovery from the operation and really rocked the shirt provided by the vet, which was brilliant compared with the stupid lampshade they usually provide.  She was moving around normally within a day or two and a month today since the op she if fully healed and back to her usual self. 

JB also had to be neutered, following a urine infection that just wouldn’t clear, leading to prostatitis. There are so many issues that can affect a dog’s health, unfortunately.

Quick recoveries

On the strength of that, I decided to go ahead with Aura’s spay.  Aura is more active than Luna, so I thought it might be harder to manage her recovery.  Silly me!  She is younger and fitter than her mum, so was completely better within the week. Amazing. Busy was the same.

Border collies
Prevent family accidents

Now I don’t have to worry about them being in season when I enter shows and I have less girls to clear up after.  No more worrying about dogs chasing us when we are out – at least with these three.  I am a total convert. And of course now I have another boy, I don’t want a funny family business going on! Quin will still need careful management in future.

In conclusion

In my opinion, the recommendation I give my puppy owners is this: Leave it until they reach maturity, so that their bones have a chance to develop fully and normally.  Then do it!  Stop the production of unwanted dogs and make your life easier.  Then make sure you keep your dog fit and healthy, through exercise and training.


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, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.


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 22 – Grooming your dog

Grooming: how do you keep your dog in tip top condition?

I’m revisiting this information, which I wrote a few years ago. I suspect the prices for grooming your dog have gone up considerably! Grooming is one of the key ‘hidden costs’ of dog ownership, as you may not think about it before you get a dog. However, once you’ve had your dog for a few months, you will start to realise just how much care you dog needs.

Perfectly groomed?

Ask yourself: how lazy am I?  Then ask yourself: how rich am I?  I think these are the two key questions when considering what dog will suit you.  This is particularly important when thinking about the care your dog will need relating to its grooming requirements.

Long or short coat?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that dogs with short coats require less care than dogs with long coats.  Common sense tells us that a Labrador will not need as much grooming as a Border Collie, for example.  Or will it?  Labradors have what is know as a ‘shedding coat’ which comes out all the time, scattering fine, short hairs throughout the house, sticking to every surface and getting into food.

grooming your dog
Labradors love the water

As a result, short-haired dogs still need grooming.  Regular brushing will stop the hair being scattered everywhere.  You will also find that short-haired dogs tend to smell more, because dirt becomes trapped in the hair, prompting the need for more regular baths.  Dogs like the Spanish Water Dog, Spaniels and Labradors also love the water, so will find puddles and ponds to jump into at every available opportunity.

Moulting coats

Border Collies have a ‘moulting coat’, which comes out in armfuls once or twice a year.  Over a three week period, you will have ‘tumbleweeds’ around the house and may have to vacuum behind the sofas.  After that, not much hair comes out.  If you brush during those three weeks you can definitely reduce the impact, although you will be astonished with just how much hair comes from one dog!

Other care required for a Border Collie, (as with most dogs) will include:

  • Nail trimming – their nails must be clipped or trimmed
  • cutting out tats – sometimes Border Collies get hair clumped into tats, which have to be cut out. This is partly because they don’t need brushing on a daily basis.  Their hair is silky and usually sorts itself out, but sometimes the fine hair on the belly and round the back legs needs tidying up.
Any poodle cross needs regular grooming

Hypoallergenic or ‘non-moulting’ coat

This sounds ideal doesn’t it?  A soft, cuddly coat, that doesn’t shed or moult – perfect! Or is it?  Well, in my view, there are a number of issues with this type of coat:

  • it will still come out, just not as much as with shedding or moulting breeds
  • you aren’t guaranteed this type of coat if you have a crossbreed, or so-called designer dog – it will depend on how the mix of breeds comes out in your individual dog
  • dogs with these coats need regular care.  As with collies, their hair will form tats and because it is curly, this is going to happen all over their bodies, on a regular basis.  They will therefore need daily brushing, and/or frequent trips to the grooming parlour.


NB: Dogs do like to be muddy!  You won’t keep them clean and that’s as it should be.  They need to be outside, running around, smelling smells and exploring.  If you try and cover up their ‘dog smell’ with your silly perfumes and shampoos, they will just go and roll in some more mud.

Using a Grooming Service

I picked up a leaflet for one of these services recently, having never really looked into it before.  Wow, these things cost A LOT of money!  Prices are from 2018. For example:

  • Pug:  Bath, brush and blow dry every 4-6 weeks and Express groom every 6-8 weeks.  Total annual cost: £528
  • Cockapoo:  Bath, brush and blow dry every 4-6 weeks and Full groom every 6-8 weeks.  Total annual cost: £594
  • Newfoundland: Full groom every 6-8 weeks, including de-shedding or hand stripping as required.  Total annual cost: £816

By way of contrast: 

Border Collie:  Stand in a bucket when muddy, clip nails if not worn out by running around, cut out some tats, brush when moulting.  Total annual cost £0.  Lol.

