What you expect is what you get - or, Be careful what you wish for!

 

“He’s a terrier - he’s never going to come when he’s called!”

“You can’t teach a spaniel to listen. Their attention span is only a few seconds”

“My dog’s thick. It’s a waste of time teaching him anything.”

 

Really. People say these things. And they become self-fulfilling prophecies.

If you truly believe that your terrier will never come when he’s called, then guess what? He never will.

If you really think that your spaniel is incapable of focus, then you’ll never put in the work needed to build a team with him.

And if you truly think your dog is too stupid to learn anything, you have a cast iron excuse for never bothering to teach him.

Get-out clauses?

These are all lazy, get-out, clauses. You got a dog - you thought it would be a good idea - then found that it didn’t come with training and manners installed. You were expected to add these yourself? Oh no! Work required - application, dedication, education, understanding, patience … This all seemed too hard. Much easier to claim that your dog is untrainable and leave it at that.

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I recently had an email which read: “I have two dogs, one is a perfect companion and the other is a challenge. She has many good points but does not take no for an answer and is very disobedient when she appears to be totally deaf.”

So her first dog is perfect, and the second is not. (I wonder how much this had to do with the individual attention that No.1 got, while No.2 was tossed into the mix to sink or swim?) Her dog is disobedient, she doesn’t listen, and won’t take no for an answer.

What a lot of labels in a couple of sentences! This poor dog is always going to struggle against her owner’s preconceived notion that she is difficult, stubborn, and uncaring. Whatever she does will be perceived as wrong, or potentially troublesome, while Dog 1 gets all the praise for being a goody-gumps. (Any of you younger children out there may recognise the same thing from your own family life, where there was one favoured child and one difficult one.) 

And it’s likely that when she does do something right it’s either not noticed or greeted with “For once! At last …”

This dog needs a program of training which caters to her own individuality, her own quirks and foibles. You cannot blossom when continually compared with someone else - you have to have a pride in your own achievements, done your own way.

So my reply to this owner was along these lines: 

“My dogs don't understand the meaning of NO either - why? I never say “no” to them. “No” doesn't give them any information about what you'd like them to do - only that you're cross with them. Try focussing only on what you do want, and rewarding that. Totally ignore what you don't want. Give it a week and see where you are!
This is what a puppy-owner said to me this week:
“Just thought that I would let you know that your brilliant idea of rewarding for the behaviour that we want has helped Odin to become a very calm and patient puppy when it's our dinner time. He will lie down nicely and play with his toys while we're eating. :)” 
This took her about 10 days to achieve.
Come back to me in two weeks and tell me how you get on.”

 

Sadly I didn’t hear from her again. So I guess Dog no.2 is still being shouted at.

 

As the famous saying goes, “If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you always got.” 

 

There has to be change for change to happen. And the first change is in your mindset! All our dogs are capable of being trained, of learning new things, and of fitting into the household comfortably. Yes, it takes time, and all that dedication and self-education, understanding and patience, mentioned above. But is it worth it? What do you think?

 

But what about my terrier / spaniel / dumb dog?

Pixie terrier closer.png


• To see just what terriers are capable of, take a look at Jesse the Jack Russell Terrier. You will be amazed! 

• Think of what spaniels are bred for - hours and hours of tireless work in the field, focussing on one thing only - finding birds. They are capable of laser focus - if the reward is right you can teach your spaniel to focus on anything you like!

• And as for our dumb dog … it’s true that some dogs are not blessed with as many brains as others. Cricket the Whippet will never beat Rollo the Border Collie in an initiative test, though if there is food to be found - she’ll find it! Her phenomenal speed is in her legs, not in the workings of her brain.  But she has plenty to offer, and once you’re on her wavelength you can teach her some very un-whippety things to do. Cricket - and Bolt, another whippet I know - have great retrieves.

Here’s Cricket showing off her amateur dramatics

You see? Her gift is in making us laugh!

 

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Why is my friend's dog so easy when mine is so difficult? 7 tips to make life easier!

It’s all a matter of perception.

Maybe, for a start, your friend is laid-back and easy-going. While you are wired and anxious by nature.

