Encouraging Responsible Dog Ownership Through Education And Enforcement
Animal Warden Services work with your Local Authority helping keep your dogs safe.
We can also offer Help, advice and other services to Housing Associations, Utility Companies, Landlords and anyone else needing help with dogs.
To view all our found dogs please click the button below
To view all our lost dogs please click the button below
You can report everything dog related quickly and easily to us online using the report it button above.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 came into effect in England on 6 April 2007 and will provide greater protection for animals.
Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 requires a pet owner to be legally obliged to care for their pet properly by providing:
• A proper diet, including fresh water
• Somewhere suitable to live
• For any need, to be housed with or apart from, other animals
• The ability to express normal behaviour patterns
• Protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease or (protection from and treatment of, illness and injury).
The majority of people look after their animals perfectly well, but if you suspect that a domestic animal is being cruelly treated, please contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999.
The law is not designed to catch people out – only to help protect animals that do not receive proper care.
Is your dog barking too much?
It’s normal and natural for dogs to bark. But when barking happens a lot, or goes on for a long time, it can be annoying and upsetting for your neighbours. If you’re out a lot, or you’re just used to the noise, you might not realise just how bad it is.
This information is designed to help you work with your neighbours to sort out any problems caused by your dog barking without having to involve the authorities. It will also help you understand why your dog barks and tell you about some practical steps you can take to stop or cut down the barking. Research into noise issues shows that problems are most likely to be solved when people discuss things calmly and work out a solution between them. If you can’t do this, the council may have to get involved and you could face some serious penalties.
Talking it over
If the noise your dog is making is upsetting your neighbours, the first step is to talk things over with them. Stay calm and try to see it from their point of view: perhaps they’re working shifts, or have got a baby or small children. Bear in mind that they might be worried about whether the dog is OK and remember, you might not know how serious the problem is if your dog is barking more when you’re not at home. Understanding the problem Ask your neighbours to tell you exactly when your dog is barking, and for how long. If you’re out a lot, ask them to note down the times when the barking happens. If you’re in, make a note yourself. Think about using a web cam or video camera to find out what your dog is doing when you’re not there, or try a ‘set-up’ – pretend you’re going out for the day, then wait outside the door to see what your dog does. If it starts barking and howling, go back in and tell it firmly to be quiet.
However punishing your dog will often only make things worse.
There are some simple steps you can take straight away to cut down the amount of noise your dog is making. This will help calm the situation between you and your neighbours and give you time to work out why your dog is barking.
- If your dog barks at things outside your yard or garden, don’t let it go outside on its own. Keep it away from windows, so it can’t see people or other animals.
- If your dog barks at the same time every day, like when people in the house are going to work or school, try to keep it busy at that time. For example, you could take it for a walk.
- Try to keep your dog calm. If it barks when it’s excited, don’t play with it at anti-social times like very late at night.
- If your dog’s barking and you’re in a flat or a semi, try to keep it away from any walls you share with your neighbours.
- Don’t leave your dog outside if it’s barking to be let in.
- See if you can get a friend or relative to look after your dog when you go out, or take it with you.
- Make sure your dog gets some exercise before you go out. A tired dog barks less. Is your dog barking too much?
Some general rules Be consistent. Every time your dog is quiet when it would normally have barked, praise it or give it a treat. When it barks, tell it firmly to be quiet. You also need to remember that your dog is part of the family. If it only barks when you leave, bring it inside. Leave some toys or chews, and put the radio on quietly. If your dog is distressed, keep it inside with you whenever you’re at home – dogs are pack animals, and they need company.
Tackling specific problems
Problem: Your dog is clingy, and howls or whines when left alone. Solution: A vet, animal behaviourist or dog warden may be able to tell you how to help your dog get used to being on its own.
Problem: Your dog is frightened. It might look scared (ears back, tail low), have trouble settling, or keep trying to hide. Solution: If your dog likes hiding, make a den for it. If it’s scared of noise, mask it by putting the radio on quietly. If it’s frightened of other people or animals, shut the curtains or doors. Think about talking to a vet, animal behaviourist or dog warden.
Problem: Your dog guards his territory by barking at people, animals or cars. Solution: Keep your dog away from the front of the house or flat. Screen your windows. If it starts barking outside, call it in straight away. You could ask a vet, animal behaviourist or dog warden about behaviour therapy.
