With Covid-19 sweeping across our planet, countries on lockdown, borders shut, schools closed, millions of people either out of work or working from home self isolating, means we are going to be spending far more time with our furry friends, our dogs.
Personally I believe this has the potential to be a fantastic learning opportunity for us, to rediscover who we are, what we are, but alas I know many people won’t see it this way!
I know many dogs are going to be showered with affection both from the children in the house and by their parents in the short term, the dogs (many dogs) are going to absolutely love this avalanche of new attention but in many cases it will be short lived. People will start to become irritated that their dogs are constantly wanting attention and this will lead to many dogs being shouted at and perhaps locked in different rooms leading to behavioural problems arising. Remember it will have been you that taught your dog to behave this way!
To stop this from happening the golden key here is to set rules and boundaries for EVERYONE from the very start. Start your day like you normally would and then have your dog lay down and rest. This will probably be a very repetitive task at the beginning as your dog will want to be with you, getting attention but stick with it!
Every couple of hours take a ten minute break from whatever you are doing (teaching the kids, working from home etc) and spend time with your dog. Having a break from what you are doing will be good for you too! And by spending time with your dog I don’t mean snuggles and cuddles. Make it a productive ten minutes where you are focusing your time 100% on the dog. Any less than 100% and your dog will know leading to your dog sometimes listening, sometimes not. Give your dog 100% of your attention, get your kids involved and your objection is to get your dog to focus on you and only you. Use treats but don’t use treats to get the behaviour you want, get the behaviour you are after and then reward your dog with treats. Don’t use the same treat every time, mix it up. Treats could be different food rewards, your voice, your body language, a stroke etc. Mix it up so the dog never knows what the reward will be otherwise in a short period of time the dog will stop listening.
During this 10 minutes of 100% attention teach your dog to sit, move away from your dog and have him/her wait. Have him/her lay down, walk away and have him/her wait. Walk around your dog and have him/her remain still whilst he/she sits or lays down. Have him/her follow you around the house with your dog right next to you. Practice this in the house over and over and over again. Remember only ten minutes at a time and you only need to do this 2 or 3 times a day. The rest of the day reward your dog for laying down relaxing! Most people don’t reward their dog for relaxing but doing this is great for your dogs mind!
Once you have done this for a couple of weeks in the house now take those same exercises outside into your garden and repeat.
Another exercise which your dog will absolutely love is to take a small handful of kibble out of the morning/evening feed add a couple of extra treats and once or twice a day have your dog sit or lay down waiting, whilst you place them at various points around your house, hiding some of them. When ready you can release your dog to go find them. You can also obviously do the same in the garden. This is a great exercise for your dog as it uses their primary sense, their nose and what you will find is the dog will go off sniffing out the food and after ten minutes or so will come back to find you. Briefly praise your dog and he will go off again for another 5 minutes to check to see if he has missed any. When he returns have him go lay down and rest. This is the perfect opportunity for you to teach your dog calmness! Use your time wisely!
Good luck everyone and stay safe.
Dog Ownership & Dog Training Advice
Owning a dog can be very rewarding and fulfilling but if you choose a dog with an energy level not compatible with your lifestyle then what should be a valued member of your family and a pleasurable experience, can often turn into a major headache.
It is very important to choose a dog with the right energy to complement your needs. If you are an active person who enjoys regular outdoor activities, like hiking or running etc, then it is important to choose a dog with a higher energy (not a high energy dog as these are used best as working dogs eg police, military, farm etc), as a lower energy dog will often be left lagging behind. Likewise, if you are not that active yourself, taking on a dog that is higher energy will often lead to a frustrated / anxious dog that can cause a whole host of behavioural problems like excessive barking, pulling on a lead, jumping up, problems with recall, nervous behaviour, aggressive behaviour, territorial behaviour etc. These dogs are often termed untrainable and end up in rescue centres. Failing to stimulate their minds can also create these same problems. Not too dissimilar to having kids as you may find that one child is always on the go, talking and running about from the time they wake up until bedtime, whereas the other child is more laid back and quiet. If you don't keep the active child's mind occupied then tantrums and issues can only be expected.
Sadly rescue centres are often a reflection of human society as in the 1980's they were full of German Shepherds as they were the 'fashionable' dogs, the 1990's was the turn of the Doberman and Rottweiler and now is the turn of the 'bull' breeds. All of these dogs are seen by many to be 'bad' breeds that should be banned, like the feared pitbull, however all of these dogs including the pitbull can and do make fantastic family pets. Obviously there are going to be problem dogs but that applies to any breed of any size.