Perhaps your friend is the kind of earth-mother who can cope happily with a household of children and pets with no cares about being houseproud.

It could be that this is your first puppy, and your friend is on no.4.

Are you comparing apples with oranges? Your friend’s dog could be mature and settled, while yours is still a wild puppy. 

Or maybe … just maybe … the dogs are different, and yours is more challenging.

First puppy?

Is this your first puppy? Many people remark on how easy their second child is compared with their first. The unfortunate first child has to deal with all the expectations, hopes, and fears - not to mention the awkward and novice parenting - and of living up to everything her parent always wanted in a child. Your first pup suffers some of the same unrealistic expectations. Take it easy!

The breed or type of your dog will make a big difference too. Especially if you went for a dog that is bred principally for looks and not purpose or temperament. Many of the currently fashionable so-called “designer dogs” would fit into this category. What I mean by that is that if the breeder is selecting for looks, then temperament may not get much of a look-in. This is where the extreme importance of choosing the source of your puppy wisely comes in. You want to know that the parents’ temperaments have been assessed along with their looks. We’ve all met good-looking cads in our life! We don’t need a four-footed version in our home if we can possibly help it.

If you have chosen a breed or type of dog that has been bred for hundreds - or thousands - of years to do a certain thing, and do it very well, that behaviour will be inbred in the dog. It will be part of his instinctive drive and no amount of saying NO will change that. So you have to know what you’re up against. 

If you don’t want a dog with a strong prey-drive, you may want to avoid sighthounds. If you don’t want your dog to herd everyone into a corner, a herding dog may not suit you. And if you don’t appreciate your lap being filled with socks, twigs, and teddy-bears, maybe pass on a retriever. If you just want a quiet life, don’t choose a high-energy dog! 

Having said that, there is no doubt that ALL dogs are trainable. All dogs will respond to force-free training where they find out for themselves what works - and what doesn’t. But there isn’t any need to make the task harder by starting with more challenging material.

Adult rescue dog

You may have chosen to rescue a dog from a shelter - good for you! - but it's not necessarily roses all the way now. All adult dogs have established ideas and things that they do, desirable or undesirable. So there may be a certain amount of un-training to do while you re-train what you want.

Keep in mind also that a re-homed dog can easily take a couple of months to settle into his new home and know that it’s for keeps. I get lots of emails from people saying “He was great to begin with then after he’d been here two or three months he suddenly started doing xyz, out of the blue.” What was happening was that the new dog was scared to put a paw out of place when he first came, and chose to keep a low profile. Once comfortable and at home, the dog’s true nature is expressed - along with some things you’re not mad about, like reacting to other dogs or house-visitors, or hogging the bed. But don’t worry! A properly-qualified trainer will have the knowledge and experience to turn this around.

Different strokes for different folks

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Your approach to training - indeed to life - could be very different from your friend’s. It’s a long slow process to teach a child not to put sticky fingers on prized possessions. It can be a long slow process to teach an enthusiastic puppy a new (and foreign) way to greet visitors that doesn’t involve flattening them. 

 

So a relaxed approach is far less stressful for everyone involved. Parents make their home as childproof as is convenient so they don’t have to be standing over their child all day, telling her what not to do. Employ the same strategy for your puppy, who comes equipped with splendid teeth and claws for optimal demolition work.

 

     1.  Be sure your puppy is in an area where both he and your home are safe, then relax!

     

     2.  Young puppies should be in the same room as you at all times - except for the large amount of time they’re asleep, when they can be in their crate. Your dog earns his freedom as he demonstrates that he is reliable in new areas. So he doesn’t get free access to the living room, or the garden, until he has proved that he will not dig, soil, bark, or chew, while you’re not watching. 

 

     3.  If your dog is an ardent chewer, invest in a doggie playpen and feed his habit with lots of chewable items. If his way of playing with the toys you give him is to rip them to shreds, then that’s his choice. Get cheap toys from the charity shop, or plait ropes out of old jeans, so you’re not invested emotionally in the state of the toy. It’s his toy - allow him to know best how to enjoy it. You can, of course, teach him interactive play with you with his toys, so he finds they’re more fun when you are hanging onto the end of them. 

