Category Archives: Puppies

Puppy Australian Shepherd X Collie with a toy

Have you taught your dog that its OK if you need to take food away from them? If not – here’s why you might want to!

I seem to be seeing a lot of posts which say ‘never take your dog’s food away ‘ ‘don’t grab things off your dog’ – but how is that equipping your dog for the ‘real world’? Where they might have found something edible (well, what the dog deems edible anyway!), but life threatening? Got hold of something that could kill them? Or is their life going to be so well managed for the next X number of years that will NEVER happen?

Can you guarantee someone, at some point in your dog’s life, is NOT going to move swiftly to try to take articles away from your dog? If a dog manages to get hold of some pills, goes to get hold of some food dropped on the kitchen floor or finds a rotting carcase on a walk – have you taught your dog to accept someone trying to take them off them? In case you aren’t the first person on the scene?

‘Real world’ training suggests to me we should aim to teach our dogs to be as fine as we can with the vagaries and unpredictability of human behaviour, because IME teaching ALL the humans they are ever going to meet in theit whole lives how to behave around dogs as safely and carefully as they should just isn’t going to happen.

We can teach our dogs to give up articles and food items easily enough (and yes, I’d be teaching that as well); but will everyone else know what cues you’ve taught the dog for them to do that? In an emergency, will they ask the dog calmly? Or might they panic a bit and move fast? If you have children, can they sometimes act like, well, children, and go to grab things from the dog? Visiting children – do they know not to pick up the dog’s food bowl or chew?

Collar grabs, taking food from their mouth, article grabs  – high on my list of things to teach a dog to associate with a positive outcome, in well planned strategic stages, as soon as possible so they are less likely to be taken by surprise, it be less likely to trigger aggressive, fearful or defensive behaviour, should it be needed to save their lives. Nothing to do with being a ‘pack leader’ or showing the dog who is boss – just sensible training, for the ‘real world’.

Are you a mugger or a bank manager?

I don’t know many owners who haven’t been faced with the loss of a sock to a “naughty” puppy, or watched in despair as a cushion or a pair of knickers have disappeared at speed up the garden, or collected in the pup’s bed.  But it’s never just socks and knickers – its Barbie dolls, tea towels, flower pots, slippers…all can fall prey to the quick eye of an opportunistic pup! The first time a puppy “steals” something is when they find out if you are a mugger…or a bank manager.


Muggers come up to you, assert themselves, and take what you have. Without a by your leave. No warning. Sometimes they threaten you first. They put on an ugly face. “Give me your phone!” “Give me your money!” They might even physically attack you. So the next time you are out and carrying your bag or your phone, you are going to be on your guard. Ready to protect yourself should anyone try to do the same thing again.  Depending on your temperament, your state of stress or just because there’s an R in the month, you might become very aggressive if anyone should try to steal anything off you another time.  That some muggers are more subtle – they might even smile and try to engage you in conversation, lull you into a false sense of security before taking your money – just makes you more suspicious of the mugger looking like a Greek bearing gifts. That he is just trying to trick you, rather than assault you, as he takes what you have is not always a great comfort.

Poppy believes there are muggers about!! Think how we tuck bags under our arms or put our hands protectively around our possessions if we believe someone might want to ‘steal’ them. Poppy used to show extreme aggression towards anyone approaching her when she had any article.

Bank Managers

But there are some people who we go looking for to give our money to. It used to be bank managers. I guess the world has changed since I first came up with this analogy. Who sees bank managers any more? Their image isn’t all that great either nowadays, but back in the day they loved giving you interest on the money you deposited with them. The principle remains the same. IF it’s in our interests to give away our money, we will give it up willingly and happily. These days we go online to find people to take it from us. If we learn to believe the person saying ‘Give me your money!’ is not only going to keep it safe, they will give you interest, and then give back your original investment, we will willingly hand it over. We actively go looking for them. Once we’ve learned to trust the person we are very unlikely to bite them, or run away from them, when they approach us asking for our money.

The main difference between those 2 scenarios is a very basic one. In the first you had no choice. Someone else was literally forcing a decision on you. And were clearly planning on permanently depriving you of your property. They were probably scary as well. The latter – giving your money to someone willingly, was entirely your choice. The bank – in order to manipulate you into making that choice freely and willingly, understands it has to make the transaction both appealing and non-threatening. 

