The lead is not a steering wheel

Most dogs think their humans are jerks. Literally so, and I agree. Travelling on holiday for the last few weeks has given me an opportunity to observe many dogs and owners together. In many instances I see beautiful loose lead walking, dogs sitting calmly at their owner’s feet in cafes, others tied up outside a store patiently and quietly waiting for their person to come back, dogs being patted and loved greatly.

But there’s one thing bugging me and it has been for a while. It’s this idea that as humans we get to command dogs and that they have to do our bidding without any choice or option to exercise their own mind.

Sometimes this becomes physical. How I’ve seen it manifest many times is the source of the greatest exasperation for me – lead jerking.

The dog wants to sniff a lamp post while the owner is walking, it’s jerked back. The dog wants to stop and look at an oncoming dog in a bit more detail, it’s jerked along. The dog wants to explore the surroundings to the extent of the lead while the owner is standing still, it’s jerked back.

In one instance a man who was walking two dogs suddenly changed the direction he’d been taking but didn’t say anything to them like a “this way”, so they kept going and he gave their leads an almighty jerk. In that second I noticed both dogs look up at him in total surprise – they weren’t expecting the hard pull and it was a total “what the” look on their faces. Imagine how that would feel if suddenly you were almost pulled off your feet for apparently no good reason and no communication…

The lead is not a steering wheel. Not that steering wheels should be jerked either. It’s a tether between people and their dogs. You don’t use it to turn the neck or move their body.

The alternatives are to let them sniff a little when out walking– after all their noses are their most complex input organ with which they learn about their world. Teach a ‘touch’ to turn the head or neck away from something you don’t want them to focus on. A ‘let’s go’ or ‘this way’ helps them know when you’re on the move or changing direction.

Apart from degrading the relationship between dog and owner – they become mistrustful of walking alongside you, as they don’t know when they are going to get jerked – it’s also physically dangerous. I don’t know many dog owners who want to pay for vet bills yet jerking can cause whiplash and more extensive spinal cord injuries, while damaging the soft tissue of the throat and esophagus.

If we teach our dogs that ‘sit’ is a nice way to say please, then ‘this way’ with a gentle and soft tug of the lead in the direction we’re going should be a nice way we ask our dogs to turn with us.

Get your wolf off the couch and other dog myths

Myths such as puppies don’t need pre-school, garlic prevents ticks and that dogs will dominate you if they sit on the furniture with you are busted in this second installment of the Modern Pet Dog workshop by Northern Beaches dog trainers who are united by positive philosophy.

Louise Colombari – Pittwater Animal Hospital

As a veterinary nurse and a dog trainer, Louise dispelled some myths about our canine companions that many people believe or grew up learning.

  1. Dogs have an innate desire to please

Busted: They aren’t born with a desire to please us but are motivated by attention, food, praise, toys and games etc. They work out what’s beneficial for them and how to get out of the environment. Some are more motivated than others so experiment what they’ll work for.

  1. Playing tug makes dogs aggressive

Busted: This is great way to mentally and physically exercise the dog. Is also a great form or positive reinforcement. You should teach a ‘release’ or ‘drop it’ cue – which also makes it a great training activity. Teach them to grab toy with permission and only pull side to side to avoid neck injuries. The game temporarily ends when play gets too rough.

  1. My puppy doesn’t need puppy school

Busted: The benefits are huge. Socialisation is from 4-16 weeks of age. Common excuses that Louise has heard from people includie they include they can’t afford it / but they’ve owned dogs for years / have another dog at home that will teach this one / did puppy school 10 years ago.

  1. Happy dogs wag their tails

Busted: Yes but for lots of other reasons as well. Use their tail as part of the overall communication process. Position of the wag is important. Low slung signifies fear or anxiety. Mid-set is calm or neutral. High set or straight up means the dogs is alert or threatening.

  1. If you use treats to train a dog they’ll always be needed to obey your commands

Busted: Dog has a choice that if they act on the cue given, their behaviour has a consequence. Treats are a primary resource as we control the food. So we use it to get them to do things. Different types of food have different levels of reinforcement. Not a bribe (present food to do the behaviours) but a reward (after they perform the behaviour = pay). When behaviour is reliable can phase it out with others such as pats or praise. Fade out, not completely and replace with other reinforcers. A dog that will only perform for food has not been trained properly. Take the rewards out of their food allocation of the calories. Make sure it’s the right food / do they like toys more and they won’t eat if they are stressed.

