Photo by bin Ziegler on

There are many fad diets for humans (I have tried a few!), this trendy eating has crossed over into dog food.

Along with the trend  toward the raw diet comes the grain free and hypoallergenic diets. Great if you have dog with food allergies, but it is rare for a dog to truly have an allergy to grain. The only people gaining from this trend are the dog food manufacturers and those  that sell it. 

Please do not take feeding advice from people who are profiting from your choices, speak to the experts, your Vet, animal nutritionists or other professional! 

I asked my Vet on her thoughts on feeding grain free and hypo allergenic diets and the message was very clear, Don’t! There is now evidence that dogs are suffering with heart problems as a result of zero grain diets. Check out the evidence here:

Breeds that are generally not prone to heart issues are developing problems as a result of the lack of grain in their diet. A diet fed because the owner believes they are giving the best possible for their dog. Dog owners are being fed misinformation, pun unintended! 

In my youth the only dog foods available were mostly tinned or raw, next was the arrival of the complete food and now we are back to raw again! I stopped using raw back in the 80’s, the Dobermann’s I lived with came down with campylobacter, one of the few bacteria that can pass between dog and man. My dogs and my whole family had to be  treated, not a good experience.  That would still be one of my main reasons for not feeding raw meat to this day. 

This link gives clear scientific information that grain free is not good for most dogs.

Skip passed the advertising at the top, but do notice how many dog food producers are paying to sell you the idea! Very expensive dog foods, food with large profits! 

In my early days of doing my job, the main problem I came across with dog foods was the additives and colouring the producers put in the food to give a high “tail wag” factor (as it was known in the trade). The affect on the dogs was hyper activity and crazy behaviour, much as feeding children high sugar treats. Now there is a new era and a new problem and many of them are leading to health issues, the same ones we humans suffer from too!

One of the reasons dogs have adopted us and the relationship has worked so well is because they do really well on table scraps and leftovers, the dog is a professional opportunistic scavenger, they can thrive on what they can scavenge. 

The biggest behaviour issue I see today is related to over feeding high quality food and treats that the dog no longer has to earn. What dog is going to work for a living when they can kick back on the sofa and eat meat anytime they like? What treat is going to be worth working for, coming  back to us for? 

Couple that with the another new trend of scatter feeding and why have a dog at all, because they certainly will not be interested in being with you on a walk, why should they when all the best stuff comes along so easily! 

Here is googles definition of Scatter feeding: 

Scatter feeding is a way to elongate your dog’s meal times by scattering their food over a wide area such as around your garden or house and provide mental stimulation at the same time. WHY? It slows down feeding for dogs that guzzle their meals. As a low arousal activity it can calm highly strung or stressed dogs.”

Firstly with any young dog I would use every piece of their food for training, teaching my puppy to watch me to have every reason to want to be with me and learn how to sit, down, come and heel, to name a few.

Secondly if you want to calm your dog there are much better ways either by training them with food or by learning calming techniques in your handling. (See for calming stroking video) 

Thirdly why train your dog to sniff out food, is that what you want to teach them? 


Friday evening and I met a friend for a meal in a dog friendly restaurant and my Papillon puppy Moose came along. At the restaurant my friend and I are happily catching up chatting and eating, Moose on my lap keeping his head down being a good boy, when the dog from the next table decided to join us, a cute Chihuahua, not on a lead. What followed was like a comedy sketch, the dog would not return to his owner, she called him over and over “Alf Alf Alf come here Alf,” broke off her attempts to catch him to chat to us, explaining what a lovely dog Alf is, asking about Moose and explaining to us that Alf was coming over because we had a dog with us, (so now it seems our fault her dog is at our table) we meanwhile are still trying to eat our meal and chat though now also trying to help her get the dog. Moose sitting on my lap watching calmly, at one point the woman was crawling under our table to retrieve her dog, the tables were in booth arrangement we couldn’t move the table or chairs as they were fixed, we did our best to push Alf toward her. Finally she got him and returned to her table! But we weren’t done, three more times Alf returned, at one point the woman asked if Moose was okay with other dogs, as I had kept him on my lap, yes I said he’s fine thank you! I chose to ignore the unstated question that Alf obviously wanted to meet Moose and she wondered why he couldn’t! At no point did the owner put her dog on a lead, he wasn’t even wearing a collar!!

I know that it was me that was actually behaving in an unusual way, my behaviour was not at all English, was it? The woman did not do anything a million other dog owners wouldn’t have done. In fact her behaviour is probably more acceptable to most people than mine! I know that my friends and clients are more likely to see things my way, but most dog owners wouldn’t. Most dog owners would think me unsociable and unfriendly like this lady thought I suspect!