Socialising a puppy is extremely important. Recent studies have shown that the best time to start socialising a puppy is from 5 weeks onwards which means the responsibility starts with the breeder. A puppy is born blind and deaf but has its sense of smell. After approximately two weeks the eyes start to open followed a week later by the ears. Within the first few weeks the pups learn bite inhibition and other important lessons and social skills. Hopefully this explains the reason why the pups should not be taken away from the mother and littermates too early as these are essential learning periods. Then the humans responsibilities begin. Obviously you cannot walk your puppy before it has had all its injections but this should not stop you carrying your puppy outside and letting it get used to the different smells, sights and sounds. A puppy that has smelt, seen and heard different things from a young age is less likely to grow up nervous of certain stimuli. This includes letting the puppies get used to all the noises within the home eg the vacuum cleaner, washing machine, dishwasher, TV, music, clattering pots and pans etc, etc. Taking the puppies on short car journeys is also a good idea so they become used to car travel. Hopefully I have briefly explained why it is essential you know as much as possible about the breeder prior to buying a puppy. Seeing the puppies parents is also highly recommended as if the mother has behavioural problems then it is likely the puppies will too. There are too many people who see breeding their bitch as a means of easy money and have no regards for the welfare of the animal and worse still, people are buying puppies with no idea where they come from! You would be very surprised at the methods which Puppy Farms are selling puppies! If you are certain you want a puppy make sure you buy from a reputable breeder who is trying to eliminate certain hereditary breed issues. Finding a breeder with a KC certificate doesn't necessarily mean you are purchasing a healthy dog! It is also highly recommended to have your puppy neutered or spayed at the correct age as there are far to many dogs that are put to sleep due to supply far out weighing demand!
A breed of dog that is often overlooked as people generally have the wrong perception, is the greyhound. People assume the greyhound needs lots of exercise and is a lot of work, however after half an hour to an hour exercise a day, a greyhound likes nothing more than lying down and going to sleep! The only real problem with a greyhound is the prey drive (which can be worked on) and the size they take up when they lay down, especially the large males! Greyhounds, in my opinion, are the ideal choice of dog for first time dog owners or for people that are looking for a calm dog that doesn't need lots of exercise.
A new campaign has been launched by a company called Yellow Dog UK to create awareness and the need for dogs that are being trained, recovering from surgery or being rehabilitated that these dogs NEED SPACE and NOT TO APPROACH. It’s a new campaign so many people wont know about it but it is a fantastic campaign and the word needs to spread as quickly as possible. Should you see a dog with a yellow ribbon on it’s lead, a dog wearing a yellow dog bandana or a yellow dog vest or an owner wearing a yellow tabard, please keep your distance.
Annoyances and Tips!
I think I must have missed something over the last few years! When I was growing up, we were always told NEVER approach a dog you do not know and don’t even think about petting a strange dog
without the owner saying that it is ok, which is coincidently the right thing to do. These days however, parents not only allow their children to run up to other peoples dogs but even actively
encourage it! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!?? It is against the instincts of the dog (and many other animals) to have someone they don’t know run up to them and have them put their hands all over their head
and face. Dogs (cats and bears amongst others) find it incredibly rude and confrontational to have people stare at them, approach head on and have a stranger manhandle them! When you have worked with
as many dogs as I have and you see how many dogs there are out there that have been mistreated by humans and are scared and reactive to humans, it becomes incredibly scary to think that
irresponsible/unknowledgeable parents can actively put their own children in danger, yet it will always be the dog that pays the ultimate price for other peoples ignorance. Please, keep your distance
from dogs you do not know!
Advice if you are searching rescue centres for your ideal dog. Prior to taking your new dog home and bringing it into your home, take it for a LONG walk around your neighbourhood and by a long walk I mean at least an hour where your new dog is walking nicely by your side, completely relaxed and paying attention to you. The reason for this is during it's stay at a rescue centre which could have been a week, a month, a year, the dog will have built up an array of emotional baggage, nervousness, excitement, frustration, anxiety etc (rescue centres can be scary places full of strange sights, sounds, smells, stress etc) and this emotional baggage needs to be released prior to the dog coming into your house. If the dog has released all that tension and enters your house for the first time calm and relaxed, then it will settle much quicker. If the dog hasn't released all that tension then it will find it's own way of releasing it and will take longer to settle in it's new environment. Hopefully prior to the new arrival, all members of the family will have agreed what the new dog can and can’t do in the house, once the dog has arrived, immediately set the rules, boundaries and routine. By doing these simple things your dog will settle very quickly! It's common sense when you think about it and not only that, your new friend will associate you with helping to release that unwanted tension and that is all part of creating that special bond. Many rescue centres don't advice new owners to do this which puzzles me but to me is essential!
