Category Archives: Uncategorized

At what cost?

Paws Abilities

As a professional trainer, I hear a lot of disturbing stories. One local trainer routinely advises owners of reactive dogs to briefly hang their dogs from prong collars when the dogs lunge and bark. The same facility told one of my clients to pull her nervous dog’s ear or pinch his flank if he stopped paying attention. Another recent client was advised by one of her friends on Facebook to step in front of her aggressive dog whenever the dog began growling at anyone and then to stare the dog down (which, not surprisingly, resulted in a pretty severe bite to her leg).

Photo by Marie Carter Photo by Marie Carter

With all of these disturbing stories, a common thread runs through. The owners really love their dogs, and were simply following the advice that had been given to them. In many cases, these people were desperate to fix a serious problem. These weren’t…

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Things Professional Trainers Never Say

Fearfuldogs' Blog

Don’t expect to hear any of these comments from a professional animal trainer.

“I don’t feed the dolphins fish when they jump through the hoop, they should do it because they respect me.”

“We never use food to train our lions to stand for injections, that would only make them think they’ll get food every time they did it for us.”

“The seals at our facility do what we train them to do because they love us.”

“If we gave the pelicans food for letting us handle them they’d think they were dominant.”

“Using food to train elephants only spoils them.”

“We can’t be bothered always having food available for training.”

“I’d rather hurt or scare an animal to get them to do what I want instead of using food.”

You don’t have to look hard to find animals being trained to perform all kinds of useful and fun behaviors, using…

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Separation Behaviours

I am planning on writing a little piece on separation behaviours (up to and including distress and anxiety).

In the meantime, I’ve found what may be the perfect monitoring device to a) help determine what your dog gets up to when you’re out and b) ensure you reward the dog for good behaviour or comfort  him with your voice and a treat when you are out.


Its not yet launched by by clicking the link you can get notifications of when it does launch and get the chance to pre-order!


Jumping on Strangers

Jumping up on Strangers

Whether its visitors to our house, or random people when out on a walk, some dogs can’t seem to help themselves and jump up all over people.

The reasons are usually one of two…

1. Your dog loves people. He likes to meet and greet them and smell them and ask them for pets, hug them and kiss them and call them George. The jumping will be preceded by wiggly body language and possibly excited vocalization.

2. Your dog wants people to go away and leave him alone and he is literally pushing them away. This may be preceded by carrying his body lower, tucking his tail and/or holding his ears back.  See the Dog Decoder app if you need help learning about canine body language.

Lets deal with the second one first, as, although a more complex emotional motivation, and not as common as the first, it can be easier to manage, but take longer to treat. Your dog is trying to protect himself, so if you take on that role and step between the dog an any approaching person, he will not need to push them away.

If your dog is scared of people and just wants them to go away, do not allow strangers to approach him. You may want to invest in a Space Dogs vest (insert link). Keep him on lead and make it clear that he does not want to be approached.

Be vocal in your defense of your dog. Don’t fall for the “but all dogs love me” line… let them know in no uncertain terms that you are working on training and that they are not to approach your dog. The more comfortable he becomes that people are not going to invade his space uninvited, the less he will feel the need to drive them away.

Teach your dog the “behind” cue: set up a slalom course (I use full 2 liter water bottles for this). Walk through the course with your dog on lead. When you get to a bottle, step slightly in front of your dog so that he has to wait to follow or run over the water bottle, as he side-steps to get behind you, mark it with your cue word (say ‘behind’) and give him a treat. Alternatively, lure your dog with a food treat in your hand to step behind you, add your cue and give the treat when he gets into the correct position. This will allow you to cue your dog to hide behind you, giving a barrier between the stranger and the dog.

Counter-condition: change the way your dog feels about people by embarking on a course of counter-conditioning where his favorite things appear within a second or so of an approaching stranger.

Now, back to the excitement jumping. I would always recommend starting with impulse control exercises like Its Your Choice. Whilst this speeds and aids the training of “Don’t jump on people” its not 100% required.

Really, all you need to do is a) prevent…keep your dog on lead and ask people approaching to wait for the dog to sit or lie down before they are allowed to pet or greet your dog. If necessary, stand on the excess lead (allow enough room for your dog to stand, sit and lie comfortably, but not enough room to jump. If the dog cannot settle, simply turn and walk away. He has lost his opportunity to greet this person. AND b) any approach towards a person that keeps 4 paws on the floor and a reasonable sense of decorum should be rewarded both with food (dropped on the ground or delivered low under the muzzle during the approach to keep the head focussed down) and with attention (once they have reached the person). Even if you have to drop food every 1/2 second while approaching someone, continue to do so until the dog learns that rude greetings = no greeting and polite greeting = food + attention.

In the home, put up baby gates or other barriers to prevent jumping, treat as above both for fear and impolite but excitable greetings. Keep the dog out of the way until he can contain himself enough to greet politely, or completely out of the way (with a nice filled kong) if he is fearful of the visitors.

