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Inspire Your Dog has been over 4 years in the making.  When we launched the site at the beginning of March 2014, there were over 72,000 words of content - and that number will continue to grow.

Inspire Your Dog is the culmination of 15 years of hard work and experience working with many thousands of dogs.

But if that isn't enough for you, here's just a few reasons why you should subscribe:

*  Unlike a physical book, this site will continue to be updated with new ideas, tips, help and fun stuff.  Even after working with thousands of dogs, the learning process continues - so we can keep you up to date with all the latest techniques and ideas that work for different types of dogs.  It's a truly dynamic way of learning about and working with your dog.  It's a hybrid between an in depth behavioural book, and an online dog magazine - the best of both worlds!

*  Inspire Your Dog offers a unique way of looking at the problems people have with their dogs.  Instead of working against your dog, we show you how to work with them.

*  Inspire Your Dog guides you through the process of assessing your dog properly - starting off with the basics that a lot of other sources of advice ignore.  If you don't get the basics right, then you won't get anywhere.

*  All this advice is based on real experience.  A lot of 'experts' are simply repeating something they've seen on TV or read in a book.  We once had a 'trainer' call us for advice when she was stumped over a problem.  She claimed she'd worked with 'loads' of dogs.  When we asked how many - she replied "Six."  Somehow she'd convinced herself that was enough of a cross-section to set herself up as a 'trainer'.  We've worked with over three thousand dogs - and we're still learning.  Let us pass on our experience to you...

*  We don't assume your dog is the same as everyone else's.  Every dog has a different reason to be doing what they do.  Your dog is unique, and we'll treat them that way.

*  When you subscribe, you'll gain access to our exclusive subscriber content.  If you look at the navigation section on the right hand side of the page, you can see all the main sections with their main articles.  You can see the vast amount of content and subjects we've already covered, and we'll be continually adding more.

*  You'll be able to ask questions and perhaps even 'inspire' new articles focussing on specific issues or problems.  This isn't a static site, we'll go where our subscribers want us to go.

*  You'll be joining a site written by people who work with, and live with dogs on a daily basis.  We don't take articles from other sources - everything is new, original content.

*  We'll be adding 'Guest' articles over the coming months and years from people who are experienced in their own fields, including dog sports, health and well being, along with other special articles and features.

Instead of blocking off all of the subscriber content, we've shown the beginning of each section for everyone to read.  We're very proud of the work we've done here - we hope you really enjoy reading the site as much as we enjoyed creating it.

To subscribe, simply click here...  >

Lies, damned lies and misunderstandings…

One of the most frustrating aspects of working with rescue dogs is that when people are handing a dog in, they often lie to you.

Sometimes, it's entirely premeditated, because they think that you will not take a dog if they admit that the dog has a particular issue.  And then you can get the complete opposite - people think you will not take a dog unless it's the most perfect dog in the world.  Ever.

Either way, it's important to know if dogs have issues so we can work with them from day one.  It's what we do.

Sometimes, the lies can be something far more unpleasant.

On one occasion we discovered that someone handed a dog in to us that was in the latter stages of terminal cancer.  We discovered that it had been diagnosed with the previous vet (so the owner knew full well when he handed her in that she was dying), but the owner didn't mention it to us - all they wanted was an easy way to hand the dog off without having to go through the grief of losing the dog.  In their mind, they could imagine that she recovered and was fine.
It was only with hindsight that questions he asked like "what happens if she becomes ill?" and "if she became really unwell, would she stay with you?" that you realise that this person knew exactly what they were doing, but didn't have the decency to be honest about it.

There was no miracle cure, and there was no relapse, poor little Miffy was put to sleep at the right time with love.  Thankfully she enjoyed being with us and the other dogs, and hopefully she felt that she was loved when she crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  It's the least we can do to help our furry friends when the time came.

Miffy's story broke our hearts.  We learned two hard lessons: people aren't always what they seem, and no matter how short a time you have with a dog, they will climb inside your heart just the same.

