Fear of other dogs! . . . dog training norwich

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

Fear of other dogs . . . dog training norwich

Lots of dogs have a fear of other dogs, it’s a very common problem! Some dogs dislike big dogs, some will target small dogs. I met one dog who specifically didn’t like black Labradors . . . and some dogs just don’t like any other dogs!

Fear of other dogs - dog training norwich

When Monty first arrived, the other dogs were a little uncertain of him! Careful management allowed them all to get used to each other, without anyone feeling vulnerable, and in time they accepted him as one of the pack!

When a dog resorts to the use of aggression towards other dogs, it means that he genuinely believes that this dog could be a threat to himself and his pack! It also usually means that he doesn’t feel he has an alternative option. Dogs do not use aggression lightly, they know that if you start a fight you can be injured and even killed!

Living in a man-made world, which in itself can be quite a challenge, we expect our dogs to politely interact with the multitude of dogs – and people – that come their way. Many dogs manage these interactions admirably but for some the stress becomes too much and they end up resorting to the use of aggressive behaviour, because they truly believe that they have no other choice.

For most creatures – including us – there are three options when faced with a threat: flight, freeze or fight. The moment we attach a lead to our dogs we seriously reduce his options. Now unable to flee and with freeze often not an option – as the owner continues to walk towards the perceived danger (another dog) – a dog with fear of other dogs, can feel there’s only one thing left to do – fight!

Often pre-emptive, the dogs reaction can be exacerbated by a number of factors; including how his owner reacts. Often an owners reaction will only serve to panic the dog more as, worried by what their own dog is going to do, they tighten up the lead, their pulse rate begins to soar and they try to reassure their dog verbally. The dog interprets this as his owner also being fearful of the approaching dog and is all the more determined to see off the threat and protect his pack!

I was asked out to visit Laura and Samson her very handsome Bulldog x Staffordshire Bull Terrier. As always the process of resolving this issue begins in the home. By calmly and consistently showing Samson that she made the decisions and kept the pack safe – in the house and garden first – Laura was able to gradually head back out into the wider and more challenging world. By calmly and confidently choosing the flight option, whenever she did encounter another dog, Laura presented herself as a competent Pack Leader and over time Samson began to trust that it wasn’t his responsibility to deal with other dogs.

Aggression towards other dogs! . . dog training norfolk

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

DSC_0260Aggression towards other dogs is the most common problem that I am asked out to help people resolve.

In the wolf pack ritualised displays of dominance and submission are implemented by the pack to enable safe cohabitation. Essentially the alpha wolves display dominance and the subordinate wolves display submission and everyone feels safe to carry on living together, without the fear of injury or death, inflicted by a fellow pack mate.

When a domestic dog meets another dog, particularly whilst out on the hunt/patrol (walk), he will need to make a decision about how to handle what could be a potentially dangerous situation. Many dogs manage these interactions incredibly well, and with the use of non-aggressive body language, eye contact and posture and also play, they are able to convey – “I am no threat to you, please do not harm me”.

But not all dogs are able to manage things quite so effectively and just like us, some dogs are more adept at socialising than others. Past experience will obviously influence a dog’s reaction to other dogs. A dog who has previously had an aggressive interaction with another dog or dogs, is likely to start ‘generalising’ about other dogs, see them as a threat and react negatively. A dog who has a tendency to resort to aggression towards other dogs, is more likely to illicit an unfavourable response from other dogs, as fear is infectious and everyone – including owners – become anxious in the presence of an anxious dog.  But possibly the biggest contributing factor in this equation is, as always, who does the dog see as Pack Leader?

It is the role of the Pack Leader to make the decisions and keep the pack safe. Choosing from, flight, freeze or fight, the Leader will decide which option to take when faced with a perceived danger. In their natural environment a canine prefers to flee – move away from a threat – avoiding a fight, the risk of injury and possible death!

For the domestic dog this is very often not an option.

