The Counting Game

The Counting Game

Our Take on 

The Counting Game

No Attachment To Outcome

The Counting Game – NATO No Attachment To Outcome

This game has so many uses. Our favourite is when you use it to check if your dog is ready to engage with you.

How often do you find yourself using your dog’s name to try to get their attention and nothing happens? How many times do you think you are expecting your dog to respond instantly and instead they need a bit more time? This is a powerful and wonderfully magic game designed by Chirag Patel and has so many uses. This is just our take on it and how we have used it

How we play it?

When you use the word ‘One’ with a smooth sweeping arm movement as a visual engagement too (the visual makes it easier for your dog to recognise something is on offer even if it is a busy environment) and place one piece of food down on the ground with no attachment or expectation. If your dog is ready they will engage and join you to take the food. If they aren’t ready they will not, simple.

So to start the game, say ‘One’ use a big visual sweeping arm movement, give your dog at the very least 10-15 seconds to respond if they don’t look to you, you can say ‘Two’ and put another piece of food down, again wait, they have the choice whether they are ready to engage and if needed you can say ‘Three’ and put the third piece of food down. If your dog still hasn’t engaged with you, you can pick all three pieces of food up, take some time to observe what has your dogs attention, and start again a little closer in distance and in their line of sight.

You are using a neutral word, not their name, to check if they can re-engage with you or use it to calmly connect with your dog.

You will find it can be used when walking together, in open spaces where there are distractions and in the home. Instead of overusing their name or cues which can very easily be overused, counting and having no expectations can really open up the chance to observe your dog and see just what their world is like and how many things are really distracting.

Here is a video of our two dogs, in particular Lupin our Working Cocker playing the game on the beach. For him, this is the best place, where he can run and run, when he hears ‘one’ he knows there is an offer of something for him and both him and Lula Mae our Working Labrador come to check in with me.

Lupin & Lula Mae on West Wittering Beach playing The Counting Game

Some people have found just saying ‘one’ is more than sufficient, we like saying ‘two’ and ‘three’ if it is needed as it gives the humans the opportunity to really sit back and observe what has their dogs attention rather than putting themselves under pressure again for their dog to respond, instead solidifying the no attachment to outcome even more deeply, that there is no expectation for a response every single time ‘one’ is said.

We love using this game when we use the Confidence Course in our classes and one-to-ones. 

Instead of using your lead to pull your dogs if they have gone into other people’s front gardens or are having a good sniff at something and you’d like to move on, try using the counting game and see if you are able to reconnect with your dog and build that relationship even more with no pressure or tension added to a lead or a verbal cue just because it is attached or you have said something. 

It can lead to a lovely recall, you can even use a whistle instead of a ‘one’ when your dog engages you can place something they adore down for them. I use ‘one’ in the morning when mine are out in the garden and their breakfast has been prepared. I use it when we are on a walk and I can see they aren’t as connected with me or are getting a little overwhelmed, I say ‘one’ and we can reconnect even in the busiest of places. It has become for us an ‘are you ready?’, if they are we can do more, if they aren’t we are patient and just wait. No pressure on anyone. 

This game was designed by Chirag Patel of Domesticated Manners and brought to us by Sarah Fisher of Animal Centered Education.

Animal Centred Education (ACE)

by Sarah Fisher

​Animal Centred Education is an integrated approach to animal education with some of the TTouch principles at its core. It also incorporates some of the techniques that were developed at Tilley Farm that have since become a part of TTouch, and techniques inspired by other professionals working in the world of animal education and welfare.

Animal Centred Education combines observations of the animal’s posture, movement and nervous system responses, Free Work including a variety of sensory educational exercises including different surfaces and ball pools, techniques such as stroking the lead inspired by horsewoman Peggy Cummings, the Sliding Line, the introduction of simple educational lessons within the Free Work including Chirag Patel’s brilliant Bucket Game and Counting Game, and of course some of the unique TTouch bodywork and TTouch leading exercises that have been both life changing and life saving for countless animals world-wide.

ACE techniques improve awareness of an animal’s needs, and highlights areas when an animal may require additional support. The combined techniques also provide tools to improve the rate of recovery if a dog becomes aroused or anxious, and enables guardians and carers to recognise the impact their own interactions and the environment have on the animal.



Domesticated Manners.
Animal Centered Education at Tilley Farm with Sarah Fisher

Busy Brain, Body Pain?

Busy Brain, Body Pain?

Teenage Dogs

Busy Brain, Body Pain?

Teenage Growing Pains . . . 

The wonderful Sarah Fisher said a phrase to me at the Dog Detective weekend workshop Merry and I attended with our dogs Lupin and Rudolph.