You might think that this is disgraceful, and that it was a one-off... but it isn't.  It may have been the first time someone lied to our faces about the health of their dog - but it certainly wasn't the last by a long, long way.

No matter how she came to be with us, and what lies were told to us along the way, we wouldn't have swapped that time we had with Miffy.  She was a 15 year old collie girl with a beautiful nature and personality.  We had the privilege of sharing her last few weeks as a family, and hopefully we made her as happy as she made us.

Dogs like Miffy gave us our love of helping older dogs that others had given up on.  I could give you a list of old dogs who were only with us a short time.  Each one of them made us laugh and made us cry in equal measure.

The stories of pizza theft, puppy wrangling, sneakiness, barking at inanimate objects to get them to move out of the way and wilful deafness still make us chuckle.

The owner may have lied to us about Miffy, and it broke our hearts, but she - and other cheeky old timers - have been worth every single moment.

Have a look around your home, and perhaps you could find room for an old dog everyone else is overlooking.  Can you give an old dog the gift of a home for the rest of their life?

Stanley’s Paw…

Some dogs have a tremendous amount of dignity when it comes to pain.  They hate to show you they're in any kind of discomfort, and will hide their pain with rigid determination.

Others don't.

Collies are particularly good at hiding pain, and pretending everything is fine.  So when a collie comes limping up to you, yelping and making the most horrendous noises, you really think something is wrong.

"Go and grab the phone, and get an appointment at the vet."

It's always best to get proper, professional advice.  When a dog is showing you that they're in this much pain, you have to act immediately.

"Come here Stanley, let's take a look at you."

Stanley, a large blue merle boy (the photo is of when he was a baby - many years ago now!), hopped across to me, holding his paw up, whining.

"Let's have a look."

I held his leg very gently, and pressed lightly all the way up and down his leg.  I was worried that the level of pain was such he may have broken a bone.  Nothing felt out of the ordinary, and Stanley didn't flinch even once.

Encouraging Stan to lay on his side, I took a good look at his paw; no cuts or abrasions, and his toes all seemed fine.  There was nothing to be found in between his toes, and nothing seemed to be out of place.

I looked closer and closer.. and eventually found a very tiny thorn.  And when I mean tiny, I mean TINY.  It appeared to be a new growth thorn that was still very flexible and so, so small it was almost imperceptible to the naked eye.  I managed to get the thorn out of his paw very easily with no drama, and just as I heard "They've got an appointment at 9:30... is that okay?" Stanley went bounding off happily past his mummy.

"Um.  Looks like we don't need the appointment, thanks."

Sometimes, the smallest thing can cause the biggest pain, and the bigger issues can result in a dog showing you no signs of illness whatsoever.

Don't ever assume that a little injury is a little pain (an actual paper cut seems disproportionate with the actual pain caused!), and yet you can seriously injure your back when focussed on a particular job, and not notice until much later on.

Just Say NO!!

Just say no... to extendable leads!

We've explored why extendable leads can be a real liability in the Gadgets and Gizmos section, but last week, I saw a situation that horrified me.

In a public place, a couple were walking their very happy, very vocal, Basset Hound girl on an extendable lead.  Neither of the couple were paying any attention to her, and she was racing around, saying hello to all and sundry.  I couldn't help but smile to see such a happy dog socialising well and having a great time.Extlead01

Coming the other way along the path was a small terrier, who made a beeline toward the Basset, barking his head off aggressively.  Sensing a possible danger, this Basset lady wasn't shy about showing that she was very friendly, and bounded in the direction of the terrier, wagging her tail and woofing happily that she was friendly.

As this happened, the couple finally realised they had a dog on their lead, and jerked her back, making her yelp, and then smacked her on the nose chastising her for 'being naughty'.

Where to start!!

