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Case Study: Stress and Fights in a New Home Living with Another Dog

An elderly family member is no longer able to look after her dog, so her Cairn terrier Ben has gone to live with a couple and their dog Bonnie, a Labrador cocker spaniel mix. She’s small in size, no bigger than a cocker. Fights Each dog is great individually but being together is a challenge for both of them. In the short while that Ben has been living with his new family, there have been a couple of fights and another few altercations that the owners have interrupted. Six-year-old Bonnie… Continued

Case Study: Puppy Joyfulness Lost, Tail Between Legs, Acts Cautious

Hettie is an adorable Cockerpoo puppy who is now 16 weeks old. For the first four weeks that Hettie was with them (8 to 12 weeks old), she was a typical confident, happy and energetic puppy. She would fly around in puppy joyfulness, grab things and cause the usual puppy chaos. Why, then, has she now lost her puppy joyfulness? Before getting Hettie, her owners had already booked their vacation. While they were away, they left her in what they believed was the best place possible. This was a well… Continued

Case Study: Attack – The Best Form of Defense?

Just look at this dog! Isn’t she wonderful? Billie is a four-year-old Aylestone bulldog and her guardians have had her for six weeks. Previous to this she had been used as a breeding bitch and ended up in a shelter, so she probably didn’t have a very good life. She certainly has a good life now. Scared – attack may be the best form of defense Billie is a sweet-natured dog, although maybe a little worried about things. She is a dream at home, but out on walks she is… Continued

Case Study: Separation Distress, Insecurity and Panic When Away from His Owner

Darcy watches his lady owner all the time. When she’s out of sight he pants and he paces. Even when left at home with his male owner, he whines and stresses. Separation specifically and only from the lady owner freaks him out. Strangely, he shows no sign of being possessive of her. The daughter can hug her and she can hold the baby without Darcy doing more than continue to watch her. Darcy is 9-year-old of mixed breed, probably Patterdale and Labrador. After a bad first year which he came… Continued

Case Study: Barks Aggressively at Dogs, Counterconditioning, Changing Emotions

On walks, Daniel the Deerhound Lurcher barks aggressively at other dogs. At home, he is a well-behaved, quite self-contained but friendly boy, four years of age. The owner has had him for two years. He lived on a narrow boat For the first two years of his life, Daniel lived on a narrow boat, so he has had several years to rehearse barking at other dogs in order to make them go away.  When he barks aggressively, it works!  The dogs carry on walking. Living on a boat, I’m sure… Continued

Case Study: Over-Excited, Frustrated, Habituation and Freedom

Dylan is an enthusiastic, friendly young dog, if a little over-excited at times. He is beautiful, but someone coming to house is a very exciting thing for the young 16-month-old Labradoodle. When I arrived the lady was doing her best to control him. She repeatedly told him to sit and stay on a mat just round the corner where he couldn’t see me. She was fighting a losing battle. It’s hard to control a dog that is so over-excited. In this state of mind he can’t be expected to exercise much self-control.… Continued

Practice? Liszt or Chopsticks

Years ago in another life I was a music teacher. In addition to class music lessons for many years, I also taught the piano and the flute. What’s this got do do with dogs, you might ask. My pupils’ results showed I was quite a good music teacher. Being a piano teacher in the exam system was actually more about motivating my pupils to practice than anything else. I could have been a rubbish piano player myself and created great performers. I could on the other hand have been a concert pianist unable to teach… Continued

Dogs Back Then…..and Now

I don’t remember, here in England back in about 1954 (I was 10), ever seeing a dog on lead. I don’t actually remember seeing many dogs at all. My brother, my friends and I would also be free to walk or cycle around the roads near home or go and play in the woods. My first memory of a dog was when one rushed out of a garden barking ferociously at us. The friend I was with ran. I instinctively kept on walking. Slowly. Not looking at the dog. Perhaps even as a… Continued

Quick Fix or Never Fix

When someone first calls me for help, they usually hope their pet behavior problem will be resolved in a couple of weeks. They have tried everything they can think of for themselves, watched TV trainers and scoured the internet. Now they have decided there is nothing for it but to pay for professional help. That should fix the problem! Each day, at consultations, by phone and email, I am encouraging and motivating clients with reactive dogs to keep going and to put in as much time as possible whilst empathizing with their problems. This short sentence in… Continued

Does Size Matter?

A dog’s size influences his or her behavior. We sort of know this don’t we. What about people? Our stereotype of a hyper and talkative person who is constantly on the move would be a small person, and a slow-talking, slow moving thinker someone much larger. This has always been my own stereotype for dogs too, but is it purely genetic or the way we treat them? Is it possible we treat small people differently and it affects how they behave? My own smallest dog, my working cocker spaniel Pickle,… Continued

Treats or Bingos?

Traditionally, tidbits given to dogs outside their regular meals are labeled ‘treats’. Pet shops sell ‘treats’ and we traditionally refer to any food the dog gets by hand for doing nothing as a ‘treat’. I feel this ‘treat’ word can sometimes get in the way of converting people who have ‘had dogs all their lives’ to positive, reward-based training methods. They commonly ‘don’t believe in giving their dogs treats all the time’ and for this reason refuse to carry food rewards around with them. The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘to treat’ as… Continued

A Laser Light and OCD

It’s really strange how it all started. My clients have had the little Bichon Frise for just a few weeks – he came over from Ireland with an unknown past – and the young lady quite unwittingly bought him a laser light thinking that he would enjoy chasing it. Just a few seconds triggered something in the adorable and affectionate Buddy that has been unstoppable since. The slightest shadow or reflection starts him off, as even do flying birds. On a walk recently some swallows swooping about overhead had him leaping… Continued

The Prodigal Dog

It is so hard not to be cross when Rex runs off. You call him, and without even a backward glance he keeps on running towards something he would rather be doing than keeping you company. I think of the parable of the prodigal son where in essence the younger son is a waster who leaves home and the older son is a good boy. After many wrongdoings, the younger son eventually comes home prepared for trouble, but instead of punishing him, dad celebrates his return because he was lost… Continued

What Does Citronella Really Do to a Dog?

