Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Dealing with irresponsible dog owners *hints & tips*

I’m not sure what “be a responsible dog owner” means to you, but recently both Clare and I encountered the very opposite on walks.

Sometimes we make mistakes because everyone does.

Maybe you don’t manage to call your dog back before they bound over to say hello, or your dog steals someone else’s tennis ball while you’re picking up poop.

Easy mistakes to happen for sure.

But when Clare had to bodge a slip lead out of her own dog leads to restrain a large powerful dog (no collar or tags) that was intent on having a go at Scout, and there was no owner in sight? That’s not a mistake, but wanton carelessness.

The person who told me “it’s okay, she’s muzzled” as a large, powerful dog muzzle punched Laird in the side causing him to scream and come back for comfort – that’s not a mistake either. That’s making a really poor choice on behalf of your dog.

So what can YOU do in situations where other people’s decisions affect you and your dogs? 

1. Pay attention to your surroundings. Watch other dog’s body language as much as you watch your own dog, so you can spot potential trouble early on. Clare and I were on different walks, but we both remember spotting these dogs and feeling uncomfortable. 

2. Take avoiding action if you can – change direction, call your dogs close, stop throwing their toys and so on. When a dog is charging towards you, it might be worth throwing food to tap it on the chest or you may be better concentrating on your own dogs. I put Bronte on the lead because being deaf and now almost entirely blind it’s harder to keep her safe. Clare put Scout (deaf, entire male) on the lead because she felt he might be targeted, and her other dogs would be able to interact safely and move away.

3. Intervene if you feel safe to do so – grabbing someone else’s dog is always risky, but you need to weigh up your options. Clare couldn’t see an owner anywhere, and that dog was persistently having a go at Scout. She knew that all her dogs would lie down and wait at a distance while she dealt with the strange dog, so that was the best option at the time. 

But be mindful of your own safety too! 

And if situations like this keep happening?

Consider when and where you walk your dogs.

While I’d love to be able to change the rest of the world sometimes it’s easier to change my own habits!

I sincerely hope you’ve had better walks than Clare and I, amazingly we weren’t even in the same place or out together when all these things happened.   Our dogs are doing okay, and hopefully our blood pressure will be back to normal soon!

Happy walks

Morag & Clare*

*who are still practising breathing calmly

Want to know what else you can do with your dog? 

See all our classes, workshops and activities here:

We’ve just posted dates for mini-workshops on Parkour on a Wednesday evening too!

Plus keep up to date with our activities and events by signing up to our mailing list!

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Play with your puppy!

This week we had our first baby gundog workshop. We worked on retrieve, steadiness and control. One of the things I noticed was that all the puppies weren’t initially interested in playing with the toys we offered them.

This was probably because they were a bit distracted by the other puppies and also because they weren’t used to playing in different places, especially as we knew most of the puppies liked to play at home. But, with some tweaks and changes to our own play style we managed to get most of the puppy’s playing a game of tug with their person.

Not every dog loves playing with toys, but there are some great benefits to playing games of tug with your dog.

You can use play and toys as a reward for behaviour you like

     Toys can be used to help your puppy learn self-control e.g. wait for permission to grab the toy 

Even a short game of tug can tire out a puppy

Tug games can eventually help your puppy to learn to enjoy giving things up, because it’s more fun playing with you than running off with a pair of socks!

The final and most important benefit….it’s really great fun for you both!

Top tips for playing with your puppy

Play can become very exciting very quickly and result in puppies becoming over excited. Keep sessions short (20-30 secs initially) and games of tug gentle  (no sharp and fast tugging on the toy)

Put some effort into it! Some puppies will immediately want to grab any toy offered, but many need to be encouraged.  Start with the toy on the ground and let your puppy chase and pounce on the toy, you may have to do some running about to get them chasing the toy! Most puppies prefer this to having a toy handed to them or wiggled close to their face.

Use toys with long handles so sharp needle teeth can be away from your hands!

Find the toys they love, consider the texture and material of the toy, your puppy has to like having it in their mouth. You can also keep a few ‘special’ toys hidden away they only get when playing with you.

Move away from puppy if you drop the toy, and give your puppy lots of encouragement to bring it back, once they do you can re-start the tug game.

Practice play in different places, some dogs will only play at home, and are reluctant in other environments, but you can help them learn tug is a great game anywhere!

What about chasing balls?

Lots of dogs love to chase a tennis ball, and it can feel like a great way to tire them out and provide lots of exercise in a short space of time.  

If your puppy is ball mad there are a few things to consider;

Repetitive high energy exercise results in the release of the hormone adrenaline, the side effect of lots of this type of play can be an over excited puppy who struggles to settle even after the game has ended. 