Border Collie
Border Collies stay beautiful with almost no effort

Grooming tools

Of course there are many grooming tools to choose from to enable you to do the expensive stuff yourself.   This deshedding tool looks great and it comes in different colours!

There are also nail clippers to keep their toes trim.  People worry about doing their dog’s nails because if you catch the quick, they bleed profusely.  But the dogs aren’t especially bothered if this happens, and it’s much better to risk that than to have nails that are far too long, as this can be crippling for your dog.


Just a minor point here about microchipping, as the ‘grooming service’ I looked at offers to do this.  Since 6th April 2016, all dogs are required by law to be microchipped.  As a breeder, I know that I am legally required to have my puppies microchipped by the time they are 8 weeks old.  I get this done by the vet.  I have to register the pups in my name and then the new owners have to transfer ownership to them.

So, if you are getting a puppy, check before you get it that it has been chipped?  You should therefore be able to trace its ownership back to the breeder.  If you are getting a rescue dog, it should now be microchipped before you get it and that chip should be registered to the previous owner.  If not, why not?  There’s not much point having a legal requirement to microchip dogs if this doesn’t allow us to trace ownership of them.


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.


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 17 – Recall Revisited

When recall stops working

Recall is the hardest thing to conquer when you have a puppy. I met someone this morning with a young Jack Russell, on lead. The owner told me her recall wasn’t very good ‘if she sees something else she won’t come back’. What was she doing about it? Keeping her on lead. Boo. If you asked your dog, I believe they would rather be run over by a car than kept on lead their whole life. But if you put a bit of work into your recall, your dog won’t be run over by a car.

Not an instant fix

Getting your dog to come back to you is not something you teach at the start and then have forever more. You MUST work at it, day in, day out. I have talked about it from day one, but I practise it every single time I take my dogs out. I call them. And reward them for coming. Like this:

The dogs are running around and having fun, when I call Quin back to me. He comes back pretty well, going past the other dogs, who know it is not for them to come back (unless they want a sweetie!) Not a bad effort.

Recall goes wrong

I’m writing about recall again now, because at six months old, your puppy will start to change. I met someone the other day who said that their 7 month old Labrador puppy was no longer coming back to them. Ah, I said, he’s 7 months old, that’s why.

I don’t want to come back

At around this age, puppies start to think for themselves a bit more. They become more confident and able to go a bit further away from you. They also start to realise that if they don’t immediately come back to you, nothing bad happens. Great! So why bother? Well what’s the answer? You have to be more exciting than the other thing! That can be tough to do. Here’s my effort from today:

Can you see him thinking ‘what’s the point?’ I’ll just lie down, that’s something we’ve been practising. But he eventually realises that I mean it, so he does come. What do I do then? Smack him for being naughty and not coming back straight away? No. I am thrilled that he came! I have to actually be thrilled (even if I am secretly wishing I could kill him). Worse will happen in the future. I know that.

Two points to notice from this video:

  • My dogs are running around, off lead, next to a busy dual carriageway. They are not running into the road. Why would they? That is not the way we walk. I have shown them over the years that we go along the path. It is a familiar route to us all. More importantly though, I pay attention to my dogs and make sure I feel under control. They can run about, I can call them.
  • When Quin stops and doesn’t want to come back to me, I move away from him, not towards him.

Don’t chase your dog!

Who can run the fastest, you or your dog? If your dog is ten years old or more, a bit arthritic and maybe going a bit blind, AND if you are under 30 years old and regularly run marathons, you are still not faster than your dog! If your dog decides to run, that’s it, they’ve gone.

Border collies
fun at the beach

So there is absolutely no point in trying to catch your dog. If your dog doesn’t come towards you, you need to make yourself more interesting. That’s all there is to it. Running away from your dog is a great way to achieve this.

The collar grab

Putting the lead back on at the end of a walk is a massive problem point for most people. You go for a lovely long walk and then come to put the lead back on and the dog runs away. Here are the reasons why your dog does that:

  • they are not tired, the walk hasn’t been long enough (they are never tired!)
  • they know that it’s the end of the walk because you always finish the walk there
  • you expect your dog to come and sit calmly at your feet while you fiddle around with the lead
  • you don’t reward your dog for coming back to you.

