Lemons are deadly

I have a confessionlemon-8


Oh no here we go another come clean blog, yet another positive, reward based trainer joining the “in a former life I used to…” queue. However I am not ashamed I did what I did based on my knowledge at that time. If I hadn’t done this I probably wouldn’t be the way I am now.

“What is this thing?”  I hear you say. Well the one thing I used to use and with great success, or so I thought, was a citronella collar, a spray collar that shoots a harmless odour in the face of my dog. Or so I thought….

First let me explain what this is in case you don’t know. It’s a collar that has a reasonable sized box that you fill with citronella much like filling a lighter with gas. It has a small hole at the top that points toward the dogs face. You switch it on and carry the control and when your dog is being a pain then you simply press a button and voila. Take that you dick of a dog, you won’t do that again! I was kind though and before I sprayed the harmless lemon smelling air freshener I gave him a fighting chance by saying “enough”.

The subject was my utter idiot of a teenage ridgeback called Floyd, he was 10 months old and wouldn’t stop running at other dogs, in a social manner I hastily add. He was doing my head in; his recall was superb until he spotted a Labrador the WHOOOOMPH! He became deaf, distance wasn’t an issue, bodies of water wouldn’t stop him, and I actually believed that the hand of the supreme dog wouldn’t stop him! So I purchased the collar.

I knew my timing was good, I thought “well it won’t hurt him”, I actually convinced myself that I was doing him the biggest favour of his existence by saving him from himself. Yes eye roll away, I know something as simple as a long line and some additional training would have been more than adequate but as I said I didn’t know then what I know now.

So collar on a poor unsuspecting 40 kg teenage thug and out I went. I was all Snap! I got the power. I actively sought out a Labrador and sure as day becomes night his big floppy ginger ears did that radar thing that ridgebacks do and he took off like a greyhound out of trap 4. I hollered “ENOUGH” and wham! Boy did he stop, shot up in the air like a rocket, shook himself then sneezed several times before returning to proud as punch me. Hey I even gave him a biscuit; he ate it and no harm done. Sounds AWESOME, right? Let’s carry on.

I only used the damn thing like 10 times. Less than a week all I had to say was “enough” and the big doofus stopped in his tracks. I the big intelligent human had won that battle, I didn’t realise I had created a war.

Floyd went from over social to quite nervous when he was in the presence of Labs, then Spaniels (probably egged on by the little cocker that bit his muzzle), then terriers and so on. What on earth was going on?

A month on and I was starting to worry, he was GROWLING! So in my superior knowledge I was using the cue word more but no collar but in my foolish attempts to stop him doing something I considered wrong I had taught him to avoid dogs, to fear dogs, because dogs meant punishment or threat of.

You see dogs sense of smell is very sensitive, he was basically tortured through his most acute piece of equipment for something that was MY fault. This was Classical conditioning in all its splendour and glory. He saw dogs he anticipated punishment.

In the scientific term I used positive punishment then negative reinforcement on my dog. I can tell you how that hurts me to type. The guilt. The shame. The total arrogance that I felt I had the right to cause him harm in the name of teaching.

I stopped using the collar (I think in a fit of Scottish rage I did it grievous bodily harm) and I stopped using the word but it wasn’t for about another year that I got the skills to undo what I had done.

That came off the back of reading “Don’t shoot the dog” I cried at the end of that book at what I had done.

I won’t go into how I changed it around as that’s a whole other story. But I will end with this serious note of caution, spray collars are effective because they offend your dog massively, the same as water pistols, rattle cans, pokes in the neck  and on the big end of “piss –your- dog- off” spectrum shock collars. But remember when we as carers and teachers cut corners in our lessons there is always a price to pay. Obedient doesn’t always equate to right. So if your dog doesn’t like it don’t use it, if it is designed to stop unwanted behaviours again don’t use it.

Just glad that I am as good at timing with a click as I was with the collar.

And my friends this is why I know that using these collars is not cool. I now know how they work, why they work and what they are doing.

I can guarantee that you are causing more problems than you are curing. Thank you to Gail & Kate for prompting me to write this, Its been like an exorcism.


It’s more than a mobile phone!


Your phone is up for renewal, you look through the various providers for the style you like, the tariff that suits, one you can afford, bolt on packages, how many minutes do you get, text bundles, the length of the contract. It’s a huge decision; after all you will own this life organising, internet providing, camera and communication for the next 18 months, you wouldn’t want to get it wrong.

Buying a puppy? The cheapest deal in the style you like, if it looks healthy then it must be, not a big thing you will only have this in your life for the next ten plus years.

Let us start over again

Buying a dog should be huge deal. Talked over with the family and thought through with great care. What will happen when you go to work? Now I own a dog walking business but having an 8 week old puppy visited a couple times of a day, 5 days of the week is not enough. Can you be there for the majority of the time until the puppy is at least 5 months of old.

Do you really have the time?

Toilet training alone requires a puppy to be taken outside 20 times a day (sometimes more) after all its about creating good habits. It doesn’t matter if the sun is splitting the sky or the rain is raging down at an angle at 2 am, the puppy has to pee, and unless you want the toilet training process to take a lifetime undoing bad habits then that is what it is.

Then there’s the actual training. You would want to get the best education possible for your children, so they learn things and get social skills. The same goes for a puppy. A good early education is invaluable! I am a dog trainer but I still take my puppies to class, it makes sense! My friends a teacher for primary school, perfectly capable of educating her own kids but her kids to school.

A simple thing like learning good dog social skills to the surrounding world can be time consuming for those essential first few months.

