All Posts by Sally Gutteridge

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Raising a Puppy – Tips and Advice

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Puppies

Do you have a new puppy in your home, or are you thinking of taking on a young dog to live with you?

How you introduce a puppy to new experiences is an important job that needs some thought and research if you want it to grow into a well socialized and friendly adult dog.

A puppy can be easier to socialize than an adult dog that has already learned a fear based reaction. In this article you will learn some of the experiences that your puppy will need to go through in order to prevent a nervous and fear based reaction later on.

A dog will be happier to accept new and sometimes unnerving situations if they are introduced in a positive manner. By using treats, play and your own confident unfazed reaction you can teach your puppy that new experiences are fun and nothing to worry about. Read on for some useful tips about the importance of socialization to a new puppy.

Early Days

Before your puppy is vaccinated and ready to go out walking it is worth speaking to your veterinarian on whether it’s wise to carry your dog into populated areas. Some areas have high levels of infectious disease and others are lower risk, your vet will be able to let you know how dangerous it would be to socialize your puppy by carrying him outside of the home.

It is beneficial to a puppy to broaden his social experience from as young an age young as possible. By doing this you will be decreasing his sensitivity to new experiences, unusual sounds and other things that could be deemed frightening if not experienced early on. Good and ethical dog breeders will introduce puppies to household sounds, children and as many new situations as possible from the day that they are born. It is also possible to buy desensitization soundtrack to play in the background at home which will gently acclimatize your puppy to the sounds of traffic, fireworks, thunderstorms and many other sounds.

Meet the Masses

When your puppy is protected from disease by being fully vaccinated take him to as many places as possible. Open days, barbeques and busy parks will all provide a puppy with social experiences. Make each of these experiences positive for your puppy by offering treats and ensuring that you don’t put him into a position where he feels fearful or threatened. Many veterinarians offer puppy classes that get a group of young dogs together for games and crucial canine interaction, under careful supervision. If possible it is certainly worth attending a class such as this.

By meeting and spending time with a broad range of people your puppy will learn that such an experience is pleasurable. Contact with people of all ages that offer physical attention and small but tasty treats will create a confident and happy dog. Canine interaction with other dogs is paramount to ensure that your puppy learns to interact and respect others of his species. Many dogs that have fear based or aggressive reactions to other dogs were simply not socialized from a young age.

Teeth, Feet and Ears

Preparing your new puppy for his lifestyle includes introducing him to grooming and possible vet treatments. This preparation involves handling him all over his body including looking in his eyes, ears, mouth and touching him all over including his paws. Do this every day and make it a fun and rewarding experience. You can do this by offering a reward of either physical and verbal praise or a small food reward to reinforce regular relaxed handling.

Regular handling and grooming of your puppy will prepare him to be a relaxed dog when he is being treated by the veterinarian or yourself. By checking his ears, eyes and teeth regularly you will teach him that this action is nothing to worry about. Later on if you do have to put in ear drops or similar your dog will welcome the action far more than if you had not regularly carried out the action of looking in his ears as part of his daily routine. Regular handling prevents an issue when treatment is necessary by showing your dog that there is nothing to worry about.

So by realizing your puppy’s social needs and meeting them as he develops into an older dog you will be helping him to become a confident, friendly and secure adult dog. Register to the forum and begin to talk to thousands of other dog owners, you are sure to find a lot of good and positive advice on raising your puppy.

The Best Way to Train a Puppy – Positive Reinforcement

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Puppies

Training a puppy can feel like the most difficult thing in the world to do. Advice from dog training professionals can sometimes seem conflicting and a new puppy owner can easily feel that they have no idea which is the right way to train their young dog. Are you a new puppy owner that would like to know the best and most effective way to train your new family member to behave nicely?

