I am going to start with a truth which I tell all my clients; Not all dogs are treated equally. Small dogs get away with a lot more ‘undesirable or bad’ behaviour than big dogs. In fact I would put it to you that owners put up with 3 or 4 times the amount of bad behaviour in a small dog than they would tolerate with a larger dog.
Does your pet have a favourite spot on the sofa or your bed? Of course they do as I’m sure you do. We are all creatures of habit. But are the habits good or bad ones?
I know clients who have had to race to bed before their large dog got there or they would end up sleeping on a sliver of mattress. Or their favourite chair is no longer Their favourite chair it is now the dog’s favourite chair.
When I ask these owners as to why they have given up their comfort or beloved favourite spot they always answer with ‘it makes them happy’ and have a kinda dreamy look on their face as they look at their darling pooch sprawled in luxury and snoring lazily on the said favorite chair or sofa spot, while they take the ‘less favoured’ positions around the room.
Is this such a big deal? I hear you ask, does it really matter?
Well the answer is Yes, to both those questions because the canine is a species, much like ourselves who lives in a family orientated structure. Much like our own. Within this structure is the people or animals that look after the rest of the family, mum and dad, grandparents, the older, more experienced family members. Were you ever told as a child to not touch that as it was granddad’s or get up and let your mum sit down? That’s because there are certain benefits or perks to having a responsible role in the family. Why not, you look after the family, you bring home a wage to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. You keep them safe.
So lets look at it from the dog’s point of view. If the human gives out a lot of signals that are inconsistent, like for instance, they let you up on the sofa beside them for cuddles, great! Next day is the same. The following day you’re not allowed up but you wait til they go out of the room and you sneak on. Your human returns and sits back down and cuddles you again, great! What is your dog learning? That you know your own mind and have rules it needs to follow or that you are a bit of a push over?
Lets add to that. What if your dog has taken on the role of the responsible one for the family, you, your husband or wife, the kids and the cat? What if your dog took his role very seriously about the safety of his family. He chases off trespassers (barks out the window or in the garden), he takes you all out for a walk (he pulls on the lead and has bad recall), bringing you back safe. He might even tell you off if you over-step the mark (by growling or even nipping you). Wouldn’t you want the most prized position in the house for doing that job?
I hate to be the one to break this to you but you are probably not the real decision maker of the family in your household if any of that last paragraph sounded any way familiar to you. Dogs, like humans need boundaries and rules. If there are none of these in place as the dog grows up and matures they will make up their own set of rules to create some kind of structure to their lives, just as we would in a group of human strangers. It is in our instincts and our dogs to have someone in charge to keep the young and the weak safe. With someone making decisions and rules, everyone knows their place and hopefully everyone will survive.
So what if your dog doesn’t see you as that someone?
Usually some sort of chaos ensues in the household as the dog starts making up the rules as he goes along. Remember a dog with little or no experience of the world will be learning everything from scratch. He learns that the approaching footsteps to his door makes him uncomfortable and feel threatened so he starts to bark, the footsteps retreat (most likely the postman, paperboy or delivery man) and the dog has just learnt a valuable lesson. Barking makes the stranger go away.
So if you become your dog’s responsibility, in his eyes. Does it make sense that he feels he has to follow you around the house, especially as you sometimes have the habit of disappearing, sometimes for hours, and then re-appearing again? Does it make sense he feels the need to rush ahead and see what’s on the other side of the door, or that bush, or around the next bend in the path? He’s only doing his job! Right?
If any of this has made sense to you as you’ve read it and thought about it, make one rule today that you will stick to. The dog is only allowed on the bed/ sofa/ chair on your terms and when he is invited and be consistent.
He will love and respect you for it.
Read more about Consistency is the key to Success
Please feel free to leave a comment if you found this article useful or you are having trouble taking back your sofa!
Bernie, The Dog Owners Coach
A lot of people I know would love to try their dog on a raw diet but their belief in rumours and old wives tales are stopping them from actually seeing for themselves how this healthier way of feeding their pet could save them money in the long run and be better for their pets.
Myth 1: Bacteria in raw food will harm my dog
Handling your dog’s raw food should be dealt with the same way you handle your own raw food.Use common sense and a good hygiene plan for raw food in your kitchen. Wash hands, clean surfaces with a good antibacterial cleaner and keep chopping boards for meat separate from those you use for veg and other things.
