Dog Training New Years Resolutions – 2014

In my last post, I looked at the dog training resolutions I made at the start of 2013. I tend not to make resolutions, so I think I did pretty well with them.

So, “what are my dog training resolutions for 2014” you ask? Well, let’s see: –
* Improve my record-keeping
In Recallers Susan suggests that record keeping is a good habit to get into, and I wholly agree! I now see a lot of value in record keeping, and will dedicate a post to my record keeping shortly. I’ve also come up with a good way to plan my training too, I’ll give that a try and might include that in my journalling post, or a future one.

* Keep training fun!
Although I try not to take myself too seriously during training sessions, sometimes it can be difficult. Luckily I have some great role models from whom I can learn to keep myself relaxed (or copy them until it carries over for me!) and keep things fun


Starr & I, having fun with her baseball cap

* Keep up our Recallers games
As much as I was overwhelmed last year, I feel I’ve made a good start already at incorporating some of the early Recallers games into everyday life; I know if we keep working through the games at our own pace Starr and I will build a truly amazing bond, and I will be able to trust that she will always come back when she’s off the lead (and I shouldn’t need our long line any more!).  That is my number one priority for this year – to have two dogs who can go off lead everywhere it’s safe for that to happen.

* Puppy Peaks
I’ve had a look at the Puppy Peaks information, and am starting to formulate a plan in my head of what I can make use of now and what can wait, but I need to start incorporating that into our lives too.


Inka, enjoying life

* Coursework!
I know I said this last year, but I really want to get moving with my coursework so that I can progress, not just for my own dogs but also so I can start moving towards more learning, professional registration and helping other people and their dogs.

Do you think I’ll manage to keep to all my resolutions this year?  What about you, have you made any resolutions – either for you and your dogs (or whatever animal you’re training), or for yourself?


Dog Training New Years Resolutions – 2013 Review

This is later than I intended, but I’ve been busy helping a collie get a rescue space.  Thankfully, everything’s sorted now, barr her having a little sleepover at my house before being picked up this weekend.


Last January, I posted a list of things I wanted to accomplish with Inka and Starr; I called them my “dog training New Years resolutions“.  Before I look at my intentions for the coming year, I want to take a moment to look at how I did with those resolutions.

To review, last year I resolved to:
* Train my dogs more!
* Train because it’s fun!
* Not waste breath and energy on cruel, pushy, aggressive, and ignorant people that rely on those same behaviours to bully animals and other people.
* Do my coursework!
* Be open to new and different things

So, how did I do?  Well, starting on the negative – I didn’t finish my coursework.  Technically, I didn’t even start it, although I do have a lot of notes and plans for what I want to look at for each question, and I do now feel capable of starting it.

However, the good news is that I stuck to everything else!  I didn’t waste my energy on people who don’t want to know, and I did train both dogs more often, maybe not as much as I’d like to, but certainly more than I’d trained Inka in the past year.

Now that we’re starting to get past Starr’s demons, and I’ve been able to give Inka a break (which I feel that he needs as he still holds quite a lot of demons about learning in general from his early days, before he came to us), we’re concentrating on the fun things – Inka’s training has involved things I know he can do, and just having fun with those; Starr’s training has also been fun (like when we played with this box (below)), but she enjoys the learning process, so we’ve also done some more serious things together (like starting to work on her loose lead walking).

I will say, however, that I think part of the reason why I didn’t train more is because I felt a little bit overwhelmed.  I completed Pamela Dennison’s online course, and when the chance arose I signed up to Susan Garrett’s Recallers course – as part of that we got a whole second course for free, I also signed up for Denise Fenzi’s precision heeling course, and then her heelwork games class, and I then got the chance to become a member of Susan’s “inner circle” – so, of course, I jumped at it, and then Puppy Peaks came along, which I wanted in on as well!

Pam’s course had a small amount of material, and a DVD, so that was fine.  Recallers would release one five minute game every weekday for six weeks, and there was *a lot* of accompanying information (I filled a lever-arch ring binder!), Shaping a Difference was time-sensitive, and Puppy Peaks and the Inner Circle both are an amazing resource, plus both of Denise’s courses are full of information; I’ve then been back and forward to the vets a fair amount, alongside work, running a house, and all the regular exercising and bonding with my dogs.

