Friday, 29 March 2019

Well Connected Canine Spring Schedule

What’s coming up and when!

Is it time to dust off the clicker, dig out the treat bag and re-find your training mojo?

Are you ready to try something new with your dog? 

Struggling with some of the basics and need some structured coaching and support?

Check out our upcoming classes, there's something for everyone! 

April 8th

APDT Good Companion Award - Foundation and Progression class (10 weeks)

This 10 week class is great if you are looking for regular life skills practice, covering;  recall, lead walking, manners, self-control  and more…

There is also the option to take the assessment when you and your dog are ready.

Mind Your Manners - 3 week intensive course (max 2 dogs)

The focus of these sessions is self-control around distractions

April 10th

Sniffing School Level 1  (5 week course)

An introduction to handling skills for effective teamwork

This class is for anyone who has already been introduced to scentwork by one of our team, either in a 121 or group session.

Sniffing School Level 2 (10 week course)

Are you a Sniffing School Level 1 Graduate? Do you want to learn some other ways to harness the power of the dogs nose?

This class covers; environmental searches, finding lost keys, an introduction to tracking and  finding a missing person (you!)

Body work and relaxation (5 week course)

Everyone needs more relaxation in their lives and your dogs are no exception. Learn how to help your dog relax on cue, use bodywork like massage to assess and relieve tension, and improve your ability to observe your dog.

Parkour Fundamentals Evening Workshop

Is your dog a budding ninja, willing to climb on, under and over everything?  Are you looking for more exciting activities to spice up your walks together?  Then Canine Parkour could be for you!

April 24th

Introduction to Canicross Evening Workshop

This workshop will cover; helping you chose the right kit for you and your dog, teaching basic commands and putting it into practice.

May 8th

May 13th

Stay by my side - 3 week intensive (max 2 dogs)

Focus on walking skills

Baby come back – 3 week intensive (Max 2 dogs)

Focus on coming back reliably when called

May 15th

May 22th

June 3th

Canine Activity Foundations – 5 week course

A great follow on class for those who have completed our puppy or beginner classes and are looking for what to do next.

We’ll introduce foundation exercises for a variety of dog sports including; agility, parkour, scentwork, canicross and more…

June 5th

June 19th

All workshops and classes are held at our Yorkshire Museum of Farming, Murton Venue

Click on the individual links for more details on each course, including price and timings.

If you’ve never trained with us before we’ll ask you to complete a pre-class orientation session with one of our trainers to check we get the right class for you. Email us at for more details. 

We look forward to seeing you and your canine companion soon

Clare, Morag, Kady, Laura and Fi

Friday, 22 March 2019

Introducing your puppy to other animals

Puppies that live with me have to learn to get along with my dogs, cats, chickens, goats and a ram and live in harmony (for the most part). I want them to be able to socialise with other dogs when it’s appropriate to do so and accept new dogs into our house. But I also want them to ignore other dogs too, I don’t want them to run over to every dog they see on a walk or try to pull towards dogs on lead. I definitely want them to ignore animals away from home like cows, sheep and horses.  

That’s quite a big ask! But here’s an idea of how I have achieved it so far

Summer meets the chickens and Mr Goose

My animals (dogs, cats, chickens, goats, ram)

My puppy is never left unattended with any of the other animals. Initially there is lots of supervision any time my puppy is going to be around any of my other animals. If I can’t supervise than the puppy is kept separate from the others as I don’t want to risk anything going wrong when I’m not there or can’t get there fast enough.

My dogs and cats are great teachers when it comes to helping a puppy learn what’s appropriate and what’s not. All my animals are used to new puppies coming into the home and generally tolerate them well, but I still watch for signs from any of the animals, including the puppy, that they are uncomfortable with an interaction or proximity from the other and respond accordingly.

I spend time rewarding the puppy for stuff I like, the two main ones are usually watching the other animals calmly and coming away when called or asked to leave it. Because my puppy may not always get this bit right straight away I might use a light trailing line so I can prevent the puppy getting themselves into any trouble.  

Other dogs

I hand-pick the dogs my puppy gets to spend time socialising with, especially in the early days (first few weeks) when I want to make sure they are having appropriate interactions with dogs and I know they aren’t going to have a really scary experience.

When we’re out and about and likely to encounter dogs I don’t know, I tend to hang back with my puppy and encourage them to stay with me, rewarding them for making good choices like paying attention to me rather than the random dog. Once my puppy is a bit older, gaining confidence and off lead* on walks I’ll let them start to greet other dogs we might encounter where it’s appropriate to do so (I don’t let my off lead dogs approach on lead dogs).