So which would you rather be with your dog when he has something he shouldn’t? A mugger or a bank manager? It’s too late to stop him taking the things you value if he already has it (that’s a different training issue entirely) so there’s no point telling him off for that, so if you want to come out well from the situation you created (by leaving things lying around), then you need to consider how important it is that your dog views you as a bank manager rather than a mugger.  

Future proofing

  • Don’t get aggressive with your pup or adult dog over articles he has picked up just because they are ‘yours’ not his – don’t be a mugger sometimes, and bank manager at others. Guess which articles he is less likely to want to give up in the future? He already has the article; he cannot understand how he came by it in the first place matters to you, however cross you get. In a dog’s world, if he has something, it’s his.  He can’t understand that you are angry because it’s fluffy loveliness cost you £100 from John Lewis rather than a fiver from Pets At Home.
  • Once you have hold of the article – even if it’s just a hand holding it at the same time as the pup  –  give your dog ‘interest’ (in the form of at least one treat, maybe more) while you hold it before giving it back
  • 99% of the time you give back the article once the pup has eaten the treat –you need to do this with ALL articles – his toys, chews, unimportant articles of yours (e.g. socks). The only ones you don’t give back are the ones that are dangerous for him or things that REALLY matter to you (e.g. £50 notes!).  If you really want to be clever about it, you can give higher rates of interest for giving you things he shoudn’t have so he is more likely to give them up than want to keep them. Imagine how fast you would want to put your £500 into a bank account that offered 10% interest, instead of the usual £1.3%. Just be careful that he isn’t so clever that he learns to ‘find’ that £500 in order to trade it in!

In effect you want to teach your pup to want to bring things to you. That some things earn even more interest (like Barbie or £50 notes) and you are always up for trading things in for something better. That it can mean your dog randomly finds objects to bring to you in order to get something from you is a bonus IMO. If it matters to you that your dog doesn’t put his teeth on some things, don’t let him have access to them. Manage things better. But if from the first day his little paw crosses your threshold he learns that you are a lovely, generous bank manager wanting to give him interest and not a nasty, thieving mugger wanting to permanently deprive him of his treasured possessions, the chances of him being an aggressive ‘resource guarder’ as he matures are dramatically reduced. . So which are you going to choose to be for your pup? A bank manager or a mugger?

 “Please sir, can I have some more? “ An optimistic dog who believes it pays off to take even really difficult articles to mum in order to earn ‘interest’!

What’s in a name? Breeds and breeders and buying puppies

I am not a ‘purist’ about breeds and breed standards. I am not a particular fan of the Kennel Club either. But one thing they do try to do (more or less effectively depending on your viewpoint) is to regulate breeding practices, educate breeders and standardise breed standards. I have been an open show judge (3 different breeds) and when I judged I judged to those breed standards.  If I were to breed a “pure breed” I’d breed to them as well. I’d do the health checks the KC demand. Why? Because puppy buyers should know they are buying a pup with the very best chance of predicting how it might turn out. Not just in what it looks like, but its temperament and its health. That it goes wrong sometimes is not entirely the Kennel Club’s fault as some would have us believe. Dog breeding is not an exact science.

The trouble is so many puppy buyers believe the KC is about some kind of elite clique, producing overpriced, unhealthy pups, only breeding them so they can win at Crufts. So who wants to bother with KC breeds for a family pet dog?

Well, here is why.

When you go online to find a puppy to buy you will see HUNDREDS of adverts with piccies of cute puppies. That they are highly unlikely to be the actual puppy the seller is selling is the first untruth you’ll meet. It’ll be the first of many. The description. Puppy farmers know what they have to say to sell puppies. So they make things up. Some ‘breeds’ sell better and attract higher prices. So long as it looks roughly like it and the parents might even be those breeds is all that matters. “Reared in the home”, bred from “much loved family pets” are 2 winning lies they will include in their adverts. If you haven’t SEEN that for yourself, on more than one occasion, and met the breeder in their own home (some ripoff merchants go as far as to borrow and rent ‘homes’ to fool buyers) then don’t believe it. That lovely person you have spoken to on the phone, or exchanged emails with, cuddling puppies when you come to collect yours, does not care ONE JOT about the welfare of those puppies, or who buys them. They just want the money.

But what does it really matter if they lie or not? It’s a puppy. You’ll love and care for it so why does it matter? Indeed, you might feel you have rescued it from a terrible start in life.

