Category Archives: Quin’s Story

Quin’s Story: Week 23 – Down command for your dog

Why do we need a ‘down’ command?

Down is one of the first commands I teach my puppies and I have already demonstrated and talked about teaching it. As with lots of activities you do with your dog, it is not a quick fix. It takes plenty of time and practice, which is why I am revisiting it now.

Border Collie
Always the Border Collie – lying in wait

First of all, lying down is much easier for your dog to do than sitting. A sit is not a particularly natural physical position for a dog – they are much more likely to lie down to wait for you. If you want a good solid ‘wait’, then a down is a good starting point. A dog will wait much longer and be more relaxed if you ask them to wait in a down position.

Teaching your dog a ‘down’ command

In order to teach a down command, start in the house, when everything else is quiet and calm. Get your dog’s attention and give them a treat. What for? Well for being your wonderful dog of course! When they are focused on you, hold a treat in your hand and bring it from their nose to the floor, slowly. They should follow you down and with a bit of luck and patience, go into a down position. Yes! Reward!

Do it again. And again. And again. When you feel they are starting to understand, add the word you want to use – ‘Down!’ Try to use one simple word, in the same intonation, with the same emphasis. Be consistent.

Border Collie

Once they understand that this is the game we are playing, you can start to wait for them to go into the down, without you moving your hand in front of their nose. If they don’t do it on command, carry on with the physical prompt. Some dogs always need this.

Use the right word

Lots of people say ‘Lay down’ when they want their dog to go into a down position. This annoys me intensely, because it is grammatically incorrect. ‘Lie down’ is the correct term. But I wouldn’t say that anyway, because it is two words. One clear word is much easier to understand.

Not to be confused with ‘Off!’ as a command. Again, lots of people say ‘down’ to their dog when it jumps up. I say ‘Off’ to distinguish between these two actions. I do also say ‘off’ when the dogs are on the sofa and I want to sit down, but they mainly understand this because I am waving my hand at them and sitting on top of them if they don’t move. Lol.

Border Collie
The princess pose

If you get confused trying to stick to different words for different commands, don’t do agility! We need an increasing number of words in this dog sport. ‘Tunnel’ is no longer sufficient – we need ‘wrong end of tunnel’ as well. Hmm.

Increase the distance

The ultimate goal with the down is to have the dog ‘drop’ when they are at a distance from you. I will talk about this more a bit later on, but it is really useful way to control your dog. If they will drop into a down where they are, you can stop them from running into a road, charging into another dog, blocking the path for a cyclist and so on. You will earn the admiration of everyone, who will describe your dog as ‘well trained’ and ‘beautifully behaved’. It’s just a down command. How do you teach this?

How do you think? Yes, of course, practice it a thousand times. Top tip: it really helps a puppy to learn down at a distance if they have other dogs to copy. Once one drops, they all do. Eventually. 😀

5 dogs going down on command


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 21 – Guarding food/toys

How to cope when your dog guards food or toys

You know I’m old, so I grew up being told that under no circumstances should you interfere with your dog when it is eating. You knew that if you tried to stroke it or even go near it, you might lose your hand! Nice. I have to say that if you leant over me and tried to take food off my plate you might lose your hand too. So is that OK? Well, yes and no.

Border Collies
Why do you need me to hold this sock?

I think it is important to respect your dog and their space. Dogs must absolutely be able to get away from a situation that makes them uncomfortable. That might be to a quiet corner, or a bed, or a crate. Border Collies definitely love a dark corner.

When guarding becomes a problem

My dogs definitely do have favourite toys or bones. They might lie down with one tucked between their front feet, or under their head. Of course if someone has something they think is great, another dog will inevitably come along and try to take it off them. Usually that’s fine. Aura will absolutely complain if Quin wants to take something she has, but she won’t do anything, it’s just noise. I will tell him off – ‘Quin! Leave Aura alone!’ but I won’t do anything, it’s fine.