As for bacteria that your dog eats, firstly their saliva has an enzyme which has antibacterial qualities called lysozyme. Secondly your dog’s stomach acid sits at a pH of 2, this is a very acidic environment where a lot of bacteria cannot survive, it is so strong that your dog’s stomach juices can break down bone! Thirdly, the dog’s digestive tract is a lot shorter than a lot of animals, including ourselves, leaving bacteria very little time to colonise in this acidic environment. There is just as much chance of picking up Salmonella from dry dog food as there is from raw so do wash your hands after handling all types of pet food.
Can I just add here that if you think of some of the things that our dogs eat out on a walk on a daily basis like other animals droppings, dead or rotting things and it can lick itself with no ill effects, then you will find we worry for no reason.
Myth 2: Feeding bones to my dog is dangerous and they can splinter
This myth is especially prevalent when I talk to people about feeding my dogs raw chicken, this is the question I get ‘ Isn’t chicken bones dangerous?’, I always answer by saying I think you’ll find that’s cooked bones. I don’t feed cooked chicken bones, I feed whole raw pieces of chicken, bones wrapped in meat. Cooking bones changes its structure making it more likely to shard or splinter. Even those cooked bones in the pet shops will splinter with a strong pair of jaws around them!
The idea of feeding Raw Meaty Bones is that the dog gets to use all the tools he was given naturally which sit in his mouth, to rip, tear and chew his way through a meal with precision and professionalism. I am always in awe when I watch my dogs eat their way through their raw dinner as to how easy and natural they make it look! As mentioned in myth no 1, the dog’s stomach acid is very capable of breaking down bone and all the meat making their digestive tract a very efficient system.
Because of this efficient digestive system a raw diet is 90-97% digestible compared to 40-70% digestibility of dry kibble diets (due to fillers or fibre). A dog on a raw diet will excrete a firm, odourless stool two thirds smaller than that of a kibble fed dog. I think that says not only does the dog get to use all of his food but what comes out the other end is a bonus to the owner cleaning up behind him!
Myth 3: Dog’s get the ‘taste for blood’ when they are fed a raw diet
I’m sorry but this makes me laugh, as I must have 4 blood thirsty hounds living with me! This has to be the biggest old wives tale of them all! Lets not forget the canine is a predator first and foremost as is our other 4 legged companion the feline. The dog is hard-wired to chase and we have used this to our advantage over the past centuries, breeding and honing them to herd, retrieve and race.
Have we forgotten this in the 21st century, that our pets roots are based in the wild? But we have also domesticated this predator and bred more likeable features, like herding dogs not to eat their charges but protect them or for our working gun dogs not to run riot when they see game and kill everything in sight! Indeed I know a number of gun dogs who are fed on a raw diet who are quite happy to bring shot game back all day, un-chewed and eat his raw meal when he gets home.
It is easier to blame a dog’s diet for its behaviour rather than the relationship between it’s owner and the likelihood that the dog was never shown or trained to be around livestock or other small pets, hence the dog then relies on its instincts. I am just adding here that I keep chickens in my garden for fresh eggs and my dogs are fed on chicken, this does not mean they understand the link between what they eat and the birds they chase up and down the fence line on a daily basis. Here’s a great LINK to what I mean.
Myth 4:Dogs fed on raw are at a higher risk of worms and parasites
This is true if you feed your dog wild game or wild fish. Most people don’t, they feed human grade food bought from supermarkets, butchers and other suppliers where they buy their own food. If you feed human grade food, parasite levels are negligible. If you are worried about parasites then deep freezing usually kills these off. For 24hrs for fish or for up to a month with wild game like rabbit.
Usually it is down to the animals’ own immune system and it’s health as to whether it will be affected by worms or parasites. Parasites hate a healthy host. You can also worm your dog using a homeopathic wormer so as not to upset the chemical balance a raw diet brings to your pets health. I use a very gentle homeopathic wormer and rarely have to use any products for external parasites such as fleas or ticks on my own dogs.
Myth 5: A raw diet is more expensive and inconvenient than commercial dog food
What is convenience worth? If you ate fast food all your life what would be the cost to your health?
