Monday, 31 October 2011


It's that time of year again when everyone seems to set off fireworks.  No longer confined to November 5th, firework parties tend to happen most weekends from the clocks changing until after New Year.

Loud screeches, pretty bright lights, almighty bangs, an enjoyable night for all, or so you’d think?  

It's no fun if you have a dog who reacts to the noise, wether that is by barking or by hiding under the bed.  But there are ways to help.

More dogs than you’d think suffer from an enormous amount of stress this time of year, normally due to a learned fear. Some behaviors that may be seen are:

  • Barking incessantly,
  • Hiding under chairs and tables
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Pawing at their owner for reassurance
  • Escaping

Unfortunately as humans it is instinctive to want to reassure and comfort our loved ones when they are distressed and through speech and affection we are able to do just that. However in the dog world it doesn’t quite work that way. When a dog receives a cuddle or a stroke they normally perceive it as a
reward and whenever you reward a dog for a behaviour you are increasing the likelihood of them displaying that behaviour again in the future. So as natural as it is for us to do, if we reassure our dogs when they are scared we are actually rewarding them, and making their fear worse. So please don’t sit
and cuddle your puppy on the sofa for two hours through the duration of the fireworks. Your puppy’s first experience can dictate how they cope with fireworks in future years so it is vital you get it right first time around.

On the other hand if your dog has a true phobia studies have shown that no amount of fuss and cuddles will make any difference, you know your dog better than anyone so if he's really reactive and you both feel more secure then a bit of a cuddle will do no harm.

What to do?
Your reaction is the most important.

Here are some pointers to make sure your puppy’s first experience of fireworks is a good one and to help prevent them from developing fear.
Ignore any signs of fear!

Act as you would on any other evening. If you are acting differently it will add to any stress; pull the curtains and put the T.V. on. Give your puppy something positive to do e.g. play a game, do some training with tasty titbits, or fill an interactive toy such as a Kong.

If your puppy or older dog isn't showing any signs of fear you may find he will enjoy having the curtains open and watching the pretty lights with you.  Especially if you "Ooooh" and "ahhhh" and be excited about it all, giving the dog plenty of treats along the way.

However if you know your dog already suffers from a fear of fireworks here are some hints and tips to make bonfire night go smoothly:

  • Close the curtains, leave lights and TV or radio on, this will mask the flashes and reduce the noise of the bangs.
  • If your dog wants to hide under the bed or table, the best thing to is to let it.  But if you can make a den for the dog either in a cosy corner where he likes to lie or by covering his crate if he’s crate trained.  Put some toys and blankets in this safe place, use a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) diffuser or collar that you can get from your vet or pet shop.  Give your dog a filled interactive toy such as a Kong. DAP is a synthetic version of a natural pheromone that helps to calm an anxious dog. You may want to talk to your vet about Zyklene which is a natural calmitive in tablet form.
  • Give your dog plenty of time in the daylight to go to the toilet, if you know your dog is frightened of fireworks put him on a lead, even in the garden. 
  • Avoid leaving your dog alone during the evening, as he will feel safer with you around. 
  • Don’t shut him in anywhere, leave the interior doors open so your dog can escape to a place where he feels safer, but make sure the windows and doors to outside are secured.

In the run up to Bonfire Night you can use recordings of firework noises to get your dog used to the sound; start playing the recording on a low volume, building the volume as your dog gets used to it.  This is an ongoing exercise and can take a period of months to work successfully but has been shown to work in the majority of cases when used with DAP.

Avoid the use of sedatives as your dog may still feel afraid but be unable to react, some sedatives can also wear off to quickly or last to long so your dog will be zonked out for days.

Remember that fireworks are not just limited to one night, be prepared through the autumn and winter seasons for fireworks at anytime.  By law your dog must have a collar with your contact details on when in a public place.  Make sure your dog is wearing his collar at all times in case he takes fright and escapes.  It is also a good idea to have your dog microchipped that way he can be identified if he looses his collar or ID.

Above all remain calm and act normally, your dog will be looking to your for guidance and if he sees you panicking he may think there is something to panic about. 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Groomed the cutest little ShihTzu today.  Had the camera phone so the photos aren't brilliant so you'll have to take my word for it that it was a lovely groom and I managed to really open up his face so you can see his lovely eyes

In other news I also did some work with a very nervous Border Collie.  She just can't cope with situations out and about.  It's going to take time, but I think she's going to be fine.

Don't forget the Love Pets show this weekend at Peterborough.  There will be loads going on.  Jez Rose will be there promoting KONG toys Competitions and exhibitions.  I believe the wonderful Golumm will also be making an appearance as will Marc the vet.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Dog Control Bill passes through the House of Lords

The House of Lords gave its full backing to a long awaited overhaul of the Dangerous Dogs Act today (Wednesday 26 October) as the Dog Control Bill successfully passed through all stages in the Lords.

Lord Redesdale’s Bill, which proposes to replace failed dangerous dog legislation with effective preventative regulation, including Dog Control Notices, and extending legislation to cover both public and private places, was supported by the Dangerous Dogs Act Study Group (DDASG).

DDASG represents animal welfare groups, local authorities and veterinary professional organisations which include Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, The Blue Cross, British Veterinary Association, Dogs Trust, the Kennel Club, Mayhew Animal Home, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Wandsworth Borough Council and Wood Green Animal Shelters.

