So You Want To Be  Dog Walker!

  • By Peter Hargreaves
  • 06 Jun, 2017

Here's A Guide To Become a Professional Dog Walker

Dog Walking Service Skelmersdale

                                                                    Fancy being a dog-walker? Here’s How!

The world of work is changing, there is little job security and even less satisfaction. The dog walking job may be just what you are looking for. You may have contemplated starting your own business, but don’t have a lot of qualifications or skills. However, you have grown up with dogs and love them, big, small, pedigrees and mutts. Maybe you have what it takes to be a dog walker.

Is this really a Career?

Indeed it is. Nowadays, most families are out all day – the adults are at work, and the children are at school. This has given rise to a whole range of concierge-type jobs that range from providing ready-cooked dinners through to doing the weekly shopping. Dog walking is in demand by people who love their dogs but can only walk them on weekends, or outside working hours. The services of someone who can take their dog, or dogs, on a long and stimulating walk are highly appreciated.
There are quite a few dog walkers out there, who have taken the opportunity and started their own business. This does not mean that there is no room for you. We will look at how and what to research before you set up.  My beginnings as a dog walker in Liverpool were hard. There is a lot of competition in Liverpool. I hope that your area has fewer dog walkers than mine.

Looking for dog walking jobs?

You can start your own dog walking business.

Being prepared as a dog walker really counts.

It can be a difference between getting a customer and failing.

My dog walking business in Liverpool.

You will learn how to start a business for yourself.

What Makes a Good Dog-Walker?

This is not the easiest job – you are out and about in all kinds of weather and sometimes the routine can get you down. If people are hiring you to walk their dogs because they don’t have time to do it themselves, chances are, they did not have time to take them to training either. Although you don’t need any formal qualifications, it will help if you know some training and behavioural basics. Knowing the characteristics of the various breeds also helps – if you are walking Springer Spaniels and you let them off leash, you can guarantee that they will find the nearest muddy water to cavort in!

The Pros of a Dog-Walking business

• You own your own business and answer to no-one. This means you are also completely responsible for keeping your business going.
• This is a job for someone who loves being outdoors, often in pleasant surroundings
• You will shed any extra pounds fairly fast.
• You get to buy lots of new shoes if that is what you like!
• Your day is fairly flexible, although the times when you are active depend on your customer’s requirements
• You spend most of your day with companions you truly like, and they love you back.
• You live in an environment where you cannot own your own dog; now you have lots of doggy dependents.
• Unlike most businesses, your competition can be very supportive as well. Make friends with other dog walkers in your area so that you can offer mutual support.

The Cons of a dog-walking business

• Dogs (and their owners) usually don’t care about the weather conditions. You will be working in sun, rain, wind, sleet and snow.
• With climate change, even in our climate, it can get hot, especially around mid-day when you are most likely to be walking the dogs. You need to cater for both you and your dog’s health.
• You can be expected to return the dogs in the same condition you found them, which will mean you have to wash and dry them after a muddy walk.
• You are expected to be healthy 24/7/365 by your customers, especially the 4-legged ones. Fortunately, your flu is not transferable to your charges, and you should not be coming in contact with too many people to pass on your lurgy.
• You have to protect everyone else’s health by being responsible and picking up and disposing of dog poo in a responsible manner.
• While this is not a 9-5 job, your hours are dictated by your customers to some extent. Most of them will want you to cater for their pooches around mid-day (i.e. the middle of their workday).
• Some of your charges can have behavioural issues that you will have to manage (especially when you are starting out – you cannot be too picky when you are still trying to build up a customer base).
• If the dogs don’t know the critical commands like “Stay” and “Leave”, they can create risk.
• You will spend a great deal of time getting to and from your customer’s homes and suitable walking areas. This can be one of the biggest costs of your business.
• It can get lonely working on your own. Make friends with other dog-walkers and people who you regularly see on your routes.
• You will lose customers along the way for various reasons (e.g. they move away). It can be quite heartsore to say goodbye to your furry charges (and their owners too).
• Stealing dogs is becoming widespread these days – you need to be vigilant.

, I am still keen. How do I start?

Clearly, you have your mind set on becoming a dog-walker! While I can advise you on how to set up your business, there are some questions only you can answer. We have listed some of the key points below, which you will have to research and then put together in a business plan.

• Am I going to offer any other services, such dog training
• Who is my competition and where are they based?
• Where are my customers?
• How will I get to them?
• Who are my customers?
• What is the best way to market myself to them?
• Do I know where to walk the dogs?
• Do I know where the vets are located?

You need to find the answers to all these questions before you start.

Do your Research

We are all instant experts in the Age of the Internet. While Google can answer a lot of the questions above, many of them relate to where you are situated and local knowledge. For instance – can you start walking from your customer’s house, or will you have to drive to a good site? You will also have to work out your “territory” where you can find customers without treading on your competitors’ toes. Remember that other dog-walkers are your allies. You might need to canvass them to find out where their client base is situated.

Finding the Competition

Google is your friend here. Do some searches like “dog walker (your town, city or borough name)”. Ex. Dog walker Skelmersdale or dog walking Skelmersdale. Examine as many of the websites found as you can, taking notice of the services offering, the pricing and the location. You might like to build a map of your area, with locations of your competitors indicated. You can do this using a physical map book, a Google map, or if you are a nerd, use one of the free GIS software options. Using a map view gives you a better feel of where your competitors (and your market) can be found.
You can also do lookups on Dogbuddy.com, which will show you a map and registered dog walkers/ behaviourist  for that area (you should also register with dogbuddy). There are a few other sites, like gudog.co.uk  you can enquire on.

Finding your market

Using the map you built for the competition will show you where your target market is, and where you are likely to overlap with competitors.

Where to walk the dogs

Try using www.dogwalkingfields.co.uk , which will display potential places for walking, if you do not already know all the places in your area.

Starting up – Consider an apprenticeship

Talking to other walkers in your area opens another possibility that of working as an assistant to them if they are willing, to immerse yourself in the business.

There is quite a steep learning curve when you are starting a new business, especially if you have not run a business before and remember, you are working on your own. One way to get a taste of the business before committing yourself too deeply is to work for an established dog-walker.

By doing this, you get an experience of what it is like to walk dogs on a continual basis, as well as on-the-job training.

There could be an additional benefit in that you might be offered a few of the dogs from the business to get you started, especially if your temporary employer’s books are full. These will obviously be the least desirable customers (human and/or canine), but it does get you a customer base right away.

Starting up – your own Business

You have done your research, and maybe served an “apprenticeship” too, and you now feel ready to start your own business. You have all the information you need to write your business plan, set goals and timelines and gird your loins for your new venture. The paragraphs below deal with the basics of getting set up – we will discuss marketing later.

Write your Business Plan

I recently heard someone who now runs a multimillion pound business talking on the radio (I listen a lot to the radio while doing my doggy transporting). He explained how he came up with a brilliant business concept and tried to sell it to potential investors. One investor was very keen, and he asked: “where is your business plan?”. The entrepreneur said, “I will get it to you tomorrow” (he did not have one). Well, it took him six months! He says that committing what he wanted to do to paper was what created the successful business because he had to think through all his big ideas and put down facts to support them.

It will not take you six months but put aside 2-3 days to write a plan. It creates great focus, and you have done all the research already.
You do not need to have a business plan if you are not thinking about applying for a business grant or loan. I would strongly advise preparing one for yourself. It will help to keep all your goals and plans in one place. You can find business plan templates online.

Define your scope and your long- and short-term goals

This is part of your business plan. You may have been exposed to mission and vision statements in your previous life as an employee and thought they were meaningless (they probably were – full of high-sounding and meaningless words). In fact, a good mission statement, vision and values should all be measurable, and they are your promise to the customer and yourself. They can also describe your brand.


