Please Control Your Dog!

Question 20: Why should you keep your dog under control? 

Last week two people asked me to write about an issue and they were both relating to the same thing – keeping your dog under control.  I had already decided to talk about this because I was recently told off by someone while out on my walk, rightly so.

On Saturday mornings I walk up river, onto the OU campus, round by the church, across the bridge and into the park.  It’s a lovely walk and easy on a Saturday as there are no cars coming into the Open University.  However, because we do this walk around once a week, the dogs know the way and as we come round past the church they tend to rush ahead, over the bridge.  They then wait for me, usually lying around on the verge or the path.  Once I’ve crossed over, if they are lucky, I throw the ball.  So they wait.

Last week I was on the phone to a friend, chatting away, walking slowly.  As I came up to the bridge this woman stopped in front of me and told me that I should keep my dogs under control.  “They were out of sight of you and my dog is frightened of other dogs.  You were a long way behind.  And it’s happened before!”  I apologised profusely; she was in the right and I was in the wrong.

I could have said “oh but my dogs are under control, they are lying quietly waiting for me and not interested in your dog.”  That is not the point.  The point is that I wasn’t there, so my dogs could have attacked her dog.  Or her dog could have gone for mine and they could have retaliated.

“Don’t worry he’s friendly”

This is the most annoying thing you can say when walking your dog.  I can’t tell you how many people I see ranting on social media about how some idiot allowed a dog to come bounding over “just wanting to play” and getting right into a dog’s face.  Their owner is then astonished when their dog keeps getting attacked by other ‘horrible’ dogs.

Just like people, dogs do NOT like other dogs getting right in their faces.  It’s rude.  So if your dog does it to my dogs, they are likely to get snapped at, at best, or bitten at worst.  In my opinion, that would be your dog’s fault, not mine.

My dogs will never go up to another dog and attack it.  But they will tell another dog to f*ck off, if it gets in their face.  Fair enough, in my view.  My dogs are much too busy running around with each other and having a nice time together to talk to other dogs.  They don’t want to engage with other dogs.  That’s why we are able to go out for walks with other dogs, because generally, they will just get on with it.

The exceptions to this are when one of them is in season, when they might go and chat up another dog.  Or the puppy might decide to have a game of chase with another young dog.

Train your dog away

I have talked about this in the context of training the puppy.  When you have an excitable, friendly dog, it is up to you to keep their attention when another dog is going past.  Get their focus and reward that with treats, or play.  Be more interesting or exciting than the other dog.  It’s hard work, especially if you only have one dog, but it makes the walk much more rewarding for you.

If your dog goes for other dogs really aggressively, you will have to think about muzzling it.  A basket muzzle is a good way to manage this situation, as it means you can let the dog off lead and not have to worry about it the whole time.  The dog will not like the muzzle, but usually they can learn to tolerate it. This is a better solution than keeping the dog on the lead, which is miserable for the dog, hard work for you and can make the dog more reactive in any case.

Managing the fear from other people

This was the other issue raised to me last week.  How to help children cope with being afraid of dogs.  I have already written about helping children learn to speak dog, so that they understand why a dog might be running up to them and how to deal with that.

Once again though, it is your responsibility to manage your dog so that it doesn’t rush up to people it doesn’t know.   If you watch this video I made a couple of weeks ago, you can see that I have taught Ounce to stop.

Why don’t you try to teach your dog to do this?  Run towards you, then stop.  If you put up your hand and say “Stop!” or “Wait!” they should do it.  Say “yes!” straight away then go to them and reward.  It’s a really useful command to have.

Ask me for Advice?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Go to the What Dog? page for more information on my new service.

Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you have a problem you would like me to talk about?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.

When should you re-home your dog?

Question 19: Why would you give up your dog?

We love our dogs, don’t we?  They are part of the family and we will do anything to give them the best life possible.  Just like we do for our children.  Hell, let’s face it, our dogs ARE our children.  Our fur babies.  So why on earth would we give them up?

