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Three Cheers for the Photographer!!!

Well as I’m laid up this morning feeling terrible with back/leg pain, I thought I’d take the time to show off my beautiful girl.  I was very lucky at the end of last summer to have a good friend of mine come over and while he was here, he took some fantastic pictures of both Yoko and Lucy.  Ever tried convincing someone that they’ve got a talent when they don’t believe they do – seriously!! He’s amazing at photography, but I’m not sure at all he knows just HOW good!  So three cheers for Mark Tear! I will cherish these forever Mark 🙂












Mark, when you get back from globetrotting, surely you’d set up in business as a photographer? Surely?!!


‘Funny Pics’ of Separation Distress

You know all those pictures that fly around facebook and through your email inbox on a daily basis? The ones with a dog sat in the middle of a pile of ripped up furniture, cushions, broken crockery and the like? Funny hey? I don’t think.

At the risk of sounding like a miserable old woman (guilty as charged in which case, but easy on the ‘old’), I seriously don’t find these funny!! They get gazillions of ‘likes’ from people along with comments such as “hahahahahah my dog does this all the time” and ” LOL omg he’s so naughty, nightmare dog!” and I just wonder how many people stop to think why that has happened. Is the dog naughty? Not in my opinion. If its conditioned to rely on company, and then company vanishes and the dog’s emotions are all over the place, chewing or ‘destroying’ things is perfectly understandable I think – an outlet for its emotions and anxieties, and perhaps not a surprise for a social animal in isolation. Obviously not all dogs revert to this behaviour, some pace around panting, bark for hours, scratch at the exit point or whine persistently in a vain attempt to get their owners to return at all costs. Is that funny too?

I’d be interested to know, of all the people who say “my dog is absolutely fine when we leave him/her” how many have actually filmed or recorded their dog when they leave the house. Of course there are hundreds of our canine friends who truly are perfectly fine about being left and trundle off to their bed for a quiet rest – and fair play to that. 

Whether it’s actual separation anxiety (extreme stress when away from a particular person(s)), or distress of being alone in general, or even complete boredom, I think it’s important to remember that when you come home to a ripped up house or find that your dog has lost bladder control while you’re out, it’s a) not funny and b) not a deliberate attempt to anger you – it’s an emotional response – the best way a dog can find to cope with the situation.

The first step of course, is finding out the facts about what your dog does when you’re gone – with today’s technology, that’s not difficult.

If there are any behavioural displays other than calm and quiet, then perhaps you have some issues to address, and there are endless sources of information on how to prevent and treat separation problems and boredom whilst you’re out.

In the meantime, I’d just love to stop seeing such pictures labelled as ‘funny’ – cos I don’t think it is 😦

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Please Listen!!!

So as you know, Yoko is fearful of strangers. It’s two years now and yes, she is miles better – for example, when I first got her she’d struggle to pass someone on a walk without lunging and barking at them, and now she will pass calmly and quietly, and if I stop to talk to the person, she will just sit or stand and wait. Fine. 

However, one thing that continues and continues is an observation that some people (some, not all!), seem not to listen to what you’re saying. The biggest example in my case, and I’m sure lots of you can relate, is that the first thing I say (and I get it in asap) is “She’s not good with people, she doesn’t like to be approached so please just ignore her” – or words to that effect. And I can almost bet money on 60% of the people I’m talking to having an instant reaction of hearing what I say, then bending over towards Yoko, looking her in the eye, talking to her “aww are you scared?”, and reaching out.  What part of what I said did you not understand? You really think you can alter my dog’s perception and conditioned response that easily? Cool! Here’s the leash!

I find this really interesting as it’s a plain and simple request when I ask someone to ignore my dog, however, due to the number of people who do the polar opposite to what I ask, I can only assume that this is a human instinct.  The fact that I own the dog and I know what she can handle and what she can’t is over-ridden by the human reaction of “oh dear, poor doggy, come here I won’t hurt you”. Hmmm. That’s good but Yoko didn’t pass her GCSE English see.

Perhaps it helps me because I have a reactive dog and I understand that not all dogs a) want to meet me or b) want to meet Yoko, so if a dog is on a walk on leash I will ALWAYS ask if it’s ok for Yoko to go and greet. Some say yes, no problem, some say noooo, my dog isn’t great with other dogs – so I keep walking! Simples! (much to Yoko’s dismay – she loves other dogs, but I’d rather that than walk into conflict and set the other dog backwards).

