Thank you to everyone who visits this site and my fb page.
I hope it’s useful. I’d welcome any ideas for development of either.
Unfortunately due to ill health I can’t take on new face to face clients at the moment.
I am however launching a new online innovative training , behaviour and wellness service, enabling access to all, irrespective of location, personal, financial and time constraints, confidence and prior experience.
Watch this space !
Of course I will still be providing the occasional workshops both in Taunton but also available for hosting.
The Canine Body Language course on 29 Jan in Taunton will provide a detailed and deep exploration of the nuances of canine communication.
I also have a suite of other workshops including :
Reactive Rascals. A new look at supporting our dogs with reactive behaviours.
Anxious and awesome – understanding the biology of fearful emotions and reactive behaviour and suport to develop resilience and confidence.
Canine enrichment – a fun practical session looking at ways to enrich our dogs lives. Whatever their need , or ours. A chance to enable every dog to “be more dog”
More to be announced.
Please share this website with friends and also the Facebook group.
Actually my boy IS Grumpy Genghis! He is also a fearful Fido and Anxious Annie, all these apply to him at different times. He has been called REACTIVE or I label him with the term “Having reactive behaviours”. This is not really very useful, everyone has a different vision of what reactive means, looks like, why it occurs, what should be done to “stop it” .
His behaviour is actually an expression of an emotional state. An emotion in that moment, or linked to past emotional responses which build and have become anxiety and stress.
The why is less important than the how can we help him. It is however useful to know, as it can explain the nuances of his specific responses. His very strong fear of black dogs, of Labradors. This is likely to be the type of dog which he had a one off encounter with and which began his journey from happy friendly young dog, to a dog who is fearful of the world.
So how can we help dogs like Genghis who have struggled to come to terms with an event which made him fearful and anxious ? Who look from the outside aggressive, angry, dangerous.
Getting some professional help is key. As is finding like minded skilled and knowledgeable friends. Supporting a fearful dog is isolating and emotionally draining. It is embarrassing being at the other end of a lead to a snarling, shouting, lunging dog or one who is cowering , too scared to move, or barking and backing away, as people TUT and suggest you muzzle or don’t go to places nice dogs go, who suggest you take control and show him who is boss. None of this is supportive or helpful, but luckily many of those comments are borne of the ignorance of what is actually happening, I was once that person.
What does the term “Reactive Behaviour mean? It is simply a response to something that is out of proportion to the level of threat or excitement. This can include lunging barking growling snapping biting, it can include freezing or rolling over, it can include super excitement or frustration.
How can we help ? Help our own fearful anxious and grumpy, over responsive dogs , but also help those who encounter us to understand the everyday struggles we have?
The Yellow Dog Scheme can get the message out, dogs wearing yellow ribbons or leads indicate a give me space. Space is the most important every dogs space need is different, so when asked to STOP or you see someone gently but quickly moving their dog away, please keep your dog away so we can keep ours emotionally safe.
For those of us supporting a grumpy fearful, anxious dog or their people, there are a huge range of ways to help.
Behaviour support from a knowledgeable skilled positive focused trainer or behaviour consultant. to assess your partnership and tweak some handling skills, offer ideas for helping the emotional response, offer you some emotional support too.
Learning about the biology of the emotional and physical responses. the neurology of reactive behaviours
Understanding THIS dog, Be your dogs GEEK.
Understand the nuances of Canine Communication and Body Language so you can hear rhe dogs messages but also, most importantly, read the communication of other dogs you encounter, to make that decision to move away fast or to ask for the owners support.
Advocate for the dog.
Offer masses of chances to have calmness (see the blog Calm Dogs are Happy Dogs) . Did you know it can take 72 hours for a dog to recover from an event? Us too!
Learn some games and activities at home , in a safe place, to play in tricky situations.
Offer alternatives to walks regularly, have fun at home, play games, do some fitness fun, have some forage and snuffle time, learn some scenting techniques, learn some more cues or tricks. 15 mins fun or sniffing or foraging is as tiring as an hours walk, add in some fitness activities and you will have a less worried and fit dog, without adding to their anxiety bucket.
Find your local Secure Field for safe off lead fun.
Find out and use some of the many holistic therapies and practices that can ease anxiety and tension, such as TTouch, K9 Massage, Herbal Support, Bach Flower remedies, Botanical Self Selection.