I’ve written previously about choosing between a rescue or breeder when getting a dog, but that is not the whole story.  The more time I spend thinking about dogs and talking to people about their experiences, the more I realise that there are many scenarios for getting a dog.  Who can judge which is the right one for you?  Only you can do that.

Why would a dog need a new home?

Here are some possible reasons:

  • Death of the owner.  Most people who have dogs want to continue owning a dog for their whole life and that’s fine, but sometimes that means the dog lasts longer than the owner.
  • Moving into accommodation that does not allow dogs.  Again, this could be due to old age or ill health in the owner, but it could also be that a rental property that allows dogs cannot be found.  I do have advice for that, having had to rent a house with three dogs, a cat and a snake!
  • Change of personal circumstances.  Often when a couple splits up, neither person is able or willing to take the dog with them.  They might be moving in with someone who cannot have their dog, due to allergy or the suitability of accommodation.
  • Having a baby.  It is really common for couples to have a dog, then decide to start a family.  The dog usually adapts fine to the baby, although not in all cases.  However, children bring their own challenges and sometimes this means there is no longer any room, or more likely time, for a dog.  A dog might then become jealous, or snappy.

Reasons involving the dog:

  • Bringing in a second (or subsequent) dog.   I have written about how many dogs you should have, but even though it is lovely to have more than one dog, they may simply not get on.  You are then faced with a life of managing the situation, or you can sort it out and move on.
  • Dog breed/type is not suitable for the life and environment provided.  Ideally, this problem should be sorted out before getting a dog, but when you don’t have a dog, it is sometimes really hard to imagine what life will be like with that dog.  (My What Dog? service can help you with this process)

When we have children, all we want is for them to be happy.  We give them everything we have to achieve this, providing them with the best possible home and loving them unconditionally.  Despite this, they grow up and leave home, never to return.  They find a partner, have children and live their own lives.  That is how it should be.

When we have dogs, we also want them to be happy.  We work hard to provide a great home for them and to love them unconditionally.  Despite this, they might need something we cannot provide.  Or they might be happier living somewhere else.

Do you see?  Just because we love someone, doesn’t make us the best person for them.  It might be heart-breaking for us, but not for them.

Ask me for Advice?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you have a problem you would like me to talk about?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think – what is the right number of dogs to have?


Can you speak dog?

Dog doc 18: What is your dog saying to you?

What’s that Lassie?  Little Timmy is stuck down the well and needs me to come and rescue him?  OK, let’s go!

I was on my way to meet a family last week when I remembered this and it made me laugh out loud.  I used to love the Lassie films as a child and I was always so impressed with how communicative she was.  Now that I own collies myself, (albeit Border Collies, not Rough Collies) I know that they are easily able to convey this information.

In fact at our agility class on Saturday, my trainer Carla was explaining a handling manoeuvre and said that if she did it one way her dog Blyss would just look at her and say “I’m going to go this way mum, because I don’t think you know what you are doing”.  Carla said she knew Blyss was thinking this because it was written all over her face.  They won a rosette yesterday, so they must understand each other pretty well 🙂

Anyway, I was on my way to meet a family whose mum wanted to get a dog desperately.  However she said that her 8 year-old daughter was terrified of dogs.  I offered to take Busy over to meet them and discuss what kind of dog they might get.  As part of my preparation, I was considering what is it that makes dogs scary?  I decided that the easiest answer is that we don’t know what they are thinking.  And of course they don’t know what we are thinking.  Or do they?

When you spend all day every day in the company of dogs, you come to realise that they are not that complicated.  They love routine, they like to know the rules and they want to be loved.  That’s not too hard, is it?  They want us to be consistent towards them, hopefully consistently loving.  Dogs really love it if you do the same stuff every day, so they know what to expect.