It’s a shame as I feel myself getting sterner and sterner with my requests as I’m anticipating them being ignored unless they’re delivered with impact – and I don’t want to be rude! but!…

So I urge everyone – if you meet or pass a dog on your travels, please don’t assume they want a big hug, or that they’re going to love to say Hi to your own dog.  Let me put it like this – if I passed you on the road, and I was a complete stranger, would it be odd if I came up to you and stroked your face? Yup! Not sure you’d like that! Dogs have preferences too 🙂 It only takes a second to ask, and whatever you’re told, it pays to listen and act accordingly, for the sake of the dog(s) and sometimes your own welfare, and on a personal note, I’d say that owners of dogs with ‘issues’ don’t want all their hard work to be put back due to someone pushing the dog too far.

Ok rant over, I just had to say that as it consistently amazes me how difficult it is to communicate a simple request! Feel free to share your own stories or even answer from a different viewpoint – I’m all ears!

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Rank Reduction Programmes – Get a grip!!!

I hear and read so much about people who have dogs with behavioural issues and have been advised (or read on the net) that a rank reduction programme (or RRP) is the way forward.  In response to this, I thought I would post a section of  an essay I wrote for my course which looks at this so-called solution in a bit more detail.  I’m pleased to say I got a distinction for the essay as a whole (which I only mention to demonstrate some credibility to what I say……..)

Key Elements of a Rank Reduction Programme (RRP)


Below I have listed the key elements, along with the affects I think they would have on a dog;

  • Eat before the dogno meaning, except if the dog’s dinner is given at a much later time than he’s used to in order to comply with this rule, then it could appear a punishment, and deprivation of an important resource – being really hungry isn’t nice!
  • Don’t play tugdeprivation of an enjoyed activity which they have been used to playing with members of their social unit – punishment in removal of this activity, confusion, possible increased desire to play and working out ways to get human to do so, or resignation at the loss of the game and subsequent ‘depression’ (1). In my opinion, a big shame for both dog and human as removing this game is missing out on great bonding time.
  • Get the dog to lie downa natural position for a dog – they do it when they rest!  However, if ordered to do so when he’d normally be doing something he enjoys, i.e playing with other dogs, could lead to frustration
  • Don’t let the dog sleep on the bedsimilar to tug of war, sudden deprivation of an enjoyable thing, confusion, and provocation of one of the two reactions (increased desire or resignation)
  • Don’t step over the dog, make him movecan’t see a real meaning in the dog’s eyes, possible annoyance if he was comfortable!
  • Never let the dog initiate the start/end of attentiondeprivation of social interaction which we have encouraged in domestic dogs for centuries – again one of the two subsequent reactions, plus possible depression, frustration. 
  • Go through the door before the dogincreased frustration as well as the aforementioned affects – on the other side of the door is likely an area which the dog associates with play, toilet, sights, smells etc and is exciting! (whilst I don’t agree with this in terms of a RRP, it may be good to teach for safety reasons, but in a positive way)
  • Don’t allow lead pulling/dog walking ahead of youagain, I feel it’s good to teach loose leash walking, however in a positive way, with rewards whenever the lead is slack, not in the form of punishment, choke chains etc – I think the dog is just excited to get where he’s going, and not thinking of himself as ‘dominant’ over his walker

Rank reduction programmes enforce a pack hierarchy, (which in reality is something only humans perceive in the company of dogs) with a goal of solving behaviour issues, in a very generalised way.  I’d say that apart from any other negatives to a RRP, as they are based around us being pack members with the dog(s), they seem destined to fail as there isn’t a reason why dogs should view us as conspecifics and pack members anyway, so reducing their rank in a pack which doesn’t even exist in their minds is confusing and doesn’t address any specific issues the dog may have (2).  Also, the sudden deprivation/punishment/confusion typically leads to two possible responses – a) increased desire to get the desired item/activity b) resignation and subsequently depression, lack of interest, reserved behaviour.

