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So continuing on the theme of the last few posts I want to touch a little bit on recall training.


We all know how annoying it is when your dog is running around, and all that recall training that you feel you have put in is out of the window…


There are too many distractions in the environment, your dog is having one of those days, or maybe you are having one of those days – I’m not one to judge!


When your dog eventually comes back to you, you have two choices…


1 – reward your dog through gritted teeth.


2 – shout at your dog because they haven’t done what they were told.


Which would you do? Honestly now?


I know a lot of us would chose option 2, our dog hasn’t done what they have been told, they disobeyed us and they need to have a consequence for this action.


However, what if I told you that you are always reinforcing or punishing your dog for the very last thing that they did. How would option 2 work then? Remember you would be punishing the very last thing that they did – the coming back to you…


What would the effects of this be on your recall the next time you called your dog?


I know that its difficult sometimes to reward our dog when we know that they have messed us around but we have to reward them, as we are really rewarding the coming back behaviour which will increase the likelihood that they will come straight back next time!


So don’t be the shouty, nasty person in the park (I wouldn’t want to go near them, would you?) and be the one who is working on their recall and who is improving walk by walk!

It’s ok my dogs friendly....

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On a daily basis I work with reactive and anxious dogs... dog’s that can’t cope either in close proximity to other dogs or just at the sight of over dogs. Most of these owners work hard on a daily basis to help their dogs, to help set up their walks so that they aren’t put in situations they can’t cope with and invest a lot of time (and money) to help their dogs feel more comfortable around other dogs.

When we work with dogs who are reactive around other dogs what we need is space, lots and lots of space. 


So if you have a dog who isn’t reactive, and who does enjoy the company of other dogs please, please, PLEASE help these owners and keep your dogs under control (preferably on a lead) around them.

And how do you know if another dog needs the space or not? Well there is a really simple rule that you can employ... if the other dog is on the lead just pop yours back on the lead.

You don’t know why the other dog is on the lead? Is it because the owner is in a rush... is it that they are ill or in pain? Do they have no recall? Or do they need space? You don’t know until you speak to their owner, and to speak to the owner you need to be pretty close to them...

Additionally if the other dog has to be on the lead for a long period of time, having dogs run up to them on a regular basis this will lead to a build up in frustration from that dog which in turn can lead to more problematic behaviours in the future.

I promise, the owners of reactive dogs will thank you!

Positive punishment v positive reinforcement

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There are generally two schools of thought when it comes to dog training. The first is from an older school of dog training which involves using coercion and punishment to ‘dominate’ their dogs and to become the alpha. This school of thought was based loosely on the (flawed) theory that dogs live in packs (this has been discussed in other blog posts) and the training theory is now what we would describe as positive punishment.


Positive punishment, in scientific terms, is the addition of a negative stimulus to reduce the incidence of a behaviour occurring. We can see this in everyday life both in dog and human behaviour. In dog behaviour people would often shout at, hit or push their dog to stop an unwanted behaviour.


The other school of thought is that we add a positive stimulus when the dog does something that we like to increase the likelihood that the dog will repeat this behaviour in the future, this school of thought is based around positive reinforcement – this is the school of thought that I subscribe to.


I would much prefer to give my dog a treat  when they sit so next time I ask them to sit they are keen to do it than add pressure when they don’t sit.


There are a few reasons I prefer to train with positive reinforcement:

1.Ethics – to me it is more ethical to train with positive reinforcement. I don’t want to use a training philosophy where I have to force my dog with fear to do what is asked of them.

2.Results – much research has shown the long term, positive results seen from positive reinforcement training.

3.Emotions – positive punishment doesn’t make anyone feel good, it doesn’t make us feel good when we do it and, although I can’t ask them, I’m sure it doesn’t make our dogs feel good!

4.Teaching – punishment just tells dogs what they shouldn’t the doing, it suppresses behaviour. I want to teach dogs what they should be doing instead.


I want to just expand on that last point. As explained above positive punishment is a valid teaching method, but the way in which it teaches is by reducing unwanted behaviours. I prefer to teach dogs in a way that teaches them what they should do instead. In many instances there are a million (okay, maybe ten) things a dog shouldn’t do and only one or two things that they should do – isn’t it better that we reward these rather than continually telling dogs “no that’s not right, no that’s not right either”. I’d rather be the person out there saying “yes! That’s it, amazing, what a fab dog!”, so next time the dog is given choice  of two or more things they could do they are going to choose the better option.