And what is it with rescue centres right now!? Many of the well known rescue centres are making it almost impossible to re-home a dog from them. Over the last few years I have come across quite a few people who had decided on re-homing a dog, visited one of the well known rescue centres to be told 'no, you can't have a dog from us' for a variety of reasons i.e. they have a child, they work, their gardens aren't secure enough, some people I've spoken to either work from home or were retired, had no children living at home and had a secure garden but were still refused!? If someone or a family have decided they want a dog, believe me they will get one from somewhere and unfortunately over the last few years I have had quiet a lot of calls from people needing help with a dog that turned out to be from a puppy farm or they've imported it from abroad!! Is there not enough dogs already in our rescue centres? Do we need to force people into buying a puppy farm dog or from a backstreet breeder or importing more dogs into this country? What's going on? I myself contacted rescue centres when I was looking to bring in a new dog and was immediately told straight away 'No sorry, you can't have a dog from us as you have young children'. I ended up going to a breed specifc independent rescue and they could not have been more helpful. So, by all means please still consider re-homing from a rescue centre but contact and use the small independent ones near you!
If you are one of those people (and there seem to be quite a few!) that put your excited dog in the back of your estate car / 4 x 4, drive your excited dog to the park, then let your excited dog out of the back to charge around off leash whilst you talk on your phone, please use a little intelligence and have some consideration for others and calm your dog down before letting it off leash. The excuse ‘oh he’s only being friendly’ or ‘it’s his personality’ IS NOT TRUE. Take control of your dog before letting it off leash. Believe it or not people do not like having someone else’s dog jumping all over them when they are having a quiet stroll through a park and other dog owners certainly don’t enjoy watching someone else’s dog jumping all over their dog! There is a good possibility of either causing a dog fight or causing future behavioural issues. Try taking your dog for an on leash walk before letting it off leash. Off leash can be used as a reward for walking nicely on leash.
Professional Dog Walkers - As above but much more dangerous! Many times I have seen and have been told about 'professional dog walking' vehicles pulling up in a car park with the dogs barking like crazy through excitement. The walker gets out of the vehicle and opens up the boot, letting 4, 6, 8 sometimes more off leash excitable dogs out of the vehicle to charge around! Inevitably they have absolutely no control over the dogs and worse still they just walk away and start chatting on their phone. I know of certain dog walking companies that frequently loose dogs during the 'walk' for several hours and in some cases days! I wonder if the owners know what goes on when these 'walkers' have charge of their dogs? It's highly irresponsible AND dangerous!! Obviously there are some great, professional dog walking companies out there who are very responsible so please do your research first before allowing 'dog lovers' with no dog or pack knowledge to look after your dog for an hour or two when all they really care about is taking your money! If you are walking your dog and see a pack of excitable off leash dogs charging around, my suggestion, walk the other way.
A 30 minute structured on leash walk is far better for the dogs state of mind than an hour plus of charging around off leash with a chaotic mind!
Puppy Socialisation Classes / Training - Puppy socialisation in my opinion is crucial for having a balanced dog, however, there seems to be a few companies out there that hold puppy socialisation / training classes yet don't allow the puppies to socialise at all with each other? Instead the lessons involve training the puppies to sit, wait and walk nicely on the lead in a controlled environment and at the end of the lessons you get a certificate!? I'm puzzled by this! You don't allow the puppies to socialise, you teach them to sit, wait etc (in a controlled environment), the owner receives a certificate at the end, I have one simple question, 'is the puppy a social, balanced puppy at the end?' er NO. When we take charge of a puppy, the mum (if you have found the right breeder) will already have taught the puppy to sit, wait, follow, bite inhibition etc BEFORE it leaves it's littermates. Why do we then need to teach it to sit, wait, follow etc? How about simply continuing to nuture what 'mum' has already taught the puppy whilst letting the puppy socialise even more with other puppies whilst being there to re-inforce rules and boundaries!? That makes more sense to me as you end up with a social, balanced puppy! Equally there are puppy socialisation classes that do allow the puppies to socialise but there are no rules and boundaries resulting, at the end of the lessons, a highly excitable puppy or a very nervous puppy when it sees other dogs! Please enrol your puppy in socialisation classes but attend some lessons before you get your puppy to see how much socialisation they actually get and if there is play but with rules and boundaries. Once again there are some brilliant companies out there but also some companies that you will very likely need to employ someone else to sort out the psychological mess that has been created!