The take-off and landing impact for the ball can put additional wear on tear on the puppies developing joints, the long term effect of which may not be seen until later in your dog’s life.

This doesn’t mean you need to ditch the balls, but you may want to consider how you play with them. Perhaps instead of repetitive fetch games, try hiding the ball for your puppy to find!  

The most important thing about play is to have fun with your dog!

Happy Training

Clare and the gang

PS  Don't forget to check out our upcoming classes! 


Thursday, 21 February 2019

Overtaking Etiquette in Canicross

Lately I’ve seen several reports of dogs being lunged at, scared by or even bitten by other competitors dogs as they were overtaking. This kind of accident can dent a dog’s confidence and even put them off running or racing full stop.

Following some simple rules can ensure you don’t end up accidentally being the owner of *that* lunging dog.

Super slow canicrosser? You still might have to pass a hiker on the path, and there’s always the chance of head to head passing in a lap type race.

Roadrunner speedy? You have to negotiate other runners with/without dogs plus the general public.

When we’re out on the trails with our dogs, the chances are you will see other people or runners too.

Canicross race? Check the established etiquette for your race (some have specific phrases like “trail left/right” to use)

Human race that allows canicrossers? Or just sharing the trails on a run? Make sure you have a clear process and stick to it – many other runners/walkers will be unfamiliar with being passed by a dog + human team.

Hints and Tips for Overtaking

  • If you’re asked to start at the back of a race, give the other runners space and time to settle into their pace before trying to push through. Especially important if your dog tends to need an early toilet stop.
  • Watch your distance – keep your dog OFF the heels of other runners. It’s a lot like driving on a motorway, you need to know your stopping distance!
  • Beware if you use the full bungee lines like the non-stop that there’s a lot of stretch in them!
  • Look for a clear space for your overtake (whether its another runner or a walker) and shout ahead BEFORE your dog is alongside. I tend to use “Dog Passing Right/Left”.
  • Pull out with plenty of room, and only cut back in when you are well past (think driving with a trailer!)
  • Are you TOTALLY confident your dog won’t veer over or interfere with the person/dog you’re passing? Really sure? If you’re not, practice gathering in your line as you start to overtake.
  • If your dog struggles a lot consider teaching them to run by your side for overtaking, and make sure you are between them and the other person or dog.

Being overtaken?

  • Slow down a little if you can to get the process over as quickly as possible, or at least make sure your dog doesn’t speed up!
  • See above about gathering your dog in if there is ANY chance of them interfering, lunging out or just trying to make a new best friend!
  • If your dog finds it really hard to cope when being passed, teach them to stop and stay by your side on cue – much better to have a slower run time than an accident.

Next week I’ll talk more about training for and handling head to head passing.

Happy Running!

Morag and the beasties 

Dalby Canicross Race report from Nikki and Coco – the dog that doesn’t pull consistently…

What a little superstar Coco is!

Canicross race this morning at Dalby Forest and she was Little Miss Social Butterfly.

Consistent pulling, a massive huge improvement from the November race. I was so proud of her - so much that I nearly rang you!

My fitness let her down... I best step up a gear!! 

Webinar TONIGHT (recording available for a month if you buy now)

Fenzi Dog Sports Academy: Injury prevention in the active dog: warmups and cooldowns

Save the Date 

for an adventure workshop in the North York Moors: Sunday 31st March (afternoon)

Introduction to Canicross workshop Sun 10 March

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

How long did it take you to fall in love (with your dog)?

The overwhelming feeling of warm fuzzies that melts your heart while you watch them sleep, or the oxytocin burst if you prefer!

Either way, you know what it feels like when you have that rush of sheer love for your dog.

Even if they have just eaten something indescribable...

Apparently it’s #NationalLoveYourPetDay today, which is weird because this topic has been in my head since Saturday!

So how long did it take you to fall in love with your dog?

I mean really fall for them, not just think they were cute?

During our Monday team meeting I asked Laura and Clare what their experiences had been.

Laura adopted Seamus last year as a young adolescent. He’s a Beagle x Cavalier, and it’s fair to say Seamus and his shouting has been a challenge! In those first few weeks Laura phoned me more than once in tears because he just would not stop barking…. But after a few months, there was that solid warm feeling of love.

Scout came to Clare as a wee pup, and apparently his goofy happy face won her over in a couple of weeks!

As for me, it always seems to take me about 6 months or more to really fall for a new dog.

It’s not that I don’t like them or appreciate them to begin with, but it doesn’t feel like I really know who they are. That sense of knowing them deep inside, how their individual personality feels when I think of them. The quiet companionship that has a different flavour depending which dog I’m concentrating on.