  1. A warm / dry nose means your dog is sick

Busted: False belief that dogs noses have to be wet. Their temperatures fluctuate. Not a reliable sign. Check with your vet if not sure about their health.

  1. Adding garlic to their diet prevents fleas and ticks

Bused: When ingested in large amounts garlic can lead to the breakdown of red blood cells, anemia and death. Belongs to the alium family (includes chives, leeks) – same compound. Not necessarily an outward appearance of toxicity but has an effect on the red blood cell.

  1. My dog is scooting their backside on the ground – they must have worms

Busted: They have anal glands in their bottom. Gives information to other dogs about them. Scooting means they have an itchy bottom which may be due to impacted anal glands, not worms. Can also be a skin irritation, wound or abscess. So get it checked by your vet.

Maxine Fernandez – Canine Kindergarten

Studies done in the past made the false link between dog and wolf behaviour. The wolves studied to make this conclusion were held in captivity in artificial family groups, forced to remain together in a more rigid hierarchy that impacted the behaviours they’d show in the wild. This has fuelled a decades-long, inaccurate perception that there has to be an ‘alpha’ leader, rather than the more true view that it’s actually a parental relationship between the different animals that guides the different activities of the group.

Humans have misinterpreted this inaccurate theory to mean that to maintain rank they must be dominant with their dogs, leading to aversive training which can lead to aggression, fear and anxiety that destroys their relationship with their dog. Common ways this myth is asserted includes:

  • The Alpha Roll – asserting dominance by forcing dog physically onto their back and pinning them down until they stop struggling, shake them by the scruff of neck. However, dogs don’t do that to other dogs and when they lie on their backs it’s always voluntary. You are likely create a fearful dog that mistrusts you if you use this technique.
  • Believing you shouldn’t allow your dogs on the furniture as if they are on the same height they are equal to you. But wolves don’t have couches in the wild!
  • You have to eat before your dog as the most dominant dog eats first. This is not the case as in times of scarcity the wolf puppies eat first, of if there is enough food they eat together.
  • Other misperceptions include: playing tug games promotes dominant play; a dog that mounts you or another dog is trying to dominate; dogs who pull on the lead or jump up on people are trying to be dominant; dogs who growl are trying to assert a dominant rank over you and never let your dog go through the door before you.

Also read about the first Modern Pet Dog workshop installment (is that a guilty look or is your dog scared of you?) if you missed it.

 

A day in the life of… doggy psychiatrists

Pedadoggy Profiles...

Vet Behaviour teamDr Amanda Cole and Dr Heather Chee are Behaviour Veterinarians who diagnose and manage behavioural diseases such as anxiety or compulsive disorders, fears and phobias – just like a human psychiatrist.

Mental illness is increasingly being recognised in humans as well as animals. This team of specialized vets help dog owners recognise and understand their pets’ emotions, and then take the right course of action so their animals feel happy, confident and relaxed.

They don’t focus on training dogs, but work on the premise that the more anxious a dog is the less likely it will be able to learn anything new – just like a bullied child at school often suffers from poor grades. Let’s find out more about what they do and how they do it.

What are the three most common reasons your clients engage you for your services?

  1. Dogs who are aggressive or very reactive such as barking and lunging towards other dogs
  2. Dogs who are aggressive towards people
  3. Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety expressed as through barking, howling, escaping, or destroying things when their owners aren’t home.

What are your top tips for getting the most out of your relationship with your dog?

Empathy is the most important part of forming a relationship with your dog. Emotionally and intellectually your dog is the same as a 2-3 year old human child, so their behaviour is never vindictive, malicious, manipulative or even guilty. Most behaviours that we do not like simply stem from fear or anxiety, so we need to move away from the old fashioned belief that you need to ‘dominate’ your dog and move towards being good, kind and consistent parents.

What’s the most common mistakes you see dog owners making?

Dog owners often blame themselves for their dog’s behaviour and think that they have not been strict enough with training. This is often not the case. A lot of behaviours and mental illnesses have very strong genetic components which are not the fault of either the owner or the dog.

This leads many owners to think they can’t comfort or try to calm their pets during scary situations such as storms or meeting people they are afraid of – especially if they present their fear as aggression. They think they have to ignore them or punish them or they worry they are rewarding their pet’s fear. You cannot reward fear. Doing anything that makes your pet feel better such as bringing them inside, petting them, giving them treats or playing with them during a situation where your pet is scared is the right thing to do. Making your dog feel comfortable will actually make it less likely to be aggressive!