Health checks, no that doesn’t mean is puppy wormed and has been seen by a vet once before it turns 8 weeks old, this means has the parents had the relevant health checks for their breed? has the grandparents had these checks? Is there documented evidence of these checks? I would also take it a stage further and call a vet and ask for the most common issues that he or she sees in the breed you have chosen and then go back to the breeder and ask if these problems are evident in their line, reluctant to answer or cannot answer then go somewhere else.

Pre purchase care. Where have these puppies been reared? Is it outside in a kennel? Sounds like a plan but you are bringing this puppy into a house with all the sights and sounds that goes with the home. Vacuum cleaners, toasters, televisions, microwaves, radio, furniture, and general family noise.

Ideally a puppy should be raised in a home, exposed to all these sounds during the early period so that they are second nature, nothing to be freaked over.

In this first home they should be meeting children, men & women. Getting used to being handled, going on short car journeys, listening to loud sounds (Sound proof puppy training app is a great resource to do this). Basically everyday life should be getting introduced.

If this isn’t happening, again walk away.

And if you can’t see where the puppies are, breeder (or dog dealer as I call them) wants to meet in the local Argos car park because they happen to be in your area that day then YES walk away.

After purchase, is your breeder able and willing to help? What if something goes wrong? Are they able to take the pup or dog back? I may get stick for saying this but here is our key to reducing rescue numbers. Good breeders will already be doing this so this is not aimed at you.

A LOT of breeders however whether they be casual hobby breeders or simply what is referred to as back yard breeders are not doing this, why? Because they can’t, that’s the simple answer. My retort to that is if you can’t take back a dog do not breed, it’s irresponsible and tarnishing good breeders name. You don’t breed because your dog is “nice”, or you could do with the money, or you want your children to experience it, or you want to keep a puppy, or any of the other one thousand reasons that are given. You breed because you know what you are doing and genuinely care about a good sturdy, well looked after, and healthy dog population. No other reason. But if you are good then you need not worry as 99.99% your puppies won’t come back (unless due to extreme circumstances).

Financially, can you afford it? That’s not just the initial cost. You need insurance, food, vet care, vaccinations annually, collars, leads, sundries, toys, kennel costs, dog walkers. Trust me if you think kids are expensive hit the toy aisle in any pet store and you will be in shock.

So if you are indeed thinking of upgrading your family and adding a dog, please put a lot of thought into it.

Think about the health, well being and future of this beautiful animal that will enhance your life and give you much more than the latest iPhone.

Just say please!

Resource guarding

Resource guarding is something that some dogs do. They can guard things such as sofas, beds, toys, people, cars, chews and more commonly food.

I am going to use food as an example however the same protocol would be used for all resource guarding.

Some call resource guarding “food aggression” however I strongly believe that aggression is not the intent behind this. How could a normally happy-go-lucky dog become aggressive over just one item? Your dog quite simply doesn’t lose what belongs to him. This is why I say it’s better to view it as guarding an item.

So let’s say that your dog growls when you approach his food bowl -I am only using “his” as a general term dogs & bitches are both capable of RG. If you continue approaching or even attempt to remove the bowl then they may increase the intensity of growling and even snap or bite.

Before we go into what to do can we just take a minute to stop and think about this. Although you should be able to safely remove items from your dog I am a firm believer in if they are eating their dinner they should be left in peace to finish their meal without a great big human hand popping in and out their food. I would hate to go to a restaurant and order a lovely meal to have it delivered, pick up my knife and fork, at the ready to savour every mouthful and have the waiter run past and whip the plate away from me! So just to clarify you should be able to safely remove any object from your dog in case they get a hold of something they shouldn’t but I don’t believe daily practices is necessary unless you are experiencing RG.

So let’s begin. Your dog tenses up at the very presence of a person when his face is planked in his meal, you move one step closer the growling starts, what do you do? You blooming well stop right there that’s what!!! You need to change how your dog views your presence during these times. There is no need to guard if you are no threat! So back up and start on a sound program of your company at the bowl is a signal that something better is about to happen. So when he is due his meal put a little of his food in his bowl then casually walk by and drop something better in; chicken, hotdog sausage, cheese (I find gorgonzola works a treat here) whatever floats his boat. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount just something tastier than what he has. Keep repeating by putting more of his usual meal in and then dropping the higher value in. Now at first the reason why I say only give him a little of his food is you want to be dropping the higher value food in when he has just finished. Doing this sets him up for success and it is after all only early days. If however you cannot get close enough to drop food into the bowl then drop the item a few feet away and build up to getting closer and closer; remember you really don’t want to push him as this only ever makes matters worse. Once you have done this for a period time you can start to have more of his main meal in the bowl and go up when he is actively eating and drop higher value items into his bowl. What you are looking for here is as you approach he stops eating and looks at you expectantly. If he does this he gets the jackpot. Once at this stage don’t take your foot off the gas but you have definitely made progress. At this point carry on with the program at the same stage for a period of several days to ensure consistency in his response. Once you are happy with consistency you now have to aim for removing the bowl. So just to recap what you have done is changed the perception of you approaching during eating.

Now let’s go for actually lifting the bowl up. Go back to only putting a little of his meal in the bowl, as he finishes approach him and lift the bowl, put some more of his food in and add some higher value then put it down again, wait until he finishes lift the bowl and repeat. Just check that he is comfortable; there’s no tensing of the body, whale eye, growling or quick lip licking; if he’s cool then carry on. As the days go on, up what goes into the bowl and start lifting it when he has just a little left, then a little more and a little more. Once you are at this stage then brilliant you’ve done it!

