Renting with pets

Renting with pets

Renting with pets

For every person living in rented accommodation with pets, the day your tenancy is up is a day of dread, having to start the search again for a place who will also accept your fury family member. This pdf is a fantastic guide to help make renting with pets easier. Click on the image below to open the document.

How to pick the right dog walker?

How to pick the right dog walker?

How to pick the right dog walker?

In 2015 it is estimated that 12million (46% of) households have pets.  The pet population stands at around 58 million. With dogs making up 8.5million of them that’s 24% of all households in other words 1 in every 4 homes have a dog making care for them big business.

Choosing the right person to look after your dog, when you can’t, is really important. This person will have a huge influence on your dog, their behaviour and welfare, so here are some questions and top tips to ask any potential dog walker.

12109228_10153723358653834_4639713538174744132_n1. Who will actually be walking my dog?

If the person you initially meet won’t be personally walking your dog, make sure you meet the person who will be, before hiring them.

2. Does your company have multiple employees?

If they do will you meet them all, make sure your dog will be walked by one regular person so they can bond rather than lots of different people.

3. What kind of experience do you have with dogs?

Looking after other people’s dogs of all ages and breeds is important, as is having a current certificate in canine first aid (they last for 3 years only) and having a good understanding of general dog body language and communication especially if they will be walking more than one dog. Check these certificates and qualifications, make sure they are recent.

4. How many dogs do you walk at once?

Most insurers cover for up to 6 dogs and lots of councils now impose a 4 dog maximum law per handler. Yes, dogs are social animals however it does not follow that all dogs like all other dogs, or that dogs are automatically at ease with each other as soon as they meet. Due to their nature dogs are social creatures and they can learn just as many bad habits from each other as good. If the walker also runs a daycare double check that they are fully licenced with the local council.

Dogs Die In Hot Cars5. What happens to my dog whilst you are collecting or dropping off another?

Are any dogs tied up outside, with no one to watch over them, while they pick up another dog? Will they be taking dogs into one another’s homes? That is a situation with high likelihood of conflict. Are they leaving them in a vehicle outside? This can lead to the potential for theft especially in branded vehicles, it may as well say “dogs inside take your pick”, the vehicle should be temperature controlled, which should run separately to the engine or your dog is at a serious risk over heating in the summer, it only takes 10 minutes to cook a dog in a car on a hot day.  Another serious situation which occurs frequently is leaving them in one space unsupervised, such as the boot of a car or van, this can lead to severe fights.  Tragically one of my friends dog was horrifically killed in the back of a dog walkers van when left with only 2 other dogs who he had been on walks with previously without any signs of problems. Quite frankly do not let them take that sort of risk with your dog, insist that if they are transporting them that all dogs are in their own space whether separated by barriers or crates and if on the seat they should be in a harness on a seatbelt their safety should be the priority.

6. Will you be taking my dog to the park?

You have every right to say where you would and would not like your dog walked, you are the customer. Once you get up to bigger numbers of dogs walked together it gets tricky to give each dog attention. What I hate even more than I hate seeing one person walking 6 dogs is that one person taking those 6 dogs to the park and letting them all off lead. No human has enough eyeballs or enough legs to supervise that many animals especially in a public park where any number of people or other dogs could join that mix. If one dog gets injured and needs carried to safety how can they handle the other 5 dogs? One or maybe at a push two dogs on lead and one in their arms is almost possible for a short distance but any more is really impossible.

7. How do you choose which dogs walk with each other?

No matter how many years experience they have they should NEVER introduce a new dog to another without both dogs having their own handler to make sure the interaction is safe and beneficial for both dogs. Just because the dogs are the same breed or age does not mean they will get on or even should be mixing with each other, choosing dogs to pair together should be based on their individual temperament and what would suit them. Two dogs who get over excited in the park will not be a good pairing as they may find it hard to hear a recall etc.

8. Have you had training to walk multiple dogs at a time?

Dog walkers can contact local trainers and behaviourists to get advice and training, this is highly recommended when walking more than one dog from different households, in order to make sure they can tell if it will be beneficial for both dogs reading dog body language effectively and reacting appropriately.

10917078_394865460690060_5666357254315731478_n9. What happens when you can’t make it or I need to cancel?

What back up is there if they get sick or can’t make it, how much notice will be given and how much help will they give to find an alternative. Your dog walker should have public liability insurance, key cover, references, a service contract, written policies and prices all available for you to see on your first meeting.