If Aura went for him though, I might intervene. I would call Quin away from her and shout at them both ‘Enough!’ If there was a real argument over toys and it happened on more than one occasion, I would make sure I didn’t leave them alone together.

Border Collies
this is not my sock

Of course the biggest problem is when your dog won’t give something up to you. If they take something they shouldn’t, whether that is clothes or food, and then growl or snap if you try to take it. That is definitely something you need to work through.

Be careful!

Dogs are powerful predators and can be vicious if provoked. So mind how you go if your dog is challenging you for something. Don’t rush in and try and grab the object off them; you will probably lose!

First of all, play with your dog? Not when they are guarding something, but before that happens. If you regularly have engagement and interaction with your dog, they are much more likely to trust you and feel happier about you handling them.

play with your dog

When your dog plays with toys, you should be able to get the toy off them to throw it, or play some more. If you find this difficult, you need to try swapping the toy for a treat. Once this pattern is established, you are more likely to be able to do this with other articles.

No punishments, please

When your dog is doing something it is not supposed to, the temptation is to:

  • shout
  • grab
  • chase
  • smack

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for the dog. They are not able to understand the complex relationship between their actions and the consequences you have decided are appropriate. They won’t remember what happened last time and decide not to do something in case that happens again. Or if the punishment is severe, they might remember and make sure it doesn’t happen again by preparing to bite if approached. When should you punish your dog? Never. It’s your fault if they have something they shouldn’t.

Reward, reward, reward

My advice? Start by calling your dog away from the unwanted behaviour, to come to you and receive a treat or other reward. You might need to do this extra positively! Wow, how amazing, you came to me! Reward!

If that doesn’t work (it probably won’t) you need something more tempting. Yummy sausage? Squeaky toy? You running away shrieking excitedly? Try everything.

Border Collies
this is my toy

Food manners

Personally, I give my dogs their food and they eat it. That’s it. I put it down in the same order, in the same place, at the same time. No tricks required. No funny business. I have to give Luna her insulin, so I don’t have time to mess around.

If you want to be able to pick up their bowl, in case you gave them the wrong food, for example, start by adding extra food to the bowl. Or throw some food near the bowl, wait for the dog to go for that, then pick up the bowl.

Be patient. Manage your own behaviour and expectations. I think you need to be calm, quiet and confident if you want to go near your dog’s food. If you are worried about doing it, don’t bother?


Yes, many dogs will tolerate their family members taking their food and toys, just as Aura lets Quin do it to her, but honestly, don’t push your luck?

manage how you feed your dogs

Practice makes perfect

In conclusion, here are my tips for preventing food and toy guarding:

  • Play with your dog regularly
  • Handle them daily
  • Practice ‘leave it’
  • Swap the item for a treat
  • Throw food nearby and wait
  • Call the dog away
  • Stay calm and quiet


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 20 – Fetch the ball!

Teaching your dog to play fetch

Why do we play fetch with our dog? Usually so that they get to run around and tire themselves out, whilst we can sit in the garden and look at our phones, or wander along slowly in the park and look at our phones. Before we consider how to teach our dog to play fetch, or retrieve, let’s think about our motivation and the actual benefits to the dog?

Border Collie
Puppy and toy

The benefits of playing fetch

Dogs do absolutely love playing fetch, on the whole. Once they get going, some dogs are difficult to stop! Throwtheball, throwtheball, throwtheball! That’s certainly the catchphrase of many Border Collies. My dogs generally play with toys for some periods every day and will demand these are thrown for them, as well as playing tug and chewing on other toys, some of which may be designed for chewing.

It can be very stimulating and entertaining for some dogs. It can get them up and moving, running about and chasing. Sometimes this can be more entertaining than just going for a walk. Lots of people throw balls or toy sticks whilst out walking, as this makes sure that a dog on its own has a bit of a runabout.