Learning about their personality and special quirks is an integral part of falling in love with my dogs.  I will always think of my dogs as individuals first, but breed characteristics can be important too.

Adding in Laird the HPR (hunt point retrieve) to my collie girls has been a whole new challenge, plus he’s an adolescent boy. I think we’re making good progress despite the teenage months...

Breed specific behaviour is a tricky topic – and it’s important not to lose sight of your dog as a unique individual. But we ignore those pre-wired behaviours at our cost….

You can listen to Clare and I chatting about breed specific behaviours in gundogs, doodle/ocker crosses and herding breeds in this wee video – we’d love to know what you think too!

I hope you’re enjoying living with your companion animals (pets!) as much as we are, and don’t forget if you need any help to tweak that relationship we’re always at the end of an email.

Morag, the big beast and the collie girls 


PS Want to spend more time working with your dog’s natural instincts rather than fighting against them?

Why not try a half-day workshop with us:

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Do I need a puppy training class?

Puppy classes are one of my favourite classes to teach, I enjoy getting to know the individual characters of each dog, I love to see the owners joy when their dog learns something new and I also like the support that working in a group provides “yes, my puppy grabs at clothing too!” 

I think that well run puppy classes are a great way to get your puppy off to the best start, but they might not be right for everyone. 

Benefits of attending a puppy class 

You should receive plenty of support from your trainer, we know how difficult raising a puppy can be, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows…more like needle teeth and endless supplies of kitchen roll! We want our puppy classes to provide a safe and supportive environment, where owners can ask questions and discuss how to deal with some of the challenges they face. 

Your trainer should provide you with on-the-spot coaching and feedback while you are training your puppy in class, adapting and progressing exercises throughout the session. The trainer can give advice on timing and when to reward your puppy. 

Trainers are really good at reading dog body language and they will help you learn about your puppy’s body language and behaviour in class. They can help you to recognise when your puppy may be feeling scared or worried or when they may be starting to get over excited and give guidance on what you can do In these situations. 

It can be difficult to set up situations in real life to practice some of the skills you puppy needs to learn, like greeting people without jumping up. Classes can provide great opportunities to practice these skills in a controlled way so you can feel more confident practising outside of class. 

Puppy classes come with a whole host of distractions, other dogs, people, noises, food etc. Your puppy class should be set up so that your puppy can be exposed to these distractions, but still able to learn and eventually settle around all these exciting things. A valuable skill for our dogs to learn! 

Classes are a great way to provide safe opportunities for socialisation, especially if your puppy is still waiting for their final vaccination. 

Owners are often concentrating so hard on training their puppies that they can’t remember everything the trainer talked about in the session, so to make sure you get all of the relevant information handouts are provided in class and we we’ve created an online teaching area full of extra resources and information.   

Classes aren’t for everyone 

Our puppy classes run for six weeks and we recognise that can be a big commitment for some families who are often busy with other activities or plans. 

The timings of our classes do not work for everyone, some owners work evenings or have small children who need to be in bed early. 

Sometimes being in a group situation can feel overwhelming for some owners and also for some puppies 

In these cases classes may not be the best solution and working with a trainer on a 121 basis may be a better option. 

Puppy classes aren’t compulsory and may not be for everyone, but they can be beneficial and get you off to a really great start. 

If you want to know more about our classes or recommend them to a friend just click on the image below 

Happy Training 

Clare and the gang 

P.S. We still have two places left on our upcoming Baby Gundog Mini workshop next  Wednesday 920th) evening 

 Open to any gundogs and gundog cross puppies

Baby Gundog Workshop

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Shut up and train!

This blog has been brought to you by the power of a sopping wet GWP beard…because I’ve finally made a concerted effort to implement the Level 2 Mind Your Manners exercises in my own home!

Laird is lovely.

I mean, for a now two year old, still mostly adolescent, enormous beast of a boy, he’s delightful.

But he does have a beard.

And moustaches.

And when he drinks, there’s a lot of soggy beard around.

Laird’s head is just the right height for resting on dining tables.

He doesn’t understand why I feel that’s a problem!

So for the last few months when I have eaten at my table (not as often as I should for sure), I’ve either popped him in his crate or just fended him off with one arm.

Not a smart move really, because as my clever readers will be shouting at me, that’s NOT teaching him what I want him TO DO at mealtimes.

So, today I made an effort and took the jar of mini-kibbles (an experimental purchase from Pets Pantry) along with my lunch and sat at the table.

Here’s the result after five minutes….

And yes, I have done a little work to help Laird love being in his crate.

But it’s a lot less than I meant to.