Positive reinforcement is the only effective, kind and long term dog training technique that your puppy will truly enjoy. The theory behind this type of training is that you always reinforce a behavior that you would like your puppy to repeat and ignore each action that you would prefer your puppy to leave behind. Many professional dog trainers use positive reinforcement to train older dogs that are going to carry out a role of employment such as assist a disabled person or search for an item.

Here I will explain how simple it is to use reinforcement by providing a positive result to a behavior offered by your puppy. This training ethic is a way of molding your puppy into a dog who behaves in a way that is useful to you and healthy for him. It is also great fun to carry out. Read on to discover how easy and enjoyable it is to train your puppy using positive reinforcement.

Toilet Training

Never punish your puppy if he has an accident in the home. He has simply not learned yet where he should go to “perform”. Offer him plenty of opportunity to toilet outside, observe throughout and then when he does toilet outdoors reward the action with plenty of praise and a game or treat.

A young dog wants to please you. They like the result that your pleasure provides, which is praise and a reward. Therefore by showing your dog that you are over the moon with his action of toileting outdoors you will trigger something in him that makes him want to repeat the action. It won’t happen overnight but by repeating this over a few days you will be using positive reinforcement to toilet train your puppy.

Come when called

A young puppy is not designed to run away. Dogs prefer to be near other creatures and this includes human beings. Recall problems occur when the environment is more interesting that the person doing the calling. Positive reinforcement when used as a technique for training recall is easy. Always reward the puppy when he returns to you. Be an interesting and worthwhile prospect. You can also vary your tone of voice to grab the attention of your puppy; anyone that has worked with puppies will confirm the effectiveness of “puppy, puppy, puppy” delivered in a high pitch to get a litter of puppies racing towards them.

By offering a bonus for a prompt and keen return to you then you are reinforcing a good recall. Think of it this way, the dog will choose the most gratifying option to himself. So make yourself and the treats/toys that you carry reward enough to overcome any distraction then ensure that the reward is sufficient to bring him running back next time you call.

Ignore the unhelpful behavior

One of the most important rules when training your puppy with positive reinforcement is that you do not inadvertently reinforce unhelpful behavior. If your puppy is offering a behavior that is, or could develop into a problem you can make this behavior extinct by simply ignoring it. For example if a dog that is jumping up for attention, is then picked up into the arms of his target, he has just been taught to jump up. Which is cute behavior from a 2kg puppy but not so welcome from a 40kg Labrador.

Ignoring the unhelpful act and offering a favorable reward for the behavior that you would like repeated is a useful way to mold a nicely behaved puppy. As an intelligent creature, your young dog will soon learn that he gets the best result from certain actions then strive to achieve the result again and again.

Check out Jean Cote’s new obedience training program which utilizes positive reinforcement as a way to train your dog in everyday good behavior and to teach him fun actions along the way.

How to Teach a Dog to Fetch

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Tricks

Do you ever watch dog owners and their pets playing with a ball or toy in the park and wish that your own dog would fetch his toy as nicely? Perhaps your own unwilling canine simply looks towards you and his thrown ball before wandering off to sniff around a nearby bush. His lack of interest in bringing anything back, leaving you with no option but to retrieve the toy yourself?

The good news is that almost any dog will enjoy a game of fetch and learn to play with enthusiasm if you make the activity enjoyable. By reading on, you can learn, in easy steps, how to make your dog focus on his toy and teach him that a retrieve game is rewarding.

There are great benefits to owning a dog that enjoys fetch games. Advantages include the ability to provide beneficial exercise in a small place and short time. A dog that runs regularly and with enthusiasm to fetch a ball a few times will reap physical benefits from short bursts of high energy and good muscle tone. This type of game is perfect for using up energy when time is short, before dog training sessions and during time limited exercise periods.