If you have multiple people in your family each stage would be better repeated by each family member to ensure that he generalizes this new protocol to everyone in the house. However please note young children should not get involved and if your dog is a resource guarder the kids should be kept away when the dog is eating, they can always get involved once they are a little older.

If you are at any point unsure best to get a professional to work with you rather than soldier on. Check The Pet Professional Guild for force free trainers in your area. http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/photo

Happy training!

The power of positivity©

A tail of two tales

I’m going to tell you a story, a true story with a twist.

A woman I know was having problems that she felt were severe with her toddler. Her toddler was on the unruly side, as youngsters can be. Her girl was a hit or miss in the toilet department, she had horrific tantrums running around the house, she jumped on furniture, she didn’t like to share and she would lash out if confronted.

This poor first time mum was stabbing in the dark, she knew this was all quite normal but she was at a loss how best to combat it. She then called in professional help, help that was recommended to her by mums that had been in the same position.

The day arrived, she was so excited to find out the secrets of how to climb this exhausting hill as she loved her little girl dearly and only wanted the best for her.

Firstly the gentleman introduced himself and gave a verbal low down of his popularity, success and how he was her last hope. This lady was caught hook line and sinker, who wouldn’t be? She felt like she had the royalty of tare away youngsters in her front room, things were going to be ok she was told, results will be quick she was told and she was told to stand up and be an authority figure. “Stop giving into this behaviour”. So she sat eagerly awaiting what magic was going to be worked. Her little one came into the room, all dark eyes and mischief. She then started running around so the man grabbed her and put her on the floor holding her down, now the little girl had never experienced anything like this in her life so she wriggled, and screamed, she tried to get this man off her. She put up a good fight but was no match for the strength of this man. After a while of fight, then panic she wet herself and then realised that it was best if she lay still. When she was let up she sulked away. Mum was told that whenever she won’t listen you give her a key word then restrain her until she calms down and if you do it consistently then all you will need is the key word and your girl will know to settle down.

Mum felt a little awkward but looked to the floor where her girl now sat, all well behaved and staying still, dark eyes still the same. Oh well it’s for the best she thought to herself, lots of people recommended him and their little ones always do as they’re told so this must be right.

Next the man announced that he would help with girls unwillingness to share so he asked for her favourite thing, the mother went off and fetched it and handed it over. He laid it down, the little ones eyes lit up and she dashed over, as quickly as ABC the man covered the girl’s most prized possession and grabbed the girl by the back of her neck with the other hand and pushed her to the ground whilst using the key word. The little one didn’t struggle this time, what’s the point? He let her up and then handed her the jewel she loved, the little girl walked away again sulking.

The man went onto to explain to mum that her girl was just having a sulk and she needed to realise that these are the rules, you don’t snatch, you don’t run around unless permitted to do so, you ask for things nicely and you behave in a manner of calm at all times.

When he left the little girl was relieved and hoped she would never see him again, she didn’t. However her ordeal was far from over. She thought “phew everything can go back to normal now” she got a little excited that it was her and mum again and started running in circles and jumping on the sofa and on mum…..through her glee she heard a familiar word but didn’t take no notice, then wham! She was on the floor…..she wriggled and struggled but it was useless. Her mum was doing this too, “why” she thought?

This went on a for a few days, mum was still very uncomfortable with all this but had to admit that her girl was behaving better….but her eyes, something was missing from her eyes, they didn’t quite sparkle the same. Then one afternoon the little girl had had enough, when she heard that word come out her sweet mums mouth she just snapped, as her mum moved her to the floor she thought “not this time!” and she bit her mum so hard on the thigh her mum yelped and screamed. She kept her mouth around her mum’s leg until she tasted blood. Her mum let go and ran to the bathroom.

I’m not going to go on as I am sure that you are getting the picture. Now let me tell you, this was a mum, a puppy mum, to an adorable full of beans young Husky. Now you know that it wasn’t a child does it make the story easier to hear?

Now let’s put it all into perspective, this owner was not comfortable with what she was doing; she questioned it to herself but felt that she didn’t have any other tools to work on and also believed that this was how to train a puppy to become a “balanced” dog. She tried for 6 days to follow this “training” program but after the bite which rendered her in hospital realised that this was not right, she felt guilty for not listening to herself that something was wrong. I ask how many other 1000’s of dogs are treated this way all because a self professed know it all says its ok.

I am firstly a mother of two gorgeous boys, as I am sure you know, there is honestly no need for punishment, and I seriously mean that. You have to take time to teach them right from wrong, what is acceptable and what is not. Don’t just slam the door in their face when they make mistakes, that is after all how we learn. We are less likely to repeat dodgy doings if we already have the knowledge and skills how to behave in particular situations and around particular people. I will also add as a dog owner there are very few differences between raising a puppy and raising a child and I am more than happy to receive criticism on that. How we interact with one another and other species is a true test of our morals/ethics. Through this I choose to be teacher not a leader. Leadership is fluid my kids have taught me that. I am better at some things and other things they far out do me, I am comfortable with that. It is no different with my hounds.

This is a true tale; the outcome was a good one, when mum was taught appropriate handling (with no hands!) things settled down. She now has a full of beans, dark eyes with mischief gorgeous juvenile companion.

Thanks for reading.

a tail of two tales

The power of positivity X

Call me mum

Yesterday I was doing my usual geeking out, whilst watching a DVD on dog training about plenty in life being for free I had a light bulb moment (Prompted by the content) and thought YES!

There is such a great division in dog training right now, if I put myself in the shoes of ordinary dog owners….I would be utterly confused as to what best to do.

There are two major problems in my opinion.