I know, I know – I took too much on.  I’ve learnt my lesson, and (hopefully!) won’t do it again.  Starr & I are re-doing the Recallers games, but at a slower pace; once I get the mechanics down for the really fun ones, I’ll do those with Inka, leaving the “less fun”/more precise ones to later, or not at all if he would prefer not to; and it’ll be the same for Puppy Peaks, and anything that comes up in the IC (I’m desperately saving so that I may renew my membership, after a couple of surprise expenses in December).

Going forward, at least for the moment, I feel that the Say Yes!/Susan Garrett way is a really good fit for Starr, Inka, and myself; it also fits nicely with the ethos of our training instructor and her classes, plus there’s enough information held within it to help me teach many, many behaviours, and to equip me for figuring out almost anything it doesn’t contain specific information for.

So, what are my goals for this year?  Find out in my next post…

Summer Break

We’ve enjoyed a break from blogging over the summer, but now we’re ready to get back to it!

We’ve done a little bit of training, mostly with Starr on her impulse control, which enables me to take photos like this one:

20130901-053830 PM.jpgWe’ve taken lots of walks, many of them at the beach when it’s been warm, and some of them just later on in the evening, which is especially nice on weekend evenings, or when I’m off work.

20130901-054147 PM.jpgStarr has been put on behavioural medication by our vet, and has vastly improved in many areas with very little prodding on my end which says to me that the training I was doing, was getting through, and now she’s able to implement it.

20130901-054204 PM.jpgI didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped over my break (isn’t that always the case?!), so I’ve decided to change from weekly to fortnightly blogging, and posting on a Monday rather than a Thursday.  If nothing else, it means I have all week to share a new blog post, whereas I’m usually too busy over the weekend to be going on social media a lot.

Blogging every other week should also mean I can keep the quality of the posts, without sacrificing time for other things, such as the Recallers run-through that the R4 group are doing, starting from this week at “turtle speed”.

I’m also tempted by the recent Puppy Peaks videos, to consider taking that when it becomes available, but that means I need more time for my dogs and my computer-based “dog training” too.

I’m also considering the Training Levels too, definitely for Inka (who’s beginning to loose his manners), and also for Starr while she decides if she wants to attend classes and such.

So yes – overall, good summer, not enough of it, and trying to share my time and myself better!  I hope you all enjoyed your summer (or winter, in the southern hemisphere!)


Shouting Does Not Modify Behaviour

I can’t believe I’ve actually just typed that, but after last week I feel that it needs saying – and sharing!

I was on leave last week, and with the weather the way it was, any time I spent at home all the windows were wide open.  Early in the week, a neighbour was having some work done on their house; and during the first day I heard one of the workers shout at Starr.  She’d been barking at all the strange, new noises the workers were making, and while it was a little annoying, as far as she was concerned she had good reason to be anxious and try to make the scary stuff go away and/or alert me.

That’s why, when I first heard her being shouted at to “shut up”, I responded in kind and shouted back “don’t shout at my dog”.  Aside from the fact that it’s not the job of a complete stranger to attempt to change my dog’s behaviour, it certainly is not up to anyone else but me how their behaviour will be modified; not to mention that with that one action the worker showed how little he knows about dogs and behaviour modification (yes – I know – pot/kettle!)

‘Shout!!!’ by Maciek Łempicki

The next day, when a similar thing occurred, I was otherwise occupied attempting to make pizza dough (and failing horribly!), once I’d washed my hands and had moved on to other – less involved – tasks, I kept an ear out for the man coming to get tools out of his van.  That was the problem today – he was to-ing and fro-ing between his van and his work, and every time he slid open the door to his van, that set Starr on edge and she would bark until he went away again.