How to teach a dog to fetch in three easy stages

The Valuable Toy

  • Find a toy that your dog loves. Work out which toy your dog likes most, you can do this by playing with a number of toys and seeing which he gets most excited about. You can improvise with toys by putting a ball in an old sock initially and encouraging tug games or if your dog likes food as a reward you can place something that smells and tastes nice inside a toy and give him the chance to try and get it out.
  • By encouraging your dog to play with a particular toy you will be showing him how much fun this toy can be. This will increase his motivation to chase it when the toy is thrown. You will also be increasing the value of the toy because anything that promotes fun activity with you as his owner will become a high value resource to your dog.

Increase Motivation

  • When your dog sees his toy as something special and likes to play with or carry it around you can begin to limit access to the toy. Take it away at the end of a game and put it out of sight. Limit sessions where you play with the toy together to a few minutes at a time. Always swap the toy for something with your dog though as this will encourage him to let go of it nicely and take away the risk of guarding it.
  • By making the toy more of a valuable item you will be increasing your dog’s motivation to chase it when it’s thrown. This increase of interest will firstly encourage the initial chase to retrieve his toy and secondly ensure that he is confident and interested enough to hold the toy for long enough to carry it back to you after he picks it up.

Building frustration and swapping his toy

  • When your dog gets the idea that he goes to fetch a toy when thrown you can build his frustration. Do this by holding his collar and throwing the toy, hold him for a few seconds then running with him to the toy, this is great as a race. He will really enjoy this game. When he does bring the toy you can swap it with him for something interesting, sometimes it is useful to have two toys exactly the same.
  • By building your dogs frustration you will be making this game extremely fun for him. Holding him back from running to fetch a thrown toy will certainly make him want to perform an enthusiastic chase routine. By swapping his fetched toy for food or something equally rewarding you will be encouraging your dog to bring his toy back to you rather than run gleefully around the park with it.

Training your dog to fetch a toy will be one of the most useful and rewarding things you teach him. For more information and many other things that you can do with your dog, visit our dog forum where you can also chat and share experiences with many other dog owners.

Different Breeds of Dogs – Considering a New Pet

By Sally Gutteridge | Breeds , Posts

Are you thinking of introducing a new dog into your home but confused about what type of dog would suit your family and lifestyle? Perhaps you can’t decide whether to give a home to an adult dog or puppy and need a little more information or advice before making a decision?

Read on to learn some interesting facts about common dog breeds and the traits that they can bring into a family home. Every dog will either be a pure breed, or if a cross breed, its looks and behavior will show what type of dog it is genetically related to. When you choose a dog it is certainly important to try and match its needs to your own needs as an owner. By taking the fundamental needs of breeds of dogs into consideration you are most likely to succeed in your choice of new dog. Here are some useful tips to consider when finding a dog to take home.

Breed type

Research the breed type of any dog that you are interested in. Learn from the internet and other dog owners any problems that they have needed to deal with when living with a dog of this particular breed. Find people that already live with a dog of this breed and ask if they have any common problems.

Carrying out some research will ensure that you are expecting the breed traits that your new dog may show in your home. You can also recognize common health problems if you know what to look for when choosing your dog. An example of this could be the gait of a German shepherd dog which to the informed eye can show quite obvious signs of severe hip problems.

Exercise needs

Find out the exercise needs of the dog that you would like to take home and match them to your own exercise routines. It is worth researching how much mental stimulation a dog needs too as all dogs are different but animals of the same breed can show striking similarities.

Some dogs are built to run for miles and enjoy long challenging walks. Other breeds of dog are happy with shorter walks and lots of relaxation time. When choosing a dog it is important that you are honest with yourself about how much exercise that you can realistically offer. A dog that needs a lot of exercise can develop problems within the home if its basic exercise needs are not met. Mental needs of pet dogs also vary greatly, some will become bored quickly and demand attention and others are happy to relax for most of the day. Decide how much time you have to offer for dog training needs and match these to the needs of the dog you choose. This careful planning will be worth it long term.

