Things To Know Before Hitting Your Dog

I am often amazed at some of the search terms that bring people to the various websites we publish. I was thinking it’d be fun to list just a handful of the more unusual/worrying ones and then I thought, would that be breaching someone’s privacy?  I mean, if you WERE the person who typed ‘best way to hit my dog for bad’, you’d probably identify it as being you, right?

But then I though, nah!! If you ARE the person who’s looking for advice on the ‘best way to hit my dog for bad’ it’s highly unlikely that you’d be a regular reader of ours! So before we get on to the nitty gritty, let's take a look at some of the more unusual things people have typed in to the search engines before arriving at one of our sites…

5) 29 people found us having searched for ‘dog gives birth to human baby’. Hopefully we were able to provide the full details of whether or not a dog did indeed give birth to a HUMAN baby.

4) 30 people came through having searched for ’spider in colchester’. That was in relation to a story about a spider in Colchester. If you need to know more, you’ll have to search for it, just like the other 30.

3) ‘woman having sex with dog’ attracted hits. We publish websites for people who love dogs. We don't publish content best suited for some depraved arena of the damned. The story in question that drew the hits was indeed in relation to woman who had sex with a dog. Thankfully, she’s in jail for it. Let that be a lesson sickos!

2) 50 folks were interested enough to type ‘vampire dog’ in to Google. They obviously wanted to find out about the vampire dog. You know, the vampire dog?

1) Only one person (fortunately) typed ‘best way to hit my dog for bad’ – now lets take a little journey in to the mind of this charming individual. Their dog has obviously ‘been bad’. And the response to said dog’s ‘badness’ was to run on the interweb and type ‘best way to hit my dog for bad’ and then sit patiently waiting for Google to cough up the ‘best’ way for hitting a bad dog.

So, if you're thinking about hitting your dog for bad, here's what you need to know.


Just don't.


For Some Dogs a Grunt is Enough Reward

I was once writing an article  for K9 Magazine about how to stop dogs begging for food and why treat training (where the owner uses a food treat to ‘bribe’ the dog in to good behaviour all the time) can often be doomed to failure with certain dogs.

It reminded me of one of my very earliest awe inspired moments with a top, top dog trainer. A HPR man (he trained Pointers and Setters – Hunt, Point, Retrieve dogs).

I stayed at his cottage up in the northest part of northern Scottish land. In that time, he barely said a word to me. He was, I found out, a quiet type. Suited me.

In the morning when we first went out with his dogs, I had my tiny mind blown at just how adoring his dogs were toward him. From the get-go, he never said a word to them. He silently strode about the moorland with his dogs following him as if he was God himself. They really did think he was the very centre of their universe. I may as well have been invisible. These dogs never paid me even the most minute glance. HE was IT as far as they were concerned.

He put his dogs to work, using whistle commands only, and I got a great lesson. Less, in the way of noise, is more when it comes to dogs.

In the afternoon we did some actual training on a young dog (8 months old).

What struck me was the reward part of his process. A soft grunt, a very light touch under the dog’s chin and BOY that was enough for that dog to just melt.

I had to ask: “Is that it?” “That’s all you do to reward them?”

“Yes. At this age, they know when they’ve done good.” “When they’re very young puppies, I’m a little more animated.”

I imagined his version of animated is probably quite different to mine!.

He did explain to me that constant white noise in the dog’s ear is the enemy to getting sharp, decisive response from the dog.

He went on to give a description of two teachers and their different approach to the same pupils.

Teacher one comes in to the class. The students are rowdy. The teacher quietly tells them to be quiet. They ignore him. He raises his voice slightly “quiet people”. They ignore. He raises his voice some more. No response. He eventually yells. He gets a reaction.

What did the class learn?

The teacher only ‘means it’ when he yells. The first few instructions were just meaningless noises.

Teacher 2 comes in to teach the same students.

The class is rowdy.

He tells them to please be quiet. They ignore him. His response is to immediately walk around the class and hand detention slips to every pupil who had not listened to his instruction. Quietly, never raising his voice.

Guess what? The teacher who yelled, ultimately, had nowhere further to go. He’d reached his limit on the warnings. The quiet teacher didn’t need to get animated. He made a request, it was ignored, he took action and issued an immediate consequence. In future, when teacher 2 quietly asks his class to give him their attention, I’d imagine he’d get an immediate response. The same principle is true of reward.