This time, I did better – for Starr, for the workers, and for myself.  The next time I heard someone at the van, I went and spoke to him.  It turned out that I’d missed a second worker arriving, and it was actually him I spoke to – but I asked him to pass the message on, that shouting at my dog was doing her no favours; she was barking because the strange noises outside made her nervous, and the best way for them to help me help her was to ignore her and not respond in kind to her frantic shouting.

This did the trick, and while they unsettled Starr as they continued to work, they didn’t shout at her any more.


However, I can’t help but find it sad that in general people think shouting will stop or change a behaviour.

Here’s the deal: it won’t, at least not permanently.  If you’re lucky, you might come across as so terribly, horribly, scary that whoever you’re shouting at doesn’t want to be anywhere near you, and will just do nothing whenever you’re around.  More likely, however is that (to stick with the example), the dog will think you’re joining in – either on their side, or against them.  Whatever the reason the dog is barking is now secondary to the support or opposition the dog is barking along to.

As a stranger, it’s never your job to modify a dogs behaviour – unless you’re being paid as a professional to do so, in which case you wouldn’t be a stranger.  As an owner, it’s generally up to you to find out why your dog is barking, and mitigate that in an appropriate way, unless you’ve employed a professional to help you.

In our house, we use classical conditioning: scary noise outside = yummy treat.  We also have cues: a cue to bark, and one to stop.  These have worked wonderfully for Inka, and while he still barks at some things, he’s generally pretty cool with external noises, or being quiet when he’s asked to be.  Starr, on the other hand, isn’t doing so well with these, but that’s part of the story of why I’m considering behavioural drugs for her, which is an entirely different post!

How do you deal with excessive barking in your house?


Be Your Dog’s Advocate This Summer

It’s officially summer time.  That wonderful time of year when we in the UK hope we will have long, warm, sunny days.

We daydream of walks at local beaches and lakes, or on hills and fells; we think of all the things we could do at the weekend: go to a local beauty spot, visit a nearby picturesque tourist town, take a day trip to an ancient wonder, sit in the beer garden of a local pub.

Many of us – when weather allows – will follow through with these plans; those of us with family dogs may also take them along for the trip when we’re going somewhere that welcomes them, sometimes a dog may be taken for a trip even when he’s going to be sitting in the car as the destination doesn’t allow pets.

But, wait – have you considered whether your dog would want to go?

When we have summer days out, we make a distinction: we either take Inka & Starr and go somewhere they’ll be happy going to (a quiet beach, a lake with a little used area, or similar); or we leave them at home and go somewhere they they are less likely to enjoy.

Sure, I’d love to be able to take them both to Keswick, or to local agricultural shows or fun days where I could enter them in the requisite dog show, and plenty of other places too; but knowing my dogs, I know that – at least for now – they wouldn’t enjoy that kind of atmosphere.  People everywhere, lots of noises, children who are neither trained nor leashed, and dogs who are leashed but often untrained are just some of the things we’d face.

Days out are supposed to be fun, and I know they wouldn’t enjoy that, just as I wouldn’t enjoy fending them off.

Yes, I could use it as a teaching opportunity for people who insist on doing “The Wrong Thing(s)” with other people’s dogs but why subject us all to that stress?  When I’m out with my dogs, I want to devote my time to them – not to ensuring the guy who “all dogs love” doesn’t put his clammy paws all over my obviously anxious dog(s); and I want us to have fun.  Running around a field is fun, running a gauntlet of people who are mostly clueless about dogs is not.

I love my dogs, and I show them that by sometimes leaving them home, even if I’d much rather take them with me and let them in on the fun. After all, who has fun when they’re worried, stressed, or anxious?

Starr enticing Inka to play at home, in her own special way…


Crating – A Life Skill

Crating is one of those things that divides people.  Some people say it’s wrong, some people say it’s necessary; some people call them cages, and use them only for house-training their puppy, some people call them crates, kennels, or dens, and use them throughout their dog’s life.

I saw a comment from someone recently who refused to use a crate for their dog because he’d been a stray in Romania, and then was in rescue kennels for about 12 months.  I wonder what they think of me, having crate trained Inka even though he spent up to eight months of his life in a shed full of other dogs?