Border Collies
Such a happy dog

Help with recall

Throwing a ball is definitely a way to keep your dog focused on you. If your dog’s recall is not that great, try taking a favourite, squeaky toy with you. When the dog starts wandering off, try squeaking the toy and waving it around excitedly. Then when your dog looks round, say ‘Get it!’ and throw it a short distance away. Your dog should go and get the toy and may then come back to you to have it thrown again. Remember to be exciting!

The downsides of fetch

When I was a child, we threw sticks for our dogs. It’s an obvious thing to do, as dogs love chewing sticks and will often pick these up instinctively. However, we now know that sticks are a really BAD IDEA. They can easily splinter and get stuck in a dog’s throat, choking them or causing horrific injuries.

squeaky stick
Not a stick

A simple shift has been made, to ensure that we don’t cause these injuries to our dogs. We know that this is what happens when we throw sticks, so we don’t throw these any more. Instead, we throw tennis balls. We often use a ball chucker, or thrower. Again, these seemed like a great way to get that extra bit of running around.

Sadly, these have also been shown to be more than a dog needs. Too much intense running, jumping and turning can, you’ve guessed it, cause injuries to our dogs. So if you want to throw a ball, that’s fine, but not to excess. Likewise, frisbees are not brilliant, as the dog is leaping around after them.

Managing fetch play with your dog

You can strike a happy medium. This morning Aura found a tennis ball on our walk. Happy day! I popped it into my pocket until we were in the open part of the park. Then I lobbed it a short distance away. Aura brings it back to me and I try and kick it away, without her ‘saving’ it. A great game. She loves running around with the ball in her mouth. Busy loves to steal it if it comes past her. She will then circle Aura until she thinks Aura is not paying attention, when Busy drops it and hopes it won’t be found. Hilarious!

Border Collie

How to teach a retrieve or fetch

  1. Start at home, in the house or garden. Have some treats as well as the toy and a quiet space, so your dog can concentrate.
  2. You might start by getting them interested in the toy. Wave it around, holding it out of reach. Squeak it, if it has a squeaker.
  3. Next, try playing a bit of a tug game with the toy. You want your dog to really want it.
  4. Then try throwing it a few feet away. Stand still, waiting to see what your dog does. If they go over to the toy, say ‘Yes!’ and give them a treat.
  5. Keep rewarding your dog for looking at the toy, going near it, sniffing it, and touching it. After giving a ‘Yes!’ and a treat, pick the toy up and wave it around, making it interesting again.
  6. Once you have generated interest in the toy and your dog is going towards it, you need to wait for them to pick it up.
  7. When they pick it up, call them – ‘Quin come!’ Usually they will then drop the toy and come back to you for a reward. That’s fine. Reward the dog, then throw the toy again.
  8. Keep going, and they will gradually get more excited and start bringing the toy nearer to you.
  9. Finally, the dog will bring the toy to you and either give it to you, or drop it at your feet. The next bit is up to you.

Aura will only bring the toy to my feet and is not brilliant at doing that. The others will give toys to me to throw. If you want it put into your hand, your dog needs to be really motivated for you to throw it and you need to be patient. One of the funniest experiences I’ve had was teaching Sunny to put the toy in my hand. She used to throw the ball near me and then look up expectantly, waiting for the next throw.

Border Collie
My special girl

I was at a training class and the trainer said, “Put your hand out and wait.” I waited. And waited. Sunny kept looking at me and barking, then picking up the ball and throwing it near me. I kept my hand out, moving it a bit to get her attention. Sunny completely lost her temper and starting shouting at me “You pick it up, it’s just there! Why are you so lazy! Just throw it for me!” Honestly, it was hilarious. Eventually she put it in my hand. But she always got cross if I demanded she do that.

When to end the game

NB: If the dog doesn’t want to give the toy back, try offering a treat in exchange for the toy. Or another toy in exchange. If that doesn’t work, turn away, game over. When the dog does eventually drop the toy, you can pick it up and be exciting again. The object of the game is to play with your dog – it needs to be fun for them too.

