Category Archives: Litter July 12

PAT Magic – Why dogs are the best medicine

Pets As Therapy – A fantastic charity

It’s half term this week, so no school visits for Busy and me.  Instead we made a one-off visit to a community centre in one of the poorer districts in Milton Keynes, to be part of a series of activities for local residents to promote health and wellbeing. There was a lunch club for residents of all the local sheltered accommodations in their meeting place (village hall equivalent), to facilitate meeting others in a similar situation. A visit from a Pets As Therapy dog was welcomed, especially as some of the residents can no longer keep a pet of their own.

If you have had a dog for virtually your whole life, as I have, it is hard to imagine the impact that a dog such as Busy can have.  Some people rarely have the chance to get up close with a dog, because if you don’t have one yourself, you don’t tend to get out walking and therefore don’t meet other dogs.

Busy roars around in the agility field and up in the woods.  She will play for hours with Ounce and her family.  But as soon as I put on her bandana she knows it’s time to work.  She trots along happily and very calmly and quietly goes over to people who come to talk to us.  She stands and lets them fuss her, or leans against their leg.  Busy is happy to be fussed, for as long as needed.  She will take a treat gently from their fingers or off their palm.

When we go into somewhere new, I have become accustomed to people totally ignoring me and focusing on her.  What does surprise me is how people light up when they see her and even more when they can stroke her.  Of course everyone comments on her amazing eyes.  People want to know all about her; how old she is, what type of dog she is and so on.  Then they start talking about their dogs, or their experiences of dogs, or their relatives with dogs.  It is such a great way of getting people talking and drawing them out of themselves.

Pets As Therapy has been going since 1983 and their concept is simple: Our inspiring and dedicated volunteers share their time and their wonderful pets with people in need. This includes an increasing range of venues, including:

  • residential care homes
  • schools
  • hospitals
  • prisons
  • courts
  • universities

There are currently around 5,500 volunteer teams, all visiting at least one place on a regular basis. The charity has a vision to increase this number to 20,000 teams by 2020 – a tall order!

One of Luna’s puppies, Bea, went with Charlotte to visit their local brownie pack this week.  This was not part of a Pets As Therapy programme, as Bea has not yet been assessed.  Charlotte was concerned that Bea might not behave appropriately.  However, she was as good as gold, allowing the children to fuss her and taking it in turns to perform tricks with them all!  I have now encouraged Charlotte to apply to become a volunteer, so that they can go into her local school on a regular basis.

In order to become a Pets As Therapy dog you must be able to answer ‘yes’ to the following questions:

  1. My dog is at least 9 months old
  2. I have owned my dog for at least 6 months
  3. My dog walks on a loose lead wearing a collar
  4. My dog loves being fussed
  5. My dog takes titbits gently
  6. My dog is not worried by sudden noises
  7. My dog is always under control when on a lead
  8. My dog is happy to be groomed
  9. My dog is currently fit and well 

What I love most about being a Pets As Therapy volunteer, is that I am bringing joy to people’s lives.  It’s really easy to do and costs nothing but my time.  So what are you waiting for?

If you want to know more about Pets As Therapy, please go to their website.  I will post more information about the charity and what Busy and I do with them.

Why not FOLLOW ME?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.  Please CONTACT ME if you would like me to know more about me or my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think?

Persistent Barking – how to deal with it

Question 3: How can I deal with my dog’s persistent barking?

Thinking about various problem behaviours and how to tackle these, I have realised that there are a number of options:

  • ignore it
  • work round it
  • tackle it

I have also realised that the reason that so many dogs have so much problem behaviour is because we are often scared to tackle the problem, or we simply don’t know how to work through it.  Unfortunately, tackling a problem is the most difficult solution; ignoring it or just working around it are much easier options.

Many dogs bark incessantly.  They usually do this for a number of reasons:

  • because they are lonely or stressed, suffering from ‘separation anxiety’ – I will talk about this in a future post
  • because they are bored – asking for attention
  • because they are over-excited – this is the one I am going to talk about here.