The moment that we attach a lead to our dog we have seriously reduced his options, should he be faced with a perceived danger of any kind! Now, unable to flee and very often without the option of freezing – as the threat continues to come towards him and/or his owner continues to walk towards the threat – a worried dog can feel he is left with only one option – fight!

Based on the information that he has received from his owner (see previous instalments or check out ‘The Dog Listener’ by Jan Fennell) the dog will already have come to a conclusion about who makes the decisions and keeps the pack safe. If the dog believes that this is his role, he will do everything in his power to keep himself and his pack safe and for many dogs a pre-emptive strike – ‘get in there first’ – can feel like the only option!!

More next blog . . .

Dog walking to heel . . . dog trainer norwich

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

Daisy, Kitty and Eli walk with me around the garden, in preparation for heading out into the wider world, where I will continue to work on ‘dog walking to heel’ . . .

For many a dog owner, there is no greater joy, than heading out into the wider-world with their dog walking to heel! Dog Listening is all about gaining the chosen cooperation of your dog. There is no use of force, gadgets or gizmos. Heading out into the wider – more challenging – world is a process that begins in the home, with the calm and consistent implementation of leadership signals, in all of the four key areas of pack life.

It’s so much more fun walking with our dog, if our dog wants to walk with us too! It’s a joy to watch them running around off the lead but it’s essential that they come back when they’re called. It makes life so much easier for you and your dog, if he will walk nicely beside you – on or off the lead – when necessary.

I was asked to visit a lovely family and their 2 year old dog Bella – a big, exuberant Labrador. Bella had problems in all areas but in particular, taking her out for a walk – or a drag as the family referred to it – was a complete nightmare! Dad was the only member of the family able to hold Bella on the lead and he would return from the walk exhausted, frustrated and very fed-up. The family had tried taking Bella to dog training classes but to no avail.

I always begin my consultations by talking about the wolf pack and how leadership is consistently reinforced through the use of ritualised behaviour, specifically in the four key areas of pack life. Hierarchical living is a survival strategy – a very successful one that humans use too – and as I talked to the family about the wolf pack they began to see that Bella was far from the crazy, obstinate and disobedient dog, that they had all believed her to be.

After discussing the other three areas of pack life first, we moved onto the area that people often have the most problems with – dog walking to heel! I explained to the family that Bella was not ready to go out yet and that they needed to make her world small, safe and predictable whilst they gave her this all important information about leadership.

I showed the family how to gain Bella’s chosen cooperation by encouraging her to walk to heel around the house and garden – off the lead first – using training treats as an incentive and warmly praising calm cooperation. I explained the importance of going through doorways first and if Bella became over-excited and tried to control proceedings, I asked them to stop without saying anything and wait for her to settle, before beginning again.

Bella responded really well to this calm and positive approach and in no time at all was following individual members of the family around the house as requested. I explained to the family that the next step would be to put the lead on Bella and continue with this work around the house and garden.

By stopping, starting and changing direction the family began to show Bella that they made the decisions and decided where the pack went and over the following weeks and months they began to feel ‘happy and in control’  and were able to slowly head back out into the wider world and actually enjoy walking with their dog!

Dog food! . . . dog training classes norwich

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

A wolf’s prey can be over 10 times his own size and capable of inflicting serious injury and even death. The process of bringing down this large prey – bison, elk, moose and caribou – involves teamwork, coordination and skill.

To avoid problems around food, dogs should be fed when they are calm. Dog's leaving food, are stressed dogs!!

Eli uses ‘self control’ and waits patiently while I put his bowl down.

When they have made a kill the Alpha wolves will feed first, underlining primacy and ensuring that they get the best parts of the kill, to keep them in the best condition, to keep doing the important and stressful job of leader. Once the Alphas have finished eating they move away from the kill and then the rest of the pack will feed according to rank, with senior subordinates eating first and juniors last.

The domestic dog rarely has to work so hard for his supper, in fact, for many the supply of food is steady, often on demand and sometimes constant (food left down). The dog’s innate understanding of hierarchy will lead him to certain conclusions regarding the supply of food and how he comes about it and it is often an area where problems can occur.