Nowadays there are so many raw food suppliers that it makes it a lot easier to source your raw food, which at first can be what makes feeding raw cost a little bit more. Talk to other raw feeders to find good sources, I find the fridge section at the supermarket where they sell short date items cheaper a great source for bargains of fish and meat. Ask your butcher about off-cuts and sourcing what you are looking for, most butchers are happy to help. Of course if you can find a supplier dealing exclusively with raw pet food then cost and convenience should be within everyone’s budget.
As a supplier myself I can offer owners a great variety of high quality raw food within most people’s budgets, for instance;
- Toy breed <5kg Costs £3.50 per week or 50pence a day
- Terrier size <10kg Costs £5 per week or 71 pence a day
- Spaniel size < 15kg Costs £7 per week or £1 a day
- Lab size <20kg Costs £7.50 per week or £1.07 a day
- Large breed <30kg £8.50 per week or £1.20 a day
- X large breed <40kg £12.50 per week or £1.79 a day
How much does your commercial dog food cost you?
Dont forget, on a raw diet your dog will have a stronger immune system, a healthier body and more vitality so your vet bills will also become less over time, saving you more money. Click HERE to see my website for supplying raw pet food in Ireland.
There are lots of information out there for anyone interested in feeding a natural raw diet, here a few sites I like
I look forward to your comments or questions about this post and I hope you will think about giving raw feeding a try
Bernie – The Dog Owners Coach
Is your dog’s chewing or destructive behaviour not only wrecking your home, but stressing you out or putting more stress on your relationship at home?
Have they chewed your furniture, your best shoes, destroyed parts of your home or garden and there seems to be no sign of stopping?
This is a really Big problem in a lot of dog-owning homes and I’m going to help you to not only understand why but help you stop the demolition!
firstly lets Bust a few Myths on destructive behaviour;
Myth One- Your dog is destroying things ‘on purpose’ because you have left him alone.
There is some truth to this but probably not for the reasons you think. Dogs don’t do things out of spite or for revenge, nor do they think, ‘I’ll show you what happens when you leave me here on my own’. Dog’s do not feel emotions like this, what is happening is that when your dog feels stressed, uncomfortable or anxious, it’s stress hormones in his body are heightened. What most dogs learn from an early age is that chewing releases endorphins, the ‘feel good’ effect of these then help them cope with the situation.
Myth Two- Your dog looks ‘guilty’ when you come home so you know he’s been doing something bad
If ‘guilty’ means lowering their body or crawling, ears flattened, tail down or between their legs and eyes softened or almost squinting, this is very submissive behaviour from your dog.
If you come home every day to something that has been chewed or destroyed you will probably be in a pattern by now. On the way home you will be thinking about what has already been destroyed, this is going to annoy you, then you will be thinking ‘what am I going to find today when I walk in’ and this is going to stress you out further. Before you even walk in the door you probably have a big negative black cloud above your head. If you don’t live on your own it’s probably not just the dog who makes themselves scarce when you come home. Your dog has connected the dots and come up with You coming home = You in a bad mood
Even when we don’t find something chewed or the tell-tale puddle, we stomp around the house looking for evidence and growling at the dog ‘what did you do?’. Your dog is heading for the closest hiding place at speed because he knows you are in no mood for any kind of communication right now, better wait until the dust settles. Sound familiar?
OK, maybe your dog isn’t quite that bad, look out for these 7 signs below
7 signs that your dog is suffering from separation Anxiety
- excessive Panting
- Urinating or toileting inside
- excessive or obsessive chewing or licking themselves
- chewing or destruction of property
What is behind SA?
To put it in a nutshell, your dog, in his head, is trying to be the head of the household and is not coping with the stress of the job. Let me put this another way. A dog is a social creature, we all know this but what we dont always know or remember is that a dog needs a leader,a head of the family lets say. Someone to keep order, keep everyone safe and make the big decisions for the family. This of course is the humans role as we best understand our world of hoovers, UPS delivery guys, school runs, business hours, window washers, lawnmowers, sleep overs, holidays and so on that our dog will never, ever understand.
