Monday, 30 April 2012


Are you aware of what it is your feeding your dog when you feed it branded dog food?

The commercial production of canning meat and cereal food for dogs began in the 1930’s by the Chappel brothers. Since then a lot has changed and legislation has been introduced to regulate and provide rules and guidance to the industry to help them fulfill their obligations to make safe pet food.

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association the Pet Food Industry is “responsible, efficient and at the forefront of Technology.”
The key statement in this article for me however is, “This means that it can minimize the use of resources whilst maximizing the safety standards.”

If you look at the PFMA web site it is worth noting that it has many articles about Legislation, Sourcing of Raw Materials and Animal By Product Regulations. On the face of it the industry does seem to be a responsible industry. However the devil is in the detail and just like human foods there is good nutritional food and there is fast food. Fast food like your MacDonalds and Pizza Huts provide safe edible foods which wont do you any harm, however we wouldn’t want to live solely on fast foods mainly because of their lack of nutritional value and our bodies, health etc would eventually suffer. The same can be said for cheap dog foods. Although they meet industry standards, some dog foods are like feeding your dog big Mac’s every day.

To highlight the nutritional differences in some of the foods readily available in the high street shops and on the internet I have looked at three different brands of dog food and made some comparisons as follows.

The following compares the ingredients across three different types of Dog food readily available in high street stores and or the Web.
The three dog foods I have chosen are
Hi Life Pet, a meat based moist complete food
Pedigree Complete, a dry complete food
Winalot Canned Meat, a tinned meat food.

The first Dog food I looked at was Winalot Canned meat. The first ingredient was Meat and Animal derivatives 27%, which the label claimed contained at least 14% Meat and 4% Lamb. The term Animal Derivatives can be found on many Pet Food labels. According to, it can be sourced from any animal, and are usually “derived from the undesirable parts such as the heads, feet and guts”
Then it was Vegetables which had at least Peas 4% and Potatoes 4%. Potatoes the dog-review states is a high quality carbohydrate and is a good alternative to Rice.
The next ingredient is Cereal. Normally speaking Cereals are a good carb source that provides fibre. However like most things, you get what you pay for and Cereals are no different. Named cereals tend to be more expensive but a higher quality ingredient. But where the label just says ‘Cereals’ this tends to mean that the manufacturer can pick and choose which grain is cheaper at the time of purchase. Meaning there could be batch differences to the make up of the food. Cereals tend to be used for their bulking agent and less for their nutritional value. This value can change from batch to batch and it can be difficult for dog owners who have dogs with Allergies to know exactly what is in the food.

The fact that Meat and Animal derivatives were the first ingredient on the list suggests that this is the ingredient with the largest quantity of the recipe which is a positive. However Animal derivatives is normally made up of all the bits of ANY animal that has not been passed for human consumption. The bits no body wants. Interestingly you will see from the spreadsheet the amount of food a 20 kilo the manufacturer recommends is 3.2 cans per day, which is equivalent to 1.28kg. the latest pricing from ASDA is £1.37 per kilo for a can of Winalot.
This means feeding a 20 kilo dog for a week on Winalot would cost £12.28.

The next food I looked at was Pedigree Complete. A ‘Dry Food’.

Pedigree Complete Nutrition (Adult)
Ingredient list:
Ground yellow corn, meat and bone meal, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, animal fat (preserved with bha/bht), wheat mill run, natural poultry flavor, rice, salt, potassium chloride, caramel color, wheat flour, wheat gluten, vegetable oil, vitamins (choline chloride, dl-alpha tocopherol acetate [source of vitamin e], l-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate [source of vitamin c*], vitamin a supplement, thiamine mononitrate [vitamin b1], biotin, d-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement [vitamin b2], vitamin d3 supplement, vitamin b12 supplement), trace minerals (zinc sulfate, copper sulfate, potassium iodide).

The first ingredient on this list is Corn. Which means this is the largets quantity ingredient. It should be Meat. Corn is a difficult grain for dogs to digest and can be the cause of food allergies and Yeast infection problems in some dogs.

The generic terms ‘Meat and bone meal’ are low quality meat product for which it is impossible to determine the source. It is much better if the Meat contents are named like Chicken, Lamb, Beef etc.

Corn appears a second time as corn gluten meal. The AAFCO definition of corn gluten meal is “the dried residue from corn after the removal of the larger part of the starch and germ, and the separation of the bran by the process employed in the wet milling manufacture of corn starch or syrup, or by enzymatic treatment of the endosperm”. In plain English, what’s left after all the nutritious bits have been removed.

The next ingredient is by-products. It is impossible to ascertain the quality of by-products and these are usually products that are of such low quality as to be rejected for use in the human food chain, or else are those parts that have so little value that they cannot be used elsewhere in either the human or pet food industries. The AAFCO definition of chicken by-product meal is “a meal consisting of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.”
Animal Fat is the next ingredient and is a necessary part of a dogs diet. But there is a wide margin of quality of the types of animal fat used from not only manufacturer to manufacturer but from batch to batch within the same manufacturer. Once again some manufacturers choose not to name the animal fats used. It is these unnamed ingredients that should alert the dog owner when choosing the right dog food for his pet. In this mix the animal fat is preserved using bha/bht. These preservatives are believed to be carcinogenic, and banned from use in human food. Fat contains Linoleic acid (Omega 6). Which affects the dogs coat and skin. Generally speaking the higher the Linoleic acid the better. At least more than 3% according to Dog-food-review

In summary the ingredients of Pedigree Complete would appear to be low in meat content, low quality grains and contains meat and fat products of unidentifiable sources which have been preserved with carcinogenic preservatives.

As for the cost, according to the manufacturers feeding guide a 20 kilo adult dog should get 3 ½ cups per day. Which is the equivalent of 0.64 kilos.
The latest prices from Asda are £2.24 per kilo. This calculates to a daily cost of £1.42 per day and £9.96 per week. Considerably less than the Winalot canned meat.