I love crates, I really, really do.  They’re amazingly useful tools (we have five, in a house with two dogs!); and the thing is, regardless of what anyone thinks, or wants to believe, being crated really is a life-skill for dogs.  Whether we’re crating them at home, or other locations (class, trials, and so on); or if they’re spending the day at the vets having surgery or x-rays; or if they’re in kennels while you’re on holiday, or they’ve been picked up as a lost dog; or in even, in some cases, if your dog has a serious accident or injury and needs to be on crate rest for a number of weeks; and the simplest of all – in the car, being comfortable in a crate is important (I know many dogs travel wearing a doggy seatbelt, but the majority travel in the boot, which is basically a giant, moving crate).

A lot of people say that they don’t like crating their dog because their dog doesn’t like it – but given how necessary it is, even if it’s only on the occasional time when your dog’s away from home, then surely you should work on your dog thinking his or her crate is a super-fun, super-awesome place to be.  Lets face it, for many dogs being away from home is stressful enough – why would you want to make it worse by not acquainting your dog with a crate beforehand?

When I thought I might need to send Inka to the vets to have x-rays last year, I was worried how he would be.  He had a crate at home, but wasn’t ecstatic about it, and lets face it – he was going to be in a strange place, that would smell pretty funky too, and getting poked and prodded to boot!

But, thanks to Susan Garrett and Crate Games, I have a dog who loves his crate.  He sleeps in it, relaxes in it, runs at top speed when I ask him to go to it, I really don’t know what I’d do without his “crate love”, he thinks it’s one of the best ever places to be!

Here’s a clip of him & I having a run-through of his Crate Games in the back garden earlier this week.

Of course, there’s more than Crate Games to help you get your dog comfortable in their crate, but I like that Susan finds the dog’s joy so important, and works to make each exercise fun – that’s what I wanted for Inka, not a resigned “oh, OK then”, but a happiness and a sureness in what he was doing, and enjoyment in the activity.

And I can safely say that Inka was fab when he was at the vets for x-rays last year, and he was just as fab when he had his operation earlier this year too.

Over to you, readers: what do you think of crating dogs?  If you do crate your dogs, what’s your preferred method of crate training?

Vet Visits

I was going to post something else today, but was so annoyed livid on Tuesday evening (and most of the day Wednesday!) I decided to write and post this instead.

So Inka and I were sat in the reception/waiting area of our vets before our follow-up appointment about his haematomas.  Inka was stressing a little, so I was doing what I could to help him keep calm, including asking him to do some of the tricks he knows, the Look at That! protocol from Control Unleashed, and a little bit of Pattern Games too, as well as calmly petting him.

The waiting area isn’t very big, so I try to keep us within a small area, though this can be difficult at times, so sometimes I’ll ask Inka to hop up on a chair so he’s off the floor and out of the way; if the practise is very busy, I’ve been known to sit him on my lap, usually for his own sake, but sometimes for mine too.

Inka chilling out after being at the vets

You see, what a lot of people don’t seem to realise is that any of the other animals at the vets could be in a lot of pain, and an animal in pain doesn’t want some stranger’s sweaty hand all over him, nor does he want another dog right in his face.

It’s not as bad for small furries, and even small dogs because they’re usually in carriers or can be easily picked up. But bigger dogs, like Inka, are too big to put in a carrier, and too gangly, heavy and/or too unwieldy to pick up.  Or all three in Inka’s case.

That means that when someone walks in and has little to no control of their dog, he or she is almost immediately bouncing on the other dog’s heads, without even a basic show of politeness from the owner to ask if your dog is friendly.  Not forgetting, of course, the plethora of people who start petting and/or talking to your dog without first stopping to consider that even if your dog isn’t in pain, he’s likely to be quite stressed out just by virtue of being at the vets.

All in all, other people often do not make vet visits easy.  This is not helped by the fact that when you ask someone to remove their dog from your dog’s face, or their hand from his person they often don’t.

At all.

