Chief Trainer talks about modern dog training...

Dogs are wonderful creatures and they bring so much love and joy to our lives. So many dogs have amazing personalities, but without proper training, many dogs can develop unwelcome behaviours. These behaviours can be frustrating for you and for your dog but don't worry - it is never too late to start training. Even while it is harder to train an older dog, it can be done. It was often thought that anyone could train dogs without professional help. Some still believe this is the case, however dog owners are increasingly seeking out the guidance of a professional to help with their fur babies and point them back in the right direction with life changing results.

Training methods have evolved dramatically in the many years I have been training dogs which has been much for the greater good. Punishment based dog trainers, that use negative reinforcement have seen their careers threatened by ever growing numbers of positive reinforcement dog trainers. Here at Dog Tags we have a vast wealth of knowledge and experience from many different walks of the dog training life but always use positive methods where we can. 

German shepards on lead

When hiring Dog Tags Training you will find that a small investment is money well spent as the results for your family and dog will be returned in terms of a happy house and family. We usually start our training courses with a introductory session we call 'the K9 Knowledge'. Why not just get on with teaching the dog? Because the positive training school of thought believes that every dog owner should be given a good canine education in order to build a better relationship with their dog and get the most from their training. Having understanding of your dog can reverse or prevent behaviour issues like biting, pulling while walking, unwanted barking and even, not going to the toilet in the right place and save you time and money spent on traditional training. Luckily for our clients we've found a way to make this learning process easy and fun!

How can I stop my dog from barking when I leave him alone?

There are lots of reasons your dog may be barking when left alone. Many dog owners whose neighbours have cause to complain, leap towards the conclusion that their dog has separation anxiety, and that could be the case but their may be other things going on too.  Read on to see if any of these situations could be making your life harder. 

dog alone at home

- Your dog has excess energy. The most common reason for dogs playing up when left alone is that they haven’t had a chance to burn off some of their energy. Remember a tired dog is much more likely to lie down and relax while you’re out. If you know you will be leaving him for a while, make sure he’s had a long walk or good session chasing a ball before hand. Mental stimulation can also help tire a dog out. Try some nose games that may get your dog thinking. 

- Your dog doesn’t like the quiet. If he is used to living in a busy environment with people coming and going, the quiet might not be as relaxing to a dog as you’d think. Suddenly when everyone leaves and the usual noises stop, he has a chance to get spooked by things he wouldn’t normally hear, like a neighbour singing in the shower or cats fighting in the street. Leave a radio on as background noise to trick your pup into believing there’s someone home and to drown out the other noises might disturb him. 

- Your dog is bored. Bored dogs can be relied upon to find their own entertainment be it destroying a cushion or practising their best howl. If extra exercise hasn’t calmed him down you can give him a really entertaining ‘special’ toy to keep him occupied for a while. A treat filled toy will also provide entertainment until he decides it’s nap time. 

- Your dog needs a confidence boost. Anxiety in dogs can cause many irrational behaviours, one of which is often being unable to cope with alone time. These circumstances often require professional help, so talk to us about how our trainers deal with nervous dogs. Socialisation and obedience training with lots of rewards can sooth an anxious dog and build the confidence he needs to cope. A trainer will also teach you techniques to build up the time slowly while encouraging quiet behaviour. 

Emma Greenwood-Petrie is a partner and trainer at Dog Tags Training.

How often should I wash my dog?

The short answer to this question, which we get asked all the time, is…

Just wash your dog when he smells!

dog in bath

Given the hard work it takes to wrestle most dogs into the bath, it’s a surprising fact that most people wash their dog more often than they need to. Washing too often can dry out skin and strip the coat of the oils that give it a lovely shine.

Luckily for you, dogs spend a lot of time keeping themselves clean, which means that the work you need to put in is minimal. If you want to keep the dog hair on the floor to a minimum, brush him every day. Brushing is a great bonding activity for you both and it allows you to inspect him closely while he relaxes. Check in the ears for infections and between the toes for any parasites. 

If you still think he needs a bath, go ahead; soap him up and use room temperature water to rinse. An old towel can be used to speed up the drying process but make sure to keep your dog warm until he’s fully dry. Always remember to wait at least 3 days after applying flea and tick treatments to the skin before washing or you risk it being ineffective.

If you feel confident, clip his nails every six to eight weeks, but don’t cut them too short. Cutting the quick is painful for your dog and means he’s unlikely to trust you again next time. If you’re not sure, head to a doggy groomer to do a professional job.