A Dog Needs

What might a dog be saying to you?  Well, these are the things it needs:

  • Food (always top of the list)
  • Warmth (somewhere nice to sleep)
  • Water
  • Toileting (they much prefer to toilet outside, away from their bed)
  • Exercise (is it time to go out for a walk?)
  • Play (throw the ball throw the ball throw the ball…)
  • Cuddles (well a nice stroke or tummy rub at least)
  • Kind words

Basically then, a dog is saying something about one of these topics.  So if you are out on a walk and a dog comes bounding over, it is probably saying “Play with me?”  Or “Hello pleased to meet you,”  or “Aren’t I gorgeous?”  Chances are they are NOT saying “You look tasty, can I bite you?” or “I hate you!”

Why might a dog bite?

Unless they are trying to catch and kill prey to eat, dogs usually only bite in self-protection.  So if they think you are going to attack them, they will try to get in there first. Sadly, people who are afraid of dogs often try to kick them or hit them to make them go away.  This of course makes the dog retaliate and they then learn that people are not friendly.  Unfortunately, they might then bite the next person they see, which leads to that person becoming frightened of dogs.  Understandably so.

Dogs also might attack if they are confused.  This is why dogs find children so threatening: they are noisy and unpredictable.  They run around very fast, making lots of noise. They try and grab at the dog and put their faces too close.

Listen to what the dog is saying

If you have an encounter with a dog, try to stay calm and quiet.  Make yourself inoffensive.  Don’t go for a full-on stare at the dog, it’s too intimidating.  Ask the dog if they would like to be petted and wait for a reply.  Don’t expect them to be thrilled to see you.  Be gentle.  Offer your hand, palm down, to be sniffed.  If you smell OK, they will be happy to be stroked.  Patience is important, don’t rush.  If you want to stop a dog jumping up at you, turn away from them.  Trust me, it works.

Once you get to know a dog, you will learn to understand them.  Hopefully they won’t need to tell you about someone stuck down a well, but they probably will tell you it’s dinner time.

Ask me for Advice?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like help with a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?


How to find a good agility club

Dog doc question 17: How do I find an agility club?

I want to start doing something with my dog, but I don’t know where to go?  It’s really challenging.  Often, when people get their first dog, they don’t know many other ‘dog people’.  Just like with any hobby or interest, if you don’t do it, you don’t know anything about it.

You could talk to people you meet when walking your dog.  Ask them if they do any training with their dog and if so, who do they go to?  Usually people are only to happy to promote their trainer, so that is a good place to start.  Often though, good trainers are fully booked up, but they may well know other people who train.

Anyone with collies should know plenty of dog trainers – collies need to be doing something!

What questions should you ask when choosing a place to train for agility?