The last food I looked at was a meat based ‘moist, complete dog food.
HiLife Pet.

Hi Life Pet comes in a metal foil bag. The manufacturers instructions are that the product should be stored in a clean dry place at room temperature and should be resealed once opened to maintain freshness. The product is at its best when consumed within one week of opening. I have five dogs and tend to buy in bulk, I could see this as a potential logistical challenge. Having to buy numerous bags so that they remain fresh.
As for the contents and quality of the food, the ingredients are as follows.
Meat meals (including Turkey, Chicken, Bacon & Beef). Min 17%. This is a good start. Then Ground Whole Wheat, Soyabean meal, Wheat Bran, Sugar, Fresh Meat min 4%, Fresh Vegetables according to season, min 4%, Poultry Fat, Salt,Poultry Stock and Sunflower oil.
The number one ingredient in this food is a named Meat, the cereal or bulking agent again is Ground Whole Wheat. Meat is mentioned again as Fresh Meat min 4% and the use of Sunflower Oil is a definite plus because it is a high source of Omega 6. The only down side to Sunflower oil is that it tends not to be too palatable, however used along with a named fat, Poultry Fat, works fine.
So, good ingredients,good named sources for the meats and Cereals. The Protein content is listed as 22%, there are also some nutritional additives in the mix.
The biggest surprise to me however was the cost.
The manufacturers recommended amounts for a 20 kilo adult dog are 0.3 kilos per day. Asdas latest price for Hi Life Pet is £2.60 per kilo. This is the most expensive food per kilo price of the three. However the daily amount times the £ per kilo means the calculated daily cost is £0.78, meaning the weekly cost is £5.46. £4 per week cheaper than the Pedigree and nearly £7 a week cheaper than the Winalot canned food. That’s a saving over more than £350 per year per dog compared to the canned meat. As I have five dogs that would equate to £1800 per year.

In reality I have five mixed dogs, two labs of around 30 kilos, a Northern Inuit of say 34 kilos, a cross at 25 kilos and the smallest cross at 15 kilos. The cost saving therefore to moving to Hi Life Pet would be more than £2000 per year.

I am really pleased I carried out this research as my eyes have been opened wide to the huge differences in the quality of the dog foods available and more importantly what I am feeding my own dogs and how it affects their health, looks and energy levels. I now feel more research is required, I only looked at three types and brands of dog food. There are hundreds of different brands out there and finding the right brand and quality will take a bit more digging. But I now know how to make the right choices for my pocket and my Dogs.
Other factors which I will consider in the next question will be
Breed types of my dogs, their activity levels and their ages, on deciding what if any changes to their diets I might make.

See you soon............

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Do you put your buddy into kennels when you are away?

This weekend saw my son get married down in Berwick Upon Tweed. We had to stay over in the hotel Friday and Saturday night. As the whole family were going to be there it gave me a dilemma as to who was going to look after my five dogs. There was nothing for it but to put them into commercial kennels for a couple of days. For some of you, you may already put your buddies into kennels on a yearly basis as you head off to sunnier climes, and who could blame you what with the great British weather and everything. But I take my holidays in the UK, mostly because I couldn't take to put my dogs into kennels every year. But it is also expensive. for me, it was £150 for three days for five dogs. That's not cheap. But then I wouldn't take a chance on putting them somewhere I thought might be a bit dodgy. This is the second time they have been in these particular kennels. The last time was 2010, when we went to Crufts and couldn't get anybody to watch them. Prior to putting them in the first time I had checked the kennels out and spoke at length with the Kennel Manager. To be fair she was very competent and knowledgeable about dogs and dog behavior so I felt fairly comfortable that they would be in good hands. As it turned out they were perfectly fine and there were no outward signs of the effects of being put into the boarding kennels. However, for Miya the big Northern Inuit, I had only rescued her from kennels the year before and so she had experience of the kennels recently. The two labs were aged seven and very calm and sociable and seemed OK. When we put them in this weekend, Miya had not been in kennels for two years and had really started to settle down in the house. When we got her back from the kennels on Sunday she acted really tired and lethargic. Like she had had a pretty stressful time of it. Was it possibly a set back for her? Time will tell over the coming months. I'll keep you posted. What must they think when you take them for a run in the car and then leave them with a stranger surrounded by strange barking dogs only feet from them and they cant run or hide? What if their neighbors bark all night, because their feeling lonely and abandoned? How would you cope? Logistically though for me there was no options. I would not presume to ask anyone to dog sit five dogs. One maybe, two probably not, but five?????? Their back home now and we took them for a five hour hike up Eagle Falls yesterday to make it up to them. They came back home last night and slept all night. Then it was back to work for me this morning and the old routine for them. Sent away my application to the Animal Care College to study the Intermediate level of Canine Psychology. In it the prospectus says a new section on the Dog's brain will be discussed. So I'll let you know soon what I think they think about being put into kennels.

..........see you soon 

Monday, 16 April 2012


House training is a stage that every puppy has to go through. But just like other learned behaviours some puppies pick it up much faster than others. The trick is not to despair as they all eventually learn.There are a couple of important tips that the owner/handler can learn when housetraining their puppy. That is to anticipate and watch for the signs. Wright and Morten have written that;
As ageneral rule, puppies need to go to the loo at the following times :

  • immediately after waking.
  • after eating or drinking.
  • when excited.
  • after playing and sometimes during a wild game if he did not have a chance to go out before the game started.
  • At least every waking hour!”

