Sunday, 13 November 2016

Tellington TTouch Workshop

We have a guest blogger today, Maddy with Jake Dog A.I.D. assistance dog in training telling us about the Tellington TTouch workshop we attended.

Navigating the maze 

Myself, Jake my German Shepherd and our trainer Mike were kindly invited to attend a Tellington TTouch workshop held by Caroline of Stylish Fido in Steyning.  It's a fascinating subject with lots of novel concepts to think about and use such as non-habitual movement, where a variety of obstacles and surfaces are used to encourage dogs to become more aware of where their bodies are in space.  The dogs were taken around a type of obstacle course known as The Playground of Higher Learning at the beginning and end of the day; Jake started out clumsily knocking over every single pole balanced on cones with his back feet, but by the end was walking perfectly through the rungs of a rope ladder laid on the floor.  The challenge as always with Jake was trying to keep all movements slow and deliberate, when he wants to do everything at top speed!

We were shown how various types of body wrap helped aid calm and relaxed behaviour, one of which was demonstrated on a nervous dog who attended and seemed to make a real difference.  The TTouch harness that utilises a front as well as a back attachment point was also demonstrated, and the manner in which it works to prevent pulling explained; I was already a convert to this style of harness as the very similar Perfect Fit harness has revolutionised the way Jake walks on the lead.  Of course we also learned the touches themselves and came home with lots of ideas on how to use them, for example touching around the mouth and gums to help release stress that would otherwise be expressed via barking.  Overall it was a really interesting and informative workshop that I would recommend to anyone willing to think outside the box about canine behaviour.

Stepping over poles 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Staying at a holiday let with your dog.

One of the best things about staying in a holiday let is that you get to take the dog! 


How do I find dog friendly properties?

It used to be a case of having to flick through the holiday brochures trying to find a dog friendly cottage.  How times have changed!  You can still look at the brochures or even the websites of the old agencies but you will also have to pay their sometimes hefty commissions.

The new alternative is booking direct with the owner!  You could Google all the dog friendly websites or alternatively use a Facebook group like dogfriendlyholidays which aims to match up holiday home owners with dog owners.

Should I bring my dog on holiday with me?

How much will your dog come out and about with you on holiday?  If the answer is not very much at all then perhaps consider leaving him home with friends or family or a trusted dog sitter.

Will he come with you on long walks, to the local cafe for lunch, or even to the pub for dinner?  Then how dog friendly is the local area?

What will you do with him when he can’t come with you to the local supermarket or that posh little restaurant in town? 

Some property owners are happy for your dog to be left for short periods but some may insist he shouldn’t be left at all!

What should I consider before going away?

Many owners use creates for their puppies but abandon them once their dog gets a little older.  Now is a good time to reintroduce it.  A dog that is happy being in his crate will have somewhere safe and secure to retreat into which is especially important in a strange place . 

How does your dog cope with being left alone at home?  If the answer is he is never left or he barks, chews, or messes then you can almost guarantee he will we worse in a strange new place.  Consider getting some help with his separation anxiety now before you even consider going away and leaving him in a strange place.

Some properties may insist that your dog is crated when left alone.  Dogs that have never used a crate should not be put into one for the first time when left in a strange place since this is likely to be very stressful!  Consider getting some professional advice on introducing a dog to a crate.

Where does your dog sleep at night?  If the answer is in your bedroom, on your bed, or in your bed then check the property owner’s terms carefully.  Many properties do not allow dogs on beds or even in bedrooms so your dog would need to be happy in a crate in the kitchen or living room.

Make sure your dog's vaccinations, worming, and flea/tick treatments are up to date.  Country locations may present a higher risk of worms, ticks, and water-borne pathogens. 

Travel abroad will also require a rabies vaccination and at least 6 months planning.

Does your dog get anxious or travel sick in the car.  You should start to work on this in advance of your trip.  See an experienced dog behaviourist now if your dog has problems travelling.

Is the property a good choice for me?

Everyone has a different idea of what dog friendly means; property owners and guests alike.  Some properties may just be dog “tolerant” others may be (almost) anything goes.  If your dog has an “access all areas” life style at home then a “no dogs on the sofa” rule on holiday may not be practical for you.