  • Do you teach fun or competitive agility?  If you have a collie and are young and fit, you will definitely want to go somewhere that trains for competition.  If you are old and unfit and have another breed, consider going to ‘fun agility’ first.  But be warned!  Fun agility can just mean “I don’t really know what I’m doing.”  This might mean that it’s not safe.
  • How experienced are the instructors?  Again, it’s about safety.  The more experienced the trainer, the better, obviously.  There are qualifications for agility training – KC Accreditation, or the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers (BIPDT), specialising in agility.  If you want to be taught well, try and find someone who has trained and competed to Championship level, or competed at National or International level.
  • How old do dogs need to be?  Dogs should be at least a year old before they start jumping.  Foundation work for experienced handlers can begin earlier, but a complete novice should not start with a dog younger than a year.  Equally, dogs should not be too old; any dog over about five is probably too old to start.  They must be fit – agility is not a way to get an obese dog into shape.  Again, this is about putting strain on joints, agility is a sport for the dogs (if not for their owners!)
  • Do you use reward-based training?  I’d be amazed if you found anyone who said no to this question, but some trainers believe in being ‘firm’ with their dogs and expecting a good level of behaviour.  I would hope that the trainer would have the facility to cope with dogs who don’t like other dogs, or dogs who run off, or who bark uncontrollably.  There should be crates for dogs to stay in, the area should be fenced securely and there should be somewhere a dog can be tied up between runs.
  • Where is the training held?  A competitive agility arena is 30m x 30m, so that’s roughly the amount of space needed as a minimum.  Most agility is done in a field or an indoor school at an equestrian centre.  Either way, it should have a good surface for running about.  Outdoor training areas can become slippery when wet, so trainers should take account of this.  What cancellation policy do they have?  You shouldn’t have to pay if it is too wet to run safely.  However, be prepared to train in all weathers!  Dogs don’t usually mind the rain.
  • Do you have all the equipment, and is it professionally built?  This is very important.  Items should be reasonably heavy, so they don’t blow over.  Tunnels should be weighted down at either end so they don’t move.  Competitive agility includes the following items:
    • 16-20 items
    • Jumps with four different height settings and wings
    • Tunnels
    • Dog walk, A-frame and seesaw
    • Weaves
    • Optional items include a tyre, a long jump, a wall, other types of jumps
  • How many people in each class?  You want a small group only; 4-6 people is ideal.  Any less than that and you are on the go all the time, which can be a bit full on when you start.  More than that and everyone gets bored.
  • How long are the sessions?  Typically training classes last an hour.  After that, the dog gets tired and can’t concentrate.
  • How much are the classes?  Fees vary enormously, particularly by region.  If it’s too cheap it probably means the trainer is not qualified, or insured.
  • Do you have insurance?  Essential.  It’s a sport – both people and dogs can be injured.

Go and watch a class first

If you like the sound of it all, please go and watch a session first, so you know what to expect.  Dogs get very excited by agility, so your dog may not behave as you expect them to!  You might need some help managing this.  Some dogs are so focused on whether or not it is their turn that they don’t mind other dogs barking right next to them.  Others will react to this aggressively.  So be prepared to give other people space.

Agility is fun!

I cannot stress this enough.  It is fun for your dog and fun for you.  Do not take it seriously, you will be sorely disappointed!  This is a life lesson I took a while to learn.  I am a competitive person who likes to do well, so being so bad at something for so long was demoralising and uncomfortable.  Eventually I realised that it was not about winning or losing, or being better than other people.  It was about me and my dogs, being out there and enjoying ourselves.  It is also great spending time with other ‘dog people’ who are all as lovely as their dogs!

Ask me for Advice?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I won’t necessarily know the answer!  But I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like help with a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

What to feed your dogs? Dog Food Advice

Dog Doc Question 16: What is the best food to give your dogs?

Honestly, I have no idea.  Arguments rage about this subject on social media and I know nothing.  It is definitely something I have grappled with, as a ‘responsible’ dog owner and breeder.  

I care about what I eat; it needs to be healthy and tasty (not necessarily in that order!) I cared about what I fed my sons, but sometimes life is too short to get really hung up about it. My son was really fussy, but he turned out fine. Most of my dogs are fussy too, but they are also pretty healthy.


What type of food?

The most suitable diet should be easily digested and produce dark brown, firm, formed stools, (which are easy to pick up!) If your puppy produces soft or light stools or has wind or diarrhoea, then the diet may not suit your puppy or it might have some kind of digestive problem or infection. If the condition persists for more than 2 days, consult your vet for advice.  Please remember that stability in the diet will help maintain good digestion.

I also think it is important that the dog likes  the food you give them and that it is suitable for the level of activity they are doing.  If your dog is always on the lookout for something more, then the food you are giving them is not satisfying their hunger.  A different type of food might deal with this more effectively.

Different foods:

  • Dry complete foods
  • Semi-moist, pouch, tinned and frozen foods
  • Home-made food (raw fresh or frozen meat)

I feed my dogs Royal Canin complete food.  For better or worse, it suits me and my dogs.  My vet agrees that it is a good quality food.  I now feed veterinary Royal Canin to my diabetic Luna.  I feed my adult bitches Royal Canin Sensible and Sensitive on a 50:50 mix, as this suits their level of activity.  The younger, more active dogs have more Sensitive and less Sensible.  