This poor Basset had been left to her own devices.  Had she been on a normal lead, they would have had control over their dog.  Had they been paying any attention whatsoever, they would have noticed this dog coming towards them being aggressive, and moved their own dog out of the way.  As it stood, they told off their dog for trying to be friendly.

For some breeds, and some dogs, an incident like this can teach them that they're wrong to say hello and be sociable.  After all, they'd just been told off for trying to say hello - so next time they might actually be aggressive to keep other dogs away - because the last time a dog came close to them, they got told off.

If only people were polite….

If only people were polite to dogs, the world would be a much easier place for dog owners.

We often take the simplest actions for granted. People think they know how to say 'hello' to dogs, but invariably get it wrong.

How many 'doggy' people do you see who rush up to a strange dog and overwhelm them, often waving their hands at a frustrated owner declaring, "it's fine, all dogs love me!"

No they don't.

Meeting a dog should be treated in the same way as you would meet a new person. You don't rush up to them and invade their personal space. If someone did that to you, you'd feel intimidated and 'on the back foot'.

If you add to that the feeling that you're being restrained by a lead - overenthusiastic people can be quite a claustrophobic experience for dogs.

But if your dog reacts, brace yourself for a barrage of "you've got a dangerous dog", "that dog should be muzzled" and other unpleasant comments aimed at your best friend.

But if a stranger rushed up to them, cornered them and starting touching their head, you can be certain that they would react.

So why do we, as human, expect animals to know our rules of etiquette and manners, and then ignore them ourselves anyway?

It's very simple to work out: "How would I like to be greeted?"

If everyone gave dogs the sort of space and respect they would with other human beings, a lot of problems could be avoided and would never have started first place.

Every dog we meet is unique, every one of them is an individual who needs to be greeted with respect while you get to know them. So if everyone followed these rules...

1) Never touch a dog without asking the owners permission first.

2) Never touch a dog without letting the dog know that you're there!

3) Don't overwhelm and crowd a dog.

4) Don't loom over a dog.

5) Don't give them a treat without asking the owner. You have no idea if this dog has any special dietary requirements, intolerances, or worse problems like epilepsy which can be brought on by additives often found in commercial dog food and treats!

6) Don't start ordering them around and try to 'demand' they sit. They don't know you, why should they listen to you?

These things all seem rather obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people do just rush up to a dog as though they're an old friend, and should just be pleased to see them.

Getting To Know You…

Getting to know a new dog can sometimes be a challenge.  As much as we try not to, we end up with preconceived ideas about how a new friend is going to act based on our experience of other dogs we've lived with.

We wouldn't expect a new friend to treat us based upon their experiences with old friends; we expect to start with a clean slate.  We want to be judged as ourselves; as an individual.  And then some people turn around and expect a new dog to act like their old dog.

Expectations are an inevitable consequence of wanting to share our lives with new friend; we want to share more of those experiences with another species...  That's quite an amazing thing in itself, really.  We can sometimes miss the obvious - even miss the extraordinary - because we're relying on our old experiences to guide us through.

Experience is great; but remember that it's a foundation upon which to build new knowledge.  You should never look at the experience you have and think "that's it!"

As Sir Francis Bacon said, "If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties."

Monkey Business…

Animal communication is one of the Holy Grails of the natural world.  We're so far apart from our animal cousins when it comes to language, but so close biologically.  Once, when an advocate for animal rights asked a US Judge what percentage of shared DNA he'd require to rule that a primate should qualify for 'Human Rights', he suggested (logically) 51%.  He clearly wasn't an expert in the subject - some studies show we share 85% of the same DNA as our canine pals.

So it's always fascinating when a new study about communicating with animals appears, because I can't help but think we've been missing what has been sitting right under our noses all this time.

Taken from "The Week", here's a portion of the news story about one such study:

Focusing on non-verbal gestures, researchers spent 18 months in Kenya analysing thousands of cases and were able to identify 15 exact meanings for 36 different gestures.

