Black Labrador Bramble

BlackLabradorI have just been to see a Bramble, a black labrador – very much like my own Monty the Mont.

On the whole Bramble is very well behaved, though in some respect just the very fact he a dog being a dog is causing a litle bit of trouble. He likes to sniff.  With a dog’s nose being his number one sense for taking in information – immeasurably better than our own sense of smell – he can tell a lot about a visitor by sniffing them. I always smell very interesting and doggy, and I welcome a dog’s interest in me!

Owners feel, probably quite rightly, that some people don’t like being sniffed but it’s a big thing to ask of a dog not to investigate someone new coming into his house. In fact, a shy dog or a fearful dog won’t casually sniff someone – so a polite olfactory investigation indicates the dog is confident and friendly.

Bramble’s main problem is the usual – pulling on lead – along with too much sniffing and leg-lifting for the liking of his owners!

What is a walk to a dog? It has certainly nothing to do with exercise for its own sake or keeping fit, I’m sure. You would never see the wolves in Yellowstone Park running around for no other reason than to keep fit.  A walk to a dog is about sniffing, marking to exchange messages with other dogs, exploring and hunting. Getting a dog to forego all this to walk beside us is quite a big ask, which most dogs accept. I believe there is a compromise. Let’s make the walk as rewarding for the dog as possible whilst having him walking beside us and not weeing in antisocial places.

This means walking beside us like there is no lead at all.  This can’t be done on a heavy chain lead, but requires a lightweight longish loose lead, allowing him to hang back or go a bit forward or to the side for a sniff.  It means the owners compromise on their goal of getting to a pre-planned desination at a pre-set time and go for a wander. Be more relaxed about it.

We say ‘I’m taking the dog for a walk’.  A dog walk. What we often do is to force the dog to go on a human walk.  A no-sniffing, no-exploring route march. If his head is a couple of  inches in front of our left knee we jerk him back with the lead and ‘correct’ him.  This results in us sending our impatient emotions down the lead.  This results in discomfort around the dog’s neck. This results in some stress and tension – not a good state of mind for him to be in if another dog appears. Any dog would understandably think he’d like to get away from this discomfort. So he pulls. Other contributing factors to pulling are taking a predictable route and not giving proper leadership generally.

By going on a ‘magical mystery tour’ all over the place rather than on a set route, and by being allowed to do doggy things, Bramble should eventually enjoy walking on a loose lead now that his owners can see things from his point of view.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.


Two Beautiful Keeshunds



Out of over 850 clients and thousands of dogs, I had never visited a Keeshund until yesterday when I visited two, Betta and Tilly. What beautiful looking dogs with wonderful natures.  They were originally bred in Holland as barge dogs – watch dogs and for catching rats. Consequently, one would expect them by nature to be protective.

Despite the dogs having Good Citizenship Bronze and Gold dog training certificates, out of class they are pullers on lead and Betta is wary and reactive to some people – boys in particular. She may also want to dominate certain dogs they meet. Her owner wants to make sure this side of her protective nature doesn’t escalate.  Due to their guarding nature, they bark a bit too much for the liking of the neighbours.

KeeshundTillyBetta, the older girl, can sometimes run her owner a merry dance – especially when she’s called in from the garden, and this ends up in a chase, great fun for the dog but not so much fun for the lady! Another favourite trick is to constantly ask for the back door to be opened, and then either not to go out at all, or to run out and come straight back in again!

These dogs seem to have a sense of humour, and that’s what we need too! A mix of outwitting them to think they are cooperating through choice, management by removing some of the barking opportunities, and by the lady behaving a little more like a leader should do the trick. In this way her wishes become relevant to the dogs, and part of the leadership role being that of protector.  Some work on the pulling on lead will need to be done.  The ‘training’ method using commands and correction, despite all the classes, is not working in real life.  These dogs need to learn that the only way to make any progress is when the lead is loose, so this will take some weeks of work – but not nearly as many weeks as their conventional training classes have taken so far.

Then walks will be enjoyable for all.

If you live in my area and would like help with a dog like Betta, please contact me.

UPDATE FIVE WEEKS LATER “I took the dogs out together for the first time today, both on their front-fastening harnesses, which fit well.  It was wonderful.  We went to Maulden Woods and I kept them both on lead.  They were lovely to walk together.  They mostly stayed on my left. And they understand the instruction “left-hand-side”.  The only time they pulled was when they saw something in the hedge, and that was completely controllable.  What a transformation!  Out with Betta yesterday we both saw a dog, Betta pricked up her ears and started forward, but we did a very smooth turn-around and came away, and she forgot immediately to make a fuss”.
This is only five weeks on! Give it a few more months and both dogs will be walk past other dogs and people without a fuss, and possibly by then have reliable recall even with other dogs about.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.


Charlie the Cross Breed

Busy chewingIt was hard to take a photo of Charlie, because she was so friendly and curious that pointing a camera at her brought her over to investigate, so here she is, lying down, busy chewing a toy.

Charlie came over from Ireland and was adopted by her new family about three months ago. She has landed on her feet.

She is largely labrador, but has short legs and could be mixed with Basset Hound, Beagle or even large Daschund. She is very bright and very willing.

Like so many of the dogs I see, Charlie’s problems are out on walks. She pulls on lead, wants to see off cars, joggers and cyclists, and is very reactive to some people and all dogs. I suspect that if she were not trapped on lead, she would be a lot better, but with no reliable recall her new owners are unable to let her off.

Many of the dogs I go to have had traditional training, but not pulling on lead and tolerating other dogs in the class doesn’t always translate to walking on a loose lead down the road, being sociable to other dogs in the park and not chasing bicycles. I am a big believer in front-fastening harnesses for dogs that are stressed on walks. Not only are they more comfortable for the dog, they give the handler a lot more control. However, it’s not a magical quick fix. Equipment doesn’t solve the problem. Only the owner can do that – by behaving as a leader should in the eyes of the dog – which I have proved time and again does not involve correction, lead jerking, commands or force.

Charlie’s owners realise that this will take weeks, months maybe, patiently building up Charlie’s confidence and their own, but in the end they will have a lovely dog who walks beside them like there is no lead at all, will not react to other dogs or approaching people, and who will be able to run freely and safely off lead.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.