My dog trainer friend thought the same way. He made it so his voice was used very economically. When he gave a command, it meant something. When he gave a reward, it meant something.

I’ve tried to incorporate his methods in the way I have trained dogs. To be quiet, to be calm, to reward at the right times but not to make a massive song and dance about it. Fair enough, I do go over and above a grunt in letting my dogs know I’m pleased with them – perhaps I’m just too much of a soft hearted soul not to – but I will always remember the lessons I learned on that Scottish hillside.

Lesson 1: White noise and constant, meaningless jibber jabber will ensure the effectiveness of your voice will wear off.

Lesson 2: If you issue a command that the dog understands and it is ignored, don’t issue the command again – that will only teach them that they didn’t mean it first time round.

Lesson 3: Reward, to a dog, is subjective. If you bring your puppy up on the belief that reward for good behaviour is a peanut butter covered dog biscuit, then as they get older you may struggle to get them to understand that a pat on the head is just as meaningful. A reward is positive reinforcement for a desired behaviour. That doesn’t mean the dog has a reward system based on the same values as our own – otherwise we’d need to be issuing them with six figure bonuses each Christmas for their restraints in not destroying our entire house.

Economy of noise. Well timed, meaningful rewards. Willingness to reinforce a command with an action.

Great lessons. Don’t be ignored just because you talk too much. Make your words count, your rewards count and make sure the noises you make toward your dog resonate with them. Personally, I wouldn’t consider a soft grunt and a gentle stroke under the chin much of a reward for spending my entire day criss-crossing hundreds of yards of challenging Scottish moorland. Or maybe I would. Depends who’s grunting at me I guess.

Should We Muzzle ALL Dogs In Public?

Over the past few years we’ve heard a number of alternative ‘dangerous dog’ solutions proposed. Ways and means by which we can prevent dog attacks from occurring. Ideas and suggestions which can help us rid ourselves of the menace of dog attacks.

One of the most common ideas put forward seems, on the face of it, to be entirely sensible: to muzzle all dogs and keep them confined to a lead at all times in public. Well, whilst it may seem sensible – unfortunately, it is not. In fact I speculate that if we want to literally DOUBLE the number of dog attacks, especially the most serious ones, the way to do it would be to muzzle and confine all dogs to leads in public. I shall hereby try and explain the flaws in this ideology. Continue reading Should We Muzzle ALL Dogs In Public?

The Puppy Farm Problem – Who’s at Fault?

As dog lovers, we must all, surely, feel a massive twang of pity and regret when we think of those puppies who have been bred for profit by breeders who are interested only in how to produce maximum volume of ‘stock’ with scant regard for the welfare, health or temperament of the animals they churn out month by month, year by year.

Puppy farms (or, as they are known outside of the UK – puppy mills) are alive kicking.

But how? Buy why?

Let’s see if we can find out…
I believe the media has been very generous to the people who, it could easily be argued, are REALLY responsible for the growth in puppy farms.

Puppy farmers aren’t the ONLY ones to blame for misery

The people I speak of are those who willingly dig in to their pockets and get their wallets out, to hand over cash to the cynical puppies- for-profits breeders – aka puppy farmers – who couldn’t care less about the fundamental principles of breeding good, healthy, well balanced dogs.

The puppy farmer only exists because people keep giving them money.

In all the coverage given to the puppy farming debate, have we missed the most obvious of points? That if people simply stopped fuelling this trade, we might actually get somewhere?

Don’t get me wrong, I have a huge moral and ethical objection to the people who trade in the suffering and misery of mass produced dogs. We can’t legitimately call ourselves a nation of animal lovers whilst we allow this to happen.

But, the fact is, these puppy farms would be a thing of the past if:

1) People refused to buy puppies from pet stores (and yes, I include the celebrities who buy from famous department stores in that – no GOOD breeder will EVER allow their stock to be ‘retailed’ in a pet store.)

2) People educated themselves on how to acquire a new dog, responsibly, rather than rushing out to buy a puppy from the first litter they see advertised in the free classified ads newspapers or websites.

Seriously, if those two things happened – the puppy farmer is left with no business. No trade. No customers. No money. No motivation to keep producing puppies.

Let’s think about it for a second; if people didn’t purchase from puppy farms and from pet shops, there’d be none.