Firstly the balanced trainers have years of a romantic explanation that is really easy for an owner to follow. Be your dogs’ leader as they are pack animals and every pack has a leader. If your dog is misbehaving it is simply down to the lack of your Alpha status. If your dog growls at you when he has a bone then you are failing to provide structure. If he growls at your child your child needs promotion and your dog requires demotion. If they pull on the lead you are not leading the hunt. The list goes on but the answer to every problem is the same….be a leader, man up and stop letting your dog away with this disrespectful, outrageous and challenging behaviour. We all thought this or similar at one time right?

But recently all that has been proven not to be the case, wolves live in family units, a peaceful and caring environment where every individuals  needs are met, and also the big bomb……..dogs aren’t wolves! Dogs aren’t hunters they are by their very nature scavengers and are seriously domesticated beyond belief! So why can’t this theory just be put down to history, we went with what we knew and now we know something different? Like smoking, it used to be used for medical cures but now we know it’s a killer.

I think in the past I have made my thoughts very clear on why owners shouldn’t use rank reduction methods whether physical or emotional so I am not going to bang on about it.

So the second problem, my friends lies with us, the positive dog trainer. All full of theory, quadrants, reinforcing schedules, aversive versus non aversive……why would you the dog owner need to know the bowels of Skinner to help you make a choice?

I wouldn’t go on an air flight and need to understand physics; I leave that up to the pilot. If my car breaks down I don’t need a mechanic to make me understand what exactly he is doing and why.

Now I am in no way suggesting that a dog trainer shouldn’t understand the science behind training, and yes it is a science before anyone starts to say otherwise, behaviour modification is a science. Behavioural science encompasses all the disciplines that explore the activities of and interactions among organisms in the natural world. So like it or not when you teach your dog to sit you have just interacted with another species, communicating what you want and hopefully achieving it….Voila behavioural science.

A good dog trainer should understand when something is a positive reinforcer and then when something becomes a negative reinforcer and so on…..but the average client that attends a puppy class just wants to achieve a well behaved dog. So with that in mind are we as positive trainers creating a rod for our own backs by making our product sound way too complex? I think yes….what we need is a simple way to describe what we do in a way that owners can imprint on quickly because the dream of being alpha is way too easy!

So what is training a dog? It’s a relationship right? Each and every one of us is in a relationship, whether it’s a spouse, or a child, or a sibling, or a friendship. And when you interact in these relationships are you told “you must have control”? I bet not, if you do then you’ll lose friends quickly, a good relationship is based on clear and concise communication. How many times when watching shows like the Jeremy Kyle show do you ask yourself all these family problems could be solved with rational communication? If my children don’t understand a math problem do I need to check my control over them or do I need to communicate how to solve the problem better? That’s very easy to answer.

So when interacting and living with your dog all you need to do is be able to communicate what you want in a way that is easy for your dog to understand, and sometimes all we need to do is manage our lives a little better.

Communication then, it’s a relationship that flows, you ask for something your dog does it you give something back, you ask again your dog does it and you give something back and so it goes on. The bad things we don’t want believe it or not we are being reinforced in one shape or another. Your dog growls at you when you try to take his bone. Then don’t give him a bone or give him his bone and let him eat it, then find yourself a trainer that understands resource guarding and work on it. Stop controlling and start communicating!

Managing our lives, easy, dog steals food off the table, don’t have your dog in the dining room whilst food is present then tidy up after yourself, it is really that simple. I recently seen a huge dog trainer pissing contest regarding a dog that stole a bone out the bin, we had one saying it was down to lack of respect and they need to claim the bin as a leader….are you serious? Why not move the bin, a lot easier, it then means you never put yourself or your dog in that position again. I have my bin in a utility room that the dogs don’t have access to, I would never leave a bucket and a dog unattended, and it’s comparable to leaving a child alone in a sweet shop!

So with all this in mind how do we easily explain force free & positive dog training?

Here’s how I would. I am a dog trainer that looks how best to prevent dogs from doing behaviours that conflict with human living. I do this by clearly communicating what I want them to do and how best to behave in all situations. I pledge to my dogs that if I ever let them down on something it will never happen a second time because I will take the time to teach them the way I think is more appropriate. I am a dog trainer, and a proud dog parent!

As always The Power Of Positivity. X


Scar Tissue

In my last blog “why must love hurt?” I mentioned a psychological state called “learned helplessness”. I must confess to have become quiet inquisitive and intrigued about this, constantly looking for examples of it either taught inadvertently or purposely.

What is learned helplessness?

Learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.

Learned helplessness not only occurs in animals but in humans too. For example a teenage boy asks a girl out, she says no, he asks another she also knocks him back he may be persistent or he may fall into “learned helplessness” and never want to approach a girl for a date again. Academically someone may struggle with the first few answers in a Math test and then just give up; even although they could easily answer some of the questions they have also become helpless in answering. These are examples of inadvertently taught “learned helplessness”.