Here are some phrases to get you started. I expect you to do better! :-


• We will deliver an on-time, fulfilling experience to your pet, in a safe setting (i.e. you will be punctual, tire the dog out, and take it to a place where it can run off-leash without any annoyances)
• To have 30 customers by the end of 2017.
• To have a full-service dog business by 2020, including grooming, doggy day care and dog training.
• To employ three people by end 2018.

Scope of Services

You should also decide on the range of services you want to offer, for instance, you could also offer pet-sitting and/or daily visits when customers are away. However, let your customers come up with new services they require and add them to your portfolio. In your advertising literature, you can have a good general phrase like “These are some of the services we offer, please ask if the service you want is not on this list”.

Set Timelines and Milestones

Your business plan will have got you thinking realistically about what you want to achieve in the short- and long-term. Put together a project plan for starting the business i.e. getting registered, buying insurance, sorting out your transport requirements and anything else you need to launch your business. You might also want to put together a budget for starting and getting through your first 6-months.

Setting up and Managing your Finances

Once you have registered as a sole trader (see below), you should open a bank account in the name of the business. It does not have to be anything fancy. You might also check with your bank if they have any info and/or training on starting a small business, most banks do nowadays.
I, for now, use waveapps.com for my accounting needs. When my biz grows to the point that I will not be able to manage my books, I will hire an accountant. You should do the same. You should cut any expenses that you can in the beginnings. When you establish the customer base, you can think about such expenses.

The big Question: What do I charge?

You can gauge what to charge by looking at what your competitors in your area charge. The going rate generally is £8-10 for a one-hour walk, but take your lead from what others in your area are charging. Do not undercut everyone in the hope of winning business, being cheaper than everyone else implies that maybe your service is not as good. Work out different pricing, for instance, give a discount when your customer has 2 or more dogs. I charge £15 for two dogs from the same household. There can be exceptions. If you starve for customers, you can charge less for two dogs, for example, £12.

Legal and Compliance Stuff you should Know

As a professional and responsible person, you need to comply with any laws, rules and regulations that may affect your business. This is a bit tedious but does not take long to set up, starting with registering your business. 

Type of business – Sole Trader

You are now a sole trader in the eyes of Her Majesty’s Government, even if you did not know it. A sole trader is defined as a self-employed individual, and while there are some responsibilities you have to comply with, they are less restrictive than those for an LLC (Limited Liability Company). There is a clear and easy-to-read explanation of what HM Revenue and Government expect of you at  www.gov.uk/set-up-sole-trader .

You can also register your sole tradership on this web page.

It is highly unlikely that you need to register for VAT, you have to reach an annual turnover of £83,000 to become liable.

You can also apply there for a self-assessment. It means that you will fulfil your obligations towards the government via their website. This happens once a year around April.

You probably know that but as a reminder. If your incomes do not exceed £11000, you do not need to pay tax. You will need to assess yourself, though.

Selecting a Business name

Selecting your business name can be quite complex. You obviously do not want to have the same name as any other company, and it should give an indication of what services you offer. Here are some tips to help you:

• You will want a website sooner or later. Bear this in mind when you choose a name.
• Use Google to see what names have already been taken, and also to get an idea of a snappy name (or not).
• Visit the government website ( www.gov.uk/choose-company-name ). This gives the details on what constitutes a legal business name.
• Don’t be too specific – i.e. don’t use “dog-walker” in the name in case you want to expand to offer different services in future. “Pet services” is both broad and descriptive enough to cover you for future growth.
• You could also use words that suggest a dog (or pet-based) business. Unfortunately, some of the best ones are gone already (like “Barking Mad”).
• Your business is very localised. Unless you are planning to move in the not-too-distant future, it might be a good idea to add your locality in your name

Peter Hargreaves

 

By Peter Hargreaves 18 Jul, 2017

Old School Training

In old school training, trainers use a dominant approach. Offering less patience and expecting almost immediate results, od school trainers typically may offer some praise, but generally use more redirecting or corrective methods (choke chains, other punitive measures, that may cause pain and/or distress) without offering any rewards.

Focusing mostly on what a dog is doing wrong rather than what he/she is doing right, these trainers tend to believe that many behaviours displayed by dogs are due to them wanting to dominate you and/or be the 'pack leader'.

This 'pack leader' analogy is frequently used by old school trainers to describe owner/dog relationships. In wolf or wild dog societies, the pack leader is usually the one who sits (much of the time) on his own. When walking around, he has got to 'act his part' and 'play the tough guy'. Keeping their tails firmly tucked under and their ears back, other pack members will lick his face, act submissively and generally show him that they are no threat to him and have no intention to challenge his mating tights. Mating is, after all, the main role of the pack leader - which, to me, does not sound much like a human/dog relationship.

Positive Reward Training

In positive reward training, trainers focus on what a dog is doing right. Using patience, motivation and redirection techniques involving praise, food, toys and clickers, positive reward training does not put everything a dog does down to an attempt to dominate or be pack leader/follower but understands that many of a dog's behaviours are due to breed traits, early education and socialisation.

Understanding that a dog does not have to be submissive in order to listen and that dogs like to work - and succeed - as a team, positive reward trainers want dogs to be confident, rather than submissive.

Rather than punishing a wrong action or behaviour, the 'right' actions and good behaviour are rewarded with treats, praise and/or 'play time' with a favourite toy.

Patience, practice and good, proper teaching can help a dog learn the appropriate behaviour for any situation it is 'thrown' into, as well as helping to build good communication skills between owners and their dogs.

Old School Training Vs. Positive Reward Training

Old school training focuses on ensuring your dog sees you as the 'pack leader' and submissively does as he/she is told (if for no other reason than for fear of the potential 'punishment' if he/she fails to obey a command).

Positive reward training, on the other hand, encourages a positive relationship and improves communication between you and your dog while allowing your dog to work as a team with you in a confident and altogether happier fashion.

In a nutshell, old school training vs. positive reward training is the difference between 'being a pack leader' with a submissive, potentially fearful and stressed dog and being a teacher who educates his/her dog with patience, praise and rewards to become a confident, happy and well-behaved family member.

Our Approach

Using positive reinforcement (positive reward training), we provide personalised dog training sessions designed to meet your dog's specific needs/breed needs. Sessions include:

·      Puppy Training

·      House Training

·      Safety around Children Training

·      Scent/Nose Work Training Gun Dog Training and

·      Advanced Obedience Training

·      Obedience training will include teaching your dog to:

·      Sit/lie down upon command.

·      Come when called.

·      Sit-stay on command

·      Not misbehave/pull on the lead.

Using the language used by dogs to communicate, we will also teach you/your dog calming signals and educate you to read your dog's signals and correctly interpret whatever your dog is attempting to tell you. In addition, we will show you how to avoid conflicts with other dogs while walking your dog.

To learn more about our positive reward training sessions and/or book a session, please call us on 07776761289. Alternatively, you can also contact us online of via e-mail at: enquiries@dogharmony.co.uk.

 

By Peter Hargreaves 13 Jul, 2017

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Potential Causes of Stress

Dogs in a stressful environment can be affected in two ways:

Physically - Physical stress may be caused by fatigue, hunger, injury, thermal extremes or thirst.

Psychologically - Psychological stress may be due to fear caused by restraint, neglect or handling, as well as unfamiliar environments or objects.

Specific factors likely to create a stressful environment for dogs include:

Temperature - This is the effective ambient temperature of the dog's environment, which combines heat radiation, humidity and precipitation. The comfort zone is the range within the dog does not have to increase his/her normal metabolic rate to feel well and comfortable. Outside this comfort zone, there are the:

·       Lower Critical Temperature : Dogs in a stressful environment with temperatures below the lower critical temperature may show symptoms of cold stress, which may, for example, be indicated by an increase in his/her food intake

·       Upper Critical Temperature : In environments where temperatures exceed the upper critical temperature, heat stress may be accompanied by decreased food intake, for instance.

