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Mouthing, Nipping and Biting Inhibition

Puppies spend a great deal of time playing, chewing and investigating objects. All of these normal activities involve puppies using their mouths and their needle-sharp teeth. When puppies play with people, they often bite, chew and mouth on people’s hands, limbs and clothing. This kind of behavior may seem cute when your puppy is seven weeks old, but it’s not nearly so endearing when he’s three or four months old—and getting bigger by the day!

What to Do About Puppy Mouthing

It’s important to help your puppy learn to curb his mouthy behavior. There are various ways, some better than others, to teach this lesson. The ultimate goal is to train your puppy to stop mouthing and biting people altogether. However, the first and most important objective is to teach him that people have very sensitive skin, so he must be very gentle when using his mouth.

Bite Inhibition: Teach Your Puppy to Be Gentle
Bite inhibition refers to a dog’s ability to control the force of his mouthing. A puppy or dog who hasn’t learned bite inhibition with people doesn’t recognize the sensitivity of human skin, and so he bites too hard, even in play. Some behaviorists and trainers believe that a dog who has learned to use his mouth gently when interacting with people will be less likely to bite hard and break skin if he ever bites someone in a situation apart from play—like when he’s afraid or in pain.

Puppies usually learn bite inhibition during play with other puppies. If you watch a group of puppies playing, you’ll see plenty of chasing, pouncing and wrestling. Puppies also bite each other all over. Every now and then, a pup will bite his playmate too hard. The victim of the painful bite yelps and usually stops playing. The offender is often taken aback by the yelp and also stops playing for a moment. However, pretty soon, both playmates are back in the game. Through this kind of interaction, puppies learn to control the intensity of their bites so that no one gets hurt and the play can continue without interruption. If puppies can learn how to be gentle from each other, they can also learn the same lesson from people.

When you play with your puppy, let him mouth on your hands. Continue play until he bites especially hard. When he does, immediately give a high-pitched yelp, as if you’re hurt, and let your hand go limp. This should startle your puppy and cause him to stop mouthing you, at least momentarily. (If yelping seems to have no effect, you can say “Too bad!” or “You blew it!” in a stern voice instead.) Praise your puppy for stopping or for licking you. Resume whatever you were doing before. If your puppy bites you hard again, yelp again. Repeat these steps no more than three times within a 15-minute period. If you find that yelping alone doesn’t work, you can switch to a time-out procedure. Time-outs are often very effective for curbing mouthing in puppies. When your puppy delivers a hard bite, yelp loudly. Then, when he startles and turns to look at you or looks around, remove your hand. Either ignore him for 10 to 20 seconds or, if he starts mouthing on you again, get up and move away for 10 to 20 seconds. After the short time-out, return to your puppy and encourage him to play with you again. It’s important to teach him that gentle play continues, but painful play stops. Play with your puppy until he bites hard again. When he does, repeat the sequence above. When your puppy isn’t delivering really hard bites anymore, you can tighten up your rules a little. Require your puppy to be even gentler. Yelp and stop play in response to moderately hard bites. Persist with this process of yelping and then ignoring your puppy or giving him a time-out for his hardest bites. As those disappear, do the same for his next-hardest bites, and so on, until your puppy can play with your hands very gently, controlling the force of his mouthing so that you feel little or no pressure at all.

What to Do Next: Teach Your Puppy That Teeth Don’t Belong on Human Skin

  • Substitute a toy or chew bone when your puppy tries to gnaw on fingers or toes.
  • Puppies often mouth on people’s hands when stroked, patted and scratched (unless they’re sleepy or distracted). If your puppy gets all riled up when you pet him, distract him by feeding him small treats from your other hand. This will help your puppy get used to being touched without mouthing.
  • Encourage noncontact forms of play, such as fetch and tug-of-war, rather than wrestling and rough play with your hands. Once your puppy can play tug safely, keep tug toys in your pocket or have them easily accessible. If he starts to mouth you, you can immediately redirect him to the tug toy. Ideally, he’ll start to anticipate and look for a toy when he feels like mouthing.
  • If your puppy bites at your feet and ankles, carry his favorite tug toy in your pocket. Whenever he ambushes you, instantly stop moving your feet. Take out the tug toy and wave it enticingly. When your puppy grabs the toy, start moving again. If you don’t happen to have the toy available, just freeze and wait for your puppy to stop mouthing you. The second he stops, praise and get a toy to reward him. Repeat these steps until your puppy gets used to watching you move around without going after your feet or ankles.
  • Provide plenty of interesting and new toys so that your puppy will play with them instead of gnawing on you or your clothing.
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for your puppy to play with other puppies and with friendly, vaccinated adult dogs. Playing and socializing with dog buddies is important for your puppy’s development—and if he expends a lot of his energy playing with other puppies, he’ll feel less motivated to play roughly with you. Consider enrolling your puppy in a good puppy class, where he can have supervised playtime with other puppies and learn some important new skills! 
  • Use a time-out procedure, just like the one described above—but change the rules a little. Instead of giving your puppy time-outs for hard biting, start to give him time-outs every time you feel his teeth touch your skin.
    • The instant you feel your puppy’s teeth touch you, give a high-pitched yelp. Then immediately walk away from him. Ignore him for 30 to 60 seconds. If your puppy follows you or continues to bite and nip at you, leave the room for 30 to 60 seconds. (Be sure that the room is “puppy-proofed” before you leave your puppy alone in it. Don’t leave him in an area with things he might destroy or things that might hurt him.) After the brief time-out, return to the room and calmly resume whatever you were doing with your puppy.
    • Alternatively, you can keep a leash attached to your puppy during time-out training and let it drag on the floor when you’re there to supervise him. Then, instead of leaving the room when your puppy mouths you, you can take hold of his leash and lead him to a quiet area, tether him, and turn your back to him for the brief time-out. Then untie him and resume whatever you were doing.
  • If a time-out isn’t viable or effective, consider using a taste deterrent. Spray areas of your body and clothing that your puppy likes to mouth before you start interacting with him. If he mouths you or your clothing, stop moving and wait for him to react to the bad taste of the deterrent. Praise him lavishly when he lets go of you. Apply the bad taste to your body and clothes for at least two weeks. After two weeks of being punished by the bitter taste every time he mouths you, your puppy will likely learn to inhibit his mouthy behavior.
  • Be patient and understanding. Playful mouthing is normal behavior for a puppy or young dog.

