Variety is the spice of life

benchDo you walk your dogs every day? I do.
Do you walk your dog in the same places all of the time? I DON’T!

I think variety is really important for our dogs. Going to the fields, running and playing ball is important and fun.  But I think walking on lead is as important.

Learning to walk on a loose lead, to be calm around other pedestrians, to cope with traffic of all shapes and sizes is an important skill for many reasons.  For example, when holidaying in lovely places like the Lake District, Cornwall or the Yorkshire Dales, being able to stroll through village streets with your dog, enjoy popping into shops and dog friendly cafes is wonderful; on days where the weather is filthy and you really want to avoid the mud, a walk around your home town can be cleaner and quite sociable; also, if your dog is ever recovering from an injury and is restricted to lead exercise only, you will have had the practise and be able to enjoy those walks stress free!

So a few times a week, I visit different local areas to explore and pound the streets. My dogs have learned to walk on a loose lead, they are calm around other pedestrians, they don’t worry about traffic; they like a good sniff and snoot along garden walls, hedges edging peoples gardens and post boxes. They aren’t fazed by bin wagons or emergency vehicles any more.

I have met and chatted with people that I wouldn’t normally see and seen some beautiful architecture and monuments that I’d have missed because they are little treasures tucked away down side streets.

For dogs that are shy or reactive, picking nice wide streets with good visibility can be a really useful part of the habituation and counter conditioning programme.  Learning to manage your space, walking on a loose lead and changing directions are all skills that handlers of fearful dogs need to have.

So, be imaginative on your walks, get out and explore your local area, visit local cafes and enjoy a sniffing, snooting, mud free walk!

  robin park Urban Indie urban Twist


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Remember, Remember the 5th of November…

IndieAutumn can be a stressful time of year for dogs and their owners.  The light fades earlier, the clocks change, walks are often done in darkness and it’s wet and it’s cold! But on a more serious note, the season change brings fireworks and for many dogs this is a bewildering, frightening time, causing real upset and stress for many dog owners.
The good news is that we can do some things to help our dogs cope a little better. Here are a few tips that I hope you will find useful.

Firstly, dismiss the old myth that comforting your dog will make their fear worse. This is simply not true. If your dog seeks you out when they are worried or frightened, this shows that you are their safe place and that they trust you. To ignore this comfort seeking behaviour really leaves your dog stranded, confused. You cannot make the problem worse by comforting your dog, so when they seek reassurance from you, please feel free to cuddle and stroke them. What we do know for a fact is that eye contact, petting and interacting with your dog causes a release of Oxytocin in both us and our dogs, so stroking the dog is sure to help right? For your dog to see you as the safe place to go when frightened is a good thing, so be there for cuddles when needed.

  • Other things you can do include…
    Closing windows tightly, shut blinds and curtains early and make sure toilet breaks are done before it goes too dark.
  • Don’t take your dog for a walk if there are fireworks going on, even dogs that aren’t usually worried about loud noises can be startled by firework noise and flashing lights.
  • Make a den at home, you can cover their crate in blankets and make it cosy inside, or make a safe place behind the sofa or between chairs, somewhere you dog can seek refuge.
  • Play the TV or music a little louder than normal in the hope that some sound from outside is drowned out.
  • Some dogs benefit from having a stuffed / frozen stuffed KONG toy to chew on, as a distraction and also to help relieve stress.
  • Adaptil is a synthetic version of the hormone that mother dogs secrete to help reassure their puppies, this product is designed to help dogs cope with stressful situations and studies have shown that is can help with sound sensitivity issues for some dogs. There are plug-ins, room sprays and collars available, I used the plug in when I brought my pups home and found them to be very useful.
  • iCalm Dog is a great product, the music has been used to reduce stress in dogs, this is especially effective when used in connection with settle protocols at home.
  • If your dog isn’t too frightened, try a game with their favourite toy or even a little training session to take their minds of the noise.
  • Thundershirt – some dogs find the feeling of a permanent hug really very comforting.
  • If your dog does need a toilet break through the evening don’t let them go out along, pop them on their lead and go with them, frightened dogs tend to run away and it’s really common for dogs to escape houses and gardens at this time of year and end up lost.
  • Make sure your ID tag and Microchip details are up to date.
  • You can speak to your Vet about medication, but do be aware, the use of Acepromazine (ACP) is not recommended, since this drug immobilises the dog but does not alter the emotional state of the dog. Speak to your vet about alternative medication if you feel your dog needs this kind of support.