      

    4.  Ensure your pup is getting the right amount of rest - this is around 17 hours a day for an adult dog. Yes, 17 hours a day. So, more for a puppy. “He never stops,” is always a red flag to me. I know there will be behavioural issues with a dog who can’t switch off. And people usually find their puppy’s behaviour improves dramatically - especially in relation to biting - once they’re getting enough sleep. And if your puppy is not yet giving you a peaceful night’s sleep, read this one.  

       

"I really want to learn how to please you!"

"I really want to learn how to please you!"

   5.  Tailor your expectations to your dog, his breed or type, his history, and your experience. We don’t expect our toddler, or our schoolboy, or our lovesick teenager, to behave like responsible adults. We educate, coax, and encourage them to reach this state of virtue - often ignoring the things they do which we don’t want repeated. Remember that “educate” means literally “lead out of”. So we are using our knowledge to lead our hooligan child or puppy out of the darkness of ignorance, and into the civilised world. This takes time!

      

   6.  A puppy of around six months old is developmentally somewhere near a child of 9-12. Don’t expect too much too soon!

      

    7.   Be careful what you draw attention to! What you focus on is what you get, so be sure you show your dog what you’d like him to do in any situation, rather than nag and complain when he doesn’t know. This article will give you some guidelines

 

Once you satisfy your new companion’s basic, instinctive, needs - and adopt a realistic view of the training task ahead - you’ll be able to put some boundaries in place so you can all get along in the same household without friction.

And start enjoying your dog’s individuality!
 

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New Puppy? First teach her how to learn!

The minute you get your new puppy - she is learning! She's like a sponge, soaking up experiences, processing them, discovering the outcome, and learning whether that thing was good or bad.

So whether you like it or not your puppy is learning every moment she’s awake, and processing that learning while she’s asleep. 

What does that mean for you?

It means that you need to grab this opportunity and teach your puppy as much as possible while she’s in this absorbent, influenceable, state. Once she hits adolescence she’ll be developing ideas of her own, and they may not accord with what you’d like in your family dog!

Now, I’m not suggesting drills and route-marches, "don’t don’t don’t", and some kind of puppy bootcamp! 

If you focus on teaching your puppy how to learn, adding things like sits and downs are a snap

When’s the right age to start?

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In days mercifully gone by (mostly), puppies were given no training at all until six months or so. They were considered too soft to take the punitive methods then popular (and happily becoming less and less popular now). Of course they were! They were babies! But the good news is that there’s no need to use punitive methods at any age. In fact, they’re counterproductive.

These early weeks of your pup’s new life with you are, in fact, the best time of all to teach her how to learn.

What do I mean by that?

Instead of focussing on “commands”, “obedience”, and fighting the puppy’s “stubbornness”, focus instead on teaching her that being around you is good, being in your home is good, being with your family is good. And you do this by simply rewarding everything she does which you like! There isn’t any need for “No!” or “Stop that” or “Get down” or any of the other things that new puppy owners think they have to do to establish superiority. 

You don’t need to establish superiority! The puppy knows which side her bread is buttered, and all she needs is kindness and patience while she works out what has a good outcome and what has no outcome worth pursuing.

And to harness this great learning skill, you simply

Reward what you like
Ignore what you don’t like
and Manage what you can’t ignore

Rewards are anything the puppy finds rewarding - play, cuddles, laughter, tasty treats, dinner, toys, running, chews, garden - etc. Ensure that every action you like is marked and rewarded, and your youngster will soon learn to repeat the things that earn her a reward and not bother with the things that don’t.

Never say NO

There isn’t a place for NO in training babies, of any species. Love and encouragement are what works. But to ensure that you aren’t chasing round after a puppy trying to divert his attention from the electric cables and your favourite dining chair legs you need to set up a safe environment for your pup. 

I like to use crates and playpens or babygates to make a safe area with plenty of chew toys. You want to have the puppy always in the same room as you so you can monitor what he’s up to. Then when you’re busy you can pop him in his crate for some much needed sleep and processing time while you get on with the rest of your life without having to worry about what the pup is doing. And when he’s with you, loose, you can watch him exploring his environment without having to do any “No” or “Ah-ah” because you’re there to divert him if a sniff looks as though it’s going to turn into a nibble.