Because mouthing issues can be challenging to work with, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a Certified Dog Trainer 

General Precautions

  • Avoid waving your fingers or toes in your puppy’s face or slapping the sides of his face to entice him to play. Doing these things can actually encourage your puppy to bite your hands and feet.
  • Do not discourage your puppy from playing with you in general. Play builds a strong bond between a dog and his human family. You want to teach your puppy to play gently, rather than not at all.
  • Avoid jerking your hands or feet away from your puppy when he mouths. This will encourage him to jump forward and grab at you. It’s much more effective to let your hands or feet go limp so that they aren’t much fun to play with.
  • Slapping or hitting puppies for playful mouthing can cause them to bite harder. They usually react by playing more aggressively. Physical punishment can also make your puppy afraid of you—and it can even cause real aggression. Avoid scruff shaking, whacking your puppy on the nose, sticking your fingers down his throat and all other punishments that might hurt or scare him.

When Does Mouthing Become Aggression?

Most puppy mouthing is normal behavior. However, some puppies bite out of fear or frustration, and this type of biting can signal problems with future aggression.

Puppy “Temper Tantrums”
Puppies sometimes have temper tantrums. Usually tantrums happen when you’re making a puppy do something he doesn’t like. Something as benign as simply holding your puppy still or handling his body might upset him. Tantrums can also happen when play escalates. (Even human “puppies” can have tantrums during play when they get overexcited or upset)! A puppy temper tantrum is more serious than playful mouthing, but it isn’t always easy to tell the difference between the two. In most cases, a playful puppy will have a relaxed body and face. His muzzle might look wrinkled, but you won’t see a lot of tension in his facial muscles. If your puppy has a temper tantrum, his body might look very stiff or frozen. He might pull his lips back to expose his teeth or growl. Almost always, his bites will be much more painful than normal mouthing during play.

If you’re holding or handling your puppy and he starts to throw a temper tantrum, avoid yelping like you’re hurt. Doing that might actually cause your puppy to continue or intensify his aggressive behavior. Instead, be very calm and unemotional. Don’t hurt your puppy, but continue to hold him firmly without constriction, if possible, until he stops struggling. After he’s quieted down for just a second or two, let him go. Then make plans to contact a qualified professional for help. Repeated bouts of biting in frustration are not something that the puppy will simply grow out of, so your puppy’s behavior should be assessed and resolved as soon as possible.

When and Where to Get Help
A trained professional can help you determine whether or not your puppy’s mouthing is normal, and she or he can guide you through an effective treatment plan. If you suspect that your puppy’s biting fits the description of aggressive or fearful behavior, please seek consultation with a qualified professional.


Setting out a search

Anyone who has seen me setting out a search at a workshop knows how seriously I take it. Boxes are moved a couple of centimetres to the left or right. Baskets are moved so that they are further apart. Chairs are carefully positioned to ensure they do the job. And that’s the crux of it – every single item in the search area has a job to do. And my job as trainer is to make sure it is in the perfect spot. 

It wasn’t until I really watched handlers placing finds at the Scent 4 – Environmentals workshop that I began to appreciate the specific skill that is setting out a search. So many elements are at play, it’s easy to get it wrong. 

Safety first

First and foremost is safety. I’ve seen some terrible decision making when it comes to the safety element of the search. As a delegate at scent workshop I once had to step in to dissuade another delegate from hiding the scented article behind a boiling hot urn. From his reaction, I could see that he had never even considered how safe or not searches could be. As a trainer we have a statutory duty of care to our clients. But as people we still need to care about others, both human and canine. I knew as a delegate that it wasn’t my place to give advice. But I also knew that either, or both, dog and handler could be severely injured had I not taken action. 

So safety is paramount. Not just to prevent injury, but also to avoid anything that might make the dog think twice about scentwork. And this is where setting out a search can make or break the dog. Too hard and she might give up. Too easy and there’s no fun, no game. How do you determine what challenge level you should choose? Your starting point is the skill levels of the dog and of the handler. 