Poor Ventilation - Dogs need fresh air, too, and lack of air movement throughout the dog's environment could result in physical stress for your pet.

Overcrowding - Keeping too many animals within any given area may also become stressful for a dog.

Transportation - While some dogs do enjoy car journeys, many find being transported from one place to another incredibly stressful. This is particularly the case when they are transported in a cage, trailer or truck.

Unfamiliar Living Spaces - Moving come or even making changes within an existing home can also be intensely stressful for dogs.

Pests - Fleas, flies and lice; mosquitoes and ticks are as irritating for dogs as they are for humans and can cause a dog a great deal of both physical and psychological stress.

Human Exposure - Poorly socialised dogs can find environments where they are exposed to many different, often unfamiliar people extremely stressful.

Working Equipment - For working dogs, unfamiliar equipment and/or facilities can be stressful, especially if using said equipment causes them pain as well.

Stressed Owners - Dogs pick up on their owners' emotions. If you are stressed, upset or unwell, your dog will feel this and could get just as 'stressed out' as you are. A household with lots of heated, loud arguments, for instance, could cause the dog to become fearful.

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Signs of Stress

Often affected by elevated/increased respiratory and heart rates and dehydration, dogs in a stressful environment will show certain types of behaviour, including:

·      Making excessive noise (barking, 'moaning', whining)

·      Lethargy

·      Attempts to run away

·      Isolation (all dogs like a little 'alone time' now and then, but if your dog is continually seeking isolation, chances are he/she is stressed about something)

·      Excessive, destructive chewing

·      Digging

·      Hyperactivity

·      Growling, showing of teeth and other aggressive behaviour

·      Constant urination

·      Keeping the tail between the legs

Most stress-causing factors and subsequent stress-related behaviours can be prevented.

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Preventing Stress

Stress can be minimised by:

·      Keeping temperatures within the dog's comfort zone. This includes providing shade and bedding not likely to hold heat; rinsing the environment down; regularly providing fresh water, using fans/opening windows when temperatures exceed 24 degrees C (75.2 degrees F).

·      Ensuring adequate ventilation and providing access to outside areas during the day.

·      Making sure to avoid overcrowding and ensuring each animal has ample space to lie down, as well as his/her own feeding/drinking space.

·      Practising getting your dog in/out of the car, cage or truck and going for short journeys to begin with to get him/her used to being transported. During longer journeys, a few stops to exercise and offer water and/or food should be provided. As both heat and very windy conditions can cause stress, it is best to avoid transportation during such conditions.

·      Ensuring your dog has familiar objects around him/her when moving home/making changes to your home; spending time with him/her to reassure him/her and giving them time and space to get used to the new environment.

·      Ensuring living environments care clean, well-maintained and free of pests. This includes providing pest control both on the animal and within the environment.

·      Socialising your dog slowly, gently and a little at a time. It is better to introduce your dog to one or two people at a time, rather than exposing them to a room full of unfamiliar people.

·      Ensuring equipment for working dogs reflects their normal actions and motions without inflicting pain.

In a stressful home, spending as much time as possible with your dog, 'making a fuss' of him/her and providing plenty of reassurance, as well as play time and exercise will help to calm your dog.

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Treating Stress

Dogs in a stressful environment can often be effectively helped by:

·      Removing stress-generating factors from the environment

·      Providing water to prevent dehydration

·      Increasing opportunities to exercise

·      Ensuring the dog's stress/behaviour is not caused by underlying medical issues by consulting a veterinarian

If all else fails and your dog continues to display stress-related behaviours, a dog behaviourist may be able to help.

Contact Us

Our dog behaviourists have the skills and experience to help your dog overcome stress and live a happy, contented live. If you believe your dog is suffering from stress, or if certain stress-related behaviours have become long-standing habits, give us a call on 07776761289, contact us online or drop us an e-mail at: enquiries@dogharmony.co.uk today.

Please note that we will endeavour to answer online/e-mail enquiries as quickly as humanly possible.

By Peter Hargreaves 23 Jun, 2017

How Dogs React to Stress - Loss of Appetite

One of the ways how dogs react to stress is by losing their appetite. Dogs don't diet or fast like humans do, so if your dog suddenly has little to no interest in food, it is imperative to seek advice from a veterinarian. This is of utmost importance because loss of appetite may not only be caused by stress or anxiety, but also by an underlying health problem - including, for example, anorexia - which could lead to radical weight loss.

How Dogs React to Stress - Digestive Issues

Although usually associated with food intolerances or diseases, digestive issues, including both constipation and diarrhoea, can also be manifestations of how dogs react to stress and anxiety. If constipation diarrhoea or other digestive issues are abnormally severe (in particular if the problem lasts in excess of 24 hours and/or there is blood in your dog's vomit or stool, which may indicate a food borne illness), it is vital to see your veterinarian.

How Dogs React to Stress - Isolation

Most dogs do like a little 'alone time' once in a while. However, if your dog is continually isolating her/himself from people or other pets, you should ask your vet to help you identify the cause of this strange behaviour. Voluntary isolation like this is not only how dogs react to stress/anxiety, but could also indicate an underlying sickness.

How Dogs React to Stress - Increased Sleeping

Another manifestation of how dogs react to stress and anxiety is excessive sleeping and/or lethargy. Often one of the first signs of a dog being traumatised, injured or sick, lethargy can also be a symptom of health conditions including, among others:

·      Diarrhoea & severe dehydration

·      Diabetes, anaemia & hypothyroidism

·      Tumours, heart or liver disease and poisoning

Speaking to your vet as soon as possible if your dog is sleeping significantly more than usual or extremely lethargic is therefore imperative.

How Dogs React to Stress - Aggression

In some cases, how dogs react to stress/sickness may manifest itself in aggressive behaviour/actions towards people or other animals. This aggression is often accompanied by submissive behaviour and/or fearful facial expressions/body postures. Again, it is vital to consult a vet or veterinary behaviourist to deal with the problem before it gets worse.

Treatment will focus on behaviour management techniques designed to help your dog with his/her anxiety, stress and anger, as well as preventing injury to your dog him/herself, other animals and humans (when away from home, muzzles and similar devices can also be helpful).

How Dogs React to Stress - Excessive Chewing

Some dogs show their stress/anxiety by chewing excessively on furniture, shoes, socks, kids' toys and other inappropriate objects. Often due to separation anxiety when left alone, excessive chewing may also be caused by medical issues including intestinal parasites, nutritional deficiencies caused by a poor diet or gastrointestinal problems. Getting a vet to rule out such medical issues is again of utmost importance. Separation anxiety can often be reduced by gradually getting your dog used to being left alone and not making 'a fuss' before leaving/upon your return.

How Dogs React to Stress - What You Can Do

Having explored how dogs react to stress, let's take a moment to look at what you can do to alleviate stress and anxiety in your dog.

The first thing to do if your dog's behaviour suddenly changes in some way or another is to consult your vet to rule out any medical issues, as well as provide you with recommendations on lowering your pet's level of stress. Some of the things you can do to help include:

Exercising/playing regularly with your dog - A good game of fetch, a nice long walk and similar physical activities are brilliant stress reducing activities for your dog (and yourself!).

Offering top quality dog food - His/her diet is an integral part of your dog's health and well-being. An improperly balanced diet for his/her stage of life and life style could have unforeseen consequences that could cause stress and anxiety.

Creating a 'safe zone' - Set an area of your home apart as a space your dog can escape to during high-stress events such as, for instance, parties, fireworks or thunderstorms. To minimise stress during such events, make sure:

·      Your dog has his/her favourite 'security blanket' (a toy, for instance) with him/her

·      To visit him/her frequently in his/her 'safe space' if it is not possible for you to stay with him/her until the end of the high-stress event

Staying with your dog during thunderstorms, fireworks, etc. will provide your dog with a great deal of reassurance and subsequently minimise the stress and anxiety he/she feels at such times.