*puppy is only let off lead once I know they can reliably come back when I call, even if they spot another dog, if they can’t the puppy is on a long line until they can.

Summer meets adult dog Brian

Other animals

I want my puppy to get used to and ignore other animals we encounter on walks, I don’t want them  to try and make ‘friends’ like they may do with another dog or my animals at home, nor do I want them to think chasing (or in Scout’s case herding!) them is great fun!

When we encounter other animals on walks, where possible, I spend time rewarding my puppy for checking in with me when we see potentially exciting or scary looking animals. We may also practice some of our other training exercises like loose lead walking or waits. We also work on lots of self-control at home, in anticipation of those times an animal might take us by surprise, like a pheasant hiding in the hedgerow that takes off suddenly!!

So, that’s how I introduce (or not) my puppy to other animals. It seems like a lot of hard work in the beginning but the big pay-off comes when I can reliably have my dogs be calm around my other animals, reliably be off lead around other dogs and ignore livestock* or come away from a pheasant they have just flushed.

*my dogs are always on lead where there is livestock or the chance we may encounter it  

If you need some extra help with you dog’s behaviour around other animals, including other dogs, we can help.

For help with recall, manners or loose lead walking our acuity sessions may be the best option

Happy Training

Clare and the Gang

Monday, 11 March 2019

What’s pain got to do with it?

Pounding, throbbing pain.

Vision blurring.

Nausea rising as the bones in your skull try to separate.

Imagine feeling like that as you stand in the queue at the supermarket. And then someone crashes their trolley into you (by accident).

There’s a good chance that the words that would spill from your mouth might not be the most polite things you’ve ever said. Because when we are in pain, our tolerance goes down, we are more easily frustrated, we are more likely to lash out, and frankly everything just feels worse than normal.

But you would be able to explain to the person that you were sorry for overreacting, it’s just that right now you have a really bad headache.

Our animals don’t have that as an option.

In fact, by the time we notice that they might be in pain, things are often pretty bad. One of the first signs that our pets might be experiencing pain is often a change in their behaviour. It could be an increase in sensitivity to loud noises, or it might be your pet becoming grumpy when you ask them to move off the sofa.

Last week, I saw a lovely little beagle for a review meeting. Samson (not his real name) had completed a set of puppy visits at home some years earlier. Samson was a cheerful and friendly little dog, a real delight to work with. So, when his owners got in touch to say that he was reluctant on walks, didn’t seem to be excited to greet his family when they came home, and had started to lunge and nip at passing joggers….

There are lots of training and behaviour interventions that we might use in situations like this. For example, we might look at ways to increase interest and excitement on walks and we might start to pair up seeing joggers with getting delicious treats.

But before we jump into trying to change what the animal is doing, it’s important to check why this might be happening in the first place. Usually, this means thinking about how the animal is feeling as well as how the animal is behaving. And when there is a sudden change in behaviour especially involving apparent aggression, we always want to rule out physical problems as a contributing factor.

When I met Samson at our training venue, I had the chance to pet him as normal while I chatted to his dad. I noticed that Samson was less comfortable with being handled than he used to be, and there was some trembling in one of his back legs. So, Samson’s dad went away with a wee plan to help keep Samson safe for now while we arranged for a very thorough vet check.

It turns out that Samson was it was suffering from a very low thyroid level as well as a nasty ear infection. Both of those conditions are now being treated, and we’ve noticed a big change in Samson’s behaviour in all situations. Samson’s family still has some training to do to help make sure that Samson doesn’t carry on being worried about joggers, but we now know that the underlying painful condition is getting better.

This is just one of the reasons why professional behaviourists work on veterinary referral to ensure that your dog has no medical issues contributing to a behaviour problem. We don’t want you to waste your time trying to change a behaviour problem that has a medical cause. Medical issues which can contribute to behaviour issues range from abscesses, joint pain, thyroid imbalances, skin problems and neurological issues.

If you’re reading this and you've noticed a marked or sudden change in your dog’s behaviour, the first port of call should be a good chat with your vet. Then you will want to seek referral to a Clinical Animal Behaviourist - you can easily find these listed on the ABTC website.

Physical problems and pain don’t always underlay problem behaviours, but it’s really important that we rule them out before we dive into a training solution.

Morag Heirs PhD, Clinical Animal Behaviourist

Well Connected Canine Ltd

What’s on at Well Connected Canine in York?

New 5 week class blocks starting on Mon 8th and Wed 10th April covering sports foundation skills, good companion obedience, sniffing school, parkour AND bodywork plus relaxation.