A client rang me today to let me know how their dogs had got on since our session, they have 3 delightful dogs, 2 spaniels and a GSD, all really sociable dogs to their owners and other people! Yet there was quite a bit of friction between them, both at home and on walks. I am happy to report that after 2 sessions the dogs are all much easier to live with! As I said all nice dogs, well brought up, just lacking a little leadership from the humans, that is now remedied! I like to parallel this leadership to how much we like having great leaders, Winston Churchill, Barack Obama, Nelson Mandala, no one would want a world without leaders like these would they? Maybe my dogs will think I am a little like Oprah! 🙂

For my local friends the salon below is offering a free bath for puppy’s under 6 months, check them out I hear good reports!

If there is one thing that would help all dog owners is if other dog walkers respected that dogs on the lead need to be left alone! This poster, sent to me by Sue, sums this up in a fun way!

Contact me if you want this poster emailed to you for posting near you or passing on!

Below is the contents of an email I received from Catherine, it is here with her permission! Catherine thought I might not think it appropriate to mention her Vet, but I know this practice and I can endorse her comments! If you would like to comment with favourable mentions for a Vet please do? I can’t put up the less favourable for risk of being sued, but I think it is great to mention the ones where we have received great service!

Losing a dog is a testing time for the relationship with your Vet and can be made or break, it sure has been for me! So sorry you had to lose your precious boy Cathy, but glad you had the right support and that Sam was treated so well at  the end!

I recorded Panorama last night, I didn’t want to watch it so near to bed time, any one else brave enough? I will watch it at lunchtime and come back to you all later!

“Hi Avril

I missed this programme, but have just spent a few very upsetting minutes reading the comments made on the K9 magazine site in response to that programme.  That led me to a site called Rights 4 Pets at Vets, which incorporates Justice for Ted (

I read the blog which tells the sad story of Ted’s treatment.  I must admit that it really struck a chord, having only lost Sam this time last year.  However, we were fortunate in that Sam was treated with dignity and respect by the Bishops Stortford Veterinary Hospital (who we had never dealt with before that sad day).  This is by no means our nearest vets, but I have made this Sally and Ben’s vets for that very reason, as the animals appear to be treated with compassion and respect.

As I understand it, the current situation is that the RCVS have no jurisdiction to consider complaints where vets may be guilty of negligence, rather they will only adjudicate on matters that have the potential to be regarded as serious professional misconduct. In short, Rights 4 Pets at Vets are looking to promote an effective system of regulation for the veterinary profession.

I thought that this might be of interest to you and fellow pet owners.

Best wishes


Pie trains Betty!

June 15, 2010

Betty trying to convince Pie that she is more interesting than his bone!

I am fascinated watching Pie and Betty, I don’t have them together all the time, they spend a good time apart or I will lose my puppy to Pie! And I need and want a good relationship with both of them! But when they are together I love to watch the interactions, in a little over a week Pie has taught Betty not to jump on him when he is lying down, well for most of the time! She does forget sometimes when she is very excited, how has he taught her you ask? 🙂 He is a lesson in determined persistence, he never loses his temper, the volume goes up sometimes to a bark, but mostly it is a grump noise that deters her! Every time she jumps on him he grumps, it took sixish times for her to get the message (the 6 repeats to train anything applies to this too it seems!), sometimes he backs up the grump with walking away, sometimes he stands up to bark then lies down again. Betty ends up squirming on her back looking as cute as she can to win him over, and submitting to boot! Sometimes, when she is half-hearted in her attempts he simply ignores her. The most I have seen him do under severe provocation is to hold her nose in his mouth, but he can’t be biting as I have not heard Betty squeal once, he hasn’t frightened her once! Pie is a very good puppy trainer! Every day and on every occasion he repeats the same similar procedure, and now he is reaping his reward, he can lie in the kitchen or garden nine times out of ten without being pounced on. Betty tries every angle, playing with his tail is allowed until she hits his tail bone, when the grump comes again!

My old Teddy, the dog that Pie grew up with was more fierce with him, I wonder if that was because Pie was a tougher puppy, but I suspect it was more to do with Teddy being a tougher leader, as was his Mum, Truly, who he grew up with.

I know in the wild the pack leader varies in how bossy and tough they are, it is about personality types, just as in people.

In dog training it is far more productive to be gently persistent, by repeating over and over the exercise or deterring a behaviour the dog will learn and retain training only through these consistent repetitions. Where as if “scare” tactics are used the dog simply freezes, learns nothing and once recovered from the scare will repeat the old behaviour.

Betty is truly learning not to jump on Pie, and I am coming to appreciate Pie in a new way. My dear Teddy, who died last February, was a saint of a dog, and it has been tough for Pie to become top dog in my heart, but he is working his way through just as persistently as he is training Betty!

Betty learns not to jump on Pie!

Sarah giving great body language for the recall

Sharon looking great on heelwork!

Sarah looking very pleased with Charlie!