Still not sure? Read up about the breed of your dog. Breeds with water repellent or double coats (such as retrievers or malamutes) need washing less often. Longer haired breeds may need a little trim occasionally to help them see and keep their faces clean. When in doubt, use your nose to tell you when it’s bath time for your dog and prepare to get wet. 

Emma Greenwood-Petrie is a partner and trainer at Dog Tags Training.

Why do dog trainers love to play tug?

One of the questions that we ask dog owners when we assess their dog is “do they like to play tug?” This isn’t just so we know what toys to get him for Christmas; a dog’s enjoyment of this game is a good indicator of his prey drive which is part of what makes him happy. If that doesn’t sell it to you, here are some other reasons why you should dig out that tug toy and get playing…

molly with box.jpg

- A good game strengthens your bond with your dog. Once your dog learns to play a game, there’s no one he’d rather play it with than you. This is especially true when you control the toy. When you’re ready to play you get the tug toy out and when you’re done it goes away. Your dog learns respect for you as master of the toy chest.

- Puppies tend to use their mouths to investigate the world around them, and most learn that biting can be a fun game. Whilst this may be fine for him and his siblings, once he comes to live with you it’s not so fun. Dogs who like to play the bitey game can think that nipping people can be fun unless we give them an alternative way to play. Playing tug with your dog gives him a positive way to keep having fun without doing damage with his teeth.  

- Once your dog learns to grab on to a toy, you can start to teach him some self control. Commands like ‘out’ or ‘drop’ test a dog’s willpower if he’s having fun, but can be a very rewarding exercise. If he understands to let go of a toy, you’ve got a good chance he’ll let go of something much more important when the time comes… this trick could save your slippers!

If you want to learn more about creating the right rules of the game and how to prevent your dog becoming possessive about a toy, it’s time to call in a trainer. 

Emma Greenwood-Petrie is a partner and trainer at Dog Tags Training


Help – my dog’s licking habit is out of control!

We were approached with an unusual question this week.

“My dog licks everything and I don’t know how to stop her! Why is this happening? What can I do?”

Dog Licking

As with many things in the world of dogs, there’s no clear-cut answer to this question.  A quick lick of a human face is usually just a canine ‘hello’ – but some dogs’ licking doesn’t stop there. This concerned dog owner described her Chihuahua as constantly licking the floor, the furniture, the family and itself – and it was becoming a problem. Dogs may lick the site of an injury or a skin allergy but if that’s not the cause then what is?

Treating this behaviour first needs some analysis of what is really causing it.  We recommended this dog owner look at in an analytical way. Here are some questions she could ask herself…

- Is the problem medical? If your dog has been acting this way for a long time or since a she was a puppy, chances are that she hasn’t developed a medical problem that could be the cause. On the other hand if this is a new habit or it has developed quickly there could be a medical explanation. Perhaps the dog is feeling nauseous and is licking for comfort. Get her checked out by a vet to be sure. A neurological disorder is harder to diagnose. Try interrupting your dog when she is licking. If no amount of calling, playing or distracting can make her pause in her licking task – speak to a vet.

- Does the dog suffer with anxiety? There are many reasons why a dog may be anxious. Perhaps she’s not coping well with a house move or a new pet in the home. Maybe a bad experience has made her wary of everything that moves. One thing that may help is increased exercise – which will help the dog take her mind off it’s worries. A good way to give her a confidence boost is with obedience training at home. The predictability of structured training (consistent command – response – reward methods) can be soothing to a dog with a nervous disposition. Imagine hearing a story and knowing that it ends well every time. Feeling more relaxed already?

- Are you encouraging this habit? Think carefully… how do people in your home react when they see your dog licking things she shouldn’t. Do they comfort her? Do they shout at her? There’s a chance this is attention seeking behaviour. If you cuddle your pup whenever you see it, you could be inadvertently encouraging the licking. It’s rare but still possible that even angry shouting is still worthwhile attention to some dogs. Try recording the dog when she’s alone to see if it continues when you’re not there to observe it. Perhaps you simply need to completely ignore the behaviour and allow this association to fade.

- Is this a canine variety of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Again see if you can interrupt her with distractions. If you can, think about ways to teach her new behaviours to practice instead of the licking. Wait for the signs she’s getting ready for a good lick and then show the dog something different she can do instead . Perhaps encourage some playtime by throwing a toy or take an opportunity to spend five minutes on training - ask for a basic command or teach her a new trick. Call in a trainer to help you create the right environment for your dog's training. Soon enough she’ll forget about the old habits and create some new ones. 

Emma Greenwood-Petrie is a partner and trainer at Dog Tags Training