Summary

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, how dogs react to stress varies from one animal to the next. As many of the ways in which a dog will react to stress could also indicate underlying illnesses, it is vital for you to look out for signs like those shown here and seek advice from your vet as soon as possible should you detect any of them. To prevent stress affecting your dog, you should also:

·      Offer your dog a balanced diet suitable for his/her stage of life/life style

·      Exercise/play with your dog on a regular basis

·      Make sure your dog has a safe place to go and provide him/her with as much reassurance as possible during fireworks, thunderstorms, fireworks and other high-stress events

Getting Expert Help

Using the latest in behaviour management techniques, our dog behaviourists have years of experience in helping dogs overcome stress and anxiety. If you believe your dog is suffering with stress/anxiety, please do not hesitate to call us on 07776761289 or get in touch via our online contact form today to get more information/advice and/or arrange an appointment.

By Peter Hargreaves 16 Jun, 2017
By Peter Hargreaves 14 Jun, 2017

Why Puppies Chew

Your puppy's first teeth start erupting at an age between around 3 and 8 weeks. At about 4 to 6 weeks of age, these temporary teeth are replaced gradually with permanent adult teeth. The painful teething process irritates your pup's gums and chewing helps to relieve the resulting discomfort.

While using their mouths to explore their world and relieving teething pain is normal behaviour for puppies, it can become inappropriate and undesirable behaviour if it:

·      Is directed towards furniture, shoes, hands or feet

·      Becomes a habit even after adult teeth have fully emerged

Other potential causes of inappropriate chewing include medical problems; instinct, boredom and separation anxiety.

Puppy Proofing Your Home

The first step towards curbing inappropriate chewing is to puppy proof your home by looking around for and removing dangers/items of interest to your inquisitive pup. This includes:

·      Placing household cleaners, chemicals & potentially toxic plants out of reach

·      Covering electrical cords or making them inaccessible to prevent inappropriate chewing causing electrocution

·      Removing objects your puppy may find appealing (children's toys, socks, shoes, etc.)

·      Blocking access to non-puppy-proofed rooms

You may also want to consider crate/cage training your puppy for times when you cannot supervise him/her.

Medical Problems

If inappropriate chewing behaviour is carried into adulthood, underlying medical conditions could be causing your dog's chewing habit or contribute towards it.

Intestinal parasites or a poor diet can, for example, cause nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies could in turn cause pica (an appetite for largely non-nutritious substances), which could be wrongly interpreted as inappropriate chewing.

Chewing is also a canine coping mechanism triggered by nausea due to gastrointestinal problems. Getting a vet to check your puppy/dog to rule out such problems is therefore of utmost importance.

Correcting Instinct-Related Inappropriate Chewing

Even adult dogs enjoy a good chew and unless it is excessive, inappropriate chewing, this is perfectly normal, instinctive behaviour. Correcting your dog immediately & calmly every time you catch him/her chewing inappropriate objects, encouraging appropriate chewing and, of course, discouraging inappropriate chewing will minimise destruction.

Encouraging Appropriate Chewing

Encourage appropriate chewing by providing your dog with chew toys. Finding a chew toy your dog enjoys may take trial and error, but we generally recommend:

·       Being Careful with Beef & Rawhide Bones . Determined chewers can reduce these bones to small pieces that could be swallowed and become lodged in their oesophagus and/or their small intestine. Supervising your dog when offering such treats and removing smaller pieces likely to be swallowed is highly recommended.

·       Avoiding Chicken Bones . Splintering easily, chicken bones can create sharp fragments that could puncture your dog's gastrointestinal tract. Dental chews and Nyla bones are much safer alternatives.

·       Selecting Appropriately Sized Toys . Many dogs like balls and other chew toys. Make sure to choose a toy small enough to be picked up/carried by your dog, but large enough not to be accidentally swallowed. Many Kong-type dog toys have holes - make sure these holes are too small for your dog's lower jaw to get stuck in them.

·       Never giving your dog toys resembling inappropriate objects . Dogs can't tell the difference between old and new shoes, for example. Giving dogs old shoes to chew on and then scolding them for destroying new ones confuses them and will fail to correct inappropriate chewing.

Discouraging Inappropriate Chewing

Discourage inappropriate chewing immediately by:

·      Taking the object your dog is chewing on away

·      Scolding your dog

·      Directing your dog's attention towards an appropriate chew toy

·      Praising your dog for chewing this toy

This serves to help your dog gradually learn which objects may/may not be chewed.

Occasionally, discouraging established inappropriate chewing patterns can prove difficult. In such cases, applying noxious taste deterrents (like bitter apple, for example) to inappropriate objects may help to teach your dog to leave said object/s alone.

Boredom and Inappropriate Chewing

Boredom and excess energy are common causes of inappropriate chewing. Prevent problems by providing regular, long walks and spending plenty of time playing with your dog. Expending excess energy your dog may otherwise direct towards excessive chewing and/or other inappropriate behaviours, regular exercise and play time will also help to reinforce your bond with your dog.

Separation Anxiety and Excessive Chewing

If your dog predominantly chews inappropriate objects when you are out, this behaviour may indicate separation anxiety - which will need to be dealt with to stop excessive chewing. We will look at separation anxiety in more detail at another time, but essentially, you can reduce this anxiety and subsequent inappropriate chewing by:

·       Ensuring your dog is in a resting, quiet mode while you're out by taking him/her for a brisk, long walk before you leave and rewarding your dog's resulting calm-submissive energy with water and food.

·       Practising the 'No Talk, No Touch, No Eye Contact' rule . Not making a fuss when leaving/coming home will reduce anxiety by communicating to your dog that your time apart is not a big deal. Depending on how severe your dog's anxiety is, you may have to practise this rule for anything between 5 and 60 minutes before leaving/after returning.

·       Staying calm & assertive . Leaving feelings of concern/guilt behind and projecting a pack leader's confident energy as you leave lets your dog know all will be well and helps reduce separation anxiety.

·       Getting your dog used to being alone . Leave for only 5 minutes to begin with, then gradually extend your time away until you can leave for eight hours without coming home to inappropriate chewing mayhem.

Expert Help

Struggling to correct your dog's inappropriate chewing behaviour? Our experienced dog behaviourists can help! Give us a call on 07776761289 or use our online contact form today to learn more and/or arrange an appointment.

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By Peter Hargreaves 10 Jun, 2017

Whenever I knock at new client’s door and hear very loud and frantic barking , followed by a few choice swore words telling that dog to shut up I generally know I am at the right address.

Any dog behaviourist will understand just how big a question this was. So when I ask the client “When does your dog bark?” the answer is usual the standard, “All the time and its driving me crazy!”

The reality, though, it might feel like it is all the time but dogs generally don’t bark all the time, there is always a trigger or a reason; dogs usually don’t bark just for fun something has caused the dog to start. Noise next door, postman, car or someone just walking past your window. To be able to answer this question it can take some considerable time to tease out the information out of the client. This is why barking issues are usually a behaviourist domain. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons and in the profession, we call this “vocalisation”.