What do you love most about your job?

We love opening people’s eyes to animal behaviour and rebuilding human-animal bonds which have been fractured by frustrating, aggressive or destructive behaviours. Seeing dogs go from being anxious to the point of having panic attacks, constantly barking, howling, self harming or being fearfully aggressive to feeling happy, relaxed and comfortable is so rewarding! We love seeing the relief on our client’s faces when we tell them that they can be kind to their dogs and not have to punish or intimate them anymore.

What are some good online resources you recommend for people to learn more about dog behaviour?

http://www.dogwelfarecampaign.org/

This is a fantastic website for understanding dog behaviour and why training techniques that rely on inducing pain and fear in dogs, are not only unsuccessful but also break down the relationship between an owner and their dog. Punishment based training often originates from the belief that dogs try to assert ‘dominance’ or achieve ‘status’. This a concept that is no longer regarded as a useful way of understanding dogs, and is also potentially harmful.

http://avsabonline.org/resources/position-statements

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) is a group of veterinarians and research scientists dedicated to improving the lives of animals and people through an understanding of animal behavior. Their website has many position statements which are updated to reflect the ever changing science that is animal behaviour.

Find out more:

Vet Behaviour Team

http://www.vetbehaviourteam.com

vetbehaviourteam@gmail.com

 

 

People noticed the holes in the universe

I know this blog is about dogs, but it’s also about life and learning and holding what is dear close to your heart.

This week my corporate workplace was locked down due to the horrendous events unfolding in Martin Place, where I later learnt four of my fellow employees had been caught up and were begging for their lives after having simply popped out of the office to grab a cup of coffee.

I’m not one for public spectacles and I prefer to avoid crowds, but in the days that followed the Lindt Café siege I had an innate need to visit the impromptu public memorial that had sprung up. I was mourning the loss of two innocent lives, the horrors inflicted on the survivors and also a more personal impact of evil having scratched its claws across my city.

Just walking up George Street I could already tell that things were different. While there was the usual lunchtime throng of shoppers and people out for lunch, it was very obvious that there was another flow of people coming off buses and trains, all heading in the same direction. Many of them were carrying flowers. Some held elaborate bunches, others were a simple collection of colourful Gerberas.

Mourning in that public place was an unexpectedly intimate experience. As I stood at the barrier, breathing in the fragrance of thousands of different flowers laid down in respect, I was enveloped by a communal silence. Everyone stood there quietly. It was a mass reflection where words simply weren’t necessary. Behind us, there was the constant movement of people walking through the pedestrian thoroughfare, but in that exclusively quiet place, I joined strangers in silently marking our loss.

The morning that my father died of cancer surgery complications over two years ago, I was left with the sense that there was a distinct and obvious dad-shaped hole in the universe. I could feel it in the very core of my being, as if I was a tent where one of the pegs had come out, leaving me untethered from the ground. It was a hole only I could see as life kept going on around me with people filling up their cars and heading off to the shops with their weekly grocery lists. Nobody else noticed that there was somebody clearly missing in the world.

This week, the holes rendered in the universe through the unnecessary and senseless deaths of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson were noticed by millions. Thousands have now come to that place of mourning to take time to reflect on all that was lost on Monday. The news has reported that their families who visited the flower memorial on Martin Place have apparently gained some comfort from strangers noticing the spaces, voids and holes Tori and Katrina left behind. And knowing that the lives of the other hostages will never be the same again from the blunt force emotional and psychological trauma they were put through.

This week Sydney lost its innocence. I chose to make this amazing city home in December 14 years ago and was fortunate enough to be granted a chance to live here. I left behind a life in Johannesburg of constantly checking over your shoulder, not being sure if a bump in the night is your dog rolling over in its sleep or a burglar coming for you with a knife or gun and where a mobile phone can have more value than a life.

The tragic and viscerally disgusting events at Sydney’s Lindt Café this week by the man now known on social media as the Lone Dickhead, was a wake up call for everyone.

It was a reminder not to take our amazing lifestyle for granted. To be thankful that we have an outstanding standard of law enforcement made up of highly trained professionals who all ‘dickheads’ should be petrified of if they know what’s good for them. And not to accept the love we have in our lives without appreciating the person who is offering it to us as family, friends, workmates or just the person who stands aside graciously to let you pass by in the grocery aisle.