While I was discussing this topic with my mother she said she herself suffered from this. My mother was raised in the late 40s & 50s when things were a whole lot different, women tended not to work instead they raised the kids whilst men went out to work, my mother was in such a family, six brothers and a twin sister ( the girls came last) and very poor. My grandfather worked three jobs to put food on the table, a roof over their heads and clothes on their backs. A no frills generation, you worked for what you had and if you had no money you went without. This came at a price, my grandfather was a cantankerous, crabby & disagreeable man, he had little time for his kids, and children should be seen and not heard. Not really a good role model for so many kids! He likely wasn’t always like this but as more and more children appeared on the scene he became worse & worse. The short of it he was abusive, physically in the sense if you crossed the line you got a smack in the face, and emotionally abusive in he would regularly call my mother stupid and no good for nothing at the age of five. The stories she tells of her childhood are so bi polar, stories of summer days playing in the river care free up to no good with her siblings, listening to the rock n roll up and coming on the radio with her mother (a very good natured woman!) to one of doom and dread when my granddad was in the picture. My mother learned at a very young age if you question authority you get physically harmed, so what’s the option? She learned to ask nothing, ask for nothing and avoid anything that could result in such confrontations. Learned helplessness! The bizarre thing however is in her teenage years and even to this day, if my mother is challenged, specifically by men she becomes very reactive. Even worse if they use the trigger words “are you stupid!”, however if her father said these things to her she would scuttle off and feel completely powerless and voiceless to respond. I can remember when I did my first math test I got a shocking mark, I was petrified to tell my mum and I was ashamed of my lack of talent, when I told my mum she simply asked “did you try your best?” I answered “yes” and she said “well I’m proud of you; all we can do is our best!” I’m thankful she didn’t turn out like her father & my math improved!

Why do I tell this on a dog blog? I’m hoping that the empathy you feel for a human in this position can stir the same feelings when I relate to a dog. Please do not be so frivolous to believe that dogs don’t suffer or experience the spectrum of emotions that we do. Just because they manifest in a different way does not mean they don’t feel them.  We turn away from things that are making us uncomfortable, so do dogs. We cower if someone big threatens us, so do dogs. We widen our eyes with fear, so do dogs. Our facial expressions clearly display our emotions, so does a dog. We try to avoid everything to avoid being physically or emotional harmed, so do dogs. If our threats and signals do not work we will defend ourselves, guess what so does a dog! Then take all these signals and the subject being threatened is a weaker or smaller person they cannot defend themselves effectively, then they become helpless, exactly what a dog does!

My grand fathers intentions I am sure were to create a well behaved & “balanced” child, what he had no regard for was the spill out effect this had, he indeed achieved a child that never questioned him, was seen and not heard & done exactly what he wanted. What he didn’t have was a bond of trust. My mother didn’t do things because she wanted please him, she done them because she had to!

Before reading on think to yourself “Am I willing to achieve control at any cost?” or “I don’t want control; I would like to have a dog that does what I ask (most of the time) because he/she wants to”. If you answered with the first you may as well really pay attention to what you will achieve and see if it’s really worth it.Image

I have put a link to a video below, warning some people may find this distressing. Watch it before reading my analysis, and then after you have read the section below…watch it again.


This dog is apparently showing aggression, look at his eyes, do they look like a petrified animal? Or an animal that wants to get his own way? Note the muzzle, yes for safety reasons dogs with a bite history should in certain circumstances be muzzled but the dog is about to be challenged, he now has no defence when his signals are ignored. It’s comparable to grizzly bear in a ring with a toothless collie. The dog looks away from CM, what do we do when we want something to go away? CM then moves closer (ignoring leave me alone) and takes the dog by the leash. The dog is obviously tense but look how he is leaning away, a state of avoidance, which for the record should never be violated. CM then pushes the dogs bum down to get the dog to sit……look at his eyes still…wider and wider. Now at 11 seconds CM puts his right-hand on the dogs shoulder and then a sudden pressure, dog reacts (defence mechanism kicking in) the dog then tries again to move away, he is brought back again and the bum push.  Before moving on think about this, if you were afraid of something restricted in moving away and tied up so you couldn’t fight back how would you feel? Panicked?

Moving on, we now have a strange lesson in body language influencing fear…..pull the dogs tail out from under him because this creates fear; now let’s just think outside the box for a moment. If you were scared of say a wasp, and someone put two fingers either side your mouth and turned your lips into a smile do you think that would help? The body responds to fear, involuntary responses, such as sweating, shaking, crying, heavy breathing right? Now try shaking and see if you immediately feel fearful……thought not. Is it the tail that is the dogs’ biggest concern here?

Again the right hand on the dogs shoulder and guess what the dog tries again to defend himself because all other signals are being ignored, he again tries to move away growling (a warning much like you or I telling someone to bugger off) please note the position of the stair in the background, we see the owner, now back to dog, the dog has moved quite a bit away, look at the stair now. If this dog didn’t have a muzzle on him, he would have achieved space as CM would be hurtling full speed to nearest A&E. So is it fair to say that CM is ignoring what every professional must do, observation of subject!

“The more he fights the more he relieves pent up energy” ok, the more the defenceless, muzzled dog tries to make you go away with clear body language he is ignored, he tries to move away, he is ignored, he tries to fight back, he can’t….is it then fair to say that he obviously tire? Adrenaline in surges really tires the body.

41 seconds we are told “you need to know when to stop” personally I’d say that was on entering room! CM then proceeds to touch the dog (talk about ignoring your own advice) can you still see the dog moving back and CM still advances, at this stage the dog is running out of options. A good dictator knows this is the best time to exert authority for a complete take over, catch them when they are vulnerable.

Listen as he pins the dog to the floor against a wall with no alternative “Put him on his side so he can relax, when they are on their side this way there is a sense of relaxation, a sense of trust, vulnerability, where they just totally surrender and give up” I think we can remove the word relaxation, this doesn’t look like a spa treatment. Let’s remove trust also; I can see no way this animal this animal would ever have CM in his circle of trusted mates. Vulnerable, think we can use that, open to physical or emotional harm (Oxford Dictionary) well surrender and give up that’s a foregone conclusion.

Then the dog panics, one last try, he just wants to get up, guess what? He cant. Still look at his face does he look more or less fearful than he did at the beginning?

