Monday, 28 December 2020

"Haven't you fixed her yet?"

I have mentioned this before, that we don't fix dogs but sadly that is sometimes the mindset when dealing with unwanted behaviour.

We often pass people in the street when out walking and one lady asked me a question about Freya, knowing what I do for a living. "Haven't you fixed her yet?" was the question. She was referring to the fact that Freya is worried about new people and still doesn't want to go over while the woman is looking at her!

Dogs, just like people, have emotional intelligence  - this link will take you to a webinar by Lisa Tenzin-Dolma, founder of The ISCP, that beautifully explains what this is. 

We know that dogs experience emotions and thanks to the work of Gregory Berns, neuroscientist and his research looking at the caudate nucleus in a dogs brain via MRI imaging, we are constantly learning more about how dogs experience emotion.

Do all dogs have the same emotional intelligence? The answer to that is no. It depends on the individual dog, genetics, breeding, early experiences, their background and enrichment experiences and so much more.

We know that Freya had a difficult early life and that she has experienced punishment and aversive methods. These have left her very untrusting of humans. It will be two years since we adopted her at the end of March. She has grown in confidence so much but she is not "fixed". 

We have all heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in humans. Dogs can suffer from this too! Helping traumatised dogs grow in confidence and trust is ongoing and there is no set time period or fixing time.

If you are considering adopting a dog that has experienced trauma, aversive methods, or generally had a bad start in life, you will need a skip full of patience, the ability to stay calm and be willing to take time to build trust.

Make a list of the things that cause your dog stress or anxiety.

For Freya, these included leads, doorways, holding out a mobile phone, raising a hand too quickly, a human moving too quickly and even just looking at her when she is lying on the sofa.

Each of these things can trigger her to panic - she bolts, out of the room, out of the way, through the door way etc. Punishment is never going to help and neither is getting impatient or frustrated. 
Patience, patience, patience

Freya is amazing around other dogs though and she has no problem relating to and communicating with dogs. 

Celebrate the little successes.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020


Why is recall so important for dogs?

We have all been there - walking along with our dog(s) on lead, allowing them to explore and engage with the environment and suddenly, out of nowhere, a dog or two appear, running straight up to our dogs.

Dogs are on lead for various reasons - they may not be comfortable around other dogs, they may have injuries or medical conditions or they may be anxious or even fearful. 

We must teach a reliable recall to our dogs so we can call them away and prevent compounding issues for other unsuspecting dogs and their caregivers.

Recall starts at home! We start in a non distracting environment and slowly build up to more and more distracting and busy environments. We teach recall ON harness and lead to begin with. We need to be certain recall will not fail before we let them off lead.

PLEASE take time to teach your dog to come back to you - no matter what. Recall is an essential life skill we must teach our dogs. It helps keep them safe and other dogs safe too.

If you need help with recall, please get in touch with us at

Tuesday, 3 November 2020


Preparations for the dreaded F night

·       Double check fences, gates, and doors to make sure they are escape proof

·       Ensure you use a stairgate if you need to open the front door during peak times to avoid him bolting out of the door

·       Try to walk your dog earlier to avoid walks during expected peak times

·       Try to ensure he has a sniffy walk – sniffing is good for their brains and helps them relax

·       Try to ensure your dog has eliminated before expected peak times

·       Feed your dog earlier than usual to avoid any expected peak times. Use enrichment toys or fun games to deliver his food

·       Accompany your dog into the garden for toileting, even if he is normally fine out there alone, in case any loud unexpected bangs happen

·       Close curtains, use white noise machines or some of the dog music tracks now available

·       Turn on a tv or radio as well

·       Ensure you have set up a cosy, comfortable covered den area, close to where the family will be

·       Ensure there is always access to fresh water – when dogs are anxious, they pant more frequently

·       Use a thunder shirt or TTouch wrap if you dog is happy wearing one

·       Plug in Pet Remedy or use the spray on their bedding

·       Have chew toys, licky mats or stuffed Kongs ready

·       Above all, grab yourself a book and try to stay calm and relaxed yourself – our dogs are tuned into our emotions!

Saturday, 10 October 2020

The gift of communication

Dogs bring us a huge gift - of communication.

"The golden gift is this: Intimately connected with his own emotions, the dog cannot lie. What he feels, he expresses. What he shows in his body posture is true, without guile, completely and utterly honest." Suzanne Clothier 1996 

A wonderful quote by Jeffrey Masson from his book called When Elephants Weep:

"Training an animal will meet with little success if the trainer has no insights into the animal's feelings."

Sadly, for some "trainers", where knowledge ends, violence begins!

Working in a holistic way with dogs means we should have a willingness to learn how and why a dog operates and behaves as he does.
Leaps and Bounds

Another little update on Freya's integration with the other two.


People often ask me how to change their dog's behaviour and are surprised when I explain the first thing is management.
Manage the environment to prevent the behaviour taking place.
This is key. The more times the dog practises the behaviour, the more frequent it will become.

Take the simplified example of a dog that lunges at other dogs.

Every time he practises this behaviour he learns that the behaviour works - the other dog goes away.
In order to change how the dog feels about other dogs, we need to prevent him practising the lunging. We use distance.
At a distance, we begin to change how the dog feels about other dogs. Seeing other dogs at a distance leads to sniffing, play, food or whatever it is the dog enjoys most.

Take the simplified example of jumping up on strangers.

Every time he practises this behaviour he learns that the behaviour works - he gets attention from the person (however, it could be a number of things that reinforces jumping up, including attention from owner and it is important to identify why the dog jumps up first).
In order to change how the dog feels about strangers, we need to prevent him practising the jumping up. Again, we use distance.
At a distance, we can wait for the dog to be calm, reinforce calm behaviour and give him permission to say hi. Or we can reinforce him for not jumping up at a distance.

Thought it was time for a little blog.
I have just been listening to the person who has had the biggest influence on my training - Suzanne Clothier.
She reminds us to always ask the elemental questions. One of these is:

"How is this for you?"

If you are not familiar with Suzanne Clothiers work have a look at her website - so many free articles to read including this one:

We are contacted to help with various behaviour problems, ranging from pulling on lead right through to aggression directed to humans. We always look at the foundations -