Saturday, 31 October 2015


Here is a handy leaflet from the RSPCA on what you should do on Fireworks night. It is estimated that some 45% of dogs get anxious when fireworks are let off. If your pet is really frightened then you should seek veterinary advice.

Sunday, 11 October 2015


Hi, These are the famous Glasgow Red Road Flats. They began construction in 1964 and were completed in 1969. They were officially opened in 1971.
Today at approximately 15:18 they were demolished with explosives as part of a regeneration of the area. These flats were an iconic part of the Glasgow landscape and quite famous. So it was of no surprise to me that on the day they were brought down a sizeable crowd had gathered to watch this significant event. Significant to not only the many Glaswegians who live here but the other visitors and people who had once lived in these flats. Many foreign visitors to our city stayed in these flats for a time. 

History lesson over now for my rant. 
As a keen amateur  photographer I was excited at the prospect of capturing this historic Occassion. 
I only found out the day before that this was actually happening today the 11th October. What I couldnt find out was what time it was happening. However through some contacts I learned that it was either 11:00 or 12:00 midday. So off I, and several hundred other people, set to find a suitable vantage point to witness this truly spectacular event. I made it to a place nearby by about 10:45. I set up my equipment and waited,.....and waited....and waited. 12 came and went and nothing. I learned again from another source that the detonation had been put back to some time after 14:00. So I packed up and went home. I live quite close to the area. I was a bit upset at the lack of communication at that point. Nothing to what I would feel later. Back home I busied myself charging batteries etc. At about 14:00 I left home and went back to my vantage point once again to capture this spectacular event. Once again I heard on the grapevine that blast off was 15:00. Not wanting to waste any batteries I delayed setting up until 14:55. Just in case there was a slight delay. I sent my drone up at 15:00 hoping I hadn't delayed too long and missed it. And I waited with breathless anticipation, and I waited.......and waited.  A drone battery lasts typically 20 minutes. At 15:16 I was getting nervous that I might run out of power and my drone would plummet from the sky. So I brought it back down to check it and replace the battery. I had also heard from another source that there would be a klaxon sounding to warn everybody about the loud noise. So I felt pretty confident.  
Drone on the ground, battery in hand and then BANG. I looked up and there was the largest dust cloud I had ever seen. No warning, no klaxon, no count down, nothing just BANG and 3 seconds later, nothing but dust. Now ok I can take some of the blame here for not having enough battery life in my equipment but I have to ponder and think.
If we were in America right now. This event would have been handled so much differently.
First of all it would have been on all the media channels weeks before making a big build up for such an iconic set of buildings. On the day I am sure there would have been marching bands and majorettes marching down Royston road hours before the big bang. They would have had video screens the size of Hampden placed at strategic points around the area for spectators to feel part of the occassion. The Mayor, or in our case the Lord Provost, would have been invited along to give a speech about regeneration and to start the countdown, which via video screens we would all have joined in. My point is this, we suck here in Glasgow and Scotland at putting on a show for such things as these for the ordinary punter. The only time we seem to put on any kind of show is when we want to charge money for the privilege of taking part. We had an opportunity here to get the people of Glasgow right behind this event. After all its our city and our buildings. But instead we botched the whole thing up, we couldn't even get the time right and had hundreds of people lining up for a view for nearly four hours and the whole thing was over in 4 seconds. Quite frankly Glasgow City Council BLEW IT.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


In my work I am often asked to help people who have dogs with behaviour issues. Some of these ‘issues’ are no more than natural behaviours for dogs and its my job to interpret these behaviours and educate the owners as to why their dogs are displaying them. Most of the time the owners would prefer the dog not to do them. For example ‘jumping up’ whenever the dog greets someone. Its completely understandable why an owner would want their dog to stop jumping up on unsuspecting visitors to the home or people they meet in the street. Apart from the obvious annoyance to the people being set upon there can also be a danger if said mis behaving dog jumps up on someone who is easily knocked off balance like an elderly person or a child. So thats were I come in. However thats not what I want to talk about today. As well as these behaviours being natural to dogs, sometimes behaviours are caused by what we feed them.
The food we give our dogs provide the building blocks for muscle growth, healthy organs, bone structure and hormones. Food also provides component parts that are required to regulate the neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals released in the body that send messages back and forth through the brain. These neurotransmitters control mood, emotions and ultimately behaviour. Those effects we feel after a satisfying meal, our dogs feel as well. Think about how you feel after Christmas dinner. Well stuffed and ready to relax by the fire. Now think about the energy high’s you get when you have an energy drink or a large bar of chocolate. The sugar rush can be quite high. Dogs feel these short term affects just the same as humans. Furthermore our diets can have long term effects on our emotional outlook. There is ongoing research right now into what influences there might be from the dog food we feed our dogs on such things as anxiety, activity and even levels of aggression. Some of these lasting many weeks and months. So the next time you go to the pet store to get your next bag of food you might want to consider what it is your feeding him and wether or not it is contributing to some of his or her behaviour issues.

If you would like to read more on this there is an article written by Rebecca Ledger PhD. in her blog behaviour dept.

“An advanced guide to improving dog behaviour and welfare with dietary management.”