In anticipation of your puppy needing the toilet there are a couple of signs that tell you your puppy is about to do the toilet. Sniffing the ground in a focused way,circling in one spot, tail held high. These are all signs that you should walkyour puppy to the spot you have chosen as its spot for eliminating, probably inthe garden.
Cratetraining is recognized as an ideal way to speed up the house training process.In the wild most animals will leave their nest to another spot to eliminate. Most animals will not eliminate where they are either sleeping or eating.
Using acrate to confine the puppy from time to time encourages them to want to leave the crate to eliminate. Initially put your puppy in it’s crate for up to an hour at a time. Confining the puppy like this for small amounts of time will encourage them to eliminate as soon as they come out. Therefore the handler will need to take the puppy outside to it’s chosen spot to perform. It is important to pick a spot that is easy and quick to get to. It is also important that these trips to the garden for the sole purpose to eliminate does not descend into a game. The puppy has to learn what is expected of it when it istaken out to it’s spot. If the puppy does not do the business in the first ten minutes, take it back to it’s crate and leave it in their for ten to fifteen minutes. Then take the puppy out to it’s spot again and stay with it,encouraging it to perform. As it progresses the handler should introduce acommand to associate with the behavior of eliminating. The puppy will then learn to eliminate on command through time. It is very important to remember to praise the puppy profusely as soon as it performs and NEVER chastise for not performing. If an owner does not have a garden, say they live in a flat, thenthe puppy can still be taught how and when to eliminate at the door. By placing some polythene sheet on the floor with some newspaper on top of the polythenethe floor covering will be protected and the newspaper is easily disposed of.Once the puppy masters the association of the command to the act the handler can then move outdoors to the nearest place which is safe for the puppy to eliminate on command.
Perseverance and patience is the key to teaching puppy house training as it is with most things you will be teaching the puppy. And from time to time there will besetbacks.

These are the times which make or break the training process. The handler must never chastise the puppy for having the odd relapse, instead clean up the mess without comment or fuss. If the handler gets onto the puppy the chances are it will encourage the puppy to be secretive about when it needs to go, and willlead to the puppy looking for somewhere secretive to perform. Like behind thecouch, or in another room when handler isn’t looking. Dogs are like humans in regards to the length of time it takes to learn a behavior, they are all different. Some puppies will grasp it fairly quickly and some will seem to take forever. But in general they all eventually learn. It can take in some cases upto twelve months to be fully house trained. Where an owner can leave the dogall night without getting up in the morning to any mess.
There are afew things which a handler can do to help the puppy avoid making mistakes.
Overfeeding will result in the puppy having to eliminate more than usual, giving avariety of foods to the puppy will cause it to eliminate at differentintervals, by not setting a routine for feeding the puppy, feeding late atnight will also cause over night elimination, it is also important to use the correct cue words when praising your puppy for performing correctly. Saying“good girl” or “good boy” when the puppy eliminates will encourage it to eliminate every time it hears those cues. So the handler needs to be careful to pick a cue or command that is only associated with eliminating, like “hurryup”, or “wee wees” or something similar. However the handler must always accompany the puppy to the garden so that he/she is present when the puppy performs and can give the praise.
Initially whilst puppies are learning to eliminate in the garden they may not eliminate when taken for walks. Puppies are creatures of habit and will most likely wait till they are back in the garden where they can eliminate in ‘their spot’. One way of breaking this habit is to get up very early and take the puppy out for awalk before it has had time to do it’s morning business. The handler must have plenty time stop that they can keep the puppy out for as long as it takes. Again once it does the puppy should be rewarded. If however despite staying outfor as long as you can afford, the puppy doesn’t go, it is important that the puppy is taken straight into the garden upon returning so that it can go, orelse there will be an accident in the house. Another important point is to make sure any accidents that do occur in the home are cleaned thoroughly with a petdeodorizer. Even if you think you have cleaned up properly smells will stilllinger for the puppy and draw it back to that spot. If accidents continue tohappen then it’s probably because the puppy does not understand what is expected of it. The handler must go back as far as is needed to go over thetraining again until the puppy gets it. It is not the puppies fault. Patienceand perseverance is the key to success. Some times a bitch puppy or dog will pee whenever a visitor arrives or the owner returns from work or a visit. This is not the same as normal elimination; instead it is what is called as submissive or excited urination. The trick here is to tone down your greeting. As Cesar Milan would say “No touch, no talk, no eye contact” until the puppy has calmed down.

To summaries then, If using a crate to house train the puppy;

“Show him where to go
Take him to the spot
Stay with him
Encourage him
Praise him
Reward him.”
But remain patient and positive.