Problem: Your dog is barking to get attention. Solution: Look at your dog, then look away to show you’re not going to respond. Don’t give it any attention – or anything else – while it’s barking. Try deliberately ignoring it for 20-30 minutes two or three times a day, and get everyone in the house to do the same. Doing this for 15 minutes before you go out can help stop your dog barking when you leave. A vet, animal behaviourist or dog warden may be able to give you advice.
Problem: You went out without taking your dog for a walk, and it’s barking through frustration. Solution: Wear different clothes for walking your dog. Leave your dog’s lead where it can see it. So if you’re leaving without taking the lead the dog will know that its not going with you. Keep your neighbours informed about what you’re doing to stop the barking.
What not to do
Don’t punish your dog. It might mistake it for attention, and it could also make it more anxious.
- Don’t use mechanical devices – like anti-bark collars – if it could make the dog even more anxious.
- Don’t get a second dog unless you’re sure it’s going to make your dog feel more secure, not less.
If the problem doesn’t get resolved and If you don’t take steps to solve the problem, your local authority may receive complaints about the noise your dog is making, the authority will investigate the complaint. The local authority may seek to resolve the problem by mediating between you and the complainants, but where it does not do so, or where such mediation is unsuccessful, and the authority is satisfied that the noise amounts to a statutory nuisance, it will serve you with an abatement notice requiring the noise to be reduced to an acceptable level.
Please contact us for further help and guidance
Owning a dog can bring enormous pleasure but it also brings great responsibility owners must ensure that their dog is properly looked after, fed and exercised. Owners must also ensure that they clean up after their dogs.
How many times have you trodden in dog mess?
Its not pleasant.
So why do some dog owners still fail to clean up after their dog?
Let’s face it no one likes dog mess. Not only is it offensive and unsightly, it may also pose a risk to the health.
There are lots of rumours and misunderstanding surrounding Toxocara canis, so what is the truth?
• Toxocara canis is a roundworm that lives in the guts of dogs and foxes and its eggs are excreted in the faeces of infected animals.
• The eggs take over two weeks to hatch, therefore there are no health risks to you from immediately picking up after your dog.
• Approximately 5% of dogs expel Toxocara eggs.
• Toxocara infection can cause a range of symptoms ranging from abdominal pain, headaches and eye disorders.
• Despite media hysteria the incidence of disease is only 2 people per million of the population. However this does mean that over 40 people are affected every year, and for these individuals the results can be distressing.
• Young children are particularly at risk of infection because their play habits make them more likely to come into contact with contaminated soil. Many young children also have a habit of eating soil.
• The best course of action is to prevent our parks and open spaces from becoming infected.
Under the Dogs Fouling of land act 1996 it is an offence not to clean up after your dog.
Saying that you didn’t see your dog defecate is no excuse!
Animal Warden Services not only collect information from members of the public concerning dog fouling, we also conduct undercover patrols in the Breckland area. Anyone convicted of failing to clear up after their dog will face a fine of up to £1000.
It is also worth noting that anyone caught will also have to face the embarrassment and humiliation of being caught for dog fouling.
SCOOP that POOP
There are lots of dedicated dog bins in the Brekland area, so please use them. However Bagged dog waste can also go straight into your wheelie bin at home.
Any dog waste collected at home should stay at home. Just bag it and place in your wheelie bin.
If you have any questions or information concerning dog fouling please get in touch.
- Walk your dog during daylight hours to avoid times when fireworks are likely to be set off.
- Move your dog to the safe haven each evening before the fireworks begin. Provide toys and other things that they enjoy in the safe haven.
Create A Safe Space:
- If your dog is crate-trained, make their crate available, as that’s probably already a safe space for them. If not, put him in a bathroom or other small room with music or white noise to help drown out the boom of fireworks. Bringing their bed, blankets and toys into the room might also make them feel more comfortable.
- Make sure there are things for you to do too, so your dog isn’t left alone.
- Close windows and curtains to muffle the sound of fireworks. Blackout your doggy safe haven, so they can’t see any flashes outside.
- Put on some music or TV to mask the firework sounds.