Examples of such signals include the stomping of both feet, which is used to initiate play, and a request for contact, which is conveyed by a chimpanzee reaching out its arms. Leaning on one foot and thrusting it out means ‘climb on’.

The chimpanzees used these physical gestures to make requests and participate in important social negotiations.

According to research leader Dr Catherine Hobaiter, this is the only form of intentional, goal-oriented communication recorded in animals.


So according to this article, this is the "only form of intentional, goal-oriented communication recorded in animals".


One of the examples given, is "stamping of both feet to initiate play".

As dog owners (or at least having an interest in them!) surely we've all seen a dog deliberately initiate play?  It's not an accident that this pooch presses for playtime?

In fact there are a number of physical movements dogs use to communicate with each other in a very deliberate way.  I mean, there are numerous signals they give off for play alone!

Dogs flirt with each other even after having been neutered or spayed - so there we have a deliberate interaction which isn't actually driven by hormones.  It's a deliberate action to elicit a specific response from a fellow canine.

I've seen a dog, worried about going out in the dark, to come back inside the house and 'ask' his friend to go outside with him.  Surely by it's definition, that's an intentional, goal oriented communication.  "Come with me, I'm too scared to go out alone".

Surely even bringing a ball back to their human is an intentional, goal oriented communication.  "Here it is!!  Throw it again!"

It's not as though the Tennis Ball is found in nature.  It isn't as though they "accidentally" play ball.

Dogs even communicate with each other with just a look.  The times a withering glance from a bossy girl dog makes a naughty pooch stop in their tracks and behave... one particular dog could stop any naughty behaviour with a lick to the nose of the naughty dog!  (Those 'dominance' people would tell you a lick to the nose is a 'submissive' behaviour!)

If the rules for animal communication are "intentional and goal-oriented", then once again, canine behaviour is being underestimated.  Clearly it isn't just primates that can do it - those furry cheeky monkeys can do it too...

What Can Dog Owners Learn From Luis Suarez?

This blog was going to be a World Cup free zone.  An oasis away from the fervour surrounding another glorious sporting summer.  But now it isn't... but don't worry, we're not going to be talking about the offside trap or the early trip home and disappointing performances of premier sportsmen...

Football01Really, this blog entry has been forced on us thanks to a certain Uruguayan player called Luis Suarez.  You'll have heard on the news no doubt (as it's impossible to avoid) that he's bitten an opposing player for the third time in his career...

You will find thousands upon thousands of words written about his toothy shenanigans elsewhere; from people attempting to defend his actions, to those actually demanding that someone should "lock him up and throw away the key".  You'll see people wringing their hands and others screaming "won't someone think of the children!"  He's a genius, he's a saint, he's a monster, he's responsible for the breakdown of all that's good in society... everywhere you look there's a different opinion.

In case you haven't seen the footage, the 'bite' happens in a split second.

But we're not going to talk about Luis Suarez and his brain fades, that's certainly not a subject for this blog.  What is a subject for this blog is the reaction to his chomping - more specifically the reaction in those comments sections below news stories on all the big websites.  A few of these responses piqued my interest.

"If that had been my Jack Russell, he'd be put down!"


Let's say you have a Jack Russell, who, during the course of playing a game of ball in the extreme heat had a little nibble on someone's leg which didn't break the skin or even leave a mark (it's been admitted that the widely circulated photo evidence of Suarez' vampirism was 'enhanced' in Photoshop by a tabloid newspaper)

What worries us the most is the desire to punish immediately without any interest in getting to the root cause of the issue.

In this situation, the Jack Russell (and let's call him Pickles after the famous dog that found the World Cup in a hedge after it was stolen back in 1966) might have had a nibble when his prey drive overtook everything else in his mind when playing.  It happens.

Equally, Pickles might have accidentally bitten when trying to get to the tennis ball - a human ankle being collateral damage.  Accidental clashes between doggy teeth and human flesh is a common occurrence when both are trying to get to the ball first!