When your dog is reluctant to give the toy back, it is often because they have had enough. Some dogs can only handle two or three turns at fetch. Take note of their level of fitness and how stimulated they are. Try not to overdo it?

Border Collie
Not too much fetch for a puppy

Formal retrieve and fetch for assistance dogs

If you go to formal obedience training with your dog, or if you have a gundog and want to train them to retrieve, there are different elements you will need to work on. In formal obedience, a dog will need to wait, then go and fetch a dumbbell, picking it up cleanly, bringing it straight back to you, presenting it by seating neatly in front of you and then finishing in the heel position.

Gundogs have to be able to retrieve game from long distance and by going over or through obstacles. Assistance dogs have to be able to pick up and retrieve a wide range of obstacles, such as keys, TV remote controls, phones and clothing. Lots of fun to be had!


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 19 – Vet visits

How to prepare your dog for a visit to the vet

Nobody likes taking their dog to the vet. It is definitely one of the worst things about owning a dog – coping with them being ill. We love our dogs and we want the absolute best for them, so deciding when to go to see a vet can be the first obstacle.

Border collies puppies
Vets are not just for sickness

Is it serious?

Here are a few reasons why you need to visit your vet’s:

  • Vaccinations/boosters – I’ve talked elsewhere about the importance of vaccinating your dog. Just as with people, it is life-saving and simple.
  • Annual check-up – this is usually part of having their booster done and is equally important as it gives you a chance to discuss any minor issues with your vet
  • Sickness and diarrhoea – probably the most common reason for visiting a vet. When you have owned dogs for many years you will know that dogs are sick pretty often and it is not an immediate cause for concern. It’s usually because they have eaten something they shouldn’t have done. Throwing up once solves it – no further action required. When it persists and/or is accompanied by diarrhoea, there is a need to take action. Again, experience shows that starving for 24 hours might solve it, or feeding a plain food like boiled rice.
Border collies
Princesses are rarely sick

A vet is essential if there is accompanying lethary, if the coat is ‘staring’ ie not shiny, but dull and flat. You should also go to the surgery if you know that something toxic has been eaten (raisins or chocolate for example). Or if you know that an object has been eaten (usually if you have a Labrador this will be the reason and socks will be involved).

You should be aware of the clinical signs of pancreatitis, as this is relatively common and requires hospital treatment. The most common clinical signs include nausea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and decreased appetite

  • Injury – either self-inflicted or caused by others. This mainly includes any sign of limping or change in mobility. Again, experience may mean you can check for a cause (a thorn perhaps?) Or wait and see if it’s just a bruise or underlying muscle damage. You will gradually learn how tolerant your dog is of pain and whether they are behaving differently as a result of this injury. Sometimes rest is what is needed.
  • Older dogs require more frequent care and management. Cat the Vet talks about managing our older dogs and asks people to fill in a survey about it. You would be amazed at how much care older dogs can take! Arthritis is probably the most common issue, but most dogs over the age of ten are on at least one type of medication.

Anxiety around vet visits is very common

Why do dogs get anxious when going to the vet? After all, they start off by going just for a check-up and a vaccination. I believe this is mainly because we are nervous. So when you go into your vet’s practice, please try and relax?

Try taking a breath before getting your dog out of the car? Better still, go and book in without your dog, then fetch them and go back in. Talk to the receptionists, who are always lovely. Take a moment to look around and see the setup, admire the toys for sale and see how the waiting area is arranged.

Border collies
happy dogs

Dogs who don’t often interact with other dogs may feel really stressed by being in close proximity to other dogs, particularly if they are feeling unwell. If the waiting area is busy, wait outside with your dog and ask to be called in when they are ready to see you. Of course this has been happening anyway throughout the pandemic, but I have to assume when writing this that things are returning to more standard practice.