In order to fix this, here’s what you do:

  1. always reward your dog for coming back to you
  2. call them back to you several times during the walk, not just at the end. Don’t forget to reward them!
  3. make sure you have hold of your dog before touching the lead.
  4. don’t expect them to sit and wait, just grab them and put the lead on. Make sure you reward them.

Here’s my video of a collar grab. I couldn’t hold the phone, grab him and put his lead on as I don’t have 3 hands! But it should show you how I get hold of him. NB: I don’t try and hold the collar, I hold him. I grab his fur, to stroke him and make a fuss of him. That physical engagement is a reward for him, so it reinforces his desire to come back to me. I have the lead clipped around my neck, so once I have him, I can easily grab the lead and clip it on.

It doesn’t have to be neat, or smart. It has to work for me and reward my dog.

Trust your dog

Going back to the point above about dogs not running into the road, I honestly wish people would trust their dogs more. Of course I realise that I have Border Collies and not all breeds of dog are as fast, manic and easily scared as mine. Oh wait, were you expecting me to say as trainable, intelligent and well-behaved as mine? Hmm.

Dogs will run about. They should, it’s what dogs do. But they come back. Here’s Quin again. Well it’s Luna standing around to start with; she’s 11 years old so really doesn’t go far now. Where’s Quin? Here he comes. I haven’t called him, he just comes back.

Bless him.

Let recall go wrong

Nobody’s perfect. Not even me. Lol. So it won’t go right all the time. It shouldn’t though, we don’t learn unless we experience problems. Please, please let your dog go through it. If you don’t give them a chance, how can they get better?

Don’t forget, there are plenty of safe ways you can practice and reward your recall. Call your dog around the house. Call them in from the garden. When you are out, start with letting them go to the end of a longline, or extendable lead and recalling them.

Border collies
Happiness is..

If you really are a scaredy-cat, just go somewhere you feel secure and practice. Don’t just go to a field and let your dog run about. RECALL THEM! and reward. Reward. Reward. Honestly, your dog will thank you for it.


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.


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 14 – On lead walking

Walking on lead

I am going to talk about generally walking on lead this week and will focus on specific problems with lead walking next week. I’ve just been reminded of the excellent Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme. Looking at the requirements for the different levels perfectly sums up what we need our dogs to do while they are on lead.

Border Collie
Puppy on lead

At the ‘puppy‘ stage of this scheme, walking on lead requires the following:

Walking in a Controlled Manner
With the puppy on lead, and without distractions, the owner and puppy should walk for approximately 20 paces and include a
turn. They should demonstrate that this can be done without undue inconvenience to themselves or others. A tight lead does
not necessarily result in classification “Not Ready”.

You can see in the video that Quin is not perfect, far from it! But he is under control and relatively calm. That’s fine for his age and experience level. I’m pretty happy with how he is generally.

What do you need from your dog?

I think before we talk about walking on lead, you need to think about what you want from your dog? Most of us want the following:

  • to be able to clip the lead on easily
  • to be able to walk along calmly with our dog beside us
  • being able to stop or turn without having to yank or pull the dog
  • crossing roads safely and calmly
  • not having to walk too quickly, or too slowly.

In addition we ideally want to be able to go past obstacles and other people and dogs without a big reaction.

Go off lead

In my opinion, your dog should be able to go on lead for as short a time as possible, if at all. I feel like this because I have Border Collies. BCs are terrible on lead, even when they are highly trained in obedience. They are just too fast, too keen and too impatient! I remember going to an obedience show and seeing people being tanked around by their Border Collies – it was shocking!

As a result, I let my dogs off lead as soon as possible. Around half my walks involve a 5 minute drive to the woods, or fields. They go straight in the van, then out and away! For my other walks, they are on lead for 5 minutes through my housing estate and then away! To be absolutely honest, they are only lead so they don’t poo in people’s gardens. They don’t pull my arms off, but 5 keen Border Collies don’t walk slowly!

Ounce demonstrating off lead control – with distraction from Luna!

Lead or harness?

These days, we are thankfully much more aware of our dogs’ welfare. We sadly haven’t made the sale of prong collars illegal here yet (sign the petition please?) However, we are aware that even a normal collar and lead can cause discomfort and choking, although of course my dogs have only the best leads available, from Dogs & Horses UK.

Busy demonstrating perfect walking on lead

The trend is therefore to use a harness. However, these come in many different styles and don’t always fit well. There is also an issue that some harnesses can restrict movement or cause discomfort in other ways.