I decided to go on a hiking trip yesterday. Ben, Miya and myself had been up to Glen Kinglas earlier in the year when strong winds were battering the west coast of Scotland causing the met office to issue a severe weather alert for the country. We had gone up the day after. Snow was on the ground and the winds were still pretty strong, maybe 50 – 60 miles an hour. Yesterday however was some what different. The sun was out, albeit it was cold at least up until around 11 o’clock. To get to Glen Kinglas you head up the A82 along the west side of Loch Lomond all the way up to Tarbet, then follow round to the left on the A83 to Arrochar. Keep going on the A83 round the top of Loch Long round to Ardgarten then the road swings west away from the Loch and starts to climb up towards the Rest and be Thankful. This used to be the Old Military road, now called the A83. The road winds up all the way to the summit and then swings right and starts to head down passing Loch Restil on the right down till the road levels out round a right hand bend. Just after the bend on the right there is a large layby just next to Butter bridge,which crosses Kinglas water. We parked up there and got ready for the hike up Glen Kinglas. With Ben and Miya we crossed back over the road and through the gate on to the track. The track is more like a single track road that winds its way through the Glen and alongside runs the Kinglas water. The weather was dry,sunny, but a bit on the chilly side. We hiked along the trail, Ben and Miya lolling ahead diverting off the track every time a scent caught their attention. Invariable Ben would come back with that look on his face. The guilt look, “honestly I have nothing in my mouth". “Leave it” I told him. He opens his mouth and a bone from some carcass drops out his mouth. We must have played this game a dozen times as we walked along the trail.
Miya in the meantime tends to trot on ahead, she likes to check out the trail first, she’s the scout. There’s not a lot of sheep up here and that’s why I like it. They tend to stay further up the slopes of the mountains either side of the Glen. On the north side of the Glen theres a deer fence that runs pretty much the length of the Kinglas water. On the south side its more open. On the way up I didn’t see any sign of livestock, that was to change on the way back.
Prior to my trip earlier in the year, the last time I was up Eagles Fall was with my late Father in Law and his dog, Ranger a big German Shepherd. At that time I had a medium sized brindle coloured cross called Spice. That must have been 20 – 30 years ago. The landscape has changed somewhat since then obviously, most notably however, is the trail has obviously had a makeover and at the head were there is a fork in the trail there is now a pine forest. Not very big maybe about 100 acres. We took the right hand fork up through the forest which swings north west. At the tree line the path turns west and heads towards Eagle Falls.We stopped at the tree line and had something to eat. I had brought Chicken pieces and a packet of corned beef slices for my two walking companions. The good thing about this hike is that I don’t need to carry any water with me, for Ben and Miya. Because the Kinglas water runs nearly the entire length of it, they would go in every time they either felt warm or needed a drink. To be honest Ben spent ages in the water, trying to pick up stones from the river bed with his two paws. It was a really funny sight. Miya on the other hand doesn’t like to get her hair wet and would only venture in to elbow depth. Either the temperature of the water or the thought of Ben splashing water on her would be enough to send her back on to the bank. Princess Miya, doesn’t like getting wet or dirty. Ben, being a Lab however would have stayed in there for ages. If theres a puddle in the street he will make for it. Typical Lab, a water baby. And he doesn’t mind getting dirty. And to prove that he waded through some marsh land next to where we were sitting having lunch then proceeded to come and lie on me wiping his Peat soaked fur all over the front of my trousers.
It took us about two and a half hours to get to the top of the treeline. I decided that we would just turn back at that. Two and a half hours back would be long enough. That was five hours in total. I figured Ben being nine now might start to get a bit lame if we went any further. He went a bit lame the last time I took him up the cobbler. My calfs were starting to tighten up as well. At four, Miya, however was neither up nor down and could have gone on without us. The hike back was pretty much the same as the hike up, except that I now noticed that there were more sheep on the hills. Half way down we rounded a bend and there on the road were three adult sheep and two lambs. Miya noticed them first and immediately went into the stalking posture. So I called her in and as we passed them by they ran off up the hill bleating their disgust at us. Further down we came across a Ram this time, standing just up on a rise above the trail. He wasn’t for moving and eyed Miya intently. Daring her to come up, which if I hadn’t control over her, she would have done. I wonder who would have come out on top there. I know where my money would have gone on. All in all it was a really good hike and the weather behaved itself. When we got backto the house Ben threw himself on the floor and slept the rest of the night. After a short nap Miya was up and raring to go. Me, I slept that night and felt it in the morning, but it was worth it.

See you soon……..

Thursday, 12 April 2012


"Is that a Pugil Stick you bought for the wedding?"

So there I was last month walking round Crufts, when I came upon a stall run by a couple of sculptors. On the stall were some ornate figures of Dogs funnily enough, and some walking sticks with sculpted heads of dogs at the top of them. I had always wanted my own walking staff ever since I used to go walking in the hills with my late Father in law with both our dogs. He had this walking staff with a deer's horn on top of it. I thought to myself, "I'll have one of those one day". It looked hand made and knowing my Father in law it probably was. He was always making things, he was quite good at those kind of things. So when I saw these staffs at the stall in Crufts I immediately engaged the stall holder, who turned out to be the sculptor, in conversation about the various staffs on show. They were all sizes and had every manner of dogs heads on them. The one that drew my attention was a Yellow Lab. Having two black Labs myself I thought, one like that wold be appropriate. So I asked if he had one with a black labs head on it. "No but I can make one especially". My own hand made walking staff. Commissioned by a Sculptor no less. To good to pass up. We talked wood type, height and so on and the deal was done. I paid a deposit, nearly half, and got a receipt. He explained that he had taken many orders and delivery would probably be about 3 - 4 weeks. Great, deal done off I went.
Nearly 5 weeks later I arrive home from work to see a card put through the door from Parcel Force saying a parcel too big to put through the letter box was waiting for me at the post office. So I had to go out last night to drop off a friend and on the way went to the post office to pick up my parcel. I sat in the car as my friend went into the PO to pick up the parcel. I watched as they came back out with said parcel and a slight grin on their face. When they got to the car and opened the door they said, "Is that a Pugil stick you have bought for the wedding?" Said wedding is next week by the way. However I was dumb struck by the question. What kind of world does my friend live in when the first ting that pops into their minds when they see a long thin parcel with a ball type end on it, that its a Pugil Stick, and that I had bought it for a wedding??
I want to live in that world. Its obviously so much more fun than mine.
Can you imagine it. No more feuds at weddings, no more police turning up to escort warring families away. Just get out your Pugil sticks and face off in the car park. Last man, or woman, standing is the winner. What a great way to sort out any arguments. What a great idea, I might actually go and buy one now, just in case there are any altercations next week. Well it is a meeting of the Auld enemies after all.

See you soon........

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


Hi again
Is that really a Wolf at the end of your leash?

My research for the question above has led me to find many references to the theory that the Domestic dog is a direct descendant of the grey wolf. Indeed there is scientific evidence to show that the wolves DNA and the Dog’s DNA is more than a 99% match.
There is evidence to suggest that wolves were first domesticated more than 12’000 years ago.
Research further suggest that, as Dogs are descended from wolves, deep within their psyche lies instincts they have retained from their wild ancestors. Much has been made of the hierarchy which exists within a wolf pack and the importance of the ‘Alpha’ male and female.

What is an ‘Alpha’?
In a social context an Alpha is an individual with the highest rank. Usually in a pack a male and female will emerge as the Alpha pair. Alpha status is usually achieved by means of superior physical prowess.