                        First rule out medical reasons:

  • Deaf dogs : Deaf dogs can tend to bark more. This is interesting really, because they presumably can’t hear, but the wiring in the brain is there for them to communicate vocally to perceived sounds. It is likely they are responding to vibrations. Some deaf dogs can sometimes bark MORE than hearing dogs. I don’t admit to knowing why this is but I presume it could be due to frustration, stress, fear. It might be that they are responding to vibrations that trigger the vocalisation response that hearing dogs might have realised was not a bark to be responded to, but something else, like a road drill.
  • Dementia : As dogs age, some experience cognitive decline, e.g. dementia. One of the most common signs of this is barking for no apparent reason. Indeed, in these cases, there does not appear to be a trigger, they just bark without purpose, possibly because they feel confused and distressed.
  • Incontinence : A dog might bark in request to go out if they need to toilet. This can increase with old age as some can become incontinent.
  • Pain : Dogs can bark when they are in pain in order to bring about relief or to get an owner’s attention for help.
  • Other sensory changes : Such as eye sight problems. If the dog can’t see so well, this can be confusing, which can cause the dog to bark.

                                            Frustration:

Barking can be an outlet for frustration. For example, the dog sees a sandwich on the counter but can’t reach it. This might lead to the dog barking out of frustration, a bit like a human when we declare “Dammit” when we fail to achieve something we were trying to (in my case, un-jam the printer when my husband is not around to do this for me!).

Another place we might see frustration fairly frequently, is in dog training classes. A dog might bark in the direction of another dog because he wants to greet and is unable to do so. We often see an owner realise this and then release the lead so he can say “hello” to the dog next to him. Unfortunately, this actively reinforces the dog for barking and ensures barking will be repeated next time he wants to say "Hi." We can even see combinations of attention seeking, boredom and frustration in classes where the dog looks at the owner for some eye contact, but the owner is listening to an instructor. A combination of frustration and attention seeking leads the dog to bark, whereupon, the owner looks at him right away. This is an automatic response for us and terribly difficult to override. However, this does lead to barking being reinforced. This is why the use of quiet food delivery activity toys in dog training classes can be so helpful as it prevents boredom, helps dogs to focus on something other than other dogs or their owners’ attention resulting in calm dogs in a class.

                              Territorial barking:

Dogs may bark to make something go away. This barking is of a low pitch; other dogs/people recognise this and retreat further away. The warning bark is then rewarded as the other party moves away. So, barking can be territorial and its function is to keep other beings away from the dog. Many dogs practice barking all day (unbeknown to their owners) at dogs or people that pass their house. Inevitably these triggers disappear as they pass the house and then the dog stops barking as their job has been done. Often, without even knowing, dogs get a lot of practice at this when owners are out.The more it happens and gets reinforced, the more of a default behaviour it can become. When behaviours are performed frequently, our brains can develop short cuts for the behaviour, making them even more deep rooted into habits. 
                                    Howling:

Howling is a wolf behaviour and is known to draw members of the group back together. The howl is called and the other wolves join the group responding with howls. It is possible that this behaviour has been passed down to some dogs who can howl when left alone. The theory is that a dog would howl as, ethologically, it brings members back to the individual and may play a role in separation related issues in dogs. Even if a dog does not howl when left, barking can be done through frustration; eventually the owner returns so the barking gets reinforced. This shows the dog is not coping with separation and needs some help in adjusting to this. Sometimes howling can be done in response to a distant noise that triggers the dog to howl.


                        Excitement barking:

Dogs can bark when very excited especially when it’s time for a walk. This tends to be of a higher pitch and can be quite continuous until the source of the excitement has gone out of sight. When playing games with our dogs, dogs can bark almost as if saying “Hurry up”. It is likely that frustration is also involved but dogs will often bark out of excitement when playing with their humans as well as when playing with some other dogs, or watching activities that are highly stimulating for them.

                        Stress barking:

Dogs can bark because they are stressed and it helps to release tension. However, barking also CAUSES stress to humans. If a human is exposed to chronic barking in dogs it continually activates our autonomic nervous system and our endocrine system which can lead to stress. This is why nuisance barking can be so serious, and can have devastating effects on the mental health of those who live nearby, especially if this leads to sleep disruption. It is also one reason why I act on barking in classes, I find it emotionally wearing so I do everything within my power to solve barking issues in class.

                                               Attention seeking:

The dog in the phone call was barking at his mum because she wasn’t giving him her full attention, she was talking to somebody else- me! By barking at her he got her to look at him so he found barking was an effective method of getting her attention. During the call she turned around and shouted ”Shut up”, but actually, even though it temporarily made her  feel better, he was rewarded for barking with her attention and the barking continued. This attention barking behaviour will never disappear if it continues to be successful for the dog.

                            Demanding bark:

Again, dogs might bark because they need something; the dog might be shut in the garden and want to come in. The dog might need to go to the toilet. Perhaps elicited by a little frustration, this bark is insistent and will continue until the dog's need has been met. The barking is reinforced by the need being met so will be repeated the next time this need occurs. Sometimes we want to reinforce this and as long as we know what the dog means he is providing useful information for us to act on. I take my wife’s little dog out a lot when I am with clients and he now barks, he is 12 years old, just to get a treat!!

                      Boredom barking:

Dogs that have little to occupy themselves will bark to alleviate boredom. Boredom barking often involves the same phrase at medium pitch repeated over and over at a medium speed with no urgency to it, "woof woof woof.........woof woof woof....... woof woof woof....."  Just like a small child saying "are we nearly there yet.... are we nearly there yet.... are we nearly there yet...? This is the easiest barking problem to solve as, quite simply, by providing a dog with increased exercise and mental stimulation or a bit of company, the barking should stop. But don't just go out and get another dog to solve this problem as your dog might not like another dog and you may end up with different problems.

If you have a barking dog, and need to resolve the problem, first we need to identify WHY your dog barks. Once we know this, we can develop strategies to help them to stop barking. Please don't just punish your dog for barking because barking is communication. We all know that bad things happen when communications break down! Accept that your dog is trying to tell you something and make it your job to translate what he is saying or ask for help from a qualified dog behaviourist. Read my article on classical music for dogs

                          Greeting barking:

Dogs can bark when greeting known people. This is usually a couple of barks that stop when the person greets them. These barks with be of medium or high pitch if the person is a known friendly person.


                                Alarm barking:

Your dog is telling you that something is going on that he is worried about. A quite distinctive rapid volley in sequences of 2 to 4 higher pitch barks that may be preceded by some cautious “ buff .. buff… buff” type barking. It is worth investigating this kind of bark as your dog thinks there might be an intruder. Of course, it could just be a fox in your garden. I have known of a very canny dog that used to do this to distract the other resident dog from the best seat in the house. As soon as that dog went to investigate his alarm call, the initiating dog nicked his seat and went to sleep!

                            Taught Barking:

Some dogs can bark on cue, indeed I am currently trying to teach my working Golden Retriever to bark on command. We call it speak in the trade. Of course, I will also have to teach him to stop barking at command. I have worked with some clients who taught their dog to bark but did not teach him to stop barking.

 Peter Hargreaves

 

By Peter Hargreaves 10 Jun, 2017

                                                        Classical music Proven To reduce stress in Dogs

Stress, excessive barking and separation anxiety in dogs is a common and serious issue causing considerable stress in owners. It can cause nervous behaviours like chewing, destruction and pacing, along with urinating and defecating in the household. If you work in a rescue centre with anxious dogs, or have a dog at home that howls every time you leave him alone, there are simple ways to help calm and soothe nerves without drugs or medication. Simply changing his mood with the right music can relax him enough to rest and fall asleep without destroying your home in the process.

Classical music  has a calming effect on  dogs  in rehoming centres, according to research carried out for the Scottish SPCA. During the study,  dogs ' stress levels decreased significantly after the  music  was played into their kennel

  Use music to soothe dog separation anxiety.

Pick The Right Tune!

Many people leave their radio on all day hoping it will keep their pets entertained and help battle loneliness but never give it another thought that classical music may be more beneficial. Dogs understand music differently than we do, so it’s wise not to assume they will like the same Rock RM or City Radio playing hip-hop, blues and country that you tap your foot to. Dogs hear at a higher frequency than people do and process audio differently. Animals may hear your music as annoying and would rather listen to their own music designed with the right pitches and tones.