Skill levels

It’s very often the case that the skill levels of dog and handler don’t match. They are the same at when they begin scentwork. But when taught well, the dog’s skills quickly move ahead of the handler’s. From that point on, the handler has to manage both her skill level and the dog’s. She needs to ensure the dog has enough challenge and that the handler doesn’t have too much. This assumes that dog and handler are starting at the same time. Often when the handler has worked with other dogs, her skills will remain at a higher level until much later in the process when once again the dog make overtake her. It’s not a competition between dog and handler. Skill levels are just a reflection of what each has learned and what each needs to know next. 

Skill levels sorted, now it’s time to set goals. In my blog post at the start of June, I talked a lot about goal setting. About how I hate them and I love them. In scentwork, setting goals is what gives your search structure and purpose. The goal could be to tire your dog out on a rainy day. Or it could be to raise a particular skill level. Or it could be to go back a step to help the dog practise a skill that she’s not 100% with yet. Don’t get caught up in thinking all goals are about increasing the challenge, about pushing forward. It’s just as important to ensure that each step of the journey is solid and steady before pushing onwards and upwards.

It’s in the detail

Once you have an idea of your goal, it’s time for the detail. Do you need to create a bigger search area or a smaller one? More distractions, or fewer? Increase the scent picture or decrease it? Remember, it’s best practice to only change one element of the search at a time. You want to set your dog up for success. For example, if you are setting out a search to encourage your dog to locate finds that are above her head, do not decrease the scent picture at the same time. Do one or the other, not both. Once you’ve taught the dog to search higher, then you can decrease the scent picture. 

Setting goals and then planning in detail what you need to do to reach them allows you to think more about the search from your dog’s perspective. Assuming that changing an element that is pretty inconsequential to you will have the same non-effect on the dog is to set your dog up to fail. Think about all the elements that make up the search and how each of those affects the dog and how she works. Environment, distractions, temperature, materials, time. All of these elements, and more, come together when you set up a search. The more aware you are of each element, the better your results will be. 

Work together

A great way to really practise this is to work with another scentwork fan. By setting up searches for each other you learn to ask the right questions. You have to find out what the handler wants to achieve, maybe how she wants to achieve it, what she doesn’t want, what her dog finds easy or difficult, what needs to change and what needs to remain the same. This conversation allows everyone involved to make a plan. Practising this with another person allows you to learn what to ask yourself when you are working alone. When you’re with another search team, you can stand back to see the results of your pre-search planning. You can see how it works in practice. This is not always as easy when working alone. But if you set up your phone or camera to record your searches you can review how the plan went.   

Case study

When I ran a Masterclass on setting the perfect search, one of the goals set was with Bev and her spaniel Purdey. Bev’s goal was to teach Purdey that she could ask for help. She’s a strong worker, and confident in finding the target scent. But the issue was that if she couldn’t access it, she wouldn’t ask Bev for help, she’d just move on to locate the next find. It was important not to negatively impact Purdey’s confidence, while simultaneously making the find tricky enough to access that she needed help. 

So we set up a search using a medium sized find. She was already locating very small articles so by going up a size we ensured that she would be really confident that she had located the find. We set the hide at ground level so that there was no issues around jumping up and so that she could definitely access the find with Bev’s help. This was important because if Bev stepped in to help when Purdey asked, but then Purdey couldn’t reach the find herself, the assistance would have been fruitless and Purdey might not have asked for help again. 

So we placed the find inside a plastic flower pot which was hidden under a cardboard box. You might be reading this thinking that’s a really easy find. Lots of air flow, good sized scent picture, minimal access issues. But that’s the point. For polite Purdey, moving the box in order to access whatever was beneath it was out of her comfort zone.  

Maintain balance

We also put out a couple of other finds that she could access easily. This was to maintain the balance of her asking for help when needed but still being happy and confident to get to some finds herself. The goal was not to have a dog dependent on waitress service. It was to have a dog who asked for help when she didn’t feel able to access finds herself. Ultimately, reaching this goal was the next step along the road to building Purdey’s experience and confidence to become bolder when it comes to moving objects around and rummaging to gain access. 

Breaking large goals into smaller goals is often the best way to get great results. Setting out a search that allows the dog to learn the lessons ‘herself’ is what builds confidence and determination and success. 

Caught on camera

The photo you see in this blog is the moment when Purdey did as we hoped she would – she located the find and when she couldn’t get to it, rather than moving on she stopped and look right at Bev. She asked for help. Bev then stepped in and moved the box up a bit. Purdey then moved in, pushing under the raised box and snuffling into the plant pot to retrieve the article. We were all delighted! And as a bonus I managed to catch it on camera. 

I’ve brought the information from the Setting the Perfect Search Masterclass together now in a set of printables. These downloadable and printable information sheets are packed full of all the steps you need to start setting out well planned and designed searches for your dog. I’ve worked hard to make them easy to follow, but have also included a guide to using the charts to make doubly sure. You can get the Search Setting Solutions pack by heading over to my shop

The skill of setting up appropriate searches for your dog is just as important as learning the skill of handling or reading your dog. So take the time to learn it, to practise it and to value it. 