In general, let your puppy explore everything. Don’t be curbing his enthusiasm for the world he now lives in. While we explore our surroundings largely with our eyes, and babies with their hands and mouth, puppies work largely with their nose and mouth. Let him! You can intervene and distract if necessary, but people are often surprised how little it is necessary if they can simply pay attention to their roving puppy and provide him with plenty of chewables in his playpen or crate.

A cat may look at a king!


Look to your puppy’s physical needs

Think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which is much the same for dogs as for people.

If you cater for all your pup’s physical needs - shelter, security, food, sleep, exercise, warmth - you’ll then be free to work on her higher needs - companionship, love, self-confidence, and self-fulfilment. Everyone knows that continually nagging and chiding a child will destroy his self-confidence, and we naturally tend to encourage children in their efforts. Puppies are the same! Continual nagging and telling off will damage your puppy’s confidence in her coping abilities, which will seriously affect her ability to learn without second-guessing, fear, and anxiety.

Alongside all this is the necessity for appropriate socialisation. This does not mean thrusting your puppy into the face of every dog you see, or handing him round to strangers to touch. What it does mean is slowly and gently exposing your puppy to all the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells, of our world, and ensuring that all experiences are good ones.


What you expect is what you get

If you think that inviting a puppy into your home is inevitably going to lead to destroyed furniture, soggy carpets, scratched and bitten hands and arms, shredded clothes, and all the rest, then maybe that’s what you’ll get. 

If, on the other hand, you prepare well, supervise your puppy at all times - inside and outside the house - and work with rewards and patience, you’re setting yourself up for a life of harmony with a dog who knows how to please you, knows her boundaries, and is happy to learn whatever you ask her to. 

For an example of how this learning takes place, have a look at this article which gives you a simple recipe to follow to get the results you want - whatever you’re teaching. 

And if you want to know a bit more about the nuts and bolts of Learning Theory in dogs - exhaustively researched and proven over the last 100 or so years - see this piece by the marvellous animal trainer Bob Bailey. There was never any room for sentiment in Bob’s work, training animals and birds for astonishing wartime feats to change the course of history. His work, which guided much of what enlightened dog trainers do today, was based totally in science. 

We want our pups to grow up confident and ready to learn, able to manage new things and new experiences. Excise NO from your vocabulary and you’ll be making a great start!


For lots of force-free methods for changing our puppy’s behaviour to what we want, check out this free email course.

For lots of force-free methods for changing our puppy’s behaviour to what we want, check out this free email course.

 

And if you’re just beginning with your precious new puppy - look at

Choosing a Puppy

Housetraining made easy

and

the very valuable cheatsheet on getting your puppy to sleep through the night! 

Got a dog already? Check out this article for successfully rearing a puppy in a multi-dog household.

 


 

Hands up who’s never shouted at their dog!

I don’t see any hands.

I don’t see my own hand either. (More confessions down the page.)

If you have really and truly never shouted at your dog - in frustration or annoyance, then I admire you! You are one in a million. You can go to the top of the class and give out the bones - while I continue with the other 999,999 people.

Now I’m not talking about fury or abuse. That would be inexcusable. 

I’m talking about the daily niggles that cause us to shout at or nag - even those we love most in the world. As soon as we’ve done it we wish we hadn’t. Because, apart from damaging our relationship, it really doesn’t work to get us what we want.

It doesn’t work for family members or work colleagues, with our sophisticated human brains, reasoning power, and social skills.

So there’s little hope of it working for your dog!
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Dogs are simple souls

They do what works. They aim to please - but it’s often very hard for them to know how to please. We say one thing when we mean another; we call them, ask them to sit, tell them to go away, to lie down, to vanish - what do we want?

You have to look at the bigger picture in order to convey clearly what it is you’d like your dog to do. 

For example: You call your dog. He comes bounding over to you with enthusiasm, ready to jump up to give you an extra special slurpy kiss. You say “Sit”. “Sit. SIT. SIT!!” 