10 Can we go for a walk together?

Every dog walker should encourage you to walk together to see how they handle your dog, who your dog will interact with especially if there are any other dogs or people and see how your dog gets on with the walker in general. Your dog should be comfortable with them very quickly and even if your dog is usually shy your dog walker should be able to show you how they will work with your dog.  The walker will be on their best behaviour, but what one person considers their best behaviour can be very telling. The walker whose idea of showing off their skills is marching your dog, with plenty of yanks and sharp “commands,” is not someone I’d recommend. The walker who engages with your dog, lets them enjoy sniffing and encourages desirable behaviour rather than coercing it is a walker who should be hired.


Tip #1: A Dog Walker Isn’t a Trainer – Unless they are a Trainer

image1There are lots of dog walkers who are fantastic at their job and have been doing it for years, however they are not trainers. A good trainer is someone who actively keeps up to date with current research on positive methods of dog training and behaviour. Using research and evidence to support their methods, having completed a number of specific courses, gaining qualifications and being members of associations such as the APDT, Pet Professional Guild or IMDT. If your walker makes recommendations on behaviour and training, ask what their exact qualifications and experience are and ask for evidence that the recommendations they are making will help your individual dog. Even a qualified dog trainer who’s hired to walk your dog shouldn’t be conducting behaviour modification on their own initiative whether it is different to the trainers advice you have already sought or something they tell you they are doing without a full consultation.

Tip #2: Be Honest

Be brutally honest, if your dog has medical or behavioural issues, you need to know if the walker has the skills to work with your dog and they need to be able to make an informed decision. A good dog walker will know their limits. It’s ok for them to tell you they aren’t skilled enough to work with your dog. In fact, it’s the responsible thing to do. Don’t hide anything from them. A dog walker that’s any good will want to better understand your dog’s needs, what walking routes are safest and what your training plans are, etc. If they don’t ask about your individual dog’s needs move on. They should be happy to continue any things you are practicing with a trainer like loose lead walking or recalls.

11070508_446582555518350_8059121672605944116_nTip #3 Go with someone that does this for a living

Rather than someone who is doing it as a hobby or to fill time like a student, retired person or a teenager who loves dogs, especially when lots of insurance companies don’t pay out for injuries caused in the sole care of a minor, anyone under 18 should be accompanied by an adult.  It’s a huge commitment to show up at someone’s home every single day for months and years. You need someone who is motivated to be reliable, caring and professional, in it for the long haul not a temporary measure.

Tip #4 Communication

Writing a note takes a minute or two away from your dog and helps keep you up to date on your dogs health, experiences and are a great way to identify if issues are arising. Many dog walkers love writing little reports either leaving a little journal or dropping a text, now with social media lots use facebook or twitter to communicate updates too. If they don’t leave notes, ask them how you’ll know they’ve been there each day and if there are any incidents with people or dogs.

What does it all mean?

What does it all mean?

What Does It All Mean?

How many times have you looked at a website or poster for a dog training club, class or an individual trainer and wondered what the membership organisations are, or what the letters stand for and more importantly which trainer/instructor would be right for you and your dog?

Currently there is no single regulating body for animal trainers and behaviourists in the UK. This means that anyone can call themselves a trainer or behaviourist without any experience, training or qualifications. This terrifies many people seeking help for their animals and for others it is incredibly confusing, it has largely become the main reason why people end up using many trainers before finding the one that truly helps them. It also puts many people off until they are desperate rather than contacting a professional as soon as the issues begin. With this in mind I felt it might help people in need to  translate some of the common phrases used within the sales pitch on posters or websites of trainers to avoid.

What should you be looking for?

There are a number of different organisations in the UK that people choose to become members of in order to try and show they are using particular methods and are adhering to certain ethical policies.

Here are three popular ones:

phrasesThe APDT (The Association of Pet Dog Trainers UK), members have to sit an oral, written and practical test in order to be accepted for membership

The IMDT (The Institute of Modern Dog Trainers), this institute is one of the newer ones and is growing in popularity with a number if international trainers endorsing it, using a similar membership assessment program as the APDT

Another association is The Pet Professional Guild it also requires members to sit an exam in order to gain membership and expects all members to show evidence of keeping up to date with modern learning theory.

There is also a really good organisation specifically for behaviourists the APBC (The Association of Pet Behaviour Councillors).

However being a member of one of these organisations still doesn’t always guarantee that the trainer you use will be the right fit for you and your dog. You are the client so you have every right to question exactly what methods the trainer would use and what evidence there is that this it is a good way to help your dogs particular issue, so ask.

What can you do to choose the best person for you and your pooch?

Ask these 4 simple questions

What formal education and credentials do they have?