So is this relaxation or is this “learned helplessness”?

Thanks for your time. Remain positive! The power of positivity X


To be continued…….

Why must love hurt?


Dog training, it can either be a pleasurable experience or an absolute nightmare. Trust me being a dog trainer right now can sometimes feel like dodging bullets from other trainers from different minds of thought.

I am a force free trainer, I use scientific evidence and a huge dollop of common sense and empathy, my job is helping a dog that may have issues or simply teaching an owner how to get their dog to do simple behaviours such as walk without pulling, it is not my job or my nature to play judge or jury with my clients, I wouldn’t be very good at force free if I didn’t adopt that ethos with the humans either.

So we move onto why I am writing this, I am slightly fed up with being accused of overcharging clients to advise a dog be euthanized, yes indeed this is the utter tosh that seems to be spouted by the “we learned dog training watching sky TV” brigade. Firstly it is not my decision to make such a monumental verdict on someone else’s dog, when dealing with cases that this subject inevitably rears its head (aggression) careful analysis and diagnosis is essential, medical reasons must be ruled out, is this aggression fear driven? (which it mostly is) is the situation best resolved with careful environmental management? Is the owner capable of following the correct program provided? Is the dog a danger to the public? This one is not on the dog trainers head but the law of the land and none of us are above the law. Has the dog bitten? Was it provoked? Is there a way of avoiding this in the future? So many questions it is impossible to answer unless you are dealing with that particular client at that particular time. So why is this the main retort thrown at force free trainers like myself when we question methods such as Rank Reduction; Believing you have to be some super power alpha in order to get the dog under control. The use of aversives; tools that aid in getting a dog to do or not do something in particular like choke chains, prong collars, shock collars, water bottles etc. Or using emotionally invasive techniques that put your dog into a state of learned helplessness; learned helplessness occurs when an animal is repeatedly subjected to an aversive stimulus that it cannot escape. Eventually, the animal will stop trying to avoid the stimulus and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation. Even when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness will prevent any action.

Seriously in the past I have asked a trainer “why would you pin a dog when there are other options open?” answer “Its a red zone case & all you would do is euthanize it” end of discussion, and is usually followed by a stream of their previous clients who have also been cleverly subjected to the same emotional attack that they’ve been told to practice on their dog, personally attacking you for asking a simple question. I have little time for the person pulling the strings but can’t help but feel sorry for the conditioned fan club.

Big question why? If you can teach a killer whale to pee in a cup for health checks using patience and fish how difficult can it possibly be to teach a dog to walk next to you without the use of some medieval torture device? You can get a gorilla to move from one section of their enclosure to another happily for a banana so why give dog’s electronic shocks through their necks for barking! This creates aggression, makes me wonder if they haven’t produced the so red zone themselves to give them the excuse to their favourite rugby style tackle on your average Labrador and then spout “I am bringing him back to balance” Really? To me the dog looks desperate, nothing relaxing going on there.

So I decided to go on a little one woman mission to find out if there is a deeper reason for such behaviour and asked a friend of mine Tom, Tom has wide knowledge & experience of coaching & facilitation techniques, including psychometric, career coaching, NLP, Emotional Intelligence, Hero’s Journey, New Leader Transition & Dialogic Models. Tom like me is an avid follower of positive reinforcement and believes everything can be achieved using it.

After doing his own research not influenced by me in any way he got back to me with a stereotypical profile, this is a generalisation. Firstly he mentioned that these are probably people who are by their nature chaotic, more often exceedingly insecure and paranoid. This then produces a need to be seen to be in control and then feel like they must dominate in order to achieve this. Tom’s description reminded me of the head teacher in Pink Floyd’s “the wall”, where he was so abused by his wife that he in turn took his angst out on his pupils, beating them both physically and emotionally. I must say after reading recent articles about a certain celebrity trainer and his public split with his wife this sounds to be a true stereo type, paranoid, insecure & chaotic! Tom also said there would be the others that used a certain breed type as an excuse, having a ten stone dog somehow equates to its inability to learn like a toy breed, the need again to feel in control physically. He also talked about the self reinforcing aspect, a prong goes on the dog is compliant, but you aren’t controlling the dog, pain is!

I answer all these nonsense untruths with clear facts, prongs produce pain, shock collars produce shocks, choke chains choke….it isn’t rocket science, there is no mild discomfort only serious aversion and a miserable dog. I also have never said to client “you have reached the end of the road euthanasia is your only option”, I asked other FF trainers and they said the same. Carol McPherson said “PTS (put to sleep) is not in most force free dog trainers vocabulary; most FF trainers have a variety of proven techniques up their sleeves when it comes to modifying unwanted behaviours, including displays of aggression. In addition FF trainers are adept at teaching owners management skills, short term while training is in process, and long term should intervention prove difficult.”

I could go on with quote after quote of fed up FF trainers been tarred with an unfair brush to assist our local dog whisperers in their life mission to prove that only they alone hold the answers, their calm assertive energy alone is enough, their finger click and tsssshhhhtttt is something dogs learn in utero, fact is we can train dolphins, killer whales,  grizzly bears, lions using positive reinforcement it then escapes me that some believe the most naturally compliant animal in the world cant! We teach children using positive reinforcement as we know it works best for their psychological well being growing into rounded rational adults. I for one will continue to speak up against these intransigent people on behalf of my and other dogs.

