Wednesday, 10 October 2018


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Wednesday, 22 August 2018

You are doing it all wrong!

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 stranger!


How do I deal with those “you are doing it all wrong, you should do it like this” people?

The first thing is to do is stop being so British about it!

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.

My experience.

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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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

How safe is your dog in your car?

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.

What equipment should I use?

A tether

This is the most simple and cheap solution!

It can be used in the boot, back or front seat.

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.

A harness

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!

You can buy a seat belt clip for just a couple of pounds.

However, this crash test video demonstrates the inadequacy of many harnesses in an accident. 

Look for a harness of good construction with sturdy clips.

Sleepypod have crash tested their dog car harnesses at 30mph.

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Monday, 26 February 2018

Cold weather survival guide for you and your dog!

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 for insulation.

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 him sick!

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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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

When should I neuter my dog?

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 neutering.

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 your decision.

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 simplification.

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%
·         Never: 19% 


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 months. 

Do your own research since everyone’s circumstances will be different!

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