Tag Archives: dog training


The culture of canine care – is the UK lifestyle damaging our dogs?

Spike's World

Moving from the UK to Slovakia was sure to be a culture shock – the language barrier, the weather, the crazy traffic; it’s easy to think that life in Eastern Europe may be more stressful than back in the UK, but what about life for Slovak dogs?

When I first moved here I was amazed at how relaxed and well behaved the dogs are. Many pet parents walk the wide pavements with their dogs off the lead, or on a very loose lead. There is little to no barking, no dog aggression, no pulling on the lead, no jerking of leads, just lots of very chilled canines.


I can’t help wonder why there is this massive cultural difference between Slovakia and the UK… Now, I’m not saying that all dogs in the UK are crazed canines, but we certainly have a generation of dogs that in all honesty, are under exercised and under stimulated. The ‘weekend warrior’ pet owner with a dog that only sees the outside world at weekends (if it’s lucky) can be spotted a mile off buy conscientious dog owners.

Pulling on the flat collar attached to a lead can damage a dog’s delicate trachea

Here in Slovakia, it’s common to see dogs being walked at all times of the day and joining their pet parents in the local bars for drink or accompanying them to the market (even helping by carrying a basket!).  Could this greater integration of dogs into family life be the key to their well mannered behaviour?   It certainly is food for thought.

Basket dog

This beautiful German Shepherd was carrying a wicker basket to the market. Note the way it walks on a relaxed, loose leash.


Omega 3 – the super oil for brainy dogs

Omega 3 oils are the new trendy supplement in both the pet food and human market, but unlike many dietary fads, Omega 3 oils are a true ‘super supplement’.

Dogs are facultative carnivores and evolved from wolves (in fact they now share the same name, Canis lupus). Their wild ancestors would have thrived on a diet of wild game that had in turn lived on a diet of wild grasses. Omega 3 oils are made by grasses and algae and therefore, such grass fed animals are a rich source of the Omega 3 oil which dogs cannot manufacture on their own.

Fast-forward to today and sadly many of our farmed animals do not have access to pasture and therefore their own level of Omega 3 is limited.

What are Omega 3 oils?

Omega 3 oils are a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid and come in many forms.  Of these forms, ALA, EPA and DHA are the most talked about. People can convert the form known as ALA to the healthful EPA and DHA but dogs are not as proficient at this process and ideally need to consume EPA and DHA directly for optimum health.

Why are they so important?

Omega 3 oils have a host of health benefits but of key importance is its role in reducing inflammation, maintaining a healthy skin and coat and aiding brain function.

Many dogs suffer from the pain and of arthritis and a study of omega 3 supplementation found that arthritic dogs were better able to weight bare (Roush et al. 2010).

Many dogs, particularly Labrador retrievers can suffer from the uncomfortable skin condition, atopic dermatitis.  Studies show that enriching the diet with omega 3 oil can be beneficial in managing this condition (Gueck et al. 2004).

Omega 3 oils are great for brain development and can give a puppy a head start in life – it has been shown that puppies with high DHA levels were more readily trainable than those with low levels.  We all want a well behaved dog and it seems supplementation can be a simple way to make those formative months more productive (Kelley et al. 2004).

I was lucky enough to get my hands on some Sea Treats cold pressed salmon oil which contains both Omega 3 and Omega 6. The ever enthusiastic Roxy was chosen as a taste tester.

While most would mix this oil in with their pet’s food, I opted to see if it was tasty enough to be eaten from a spoon.


I think this picture speaks for itself!


For more information about Sea Treats Cold pressed Salmon oil, please visit, www.seatreats.co.uk


Gueck T., Seidel A., Baumann D., Meister A. & Fuhrmann H. (2004). Alterations of mast cell mediator production and release by gamma-linolenic and docosahexaenoic acid. Veterinary dermatology, 15, 309-14.

Kelley R., Lepine A., Burr J., Shyan-Norwalt M. & Reinhart G. (2004). Effect of dietary fish oil on puppy trainability. In: Proceedings.

Roush J.K., Cross A.R., Renberg W.C., Dodd C.E., Sixby K.A., Fritsch D.A., Allen T.A., Jewell D.E., Richardson D.C., Leventhal P.S. & Hahn K.A. (2010). Evaluation of the effects of dietary supplementation with fish oil omega-3 fatty acids on weight bearing in dogs with osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 236, 67-73.



