Category Archives: Dog doc – reader’s questions

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.

Rescue or Rehome?

rescue or rehome
Beautiful dogs in the wrong place

Doing the right thing

It is very fashionable these days to have a ‘rescue’ dog, isn’t it? Celebrities do it, so it must be the right thing to do, mustn’t it? Rescuing sounds heroic – we are taking a dog that’s had a terrible time and giving it a much better life, aren’t we great!

It’s not quite that simple. I’ve already talked about whether you should get a dog from a rescue or a breeder and covered a number of points. Now I want to focus specifically on the difference between going to a rescue centre vs finding a dog the ‘old-fashioned’ way, through word of mouth. In other words, taking on a dog straight from the unsuitable home it has been in.

Why re-home a dog?

There are lots of reasons why a dog might not be suitable for the home it is in. Circumstances change. Many people take on a dog believing that they are in a position to cope with it, only to find that their job changes, or they have to move house, or their relationship status changes.

Often though, people simply don’t appreciate how challenging it can be to have a dog in your home. What looks cute and fluffy as a puppy turns out to be a weeing, pooing, chewing nightmare! Parents often decide they simply don’t have time to cope with a dog as well as their children.

rescue or rehome
It’s not his fault

Where to start rehoming a dog?

If you are feeling overwhelmed with your dog, please start by talking about it to a few people? You might be surprised that other people have similar problems with their dog. Sometimes talking it through can help you see things differently and keep things in perspective.

If people agree that for whatever reason, your dog is not in the best place, it is worth asking around to see if someone can offer a better home. This has happened to people I know a few times. I have been able to ask my contacts in the dog world, who have passed the message on.

Of course you still want to ‘vet’ anyone who offers to re-home your dog. I remember the first time I did this, I was quite anxious about meeting the person who was interested in the dog. I didn’t need to worry, they were one of the nicest people I’ve ever met! They took the dog and gave him an AMAZING home! It was everything I wanted for him. They were young enough to take him for long walks, had other dogs to keep him company and were experienced enough to cope with his quirks.

A better home makes a better dog

More recently, I helped move on a super dog with no faults, who just didn’t really fit into the home he was in. Once again, through contacts and messages, a more suitable home was found. When I asked how things were going, I received this response:

He’s doing really well. They’re so proud of him, meeting grandchildren, family members, other dogs etc. They can’t believe how well he walks on lead. They adore him, which makes me so happy.”

Isn’t that lovely? As much as the dog was previously loved, the owner knew it wasn’t the best fit for him. He’s happy now.

Rescue centres – pros and cons

A few months ago there was a super series, called ‘The Dog House‘ about Wood Green Animal Rescue. It really clearly showed all the ins and outs of rehoming: the trauma of bringing the dog in and leaving it (including the dog being upset). Then the people coming in being vetted and helped to realise that what they thought they wanted might not be the best fit for them. You saw the dogs having to make a good first impression and how challenging that was for some of them.

What was most upsetting about the series, was how many of the dogs shown were taken home by the people, only to be returned, sometimes after as long as a month. Heartbreakingly, many dogs who end up in a rescue go backwards and forwards into a number of homes. How much better to go straight from one home to another, forever?

rescue or rehome


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Grooming your dog: Tops tips for a beautiful dog

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

Following on from my post about the Spanish Water Dog I thought I would re-visit the issue of grooming for a dog.  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.grooming

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.

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.


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!  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.

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.  From 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 chipped 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.

Fundraising for Canine Concern

I am offering my Dentbros Dogs Calendar 2019 for sale within the UK.  You pay £8 +£1.40 p&p and all 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.

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?

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 new service.

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


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.

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?

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!”

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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.

Socialisation part 2: Party on

Socialisation part 2: the puppy party

I decided to continue talking about socialisation of puppies; it is so important it is worth banging on about it.  When I send my puppies off to their new homes it is a crucial part of their puppy pack.  I sit down with my owners before they are allowed to depart and go through the pack with them.  I make sure they know that they are aware of the Puppy Socialisation Plan  I tell them what I have done already and what they need to do now.  This includes the puppy party.