It is vital that a dog trainer is educated in the science of how dogs learn.  They should be learning through accredited associations who promote evidence based positive reinforcement methods. Beware of any classes or trainers who mention “dominance theory” or suggest the use of half/full check collars, shakey cans, sprays, bark, citronella or shock collars.


What continuing education involvement do they have?

There are endless opportunities for dog trainers to continue their education, both in person and online.  If the person is actively keeping up to date they will be able to tell you through which organisation, the name of the presenter, and the topics presented. They should seem like they enjoy keeping up with the latest studies and the evidence they provide, progressing their methods to be the best for you and your dog.

What exactly will happen to my dog if he gets it right?

A good science-based trainer will mention using a marker such as a word or a clicker to let the dog know they have got it right and will reinforce it with food, toys or praise dependent on the dogs individual motivation. They will not say just food or toys or praise as one size does not fit all, it has to be tailored to your individual dog.

What exactly will happen to my dog if he gets it wrong?

If your dog gets it wrong a good trainer will say that they won’t be called stupid, willful, stubborn or dominant, he will simply not be given a marker and the trainer will take a moment to assess how to set the dog up again to be more successful the next time. No physical punishment should occur through tools which rely on fear of pain or sound.

Some phrases that you should avoid and why.

Alpha / Top Dog/ Pack – Using one or all of these phrases is often an indicator that the trainer will rely on using punishment based methods or tools to suppress a behaviour through fear rather than addressing the reason the behaviour is occurring and what is reinforcing it. Dogs rarely repeat behaviours unless they are receiving some sort of reinforcement from it, figuring this out is key to any behanviour modification, using positive methods which have scientifically been proven to work best for our canine compaions.

Dog Whisperer / Dog Listener – Someone who refers to themselves as either of these or references these styles of training will be reliant on the erroneous methods known as ‘dominance theory’. This theoretical approach to training domesticated dogs was based on a study of captive wolves conducted in the 1930s and 1940s by Swiss animal behaviourist Rudolph Schenkel. What wasn’t taken into consideration was that these were unrelated wolves forced to live together for many years in a relatively small enclosure, creating tension between mature adults that doesn’t happen in a natural, wild pack. Thanks to scientist David Mech’s study and subsequent paper published in 2000 this theory was debunked, it was proven that in the wild, a wolf pack is a family, consisting of a mated pair and their offspring of the past one to three years. Occasionally two or three families may group together. As the offspring mature they disperse from the pack; the only long-term members of the group are the breeding pair. They work as a unit and don’t fight for ‘Top Dog or Alpha’ status.

It is equally important to remember that our domesticated dogs have 99% the same DNA as wolves and much like we have between 93-98% the same DNA as Apes we are very different species with different behaviours. Anything reliant on using fear and dominance to control dogs is guaranteed to have a very severe fall out in the future. Your pet dog has most of its life controlled already, you tell it when it can exercise, eat, sleep and mate. Empowering an animal and letting it make safe choices makes for a much happier and harmonious environment for dogs to live with humans. Learning to read dog body language and understanding sound scientific behaviour modification methods, makes for a far more successful outcome, with changes for life, not just a quick fix with terrible long term consequences.

Balance Trainers – These trainers use some positive reinforcement methods alongside punishment, this is incredibly damaging for your relationship with your dog as you are building up a bond and relationship built on trust through positive reinforcement only to shatter it by using fear and pain. It is usually justified by saying dogs are like should learn consequences, dog’s really are very easy to help when you identify and understand the antecedent, the behaviour itself and the consequence reinforcing the behaviour. If your trainer can’t identify these three things and come up with a plan based on sound force free evidence based methods then get another trainer. Suggesting dogs need to learn consequences alongside positive reinforcement in order to learn is simply an excuse for their own inability to openly admit they don’t know how to help your dog without resorting to outdated punitive punishment using fear and pain.

Ask for evidence supporting any claims about behavior and above all else if you feel at all uncomfortable, don’t be bullied into doing things you don’t want to, get another opinion.

For those of you interested in reading further about the reasons why Dominance Theory, Ceasar Millan and the whole Alpha Dog Whisperer train of thought is so awful here are some great articles. Great to use to help others cross over to positive methods too. Cross over trainers are EXCELLENT.

Puppy Jumping

Puppy Jumping

Jumping Up

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is how to stop a dog from jumping up. The thing to consider is that dogs are social animals and read our faces in order to gauge our emotions, in other words it is normal for a dog to jump in order to see your face. So in order to prevent this behaviour from becoming hugely rewarding your dog will need to be paid far more for keeping his paws on the floor.

