This is one of my favourite subjects: The perfect dog ... Is there such a thing? Should there be such thing?
My way of looking at it is simple. I am not perfect, my children and grandchildren, and my 5 Border Collies are not perfect. Thank goodness I have to say !
Why do so many look for perfection in everything they do and expect the same from others. Why is it so important to have a perfect dog, a dog who does not think for himself, and obeys every command without question.
We make choices every day without thinking about it , and so it should be. We chose our partners for their unique thinking, for their great sense of humour, for their quirks etc. that is what attracts us to them.
Allowing our dogs to develope their own character is to me the only way to reach a sustainable, intimate, lasting unconditional relationship.
Rules and boundaries are important and of great value, and must be a staple at all times. A happy and contented dog who has been allowed to display his uniqueness , will be happy to follow those rules.
All my dogs have their own weird and wonderful behaviours and no matter how often I try to correct them I will be on the losing end. I could force the issue and end up with a Stepford Dog, but the matter of fact is , I like their spank. (most of the time anyway).
Rocky for instance, insists on sitting on my feet when I am in the middle of putting my shoes on. Yes it is a nuisance, but all I need to do is put my foot on a stool. Yes I could scare the living day lights out of him, and he would nevr do it again, but to what end..
Also the command 'to heel' can become a huge problem if we expect our dogs to be right beside us. Not every dog is comfortable walking in that position., they might walk in front, they might walk a bit behind, or even a couple of feet away at the side, but that is where they are comfortable. Why try pushing them a few inches here and a few inches there , stressing them at the same time.
For Jessie, my 4 year old collie, to heel means walking as close as possible behind me, and standing every 4 or 5 steps on my heel . She is trying so hard to do what I ask of her, and she is trying to adjust, but she always ends up at the same place, so how can I punish her.
As I keep saying, every dog is different and learns in a different way, forcing the issue and looking for perfection does not make for a happy dog.
It is a bit like forcing a left handed child to write with their right hand and expect it to be happy about it and excel at the task. So just enjoy your dogs quirks and develope a sense of humour, after all your dog has to accept you the way you are without question, as long your dog is balanced, well mannered and happy and you have a good relationship that is all that matters.
Seeing dogs running around with each other, interacting in play, being happy, being social, well balanced and well mannered looks and feels wonderful.
It is no doubt every dog owner's dream to have a companion like that, but sadly this is not always possible.
In many cases this might not be possible because some dogs are just not into interaction and play, and no amount of socialisation will ever change this. Like humans they can be happy to be alone in their world.
Of course there can also be underlying mental and physical issues, but that is a very different ball game altogether, and not something I can even attempt to address in a short post.
I do dog and people watching when out on my travels, it is just something I do, I watch their interactions, or in fact the lack of it, and at times watch in dismay how some dog owners let their companions meet other dogs.
How would it be if strangers meet one another for the first time, and one comes running towards the other with open arms, waving them about, and proceed to wrap them intimately around the other, and to top it all up give them slobbery kisses all over their faces and let their hands wander all over them . ??
Hmm .. let me guess, I am sure the one on the receiving end would not be impressed and would more than likely slap this strange lunatic!
Well , I most definitely would.
We all know the rules of meeting other people because they have been taught to us by our parents, guardians, teachers and it is part of our culture.
The same goes for dogs, there are certain rules and manners which should really be followed, it is something dog guardians have to teach and encourage. So it is not all about sit, stay, lie down ect., but first and foremost it is about good manners.
Behaviour is instinctual as well as innate, but a huge amount of behaviour display has to do with nurture.
So I feel that I want to encourage dog owners to take the lead when meeting other strange or unfamiliar dogs; the introduction should be slow, making sure to watch both dogs body language at all times.
Ask the other dog walker if it would be ok to meet, keep the dogs on the lead, stay 2 to 3 meters apart and let the dogs settle while having a chat with the other person for a few minutes. Never let the dogs pull towards each other, and do not let them take the lead. It is the guardians job to keep their companion safe by giving him the opportunity to make his own mind up if he wants to make friends.
By then the dogs are able to use their sensitive noses to be able to make a picture of each other.
Then there should be the usual behaviour, namely standing side on, sniffing eachothers backends, and then .. and only then, when the dogs are sure of each other, would they consider sniffing each others faces.
This is what is called ` Canine Etiquette` If all is well then they will engage in play.
Here is another one of my Sunday morning thoughts when watching my dogs playing in the garden.
I think that the worsed thing dog owners can have, is an unrealistic expectation of their companions, future ones and already family members.
Looking at a breed, studying it in depth, reading all about it, trying to figure out if it will be suitable to join the family unit, is comendable and it shows that taking a companion in to join the family has not been taken lightly.
First step well done !
So where does watching my dogs lazing in the sun come in to it all? The answer is quite simple really.
