I have a difficult dog - How can I get a break?

Lacy barking in the field.png

If there’s one thing Growly Dog owners know - it’s that sometimes you just need a break!

However much you love your gorgeous darling reactive dog, it has the potential to become wearing. You don’t want your dog to become a burden! So taking a break, whether for work or pleasure, can let you see how the other half lives while reinforcing your good feelings for your dog - Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that.

A change can also be a good thing, so holidaying with your pet is way up there on the to-do list for many reactive dog-owners. And it may not be as difficult as you think!

How to get a holiday at all

As I have four dogs, holidays in hotels and b&b’s - though possible in theory - really were not fun. All this changed when I got a campervan and I’m now able to swan off with my dogs to all sorts of interesting places - beaches, forests, fields, moors - and enjoy the trip thoroughly.

No campervan? You can rent one!

There are also many places - certainly in the UK - where you can rent a holiday cottage in the depths of the countryside, and dogs are welcome. They often have a well-fenced garden and ready access to walking country, though you’d need to check that first. For me that’s definitely the second-best thing to the van (well, first-best thing in the depths of winter!), and I’ve been introduced to some great new places to explore that way.

So holidaying with your dog, even a very reactive one, is definitely possible. And I know that lots of people set off with some misgivings, only to find that the whole family has a wonderful stress-free time - including, sometimes much to their surprise, their dog!

What about when I can’t take my reactive dog?

But what happens if you can’t take your dog with you and you have to travel? This was me recently, with a business trip. I was fortunate in that I know an amazing place where dogs - especially reactive dogs - are not just welcome, but thoroughly catered for and pampered. It’s not near me - I have to travel two hours to get there - but is it worth it? Heck, yes!

The comfort I get from knowing my precious dogs are in safe hands, with someone who absolutely understands their needs, their individuality, their fears, is priceless. And, of course, this 5* treatment is not cheap. But how much value do you put on your dog’s safety and your own peace of mind?

Now I know a safe place for them, I need have no qualms about future trips away from them.

Previously I would only be away for a day. Then I’d get a carefully-chosen dog minder to visit them two or three times in the day. I didn’t want them walked, just given a break, let out, and played with. This works very well for me, but is limited to just the one day - and a minder who they’ve met and “approved”!

“My dog is such a tie”

So don’t let the fact that your dog does not strew rose petals and rainbows wherever she goes prevent you from taking a holiday - with or without her.

The time to do your research is now, not five minutes before you want to go. You’ll have time to seek advice, check out the places, and carefully get to know the person who will be caring for your dogs.

You’ll have some searching questions if you’re leaving your dog with someone else, and you need to get those questions answered thoroughly. In the case of the place my dogs stayed at, several visits beforehand are a part of the package, so your dog isn’t dumped in a strange place with strangers, and so that you can check out the carer and the premises.

You can see the bond they developed with Clair in this video of the welcome they gave me on my return. They kept running back to her (with the camera) to tell her the exciting news! This is one of many videos and photos sent to me, most while I was away.


New Puppy!

New Puppy? | Indispensable new book in the popular Brilliant Family Dog book series, taking you step-by-step through sleeping all night, puppy biting, housetraining - the lot! | CLICK FOR DETAILS | #newpuppy, #puppypottytraining, #puppytraining, #puppysleep, #puppybiting | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Do you know what the most frequent questions are, here at Brilliant Family Dog?

“How can I stop my puppy biting?” and

 “My puppy is crying all night - how will we ever sleep again?”

And I find in the course of answering these queries - not to mention my experiences from ten years of puppy classes! - that there are many things new puppy-owners just have no idea about. And life would be so much easier if they only knew!

See, for example, what Lisa said about her new Collie x puppy after asking my advice:

“Your advice and encouragement are invaluable! I felt so lost on Monday … it's only Wednesday and it's like a whole different world opened up! Thank you Thank you THANK YOU!”