How secure a garden do you need?  Is your dog happy to just plod around the garden or would he easily jump a 4ft fence given the chance?

Be sure to read the terms and conditions before you book to avoid any problems.  If you are not sure of the property owners rules then double check before you book.  If these rules don’t match up with your expectations then find somewhere else that does!

Am I a responsible dog owner?

When staying at a holiday let property you should be a responsible dog owner.  The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme provides a comprehensive criteria on what it means to be a responsible dog owner

Some specific things to consider on your holiday are:

  •  Clean up after your dog, both in the property grounds and when out on walks.
  •  Be very careful around cattle and sheep, especially if you have a city dog that has never encountered farm animals before.  You must always have your dog on lead in areas where cattle and sheep may be around.
  •  Don’t leave your dog in a car.  In warm weather, even with a window open with access to water, cars soon become like a greenhouse for a dog.  Dogs can very quickly overheat and become dehydrated with potentially fatal consequences.
  • Prepare for the worst.  You have a legal responsibility to have a tag on your dog and have him microchipped.  Make sure the microchip details are up to date with your current mobile phone number before your trip.

Things to do the day you travel

Don’t forget to pack for your dog.  Bring his bed or ideally a crate.  He will also need his lead, toys, medication, and bowls.

Bring enough of his regular food since a sudden change of diet could upset his stomach. 

Plan “comfort breaks” en route.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring the dog!  Have a great holiday!

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Saturday, 16 January 2016

How to stop dog pee ruining your lawn

A common belief is that the urine of bitches burns your lawn and that the urine dogs fertilises it.  On the surface this is a reasonable explanation based on anecdotal evidence.

However, there is another explanation.  Nitrogen!

In low concentration the nitrogen in your dog’s urine fertilises the grass encouraging growth but in high concentration it burns it.  

The girls tend to squat and so the urine is concentrated in one area.

The boys like to spray it around, covering a greater area.

What about pH levels?

This explanation seems to be based on the desire to sell you products that alter your dog’s acid / alkaline levels.  This is NOT something you want to do without first taking veterinary advice since you could easily be damaging your dog’s health! 

The solution is dilution!

If your lawn is important to you then go buy a watering can and use it as soon as possible after you dog as used the area to eliminate.

The other option is training

Teach your dog to eliminate in a specific part of your garden.  This is best achieved by taking him on lead to a specific area of the garden.  You could also use a different substrate e.g. bark chipping and train your dog to just go on there.

What about a pee post?


This is a logical idea for the boys who like to raise their leg.  It should also retain the dog’s odour encouraging him back.  A quick look at reviews on Amazon suggest it does not work, however I wonder how many owners put the effort in to take their dog on lead over to the post to pee?

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Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Do you JUST walk your dog?

Most people just walk their dog in the park, happy in the knowledge that they are running around and burning off energy.  What happens though if you have a dog with almost unlimited energy like a Border Collie, working Cocker Spaniel, or a Terrier?  Luckily in Brighton we have the beautiful Sussex South Downs which can be much more stimulating for your dog than just a park walk.

How do I improve my dog's walks and use his brain?

Most people are aware that you can go to agility classes with your dog but your local park probably has much more that you can use to mentally simulate your dog than you realise.  When I go to a city park with a dog I’m always on the lookout for “Urban Agility”.  Urban what!?!  This means anything that a dog can jump on or over, commando crawl under, balance on, weave around etc.  This could be park benches, posts, tree trunks, logs etc.

I particularly like things that slow a dog down like a log or upturned tree.  Jumping on to something and balancing can be a real challenge for an active dog who is only used to running around at full speed.  It forces them to stop and think about what their body is doing, how to balance, turn, sit or lie down etc.  It’s like yoga for dogs!

Next time you go to the park keep a look out for your own Urban Agility course.  Your dog will have to learn to do these tasks but I can guarantee that he will come home more tired if he has had to use his brain on a walk.

Sam shows you how its done:


This is Sam learning to walk slowly along a log.  The first few times he fell off because he had no awareness of what his body was doing.  This was also a great trust exercise for Sam to know I was there with him.

