Wednesday, 31 December 2014


  1. The length of retractable leashes, some of which can extend up to 26 feet, allows dogs to get far enough away from their humans that a situation can quickly turn dangerous. A dog on a retractable leash is often able to run into the middle of the street, for example, or make uninvited contact with other dogs or people.
  2. In the above scenario, or one in which your pet is being approached by an aggressive dog, it is nearly impossible to get control of the situation if the need arises. It's much easier to regain control of – or protect -- a dog at the end of a six-foot standard flat leash than it is if he's 20 or so feet away at the end of what amounts to a thin string.
  3. The thin cord of a retractable leash can break – especially when a powerful dog is on the other end of it. If a strong, good-sized dog takes off at full speed, the cord can snap. Not only can that put the dog and whatever he may be chasing in danger, but also the cord can snap back and injure the human at the other end.
  4. If a dog walker gets tangled up in the cord of a retractable leash, or grabs it in an attempt to reel in their dog, it can result in burns, cuts, and even amputation. In addition, many people have been pulled right off their feet by a dog that reaches the end of the leash and keeps going. This can result in bruises, "road rash," broken bones, and worse.
  5. Dogs have also received terrible injuries as a result of the sudden jerk on their neck that occurs when they run out the leash, including neck wounds, lacerated tracheas, and injuries to the spine.
  6. Retractable leashes allow dogs more freedom to pull at the end of them, which can look like aggression to another dog who may decide to "fight back."
  7. The handles of retractable leashes are bulky and can be easily pulled out of human hands, resulting in a runaway dog.
  8. Along those same lines, many dogs – especially fearful ones – are terrorised by the sound of a dropped retractable leash handle and may take off running, which is dangerous enough. To make matters worse, the object of the poor dog's fear is then "chasing" her, and if the leash is retracting as she runs, the handle is gaining ground on her – she can't escape it. Even if this scenario ultimately ends without physical harm to the dog (or anyone else), it can create lingering fear in the dog not only of leashes, but also of being walked.
  9. Retractable leashes, like most retractable devices, have a tendency to malfunction over time, either refusing to extend, refusing to retract, or unspooling at will.
  10. Retractable leashes are an especially bad idea for dogs that haven't been trained to walk politely on a regular leash. By their very nature, retractables train dogs to pull while on leash, because they learn that pulling extends the lead.

If your dog is well trained, gentle mannered and smart enough to master a regular leash and a retractable leash without being confused, you could be one of the rare guardians that can walk your pooch on any kind of leash without increasing risks to either one of you. 

extract from the Healthy Pets website with Dr. Karen Becker.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014


How many times have I heard that? As a reward based trainer I am often asked, “but what do you do when your dog refuses to comply when he clearly knows the command”. I usually reply like this. 
There are many reasons why a dog may not comply to a cue that he already knows. Stubbornness, Dominance, and wilfulness are rarely the reasons. Whilst it is clearly very frustrating when your dog “ignores” you, its worth the time, effort and saves your sanity to try and take a step back for a moment and work out what the cause might be. This is often easier said than done in the heat of the moment. Its worth remembering that even though your dog may have learned a behaviour and performed it solidly many times before it doesn’t mean that in certain situations it may not remember what the behaviour is to the cue that you give. Let me liken it to a human example. I walked into a shop last week and was greeted by a woman who smiled and began talking to me like we were old friends. she asked me had I had a good xmas and even asked how my wife was. I recognised her face but at that moment I could not remember her name. I knew that deep in the recesses of my mind her name was there but at that moment she had caught me off guard and I could not make the association of where I knew her from and her name. An hour after I met her and long after I had left the shop her name came back to me. And at that point I realised why I couldn’t make the connection. I normally see this woman in a working environment away from this social environment and because it was out of context I had at that moment not put two and two together. I am sure you have all done this at one time or another. Well your dogs are no different. Just because they can perform a solid ‘come when called’ in the house and even in the garden both on lead and off doesn’t mean they can do it outside when they are in a different environment. Another reason they may not respond immediately to a cue is that there may be more powerful distractors going on at the time. Again if I liken it to a human example. If you have kids and they are busy playing video games and you call them in to the dining room for dinner they may not hear you at first time of calling because they are so engrossed in the video game. Your dog may be just as engrossed in whatever he is doing when you give a cue. Like chasing a bunny or sniffing something really interesting. So when you give the come command he may be to distracted to respond. You owe it to yourself and the relationship you have with your dog to take a step back the next time he doesn’t respond right away, and think, what reason might there be for my dog not responding other than just plain ignoring me.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


In a recent address at the Vatican, Pope Francis issued a statement that is sure to comfort those of faith who have lost a beloved pet. He stated that all animals go to heaven.
"The Holy Scriptures teach us that the realization of this wonderful plan covers all that is around us, and that came out of the thought and the heart of God," Francis was quoted  as saying by the Italian News site Rsapubblica. "Heaven is open to all creatures, and there [they] will be vested with the joy and love of God, without limits."
Francis is a known animal lover. He adopted his papal name Francis, in honor of the patron saint of animals, St. Francis of Assisi. 
Over his term, the Pope has demonstrated his love of animals. He has given an impromptu blessing to a guide dog of a journalist and also welcomed the dog of a homeless man to celebrate his birthday. Source Blog “Welcome to DogHeirs, where Dogs Are Family.

The French Philosopher Renee Descartes must be turning in his grave. His idea about dogs was that they had no degree of intelligence and merely related and reacted to their immediate environments. And they did not possess the ability to problem solve or reason, Biological robots if you like. This view was borne out by religious beliefs of this time that held that ‘with intelligence comes consciousness and consciousness meant having a soul. Any being having a soul had to be admitted to heaven and the thought of dogs being admitted to heaven had an influence on Descartes point of view with regards to the intelligence of dogs. It wasn’t until Charles Darwins theory of evolution that it was the degrees of intelligence that separated all species. And that all species possessed some intelligence. The difficulty was in measuring that intelligence. Measuring intelligence in dogs is not easy. We could point to how quickly a dog can learn. But if during training the reward is not perceived to be high enough then a dog may take longer to learn the behaviour. For the best results we not only have to match the reward with the behaviour but possibly also the type of dog. Is he a chaser, digger, herder, guarder? Unfortunately training is not a “One size fits all” thing. But then thats what makes it interesting.  See you soon……..