If you would like to know more and are local or can travel to Somerset I will be offering a whole day workshop to help you understand more about all I have summarised. This will be especially helpful for professionals in all dog services to learn more about Scaredy dogs so they can help them and their families to be safe.
Please contact me for more information.
If you would like specialist , experienced 1-1 support or just a chat with someone who understands, about your dog or one you work with, then I offer face to face meetings or a skype or electronic session then have a look at the Services. I am happy to have an initial chat and offer some general help too.
My dog is scared of fireworks (and other noises) and help for other seasonal events
Why do some dogs feel firework fear?
For some the noise and also the concussivness of modern fireworks is scary, initiating a biological fear response.
This can happen any time with any dog, even if they have been ok before.
The “ noise” can physically cause discomfort as the dog is sensitive to the air waves, the ground conclusiveness as well as the sound . Dogs hear 4x the distance we do. They pick up higher frequencies than us and the pitch can be excruciating.
They are erratic and unpredictable, both within a specific display and between displays ( which now happen from October to January . They seem to stop and then start up .. often louder or a different sound . it is the unpredictability which is so scary.
Dogs who are easily sound spooked are more likely to become firework fearful.
Managed Exposure and a programme can help young dogs and puppies manage the range of novel sound better.
NEVER “flood” by forcing them to watch
The more confident the dog is in the first exposure or in subsequent ones the more “bombroof” they will be. This is true of subsequent events, the happier the dog is the easier they will cope.
Dogs who are generally anxious or fearful will cope less well with novel sounds.
Dogs with any pain or who are unwell will cope less well .
The emotional state in the household around this time also impacts, try to be calm and jolly, if others are responding to the noise fearfully or if there has been stress and anxiety generally could add to the anxiety.
What does fear look like ?
A dogs trust survey found 72% of dogs were adversely affected with 10 % seriously impacted.
What does canine fear and anxiety ( stress) look like?
Lip licking, yawning
Panting when no exercise or not over heated
Being “naughty” or “stubborn” (refusing to listen or obey)
Very flighty or over excited, easily goes “over the top”
Trembling , shaking or drooling
Barking whining howling
Clingy, or wanting to hide away
Seeking touch when usually not keen to be handled or refusing touch when usually snugly
Urinating defecating or vomiting for no obvious cause
Learn to read what is usual for your dog. What is their normal behaviour or response to the environment, what is their default like? Learn to read body language .
You cannot reinforce fear by offering appropriate support, If your dog seeks comfort give it, if they seek solitude enable it with your support .
Make sure all health conditions are under control, both physical and emotional , pain can impact fear thresholds . Get a vet check , especially ears.
Make a Plan
Get the whole family and any friends and neighbours involved. Share the plan so everyone knows .
Check up on local displays and note the times and days. Local FB groups can be helpful here. If you know local neighbours always have a party or use them on other winter occasions visit and explain if possible and ask for some warning so you can put your plan into action.
Change your walk plan if you usually walk in the evening in the winter. Go during the daylight hours (before 16:00 ) or early morning. If this is not possible then miss walks for a few days around this time – don’t be caught out it could have a detrimental impact.
If you have to go out use a double lead on collar and harness in case dogs slips out in their fear and flight. Do not let off lead at all.
If you have low gates and fences make sure you go into the garden on a lead … try and get the after dinner poo and pee done early, feed early (or use in games … see below)
Try not to leave your dog home alone, if this is not possible then make sure your plan includes how you will enable them to be safe without your support. Or arrange for a sitter who knows the plan
Plan for being engaged with your dog on the main display days (this is usually between 17:00 and 23:00 )
What to include in your plan
A safe place or den space in case they need it
A walk routine
Get some special food
Make a list of games and enrichment ideas to play and gather the resources ready. Get a container with a LOT of treat sized food ready … no bigger than a little finger nail. Ideas: cheese, sausage, dried sprats, dried chicken, cooked chicken or other meat.
Some fun Kikopup games, also look at some of her basics training, all positive and recommended .
Consider a therapeutic option – remember there will be a range of what your dogs may respond to, what works for one will not for another, this is because their emotion is different in each case.