Grounding your puppy the fun way!

Spike's World

The Tellington TTouch is a unique and rewarding way of working with all animals, however its name can be a little deceiving.  Many people believe the TTouch to be a form of massage; however this is not the case.  As well as the specific ‘TTouches’ there is also a whole array of ground exercises or ground work as it is known which can have a dramatic effect on mind and body.

Developed over 30 years ago by Linda Tellington Jones, TTouch offers ways to help animals overcome a wide variety of behavioural problems without the use of dominance, fear or force.  Using a combination of bodywork and ground exercises the TTouch aims to improve the physical balance of the animal, as physical balance is achieved so mental and emotional balance follows.  The behaviour of an animal can be linked to its posture in many ways, animals with tension through the hindquarters can often be afraid of loud noises such as fireworks, they may be reluctant to being picked up and placed on a veterinarians table and may be badly behaved in the car.  With the use of TTouch these patterns of tension can be removed along with the unwanted behaviour.

What is ground work and what does it do?

Ground work can be used for many species of animal to improve confidence, coordination, focus and physical, emotional and mental balance.  With the use of various, gentle obstacles which are taken at a slow pace, very often even the most hyperactive animals can be calmed and gain a willingness to learn and cooperate.

How does this work?

Every animal and person uses a sense known as proprioception; this sense gives them and us knowledge of where our bodies are in space.  For example if we close our eyes it is still possible to place your finger on your nose without having to look, for you know where both are.  The sensors for proprioception are located throughout the body, mainly in the joints, muscles and tendons.  By the use of slow, concentrated movements, these receptors are stimulated giving feedback to the body.  With this feedback comes a greater knowledge of the animals own body.  As they say, knowledge is power, and with this knowledge the puppy is able to choose a balanced posture and is far more aware of how it relates to its surroundings.  The body posture of growing puppies is seemingly ever changing, especially in the larger breeds.  Different body parts are growing at different rates, leaving the dog not knowing how it is supposed to walk and having to move in all number of ways.   It is also known that this proprioceptive input actually releases Serotonin, one of the happy hormones as they are known which in turns brings about a calm mental state.  The Ground exercises help in the stimulation of both brain hemispheres, which is so useful for a growing pup and can help to bring about a very well balanced individual.

Walking at whose speed?

Puppies and dogs in general, have a faster walking speed than we do; to walk with a loose lead is in fact very hard for dogs.  If you try walking very slowly, you will find yourself having to think much more about the placement of your feet.  Dogs are just the same except they have four feet to coordinate not just two!  With the use of various exercises it is possible to teach the puppy how to coordinate its legs and to move them independently and mindfully. Often a puppy’s challenging growth can cause areas of tension to appear as the puppy needs to weight its limbs differently, this in turn can cause anxious behaviour from the puppy often resulting in more tension, often around the jaw.  This tension will usually be shown with mouthing and chewing which the puppy is often scolded for, again causing anxiety and more tension.  When you look at this vicious circle as a whole, you can see that the puppy in fact had very little choice in what it was doing and that their can be a relationship between a growth spurt in one area of the body and a seemingly unrelated behavioural problem.

Here are two simple exercises to try with your puppy.

Different surfaces

This puppy is being led slowly over a variety of different surfaces, in this case the laminate surface of the desk, carpet tiles, and white plastic sheeting.  The non-habitual feeling of the new surfaces gives the puppy new sensations through its feet (which are more sensitive than you would expect) the more grounded the puppy is on its feet the greater confidence it will have in life, especially when it comes to new or unusual situations.  Notice how the puppy walks tentatively over the surfaces, placing each foot very carefully.  These exercises should be fun and he is being encouraged with toy, to him this is one big game!

p6 p7

Walk over poles

The use of walk over poles encourages greater coordination and proprioceptive input, it is essential that they are step over poles and NEVER raised into jumps, for this could damage a puppy’s delicate bone structure.  What you use us is up to you, pieces of dowel, rolled up tea towels, cardboard tubes anything, just use your imagination but keep it safe.

We are all familiar with the mental experiences we need to give puppies in order to encourage them to become well balanced adult dogs, however with the use of the TTouch a whole new avenue of physical stimulation is being opened up.  By using the exercises shown, your puppy can be helped to mature quicker and with less of the issues so commonly experienced.