Wednesday, 5 November 2014


I recently read an interesting article in ‘Science Direct’ from Applied Animal Behaviour Science which discussed the impact attending training classes had on a companion dogs behaviour. The published report was based studies carried out in Australia in 2006. The report was written by Pauline Charmayane Bennet and Vanessa Ilse Rohlf.

Basically what they are saying is that a lot of companion dogs occupy a priviledged life style, living with owners who take care of their every needs and desires. Some going to great lengths to provide the very best for their canine companions. However others are not so fortunate and often find themselves abandoned, killed, given up for adoption, which most ultimately get put to sleep, and the main reason is that they are believed to exhibit behaviour problems. The aims of the study were to investigate the frequency of the problematic experienced by the owners sample and whether these behaviours were associated with demographic variables, involvement in dog training activities and participation in other dog - human interactions.

the problematic behaviours were split into five main categories;






The results of the questionnaires and interviews carried out by the researchers indicated that engagement in training activities showed lower scores for many of the behaviours described above. The studies also showed that the perceived friendliness of the dogs who took part in training activities with their owners was improved.

dogs who are given up for adoption or abandoned and end up in rescue centres is an ever increasing significant animal welfare issue. Our rescue centres are bulging to capacity right now. If these studies are to be believed then a lot of these dogs could have avoided ending up in rescue centres had they been taken to training classes. Its no secret that misbehaving dogs are responsible for road accidents, community disputes, property damage and unfortunately as we see all to often in the media personal injury and even death.

Another study in Australia conducted by Kobelt et al. (2003) found that overexcitement and jumping up on people were very common behaviours among dogs, as were rushing at people or other dogs and excessive barking. These behaviours were primarily associated with general disobedience, owner experience and THE AMOUNT OF TIME BY THE OWNER WITH HIS OR HER DOG, and that dogs that attended training classes were more likely to obey their owners commands. (Clark and Boyer, 1993), also produced a report that stated “that participation in obedience training is associated with a significantly reduced prevalence of canine behaviour problems, and an increased probability of a positive outcome following adoption of a dog from a welfare shelter”.

I hear you say ‘Well obviously’. And so you might. However the report also goes on to suggest that most surprisingly only 24% of the dog owners who took part in the survey attended any kind of dog training. Now I hear you say “yes but thats Australia”.

A PDSA report published in 2012 surveyed 3,956 pet owners in the UK. The report looked at five different categories.






In this report it showed that 53% of households own a pet.

23% of households own a dog. Thats at least 8.3 million dogs.

This report suggest that 5.3 million dogs never attend training classes in the UK.

25% of UK dog owners who had their dogs from pups did not adequately socialise them within the first 6 months of their lives.

In 2011 the PAW Report revealed that over one million dogs display aggressive behaviour towards people and pets on a weekly basis which includes growling, snarling, and biting.

“Good puppy socialisation and training classes undoubtedly help to reduce the initial development of dog aggression, but it is also essential to provide our pets with guidance in good behaviour, at home and elsewhere, throughout their lives. ‘Training’ should be synonymous with ‘living with’ and never stops”.

David Ryan

PG Dip (CABC) CCAB, Clinical Animal Behaviourist.

The PDSA report goes on to state that “Problem dog behaviour is most often due to lack of training and little or no socialisation”.

By encouraging more people to attend training classes with their new pups and or rescue dogs we can turn the tide on dogs developing problem behaviours and reduce the amount of dogs ending up in rescue centres with little or no hope of ever being rehomed and ultimately being put to sleep.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014


This is an extract from PSYCHOLOGY TODAY
It was written by Stanley Coren PhD. called The human-animal bond.

What causes conflict between dogs living in the same home?
Published on April 22, 2014 by Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C. in Canine Corner

My home typically contains two or more dogs, and research has shown that having more than one dog is typical for nearly one third of dog owning households in North America. In a multiple dog home probably one of the most disturbing situations is when there are aggressive incidents between the dogs. These are not only disturbing for the peace and happiness of the humans living there, but it can also be quite dangerous for the dogs and for the people who try to intervene and break up the fight. A scientific report published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association* looked at this issue, specifically assessing the characteristics of the dogs involved and what can be done to help eliminate the problem of fighting among dogs living together.