Author of article is Pam McKinnon of Talking Dogs Scentwork UK

dog enrichment

Indoor Scent Games


Key Points
  • Dogs experience much of the world around them through their sense of smell.
  • Scent games allow dogs to channel their love of sniffing while also enriching their minds.
  • Nose-based games are a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated indoors.
  • exercise
  • scent work
  • games
  • training
  • diy

Dogs experience much of the world around them through their sense of smell. On walks, and at home, our dogs constantly take in information with their noses that humans never even notice. Scent games allow dogs to channel their love of sniffing while enriching their minds.

The aim of these games is to teach our dogs how to tell us what they smell. Also, for us to learn to read our dogs and trust they are correct. Some scent games can even be played in small indoor spaces like a living room. When you find yourself stuck inside with your dog, games are a great way to keep them mentally stimulated.

Getting Started With Scent Games

Scent games are fun for dogs of any age, including puppies and older dogs. In everyday life, we often hurry our dogs along when they stop to sniff. But in these games, we want them to understand that sniffing is encouraged. An easy way to introduce your dog to scent games is to set up a search for something immediately motivating for most dogs — food.

Muffin Tin Puzzles

This is a fun introductory scent game that requires only a few items which you might already own. All you need is an empty muffin tin, 12 tennis balls, and some treats that your dog enjoys.

  • Put treats into a few of the muffin tin holes and cover them with tennis balls.
  • Next, put tennis balls into all of the other empty muffin tin holes.
  • Give the “puzzle” to your dog and let them explore by moving the balls to find the treats hidden underneath.

Each time you play, change the location of the treats so your dog needs to use their nose to find the treats.

Shell Game/Magic Trick

Is your dog ready to do some magic? The trick with this game is your dog’s amazing sniffing abilities.

  • Grab three cups. For small dogs, you can use paper cups, but with larger dogs, you might want something a little more substantial like plastic cups or flowerpots.
  • Start with one cup and put a treat under it while your dog is watching. When your dog noses at the cup or paws at it, praise and lift the cup to let your dog get the treat.
  • After a few repetitions, bring in a second cup, but don’t put anything under it. Show your dog that you are putting a treat under one cup with the empty cup next to it. When your dog sniffs or paws at the cup with the treat under it, praise and lift the cup to allow your dog to get the treat.

If your dog paws at the empty cup, lift it and show them there isn’t anything there. Then, lift the cup with the treat and show your pup, but don’t allow them to get the treat. Put the cup back down and repeat, praising your dog as they select the right cup.

The better your dog gets, the more cups you can add in. Start moving the cups around like a magician to clearly demonstrate that your dog is using their nose to find the treats, not just memorizing the location.

Box Search

For this game, you’ll need to gather several empty boxes. Clean boxes leftover from deliveries work well.

  • While your dog is in another room, put the empty boxes out on the floor.
  • In one (or several) boxes, put treats.
  • Bring your dog into the room with the boxes and encourage them to search. When your dog finds a treat in a box, praise and let your pup eat the treat.
  • When your dog has found all the hidden treats, come in with another treat and lure your dog out of the search area by keeping their nose on the treat in your hand. Praise your dog and give the treat that you used to lure them away with. This helps to build your dog’s understanding that it is a game you are playing together. It will also keep them from continuing to search and getting frustrated by not being able to find more treats.

Talking Dog Scent Work -TDS

If you and your dog are enjoying scent games, you can start to introduce them to finding scents other than food. If you have an interest in eventually competing in the sport of Talking Dog Scent Work, it makes sense to start your dog on birch essential oil, because that is the scent dogs must search for at the Novice level. At more advanced levels of competition, your dog will be searching for birch, anise, clove, and/or cypress. If you don’t want to compete in Scent Work, you can train your dog to find and alert to any scent of your choice.

  • To introduce your dog to a scent, take whatever oil you choose, put a few drops of it onto a cotton swab and put it into a glass jar. Small canning jars work well because they are very inexpensive and easy to purchase.
  • Have the jar in one hand and treats in the other. When your dog sniffs/noses at the jar with the scent, praise and bring your treat over next to the jar and treat. In this way, you are helping to make the connection for your dog that you are rewarding at the source of the scent. Now, you can introduce a verbal cue like “search.”
  • Once your dog is consistently nose-bumping the jar of scent in your hand, you can move the jar to the floor. Ask your dog to “search,” and when they bump the jar with their nose, praise and reward with treats next to the jar. This helps reinforce the reward being connected to the scent.
  • When your dog is consistently alerting to the jar of scent, you can begin to create simple hides in boxes like the above box game.

Added Challenges

For an extra challenge, ask a friend or family member to hide the scent for you while you and your dog are out of the room. This means that you won’t know where the scent is, and you will have to trust your dog completely to tell you where they find scent. You can also train in different areas of your home like your bedroom, living room, kitchen, and garage. Different rooms will provide different levels of distractions and competing scents for your dog as they search for the odor.


Learning to play scent-based games and puzzles with your dog is a great way to keep busy when you’re stuck indoors. It also can be useful foundation training that can support you with other sports. If your dog is having fun using their nose, you might want to explore sports like Barn Hunt or Scent Work. Dogs love to sniff, so finding ways to channel and encourage their natural desire to explore with their nose is a great way to stimulate your pup’s mind — and build a stronger relationship with them.