Out and about

It seems pretty obvious that when you have a new puppy you want to show it off!  Of course that is only natural.  However, we are always told that puppies cannot go out until after their first vaccination.  Well yes and no.

First of all, puppies are covered by their mother’s immunity, so they should not be vaccinated until they are at least 8 weeks of age.  Many vets are asking owners to wait a little longer before starting the vaccination program, which seems sensible to me.

Secondly, puppies can go to places that are unlikely to be contaminated by dogs with diseases.  So if you are allowed to take your puppy to work and the only other dog there has been vaccinated, you are likely to be safe.

Thirdly, why not carry your puppy?  This is what I did with Ounce, at the start of her adventures last year.

partyPuppy party

The KC plan says:

“Introduce your puppy to friendly healthy vaccinated dogs if you know any. If not, speak to your veterinary practice or your chosen puppy training class – some have days where your pup can meet friendly staff dogs in a safe environment.”

partyVeterinary practices usually run a ‘puppy party’ every few weeks to allow people to enable their pups to interact with other dogs.  However, a word of caution here.  Some puppies are naturally lively and boisterous, wanting to play with everything that comes along.  Other puppies are more reticent, easily feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of noisy, puppies bouncing into their faces.

Just as when dogs are unhappy about interacting with children, puppies can give ‘calming signals‘ to other dogs to show that they have had enough.  Please pay attention to your puppy and understand when he has had enough?  Don’t let your puppy become the party pooper who spoils everyone’s fun!

Other ideas

partyAll experiences need to be totally positive – so if it is a person, they should give the puppy a treat.  If it is an experience (car, traffic, pub etc) you need to make sure you treat and reward the puppy in that environment.  Play a game with him, feed him his dinner there. Socialising a young puppy is easy – as most people you meet will want to see him and will be happy to help!

partyUse interactive toys stuffed with food, to give him problems to solve.  He needs controlled frustration to deal with to continue his brain development in his new home. Introduce him to tunnels, steps, things to clamber over, and different surfaces to walk on.

Being alone and settling down

partyTeach him that part of his new life includes being left alone for short periods of time – or not having constant access to you. Do this from the first day you bring him home. Use a dog cages or crate  or a baby gate to separate him from you at least once every day.  This should be at times when there are positive things happening (eating dinner, chewing a stuffed Kong etc). To start with he should still be able to see you (and so not feel deserted).

partyContinue to use the noise CD that the breeder has been using (or you can buy one from Amazon) to play unexpected noises (if he hasn’t had the benefits of the first 8 week Puppy Plan, start these very quietly at meal times or game times, and slowly build up the volume).

partyTeach your puppy about relaxation, being calm around you etc. This includes being groomed, and being handled around his feet, face, mouth, ears etc.  Remember to reward him all the time when he is still and relaxed. Many owners miss this one in all the excitement and so the dog thinks everything is a game and never keeps still when the owner is around.

partyEncourage periods of quiet time – when he is relaxed and settles down in your presence. Start these as very short periods, using a crate or a play pen beside you if necessary.  Give your puppy something to occupy him such as an interactive toy (like a Kong stuffed with food).

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 new 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.


Socialisation Part 1: what is it and why is it important?

Socialisation part 1 – why it is essential for your puppy

This is a huge subject, so I am just going to write an introduction and talk about the role of the breeder.  That is basically what ‘socialisation’ means – an introduction.  It means teaching your puppy about the world that it will be living in, so that it can cope with the demands of the human environment.  As the Kennel club says:

“Like human children, puppies are not born with the social skills that they require to live with their family, be that a canine family or a human one. The term “socialisation” in simple terms means the learning process that a puppy must undergo in order to learn key life skills to ensure that it is happy and confident in its environment, and can communicate effectively within its social group.”

socialisationWhen should socialisation start?