- Ignore the firework noises yourself. Play with a toy to see if your dog wants to join in, but don’t force them to play.
Make Sure They’re Microchipped and Wearing a Collar:
- It’s critical to ensure people can identify your dog and contact you if they run off in fear. Getting them microchipped well in advance of such holidays is always a good decision. It’s also a good idea to make sure they’re wearing their collar and their ID tags are up to date.
- You could also talk to your vet about pheromone diffusers. These disperse calming chemicals into the room and may be a good option for your dog. In some cases, your vet may even prescribe medication.
Identifying Nervous Behaviour
It is important that you begin to learn to identify when your new best friend is feeling anxious. Most people will be familiar with the obvious signs, but there are many subtle signs which you can look out for and identify before your dog’s anxiety progresses further.
The subtle signs of nervous or anxious behaviours are:
- Averted stare (looking away from the subject that is causing anxiety).
- Lip licking
- Yawning (when not tired)
- Panting (when not hot or thirsty)
- Avoiding the situation (moving away, possibly trying to hide)
- Pinning the ears back
If any of these behaviours are detected then move your dog out of the situation, or if possible try to distract your dog with something fun and positive such as his/her favourite toy. Avoid reassuring your dog as this will only worsen the behaviour, your dog may think there is a reason to be nervous.
If the subtle signs of nervous behaviour go unnoticed or are ignored then these will develop into more obvious behavioural signs.
The obvious signs of nervous or anxious behaviour are:
- Cowering and lowered body position
- Tail tucked between the legs or a low tail wag
- Whites of eyes showing
- Freezing (stops as though frozen to the spot)
- Lip curling (the front part of the lip curls up)
If these behaviours are displayed the dog should be removed immediately from the situation. If your dog is on a secure lead then guide him/her away using the lead. If your dog is loose and no lead is attached then call him/her in an upbeat positive manner and reward with a treat or praise when he/she returns to you. If your dog is showing obvious signs of nervous behaviour do not grab his/her collar, you may startle them and he/she may redirect aggression on to you.
Your dog should never be pressurised into situations that he/she is anxious and nervous of, or punished for their behaviour, otherwise the nervous behaviour will intensify and may result in them developing aggression to avoid certain situations.
Sometimes when a dog feels uncomfortable and nervous around other people or dogs, they can display appeasing behaviour. This usually is performed by them very slowly, and often head/shoulder first, rolling gradually onto their back with their legs in the air with their paws limp. Often the dog will not move and will remain still in this position. In more severe cases it may urinate itself.
When a dog performs this behaviour it is quite literally trying to say to you ‘please don’t hurt me, I am not going to hurt you!’
Unfortunately many people miss read this behaviour and interpret it as ‘please rub my belly!’ By doing this you are maintaining the dog in his/her anxious state so he/she will never get better.
If your dog is displaying appeasing behaviour such as this it is best to ignore the behaviour, move away from the dog and do not talk to it. Eventually the dog will leap back to its feet and begin to behave normally and more relaxed, when the dog returns to normality this is when your give him/her lots of praise and positivity.
Improving Nervous Behaviour
There are exercises and training activities that you can do to improve a nervous dog’s behaviour. This is usually done by carefully controlled exposure to certain situations and socialisation programs, but these should always be done under the guidance of a recommended dog behaviourist.
It’s important that the behaviour expert used is someone with the appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to treat your dog. Anyone can call themselves a behaviour expert, but many do not possess up to date knowledge or the necessary skills required to treat pets with behaviour problems. Inappropriate or outdated advice or methods may adversely affect your dog’s welfare and even make your dog’s behaviour problem worse. The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) accredits Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourists (CCAB), who possess the appropriate skills, knowledge and abilities. The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) also represents animal behaviourists. You can find out more on the RSPCA website – www.rspca.org.uk
These exercises and training activities can take a lot of patience, understanding and consistency to ensure their success.
By simply learning to read the behavioural signs of your dog, more importantly the subtle ones, and avoiding the situation before nervous behaviour develops, will help your dog to begin to learn to trust you and realise that you will not be forcing him/her into any situations they are nervous off.