The Smart Dog and Dog Training Durban is here to help dog owners adapt to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 



Help! I must get my dog to the vet.

It can be difficult to assess the severity of the situation when your pet has an accident or is unwell. You may be concerned about the symptoms your pet is showing.

The following 15 key factors can help you make this critical decision as to whether your pet needs urgent veterinary attention.

Each decision will vary from case to case and from pet to pet, but we would strongly advise the following situations are treated as a veterinary emergency:


  • If your pet appears not to be breathing, is struggling for breath or is breathing in an unusual or laboured way.
  • In case of a severe injury that is bleeding profusely, and you are unable to stop the bleeding even with direct pressure on the wound.
  • They are unconscious or appear dazed or unaware of what is going on around them.
  • Suffering a severe allergic reaction
  • If they have burns and they have visibly damaged or blistered skin.
  • If they have fallen from a height, been hit by something travelling at speed – such as a car – or been hit with force
  • You suspect they have ingested antifreeze, rat poison or any other poisonous substance
  • They appear to have severe abdominal pain, a bloated stomach and attempt to vomit – bringing up white foam. This could be a sign of bloat (Gastric Dilation Volvulus GDV) which is extremely dangerous and potentially fatal
  • They have an extremely high or low temperature.
  • Your pet has an eye injury.
  • A vet should check, clean and dress all bite wounds.
  • The Vet should also properly clean and dress Deep wounds.
  • If your dog has recovered from a near drowning experience, a Vet should check them to prevent secondary drowning.
  • In case they have had a seizure, even if they appear to have made a full recovery, it is always sensible that a Vet check them out.


Tips for preventing emergency pet accidents.

  • Lock away medicines and household products or keep safely in a high cupboard. Wipe up any spills that pets could ingest or lick from paws.
  • Be aware of food and drink that are toxic to dogs such as chocolate and raisins out of reach
  • Always keep your dog on a lead around high traffic areas and make sure he is visible in the dark.
  • Carry a pet first aid kit so that you can treat minor ailments and prevent them from getting worse.

Do read our article on being prepared for an emergency visit to the vet. It contains lots of tips to help you respond effectively and calmly in a medical emergency involving your pet.

The Smart Dog provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for veterinary advice. The author does not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any mistreatment or misdiagnosis of any person or animal, however caused. We strongly recommend that you attend a practical First Aid for Pets course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.



What is Canine Hoopers?

Hoopers is a fun dog sport that’s ideal for dogs and owners of all ages and fitness levels.

Dogs navigate a course of hoops, barrels and tunnels with the same pace and excitement as agility.

But the courses are flowing and don’t involve tight turns – making it accessible for everyone!

Hoopers is focused on the ability of dog and owner to work together as a smooth-flowing team so it’s a great bonding activity too.

How do dogs take part in Canine Hoopers?

The best place to begin is by finding a qualified instructor.

I recommend Canine Hoopers World instructors as they have undergone thorough training with a Hoopers expert.

Usually they’re group classes but some instructors like myself run 1-1 sessions too.

What is the benefit of Canine Hoopers?

Where to begin? Ok, let’s start with the benefits for the dogs themselves.

In Hoopers dogs are working away from us so it helps create confidence and independence.

It’s also good for dogs that tend to bulldoze around because although they’re moving at speed, they have to be very conscious of what’s around them.

So it’s good for proprioception – it helps dogs to be aware of where they’re putting their feet and bodies.

There are also lots of benefits for us owners.

In Hoopers dogs are focusing on targets so we can easily turn that focus back on us, giving us greater control from a distance.

Oh yes, and it’s a lot of fun!

What kind of dogs is it ideal for?

I honestly believe that most dogs could benefit from Hoopers.

It creates confidence so it’s beneficial for nervous dogs.

It’s perfect for high-energy dogs too as it channels their focus – and of course it’s a great energy burner too.

Older dogs can join the fun as it puts less strain on their joints than agility and for that same reason dogs as young as eight months can take part.

That’s because unlike agility, Hoopers has no jumps. Instead, dogs navigate a ground-level course of hoops, barrels and tunnels.

The equipment ensures dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds can participate without having to take sharp turns or bend down for tunnels or hoops.

Hoopers is brilliant because it doesn’t exclude any dog or person!

fun dog

The Smarter Dog

We have been training our dogs in the wrong methods or ways for the last few decades.

We need to engage them on a more mental basis to change their behavior for the better.

I have now developed a new force free method of training your dog in a fun loving way.

Let you dogs nose work for you and have fun while training your best friend.

When you stimulate your dogs mind by using scent games or puzzles, major changes happen.

We have just run our Scent Seekers course over 6 weeks and have seen an amazing change in the dogs. Not one dog made a peep during our training sessions and we all had amazing fun finding the mice or the cheese.

I have trained dogs for over 30 years and have changed my methods of training to a new force free method using scent  as a game changer.

The changers we have seen are:

  • Problem behaviors  fade away.
  • Your dog more obedient and better behaved.
  • Your dogs IQ improves.
  • Your dogs mental and physical health improves.
  • Your bonding with your dog shots to the moon and you start having fun again.

Contact me Grant Smith for more information about our training programs. 