Researchers Kathryn Wrubel, Alice Moon-Fanelli, Louise Maranda, and Nicholas Dodman, recruited 38 pairs of dogs that came to the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, Massachusetts specifically because they were involved in aggressive incidents with their housemates. The research team then conducted in-depth interviews and administered a number of questionnaires in order to determine the characteristics of dogs which had been involved in such situations. Later on they would prescribe a treatment method for the problem.
The first thing that might be surprising to most people is that female dogs are more often involved in such fights then are males. Only 32% of the aggressive incidents involved conflict between two males, while in the remaining 68% females were active participants. This is consistent with some previous research which has shown that when females get into an aggressive situation injuries are apt to be more severe and the fight tends to be longer and more furious.
If we look at the overall characteristics of the dogs involved, we find that the instigators of the aggression are usually the dog who has been most recently brought into the household (70%). Furthermore in 74% of the cases it is the younger dog that starts the fight. These fights are often a surprise to the owners, since 39% of them claim that the dogs usually get along with one another most of the time. The conflicts can be quite intense which is proven by the fact that 50% of them required veterinary care for the dogs and 10% of them required medical attention for the owners who tried to intervene. The reason that the owners were placing themselves in jeopardy was because 54% of them felt that the fight would not stop unless they separated the dogs physically, and only 8% of them successfully separated the dogs using learned obedience commands.
What tends to trigger a fight among housemates? The actions of the owner, such as paying attention to one dog rather than the other, are a trigger for 46% of the pairs. Simple excitement, usually involving the owner's arrival or other activities was involved in 31%. Conflict over food was involved in 46% of the pairs while found items or toys are triggers in 26%.
There appear to be a number of risk factors which the study isolated for one or both of the dogs. Among the pairs of dogs involved in aggressive incidents 41% had at least one member who had lived in multiple households. When at least one of the dogs in the pair was 12 weeks of age or older when adopted the rate of conflict was 39%, dogs adopted from a shelter were involved in 33% of the cases and dogs from pet shops in 16%.
There is some evidence that dogs involved in aggressive situations with the dogs that they live with do have a tendency to show aggression in other situations. For example, 40% have shown aggression to other dogs, 27% have shown aggression toward humans living in the household, and 27% toward human strangers, but most distressingly 20% have shown aggression toward their owner.
Aggression may not be their only problem since 50% of the pairs of dogs involved in conflicts had at least one member with noticeable separation anxiety, and 30% had phobias, fearfulness, and other forms of anxiety.
The good news is that aggression between housemates does appear to be treatable using behavioral techniques that owners can institute at home. The first of these is the technique that Nicholas Dodman calls "nothing-in-life-is-free". This simply requires the dogs to respond to some simple learned command (such as "sit", "down", "come" etc.) before they get any resource that they want (their meal, a treat, petting, attention and so forth). The second of these involves "supporting" one of the dogs, meaning that the chosen dog gets everything first (food, treats, attention etc.). Here the problem is which dog to select, and a pragmatic way of doing this is to choose the dog that is larger, stronger, healthier, more active and so forth. An alternate way (which seems to fit with human notions of priority, deference and respect, is to select the "senior" dog, where here the word "senior" means the dog which was in the household first, and has lived for the owner the longest. Both of these methods work, but not instantaneously since on average the data shows that noticeable improvement does not occur until more than five weeks after the process starts. The "nothing-in-life-is-free" technique produced improvement in 89% of the pairs, while the "senior support technique" produced improvement in 67% of the pairs. The researchers suggest that these techniques work for two reasons. First, because the dogs must act in a controlled manner, this takes some of the excitement and arousal out the situation. Secondly, because events occur in a predictable order, and the dogs learn that each of them will eventually get what they want and no conflict is needed.

It is important to note that the sex of the dogs not only makes a difference in the likelihood of conflict but also in the likelihood of improvement with behavioral treatment. As we noted in the beginning of this article, female dogs are more likely to engage in conflicts with their housemates and their fights are apt to be more serious. This is consistent with the fact that the improvement with behavioral treatment is found to be less pronounced, although still significant, in female pairs. In the male-male pairs, conflict was reduced in 72%, of the cases while for male-female pairs the reduction was 75%. In the female-female pairs the reduction was for only 57%, which, although not as large as in the other pairings is still a reasonable improvement rate, and well worth the effort.

Thursday, 17 April 2014


According to the Kennel Club’s guidance, which is on their ‘Responsibility and Care leaflet. 

“No matter how well trained or under control a dog might be, it should never be walked off lead in environmentally unsuitable areas or those that do not permit dogs to be off lead”

Lets face it, there are people out there that do not like to interact with dogs. I know, weird, but listen.
Many people have had frightening encounters with dogs just walking down the street. There are many other reasons why we dog owners should be a bit more appreciative of how other people think.
People with mobility limitations, senior citizens, parents with children, people with assistance dogs, other dog owners who’s dogs are maybe reactive or sick, maybe in rehabilitation after surgery. I have a black Lab called Ben who last week just went through some major surgery to remove a Lipoma. Quite a large fatty lump about the size of a grapefruit hanging under his belly. But he is now just recovering and doesn’t get out for long walks. To complicate matters worse he has bilateral laryngeal paralyses, which means I can no longer put a collar around his neck. So I have to use a harness. The point is when I walk him I am constantly looking out for other dog/owner combinations to make sure they don’t come anywhere near us, because I know Ben is a bit grumpy right now and protective of his wound. The people I have described above see a lead as signal that the oncoming dog is under control and won’t jump on them or attack their children. The lead in this case reduces their panic and reassures them. Another reason for keeping our dogs on a lead in public places is that it keeps them safe. Every time something happens, like our dog runs over and knocks over a child or has a go at another dog, or even runs out in front of a car chasing a ball, its always ‘the first time they have ever done that’. Off course it is, because once they have done that one time we learn and make sure it doesn’t happen again by putting them on a lead. Well take this as a warning now, our dogs are not robots. Our dogs are great dogs, but like us they sometimes don’t make great decisions. Sometimes nature gets the better of them and their hard wired instincts are just too powerful and the ‘chase’ is on. And every time it happens we are caught out. I don’t care how good your dog is at walking by your side under voice control. With the right motivation your dog will at some point make a conscious decision to take off, just when you least expect it.
So for your sake, for the sake of your dog and for the sake of other people and other dogs. Keep your dog on a lead in environmentally unsuitable areas. And when you eventually get to an area that is safe to let them off a lead you must remain constantly vigil. Get rid of the phone, don’t get engrossed in a conversation and make sure you can see your dog at all times. Be safe, be smart, be a responsible dog owner. We are ALL depending on you.

Monday, 14 April 2014


When you hear behaviourists talk about hierarchy they tend to talk about wolf packs and alpha leaders. What does all that mean though and why do you need to know about it when interacting with your four legged friend. All you want to do is take him for a walk and play fetch. You want to be able to call him and he comes running happily to your side. And when he does something wrong you only have to say “No that’s enough”. So do I need to know anything about hierarchy for that? Well actually yes you do. Let me explain.