The M word...

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The word muzzle has become a little taboo.


A lot of people who call me about aggression often ask... are you going to muzzle my dog?


It’s a very loaded question. People have misconceptions about dogs who wear muzzles... but why?


There are loads of reasons that dogs wear muzzles:

Aggression, yes aggressive dogs do need to be taught to accept wearing a muzzle for everyone’s safety. Other dogs, people, and their owners. It is a sound safety measure.


Scavengers, many dogs need to wear a muzzle as they scavenge food and this can be really dangerous to many dogs, ingesting non food items, or dangerous items.


Emergencies - dogs who are in pain or discomfort, even the most calm and friendly of dogs, can be aggressive.


Breed specific legislation - those listed on the dangerous dogs act but are exempt must wear a muzzle in public no matter their temperament or history.


High prey drive - some dogs have to wear a muzzle as they have a high prey drive and may chase and catch small animals.




So yes, I teach a dog to accept a muzzle. If it was up to me I would teach every dog to accept a muzzle so they are always about to wear one if needed. Rather than waiting for an emergency to happen and the dog is straight away associating the muzzle with terrible experiences.


It takes a long time to get dogs used to the muzzle, so although I will always answer yes! When asked if dogs are going to be trained to accept a muzzle, this takes a long time and a commitment to training!


So next time you see a dog out and about wearing a muzzle, think a couple of things to yourself:

Wow they have committed to their dogs training!

I wonder how I can help their dog?

What responsible dog owners!

New Years Resolutions

I’m not a massive fan of New Years resolutions... mainly because I never stick to them so they are just New Years disappointments! 

 

However, I have been a dog trainer for long enough to know that many people have New Years resolutions about their dogs, my diary is already very busy with people making plans for training their dogs so I thought that I would suggest some resolutions that we can all get behind.

  1. Time - looking at ways to increase the amount of time we spend with our dog. Not just being in the same physical place as the dog but activiely spending time with our dogs, doing something that they enjoy, this could just be curling up on the sofa together. My resolution for spending more time with my dog is to do more scent work with her, I only have to get the tin out and she is so excited so I am going to look for more courses for her and I to attend so we can spend more time working on this together.

  2. Exercise - again this doesn’t have to be out walking for hours and hours with our dogs (lets face it a lot of dogs won’t care much for this) but just looking at other ways to exercise our dogs both mentally and physically. Enrichement activities such as interactive feeding, sniffing and training can all count as exercise and can be made specific for your dogs age and ability.

  3. Training - this is always going to turn up on my list isn’t it. Training our dogs is a life long commitment, not something that is reserved to their first few months or even year of their lives. Practicing the basics such as recall and leave it (as I harp on about in class) can be life saving pieces of training and as such you need to remind your dog over and over that they get paid for listening! Remember all that algebra we learnt at school??? No me neither, because I never use it, it isn’t something that crops up in dog training that often so I just forget it. If you answered yest to this I can only guess that you are either a savant that can remember everything or you practice this on a regular basis. It’s the same for our dogs, if you don’t practice it, you’ll lose it.

  4. Food - make it a New Years resolution to feed your dog the very best you can afford and MEASURE IT OUT. If you don’t measure it out you can easily over feed and then we end up with obese dogs without even noticing and this can have so many knock on effects for our dogs.

  5. Try something new with your dog - this could be a fun dog show, a new class, or just taking them to new places. If you stick to New Years Resolutions numbers 1, 2, & 3 then you can have a well trained dog you can take anywhere and everywhere. This will greatly increase your dogs quality of life.

What are your New Years resolutions for your dogs? 

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Mille hopes you all had a fab christmas :)

Christmas with our pooches

So I promised my self I would be better at this blogging… post more regularly, I even wrote a plan for this. However… a month and a half later here is another blog (I see a New Years resolution on the horizon!).

So I thought I would jot down my thoughts about Christmas with our pooches. So lets start with what we are getting them for Christmas… I always get my dogs a little stocking for all the family dogs.

This year Millie has some new chuck-it balls and a soft toy (these are a rarity for her as they don’t last long but are possibly one of her favourite things so who am I not to indulge), as well as some chews (mainly for entertainment on Christmas Day!