I have tried feeding them the frozen raw food.  It feels more ‘natural’, less processed.  It is supposed to produce less stools, which are harder.  It is supposed to be ‘better’ for the dogs.  I think wild dogs also eat plants though, to aid digestion and provide additional minerals and vitamins.  I also think feeding farmed animals to dogs is probably not that healthy, compared to them eating wild animals.  Anyway, my dogs didn’t like it at all.  It was expensive.  I would also have concerns about hygiene around having raw meat around the house all the time.

I have tried feeding mine a more ‘natural’, less processed complete food.  There is an argument for not feeding dogs wheat, as it is not a food they would eat naturally and causes allergic reactions in some dogs.  They didn’t like it.

Hey this is good

Feeding tips

  • Make sure that water is ALWAYS available to your puppy, so never take its water bowl away. Provide fresh water every day, do not just leave it down until it is empty.
  • Do not leave food down – throw away any uneaten food after 20 minutes. If your puppy does not eat all of its meal in one go, you may be offering it too much. Not all puppies eat the amount recommended by the pet food manufacturers. Puppies’ appetites can vary enormously, with some eating much less than the recommended amounts, whilst others scoff their meal down as if it was their last!
  • Do not refill half empty bowls, but ensure that fresh food is always provided at each meal time. This is particularly true in the hot weather when food left in bowls can attract flies and other insects. Half full cans of dog food should be kept covered in the fridge, but allowed to stand until the food is up to room temperature before feeding.
  • There are two different types of dog food manufactured ‘complete’ and ‘complementary’, clearly marked on the label. A complete food can be fed as a sole source of nutrition and is available as both canned and dry food. A complementary food is designed to accompany the complete food and should not be used as the only source of daily nutrition.
  • It is better to stick to one variety of food, so you don’t need to add anything to the diet. Always remember that over-supplementing can be harmful to your puppy.
  • As long as your puppy is not showing any growth or digestive problems, resist the temptation to change its diet or offer it a range of foods, as you may turn your puppy into a fussy eater.
  • Never change your puppy’s diet abruptly (unless under the direction of your vet). If you want to change its diet, do it gradually over a period of a few days to a week or longer if necessary.
  • Avoid feeding your puppy before travelling in the car, as this can encourage car sickness.
  • Do not feed your puppy an hour before or after exercise or play, as this could lead to stomach dilation and torsion (also known as bloat), which is a life threatening condition requiring immediate veterinary intervention. For owners of breeds which are thought to be susceptible to this condition, you should seek advice from your breeder, vet and/or breed club on further precautionary measures.
  • Leave your puppy in peace while it is eating from its bowl (preferably in his crate). Taking the bowl away while it is eating causes anxiety and this can lead to food aggression. If you want to be sure that your puppy is comfortable with you approaching it during mealtimes, add a little food to the bowl while it is eating, so it sees you as an asset, rather than a threat.
  • Never feed your dog from the table or your plate, as this encourages drooling and attention-seeking behaviours, such as begging and barking.


NB: All treats should be given sparingly, and never comprise more than 15% of your puppy’s total calorie intake. If you use treats regularly, reduce the amount of main meal food your dog is receiving in order to avoid obesity. Some chew treats have proven ability to help prevent dental diseases, but again check the label to ensure you are getting a genuine product.

Always remember that table scraps contain calories so they should be taken into account as part of the daily diet. Better still; don’t be tempted to feed table scraps at all.

