The latest from our blog

The link between pain and behaviour

August 20th 2017

Recently I was referred a case of a fearful dog. The referring vet was suspicious that the dog had something medically abnormal and had run some bloods but wanted the client to receive some behavioural advice whilst waiting for the results. Laika the young rescue dog was a little joy when I met her. A tiny little Staffie-cross who quickly requested some cuddles. She was adorable.   Laika was tiny because she was underweight. The owners struggled to get weight on her and this was the vet’s main concern and reason for investigation. Although Laika was initiating cuddles during my […]

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PUPPIES!

February 15th 2017

Following on from my last two blog posts about owners who decided to obtain a rescue dog instead of a puppy, this blog post is all about how we can help reduce the number of dogs that end up in rescue in the first place. I have no qualms with admitting that both of my dogs were obtained as puppies. I researched the breeders thoroughly. I ensured that the parents were of sound temperaments. The puppies were reared in an enriched, domestic environment. Socialisation was well underway by the breeders. I selected my breed choices carefully. I then ensured that […]

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Play is good for the body & brain

February 8th 2017

(Published in Your Cat magazine, January 2017) Lots of scientific evidence shows that – in both human and non-human animals – play is good for the brain. Grizzly Bears that play the most, survive the longest. Rats that play more with other rats develop bigger, more complex brains. Play stimulates nerve growth in the portions of the brain that process emotions and executive function. The International Society of Feline Medicine and the American Association of Feline Practitioners state that providing toys and opportunities for play is one of the five pillars of a healthy environment for cats. Indeed, it has […]

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Part 2 – Getting a rescue dog vs a puppy

January 6th 2017

In the second part of this blog, I wanted to ask an owner of a rescue dog some questions about their choice of a rescue over a puppy, and the journey they have been on. Here is Gemma’s story:   Why did you choose a rescue dog over a puppy?   Despite having dogs from puppyhood when I was growing up, I realized the issue relating to over-breeding of dogs with so many unwanted dogs in shelters and being put to sleep. I simply felt that getting a puppy was wrong! We started trawling the websites of rehoming centres, through […]

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Part 1 – Getting a Rescue Dog vs a Puppy

November 15th 2016

Many people dismiss the idea of getting a rescue dog due to the paranoia of ending up with a dog with “baggage”, or because they don’t want to miss out on the cute puppy phase of development. It is often assumed – or hoped – that obtaining a puppy means it can be shaped into the dream dog. But the realities are quite different: 1 in 5 people who buy a puppy don’t have that puppy 3 years later. Even well-researched puppies with experienced owners are not immune from developing behavioural problems. Many rescue dogs are looking for new homes […]

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Legal responsibilities of all dog owners

September 1st 2016

As a responsible dog owner, it is important you understand dog laws in order to protect yourself, your dog and others around you. Many dog owners may not realise there are so many laws relevant to them, or will feel that the risks associated with these laws are low in terms of consequences. It is worth noting that there are many solicitors dedicated purely to Dog Law and many behaviourists offering their services as Expert Witnesses due to the number of reports made, and Dog Wardens are inundated with calls reporting irresponsible dog ownership. More than 35 acts of parliament […]

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Spreading the message on dogs & children

August 28th 2016

Recently I was contacted by BBC Points West and asked to produce a short film summarising my advice on interactions between children and dogs. With 20 minutes’ notice and a large glass of wine already consumed (well, it was Friday night), the recording was made and off I went to bed. It was live on the BBC Points West Facebook page by midnight… and by the morning it had 16,000 views. Within 5 days it had been seen by 200,000 people. Imagine if two minutes of simple advice could prevent even 1 child from being bitten? Imagine if the message […]

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Musings of a behaviourist (after one of those weeks)…

June 5th 2016

It is well-known that professionals working in the care industry – whether that be animal care or human care – have one of the highest rates of burnout, compassion fatigue and even suicide. Recently the manager of an animal rescue shelter in Taiwan took her own life due to receiving so much hate-mail for having to euthanize some of the animals that came into the centre. In 2014, a internationally renowned veterinary behaviourist, pioneering in low-stress handling techniques, tragically took her own life. I have yet to meet anyone who works in the animal care industry that isn’t completely passionate […]

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Understanding terminology used in the training & behaviour industry

March 14th 2016

This blog post has been inspired for two reasons – the first is the number of fallout cases I have seen recently following consultations or training sessions with unqualified ‘trainers’ or ‘behaviourists’ in the area. The second is to provide an explanation of terminology that is often used so an informed decision can be made about the methods used by some individuals.   ‘Balanced’ dog training This term is used to describe training that uses both positive reinforcement along with positive punishment/negative reinforcement. This may not necessarily include physical corrections but involves intimidation and threatening human behaviour that aims to suppress unwanted […]

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Why becoming a parent has made me a better pet behaviour counsellor

February 14th 2016

I have first-hand experience of managing interactions between children & pets – it is not easy! My youngest is currently at the developmental stage I believe most pets find hardest – crawling (invading the animal’s floor space), starting to walk (wobbling), generally behaving unpredictably, cannot yet follow instructions, and absolutely fascinated by the furry 4-legged creatures – the default way to interact is to grab harshly. Introducing my first newborn to my dogs was the first challenge for me. It took months of preparation before the baby’s arrival and even then it was a fairly difficult first week. This experience […]

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Children and cats – a recipe for disaster or a match made in heaven?

January 3rd 2016

(Published in Your Cat Magazine October 2015 issue). It’s been estimated that around 18% of households in the UK own a cat, and it’s no surprise. Typically they’re quiet, small, and relatively easy to care for – a perfect match for busy families with kids. However, if children aren’t given suitable guidance on how to interact appropriately with cats, it can result in a stressful situation for all involved.   Child health and wellbeing Research has shown that babies who grow up in homes with a cat are less likely to get poorly than children who live pet-free.  The presence […]

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