Attending regular training classes will help you improve your dog’s obedience and ultimately the control you will have of your dog in difficult situations. It will also put you in touch with a dog trainer that will be able to support you. Make sure that you research the dog training classes that you choose, quite often your local vet will be able to recommend a reputable dog trainer or behaviourist. Any good dog trainer will be more than happy for you to watch one of their lessons and discuss your dog’s needs prior to your first class.
Top Training Tips
- Never punish your dog for any mistakes they make during training. Simply ignore the mistakes and the behaviours that you don’t want and reward those that you do.
- Find out what motivates your dog to help them learn. Work out what your dog’s favourite treat is but remember some dogs might prefer to work for a game or praise and affection. When training in a distracting environment or teaching a particularly difficult command you might find that a tastier reward like chicken or hotdog works best. Remember that the treats are part of your dog’s daily food ration.
- Be patient. Don’t get frustrated if your dog doesn’t pick it up straight away; remain calm and consider how you can make it easier for them. All dogs are individuals and will learn at different rates.
- Short sessions are best. Overloading your dog won’t help them to learn. Break your training up into regular short sessions.
- Allow your dog time to settle into their new home before you start training. It can be hard for dogs to learn when they are adjusting to a new life and routine.
Teaching Your Dog To Sit
- With your dog in a standing position hold a treat in front of their nose.
Tip! Make sure you hold the treat tightly and do not let them get the treat until they are in the sit position.
- Keeping the treat close to your dog’s nose, slowly move it upwards and backwards over the dog’s muzzle back towards their tail. As your dog lifts his/her nose to follow the treat their bottom should automatically sink down towards the floor. Do not lift your hand too high or else they may jump up or lift their forepaws off the ground.
- As soon as your dog’s bottom hits the floor (with their forepaws on the ground) give the treat to reward the behaviour.
Tip! If your dog is backing up to get the treat rather than sitting down you are probably holding it too far back and too low. You might also be moving too quickly. Go slow move the treat up and slightly back.
Practice these steps a number of times. Short and regular sessions are best to help your dog learn; avoid overloading your dog with long sessions.
- After plenty of practice your dog should learn that in order to get the treat he/she needs to sit. You should now find that your dog is sitting as soon as you
hold out a treat above its nose; if they are doing this you can start to add in the voicecue ‘sit’. Ensure you say the word ‘sit’ clearly just as your dog’s bottom hits the floor. Quickly reward with a treat and praise your dog.
Tip! If your dog isn’t automatically sitting when you hold out a treat they may need some more practice of the first three steps.
- Repeat the above step present a treat above your dog’s nose and give the voicecue ‘sit’ just as they sit down. This will help them associate the word ‘sit’ with the action of sitting. Practice in short sessions until your dog is sitting everytime a treat is held above their nose.
- The next step is, without a treat in your hand, to say your dog’s name to get their attention and then say the word ‘sit’. At the same time move your hand in the same way you would if you were holding the treat and luring your dog into a sit (this is known as the handcue). This will get your dog used to getting into the sit position without having to be lured with a treat.
- After many repetitions of step 7 you will find your dog begins to learn the voicecue and starts to sit without you using the handcue. When your dog does this, feed him the treat and give him lots of encouraging praise.
- Practice often in different places with more distractions.
Tip! When you start to practice in different environments and with more distractions it will be harder for your dog. Be patient and if your dog doesn’t respond to just the voicecue ‘sit’ then go back a few steps and use the handcue or even hold a treat in your hand to lure them into position. After a few repetitions of these basic steps you can start to work your way through the rest of the steps again.
Teaching your dog to lie down
- Start with your dog in the sit position.
- Hold a treat in front of the dog’s nose and slowly lower the treat downwards so that his/her nose will follow. If your dogs head follows the treat to the floor it means it will be easier for them to lie down than sit hunched over. Give your dog time to go into this position. If he/she stands up instead of lying down, get them back into the sit position and start again.
- As soon as your dog lies down give them a treat and lots of praise.
- Repeat this action many times. When your dog is easily following the treat into a down position you can start give the voicecue ‘down’ just as your dog is getting into the down position.
Tip! Remember that if ‘down’ is your dog’s cue to lying down it should not be used in other situations such as when you may want them down off your sofa this will just confuse them and they may start to forget what ‘down’ really means.