Now to begin with i’m not going to tell you that your dog is a wolf, because it’s not. Nor is it a small person in a furry coat. But recent research suggests that your dog is a sub species of the grey wolf and the its name was changed in 1993 from Canis Lupis, to Canis Familiaris to reflect that it is a sub species of the grey wolf. Offcourse man has changed the appearance of this sub species over many decades to the many varieties of shapes and sizes of the dog we have today. Initially they were changed to give particular traits; like guarding, hunting etc. However the dogs brain is still hard wired even today to a pack mentality. Just like the wolves in the wild have a pack mentality our dogs have a natural instinct to socially interact with its human pack. So some of the ‘pack rules’ will apply. For example doge will need a structure in their lives, a hierarchy. They need to know who the leader is and if its not going to be you then they will step up to the plate. But being a dog they are incapable of being a leader to a multi species pack of humans and dogs. they don’t have the intellect to be our leader and to ask them to do so would put there under severe stress and lead to all sorts of problems and usually does. So we need to be the leader as do all humans in the ‘pack’. But being a leader does not mean being a bully, a big man, aggressive. Its about having the right attitude, an air of authority. Its about defining the basis of mutual respect. Being clam, confident, and consistent will go along way to building a bond between you and your dog and a basis for communication. When I was a school I had this one teacher, Mr Nelson the Chemistry teacher. He never shouted, or got angry. He never hit me. But he knew how to get me to ‘pull my socks up’. He knew how to encourage me to do better. He had this air of authority that you knew if you stepped out of line you were in trouble.
Recent research carried out at the wolf sanitary in America suggests that the hierarchy found in a wolf pack is very similar to a family pack. There are two adults and one or more generations of off spring. Just like a human family pack, were mum and dad are the alpha and there are brothers and sisters in the pack.
If we think back to when we were kids;
We knew how to behave in the house. There was a time for horsing around and there was a time to calm down and get on with our homework. In my house I have my ‘chair’ that I like to sit on when dinner is over and I want to settle down in front of the telly. Sure during the day other members of the house can sit on the chair, but when I get home they get up and give me my place. Children would never push through a door first in front of their mums and dads. In fact if they didnt stop and hold the door open they might get rebuked. When we have parties and have adult guests over there is generally a spread laid out on the table. Only after the guests have been to the table are the children allowed to take something. When we went shopping as a family, whining about wanting something from the shelves in the store got no response whatsoever. It was not tolerated. Neither was pulling you along the road to get to the play park or other desirable destination. Children were taught how to behave both at home and out in public and woe betide anyone who misbehaved out side and caused such embarrassment. Is any of this starting to ring just a bit remotely true. The multi species pack is no different, the humans are the alpha’s and the dogs being the pack members. It is therefore incumbent upon us to teach our ‘canine children’ what the rules and boundaries are. We need to communicate to them how to ‘behave’ both inside and outside the home. We have the skills we just need to apply them to our ‘other’ children. But before we can do that we need to learn ‘how’ to communicate with them.......
In my next blog entry I will discuss how we can learn to communicate with our canine children.
Till then.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014


When Wally Conron created the Labradoodle he opened up a can of worms. He is reported now as saying he made a mistake. What followed was an explosion of ‘designer’ dogs. From Cockapoo (cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle), a Puggle (a Beagle and a Pug), a Shih Poo ( a Shih tzu and a Poodle) a Goli ( a Golden Retriever and a Collie), and a Jackaroo (a Jack Russell and a Poodle). There are countless more I am sure and no doubt more to follow. But it started me thinking. I rescued a Northern Inuit from Dogs Trust a few years a go. The behaviourist there told me that was her breed description, albeit Northern Inuits are not a recognised breed by the Kennel Club in the UK yet. But it got me thinking, is Northern Inuit the right name for her or should she be called something else in line with the variations above. Northern Inuits were originally cross bred between German Shepherds and Huskies, or German Shepherds and Alaskan Malamutes. the idea was that the breeder wanted something that looked like a wolf but had the temperament of a German Shepherd. So does that make Miya a Grusky perhaps? Or maybe a Huskation (a cross between a Husky and an Alsation) I think I prefer Grusky, what do you think?

Thursday, 27 March 2014


We look at celebrities in the media and we think “What Diva’s”. Spoilt rotten. But I bet they didnt start out like that when they were kids. As children they most likely were quite normal. Going to school, playing out in the yard, nice manners, ‘normal’. But they get a bit of fame and before you know it they become demanding, self centred, obnoxious and down right rude. Over the decades I think we have done the exact same thing to dogs. They have become pampered, demanding and yes down right rude in their behaviour. Some to the extreme extent where they bite. But how has this come about? If you ask a lot of owners of dogs today they will tell you their dog understands what they are saying to them. We treat them as our best friends, and sometimes take it personally when they ignore us or quite literally “bite the hands that feeds them”. Most people now live in nice warm houses with central heating. Furniture is less expensive than what it was several decades ago. In the past homes were heated by a single fire in the main living room, usually coal. Furniture like a sofa cost the best part of two months wages. Dogs were most definitely not allowed up on them. Who would want a smelly wet dog up on their nice new sofa? Today we tend to confuse our dogs, one day we invite them up onto the sofa with us and the next scream at them for being stupid enough to go up on the sofa after having just come in from the rain.
When I was young my mum would take me and my brother up to our nan’s every morning. This was roughly a half hour walk. As we left our house mum would open the door and let our quite large dog out to make its own way there. As we entered our nan’s street 30 minutes later sure enough our dog would be coming down the street form the opposite end. I have no idea where he had been or what route he took to get there. Sometimes he would come in to the house at that point but most times he would stay out until it was time for us to head home again.
Nowadays with the changes in attitude and the advent in the changes in the laws, dogs are not allowed to roam the streets, which by and large is a good thing, however now fido sits in the house for most of the day. Before we had a nice tired out dog who had spent all day out running around, now we have a dog that sits around all day positively bored and looking for something to do hence the reason many get up to mischief. Our family life has changed somewhat as well, before we would wait till the we had children and they were grown up a bit before we thought about getting a dog. Now a lot of families are leaving having children to later in life whilst they pursue careers, but decide to get a dog as a kind of surrogate child. And treat them accordingly. We expect them to come as puppies completely conversant in human speak and if they dont respond when we give a command then we scream it a little louder, ‘because that always works’. Its a bit like when we go on a foreign holiday with total arrogance that where ever we go the local people will completely understand english, and if they don’t we will say it louder. “THE WAY TO THE BEACH”. And get really upset when they shrug their shoulders and walk off. Sound familiar? It happened to me in Paris.
Is it any wonder when we do the same to our dogs. “Come......I said COME”. then we get really upset when they walk off and ignore us. Dogs are the most selfish animals on the planet, and will only do something if theres something in it for them. Your job as owner is to find out what that something is at that moment and use it to get the dog to do what you want it to do. Shouting at it is not one of those things.
We have to be leaders and be dominant (nasty word). But that does not mean punitive measures. I mean we have to set rules and boundaries and let the dogs know when they cross those boundaries. If we don’t then as I said above they will assume they can do what they like. Sit and beg for food, go up on the sofa when they like, don’t come when we call. We discipline our children when they cross those boundaries by grounding them, or taking away some privilege. Dogs are no different, withdrawing resources like toys, treats, affection or social contact are all very potent weapons in disciplining your dog and used sparingly can be extremely effective. But this is only when things go wrong. By far the best way to deal with situations like these are to prevent them from happening. By engaging with them, giving them a role and a purpose in the pack and ensuring they are not isolated from social contact with their pack for extended periods of time will ensure we have a happy content tired out dog. If we start understanding our dogs better and go back to treating them like dogs and not little children we can get back to having the kind of relationship we used to have with them and maybe some of these horror stories reported in the media can be reduced. Lets give it a go.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014