We start by getting the short recall right!

more short recall for Charlie

Jane and Freddy can do the short recall too!

A lovely shot of great lead work!

We all need a tea break, well we had worked hard!

We had a great morning, and the sun shone for us too! The dogs responded well to the strutured training, by the time we felt brave enough to leave the safety of the fenced garden and go into the paddock,  the dogs were responding well. Anne and Sharon had been to the training session a month before so were able to advance more, I was thrilled to see the improvement in their dogs and in their handling!

Recall on the long line out in the fields

The long line is our safety net!

Could this be Toto?

April 8, 2010

A young Dennis on his skateboard!

I am proud to introduce you to Dennis and his owner Maggie (of Allsorts Dog training),

Dennis was from a litter I bred from Gracie and my Teddy and I am very proud that Maggie has been attending the auditions for Toto, fingers crossed for Maggie and Dennis this week as they wait to hear if they go before the “Lord” next week!

Needless to say I will expect you all to vote for him on TV should he get to the last 5!

Does this look familiar? Have you got a photo of the real thing to share?

Spring is coming and the dogs will be spending more time out there, typically I am sure to be having a lot of questions about how to stop the puppies turning the garden into a bomb site! In anticipation here are some tips for those of you who are keen gardeners and do not want to lose your favourite plants this summer!

The good news first, dogs grow out of gardening by around their second birthday! If they don’t, it is not normal behaviour and you need to come and see me to correct the misunderstanding they have!

While growing it is natural for a puppy to explore their world and the garden is a wonderful place for them to do this, eating dirt, chewing sticks up, eating plants, digging around for insects, or just to see what is there is all normal behaviour, and if you fight this natural need to explore you will create more behaviour problems for yourself.

Management is the answer, by either fencing off an area that you give over to the puppy, or protecting your precious shrubs by fencing them off, to protect them from your puppy will make your life simpler, and allow your puppy to develop without upsetting you!

Ideally create a digging area for your puppy that is more interesting than the rest of the garden, this can be an earth area or you could make a sand pit, to reduce the mud you might get in the house. For a sand pit/digging area to be interesting you will have to dig it over once a day, add toys and objects of interest to the area, preferably bury these bits to make it more fun to find them!

Remember if you have just dug a part of the garden, or even better planted bulbs or plants, your puppy will make a bee line for this spot, your scent will make him think it must be interesting, prevent the puppy having access to this area for a few days until your scent has faded.

I am always delighted to have your queries and comments on any of the articles as it can lead to more clarity! Do you have a photo of your puppy digging in the garden for me to add to this post please?

For first time dog owners the world can seem a dangerous place for their precious puppies! But I have to tell you puppies have remarkable constitutions, this is a born scavenger and nature equipped them with a stomach that can withstand most natural materials and decomposed matter!

If you allow your human squeamishness to interrupt your puppy eating rubbish every time, and this will be frequent while the puppy is young, you will be giving out this message: I want what you have, it is something I am interested in and I am competing with you to have “it” first! Young dogs learn from older dogs in the pack what is valuable in this world, if the other dogs are interested then it must be good! You or the humans in the puppy’s life play this part in a human home.

If you don’t want your puppy to keep showing interest in stuff then you must not either! If you are too disgusted use some tasty food to distract your puppy from the thing, do not let your puppy see you remove “it” or you will be back to encouraging again. By using something tasty to distract you will be actively demonstrating that there is something better to eat as well as demonstrating your lack of interest which over time will teach your puppy not to go for inappropriate things to eat.

Stones are one of the commonest problem that I come across especially in new dog owners, though some more experienced owners do make the same mistake. The reality is that puppies will pass small stones easily, and they are bound to consume a few in discovering that stones are not food, by distracting the puppy over and over with a tasty tit bit you will soon persuade them to leave stones alone! If not this problem can soon escalate to eating larger and larger stones that could block the bowel and endanger your pets life or incur large vet bills.

The other downside of not addressing this issue is that the puppy can become possessive over something as simple as tissue if you constantly remove them from her.

here is a list of stuff that puppies can and should be allowed to explore that are harmless and will if ignored soon be forgotten:

  • Tissue, including kitchen roll, toilet paper
  • Paper in any form
  • Cardboard
  • Wood pieces (do not throw or play with sticks)
  • Tea towels (leave old ones lying around until they get bored or old bits of cloth)
  • Ash, bits of coal
  • animal excrement!

Dogs will take food that is left out, if I leave my kitchen with food on the side I don’t expect it to be there when I return! It is the nature of the dog to scavenge, and fighting this natural behaviour will just give you a headache and spoil your relationship with your dog.

If your dog is already possessive about any or all of these items please contact me, this is curable!

What to look for if you think your puppy has eaten something dangerous

  • Lethargy
  • Sickness
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite

call your Vet immediately!