The working dog

Dogs originally bred to work will have traits and needs, sometimes diluted, that will need to be met to ensure happiness in the home. If you like a dog that was originally or still is a working breed then you can get an idea of how it will behave by looking into its role when employed. Look into the breed and find out whether it is still bred to work now or predominantly a pet. Some dogs have working type and show type; this includes the cocker spaniel and Labrador. Both of the aforementioned can offer very different types of same breed dogs.

Careful consideration of breed type with view to the dog performing a function will give you an idea of how much mental and physical stimulation that the dog may need in order to stay happy and fulfilled. An example of this is the Border collie who is a popular pet and can behave perfectly in the home when its needs are met. The collie however is bred for rounding up and herding sheep therefore has a lot of energy so will need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to be happy in a family home.

Choose your new dog with care and careful consideration, the little extra time spent on research will help you to understand both whether a dog is suited to you and why he behaves like he does. If you would like access to a great community of dog lovers to share your questions please visit our friendly and information packed dog forum.

A Lesson Learned: Feed My Dog on My Terms

By Sally Gutteridge | Personal , Posts

Extreme barking, of the high pitched Yorkshire terrier variety, is by far enough every morning to have me click on the kettle and feed my dog. I pop open the dog treats purely to silence the demanding holler.  Being a somewhat relaxed dog trainer has its perks but this is not one of them. Each bark provokes a twitch of the eyelid equal to none.

The Yorkie in question is a tiny female called Penny, rescued from a classified ad with her four sisters because they had reached the end of their breeding use. Penny is 4kg and 10 years old.

Despite her tiny size and generous age, Penny the Yorkie has me wrapped around her little paw. I know that I am reinforcing her bark by rewarding it with a treat. I know that she will never stop whilst the tirade is fueled with a gravy bone. This morning I even thought about giving her a second treat because she didn’t settle too well after the first.

I feed my dog because she demands it. I admit that she is actually, albeit inadvertently, trained to bark for a biscuit. I did this by reinforcing the first bark and in response I feed my dog every time she carries out the unhelpful behavior. She is simply doing what I have taught her. My advice to you is never get into this position with your dog. It is much more difficult to remove a reinforced habit than to train a good one in the first place.

Dogs are bright creatures. They will soon begin to read each little behavior that you carry out, then chain them together in the hope that this chain leads to a walk or dinnertime. Watch your own dog as he reacts to things you do. Particularly at the times of day he normally gets a meal. If he always observes a behavior of yours that leads to him being fed then he will soon begin to anticipate the meal. Soon his behavior will show the anticipation and the big brown expectant eyes will have you thinking “I had better feed my dog”.

If you are responding to his behavioral prompt to feed him then it will not take your dog long to realize this. Now all he needs to do is decide that he would like his meal earlier in the day, or before you were ready to offer it. Your dog will soon work out that if he bugs you long enough then he will prompt mealtime. He knows that you will automatically think it must be time to feed my dog. You have probably already wondered how your dog knows the time. He doesn’t, he just knows what you do each day before it’s his dinner time.

This works in exactly the same way with treats, walks and everything else that your dog will benefit from. I knew a hearing dog specifically trained to touch his owner and lead to a sound. Every single day at dinnertime this lovely dog would touch his owner and lead to the food tub. A cute trick which he had learned by prompting for food and that his owner had happily reinforced.

So, to prevent the demanding behavior at mealtimes is actually quite easy. Never allow it to develop in the first place. Do not respond to your dog’s prompts with his infiltration of the idea to your mind of, I must feed my dog. Do not even acknowledge these prompts. These thinly veiled hints can range from kicking the food bowl, barking, whining and scratching at you or the food cupboard.  If they begin to develop just change your routine slightly to keep his mealtime a surprise.

Another thing that will help you whilst feeding your dog is control during mealtimes. You can teach him that only by offering a sit position until released will you provide his food. This is an easy thing to teach by simply asking him to sit and wait whilst you place the food onto the floor. If he moves from the position before you give permission then just take the food out of his reach until he sits back down. When he sits and waits nicely just release him by saying something like “take it”.