So why do people do it?

Some of them are misguided, misinformed. OK, I accept that. But even so, in this year, in this day in age with ALL of the wealth of information that exists about how to obtain a dog responsibly, is it REALLY a valid excuse any more? I mean, really?

And for everyone who accidentally, unintentionally winds up putting money in to the pocket of puppy farmers, there’s certainly more folk who do it and who couldn’t really care less either way.

Whilst it is an ongoing disgrace that puppy farms are allowed to thrive and prosper in a country where laws, legislation and enforcement of such establishments have never really been properly crafted to a point where they have been forced out of business, whilst the demand exists – the puppy farmer will thrive.

If puppy farming is to be defeated, the first point of action needs to be in changing the attitude and behaviour of the people who are putting their money in to keep the puppy farms in business – that’s puppy buyers!

Look at this way; if there was ZERO demand for cocaine, would the governments of the world even need to make laws and spend BILLIONS on trying to combat traffickers around the globe? Of course not!

Zero demand for a product or service means the supplier is automatically redundant. They become extinct. It’s the laws of economics, supply and demand.

And let’s establish one thing, for the record, puppies are NOTHING like cocaine. So our failure to combat puppy farmers is interlinked, exclusively, with our failure to convince enough people of the right and wrong ways to acquire a dog ethically and responsibly. There is no chemical ‘high’ to be gained by buying a puppy from a puppy farmer.

How can we change this? How do we push for a culture change?

It’s going to be hard and I feel it’s going to take something big. But I am 100% convinced that even if we were to bring in laws that would legislate against puppy farms, if there is still a 10 or 20% demand from the same sort of people who acquiring their dogs from puppy farmers today, the laws themselves won’t be enough.

The media who carry adverts for puppy farmers, they are guilty as sin.

There are some big name, very profitable media businesses out there profiting from the misery of dogs. Whether they knowingly take adverts from puppy farmers or not, whether the fact that puppy farming in and of itself is NOT illegal (a disgrace in itself), surely there has to be an ethical, honest way to deny puppy farmers the oxygen of publicity? If people and businesses aren’t prepared to step up, how do we ever expect the public to understand that

  1. just because a litter of puppies is advertised in a ‘legitimate’ publication, it doesn’t mean the puppy has been bred responsibly
  2. just because a litter of puppies is for sale in a pet shop with a licence, it doesn’t mean the puppy has been bred responsibly
  3. just because a litter of puppies has been bred by a ‘licenced breeder’ it doesn’t mean the puppy has been bred responsibly

If we really want to tackle the blight of puppy farming, puppies produced in dank, squalid conditions with profit as the only motive, then we – all of us honest, caring dog owners – need to speak up, speak out and repeat the following mantra:

“If you buy from a puppy farm, you’re as guilty as the puppy farmer. If you don’t have the knowledge to avoid a puppy farmed dog, then you’re not yet ready to own a dog.”

What more do we need to do to, once and for all, put an end to the misery of puppies bred for profits?

The Best Dog Training Equipment in the World?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – this is the best dog training tool on earth…

I explain my reasons as to why I think (spoiler) is by far the most useful piece of dog training equipment money can buy.

And for the record, it’s not electrical, it doesn’t cost the earth and, if you look in the right places, you can even find one for free!


Dogs I Met Today

Did some filming for ITV Calendar today with this awesome trio of dogs

  • Frank – – this boy has been in rescue for some time. His age seems to be the main barrier we think for people, but we’d love to show there’s plenty of life, and love, left in him.
  • Lizzie – – this lovely girl came into rescue as an ex-cruelty case, so not much about her background can be said for legal reasons – but she came in very underweight. She is full of beans so needs a home where she can continue her training, because she loves to learn and be active. She might also thrive at a sport such as agility or flyball.
  • Biff – – given up by his owners, Biff is possibly the typical brindle Staffy in rescue. A lovely, loving boy, but his colour and breed make him and others like him a really common sight in rescue, which is a real shame.

Great dogs.

Sincerely hope each and every one of them gets a new home very soon.

Can Dogs Use Logic? A Highly Interesting Read

How about this for some fancy talkin'?