A good example of this type of persistent barking is when a dog is waiting for a ball to be thrown.  They are basically shouting at you: “THROW THE BALL THROW THE BALL THROW THE BALL”.  Usually, we want to shut them up as quickly as possible, so we throw the ball.  Now the dog knows that when they shout “THROW THE BALL” you will do as they say! Hmm, not the best solution then.

What we want is for the dog to learn that when they shout “THROW THE BALL” at you, nothing at all happens.  Boring.  Then when they stop shouting at you, hey presto! The ball is thrown.  There are a number of steps to follow here:

  1. When the dog starts barking hysterically, distract them.  This can be by calling their name, or nudging them, or offering a toy for them to tug on.  Or you could ask them to do something else, such as a ‘down’ or a ‘twist’.  Or failing all that, you could shake a bottle with some stones in it.  This usually makes the dog say “What?”
  2. As soon as the dog stops barking, click the behaviour.  This can be using a clicker, or by saying ‘Yes!’  You need to pay attention and do it as soon as the barking stops.
  3. Reward the behaviour you want, ie the stopped barking.  Either with a treat, or a ball throw, or a play, or even just a pat or stroke.
  4. Repeat this.  How many times?  Probably ten times more than you want to.  Then maybe a few more times.  Oh and then a bit more.  Again and again.

It’s a natural instinct, a persistent habit and a self-stimulating behaviour for the dog.  But it can be controlled, and you can train it away.  The absolutely easiest way to do this is to simply pay attention to your dog and play with them.  Then they won’t get frustrated and bored in the first place.  Easier said than done of course.

You do also need to be able to say ‘Enough!’ or as I say ‘Finished’ and then stop throwing the ball.  I put is away and show the dog my empty hand.  Then I ignore them for a bit.

Please note: I am not a qualified dog behaviourist or trainer.  I have owned border collies for many years and raised a number of puppies, so I am an experienced dog owner, that is all.  Information provided here represents my opinion, based on my experience.


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.


Building confidence & coping with a pup and a toddler

Dog Doc – Your questions answered

Question 1: How do I manage my reactive dog who is scared of other dogs

A friend has recently rescued a two-year old German Shepherd cross girl, Zuki.  She was kept in all the time so is very nervous of practically everything.  I asked how she was getting on with managing her on walks.  Anna is getting Zuki to ‘watch’ her as a dog goes past, whilst feeding treats, which is working well.

I suggested adding in some play with a toy, preferably something squeaky, on a strap, so that they can play ‘tuggie’ and really engage together.  It is another way of distracting the dog away from the dog going past, without it being too boring and serious.

Another option to consider is to have a basket muzzle on the dog.  This fits fairly loosely over the dog’s muzzle.  It should not be inhibiting to wear.  It means that the dog can get on with its walk and the owner can relax, knowing that the dog cannot bite anyone else.  Here are some links to advice about the use of a basket muzzle to muzzle or not to muzzle /conditioning a dog to a muzzle

Of course disagreements can still happen!  So it is still necessary to manage any interactions carefully.  However, if the dog can be off lead, even for only short periods, without the owner needing to panic every time another dog appears, this is a step forward.

Anna said “It was really useful to chat things through and interestingly, we’re not walking her for a few days while her nose heals from the canny collar and conditioning her to it again slowly in the garden in short bursts rewarding her when she walks well and that seems to be reaping rewards!”

Question 2: I have a very lively spaniel who is hard to control – can you help?

I asked the owner what was the worst part of his behaviour.  She said that he was 16 weeks old and although they were working hard on training, especially jumping up (by turning away from him), she was finding he was too ‘full on’ with her 3 year-old son.  She has a stair gate across doorways, so that the puppy and toddler can be kept apart, but felt that they should be able to play together.

I reassured her that they probably would play together, soon.  I told her to be patient, as both the puppy and the child are very young.  In a couple of months the puppy will be a bit more settled and consistent in his behaviour and she will find it much easier to manage their interaction.