Personally, I don’t use a harness for a number of reasons:

  • dogs in a harness are more inclined to lean into it and pull. This is fine for canicross, but not great for everyday.
  • harnesses are a right faff to put on and off. If you have more than one dog, who can be bothered?
  • if a dog is off lead, why do they need a harness?

However, if you have one dog, who has to do a lot of on lead walking, then a harness is far better for your dog than a simple collar.

dog harness

NB: if you do use a harness, remember that you MUST include a name tag. It is a legal requirement to have identification on your dog and you can be prosecuted if you do not have this. I use Indigo Dog Tags as they are easy to clip onto a flat lead, such as my beautiful Silverfoot Dog Collars (only the best for my dogs).

Extending leads

I understand why people use these, honestly I do. Extendable leads are great if you are too scared to let your dog off lead. You can let them wander about and sniff, but you can still hang onto the end if you need to. Again, I don’t use these – I feel they are just an accident waiting to happen. The thin, nylon line is perfect for cutting into skin, getting caught around legs and causing a trip hazard. As with harnesses, you are really encouraging your dog to pull. The dog leans into the lead to extend it.

NB: Even a medium dog such as a Springer Spaniel or Border Collie is able to cause a fair amount of damage and/or pull you off your feet.

A much better solution is a longline. These allow the dog to wander about, with no pulling required and a ‘safety line’ for you.

Walking on lead – conclusion

Teaching your dog to walk nicely on lead is a real challenge! There are a number of options to help you manage this. I’ll talk about how to manage problem behaviour in the next post. The best solution is simply to let them off lead!


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.


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 12 – Barking & Howling

How to manage your dog’s howling and barking

Dogs bark a lot don’t they? It’s one of the ways they communicate. We often find it annoying and sometimes frightening. It can be difficult to understand why a dog is making so much noise. Or it can be challenging to stop them. It is a complex issue, so I will only be able to touch on some of the key points here.

Border collies
Aura rarely barks – she is such a happy dog

Excited barking

This is probably the most common reason why dogs bark. Something is happening! The doorbell has rung! A bird flew past! There’s a cat in the garden! A squirrel ran along the fence! You got up! And so on. Your dog is communicating with you that something is happening they think you want to know about. Or they are just excited and reacting to that excitement.

How to react: DO NOT shout at your dog. Your dog will think you are also barking! Hurray! Let’s all carry on barking. Lol. Call them, calmly and as quietly as you can. Get their attention away from the thing that is exciting and reward the quiet. Make sure they know that whatever it is, it’s just not that interesting. The less reaction you give, the more likely they are to stop barking and generally reacting to the stimulus.

Border collies
Barking? Not me

However, this is very hard for a dog to control. It’s a base instinct, which means they react without thinking. Just as we shout at our dog for being annoying! Hmm. Another word of caution – if there are likely to be lots of things to bark at, try moving the dog to a different space, where there is less stimulation. Or reduce access to windows, or the garden. It’s a bit of a losing battle, if you have a constant stream of squirrels in the garden, to try and stop your dog barking at them.

Frightened barking

Again, this is an instinctive reaction to a stimulus, but this time it is about fear of the unknown. Who is that person? What are they doing here? I don’t know this other dog? Why is there a loud noise? Quin barks at his reflection quite a bit at the moment, bless him. We just ignore that. Or call away and reassure him.

I’m sure you can tell the difference between excited and frightened barking? Excited barking will happen alongside a wriggling, waggy, smiley dog. Fearful barking will be accompanied by hackles up and backing off. Your dog will be tense and focused on the fearful object.

Border collies
Luna – watchdog and guard

You might see both these types of barking at home and whilst you are out. Understanding the difference can help you react to them. If your dog is afraid, they need reassurance. So again, shouting at your dog to be shut up is NOT the solution. Once more, quiet reassurance and distraction is a better solution.

Just be careful that you don’t reinforce the fearful response. Call away, distract, be calm. Then reward. Otherwise your dog is warning you that something might be frightening and then thinks you want them to tell you every time they see something similar. You are not saying ‘thanks for telling me about that’! You are rewarding them for stopping.


When a dog howls, they are properly distressed. Or really, really excited! Again, you need to understand the circumstances and why the behaviour is happening, in order to react to it appropriately. Busy is my main howler. She howls when she is missing out on something. If someone goes off on a walk or out to training without her, she gives a really plaintive, sad little howl.

Howling is not nice to hear. Sometimes a dog howls briefly and then stops, realising that nothing is changing. Sadly, dogs who are left alone for long periods may continue to howl, or bark pitifully, which is horrible for neighbours.

