What’s the best way to train a new puppy or to work on
a dog’s behavioural problem?
The answer is to take unsolicited advice from a random
How do I deal with those “you are doing it all wrong, you should do it like
The first thing is to do is stop being so British about
Brighton & Hove is generally a lovely friendly place
but that doesn’t mean to have to do what any old random person tells you to
do.Take responsibility and remember
that your dog is totally dependent on you so if that means getting away from that
scary person then do it.
If you are not happy with what someone else is doing then
take control.That means you don’t have
to be polite and let a stranger pick up your puppy or stand by as their dog is being
too rough with yours.You can, and
should, take control and walk away.
What random advice might you get?
“Just let him off lead - it will be fine”
It will not be fine if your dog has not learnt recall and
runs over to an aggressive dog on lead or a scared child.
“Just let them sort it out”
This is usually what someone says when their over-boisterous
dog is terrorising yours.In this
situation trust you instincts and walk away.
“You need to show him who’s boss”
This is someone who “trains” using fear and pain.They have probably seen a celebrity trainer
on TV and now consider themselves equality qualified.
The list of bad advice is endless!
What not to do.
It may be tempting to get into an argument with the other
person.However, this may well cause your
dog distress.People that know it all
will not be open to reason.Just smile,
say thank you, and walk away.
I constantly get told by clients they are overwhelmed by the
contradictory advice they get from random people in the park and on the
internet.I always try to give clients
the reasons for my training advice and methods rather than just telling them what to do.
A real life example.
I was working in the park with a client.I was assessing the dog and
working on managing his behaviour and helping improve it.
Behind us is the park expert with her unsolicited advice.My client says thank you and we walk
away.We walk along further but she
catches us up.More expert advice which
would have made the dog’s behaviour far worse.My client thanks her again and suggests we walk in the other direction.The expert is now shouting after us how she
has had dogs for 20 years and is just trying to help.She probably did have lots of experience owning
her own dogs but that does not make her an expert.Luckily my client had excellent social skills
and could confidently manage the situation.
Take home message.
Having a new dog will mean you get to talk to lots of new
people in the park which can be lovely.
You don’t, however have to take on board everything people tell you. Trust your instincts and get some professional
advice if you need help.
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Would you drive without a seat belt or allow your
passengers or child to do so?
There have been various changes in the law in the UK over
the years with attitudes to safer car travel following. So, the answer is probably no!
You may be breaking the highway code and invalidating
your car insurance if you don’t properly secure your dog.
So why do you allow your dog to travel unrestrained or
just being held in someone’s arms?
The answer in part is not knowing the best way to keep
your dog safe.
Seat belts and child seats undergo rigorous mandatory safety checks. There is no official requirement
for safer dog travel.
Where should my dog be in my car?
In the boot space
The advantage of this solution is your dog is not going
to interfere with your driving and you can still use your seats for people.
The disadvantage is you have limited space for luggage.
Safety-wise if you break suddenly your dog may travel over the top of the backseat through the car hitting the back of your head or
the windscreen. You should
therefore consider the option of a crate, car guard or net, or to tether your
dog in the boot space. Most cars have a tether
point in the boot space to use.
Your boot is designed to be a crumple zone to keep you
safe in an accident. This may therefore
be the least safe place for your dog.
On the back seat
The advantage of this solution is your dog is not going
to interfere with your driving and you can still use your boot for
luggage. The disadvantage is you have reduced
space for passengers.
Safety-wise if you break suddenly your dog could travel
through the car hitting the back of your head or the windscreen. Tethering your dog will prevent this.
On the front seat
The disadvantage of this solution is your dog may be a
distraction to you potentially causing an accident.
The advantage is your dog may be calmer being close to you.
This solution is similar to having your dog on the back
seat except for the fact that you may have a front passenger airbag. Airbags are not designed for dogs and so
could do more harm than good in an accident. You may be
able to deactivate your car’s passenger airbag.
Keeping the tether short will minimise travel in the
event of an accident and reduce whiplash.