It is also likely that the toddler will become increasingly familiar with the pup and the way he behaves.  He will be less interested in the dog and react less to his presence.  This is the best way for the two of them to learn to get along.  Of course it is lovely to see children and dogs interacting, but it takes time and good management.  See my Dogs and Children page for more information.


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.

Please note: I am not a qualified dog behaviourist or trainer.  I have owned border collies for many years and raised a number of puppies, so I am an experienced dog owner, that is all.  Information provided here represents my opinion, based on my experience.

Stick or Carrot? Dogs love both!

Go on then, throw it!
Go on then, throw it!

I went to see one of the pups from the last litter this week – gorgeous!  I am absolutely delighted with how she is turning out; beautiful conformation, lovely dark chocolate coat, and most importantly, really super temperament.  It was remarkable how like her mother she was – same shaped head, same naughty spots on her head and same general demeanour.  She came and gently licked around the bottom of my chin, which is exactly what her mum does.  Funny isn’t it?

I spent some of the time there inevitably sharing stories about all the mischief pups get up to and talking about management strategies.  Her family have obviously worked hard with her and she is an absolute credit to them.  But I was struck by their lack of experience, as she is the first dog they have had.  I remembered the challenges I had faced with my first puppy, Buzz, even though I had grown up with collies and taken on an 8 year-old from my mum a few years earlier.

One of the things I noticed was that the pup was being grabbed and taken to places, including into her crate.  This has made me think – should we use a carrot or a stick with our dogs (or children).  Do we want to make them do what we want, threatening punishment for failure to comply?  Or do we entice them to do it with a reward?

Enticing is hard.  Dogs do like carrot, or dog treats, or exciting, squeaky toys.  But sometimes whatever they are already doing is much more interesting.  It definitely takes practice to enable you to get a good, quick response to an instruction, rather than a disinterested sniff and a turned back.

Be rewarding!  There are four keys types of praise to use:

  • verbal praise
  • physical praise ie petting, stroking
  • food
  • play with toy

And as always, with dogs (and children) be patient!

Children having fun with dogs – Sign up now!

Isn’t this great?  It’s my nephew Llewi having a go at agility with Luna the superstar.  Llewi was visiting us last year from Melbourne and I took him and his brother to the field for some fun.

This is what I am passionate about – children and dogs having fun together.  Safely (with the odd slip!) and under control.  Luna is well-trained, so she is able to work with anyone, which gives children who don’t have dogs the chance to enjoy them as well.

Before you all rush to contact me, I should say that I am NOT an agility trainer.  This is not my field either – I am currently training in a park, until classes become established.

Training for Fun Classes

Following on from my successful Taster Sessions, I will be taking names for blocks of classes, which will start in JANUARY 2017.  I would therefore like to hear from you, if you meet the following criteria:

  • Are 8-13 years old
  • Like dogs (no experience necessary)
  • Live near Milton Keynes (Classes to be held near Caldecotte Lake)
  • Can come to class after school

Times and dates will be confirmed once the level of interest is established.  Ideally I am looking for around 8 children per class and classes will last for around 45 minutes.

Activities include:

  • Recall – will your dog make it through the tunnel of temptation?
  • Stay – can you hide while they wait for you?
  • Everyday care of the dog – grooming, health checks, cleaning up after them
  • Play – what games does a dog like playing?
  • Rewarding – it’s not just sausages you know
  • Meeting and greeting – how to say hello to a new dog
  • Basic obedience – heelwork, simple commands (sit, down etc)
  • Much more!

No Dog Required!

I am able to use my dogs for the classes or you can bring your own.  It’s up to you!

CONTACT ME NOW to register for classes?