Separation anxiety

If you get a puppy when you are around ALL the time, and then suddenly leave it alone, you will make your dog sad and anxious. This is a very real problem and one that is unfortunately becoming far more common following the pandemic. It is known as ‘separation anxiety‘.

The trick is to make sure your puppy knows that being alone is fine. The earlier and more often you do this, the better your dog will cope. I do not stay with my litters of puppies all day every day and nor do their mothers. They are safe and warm, so they just sleep, or play, until we return.

Border collies
Busy – hates to miss out

When I keep a puppy from a litter, I leave it alone from day one. I put him to bed in a crate, at night. Or during the day, when I walk the other dogs. It’s only for an hour or so during the day, but I go out little and often. Or I go into a different room (including the toilet!) and make sure that the puppy can’t follow. Building confidence is the key to tackling this issue.

Distraction toys

I always make sure my dogs are safe and have things to chew, such as Kongs, if needed. You can also try giving a dog something to distract them, such as a ‘Lickimat‘. Whatever you do, as always with your dog, make sure you are:

  • patient
  • persistent
  • consistent

Your dog will thank you!


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.


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 11 – Wait!

Teaching your puppy to wait

Do we really need to teach this to our dogs?  This is by far the most important command to teach a dog, in my opinion.  It is the lesson I want my puppy to learn as soon as possible, but it is pretty tricky to teach!  Again, this is something I started from day one with Quin, but it takes ages to teach, so I’m focusing on it now.

When they can wait, you can take group photos!

Why wait?  What do I use it for?

  • Stopping my dog from heading into danger
  • Stopping my dog from approaching another dog
  • Waiting to cross a road
  • Stopping them from rushing at their food
  • Stopping them pushing past me through a door (rude)
  • Making them wait when I open the door to the garden, or to go into the van
  • Enabling me to take nice pictures of my dog(s)
  • Waiting on the start line in agility

I’m sure you will find other uses for a good solid wait.  It is absolutely invaluable.  It is useful but also keeps them safe.

How do you start?

Call your dog to you.  Have them sitting at your feet.  Give them a treat for coming.  Then get eye contact with them.  Say ‘wait’.  I usually put up my hand, or my finger to reinforce.  Wait a few seconds.  Say ‘yes!’ and reward.

Wait! And smile!

Do this a few (hundred) times.  The amount of times you need to do each stage and the speed with which you can move forward depends on:

  • Your dog
  • Your consistency
  • Your patience

Not all dogs are as quick to learn and keen to please as Border Collies.  So this can be challenging.  But it is worth the effort.

Next step

Once you have your dog able to sit and focus on you for a few seconds, you can start to move away.  Take a step back.  Stand sideways and wait.  Then step back in and reward.  From there you can gradually (very gradually) increase the distance and time. 

It will go wrong!  When you move off, your puppy will probably follow you.  That’s fine.  Step back and put your puppy back into a sit.  Say ‘wait’ again.  Step away and wait.  If you can move away and then step back in without movement from the puppy, you are succeeding.  It might take a while! 

First steps

You might find it easier to put the dog into a down to teach the wait.  Get them into a down and reward.  Then say wait and step away.  I have found Quin is less fidgety and more relaxed in a down.  He can be a bit watchful and anxious in a sit.

Moving on

Once you have a bit of distance and you feel that your dog understands the basic concept, you can start to make it more challenging.  There are all sorts of ways you can do this.  Here are some options:

  • Increasing distance
  • Turning your back
  • Moving around
  • Going round the back of the dog
  • Moving quickly
  • Waving your arms around
  • Making a noise
  • Having a toy

There is a lot you can do to challenge the wait!  You can mix it up, sometimes just standing beside your dog, at other times moving around.  It’s a great idea to call your dog to you, from the wait.  This is known as a ‘formal recall’, as the dog remains calm and still, then comes neatly to you and sits at your feet.  It looks impressive!  The hardest part of this is that your puppy will anticipate what you want and set off before you call it.  So you need to go back to your dog for some of the time and reward the waiting, before you reward the recall.

Be realistic

If it goes wrong, that’s fine.   Put the dog back and start again.  If you can’t get the distance or movement, go back a step.  Move away and be still.  Or just stay by your dog until they are happy with the wait. 

Don’t push your luck.  If you try to make your dog wait in a busy, distracting environment, you will find it hard.  Try and practice where it is quiet.  Or go somewhere busy, but wait beside your dog, building their confidence.

Ounce @ 5 months

Advanced wait

As I’ve said, there is a great deal you can do to challenge the wait.  I will talk about that in a few months’ time.   There is also a difference between ‘wait’ and ‘stop’, although you might use the same command for both.


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.


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 10 – Dog Toys

What’s the point of dog toys?