The following extract has been taken from The Dog Business Academy web site.
I received this information in an email to me.
I think it is of interest to everyone involved in some way with dogs and so I am sharing it with you. In Scotland we have slightly different laws including dog Control Notices. But if you are visiting England, as a lot of us do as we travel to various meetings and events with our dogs, then this will apply to you. 
The UK government has announced plans for tougher dog laws after recent high profile dog attacks.
These laws will affect you whether you own a dog, working with dogs or have dogs in your care.  It will certainly guide your focus for dog training, either your own or others.
Ministers are looking to extend the scope of the law to enable a prosecution to be brought against anyone whose dog injures someone or acts aggressively in a private place, as well as a public place.  Such as a home where they are permitted to be.

It’s against the law to let a dog be dangerously out of control.  You dog is considered dangerously out of control if it:
    • Causes injury to someone

    • Makes someone worried that it might cause them injury

    • Injures someone’s animal
    • The owner of the animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop the dog attacking their animal

                                New UK Dog Law 2014
With the new sentencing guidelines in 2012 it was expected that more offenders would face jail sentences, more will get community orders, however, the UK government are getting tougher.
They have now announced plans to increase the sentence for owners of dogs who are involved in fatal attacks to a maximum of 14 years in prison and owners whose dog causes injury or kills a guide dog can expect to face up to 3 years in jail.

Any injury caused by your dog to another person may result in a criminal charge of aggravated injury. NOTE: This can even be a small bit or puncture wound, a scratch or a bruise even if it is from a fall.
This will result in a criminal record, a large fine and possibly a prison sentence and will impact your career if your job relies on you having a clean criminal record.
Note:  Dog to dog injuries will normally first be dealt with in the Magistrates Court or as a civil case or in the small claims court. Does not normally result in a criminal record or prison
Your garden and car (when not parked in your garage) will now be classed as public access space.  Even a trespasser in these areas will be protected by the new laws.  The only people who will not be protected by these laws is a trespasser in your home.  Not clear what constitutes a home, only by courts making decisions will this be clarified.
A person in your home legitimately is protected by the new laws and can lead to a criminal charge if injured by your dog.
The law says all dogs must have a collar with identification on it which includes your name and address, even if it is tattooed or microchipped.   It is also advisable to have your telephone number, preferably a mobile number.
In 2016 you will also be required by law to have your dog microchipped.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