So I’ve put fingers to keyboard and added another book to the Brilliant Family Dog series of how-to books, designed specially for the ordinary dog-owner in the street - that’s you, most probably. Most people aren’t looking to compete with their dogs, or turn them into performance dogs of some kind.

Most people just want a Brilliant Family Dog they can take anywhere, that will enhance their family lives … not make them ten times worse!

PUPPY BITING? NO SLEEP? PUDDLES?  “New Puppy!” the latest book in the Brilliant Family Dog series of dog-friendly training books will save your sanity and have you loving your puppy again | GET YOUR BOOK NOW | #newpuppy, #puppytraining, #housetraining, #puppybiting, #puppysocialization | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

So I’ve written this book with this very much at the front of my mind. You won’t find endless scientific hypotheses, lengthy training programs, or explanations of what is normal for a puppy without telling you what on earth to do about it.

Instead, it tells you what you need to know, and doesn’t waste your time on stuff you don’t need to get confused by.

You get solid advice from the front line. Apart from the thousands of puppies I’ve had the privilege to work with down the years - in classes, on group walks and boarding in my home - there are my own many dogs who all started out with me as young pups.

Every dog is different, and every dog is valuable. Every family is different too - and you are just as valuable! So getting this “marriage” to work needs attention from the outset.

So often a puppy comes into a new home - it’s all excitement and craziness. There’s little structure, and sometimes not so much understanding. Love is wonderful … but you need to be armed with more than love to survive those early weeks without losing your sanity, or your cool - or turning your puppy into a “naughty dog”.

Once you “know your enemy”, you can manage your household in such a way that your puppy never gets to do anything you don’t like! Imagine that! And yes, it is possible.

If your home so far has resembled a war zone, with possessions destroyed, carpets ruined, and garden looking like a building site, it’s only because you don’t yet know this stuff. Get yourself the book - preferably before your next puppy arrives in your home! - and Be Prepared.

And if you have no puppy plans right now, this book would make a marvellous present for someone who’s about to get a puppy, or someone who has those bleeding hands, ripped sleeves, and bags under the eyes that show that they are battling with a fluffy little monster with horns and a forked tail, aka their new puppy.


What’s in the book?

  • Sleep - yours, and your puppy’s

  • Biting - sleeves, children, furniture

  • Puppies and children

  • Socialisation - just what does it mean?

  • Exercise - how often? How much?

  • Feeding - how often? How much? What to feed?

  • Jumping up! - Simple step-by-steps to change this

  • Housetraining - guaranteed recipe for success

  • Stealing and running off and other irksome habits

  • Choosing a puppy - the three key stages

And lots of free resources for the new puppy-owner


Go and check out this page now where you can choose ebook or paperback. And if you live in an Amazon-free zone (they do exist, I’m told!) you can ask your local bookshop to order it. It’s currently at a super-reasonable introductory price.

Why should I pay for training my dog?

Man teaching puppy.png

Well, this is a question I hear a LOT!

And it’s a bit puzzling to me. I’m sure that many of those who query a cost on dog training are happy to pay their dentist or their doctor, their pharmacist or hairdresser. They buy clothes and food from shops …

Imagine if they stood at the supermarket checkout saying “I can’t afford this at the moment, so either give it to me free or we won’t eat till next month”!

It’s a question of priorities really. You got yourself a dog. And you’re expecting it to train itself. All those things that annoy you about your dog are not figuring in your list of priorities to fix.

But is this a short-term thought?

The sooner you get to grips with your new puppy, or any newly-developed thing your dog is doing that you don’t like - the faster you can fix it. For a puppy and a new rescue you have to invest a lot of time in the early months. And your older resident dog? You’ll have to pick up on any new thing he’s doing and decide straight away what to do about it.

