You can find out what your dog is thinking…

Northern Beaches dog lovers were given high quality, free information about positive, reward-based dog training last night.

Learning to read dog body language, tips for communicating with our furry companions and doing cool tricks together were covered by qualified dog trainers who only use positive outcomes when working with their and other people’s dogs.

For those who weren’t able to make it on the night, here are some of the key insights from the line-up of fantastic speakers.

Dr Jill King – Pittwater Animal Hospital

As an animal behaviourist, Jill covered anxiety in dogs as many animals needing her help visit her office every day. While a normal response, anxiety is an anticipation or worry about a potential future danger. Some dogs, however, develop anxiety about things that aren’t dangerous such as hair dryers or the sound of thunder.

Jill spoke about the stages or zones of anxiety:

  • Happy, relaxed dogs = in the blue zone.
  • Interacting with us, slightly excited = in the green zone.
  • Getting worried but starting to get worried = the yellow zone (pre-panic).
  • Absolute panic zone= in the red. There’s not much can do at this point as they are totally stressed out.

Jill’s advice was that if your dog is in the green zone, moving to yellow, but before they get to the red zone is to get your dog out of the situation and avoid it in the first place when you can. Calm them down and get eye contact. Tell them it’s all okay and be kind to them.

 Louise Colombari – Pittwater Animal Hospital

“I have emotions you can relate to as a human but I need you to understand me as a dog”… Understanding canine body language was covered by Louise who is a vet nurse and dog trainer.

Human communication Dog communication
Approach each other directly/ face to face / front on

Engage direct eye contact

Shake hands or hug


Approach in an arch

Have indirect eye contact

Body language indicates their personality – swift and direct = confident, slow and less direct = less confident

Find face to face contact confrontational. Especially when they’re on a lead and feel they can’t escape.


Learn to read your dog’s emotional state by observing the big picture. Loose, wiggly dogs are generally comfortable while those who are stiff in their eyes and body stance and have a shut mouth are anxious, uncomfortable or alert to potential danger.

Dogs use displacement behaviours and calming signals to calm themselves or others. These are either normal behaviours taking place out of context e.g. they yawn when they are not tired or to diffuse a potentially stressful situation with other dogs or people.

There’s a range of these behaviours where if you observe them you’ll be able to recognise if your dog is uncomfortable in the situation – even when you think everything’s okay. The list includes yawning, scratching, lip licking, sneezing, stretching, turning away, lifting a paw, showing the whites of their eyes, blinking repeatedly or slowly dropping their head.

Some easily recognisable signs of stress in dog include suddenly shedding a lot (like a dandruff storm), sweating through their feet which leaves wet paw prints, refusing to eat, shaking as if they are wet, pacing, panting and barking or whining.

There are great body language apps and resources on the Internet, including:

Maxine Fernandez – Canine Kindergarten

Tricks are a great way to build trust and confidence in each other through positive reinforcement. They create calm and can help you learn to communicate with each other, while your dog has to get basic behaviours down pat as they’re often the foundation for more complex actions e.g. lying down precedes rolling over.

Maxine likes training multiple tricks at the same time so there’s variety and unpredictability, while you can move onto another trick if they’re struggling with a particular one. To do complex tricks you break them down to their most simple stages and build them together as the dog grasps each stage.

Tips for getting started with tricks:

  • You can teach by luring (getting them into position), capturing (reward as they do the right thing) or shaping (stitching behaviours together)
  • Mark the behaviour with a clicker or a “yes” to mark the moment the dog does the right thing and reward them with food to reinforce it
  • Use prompts or chains to shape a more complex behaviour
  • Be safe – watch your dog for signs of stress, frustration and discomfort. Don’t pressure them and don’t train if they are over-excited.

Barbara Hodel – Goodog Positive Dog Training

Dog sports are fun, save you going to the gym as it keeps you fit, you have a better trained dog and improves the relationship between you and your dog. And above all it’s about Barbara’s catch phrase: tired dogs mean happy owners!

Barbara from Goodog shows that trick training is fun and good for your dog.

Barbara from Goodog shows that trick training is fun and good for your dog.

There is a large choice – 50 different options available, including some breed-specific ones. Dog sports Barbara recommends and that are available in our local area are:

  • Treibball where instead of sheep they use large balls where dogs need to ‘herd’ them into a goal.
  • In Earth Dog for terrier-type dogs they have built purpose-built dens to ‘hunt’ rats (which are protected behind a fence for their safety).
  • Nose Work is inspired by working detective dogs and they learn to find a specific odour and its source. Great for older dogs who aren’t as agile anymore or those with other disabilities.
  • Flyball is a race between two teams of four dogs. Each dog jumps over four hurdles, retrieves a ball and returns.
  • Rally O (stands for rally obedience) is a combination between traditional obedience and agility but is more relaxed and suitable for most dog owners. Handler and dog navigate a signposted course, performing a series of exercises such as turns while a judge checks their performance.
  • Agility – dog and handler navigate a course with jumps and equipment, while competing against time with no faults.
  • Dancing with dogs. The routine choreographed to music is also called freestyle obedience or heelwork to music.

Choose what’s right for you according to your age and fitness level, time and interest, as well as your dog’s age, fitness, sociability and breed. Some ways to get involved in sports on the Northern Beaches include:

  • Goodog fun classes
  • North Suburbs Dog training Club
  • Manly and District Kennan and dog training clb
  • Canine fun sports
    Dogs NSW has info about herding, Earth Dog etc

It was a great night and the community really benefitted from having access to such high calibre dog trainers who don’t use punishment to get the best from their dogs.