Initially this may need to be repeated a few times but will quickly become the established behavior at mealtimes.

The way our dogs work things out is brilliant. Their thought processes are intriguing to bear witness to and next time you think I had better feed my dog, take a look around and see what your canine is up to. You might be surprised.

The Dog Walking Formula

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Training

Dog walking can be made easy and fun by teaching your canine to behave nicely both on and off leash. This could take effort with some dogs, however all dogs will learn when taught properly, therefore the effort will be worth it.

To enjoy dog walking there are three areas that you can concentrate on. These are outlined below;

  • On leash obedience; teach your dog to be nice on the leash and not to simply drag you along to where he would like to go.
  • Off leash obedience; teach recall to your dog and educate him to stay nearby on walks.
  • Cope with distractions; it is up to you to teach your dog to be respectful of both other dogs and people. Teaching the first two behaviors will make this easier.

On leash obedience

On leash obedience is paramount if you are going to enjoy dog walking. If your dog is adept at dragging you around, then you will not enjoy your dog walking experiences.

Often check collars or similar equipment is available to improve the dog’s behavior on the leash. This type of equipment should really be avoided and it is not based on a positive experience for the dog. An exception to this is the use of a harness or head collar if the dog is simply too strong to handle. Both the harness or head collar can be used together with positive dog training to improve the dog’s behavior on leash.

It is quite easy to improve a dog’s behavior, when dog walking on leash, using positive reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement works by rewarding the behavior that you would like the dog to repeat. This reinforcement is amalgamated with the removal of any type of reward when the dog is behaving in an unhelpful manner.  So to improve leash walking it is important to encourage a loose leash by rewarding it.

Here is an example of how to carry this out in easy stages;

  • Get your dog ready for a walk and prepare with plenty of treats or his favorite toy.
  • You can begin this in the garden if you wish for you will only be rewarding a loose leash, the less distractions are better for training at this point.
  • Stand still with your dog then when the leash becomes slack quickly praise him and give a reward.
  • When the leash is continually slack and your dog is relaxed take a few steps in one direction. Then change direction whilst at the same time praising and rewarding your dog for a slack leash.
  • Extend the walking distance and try to keep your dog’s attention on you with the treats and unexpected change of direction. He will learn to watch you.
  • The trick is to build the distance walked but keep the leash slack. If at any point the leash becomes taut simply go back to standing still again and rebuild a slack leash.

Off leash obedience

Recall is very important when dog walking around people and other dogs. This is another habit that needs to be built gradually. Here are some recall stages and tips to help you successfully call your dog back;

  • Begin by calling your dog back whilst he is on the leash and rewarding him with a small treat
  • When you are certain that he will come back on the leash you can have someone hold your dog and call him a short distance to you for a treat. They will then drop the leash to the ground and to allow your dog to return to you. (This is useful because you can step on the leash to prevent last minute escape)
  • Increase the distance as your confidence and dogs capability increases.
  • Gradually introduce distractions but only when you believe your dog can cope with them.


If you have successfully trained your dog in on and off leash obedience by reinforcing his attention on you then you can begin to introduce distractions. Remember to always set your dog up for success by introducing distractions when he can cope with them. If you need to make his reward tastier or interesting when introducing distractions than that’s fine, as your dog learns you can lower the value of reward.

Crate Training Puppies

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Puppies

The internet is filled with advice on dog training. Everything from teaching a dog many complicated tricks to crate training puppies is covered somewhere online.

When following generic advice, always ensure that it is kind to your dog. Be careful not to believe advice simply because it is written or provided by a dog trainer. Dog training is unregulated in many parts of the world and like any other profession there are good and bad trainers and behaviorists.

Crate Types

There are three main types of crate available. None more suitable than the other for crate training puppies.