I know there are a lot of expenses with a new puppy. But people happily cough up large sums at the vet, possibly paying for a monthly program. The purchase price of the dog (especially if it’s one of the popular breeds or a “designer” crossbreed) can be very high. They pay loads for insurance, more for kennelling for holidays, they buy expensive beds and toys, get good food … but for some reason I can’t fathom, think that while their puppy won’t vaccinate himself, shop for himself, or pay his own insurance - he can train himself!

The hidden costs of failing to train your dog

Perhaps if people could see what they’re risking by missing out on this, they may move puppy training from “maybe” to “essential and urgent”.

It’s not just a question of having a dog who is a good citizen, doesn’t upset neighbours or other dogs, can be trusted round your food and belongings, and is not under your feet all day annoying you. There are real costs involved in abdicating your responsibility in this.

Hear what Laura had to say:

“As the manager of a busy veterinary practice, I’ve seen countless examples of how training can mean life or death to a dog. The most obvious examples are the dogs hit by cars because they haven’t been taught a reliable recall. It’s always heartbreaking, and especially traumatic for the owners who watch in horror as their beloved pet is hit by a car.”

She lists lots of examples of occasions where simple training could have saved the pet’s life - and saved possibly thousands in vet care.

“I remember Jake, the young Golden Retriever who got out of the yard when one of the kids left the gate open, and was hit by car. We did all we could to try to save him, but his injuries were too severe, and the owner ultimately had to make the decision to end his suffering. We all cried as we put him to sleep.”

“Then there are the euthanasias after a bite. These often involve children, and are gut-wrenching because of how preventable they usually are. In almost every case, the owner says that the bite “came with no warning”, but we know that actually there’s always signs that weren’t recognized. The body language that says clearly, “I don’t like what this child is doing to me,” or the averted gaze that says, “I’m anxious and feel threatened”.  Often the owners tell a story of escalating aggressive behavior that was unrecognized or excused until something tragic happened. Behavior that could have been much more easily handled had it been addressed at the start.”

Want to know how I teach my own puppies?

Here’s a taster course for you!

She is so right!

It can be simple to deal with what people perceive as aggression if we trainers are invited in to help. But we can’t do it by thought transference! We have to show you.

Here’s a great story from Laura that had a happy ending:

“We treated a young Lhasa Apso who growled when his owner tried to get him off the bed, or when anyone came near his food or water bowl. The vet tried to convince the owner that Jack needed training to address these behaviors. The owner would say, ‘Jack is a good boy. He just doesn’t like some things’. Unfortunately the owner’s grandchild tried to lie down on the sofa near him one day, and Jack bit her on the lip. She required sutures, and Jack was brought in to our hospital the next day to be put to sleep for aggression. He was adopted by our lead vet and after a few months of training, he became the favorite “example” dog at the puppy training classes. Unfortunately, they don’t all have happy endings like this one.“

It just shows that a bit of knowledge of how to train a dog can turn even the most serious cases round. But why wait till your child is bitten? Why not teach your dog AND your children how to behave round each other from the start?

Bites cost money

And you should know that if your dog does bite someone, it could end up costing you a massive amount of money in legal fees and fines. In UK law a dog doesn’t even have to bite! It’s enough for them just to frighten someone. Your dog could be taken away from you and killed because you didn’t understand him and his motivation.

This sort of expense far outweighs the costs of some simple training! Not to mention the distress all round.

Accidents in the home

Your puppy is waiting for you to guide him! Avoid dramas and expensive accidents with a bit of training | MINI-COURSE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #doghealth, #dogbehavior, #dogimpulsecontrol | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

You don’t even have to venture out to find that a little training could save a lot of upset and sadness for your family and your dog - and even save your dog’s life.

Debbie the animal first aid trainer told me of:

“A Jack Russell who was a window barker - he got caught in the blinds and hanged himself.”

What a thing to come home to …

Then there was the bin-raider Debbie came across who ate a cooked chicken carcase and got a blockage - this is a life-or-death issue, and the vet treatment will be urgent and costly.

