Thursday, 29 December 2016

My dog is not interested in food!

My dog is not interested in food is something I sometimes hear from new clients.  When I look down I often see a well feed or overweight dog looking back at me.

Food is a biological need for all of us including our furry friends. 

What owners usually mean is their dog is not interested enough in the food they are offering at that moment in time. 

Most puppies start their life with us enthusiastically eating what is put in front of them but over time some realise that if they wait us out then we will give them something “better” e.g. a little bit of gravy poured over their dry kibble or even a tin of wet food.  As time goes on they may wait for some fresh chicken to be mixed in.  We have then created a “fussy eater”.

 It could be time to get your dog weighed and reduce his food a little if necessary.  It’s great if you are spending time training your dog with treats but you may need to reduce his daily food allowance a little to compensate.

We may ask our dog to come back in the park and when he does we give him a dry biscuit.  The dog may have run back from playing with all his friends and so is a little disappointed and therefore next time does not bother to come back.  You could try mixing in a little bit of chicken or sausage with his treats as a special surprise to make his recall worthwhile.

Perhaps you have a nervous dog and when friends visit you ask them to offer him a biscuit but he still keeps away.  In this situation the dog does not want the treat enough to risk the meeting the scary visitor.

Your dog may not like travelling in the car so you try to lure him in with a treat but the fear of the car journey outweighs the pleasure of the treat.

Treats are incredibly useful for training your dog in a positive way but the benefit for him has to outweigh the cost. 

If you are worried about your dog not eating enough then please get him checked out by your vet to rule out any veterinary problems.

Please feel free to contact me if you need any help with your dog’s behaviour.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Proprioception – what’s that?

Most dogs love their walks  They get to run around at full speed and play with the other dogs in the park.  Once they get home they sleep for hours until the next walk... right?

Some dogs, no matter how much “exercise” you give them still have energy to burn.  Border Collies come to mind.  Breeds of the “working” variety e.g. working Cocker Spaniels or working Labradors often don’t have an off switch either.

Perhaps the exercise they are getting is just half the picture?  The organ that uses most energy is actually the brain so how do you work that part of your dog?

Lord Nelson

Opening your eyes is the first step.  I recently went to St. Ann’s Well Gardens with a client with a high-energy Springer Spaniel cross.  He loves to run around but also loves to be with his human.  As we walked around the park we looked for things to do.  There is a long log that is on its side on the grass.  We lured Lord Nelson onto this with a treat which he was happy to take and then jumped off again.  He jumped off because he didn’t have the balance to stay on and was also moving quickly.  On his second attempt we used a second treat to keep him there.  This was great fun for all of us.  Next Nelson was asked to sit on the log, his back legs quivered as he did this as all the small mussels worked together to control this delicate manoeuvre. 

We then set off to the next adventure in the form of a tree trunk.  Nelson was asked to jump onto it which he was happy to do but did so at speed but then flew off the other side.  The next attempt he took it a little more slowly and managed to stay on.

Around the park we found an upturned tree with a 30 degree incline which Nelson happily trotted up but then had to work out what to do at the end.  He turned his body around slowly, a little unsure of what his back legs were doing, but managed it without falling off!

The next obstacle was the well itself.  Nelson’s task here was to jump on and slowly manoeuvre around the edge.  This was a tricky task since it was very narrow.  Another great success for Nelson.
When we got home Nelson crashed out on his bed struggling to keep his eyes open.

This brings me back to my original question “Proprioception – what’s that?”.  Proprioception is knowing where your body is in space.  Anyone who has practiced yoga may understand how difficult it is at first to control our body slowly.  With practice comes improved strength, flexibility, and balance.  Slowing down so the mind has awareness about what their body is doing has similar advantages for dogs.  The added bonus for a dog that has used his mind and body is he may then crash out after his trip to the park.

I call these training sessions Urban Agility since you use whatever your local park has to offer to mentally and physically work your dog.  I can train these sessions with you or as part of my Groundwork service where I work your dog for you.

Have fun with your dog!

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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 crates 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 your dog has 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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