Monday, 18 April 2022

Because We Always Have is Not a Valid Reason

I was reading a post the other day on empathy and consideration in dog training, following the growing movement towards recognising and acknowledging the emotional capacity and experience of dogs. I’ll admit it is something I have become passionate about myself, especially since encountering a dog who has such a need for the people around him to understand how he is feeling in any given situation. This particular dog’s needs have set me to learning how best to support and work with dogs, and discovering the ways that give dogs the best and kindest experience of life with us.

Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Behaviour Suppression vs Behaviour Modification

We see posts from time to time (ok, far too often in reality) from the ‘balanced’ trainers, the ‘pack leader’ and ‘alpha’ theory followers. These trainers frequently say things about humans needing to be the boss in the household or their dogs are going to dominate them. They make glib comments about using ‘all the tools’ available to them and that their methods work, and work fast.

But do they? Do they really?

Wednesday, 23 March 2022

The Privilege of Trust

I have talked before about how in some ways my reactive dog has been the best thing to ever happen to me. I owe my current career to a complicated, complex, sensitive soul, who has needed me to learn (and keep learning) as much as I possibly can about dogs. I have talked before also about the emotional impact that living with and loving a reactive dog can have, the things that become tricky because they take so much more thought. It’s safe to say that, over the course of my writing, I have mentioned both the ups and downs of life with a dog who needs so much more from the people around him.

Friday, 11 March 2022

The Magic of Management

Something I’m sure my fellow canine professionals will no doubt hear a lot from clients is ‘How do I train my dog to stop…’ or ‘How can I train my dog to not…’ Often these things are normal and natural dog behaviours that don’t really fit in to human societal expectations of how a dog should behave.

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

The Bond is the Most Important Thing

Recently I was watching a panel discussion broadcast from a number of speakers at one of the big dog behaviour conferences (in this case the Lemonade conference). This was one of the free broadcasts put out over the length of the conference, and the topic was the future of R+ training.

It was an interesting discussion, with the participants describing their journeys into reward-based training. Like many trainers and dog pros, including me, two of the speakers described their path as ‘crossover’ trainers, from the older compulsion-based methods. One of the speakers in particular said a couple of things that really hit home with me. They have had me thinking, not so much about the future of training, but the future of our relationships with our dogs.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Rehoming Isn't Always Failure


The splodgy one supervising me working as a cheerful start

‘Arrogance and ignorance go hand in hand.’ Metallica, Holier Than Thou.

I’m going to be tackling a topic that many people can find difficult here, and it can be a real taboo topic in many places. It’s a subject that has become intensely personal to me since I encountered this situation for the first time last year. Today I want to talk about rehoming.

Every dog that has entered my life has stayed with me for life – or in the case of one working dog we had when we left the farm went to live and work on another farm with a relative, as she really loved to work. Until the one that didn’t.

Friday, 10 December 2021

Why ‘It’s All in How You Raise Them’ is Failing Dogs


Something seen frequently is the idea that a young puppy is a blank canvas, implying that how the dog will develop as they grow into an adult is the responsibility of the people raising that puppy. Anything that occurs with the dog that does not fit into the human idea of a ‘normal’ dog is the fault of those people who must have done things wrong. According to this thinking, if raised correctly, any dog should be able to fit into almost any home, any family. This insistence causes so many issues, for people and for dogs.

One of the most debated questions when it comes to biology and development is ‘nature or nurture?’ Which has more influence on the development, genetics or learning? If ‘it’s all in how you raise them’ then the answer must surely be learning, right?