Amazon sell tunes specifically designed for dogs, like a CD from Canine Lullabies. Dogs will visually start relaxing when listening to simple melodies and fewer instruments in the music mix. Dog-designed music typically promises to stop unwanted barking, reduce hyperactivity and calm your dog in the car and home. Whenever I get a client’s dog that is stressed out the first thing I do is switch on the CD with specific dog related classical music and after a few hours that dog always stops barking and appears to become a lot more relaxed. 

Appeal to Your Classical Canine Tastes

You may not need anything special to calm your dog other than what’s already on classical FM. The Journal of Veterinary Behaviour shows that classical music can actually reduce anxiety and stress in dogs and comfort them. This can be especially helpful for dogs living in shelters and rescue dogs newly introduced to your home after suffering from social isolation. Dogs listening to classical music are shown to spend more time in a resting state and bark less than other dogs. 

Help Your Dog Sleeps

Anxious dogs that have difficulty resting or sleeping could benefit from canine-designed music like Through a Dog’s Ear. This CD builds on Dr. Alfred Tomatis’ psycho-acoustic research and can be found on amazon.(This is the CD I use whenever I go out in the car or have a client’s dog boarding) He realised sound could work as a nutrient for the nervous system and studied how it affected the human nervous system.

Through a Dog’s Ear builds on that foundation of research and expands it toward dogs. They studied how canines process auditory information and music and created audio that naturally triggers relaxation responses. This type of response is ideal for noisy, crowded dog shelters, but can also benefit dogs in your home that are stressed out, nervous or hyperactive and show difficulty winding down and sleeping.                                          

                                                                     Let Your Dogs Howl

In 1980, Carnegie Hall hosted an orchestral debut , Howl, featuring the musical work of 20 human voices and 3 dogs. Were they really singing? Research shows canines have a sense of pitch and can be encouraged to howl when the long note on a violin is playing. Some people like to think the howl is a form of singing, while others just think the dogs are having a good time. Regardless of why your dog is howling at the music, if he seems to enjoy it, let him serenade you. Just maybe not at bedtime.

Peter Hargreaves

By Peter Hargreaves 10 Jun, 2017

                                               Why Mental Stimulation is Important For Dogs  

Dogs need both mental and physical exercise to be balanced and healthy. Finding ways to mentally stimulate a dog can be challenging. Dogs that work, police dogs, drug dogs and working gundogs generally find mental stimulation by working and resolving problems constantly. It is unusual to find behavioural issues with working dogs with the majority of behavioural issues found in pet and rescue dogs. There is plenty of research that demonstrates that when a dog is mentally challenged this dog is a lot calmer around the household

Understanding the need for and providing opportunities for physical exercise is relatively common knowledge among dog owners. Walking your dog is a great example of this. But what happens when you dog spends the rest of the day just staring at the 4 walls in your house. He becomes bored! And when he becomes bored the chewing and other destructive behaviours start.  But the concept that having a dog or dogs is a partnership and that your dog wants and needs to spend QUALITY and STIMULATING time with you, is more difficult for the pet owner to understand. It is not enough to spend time just walking or stroking them; dogs want to use their brains!  Imagine a 6 year old child never going to school!  Dogs have wonderful, intelligent, imaginative and creative brains that need to be challenged and stretched to help prevent boredom-related behaviour issues.(Barking, chewing and other problems) Using some of the ideas listed will not only help dogs’ brains, but will also improve relationships with our dogs.

*Most of these ideas are intended for the owner to be involved or for the owner to supervise the dog. There is a section at the end of things to leave for the dog when she/he is left alone.*

Create A Challenging Snack

Feed at least one snack a day in a mentally stimulating and challenging way:

  • In a food puzzle such as a Kong, (Pets at Home will stock these) freeze the treats overnight and then give to your pet frozen
  • Throw the food, if its dry food, into some long grass in the garden. You dog like and wants to use his nose when hunting for his food. Dogs that use their nose a lot are much calmer
  • Put the food in an empty, dry (labels, rings, and caps removed) Coke Cola bottles, milk jugs, water bottles. Let your dog figure out how to get the food out
  • Put the food in a tin and watch your dog try and take the lid off
  • Use the food as a treat in a training session.

Stimulating Dog Games

Get creative and play games with your dog. Here are a few games that are simple and quick to play every day.

  • Hide and seek – with people, toys, and food. Hide his food in the garden and watch him hunt for it
  • Introduce clicker training
  • Hide dry food behind cushions on the settee
  • Musical chairs – play music, play with your dog, when the music stops ask your dog to execute a behaviour on a mat or a rug, when the music starts again, play again
  • What can you do? – get your clicker and treats, ask your dog “what can you do?” start clicking and treating offered behaviours (your dog will probably do SOMETHING to get you to click/treat – use these behaviours to play this game – when we play this, the dogs must offer different behaviours to get the click/treat. Note: this is not a shaping exercise; this is a game.)
  • 101 Things to Do With a Box (or a laundry basket)

Toys

Toys come in all shapes and sizes. They are great tools to prevent boredom and enrich a dog’s life.

  • Flirt pole, look on amazon for one. Small breeds such as terriers love this as it gets their prey drive going. (I like the Kong version because it’s easy to change out the toy at the end of the line).
  • Using a long line and tie old pillow case on the end – your own version of lure coursing (think greyhound racing and chasing the lure). Run in front of your dog and watch him chase the pillow case
  • Ice sculptures – bowl or bucket or bottom half of a gallon jug – fill with water, toys, treats (carrots and apples work really well!) – freeze – put outside for your dog to play with, interact with, get the toys and treats out of.
  • Old suitcase – start with one suitcase, put some treats or a favourite toy in it, have your dog get the treats/toy out of the suitcase. Make it more interesting by using peanut butter, spray cheese, or cream cheese as a treat.
  • Yoga mat – unroll, sprinkle treats, roll back up. Have your dog unroll the mat and get treats.
  • Small round basket, I use clay garden pots – put treats or a toy under the upturned basket/pot and have your dog figure out how to get them.
  • Old phone books covered in duct tape. Play with different things your dog can do with these. Two paws on (front, back, right, left), four paws on, two paws on move around, etc. You can use a clicker for this

Other Activities

·        Scent or nose work classes are a great class for dogs who need to be stimulated/challenged!

·        Agility class

·        Mountain rescue

·        Make your daily walks move exciting by doing basic sits, downs and recalls. Take treats and throw them into long grass so you dog has to hunt for these

  • Join a walking group that takes regular walks with their dogs (I DO NOT recommend off-leash, play group type walks – the walk should be as much about you and your dog as the social aspect for you with the other humans. It should NOT be about the dogs physically socializing.)
  • Teach the dog tricks –
  • At home turn on the classical music station on the radio. Research in Scotland has shown that dogs will relax to music. I have special dog classical music CD’s that I always leave on when I go out

Mental stimulation is as important as physical stimulation for dogs. Encourage your clients to plays games and work with their dogs to build their bond and prevent boredom in their dogs.

 Peter Hargreaves

By Peter Hargreaves 10 Jun, 2017


                            So, you are thinking about taking on a rescue dog!                    

First, let’s think about a rescue dog as there are so many dogs in need of new homes, in fact, dog shelters have verwhelming numbers of rescued and unwanted dogs. I hope that I can help you to make your decision and provide
support for you in caring for and living with your new pet.