Wandsworth Dog Control Service Manager and DDASG Chairman, Mark Callis said: “Our members all know from personal experience that the aggressive, problematic dogs are always the ones which have been treated badly, neglected, or, in some of the worst cases, deliberately trained to intimidate others. This Bill would give us the powers we need to tackle the root cause of the country's dangerous dog issues - bad owners.”

The Commons will now continue the debate as the Bill moves on in its passage through the parliamentary process.

Following the success of the Third Reading of the Bill, Lord Redesdale commented: “I am delighted to have been part of this movement to push for the revision of existing dangerous dogs legislation. By introducing preventative measures, such as dog control orders, problem behaviour can be addressed before more serious incidents take place. This will go a long way towards protecting the public and ensuring responsible dog ownership for the benefit of all.“

Thanks to the Kennel Club UK for this article.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

What's the big deal?

Just been on a forum where people were offering advice on a dog's problem with toilet training.  I had to point out that unqualified people shouldn't be offering advice, especially as so much of it is contradictory at best and harmful at worst.

What really gets to me is "I watched this TV programme and this is what you need to do..." comments.   A lot of the TV trainers have no background or training in dog psychology.  Some are in it for the money and others for the glory of being on TV.  I have no doubt that there are also some who genuinely believe that what they are doing is helping the dog they are working with.

I strongly advise against using aversives.  It's so easy to get it wrong, ruin the relationship with the dog and a have the dog living under constant stress of being told off.  You will find that the dog doesn't learn anything so it becomes every time the dog does x the owner has to do y.  Eventually y has to become z and then you have nowhere else to go!  Could you learn with the treat of being punished hanging over you all the time? 

A behaviourist needs to know more than just "how do I stop my dog from doing... "   I have completed the lower level qualifications and am in the second year of my foundation degree.It's another 2 years until the end of the BSc.   The last module I completed was pharmacology, which I have just finished, having started it in May!   The module before that was on neurobiology.   It takes as long to train to become a fully qualified dog behaviourist as it does to become a vet.  If I want to go on to do a Masters and a PHd then that's almost until I retire :D 

It would be great if we could all be TV trainers and just read a book or have some mystic power that means we know what the dog's problem is and to rectify it in 15 mins.

All dogs benefit from grooming

All dogs benefit from being groomed.  It doesn't matter if your dog is a traditionally groomed breed such as a Bichon Frise or a bigger dog like Vic here.

Vic is a rescue dog with a lot of German Shepherd in his make up.  He is groomed everyday by his owners; even though he has short hair he sheds a lot.

A professional dog groomer has tools that the average dog owner doesn't.  Getting Vic's coat out took 2 hours and 5 different tools all this was without putting him in the bath.  Removing that dead hair left Vic with a lovely glossy coat.

There was more hair from grooming Vic than I had from clipping off Maddie yesterday.  There was enough to fill a couple of bags from Asda!  A short haired dog is just as hard to look after and hopefully Vic's owners won't have so much hair to vaccum up for a few weeks.  This time of year, when the dog is moulting it's hard work, having a professional groom will help cut down the loose coat and the housework.

Just look at how much hair I got out of Vic.  Being professionally grromed doesn't just get rid of all that itchy dead hair but also your groomer can pick up on any health or behavioural problems your dog may have and refer you to someone who can help with those.

Monday, 24 October 2011

A groom and a call

Fantastic little Bichon to groom today.  She's a real sweetheart. A short cut as she loves to go out and about in the woods.  Photos show after the bath but before the full groom and after the full groom.

Also had a call about daycare/grooming needs.  Daycare will be starting as soon as the centre is up and running.  Whether you need to put your dog in for a one off day or while you are at work all week I will be able to cater for this.

On a personal note, home alone for a few days and the weekend is the Love Pets show.  But it's about time to feed the horses now.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Before Grooming
A quick example of a dog I have groomed.  This is a little cross breed dog with a very fluffy coat.

Before and after photos show that it's not just for poodles,  all breeds of dog and can should be groomed.  

This dog was groomed with clippers and scissors.  I also do hand stripping on dogs with suitable coats.

The dog's welfare is always important and I change the way I groom according to the dog. Being a Behaviourist means that I am able to read a dog's reaction to being groomed.  If a dog is feeling uncomfortable with one method, ie handstripping, then I will use another method such as scissoring.  

After Grooming
Some groomers will insist on the dog being made to do as it's told.  This can lead to behaviour problems, the dog might start to agress, biting the groomer or the owner.  I believe the dog has a voice and that it should be listened to.  I wouldn't thank you for pulling and tugging at my hair!

Doesn't she look sweet.


The Cloverleaf logo
Thought I'd start a page on Blogger for my new business Cloverleaf. 

I am a dog behaviourist who also offers grooming services in the Corby, Northants area.  I have been training dogs for about 15yrs and I have been involved with animals in a general professional level for over 30 years.  I believe that I am still learning as science comes up with something new every day.  

From behaviour support, 1-1 training to grooming my services also include some of the less obvious for dog trainers.  Being a qualified behaviourist means that I am able to offer grooming services to people with dogs that other groomers turn away.

My training principles are founded on psychological understanding, trust and a non-violent approach to changing behaviour through effective communication.  I use these priciples in all my animal handling whether training and behaviour, grooming or photography.

If you would like to know more about me visit my website, send me an email or call on 07905 387703