What training would have saved all these dogs?

  • Recall is an obvious one. It’s not just a question of yelling the dog’s name and expecting a result - it has to be taught methodically!

•    Correct socialisation with children, management, and education about this new species in your home for the whole family.

  •    Resource Guarding: can easily be made worse by the owner if they plump for a method they saw on the internet that involves challenging the dog and coercion. It’s a simple issue when you know how!

  •    Window-barking can be quickly solved by a bit of in-home management and Impulse Control training for the dog.

•    And stealing, countersurfing, hoovering - all can be fixed with teaching Impulse Control, and the owner learning to read their dog and manage situations safely.

Should I push dog training up my to-do list?

From all this you should be able to see that there is a real material value to training your dog! Not only will she become more amenable in the house and on walks, more fun, more rewarding, more entertaining for the children, but you should avoid the catastrophes listed above.

You don’t hesitate to get schooling for your child. Why should your dog not get the same courtesy and privilege?

A quick Google search will reveal that the costs of employing a professional force-free dog trainer - whether in group classes, 1-1 consultations, or online courses - is a lot less than you may expect. In most cases it’s much less than what you pay to have your car or your teeth serviced, much less than the purchase price of your dog, and sometimes cheaper than the fancy bed you bought!

So have sense and include dog training in your list of outgoings, before your dog makes your life an emotional and financial misery. And do keep in mind that dog trainers - like plumbers, mechanics, and doctors - need to eat and pay rent, and deserve a decent return for all the training and study they’ve put in.

If you like playing Russian Roulette, carry on saying you can’t afford training

But when you can remove all the petty annoyances so easily - not to mention the major disasters - resulting from lack of training, you’ll all enjoy a much better life with your dog.

New dog? Resident dog creating difficulties? 

Here's your course


Helping your young dog understand our world

How do you get your new dog to explore the world with confidence? | FREE ECOURSE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #dogbehavior, #dogimpulsecontrol | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

I was standing in our local high street with my puppy, just watching the world go by.

We saw people, children, dogs, wheelchairs, cars, vans, and a very interesting pigeon on the pavement a few yards from us. Coco studied this for a while and I gave him plenty of time to look at it, ensuring his lead was slack. Whenever he seemed more than curious, I’d feed him for not reacting. We were taking everything in our stride …

UNTIL this pleasant episode was interrupted by shouting. A woman was walking down the wide pavement, yanking the lead of her dog. She shouted “LEAVE IT!!” and yanked again. As far as I could see the dog was quite surprised by this.

She marched on, towards us and the pigeon. The friendly-looking young dog looked towards my pup - YANK! “LEAVE IT!!”

Then he made the mistake of glancing towards the pigeon YANKYANK SHAKE “LEAVE IT!!!”

By now the poor dog was straining on his lead to get as far away from his owner as possible. She stopped, gave the lead an almighty yank and hoisted the dog off his feet, once more yelling “LEAVE IT!!”

I wonder if that dog had any idea what “Leave it” meant?


What I do know is that a naturally curious young dog was being abused and punished for … what? Showing interest in his surroundings. 

This is exactly what I had brought my young dog out to do!

•  It’s very sad that anyone should treat another creature in this way.

•  It’s more sad that the dog was doing nothing wrong.

•  Sadder still that his owner seems to think this is the way to teach.

•  And saddest of all? He is stuck with this short-tempered, unenlightened owner.

We can’t reach everyone, but by our example we can hope to change attitudes, one dog at a time


To get a flying start at this, get our free 8-part email course which gives you “training recipes” for changing things you don’t like, and encouraging the things you do like in your dog

Privacy Policy

Puppy gear - what do you really need?

Bringing home your new puppy? Here are the things you’ll find invaluable - and also what you need to avoid - to rear your puppy successfully | FREE PUPPY GUIDE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #puppytraining, #puppycollar, #puppybed | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

.. and what you really don’t need to waste your money on

You’re getting your new puppy any minute - exciting! You’re looking forward to enjoying quiet nights, a nice clean home, happy laughing children playing with the puppy.

