Thursday, 31 May 2018

Hey kids, let’s talk about drugs

Today’s blog is all about drugs!

I’m thinking about them because I noticed at the weekend how well Freya was coping. Not just with having a new brother (the big yin), and travelling in the van, but also with my neighbours building a fence with a nail gun!

Just a few months ago Freya was really struggling with noise fears, and we could only just peek out the front door at the van. And adding in a new dog was out of the question.

I have used drugs to help her, but most of the change has come about from Freya being super awesome and working through her training plans with me. Once I’m happy she is showing stable progress, my vet will help me to gradually reduce the dosage.

*please don’t email to ask what drugs we’re using or the dosage – anything like that needs to be discussed with your behaviourist AND your vet*

In case you didn’t know, my original background and training was jointly in Psychology, and Complementary/Alternative Medicine (specifically bodywork and remedial massage therapy). I studied at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities, plus several private colleges in the UK and the USA. 

So how did I go from being the passionate student who fiercely believed in taking a “natural” approach to health, and fell in love with Lucy Johnstone who wrote “Users & Abusers of Psychiatry” , to being a Clinical Animal Behavourist who sometimes works with vets to use psychoactive medication (drugs) with my clients.

  • Because sometimes we (people and animals) need a bit more help or support before we can change our habits and behaviour.
  • Because sometimes will power isn’t enough.
  • Because sometimes the real world gets in the way of your careful training plans.
  • Because sometimes daily living becomes unbearable.

I don’t think drugs or medication are the answer to any or even most problems, especially not on their own.

I do think that we need to really understand the situation, and offer the support that the person or animal will most benefit from right at that moment. That might include bodywork, change of routine, confidence building games, behavioural therapy, herbal supplements or even medications.

Mental health is a hugely controversial area and I don’t have the time or space to really get into the details here. 

But we have to make choices for our animals that they can’t make on their own. We ask them to live in a busy, challenging human world. And we sometimes end up living with individuals who find those things really hard.

What supportive medication CAN do, is help a human or animal to gain a degree of calm and space in their own brain. Then the talking therapies, or cognitive behaviour therapy, or behaviour modification can really start to take effect.

The middle of a panic attack is not the time to start a training plan.

When your animal is showing significant signs of distress on a daily basis, we need to reduce that first.

I have used these kinds of medications (both “natural” and “conventional”) with myself, and some of my own animals. I have opted to make informed choices that bring us all a better quality of life. 

Saying we just don’t want to use drugs can be a bit like saying I don’t want to put a plaster cast on my broken leg….

Yours in thoughtfulness

Morag, the partially medicated collies and the Big Yin

PS Does your dog get worried by sudden or loud noises?

If you missed our evening seminar on how you can assess and start to improve these before the dreaded Bonfire Month of November, you can still buy the recording to watch at home for only £10

Just book below and you’ll automatically be sent the seminar details (don't worry about the time or date - you can watch it whenever you want!) 

PPS For anyone who wants to read an emotional, ferocious blog rebutting the original picture meme, go here:
*WARNING there is some bad language and strong feeling here*

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Descending + dog but without death

Getting your dog to pull consistently on the up hills is almost as important as going "steady!" on the downhills.

While we talk about running down hill as controlled falling, it can feel pretty terrifying when you are attached to even a small dog!

Leaning back, digging in your heels - these are common mistakes. The problem is that you're using your body to physically slow your descent, putting extra strain on your quads and knees plus confusing your dog who was sure you wanted them to pull in harness...

Having the courage and body strength to go with the descent can help you fly down those hills safely, with an effective steady command to control the speed!

We have one more Canicross Adventure Skills workshop scheduled before it really does get too hot, and this time we will have to start earlier. We have the use of a shaded woodland trail for much of the skills training in the afternoon.

If you want to come and learn how to love running uphill, and how to descend without death *please* book on now, the last day sold out within 24 hours.


You should have completed an Introduction or Improvers session with us, OR be a confident cani-crosser.

Dogs will be required to settle quietly in your vehicle for small periods of time, or bring a partner to sit with your dog in the cafe!

Date: Sunday 3rd June (9am start or earlier)

Location: The Cycle Hub, Great Fryup Dale, YO21 2AP

Ticket includes a full day of coaching, all your refreshments, cake, lunch and kit use as needed.