For, as I later wrote about the impacts of my dad’s passing, “death is a bombshell that each and every one of us will face if we love anyone at all. But nothing prepares you for the sucking back of the air, the noise of loss and the full force of the blast of no more and forever”. No amount of flowers, candles or tears will bring those who matter to us back.

So go and say I love you to the ones you do. Thank them for the joy their bring to your life. Know they make up your universe and that their loss will leave holes that will never be filled. And don’t forget to tell your dog too.

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: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.743481802389704.1073741832.329613187109903&type=1

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.

Why I have love having a dog in my life

I feel reflective today. There are so many more but these reasons are at the top of my gratitude list for having the privilege of having Zac in my life. I’m sure everyone who reads this can keep adding more when they think about their dog.

  • The enthusiastic and unrelentingly happy greeting when I return, world-weary, from a day’s work. He’s my ‘welcome home’ every day.
  • Gets me up and out the door on time in the mornings as I could never forgive myself if I left for the day without having at least 20 minutes of fun activity with him.
  • He’s my meditation. No matter how tired or stressed I am, playing or patting him and experiencing his delight from my mere presence makes all my problems fade away.
  • Finding new places to explore on walks so that going out together is never boring.
  • I’ve met and spoken to people who previously just would have been random strangers who walked on by. They stop to pat him, we get talking and I get to connect with my community.
  • Watching his enjoyment and delight in the most simple of things – a ball, a stick, a bone – makes me happy.
  • He helps me advocate for rescuing dogs as he’s such a happy and friendly character. Every dog should get a second chance.
  • He makes me laugh at least once a day. Not many people do that for me.
  • He’s undemanding of his humans but gives so much in return.

I am grateful every day for his companionship and for giving me riches that cannot be brought.

The Itchy and Scratchy Show

My dog takes great pleasure in rubbing his belly across my lawn. Not in a saucy way, though visiting trades people will always insinuate that perhaps he gets a little too much pleasure from the habit. With the warmer weather having arrived in Sydney, it’s like a switch has been turned on and Zac has started his seasonal itching with gusto. Commando crawling across the grass gives him some relief but also contributes to the vicious cycle of itching and scratching.

Staffy owners are probably nodding their heads in agreement as it’s apparently a common immune system ailment in this short-haired breed. At its worst, he scratches himself open on his belly and under his legs, or licks his feet obsessively, and it’s distressing to see his obvious and constant discomfort.

I’ve tried everything – from the very expensive and inconclusive consultation with a doggy dermatologist, to bathing him in peppermint tea. Last year was a great year – we only visited the vet once for skin troubles! I’ve resolved myself to never solving the problem fully but want to share the approach I’ve taken that works for me and provides some relief for my dog.

1. Avoid grains at all costs

The change that made the biggest difference was switching Zac to a diet entirely free of grains. Most commercial dog food is bulked up by grains such as wheat, rice and oats. The ingredients on the back of the pack are listed in order of quantity from the largest volume to smallest. I also switched from a grain-based oatmeal shampoo (typically marketed for dogs with sensitive skin) to Cedar Oil shampoo which has the added benefit of also being a natural repellent for ticks and fleas.

2. Not all dogs should eat cow

You should have seen the look on the butcher’s face when he offered my dog a piece of meat and I had to say no because it was beef. However, with modern farming practices including a lot more additives and antibiotics in chicken, pork and beef, removing this type of protein from Zac’s diet has made a big difference.

The food I use includes

  • BARF (biologically appropriate raw food) patties in kangaroo, lamb or rabbit
  • K9 raw freeze dried food– the lamb feast variety
  • Ziwi Peak air dried food – venison and fish flavour
  • Treats include lamb or kangaroo bones or jerky – really anything not made from grains of beef, chicken or pork.

Yes I pay more for his food as it is high end, but considering I only went to the vet once last year other than for his shots, compared to numerous previous trips for open, inflamed scratches that required antibiotics and other drugs, I am saving in vet fees.

3. Alternative tick and flea control

I must admit, it took me a while to get my head around this concept as it sounded like Yeti or UFO mythology to me. But Patty from Healthy Pets Naturally in Mona Vale convinced me to give it a go. For the last year I haven’t used either Frontine or Advantix as tick and flea control, or a tick collar. I live near bush land and have possums and bandicoots frequenting my yard and bringing in parasites such as the deadly paralysis tick. So I was very skeptical about switching from chemical control as I was literally taking my dog’s life in my own hands.