“Busy Brain, Body Pain?”

This really sparked a fire in me, I couldn’t stop thinking. So many dogs I see are adolescents and thinking back to my own teenage years I can tell you they were not fun. Growing pain plagued many of my teenage years, only to cover two, yes I said two meniscus cartilage tears, lucky me one in each knee and by the time I was accurately diagnosed TEN years later the starting of arthritis in both knees too. I can’t blame the GP for not knowing as I did have growing pains too and it was impossible to say where one symptom stopped and another started. Much like we can’t blame vets for not seeing these thins either, they have about 10-15 minutes to diagnose. 

However, I look at Lupin my 23-month-old Working Cocker Spaniel who never stops moving and has had a sensitive tummy for most of his life. Suckling his blanket on and off, digging in the garden as a puppy after dinner, eating objects which weren’t food such as socks etc and seemingly never able to actually walk, instead always trotting around.

Now, most put this behaviour down to his breed, but I know differently, in fact, Lupin’s superpower is his stillness, his ability to remain completely calm whilst lots is going on around him. He is a Professor after all. He observes, watches, considers then takes action. I studied two pictures in particular when he was only a few weeks old as I was in awe of his stillness even then. The inability to be still really ramped up when he hit 5-6 months old and seemed to peak at around 12-18 months.

I didn’t once consider his pain and discomfort in his gut could be contributing to his fizzyness, but I was, and still do give him a pro and prebiotic . . . why you may ask? Because somewhere in my subconscious I knew there was something going on with his gut and wanted to support him in the best way I could. What I never considered was his rapid and I do mean rapid growth, he is 19.6kg lean and muscular. Rapid growth often results in intermittent levels of muscular-skeletal pain and discomfort too. Look at the way your pup moves, film in slow motion from all angles, do they suck in their tummy when you put their collar, harness or lead on? Do they freeze, yawn or lick their nose when you touch certain areas? Teenagers are complex but with the right plan in place for your individual dog you can help them not only survive this developmental period but truly thrive too.

On the Left is a video of Professor Lupin just chilling in the garden, something he couldn’t do before this weekend, at the end he jumps to try and catch a buzzing bee, the second video on the right is seconds after the bee. Instead of getting fizzy and racing around he just sits back down. Now for most who don’t live with very busy dogs, this may look like nothing, but for those of you who dream of helping your dogs do the same we are here for you. We have been there and we love helping create calm connections between humans and their amazing magical dogs. 

In fact we have designed a whole course, especially for Teenagers. We will go through why this period of your dogs life can be hard for them, how to support them, how to plan in order to have you all be successful and make sure no one is pulling their hair out. Within the course we will be scaling everything back, focusing on giving you the skills to use scent to help them settle, touch to aid calmness, movement to encourage more connection and choice through lovely games to bring everything together. Each week we will focus on one single aspect making is easy for everyone to come away feeling confident in their new skills. 

Less really is more, shorter sessions building connection and creating a calm connection as your foundations. If you want to join us in the group click the button below to grab your spot or CLICK HERE to book the private course at you home

Book your Teenager and you on to our June 25th 8:15pm 4-week course

Which Puppy Class is for me?

Which Puppy Class is for me?


Puppies, Training,

Life Skills

How to choose the right class for you and your puppy?

Sit, Down, Heal Are these the life skills your puppy needs? 


As a new puppy guardian, you can often feel a little overwhelmed in the first few weeks. Lots of people try to be helpful by making suggestions about the best way to live with your puppy. From feeding, exercise and training. So where can you look to find the right type of class to start you and your puppy off on the right paw?

Annoyingly, it depends, is the best answer we can give you. There are lots of options out there, and it can, like lots of things dog related, feel like a minefield to navigate through.

Group puppy classes have really evolved dramatically over the last decade or two, and there has been a shift to focus more on the skills they need in the environment they live in rather than behaviours ‘we have always taught’, such as sit, down etc.

We are very proud members of organisations which have assessed our experience, knowledge and ability to teach in ‘kind, fair and effective’ methods, using positive reinforcement but we are even more proud of the curriculum we now teach. We focus on connection, between you and your puppy, building trust, giving you skills on how to guide and support them instead of control and punish them.

  • Your puppy learns how to walk with you, not because they have to, but because they want to.
  • Your puppy learns how to become confident.
  • Trust they are listened to and become an active participant in their own health and veterinary care.
  • Not to mention comes back when asked.
  • Most importantly though, you learn to be able to read them effectively and accurately, in order to support them in all aspects fo their life.