- The next step is to remove the treat from your hand. Move your hand in the same way you would if you were holding the treat (but keep the treat out of sight) this is the handcue. As before, give the voicecue just as their elbows hit the floor.
- After a few practices without the treat in your hand you can try giving the voicecue first and see if your dog will go into the down position. You should give a handcue at the same time as you give the voicecue.
Tip! When we first introduce a voicecue we say it as the dog is performing the behaviour so that they build an association between the word and the behaviour. Later, after having put the word and behaviour together many times we can give the voicecue as a signal that we want our dog to perform that behaviour.
- Practice often in different places with more distractions.
Tip! If your dog is struggling to get into the down position using the above steps you can try sitting on the floor with your knees bent into a ‘tunnel’. Hold a treat under your leg on the opposite side to the dog, slowly move the treat away from the dog so that he/she follows it under your leg. Keep your leg low enough so that he/she has to crawl under to follow the treat, as soon as his/her belly touches the floor then reward them with a treat.
Teaching your dog to stay
As this exercise requires your dog to remain still it is best to teach it when they are a little tired rather than full of energy.
- To teach your dog to stay, first choose a position you want them to be in, e.g. sit, down or stand.
- Once your dog is in the chosen position give the voicecue ‘stay’ and a handcue. A common handcue for this command is to extend your arm out in front of you with the palm of your hand facing your dog.
- Don’t move anywhere, just count to two and reward your dog with a treat and some gentle praise. Don’t reward your dog if they move out of position, try them again or reduce the time to 1 second.
Tip! Gentle praise is best here because excited praise may cause your dog to get up and move.
- Gradually build up the time. Repeat the above steps but slowly increase the time that your dog stays in position. It is very important to do this gradually don’t expect your dog to be able to wait for 10 seconds when they previously only waited for 3. Continue until you can count to 20.
Tip! Set your dog up for success not failure it will help them to learn quicker and will reduce frustration from not receiving a reward. Build the time up very gradually.
- Once your dog has successfully managed to stay in position for a count of 20 a few times you can start to practice moving away from your dog. Repeat steps 1 3 but this time take a small step away from your dog. Step straight back and reward your dog for staying in position. If your dog comes out of position you may have taken too big a step away or for too long, try again with a small short step.
- Continue to practice moving away from your dog. As with before, building it up gradually is the key. Continue until you can walk around your dog without them getting out of their position.
- It can be useful to teach your dog to ‘stay’ in both a ‘sit’ and ‘down’ position, follow the procedure again when teaching it with a new position.
- Practice often in different places with more distractions.
Important! Never use this command to leave your dog alone in a situation that is potentially dangerous. For example do not leave your dog with this command outside a shop without restraining them as they may spot another dog or something interesting over the other side of the road and run.
Teaching your dog ‘off’
The ‘off’ cue can be a really helpful command when you want your dog to backoff from something they are doing like taking food or picking up something you don’t want them to have. The command doesn’t just mean ‘stop’ it means ‘stop what you are doing and you will be rewarded’.
- Firstly offer your dog a tasty treat in the palm of your hand and let them take it.
- Next time offer them a treat in the palm of your hand but instead of letting them have it, curl your fingers closed around it and give the voicecue ‘off’.
Tip! Don’t shout ‘off’ or say it in a threatening way, use a calm and clear cue.
- With your hand closed around the treat your dog will likely attempt to get the treat from your hand by nosing, mouthing, licking and maybe using their paws. Just ignore all these efforts and wait patiently until your dog gives up and moves their nose and paws away.
- The very moment your dog moves his nose and paws away open your fingers and allow them to take the treat.
Tip! Timing is key. Your dog may only give up for a very short period of time so make sure you release the treat as soon as they do otherwise you may end up rewarding the mouthing behaviour instead.
- Practice the above steps a number of times over short sessions and you should see your dog starts to back off sooner each time they hear the voicecue ‘off’.
- You can then slowly and gradually build up the time that your dog has to wait for the treat; the reason for this is to help build their self control so that they do not become frustrated if they have to wait for you to produce a treat (i.e from the bottom of your bag!). Practice until your dog can reliably wait for a count of up to ten.
- Once you and your dog have mastered the above steps you can start to practice in different situations for example with food placed on a low table or on the floor. If your dog successfully leaves the food when given the ‘off’ voicecue then reward them generously! If they attempt to take the food you can calmly place your hand loosely over it and give the command ‘off’ again and keep practicing until you no longer need to cover the food with your hand.