Book Here


Morag & Laura

Monday, 21 May 2018

Apparently it's the season for new dogs joining families. Mandy welcomed lovely Molly a couple of weeks ago, my folks adopted a Beardie x Border collie last month and I seem to have acquired a huge beast of a boy called Laird.


No matter how experienced you might feel as a dog owner, I can promise you that a new family member always comes as something of a shock.

They do things differently, they react in new and exciting (or terrifying) ways...because dogs really are individuals first.

It's why we might mention a breed trait when you ask us "why does my dog do that!", but really it's just as much about who your dog is as a unique personality.

You can expect some truly hilarious updates as I dive into living with an adolescent (15 month old), huge (42kg) German Wirehaired Pointer. And I promise to video the best bits too!

If you're bringing home a new family member who isn't a puppy, I strongly recommend this book (available as hard copy and e-book).  It's simple, straightforward and a brilliant reminder of what to plan ahead for.

Patricia McConnell "Love Has No Age Limit"

What's going on in WCC land

Do you want to build a better relationship with your dog, and have fun doing it? Everything we offer is designed to make your life with your dog better. Here's just a few of the activities we have coming up (weekly classes will open for enrolment next week)

Book a workshop here

Introduction to Parkour with Sian                                                    Sunday 8th July 2018
Shipton by Beningbrough

The workshop will cover everything you need to get started; including teaching tricks in small stages, building enthusiasm, building confidence and the key skills needed for Canine Parkour.

Book a workshop here

Canicross Skills & Adventures with Morag & Laura                   Sunday 3rd June 2018
Fryup Dale, N York Moors

Coached 5k trail run in the North York Moors, plus essential training in how to enjoy climbing hills and descend safely - without death! A full day of learning and playing with your dog, including delicious cakes and a tasty lunch from the Yorkshire Cycle Hub

Book a workshop here

Are you a trainer? A class assistant? Or would you like to be?         Sat 16th and Sun 17th June

Shipton-by-Beningbrough (nr York, UK)

We're running just one Teaching With Confidence course this year

If you want effective strategies to help you communicate with your clients, the chance to practice in a supportive atmosphere and detailed feedback - sign up now!
The course works well for people who work in small group settings with plenty of learning to support individual sessions too.
  • £165 for two full days of teaching and resources
Find out more and see what other people say here

Ready to be challenged, taken out your comfort zone and discover how amazing your teaching and coaching can be?  Book now!

Have a fabulous week,

Morag, the collie girls and the big yin

  Book a workshop here

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Why we want you to trust your instincts around your dog

Say hi to the invalid, everyone!


So, for those who don’t know, Brian has been in for knee surgery recently.  He developed a limp in September (after a wet and muddy walking holiday) which we initially thought was due to sore pads.  We tried lots of strategies to keep his pads comfortable and all seemed well.

Then the limp came back after another walking holiday in March and x-rays showed that he needed surgery.

Poor Brian!

There is a bright side to this story though. 

The specialist vet initially thought that Brian was going to need a full knee replacement (eek!) but when they came to operate, it turned out the damage to his knee was a lot less extensive than they had feared and they were able to perform a much less traumatic operation.

This is good news (both for Brian’s recovery and for my wallet!) but it got me thinking about the importance of trusting your instincts when it comes to your dog. 

When I worked in the NHS, I used to talk with my clients about combining their expertise with mine - I might be the expert on what was in the books (and I say ‘might’, because some of my clients were very knowledgeable), but they were definitely the experts in their own experience, and we needed to pull both together to find the best solutions.

The same is true for us and our dogs. 

Brian never limped at the vets (on both occasions, by the time we made it back from holiday, the limp had gone) but I knew what I’d seen and I ended up vigilantly watching in case it came back. 

As soon as it did, we took action straight away to try and get it sorted.

Because of that, Brian’s knee never got the chance to get extensively damaged and his recovery chances now are much better.

My take home message from this?

Trust your instincts.  You know your dog; you live with them day in, day out and you’re in the best position to spot when something changes. 

You’ll know when something isn’t as it usually is.