When the dog is just tethered by its collar in an accident the collar could fail and
the force may cause seriously damage the dog’s neck.
The better option is therefore to use a harness. In the event of a crash the
force would be distributed over the dog’s body.
A loose-fitting harness may allow the dog to get free in an
accident. The harness should therefore
fit snug to the dog’s body. The harness should also be of good construction so no part would not fail in an accident.
A dog car seat with a harness and tether
A car seat helps to keep your dog more contained,
it may also be more comfortable, and helps keep your car cleaner.
It can be used in the boot, back or front seat.
This in itself is not safely equipment so a harness and tether should also be used!
A dog crate
This has the advantage of keeping your dog contained during travel. The disadvantage is some
dogs may find crate travel stressful.
In the event of an accident if your dog’s create is not
securely tethered then not only will the dog be travelling through the car but
the create will too. You also need to
consider that your dog will hit the front of the crate in the event of an
accident and the crate may not withstand the force.
Depending on the car, crate, and dog size the crate may
be placed in the boot, back seat or front seat.
What’s the safest option?
In the absence of official comparative crash test data,
we don’t know!
As the first
flakes of snow drop in Brighton & Hove it pays to be prepared!
Wrap up warm
This is advice
for you rather than your dog! It means
you won’t be in a rush to come home because you are cold. Your dog already has a fur coat and most do
not need an additional coat. The exception
is breeds with low body fat such as greyhounds or whippets. If your dog is very young or old they may also
need a little extra insulation. If your
dog is not well then check with your vet if they are okay to go out in the cold
and if they may need a coat.
Perhaps hold off giving your dog a hair cut so he keeps that extra fur
Clean your feet when you get home
This is also
advice for you so you don’t stomp snow into the carpet! It can however be a good idea to wash your
dogs paws when you get home in case he has walked in salt that has been put
down. The salt could be an irritant for
his paws and you would also not want him licking it off since that could make
Go play in the snow
This can be good fun
for the both of you! Don’t use the cold
weather as an excuse to not walk your dog.
He still needs exercise and mental stimulation so as long as you are
sensible he will not mind the cold weather.
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One of the questions I am regularly asked by new puppy
owners is “how old should my dog be when I neuter him / her”.
A very simple question without a simple answer.
It is one of those “hot-button” topics for many people that
can evoke equally passionate arguments from pro and anti-neuter advocates.
I always try to take a pragmatic view in dog training so
that seems like a reasonable way to approach the sometimes emotive question of
These are some of the things you may wish to consider:
·The physical health of your dog.
·The behavioural well-being of your dog.
·The needs of the owner.
·The needs of society.
The physical health of your dog.
What does your vet say?
A visit to your vet should answer this question, right? Well, no.
You are likely to get a range of opinions from your vet. In my experience some will say do it as soon
as possible, some say wait until about six months (or after the first season
for a bitch), some will say only do it if required for veterinary reasons. No consensus at all!
A common reason for neutering given by some vets is the
reduced risk of cancers. In bitches this
could be mammary tumours and male dogs testicular or prostate cancer. Ask your vet to talk you through this.
What does the research say?
Research into the consequences of neutering should inform
This research however by its nature is difficult the
conduct. The ideal, but impractical,
method would be to follow a group of neutered and unneutered dogs of both sexes
and multiple breeds over their lifetime to determine the consequences of
neutering. An alternative method has
been to retrospectively analyse data collected to look at significant
effects. Good research requires good
data with reasonable sample sizes. In
the US research with Golden Retrievers (a very popular breed) has given some
insight. However it would be wrong to
assume that the results of studies on one breed can be generalised to all.
The behavioural well-being of your dog.
Asking your trainer or behaviourist should give you an
answer then? Again, there is little
consensus between different trainers or behaviourists.
It is widely believed by owners that neutering will “calm
down” a dog. This is however a major
Some male dogs will have poor recall because they have an
overriding drive to seek out a mate.
Some male dogs will get themselves into trouble with
other dogs by attempting to mount.
Does your male dog “have” to be kept on lead because of
his hormone driven behaviours which restricts his general quality of life?