Tuesday, 22 September 2015


A businessman was visiting a small village and one day went down to the pier just as a small fishing boat was coming back in from fishing out in the bay.
On the small boat were a few large Salmon. The businessman complimented the fisherman on the catch and asked how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied "only a short time". The businessman then asked why he hadn’t stayed out longer and catch more fish.
The fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The businessman then asked what he did the rest of his time? “I lie late, fish a little, play a little with my dogs, take an afternoon nap with my wife, take a walk into the village at night and sit and watch the stars whilst sipping a glass of wine”. “I am very busy” said the fisherman.
The businessman scoffed and said “I have an MBA and could help you out”. “You should spend more time out fishing and with the proceeds from the bigger catch you could buy a bigger boat”. “From the profit made with the bigger boat and bigger catches you could buy several boats”. “Eventually you would own a fleet of boats". "Instead of selling your fish to a middle man you could sell directly to the processor, eventually penning your own cannery”. “You would control the product the process and the distribution”. “You would need to leave this small village and move to the city to run your expanding business”. 

The fisherman asked how long would this take? “15 - 20 years”, replied the businessman. “What then”, asked the fisherman.

“Thats the beauty of it”, says the businessman. “When the time was right you would float the company on the stock market and  sell the business making millions”.
“Millions” said the fisherman, “then what”?

The businessman said “Then you could retire to a small village with your family and dogs, lie late, go for strolls and take it easy watching the stars sipping a nice glass of wine”.

Monday, 21 September 2015


I was out walking my dog this morning as usual. She’s a white Northern Inuit. I rescued her from Dogs Trust about six years ago. When she came to the house she was, to put it politely a basket case. Throughout the first year at home she had a go at each of the other three female dogs in the house. Being the biggest she challenged them all for the right to be top dog one after another. I had my hands full with her to say the least. 

Miya and Star playing in the snow last year.

Out walking with her in those early days was a challenge in that every time I met another handler and dog combo she would go into stalking mode and completely freak out the oncoming duo. Her head would go down in line with her spine in an almost arrow like fashion and she would slow her walking pace. Her body would slightly stiffen just like you see the lions on the serengeti do when stalking an impala. By the time the other dog came close it was ready for a fight. It took me many months to train her through redirection that this was not an acceptable way to greet other dogs. But we made a lot of progress in that first year. She still resorts to this behaviour if i let her but I am suitably aware now of her behaviour and work hard at getting her to focus on me when other handler/dogs approach meaning the whole encounter now is much more relaxed. 
Anyway back to this morning, I was out as usual walking round my usual walk on which we encounter mostly the usual suspects out walking their dogs. As a behavioural trainer I like to watch other handlers walking with their dogs to get a flavour of what their relationship is like. Who’s walking who? Given all the work I have put in to getting Miya to stop stalking approaching dogs you can imagine how I feel when other handlers are completely oblivious to their own dogs body language as they walk along either talking to their friends or checking their Facebook status on the phone. Having no idea that their dog is sending all sorts of messages to an approaching dog, child or other high value distraction. One such owner and dog came towards me this morning. I have seen this person many times on this same route. The dog is a Lab and walks like its a metal detector sweeping from one side to the other as it moves forwards. The owner is usually on her phone either deep in conversation or as I say checking her FB status. Normally I go in the opposite direction so as to avoid any interaction between the dogs. I have witnessed countless times how she lets her dog go up to oncoming handlers and dogs to ‘let her dog say hello’. Up until today I never knew whether the other handlers and dogs had any say in the greeting. This morning I found out. I found myself on the same path heading straight for them. The only alternative option I had was to turn around and head back the way I came but that would have been socially unacceptable to some people. So I carried on. On they came the lab was on an extending lead and it was at the very end of the extension coming straight for us. The thought crossed my mind briefly. Let Miya go and the lab can take its chances. I thought that the fall out wasn’t worth it. So I called Miya to me and talked to her. I asked her to sit and glanced towards the oncoming duo. Now at this point the mere fact that I had called my dog in to close control and made her sit might have you think that  the other handler would see this and think ’he’s called his dog in and has her under close control, I will do the same just incase his dog is in any way aggressive’. But no she kept coming with her dog at the end of the extension some 15 feet in front of her. There was no way she could have done anything had it kicked off, she was too far behind. As they got to within striking distance I began speaking to Miya which immediately got her attention. I glanced towards the other handler who said, whilst continuing to come straight for us, wait for it… “Will I apologise now for my dogs behaviour”. As she finished this statement her dog was right up into Miya’s face adopting a submissive posture. “She does this all the time”, she says. “She just loves saying hello to strange dogs”. “She’s very sociable”. Now thats all well and good and because of all the work I have done with Miya over the last few years there was unlikely to be an incident, however. Had I been just a normal run of the mill owner like her, who let their dog just go and say hello, chances are there might have been a flare up. 
Its all very well people, saying your dog is friendly and just wants to say hello, but what you don’t take into consideration is that the dog that is coming towards you might not like other dogs coming into its space. It might look quite happy walking along with its owner because theres a decent distance between you, but the second you let your dog go right up to another dog you are forcing that dog to make a decision. A decision between, ok i’ll let you say hello or no I really don’t want you coming into my personal space so i’m going to tell you, the only way I know how, to get back, and thats by snapping and lunging at you. Ordinarily that would be acceptable in the dogs world because they know and understand what was being communicated here. But the owner interprets it differently because they don’t understand what just happened there. More times than not the owner of the friendly dog who just wants to say hello takes offence to the fact that their dog has just been snapped at. What they don’t appreciate is that the poor dog that snapped was put in a situation were its options were limited and only did what comes naturally. The bottom line is who’s at fault here is the person with the friendly dog who just wants to say hello. Just because you think your dog is friendly, doesn’t give you the right to let it go barging up to other dogs so that it can make new friends. 
Respect other peoples boundaries people, and if you see another handler take steps to get their dog in and under control, at the very least ask if its ok for your dog to say hello to the other dog, don’t just assume its ok. And if a dog snaps at your dog, don’t blame the other dog and handler, the fault lies with you and your handling.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015