To add my own personal example as a reference, my Border Collie came to us with an extreme fear of strangers, especially men.  If I were to undertake a RRP with her, I can’t see how she would relate the sudden deprivation of things she enjoys, along with punishment for things she’s used to doing, to not being fearful of strangers approaching her!  On the other hand, if I spend my time with her increasing our bond through PR training, Ttouch, interaction, play as well as gradually overcoming her fears together, through counter-conditioning, I feel she is much more likely to a) trust me that the stranger is not going to hurt her and b) see strangers as positive – in fact this has proved to be the case.

To summerise, I think the key negative points of a RRP in relation to these dogs, and in fact every dog are;

  • Deprivation of resources
  • Deprivation of release of natural instincts (excitement at going outside/to the park/playing tug etc)
  • Confusion through change of rules/boundaries
  • Not tackling the original problem – once you’ve started the programme, you may have a quiet dog who appears to have stopped his original behaviour issue, however the problem is likely to reappear (2, page 37) and in fact the dog is likely quiet due to resignation/depression.
  • Breakdown of trust (6)
  • Complete lack of understanding of the original issue, whether it be due to breed, bad experience, lack of socialisation, lack of exercise etc (if you don’t bother to understand why it’s happening, how can you mend it?)
  • Producing a programme designed to ‘fit’ every dog seems unfounded in terms of success, particularly as different breeds have different motivations, reactions, personalities etc (2, page 37 )

I can see how all of the above can lead to two possible reactions from the dog, increased desire/excitability/new behaviours to attempt to attain something he’s used to having, or complete resignation, leading to a depressive nature, as mentioned above (1).

I have been unable (not through lack of trying) to find a reference which answers how a RRP can address specific behavioural issues, which to me backs up the argument that actually, they don’t (2, page 38).  Therefore, apart from the fact that the three dogs’ original problems will be present longterm, an RRP could damage them further mentally, in the ways mentioned above

References (Question 2);


  1. http://www.purtonvets.co.uk/secure/contentPORT/uploads/docs/Dominance_VT_article_wih_PN_additions_-_edited.pdf
  2. Eaton, B.  Dominance: Fact or Fiction, (2008), Greenford Printing
  3. Semyonova, A.  The Social Organisation of the domestic dog; a longitudinal study of domestic canine behaviour and the ontogeny of canine social systems (2003),  The Carriage House Foundation, The Hague, www.nonlineardogs.com version 2006.
  4. Donaldson, J.  The Culture Clash, (1996), James & Kenneth Publishers
  5. http://www.doglistener.co.uk/alpha/thealphamyth.shtml
  6. http://www.showdogs.co.za/articles/wag_the_dog/dominance.htm





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Snake in the Grass…….

Just been reading an article after hearing on the radio that recently there have been a few canine casualties to Adders in Britain 😦

Apparently the hot weather has brought them out and although they won’t attack for no reason, they will if they feel they need to defend themselves – i.e if you or your dog disturb them in the garden or whilst walking.  The article I read (which can be found under my Diet/Health link on the right) says that they like wooded, sheltered areas, so it’s definitely something to be well aware off – especially if your dog is off-leash 😦

I for one will be keeping my eyes extremely open to this horrible danger, and will be avoiding places where adders might be hiding – how awful to think that the poison from one bite could lead to the loss of our beloved friends 😦

Dog lovers beware……..

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Home Alone…..

A friend showed me a newspaper article the other day about how long dogs are left home alone, and the fact that many people are unaware that their dogs are suffering from separation anxiety.  The article was good, and hopefully will get people to actually find out what their dogs are like when they aren’t there, and also, not leave them so long!  However, the closing sentence gave some ‘advice’ which went along the lines of giving your dog treats when you arrive home.  I’d been pleased to read the article until that point!! But was quite surprised to read the so-called advice!!  In my view, if you present treats, lots of fuss, anything positive to your dog on your return, all it does is reinforces that fact that actually they’re right – it IS better when you’re there, and being alone is an altogether bad thing!!

As an alternative to the article’s suggestion, I would say yes, say a calm hello to your dog when you return, but other than that, all the positive stuff should be available whilst you’re gone.  If a special treat (meat stuffed kong, pig’s ear etc) can be left with your dog while you’re out then the association between you going and him/her getting something great starts to develop.