The alpha position is not solely restricted to the wolf pack.

Earlier research suggested that the ‘Alpha’ in a group has to maintain this status if he or she wants the rights and privileges that go along with that status.

Privileges such as the right to be the only one to mate, or have first pickings of the food caught and killed. But this position also comes with responsibility. It is normally the alpha’s role to protect the group, the alpha usually makes the decision where and when to hunt.
The alpha will also be challenged many times during its life. In lions a pride alpha will have to see off many challenges from nomadic lions seeking to take over the pride. If the alpha is beaten then he is driven off and the new alpha declares his position by sometimes killing the cubs sired by the previous alpha.

Traditional views hold that wolves have a similarly structured hierarchy. In a wolf pack, there is normally an alpha pair of Male and Female.

They are the only breeding pair in the pack. The normal pack would consist of the alpha pair and 6 or 7 siblings whose ages would range from pups up to two or three years old.
These ‘traditional’ views have been behind the training methods that were developed in the eighties and nineties. Training methods were devised around addressing the ‘Pack rules’
Pack rules involved what was believed as Dominance related issues as observed in a Wolf pack. Early research had determined that there was a hierarchical struggle going on in a pack where individual wolves would try to dominate over others to improve and raise their status within their pack.
Training methods were therefore devised to prevent Dogs from ‘Dominating’ or trying to raise their status in the home pack, which normally consisted of the human family and their dog or dogs.
Examples of these rules are;
“Always have the humans eat their food before the family pet”. It was believed that in the wild the Alpha wolf always ate the pickings of a kill before its subordinates. Thus by the human eating first it would cement their status as the Alpha over the domestic dog.
“Always go through a doorway first” Again it was believed that in the wild the Alpha led the way from one spot to another either leading the hunt or moving to better hunting grounds.
“Never let your dog lie in an elevated position” So for example never let your dog rest on the landing as this is an elevated position it would raise its status. In the wild the Alpha always took top spot as recognition of its status as top dog.
“Never step over your dog, always make it move”. Traditional views held that in the wild pack, a subordinate would move out the way of the Alpha who was moving through the pack.
Yet more pack rules are “never play games of Tug with your dog and on no count ever let them win”. Or,” never let your dog initiate play”. The idea behind the tug game is that if you let your dog win at tug, he will retreat to his corner with his prize i.e. his kill, and therefore elevate his status.
“Don’t let your dog pull on the lead”, is yet another of the pack rules which relates to the Alpha wolf’s desire to lead the pack from the front signifying his status. By allowing your dog to pull it is thought this is letting the dog raise its status in the home pack. There are a number of other “Pack rules” which traditional training methods have been devised to counter act the domestic dog’s deep seated natural wolf like desires to elevate its own status and dominate the human pack.
Tamar Geller agrees. In her book “30 days to a well mannered dog”. She says “According to the old methods, or what I call the dark ages of training, dogs need a tough leader. Give a dog power and he’ll just use it against you. Better to keep him in line with a tough approach, choke chains and prong collars, or techniques like alpha rollovers to show him that you’re the real leader of the pack”.

Barry Eaton has written a book called “Dominance in Dogs. Fact or Fiction?” In this book he “dispels the dominance myth”. Encouraging the reader to take a different look at some of the points made by earlier researchers.

Mr Eaton draws on the conclusion reached by many prominent professionals in their field.

The first challenge Mr Eaton makes to the Traditionalists views is this notion that there exists a structured hierarchy within a wild wolf pack led by a breeding pair of Alpha male and female. Whilst he freely admits that a wild wolf pack is led by a pair of experienced and older wolfs, he suggests that this pair are in fact usually the Mother and Father of the group, and that the group or pack is made up of their offspring. So in fact rather than having unrelated wolves joining together, the wild pack is a family group or nuclear group. This is the corner stone of his theory on packing.
If we believe Barry Eatons view, then we also have to believe when he says,  “this nuclear group therefore dispels the myth that wolfs natural tendency is to pack”, which leads him onto say that this means the myth that domestic dogs tendency to pack is also wrong. As further evidence of this theory, Tamar Geller writes in her book “30 days to a well mannered dog”. “Wolf packs are families! And they may have rules and boundaries that are more similar to human families and different to what is customarily described in the dog world”.
As for the other 'Pack rules' surely common sense needs to prevail. 
For example. "Never step over your dog, make him move first". At the first sight of you lifting your leg to step over your dog as he lies in the doorway he will most likely get up for fear of you standing on him, knocking you over into the bargain. So for no other reason than safety, move your dog to get through the doorway. Another one is dont let your dog pull you whilst on the lead. Well doh. Its nothing to do with dominance its just lack of training and the fact that your dog is excited to get to where it wants to go. Train it properly and it wont pull. You dont have to dominate it. If you ant to feed your dog first to get it out the way then do so. I do. My dogs are fed and their dishes tidied away before we sit down for our meal at night. Because that means the chores are over and its time to relax. Our dogs know this and settle down accordingly. There would be nothing worse than eating my dinner knowing my dogs were sitting in the next room patiently waiting for theirs. i would be inclined to rush through my dinner so that I could get the chore of feeding them over with so that I could relax. Your dog should fit into your lifestyle not the other way around. Provided you work out a routine that suits you and doesnt affect the welfare of your dog then you should do what works for you. If that means you let your dog sit on the landing because its cooler for them then so be it. As long as its what you want also. There should be harmony in the house. Do what works for you, dont do what it tells you in some book, or by some traditionalist trainer. Work out what works for you, train your dog to get inline with it and enjoy your life. That doesnt mean you have to dominate it.

See you soon....