It tells me that it does not always do what it says on the tin.
I am looking at my five collies, well .. four and a half really, but Rocky does not know that he has Spaniel in him, and I am not about to tell him. He thinks he is a Border Collie , and that is all that matters.
I know they are all unique, like chalk and cheese , none of them are what they call a typical Border Collie.
To me that is just the best of all, I like surprises, and my dogs surprise me again and again.
Dog owners are, and are suppose to be guardians of their companions, their role is to protect them, and enhance their lives physically, emotionally and mentally. Given them boundaries and at the same time encourage their individuality.
Is this not exactly what parents , well .. most parents do for their children. Would it not be sad, in fact in my mind unacceptable to have children simply to enhance ones ego. All parents know that children come in all shapes and sizes, and have different qualities, capabilities and emotions. They are not expected to fit into a specific mould.
It is a bit like expecting me to be able to yodel , just because I am german. I can asure you .. I can not.
Animal communication, by that I mean the way animals communicate, view and read the environment around them.
We are aware of the fact, that our dogs always seem to know in beforehand what we are about to do, or ask of them, before we actually put it into words or show it through our actions and movements.
Our dogs know if we are sad, happy or angry without us sharing it with anyone, or even without us being actually fully aware of our feeling ourselves.
Dogs do not communicate through words, but we insist and expect them to be able to understand our language.
Dogs communicate through body language, we all know that , but they also communicate on a telepathic level, they can sense our intent, in fact you can say that they communicate on a psychic level. (I know not everyone will agree).
Are we not also aware that sometimes our pets, cats or dogs, look with great intent at a particular point in the room, although there is nothing to be seen by our naked eyes, but never the less fascinating for our companions.
I know this might all sounds hairy fairy , but I tell my clients to visualise the finished article so to speak when it comes to dog training . It is all about the intent, the focus, the visualisation of a job well done.
So is it not maybe us who need to learn how to be worthy of an intelligent animal like the dog? I am not talking about intellectual intelligence, but a core understanding of communication.
If we are for instance, worried about that dreaded lead walk, knowing fine well that it is going to be a battle of wills, and that we will be dragged along by a very exited dog, our dog will do exactly that. We might not think so, but we are effectively putting that doubt out there.
This is why assertiveness is such a valuable tool, the belief that we can communicate to our dogs what is expected of them. We can relax and let go of our thoughts of failure, our dogs become, and will be less stressed; less stress means more focuse, less avoidance, less nervousness and so on.
So maybe next time you look at your dog you might try to give him the benefit of the doubt, and do not think that he is defiant just for the sake of it, it is much more likely that he picks up on your underlying worries, insecurity and emotions.
I have received quite a few calls from distraught dog owners lately; not because of their companions` bad behaviour, but because they have received some disturbing advice from some professionals.
There was advice like: .. If you want your dogs to do what you want, you must use a shock collar … if your dogs recall is bad you must use a shock collar …. you must never praise them … you must not show them any affection … you must put them in a cage when you are not working with them … you must never have them sleeping in your room … you must never allow them on the sofa … you must not allow them to lean against you when you call them back … you must not give them a pat on the head for a job well done … and never ever give them a treat…. and so on.
Yes, you are right, all dogs can be bullied into doing what you want, but you will never have a trusting and balanced relationship with them. You will have dogs who work through fear, with this comes stress, and through stress come physical and metal ailments. All in all not an ideal situation.
I do not know about you, but I would not work for free or even £2.00 an hour, we all need to get a good incentive to do our job. Sometimes a payment is just someone smiling at us, a thank you, a written letter or a hug, but it is a payment none the less. It is this payment that gives us the drive to do more. So this is the same when it comes to working with, and training our dogs, teaching them manners and giving them strong boundaries. We are everything to our dogs … we provide their food .. we provide the roof over their head, and hopefully a good bed to sleep in .. we stimulate them mentally and engage with them in play. If we have a good relationship with our dogs, by treating them right, we will have loyal companions` who want to work with us !!!
So I might put myself out there to be ridiculed, but I stand by my belief. I have 5 happy rescue Border Collies who came with huge behaviour problems, I spend many hours, months and sometimes years rehabilitating them. I trust them .. they trust me. The proof is in the pudding!
I am glad to see that more and more people are more open minded and have become aware of different approaches. This keeps me going and I will never stop to promote positive, and rewarding dog training.
Some insights for the upcoming classes
I know you are all here for different reasons, your dogs are all unique and are in need of different mental and physical stimulation; that is the reason why I want to make sure that I will address each of your requests during the upcoming classes. I am open to suggestions and questions.
No doubt it will be stressful for everyone, being in such close proximity to other dogs is not something dogs would chose themselves in the wild. Dogs are pack animals and you are their pack, they would never get close to other packs unless they are defending their territory or fighting over food resources.