“ Chrysippus , albeit in other things as disdainfull a judge of the con- dition of beasts as any other Philosopher, considering the earliest movings of the dog, who comming into a path that led three sever- all wayes in search or quest of his Master, whom he had lost, or in pursuit of some prey that hath escaped him, goeth senting first one way and then another, and having assured himself of two, because he findeth not the tracke of what he hunteth for, without more adoe furiously betakes himselfe to the third; he is enforced to confesse that such a dog must necessarily discourse thus with himselfe, ‘ I have followed my Masters footing hitherto, hee must of necessity pass by one of these three wayes; it is neither this nor that, then consequently hee is gone this other .’ And by this conclusion or dis- course assuring him selfe, comming to the third path, hee useth his sense no more, nor sounds it any longer, but by the power of rea- son suffers himselfe violently to be carried through it. This meere logicall tricke, and this use of divided and co

So, it seems, for as long as there has been dogs, there has been vigorous debate about what makes them tick, how they think and what learning systems they deploy.

Arguing about dogs is an ancient pastime that precedes Julius Caesar, Alexander The Great, Jesus and even The Rolling Stones.

Read the whole piece here, if you're interested in some brilliant wordage and like reading about dog related theories, you'll enjoy it

My Theory on Jealousy in Dogs (It Doesn’t Exist!)

According to research by scientists, dogs can display signs of jealousy comparable to humans.

Personally, I don’t believe they do and I’ll explain more about that in a moment. But first let us look at the new research done in the name of science.

The experiment consisted of taking pairs of dogs and getting them to present a paw for a reward. On giving this “handshake” the dogs received a piece of food.

One of the dogs was then asked to shake hands, but received no food. The other dog continued to get the food when it was asked to perform the task.

The dog without the reward quickly stopped doing the task, and showed signs of annoyance or stress when its partner was rewarded.

To make sure that the experiment was really showing the interaction between the dogs rather than just the frustration of not being rewarded, a similar experiment was conducted where the dogs performed the task without the partner. Here they continued to present the paw for much longer.

Dr Frederike Range from the department of neurobiology and cognition research at the University of Vienna, says this shows that it was the presence of the rewarded partner which was the greater influence on their behaviour.

“The only difference is one gets food and the other doesn’t, they are responding to being unequally rewarded.” she said.

The researchers say this kind of behavior, where one animal gets frustrated with what is happening with another, has only been observed in primates before.

Studies with various types of monkeys and chimpanzees show they react not only to seeing their partners receiving rewards when they are not, but also to the type of reward.

The dog study also looked at whether the type of reward made a difference. Dogs were given either bread or sausage, but seemed to react equally to either. Dr Range says this may be because they have been trained.

“It’s through the fact they have to work for the reward, this confers it with a higher value,” she said.

Let’s take a look at this in smaller chunks.

The dog without the reward quickly stopped doing the task, and showed signs of annoyance or stress when its partner was rewarded.

Well of course. Surely we wouldn’t expect anything different here? The dog wants the food and it sees the other dog with the food and it gravitates toward the treat. This is quite logical, nothing ground breaking yet.

To make sure that the experiment was really showing the interaction between the dogs rather than just the frustration of not being rewarded, a similar experiment was conducted where the dogs performed the task without the partner. Here they continued to present the paw for much longer.

Yes, again this surely to be expected? Here we have a dog with no distraction, no food or other dog in the equation and it makes logical sense that most dogs will perform differently in a situation where no distraction – of any kind – is present. This, again, does not prove jealousy as we understand it.

Dr Frederike Range from the department of neurobiology and cognition research at the University of Vienna, says this shows that it was the presence of the rewarded partner which was the greater influence on their behavior.

Now we’re veering in to some strange territory. Let us imagine this experiment but with some different parameters.

We work with just one dog, no other dog in the area.

The dog gives its paw. Then a person will come in to the room and puts some food on the floor near to where the other dog would have been positioned.

Would the dog now be less interested in giving paw and more interested in food?

In my opinion, yes. Most likely.

Now repeat the same scenario but don’t have anyone put food down.

It’s my supposition that the dog would hold paw for longer.

No other dog present, no jealousy – merely distraction causing reaction.

The dog study also looked at whether the type of reward made a difference. Dogs were given either bread or sausage, but seemed to react equally to either. Dr Range says this may be because they have been trained.

Dogs like different foods. And scientists didn’t know this?