Tip! This can be a difficult command for dogs because they are naturally opportunistic scavengers so reward generously when they respond correctly.
How to teach your dog to walk on a loose lead
Dogs pull on the lead for many reasons. Some dogs pull on the lead because:
- They have never been taught to walk on a loose lead.
- It succeeds in getting them to where they want to go faster.
- They may be feeling anxious and want to get away from something that is worrying them.
- Teaching your dog to walk nicely on the lead can be one of the hardest things for you to teach and also for your dog to learn. Below are some brief instructions to get you started but taking your dog to training classes or having 11 training sessions will be the most helpful. Walking on a loose lead is hard for dogs to learn due to the fact that dogs naturally walk faster than humans so be patient with him/her.
Tip! Consistency is key. Your dog needs to learn that pulling on the lead means that they stop rather than go forward. To help your dog to learn this you need to ensure that whenever the lead is on you consistently never allow them to pull.
- Have the dog on the lead next to you with a treat in your hand, show him/her the treat and hold it fairly close to their nose.
Tip! If you your dog is jumping up at your hand you are holding the treat too high.
- Say ‘heel’ and begin walking still holding the treat next to their nose, when you have taken a few steps and he/she is walking nicely beside you then you can give him/her the treat.
- Carry on practising this until you can walk for longer distances (releasing a treat every few steps) with him/her nicely beside you. This should help your dog to understand that walking next to you is a rewarding thing to do.
- The next step is to move away from holding the treat right in front on your dogs nose
your back is probably getting sore by now! Show your dog that you have another treat, stand up and straight and hold the treat up out of their way. Say their name to get their attention, give your voicecue ‘heel’ and move forward one step. Then bend
down and feed your dog the treat.
- Carry on practicing this with you standing up straight and gradually increase the number of steps you take before you bend down to give the reward.
Tip! If your dog ever comes out of position or attempts to pull forward hold the lead tightly against you to stop them being able to move forward and then encourage them to get back into position using a treat and reward when they do.
- Once you have mastered the above steps you will need to start to practice in different situations being outside will be much more distracting for your dog so practice in the garden first. When you do start to venture outside the house remember to be consistent and patient this is can be a very hard task for your dog to learn.
Although teaching this command means an investment in time and training classes, it will be worth it for both you and your dog to enjoy relaxing walks together.
Your dog may benefit from training and socialisation classes. Find a good class in your local area that uses reward based methods.
Top Training Tips
Training classes are a great way to spend time with your dog it provides him/her with important mental stimulation and helps you to build a good relationship with each other. Classes will help you understand how your dog learns so that you can teach him/her the basic skills you will need for daily life. Teaching your dog some basic cues such as ‘sit’, ‘down’ and ‘come’, is part of responsible dog ownership and will help make life more enjoyable for you both.
The Recall (i.e. “come back to me”) is one of the most important commands to teach your dog and, for some owners and dogs, the most difficult. The reasons for the difficulties are many and varied but, as always, looking at it from the dog’s perspective can help us to understand these difficulties. Common reasons that the recall command does not work reliably include:
- Insufficient reason to come… Remember that dogs do things for a reason – you need to give your dog a good reason to want to come back to you – every time. The more you are asking of your dog, the better the reward (or at least, the anticipation of that reward) has to be. Asking your dog to come back to you in the face of huge distractions, such as other dogs, deserves a Class A reward.
- Negative associations… If you have ever punished, or even reprimanded, your dog after he has failed to come back or for something he did prior to coming back (which, to the dog, is the same thing) then your dog may not want to come back to you. If coming back often means a reprimand, the end of the walk, or the end of a game with another dog, then he is not likely to want to come back.
- He doesn’t understand the command… Often because recall has never been formally taught, or if several different commands are used.
- He doesn’t realise that it means “every time”… Dogs take time to learn that they must obey a command first time, every time, and will do so faster if commands are not repeated endlessly.
- Distractions…Lack of sufficient training around distractions. Gradually increasing distractions is essential if your dog is to learn to recall no matter what is around.