One of two things will happen here: 

  1. You are clearly responding to his bouncing with excitement, so he bounces some more. Now you’ve taught him to jump all over you. Out of frustration you begin to sound crosser.
  2. He’s done a smashing recall and instead of appreciating that and congratulating him for his speed and enthusiasm, you are nagging him now about something he doesn’t understand. He mooches off feeling deflated. What’s going to happen next time you call him? Hmm, not so speedy or enthusiastic, I think.

So separate out in your mind what your dog is doing when, so that you can respond to the individual actions rather than the whole thing at once. If you call your dog, you reward him for coming to you. That’s all. Fancy stuff, like sits, can all be added later, when you’ve got the recall down. Allow the little doggy brain to focus on one thing at a time, get it right, and enjoy a reward. 

When you learn ballet you don’t launch into a dance straight away. You learn to stand correctly, to point your toes, to hold your head right. (I’m making this up. I’ve no idea how you learn ballet. But I do know that you start with component parts and gradually fit them together.)

If you can pick out the little things your dog does which you like and respond to those, he will do those things again and again - because it works. 

Yes - dogs can learn to do extraordinarily complex tasks, like opening the washing machine, pulling out the washing and putting it in the laundry basket, for example. But this takes time to teach, and has to be broken down into little stages, each of which is taught separately. When all the parts are mastered, the whole sequence can be put together. On a technical note, this is often taught backwards. The dog first learns to put washing in a basket, then they learn to pull it out of the machine to put it in the basket, and at the end they’re shown how to open the door (stage 3) to get the washing out (stage 2) and put it in the basket (stage 1). 

So if you want your dog to perform a complex behaviour, like coming when you call and sitting before you, then you must teach the recall on its own, and the sit on its own. Only when they are both 98% reliable do you join them together. If the recall is rocky, then you’ll never get to the sit. And if the sit is wobbly, you’ll only spoil the recall by focussing on the wrong thing.

If we can keep our part of the bargain, and ensure that we teach what we want our dog to do, and not expect him to learn it by witchcraft or thought transference, life will become easy and frictionless.

Why did you shout at me?

Now recollect the last time you shouted at your dog. You can put up your hand now - no-one’s looking. 

 

  • Was it because he had dug up the flowerbed? (Who left him unattended in the garden?) 

 

  • Was it because you were in a hurry, the phone was ringing, the saucepan was boiling over? (And that’s his fault?)

 

  • Was it because he jumped up on a visitor and you felt social pressure to have him behave nicely? (Have you taught him how you’d like him to greet visitors?)

 

  • Or was it because he did something infuriatingly bad which you thought he could be trusted not to do? (He’s a dog.)

 

No, my dogs aren’t perfect either. 

And I’m certainly not. 

But I know that whenever I catch myself losing patience with my dog it’s my problem, not his. 

Maybe it’s because I’m tired and rushed - that means it’s the perfect time to have a game in the garden with the dogs. That’ll relax me, please them, and get things back in proportion.

“There are no pockets in shrouds,” my grandmother would recite serenely, as she nodded slowly and sucked her teeth. And there are no prizes in heaven (where all our dogs are waiting for us) for having a beautifully clean house and a snapped-at pooch; or a flourishing business and a dejected dog.

What’s more, getting short with my dogs is a sure sign that my teaching has flagged and they have been left without guidance. So I need to up my game and re-teach with crystal clarity the things that are sure to please me. (These things may be incomprehensible to your dog, by the way, but they’ll do them - for you.)

Shouting at a dog is not only unfair, it damages the trust your dog has in you. You have suddenly become unreliable. 

Dogs (and children!) need to know that you have feelings too and they can only push you so far. But shifting the blame onto them is never the answer.

 

And for all those things which your dog does which frustrate you beyond measure, have a look at the many “recipes” for changing them to things that you’d like him to do, with our free 8-part email course - all force-free, of course. Jumping up, Barking, Digging, Chewing, Nipping - they’re all there!

Is walking two dogs the same as walking one dog?

Emphatically not! There are lots of reasons:

Going on a walk with one dog is a companionable affair. Just the one dog to consider. Just the one relationship. Just one speed. 