You can see the full programme here:
grab a weekly class!
And if you’re not sure what’s right for your dog just email me to chat it through (

Or if you’d rather opt for a short, sharp focused set of lessons, why not try a three week intensive to concentrate on nice walking (Stay By My Side), coming back (Baby Come Back), and polite behaviour (Mind Your Manners).

These have been really popular so make sure to book on early or you might miss your chance!

3 week intensives here

Want to try out a new sport, or dip your toes into breed specific training?

Why not check out our evening Taster Workshops


Or half day workshops (Gun Dog Games or That’s Not A Sheep – for herding breeds)

*and if you haven't already gotten the Tina Turner song as an earworm, just click here: 

You're welcome!

Friday, 8 March 2019

Puppies – all the toys are mine!!

There’s no getting away from the fact that most puppies like to pick stuff up, sometimes the stuff they pick up is fine, like their own toys and chews. Sometimes they may decide they want the toy that’s in another dogs mouth though…so what do we do then?

This week I’ve met two puppies who have fantastic older siblings, the older dogs are very tolerant of their new little brothers, so tolerant in fact that the puppies are stealing toys right out of their mouths!  

When Summer (Flatcoated Retriever) was a puppy she very quickly learnt that trying to take toys off Poppy (Cocker Spaniel) and Scout (Border Collie) wasn’t a good idea. They would initially try and move away from her but then growl if she persisted. She would then immediately back off and leave them alone. Although I was supervising, Poppy and Scout were doing the teaching.

Spencer (GSD) was a different story, he would show signs he was uncomfortable but he quickly gave the toy up to her.  I soon noticed him start to be reluctant to play with his toys around her and if he had one, he’d drop it as soon as he saw her. So I started to intervene when I noticed Summer attempting to grab the toys in Spencer’s mouth to help him feel more relaxed around her.  

When it’s OK to let your puppy grab the toy

  • When the other dog is parading or offering the toy as an invitation to play together
  • If the other dog drops the toy and moves away from it
  • Any toys on the floor not being played with
How can you tell if the other dog doesn’t want to share?

  • They may trying to avoid the puppy taking the toy by turning their head away or moving away
  • You may see them stiffen up or go really still

If these signs are ignored you may see…

  • Growling or snarling
  • Barking and chasing the puppy off

Sometimes the puppy picks up on all these signs and responds accordingly and backs off, but when they don’t we may need to step in.

When should I intervene?
  • If your puppy is ignoring the signs the other dog isn’t comfortable and is persistently trying to get the toy
  • If the other dog starts to become reluctant to play with their own toys around the puppy or lets go as soon as they see the puppy
How to intervene?
  • Call the puppy away using an excited voice and give them another toy to play with, ideally with you.
  • Call the older dog to you if they have a more reliable recall and intercept the puppy if they follow
  • Create places the other dog can escape to with their toy where the puppy can’t follow
  • You can see if the dogs want to play together by holding a long tuggy toy in the middle and encourage them to grab each end and let them tug together.

We don’t want to discourage the puppy from playing, we just want to prevent them learning to take things off other dogs.

Spencer learns that Summer can be a fun playmate after I intervened 

Having two or more dogs who love to play with toys can also be a great way to practice some self-control training

  • Teach your dogs to wait their turn for a retrieve.
  • One dog can learn to stay settled on their bed while the other dog plays tug.

We often use play in our classes as a way to reward the dogs and also to help teach self-control.

If you’re a recent puppy graduate and looking for your next class then Canine Activity Foundations is a good place to start. We introduce the foundation skills required for activities like; Dog Parkour, Scentwork, Canicross, Gundog training and more…

Our next 5 week class starts  Monday 8th April at 7.30pm

Happy Training and Playing

Clare and the Gang

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

How can I massage my dog when they keep walking away? (new blog/video format)

Welcome to the new format blog/mini video combo!

We are trialling a little experiment where you have the chance to ask me anything about living with and training dogs in our private FaceBook group, and I’m going to try and answer at least one of those per week.

At the same time, I’m also experimenting with some software that actually writes down on the computer what I’m saying. I hope that means is that I can get the blogs out a little bit quicker to you.

I know some people find video really helpful but it’s also handy to have that written record of the answer to refer back to.

So here’s our little experiment to see how it goes!

The first question comes from Sonia with Benson (a lovely big Labrador)
Benson doesn’t generally enjoy being petted, he will sit on our laps all day for snuggles when it is his own choice and he’ll also weave in and out of my legs for ever as a way of greeting, but if we were to move to pet him generally he moves away or he goes and picks up a toy.  How do we work around this in bodywork (considering doing the upcoming course as a observer).