Why do we buy toys for our dogs? What are they for? Like most people, I love a bit of retail therapy every now and again. I am seduced by cute, furry toys, with funny faces. I love buying presents for my dogs. They love receiving presents from me! They are so happy to have a new toy, running around waving it about and making sure to give it a good shake, or a squeak.

Dog toys
How long will donkey last?

I suppose one of the reasons for buying toys is that it gives us and our dogs pleasure. They enjoy the stimulation of having something different to play with.

Destructor puppy!

The trouble with buying cute cuddly toys for your dog is that they don’t last long! Puppies have sharp teeth and they absolutely LOVE ripping toys to shreds. They scatter the stuffing all round the room and eat ears, feet and hands, which then end up littering the garden when they reappear. Oh dear!

Dog toys
What was it?

The thing is, if you don’t give your puppy toys to play with, they will find other things to chew and destroy! That’s what a puppy does best. So far we have lost a phone cable and a cushion to our darling Quin, but I know there is more to come, because this morning we found a tooth.

Teething trouble

At around 4-5 months of age, puppies lose their baby teeth and their adult teeth come through. Just like with human babies, that is annoying and painful for puppies. They find relief through chewing.

Dog toys
What should this puppy be playing with?

In the wild, they would chew sticks and roots, or probably bits of fur and skin from the animals killed by their mother. You can buy bits of animals for your puppy to chew, such as chicken feet or pigs ears. Beware antlers though, as these can break teeth, leading to expensive vet bills for dentistry work. Luna lost a canine to an antler. Teething puppies can also be soothed with food, such as frozen Kongs, carrots or ice cubes.

Different toys for different tasks

When shopping for your dog, you need to think about meeting a variety of needs. Soft toys are great for playing with, squeaking and believe it or not, cuddling! My dogs definitely love their soft toys and some last for ages. Others, not so much.

Dogs definitely need hard toys to chew. These are often bone, or stick shaped and made of plastic, rubber or nylon. Beware rawhide, as these have been shown to be produced using hideous chemical processes, which are bad for our dogs. They also cause blockages.

Dog toys
Looks like a bone, but won’t splinter

Balls are of course essential. Most dogs love chasing after a ball. My dogs have a box of tennis balls they have discovered on walks; Aura is the queen of the ball. They have so much fun running around after a ball, giving it to one another – they hardly need my input at all!

A word of caution about ball chuckers: I used to use one to give the dogs long, fast runs, but decided that it was just too problematic. Too much running at top speed and jumping for a ball leads to early onset arthritis, joint damage and other possible injuries. It is also too stimulating, which can just make your dog hyper, rather than tiring them out, as you probably intended. Oh and chewing tennis balls has now been shown to erode teeth, so again, this needs to be managed.

Tuggy toys are another must have for many dogs. I use tuggy play to engage with my dog and keep their focus on me whilst training. It is super rewarding and really helps stop my puppy reacting to things going past him whilst on walks. At agility, it’s a great way of stopping dogs getting wound up by other dogs training, or competing. Some people think tuggy play can be too distracting for dogs and lead to undesired behaviour, so again, this needs to be kept in context. Dogs will play tuggy with each other, which can be fun, as long as it doesn’t lead to fights.

Alternatives to toys

If you don’t have endless funds to spend on buying toys, there are alternatives. Soft toys can be made from old socks for example. A pair of socks, one inside the other, filled with the stuffing and squeaker from an old toy can provide plenty of fun. Or buy soft toys from a charity shop.

You can use yogurt pots, juice or water bottles, or flower pots for dogs to chase around and chew. If you fill a bottle with gravel that provides an extra level of sensory play. Watch the chewing of this plastic though and take it away once it starts to break up as the pieces are much sharper than plastic bones.

Dog toys
Kongs: fill with peanut butter and kibble, lovely!

Tuggy toys can be made from bits of vet bed, cut into strips. Or how about getting an old pair of jeans, tearing it into strips and plaiting it? My puppies love playing with these and they last a good while.

Toy management

As you have seen, most toys have limitations. They need managing and you need to be aware of what your dog is doing, as much as possible. But they are safer than chewing sticks or stones. Ultimately, it is about keeping your dog occupied in a manageable way, rather than letting them destroy your home. There are now plenty of toys available to help challenge your dog, such as licky mats, snuffle mats etc.

Dog toys
Hours of play and no furniture damaged

When they are teething, people often despair and think about re-homing. Like many stages of puppyhood, this will pass. Most dogs stop chewing, most of the time.


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.