In this months Kennel Club Standard news letter there’s an interesting article written by one of the trainers that will be at their teaching event this weekend.
The article is about a recent trip she was on using public transport and whilst travelling, she sat near a dog owner who was busy speaking to their dog about something it was or wasn’t doing. The article boiled down to the fact that this trainer felt that we as trainers were not getting our message across to our clients and the general dog owning public at large that, Dogs cannot understand us when we speak to them. This particular dog owner was saying something along the lines of “now I have told you before that what you are doing is wrong, so why are you doing it again”. So not only has the poor dog supposed to understand what its owner is saying but that it also has to relate what it was told last week to the bad behaviour it is doing now.
Challenged by this trainers remarks that we are not getting our message across, I carried out a straw poll in one of my classes this week.
I posed the question “who among us believed that our dogs understood us when we spoke to them?” I was surprised by the response that I got. About 30% believed that when they spoke to their dogs albeit in short sentences they understood. For example if told No, bad dog. The dog knew it had done wrong.
Now in my classes, the first thing I tell my clients during the very first lesson is to imagine for the next 12 weeks that their dogs only spoke Russian. They spoke no words of english. I always check first before I say this, in case anyone in the class speaks Russian. One day someone will say yes.
I carry on and say that in order for us to get our dogs to understand English we would need to show them first what it is we want them to do and then teach them the English word for that. Much like we would try to teach someone we had met for the first time from a country whose language we didn’t understand. So simple things like “would you like a seat” would prove challenging if we couldn’t speak their language. I then ask them to demonstrate how they would do this using a stooge.
I then challenge them to do the same thing with their dogs when asking them to do everyday things like ‘Sit’, ‘Down’ etc.
The fact that I go through this with every class made me all the more surprised by the results of my straw poll.
I thought I was getting the message across quite effectively.
So then I gave the article I read more thought and I think I can offer up some possible reasons why some dog owners speak to their dogs.

Firstly, is that its easy for humans to believe something is right if they want to believe it in the first place. And if there is any kind of acknowledgement of that belief then all the better.
So when we say ‘NO, Bad Dog’ and the dog shows any kind of submission, its easy to believe that they understood what we mean. Yes I know that what the dog is doing is reacting to our body language and raised voice. But it makes sense to some people.

There is also a situation when handlers will scold their dogs for jumping up on other people or snap at an approaching dog. Most of this talk is for the other humans benefit. “Oh look what you’ve done, thats a bad dog making that nice ladies coat all dirty, now you go and apologise”.

Lastly why I think people talk to their dogs is because basically we are sociable beings and like to talk. Where people live in a single human environment with only a dog as a companion then i’m sure it gives them great comfort to hold a conversation with their only companion. And when that companion looks back and gives a few thumps of its tail and smiles with its eyes, then the human feels warm and happy inside. So it affects their wellbeing, even if deep down they will admit that the dog doesn’t completely understand them. And that can’t be a bad thing can it?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015


A man walks past a beggar and the beggar says “Can you spare some change” The man says “Sorry I have no money”. The man then notices that the beggar is sitting on a box. “What is in the box” the man asks the beggar? “I don’t know” the beggar replies. “How long have you been sitting on the box” the man says. “30 years” the beggar replies. “Why don’t you open the box and see whats inside” says the man. “Theres no point there’s nothing in it” says the beggar. “Try it anyway” says the man. The beggar gets up and turns and tries to open the box. After a bit of a struggle he manages to pry the lid open. To his surprise the box is filled with gold.
The beggar was unaware he had been sitting on a box of gold for more than thirty years.

If you look inside, not any old box as in the parable above, but inside yourself you will find Joy and deep unshakable peace. People with material wealth are still beggars, continually looking outside for scraps of pleasure, fulfilment, validation, security, acceptance or love, whilst inside they will find all of those things and more than the world can offer. - ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle 

Are you a beggar?

Dogs are not beggars. I know of no dog that seeks fulfilment other than to satisfy its basic of needs, food and water, warmth, shelter, security and companionship. Dogs are expert at living in the Now. Living in the moment. Not looking back, not looking forward. Taking everything they need from this moment in time. We could learn a lot from living in the now. We can learn a lot from dogs.  

Wednesday, 29 July 2015


5 Quick tips on Dog Training.

Teaching a recall. Don’t wait till your off lead walk is over before calling him back to you. Periodically call your dog back during the off-lead walk and put him back on the lead again for a few steps then let him off to run free. that way he won’t learn that when you call him the walk is over and its time to go home.

If using treats to reward your dog, remember to use a higher value treat than the one you give him on a day to day basis just for being a good companion. If your dog values the treat you give him when you reward him for doing something difficult the chances are he will repeat that behaviour to see if he gets the same high value treat again.

If your dog reacts to the brush when grooming, hold a carrot or raw hide chew in one hand and let him chew on it whilst you run the brush over him with your other hand. That way you distract him from the brush and give him a pleasant association every time you brush him.

Use dinner time to reinforce those difficult to master behaviours like ‘down’, ‘stay’ or ‘come when called’. The dog’s dinner is the ultimate high value reward and he’s more likely to give you the behaviour in return for his dinner.

Mentally exercising your dog is just as important as physical exercise. If you feed your dog dry food and you have a private secure garden, then consider spreading your dogs dinner around the garden rather than feeding him from his bowl. You can turn it into a hide and seek game which will occupy him for up to half an hour and improve his digestion. In inclement weather you can spread it round the kitchen floor. He will take ages finding it to make sure he hasn’t missed any.

Let me know what you think?
See you soon.............

Thursday, 9 July 2015


Ben my Black Labrador
Have you just got a new Puppy? Have you brought it into a home that already has an older dog?
Is it annoying the older dog?