Thank you for allowing me to vent this. As always The Power Of Positivity. XP1010180



I became involved in the space dogs campaign around Christmas time, a wonderful lady Judi Rudd began this in 2012 after seeing a similar scheme having fantastic results abroad. Judi has a reactive boy called Fergus, all his reactions stem from his personal space being invaded. Fergus is a rescue boy and very loving but Judi, a dog trainer herself, knew that this issue had to be addressed and worked through in a capacity that was comfortable for Fergus. So Judi started spacedogs. It wasn’t just enough to give Fergus space but it gave Judi the essential tools to work Fergus through his fear, and along with good training and wearing a ribbon he is a success story and the ambassador for spacedogs.


Spacedogs works alongside positive training techniques using desensitisation and counter conditioning, sounds technical? Basically you get a dog comfortable with a stimulus that normal causes a reaction and turn it into something better. So if, for example, you have a dog that is dog reactive you use space (distance from other dog) make sure your reactive dog is below threshold (like crossing the threshold of a door, your dog goes from one state to another) and reward all behaviours that are non reactive (staying calm, not barking, lunging, shutting down etc). You can then gradually decrease distances between dogs so long as you remain below-threshold! This is a far kinder and more credible method than flooding, forcing your dog to cope with situations that he/she finds uncomfortable, certainly something spacedogs wouldn’t recommend.

Dog getting space

So what is reactive?

This can be a spectrum of things from aggression towards dogs, fear of humans, to being an over excited jumpy dog. Spacedogs isn’t all about just dogs that may bite! And we also need to stress that if your dog has a bite history (it has caused injury to dogs or humans) then you must seek professional help.

Spacedogs can also be used if your dog has just undergone surgery, whether it is neutering or a more serious surgical procedure. You need to take your dog out for mental stimulation and light exercise but they cannot have other dogs wanting to play, you can use a vest to let other owners know. You could have an Arthritic dog or an elderly dog that just requires a little respect.

As a trainer another benefit of spacedogs is during those initial training stages with a puppy, although it is essential to socialise them it also important remember that they need interactions with new things to be positive, some puppies are very nervous about new things. Traffic, children, other dogs, buggies (strollers) etc. Just by popping a vest on lets people know to ask first before crowding the cute puppy.

There are endless benefits of this campaign, what we need is you the public to share why a dog would wear a ribbon or vest and respect that. There has been some criticism made that why should it be another’s problem if our dog has a problem? Well an owner with a reactive dog is not looking for space the size of the UK just a few feet, I don’t think that is a tall ask.



For more information please go to www.spacedogs.org.uk or visit the face book page Space Dogs Yellow Ribbon Campaign.

To purchase vests, collar fobs &/or leash fobs then order through www.coats-4-dogs.com.


This is what separates spacedogs from other similar campaigns is all profits are distributed amongst dog rescues. This way whenever you purchase something you aren’t only helping your dog but other dogs too! You don’t even have to purchase anything, if you are reading this and think it’s a great idea and you want to help then why not pop in a donation? Spacedogs has already benefitted rescues with your support.

If you are part of a rescue and want to find out how you can apply to benefit then contact Judi via the website.

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I am proud to be an official spacedogs trainer, whilst this isn’t a qualification it means that I meet the requirements as a trainer who understands and has experience working with reactive dogs. Spacedogs trainers understand the need for giving these dogs and their owners the right tolls to successfully move forward. So if you need help with issues that you require a vest for why not check out the trainers list and start getting proactive to prevent your dog being reactive.

If you are a trainer reading this and you want to become a spacedogs trainer helping raise the profile of this campaign and also willing to assist with these problems then contact through the website for details. Training members of the pet professional guild will get automatic approval. Trainers will be required to give a small donation too. Once you are approved your details will be on the website and you will be issued with a certificate.


Please get involved, spreading the word, donating or using spacedogs products. We have already had good press coverage from national papers to In The Dog House DTC’s Nando Brown interviewing myself on his radio station and then becoming a spacedogs trainer himself!  We can’t stop there though; there are thousands of dogs like Fergus just waiting to be another spacedogs success story. Will your dog be the next one? That’s up to you!


Fergus wants to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped him and his human mum get this campaign off the ground. He can now compete in flyball without worrying about the other dogs or handlers. Now he says its time to push to a new level of space!

As always The Power Of Positivity Space Seekers X



The Power of Positivity

Why is it important that you use positive reinforcement (+R) when teaching your dog life skills? Firstly what does positive reinforcement mean?

It basically means is adding a reinforcer (food) to make the likelihood of that behaviour happening again, for example your dog sits you give them a reward then when asked in the future that behaviour will be offered. This works for all manner of training and behaviour issues. Rewards don’t always have to be food either. Sometimes it’s a pet (if your dog likes that, access to toys, a good game of tug, or even for nervous dogs it can be removing what makes them stressed that is the reward.

Positive trainers will sometimes use a negative; this doesn’t mean that we punish the dog. We use what is called a negative punishment (-P). Which means the dogs behaviour makes something good go away so the behaviour decreases, for example dog jumps up to say hello you walk away removing your attention then jumping up decreases ( be sure to make a fuss of them if they sit instead!!!). Or another good example is your dog pulls on the leash so you stop moving, wait until he offers you a loose leash and then reward and move on.

Food rewarding is essential as scientists have proven time and time again that this is the most effective and humane way to teach (notice how I didn’t say train!). Food is an essential item to your dog so it is a primary reinforcer; we will add a secondary reinforcer (clicker) so that you can mark behaviour the second the dog offers a good behaviour and then back it up with a tasty treat! This means the dog understands exactly what the reward was for and you can reduce the treats quickly so you are rewarding rather than bribing.