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Dogs are individuals just the same as humans are. There are many types of different breeds of dogs not forgetting the many Cross breeds that exist. Dogs were domesticated by humans initially to be used as guarding and hunting companions. Today we use dogs in almost every aspect of our lives, work and play. We still use dogs as herding animals for Sheep and cattle, some breeds doubling as guard dogs for the same herds. We also use dogs in security services guarding property. As rescue dogs we use them to help find people trapped in snow or lost on the hills. We also use them to sniff out danger like drugs or explosives. Recently we’ve even seen how dogs can detect illnesses in people.
The more enthusiastic of us take dog ownership a bit further and take up a hobby where we can do something together like Canixross, where we run with our dogs in cross country running competitions, or Agility, running our dogs over obstacles set out in a course against a time clock. We go to training classes to learn road safety and basic obedience. We make dogs a very important part of our daily lives. But sometimes we run into issues were they don’t exactly behave in a way we find acceptable. Most of the time we misunderstand what is happening and often even encourage the unwanted behaviour because of our in-ability to understand what is exactly going on in the mind of our normally faithful companion. If our dogs could talk, there would be no problems. We could sit them down, explain the rules, and let them know what was socially acceptable and what was not.
So what do we find socially unacceptable or breaks the rules? Barking at the Postman every day or to our family members or friends when they visit is annoying. Or taking forever to find a suitable place to pee whilst out for his morning walk on a cold wet morning before we head off to work. Growling or snapping at us if we approach them whilst they are eating or chewing something belonging to us like a shoe or sock or their dinner. The dog that barks or lunges at other people or dogs we pass in the street is also socially unacceptable. But if we were to examine these unacceptable behaviours and try to understand them from the dog’s point of view we may begin to understand where they are coming from and possibly help us to help them modify their behaviour.
Possibly the most distressing behaviour to us humans our dog exhibits is aggression. To someone who is naturally afraid of dogs, the sight of an approaching dog, barking and snapping can be truly frightening. Even to someone who is used to walking dogs and handling dogs, a powerful breed like a German Shepherd or Rottweiller can be a pretty foreboding sight when it is full on. Not least because of their unfair reputations for being aggressive breeds. The press is quick to highlight incidents involving ‘Aggressive’ dogs, particularly where they involve incidents with humans. 

There are many types of aggression here are just some of them;

Dominant Aggression            -           This dog tends to be a bully, is unpredictable and most often is only under control from one member of the family usually the male. This dog can be friendly one minute and aggressive the next. He is indiscriminate and will launch at other dogs he passes. Typically an owner in an attempt to justify this type of behaviour may say “He doesn’t always do this”. Truly dominant dogs are not bullies, they are relaxed & confident in their attitude & are skilled communicators hence they have little need to use aggression.
Fear Aggression         -           A nervous and frightened dog. Reacting to noises or situations that it has not encountered before. Will recoil from approaching people or dogs. This dogs reaction to something it fears can range from barking, growling and snapping to biting. This dog is likely to get bolder as it gets older. If it learns that aggression “works’ to distance the object of fear then the action is reinforced & will be repeated. If rehearsed frequently enough then aggression becomes the default response.
Territorial Aggression           -           This dog will protect its territory and be a danger to anyone or anything that enters it. This dog might bark, lunge or even bite said intruder. Its territory may include the house, the garden, the car, even the bed which you sleep on.
Possessive Aggression           -           Normally a mild mannered dog that turns into Cujo the minute someone approaches anything the dog considers valuable. It might be his dinner, favourite toy, or even you its owner. Again this dog will snarl, growl, bark or even bite if warnings are not heeded.
Punishment Aggression        -           Quite simply this type of aggression is usually because the dog is being overly punished and reacts out of fear. Hitting a dog will lead to it biting you eventually. Common sense really. You can only bully someone or something for so long before it lasses out.
Pain Aggression         -           If someone is in pain then they tend to be short tempered. Dogs are no different. When they are in pain dogs can tell us not to touch them there. So they react by growling or whipping their heads round or yelping. Often this occurs when we touch them in a sensitive area like their ears or underneath. All they are doing is protecting the area in pain.
Maternal Aggression -           A mother protecting her litter. Nothing more natural than that. A mother must trust a human before it will let them near her new born pups. In the wild a mother will fight to the death to protect her young.
Redirected Aggression          -           Normally happens when we humans try to get in the middle of two dogs having a set to. When dogs are fighting their adrenaline levels rise and they are completely focussed on each other. Trying to grab hold of your dog whilst its in that state can sometimes lead to your dog accidentally biting you. Not advisable. Also, if the dog is unable to reach the stimulus (frustration) it will redirect its attention & aggression to the nearest available thing – often the owner!
Dog Aggression          -           Mostly occurs between the same sexes. Can be hormone related,competitive, dominant, territorial, fearful or possessive. In fact any of the factors above can trigger a dog on dog attack.

The first point to note about dog aggression is that dogs that lunge and or possibly bite are not fundamentally different from those that don’t. There are no differences in the genes of a biter to a non-biter So why do dogs lunge or attack other dogs when they meet? There are many reasons for this, both through human intervention and through their own inbuilt instincts and characters. If we look at the non human reasons, we can see that there are a number of things that can lead to dogs being aggressive to other dogs. Firstly it could be because they are bred that way. Some dogs are bred purely for their fighting prowess or guarding instincts, some for herding and hunting. All of these traits can lead to aggression in dogs. Guarding and herding instincts for example can lead a dog to want to protect its owner when out for a walk from an approaching dog.
This can be reinforced by the handler tensing up, but we will come back to handler intervention later. Other possible reasons why dogs show aggression to other dogs, maybe because some dogs are simply afraid of approaching dogs.  With others the problem may not manifest itself until they hit their teenage years. Some male dogs react to other male dogs and similarly female with female. Yet again some dogs react to a specific breed or colour of another dog. Or one dog may be in pain and therefore defensive.