I RECOMMEND A CHECK WITH A VET: ESPECIALLY IF YOUR DOG HAS OTHER MEDICATIONS OR CONDITIONS
Bach rescue remedy – very effective for most animals (including us) it is not necessary to have the more extensive dog version. It works with fear of both known and unknown origin and shock. Botanical selections, specifically oils.
BE CAREFUL – do not vaporise, do not add to the dog, or its bedding (use a separate cloth the dog can choose to engage with
make sure there is an exit.
Do not use with children under 3 or pups under 6 months.
After a many requests and a good deal of successful voluntary electronic support across the UK and indeed globe I have decided to offer a virtual service.
The Electronic Consultation can cover Training, Therapy or Integrated Training and Bach/Distance Reiki and Healing).
Following an in depth written consultation from the Guardian, there will be a discussion around the issues raised. This can be done in a format chosen by the Client, including: email, Skype, Personal Message, WhatsApp or phone.
The initial Consultation will take around and hour for planning and up to an hour discussion at an agreed time. Following this we will put a plan together to initiate the Training and or Therapy.
There will be an open contact via email or PM throughout the following week where the client can share success and further challenge, including video and photos.
There will be 3 following formal weekly checki-ns; at each the progress will be assessed and the plan modified as needed.
There will be an option for booking further ongoing support.
In some cases (within 1 hour drive of Taunton) it may be useful for a meet up in person. Travel expenses will be charged .
This service is not suitable for deep behaviour issues and any that seem outside the remit of this service will be referred to a Behaviourist.
Common training issues can be covered.
Without the personal input , in line with the agreed plan, progress will be limited.
Some needs can not be supported electronically in some cases,.
Being Calm is a much overlooked emotional state for our modern dogs. We have hurried lives ourselves often and this can impact upon them. They can have a quiet , but often not always calm , day and then everyone comes home, it is noisy or busy , anxieties of our day are shed in a cuppa or a glass of wine as we relax, we may walk the dog to relax ourselves and give them the exercise they need but are we engaging? Are we watching for THEIR needs on the walk? Often I see walkers on phones or for a 20 mins not engaging once with their dog.
For an anxious or unsettled dog, or a dog with medical issues, being naturally calm is not their default.
As for Puppies!! Well we all know what happens when they don’t get enough calm time. They become demanding, shouting, attention seeking and bitey. This can soon become a learned way, develop a behaviour to access attention or “feel better” and sometimes develop into a dog for whom THIS is a default.
So What can we do ? How can we get this? Just a few images of how my dogs are encouraged to get some rest in between fun (and that is the key).
I am privileged to be working with a range of colleagues to support dogs to gain this calmness. Currently I am working with the Absolute Dogs Team to become a ProTrainer. Their view is that Calm is essential.
“Calmness s a concept that cant be overrated”
“Arousal levels is made up of lots of little exciting, anxiety inducing or worrying events until their [stress] bucket is full”. [and their behaviour becomes “Hyper” or over the top]
“Teaching Calm default, a calm existence, a generally calm way of being keeps the [stress] bucket empty”
[by using a calm protocol, having more happy fun events than excitable ones and complementary support] “When something arousing/challenging happens the bucket doesn’t overflow – it tops up a bit because the dogs brain has learned to calm to empty it”
(quotes from Tom Mitchell from the Absolute Dogs Programme.)
So how do we know if our dogs arousal (excitement, anxious) bucket is overflowing or close to doing so?
What are the signs? Do you recognise any of these?
Lunging and barking Destructive Barking at the slightest thing
separation anxiety Not listening (or hearing) what you say mouthing or biting
attention seeking with any of the other behaviours, not giving up
humping – toys, people, cushions, air … zoomies not eating
What can we do?
There are 3 types of calm according to the Absolute Dogs Team.
Encouraging Calm (we call it “settle”) catch them genuinely settled and offer a little treat or a calm touch eventually adding a cue helps to get them settled in an environment they find arousing. I love to add music to this time, adding a sensory memory that can be invoked . This is a great way to help calm whilst you are absent or during the night or in another room. Our favourites are Islands by Ludovico Einaudi , The Essence Deva by Premal, The Music Within by Sat Darshan Singh, Anand Bliss Snatam Kaur.
Creating a set of uninterrupted spaces – different specific rooms or beds creates a Calmness Protocol a default multisensory quiet place.