And then there's another option.  As discussed here us humans love to take our little canine pals out for summer fun.  And we usually do it on the hottest day of the year.  And little Pickles runs around playing ball, frisbee or just for the fun of it.  Dogs can dehydrate very quickly, and in some cases, dehydration can bring on a seizure.

Most people think that they'd notice if their dog has a seizure, but it really isn't as simple as spotting your dog flop onto it's side and have an episode we'd all recognise as a fit.

Absence seizures (or petit mal as they are also known) is where a person (or animal) can be disoriented from a split second up to twenty seconds. In some cases, a short seizure like that can a accompanied by a violent act. Some seizures can be brought on by something as simple as dehydration, but other causes such as artificial additives (certain e-numbers in food), and in some very sensitive dogs, gluten and carbohydrates.  (Cutting out gluten and carbs from a dog's diet can have a huge effect on the frequency and severity of seizures - as we discuss in our three part section on Food and Feeding.)

This is actually something we've investigated in some depth; as sometimes dogs who have been labelled as aggressive or unpredictable are actually suffering from these petit mal seizures or other neurological short circuits which cause moments of aggression which the dog doesn't actually remember. Indeed, some people insist that the dog "knows they've done wrong", but in actual fact lying down and looking depressed isn't guilt, but the side-effect of their blood sugar levels dropping dramatically after a neurological episode.

However, there's a difference between a quick 'nip' and a sustained attack.  Even so, a normally rational dog does not just 'turn'... there is always a reason behind it.  And if the reason for the attack is one that cannot be solved safely and responsibly, sometimes the right decision is to have to say goodbye.  However, there should always be an attempt to understand what has happened, otherwise we're relegating dogs to just being disposable.

The reaction to Suarez' actions in the comments sections gives me cause for concern.  As some observers have noted, there's a desire in the aftermath of a bite to "punish, punish, punish"... there's a complete lack of anyone trying to understand what's actually happened - or the underlying causes.

The knee-jerk reaction to put little Pickles down negates the need to actually look closely at the situation and try and solve what may have led to the bite happening.

Of course, we don't have the expertise to look at what was going through the mind of a human footballer in a situation like that - but we do have experience in what goes through the mind of our little furry friends.

Crazy From The Heat…

When summer blazes it's way through the thick cloud and rain, everyone heads outdoors for a bit of summer fun in the sun.

People pack tennis balls from tennisracquets.com/collections/babolat-pure-strike-tennis-racquets, frisbees, tuggy toys and go off to the park for a day of play...

But what most people don't understand is that whilst we may be enjoying the sun, our little canine friends are wearing thick fur coats.  And we're getting them to do more exercise than usual on the hottest days of the year.

When some Army recruits on a training exercise across the mountains died through head exhaustion, there was an uproar; how could the Army allow such danger on a training exercise?  But really, this is the danger a lot of dog owners put their beloved pet in.

Most of the time, it's just that we humans don't realise the danger.  Especially as a lot of dogs will not stop playing.  We assume that they'll stop and lie down if they were in distress; but a lot of dogs (especially collies for example) will play and play and play and play...  and by the time you realise they're dehydrated, it can be too late.

This post isn't all doom and gloom though.  Of course you and your pal should go and enjoy the sunshine and the brief spells of summer we experience between the torrential downpours - but just be mindful of how much exercise you're giving your dog.

*  Make sure you have plenty of fresh cold water and a bowl available.

*  Make sure you take a break from all the fun regularly.

*  If your dog is panting (it's the way they sweat) then slow down, and take a rest.

*  DON'T LEAVE YOUR DOG IN THE CAR IN HOT WEATHER!!  You'd think that it would be obvious by now, but every year dogs still die in hot cars.

*  If you feed your dog dry food, they will need much more water available in hot weather than a dog fed on meat.  Remember - there is no moisture whatsoever in biscuit!

Enjoy the summer, but please take care...

Rough And Tumble Doggy Games…

If you've ever seen more than one dog interacting (you'd be surprised how many people keep their dogs separate!) you'll know that they love a bit of rough and tumble play.