The walk over poles being used here are a piece of TTouch equipment known as a wand (though you can use almost anything as long as it is safe)  The puppy here is learning to carefully place each foot in turn.  As puppies have very short attention spans, it is important to make sessions short so as not to overexert them.


Many people are amazed at the differences the TTouch can make to adult dogs; indeed it is proving invaluable to many rescue centres across the country.  If puppies can be offered this simply and revolutionary work from a young age, the possibilities are endless.  Breeders and rescue centres with newborn young can make huge changes to puppies and their future development.  In rescue centres, where socialisation of puppies can be hard to the risk of catching diseases, the TTouch work offers an opportunity to safely develop their minds.  Above all TTouch should be a fun and enjoyable way for every one of us to positively affect the dogs of the future.

Belly lifts

Giving your puppy the Magic TTouch

Spike's World

Everybody loves puppies!  With their playful ways and cute appearance you can’t help but want to wrap them in cotton wool with many of the maternal feelings we have for our own children.  However in all too short a length of time they grow to become adult dogs and it is our duty to give them as good a start as we can.  In addition to puppy classes the Tellington TTouch can be extremely helpful in raising a well adjusted adult dog.

The Tellington TTouch is a unique and rewarding way of working with all animals. Developed over 30 years ago by Linda Tellington Jones, TTouch offers ways to help animals overcome a wide variety of behavioural problems without the use of dominance, fear or force.  Using a combination of bodywork and ground exercises the TTouch aims to improve the physical balance of the animal, as physical balance is achieved so mental and emotion balance follows.  The behaviour of an animal can be linked to its posture in many ways, animals with tension through the hindquarters can often be afraid of loud noises such as fireworks, they may be reluctant to being picked up and placed on a veterinarians table and may be badly behaved in the car.  With the use of TTouch these patterns of tension can be removed along with the unwanted behaviour.

Puppy brains are like sponges yet are beginning to show adult brain waves by the age of 8 weeks. Socialisation not only helps to influence emotional responses but also has been shown to increase the numbers of neural connections made within the brain, thus increasing the dog’s potential for learning.  A study was carried out with horses whereby their brain wave pattern were measured whilst being TTouched, consistently it was shown that all four brain waves (alpha, beta theta and delta) were produced when being TTouched.  Petting, stroking and brushing produced no change, only the circular TTouched produced this amazing change in the animal’s brain waves.  It has been proven that puppies raised in a stimulating environment have an increased ability to cope with stress in later life, so if we are able to stimulate our puppy’s brains with TTouch then the potential to increase their ability to learn is enormous!

Just like children, puppies have little idea of what the world expects of them and how to behave, ‘bad’ puppies are often showing signs of worry or anxiety or possibly reacting to pain or discomfort in their own bodies.  These behaviours are reactive and instinctive; nature governs how each animal will respond to the situation.  Some puppies will roll over in a submissive type gesture others will run away while others will mouth or bite.  By using TTouch it is possible to bring animals into a state of awareness whereby the animal is brought into a thinking state rather than the instinctive reactive mode normally seen.  This ‘thinking’ state does away with the need for the harsh, negative behaviour modification methods we are all trying to move away from.

As well as learning all about the world around them, puppies are also on a voyage of self discovery, if one considers how long a human baby has to learn how to coordinate its limbs of it’s own will it is amazing that a puppy can do all it can in such a shot space of time.  It is no wonder therefore ,that in the process some body parts get left behind of forgotten about, resulting in rather bumbling gangly puppies!  With the use of TTouch bodywork we can give the body feedback as to what is where allowing the animal to achieve a much more balanced posture and mind from day one.

Ear TTouch

Taking the ear in the direction it grows (Upwards for pointy eared dogs or horizontal for floppy eared dogs) and gently stroking from base to tip, with each stroke covering a different part of the ear you can soon help to calm an excitable or nervous puppy.  This is especially useful when you first take your puppy home to calm it without promoting an unhealthy attachment which will prove hard to rectify later in life.

Ear TTouch

Notice how this puppy is being settled with another hand, the use of the second hand helps to give a feeling of containment.  It is very important not to hold the puppy down at any time as it should always have the opportunity to move if it wishes.