Add another and you have your attention split between two dogs. And the two dogs’ attention is split between you and each other. They will interact and react together. So immediately you have some unpredictability in the mix. And there’s great scope for the leads to tangle and for the dogs use you as a maypole.

Add to this the fact that you’ll need to set a pace to suit both dogs - not so easy with one old’un and one young’un. Or a big dog and a small dog. Perhaps you have one surging ahead and the other lagging behind. You have to pick up poo with what - your third hand? - while you try to stop the dogs stepping in it.

You have to decide which hand is holding which lead. You have to work out which lead is attached to which dog. And where do you put your treats?

And if one of your dogs is reactive to other dogs, then you are setting up a learning laboratory for your second dog.

Monkey see, monkey do. Reactivity is highly catching.

And it may result in a “redirected bite” when the frustrated dog lashes out at the first thing that gets in the way - the other dog? your leg? 

Remember that if you’re introducing a new puppy into the household along with your reactive dog you also need to be following a lot of other guidelines that you’ll find in this post.

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So it’s not as simple as just grabbing the leads and going! You have to put some thought into this. But a little simple planning goes a long way.

Start with individual dogs

The first essential is to work with one dog at a time. If your loose lead walking with one dog is not stellar, there’s no chance of it suddenly improving when you add another dog. 

Following a step-by-step program like the one you’ll find in Let’s Go! Enjoy Companionable Walks with your Brilliant Family Dog will quickly give you skills with your lead that you didn’t know existed (there’s an art to good lead-handling), and a relationship with your dog that you may have only dreamed of. 

So get that going first, with each dog. You can’t expect them to learn from each other! Well … they may learn from each other, but they may learn some things you’d rather they didn’t. And once they’ve learnt those things, it’s hard to unlearn them (though it can be done, of course). 

And while you’re doing all these solo walks you’re building a huge relationship with both dogs. If you build a relationship with your first dog, then toss another dog into the mix you’re never going to give that new dog the chance to interact with you individually on a walk.

Once you have got each dog knowing exactly where he should be when on a loose lead, you’re ready to put them together. 

I colour-code my dogs, so I know exactly which lead is connected to which dog at any time. This really does make life easier, so look at changing your dog-gear - at least the leads - so you can do this. 

Who’s where?

You also need to establish which side you want each dog, so they don’t criss-cross in front of you, tripping you and each other up. Even if you’ve taught each dog to walk on, say, your left side in solo walks, once they have grasped the principles of keeping the lead loose and staying beside you it’s very easy to flip one to the other side so you have one on each side. Of course, you may prefer both on the same side, but this can lead to jostling and differences of opinion about whose nose should be an inch ahead of the other’s!

Then again some people like their multi-dogs to be out in front of them, like deerhounds. This is fine as long as there’s no tension on the lead. This can be a useful strategy if walking through crowds or narrow streets.

Your focus when on these early walks - well, any walks really - is on helping the dogs to keep the position you have taught them individually.

Using gentle hands on your drooping leads you’ll be able to connect with them without the need to yank or pull at the lead. Frequent rewards given to the dog who’s getting it right will quickly focus your other dog’s attention on how he can get this bounty too. A little competition can go a long way!

While there is no time when my dogs cannot earn a reward for doing something I like, when I have four in hand they may have to be content with a smile and a word of encouragement each time they check in with me. Delving in the pocket for treats with four leads to hold is not so quick! 

What should my dogs wear?

For preference I like to walk my dogs on a well-fitted non-aversive harness with two connection points and a double-ended lead. If you choose a lead with a “freedom” handle this is very easy to manage with one hand. See the video here to show you what I mean: www.goodfordogs.co.uk/products *

There are lots of gadgets about for stopping dogs pulling. Many of these are aversive - they work by hurting. And also many of them promise a quick fix. None of them, however kind, is a substitute for teaching your dog where you want him to be when walking!

So slapping on a headcollar without any prior desensitisation is likely to end up with a dog who is forever yanking the lead while he tries to scrabble the offending object off his nose. You can certainly use a non-tightening headcollar - if your dogs have been acclimatised to it first - and it can give you that extra bit of control you may need in extreme circumstances: e.g. walking four dogs across a showground full of excited dogs and activities. The headcollar also comes into its own to help with a reactive dog who has a tendency to lunge out at passers-by.