How do we achieve this, I hear you ask? We keep our class sizes small, to a maximum of 6, we have an instructor and at least one assistant always, often we have two. We set up your own areas to settle in with activities for your puppy to use to relax within between exercises and above all else we adapt how we train to every single puppy and human handler.

Life Skills

plural noun: life skills
  1. a skill that is necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life.
    “sharing with a sibling can help children learn important life skills” 

These are the skills we focus on, and we are not alone. There are so many amazing classes around now. Look for one close to you. Ask what their core skills are they focus on teaching, ask how many puppies can attend and what the ratio is of puppies to instructors, then watch a class, see how you feel, go with your gut (just make sure you’re not hungry at the time or you may rush the decision: True fact).

So how do you find these magic classes we speak of check out the organisations we are part of first, Victoria Stilwell’s Positive Dog Trainers and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, then go and have a look and a chat.

  • Ask what they do when dogs get things right?
  • What do they do when you get things right?
  • What do they do when your pup offers something you don’t want?
  • And what happens if you as the handler make a mistake?

All these things are essential for both your learning and your puppy’s.

Good luck. And if you are in our area check out our next classes,  they fill up fast but we get some fantastic feedback from clients on them. 

Finding your place

Finding your place

Finding your place


Such a simple word for huge concept

A human need, but can you find it through dog training? 


A sense of belonging is a human need, just like the need for food and shelter. Feeling that you belong is most important in seeing value in life and in coping with intensely painful emotions, so why, you may ask am I speaking about it here on our Dog Training & Behaviour page?


  1. an affinity for a place or situation.
    “we feel a real sense of belonging

I came to dog training having trained as a horse trainer initially. In fact, I found my first dog Alfie while on one of my horse training courses. When I brought him home and asked for recommendations for puppy classes from my vet every one I called was happy to enrol us and let me know they would supply a ‘choke chain’ when we attended.  I had never heard of such a device but felt anything with ‘choke’ in the title didn’t sit well with my 10 weeks old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I started to google and found someone who said they used only ‘positive methods’ again a phrase I was not familiar with, but with positive in the title, I felt much better. Little did I know this would be the start of not only a journey into the world of training and behaviour but a whole new career path too.

I felt I had found the area of animal training I belonged in. I was curious, passionate and couldn’t ask enough questions, I was, and still, am, a sponge, with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. I love to read, research and process theories when it comes to all things dog. I didn’t, however, feel I had yet found an organisation I truly belonged in though. In fact, it took me 9 years before I thought I had found the right place for me and in turn it led me to become a member of other organisations too, each for what they added to me professionally or personally. So why am i sharing this personal journey with you all, you might ask. I am sharing this because when I set up Believe In Magic in South East London and started the classes, I wanted to create a space where people could come to have their questions answered, have support in person and guided on methods for their individual relationship with their unique dog. Today I really felt like we had managed to achieve this. Today we had three classes back to back all exploring methods of training to expand the handlers skill base and supporting the dogs to understand how to live in our crazy human world in South East London. We are so fortunate to have met and guided so many fantastic dog and human relationships.

In October 2016 I had a phone call with Victoria Stilwell, having mentored for her Academy since July I had met some fantastic people virtually. Trainers and behaviourists I felt who were supportive, encouraging and who challenged me too. All the best aspects of a real family. All brought together by a common interest in trying to be the best we can for dogs AND humans. This was the critical aspect of what Victoria had achieved that led me to become one of her licensed trainers. Most of the organisations for dog training or behaviour focus on the methods we use, in most aspects this focus is on how we treat the dogs. So why did I not feel the desire to be part of similar organisations earlier? I hadn’t thought I truly belonged. I knew they were good organisations, but I wanted to feel I belonged within them and would bring something to them by being part of them. When I learnt more about VSPDTs (Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainers), I knew I had found like-minded individuals who all shared a common goal to empower ALL learners, human and dog. This was the key, this was when I finally felt I belonged. When Victoria welcomed me, the first thing I wanted to do was call my mum, I wanted to tell her that the lady who we had watched together on TV all those years ago (sorry Vik), had accepted me as one of her trainers, but not just accepted me, had welcomed me and made me feel I was valued. Sadly I had lost my mum in October 2011, but knowing how happy she would have been for me has stayed with me.

It was my VSPDT family who got me through tough times when I seriously considered stopping my behaviour work all together and it is my VSPDT family who make me laugh all the time. They are a unique bunch of INCREDIBLY talented people. 

This year I am helping organise Crufts to spread the word of Positively (Victoria’s Brand ) as a whole, far and wide, at the largest dog show on the planet. This is a huge privilege to be able to be there promoting the work of all our VSPDTs and the Victoria Stilwell Academy, for which I have mentored 8 students through in 2.5 years. We will be in Hall 2, Stand 28 come along, say hi, learn about what we offer as trainers, an education body and as an incredible family of Trainers and Behaviourists across the world all linked by a common desire to spread the Positively word, empowering dogs and their guardians to learn to live together in this crazy world. 