  • The metal crate is quite sturdy and escape proof, this type of crate however is not overly suitable for travel as it can be cumbersome and awkward. The metal crate also resembles a cage which can be a reason that some people avoid it.
  • A canvas crate is lighter and more aesthetically pleasing. These crates come in a variety of colors and close with a zip; the canvas crate is easily portable and lightweight. A determined dog can however chew its way out of a canvas crate. In my experience during everyday use the zip will eventually give way to wear and tear.
  • Solid plastic with a metal door is also a common crate type. Darker inside due to its solid design, this crate is a great hidey hole for a dog, this type of crate is often used for transporting a dog on aircraft travel.

A friend informed me recently that he was having trouble getting his puppy used to her crate. She became distressed and panicky when he closed the door, and this was causing problems when she had to be left for short periods. When I gave advice on how to rectify this he told me that advice on crate training puppies that he had read on the internet created in him a sense of urgency. As a result of reading internet advice my friend had created a crate training problem with his puppy.

The best advice that I can give on crate training puppies is to relax. It is much better to take a couple of extra weeks than to stress your dog out when he goes into the crate. Right from the beginning your puppy should only see the crate as his safe and comfortable bed. During the crate training process there should never be confinement or a rush to shut the puppy in.

Tips on crate training puppies

  • When you bring your new puppy home already have the crate ready for him.
  • Place a comfy bed, some toys, a drink and maybe some food treats into the crate.
  • Ensure that initially the crate is somewhere that your puppy would automatically want to lie. A place that is close to your relaxing area.
  • Always leave the crate door open initially. It is better to have a relaxed dog that chooses to go into the crate before you close the door.
  • Feed your puppy in the crate with the door open. He can associate it with pleasurable experiences.
  • You can throw tasty treats through the open door for your puppy to retrieve from the crate.

When your puppy is happily getting into the crate and settling on his own you can begin to close the door. If he shows any distress by the door closing then simply close it and open it again very quickly. You can utilize a stuffed Kong or similar for this. By giving your puppy something to do in the crate that will distract him from the door you are setting him up to pay little attention to the door at all.

If, like my friend you have got into the situation where your dog is worried or anxious about the crate just simply take the pressure off. Move the crate slightly and make it a comfy as possible then forget about it. Relax and don’t worry about getting your puppy into the crate at all. If you pay a lot of attention to the crate then your dog will think that the item is vitally important. This attention will add to the worry of a dog that is already anxious about the crate.

Making the crate comfortable and a positive experience will ensure that your puppy will enjoy the crate as easily as any other cozy bed.

How-To Stop Your Dog Barking on Walks

By Sally Gutteridge | Behavior , Posts

An adult dog that pulls and barks on his leash can be frustrating and difficult to handle. Often the barking is due to social inadequacy, frustration or a mixture of both.

If socialization is not carried out properly from puppyhood a dog can develop fear based problems. The worried dog will become anxious or agitated very quickly. Either as a form of defense or simply because he doesn’t know what else to do, this can result in your dog barking.

Dogs learn a lot about the world in the first few months of their lives. If this crucial time is not utilized properly a dog can become socially awkward at best and terrified of things in the worst case. Some dogs in shelters and rescue care have missed out on this social learning and can be difficult to rehome because of it.

Dog barking can seem random and unprovoked, but it is not. The dog that has worked himself up to a barking frenzy has gone through a range of feelings before arriving at the option to bark. The behavior may be established and need lots of work, but it can be improved.

If you have an adult dog barking on the end of a leash you must first work out the stimulus. What is the trigger to your dog barking? If it seems to be everything do not despair the behavior can be modified it will just take consistency.

There are steps that you can take to teach your dog that barking is not the best option.

Find the trigger

Take your dog into a very quiet area with little stimulus and simply watch him. He should hopefully appear quite relaxed. Observe his behavior and reward the relaxation with treats and gently praise his quietness. Then simply wait, and watch your dog whilst he looks around until something appears that may start your dog barking.