Feel free to contact me about Urban Agility training for your dog which I can either do with you or as a Groundwork Training service.

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Monday, 24 August 2015

HELP! My dog is stressed what should I do?

HELP! My dog is stressed what should I do?

You need to identify:

o   When the dog is stressed?
o   What are the causes (stressors / triggers)?
o   What is the solution?
o   Is the solution working?

First you are going to determine when your dog is stressed.

You may believe your dog is feeling stressed but dogs cannot directly tell us so we need to look for outward signs e.g.:
o   Panting
o   Pacing
o   Trembling
o   Licking
o   Self-mutilation
o   Hyper-vigilance
o   Chewing
o   Eliminating
o   Vocalisation
o   Escape attempts
o   Hackles up
o   Aggression

Next you need to identify what is causing the stress; the stressors or triggers.

The dog’s genetics, early socialisation and subsequent learning may have played a part in his current stress; however the only thing you have some control over is the dog’s current environment e.g.
o   The home of a newly rescued dog
o   The home of a newly adopted puppy
o   A strange place
o   Being alone somewhere
o   A vet
o   A groomer
o   A boarding kennel
o   Travelling in the car
o   Thunder or fireworks outside
o   Strange people
o   Strange dogs
o   A stressed-out owner

Now for the solution

You are not going to focus on the outward signs of stress but instead look at why the dog is feeling stressed.  You need to reduce the feeling of fear and anxiety which should result in less of the outward signs of stress.  The accepted scientific solution is a gradual exposure to the stressor ideally whilst positive things happen.  In technical terms this is known as systematic desensitisation and counter conditioning.  This exposure needs to occur at a very low level that the dog can cope with without becoming stressed.  The level of exposure can then be gradually increased over time therefore increasing the dog’s tolerance.  In practical terms owners often will not have the skills or experience to put this in to practice and therefore should seek out a dog trainer with a sound understanding of dog behaviour.

Finally you need to determine if the solution is working.

This is more difficult than it may sound since you cannot ask the dog if he is feeling better.  It is therefore time to look again at the outward signs.  Have they reduced and only occur in more extreme situations?  Then yes, it is working!   It is likely that work is still needed to increase the dog’s tolerance and decrease his stress further.

What about drugs, holistic remedies, DAP etc?

Only a vet can prescribe drugs.  You may however consider drugs which alter the brain chemistry of your dog to be a last resort.

Many people believe in holistic remedies but this is not backed up with a body of scientific evidence.  Such remedies may help if the owner believes in them; reducing the owner’s stress and consequently the dog’s!

DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) products are a chemical copy of the pheromone that the mother secretes after giving birth to her puppies.  This helps calm the puppy and strengthen attachment during this turbulent period of the puppy’s development.   Numerous clinical trials have provided evidence that DAP can increase feelings of security.  Many of the outward signs of stress are consequently reduced in puppies and adult dogs especially when DAP is used in conjunction with behaviour modification to reduce the feelings of stress.

DAP products are available as a plug-in for a specific environment or as a collar which is especially useful when the dog is outside of his comfort zone.

Adaptil DAP

Please contact us today for help to reduce your dog’s stress.

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Thursday, 14 May 2015

What should I feed my dog?

What should I feed my dog?

I usually answer this question with “this is what you should NOT feed”.

There are hundreds of dog foods on the UK market so it’s not any easy choice.

The following are a few simple things to look out for:

·         Ingredients on the back are more useful than the marketing claims on the front.  When the front packaging mentions a specific ingredient then the ingredient list must specify the percentage e.g. foods that say Chicken on the front often contain just 4% Chicken!
·         Less is more.  A short ingredient list is generally better than a long one with lots of cheap fillers.
·         If you don’t know what an ingredient is or you would not eat it yourself then don’t give it to your dog.  Do you know what animal derivatives are? 
·         Be specific.  Do you know if “meat” in the ingredients is chicken, beef, or horse?  Is the “cereal” wheat or rice?  Choose a food that lists the actual ingredients rather than hides them under a generic term.
·         Don’t blindly follow your vet’s recommendation.  Vets have minimal nutritional training and often sell brands that provide them with large profits but which don’t do well in independent reviews.
·         Buy from a pet shop rather than a supermarket.  Supermarkets tend to stock the low-quality foods.
·         Garbage in, garbage out.  If what comes out the other end is loose and smelly then your dog’s body is not processing it very well.  If it is small and compact then he is using most of it as nutrients.
·         Do your research. is an excellent resource that reviews specific products and explains what the ingredients mean.  Check out the market leaders to see how they compare.

