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My beautiful, almost 12 year old, sidekick has just been diagnosed with a grade 3 / 4 heart murmur. The vet has advised me that there may be an impact on her well being but it won’t be clear as to what extent until we have a heart scan.

It may be managed with more regular vet checks, maybe medication, but one thing it does throw into light is that Dita, unfortunately, is not invincible.

I have noted her signs of aging with a serene sadness, her grey hairs are spreading, her speed is slowing and she sleeps more during the day. Life with a senior dog requires an acceptance of this inevitable decline. It isn’t easy though. We just do our absolute best for them, here are some of the ways we have been adapting:

·       Shortening the length of her walks

·       Planning walks in quieter areas away from lots of people and noise

·       Only taking her on group walks with calm dogs who give her space  

·       Allowing her to set her own pace, aiming for a loose lead if not off lead

·       Stopping to mooch, do some training together, scatter some treats for a good snuffle

·       Ensure she has excellent nutrition and supplements. Less variety as her tummy is more easily upset. Weight management to lessen any strain on her joints

·       Reduce the likelihood of extreme highs and lows, so avoiding over excitement and stress

·       Ensuring she has supportive, warm areas to sleep and steps to help her onto higher surfaces

·       Brain games to keep her cognition skills sharp

·       Rugs on non-carpeted floor to reduce likelihood of slipping and subsequent limb injury

·       More cuddles, as many cuddles as she wants

Those of us with a senior dog must accept the increased vet bills, adapt our homes and routines to accommodate their increased needs but most importantly try to enjoy every day, week, month and year we get to share with them.

I had the portrait above commissioned recently and specifically asked for the autumn leaves, it is both my favourite season and the stage I feel Dita is in her life. Here’s hoping it’s a long and happy season.


APDT Membership


I am thrilled to now be a member of the APDT, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. I achieved this member ship through an assessment and interview, testing both my teaching ability and knowledge of dogs.

As it stands I am the only member in Cardiff.

“The Association of Pet Dog Trainers are proud of the fact that they assess all members according to a strict criteria which ensures they have appropriate skills to teach dog training. They are required to keep their education up to date, and adhere to a Code of Practice”.

This is an assurance to all my clients past, present and future, that my methods are approved and that I have the knowledge to deliver excellent training.

To book click below:

When did things get so serious?


Our dogs love to play, no matter their age or breed. Through play we can exercise them both mentally and physically. We can train in a fun and effective way. We can satisfy their natural urges based on their breed. We can bond and teach them that we are the source of good things.

Sometimes it seems we get too serious with our dogs and hung up on obedience. Basic obedience is of course necessary to help our dogs live in our world. A sit or wait by a roadside for example helps keep them calm in a dangerous scenario. There are many training tips we can use at home to live harmoniously together. However there has to be room for just having fun. I guarantee if you play more with your dog, then the obedience training clicks into place a lot smoother as a result. You go up in your dog’s estimation and they are quicker to listen to you.  Play can also be structured to have training outcomes.

A common misconception, especially amongst new puppy owners, is that the priority is to allow our dogs to play with other dogs. Whilst it can be great for them to play with other well matched dogs, our priority should be to teach them that play with us is better! Especially outdoors amidst distractions. When you recall them, you rely on them choosing you over the distraction. If you are grumpy and boring then why would they choose you? 

Our puppies are the adult dogs we have for 10/15 years, much better they learn to be with us than other dogs. The puppy ping-ponging back and forth to all the dogs in the park, while the owner stands idly by, is a puppy learning that everything BUT his owner is rewarding. He is the adult dog with recall problems!

Next time you go for a walk, forget distance travelled and instead focus on play. Adapt to suit your dog, bring their favourite toy and see if you can be more interesting than the world around them. Use the natural environment, splash in a stream or kick around some leaves. I bet as a result you’ll have to recall them less as they’ll be hanging out by your side!

Let’s all remember why we got a dog and enjoy making memories together.  

The darker side of Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism - “Attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behaviour to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena”

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I call Dita my wee fur baby, button, petal, monkey, waggy bum, fluffy butt.. the list goes on! I talk to her in baby talk, I even have a voice that I pretend she uses. My Walk n’ Roll Facebook page will caption pictures with silly phrases, so what really is the problem with Anthropomorphism?

The problem arises when we aren’t aware that we are doing it, when it isn't tongue in cheek and when our actions based on this are to the detriment of our dogs’ well-being. When we attribute ‘human’ reasons for a ‘dog’ behaviour and we hold fast to that despite a wealth of research showing us otherwise.

·  He raided the bin because he’s naughty – nope, just a dog who’s ancestry is rooted in scavenging and you shouldn’t have left the bin out!

·  She pulls me out the front door because she thinks she’s the boss – nope, just a dog who walks faster. Teach her how to wait at the door.

·  He won’t recall because he is too stubborn – nope, he just hasn’t been taught a good recall and has possibly been told off when he does eventually return!


Jean Donaldson in her book ‘The Culture Clash’ wrote that dogs are ‘innocently selfish’. The phrase has stuck with me. The innocence is born of the fact that their behaviours are not rooted in a moral choice. They are driven to perform behaviour that results in some form of gain to them. They’ll avoid behaviours that cause them fear, pain, or that they are simply not motivated to carry out.