Further help is available with one-to-one in home consultations. 

What to do about pet odors in the home

You wash your dog weekly, you vacuum daily and mop at least a couple of times a week, but you can’t seem to get rid of that pervasive doggie odor in your house.

Well, suck it up, you’re the proud companion to a smelly beast!

image ‘a smelly dog’ by land3

Actually, there are a few ways you can minimize the odor without banning your furbeast to the garden.

  1. Bathe the dog less frequently. Okay, this goes against your natural inclination to keep your house clean and smelling fresh. But bathing your dog weekly can increase pet odors. Your dog’s coats natural oils will help protect his coat and skin and should, if left to their own devices, keep the house from smelling too much like dog. Additionally, frequent shampooing can lead to dry, flaky skin which will add to the scents in your home. Much of the ‘pet odor’ comes from dander (flaked off skin particles) and so over-washing may actually increase the amount of dander shed by your dog. Depending on the breed, you should usually only be washing them between once a month and once every three months. Ask your vet or professional groomer about your specific breed.
  2. Use a proprietary shampoo. That is, use a shampoo for dogs. Using people shampoo, baby shampoo, bar soap or shower gel can mess with the pH balance of your dog’s skin, leading again to dry, flaky skin, and increased household odor.
  3. Brush more often. Brushing daily or every other day will help distribute those oils, remove dry skin and hair, dislodge dirt, grass, and other such things your dog’s coat has picked up on the daily walk. Brushing for just 5 – 10 minutes per day will keep it low stress for both of you. You can rotate areas on your dog’s body if you can’t get the whole thing done in that time. If your dog has gotten mucky, allow him to air-dry then brush off the mud/dirt/fox poo and then spot-clean any smelly bits with water wipes or dry shampoo for dogs. Brush outside or on a towel or old sheet to minimize the spread of shed hair and skin.
  4. Deodorize. You can get doggie deodorant from most pet shops, some vets and TK Maxx or other pet departments. These will merely mask odor and will not clean your dog or treat underlying conditions.
  5. Look at diet. If you notice a yeasty smell or your dog smells particularly bad, you might look at what you are feeding. Some dogs do not tolerate grains well or may have allergies to certain foods and this can be reflected in their skin.
  6. Talk to your vet. If you dog’s skin is red, flaky, peeling or has a yeasty odor, talk to your vet. Your dog may have a yeast infection which will require medical treatment. Mucky or infected ears may add to unwanted odors on your pet and again, should be checked regularly and treated appropriately. Gum disease and liver problems may lead to bad breath or other odd smells and again, need to be diagnosed and treated by your veterinarian.
  7. Change how you clean. I vacuumed yesterday. Today, I dampened my carpet with Febreeze(tm) and then with water in a spray bottle. If you prefer a more natural approach, you can use diluted white vinegar instead, or just plain water. I then took a standard window squeegee (although you can use something like the Vileda rubber brush/squeegee shown in the photo) to the carpet and you can see the results in the picture. There was still quite a lot of hair stuck to the carpet. Even with regular vacuuming with a good vacuum, you may not be getting up all the hair and dander. I would suggest squeegeeing around once a month to keep your carpets clear of hair (more if your dog is a heavy shedder).IMG_0703
  8. Change your cleaning products. Before expecting visitors, I sprinkle bicarbonate of soda on all carpeted areas, leave for 2 hours (or overnight), then vacuum. This removes most of the lingering odors.  Steam cleaners can also help get the carpets that little bit cleaner which results in fewer smells.  If you have a young puppy or an older dog who may have incontinence problems, you can remove potty odors with biological laundry soap. Simply pour liquid straight from the bottle onto the stain or make up a thin paste of bio powder and water. Leave soak for at least 15 minutes before blotting and rinsing. Don’t use bleach or other disinfectants to clean potty messes as this may not remove the scent for the dog. Adding a capful of bio or white vinegar to your mop bucket may help with general pet odors too.
  9. Use scent destroying/masking products. I personally don’t like electric plug in air fresheners for safety reasons, but the gel-pack ones can be placed anywhere. Look on the packaging for one that claims to destroy rather than cover up odors or just pick a scented candle you like (good ones give off scent even when not lit). Oil burners, sachets of lavender or other herbs, or bowls with bicarbonate of soda left in inconspicuous spots all may help mask or eliminate household owners. Anything involving fire needs to be kept well out of reach of curious noses, paws and waggy tails!
  10. Live with it! Once you know your pets and your house are clean (enough), don’t stress too much about your pet odors. It’s probably not as pronounced as you think. And, trust me, your house doesn’t just smell like pets. It smells like you, your family, and what you ate and drank in the last few days. If someone cannot bear to be in your home because you have pets, then you can go visit them instead.