Rewards, Reinforcers, Treats . . . What is the difference?

Rewards, Reinforcers, Treats . . . What is the difference?


Rewards, Reinforcers, Treats

What is the difference & does it matter? 

Recinforce, Reward, Treat what does it all mean? 


If you are new to training or an old pro these words will be ones you have probably heard bandied about, but what do they mean and does it really matter?

They are all used when training animals. So we thought we would give you a quick rundown of what they mean and whether you feel at the end, it matters to you.

When you first begin to train your dog, and you find a fabulous trainer who uses Kind, Ethical and Science-Based methods you are probably jumping for joy in the sea of trainers who choose to use techniques to the contrary. However, within your first lesson, you are likely to be told to ‘reinforce’ your dog and then handed some pieces of food. Some dry, some moist and in our classes case even salmon paste filled toys. But is this reinforcing, is it bribing, it is rewarding undesired behaviour and if so what it is strengthening?

“A reinforcer is something that increases the likelihood that a specific behaviour or response will occur.”

Let’s break this down into the dictionary definitions.


a thing


in recognition of service, effort, or achievement.
give something to (someone) in recognition of their services, efforts, or achievements.


behave towards or deal with in a certain way.

give medical care or attention to; try to heal or cure.

an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.


an individual or thing that enforces
2. psychology
a stimulus, such as a reward, that increases the chance of producing a desired response by being applied after the desired response

Ok, so even within their definitions reward is used within the definition of the reinforcer, so where does this leave us.

When training using positive reinforcement it is classified under operant conditioning, there are 4 quadrants, and the best way to understand them is to see them as adding or subtracting to increase or decrease behaviour.

Positive Reinforcement

Adding something to increase the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated

When the dog comes back when recalled they are given a toy, playing a game or given food that THEY like. The dogs show they find it reinforcing by repeating the behaviour.



Negative Reinforcement

Taking something away to increase the likelihood of the desired behaviour being repeated

The dog is shocked/vibrations given and it is left on until the dog returns to the handler. Increasing the likelihood of the dog returning when called to avoid the shocks continuing. The negative reinforcer, in this case, the shocks, are taken away once the dog performs the behaviour wanted.


Positive Punishment

Adding something to decrease the likelihood of the unwanted behaviour being repeated

When the dog doesn’t come back when called shouting loud enough and aggressively enough to stop the dog in its tracks, sometimes the use of a bottle filled with stones is also used to make a very loud noise to shock a dog into stopping. Adding a punisher to scare the dog. Decreasing the likelihood of the dog ignoring the recall in order to avoid being shouted at or having a big noise go off again. Punishment stops the behaviour.


Negative Punishment

Taking something away to decrease the likelihood of the behaviour being repeated

When the dog doesn’t come back when called put it back on lead taking away its freedom. This decreases the likelihood that the dog will ignore the recall, in order to avoid being put on a lead. This relies on the dog understanding that ignoring the recall is the reason it is being put on lead and its valuable freedom is taken away.



 Many people choose to use positive reinforcement deliberately to train and maintain a specific behaviour. A dog trainer, for example, might reward a dog with a piece of food every time the animal shakes the trainer’s hand, however, you will only know the dog sees this as reinforcing if the behaviour is strengthened and offered more readily each time. What one learner (dog) finds rewarding may not be what another does. This is why it is so important to take the time to figure out what your dog loves, likes and tolerates. 

Different Types of Positive Reinforcers

Many different types of reinforcers can be used to increase behaviours, but it is important to note that the kind of reinforcer used depends on upon the individual and the situation. While gold stars and stickers might be beneficial reinforcement for a young child, they are not going to necessarily be as reinforcing on a secondary school or college pupil. This must be remembered when working with our individual dogs too. What one dog loves may not be what the other does too. Furthermore what your dog adores inside at home may have no value when outside too. 

Have some fun figuring out what your dog loves, if you aim to use it within training plan your training session with what you are going to train, why, how and which type of reinforcer, where will you place it to encourage repetition of the behaviour too. Do you give ‘treats’ after training sessions, things like toys or chews? Make your own mind up about what is reinforcing and what is rewarding and the language that you are happy to use but above all else if you aren’t having fun, stop, re-group and plan a different session making it easier for both of you to be successful. Sarah Fisher said to me last year ‘Less is more and a special dog doesn’t always mean easy.’ This has changed the way I work and I hope it helps you too.