Mouth TTouch

Many puppies will be mouthy or licky and most will go through a chewing stage.  Licking and mouthing are often emotional responses to fear or anxiety as can chewing objects. Mouth TTouches involve making small, light circular movements of the outside of the dogs mouth, with persistence you should soon be able to make the same light, circular movements on the INSIDE of the puppy’s mouth on the gums (Your fingers may need to be moistened with a little water first) This helps to calm to anxious, emotional behaviour commonly seen in new puppies.  The mouth TTouch also helps reduce the irritation caused during teething, reducing the puppy’s wish to chew every hard object you own!

Mouth work

This puppy is lying down enjoying the Mouth TTouch; however she still finds it rather unusual.  The Mouth TTouch is very light and not uncomfortable; dogs will often push you away to start with simply because it’s a strange sensation.  The Mouth TTouch is all the more important for puppies to learn to accept having their mouths handled for tooth brushing and vet visits.

Tail TTouch

As I sad puppies have to learn about their bodies in a relatively short space of time, often they are still unsure where they start and where they end!  By using the Tail TTouch we can give a puppy information as to where it is in space not only helping the puppy to balance but helping to prevent the usual clumsiness so common in adolescent dogs.

The tail TTouch involves very gently moving each vertebra from the base to the tip. I can’t stress enough how gentle these movements are as the tail is very delicate.  The Tail may also be gently circled at the base.  The aim isn’t to see how far the tail can be moved but to gently give the body information as to where its tail is and what it does!  It is also said that certain endorphins, or ‘happy hormones’ are released when the tail is moved in this way, helping to calm a puppy.

An overly anxious puppy with a continually wagging tail can be calmed by gently holding the tail, causing the dog to stop wagging, rather like a hysterical person made to sit to calm down, stopping the movement of the tail often results in an instantly calm puppy.

Tail TTouch

After an initial confusion, most puppies love the Tail TTouch, this puppy has become totally relaxed at the gentle movements.  When the Tail TTouches is being done, it is useful to feel for kinks and bumps as these can indicate levels of tension in other places.

Belly lifts

Have you ever noticed how you get ‘butterflies in your stomach’ when you feel worried? Puppies can suffer the same, often holding a great deal of tension in their abdomen often resulting in vomiting especially in the car.  Ideally we would like a puppy’s experience of the car to be as positive as possible to prevent problems in later life.  By using a small towel or your clasped hands to make slow, gentle lifting movements, you can work to reduce the tension through the abdomen.

Belly liftsBelly lifts

This puppy is having gentle Belly lifts with a piece of kitchen towel, the lifting movement is tiny, only 10mm of so.  Notice how, in picture two, the puppy has relaxed his spine allowing his back to be much more flexible, also he is now standing more squarely with both hind feet being level, as apposed to having one foot behind him as in picture one.

The TTouch offers a fun opportunity for the whole family to have a positive influence of the life of their new family member.  Children take to the TTouch movements with ease and it can be a fantastic way to teach a young child to interact with a puppy, counteracting their instinctive need to grab and cuddle!  Each TTouch movement is complete and every TTouch will make a difference.

Above all remembering that your puppy is often behaving instinctively and knows no other way,  with guidance, a lot of patience and the power of TTouch we can work to make the puppy phase run as smoothly and be as fun as possible, with a well adjusted adult dog at the end of it!

Dr Sophia Yin

It was with a heavy heart that the world learned of the tragic passing of Dr Sophia Yin. Dr Yin was a true ambassador for evidence based dog training and her work in teaching stress free handling for dogs and cats should be high on every veterinarian’s reading list.

It is true that we all too often impose our will on our animal companions through force, simply because we can and because our animals are forgiving enough to allow us to do so. However, Dr Yin’s philosophy of developing a relationship with our animals based on trust is one that can benefit both veterinarians and their patients.

As an example, here we see desensitisation to used to make the process of nail trimming a far less fearful experience. It would have been just as simple to muzzle this dog and perform the procedure yet it would have likely resulted in a greater battle in the future.

Dr Yin was known for her tireless effort in educating the public on the misconceptions surrounding dominance theory. Most modern dog trainers and behaviourists understand that the classic view of pack theory and a strict dominance hierarchy has been disproved and her work was likely instrumental in developing the huge community of evidence based dog trainers we have today.
In the below documentary we are fortunate enough to hear her valued thoughts on this emotional subject.

Dr Yin’s passing also highlights the pressure of working in a compassion-hungry environment in which veterinarians must care for both their animal patients and their human guardians. While the world mourns her passing we must all strive to continue her mission in every human/animal interaction we are lucky enough to be involved with.