Treats on hand

As with everything else you do with your dog, make sure you reward them for being there. My dogs know that they get treats just for sitting in the waiting area. This morning Luna knew that if she stood on the scales she would get a reward, so she got weighed three times! Bless her.

Border collies

You can’t reward every few minutes with treats, so make sure you make a fuss of your dog and talk to them. All of this should help you to feel calm as well.

The examination

When you get called into the consultation room, you need to be positive about going in, so your dog stays happy too. You need to chat to the vet about what is wrong and then be prepared for your dog to be examined.

I’m sure you spend ages every day fussing and stroking your dog, but how often do you examine them? You need them to be comfortable with you doing this, so that a vet can also do it. Here’s a video of me checking Quin over.

The more often you handle your dog in this way, the more relaxed they (and you) will be in the vet’s. Don’t forget the reward!

Visits without treatment

If you are passing your vet’s surgery, you might like to pop in to say hello and have your dog weighed. Again, the pandemic notwithstanding, you may not be able to do this if it is busy. But it’s worth taking your dog in, standing them on the scales, giving them a reward and leaving. Nice and calm, a positive experience for you both.

The final vet visit

Over 90% of dogs are euthanised. It’s the inevitable conclusion to living with our best friend. We know that when they are suffering, it is far better to let them go, in peace, than to prolong their agony. Fortunately, our very brave and highly qualified vets are able to make this process simple and painless for our beloved dogs.

Border collies
An old lady

Please do make the effort to stay with your dog at this time? It is far better for your dog and actually much better for you. Death is part of life, so you should let them go off to sleep in the arms of their most loved person. I’ll stop there. RIP my beautiful Sunshine, Quin’s grandmother, gone in March 2021.

With thanks to my vets at Milton Keynes Veterinary Group, who take such good care of us all.


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 18 – Leave it!

Responding to temptation – teaching your dog to leave something alone

How do you teach your dog not to pick up everything? That’s the challenge I’m faced with at the moment. It sometimes feels as though every time I set eyes on Quin he is eating something. I’ve just been reading about 6 month-old puppies who have trashed their houses and gardens. That’s a bit of a shame and not very good for the dog.

Dogs need boundaries

There is nothing wrong with teaching a dog (or a child) that they cannot do exactly as they please. Not everything in the world is good, or safe, or for them. ‘No’ should be in your dog’s vocabulary, even if they (hopefully) don’t hear it very often.

Border collies
cheeky boy

Yes we should be training with positivity and rewards, but we still need to teach them ‘stop’, ‘wait’ and ‘no’, or ‘leave it!’ Imagine you are taking your medication and you drop a tablet on the floor. You don’t want your dog eating it do you?

Common foods toxic to dogs

common foods that are toxic to dogs

You can see from this list that there are some really common foods that are really poisonous for dogs. Grapes and raisins are seriously dangerous and require a vet visit. But I’m sure you, like me eat raisins regularly. Of course other foods are less of a problem – who eats chocolate after all :p.

How to teach ‘leave it’ to your dog

It’s not hard. Just say ‘leave it!’ like you mean it. Quite loudly, quite sharply. Your dog should pause and look at you in surprise. You then need to quickly call them away, or grab them, or grab whatever it is your dog shouldn’t have.

As with every other bit of training your dog, you will have much more success if you reward your dog! If you make it a really fantastic thing to leave the tasty treat on the floor and come back to you, they are definitely more likely to remember the lesson and the associated command.

Temptation Alley

You can also try a ‘temptation alley’ exercise. This is also great for focusing your recall! These are sometimes set up at fun dog shows, for you to test out your dog. It’s hilarious to see some dogs thinking ‘Bonanza!’ and gobbling everything in sight on their way to you. NB: if you have a Labrador, they will always eat all the treats before getting to you.

This exercise is also used at puppy training classes, to test recall and help you be more exciting. It’s part of the KC Good Citizen Award. For example, at the silver level:

Food Manners
The object of this exercise is for the dog to have good manners when aware of food. Food should be handled or consumed while the dog, on a loose lead, is taken in close proximity to it. The dog should not unduly respond to this temptation, i.e. not to beg for food or steal.