But is it possible you’re underestimating the amount of work involved in rearing this new fluffball? Are you perhaps anxious about “not getting it right”, and turning your house into a war zone where nobody gets any sleep and everything is chewed up?

Let’s plump for the first image - a happy home with the addition of a much-loved puppy. A bit of planning is needed to make this all work. You could go to a pet store and come out with hundreds of pounds’ worth of stuff - much of which will be useless to you.

But hey, I’ve been there before - many times! I’ve had many new puppies of my own to care for, and plenty of students’ puppies too. So I can show you how to get what you need to make this run as smoothly as possible, and avoid cluttering the place up with unnecessary purchases that get destroyed in short order.

It’s pointless, for instance, buying a smart expensive bed for your puppy till you know his chewing proclivities. Some pups chew, some don’t at all. Some are piranhas, some just suck and love their beds to death. Use any old blankets or towels you happen to have around to make a cosy nest. You can get a beautiful bed when you know it won’t be shredded.

Like fencing a field for your new livestock - you soon get to know what you are up against in terms of the escapability quotient of the boundary and the crushing strength of your puppy’s jaws. Till then, make sure that boundaries are stronger than you think, and watch carefully when you give your puppy anything to chew.

Get your free Guide to all the Puppy Gear you’ll need

Privacy Policy

Download your free Guide to Puppy Gear and eliminate all this worry. It shows you just what you need - and what you don’t need.

Also check out these posts - which give you the inside track on how to use this kit:

Errorless Housetraining

How to use a puppy playpen

You’ll see from the Guide that the right sort of crate is essential to the whole system. Don’t get a soft crate. That fabric and zip will last 0 minutes if your puppy is an escapologist and tries to fight his way out. Start with a robust, good-quality crate with a metal pan, that will last for donkey’s years, and he’ll never even try to dig an escape tunnel. If you teach him kindly to love his crate, of course, he’ll never want to escape!

Bringing home your new puppy? Don’t make costly mistakes when shopping - ere are the things you’ll need - and also what you need to avoid - to rear your puppy successfully | FREE PUPPY GUIDE | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #puppytraining, #puppycollar, #puppybed | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

The same goes for toys. You can buy one specially for your new puppy, but the children may enjoy donating one of their old soft toys as a welcome gift. The local charity shop is where my supply of bears and monkeys come from. If it’s safe for a baby, it should be safe for your puppy. 

You’ll need a soft easily-adjustable collar to carry your puppy’s id disc. He may be microchipped, but you want to make it easy for anyone who finds him to return him to you fast. And I’d recommend using a body harness from the start so your puppy never learns to pull into a collar and choke himself.

Just as your children go through growth stages and need larger and possibly tougher clothing that fits, so your puppy will go through a few harnesses on his way to full maturity. This is an item that needs to fit snugly and safely, so don’t try to save money on this. If your puppy slips out of his collar or harness and ends up under a car you’ll see it was a false economy.

And skip the retractable lead - this article shows you all the horrors and dangers of one.

If you follow the Guide to Puppy Gear you’ll know you’re doing your best for your new companion while avoiding the mistakes that could cost you money. If you don’t get the right stuff to help you, you may end up with chewed furniture, wet carpets, a crying puppy, and no sleep - not a happy outcome!

Let’s get you started so that you have speedy housetraining, easy puppy compliance, and no chewing; quiet nights, nice clean home, and happy laughing children playing with your new puppy!


Get your free Guide to all the Puppy Gear you’ll need

Privacy Policy

my puppy Coco was on the sick list

The vet has said your dog needs bed rest? Then you must ensure this happens. But how? Read this post for essential guidelines | FREE BOOK | #newpuppy, #dogtraining, #newrescuedog, #doghealth, #dogbehavior, #dogimpulsecontrol | www.brilliantfamilydog.com

Poor Cocopup!