And if you act fast, it’s easier.  Whether it’s something physical that doesn’t have time to cause long standing damage, or something behavioural that doesn’t have time to become ingrained, prevention is definitely better than cure.  So, keep an eye out. 

If something changes in how your dog moves, or in how your dog acts, and you don’t understand why, check it out.  Ask your vet.  Talk to our behaviour team.  Find the right specialist.

Your dog may not thank you straight away (Brian says that puppy prison is tolerable, but the cone of shame is NOT!) but in the long run, if it is something that needs working on, you’ll definitely thank yourself!

Have a happy and healthy week!
Laura & Brian

PS If your dog isn't recovering from surgery why not book onto Sian's Introduction to Parkour.

Sunday 8th July, nr York

There's just four places left on this workshop now:

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

All the WCC news and a special request

The best place to start is probably by apologising - I've been so busy for the last few weeks I've not sent out the regular weekly email despite all my best intentions.

Before I get started, this is the second last email you're going to get from me UNLESS you sign up to the new mailing list. If you want to get priority notification of new workshops and classes, weekly training tips and more please so tell us what you want to hear about.

If you've already signed up - thank you! 

All change!
We're all moved into the new venue (Yorkshire Museum of Farming, Murton Farm Park) and loving the extra space. On Mondays we have three classes running simultaneously - Parkour, Agility and Puppy Foundations :-D

The team is growing as you may have noticed. Debbie is now helping out with our Agility and Puppy programmes while Kady is working with us as an assistant trainer. We still have room for a couple more volunteers if you want to get involved, see here for details:

Canine updates
Lovely little Brian who lives with Laura, our Office Manager has recently had knee surgery. We'd noticed very occasional lameness and when it was all checked out it turned out his knee wasn't put together quite right.
Brian is recovering well and enjoying trips out in his special buggy - he even came to class last week for snuggles.

Freya is doing well with the van and we're managing trips out now *hurray*. Much to my surprise Project Squirrel is also doing well - all those boring local walks with extra training seem to be paying off!

Activities and seminars
Sadly neither myself nor Laura made it to the Wales or Scotland Canix Furnations races due to vehicle problems and canine illness BUT there's still Cannock at the end of the month. I'll be out at Dalby this coming Sunday too for the race, so do say hello.

I had a super time presenting at the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors conference. I was sharing just what makes deaf and partially sighted dogs play in such unusual ways with some practical strategies to avoid misunderstandings. Sadly I couldn't squeeze in a live demo with Bronte, but since there was a sign language interpreter on stage too it's probably just as well.

Clare and Sian have been brushing up on their Parkour CPD, and we have an Introduction Workshop planned (Sunday 8th July - booking opens soon but only to the NEW mailing list) plus a secret adventure weekend that includes Parkour, Scentwork and Canicross or Cani-Hiking challenges in the North York Moors...

And that's still only a tiny bit of what we've all been up to!

I hope you've enjoyed the extra bank holiday sunshine, and managed to keep your pups cool too.

Morag and the collie girls

Don't forget, if you want to keep hearing from us with priority notification of new workshops and classes, weekly training tips and more please sign up to the NEW mailing lists.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Be our dogsbody!

Need experience in a real hands-on dog training situation?

Or do you just love dogs and want to spend more time around them?

WCC is recruiting!

With more classes filling up fast, and some of our awesome helpers becoming assistant trainers we're looking for the next super trainer to join our team.

Class assistant/helper role available

When: Monday or Wednesday or Friday evenings (5.30pm to 8.30pm) weekly

Where: Yorkshire Museum of Farming, Murton OR Wigginton Village Hall

What: help with setting up, supporting our amazing clients in canine sports and puppy programmes, being an extra friendly face

What we can offer:
  • a super supportive atmosphere
  • chance to work alongside experienced and enthusiastic trainers - this is our passion as well as our full time job
  • generous CPD and training for all staff and assistants
  • mentoring to help you achieve industry qualifications
  • branded WCC clothing
  • all the tea and coffee you can drink!

What we're looking for:
  • someone who is reliable, cheerful and helpful
  • has their own transport
  • looking for work experience and learning opportunities

How to apply: send a covering email telling us WHY we should choose you plus your CV to

ALL sessions and classes are conducted under APDT UK guidelines and code of conduct. All staff and assistants agree to abide by these at all times.