Yoko does suffer with SA, but not half as bad as she used to be.  The first thing we did was desensitize the triggers of us leaving – i.e picking up keys, putting on coats etc, by doing those things when we weren’t actually leaving.  For example, putting on a coat and going to sit to watch TV.  Picking up keys and playing with them whilst on the PC etc etc.  That way, those triggers start to become meaningless “oh she’s picking up the keys – big deal, she’s always doing that”…….

The next thing we did was work in very small stages.  We’d prepare the kong, whilst she sat with her tail wagging (bless), present it to her, wait until she was engrossed with it, then take steps towards the door.  Still engrossed? Good, then we did it again and went further towards the door. Following steps were to actually touch the door handle, rattle it in our hand, open the door, exit, stand outside for 5 seconds etc etc etc.  We’re now up to 1 hour, which I’m pleased with at this stage.  We don’t always go for an hour, sometimes it’s only 5 minutes, sometimes 20.  The point is, Yoko’s becoming counter-conditioned.

I have to hold my hands up and say that I made a big mistake along the way and left her at a friends house with her two dogs.  Yoko and the other two get on like a house on fire, and we did think she’d feel more comfortable in their company.  However, we all went out (our friend also, so it was just the 3 dogs alone) and when we came back, Yoko hadn’t eaten her pig’s ear (her mate did, we video’d it :P), but she was a panting mess.  I kicked myself hard for this mistake and concluded that the situation had changed (different house/situation) and therefore, if we were going to do that, we should have gone back to the start and begun with a minute at a time.  Yep, one big mistake.

Anyway, back to the point – I strongly believe that giving treats on return, or lots of fuss, is going to make a separation anxiety problem worse, and therefore urge anyone who read this advice to follow a structured programme.  Mobile phones and digital cameras are veeeery useful for taking videos of when you’re gone (even if it does mean watching for a whole 20 minutes when you’re back – at least you can see how your dog’s been feeling).

Open for discussion, of course!…………..

Welcome Dog Lovers!

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Hi All 🙂

Welcome to YokosDogBlog – a place for anything dog related, including training, behavioural issues, diet, interesting canine related sites, dog chatter, canine study discussions – just about anything!

I’m new to blogging so excuse the amateur site!

Behind the Name;

Yoko is my 2 and a half year old Border Collie who we rehomed from the Blue Cross Centre in Felixstowe in July 2010.  We don’t know her full history, but it took us 13 visits before she’d let us touch her!  Poor Yoko was very VERY fearful of strangers, being approached by them, or being touched by them.  We suspect that either she wasn’t fully socialised or she had a very bad experience which led to her extreme fear.  Either way, we’ve been working with her constantly to improve her confidence, and build new, positive associations with strangers, visitors, other dog walkers and the like.  She’s come a long way!  Her fear seems to be slightly worse with men, however not exclusively as she’s been nervous of most women to start with as well.

The approach we have used is by tackling a reaction before it happens – whilst she is below her tolerance threshold.  This involved treating her at the sight of a stranger from when they appeared over the horizon, thus she started to build a good association with strange people coming towards us.  Everyone (I lie, some people simply don’t have time and that’s fine!) we meet is asked to toss her a treat on the floor or throw a ball for her.  This method WORKS.  Yes, it’s long winded, and we’re still not there yet – depending on her past, maybe we’ll always be doing it to some extent – but it’s massively improved 🙂  Yoko’s now at a stage where her first reaction on meeting a stranger (outside of our property) is to go and sit and look up at them (have you got a treat???) or drop a ball at their feet 😛  I’m over the moon with her progress.  We’re still working on visitors coming into the home, however she normally settles very quickly if the visitor doesn’t make eye contact or try to approach her (which they are kindly asked not to do).  We are lucky that the majority of our visitors have been fully prepared to have a game of ball!!

I’ve done lots of clicker training with Yoko, both for fun and for serious training, and will post a video here soon of some of her training – she’s a clever girl!

I myself am currently studying Canine Behaviour (from home, due to a long term back injury), and plan to go on to take Intermediate and Advanced Canine Psychology.  My aim is to become a Canine Behaviourist, so I’m getting as much practical experience with different dogs as I can (and as my back will allow at present).

Well, thank you for checking in – I’ve lots to add to this blog, so please do come again!!!


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