What about raw food diets or BARF?  Some people will tell you that it is the single most important thing you can do for your dog’s health.  Others will say that the risk of salmonella is too high.  Do lots of research if you plan to change to a raw food diet since you don’t want your dog to have any nutritional deficiencies.

The simple take home message is that there is a massive difference in the quality of commercial dog foods.  Do your research and choose the best you can for your budget.

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Secrets and Lies – common myths and misconceptions about dogs

Secrets and Lies

As a dog trainer and behaviourist at Rainbow Dogs in Brighton I hear lots of old wives tales regarding dogs and their training; many are harmless but some can cause real damage.

1.       A dog “knows” when he has done wrong.  This one, like so many other misconceptions is an anthropomorphism - applying your beliefs about humans to another species.  In this case we think dogs “know” something is wrong because we think it is wrong.  In reality dogs are amoral, i.e. they have no conception of right and wrong.  They may show submissive body language when they do something we think is wrong, which we perceive as looking guilty, but this is just done to appease us.

2.       You should rub your dog’s nose in it if he goes to the toilet inside.  This is also based on the idea that the dog knows he has done wrong.  In reality he either does not understand where you want him to go to the toilet or he just couldn’t hold it.

3.       You should always go through the door before your dog.  This one is just plain silly.  It is based on the myth that if a dog goes through the door before you then he is trying to dominate you but in reality he is just excited to see what is other the other side of the door.

4.       My dog loves it when little Johnny rides on his back.  This seems to be based on the idea that because the dog has not bitten little Johnny then he must be having a great time.  In reality he is probably just suffering little Johnny and his breaking point is not far off at which point he will bite.

5.       Dogs that wag their tails are happy.  A dog wagging its tail is aroused i.e. adrenaline is running through his body.  This could mean he is happy or ready to fight.  A wagging tail should always be read alongside the rest of his body language.

6.       Dogs that chase their tail are having fun.  In reality they are stressed and performing an OCD behaviour.  They often catch they tail resulting in the need for a partial amputation.

7.       One dog year = seven human years.  Yes, we live longer than dogs.  However dogs often live to be 15 years – you do the math!  Smaller dogs have a lot greater life expectancy that the largest breeds; almost twice as long.  The 1:7 ratio is therefore a very rough figure.

8.       Dogs just need to eat meat because that’s what wolves eat.  This one might appear to make sense but the meat that we feed it likely to be “leans cuts” as opposed to what the wolf would eat which also includes the bones, hair, internal organs, and stomach contents i.e. vegetable matter.

9.       Dogs need regular baths.  Dogs only need occasional baths, if for example they roll in fox poo.  Frequent bathing can dry out your dog’s coat causing skin problems.

10.   Dogs only see in black and white.  This used to be the understanding of dogs’ vision.  Your dog’s visual perception is different to yours but he can in fact see a limited range of colour.

11.   Bitches need to have at least one litter in order to feel content.  A bit more anthropomorphism here.  She will not reminisce about when she had puppies and will not sit and contemplate about what it will be like to have puppies.  Dogs just live in the here and now. 

12.   My dog must be hungry since he will eat as much as I will feed him.  Dog obesity closely mirrors human obesity and it is going in the wrong direction.  You are putting pressure on a dog’s joints and internal organs when he is overweight and therefore potentially taking years off his life.

13.   I’m sure the last time I had a puppy it was not this much hard work?  This is what’s known as selective memory.  The last time you had a puppy was 15 years ago giving you plenty of time to try to block out the memory of all that chewing, mouthing, weeing and pooing!

14.   You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  This is another silly one.  Dogs can in fact learn all through their lives.

The moral of the story is that if your vet, breeder, trainer, or behaviourist tells you something about your dog then ask them to explain it.  If they can’t then they are probably just repeating an old wives tale.

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