Around three education sessions are planned for next year. If you are interesting in finding out more or attending future events, please get in touch with Barbara at or


Sydney’s Festival of the Pooch loads of furry fun

Pedadoggy loved attending the inaugural Sydney Dog Lovers Show this weekend. A whole show dedicated to all things dog – it was promoted as “3 great days of 4 legged fun!” and didn’t disappoint.

Check out the photos here:

There were heaps of exhibitors – name it and you could get it. Food, toys, accessories, gourmet delights, vets, doggy bow ties, doggy services, photography and a whole section devoted to rescue dog facilities. And a whole lot more. There were dogs herding sheep (well plastic balls pretending to be sheep) and others doing a long-distance jump into a pool as part of Dock Dogs.

It was great to pop in at the Delta Therapy Dogs stand and see the Pedadoggy sponsored Therapy Dog team – Toni and Elly – promoting the great cause. The Delta Dog Trainers Dog Trainers Association, which I’m a member of through my accreditation, was also there promoting positive training.

I’m sure everybody has their own list of highlights but mine were:

  • The growth in providers of whole and natural, grain-free foods and treats for dogs. The more choices we get the better for our wallets as consumers and healthier for our dogs.
  • There are some really clever products on the market. I got a ‘No Dogs’ collar for Zac from Friendly Dog Collars – they have a large range including options such as ‘nervous’, ‘training’ or ‘no kids’. A great way to help you communicate when your dog needs a little extra space.
  • With the unlimited amount of interactive and food dispensing toys available today, dogs do not need to be bored when home alone. Remember to rotate them regularly to keep it fresh.
  • The displays were fantastic. Watching shelter dogs being trained in agility was fantastic and proves that you only need to give a dog a job to do and they will shine. It’s not about their lineage, it’s about the opportunities they are given.

What a great day out!


Make sure the kennel is not a jail

I try to keep most of my holidays pet-friendly but sometimes there are times when Zac simply can’t come with us and our awesome pet sitters aren’t available. Through trial-and-error I have found an amazing kennel, I think the fancy name these days is ‘pet boarding facility’ or ‘doggy hotel’ and want to share my tips on choosing one that will treat your dog well.

A few years ago, we were using a kennel closer to home. The first time Zac went off happily with them. The first problem was on the way home in the car. We’d hardly turned the corner when his gas emissions caused us to choke up and have to wind the car windows down all the way home. They clearly had given him food that wasn’t good quality and didn’t work for his system. I also noticed that he seemed more subdued than usual.

The second problem was at our next visit. My dog loves humans and will run up to anyone. When it came time for me to leave after filling in the paperwork, one of the kennel staff put a lead on and started walking him to where he’d be staying. I saw Zac dig all four his four feet into the ground, the first time I’d ever seen him do this, clearly not wanting to go back there. Unfortunately we’d had a death in the family and I had no choice but to leave him.

Our reunion was happy except for the disgusting smells he was creating, but it took him around two days to be himself again. All I could describe it as was shell shock – he was subdued and frankly in a depressed state as I had never seen him before, and I vowed never to use that facility again.

A dog training contact recommended that I try Akuna Care, a pet resort as they describe themselves, in the Hunter Valley – about three hours drive from Sydney. For just $25 they pick him up and drop him off in air conditioned comfort. And when their white wagon pulls into our driveway, he is so excited to go with them that he jumps straight into his allocated crate when the door is pulled open. Then he sits there grinning at us. And why wouldn’t he we always joke, he’s off for some wine and cheese tasting in the Hunter Valley!

What I love best about Akuna is that when Zac returns home, he is wired for play, relaxed and happy. He wants to chase his ball and play tug of war, and it’s clear that he has been given plenty of attention. Their range of packages allow you to scale up the exercise given per day depending on your dog and your budget and they allow for personal extras such as providing your own food. With a highly itchy dog this is really important to me. The very friendly team keeps notes about him so they know exactly what to do every time he visits.

From my trial and error, here are my top tips for choosing a boarding facility:

  • Ask them if they dog stack. I think that part of Zac’s stress from the one I no longer use is that they put all the dogs in a yard together and expect them to be calm and relaxed. My dog does not like other dogs and this would have been his idea of personal hell. At Akuna Care the dogs have their own sleeping kennel with a grass run if they need to do their business. At no time are dogs stacked together. Three times a day Zac is exercised and played with (no other dogs) in the grassed play area, taken for a walk or a swim in the dam on the property.
  • Check out the type of accommodation they’ll be sleeping in. While it’ll never replace the comfort of home, an area other than concrete where they can relieve themselves and raised bedding off a concrete floor is important.
  • When you are booking in or asking questions the attitude of the staff tells you a lot about how your dog will be treated. Are they just another cog in the business wheel or is the care of your precious best friend taken as personally as you do? I regularly get videos of Zac when I’m away from Akuna, a lovely way to keep in touch when travelling.
  • If you can check out the facility, observe the noise levels. Are there lots of stressed dogs barking constantly or just the occasional few?
  • Observe you dog’s behaviour when they come home. If they seem down or subdued, it could be highly likely because of the stress of the boarding facility. The biggest indicator of Zac’s wellbeing when he gets back is his happy demeanour and begging for play.
  • Don’t assume that better care is more expensive. When I switched boarding facilities and got a much better experience, I was only paying marginally more for care, with much better outcomes achieved. My car smells better too.

In summary, when choosing any type of care service for your dog – whether a kennel or a pet minder ask lots of questions and do your research.