Food sensitivities and intolerances

Like humans, some dogs are sensitive or intolerant to certain foods, and this can cause a variety of problems. In extreme cases, they may develop colitis (slime and blood in their stools). Always consult your vet if you notice your dog displaying any of the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Aggressive or hyperactive behaviour
  • Chronic skin and ear problems
  • Light to mid-brown loose bulky stools or diarrhoea
  • Slime and jelly being passed with stools and flatulence
  • Bloating and weight gain or loss

Potential Toxins/Poisons

NB: This list is by no means complete and always consult your vet if you puppy ingests anything it shouldn’t

  • Alcohol
  • Bones
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee/Caffeine
  • Raw Egg
  • Green parts of tomato plants
  • Grapes/Raisins/
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Human vitamins and supplements
  • Liquorice
  • Milk/Lactose
  • Mouldy food
  • Onions, chives and garlic
  • Raw or undercooked meat
  • Slug pellets
  • Yeast

Ask me for Advice?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I won’t necessarily know the answer!  But I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like help with a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

Reactivity in Dogs – How can we manage it?

Dog Doc Question 15: How do you cope when your dog is reactive?

Chasing cars, or bikes, or runners, or cats.  Barking at squirrels or cats in the garden.  Chasing or fixating on lights and reflections.  These are all examples of ‘reactive behaviours’.  Dogs are very good at reacting to stimuli in their environment; it is what they are designed to do.  They hunt, they chase, they watch out for danger.  Being alert is what helps a dog to survive.

What we need to ask ourselves is, “Is this behaviour a problem?”  First of all, “Do we think that chasing, barking, or fixating on something is detrimental to the dog?”  If they are chasing cars, then the answer is almost certainly “Yes!”  It is a dangerous activity that can only end badly.  Barking at squirrels might seem like a less harmful activity but there are two problems with this; one, they will annoy your neighbours and two, they can become over-stimulated.

In order to be a successful pet dog, our dogs should be able to cope with living in our world.  This includes cars, bikes, cats and everything else.  We don’t want them lunging and pulling every time they see a car.  We don’t want them chasing all cats, especially not if we have one in our house.

Another question we should ask ourselves, in order to assess whether the behaviour is a problem is “Can I put up with it?”  Again, if it is a barking issue, or a cat chasing issue, then it is your neighbours you need to worry about.  But you might also have behaviours that ‘drive you mad’.  Most people just put up with these behaviours, as a quirk that having a dog brings.  You don’t have to.

Dog reactivity to noise

Here is a video of Aura, showing what happens when we want to use something in the kitchen that makes a high-pitched noise:

I am using Aura because she is the worst, although you can hear Busy joining in.  They definitely wind each other up, but it’s Aura who suffers the most, in my view.  What can we do about it?

Step one: Move to a safe distance

Can you see how agitated she is?  She knows something is going on and she really wants to be there to bark at it and ‘give chase’.  Aura is an obedient dog who is well trained and quick to react to commands.  But you can see here that she is finding it really hard to concentrate.  Poor dog.

Step two: Move closer, but stay ‘safe’

We’ve moved a bit nearer, with one less door between us and the noise.  I felt as though I was torturing her here!  She is really agitated and doesn’t want to do anything, poor girl.  You can see she is trying to pay attention to me but it’s really hard for her.  Can you see her ‘lip licking’?  And can you see her showing the whites of her eyes?  She wants it to stop.  These are what is known as ‘calming signals’.

Step three: Move beside stimulus

Finally, for this demonstration, I move her back into the kitchen.  What I realised in going through this process, is that the other dogs are definitely making her reactivity worse.  She is agitated as much by their noise and excitement as by her own desire to bark and react.  So I have moved them a couple of doors away, where they can no longer hear or be heard.

Result!  Aura is calmer in this clip isn’t she?  Despite the noise still being present, she is more focused on me and is able to think a bit more about what she is doing.  She is making good eye contact with me and is not looking towards the noise.

Step four: The long-term fix

In order to reduce her reactivity to these kitchen noises properly, I need to train this regularly and consistently.  I need to practise with her every time we use something to which she reacts and I need to ensure that I give plenty of praise every time she ‘succeeds’.  Did you notice that when she was a bit calmer I gave several treats and lots of verbal praise?  That’s what we are looking for – the jackpot moment.