Here’s more reasons to care. Apart from just being ripped off, paying a lot of money for something other than what you believe you have bought, and putting money onto the pockets of people who abuse animals, it is more likely to be physically ill. The poor puppy’s welfare aside, it could cost you a lot of money within days. It could have serious (and dangerous and/or expensive) behaviour problems as it matures if the dam has been under stress and the litter has been reared in a shed isolated from people.

Here’s where the KC bit might help. If a puppy is sold as specific breed and it does not look like one according to the KC breed standard, or is a colour the KC doesn’t recognise, there’s a good chance the breeder or seller is lying to you. Yes, lying. These unscrupulous puppy sellers lie. A lot. If they are lying about that, then what else are they lying about? All the above perhaps.   The KC also plays other roles but the real giveaway that you may well be dealing with a puppy dealer, back yard breeder or puppy farmer is that they call their puppy a certain breed when it clearly isn’t one to anyone in the know.

Of course the seller might be genuine, and lovely, and just not care overmuch about breed standards and happy to simply breed healthy happy family pets that just aren’t very typical specimens. Those breeders exist and they will welcome caring puppy buyers. Sometimes they breed crossbreeds. There are excellent breeders who breed crossbreeds. Hurrah for all of them. We need them. But unless you get to KNOW that person in advance of the litter even being born perhaps, and know they are honest and caring and do love the pups they bring into the world, then walk away. Go to a rescue shelter, or find a breeder who cares, doesn’t abuse dogs,  and doesn’t lie about what they are selling.

Is your dog friendly and sociable? Please, please read this….

Sometimes I can be quite grumpy. This is one of those moments. I have news for the owners of friendly, sociable dogs …it’s not YOUR job to socialise mine or give me advice about how to train or manage my dog.

I am really pleased if you have friendly sociable dogs. We need more of them. Really. But the way to do it isn’t to just let yours go up mob-handed to grope and sniff and loom over other dogs that happen to visit “your” park. It isn’t your job to teach my dog how to put up with your dogs molesting them. If and when I want my dogs to be sociable and interact with yours I’ll let you (and them) know and I’ll check with you first if you are OK with it. Isn’t that simply good manners?

Why do I mind it happening? Well, sheer good manners aside about intruding unasked into other peoples’ space, I can’t know if your dogs are as friendly as you think they are. I can’t know your dog won’t guard the ball that is dropped at my dog’s feet. I can’t know that they have never ever attacked or barked at a dog in their lives. That they are always polite and friendly even if my dog objects to their attention.

And you can’t know if my dog is nervous. You can’t know if she or he has a history of being attacked by other dogs so can be defensive if they get into his face or stand over her with hackles up and tail rigid and wagging. You can’t know if she hurts if other dogs bowl her over by accident, so she gets worried when they get too close.

You can’t know if I have had a dog attacked by dogs that behave like yours, or I am worried I’ll get knocked over, so I too might be scared if I see a large dog (or worse a whole bunch!) come charging over to say hi. You can’t know that I mind my dog looking worried by your dogs.

I wonder if you know how many people cannot walk their dogs in “your” park, or sit in the park café peacefully minding their own business, because of the way you let your friendly off lead dog behave? How many dogs and owner are intimidated by them? How many dogs don’t get the opportunity to mooch about minding their own business in “your” park because their owners are too worried your dogs will intrude on them?

Please think twice before letting your dog or dogs go up to other dogs uninvited. I am pleased for you that they are friendly and you never have to worry about their behaviour, but that doesn’t mean I want my dog to be best mates with them. It doesn’t mean I don’t want my dog to have fun, or be friendly, I simply want it to be MINE and MY DOGS’S decision when thaty happens – not that of a random stranger who just happens to be in the same park as me. I wouldn’t want random strangers to come up and molest me – why should my dog have to put up with it?

So please don’t be offended if I ask you nicely to keep your dog away, or less nicely, if you have already let your dog upset mine, or interrupted what I am doing with my dog. If you care about the welfare of other dogs as much as your own, then you will not let it happen. Although, to be frank, whatever my reasons are for not wanting it to happen it’s none of your business. I shouldn’t have to explain or justify not wanting my dog to be pestered by yours. Ultimately who my dog socialises with (and when) ought to be my and my dog’s decision, not yours.

Grumpy person can now take a rest…:-)