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 9 – Toileting

How to house train your puppy

I recently received an enquiry asking me if the puppies I produce are sent to their new homes fully toilet trained. Er, no. At 8 weeks of age, puppies are still babies and do not have full bladder control.

Over the years, as I have had litters of puppies and watched them grow, I have realised that they will try and toilet away from their bed almost before they can walk. Their mother cleans them up completely for the first few weeks and you rarely see any mess in that time. Then they stagger and stumble away from where they are feeding, feeling a different texture underfoot and toileting there.

A monster? Possibly

As they grow, puppies become weeing and pooing monsters! It’s one of the hardest parts of having a litter of puppies in your home – it’s a constant mess. Once they are up and about, they will toilet anywhere. I have newspaper in the run, which I change regularly. Other people use different materials. Many puppies are kept on sawdust or straw, in outside runs, or sheds, simply to help manage the mess.

Dogs don’t care

Dogs do have very different toileting behaviours to us. Because they are ruled by their noses, they use their urine to scent, or mark where they have been. They also urinate on top of where other dogs have been. Once one dog has urinated in one place, every other dog in the world will want to go there! So if you have a male dog who marks something, you must expect every other male to also add their scent. Beware cleaning with normal household cleaners – they are likely to make the problem worse, as the ammonia just smells like wee to a dog! And they can still smell traces of wee for years – trust me.

Dogs will also poo in particular places. My dogs do toilet in the garden, which I clear every day. I know that each dog has one or two places they go, every day.

Border collies
I am the boss of you

So they do care where they go. But they don’t care what you think about where they go! In other words, in makes no real difference to them if it is inside or outside, on a walk or in the garden.

Dogs won’t go to the toilet in their bed, if they can help it. But a bit of wee doesn’t really bother them and they will happily lie in it if they have to. They also eat poo! The Kennel Club recently produced this great article: Why does my dog eat poo? We might find it disgusting, but for them, it’s no big deal.

Getting started

I think understanding toileting from a dog’s point of view does help us to manage their behaviour. As I’ve said, I know that dogs move off their bed (usually) to toilet from a very young age and I do try to keep their run clean.

When they are up and about, I ensure they can go outside as soon as possible. They have access to grass, which they much prefer to poo on. I also start to take them all outside to wee as soon as they wake up, or after they have eaten, or after they have been playing… I call them, “Puppy, puppy, puppy” and they all come running! Of course I can’t do that all day every day; six week old puppies are particularly trying!

Border collies
This is my playground

When they go off to their new homes, this is how you get started – every hour, after a sleep, after food, after play, go out with them. Go onto the grass and say “Do you want a wee?” Or “Be quick!” or “Be clean”. It’s up to you what you say, but then as soon as they have toileted, REWARD!

Reward every time

It’s really about consistency. The more effort you make, the less ‘accidents’ you will have to clear up. If you can’t be bothered to be with your puppy and pay attention to its behaviour, you can expect to step in the odd wee!

Border collies
Always the innocent

Naturally we can’t be with our dogs every second of every day. When we get a puppy at 8 weeks of age, they will need to toilet at least every hour during the day. They can’t go through the night without needing to toilet. They poo four times or more.

For me, I prefer to give my dogs space to toilet, in a run either outside or inside.

Dry at night

Puppies can usually last all night from around ten weeks of age. They can then go into a crate, to stop them rampaging, playing and chewing all night long! Crates are a great way of helping them to learn bladder control and managing when and where they do toilet.

Border collies
Quin @ 4 months

You may still have accidents in the crate, if you leave them in there too long, or if they get an upset tummy. Border Collies are a breed that are prone to sensitive digestion, so you need to feed them something consistently.

Keep going

If you get your puppy in the summer, it’s tempting to just leave the door open and let them find their way outside. Dogs prefer to toilet on a soft surface, so if you don’t have any rugs or mats, they should go outside.

However, if you do that, your puppy might then be confused when it gets colder and you shut the door! So you might then be back to square one. Go out with them, wait for them to go. REWARD! If they find the garden too exciting and rush around playing and exploring, you need to put them on a lead and just stand with them and wait.

Border collies
Toileting? I’d rather chew this stick

Of course they might not always want to go when you want to take them. This is when is good if you can be around your puppy for a while. If they are wandering around a bit restlessly, that is probably what they want. Some puppies are kind enough to stand by the door and wait for you to open it, but they won’t wait for long! You can teach them to ring a bell on the door, with time and patience. Be careful though, or your dog will have you at their beck and call, ringing every five minutes just to go into the garden and play!

Should you tell them off?