Persistence Pays Off

Be patient, you will get there in the end!  That is the message I have for you this week.  Sometimes it feels as though you will never get there, but if you stick with it, you probably will, eventually.  Here’s some proof –

Chris and Luna proudly showing off their prize

On Sunday 9th October we went to an agility show.  We haven’t been to many shows this year, for various reasons, but we’ve been plugging away at training.  Luna is 6 years old now – at her peak, really.  I did her initial training but then two years ago, in March 2014 or thereabouts, Chris started doing agility with her.  They work really well together and have already had quite a few rosettes, culminating in their first ever win on Sunday, taking them both to grade 4!

On Wednesday I was back at training with the two ‘youngsters’, Aura and Busy.  They have both been doing agility since before they were a year old, yet both of them are still learning.  I have been doing agility now for 9 years.  I’ve been to hundreds of hours of classes, trained up four dogs from scratch and worked pretty hard with those four.  I am extremely proud of Chris and Luna’s achievement, feeling that it is well deserved on their part and that I have contributed in no small part to their success – it’s a team effort.

Yesterday I was watching one of my other puppies working with her owner and the trainer to learn to do one piece of equipment.  It really demonstrated what a complex, long-term process training a dog can be.  Everything must be broken down into easy stages and practised.  Practised over and over again, with a bit more practice and then still more practice.

One step forwards, two steps back

What is also noticeable when training dogs is that there are many setbacks along the way.  What seems easy one week can be really challenging next week.  What is easy in one place becomes much too difficult somewhere else.  A good example of this was Aura’s runs at the show.  She has made such great progress at training and is running around coping with most of the obstacles really well.  Yet in the ring, with the added excitement of it all, the other dogs and people around and the unfamiliar equipment, Aura becomes slightly hysterical and cannot cope with it all!  She finds it tremendously exciting and forgets everything she has learnt.  Watching her do a run with Chris, it was obvious that she wasn’t listening to what he was telling her – it was just too exciting!  Never mind, she had fun.

Have fun!

That is something that is vital to remember when training a dog – have fun!  It is the main objective I have in the lessons I am putting together for Training Classes for Dogs ‘n’ Kids.  I want people to understand that owning a dog should be about the pleasure it brings and that working with your dog is what gives you the most pleasure.

Of course, many of the lessons we learn in training our dogs apply equally well to other life lessons.  If you want to find out more about other work I do in helping people with their businesses, please head over to IndePenDent Inspiration.  Or leave me a comment about your training triumphs?


Playing Games – What do dogs play?

Chase me chase me!  This is a video of Luna and Aura playing tag, in the woods.  They play this game in the same spot on this particular walk and almost nowhere else.  It’s as though the bracken is just right.  Or perhaps it’s just the routine they have.  It makes me smile every time, they have so much fun!

Aura is great at getting the others to play particular games with her.  She will play ‘share-a-stick’ with Sunny.  Normally, when I throw a ball, Aura will be the one to catch it, or get to it.  She then drops it by Sunny, who brings it back to me.  This happens most of the time, although sometimes Aura brings it back to me herself, or sometimes Sunny gets to the ball first.  Occasionally Busy steals the ball once Aura has put  it down and she then taunts the others by running past them, laughing and refusing to give up the ball. Luna never gets the ball on a walk, although she likes joining in ball games at home and loves playing with a toy at training.

In the woods though, I refuse to throw the ball, because they are supposed to be enjoying the woods.  I also refuse to throw sticks, because they are dangerous (we now know).  So Sunny gets a stick and shows it to me, but then Aura takes it out of her mouth and runs past with it.  Or they both run along, side by side, holding the stick.

Another popular game, especially with youngsters, is ‘snap snap’.  Two dogs lie on the floor facing each other and snapping the air in each other’s faces.  They get as close to each other as they can without actually biting, but making loads of noise and dodging round each other.

As you can see, when you have a pack of dogs, you can spend hours watching and enjoying their interactions with each other.  All of which informs how you play with your dog.  They enjoy active, energetic and sometimes slightly rough play.  Most of all, they love to engage with you and have fun!  Why not give it a go?

This is one of the topics I am covering in my Training Classes for Dogs ‘n’ Kids.  Please Contact me if you would like to enrol on the classes?