Prevention is better than cure, so if you have a puppy make sure that everyone who greets your puppy comes down to their level, bend their knees and get right down, showing them the palms of their hands so that the pup can have a good sniff and see their face easily without resorting to jumping. Placing small pieces of food on the floor will also reinforce keeping their paws on the floor and help them learn there is no need to jump up to greet people.

However if your pup or dog has begun to jump already, don’t panic it is one of the easiest things to fix. Once your dog knows some basic behaviours such as Sit, Down and what the clicker means you can easily teach your dog that keeping his paws on the floor will pay far more than jumping.

In the video below you will see a 30 second training session with Seve the 7 month old Viszla puppy, I click before he lifts his paws come off the floor and every so often extend the time in between when I mark with a click. At the end of the video I scatter a number of small pieces of liver cake on the floor to indicate that the training is over. After this I always put the pouch and clicker away and say ‘All Finished’. Everyone has a spare 30 seconds a day to help train their dogs. Keeping training sessions short helps your dog be really successful, you can extend the time as their understanding of what is rewarded grows. Then build up the duration and distractions slowly, to proof the behaviour you will follow up by practicing with lots of different people, in lots of different locations too.

Training A Deaf Dog

Training A Deaf Dog

Training A Deaf Dog

MM Post Featured AlfieMy own Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Alfie,  became deaf when he was around 2 years old. In his case it was premature deafness which is becoming more common within the breed, yet another reason to support responsible breeders who carry out all the available health screening programs and breed for the health and temperament of their dogs not their looks.

I digress, when I took Alfie to have the hearing test I was very concerned that he would find the test stressful, as he had to have electrodes put into three areas of his head, however he coped very well and sat patiently on my lap as the test was carried out. By the time Alfie was tested he was profoundly deaf and couldn’t hear anything under 100 decibels, as it is a progressive disease in his case, as the years have passed he has become completely deaf.

Alfie JumpingThe realisation that I was now the guardian to a deaf dog was initially a little worrying. Would I be able to let him off lead still? How would I continue working with him? At the time we were doing lots of trick training, dancing dogs, assistance dog training and agility. It was initially daunting but very quickly (and with the support of some wonderful instructors) I transitioned all of Alfie’s previously learnt behaviours on to visual cues and introduced a new marker to replace the previous ‘yes’ or clicker marker. Deaf dogs can do everything a hearing dog can!

For dogs who are born deaf it is just part of life for them, for Alfie he went through a transitional period of heightened alertness to vibrations whilst he was adapting to being unable to hear.

Training a deaf dog is very similar to training a dog who can hear, here are some top tips.

Be Consistent

Decide on the hand signals you are going to use, practice them without your dog around so that you can make sure you sign it the same way every time. Then make sure everyone who interacts with your dog knows the signs and what behaviours they are for.

Be Clear

Keep the rest of your body neutral to make it easy for your dog to focus on the sign you are doing. Try to stick to using one handed signs for ones you will need to use whilst your dog is on lead and the rest of your body for signs you will use off lead. The possibilities are endless.

Decide On A Clear Marker

Use the marker to signal that your dog has succeeded. I use a thumbs up, you can introduce this the same way you would a clicker, thumbs up then give a small food reward, repeat at least ten times to make sure the thumbs up is paired with food following.

Keep Training Short

Train for 5-10 minutes, focusing on one behaviour at a time. Focus on sit, down & recall, to start with. I use my right arm held straight above my head with my palm facing Alfie to signal a Sit, I use my right arm held out straight to the side with my palm facing the ground and bring my arm down to my side to signal a down these signals are clear at a large distance too, I use both arms out to the side palms facing Alfie and wave to signal ‘come’.

Proof Your New Cues

Practice your new cues in lots of different locations such as different rooms, then the garden, outside your house then in the park without other dogs around building up distractions of people, other dogs and distance slowly. There is no reason why you wouldn’t let your deaf dog off lead, the same as with a hearing dog, you wouldn’t let them off lead until you had a reliable recall, so in the mean time use a long line of at least 5-10 meters to help them learn a safe proximity to you and have enriched walks.

Remember training should be fun for both you and your dog, so if you are getting frustrated during a session then stop, make yourself a cup of tea and consider how you can make it easier for your dog to learn the behaviour you’d like to teach, consider taking smaller steps, using a higher value reward, doing shorter sessions or changing the environment to make it easier. Talk to your dog, just because they are deaf doesn’t mean they don’t look to your face for signals, when we express ourselvevs verbally we put a lot of emotion into our words and dogs read ever part of our body language. Alfie can even walk backwards on a verbal cue of ‘back’ just by reading my lips when in a sit in front of me.

 Here is a little video of Alfie practiving to tidy his toys.