It is vitally important here, that you start to recognize when your dog begins to become aroused by the stimulus. His head will lift slightly and he will focus directly on the stimulus, he will then stop responding to your voice. A low growl may follow as a prelude to your dog barking.

By this point it is too late to intervene in the behavior. You cannot train a dog that is so aroused by a trigger that he has lost complete awareness of you. So don’t try, just take him away from the situation. The point of this exercise is for you to learn where to begin the training session and to recognize your dog’s point of arousal.

Start small

There is absolutely no point to taking your dog into a situation where he feels that he needs to bark and then asking him to stop. By flooding the dog with stimulus you will be teaching him to ignore your voice and attempts to calm him.

Begin by rewarding relaxation in your dog. Watch his body language; if he is relaxed reward it.

Take him back to a quiet area and this time your task is to avoid your dog barking. So observe him carefully and continue to treat relaxed behavior. If something comes into the area that may cause a bark reaction then it is up to you to keep him relaxed with your treats and calm words. The trick here is to reinforce the behavior that you would like to establish in place of your dog barking. Do this by reward and if your dog is showing even the smallest focus on the trigger simply put more distance between you and it. Walk your dog away far enough from the trigger that he can relax.

By doing this you are teaching relaxation and with this method carried out consistently you will be able to get closer to stimulus as you progress. Vary your training treats to keep the dogs interest and always reward him for looking towards you whilst you are out. When he sees a trigger and looks directly towards you he is reassuring himself and looking for a treat. Reward with a treat and he will repeat the behavior.

Remember that dog training doesn’t always run smoothly and there will be times that you don’t catch your dog quickly enough to prevent your dog barking. If this does happen just create a distance, take a deep breath, wait for your dog to relax and start again.

Stranger Danger: Advice on How to Train Your Dog

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Training

Many parks and recreation grounds have their particular group. The same group of people that wander around daily together whilst their lucky dogs run and socialize together, the dogs and people become friends and everyone wins.

Unfortunately in many parks there is also often the dangerous stranger. The regular walker who fancies himself (or herself) as the next charismatic well marketed celebrity dog trainer. Usually this individual is seen as somewhat of a nuisance; particularly to people that know the fundamentals of positive dog training. Unsolicited dog training advice is inconvenient, often incorrect and sometimes dangerous.

As new and naive dog owners, we are often pleased to receive any advice given with the aim of improving our dogs behavior. There are risks however involved with accepting and acting upon random advice. After all we wouldn’t accept advice on bringing up our children from strangers so why how to train your dog.

There are many dog training methods floating around in the average dog walking area. These range from hitting your dog with a rolled up newspaper to flicking your heel behind you to kick a poor unsuspecting dog. The kicking is a theory I have recently heard on how to train your dog to walk at heel. How the poor creature is supposed to make that connection is beyond me.

It is usual to hear the term “dominant” and “submissive” whilst out walking too. These terms are overused and often offered as an inaccurate description of whatever some poor dog has decided to do at the time of observation. Often these terms are also accompanied by a statement that an owner has to “be the boss” or “show the dog who is in charge”.

Show him whose boss!

Dominance is an unproven theory on how to train your dog, often and unfortunately this theory can also be quite unkind to dogs. Unsurprising for it is dog training based on a belief that the dog is always looking out for a way to take over the household.

Based on studies on behavior within wolf packs, the dominance theory advocates that every unhelpful dog behavior means that he is trying to occupy the position of leader within the “pack”. So when your dog pulls on the leash he is trying to physically lead, when he stares at your food he is not respecting your leadership, and when he jumps up he is trying to get close to your face to establish dominance.

Theories that aim to show you how to train your dog by dominance range from pretending to eat from the dogs bowl to lying in the dog bed.

Many spin off dog training techniques have appeared loosely based on the theory of dominance. Leadership and being the boss are two of them. Unfortunately for the poor dog’s any advice on establishing dominance often involves physical and/or psychological harm. The alpha roll being one of them, the owner is encouraged to roll a dog on its back to establish dominance. So a confused dog, confronted and rolled over by a misinformed owner is the result.