Finally, if your dog is really struggling with fireworks, it is an issue that you can get professional help with. Get in touch with a properly qualified dog trainer or behaviour consultant who can help you with putting together a programme for careful behaviour modification training, desensitisation and counter conditioning where possible. This needs work throughout the year, not just in the Autumn and Winter time, so plan now, for next year.

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Trip to Atlanta

Last weekend I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to fly to Atlanta, Georgia, USA for the first ever Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainers Conference.

The Highway into Atlanta City View of Atlanta from the Highway

The location of the seminar was Canine Assistants Training Facility in Atlanta. Canine Assistants is a truly inspirational charity that train dogs to assist children or adults that have disabilities, train seizure response dogs and also train companion dogs.  The wonderful thing about Canine Assistants is that they recognise the importance of training dogs using force free methods, so all of these clever dogs are trained using positive training methods and Canine Assistants base their relationships with dogs on trust, educations and understanding.

Canine Assistance HQ Canine Assistants HQ Tour of the Canine Assistants Facility

It was truly a fantastic event with speakers from so many disciplines. We were lucky to hear from Victoria Stilwell, Van Zeiler, Jennifer Arnold, Irith Bloom, Jim CrosbyMarty Becker, Corinna Murray, Cathy Bruce, Linda Michaels, Gina Phairas, Dale Ward, Paula Bloom and Daniela Cardillo. Discussing subjects including loose lead walking, dog training class curriculum’s, assessing dogs, marketing, the power of listening, social media,  canine cognition, science based dog training, the importance of education, handling aggressive dogs and dealing with anxious, fearful and aggressive behaviour.

Jo & Emma are pleased to be in Atlanta!!! Victoria tests out Resource Guarding by pinching a handbag & purse! Mmmmmm, coffe & snacks!

My personal favorite, and something that I’d like to work on in the UK is creating fear free vet visits for our dogs. I think veterinarians have such an important job to do and they are often in the line of fire for dogs that may well bite them due to illness, injury and fear. Taking the fear out of the vet surgery for our dogs and their owners has to be a priority, and certainly something to work on for the future.

 Puppy Cuddles Dr Marty Beckman  Fear Free Vet Practise

Another important issue is the art of listening. By that I mean dog trainers and behaviourists  listening to human customers. We need to really understand the worries, requirements and limitations of our human customers if we are going to be able to help smooth the path for a happier, stress free relationship between dog and owner.  I know we call ourselves dog trainers, but really we are teaching people and we must comprehend their needs and wishes if we are going to be able to do a good job for each individual pet family.

All in all I had a great trip, I’m so pleased to have had the opportunity to go to Atlanta and I’m full of new ideas that I can pass on to my staff, customers and of course use at home with my own dog and family! I’m looking forward to next year already!

Jo having a cuddle with a puppy destined for great things! Who am I game??

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Exciting News!

I’m really excited to announce that Standish Dog Trainer is now a Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme Listed Club! The ONLY club in the UK that is recognised by Victoria Stilwell and listed with the Kennel Club!
We will be offering Good Citizen Dog Scheme Classes and testing for all of the fantastic dogs and owners in our area!

GCDS Certificate

You can find out more about the Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme and Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training.

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Nosey Parkers!!

I’m really excited to that Standish Dog Trainer is bringing yet another new activity for dogs and owners to the North West!

nosy p

 Nosey Parkers is our new scent work class for pet dogs and their owners. Any dog can participate in scent work – regardless of age, breed or ability and there are many benefits. This is a natural activity that your dog will enjoy, it is mentally stimulating and tiring and will  help to build or re-establish the bond between dog and handler. It is even suitable for dogs that prefer not to spend time around other dogs.