- Owners not being exciting enough… If your dog thinks you are fun and exciting, and great things happen when he is with you, then he will want to be with you – why would he want to be anywhere else?
Some tips for developing a reliable recall
- When training a dog to come back, it works best if you never allow the dog to learn that there is an alternative to come. Always start off working your dog or puppy on a long line and develop a reliable recall on that before you move to working completely off lead. Walking your dog on a long line – this can either be a long lead (available up to 30 ft or more at some large pet shops or online stores) or a length of thin rope – has a number of benefits over extending leads:
- The dog is less aware of its presence,
- a dog is easier to control on a long line than on a flexible lead as it can be reeled in, and
- it is much less likely to get tangled around other dogs, people and objects.
- If your dog doesn’t respond when you call his name, give a gentle twitch on the lead to remind him and get his attention. Do not drag or haul him in, however, as this will not teach him anything positive. If he still is not responding, stand on the lead with one foot only (if both feet are on the line, you could trip up if he takes off) so he cannot get further away and go closer to him – getting as close to him as necessary (initially this might mean getting right up to him and putting a smelly treat on the end of his nose!) to gain his attention before actually calling him to you. For safety, always use a harness rather than a collar or headcollar if using a lead longer than 6 feet
- Never call your dog (unless it’s an emergency or safety issue) if you don’t think he will come. If you do call him, make sure you do eventually get him to come, even if it takes a while. If he doesn’t respond, try going in closer to him with a tempting treat that he can smell or, alternatively, run in the opposite direction calling his name excitedly.
- For the same reason, don’t repeat the command endlessly – if he doesn’t respond to the first, or possibly second call, he probably won’t to the third, fourth or fifth call… give him some other help instead – run away from him shouting excitedly, go in close and put a titbit on the end of his nose to attract his attention and walk backwards so he follows you.
- Choose a one or two word phrase to use as you recall command (such as “Bertie come!”) and train your dog that, if he comes back when he hears them, that something good might happen. Resist the temptation to use other words if the first one is unsuccessful. This will just weaken your training.
- Never punish, reprimand or do anything the dog might find negative after a recall command. 95% of your recalls should be for no reason other than practice– just call him, ask for a sit and/or touch his collar, and give him a treat and praise before letting him go again (with your release command). You can also practice putting his lead on and walking a few paces on lead before taking it straight off again and releasing him. This helps to break negative associations (e.g. end of walk, no more playtime) with being put on lead.
- If recalls are your biggest problem, reserve the best treats for good recalls so your dog really looks forward to them. Once you have a reasonably reliable recall and are sure that your dog knows what is expected of him, start introducing variable rewards. Sometimes give him a titbit, sometimes a game or toy, sometimes praise. Keep him guessing. If you increase the value of rewards for recall, make sure you also decrease the value of rewards used for other, less difficult situations or commands.
- Work on your relationship with your dog. He may love you, but does he respect you and find you fun and exciting? Have you given him reason to fear an angry reaction when he does finally come back? Be unpredictable – change direction frequently and run away from your dog if he is unwilling to come. Make yourself interesting, use lots of praise (when it is deserved) and reward good performances. Make your dog want to come to you! Produce toys at random intervals and, if your dog is not there to play with the toy, pretend to play with it yourself!
- Keep your dog’s attention on you, rather than on what is going on around you. Play “find it” with pieces of your dog’s food ration, or hide toys for him to search for.
- Consider only feeding your dog his daily ration of food while on a walk. Although this may be inconvenient, it can be a great help if your dog is not very interested in food or toys as rewards and probably only needs to be followed for a week or two. For every recall he fails to do, he loses a portion (a handful for a large dog) of food) and he only gets fed on walks. It is imperative not to weaken and feed your dog anyway out of pity when you get back, or this approach will not work! After a day of no food, hunger will start to get the better of your dog and he will be much more inclined to come back when called if he knows that this is his only chance for any dinner.
- If the problem is running off (rather than simply refusing to come back) never walk him off lead (use a flexible lead or long line) while you work on the other methods of improving his recall. The more he runs off and has a good time, the more he will want to run off.
- If you happen to see your dog coming back of his own accord, call his name and use your recall command – he will forget that it is a set up when he gets enthusiastic praise and a titbit for returning!