But I would not see it as an aid to get loose lead walking, and the lead would never be tight so that the dog is forced to pull into it.

So by all means enjoy walking your two or more dogs together! But be sure they know exactly what you want before you start, and remember to walk them individually too on a regular basis, to reinforce that bond that develops between you and your dog, one-on-one.

 

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* This is me. If you’re from UK or Europe and you buy from me I will benefit - but you won’t pay any more!

 

 

 

 

I'm not spending good money on a DOG!

“We want a dog, but our commitment is weak. So we’ll just put our toe in the water and save some money while we’re about it.”

“So we’ll get a rescue dog, or a puppy from a farm - not paying all that money for a pedigree dog! And if it doesn’t work out, you can just take it back to the shelter, right?”

“Did you know you can get dog food for £10 a bag at Rubbish For Pets! Have you seen how much that other stuff costs?”

“Classes? No! I’ll teach him what’s what.”

“I’m not paying good money for a collar. This one from the market will do.”

 

Your dog doesn’t know how much he cost

Get your free email course to start out right with your new dog

When you get a dog, you’ll soon find out that things cost the same whether you have a pedigree or a mutt. They have the same size stomach, the same basic needs, the same hunger to learn and fit in.

 

  • Vet care costs the same - vaccinations, worming, operations - the only difference is the weight of the dog for medications - the bigger the dog, the bigger the bill.

 

  • The advantage of a pedigree dog is that you can choose an accredited breeder who does endless, expensive, health-tests, and know that your dog is as healthy as can be and has had the best start possible. You’ll have an idea of what temperament you’re likely to get (though your puppy is an individual and can still surprise you!). The vet bills will start mounting alarmingly when genetic defects like Hip Dysplasia and skin problems appear.

 

  • Of course you can find nicely-reared pet dogs, but you need to know where to look and what to look for … bit of a minefield for the unwary.

 

  • Pups reared in a shed can have HUGE problems adapting to life in the real world. You may need professional help.

 

  • Rescue dogs can come with baggage. There may be a very valid reason why they were abandoned (not forgivable, but valid nonetheless). That’s fine if you have the will and the dedication to work through it all, as so many good people do. But be aware: it could get expensive.

 

  • If you’re sued because your dog causes an accident or an injury, the lawyers won’t care where the dog came from.

 

  • And as for food - the better you care for your dog, the fitter and happier he’ll be. Many people don’t realise that behavioural problems can be exacerbated by a poor diet just as badly as the obvious physical problems - like joint pain, digestive issues, skin problems. Aim for the best food you can afford - it’ll pay you back in the long run through hugely reduced vets’ bills! Check here to find out what you should be feeding and why, and how to get the best price.

 

  • Training - you need to source a force-free trainer who uses the latest methods based on scientific research. This is a good starting place to look for UK readers. And here for USA readers. Unless you do a lot of study yourself, you’re likely to fall back on outdated methods from the (happily buried) past that can cause more harm than good. A really good puppy class will show you how to understand your dog and set you up for a lifetime of fun together. If you’ve never experienced an up-to-date, force-free training school you’ll be amazed at what happens in these classes!

 

  • Cheap collars and leads? A motorbiking friend of mine used to say “If you’ve got a £5 head get a £5 helmet.” That collar’s not very cheap if it snaps on the main road and an accident ensues …

 

Can you commit?

Getting a dog is a big commitment. You are pledging to share your home with this animal for the next 12-15 years. Trying to cut corners and save money is shooting yourself in the foot. The savings indicated above are truly false economies. It costs money to look after an animal properly so you may as well pay upfront and get it over with, rather than paying piecemeal for the rest of the dog’s life.

Show your pet the same respect as you show anyone else you share your home with.

 

Time, like fresh air, is free.

 

And if you really can’t bear to pay for a decent puppy class (or there isn’t one near you) get started with our free 8-part email course: 

All text and images © Copyright 2017 Beverley Courtney