Many dog owners see an excitable dog as a happy dog and see a calm dog as a bored dog! All I will say to that is a calm dog will be predictable and the excitable dog will be unpredictable (I've lost count of how many owners say thier excitable dog is a very happy dog but is at times very unpredictable!!) Only a calm dog with medical issues is unpredictable!
If you let your dog off leash to roam out of sight, how do you know if your dog has been to the loo. Do you expect other people to pick up it’s mess? Equally frustrating are the amount of dog owners that have a dog on leash and don't pick up it's 'scat', incredibly selfish and inconsiderate in my book!
If your dog is known to be dog reactive, human reactive, has limited recall, why do you let your dog off leash!!? There are many owners who do this and I believe this is highly irresponsible!
If you are walking towards someone who has a dog and you make the conscious decision to walk dog side, please don’t ‘tut’ or say anything derogatory to the owner. Any animal on the planet is curious of new things in it’s environment and a dog is likely to sniff you as you walk by. If you don’t want the dog to sniff you, walk human side!
Trainers and Behaviourists. Why is it that some trainers and behaviourists solutions to solving an issue a dog has is to avoid the problem completely? This mystifys me as how will the dog ever get over the problem??
Please be considerate!
I have been studying the dog's mind, psychology, behaviour (or whatever you wish to call it) for a few years now and believe it to be only common sense to learn the body language of the dog, should you wish to own one. The dogs language is universal e.g. if you took a dog (or horse) from the U.K. put it on a plane, sent it out to China and let it mingle with the native dogs (or horses), they would immediately be able to communicate and understand each other. How many humans could do the same if they didn't know Cantonese or Mandarin? Humans tend to use sound and vision to communicate, whilst the dog is much more visual. Dogs are always looking for the tiniest of visual cues from their owners and you will often find that a dog will sit down before you ask it to, as unknown to the human they will move in a certain way before they say 'sit'.
It is my belief that it is the human that needs educating in regards to dog ownership. Most humans will decide to own a dog with the best intentions but lack some basic knowledge, believing that as long as they train it to sit, stay, lay down etc everything will be fine. Unfortunately this is often not the case. With a little education for the human, the dog will have a much happier life. After all a dog is a highly intelligent, social and loyal pack animal. If you understand your dog, fulfil its needs and gain its trust and respect, you will often find that many of the mannerisms you want to train your dog to do will naturally be there.
Before getting a dog, consider the following -
A dog (depending on breed) will live for between 8 and 16 years.
Are you prepared to walk your dog, irrespective of weather, every day?
Are you prepared to properly socialize and train your dog?
Are you prepared to ensure your dog has a good diet? (a lot of the readily available, cheaper dog foods on the market are not that good for your dog)
Are you prepared to take your dog to the vet when necessary? (this can be very expensive)
Please visit and consider rescuing a dog from your local independent dog rescue centre before buying a puppy. You may be surprised what dogs are there!
Did you know?
In 2009 there was an estimated 10 million dogs in the UK
All dogs outside their home are required to wear a collar with an ID tag & be microchipped - failure to comply can result in a fine of up to £5000
Failing to pick up your dog mess can result in a fine from £100 up to £1000
On any one day in the UK there are said to be approximately 500,000 stray dogs
A finder of a stray dog is obliged to return the dog to its owner or take it to their local authority. Failure to do so is a criminal offence
In some areas of the UK it is illegal to let your dog off leash - check with your local authority to see what laws apply to your area
A dog owner is responsible for providing their dog with 1) a safe environment 2) a proper diet including fresh water 3) protection from pain, suffering, injury or disease 4) the need to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
If you are cruel to an animal or don't provide for its welfare needs, you may be banned from owning animals. Or you could be fined up to £20,000 and/or sent to prison for up to 6 months.
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In memory of Lucy, September 2015, at age 15 we had to make the horrible decision to have her put to sleep due to health problems. She was a great friend and teacher and will be immensley missed!