Fussy eaters picking at food, aggression and guarding of food, over-the-top behaviour around meals times, dogs who will only eat if they are hand fed – I even heard of one lady who had resorted to feeding her dog lobster!

Dogs are not naturally fussy eaters, they are opportunist feeders designed to feast or famine. If there is food around they should be eating it – wolfing it down – getting it into their tummies before someone else does – they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from!

Problems around food, as long as they are not medical, are almost always associated with confusion about leadership and the associated stress. Many of the dogs that I am asked out to help people with, will have issues in this area. Stress is infectious and the more stressed an owner becomes – because of problems around food – and the more they make an issue of it, the more stressed and confused their dog becomes and a vicious circle is created!

Feeding time doesn’t need to be an ordeal and shouldn’t be controlled by the dog. It is one of the key times when a dog will look  for leadership signals and come to conclusions about pack dynamics. By understanding how a dog perceives this particularly important time and working with his innate understanding of hierarchy, it is possible to regain the power of food, underline our primacy and create calm, successful meal times and happy, healthy dogs.

Dog Training Norwich – It’s a dog’s (and cat’s) life

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training, Uncategorized

Dog Training Norwich

Its a dog’s (and cat’s) life

It is perfectly possible for many dogs and cats to coexist in harmony! Even a dog who is showing aggression towards cats or a cat who is fearful of dogs, can be taught to remain calm and exhibit self-control in each other’s company. We need to be prepared to make some changes to how we live with them and put in the necessary time and energy to gain their trust, respect and cooperation. They don’t need to be best buddies – although I have come across many who have gone on to become just that. All that we require from them is that they do respect each other’s personal space and refrain from winding one another up! 

Dog Trainer Norfolk - Dog aggression towards cats

Daisy (spaniel) and Monty (chihuahua) were both very unsure of the cat (and just about everything else!) when they first came to live with us. Both had a previous history of ‘going for’ other animals and both would have reacted aggressively towards her, if we hadn’t managed things carefully. Now they all coexist peacefully.

Unfortunately, for many dogs and cats living together is an absolute nightmare! Both parties can feel very insecure and threatened and this leads to a constant battle of wits and wills as they attempt to occupy the same, relatively small space, of our homes.

The cat enters the room. She knows he’s in here somewhere, but where? She slinks and scurries in a way that betrays her apprehension and concern and the dog who spots her immediately, charges over to see what’s going on. The cat runs, seeking higher ground or an exit from the house. “Great result” thinks the dog. “I got rid of the cat!” and a strategy for cat management is formed.

A little later on the dog is happily ambling around when suddenly something sharp and spiky clobbers him on the back of the head, accompanied by a loud hissing noise! “Ouch!” Yelps the dog, as he scampers away, and looking back over his shoulder sees two yellow eyes glaring down at him from the safety of a chair.

And so it begins, and both animals go on to consistently reconfirm, through their behaviour towards one another, that they really are a threat.

Breaking this cycle of anxiety involves time, patience and good management. Both cat and dog must gently be shown to leave each other alone. Being conscious of what is going on between them at all times, is essential. The message is ‘You don’t need to worry. I’m keeping an eye on things’. This must be backed up with the right kind of action and response, preferably before an altercation occurs and certainly during and after. If either the dog or the cat makes a move on the other, you must step in and calmly redirect them. The cat must see you looking out for her and the dog must know you’ve got his back!

Initially it’s important to restrict the interactions between the dog and the cat, to times when you are there to monitor and manage what is going on. Leaving them to their own devices will only strengthen their concern and anxiety, as they continue to have altercations. It’s really important to resist the temptation to shout or show your agitation if there is a kerfuffle, as this is likely to increase levels of tension and feed into the problem!