There are many reasons why a puppy will annoy an older dog. Most of the time its innocent enough. Boredom and bonding mostly. However your older dog can still get stressed out by the unwanted attention. Some times this can lead to less than ideal times in the home. But we can help to correct this behaviour or even avoid it. We can teach our puppies how to interact with the older dog in the home.

Puppies get bored and if you leave them alone inside the house all day with nothing to do they can become Tasmanian devils of energy, tearing up the place. Lack of exercise is one of the main problems. By ensuring our puppies are regularly and well exercised we tire them out and therefore less likely to use up his energy annoying the other dog in the house. A couple of long walks a day or several hours out in the garden should tire your puppy out.
Boredom is another thing that will encourage your puppy to seek attention. Make sure there are plenty of puppy toys lying about. Try different toys, squeaky, rattling, moving. Try different things and then let him have his favourite. Keep him interested and he will be less interested in getting his play time with another dog.
Most people who buy a pup for the first time dont realise their puppies ability to learn. They tend to wait far too long before enrolling them in obedience classes or begin training them in obedience at home. Puppies can learn new behaviours like sit, down, stay and come from around 8 weeks old. You should begin your puppies training as soon as you get it home. Better still enrol them in a puppy class and start the socialisation period as well. Early socialisation is key to having a well balanced well mannered all round nice dog. By starting your training early you can teach your puppy self control and discipline. This will help in teaching your puppy boundaries like not annoying the older dog. 
Always make sure you don't alloy your puppy to annoy the older dog, give corrections like making him take a time out. Always give your older dog some where it can go to get away from the annoying puppy to relax and chill out.
Most of the time the annoying behaviour can be corrected with a little care and training. So get your puppy active, give it toys to play with, enrol in a training class and start its training right away.

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

Monday, 8 June 2015


Not my usual blog entry however I though it worth mentioning on here also. We will be enrolling for new Puppy Foundation and Bronze level courses in July after we come back from a much needed two week vacation. We will be back refreshed and raring to go. Its been a busy old year. We successfully transferred our academy from the Torrance Community Centre to the Caldwell Halls, still in Torrance. The Caldwell Halls is a much more suitable venue for our training and we are pleased to be there. The upper hall is going through some refurbishment at the moment and when its finished later this week it will look great. Cant wait to get back in there on a Monday night. We introduced a class on a Friday afternoon this year and it is going well. It started off as a Puppy Foundation class but they have all graduated and it is a Bronze class now. Its going well but we want to add another Puppy Foundation class to the Friday afternoon at a different time though. As usual its slow to take off but we are confident that as word spreads there will be more demand.
This year also saw me join the board of Trustees for the Caldwell Halls Trust. I am really pleased to be part of this board an I look forward to helping to get the best out of the hall for the local community. I also joined the organising committee for the Baldernock and Campsie Agricultural show. On this committee I assumed the position of Dog Convener. I was asked if I would run the Dog show this year and was happy to accept. The show went ahead on Saturday 6th June. Unfortunately and right on cue the weather threatened to force the event to be cancelled. But we are a hardy bunch on the West Coast of Scotland and we were not to be put off lightly. The winds were gusting early in the morning and the rain was driven at times. However as if by magic at around two o'clock the clouds parted very briefly and the rain stopped long enough for us to run our six classes. Three show classes and three novelty classes. Considering the day it started out, the turnout was not too disappointing and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We are obviously claiming it as a roaring success because it was our first year as the organisers (obviously). But joking aside it ran very smoothly. There were a couple of little hiccups and there were some things that I think we could improve on for next year. But like everything else in life we learn by doing. If we are asked to organise next years event we have a few suggestions that might make it a bit more entertaining and last a bit longer. But I don't want to divulge anything just yet until i've talked it over with my team, who by the way were awesome for their first event. Couldn't have done it without them.

Here are some pics of the event. The first one is of the show field on the Friday before the event started. We spent all day Thursday and Friday setting it up. Then theres the show classes in full swing and finally the 'Best in Show'. Lesley MacGregor with 'Woody' the Gordon Setter and Barbara Elder our fantastic judge for the day.

Saturday, 2 May 2015


I read an article in Junes issue of Psychology Today about a new treatment being offered at Promises Treatment Centres. There are a number of these centres in the US. They specialise in treating a wide variety of addictions, such as alcoholism, cocaine addiction, prescription drug abuse and marijuana abuse. they also offer a wide variety of treatment options. their newest treatment option is called Wolf Therapy. From the article in Psychology Today “Wolf therapy is a hands on, highly impactful blend of experiential therapy and animal assisted therapy. Young adults at Promises have a unique opportunity to work and hike side by side with a wolf-dog - wolves that have been bred with various dog breeds as pets - to process the issues”.
The article goes onto explain how we as humans have a primal connection to the wolf “drawn together as allies”. Wolf therapy eases depression, anxiety and stress. All issues that are common in young adults in rehab and blinds their motivation to complete their treatment.
The biggest challenge faced by Promises is getting the young adults to engage with the program. They found that the wolves have a unique capacity for breaking down the defences of the adults. But where did the wolves come from?
Promises treatment centres have partnered with Wolf Connection. this is a non for profit wolf dog rescue and youth empowerment program.
This organisation has rescued these wolf dogs from certain death and brought them back from the brink. 

Beau belonged to a family that couldn’t manage him. After being tied to a tree with wire, he had every rib visible and an infected wound around his neck.

Shade was rescued from a family in Texas whose college-aged son thought it would be cool to keep a wolf dog in his dorm room on campus(which was needless to say was destroyed).