Some might ask why (and then ignore your response as well as the original request), some might say “oh, but he likes it” (I’m sorry, can really you not see the huge stress signals he’s telegraphing to you about how uncomfortable he is right now??!), or as the dog owner we contended with on Tuesday evening, they might smile gormlessly at you, while still allowing their dog to harass your, as you tell them your dog’s in pain and is likely to snap – complete with a lack of basic control of their dog and obliviousness while they speak to the receptionist/nurse (yes, the dog was on a flexi lead – thank goodness it didn’t also have a choke chain on!)

Meanwhile, as a responsible owner I’m left trying to separate their dog from Inka, and ensure enough distance is kept that the other dog isn’t pulled back to jump on his head, while the owner continues to discuss politics with fairies, or whatever it is that’s currently occupying their mind and obviously so much more important than their dog and his or her well being.

I’m generally not a nasty person, but between this dog owner as we waited to see the vet, the lady who was very intent on petting Inka as I tried to keep my very obviously stressed dog calm and pay the bill, and the woman with a staffy on a choke chain who moved to sit two feet away from us, and proceeded to strangle the poor dog rather than help keep him out of the way and keep his stress levels down (plus I’m sure she hit the poor dog, though as we’d just left I didn’t actually see it, but it sounded like it) I was ready to hit someone…well, maybe not, but I wanted to at least give them all a good talking to about appropriate human behaviour and their lack of it in that setting.

It’s very simple, all you need to remember is: when at the vets, don’t pet.  Not at all, even a tiny bit on the sly, and certainly do not allow your dog into the face or space of any other dog or human.  Also, it should go without saying (but I have seen it happen, on purpose, recently) keep hold of your dogs lead!  Even if he is “friendly” and “just wants to see” someone else in the waiting room, do not, ever, ever, ever let go of that lead – he may just want to say hi, but he may also be so stressed out of his head that he completely freaks out and bites the person instead, and while there are a lot of dog owners that would recognise the difference, I’ve seen many more that wouldn’t.

Thankfully, Inka’s preferred method of dealing with stressful situations shit clueless humans try to put him through is to flee, and even when he couldn’t really flee as he was on lead and in a small area, I would put money on the fact that he wouldn’t bite, unless he was seriously provoked – which, of course, I wouldn’t let happen.  He might threaten it, and on Tuesday, I wouldn’t have blamed him one bit.  And I probably wouldn’t have held back if someone had made a comment about him being aggressive, but I managed the situation so that nothing too bad happened, and then after we got home, Inka got to play in the sudden downpour of rain.  I still felt bad for what he’d been through though.

As for Inka’s ears, we’re to finish all of his pills, cream, and drops and see how he is from there.


I said in my last post that I was grumbled at when I tried looking at Inka’s sore ear last week.

I was happy that Inka growled at me, not only because it let me know how much his ear hurt (i.e. he needed vet visit that evening, rather than leaving it for a day or so to see if the swelling was going to subside); but also because it gave me another opportunity to let Inka know that I listen to him and respect his needs.

Good boy Inka for growling!

He growled, I stopped touching his ear.  I apologised.  I petted him.  I asked him to sit, and compared the external properties of his sore ear to his normal ear.  I thanked him, petted him again, and called the vets.

That was it.

No big worry about Inka thinking he’s “pack leader”, or “top dog” because I let him growl at me; and no thinking about how I might wrest this title from him.  He’s no more leader than I am (though I suspect that some days he might like to lead his “baby sister” down a forest track and leave her there).

Growling isn’t his way, or indeed any dogs way, of trying to “dominate” someone or something.  Growling is communication, and in this case Inka was saying “oww, that hurts”.

What sort of person would I be if I hadn’t listened to him, and kept looking at his ear – aside from, potentially, a person with a bite?

As it happened, once he knew I understood his ear was sore, he was OK with it being gently handled, even by the vet – who’s new by Inka’s standards, having only seen him once before – and who made him stand on the rather wobbly examination table.  If he didn’t trust me, I don’t believe he would have let me, or anyone else, look at his ear; so I’m glad that we were both able to show trust in each other.