I remember it so clearly:  one minute he was having a fantastic game of catch the frisbee and chasing Cricket with her frisbee, the next minute a yawning chasm opened up before him, swallowed his front leg and twisted his shoulder.

The shrieking! Ow ow ow, he cried.

After a visit to the vet for x-rays, diagnosis and anti-inflammatories, he was sentenced to a few weeks’ bed rest.

For a young miniature poodle - poodles have everlasting energy, in case you didn’t know - this

was hard!

And inexplicable.

Easy peasy

But the whole thing was made easy because Coco loves his crate, takes himself there when tired, and knows to settle down as soon as he’s in it.

We also do a lot of matwork, regularly. This translates now to any mat or bed I point him to. He will stay there until released.

He got regular sessions with his very own Canine Massage Therapist to aid a fast recovery, which he absolutely loved.

So while I was working, he was stretched out on his bed beside me. When I couldn’t be paying attention he could go in his crate. I was able to achieve the bed rest prescribed by the vet without any stress on the part of my dog.

Or me.

Stress on top of injury

An injured dog is already stressed enough. Confining a dog who isn’t used to it could add a lot more anxiety and tension.

Of course Coco got out for garden visits, lap visits, and some trick training, aka therapy for the injured leg (“Take a Bow” gave him an excellent shoulder-stretch). But preventing him racing and playing with the other dogs was the hard part.

Soon we were able to graduate to short road walks.

It was a while before young Mr.Coco was joyfully chasing his frisbee again.

But at least the time passed calmly.

Could your dog do this?

You never know when you may need to keep your dog quiet for a period. Want to know how to get your dog to this calm, accepting state?

Go to Calm Down and get your free copy.

Now you can work through the steps and teach your dog how to relax - any time, any place, any how. It is an enjoyable method, gets super results, and makes life easier for all of us.

What’s not to love?!

 But why listen to me when you can see what readers think!

I love your books! Your simple, fun, and loving training methods are helping me make tremendous progress with my brilliant puppies. 

Mary Anne and her two Springer Spaniels, USA


AMAZON 5* review

This book is excellent and so clearly written my 7 year old is enjoying working through the stages with us. After two short training sessions our 9 week old pup is already lying on his mat as soon as I put it out. The author is clearly very knowledgable and when I emailed her a question I received a very informative personal reply. I have read books 2 and 3 in the series also and can honestly say they make training my pup an absolute pleasure for both of us.

Dianne and Ted, UK


Three dog trainers, two behaviour specialist vets, three vets ... and a six month old  terrier who thinks he’s a tiny pup, a fierce crocodile, and a bucking bronco. Went to purchase your book Calm Down! but got it for zero payment on Amazon. Read it, started training - immediate success. The difference has been amazing, pup is now snoozing near me, with a constant eye on me but definitely better! I want to send you a big, heartfelt thank you.

Ute and Gilbert, Germany


AMAZON 5* review

I bought Calm Down! before the arrival of my 8 week old puppy. In under 5 days I had him leaping onto the mat and lying down waiting for his treats. It was just amazing!

Reni and Rupert, Australia


I can honestly say your books have changed the lives of me and Bo. He loves nothing more than learning new things and playing games, he loved every single part of the process.

Cara and Bo


Your "Calm Down" book saved me. Literally! It's only been a week and she is a different dog, relaxed lying at my feet on her mat. I don't hate her any more and have allowed myself to bond with her. I really didn’t think this would ever happen as she was making my home life so stressed out.  Thank You!  



A surprisingly easy and fun skill to teach!

So go get your book and get started!

Want to turn your dog into a star retriever? Check Fetch it! Teach your Brilliant family Dog to catch fetch, retrieve, find and bring things back! and enjoy a new relationship with your dog.