Ferdinand is my mother in laws German pointer and is a lively character so he has an antler to chew on and keep him entertained and busy!

Finally Bonnie is our old rescue dog, she just likes a quiet life so I got her a licki mat, she has a sweet tooth so this is perfect for her and her old teeth!

Other ideas I have that I might pop out to get is a bottle of pawsecco (well if I’m having a tipple then why shouldn’t she…), and maybe a chicken dinner nylabone… although it will be a mushroom wellington at our house but I haven’t seen nylabone bring one of these out!

If I hadn’t already got her one a ruff and tumble drying coat would be top of my list!

(Also remember I do gift vouchers if you are stuck - who doesn’t love training!!!)

On the other side of Christmas there are a few bits we need to be aware of that are dangerous to dogs…

  • mincemeat - raisins are very dangerous to dogs so watch out for those mince pies and Christmas pudding around your dog!

  • Chocolate - if you’re anything like me chocolate won’t last long enough for the dog to get hold of it but just incase you are more reserved!

  • Turkey (chicken) bones - once cooked are very dangerous to your dog so watch out for them at your home but also when you are out and about!

Remember to enjoy Christmas with your dog - get some extra walks in, maybe even some training thrown in for good measure!

Other suggestions for Christmas presents are welcome below.

All presents mentions on here can be found at Posh Paws harrogate but are in no way sponsored.

Debunking Dominance

I’ve had 4 enquiries this week in which all of the lovely dog owners have in some way mentioned dominance over their dog, or being the alpha, or working with the dogs pack order… and it makes me really sad and very disheartened and this is why…

I know that we have all heard that dogs live in hierarchical packs, with an alpha pair at the top of this tree and all the other dogs in the group have to bow down and worship this pair and so we MUST strive to become and maintain this Alpha role. But where did this come from?

Well early theories on dog behaviour were based on the premise that dogs were just the same as wolves and will act just like just like a wolf in our home (I don’t know about you but my cocker spaniel is not a wolf!). Early studies of the grey wolf unfortunately provided us with an inaccurate representation on how wolves live in the wild, let alone when we brought them into our families.

In 1947 Robert Shenkel carried out one of the most influential studies of wolves, his findings were based solely on the observation of wolves. He theorised that wolves were constantly in tension for their place within the group of wolves which led to fights as wolves jostled for their place in the “pack”. However this research was flawed in several important ways. Firstly the wolves that were observed were unrelated to one another. This is not how wolves would live in the wild which instead is much more in family groups, in harmony. Any unrelated wolves would not find harmony in the same way and it is this close proximity to unrelated wolves that caused the tension within the groups.

Further research was carried out in a more natural setting by David Mech in the 1980’s who supported the theory that wolves, in their natural habitat, are led by the male and female parents of a group as they are the most experienced and the wild wolf pack was actually more like a family group.

Unfortunately despite this more recent research the theory of dominance has prevailed over the centuries, perpetuated by the media and a minority of popular dog trainers. It has also found its way into common dog training advice such as always going through the door before your dog, or eating some food from their bowl and at worst physically manipulating the dog or causing them pain. What all of these fail to appreciate is that this behaviour does not communicate to the dog in a way they understand and is therefore in some cases pointless and in others is dangerous and leads to a breakdown in the relationship between dog and owner.

So where does that leave my clients who still believe… well my job is purely one of education so we’ll have a chat, I’ll explain why we have moved away from dominance and alpha theories, I’ll explain the actual reasons for their dogs behaviour and move forwards from there.

10 key questions to ask a breeder


1. Can I see both parents?
No mum (dad often isn’t around) to see, don’t take a puppy, even with all the excuses in world just walk away.
2. Where are the pups being raised?
We want puppies that have been raised in a home environment. Not a shed in the garden…

3. Have all the relevant tests been carried out on the mothers and the pups? This will take a bit of research on your part but it is really important to know, it may reduce the cost of any future medical treatments!

4. What socialisation has been carried out on the pups? Although the mother will do lots of the care to begin with it is important that the puppies have been exposed to mild stress and to new and novel situations. This is also why we want the pups reared in the home environment not in a shed.

5. Have the puppies been to the vets? What vaccinations have been carried out?

6. Are the puppies microchipped? By law puppies must be microchipped by 8 weeks of age. It will be your responsibility to make sure that the details are changed when you take your puppy home.