There are , or at least seem to be, many people who believe “nice” dogs don’t growl, or that their dog growling means she’s now a “bad dog”, and must either be shown he’s not the “pack leader”, or somehow told off for this unacceptable behaviour.  This I find quite an odd belief, as dogs growl in many situations – when they’re unhappy, sore, when they’re worried a possession is going to get taken from them, or that they might get hurt, and of course they growl when they’re playing too.

People need to learn to listen to their dog, especially when she’s being so obvious in her communication.  What about you, has your dog ever growled to communicate with you?  What did she want to tell you?

Oh, Little Man…

Well, after our nineteen vet visits with Inka last year, this year was starting to look good. We’ve got almost entirely from January through to the end of April without so much as even seeing the surgery, aside from two routine visits to pick up worming tablets.

The reason for that however, is that Inka was saving up!

Me, save up for a big vet visit? Never!

I noticed on Monday that he wasn’t shaking himself off properly, and on closer inspection found that one of his ears was swollen and a little bit weepy, and it was obviously painful as when I gently touched it I got grumbled at (although on another note, hooray for communication!).

One vet visit later, Inka has two different drugs to take and is scheduled for surgery tomorrow (Friday).  Thankfully, the drugs seem to be doing their job, and his ear is less swollen, though he’s still wary of having it handled.

It’s just a haematoma, so it shouldn’t be a particularly long or complicated surgery; however that doesn’t stop me worrying about how Inka will handle being ‘alone’ at the vets – although one advantage is it’s not the first time I’ve left him there, so hopefully he’ll remember that I’ll pick him up later on in the day.

I hope you’ll be spending your Friday in a more enjoyable way!

My Dog’s on Lead, PLEASE – Take Heed!

Scot and I were out for a walk the other day with Starr and Inka.

Inka’s been with us for just over eighteen months now and has a good standard of training, and a fairly reliable recall, so he was off lead. Starr, obviously being younger and having had less training and time with us was on a long line of about 12 feet – in part to keep her safe (as we found, she can find and fit through holes in fences!), but also to ensure she doesn’t learn “bad habits”.

We had a lovely walk, but sadly towards the end we were met with a small off-lead dog who came running right at us. This shouldn’t have been a problem, as many owners would recognise in a similar situation that we were trying to move away from them and their dog, and would call their dog back to them – or at least make a valiant attempt to do so.

“Dog On a Lead” by D_Alexander

Although both of our dogs are friendly, the fact that Starr was on a lead should have alerted the other owner to the fact that his dog running over would not be welcome – leads often create barrier frustration, whether one or both dogs are being held on one.

The other owner, being so far away from his dog and us, wasn’t able to check with us first that his dog was OK to greet one or both of ours; for all he knew Starr could be blind, deaf, or have hip dysplacia, or any other manner of things where she wouldn’t appreciate a strange dog charging towards her.

As we attempted to move away from the dog, the owner simply kept on walking, not calling his dog to him (and, in fact not paying any attention at all to his dog), and he completely ignored our requests to call his dog back.

At this point, any halfway responsible dog owner would have called their dog away, or come to ‘collect’ him or her. A truly responsible owner would either have put their dog on lead while they passed us, or would not have had their dog off-lead if he or she wouldn’t come when called.

Thankfully, nothing ‘bad’ happened, but I do wonder what this dog owner (or others like him) would have had to say to us had Inka or Starr shown their displeasure at his dog’s rude behaviour. My guess is it wouldn’t be an apology for their dogs’ behaviour and their lack of action, and it would probably contain a number of “four letter” words.

This, of course, is (or certainly should be) simple etiquette – but many dog owners seem to be lacking this basic knowledge, so please if you see a dog on lead, take heed and stay away. Regardless of whether this is on the street, in a pet shop, or while walking your own dog in fields or woods. If you have a dog, or dogs, with you it is your responsibility to ensure they also keep away from the other dog, call them back and put them on their own leads until you’ve passed the on-lead dog.

It really is little wonder how the general public can perceive “dog owners” so negatively, when some owners allow things like this to happen; so please: if you see my dog on lead – take heed and be a responsible dog owner, and a good example to the rest of the community.  I may not get close enough to thank you, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to say it.