Why adopt a rescue dog? ·        

  • Because these dogs are  in need  and we need dogs as companions! Because in 2016 more than 115,000 dogs went through the rescue system in the UK 
  • It's really exciting to be part of the beginning of something wonderful!
  •  A  rescue dog can bring a revitalised sense into your home. It’s exciting! 
  • Because the puppy stage can be very difficult, even a nightmare, just think of all that mess,training, whining and a much greater sense of responsibility!!!
  • Because rescue dogs, as all dogs, want to please you and will be very rewarding to train.
  • You will feel good to be providing a safe new home for your new pal!
  • You may feel that you are too old to take on a younger dog but have a lot to offer to an older dog·        
Where should I get a rescue dog from?

Local Rescue CentreOrganisation

There are many rescue centres around in the North West. The kennel club produces a rather thick brochure listing all the Kennel Club recognised organisations. In the North west there a few good rescue centres, a quick look on Google will
give you all their contact details. You should be aware that there are some so-called dog rescue organisations
that are no more than a dog selling outlet that imports dogs for sale so go to a reputable local one which includes Freshfields animal rescue just outside Formby, Carly Lane, Liverpool, Dogs Trust, and The RSPCA.

Private sale

You will often find dogs advertised on the internet and Gumtree or by word of mouth (accidental mating). As a behaviourist I tend to find that dogs advertised on the Net or Gumtree for money, usually £100’s cheaper, are ones which I see  often see as behaviour  consultations and though you got the dog cheaper, it almost always ends up
costing you a lot more. This is not to say that all advertised dogs are a problem, but I would strongly urge caution!

When you go to see and see a dog for sale or from a rescue centre see if you can see the dog interact with another dog not already in the household in which he lives. Take him for a walk, does he pull on the lead, will the pulling
get worse, are you strong enough to accept this pulling. A dog pulling on a lead is the most common behaviour issue I come across, indeed, to the extent that the owner no longer wants to walk the dog as it has become such a chore.
Does he react to other dogs when on a lead? Does he bark at other dogs on a lead? All this may become potential problems.

Make sure you see him being fed and that he is happy to have people aroundwhilst being fed, if he is guarding his food this will become a problem in your home as he becomes more settled See how the dog behaves around toys that are on the floor, again will he growl if you try to pick one up. If there are no toys, why not. Does the dog look fit and well? Ask to see vaccination certificates. Pedigree papers if the dog is a pedigree!

Time to make your decision!


This is something that should not be taken lightly. The above suggestions are by no means an exhaustive list. But, sadly, many dogs which are adopted end up back in the system. Why? The following are some causes and explanations.

  • Separation anxiety related issues which result in complaints about noise, elimination inside the home, or damage to property 
  • Allergies to the dogT
  • The dog is aggressive towards other dogs and is difficult to manage. Is the dog scared or aggressive?
  • The dog barks excessively disturbing your neighbours
  • The dog guards food, toys or beds, etc. and growls at you if you approach. Resource Guarding
  • If you try and move the dog from his favourite place on the settee and a warning growl is made
  • The dog chases cars, cyclists, joggers,animals etc
  • Lack of recall the dog won't come back when called and chases other dogs. This causes problems with other dog owners
  • The owner was not prepared for the effort and commitment it can take to adopt a rescue dog
  • Relationship or marriage breakdown
  • The owner's don't know how to solve the problems they are having with their rescue dog
Still want to adopt a rescue dog? I do hope so!

It is really important that you have thought this through and understand what to expect. The last thing a rescue dog needs is to be sent back to the rescue centre. Deciding to return a dog to rescue is emotionally draining for the new
owner and is very difficult for the dog.Having made the decision to get a rescue dog is some more information which might help! Good luck, however, if you have done your homework you will not need luck, and do give me a call if you
have any questions!

Do's - Remember a dog has emotions. They learn by association. It is a scientific fact that canines have at least primary emotions and there is much research into whether or not dogs have secondary emotions such as jealousy

Do not stress, whatever your dog does! If you stress this will travel down the lead and make your dog stressed. Read about “calming signals” so you are able to understand your dog even more. If you are stressed your dog will be!
 
Clicker Train your dog using treats. Look for a trainer who uses positive and kind techniques, and importantly, shows you how to fade or even remove any existing bad behaviours.There are an increasing number of good trainers in this
area but if you have a rescue dog you will need a trainer who understands dog behaviour. Do check the training class before you join to make sure you are happy with the techniques used and that the class is small and under control or
will private one to one lessons be more suitable.

Some dogs are not suited to class based training until they have been rehabilitated.

Don'ts - Don't take an aggressive dog to a training sessions unless you have informed the trainer first. Leave your dog in the car until the trainer is ready. The trainer should have discussed a plan with you prior to training. A lot of rescue dogs will be nervous so taking them to a class with other dogs will cause more stress to you and your dog, even to the others in the class. You will needto rehabilitate him before joining a class. A behaviourist should be able to help you.

Don't punish your rescue dog  no matter what the provocation.

Do not over compensate for your rescue dog's sad past by giving too much un-earned affection or spending too much time with them as this generally creates additional problems in the long run. Rescue dogs tend to try to bond
very quickly with their new owner and get more worried about being left alone. If you work and need to leave your rescue dog for a period start off by leaving
them for a short while in another room with a well stuffed “frozen” kong  I fill a kong with treats and then put peanut
butter along the top, wipe it in cling film and then freeze it. It lasts longer. Gradually build on the amount of time you leave them.

If you have read this you may feel daunted! I really don't want to put you off, but it is important to realise that this is a big step to take. I hope this helps you to make the right decision and adopt a rescue dog in the full
knowledge of what you may expect.

If you would like advice about taking on a rescue dog, please contact me.

By Peter Hargreaves 10 Jun, 2017

                                                    Choosing The Puppy That’s Right For You & Your Family!

  Ten Tips choosing a puppy

1. Decide what breed you are looking for, then pause and think what can you offer to this breed, Your thought process will be based on what you like a dog to look like but you must take into consideration what the breed was bred for, is it a working dog, if so are you aware that these may have a lot of energy, and will demand a lot of exercises both physical and mental, especially working springers, labs, and Golden Retrievers. There may be some compromise, but it is better to compromise on appearance than behaviour, a big clumsily working breed such as a young Great Dane may not be suitable for a young family with a toddler around. Even the colour of your dog may affect her behaviour and it is worth researching what breed and colour you would like before buying one, if you are into Springer's tor Cockers then I would research “Cocker Rage, ” and then you may reconsider. Also be aware that some breeds have show varieties as well as working lines. E.G. a show cocker tends to be more chilled out than a working cocker which can be extremely high drive. The working lines of any breed tend to be more clever, quicker to learn but high drive and can be very hard work to keep stimulated. If you like your garden have you given any thought what a working dog would do to this.

2. What flooring do you have in your home? If laminate flooring then a large breed is likely to have problems with joints whereas a smaller lighter dog may not be at quite so much risk. Carpets act as a soft cushion for dogs while a tiled or laminated floor will be quite a hard surface for a dog. Particularly a large breed.