As always, it’s important that the ‘back-drop’ to life together, is one of general calm and cooperation. A dog who believes that he is the decision-maker in your home, is much more likely to believe that he should decide if the cat stays or goes. He will also find it harder to trust your decisions about – and management of – the situation. A cat who is used to receiving your undivided attention and has you trained military fashion to cater to her every need, is much more likely to object to a dogs presence.

Sometimes, when things are really bad we will need to spend time doing some specific work with our cat and dog, to help them to accept living alongside each other. If you have a situation where the dog literally wants to eat the cat (or vice versa!) it’s a good idea to seek the assistance of a Recommended Dog Listener, to ensure that you create an environment where the necessary training can be carried out safely, correctly and effectively. Please contact me or visit Jan Fennell to find a Recommended Dog Listener in your area.

By calmly and consistently interacting with all of our animals, in a way that inspires trust respect and cooperation, we can gently guide them through all of life’s inevitable challenges and ensure peaceful and harmonious family groups. Contact Lucy Parkes – Dog Trainer Norfolk – for more canine inspiration and dog behaviour advice.


Dog Trainer Norfolk ~ Happy Dogs Happy Families

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training, Dog's Health, Uncategorized

Dog Trainer Norfolk

Happy Dogs Happy Families

Living with dogs can and should be an absolute joy.

Dogs have an incredible ability to bring DSC_3662happiness into our lives and we can, in turn, give them a happy and fulfilling life.  However, for many dog owners, life with their dog is at best an ordeal and at worst a complete nightmare! Understanding what it is that makes the difference, has been pivotal to my work as a Dog Listener over the last seven years.

Watching a much loved dog running freely in the woods or on the beach, playing in the garden or relaxing at home, brings joy to millions of dog owners the world over, and sharing these simple pleasures with our dogs brings us and them a great deal of happiness.

But what happens when things go wrong and what is it that causes a dog to become a problem?

First of all it’s much more helpful to view a “problem dog” as a “dog with problems”. Problem behaviour can be seen as a cry for help from a dog who is trying to cope under pressure! Excessive pulling on the lead, poor recall, hyper-vigilance, manic behaviour, aggression, separation anxiety, destruction……..the list goes on. All of the above are symptomatic of a stressed dog who is trying to control and manage his environment!

Stress is an infectious state of mind and body and if one member of the pack is stressed, the chances are that others will be too! Whether it’s just you and your dog, a family group or a pack made up of many dogs, the effect of too much, or prolonged stress, is dis-harmony, inability to cooperate and often conflict.

So how does the stress get there and what can you do about it?

Not all stress is bad. Without the bodily systems that implement the responses that are associated with stress, we wouldn’t be alive! These systems are what get us out of danger and make sure that we stay that way. However, it is possible for these bodily systems to become out-of-balance.  Over-exposure to challenging situations and stimulus – especially at an early age – can cause the nervous system to become over-sensitive and this can lead to problems.

Almost all problem behaviour in dogs is the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding about who is in charge of – and responsible for – the pack and the associated stress. It’s all too easy to give the role of leader to our dogs, landing them with a big job of responsibility that they are just not equipped to deal with. The result is stress, anxiety and problem behaviour. Some dogs are even less suited to this situation than others and this is when the problems can really escalate!

So what’s the answer?

Communication is key! By calmly and consistently communicating to your dog -in a way that he can easily understand – that you are the pack leader that he can trust, you reassure him that all is well and gain his respect and cooperation. Understanding the world from your dog’s unique perspective (they’re all different!) allows you to manage his life in the very best way and resolve problem behaviour without the use of force, gadgets or gizmos.

Understanding, communication and cooperation are all essential ingredients for happiness. Happy dogs make happy families and happy families create happy dogs!

Dog Trainer Norfolk – Self-Control, the very best kind!

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

Dog Trainer Norfolk

Self-Control, the very best kind!

Encouraging a dog to develop self-control boosts his confidence in a really positive way. On the whole, living in our world with us, our dog’s need to follow our lead and defer to our decisions about things. However, by developing self-control in key areas of their lives with us, they can feel a level of autonomy that is rewarding for both us and them.