Neutering, however is not a “silver bullet” to
behavioural problems for all dogs.
The needs of the owner.
Do you have more than one dog in your home? How will you prevent unwanted mating.
Do you have good general control of your dog?
Can you cope with a bitch in season twice a year for
three weeks at a time?
Do you plan to show your dog and therefore are required
to keep him / her entire?
Do you plan to breed from your dog? Is he / she a perfect example of the breed
with no health or behaviour problems?
Have you considered all the implications of breeding?
The needs of society.
In the UK there are thousands of unwanted dogs in
rescue. Many of these got there through
sellers wanting to make a “quick buck” by selling puppies to owners who did not
research dog ownership sufficiently.
Deliberate or accidental breeding of your dog just adds to this problem.
Is your dog a sex pest?
Does he try to hump everything in sight making life stressful for other
dogs and owners?
What do other owners do?
I asked the question “At what age (if at all) would you
neuter your dog” on a Facebook Group that advocates positive dog training
methods. The group is used by trainers
and dog owners interested in training.
This is not a scientific study but just a snap-shot of opinion!
I received 638 responses within 24 hours. The four main responses were are as follows:
·Between 6-12 months: 25%
·Between 12-24 months: 44%
·After 24 months: 12%
Some people have very strong views pro or anti-neutering. For those people who do neuter there has been
a general shift in opinion from neutering at six months to waiting until 12
Do your own research since everyone’s circumstances will
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When the sun comes out in the UK we tend to get over-excited
and common sense goes out the window.
Dogs are one of the most adaptable species on the planet
and have evolved to live in most countries of the world. We therefore do not need to over-react and
keep them inside once the sun comes out but we should use some common sense.
Have you ever walked barefoot on hot sand? You will run, hopping and yelping until you
get to the sea or some shade. A good
test is to hold the back of your hand on the ground for five seconds. If it is too hot for you then it is too hot
for your dog.
Dogs are barefoot all the time so if the sun is very hot
then so is the pavement. The simple
solution here is to seek out shade. In
town, this may mean crossing the street to get the shade of buildings. Where possible walk your dog on grass verges
rather than the pavement since it will be much cooler.
When we get hot we sweat to cool down. Dogs don’t!
Although they sweat a small amount through their paws the main way they
cool down is by panting. We sensibly
take a bottle of water out with us when it is hot so do the same for your dog
if you will be out for a while. Fold-flat water bowls are really handy.
Have a rest
Chill out under the shade of a tree for a while. This gives you both a chance to cool down.
Don’t run a marathon
Dogs are generally much more active in the park than we
are so leave the ball at home when really hot since the motivation to play may
override the motivation to rest. If you
do want to give your dog a good run then go out earlier or later in the day
when it's cooler.
When we are hot we can take a layer of clothes off. Give your dog a good brush to get out the
undercoat and remove matts. Some breeds
i.e. terriers can be stripped to reduce hair and some breeds can be trimmed.
Young, fit, and healthy?
A dog who is young, fit, and healthy will do fine in the
sun with sensible precautions. You may
however need to be extra careful with puppies, older dogs, unfit dogs, or dogs
with health conditions. Seek your vet’s
advice as appropriate.
Brachycephalic (short nose) dogs
Breeds like the very popular Pug and French Bulldog need
extra care. These dogs have been breed
to have very short faces meaning they have more difficulty breathing generally
and cooling down when hot. Brachycephalic
breeds can therefore quickly overheat.
If you are concerned that your dog may be suffering from
heatstroke then get him into shade immediately.
Cool him down gradually with water but not rapidly with cold water or
ice. Contact your vet for advice.
It should go without saying now that dogs should never be
left in cars on hot days. Even if it
does not seem very hot, if the car is in shade, if left for short periods, or
if the window is open! The temperature
inside the car will quickly make it very unsafe for a dog with the possibility
of heatstroke and death. If you see a
dog in a hot car don’t delay but call 999 for help.
Dogs for help training your dog in Brighton & Hove.