And I’ve never asked him to sit or lie down in it while I’m eating and the door is open.

What now?

Now I need to be consistent for the next few meals and stick to the plan.

If you want some help with the basic stuff that makes living with your dog more pleasant, why not sign up for a three week intensive boost on manners, coming when called or walking nicely on lead!

Happy lunchtimes, and may your soup always be beard free….

Morag and collie girls (who know this stuff), and the Big Yin (who is learning)

PS     Fancy something a bit different?

We’re running our popular Introduction to Canicross workshops on Sunday 17th Feb and 10th March at 9.30am, near York.

You’ll learn how to choose the right kit for you and your dog, line handling and basic commands.

Practice it all on a group run and then come back to debrief over sausage rolls, coffee and cake!

What else is going on?

Find out here

Looking for a first race? Or just want to get started canicrossing like a dreamteam?

Planning your first race can be scary – what if it’s overwhelming for your dog, or maybe they don’t want to run, or they pull so hard you go on your face in the mud….

We’ve all been there.

And it’s usually so much fun that you end up racing as often as you can! B

ut if you’re looking for a first race or just want the chance to run in a really supportive environment I can’t recommend the Checkendon Challenge series enough.

It does mean travelling but it’s totally worth it.

Sadly I can’t make it as I’ll be presenting at a canine behaviour conference instead – but get out there and have fun for me please!

Here’s all the information:

Meanwhile if you’ve yet to get started on your canicross adventures OR you want a bit more coaching on consistent pulling, safe passing and more, why not sign up for a half day Introduction to Canicross workshop just outside York.

The next dates are 17th February OR 10th March (9.30am start).

We’ll take you through finding the right kit for you and your dog, line handling and basic commands.

Practice it all on a group run and then come back to debrief over sausage rolls, coffee and cake!

Book Canicross Here

Last weekend was the first of the Hardmoors Trail Series. Laura and I ran the Saltburn half (actually just over 14miles) despite various injuries and illnesses.

It was Seamus’ first race at that distance and bless his little heart for trying. We’ve got some work to do on building up his endurance but it was a fantastic effort.

Meanwhile I discovered that the best pre-race day preparation for Laird is in fact 2 hours of free running in the woods. I was concerned he might have been rather tired on race day, but actually we had the perfect balance of enthusiasm but calm enough to hear my commands. A win all round!

Do tell us where you went running with your dog, and don’t forget the Sunday Social run is still on every Sunday morning at 8.30am as usual.

Happy Running!

Morag and the Beasts

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Management…do I have to do this forever?

It’s a question we’re often asked by our clients, usually after we’ve given them some strategies for helping to prevent their puppy’s unwanted behaviour. 

 These are just some of the management suggestions we’ll give new puppy owners: 

  • Put shoes and any valuable items they can chew out of the way 
  • Make use of crates, barriers and baby gates 
  • Restrict access to some rooms and put rugs away 
  • Use a houseline 
  • Consider wearing wellingtons in the house 
  • Use a longline on walks 

Summer Learns to settle behind a barrier while I'm busy teaching classes

So, do you need to use management forever? 

Management strategies should be short term solutions, aimed at preventing the puppy practising unwanted behaviours BUT it’s also important that the puppy learns what it is you do want  them to do, otherwise you may have to rely on management for longer (Or forever). 

By training your puppy and rewarding the stuff you like, and want to see more of, you'll be able to stop having to rely as heavily on management over time.  

Puppy chewing should reduce over time, but most dogs do love to chew anyway! By preventing access to things you don’t want your puppy to chew on and providing plenty of suitable alternatives they will learn to chew on appropriate items and you can gradually reintroduce your shoes once you're puppy knows there are better alternatives! 

 Many puppies come away from the breeders trained to toilet on puppy pads, which means they’ve learnt to pee on soft things! You may need to remove rugs and mats for a short time and restrict or heavily supervise access in carpeted rooms. This is just until you’ve taught your puppy that the best place to toilet is outside. 

Some puppies can struggle to settle in a new home environment initially, or you may have a cat or an adult dog that you don’t want the puppy to jump all over. A houseline can be a good way to manage your puppy’s behaviour while you teach them what you would like, calmly settling on their mat or sitting patiently while the cat walks past. 

Wearing Wellingtons indoors sounds crazy, but for those puppies who love to chase and bite at feet it’s a safe way to move about the house until your puppy learns how to play more appropriately with humans! 

Before you’re ready to un-clip the lead and set your puppy free to run around, you may need to check they can come back when called reliably and can check in with you regularly. One option is to practice in a secure field first, the other is to use a long line attached to your puppy’s harness so you can practice your recall training safely…once you know you’re puppy will reliably come back, even when there are distractions you can stop using the line. 