Encouraging Self-Control – the very best kind! – Dog Trainer Norfolk

Developing self-control means that we encourage our dogs to work things out for themselves – with a little help and guidance from us 

If we consistently ‘tell’ our dogs what to do – “in your bed” “be quiet” “get down” “wait!” “heel” – they are less likely to develop self-control, which is of course, the very best kind!

Encouraging a dog to think for herself, and therefore cooperate, is at the heart of the work I do with people and dogs. We are all much more willing to cooperate when we are given a good reason to do so and are then able make the decision to cooperate, for ourselves.

Understanding, communication and cooperation pave the way to happy dogs and happy families.

Dog Trainer Norfolk – Stress-free pets?

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training, Dog's Health

Dog Trainer Norfolk

Stress-free pets?
Stress-free with dogs - Dog Trainer Norfolk

Maisy sits peacefully on her special cat shelf in the garden. Living with four dogs could be stressful for her but careful management ensures that everyone feels safe and as stress-free as possible.

The well-being of our companions, is intrinsically linked with our own. Being well is not only good for us, it also has a profound effect on those around us. A truly holistic approach to the resolution of behavioural issues, means understanding the impact that we all have on each other.

In a family/pack everyone affects everyone else and our state of mind (and body) is contagious! We can infect those around us with peace, joy and love. We can also cause an epidemic of stress and anxiety. The modern world can be a very stressful place. Long working hours, multiple and complex commitments, financial strains and social pressures mean that stress and anxiety can easily build up and begin to unbalance our autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system (part of the peripheral nervous system) plays a very large part in well-being – both for us, and most of our animal companions. It plays a key role in keeping us all alive by maintaining and healing our bodies and getting us out of danger when it occurs – flight or fight. Problems can arise when the autonomic nervous system (ANS) becomes out of balance and this can happen when we are repeatedly exposed to danger – real or perceived!

The trouble is, our ANS is unable to differentiate between the very real threat of an out-of-control car that is careering towards us, and the persistent – but less immediately life threatening – day-to-day fears and worrying thoughts, that can pervade our waking and sleeping lives! The untamed voice in our head can become our own worst enemy. An internal saboteur, terrorising us on a daily basis with thoughts of ‘what if’, self-judgement and condemnation. If this fearful voice continues to run the show, the ANS can become progressively more and more out of balance. This can lead to negative consequences to our well-being, and unfortunately, for the well-being of those around us.

Most of our animal companions have an autonomic nervous system, and just like us, they too, can become out of balance. This is very often the root cause of what we perceive as problem behaviour. An out of balance ANS can cause us all to become more sensitive/aggressive, less cooperative and trusting and more likely to judge rather than empathise. Soothing and nurturing everyone’s nervous system is usually a big part of the picture in the resolution of behavioural issues.

Put simply, it’s the difference between a life lived in love and a life lived in fear!

Some of the more extreme behavioural issues that people can experience with their dogs –   aggression, separation anxiety, compulsive patterns of behaviour, destruction and eating problems – are rooted in an out-of-balance ANS.

Sometimes a shift in perspective and a change in the way that we are doing things is enough to help our dogs to feel safe with us and therefore, more able to relax and cooperate, more of the time. Sometimes however, when stress and anxiety are more pervasive, we may need to soothe and nurture our own ANS as part of the process, and these are some of the strategies that I use to create lasting change –

–          Meditation – proven to reduce stress, increase serotonin (feel good chemical) and improve cognitive ability and immune function, amongst a multitude of other amazing benefits!

–          Breathing techniques that are easy to implement, any time any place, and have an immediate, soothing effect on the ANS.

–          Strategic interventions to challenge the voice in the head and create the space for real and lasting change to take place.

Next week I’m off to Oulton Broad to further my knowledge of EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) with the inspirational Kath Temple – www.thehappinessfoundation.co.uk


Playing with dogs . . . dog training norwich

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training
Dog Training in Norfolk - Playing with your dog

Kitty is happy to play fetch! It wasn’t always that way. When she first arrived, she would rather keep the ball, than bring it back. By building trust and helping her to feel safe and secure, we were able to gain her respect and cooperation, and now we enjoy playing together.