3. How much grooming do you want to do? Can you afford a professional groomer? Short coats are less maintenance, but longer coats require a lot of care. Will your dog be kept out doors, mine are working golden retrievers and thrive outdoors in kennels. They are thicker coated, less prone to bone injury and generally, a lot healthier…………what are your thoughts on keeping a dog outdoors in a nice kennel. It solves a lot of problems such as a dirty house, hair everywhere and avoids any dangers such as irons, etc

4. If you choose a breeder who is breeding from Kennel Club registered dogs, you will be able to find out more information. The Kennel Club has a database called Mate Select which will enable you to find out how interbred the offspring will be. All you need is a Kennel Club number for your puppy or both the parents. Are you looking at websites or gum tree for your dog? Do you know the price of your intended pup and seen why it is hundreds of pounds cheaper on gum tree. There must be a reason. Most dogs I have worked with that are displaying behaviour problems are normally put onto gumtree and websites to be sold on. Is the current owner/breeder being honest with you? When you go to see the pup is the mother there, if not why not, do the pups run off when approached, if so why. A well-socialised pup will not sulk or cower away

5. The Kennel Club has a list of suggested health tests that your chosen breed should have so that you can be sure to avoid common medical problems in your chosen breed of dog. When you talk to breeders, make sure that they can prove that they have performed the suggested tests on their breeding dogs. If your breeder says they are health tested they should be able to show you the proof of this. Please see The Kennel Club link. There is also a puppy test to see what kind of attitude your pup will have, dominate or easy going I ALWAYS USE THIS TEST AT 6.5 WEEKS AND TO DATE NEVER HAD A PROBLEM DOG. Any good breeder will welcome you doing this kind of tests. It is called responsible dog ownership. Go to www.volhard.com/pages/pat.php . And http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health/health-information-and-resources

6. Talk to a few breeders so that you can get an idea of how comfortable you feel with the breeder you eventually choose to have a puppy from. Go to breed shows so you can find out about responsible breeders, ask about temperament, etc. TAKE YOUR TIME . I waited six months until I found the right breeder. Find out the price of a pup and what is the waiting list for a pup. While it may be tempting to rush into buying a pup from gumtree because it is .Cheaper it will cost you a substantial lot more in the future

7. You need to make sure that the puppies are reared in the home for the whole period. Check carefully to make sure you are happy these puppies have been reared indoors. There should be evidence, e.g. a clean penned area, sawdust, newspaper, toys, etc. I only have a litter every 4-5 years as I want a pup from that litter. As soon as they are born I pick them up, blow gently on them, and I also play classical music as research suggests this is very calming for a dog especially a mother. Outdoor reared puppies, without much human contact, can be very difficult and often nervous of handling. Studies have shown that outdoor reared puppies are less emotionally stable than indoor-reared ones which have been accustomed to being handled from the day they are born. If you are taken outdoors to see a litter question why? If you happen to see a few other breeds in crates or kennels is this a puppy farmer. Again, the strong urge to buy a pup from a suspected puppy farm is strong 90% of the time it will cause you a lot of stress, money and emotionally heartache 

8. Make sure you see the mother at the very least. Try to see the father as well however it is quite normal to travel to mate a female to a male. I have travelled many hundreds of miles to mate my females to the right dog. If you are told, the mother died then get evidence of this from their vet. This is a very common ploy by rouge breeders If you are not able to see the mother there is a good reason for this, she would put you off buying the puppies. If the mother is nervous, aggressive and timid, it is highly likely that the pups will be the same. Pups will learn from mum and carry her genes. Genes affect temperament. Or it might be that the pups were not bred there and this person is acting for a puppy farmer and pretending to have a home reared litter. It is very common that a litter is now brought in from Eastern Europe, West Wales and parts of England and sold as a litter in that very nice house you in when responding to Gumtree adverts. These pups would have been outdoor reared and would be likely to have no health tests.

9. Ask your breeder how much they have been socialising the puppies. For example, how many people have come around to see them, have they met children, what did the children do with the puppies? For example, if children roughly handle puppies they can become very worried about being handled, so carefully supervised social encounters are important. Some breeders will expose puppies to sound effects CDs so that they get accustomed to the sound of fireworks and gunshots etc. very early on. Some breeders will expose the puppies to different surfaces, kitchen noises, etc. This is so important! 

10. You should be taking your puppy home no later than aged eight weeks. However a number of visits prior would be very helpful. It really is worth doing the attitude test at 6;5 weeks and then placing some form of ID tag on your chosen pup. I use a coloured band for this. After this you will very quickly be losing very important early socialisation opportunities. If for any reason you can’t collect your puppy until later ask your breeder to ensure that they vaccinate your puppy and also worm and apply tick treatment.

Ten Tips on Choosing a puppy from the litter.

1. Try and see the litter from four weeks of age. However, I guarantee that the pup at four will be different at 6 and again different at seven weeks of age. It is best to visit several times if you can and make observations each time to make sure that the picture remains similar.

2. Stand back and watch the puppies when you go in. Don’t approach any, just observe. Watch the mother with the puppies. Is she happy for you to look at them? Personally, I WOULD NOT ALLOW A POTENTIAL BUYER TO SEE THE PUPS AT THIS AGE UNLESS I WAS THERE. If not, she may be guarding them, and this behaviour could be inherited by the puppies and learned from the mother. If the mother is not there, ask why not. There should be no reason that the mother would not be with her puppies unless she is ill, and then you will want proof of this.

3. Watch the puppies interact with any toys they have. Are they playing nicely or are they showing any signs of aggression over toys to each other or to you? What happens if you approach the pup which has a toy? Do they want you to play or do they take the toy and move away from you? I CAN RECOMMEND THE PUPPY TEST HIGHLY ENOUGH AS THE LAST THING YOU WANT IS HARD GOING PUP AS A PET. Ideal if you want to work a pup as you require drive and energy but this is a trait not really suitable for a pet dog

4. Watch the puppies feed. Are they being fed in separate bowls or communal bowls? Ideally, they should be fed separately or in small groups so that they get enough food and this would reduce the need to fight for food. Potentially if a pup has to fight for its food this could lead to resource guarding - communal feeding may relate to food guarding behaviours in dogs. However as I have always watched my pups eating I always feed communally.

5. Which puppies approach you? Are there any that hold back and don’t engage with you? If not engaging with you at this stage these puppies are likely not to be as social as we would want. This puppy is unlikely to be comfortable in a busy family home with lots of children but may be fine with an adult home. Is the pup very confident again this may seem nice to you but a confident pup could become a bully so maybe it is not ideal for a first time dog owner

6. Does the puppy become excessively bitey with you and show very pushy and “cocky” behaviour; is she/he climbing over you and behaving in a demanding way? Is she like this every time you see her? If so, this pup is for someone who will put in a lot of time training and educate her. Ideal for an experienced dog owner or even a working home as she is probably an extremely bright puppy who will want to be involved in lots of activities. Be sure you can manage this puppy. Probably not suitable for young families.

7. How does the puppy react when picked up? Is the body language soft, loose and relaxed or does the puppy struggle or become very stiff when you pick her up? Some puppies are not keen on being handled. Do you question the fact that this litter may not have been socialised? While they can be taught to be more comfortable being handled this pup would probably be unsuitable for a young family. Children like to cuddle dogs, and this puppy may object to close handling by children at some point. This pup would be better off in a home where time and patience will be taken to teach the puppy that being handled is lovely. This can be really difficult with a young family as children naturally want to love their dogs and may push the puppy too far too soon. IT IS EASY TO ALLOW A PUP TO RULE THE HEART WHEN CHOOSING BUT A PUP IS FOR LIFE

8. Does this puppy seek conflict with the other puppies? If so this could be quite a domineering puppy and may be hard work to manage. This pup will also need a good education with a wide variety of other puppies and dogs so that she can be educated how to behave with good manners. Otherwise, this dog could be involved in spats with other dogs.

9. Where are the puppies toileting? If there is evidence of toileting on carpets you can be sure the puppy is learning to prefer to toilet on carpets as their preference for toileting surfaces is learned at a very early age. I USE A LARGE WOODEN CRATE AT LEAST 3 M X 3 M to keep a litter in and this has a thick layer of sawdust that is replaced several times a day. While a lot of breeders may not have the room for this the sleeping area should be clean, and puppies should not be toileting in their cage or else this will become a problem with house training later. Dogs naturally don’t want to foul their beds but if they are shut in cages too long then they will have to, and then they will continue with this when they come to live with you.

10. How many litters does the breeder have and are there other breeds available? Personally, this puts me off as I would question that the breeder has sufficient understanding of more than one breed to be doing a great job. Why is the breeder having a litter? And a breeder selling a litter just for the money will never tell you the truth, but ideally if the breeder is keeping a pup back this is a good sign

Peter Hargreaves


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