Sonia wants to understand her dog a little bit better but she’s also asking because she’d like to take the Bodywork and Relaxation class as a spectator (Benson isn’t ready to attend class in person yet).

We want to think about this from two angles.  Firstly we have the dog who just generally prefers not to be actively petted by us unless it’s their choice and secondly - how we can handle that when we’re taking a class that means we want to get our hands on them!

Your dog is giving you a big hint – this isn’t a coincidence…. 

  • If when you pet your dog, they pretty much consistently move away, or offer you a different body part, or go to get a toy, or suddenly they have an interest in going and sniffing somewhere…. 
  • I would say that your dog is giving you a pretty big hint that they would either like you to pet them differently or not pet them at all. 

Why is it happening? 

  • It might be because something is different today. Were you being a little bit heavier handed than they like? It might be that just today they don’t feel like it, because you know we all have days like that!
  • Or is it consistently happening every day, or when you touch them in a particular place like their hind quarters? Could it be that they are feeling a little sore or tender?
  • Often when we pet dogs it’s quite absent mindedly. We just kind of pat them on the head or we might stroke them without really thinking about what it’s like for the dog.

What should you do? 

  • Try using the Consent Test to explore what your dog likes, and how they tell you to keep going versus stop now please. If you’re in our private Facebook group or on our email list I will give you a link to our handout.

Basically pet your dog for a few seconds and then stop and see what they do. Observation is really important!

  • I would also start working out when my dog is more likely to want to be petted, and using that time to explore things

Sonia says that Benson will sit on their laps daily for snuggles. When he’s being close to you and relaxed that’s probably a good time to think about maybe just a little bit of neck massage or shoulder massage like we teach in class.

Aim to do that kind of bodywork for literally a couple seconds and then take your hands away. What we are looking for is to find out what kind of pressure or touch does my dog actually actively seek out and what will they stick around for.

Struggling to make progress on your own? 

  • Try videoing the sessions to watch them back later – it’s tricky seeing the signs sometimes. 
  • Slow down! 
  • Consider taking one of our Bodywork & Relaxation classes either attending with your dog, or as a spectator (practice at home, submit homework videos and get feedback, learn in class on other student’s dogs). 

Bodywork and Relaxation blocks start on 10th April and then 15th May

Book your Bodywork and Relaxation Class


Can it work for any dog? 

Over the 10 years that I’ve been doing massage and bodywork with dogs and humans together, I have not yet had a dog that we couldn’t find some kind of touch that they enjoyed and was useful for them!

Feedback please!

Please do let me know what you think of the new format – it will get better I promise as I juggle live video recording and dictation software!


PS The last set of Level 2 three week intensives start next week (Wednesday 13th March) with me, so if you were undecided about progressing your training in loose lead walking or self control  don’t delay. These are the last dates for the next three months!

PPS And don’t forget you can see everything that your dog could be getting up to on the website:

Monday, 4 March 2019

Three tips for surviving an enthusiastic canine running partner (canicross)

Canicross is all about your dog running with you as a team.

So it seems almost madness to complain when your dogs are really strong pullers!

But the truth is your dogs have the potential to run a lot faster than you and if your dog has enough muscle mass and determination, they can make a big difference to your running pace.

This is all very well when they’re pulling you up that hill, but it’s a lot less fun at the beginning of a race. Especially if the start is on a downhill!

Today one of our canicross group members asked

My male is incredibly strong on a general lead and can pull me off my feet almost with me in a harness, what is the best way to get him into canicross without risking life and limb?

 My answer is one of those it depends…

Because it does. It depends on the size of your dog, the strength of your dog, the ground underfoot, and the situation!

My preferred option is to go with what the dog is offering you. That means if you can learn to run a little bit faster, even just to begin with, so that you can take the power your dog is giving you rather than trying to hold them back or worse still heel strike to stop yourself going forwards too quickly so much the better.

But since living and running with Laird (36.4kg of muscled GWP), I’ve learned that just going with the pace isn’t always a safe or feasible option. Let’s face it. Laird can definitely run a lot faster than I can and it hurts when I try to sprint with him.