Ps. Panda says if you PM her she  will send you a free games book for your fur friend.’

kid and bull terrier

Kids and Pets : How To Develop That relationship

Kids and pets go together like peanut butter and jelly. I should know. Our Pugs were my daughter Reagan’s best friends from the time she was born. Her canine “brothers” were there to greet her when we brought her home from the hospital, and it was no surprise that Reagan’s first word was a bark!

Pets are good for kids in so many ways. They encourage physical activity through play and walks and they help kids learn empathy and practice interaction with others.

But that natural and loving relationship doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s important to guide and supervise how they interact with each to ensure no one gets hurt or misbehaves. Here’s how to bring a pet into the family in a safe way for everyone. (Even if you don’t have children of your own, you can use all these techniques when other children such as neighborhood kids, nieces or nephews, or grandchildren are visiting. It’s the best way to ensure that every child you and your pets encounter treats your dog or cat safely and respectfully.)

Pet-Proofing 101

Before you bring home a new dog or cat, make sure your home doesn’t have any safety hazards lying around. That includes kids’ toys. Enlist kids to put away their toys and explain how they could get hurt by chewing up and swallowing objects.

Safe Trip Home

When you pick up your new pet from the shelter or breeder, have a crate or carrier for him to ride in. That’s an easy way to prevent kids from arguing over who gets to hold him on the ride home. Sitting in their laps or being passed around is an unsafe way for him to travel.

Keep Things Calm

Your kids will want to play with their new pet but give him time to get settled first. Let the dog go potty in the yard before you bring him into the house. Have a safe space ready where he’ll sleep, rest, and eat unless an adult is supervising him elsewhere in the house.

Getaway spaces and time apart can help both your child and your pet reset when necessary. Teach your pet that this “home base” — a crate, bed or perch — is where he can go when he’s feeling overwhelmed or in need of a break. Make sure your child understands that when the pet is in his getaway space, he is not to be approached, interacted with, or petted.

Active play is for outside, with an adult keeping an eye on things. Remind kids not to screech or squeal, as those high-pitched sounds can scare a pet or cause him to act aggressively.

Handling Habits

Have kids sit on the floor to pet the puppy or kitten. Establish a rule that only adults can pick the animal up. It can be painful for pets to be carried by kids who don’t know how to pick them up or hold them. Be actively involved in any interactions between children and pets, and teach children how to properly and gently touch and handle animals.

Body Language Basics

Watching how pets react to children is an essential part of making sure everyone remains safe and happy. Pets use their whole body—ears, face, and tail—to express how they’re feeling. Ears laid back, lowered tail, and showing the whites of the eyes are signs that your pup isn’t happy; for cats, flattened ears and a swishing tail are signs of anger or anxiety.

Always intervene instead of letting them work it out on their own. Gently guide kids and animals to keep interactions safe and positive, putting a stop to whatever activities are causing the pet to feel uncomfortable or anxious. Early intervention is the best way to avoid a bite or scratch.

Behavior Skills

Puppies and children need to learn how to behave around each other. For instance, don’t allow puppies to chase and nip at kids’ heels. If a dog steals a child’s toys, teach “leave it” or “drop it” cues and redirect him to his own toys. Remind kids not pet cats on the belly or carry them around like a football.

Be sure you are the one supervising the pet. If your children see the pet doing something he’s not supposed to, like jumping on the kitchen counter or getting into the trash, they should let you know, not try to discipline the pet themselves. Model how to intervene by using force-free, reward-based techniques to bring a puppy or kitten back to appropriate behavior.

When you have a structure in place for greetings, petting, and play, everyone gets along better and makes good choices. Don’t forget to reward children for acting kindly and appropriately toward the new family member. Praise them for making good choices, like leaving pets alone who are sleeping or eating, calmly inviting a pet to approach at their own pace, or touching pets gently. Rewards reinforce good behavior in your pet and your child and can help to ensure that the two of them will form a lasting bond.

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

tracking dog

Tracking Searching for fun.

Does your dog like to sniff? And does she like playing games with you and learning new things? Then tracking is a sport for you!

Tracking helps to build confidence in shy or anxious dogs because it is a natural behavior and one of the few sports where your dog calls the shots. Humans have a pretty pathetic sense of smell, so it is up to your dog to show you where the track goes.

Tracking is also great low-impact exercise for both you and your dog. It gets both of you out walking, and processing smells will wear your dog out faster than walking alone.

And it’s just plain fun! Tracking is a wonderful opportunity to bond with your dog over an activity that she naturally enjoys and is good at.

What You’ll Need

  • Harness that doesn’t restrict your dog’s shoulder motion. Tracking is one of the few times when pulling is encouraged, and you want your dog to be able to move freely.
  • Leash or long line. Start out with a 6-foot leash, but you can graduate to a longer line as your dog gains confidence and skill.
  • A flag to mark the start of your track (and maybe some to mark turns as you progress)
  • Items for your dog to find, such as socks, gloves, or dog toys (in tracking terms, these items are known as “articles”)
  • Treats
  • A field or large yard to work in

Getting Started

All dogs already know how to track. You just need to teach your dog to focus on and stick to the scent you indicate.