Ozzy came to wolf connection sick and malnourished having been abandoned in the harshest of ways. He was pushed out of a moving car onto the side of the road.

Maya was one of the first animals rescued and is the Alpha female. She came from another rescue centre that had closed down.


What this group are doing is rescuing not only one species but two. By using wolf dogs, Promises is rescuing the human species as well. How awesome is that?? 
You won’t be hearing about this story on the BBC. Only the negative stories of dogs and wolves get reported on primetime news. 


Wednesday, 29 April 2015


On neutering, you will be hard pressed to find a vet today that would recommend anything but neutering your pet early in their life, normally around six months. The reasons given are always the same, prevent unwanted babies and long term health benefits including a reduction in cancer. 

But unlike your appendix for example where it's absence is not noticed in your daily routine, your reproductive (or sex) organs play a whole host of hormonal roles that stretch far beyond the manufacturing of babies. Like dry food, parasite control, annual boosting and casual steroid shots, these things are not without consequence for the patient and too rarely are these consequences ever discussed with the owner. It is not enough that we are told things are perfectly harmless. We must go into the decision with eyes wide open. 

So here's what we know of neutering dogs early in their life. The implications for your pet and society as a whole are then discussed below. It's a whopper of an article, maybe grab a cup of tea first! This would normally be two articles but if I chop it in half people will be left with too many questions. Please leave emotion at the door and your comments below!

In male mammals the gonads are the two testes, and in females the gonads are the two ovaries.

The gonads are best known for making gametes (single celled germ cells) which is sperm in males and eggs in females. These two cells then get it on inside the female and make a baby. Most of us have that down pat. 

But the gonads also produce a variety of hormones including the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone; and the male hormones including testosterone and androsterone. However men necessarily have some of the female hormones, and women some of the male hormones. 

While sex hormones in males and females function largely in the whole “sex” business from conception to baby birth, they also play pivotal roles in the maintenance of body muscle and bone growth. 

We see testosterone's dramatic effects in lanky 13 year old males. It controls all the typical puberty bits in males such as the less useful growth of the adams apple, facial and body hair to the very much more useful height and muscle mass of the individual. As adults testosterone continues to function in maintaining muscle strength and mass, and it promotes healthy bone density. It also reduces body fat (one reason why some spayed pets can put on weight).

Estrogen too functions in skeletal growth. At puberty, estrogen promotes skeletal maturation and the gradual, progressive closure of the epiphyseal growth plate (plates of cartilage at the end of bones, which are responsible for laying down new bone). Estrogen also functions in maintaining the mineral acquisition by your bones. 

Neutering or 'spaying' a female animal involves removing the womb and ovaries (an ovaro-hysterectomy). Males are castrated whereby the testicles are surgically removed. This is done before dogs come into puberty (i.e. start producing sex hormones for the first time) which is very approximately 6 months in males and around 9 months in females, though breed and body size play large rolls here. General advice from the majority of veterinary circles is that responsible dog owners neuter at 6m months. In other countries it is much earlier. Both operations are carried out under general anesthetic.

The number one reason for removing the sex hormones is to prevent unwanted breeding, hence folk at the front line of mopping up all our unwanted fur babies are very big fans ( The major health benefit constantly cited is to prevent the possible occurrence of testicular cancer, peri-anal cancers and ovarian cancers in dogs and cats. Other reasons often cited is the spread of inferior genetic traits and to reduce problematic behaviour including male-male aggression around females in heat and the roaming behaviour of both males and females when love is in the air.

The early neutering of dogs is not without it's side effects or critics, and I'm certainly one of them. But please, before the heavily stressed and over-worked shelter staff post up about overpopulation problems (I spent a couple of years in them too), lets look at this this issue with less emotion and more science.

If we ignore the fact that gonadal cancers are rare enough in a general population and that dogs recover very well from testicular cancer following diagnosis and castration, by removing the gonads in developing animals you certainly prevent the possible occurrence of gonadal cancers such as testicular and ovarian cancer. However, ironically, while these possible cancers of your pet will be avoided, numerous studies show that removing the sex organs early in the developmental period of an animal causes cancer in your pet, just not in their testes or ovaries. 

A study in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, compiled over 13 years found that "… neutering dogs appeared to increase the risk of cardiac tumor in both sexes”. The results showed that spayed females were five times more likely to to suffer tumours of the heart than intact females 
(Ware and Hopper, 1999,

In another study spanning 14 years of research it was concluded that sterlisation increased the risk for bone cancer in large breed pure-breds twofold. 
(Ru et al. 1998, 

Upon further investigation using male and female Rottweilers spayed or neutered before one year of age, both sexes were found to be significantly more likely to develop bone cancer than intact dogs with early sterlisation bestowing a staggering 25% likelihood of bone cancer in your Rottweiler.
(Cooley et al. 2002, 

It's often stated that neutering a male dog will prevent prostate cancer but some authors refute this on the basis that “ non-testicular androgens exert a significant influence on the canine prostate”. The College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University found "…castration at any age showed no sparing effect on the risk of development of prostate cancer in the dog."

All these considered, it's hard to argue the cancer benefits to neutering early or you end up playing the whole “I see your very slight chance of testicular cancer and raise you a certain increase in bone and heart tumours”. 

Testosterone and estrogen play pivotal roles in the development of your muscles and bones. It stands to reason that if you remove testosterone and estrogen from the vital and dramatic puberty growth phase there will be consequences to that individual's height, muscle mass and bone formation of the individual, compared to an intact animal of the same size and breeding. Studies show this to be absolutely the case. 