Rest Perhaps the most important of the “Calmness Triad”. A crate, or bed, a safe place. No play here, no interruptions, a place to choose to sleep. Dogs need lots of sleep to process learning and the myriad of sensory inputs during their day. Children need to respect this place and we as adults can use this for the dog to take time away from children or busy homes.
In busy homes a crate cover may help Jo Pritchard (Paws boutique Tamworth) specialises in products to help with creating calm have a look at her beautiful Crate covers
Time out – rest , boundary games (see Absolute Dogs Ebook). Value the time in these places, short at first then extend until it becomes a choice, like Tilly above.
Game on- Game off – have fun to tire the mind, managed arousal, fun, but use a start and stop cue… “1…2…3…GOOOO ” and finish with a calming stroke ” all done” .
“Ditch the Bowl” use the majority or even all their dry food allowance (or an alternative for fresh fed dogs) for the games and activities, working for your fun is satisfying and tiring.
Exercise and fitness – manange both the high arousal, fun and fast activities with the managed calm fitness Lola Loves the balance board or even an empty box !
What about the over-aroused, anxious or dog with reactive behaviours ? How else can we help?
As an Animal Therapist and Integrated Trainer I see the signs above of over-arousal or reactivity most days either professionally or out an about. I often suggest trying one of a range of interventions wither commercially available or as one of my modalities.
For information here are some ideas:
For a whole range of information about the following and some shared posts on a range of Canine wellness and therapies have a look at our partner FB page
Bach Flower Therapies for dogs with historical trauma or a general anxiety or fear, these gentle therapeutic essences can be combined into a personalised recipe to enable the body and soul to work with the needs, I have seen amazing results , have a look on the FB page for Bailies story ...and Genghis below – you can see his peace.
Reiki Especially combined with Bach and energy balancing can help manage the calm in over anxious dogs.
Botanical Self Selection – also known as Zoopharmacognosy. This is very powerful to give the dog some choice about the herbs and aromatics they wish to choose for their specific needs. Every session I take part in is a joy to see and then the calm from the animal after is a joy to see. Look at Genghis just relaxing into Jasmine and Valerian.
Crystal therapy –some dogs are amazing at being clear about the crystals they need and wearing them as an attachment to a banadana or cage attached to the collar can really help.
Jo at Paws Boutique is currently developing a Bandana to carry a crystal safely or a piece of muslin with a Bach remedy or a self selected essence. We are working with her – watch this space
I also work alongside Niki at the Norfolk Apothecary and her AniScentia range. The products are mostly Organic and all self sourced and she creates each product personally using her skills as a Master Herbalist and Aromologist/aromatherapist as well as many years experience as an Animal Therapist.
I have tried all these anxiety and calming products with great success for my own and clients dogs.
My Animal Matters – Rachel Windsor Knott Is also another brilliant source of not only Self Selection information but very high quality products. Aimed at both Therpaists and especially interested Pet owners her shop and website and FB pages are a great source of information.
In the UK this week temperatures have plummeted from the average for the time of year at around 7C to daytime of -3+ C and a wind chill of -10C+ with a significant snowfall for many and where there is less, pavements are bitterly cold.
Not much fun for us, schools are closed due to the injury risk (A&E really does not need the extra work) . Children are thoroughly wrapped up and a limited time given on their outdoor play at home. We would not take out our very young children and are urged to check on our old people. We have been urged to bring in our outdoor pets such as roaming cats and rabbits etc.
For the young and the majority of our dogs this is the first time in around 10 years most have experienced this weather.
So for our dogs especially, those lovely pets we snuggle at night in our centrally heated homes, this is quite a temperature shock. Their feet are not prepared for this level of biting icy cold – this is where they sweat where there are many nerves to help them make sense and stay away from danger, as our hands and feet are.
So when I see and hear of dogs who are just not prepared for this unwilling, not of choice, trudging through the snow, shivering or picking feet comically, with unhappy disengaged companions my heart goes to them, just “because it is walk time” often early morning or late afternoon.
My dog (above) chooses on these days what we will do. On the whole he rushes out pees and poos has a roll around and a little bounce (he is after all a snow dog by DNA, not used to the temperature but still has a love of the white stuff locked away) then he rushes in a gets warm, snoozing on his sofa until the next pee break or I get the toys out.