It’s also good to refrain from using verbal punishments like NO or AH AH. We need to teach your dog what we want him to do rather than what we don’t want him to do. If however down the line you want to introduce a no reward marker then make it a word you won’t use that often in conversation and make it upbeat rather than intimidating. I find oops works great.

A few things to remember to keep you on the right track.


Remember this one, you can teach your dog any behaviour you want him to do and change any behaviour that you don’t want. You do not have to punish your dog in order to make behaviour “non rewarding”. You just have to figure out how to make the right behaviour more rewarding.


Your dog already knows how to sit, stand, walk etc. All you are going to do is teach him the English words for those behaviours and make them rewarding and fun for him. Of course he always has a choice but if you’re a good trainer you will program a pattern of responses in his brain that makes him want to do them and will chose to do them when asked.


Dogs don’t understand that a word can have several different meanings. For the best success get everyone in the family to agree on which cues go with which behaviours, make sure that everyone uses them consistently.



This speaks for itself!!!!! I so often hear people say “I don’t wan

t my dog to rush the door” or “I don’t want my dog to pull on leash”. It always makes me wonder if the owner believes the dog does it deliberately just to annoy them. Always better to think “I want my dog to sit on a mat when I open the door” or “It would be lovely if he walked next to me”.

Well that’s a little brief explanation of why we do what we do.

Until next time. Thank you for reading and remain positive X


Sit? Here? When did you teach me that?

Recently whist working with a client I explained, as I often do, that dogs don’t generalise very well, so what does it mean when a dog trainer uses this term? Well generalisation means the transfer of a response learned to one stimulus to a similar stimulus. In plain this means that just because your dog has learned to sit in the kitchen doesn’t mean that it automatically transfers that to sitting outside on a busy street with traffic. All this must be taught in a back to basic manner.

So why then are there exceptions, a dog will quickly generalise that all children are bad if just one scares them? This is because these are classical conditioning, where the environment plays the dog. You couldn’t control the child at the exact point where they stood on your dog’s tail causing the dog pain that she immediately associated with the child, this is where you have a conditioned fear response generalised to children. This can account for a lot of different scenarios, a bin flying over on the pavement one day, causing a huge bang, scaring your dog, again a conditioned response resulting in the fear of bins, or equally if it was a windy day that the bin flew over then you could have that negative response to bins and wind.

So how then is it that your dog doesn’t generalise the training stuff as well? This is because in training we use operant conditioning, where the dog plays to the environment. Your dog has to learn that by sitting good things happen, you positively reinforce this with a scrummy bit of chicken, bingo, next time she sits in front of you another piece of chicken. It wouldn’t take her long to figure out that offering you a sit gets chicken.

Think of it like this girls, you try your hair in a different style, just experimenting, you go out and everyone you know says “ I love your hair like that, it makes you look pretty” or if your my age “it takes years off you” then chances are you will repeat doing your hair that way.  That is exactly what your dog does, I offer a sit, I get chicken, next time I sit.

So where does it go wrong? When it comes to training dogs with Operant conditioning  it’s a bit like a toddler……but why? (I’m sure a few parents are smiling). But why should I sit here? I’ve never been taught, and it’s never been reinforced. And that last line is the important one, it’s never been reinforced! This is where we get the term “stubborn” from; one of my biggest YUCKS is hearing someone call a dog stubborn! So with that in mind have you been in this situation with your dog? I see it often and have also been guilty of the high expectations I have in my dogs. In my experience this is one of the most likely situations where an owner may become frustrated at their dogs non compliance, repeating the cue in a slightly irritated tone, shouting it louder, maybe even pushing down on the bum to get a sit or jerking on the leash for not listening.

All of this is perfectly avoidable. Your dog isn’t dumb, she isn’t ignoring you, she isn’t being stubborn, and she doesn’t reserve this reaction to show you up. Try it right now! I am assuming you have a good sit with your dog? Try lying flat on the floor right now ask for a sit? What happens? You just got a face wash didn’t you? You changed something so therefore a behaviour you have more than likely been doing with your dog since they came home to live with you is gone!

So what do you do? Do you just leave it and now you can blame your dog’s inability to generalise as an excuse? Absolutely not, get out there and do some training, its fun for both you and your dog. Brain training is a very positive thing to do, since the brain uses up the most energy training is right up there with a good long walk. So this is what I do. I get a behaviour on cue using lure/reward so let’s use sit as an example. I get sit on cue in my house where my dog is comfortable and there is no distraction, then we do a little practicing in the garden sitting in different spots then I grab my bait bag fill it with kibble and some extra fabulous cooked liver and hit the road. I live in a busy little town right on a High Street, lots of cafes, a train station, schools, shops, bus stops, a public park, a palace and various other attractions. It’s a haven for tourists and people who don’t have to use the car. So out we go, I only cover about a mile and I frequently ask for a sit then reward. So by the time we complete our little walk me and my dog have sat next to a bus, a train, a bridge, a child, a buggy, a wheelchair, a wheelie bin, a dog, a swan, a car, another child, a man wearing a hat……get the picture?

It’s a simple thing to do, then repeat for everything you plan on teaching your dog. Recall is another fantastic example, its relatively easy to get any dog to recall in the home, recall is still an easy task to do in the garden, but outside in the park whilst playing with another dog or chasing a rabbit it then becomes a totally different sport altogether. Again this isn’t a “not listening to you right now” it’s a simple example of the dog hasn’t been taught that “come” means everywhere no matter what you are doing!

So next time you are out with your dog please remember dogs like humans only repeat behaviours that are rewarding or reinforced but unlike humans they don’t generalise behaviours!!!!CD (181 of 409)