A study by Stubbs and Bloomberg (1995) set out to answer the following theory: Estrogen tells the growth plates to stop. Thus if you remove the estrogen-producing organs in immature dogs, female and male, you could expect cause growth plates to remain open and the dog to grow longer bones. They divided dogs and cats into three groups. Group one was neutered at 7 wks, group two at 7 months, and group three remained unneutered. They found that “early spay/neuter may result in a slight increase in adult height”. The earlier the spay the taller the dog. Other authors found similar findings (Salmeri et al 1991). 
Preston Stubbs, DVM & Mark Bloomberg, DVM Seminars in Vet Med & Surgery, Small Animal, Volume 10, No 1 Feb 1995 Dept of Small Animal Clin Sci, Univ of Florida
Katherine Salmeri, DVM, Mark Bllomber, DVM, Sherry Scuggs, BS, Victor Shille DVM, Journal of American Vet Med Association, Volume 198, No 7 1991

Thus with no estrogen to shut it down, these animals can continue to grow and wind up with abnormal growth patterns and bone structure. This results in irregular body proportions. 

Grumbach (2000) quotes Chris Zink, DVM to explain the problem with neutering males and females early and cruciate rupture - "For example, if the femur has achieved its genetically determined normal length at 8 months when a dog gets spayed or neutered, but the tibia, which normally stops growing at 12 to 14 months of age continues to grow, then an abnormal angle may develop at the stifle. In addition, with the extra growth, the lower leg below the stifle likely becomes heavier (because it is longer), and may cause increased stresses on the cranial cruciate ligament."

This is verified with a study by Slauterbeck et al. (2004) who found that spayed and neutered dogs had a significantly higher incidence of ACL rupture than their intact counterparts, regardless of breed or size.

A study by the Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine and published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association showed that both male and female dogs sterilized at an early age were more prone to hip dysplasia.

When one organ is removed, others will suffer and spayed and neutered Golden Retrievers are proven to be more likely to develop hypothyroidism.
Panciera DL. Hypothyroidism in dogs: 66 cases (1987-1992). J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1994 Mar 1;204(5):761-7
Glickman L, N Glickman, and R Thorpe. The Golden Retriever Club of America National Health Survey, 1998-1999. Available online at

Early neutering increases the risk of urinary incontinence by 4-20%

Very early neutering increases the risk of disease in dogs. A study of shelter dogs conducted by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University concluded that infectious diseases were more common in dogs that were sterilized at less than 24 weeks of age.

I can't find a study to verify this, I can only testify to what groomers are repeatedly telling us, that desexed dogs have very wooly coats, commonly called “spay coat”. It seems to be an overproduction of the undercoat but until more is knows, this is annecdotal. 

Dr. Karen Becker is now a famous veterinary advocate for more thought to be brought back in to the dog world. Her youtube video last year on neutering and article on same subject gave me the bones of this article. The video received an enormous amount of support but also scathing criticism. Since then Dr. Becker has released another video on the subject explaining her thoughts on the whole affair. She breaks down in the middle of it when she thinks about the number of animals she has harmed with her previous advice. Worth a watch.

To quote Dr. Becker:

“As responsible members of society, we owe it to our communities to proactively protect our intact pets from unplanned breeding at all costs. We must hold ourselves to the highest standard of reproductive control over the intact animals we are responsible for.

Clearly, there are health benefits to be derived from waiting until after puberty to spay or neuter your dog. However, there are also significant risks associated with owning an intact, maturing pet.

How seriously you take your responsibility as a pet owner is the biggest determining factor in how risky it is to leave your dog intact until he or she matures. If you are responsible enough to absolutely guarantee your unsterilized pet will not have the opportunity to mate, I would encourage you to wait until your pet is past puberty to spay or neuter.

If you are unable to absolutely guarantee you can prevent your dog from mating and adding to the shameful, tragic problem of pet overpopulation, then I strongly encourage you to get your animal sterilized as soon as it's safe to do so”.

It is interesting to note that some vet organisations agree with Dr. Becker. While the American Veterinary Association pushes for early neutering there are some European Veterinary Associations that defend the view that “when reproduction is not an issue, then neutering, particularly of dogs, should be decided on a case-by-case basis...”

In my opinion it is quite clear that neutering your dog early, before he / she is a fully formed, mature adult, comes with very significant health concerns. The best advice from a health perspective would be to put off neutering your pet until after puberty, which is at least a year, though some large breeds are still maturing at two years of age. And for all these major health benefits in your dog, all it takes is a little responsiblr pet ownership during the 3 – 6 month danger time. Sadly however, looking at just Ireland's dogs, responsibility and dog ownership do not go hand in hand. 

If aliens were to arrive in Ireland to study the success of sterlising dogs at 6 months and population control they would be forced to conclude that sterilisation does not work. We are the puppy farming capital of Europe. We have over 400 groups (shelters, pounds and charities) mopping up a portion of the strays. We are a nation of 4 million which killed 25% more more pet dogs than the entire UK (63mil) in 2010. We have a totally unregulated greyhound industry that slaughter many thousands more dogs each year with tax payers money. And they keep coming.

Clearly the issue of population control goes far beyond neutering or not. We have a desperately underfunded animal welfare system and our legislation protecting animal rights and welfare via heavy penalty fines and jail time is impressive for it's almost total absence. On the other hand Sweden has 13million people and only one pound. Lose your dog once there it's a day's wages. Lose him twice it's a week's wages. Lose him three time's and he's gone. This is all backed up with very tough welfare laws. Over there dog ownership is not so much a right as a privilege.