  1. Place your start flag and walk about 20 feet, dropping a small piece of food for each step. Place your article at the end with a jackpot of treats. Then loop back around to get your dog.
  2. Put the harness and leash on your dog and lead her up to the start flag.
  3. Point to the ground to show her the first treat, and tell her, “Go find!”
  4. Follow along as she follows the trail of treats, encouraging her as needed. If she goes off track, just wait until she works her way back.
  5. Celebrate when she “finds” the article! Pet her, play with article, and let her eat the treats.
  6. Repeat a couple more times.

As your dog figures out the game, you can space out the treats you drop more and more. Many dogs will even start going past treats because tracking is rewarding in and of itself. Always reward and celebrate at the article to keep her psyched about finding her prize!

Gradually increase the length of your track, and introduce turns. Place treats before and after your turns at first to guide her through, then phase those out like you did in the beginning. Your dog probably won’t do textbook turns every time – she will go past the turn, circle around sniffing, and then commit to the track. This is fine! Stand still and let her search, then walk along behind her when she figures it out.

As she gets more experienced, you can start “aging” your track by walking the path and then letting it sit before you come back and run it with your dog. You can also ask a friend to lay a track for you!

While grass is the easiest surface to start on because it holds scent really well, you can also track over dirt and pavement. Help your dog the first couple times working on a new surface.

Praise when she is on the track, especially if she pulls to tell you to follow. She will quickly learn that pulling is allowed when she’s wearing her tracking harness, and not when she isn’t.

The simplest description of tracking is recreational search work. You can teach your dog to follow your scent trail and find things that you leave behind, rewarding for a job well done. If you really get into it, you can train for and earn tracking titles through ourselves, The Smart Dog k9 Training Centre (all breeds and mixes welcome!). Tracking is a great activity for dogs of all ages and sizes, because it is low-impact, on leash, and capitalizes on your dog’s amazing sense of smell. Tracking can be done anywhere, but if you’re short on good spaces to practice where your dog won’t be disturbed by the presence of other dogs or humans.

Happy tracking!

This article was reviewed/edited by board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Kenneth Martin and/or veterinary technician specialist in behavior Debbie Martin, LVT.

Kate Eldredge Basedow LVT is a graduate of Cornell University and SUNY Delhi’s veterinary technology program. She has won several awards from the Dog Writers’ Association of America and Cat Writers’ Association for her work about dogs and cats. Kate is a licensed veterinary technician in the state of New York
medical dogs

Can you train your dog online or not?

I’ve heard this a few times, most recently just a few weeks ago. And it got me thinking about how I learned about dog training. The vast majority of my learning experience has been reading, listening and watching.

Dog training is a physical and practical activity. You have to work with dogs, and with people if you wish to teach others. No argument there. But I also spent a lot of time attending conferences, courses and workshops where I listened to speakers as they shared their experience and knowledge, sometimes supported by video clips, sometimes demonstrating with real dogs. In those early days when I was young and eager, I’m sure my springer rolled his eyes when he saw me return from a weekend away. He was about to be my guinea pig as I put what I’d learned into practice. These days I don’t attend quite as many events but when I do I come home and consider what I’ve learned, weighing up how useful it is for my dogs and for clients’ dogs rather than automatically trying it out. I know my dogs are grateful for that period of reflection.

These days we also have social media and the internet to help us learn without having to travel. We have webinars and live Q&As on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. And I have learned lots from YouTube, it’s a wonderful resource with some really great trainers sharing their skills. Where I might have learned by watching videos in the 1980s & 90s, now I can go online and find what I need – sometimes. Just as you have to choose events carefully, you have to choose your online resources carefully. Critical evaluation are the key words here. Question everything, see how it fits in with your views and ethics, does it challenge you to think differently, to add to your understanding or does it jar with your personal belief system? For example, I will discard anything that causes a dog distress. While I have studied pain and fear inducing methods and have sadly seen many of them in practice, they are not something that I include in my training toolbox. Just because someone who you might admire or follow suggests a technique, it does not mean that you have to replicate it or even agree with it. You must make your own informed evaluations however you choose to learn.

Books and reading are still my go to method of learning, whether for dog training, baking or photography. If I want to know more and I can’t directly access an expert, I seek out a book in the topic. Again, online resources are wonderful. I can read many more research studies than ever before thanks to so many researchers publishing through open source portals. I’ve had my fair share of disappointments when picking up a much anticipated book only to discover that it’s full of punishment and misunderstandings of how dogs learn and what they need to have full, enriched lives. But it’s all information and it all helps me understand more about why I train as I do, and why and how I make the choices.

I would describe myself as an experience led trainer. I worked things out with my dogs, I learned from them and then went off to study why what I was doing was working, or not. Learning without a dog in front of me has supported everything I do when working with a dog. So can you learn dog training online? Hell yes! But do you then have to apply what you’ve learned, to practise the skills and try out the techniques, also hell yes! I’ve been using online courses to learn all sorts of skills for around 7 or 8 years. What I hadn’t found were good dog training online courses. Back in the day I tutored Think Dog, John Fisher’s distance learning course. I know many trainers who have done the course and so know the value of learning at home in your own time. And so I developed my own online training course. So if you’ve been under the impression that you can’t learn dog training online, I hope you will think again and maybe even give it a go.