You can do this too!  It’s not rocket science.  These clips show how to put simple bits of training into practice.  I have done the different steps one after the other; ideally you should stay on each step until the dog is calm in that situation, then move closer.

This training can be used to ‘de-sensitise’ your dog to anything; cars going by, cats in the garden, the postman coming.  It is literally about how much effort you put in, together with your consistency.

Ask me for Advice?

You are very welcome to contact me to ask for my advice.  I can help you with a variety of issues and problems around getting a dog and suggestions for tackling training issues.  Please let me know if you have found this post helpful?  

If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like help with a specific topic?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

Recall Retraining Strategy: Some Dos and Don’ts

How to re-build your recall – my top tips

DO: Keep using treats

Some people think they only need to use treats when their puppy is little.  Why?  I still like chocolate and I’m 55 years old!  If you asked me to do something and offered me chocolate I would DEFINITELY do it!  Sunny will always come back to me, no matter whom I call, just in case I feel like giving her a sweetie.  Well of course I do!  She’s 11 years old but if she comes when I call, she deserves a sweetie.  Of course it’s not very big, but so what?

DON’T: Use rubbish treats

The one in my photo here might not look very exciting but my girls like them.  If they weren’t brilliant at coming back and/or didn’t think much of these treats, I would use something else.

Top treats can include:

  • cheese – mild cheddar is not too crumbly, nice and cheap.  Cut into small cubes
  • sausage – ordinary cooked sausage, cut small
  • frankfurters – I slice up quite finely and then cook in the oven for a while. This dries them out so them are easier to handle and last longer
  • liver cake – if you must.  I never do, but people swear by it: liver cake recipe

Whatever you use, it should actually be a reward for your dog.

DO: Be exciting

Why exactly would I return to you if you are boring?  What I am doing over here is much more interesting.  Smells!  Dogs!  Rabbits!  What are you offering?  Hmm, no thanks.

You must be AMAZING!  Look what I’ve got!  Look at my toy!  Do you want it?  Come and get it!  Here it is.. here… or here…

DON’T: Shout at your dog

It’s really not a good idea.  They may never get over it.  Dogs are sensitive creatures; they do not like it when you are unhappy.  If you have several dogs and children, try shouting at one of them (or your other half, even better). What happens?  Everyone disappears!

Yes I know it’s incredibly annoying when they don’t come, but were you exciting?  Did you have yummy sweeties?  Did you offer to play?  Or have a toy?  No?  Well that’s your own fault then.

I’m not even going to mention any kind of physical reprimand.  All that does is make your dog hate you.  Not a top plan.

DON’T: Chase your dog

What a brilliant game that is for your dog!  Yay!  Chase me, chase me!  You can’t catch me though, obviously.  Can you hear your dog laughing?  I can.  Hilarious.

DO: Run away from your dog

Turn and leg it.  Seriously.  This is the time to get on a turn of speed.  And if you can add some excited shouting, such as “Come and see what I’ve got!”  “Sweeties!”  Then you might get their interest.  This is much more likely to work than standing still.  Or chasing them.

DON’T: Wait until the end of the walk to call them back

It’s been a lovely walk but now it’s the end.  Oh you’re not tired and you don’t want to go home yet?  Well too bad, I’m in charge.  Or am I?  When I’m walking the puppy on her own, I might call her back to me twenty times during a 20 minute walk.  These days, walking her with the pack, I only call her back to me 10 times per walk.  “Ounce come”.  Be excited to see her.  Give her some praise.  Feed her a sweetie or two.  Every day, every walk.  She automatically comes to me at the end of the walk.  It’s no big deal.

DO: Use a clear, simple command

“Ounce come”.  Don’t stand still repeating the dog’s name over and over again.  You sound like a wally.  (Unlike when you are running away, shrieking in excitement, when you look AND sound like a wally.)   The more often you say the dog’s name, the less likely they are to wonder what you want.  Be clear, be positive, be firm (but not boring).

recall tips