In the old days (a very long time ago) we used to show our dogs their wee or poo and shout at them (I won’t mention rubbing their noses in it). Thankfully we don’t do that any more. But it’s not unreasonable to say ‘NO!’ sharply if you catch your dog in the act of toileting in the house. They can understand when you’re not happy, it just needs to be very clear what it is for.

Border collies
Where did you want this hole again?

Above all, praise them for toileting in the right place. If you keep going, patiently and consistently, you’ll get there in the end. I’m writing this post when Quin is over four months old. He’s pretty good, on the whole. We caught him digging a hole in the lawn the other day and got cross, so he came in the house and weed everywhere. Silly us! And he tends to leak a bit if we don’t let him out when he needs to go.

Excited wees

When you greet a puppy, it wees. They just can’t help being excited and they don’t have enough control. This usually sorts itself out by the time they are six months old. You can help by being less exciting, or by letting them out before you greet people. Or by saying hello to them outside, when it doesn’t matter so much.

Toilet training your puppy is a challenge. Like everything else relating to your dog, it requires effort, patience and persistence. Oh and don’t forget the REWARDS!


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.


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 7 – Travelling

Puppy travelling – how can you get them used to the car?

This post is about putting your dog in the car, not about going on holiday, or travelling abroad. One day we will do those things, but not today…

Like so many things in life, getting a puppy used to travelling by car takes practice. It’s as simple as that. Lots of dogs do not like going in the car to start with. When I take my puppies to the vet’s for their microchips, or to the specialist vet’s for their hearing and eye tests, they often cry for most of the journey. Some of them are usually sick.

Border Collies
puppies’ first outing

When they go off to their new homes, they are still small enough to be cuddled. They are usually happy travelling on a lap, curled up on a blanket or towel. In a crate, in the boot, they are very often frightened and stressed. Even covering the crate doesn’t necessarily help. Earplugs might be needed!

Travelling in crates

Dogs must be secure when travelling in cars – it is a legal requirement. The most common way of achieving this is by having a dog guard fitted between the back seat and the boot area. The advantage of this is that it is inexpensive and easy to fit or remove. It should not impact the sale of your car in the future (although the mud and dog hair might!)

Border collies
How many dogs can you fit in a car boot?

However, if you are planning on leaving your dog in your car, where they might chew, you might be better off getting a crate to go into the boot. This can be a free-standing crate that just sits in the boot (see above), or it could be a structure that is specially fitted. When you have multiple dogs, people normally find that a van is the best option.

Border collies
My van – Morrison

One of the key advantages of this option if you plan to go to any events or shows with your dog is that the dogs can be safely left inside the cage, with the car boot or doors open. It’s also brilliant if you are taking the dogs away with you, as they have plenty of room.

Other travel options

Border Collie

Some people don’t like using crates, or they don’t feel they have space in their car. You can use a harness to keep the dog secure on the back seat. Personally I feel that a dog is likely to chew through a harness. I also feel that a crate gives a dog more opportunity to change position and stand up, if it wants to. You can also put a water bowl in a crate.

How can we help?

As I’ve said, the main thing in getting a dog used to travelling is to take your dog out and about. Don’t make the only time they are in the car be when they go to the vet! Take them out for short journeys to different walks. This has the advantage of being a really positive experience for your dog. It also gives you the chance of a change of scenery.

Border Collies
Up in the woods with the girls

I tend to walk from home for only around half my walks. The rest of the time I go off to woods or fields. I park in places where my dogs can go straight out from the van, with no lead walking at all. Lovely!

If your dog is really stressed by the car, try feeding them in the boot, with the engine off. If that is too stressful, start with giving treats next to the car. Gradually increase the time in the car. Turn the engine on and sit quietly, with the dog in their crate. Then start to go for short journeys, without stopping or getting out.

Quin’s other news

Walking around other dogs continues to be a challenge. The other day I had two dogs, including a greyhound, run over to us, causing Quin to run away from me. The owner called them, but it was a bit of a challenge and I had to go and fetch Quin from where he had run to hide under the van.

Border Collie puppy
My happy boy – with wonky ears!

Fortunately, some dogs are polite and don’t rush at us. Quin is happy to sit by me whilst they go past, or even cope while they sniff him. We have managed to walk alongside a few other dogs, which is great.

This morning someone remarked “What a well behaved puppy!” That’s lovely, but really, I’m not doing much. It’s a slow, steady process. Keeping on doing it, every day. We do a few recalls, a bit of a wait. On lead, off lead (mainly off lead). Playing with my puppy. Engaging with him. He’s a happy boy, loving his life. Which reminds me to go and check what he’s eating..


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.


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 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.


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.


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.