My personal thoughts on neutering in dogs in Ireland is this: If it was obligatory for dogs to be chipped and tagged at birth; if they weren't bought and sold from car boots; if they cost us a small fortune initially (where every penny of that tax went back into their welfare); if the penalty for allowing your dog to roam was proper and severe; if it cost us €1,000 to relinquish a puppy to a shelter and €100 a week until they found her a home, then just maybe we could inject a little responsibility back into dog ownership in Ireland and talk seriously about neutering. However, in my opinion, we are so far away from responsible pet ownership in this country that sadly postponing the early neutering of our pets to the great benefit of their health is simply not information that I think the Irish public can be trusted to hear, yet. If you have Swedish friends though, please share this post with them.

This was first posted on FB by Dogs First in July 2014. Thought it was an interesting article that was worth sharing.
Let me know what you think?

Thomas Ambler


I read this post by Victoria Stilwell and thought that it was very interesting.
Please let me know what you think.

By: Victoria Stilwell

Hiring a dog trainer can be one of the best decisions you ever make on behalf of your dog, or it can just as easily take a turn for the worst. Because dog training is an unregulated field, any average joe can call himself a "dog trainer," and fool unsuspecting pet parents into using outdated or dangerous training methods.

Many pet parents have fallen victim to so-called "trainers" that ultimately cause physical or emotional damage to their dog. And a common theme I've heard from these pet parents is that they all had a feeling that something wasn't right. But they trusted their trainer (they were a professional after all, right?), and assumed that their dog trainer knew what they were doing.

I've heard stories of people whose otherwise friendly and happy dogs would start shaking or would become physically sick at the sight of their dog trainer. If your dog trainer is truly using force-free methods, this is not a reaction you will see from your dog.

The reality is that the dog training world is riddled with people who don't have the education, certifications, or experience necessary to be a humane and effective trainer. But because there isn't any regulation to the field, those people can just as easily get their hands on your dog.

So if you've hired a trainer and you're uncomfortable with the way they work with your dog, or perhaps you just feel like something isn't right, don't ignore that intuition. You are your dog's voice, and have to be willing to put a stop to any techniques that you feel are detrimental to your dog's safety and well-being. That's why it's so important for pet parents to be a part of the training process. Be wary of any trainer that wants to work with your dog without your presence or involvement -- a good dog trainer will want you to be an integral piece in your dog's training.

The bottom line is this: don't be afraid to tell your dog trainer to stop what they're doing, and certainly don't be afraid to fire a trainer that uses methods you're uncomfortable with.

Posted by Victoria Stilwell on

Monday, 6 April 2015


GOD said "I need somebody strong enough to pull sleds and find bombs yet gentle enough to love babies and lead the blind. Somebody who will spend all day on a resting couch and supportive eyes to lift the spirits of a broken heart....................So GOD made a DOG..

Friday, 3 April 2015


Spent a smashing day down at Woodhorn Museum yesterday. For more than 80 years Woodhorn was a coal mine. Work to sink the first shaft began in 1894 and the first coal was brought to the surface in 1898. At its peak almost 2,000 men worked at the pit and 600,000 tons of coal was produced each year. Production stopped in 1981 but the shafts continued to be used for neighbouring Ashington Colliery until 1986. It was turned into a museum in 1989 and was further redeveloped and opened again in 2006. The site is now recognised as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Yesterday we went to see an exhibition called ‘Brickland’. It showed scale models of famous places around the world made of LEGO bricks.

Heather and Mandy at Brick Land Woodhorn Museum

There were other interesting things to see at the museum most notably was the mine exhibition. Walking along a corridor the exhibition laid out how the mine worked and more importantly how the miners lived in the early days. It was very interesting. One of the facts that I had forgotten about was that it was due to the miners strike in 1945 that the current welfare state and the NHS were formed. Something we all enjoy today but I wonder how many of us appreciate that it was down to the miners all those years ago.

After the pits closed in Ashington some of the miners formed a group called ‘The Ashington Group’, otherwise known as the ‘Pitmen Painters’. We walked round a gallery there and saw some of the paintings from ‘The Permanent Collection’. these are basically a collection of paintings painted by the Pitmen Painters of theirs lives above and below the ground during this time.

It was very fascinating and if your every in the Northumberland area you should definitely make the visit.

One last note n interest was when we were leaving we saw a Red Squirrel coming out of the trees towards the car just at the entrance. I don’t ever remember seeing a Red Squirrel in the wild. I have seen plenty of Grey Squirrels. Unfortunately by the time my wife Heather passed me my camera it had darted back up the tree. It was nice to see it just the same.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

CRUFTS. Not just for show dogs !!

Well we're just back from 4 amazing days at Crufts 2015. We had a fab time and met some fab people. Miya and I were taking part in the Good Citizen Dog Scheme Silver Display Team this year. We were fortunate to have been picked to take part and this weekend was the culmination of many weeks of hard work and practise. Thankfully all went well and we had a great time.


If you are a dog lover or are owned by a dog then you have to visit Crufts even just once to sample the occasion. I am not a show dog person by nature. I dont think I could be bothered with all the preparation and pomp that goes with showing dogs. But as a dog owning enthusiast I always marvelled at the other groups that regularly participated in the Crufts experience. Like the Agility, Flyball, Heel Work to Music and the many other groups that entertained at Crufts.
To go to Crufts under the Agility or Heel Work to Music banner meant many many months of training and qualifying sessions. And then only the cream get to go to Crufts. I thought my dream would never be realised. Having started my own training business and committing to teach the Good Citizen Dog Scheme training programme, I joined the Kennel Club GCDS and got my business 'Listed' status. After a couple of years running courses and organising tests for the handlers that came to do my courses I was surprised back in December when I got an email from one of the working party members of the GCDS invitoing me to attend a qualifying session for the Silver Display team for Crufts. I had no idea what was involved but I jumped at the chance. The 'try outs' were in England about four and a half hours drive away. Undaunted my wife and I and Miya (above) set off at 5:00am on the last weekend in January to head down to Wakefield for the Silver team try out. We duly arrived and was warmly greeted by the selection committee. There were some 25 other dogs and handlers there for the try outs. I learned whilst there that the team would consist of only 9 dogs and handlers.