- Increase the level of distractions gradually. Work on your recall in the house, then the garden, then a field and finally on a walk with other dogs and people. Use more exciting rewards for more difficult situations. Remember to practice recalls in all situations. Remember also that dogs are very adept at pattern recognition – they will realise that, if you always put them on a lead after calling them in a certain place or situation, it’s not a good idea to come back to you when you call them then.
While some dogs are quite happy to be left alone for short periods, others may become distressed when separated from their owner. Research suggests that nearly half of all pet dogs react badly to being left alone at some point during their lives. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not doing this because they are trying to get ‘revenge’ on their owners for leaving them behind – in most cases, they are simply distressed about being separated from their owner.
Affected animals may bark, howl, toilet indoors or be destructive when left alone. It may not be obvious that your dog becomes anxious when left alone. You may be completely unaware that your dog has been suffering unless you find evidence of destructive behaviour when you return home, or receive complaints from your neighbours about your dog’s barking.
It is recommended that all owners try to video their dog when they are left alone from time to time, just to make sure that they are not showing a ‘hidden’ sign of distress, such as trembling, pacing about or whining.
Separation-related behaviour is a common reason for dogs to be handed over to rescue organisations, but it is important to remember that dogs rehomed from rescue centres are no more likely to develop this behaviour
than dogs that come from other backgrounds. There are a number of different reasons why a
dog might show this type of behaviour so, if you notice signs that your dog is showing unsettled behaviour, you should talk to a vet who may refer you to a clinical animal behaviourist.
Teaching your dog that it’s all right to be alone
One of the most effective ways of preventing your dog from ever becoming anxious when they are left alone is to teach them right from the start that being alone is fun! To do this you need to very gradually increase the time that you leave your dog alone so that it is never a frightening experience and always associated with something pleasant.
The speed that you progress will depend on your dog’s reaction. Never leave your dog so long that they start to become distressed.
- Reward your dog for being relaxed when left alone – rewards can be toys, treats, or praise – a long-lasting treat is ideal as you can tell that your dog is worried if they leave something that they would normally enjoy munching. If your dog becomes anxious and does not remain quietly in their bed eating the treat, do not offer a reward. Instead, simply go back a stage and try leaving them for a shorter period next time.
- Repeat each of the following stages until you are sure your dog is happy before progressing. How quickly you progress depends on how well your dog responds.
To break it down –
- Start by encouraging your dog to go to their bed and stay there with you present for a short while.
Reward your dog for remaining quietly in their bed.
- Next, ask your dog to stay in their bed as you move away, then return and reward.
- Move progressively further away and for longer. The distance/time that you increase by on each occasion will depend on your dog. If your dog reacts or moves, then don’t reward but go back to the previous stage.
- Start going out through the door before returning, then going out and shutting the door, then going out for longer periods of time. When you get to this point, start to vary the length of time that you are out.
- Once you reach the stage where your dog is happy to be left for up to an hour, you should then have no problems leaving them for longer periods. To avoid boredom, which may lead to mischief, remember to give your dog something to occupy themselves while you are out!
Prevent your dog from becoming bored
There are a number of things that you can do to give your dog something to occupy themselves while you are away.
- Leave a safe, suitable toy or bone with your dog when you go out. Make sure that this is a ‘special’ toy by only giving it to them when you go out or when they are separated from you in another room in the house.
- Try to leave something that your dog really loves such as a ‘Kong’ stuffed with food (peanut butter or cheese mixed with dog biscuits are usually popular), or a meat-flavoured chew.
- Give your dog a treat ball or cube that you can fill with dried treats – so they will have to work to get them out.
- All of these things will give your dog mental stimulation and prevent them from becoming bored.
- It’s important that any treats must be taken out of your dog’s daily food allowance as overfeeding can lead to obesity which can cause serious health and welfare concerns.
- Remember that when you return home, these ‘special’ items should be put away again and only given to your dog when you go out, or when you are in a different room in the house.
Feeding and exercise
Your dog will be more inclined to relax when left alone if they have had an appropriate amount of exercise and been fed before you go out.
- Try to always exercise your dog before leaving them. Take them for a walk, returning home half an hour before you are due to leave.
- Feed your dog a small meal shortly before leaving.
- Always ensure your dog goes to the toilet before being left alone