By Jasper Copping

For owners of unruly dogs, a short yank on their lead and a stern telling-off can sometimes seem the only way of keeping their wayward pets in line.
But a new study claims that such methods of making sure your dog behaves can cause the animal mental trauma and have an impact on its welfare.
It found that pets who are trained using such, “aversive” techniques were 15 times more likely to exhibit symptoms of stress than those trained using more “positive” techniques, such as the use of treats for rewards and softer voices.
Dogs taught using the latter methods were also found to display greater contentment and enjoy a better relationship with their owners.
The research serves as a repudiation of the authoritative style – still used to train many British dogs – popularised in the 1970s by Barbara Woodhouse and now advocated by many modern trainers, such as Cesar Millan, a prominent international expert known as the Dog Whisperer.
However, the study has sparked controversy, with some experts claiming that relying solely on “positive” methods can lead to dogs failing to properly learn the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and can make them too “spoilt”.
The research, published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, involved monitoring two dog training schools. One relied primarily on “negative reinforcement” where the animal is encouraged to perform tasks by the use of unpleasant stimuli, such as having a collar pulled, a harsh voice sounded, or being pushed to sit, until it learns to complete the tasks without them.
The other school involved “positive reinforcement” teaching, with dogs receiving treats, being petted, praised and played with when they have obediently performed a task.
Those taking part were from a cross section of breeds and ages, while their owners were from a range of social backgrounds.
All had been training for several months and were enrolled in an “advanced” class.
The two groups were then observed undertaking tasks, such as being ordered to sit, and walking on a lead.
The researched monitored the owners’ behaviour and recorded the animals’ body postures.
When told to “sit”, the dogs who had been trained using the negative reinforcement methods showed far more signs of stress, such as mouth licking (in 38 per cent of cases, compared to eight per cent among the other group), yawning (12 per cent, compared with none in the other group) and lowered body posture (46 per cent, compared with eight per cent). Almost one in ten (eight per cent) from the negative group also shook or whined – a behaviour not seen at all in the other group.
Altogether, 65 per cent of dogs in the “negative” group demonstrated at least one stress-related behaviour, compared with only eight per cent among those who were trained with more positive methods.
On the other hand, the dogs trained with rewards were far more likely to offer spontaneous gazes at their owner – behaviour that is interpreted as an invitation to visually interact, and a sign of a healthy relationship. Almost nine out of ten of these dogs did this, compared with just a third of those from the other class.
While observing the walking on a loose lead exercise, again, those from the “negative” school had a lower body posture (15 per cent, compared to four per cent), and, again, more dogs in the positive school offered a spontaneous gaze (63 per cent, compared with four per cent).
Dr Florence Gaunet, from Aix-Marseille University, in France, who led the study, said: “What we noticed is that it was bad for the relationship to be trained “negatively”. They were more likely to show a lower posture and more signs of stress. Of course there are concerns about welfare.
“There are welfare issues with the negative method. There is a trade-off between obedience and welfare. It is an ethical question. All countries need dogs that are under the control of humans, but I think it requires more thinking how this is done. We are now trying to think more about welfare and I think we should be more careful.”
But Dr Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist and author of The Perfect Dog, said there were benefits to “negative” methods and that a reliance solely on “positive” training, could lead to indulged and badly behaved pets.
“It is a bit like realising that children need boundaries and having to say no. That doesn’t mean using cruel methods. It means owners have to be not so indulgent.
“There is a feeling that dogs have to be our friends and always trust us. But if a dog is out chasing sheep, or jumping up at old ladies, or chasing joggers, or trying kill next door’s cat, then he is not my friend and I have got to stop him.
“They need to have boundaries. It is rather like an indulgent form of parenting. Often it produces poorly behaved children. What we are seeing at the moment is a marked increase in anti social behaviours amongst British dogs, and dog bites, and dogs out of control.”
This study comes at a time of greater scrutiny of the psychological well-being of dogs, as well as concerns about their behaviour. Research in 2012 found that 80 per cent of dogs exhibited some sort of behavioural problem. At the same time, an increasing number are being diagnosed with conditions such as “phobias”, “obsessive compulsive disorders” and “separation-related problems”.
The training issue also echoes a wider debate on the raising children and the comparative merits of using positive or negative reinforcement.
The “negative” dog method is based on showing who is in charge. At its most extreme, it can include the use of prong collars, electric shock collars, restricting dogs’ air supply using nooses – although none of these methods were covered in the study.
The more positive approach is about making pet ownership more of a partnership. It is now practised by, among others, Victoria Stilwell, who appeared in the Channel 4 series It’s Me of the Dog.
The late Mrs Woodhouse became a household name with her TV series Training Dogs the Woodhouse Way. She was known for saying that there were 'no bad dogs’, only owners who lacked experience at asserting the pecking order.

Monday, 10 March 2014


Choke chains damage dogs, cause pain and can cause behavioural problems. Choke chains have been directly linked to to the following;

        Injured ocular blood vessels

        Tracheal and oesophageal damage

        Severely sprained necks

        Cases of fainting

        Transient foreleg paralysis

        Laryngeal nerve paralysis

        Hind leg ataxia

If you don’t use a choke chain to stop the pulling then what should you use?

You could use a flat collar, harness or head collar. There are many different types in the market and it is important that you choose the right one for your type of dog. You could also train your dog not to pull. By finding a qualified trainer in your area you could attend classes and learn how to train your dog positively without aversive methods how to teach your dog to walk without pulling.

There have been many studies onto the effects of correcting your dog using choke chains.

“In a retrospective study on spinal pain, injury or changes in dogs conducted in Sweden, Hallgreen (1992) found that 91% of dogs with cervical anomalies experienced harsh jerks on lead or had a long history of pulling on the lead. Use of chokers were also over expressed in this group. This strongly suggests that such corrections are potentially injurious”.

Karen Overall MA, VMD, PhD, DACVB Clinical behavioural medicine for small animals.

In 30 years of practise Including 22 years as a veterinary advisor to a police dog section) I have seen numerous severely strained necks, cases of fainting, transient foreleg paresis and hind leg ataxia after robust use of the choke chain.

When the practise of slamming the dog sideways with a jerk that brought the foreparts clear of the ground and two or three feet towards the handler, became popular in the 1970’s the resulting painful condition was known as Woodhouse neck in this practise. Some of these cases exhibited misalignment of cervical vertebrae on radiographs. It is suggested that an existing spondylopathy renders these dogs more vulnerable to injury. Robin Walker BVetMed MRCVS.

Two authoritative references which should put you in no doubt that you should never use a choke chain or slip lead for correcting a dog that pulls on the lead. You should seriously consider any advice given to you to put a check chain on your dog as a means to correct lead pulling.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


        Yet another child’s life lost as a result of a dog attack. The latest is a baby only days old, attacked in its home by a huge dog, an Alaskan Malamute. This breed was originally bred to pull sleds in the arctic region. The males can grow to just under 40 kilos. The breed are reputed to be fond of people and children making them ideal house dogs. They bond quickly with their owners are intelligent but can sometimes be difficult to train. They are great with children old enough to play with them.
So what went wrong? Reading more into the story it turns out this particular dog was ‘acquired’ by it’s owner from someone in a pub. The previous owner was going to have it put down, and the new owner was a dog lover and no doubt thought he was doing the right thing by saving it from being put to sleep. There is no information on why the previous owner was considering having it put down. Was it being ill-treated ? Had it already bitten? Did the new owner get a full history of the animal before he decided to take it? All of these questions are being asked in the various papers that you read. But I don’t see any of the papers asking what in my mind is the most important question. What was the dog doing in the room with the baby on its own? Where were the mother and father when the attack happened? No matter how well you think your dog behaves, under no circumstances should ANY dog be left in the presence of children without adequate adult supervision. ANY dog is capable of biting, they all have teeth, if pushed to their limit. I am becoming more and more worried that these ‘attacks’ are now a popular news worthy item. Is the underlying trend that the amount of attacks are on the increase? Or are they just being reported more? I don’t know the answer to that I would love to find out. One attack is too many, but I am concerned that with all the media attention these incidents are being given, we might see a knee jerk reaction which affects all dogs and their owners. Up in Scotland we have the countries leading newspaper embarking on a media campaign called ‘dangerous dogs’. Politicians read these papers and assume that this is what the voters want. Newspapers are very influential in getting people to change their attitudes to things. I fear what these politicians are talking about right now, about how to deal with this issue which is on the front pages out our newspapers.
Lets not forget we domesticated these animals decades ago. They are an integral part of our society. They not only provide companionship to many millions of people throughout the land but they provide many functions to professional people also.
Professionals whose job could not be done without dogs. Search and rescue, helping the disabled, working in the forces home and abroad. Putting their lives on the line for their human counter parts. Lets not forget also the contribution dogs are making in health care where they are being trained to identify early signs of seizures and the like. We cannot exist without dogs nor should we. But we have to start learning to understand them more. Understand basic things like their needs. If we continue to ignore a dogs basic needs and not understand what motivates and drives them we will continue to run into conflict. Only through proper socialisation at the earliest age and proper training throughout its life can we hope to coexist without future incidents like the latest tragedy which occurred this week. Its up to us, the dogs can’t do it for us. We need to take the initiative here. We owe to them to try.