Take my own dog Mia. She loathes banana. My other dog, Chloe, on the other hand loves fruit. So if I’m eating a banana Mia will sit for a while, realise what I’ve got and then go and lie down. Chloe will stay sitting next to me, watching until I’ve finished. I’m not a scientist but I do know this – it’s……wait for it………

……because Chloe likes banana and Mia doesn’t!

Given that Mia is by far the greedier of my two dogs it proves that dogs clearly have different tastes the same as we do, this is – I would guess – pretty universal. Maybe your dog loves a type of food that my dogs don’t. Maybe your dogs go mad for aniseed whereas my dogs love cheese. Just a sec, wait. Not a good comparison – aniseed and cheese are pretty much universal ‘must eats’ on the canine menu (if your dog likes neither, please let me know – in the name of science).

So, if I set out to train Mia with bananas as my choice of reward for her, I’d achieve less impressive results – quite simply because Mia doesn’t like banana. She places a higher value on food that she likes, similarly toys and similarly different ways of being touched – Mia doesn’t like to be stroked on the head, Chloe will take a good head stroking for several hours. So we’ve still not established jealousy in canines with this research based on the report as presented on the BBC site.

Studies with various types of monkeys and chimpanzees show they react not only to seeing their partners receiving rewards when they are not, but also to the type of reward.

OK. Well I’m not a scientist but I do know that monkeys and chimps are NOT dogs. They can and indeed probably do have emotions much more closely aligned to the emotion we recognise in ourselves as jealousy, similarly they have different social structures and are NOT dogs. So the relevance of this is no more apt than saying: “Well humans have jealousy, why can’t dogs?”

Why do I not believe dogs share the emotion we recognise in ourselves as jealousy?

If we think about what jealousy is, if we are logical about what we know about this emotion it is incredibly complex and based on a whole level of social elements.

There are humans who feel jealousy based on widely different factors – is that an innate personality trait in them or is it nurtured? – we don’t really know.

We have humans within the autistic spectrum who simply do not and can not feel jealous and others within that same spectrum who can be wildly jealous. It’s true that even scientists themselves still haven’t universally agreed a definition for what jealously is! That’s how complex this particular emotion is. What does it take to be jealous? It takes two people very, very different reasons to be jealous, even people within the same family who share almost identical genetics. Yet put two people in a room and mimic the ‘paw test’ and we’d never get close to seeing universal results proving jealous responses in people – we’re too different and jealousy is an emotion that does not run through us all in an identical fashion. So why should it in dogs?

I absolutely do not doubt for a single, solitary second that they display behaviour which is very easy for us to compare with the emotion of jealousy that we recognise in ourselves. It could be displayed in acts of resource guarding, it could be manifested by dogs who are particularly greedy, territorial, pack motivated, rank motivated – but jealousy it is not. It is quite possible that I want to get my bosses’ job and sit in his chair, in his office and take home his salary but I am not motivated even in the slightest by jealousy, I simply want to do better for myself. Dogs the same. So a dog going to another dog getting rewarded is absolutely not proof positive – in my view – that we’ve cracked the canine jealousy code, we haven’t even cracked ours yet – and we can SPEAK!

Anthropomorphism is rife. Most of the time it’s harmless but sometimes it’s nothing more than us finding another way to say: “I don’t understand my dog but I’ll bracket a particular behaviour by benchmarking it against my own”. This is, plainly, crazy. And it can lead to problems.

It will be better for dogs and better for us if we make an effort to better understand them. But always, always, always start that voyage of discovery with one overriding caveat: Dogs are no more human than we are Zebra. They are dogs. They ARE unique and we love them for it. They are masters at making us think what they want us to think. Their understanding of human body language is an art we’re not even close to mastering. Take this example:

Person comes home. Dog has wrecked the post (again). There it is, all laid out scattered over the floor.

Owner opens the door.

“Huuuuhhh!!!! What have you done???”

“Oh, look at him. Look at that face. Look how guilty he looks.”

(wait for it)

“He know what he’s done!”

Sound familiar?

Of course he doesn’t ‘know what he’s done’ and he absolutely may ‘look guilty’ but that aint guilt he’s showing, that’s him spotting body langauage and going to fear/survival mode. He’s pretty much saying: “If you want me to look guilty, if that’s the pigeonhole you want to put me in right now, so long as it means I don’t come to any harm, I’ll do a better guilty repertoire than Laurence Olivier if it makes you happy babe!”