Good luck!

Teaching your dog not to do something is much harder than teaching them to do something. Don’t despair! You can do this. Your dog will thank you (and so will your vet).


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 16 – Rewarding your dog

Why rewarding your dog is so important

Imagine the scene – you start a new job, it’s difficult and stressful, but it’s OK, you are going to get paid.  You probably also get feedback from your boss and those around you.  So you know you’re doing a great job.  Then you get paid!  Fantastic, that makes it worthwhile.   Now imagine that after a few months your boss comes to see you and says “You’re doing a great job, just what we want.  I know you are enjoying the work, so we’ve decided we’re not going to pay you any more.”  How do you feel about your job now?  Would you carry on working just as hard?  Hmm.

Border Collies
Six Dentbros Dogs from six different litters

Last week I was lucky enough to see a couple of friends with three of my (grown up) puppies.  Well I do see lots of my pups regularly because they belong to friends, since I am not a commercial breeder, in other words a puppy farmer.  Anyway, I took some photos and someone asked me how we got the dogs to ‘pose’ for these.  I (rather flippantly) said “well they’re Border Collies so of course they do as they’re told!”  It was a bit of an exaggeration, as six Border Collies on a new walk will obviously be pretty excited!  We did have to manage them and I did have to keep my wits about me.  But the main reason we are able to sit them in a line is because we reward them!

What is a reward?

Please remember that there are different kinds of reward, not just food.  For us, we can be rewarded by money, but also by praise, or approval.  We also enjoy physical praise, such as a hug or kiss from a loved one.  Think about how that makes you feel?  It’s the same for your dog.  Even a verbal ‘Well done!’ can be rewarding in the right context.  In summary, rewards for your dog can be:

  • food
  • petting or stroking
  • play with a toy (tugging)
  • verbal praise

You might need to mix it up and offer different rewards at different times.  Or use bigger rewards at different times.  It is important to understand what is rewarding for your dog. Whatever you use, make sure you have it to hand. I use Waggs Training Treats because the dogs love them and they don’t crumble, but are small and easy to break up.

Border Collies
Beautiful Dash

The right reward for the task

There needs to be a difference between ‘an everyday reward’ and a bonus.  What would you get a bonus for?  Usually, this will be for something extra, including an extra effort.  It’s the same for your dog.  If you are training something, the sequence should be:

  • action – reward
  • action – reward
  • action – reward
  • bigger action – jumbo reward!

For example, if you are practising wait.  You might ask for a couple of seconds’ wait (reward).  Then you might step away and then back in (reward).  Next you might step in and out a couple of times (reward).  Finally, you step away a bit further and wait a few seconds longer.  If this is successful, bingo!  Jumbo reward!  This might be a few extra treats, or a ‘release’ – OK and then play.

What about when it goes wrong?

It doesn’t always go right, does it?  If you are practising wait and your dog moves, what should you do?  Tell them off?  No.  Just calmly put them back into position and ask them to wait once again.  Don’t expect perfection (and you won’t be disappointed).  Reward the bits that go right and ignore the rest. 

Border Collies
Charlie Brown – one of my favourite boys

Just an aside about wait training; try not to touch your dog if they break their wait and you have to move them back to position.  Touching your dog is a reward.  You can’t always avoid it, but the less you touch them in this case, the less confusing it is for your dog.

Be realistic

As always, be realistic about what you can achieve.  Set yourself and your dog up to succeed, not to fail.  Take into account their age and experience.  Be pleased with what they can do.  I’m telling myself this as I’m writing it by the way; it’s hard to remember!