So there are many reasons why dogs will attack other dogs without the intervention of humans.
However, probably the most common cause of dog on dog aggression is as a result of human intervention. As owners our ideal picture when we first decide to buy a dog is that of going for a walk on a summers night with this perfect being walking by our side completely relaxed at one with the world, our dog looking up lovingly at us as we stroll along our street exchanging pleasantries with our neighbours and their dogs as they pass by, sounds idyllic. In reality however what can happen is that walking the dog for some owners can be a very daunting and anxious activity. What normally happens in this case is that the first time an owner takes his/her dog out for a walk they come across another owner and dog coming in the opposite direction. Immediately our dog pulls forward on the lead to do what comes naturally and that is to investigate the other dog. This is a natural behaviour in dogs and is part of a ritual that all dogs go through. Dogs are desperate to engage with other dogs to find out who they are, what sex they are, if their coming into season. They do this by performing some very thorough rear sniffing. The less informed owner may tend to find this behaviour anti social. Their reasoning for that is they liken it to themselves greeting another human and immediately bending down and sniffing their crotch area. They would expect either a thump on the ear or a shriek and a shout for help or the police. So because they find it antisocial then they don’t allow their dogs to do it. It is therefore important that owners understand that dogs have different social etiquette & accept that dogs must be allowed to be dogs & not “little people”. This then can lead to immense bottled up frustration on the part of their dog, particularly in its early years of learning how to approach another dog. What will happen here is that because the dog cannot carry out its natural instincts it doesn’t learn how to say hello ie doesn’t learn communication skills in general. So the next time it comes across another dog it may try harder because it was held back last time, meaning from the other dogs point of view it might be coming on a bit strong, leading that dog to present a defensive posture. By now the owner is seeing a pattern develop. Every time they meet another dog his/her dog lunges forward trying desperately to get to the other dog. So in anticipation of this the owner tenses up at the sight of another dog and shortens the lead to the point were the dog is straining hence forcing the dog to adopt an upright posture which does not correctly communicate the dog’s emotions & intentions. Things escalate from there and the dog then kicks off because it is so frustrated. And so it goes on with the levels of frustration and anxiety rising every time they go out for a walk. The dog also begins to associate oncoming dogs as a reason for his owner becoming tense and nervous. The owner may also exacerbate things by giving a correction during these encounters. Now the dog not only associates emotional frustration but possibly pain and tension in their owners every time they meet another dog. So much for the summer evening walks.
I have first hand experience of that with my male black Lab Ben. I was always pulling him away from going into other dogs spaces or keeping the lead taught so that he could only go nose to nose and almost always resulted in Ben kicking off growling and becoming all macho. Only when I became more experienced and understood what was going on did it stop. I now quite happily let Ben greet other dogs on a loose lead carefully watching the other handler and dog to see if it is reciprocated in kind. If not, I prepare for the kick off. This form of leash aggression can be very common. Another common occurrence is when a dog who would normally want to move away from another dog because as I stated before, some dogs are just fearful, and so will want to move out of harms way. However because they are on a lead they cannot. Dogs have two emotional responses to confrontation, they either run or attack. This is known as flight or fight response. If your dog is a dog that would normally move away from a situation and cannot because it is restricted by the lead it will very easily switch responses to fight mode. And the key to success here in the dogs mind is ‘get in first before the other guy’. Another reason maybe that the dog has had an early bad socialisation encounter as a pup and now associates any greeting with this bad experience.

Rosie Barclay BSc (Hons) MPIl CCAB in her book Good Dog? Bad Dog?  
Comments that, the dog in this situation will not understand that the reason their owner is so stressed is because of the dog’s behaviour, and what they potentially might do to the other dog.
It only associates that every time another dog approaches world war three breaks out. The key thing in this is that this behaviour is as the result of an emotional response to a situation not a well thought out planned attack. The owner in this scenario is only reinforcing this response by their actions. What tends to happen at this point is that the owner will then take every precaution to ensure these incidents are few and far between. How do they do that? Well mostly they will change their habits of where and when they walk their dogs. So they are up at ungodly hours, walking in desolate places were no soul can be seen, and only with people and dogs they absolutely trust wont kick off with their own dog so, reduced opportunities to socialise & learn better communication skills.

To summarise then, aggression can be dangerous if left unchecked. What may start out as boisterous behaviour as a pup can quickly become something more concerning as the pup matures. Aggression between dogs can be as a result of many different things. It may be sibling rivalry, breed specific, fear, dominance, a bad early experience. Or it can be as a result of inexperienced handling, or a multitude of all of the above. The key to successful retraining is to understand what the underlying cause might be.