Monday, 17 February 2014


So its only 3 weeks till Crufts 2014. The training team at Tahamasa Canine Academy will be heading off on the Thursday for three days of doggie Disney land. If you have never been to the biggest dog show on earth, and you have anything to do with dogs, you really need to make the trip. You will not be disappointed. Over the years we have met some very interesting people at Crufts and no doubt we will reacquaint ourselves with them and meet new friends this year. Its that type of place.
Dont be put off by thinking it is just for show dogs. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do not show dogs and we have a fun packed three days there every year.
Last year we joined the Kennel Club’s Accredited Instructors Scheme and attended some very interesting lectures which were given by some of the most prominent canine professionals around at the moment. This year we have lined a few more,

Developing Agility Instruction & Coaching in a changing sport.
Aggression, why we are were we are.
Temperament testing in a rescue environment.
Dangerous dogs, are puppy parties to blame?

Phew,... and this is supposed to be a holiday. I’m sure there will be some retail therapy thrown in for good measure. And at night we can relax with a glass of wine and recant on the days many activities.

Having obtained Kennel Club listed status this year for our training academy, we will attending with great interest the Good Citizen Dog Scheme arena to see the latest training ideas. This arena is always buzzing with some great entertainment. Don’t forget off course the heel work to music competitions in the main arena throughout the weekend and the agility competitions also. I particularly like the rescue agility competitions and the ‘Anything But a Collie’ agility competitions.

These particular shows demonstrate that its not just collies that can compete in agility, any dog that has been trained can take part and have fun.

So these are just some of the things that we will be enjoying at our time at Crufts. If you are involved with dogs in any way shape or form you really should not pass up the opportunity to come and see what its all about.
See you there March 6th - 9th.

Thursday, 30 January 2014


The PDSA produced a well being report in 2012.
These are some of the highlights:
Dogs have five basic welfare needs;
Now some interesting stats;
53% of UK households have pets
23% of UK households have dogs (thats 8.5 million dogs)
27% of UK households have cats
Obesity is a major concern in canines and the problem is pardon the pun growing. When surveyed, owners revealed that the reasons why they feed their pets treats are as follows;
1% as a result of a TV advertisement
8% said their pet ‘looked’ hungry
9% were guilty of leaving them on their own
14% were because the pet was begging
13% gave their dog a treat because they were having a treat themselves
29% said it made the owner happy to give them a treat
34% admitted treats were part of the daily diet
48% said it made this pet happy
16% never gave their dogs any treats.

As for training;
5.3 million dogs have never attended formal obedience training
25% of puppies have never been properly socialised
1 in 3 owners have been bitten or attacked

The cost of owning a dog was a bit of a shock;
Lifetime costs of owning a dog were between £16’000 and £31’000 depending upon size per dog.
Surprisingly 59% of pet owners don’t take out insurance.
Information courtesy of PDSA
How much of a surprise is any of this to you??

Monday, 13 January 2014


I spotted this post on Dr Sophia Yin’s blog and thought it might be useful to anyone out there who is thinking of getting a dog. Some of it could apply to picking a puppy as well.
Dr Sophia Yin is a renowned Veterinarian and Animal Behaviourist

Adopting a Dog: Some Dogs are Easier Than Others
Posted On: Sunday, May 19th, 2013
By Dr. Sophia Yin
Have you heard this statement from so many people that it seems like it's an epidemic? "We had a Labrador mix when I was a kid and he was perfect. How come our new dog is so much harder? Is it the inbreeding?"
Or does the statement go more like this, “We got Lucky from the shelter and she’s so calm. Then we adopted Nero 2 years later as a playmate for her. He’s the same breed and age that she is, but he’s just hyper and crazy! We don’t know what to do with him!
The problem here is that while we humans realize that dogs come in more sizes and styles than Versace shoes, we often fail to acknowledge that dogs come with equally heterogenous personalities. So, if you’re looking for that perfect canine match, you’ll have to carefully evaluate your lifestyle and the amount of training you’re willing to invest, plus the characteristics of the dog. What types of characteristics as well as warning signs should you look for? Here are some tips.

Tip 1: A Passing Shelter Evaluation Doesn’t Mean a Perfect Pet.
Shelter evaluations are just a basic test meant to weed out the dogs that will be clearly difficult. Many dogs will slip under the wire or the problems will show up when they are in a more normal household environment.
Says one unlucky adopter, Tina Wang, whose dog Riley turned out to be fear aggressive to dogs and people, “The animal control officer told me that the officer who picked him up as a stray said Riley was really likable and gave him his kennel name. They don't give them a name unless they like the dog. I did feel misled because Riley passed his behavior evaluation with flying colors. He got an A-, and the minus was because when they hugged him he leaned away. So from that, we just thought he was perfect except he might not be the cuddliest dog.”
Little did Tina know that the subtle behaviors Riley was showing that day and early on in her home were actually predictors that he was at risk for some serious issues. “We introduced him immediately to friends and family and he was not reactive. Two months after adoption, he lunged and snapped at my friend who was petting him while he was chewing on a bone. Since it only happened that one time, we figured it wouldn't happen again, so we continued to let adults and children walk him and pet him. Every time someone came over, he would only bark for a few seconds, then be quiet and let people pet him.”