Nosey Parkers is starting in September, to find out more, you can contact Cathy Birchall, Standish Dog Trainers Scent Work Trainer on 01942 246862 or email:

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Where should you get a puppy from?

This blog idea has been going around in my head for sometime now and is a subject that I feel quite strongly about. With the documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed 2 being aired last night and my overhearing a conversation about where someone could get hold of a cheap puppy I thought I would ask you to consider a few ideas carefully before you go ahead an bring a canine family member into your home.

There are lots of places that you can get a puppy from, rescue centres, breeders, pet shops and from someone you know whose dog had puppies, to name just a few.  At the moment it would seem that the thing driving consumers is the price , as cheap as I can get it please. And what the puppy looks like.  However these things are not necessarily what we really need for our pets.  What about the health of the puppy?  Not just its health now, but long term health.  Buying a cheaper puppy may seem like good value now, but what about the vets bills involved when your puppy gets home and has fleas and diarrhoea? What about the vet bills that are incurred as it gets older and cannot walk properly, see properly or breath properly? Its behavioural well-being is also incredibly important, a puppy that has not been raised in the best environment over the first few weeks of life is at high risk of developing behavioural problems as an adult dog, and behavioural problems can be just as life threatening as poor health.

There are lots of  breeders out there doing an amazing job, producing puppies that have been bred from genetically tested parents, in a clean, safe, stimulating, family environment that go on to be healthy, well balanced canine members of society. These puppies may cost a little bit more, since the breeder needs to pay for health testing, vaccinations, good food and some even contribute to research into the long term health of their chosen breed. Money well spent in my opinion. These people will give you support for the life of your puppy.

However, there are people out there breeding puppies who have no regard for the health, mental well-being or future of the breed that they are selling. Their interest is purely in making money.  Some of these people call themselves breeders and sell their puppies from home and as soon as the puppies are sold they are mating their dogs again to get some more puppies to sell. This is really no life for the poor dog.  However, worse than this, there are what is known as puppy farms.  These may be old farms, outbuildings or  someone’s shed, where female dogs are kept  in cages, in poor conditions, with no exersise, no play, often unvaccinated and unwell, with limited human contact, producing as many puppies as they can to sell in to pet shops, dog supermarkets and on free ads in newspapers. On a motorway journey a few years ago a colleague and I saw a man trading puppies out of the back of a white van lined with cages of puppies. The people buying these puppies have no idea where they have come from, have not seen the puppy’s parents nor the environment it was brought up in.  Below are some photographs of a house that was used as a place to breed puppies, they do not make nice viewing but are real.  This kind of place is where puppies are being born and raised today!


As you can see, this is really not a nice place for a dog to live nor for puppies to be born in to. Yet this is going on all of the time, these photos were taken inside someone’s house.

Now we may all take offence at these photos, or object to media footage of dogs that can’t breath properly, we may criticise people that breed dogs, or sell dogs, we may rage at the Kennel Club and say they should do more to help.  However as long as the pet buying public continue to fund these unscrupulous people, they will continue to make money from us! One customer once said that his friend researched his new coffee maker more than his new puppy before he bought one, shocking, but common.  So I say that we should stop blaming everyone else for this sad state of affairs. We need to  educate ourselves and do our research before we go out and get a puppy. This will put puppy farmers and bad breeders out of business and we will start to see an improvement in the health and well-being of dogs in our country.


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Special Event

On Sunday 4th March 2012 a Charity Dog walk will be taking place to raise money for a very special little girl, Emma Hoolin. Emma is a four year old girl who in February 2010 was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer that affects children, usually under the age of five. If you’d like to learn more about Emma and her story, please click here.

The dog walk is taking place at Haigh Hall, on the main drive.  I’ll be there with the Standish Dog Trainer Team introducing the dog walk and staying to answer any questions about your dogs.

If you can spare a couple of hours we would be delighted for you and your dogs to join us for our dog walk. Come along, bring your friends, enjoy a relaxing walk in the beautiful grounds of this stately home knowing that you are raising money for a really worthwhile cause.

Hope to see you there

Jo x


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