How do we prevent dog on dog aggression?
Proper socialisation has a profound effect on how our pup will turn out in adulthood. There are far reaching benefits of early socialisation of your puppy. Other influences include, what we feed our dogs. Much like the warnings we are given as parents to our children about the additives, in particular the amount of ‘E’s we give them. What we feed our dogs can affect their energy levels and their general health. Certain ingredients have also been implicated in aggression, Remember a dog that does not feel great can just like humans be less tolerant if feeling unwell or in pain through bad digestion. So by proper socialisation, with proper greeting routines, meeting as many different dogs as possible we can educate our pups to be very sociable and friendly and not to fear other dogs regardless of their breed or colour. We must also be mindful of early experiences and be on guard when these greetings take place so that our pup does not have a bad experience. If it does we must deal with it there and then and immediately try to turn it into a positive experience. By ensuring we as handlers don’t over react, and we continue the socialisation process. Its not the first time I have heard someone say “oh I don’t let him go upto another dog now, the last time he nearly got bitten”. In my local club we have very few ‘pups’ of less than 3 months. Most handlers that turn up with their juvenile dogs say “we didn’t want to bring them until they were old enough to train”. Which usually means when they have lost control or they are being dragged along the street. It is vital to their learning that they encounter as many dogs as possible from the earliest of ages. Provided it’s a safe and controlled environment. “Free for all” puppy classes cause more problems than they solve.  Once they have had their injections they should be enrolled into Puppy socialisation classes. There they will learn vital life lessons like meeting and playing with other dogs, bite inhibition and how to read other dogs body language.
But what do we do for dogs that are already passed the puppy stage and show aggressive behaviour when out walking on the leash. A method I use myself and which I discussed in an earlier unit is the redirect method. By teaching your dog to focus on you and getting it to perform an alternate behaviour your dog will learn to be less focussed on the approaching dog and more on you. Particularly if you are rewarding the redirect with a nice treat or his favourite toy. Soon your dog will learn to not only ignore the approaching dog but begin to associate it with a positive experience. Classical conditioning, The redirect could be to have your dog lie down. Not only does it redirect the dog but puts it in a less threatening position to the approaching dog lowering the tension. The most important factor in any retraining is to remain calm, relaxed and positive.
In the book ‘Culture clash’ by Jean Donaldson, Jean offers her method of retraining. She calls it Desensitization and Counterconditioning. By building their confidence and removing the motivation for aggression. Basically the method here is to teach your dog to associate any oncoming dog with a truly positive experience. By rewarding it with what it considers to be the highest reward. And may well be different for every dog. With some it may be high reward treats like liver or chicken or maybe cheese. What ever turns your dog on? The key to success is to find the lottery win for your dog and to ensure that the timing of the delivery of the reward is extremely accurate. Once you have that you are on the road to success. Jean recommends rewarding the dog regardless of its response when the meeting takes place, until the “lunge rates reduce by 50%”. So by not reacting negatively or taking punitive action even if your dog kicks off you are beginning to teach your dog that encounters may not all be bad. Once you have a change in behaviour then you switch to the counterconditioning were you maybe use a clicker to reward only the calm responses rather than all the responses. You could also use a sound eg a tongue click as a conditioned reinforcer – that is often easier than having to hold, clicker, rewards as well as remaining in control of the dog.

Depending on the breed, the size of your dog and your ability to control the dog if and when it lunges, it may be necessary to buy a muzzle until such times as you have modified its behaviour to other dogs. Make sure you can deliver the reward through the muzzle. Also consider a head collar eg Halti which closes the dog’s mouth if it lunges & can be used to redirect eye contact away from the approaching dog as needs be. Although they are not nice and can give off warning signs, sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry. The last thing you would want is for you dog to inflict any serious damage on another dog because you were slow to react. And if your training is consistent and offering the right reward, you can be sure the muzzle will only be for a short time. The key elements for me are awareness and experience. By being aware of what your dog is capable of and accepting the true scale of aggression and being alert to your immediate surroundings many ‘confrontations’ can be avoided. By taking appropriate preventative actions, we can anticipate and prevent nasty incidents. Look for approaching dogs and handlers. Look how your dog is reacting. Does he raise his head, tail? Does he stiffen whilst walking, or stop and lower his head, fixating on the approaching dog. These are the signs to be looking out for. An experienced handler will know when his dog is happy and relaxed by the way it walks holds its head watching it sniff in the air or on the ground not fixating on anything, a happy stride. Handlers should get to know this state and then watch for the changes, and they should act immediately they notice a change in the dog’s level of arousal. It is the changes in these things that give away what they are probably thinking. As I said earlier we cant sit them down and speak to them because they don’t understand. But by observing them and walking with them, not just walking beside them, interacting with them on the walk, we can learn to interpret their actions and take appropriate counter measures.
 I was watching Crufts last night on the telly and their Chief Vet was asked a question about what makes a bad dog. He replied “bad breeding and bad handlers”. I have tried to touch briefly in this study on some of the things associated with bad handling. I personally think there are more inexperienced handlers than bad handlers. A dog with issues in inexperienced handler’s hands can be a bad mix. On a positive note though media is helping to raise the awareness of how responsible dog ownership is a must in our society. Back when I was a young lad nothing was thought of letting your dog out the house in the morning to roam the streets until it came back for tea at night. Now we have increased legislation and public awareness and social responsibility regarding dogs. Like them or not, programmes on the TV like “Dog Whisperer, Dog Borstal or Its Me or the Dog”. Are being beamed into every living room in the country and making people aware of what is acceptable and what is not. Unfortunately they encourage the idea that there are “quick fixes” & some advocate the use of inappropriate training & handling technique.

In summary
Dog on dog aggression can be as a result of many things. Breeding traits, handler inexperience, or emotional state of the dog. We can take some preventative actions by proper puppy socialisation from when the pup is only weeks old. This by far is the best course of action and will have the most lasting effect on your dog. We can also, with a lot of hard work and patience, retrain adult dogs not to lunge, attack or fear other dogs by redirecting, desensitizing and counterconditioning your dog. It is important to remember that, if we have a dog that is aggressive, seek help. There are a lot of recognised bodies that will be willing to offer advice on where to get help. Association of Pet Dog Trainers, British Institute of Pet Dog Trainers, Kennel Club, even rescue organisations like Dogs Trust, RSPCA, SSPCA to name but a few. There are numerous sources on the Web but caution should be taken about using resources that are not accredited.
For socialisation the best source of help is the local training club only if it is run correctly & by qualified, experienced & up to date trainers. There the pup will be allowed to socialise with many dogs and people. Having an aggressive dog is not the end of the world and we don’t have to just say “oh well there is nothing I can do”, there is. But we need to try to understand them first if we are to achieve all we can achieve with mans best friend.

Dogs are animals and not humans. A fact that most people when asked, will readily agree with, however, their actions are sometimes at odds with this fact. We have in the main, successfully domesticated and integrated this animal into our homes. Most people however, not just dog owners, don’t fully understand them. And that is when problems arise. Many dogs have had their lives ended because they attacked an adult or child. But very few people understand why the dog attacked, or ask “what could have been done to prevent it?” 


Good Dog? Bad Dog?  Rosie Barclay BSc (Hons) MPIl CCAB

‘Culture clash’ Jean Donaldson

See you soon.....