Eva the Munsterlander pup, loving her new found freedom off lead! 

If you’re still relying on using management with your dog make sure you have a clear idea of how your training goals will help you move away from using as much management. 

Need a bit of extra help with your training? 

Our 3 week intensives classes are short courses designed to give you help with specific areas of training;
  • Mind Your Manners: Self-Control 
  • Baby Come Back: Recall Skills
  • Stay By My Side: Loose Lead Walking

 3 week intensive classes  


Happy training 

Clare and the gang

Monday, 4 February 2019

Does your dog ONLY come back when you have their kryptonite handy? Laura has a plan!

“Find it!”

My own voice sounds pretty loud in the quiet of the icy field, and I’m pretty certain that the teachers in the school playground next door think I’m a bit strange, but I don’t care, because I have two dogs who are off lead and 100% focused on me and there isn’t a tennis ball in sight.

Why is this important?

Well, my boys have something of a variable relationship with recall – they are both mighty, mighty hunters and the training that works so well in the classroom and in the garden can wobble when it’s faced with the amazingly alluring smells of cat, or bunny, or squirrel, or deer, or…well, you get my point.

Tennis balls are our safety net, because Brian loves tennis balls.

But between moving house and Christmas and everything else the new year has brought, we’ve started relying on tennis balls too much. The problem with that is that when the squeaky is available, Brian doesn’t really care about me (so there’s always the risk he’ll just bog off with the ball, and take his brother with him!).

So, we’re back to using a whole range of other strategies to make sure that Brian and Seamus want to remember we’re walking together, rather than taking the first opportunity to disappear into the distance.

Check-ins and parkour and chasey games and tuggy toys and cheese trees are back to being staples of our walks and we’re already seeing the difference.

More importantly, our walks are already back to being more fun for me, and when I’m having fun, it’s much easier for the boys to have fun as well.

And isn’t that the entire point?

Wishing you happy, excited and engaged walks!

Laura and the troublesome twosome. 

P.S. Need help to get your training back on track after the chaos of Christmas? We have spaces coming up on our three week intensive courses for recall, nice lead walking and manners to give you a real push in building those skills!

P.P.S. If you haven’t yet introduced your dog to the joys of cheese trees, why not come along to one of our Introduction to Scentwork sessions – I promise your dog will thank you!

And don't forget, if your dog already graduated from Sniffing School Level 1, you're eligible for any of these advanced modules!


Friday, 1 February 2019

Picking a puppy – does breed matter?

I think the answer is NO…and YES! 

 Most of the things your puppy does are totally normal, albeit sometimes annoying, and all puppies do them. But some of the things your puppy does may have more to do with their breed than their age. 

I’ve been teaching puppy classes for 9 years and I always expect owners to ask certain questions in class; 

‘my puppies biting at our hands – what do we do?’ 
‘My puppy keeps weeing in the house – help!’ 
‘he won’t settle on a night or when we leave him’

We include a group discussion at the end of class so we can discuss management strategies and training techniques for these scenarios. These issues are pretty common across all breeds of puppies and it can be great to know you’re not alone! 

Then we get the questions, or cries for help, which aren’t typically the same across all breeds of puppies. 

 'My retriever puppy is picking everything up and carrying it around, they have now started running away and growling when we go near' 

 'Our Collie pup was pulling towards cars on walks and has now started lunging and barking when cars go past'

'My Terrier thinks chasing the kids feet and biting them is a great game, they’re now scared of him' 

While these problems aren’t uncommon, we may expect to see them happen in some breeds more than others. 

So, does breed matter when you’re picking your puppy? 

Once you’ve done your research, picked a breed that fits with your lifestyle and you’ve found a good breeder (who knows their breed well and can support you with choosing a puppy), you can prepare for some of those breed specific behaviour traits that may pop up! 

  • We can’t stop the retriever puppy picking things up, but we can teach them to love bringing things to you 
  • We can't change the Collies desire to herd things, but we can teach them what we would like them to do instead of chasing cars 
  • We can help the terrier find a more appropriate outlet for chasing and biting things that aren’t feet! 

Do you have a Gundog puppy? 

Join us for a mini workshop where we’ll discuss living with these breeds, a chance for you to ask questions and work on some foundation exercises to harness their incredible work ethic. 

 Booking for Baby Gundog  

Do you have an older Gundog or Herding breed

We’re running a series of workshops for Gundogs and herding breeds to introduce games you can play with your dog to harness their hunting or control their herding! 

 Booking Link for Workshops  

 Happy training 

 Clare and the gang