Playing with dogs . . . dog training norwich

Playing with dogs is a really good way to exercise them. It’s socially bonding and by deciding when you will play and how long you will play for, you consistently reconfirm yourself as Pack Leader.

Many of the dogs that I am asked out to help people with, will either be initiating and controlling play themselves or refusing to play at all. Both of these behaviours reconfirm the dog’s primacy. By taking control of play time we can gently show our dogs that we are the decision-makers in this area too and by gaining their cooperation we can have fun – and exercise them – in a positive and rewarding way.

When a dog is feeling stressed he may not want to play! Some rescue dogs can take weeks and sometimes months to come out of themselves enough to play. As they begin to feel safe and secure they relax enough to join in.

Molly – a beautiful Border Collie that I visited –  was obsessed with bringing her toys to her owners. She expected them to throw them for her and they usually did. It had reached a stage where Molly’s life revolved around her toys and not much else.

Many dogs, particularly young dogs, really love to play. Often they will practice their hunting skills; jumping on toys, throwing them in the air and parading around with them in their mouths, as they would a prey animal.  However, some dogs become obsessed with initiating play and will bring their toys repeatedly to be thrown. Well-meaning owners, who think their dog is just being playful, feed into the obsession by obliging and some will spend whole evenings dutifully throwing a ball!

Molly had a lot of toys. By removing the vast majority of them and leaving her with just a few favourites her owners began the process of taking control of play-time. The rest of the toys were put away in a toy-box which they would bring out to initiate play, once it was appropriate to do so. If Molly came to them with one of her toys and tried to initiate play they would quietly move away, removing the toy if she persisted.

As the weeks went by Molly became less obsessive about initiating play and gradually – over time – her owners were able to reintroduce occasional and calm play – on their terms!

Are we safe?

Posted on by DogsInTranslation in Dog Training

1378822202270For many dogs the Postman is a great success story; the Postman comes to the house, the dog barks, the Postman goes away again – result! Anything the Postman leaves behind is likely to be dispatched as well (they don’t understand that you actually want your mail!) and once again the dog has succeeded in keeping his pack safe!

14000 years ago, when man and wolf first began to live along side one another, the wolf’s superior hearing and sense of smell would have enabled him to alert man to the approach of danger. Not much has changed today and for many people one of the many benefits of living with dogs, is the security that they provide.

However, alerting the leaders to a perceived danger and then stopping because you’ve done your job is one thing; barking yourself into a frenzy, winding up all the other local dogs and upsetting the neighbours is another, and sadly – for many dogs and their owners – the latter is often the case.

Well meaning owners who begin quite calmly by asking their dogs to stop barking – “that’s enough, be quiet, shut up!” – end up shouting and becoming agitated when their dogs appear to take no notice what so ever and in fact seem to bark even more! Everyone’s nerves – including the dogs – become frayed and the situation becomes a vicious circle of stress!

I was asked to visit a rather stressed lady called Helen, and Harley her rather stressed dog. Harley, a 4 yr old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, would get very upset when visitors arrived at the house; chasing his tail, barking ferociously and jumping up at those people brave enough to come into the house. As a result of this Helen would get very upset with Harley, as she tried to stop him from behaving in this unacceptable manner and he completely ignored her!

I showed Helen how to calmly acknowledge Harley, in a warm and positive tone of voice, letting him know that he had fulfilled his vital role within the pack, when he barked to let her know that there could be a threat (visitor). By reassuring Harley – through her calm behaviour – that all was well and by not giving him attention for any unwanted behaviour, she allowed him to settle down and relax.

Harley calmed down considerably during the consultation and over the following weeks, as Helen continued to show Harley that she was the decision-maker and that he could trust her with responsibility for pack safety, their household became a calmer, quieter and more peaceful place to live.