Tip 2: Being Non-Reactive is Not the Same as Being Friendly or Relaxed.
Problem is that Tina and company assumed that being-non-reactive was the same as being friendly or relaxed. They didn’t know to look for signs of anxiety or fear. If they had they would have realized that Riley was uncomfortable with unfamiliar people, especially when they bothered him when he was concentrating, such as when eating a bone. He was not aggressive to his close family in the same situations. If they had realized Riley had issues early on, they could have started him on a program to train him to associate unfamiliar people with pleasant experiences, instead of letting him have continued bad experiences leading to a level 1 pre-bite (snap and miss). (Learn more about bite levels in dogs)
Even if you don’t have the training to recognize subtle signs of fear, some signs are pretty obvious if you stop to think about it. For instance, says Tina, “When Riley was first adopted, people would pet him and we didn’t see any signs that I can recall.” They didn’t know what to look for. But they did notice, that for the first year, when people came over, Riley barked and backed away as he barked. Then he would come up to guests when they were eating and allow petting, but says Tina, “he didn’t lean into it.”

Tip 3: Don't Ignore the Obvious Signs of Fear.
Most likely Tina missed the signs of licking the lips, averting gaze, and yawning (See blog on signs of fear in dogs). But even if you don’t recognize that, barking and backing away are a dead give-away that it’s fear. Friendly dogs that just bark because there’s a change in environment and they’ve learned that barking is fun look relaxed once they are near the objects they are barking at. Then they solicit attention rather than backing away. Even when Riley got used to the people being over and was interested in their food, he only tolerated their petting him; he didn’t like it. Any sudden movement could have scared him and caused him to bark again.

Tip 4: Dogs Who Walk in An Overly Aroused Manner Are at Risk.
Not only did Riley have a developing fear of unfamiliar people, he was also reactive to unfamiliar dogs. “His hackles were raised every time he saw a dog on the street, big or small. He pulled and choked himself on walks and never paid attention to me.” Many people consider these high excitement behaviors to be normal for dogs; however, dogs that pull and walk in a hectic, hyperactive manner on a leash are showing lack of impulse control, which could develop into over-arousal and aggression. If you can’t get their attention back easily they are at risk for turning out like Riley.
In retrospect, Tina realizes that Riley was afraid outside. “Now looking back on it, he was so nervous that he wouldn't even drink water outdoors even after a ½ mile bike ride. He never acknowledged my existence when we were outside.”
This is how his behavior started, but it progressed. States Tina, “Over the years, he just got worse and worse. His aggression escalated from barking to lunging to biting. I think we were always just thinking "maybe this time he'll be ok," and he never was. It just got worse.”
Tina finally found help and is working on a specific behavior modification plan but it’s been a learning curve. “I didn't know he would be such a challenge, but we love him and wouldn't ever return him. He's been my best teacher yet.”
Tina admits that Riley lucked out. “I would not know what his fate would've been had he or other dogs like him been adopted by families who just wanted a normal dog!”

Tip 5: Look for a Dog that Calms Down Quickly.
That showed what to avoid, here are two cases of what you might want to look for in a dog you’re adopting. Throughout the years my dog class co-instructor, Melissa Morris, has fostered and brought a lot of dogs through our training doors, many of which have been incredibly easy. The most recent have been Gertie the black Brussels Griffon mix and Violet the Shih Tzu mix, both from the shelter.
Says Melissa, “I selected them because they were friendly and both calmed down easily.” Even though Gertie, a puppy, was really energetic, she had an "off switch.”
“She'd play for 5 minutes, then would be happy to sit next to you and relax,” says Melissa.
Violet, on the other hand, was just calm altogether. The first week she mostly lay in a dog bed, even when visiting a new location. She was just getting used to the new environments. By the second week, her personality blossomed. She followed Melissa around the house, happily greeting all people, and played in a relaxed manner with the many dogs she met, but lay down in the bed on cue and when Melissa asked her to settle down.

Tip 6: Dogs that Enjoy Attention, Petting and Praise are Easier to Train.
Both Gertie and Violet easily found homes and barely needed any training. Says Melissa, “When they are calm already, then they are easy to live with so you tend to have more patience with them in other situations.” Both Gertie and Violet also both automatically walked well on leash, sticking close to Melissa and rarely walking ahead or pulling. They even both already had a good come when called. They would both come running full speed when called even with minimal practice with food rewards. They both enjoy being with people and place a high value on attention, petting, and praise. Says Melissa, “The other day when Gertie was going to run up to greet a dog outside, I just called her and she immediately came running over without thinking.”

Tip 7: Evaluate Based on the Signs You See Not on How You Think the Dog Might Change.
While Melissa has been highly successful predicting which foster dogs will be easy for adopters to handle because she selects for behavior, Tina’s number one mistake is that she selected Riley primarily for his looks. She states, “He was good looking and we were looking for a dog around 25-30lbs. He fit the criteria.” They didn’t take his behavior into account. States Tina, “Although he didn't beg for affection at the shelter, we just thought it was because he didn’t know us and that he would get more loving once he got more comfortable with us.” But Riley’s never become as affectionate as Violet and Gertie. He likes food and training but isn’t that motivated for petting, praise or attention.

So, are you starting to see the patterns? Here’s a quick summary if you’re looking to adopt a dog who will easily integrate into your family and who won’t need tons of training:
Choose a dog that’s relatively calm or that can calm down easily (within a second or two) and then lie down.
Choose a dog who is interested in you and enjoys some praise and petting. That dog will naturally focus more on you.
Choose a dog who is relaxed around unfamiliar people and dogs and shows signs that they enjoy their company.
While the dog needn’t be perfect on leash, dragging in many directions can be due to anxiety or over-arousal and may indicate low impulse control.

Choosing the right dog means theres less likelihood that it will end up back in rescue again. So take your time. Go with the head not the heart.
Enjoy... If you liked this blog you should check out Dr Sophia Yin’s blog