Yesterday we had an enforced walk out, we could not stay at home to keep a tradeperson and he safe. It was cold but not too cold and as you see not much ice or snow. He rolled and bounced for around 10-15 mins , then slowed down, we came home then, he rested the rest of the day until tea time when he asked for some games. It took him hours to recover, he has arthritis. He will not “go for a walk ” until he and I feel it is comfortable for him. He will go out and engage in the environment, he will have plenty of exercise and fun and tiring activity. All in the comfort of my home, where he is medically comfortable.
Like wise my health puppy will get to choose what she does and how long for, she likes the snow and we play with her for as long as she chooses or we feel is ok for her delicate paws. Then for her, some training time interspersed with games and fun and rest, learning to calm.
So what do we do instead? The list is endless and these are some ideas, this is not exhaustive , these are some of their favourites:
chase with a toy , or fetch the rolling ball, waiting until released (3-2-1 … GOOOO) is our current skill to be learned.
boundary games (again self control) being rewarded for choosing to stay on the bed or go on and wait to be released, all fun and games. A new skill is waiting for their turn to be released for a game by name.
tricks, our favourites: spin, leg weaves, 2 paws or balance any 2 or 3- using different places and textures (both great for body condition).
Noise box -get the recycling ready – boxes, card tubes, plastic bottles, paper, add some biscuits into any of them put into a large box or tray sprinkle in some more (or better still grated cheese or another fun food) and make a cuppa and let them exercise themselves! This is a great way to feed biscuit/kibble fed dogs their breakfast.
Snuffle mats or treat search –snuffle mats are fleece covered mats (or use a loopy bathroom mat or towel) with a sprinkling of fun foods, breakfast or left over bits of human meat or grated veg. Treat search, hide it let them find it.
Practice our basics sit, down, stand, leave, wait, walk by my side, leash on and off, release words for play. What words do they know FIRST TIME/ INSTANTLY? They all need reminders. Practice Stay from room to room until called. How long can they stay ? How far? can you make it longer, further? What vocabulary does your dog know?
Behaviour chains put together tricks (above) and commands and wait times in basics. This is one of our favourites .
OUR two favourites? The Orientation Game – Use a handful of their food allowance or some favourite but healthy food. sit on the floor or on a low chair settee. throw out one piece, they chase then as they look back throw another and repeat, they soon learn to look back to you for what happen next. This has transformed our Loose Lead Walking and Recall. Proximity chase a similar one but on the move… drop a bit and run as they catch you, drop and run, repeat … play this is in the snow too for a quick exercise !
It is worth noting that research and science is showing that 15 mins a day games as above is worth an hour of traditional “tiring out”. Also remember to intersperse different levels of play so they don’t get too hyper, adding in calm time and massage or stroking.
It needs engagement between the participants and deepens relationships, impacting on Loose lead walking and Recall – the issues trainers like us get as the primary request for help.
How do I have time to do this? In short sharp sessions, 10 bits of food at a time, no more than 5 mins mostly 3 mins. choosing from the list to play not everything! Mixing up fun and furious with calm and quiet and having time off, as well as massage and TTouch. This is the time it takes to boil the kettle for your hot chocolate, or boil up your soup!
Have fun, stay safe and put your companions needs up there first, rather than an increasingly outdated view of canine exercise. For more information or help or just to share your fun please visit @peacefulpawstherapy Facebook page or message me.
I am qualified and accredited to The Institute of Modern Dog Trainers. I have been accredited as an Absolute Dogs Pro Trainer, specialising in a Concept ad Games Based approach to learning. I am delighted to become a Dog Training College (DTC) approved Instructor.
I am also a Qualified Therapeutic Practitioner in Animal Healing, Animal Reiki and Bach Flower Remedies. Working as a therapist with all animals and specialising in support for Dogs and their Guardians with a range of emotional and positive method training needs.
Concept/Games based Learning is a brand new way of looking at canine learning and interaction. We look at the needs of the dog and its owner in terms of supporting “concepts” to be learned or improved. This is brain based learning, dog centred. It is particularly suitable for whole family engagement. the concepts are worked upon using 3 minute games (the optimum time for learning to be embedded) followed by calm (Have a look at my blog on the importance of calm ( Calm Dogs are Happy and Healthy Dogs – Something you dream of ?) and processing time. the games are fun and transferable and transportable.
For further information about the journey to this point please look a the Blogs attached below.