Pilates for dogs – how canine pilates can keep your pet healthy

Pilates is a healthy way to improve our strength and flexibility but did you know it can help dogs too?

I was fascinated to discover this and was absolutely thrilled when Lindsey Fidler, a canine fitness instructor from Rotherham invited me along to one of her classes.

Lindsey studied Equine Psychology at Nottingham Trent University and after graduating in 2008 she worked on a horse racing yard.

Then she moved to a small animal practice to train to become a registered vet nurse in 2012 and decided to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Veterinary Physiotherapy.

Many of the animals she treated were recovering from surgery, illness or injury and her physiotherapy sessions helped with their rehabilitation.

Their owners wanted to help as much as they could and Lindsey realised both could benefit from exercising together.

So she sought out a canine fitness qualification and became an instructor

Now she puts on pooch pilates classes – or Paw-lates as Lindsey calls it!

Lindsey said: “Owners would come to see me and I’d show them the exercises they needed to do with their dogs to help with conditions or to recover from illness or surgery.

“It struck me that by working together, a canine fitness programme would help dogs and their owners, so I did a canine fitness qualification with the Canine Conditioning Academy and started putting on classes.”

Lindsey still works with horses and her business helps animals with a range of conditions.

Her Pawlates sessions work on the same principles as Pilates for humans and aim to build core strength, flexibility, balance and posture.

Lindsey explains: “By improving core strength we develop the deep muscles which stabilise the spine and pelvis.

“When correctly used, these muscles allow our dogs to develop correct posture and movement.

“Just as with our own bodies, this helps prevent injury or fatigue to other muscles which may try to perform the role of the core muscles if they are not functioning correctly.”

Dogs and their owners can enrol on a six week programme for £80 or have one to one sessions at £30 an hour

This is more suited to dogs who need a personalised plan.

Her clients range from pups who do agility, obedience classes, and fly ball to regular pet owners who want to try something different for their dog.

“It’s enriching and very mentally stimulating,” says Lindsey, who lives in Rotherham with her rescue Lurcher Evie.

“If you have a high energy dog they can run for hours and don’t get tired, but get them interested in this and because they have to concentrate and focus it can tire them out.”

She works with every kind of breed from Great Danes to teeny Chihuahuas and to take part, dogs need to be at least six months, fit and well, and have basic obedience.

I love trying new things and last month Patch and I joined Border Collies Zuka and Logo and their owners

First, Lindsey explained the exercises in the class.

Then each dog walked around for a warm up to get the blood flowing and throughout the session, dogs switch between each exercise as Lindsey monitors their form.

The collies learned how to Side Step to strengthen the abductor and adductor muscles in the legs which in turn builds strength in the glutes or bum muscles, groin and chest. We missed this out as Patch and I were newbies.

Then they tried Raised Front Paws where the dogs stood on a step with their front paws – just like a doggy version of step aerobics.

The aim is for them to stand square with their front feet on the step and back feet on the floor and hold that position for 15 seconds at a time.

This increases the strength and muscle in the hind legs and helps with balance.

Lindsey explained: “A lot of dogs are front end heavy because they pull on their harness or lead and this is about reversing it and equalling out the muscle mass throughout the body.

“It works by extending the hips and stretches the abdominal muscles, the glutes, hips, hamstrings and thighs so it’s a lovely stretch for them. You can do it on benches and walls while on walks.”

Next we used some cones which can help if you’d like to try agility
We tried Weaving between cones slowly bending Patch through by tempting him with a treat.

The weaving action encourages the spine to flex in both directions. Some dogs are more mobile on one side but by asking them to keep changing over increases flexibility and improves co-ordination.

All the training is reward based so the dogs throughly enjoy it. “They go home with very full bellies,” says Lindsey. “It’s interesting for the owners too.

“It’s a fun way to learn more about how exercise affects your dog’s anatomy and learn new exercises to mentally stimulate them and build confidence.

“I recommend 15 to 20 minutes of work like this to my clients three times a week and the dog will be shattered. You can do it at home or out and about.”

So how did Patch get on?

Well I was pleasantly surprised as he’d only been with us for six weeks and we have quite a bit of work to do on his training.

But he really enjoyed the weaving exercises and Lindsey said as he was able to walk around the cones quite tightly his movement and balance was excellent.

As a bright two-year-old, he was keen to please and enjoyed going in and out of the obstacles, eating biscuits and treats along the way!

On the step, he stood nicely and we practiced encouraging him to stand square but not for too long as it’s important they don’t get bored!

I was really proud of him for his first attempt

Listening to Lindsey and learning how each exercise helps our dogs was so interesting and really makes you understand how important their health and mobility is.

It’s something that’s easy to take for granted.

Dogs love running around but if we want them to live long, healthy and happy lives and avoid injury and conditions like arthritis, ensuring their posture and flexibility is as best it can be can really help.

I absolutely loved Lindsey’s session and came away brimming with excitement and enthusiasm with what I’d learned.

We’ve continued the exercises at home. Tommy’s girls have loved the cone work and I know Patch enjoys it too.

Most of all, the classes are a lovely way to spend time just focusing on you and your dog, and if you like anything that helps you understand your pet and that brings you closer together you will love it.

I would definitely recommend Pawlates – I just wish Lindsey would open up a class near where I live!

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