Border Collies
Quite a hard pose to capture


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 15 – Pulling and Lunging on lead

Problems with dog walking on lead

Last week I talked in general terms about walking dogs on lead. I talked about being realistic about managing your dog on lead. There are a number of different ways you can help manage your dog. I recommended a longline to help with your puppy’s recall. You can use a harness as an alternative to a simple lead and collar. Never use a harmful device, such as a prong collar (please sign the petition).

Border Collie

Off lead is always best

As I said last week and often repeat, letting your dog off lead should always be your main goal when walking your dog. You should be choosing areas to walk that are generally safe. Recall is of course the most important skill to have. I realise it’s a challenge! But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work at it.

Happy dogs off lead

Quin is the perfect example of a dog who is better off lead. At 5 months of age, he can still be a bit worried about new situations and can ‘react’ when he sees a new dog, or sometimes a strange person. He barks and lunges at them. When he is off lead he can ‘sort himself out’. So his reaction is much less and he calms down more quickly.

Pulling on lead

I feel that dogs pull on the lead primarily because they want to get on with the walk! Dogs tend to walk more quickly than we do. Well Border Collies do anyway. My dogs pull when they are setting out for their walk. On the way home they are much more calm. So if you are just getting to a safe place to let them off, a bit of pulling isn’t really a problem.

Going home

If you do want to stop them pulling, you need to not pull back. This is pretty difficult to achieve! You need to let the lead go loose, or change direction every time they pull forward. Another tactic is to have the lead round the back of your legs so they are not in front of you (just watch the dog doesn’t pull you over!) Or you can use a head collar, but dogs do hate these.

Why do dogs react?

If a dog sees something they do not know about, or understand, they react, usually by barking, growling, standing up to it, backing off or running away. Well you would, wouldn’t you?

Busy walking calmly past distractions

How do you feel when you are faced with a new situation? Going into a room full of strangers? Starting a new job? Being introduced to a partner’s family? Scary isn’t it? So you should be able to recognise that sometimes dogs can be overwhelmed, or scared. It’s completely normal.

What to do if your dog reacts

When your dog reacts to a scary or new situation, there are a number of actions we can take. These include:

  • nothing
  • punish or shout at your dog
  • reward your dog
  • calm your dog
  • train your dog

Don’t underestimate the power of doing nothing? If you stay calm and ignore the ‘scary thing’, your puppy can learn that it’s no big deal. Sometimes that’s enough. It might even be the best course of action. Let’s consider the alternatives.

Border Collie
Happy dogs don’t react

Hopefully you won’t punish your dog. Ironically, if you shout at your dog for barking and lunging, they might feel rewarded for their action. A shout is basically a bark, after all. So you’re just joining in with the fun! If you pull on the lead, that is the same as your dog pulling on the lead! Be careful not to reward the dog’s actions, because you know what will happen next, don’t you? Yes, your dog will think that is what is needed.

Calm down

You might feel that you need to reassure your dog, to calm them down when something is scaring them. Sadly, this is also a reward. Your dog barks to warn you as much as anything. They lunge and look fierce to protect you. If you give them a fuss or talk to them, they can see this as a reward, or positive reinforcement, for their actions.

Train to ignore

This is ultimately the best course of action. In order to do this you need to get their attention before the scary thing happens or appears. You need to be able to hold their attention and reward them for paying you the attention.

Training your dog in this way takes a bit of time and effort. Your reward will be a dog that can walk calmly past other dogs, runners, cyclists, cars etc. If you can’t be bothered to train your puppy to do this, just ignore the barking and lunging. They might calm down anyway.

Walking on lead – conclusion

Teaching your dog to walk nicely on lead is a real challenge! Staying calm and not worrying about ‘other things’ is a good start. Training your dog to ignore other dogs and issues is much better. The best solution is simply to let them off lead!

Perfect on lead walking

Ultimately, we need our dogs to cope with varying situations, including crossing roads, changing pace and passing distractions. Aura demonstrates the ‘gold’ standard for the KC Good Citizen Award in the video. (The distractions are my other four dogs and my family standing out of shot, including Busy whining away!)


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.