7. Have any of the puppies been sick?

8.  What guarantees do the breeders give? If there are problems will they take the puppy back? We do not want breeders that are happy to sell you a puppy but want nothing more to do with them

9. What help do they offer?

10. Recommendations? Can you speak to people who have puppies from that breeder before making a decision?

How to pick the perfect puppy...

It is thought that as many as 1 in 4 puppies bought in the UK come from a puppy farm. Puppy farmed dogs have a multitude of health and behavioural problems and many don't live to see 6 months old.

I often get asked what to look for when picking a puppy so I thought I would put a post together to give you the best things to look for when picking a new member of your family.


Do:

  • Ensure you see the puppies mum, the mum should be present and should be happy to see you. If you can't see mum walk away!

  • Ask to have a look around the breeding environment and where the puppies are currently living, if anything doesn't look or feel right to you don't buy a puppy.

  • Be prepared to add your name to a waiting list. 

  • If you are buying a pedigree puppy always have a look at the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme.

  • Ask if you can return the puppy if things don't work out, a reputable breeder will always take back their puppies for whatever reason, many will insist that the puppies are returned to them rather than being sent to a shelter.

  • Breeders normally specialise in one or two breeds, be suspicious if they are selling numerous breeds.

  • Speak to local rescue centres, they may have a more suitable older dog or sometimes they have puppies needing rehoming too.

  • Specifically ask what the breeder has done to help the development of the puppy.

Don't:

  • Buy a puppy from a pet shop, these have, more often than not, come from a puppy farm.

  • Collect the puppy from a public location such as a service station car park. This is a common way that puppy farmers pass over their puppies and it means you cannot see where the puppy has been developing or meet the puppies mum.

  • Buy a puppy because you feel sorry for it. If you go to see a litter of puppies whose living conditions are less than ideal, do not feel you have to purchase one to 'rescue it', this just encourages the 'breeder' to breed further puppies in the same conditions.

If you are unsure about how to know whether you are buying the right puppy for you from the right breeder please get in touch and we can chat through your options.

Why do we go on and on about socialising your puppy???

You've probably heard the term "socialisation" multiple times especially if you have had a puppy come into your life recently...

But what does it really mean and why is it so important?

When puppies are born they are not born with all the social skills that they require. Puppies are born naturally curious and we need to embrace this curiosity to help them learn what they do and do not need to be fearful of.

Socialisation means exposing the puppy to as many different situations as possible during the first 16 weeks of their life. This exposure then sets the puppy up with key skills they require throughout their life.

Socialisation helps puppies to become happy and confident in various situations that they may need to experience.

We ask a lot of our canine companions so that they can live alongside us in our lives and it's important that we give them every opportunity to achieve this. 

When your new puppy arrives it's important to plan as much into their first few weeks with you as possible. You have until they are 16 weeks old to take them out and about to meet new people and experience new places - not just ones they will see when they are a puppy but for the rest of their life!

To understand more about how to socialise your puppy see our next post!

Socialisation: it isn’t all puppy play

It is important to understand that;


  • Socialising your puppy does not mean that you throw your puppy into a number of new situations and hoping that they cope!

  • Socialising is m more than just attending a couple of puppy parties at the local vets.

  • Even if you have another dog, your puppy needs to be introduced to as many other dogs as possible too.


Instead, socialising your puppy should involve gradual introductions in as many new situations as possible in a positive and fun manner.


You need to expose your puppy to as many different environments, people and dogs as possible. 


Puppies parties are a great starting point for this; your puppy will be exposed to many different puppies and people. However, puppies need to meet older dogs too - especially in that critical first 16 weeks so if you know any calm, friendly, fully vaccinated older dogs it is worth getting your new puppy to meet them too.


Introductions to other dogs need to be carried out in a calm manner, keeping your puppy on a lead and letting them sniff the older dog. This is an appropriate way for puppies to meet another dog. Many people advocate "letting the dogs sort it out for themselves" but such an approach can cause your puppy to become wary or fearful of older dogs - not the result we are aiming for!


The most important part of socialising your puppy is to introduce them to as many new things as possible in the first 16 weeks of your puppies life and to make these introductions as positive and fun as possible! Try for 100 new things in the first 100 days of their life!


If you puppy is showing nervousness or fear when exposed to new experiences it might be worth speaking with a qualified dog trainer to help coach you through this time with your puppy!