My ‘Paws for Thoughts’ blogs are just what they say – thoughts. I don’t profess to be an expert on my subject matter or feel that we should believe everything we read, but it should always make one think. This train of thought started with an email I received the other morning from a man with a cocker spaniel, Bertie. The four-year-old dog was now on his third home. A couple of months previously this client had canceled his appointment with me because my simple telephone advice had worked instantly. Obviously I was… Continued

Why Self-Control is Better than “Discipline”

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘discipline’ as: ‘The practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.’ The word ‘discipline’ not only carries with it the baggage of “force” and “dominance,” but also a hint of worthiness. And yet, ‘that dog needs discipline’ is a phrase we may still hear on a regular basis. ‘That dog needs to be taught some self-discipline’ is a lot more appropriate because it drops the implications of punishment. The definition of ‘self-discipline’ is: ‘The ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses.’ Discipline… Continued

How Best Not to Catch a Loose Dog

Stolen dogs are constantly in the news at the moment. Losing a dog is not always because someone has taken him, however. He may have simply run off and become lost or have been stolen then dumped. He may have escaped from the yard, something may have spooked him on a walk or he may simply have been on a chase and ignored all your shouts for him to come back. Remember the Fenton YouTube clip that went viral? People laughed, but it wasn’t really funny. What is the best thing… Continued

Carrot or Stick? Is Compromise Ever Acceptable?

What if a client is so entrenched in his (or her) old-fashioned so-called “dominance” views that banging on about force-free positive methods in the first consultation is likely to alienate him altogether? What if as an individual he just can’t help being a controller and his own sense of security depends upon very tight rules and routines? People of a controlling nature may naturally be attracted to the forceful, dominance-based methods. The man I went to visit recently readily accepts his foibles and describes himself as having OCD. His wife,… Continued

The Curious Case of the Haunted Room

Sometimes, however many questions we ask, it’s impossible to get to the bottom of just why a dog has developed a “weird” behaviour. We can see the current antecedents, but what caused it to kick in originally? In one of my recent behaviour consults I arrived to see a dog totally spooked by one room – the kitchen. All doors from outside and from the other rooms in the house led into this kitchen, so the only way to avoid the room would for greyhound Jo to stay outside. One… Continued

We Can Argue over TV. Our Dogs Have to Put Up with It

To take this photograph I have been searching for a football match on TV – a first! Most of my PPG blogs arise from the stories of dogs I have been working with that have got me thinking. Many of the people I visit have their TVs on all the time, whether or not they are watching anything. I myself live with someone whose hearing is not as good as my own and who has different tastes to myself. I find it impossible to concentrate on what I am doing… Continued

Dogs Scared of Men?

As Patricia McConnell says in a blog on her website: Why Dogs are More Afraid of Men, “people in the training and behavior field know that almost all shy dogs are more afraid of men than women, even if men have been nothing but kind to them their entire lives. We’ve always speculated that it had something to do with the way men walked (more assertively?) or their bigger chests, larger jaws, and/or deeper voices. But we’ve never really known for sure what it was – perhaps it is related to… Continued

Humans Have Feelings Too

Most extreme behavior issues will take considerable time and work to resolve. The case of two of little dogs I went to a few weeks ago, was very unusual in that the dramatic change was virtually instant. It was all about the humans and not about the dogs at all. Seldom have I been to dogs that so extremely reflected the state of mind of one particular person as these two did. People like myself are called out to help with the dogs’ behavior but we also are well aware that… Continued


I am just back from ClickerExpo here in the UK and found the whole thing incredibly reinforcing. I gained a deeper understanding of things I thought I already knew. Having been immersed in so much positivity for three days, back home I am seeing things around me through different eyes. At lunch in a café yesterday I watched a mother scolding her little girl and found it hard not to intervene. Today I visited for the third time a struggling client.  She was still finding it impossible to avoid ‘No’… Continued

Forcing Hugs on Dogs Amounts to Punishment

Imagine if somebody, particularly someone you didn’t know, were to approach you directly, grab you and, despite your resistance, squeeze and rub him/herself against you, what would you do? Struggle to escape? Shout at them? Call for help? Slap them? I’m sure you would be very fearful of what might happen next. According to human etiquette, not only would it be a totally unacceptable invasion of our personal space and extremely bad manners, but pretty threatening also. In the workplace it would be justification for a complaint of harassment. ‘Hugging’… Continued

The Importance of Mental as well as Physical Stimulation

People, no matter how much they love their dog, sometimes don’t consider how desperately bored and unfulfilled some dogs get if they have little exercise or outlet for his/her breed instincts. People in particular who have not lived with dogs before simply may not realise. It’s not that they are being deliberately neglectful – it’s a lack of knowledge. It is no wonder when the outside world is an occasional ‘treat’ rather than a regular daily event, that a dog may become overwhelmed with either excitement or fear – or… Continued

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