It can look (and sound!) quite aggressive; but it isn't.  If you were to see the very same play behaviour from a group of pups, you'd think it was adorable.  But there's something about the gangly awkwardness of grown up dogs, that makes people automatically jump to conclusions about how vicious it all is.

If you take a step back and just watch - there's two or three dogs - wrestling, running, jumping, mouthing...  Sometimes it goes too far.  Sometimes, just sometimes, there will be an accident.  But these situations are so rare, it's worth reflecting on quite how remarkable this play is.

I'm watching three dogs playing now.  Three boys, all with tails and ears up, standing up straight, bumping into each other, playfully putting their heads over each other's backs and bouncing around.  And now, they've stopped.  Blue has been distracted by a cat, Jack is rolling around on his back on the grass, and Buddy is sunbathing.

Other dogs are milling around relaxing.

None of them felt like they were being dominated by another dog; they were just having fun.

And when you think about how accurate a dog has to be when they are playing - claws and paws flashing everywhere and their teeth mouthing at the other dogs - you realise quite how much they enjoy playing.  It only takes a misjudgement for a bit of play to go too far... but it very rarely does.

And when an accident does occur, because the dogs are all in a good mood and having fun, it's usually shrugged off by a grumble or some minor 'handbags'.

Allowing dogs the freedom to play and interact makes such a difference in their lives.  That space and time to be a dog, and interact with other dogs gives them life experience in doggy behaviour and reactions.

And this rough and tumble doesn't just stop with the dogs playing; we can get involved too.  But we have to understand that if we're entering the arena of doggy play, the dogs will treat us like fellow dogs.  So if you don't want to get scratched accidentally or mouthed in play, don't do it!

It's another one of those situations where if we're joining a doggy game, we need to understand that we're joining them.  It would be grossly unfair to barge in and then expect the dog to make all the compromises.  If you were to join a rugby team expecting to play football, then you've got to expect to play rugby.

Same with this; if you're joining doggy games - expect to be treated like a fellow dog.  🙂


You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks…

Isn't that something we hear a lot?  It might be an Old Wives Tale, but it's repeated both as an allegory for people who don't want to change... and it's equally used to prove that you MUST have a dog as a puppy to be able to train them properly.

Jakey01It's all nonsense of course.

One of the problems is that if you've had a dog for a long time, you're in a rut or in a routine.  Your dog knows exactly how you're going to react, they know how serious you are when you ask them something, and you probably do the same old thing.

A lot of human relationships end up like that!

If it really were the case that "you can't teach an old dogs new tricks" then there would be no point trying to rescue any dogs older than a puppy.

There are thousands, maybe even millions of rescue dogs out there that are happy in their new homes and learning new stuff all the time.  And what age does a dog become an 'old dog'.  At what age are we supposed to consider the cut-off point for learning?

Slideshow05For some rescue dogs, we don't even know their ages.  So we can't exactly apply a cut-off point.  And any such limit would be artificial anyway - it just gives the person dealing with the dog a reason not to pay attention to them.

You see older folks in the coffee shop bashing away on their tablet computer or smartphone, zapping around apps like they are second nature, and others who can't.  It isn't about age.  Sometimes it's about a state of mind, and the reasons to want to learn.

You can continue working with problems all the way through a dog's life; it doesn't matter how old a dog is, but it's how you understand that dog.  If you're trying to change an unwanted and deeply ingrained behaviour, it's all about understanding what drives and interests the dog in front of you.

Slideshow28It's the reason we've called the site "Inspire Your Dog" - because it's so vital you continue to engage and inspire your dog all the way through your life together.

Working with older dogs can sometimes be easier than working with the young ones.  They concentrate better, and aren't always as easily distracted.  You may have to work harder at gaining their respect to start off with, but the rewards are there if you're willing to put the time and effort in.

You can teach an old dog new tricks - but the humans need to keep learning too...