So how does your dog end up having this job? Usually because he has seen us lose it, sometimes quite literally. He has spotted a chink in your armour of being leader, there are many things here which can be seen as chinks but the main one is your inconsistent behaviour around the dog. Being human we are naturally quite lazy and we like short cuts and doing things the ‘easy’ way rather than the ‘best’ way. This isn’t how our dogs think though and if you aren’t leadership material, a new one must be elected! Here is where he gets the job whether he wants it or not. Why? Because a family must have a leader. It’s that basic. It is about survival of the family in what ever shape it comes.
7 Tips to being Head of the Household
- Leaders are cool, calm and confident, even in a crisis. If you’ve had a bad day and need a scream or a cry or are just not in the mood for dealing with your dog at this moment. Quietly put him outside or in another room, have a cup of tea and wait til you have calmed down before you say hello or deal with your dog.
- Be consistent with your pooch at all times. Check out my post on Consistency is the key to success
- Give your dog attention on your terms not his, when you are ready.
- Build up to longer separations by practising shorter ones while you are at home. Start closing doors behind you and stop letting your dog follow you everywhere. Ad breaks are great practise times. Limiting access to some areas of the house can help too, have some ‘No Dog’ rooms just for the humans.
- Give him some specific Boredom Busting toys. This will focus his chewing and give him something to occupy his mind. Kongs and Nylabones are good starter toys which are hard to destroy fast.
- If you have a real demolition expert, crate training is a great way to minimise damage. It also gives your dog his own space where he can take himself off to when he wants a nap. Again you must build up spending time in a crate and connect it with good things, like food. Apart from sleeping overnight in a crate I don’t recommend you keep your dog crated for more than 4 hours at any one time.
- If you are having big separation Anxiety issues, seek professional advice and help from a Dog Behaviorist or Dog Listener. Dog Trainers usually deal with obedience issues, SA is a much deeper issue and needs to be dealt with at the root cause which is usually something going on at home. You can contact me via My Website for more info or coaching about this issue.
I hope this helps you on your way to having a happier and more care-free dog. Please feel free to comment below or Sign Up to follow my helpful hints and tips by email- on the right hand side.
Bernie – The Dog Owners Coach
I woke up this morning with an idea in my head which I couldn’t wait to come downstairs and type about for all you lovely dog owners. I’ve recently been reading a great book called Think your way to Success by Mark Rhodes and it struck me that as a Dog Owners Coach I teach a lot of what I am reading about in this book to my clients.
Did you know that the word ‘Want’ in most people’s head has negative associations in your subconscious mind? Linked in childhood where we said ‘I want’ ,lets say a Barbie doll or a bike or a dog or a pony and were told ‘NO’ by our parents, then we were obviously upset or sometimes devastated because we soooo Wanted that thing. Our powerful subconscious would then make the decision (as it’s main job is keeping you safe and able to survive the world) that things you ‘want’ are obviously things that will hurt, upset or devastate you and can be passed over. Interesting stuff isn’t it?
Now bear with me because this all fits together in your life and working with your dog…
Apparently the way to get around this is to change your mental vocabulary and how you associate with the things you actually do want to have in your life. So if your wish in your head is to have a happy well mannered dog, instead of thinking to yourself ‘I really want a well mannered dog’, you should be thinking something along the lines of ‘wouldn’t it be great to have a well mannered, happy dog. We could have so much fun together’. Now just read those two statements for a minute, can you see the difference that might make to your emotional sub-conscious? We change a negative association into a positive association. It’s about changing your mindset.
Being aware of your thought process and body language and being mindful of how you associate this to something you would like your dog to do is exactly the things I teach with my coaching clients. It sounds a bit strange but it is something we dont consciously think about in our day to day lives. To change anything in your life, mentally or physically we have to change some of our habits or tweak our routines. If not then we will keep doing the same thing over and over again and nothing will change! This is where Consistency comes in. Consistency makes something you might do once, into a habit. If you do the same thing every day, say for instance, I tell my client to come down stairs, let the dog out as they normally would do every morning, but from now on just don’t look or speak to the dog until it has done what it needs to do and is back inside again. If they do this every morning it forms a good habit. They don’t get jumped on, the dog doesn’t wee on the floor and the dog will learn not to expect its morning cuddle until it comes back inside after he does his morning toilet routine outside. 2 weeks later we have a daily routine that the owner doesn’t even need to think about and seems like it is something they have always done.