Socialising is important when they are still pups, but not all dogs will have had that opportunity, and some are as unsociable as they come. We need to remember that we do not like everyone we meet, so why should our dogs.
So when we are all meeting here I need you to keep your stress outside and be calm, patient and consistent with your dogs` so they know that you will keep them safe and are in control of the situation.
There will be no doubt some growling, barking and showing of teeth, that is why you need to make sure to keep a good distance between your dogs and give them time to make some sort of sense of the situation. Try to keep your dogs focused on you … and do not panic.
It will take a while until everyone will find their feet or paws for that matter.
I am here to help you to realise that special relationship you are having, or hoping to improve with your dogs, one of trust and commitment. Everything I do will be regarding the safety of your companions, this means that I am not an obedience trainer, I will encourage you to teach your dogs to walk on both sides of you to keep them safe when walking on roads etc. Although I am happy to support you if you feel that is not what you want to do, or you taught your dogs` in a different way.
I will never encourage bullying to get the desired end result, I will only encourage positive reinforcement training, and of course assertiveness and boundaries play a big part in this also.
I will do my best to get to know everyone’s names, humans and dogs alike, and learn a bit about your background.
We will also need to look at the breeds of the dogs to be able to work with their instinctual and inherent behaviour and psychology.
All this has to be fun for you and your dogs though, it is not supposed to be a chore for either of you, so please come with an open mind and leave your stress behind. Don`t expect too much and just enjoy the journey.
All the rescue dogs out there, all the sad faces and scared eyes, all the broken bodies and emotional scars. How we all want to go and rescue them all when they pull at our heart strings.
We are only humans after all, and it is quite normal that we get emotionally involved.
We hear so much, and see so much of the heartache on social media, which of course is a wonderful tool to spread the word.
It is important to educate people about puppy farms, bad breeders, dog fighting and so on, and I am all for it.
But .. and here is the but, we should not allow ourselves to get pushed into rescuing a dog, it is not for the fainthearted. I feel that there needs to be more transparency ... there needs to be more background information about the dog in question ... there needs to be a backup plan .. there needs to be someone who is able to guide us along when when things don`t turn out as we expected.
I am not here to put you of the idea of rescuing a dog, that is the furthest thing on my mind. What I would like is for you to have a look at your situation, your environment, your work commitment and have a clear understanding about the things you can commit to. Once you rescued a dog he is and should always be a part of your family.
So I would like you to be honest with yourself, and encourage you to go for help if, and when you feel that there are problem behaviours you do not know how to address, deal with it right away, make the most of the time in the beginning, it will make for a better relationship when your rescue is calm and balanced.
Welcome to my blog, I hope you will find it of interest to you. My aim is to Promote the Inter-Relationship between Dog and Owner ! I am a dog behaviourist and dog trainer, but first and foremost I will take the psychological mind set of the dog in to consideration before I begin to even think of any adjustment training . If you are having questions about your canine family members, be it working dogs, dogs you had from when they were a pup, or rescue dogs who need that bit of extra help , you have come to the right place. I am here to listen, take your situation on board (environment, location, family atmosphere etc.) and give advice on how to make changes, which help to build a trusting relationship between owner and dog.
I could bamboozzle you with fancy words and make myself out to be the be all and end all of all dog trainers, but to what purpose. I have high moral standards when it comes to working with dogs and their owners and would never encourage a specific guidance programme, which is not suitable or does not sit right, just to look for results.
First of all I do not like the word training, I like to think that I encourage dogs to engage with their owners, and vice-versa of course. I believe that trust is the key to good dog behaviour, if trust is established dogs will bend over backwards to please their owner. If there is trust, the dogs needs little else to be happy. My background is Person -Centred Counselling, and I use the same interaction when it comes to working with dogs and their owners. I do not believe in e collars and such... physical punishment etc. I believe that understanding the dogs psyche, so understanding WHY a dog is behaving in a certain way, must be the beginning of any 1 to 1 session, it is never a quick fix, and patience is a must and of great value.
I also believe that we need to look at the dog breed in question, and what it has been bred for, be it to hunt, to herd, to guard, to kill. There is nothing more frustrating for a dog than not to be able to fulfil its innate behaviour and function. Dogs are clever, no matter what anyone says. Yes, they can be a bit slow in the up take, but more often than not they are actually away ahead of us and run rings around us. I am based in Dumfriesshire, but travel far and wide to visit you in your own home for one to one behaviour advice. I also take calls and work via Skype.
You may rather try some Dog Classes (if they are available at that time) first to see what your dog will make of it and see if it will address your companions issues. In general I hold classes in Dumfries, Kirkconnel and Dalswinton. Please do not hesitate to get in touch for further information.