We understand that puppies, like babies, are sponges, soaking up everything around them and learning from these experiences.  Historically, we probably didn’t really expect breeders to do anything much to contribute to this process, as dogs were kept in outhouses or sheds in the garden with their puppies.  They might be brought into the family home for some of the time, but were generally left to their own devices.

For puppy farmers, there is no facility to socialise pups before they are shipped off to their new homes.  Farmers don’t expect to have to do anything with the puppies and they may be kept in very poor conditions, with a mother who has little or no interaction with humans or other animals.

However, for responsible breeders, who are doing their utmost to produce pedigree dogs that the owners can be proud of, there is a challenge to provide the stimulation and experiences that the puppies will need in their new homes.

Socialisation plan

The Kennel Club have produced a useful step by step guide, the Puppy Socialisation Plan, which provides detailed examples of things that the breeder and the new owner can do to help their puppy develop.

Here is an example of part of the plan:

Week 5 – 7 – Curiosity: Tasks

socialisationPut more interactive toys into the puppy pen at times when you can supervise. These can include wobbly objects, tunnels, bits of cloth to climb over or burrow under, suspended tennis balls, larger balls that can be rolled about, empty plastic bottles with some pebbles in them that will roll noisily, small boxes that can be climbed on or in, trays filled with stones or shallow water… Anything you can think of to introduce new stimuli to the puppies.socialisation

Once the puppies are eating solid foods happily, feed them from different bowls – plastic, metal, from your hand etc.

socialisationOver the next couple of weeks, try and make sure the puppy meets as many different types of people as possible – women, men, children, people with beards, hats, high heels, hoods etc – and that they have rewarding experiences to associate with them (games, treats etc).

Household life

socialisationHaving heard all the usual household objects, it is time for him to experience them – this includes the TV, vacuum cleaners, ironing boards… anything that will form part of his life as a dog in a busy household. As always, make sure these experiences are positive. Start very slowly with these things not moving or switched on, and reward the puppy with a treat or a game for ignoring them not playing with them. Slowly you can begin to move them, switch them on at a distance etc – always going back a step if the puppy is reactive towards them.

socialisationOn occasions, feed the puppy separately from his mum and littermates – and a little bit away from you (in a crate, behind a baby gate etc). Start to teach him that good things can happen when he is on his own. Also on occasions, feed him from your hand – he also needs to learn that having humans around his dinner is always a good thing.

socialisationPositive interactions

Spend time with the puppy encouraging him to follow you, playing with him, making eye contact with him, stroking and handling him, picking him up and holding him – and generally getting him used to and enjoying human contact. Make sure all these interactions are positive for the puppy, using treats if necessary.

socialisationTry to take each puppy out individually to sit in the car, drive round the block, see and smell things that will be part of his daily life (traffic, trains etc). As he is unvaccinated (although will still have immunity passed to him from his mother) he should be carried but he should have all these experiences in these really important two weeks when his confidence is at its highest and his fear responses are at their lowest.

Putting this into practice

As you can see, the plan is practical and sensible, but it takes time and commitment.  When I have a litter of puppies, I absolutely expect that I will be inundated with visitors!  It’s one of the best things about having puppies; catching up with all my friends, seeing all my family and taking time out of my normal routine to sit and chat.  While cuddling puppies – what could be better!

However, it does take a huge amount of time and effort to achieve all this and to do it well.  Of course I also have to bear in mind the safety and security of the puppies.  I need to know everyone who comes into the house and to take sensible precautions with regards hygiene.  But for me, this process is so important that I am willing to devote my energy to it.  I believe this is what makes my puppies grow up into the wonderful, beloved animals they are.  Have a look at my testimonials page if you don’t believe me!

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 new 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.

And if you receive my posts via email, remember to click through to the site to see the photos and lots more information.