If that all makes sense to you I thought it might be fun to share some of our annoying dog problems. For one it lets other people see that they might have similar issues and are not alone and two it can help someone who might not want to ask. Let me know what the issue is and what your normal reaction to this behaviour and we’ll see what might need a tweak.
So go ahead and let me know what issue with your dog is getting on your nerves today by adding a comment below (Unfortunately I can’t go into dog aggression as this is a very serious subject that needs full commitment from the owner to work on one to one)
Thank you for reading and I look forward to helping you and your dog
Bernie – The Dog Owners Coach
Have you always wanted a dog like Lassie, Rin tin tin or even Benji? Well I’ll tell you now, They Only Exist in the Movies or with years of training, honing skills of natural or un-natural behaviour and having a very strong and trusting bond with the dog.
It’s time to burst this big bubble that all or even certain dogs – (no matter what breed) are easy to keep, easy to train, are good with people, children, pets etc. No of course they aren’t. Every dog is a single personality, not like their mother or father, not like their litter siblings, not like anyone else. Just like humans, they all have their own personalities, foibles, likes and dis-likes, even from a very early age. Seeing the parents of a pup gives you a degree of certainty that yes they might be social, nice around people or will be healthy but that is never 100% certainty. One certainty you can guarantee 100% is the time you spend teaching your dog skills you want it to have in adult life, they will have in adult life.
If you want your dog to walk nicely by your side as you go for a relaxing walk, or run with you when you go for a jog or pull you if you want to go for a mush, you have to teach them what you want or expect of them. There’s no point in buying expensive harnesses, lines, a rig and put your dog in front, tie him to it and expect him to know that he now has to pull, where as before this you had expected him to walk nicely by your side. You train him and show him how fun this new experience is so he wants to do it again and again. We take driving lessons, guitar lessons, language lessons, tennis or football lessons or ‘practise’ so why should it be any different for your dog? If you want them to have a certain skill then you have to teach them and practise, practise, practise!
I’m not saying you can’t teach your dog to be like Lassie but don’t just expect them to be like her and By the Way… movie and tv Lassie was about 4 or 5 different dogs!
Here’s where some dogs get the short end of the stick when it comes to some people’s expectations. I have come up against people like this when I worked in rescues. The potential new owner wants a dog, ‘OK lets see what type of lifestyle you have so we can find a dog that suits’. They then proceed to tell you they work a 40+hr week, go to the pub at weekends and a couple of foreign holidays a year, don’t do much ‘outdoorsy-things’ and they want a labrador for the kids, are adamant they want one, a big, friendly one. Of course that’s no life for a big energetic dog and most people don’t want to hear that reality. You can change the breed in that story to what someone has in their heads that they want and no matter how much you tell them that they need a lot of grooming /exercise / training etc they don’t see it as a problem, they then find a dog somewhere else and a month down the line there’s a frustrated and angry owner who has no idea how to stop their beagle (any breed) from barking, chasing the neighbours cat or digging holes in the garden, eating the kids toys or going to the toilet inside the house when it lives outside. Later you find out the dog gets 1 walk a day and lives its whole life in the back yard. Sounds to me like the dog is making the best of a bad situation!
When owners call me out because of their dog’s problems they soon realise that respect, interaction, teaching and enjoying each others company is all part of being a good dog owner. I get the phrase ‘it’s a lot like having kids’ when we are in a coaching session and I totally agree. People think long and hard usually before having kids, they need a lot of love, food, clothes, schooling and that’s just the basic stuff. No-one expects their parental duties are over once the kids hit 16, there are driving lessons, college, part-time jobs, socializing, hobbies…. So why do people not think long and hard about adding a 4 legged family member to their household? There’s love, food, vaccinations, bedding, health, education and time all needed there too for the whole of their lives.
It’s time the human race started treating this loyal, patient, forgiving and highly intelligent creature with more care and respect than what it is deemed to be getting here and now in the 21st century. Dont just be a dog owner, be a GOOD dog owner. Dog’s are not an accessory, they are not a short-term phase you are going through to see if you ‘like’ this breed, they should be treated with love and value and as Clarissa Baldwin’s’ very popular adage says ‘a dog is for life not just for christmas’.
Please think wisely, don’t get a dog if you don’t have time for one, if you do have one then give it time and love and you will be wise.
Please leave a comment below if you liked this post.