The truth

The truth behind this theory is that dogs do not want to rule. They do not look for weakness in their human being in order to attempt world domination. Training by trying to keep a dominant role is ridiculous. The dog will not understand what you are doing. You would be speaking to your dog in a language even further removed that the species distance between you and him already. If anyone offers you advice on how to train your dog involving any kind of dominance theory or showing him his place, please for your own and your dog’s sake walk away.

The only way to understand your dog is to accept that he learns by reinforcement from you, the people around you and his environment. If you reward helpful behavior then you are teaching him to repeat it. Similarly if you reward unhelpful behavior he will also repeat it, because he has learned that it is beneficial to him. Put some time into learning how to train your dog with kindness and positive reinforcement. Work out which behavior you may be keeping active by an inadvertent reward such as attention. Work with your dog, not against him with understanding and a mutual respect.

What is a Dog Whisperer?

By Sally Gutteridge | Posts , Training

It is a term often used, dog whisperer. Giving the impression that communication with a canine is something of a rare achievement. A basic internet search will provide one with plentiful dog expert’s that offer advice and label themselves a dog whisperer.

Let’s face it; you know your dog best. You spend every day with him; therefore you are best placed to work out why he behaves a certain way.

Admittedly the humble dog is another species. Despite being genetically different to us human beings, parallels can be drawn with our behavior which may surprise you. Before you take the word of any dog whisperer, consider the similarities between us.


We both need motivation to perform at our best level.

People that are paid well and appreciated by their employers will be keen and interested to perform well. Children that are offered reward for good school results are inclined to study harder.

Dogs that are offered a reward which makes them happy, whether in the form of food or a toy are motivated to learn. It has been proven repeatedly that dogs learn the best when they have prior knowledge of a desired reward.

Positive experience

We both thrive in positivity.

The human being will want to repeat a positive experience. It is within our natures to seek out activities that make us happy. We enjoy social contact with other human beings and enjoy contact with other species. We also feel proud when appreciated by the people that we love and respect which makes us want to repeat the behavior that earned such respect.

Your family dog loves positive interaction with you and the rest of his human family. He will find enjoyment when you are pleased with him and will want to please you further by repeating the behavior that prompted your pleasure. By nature your dog will also want to be around other dogs.

The only exception to the happily social canine is the dog that has not been properly socialized. A dog that has not had contact with other dogs may show fear behaviors including aggression. If you have a dog like this and need help, research a local dog behaviorist. A good and well educated animal behaviorist will often avoid an egotistical term such as the dog whisperer.

Stress reaction and confidence

We can both suffer from stress overload

Our performance falters under stressful conditions. The human being can cope with a certain amount of stress and even thrive under it. If a manageable stress level is stretched further and we cannot cope then our performance will nosedive. Too much pressure, taking us beyond our personal capability will cause overload and leave us unable to perform, or learn anything at all.

As people we often learn better when our confidence is high. Feeling confident can lead us to believe that we are able to take on the world and win.

Inexperienced dog trainers can often place unmanageable demands on a dog. By asking too much of the canine during training sessions and not consolidating previous learning any trainer can cause their dog stress. A stressed dog will not learn. He will simply be unhappy and attempt to leave the situation. This unhappiness and sometimes fear, can be interpreted by a vexed and poorly educated trainer as unwillingness, or even worse dominant behavior. A self-titled dog whisperer that has received little formal education can easily use this theory to encourage others to misunderstand their own dogs in the name of dog training.

In professional and properly educated dog training situations care is taken to keep the dog happy and the training undemanding. By asking too much of any dog, the trainer knows that he will simply over faze it. A good and effective dog trainer will know the dog’s personal limits. The excellent trainer will teach a dog something in careful stages keeping canine confidence high and setting the dog up for success throughout.

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