So instead here are my top three tips when one of your dogs is a superstrong enthusiastic canicrosser:

  1. Make sure you have a clear distinction between the equipment that means running and racing versus walking calmly to the start line or walking by your side when the ground is tricky. For example, with Laird if I click the line to his collar then I’m asking him to walk beside me and under control. Rather than when the line is on his harness and he expects to be out front and working hard.
  2. Create your own management plan that helps your dog to relax, stay calm and be attentive. You might choose to teach your dog some specific attention games or ask them to do simple behaviours like nose targets in exchange for very small treats. I also like to teach a conditioned relaxation cue that can be used to help bring those excitement levels down to something that is more bearable.
  3. Lastly, I’ve recently discovered that it’s important to find the right balance of pre-running exercise or pre-race preparation. Often we might find that we’re running our dogs and that’s their first big bit of exercise of the day. Or we might both have been tapering down in preparation for a race. In my experience this works with some dogs, however, sometimes we need to include some pre-running exercise or prerace warmup etc in order to take the edge off that first really powerful sprint. So far I’ve had the best races with Laird when he’s had up to 2 hours of free running and hunting the night before a race and at least a 2 mile warmup before the actual event - he still has plenty of energy for running but he is also able to listen to my commands and back off if he’s pulling too hard 
My last little tip is also to look at the equipment and the kind of line you run your dog with. I love the non-stop full bungee lines because they make canicross feel smooth and connected. But, I found it easier to manage a big powerful strong pulling dog on a line that has slightly less elastic so that the dog can feel when they’ve actually reached the end of it.

The hints and tips above are based on my personal experience and from teaching canicross workshops for the last two years.

However as the Americans would say, your mileage may vary!

I’d love to know what’s worked for you and your dogs so please do post on our Facebook group hit reply to this email or comment on the blog post.

There are plenty of race events coming up and you’ll find those posted in our little Facebook group here is the link:

If you know of any events that allow canicrossers to join in please do let me know, post them up in the group and let’s spread the word and build awareness of our amazing sport.

Getting started or need a refresher?

If you’re just getting started on your canicross journey or you’d like to refresh on some of the core techniques our last introduction to canicross workshop of the season is running on Sunday, 10 March

Book your intro workshop here


Want to try something a bit more adventurous? 

Why not join us in the North York Moors on Sunday 31st March for an improvers workshop to learn how to descend without death, power up those challenging hills, and create a super focused canicross dog.

Location: The Cycle Hub, Fryup Dale YO21 2AP 

Book your adventure here!

Happy running!

Morag with #BeautyAndTheBeast

Getting a handle on handling!

Some dogs sail through life without a care in the world about being groomed, examined, handled and restrained…

“clipping my nails?....yeah that’s fine”
“cleaning my ears?....go right ahead”
“Vaccinations?....not a problem”

Even when these dogs are in pain or discomfort they will often let the person carry on prodding and poking away without a problem.

But for many dogs they only tolerate the weird stuff humans do to them until a painful or scary incident occurs, then they might become reluctant to be handled or may even growl or snap.

And, although we try our best, we can’t stop our dogs hurting themselves or getting ill.

So what do we do?

  •       Teach your puppy to enjoy being handled/groomed etc

  •       Learn to observe and respond to their changes in body language

  •       Involve your vet, vet nurse or groomer in the process

In both our Puppy Foundation and Puppy Life Skills classes we work on teaching the puppies to enjoy being handled, this means we break handling down into small manageable chunks and pair our touches on the puppy with tasty food rewards.

As puppy class instructor and veterinary nurse Antonia say’s ‘by teaching your puppy to love handling, you’re putting money in the bank for later’. So, when we need to make a withdrawal (usually a scary or painful unavoidable situation), we have a puppy who has lots of positive experience to fall back on and the impact of that withdrawal isn’t that great.

Our puppies are usually pretty good at letting us know when they are happy, but the signs they aren’t happy can be more subtle. You might see them turn or pull away from you, their tail may tuck slightly or they may sink to the ground a little. More obvious signs may include them mouthing at your hands, rolling over onto their back or even growling. In puppy class we teach you to observe and respond to these signs so you can adapt your training to suit your puppy’s needs.

Most vets are happy to be involved in training your puppy to enjoy visiting the practice between routine check-ups or vaccinations, it makes their lives easier in the long run if they can work with a dog who is comfortable being examined.

Check out my Border Collie Scout visiting the vet for his routine vaccination, the training we'd done made life easier for all of us, but most especially Scout! 

Spend  time now making an investment in your puppy’s future by helping them learn to love handling. We want vet visits to become a walk in the park and medical treatments taken in their stride. Necessary but scary or painful procedures should then mean a minor withdrawal from your puppy’s bank of trust.  

If your puppy isn’t comfortable being handled or isn’t happy at the vets and you’d like some extra help or support let us know,  we can help!

Happy Training

Clare and the Gang

P.s.  Our next block of classes (April 2019) are now open for booking. We’ve got a range of upcoming activities to choose from

If you’re struggling with recall, lead walking or your puppy's manner our three week intensives may be for you