Happily we were picked for the team after a full day of different exercises testing us. What followed was another four weeks travelling down to Wakefield every Sunday for team practise. this meant up at four in the morning to leave at five so that we could be there for the ten o'clock start. we made it on time every week. 

Finally the big weekend arrived and we spent four wonderful days with a great bunch of people taking part in the biggest dog show on earth.


For Miya my Northern Inuit this has to be the highlight of her life so far. When I think back at how she started in life it is truly a story worthy of a hollywood film. I rescued Miya from Dogs Trust in Glasgow when she was 14 months old. She had already had to stints behind bars by that time having gone to two different owners. when I came across her she had such emotional baggage and trust issues. Hard work and patience and time to heal has turned her into who she is today and what an amazing testament to her character that she has gone from being a rescue reject to performing on the worlds biggest doggie stage the Crufts arena.

One last mention has to go to my wife Heather. throughout this whole journey she has been a constant companion at my side with nothing but 100% support. Without which none of this could not have been possible. Thank you very much and I love you dearly.


I hope this gives encouragement to anyone out there who has a desire to take part in the biggest dog show on earth. You dont have to have an Agility champion or a breed champion or a Heel Work to Music champion although all of these are perfectly acceptable routes. Some times hard work and dedication can get you there as well. Live your dreams. Set yourself a goal and go for it. Don't short change your life by not having ambition. But remember to have fun along the way. Its not the goal that counts, its the journey. As ensign Kim says "to the journey".

Monday, 2 February 2015


If a dog were your teacher, you would learn stuff like:
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
When it’s in your best interest, practice obedience.
Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.
Take naps and stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout… run right back and make friends.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. 
Stop when you have had enough.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you’re not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
And MOST of all… When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by
and nuzzle them gently.....try some of it and see what happens.

From Animal Talk Fun with furry friends.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015


A psychology teacher walked around her class holding a half empty glass of water. The students were all waiting on the ‘half empty half full glass’ question. Instead the teacher asked “How heavy is this glass?” “8oz, 12oz” the replies came. In fact the actual weight of the glass doesn’t matter. How long I hold it is more important. If I hold the glass like this for five minutes there isn’t a problem. If I hold it for an hour my arm might start to ache. If I stand here and hold it for a day my arm might become numb and paralysed. But in each case the weight of the glass stays the same, but the longer I hold it the heavier it becomes.

The stresses and worries in life are like that. If you think about them for five minutes theres no problem, if you think about them for an hour they begin to hurt. If you think about them for longer you will feel paralysed and incapable of doing anything. 

Sometimes you have to remember to put the glass down.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015


The RSPCA have a fact sheet which you can download from their web site which is very useful. It describes how anyone involved with animals should aspire to providing the animals with the ‘Five Freedoms’.
It says it’s aspirational because there are times when they cannot always be achieved. For example before an animal will feed it may need to feel hungry. However it goes onto say that wherever possible animal keepers should strive to provide the Five Freedoms as far as possible. If you want more information you should visit the website.


by providing enough fresh water and the right type and amount of food to keep them fit.

by making sure that animals have the right type of environment including shelter and somewhere comfortable to rest.

by preventing them from getting ill or injured and by making sure animals are diagnosed and treated rapidly if they do.

by making sure animals have enough space, proper facilities and the company of other animals their of own kind.

by making sure their conditions and treatment avoid mental stress.

Seems simple enough don't you think??

Talk again soon..........

Tuesday, 6 January 2015


I read an interesting article in ‘Canine Corner’ a column written by Dr Stanley Coren for ‘Psychology Today’ about dewclaws.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, dewclaws are short claws or nails on the side of the dog’s foot which don’t touch the ground. Most dogs have dewclaws only on their front paws, and it is rare to find them on their back paws. There are some breeds who have them, like the Great Pyrenees.

In most cases however the dewclaws are nonfunctional. The dewclaws are an evolutionary throw back to some 40 million years ago. Back then there was a tree climbing cat-like animal. It is believed that this animal known as Miacis was an early ancestor of our modern dogs. Having five toes when you climb trees is obviously a great advantage.

As evolution unfolded through the generations these creatures evolved into social hunters of fast moving prey. Obviously speed became a more important factor than climbing. This meant the physiology of canines had to change.
Evolution changed the way these animal walked to the point were they began walking on their toes. Evolution also gave them stronger and longer forelegs giving them additional speed. We humans required the dexterity to be able to manipulate things like tools and so our ‘dewclaws’ became thumbs. 

Both the front and rear dewclaws are a concern for dog owners. They worry that they will catch on things when the dogs are running through bracken or long grasses in the summer chasing squirrels or looking for their ball. If they do catch they can be torn off and cause serious injury and maybe even become infected. For that reason some dog owners have the dewclaw removed. Some breeders remove dewclaws from puppies for the same reasons. This is very true for sledge runners in Alaska where owners remove the dewclaws from Huskies as puppies in case they tear off whilst running over rough ground. You can imagine it could be quite serious for a husky to get an infection in remote areas such as the Alaskan wilderness. For most however the dewclaws remain tight into the foreleg and never cause any problems especially if they are continually clipped. My own dog Laya has a ’sticky out’ dewclaw and I have lost count of the number of times her dewclaw gets caught.