I have for the last year been using a Pet Protector. It’s a metal disc that sits permanently on Zac’s collar. It apparently (yes I know this sounds like something out of a science fiction movie script): “produces Scalar waves and creates an impenetrable, protective shield around the pet” and which repel ticks and fleas. Crazy I know but the proof is in the pudding. In the last year we only found two ticks on him – the same amount he was getting when using Frontline anyway – and no fleas. We do twice daily physical tick checks which he thinks is a nice massage and so far – and long may it last – so good. The Pet Protector costs around $80 and lasts for four years so is also a much cheaper option for parasite control, other than the health benefits for the dog.

4. Washing off allergens regularly

The skin prick allergy test that the dermatologist did and that I almost had to take a second mortgage out for didn’t show our grass or the grass at our local oval being an irritant for Zac’s skin. However, under advice from Patty at Healthy Pets, I do find that stewing two bags of peppermint tea in hot water and letting it cool, then washing his feet and belly in this potion does help in the hot summer months. If I don’t have time for this, then I at the very least spray him off with the hosepipe after a walk or play.

5. Taking cortisone only when necessary

Relief-in-a-flash is provided through an injection or course of pills. Though effective, cortisone should really only be a short term intervention as it has some really nasty side effects. My mom lost her dog to diabetes earlier this year because she’d chosen to keep her on a low dose of cortisone over a long time to control the itching, with organ damage the nasty side effect.

I always keep some pills on hand and if his skin flares up, use it to bring the inflammation in control. I more regularly use cortisone cream on itching ‘hot spots’ and to give the poor pup some relief – but again monitor use as it does have a side effect of thinning the skin. All of these interventions are used under guidance and prescription of my vet.

I have to thank Patty from Healthy Pets Naturally for her fantastic advice on managing itchy skin other than chemically or through multiple doses of cortisone.

This isn’t meant to be taken as advice but is based on my own experience. If you are seeking a solution for your dog, do your own research and get input from your vet or seek a holistic health practitioner for dogs.

Shhhh don’t share this… 3 secrets you should know about dog training.

The different reactions I get when I tell people I’m a dog trainer are always interesting. It’s quite a leap for some, as I also have a full-time, corporate job that pays the bills. Others get very excited and want to know all about it. Some immediately give me the raised eye-brow, ‘aha’ look and say – “oh, so you’re like a dog whisperer”. Nothing raises my hackles faster.

While you will reap the benefit from investing in training your dog, there are a lot of outfits out there using outdated and frequently harmful techniques. So I’m going to let you in on some secrets of the trade to ensure you get the best value for the training you spend your hard-eared income on.

Dog Training Secret Number 1: Dominance died with the Dodo

The wolf theory of how dog behaviour evolved has been proven wrong, by the very person who came up with it in the first place. So the whole ‘being the dominant alpha’ method of viewing your relationship with your dog is outdated. We need to move on from obsolete practices, just as we no longer employ children to do work or allow factories to jump their effluent into our river systems.

Dog Training Secret Number 2: Punishment will always have consequences, no matter how ‘soft’ it is.

There are no secrets. Or whispering. Or any type of voodoo for that matter. Good dog training is based on established and proven learning theories. Such as: a behaviour that is rewarded is more likely to be repeated; while a behaviour that is ignored is likely not to be repeated because there’s nothing in it for the dog. Choosing techniques that punish rather than reward, for example physically hurting or restraining a dog, often have unintended and sometimes worse consequences.

Dog Training Secret Number 3: Exercise their brains and bodies

Essentially there are only three things you need to do to have a happy, well-adjusted dog. One that integrates into your life with the good manners required from a modern companion animal living in today’s society. Exercise, enrichment and training.

Make sure they get an opportunity daily to release some energy through exercise; provide entertainment and stimulation for them, especially when they are being left alone for long periods and, lastly, training new tricks exerts energy and reinforces the bond where they trust that following your guidance means good things are going to happen.

And the biggest secret of all? None of this is or should be a secret. So use this knowledge to your advantage.

Coming soon we’ll explore the questions you should ask of your dog trainer before you hand over your money and dog’s mental and psychological wellbeing to them.