They are selfish - that’s not a negative as it is perceived between humans, instead it is simply a fact. We as the more intelligent ones need to adapt to this and train them in a way that motivates them. Dogs shouldn’t perform a behaviour simply because they respect you. If you keep wishing for that then you’ll grow old waiting. Dogs perform a behaviour because they are motivated to, tapping into that motivation is the basis of good training.  

Yes they do feel emotion, yes they bond with us and we can share mutual affection. But a good understanding of dog body language will help you know if your touch, affection, kisses etc are ok with your dog or whether it’s a bit too much sometimes.

The stubborn dog is more likely to be unsure of what to do or unmotivated to do it. Or possibly even scared and our forcing them makes things worse. This is why force based, aversive training is cruel. It’s using a sticking plaster approach – dog is scared of other dogs and barks, then you must show it who’s boss? Really?! How about taking time to help the dog get over its fear?

The dog who habitually destroys the house when you leave for work has not done this to annoy you, or to be naughty. They are at best bored, at worst suffering severe anxiety. Come home and shout at them and you can imagine what that does to their anxiety!

When we layer too much emotion on them and become disappointed by them, let down etc then that’s our problem. The more I understand how dogs learn, the more I see it in a clearer almost clinical way.

Rescue dogs do not wish to thank you for their lovely sofa - harsh but true. Your dog is not grateful you work hard to buy them good food. That beautiful fluffy new rug you bought for them - they won’t thank you for it but they’ll definitely enjoy lying on it.

We are monkeys, we like to grab things with our hands and we like to nurture things – children and dogs tend to tick the box for both of these impulses. We like to say hello by sticking our hands in dogs’ faces and cuddling them. Some dogs like it, some tolerate it and others hate it but we can’t seem to differentiate very well.

When you see a dog on walk and are overcome with a desire to touch, stop first and ask the owner. They are not Disney characters, teddy bears or there for our entertainment. They are sentient beings and many of them would appreciate just being ignored when out for their walks.

Let’s get back to basics, allowing dogs to be dogs, not expecting the world of them. Be kind and consistent in our training so they know what’s expected and don’t get confused and frustrated. Allowing them space when they eat, peace when they sleep and helping them out with any worries they have.


Canine Arthritis

“80% of dogs over 8 have arthritis but not nearly enough of these dogs are receiving treatment for this painful, progressive and debilitating condition”…


Taken from CAM (Canine Arthritis Management) Facebook page, this statistic is really quite startling.

Following a vet visit with Dita I wanted to share some information and my musings about Canine Arthritis.

Dita is now 11 1/2 and she’s in pretty good shape. We work hard to keep her weight down. She may not walk any doggy catwalks but she has a nice waist and is in her recommended weight range. She eats an excellent brand of food as financially we prioritise this. It’s such an important factor in keeping her healthy. Cheap food is a false economy as it can result in increased vet visits which let’s face it are not cheap! She also gets regular exercise and we can tailor this to suit her.

Over the past year or so however I have noticed increased signs of aging; her hindquarters have developed a slight slope, she has tremors in her legs during periods of standing, she takes longer to catch up on a walk and she is sleeping more. All fairly normal and all unfortunately inevitable, however if she has a condition such as arthritis, then I want to start helping her now. 

Suffering without intervention should not be inevitable and my duty of care is to make sure I minimise any pain or discomfort she may experience.

The CAM website is a fantastic resource for anyone who suspects their dog has arthritis, who knows their dog has it or who simply wants to plan for the future.

They cover signs of arthritis, diagnosis, causes and management of the disease.

They point to the following key factors to address in controlling arthritis:

1.       Weight management, excess weight bears down on a dogs joints making the pain worse.


2.       Managing a dog’s environment by placing steps/ramps beside the car, sofa, bed etc to stop unnecessary jumping which impacts the joints. Adding mats to slippery floors so the dog has more traction and doesn’t slip and slide.


3.       Modifying exercise- our vet told us consistency was key. No ‘weekend warrior’ walks in her words.  Where for one day on the weekend a dog is out 3 times as long as normal. I also make sure Dita wears an Equafleece on really cold days to help keep her joints warm. Anyone I know who has arthritis says they suffer more in the cold.  


4.       Good nutrition. Giving the dog the best chance of healthy joints. Check out to research good brands.



5.       Complementary therapies – to help relieve pain. Our vet recommended laser therapy, acupuncture and massage. We are so lucky nowadays to have these options for our dogs.



6.       Anti-inflammatory medication. They’ll offer the dog relief from unnecessary pain and help them carry out their natural behaviours.

What to do if you suspect your dog has arthritis? – Visit your vet for a chat. Ours offered Dita a 2 week course of anti-inflammatory medication to see if there was a difference in her mobility. The next step would be either an X-Ray to confirm arthritis or to continue a course of anti-inflammatory medication indefinitely. She’d need her bloods taken before this could be prescribed long term.

Dogs show very subtle signs of pain, once they are limping, yelping etc then it’s become really serious. We need to diagnose and treat any ailments before this stage. Look for changes in posture, activity levels and even behaviour. Imagine how grumpy you’d get if you were stiff and sore all the time. If your usually jovial dog has become snappy, irritable, guards their space and doesn’t like moving then consider a vet check asap!


A melting pot!


With over 200 breeds now recognised by the Kennel Club, as well as the undocumented amount of mixed breeds, our local parks and streets have become a real melting pot of dog breeds.  

We see patterns in popularity; The Cockapoo and Frenchie seeming to be the Top Dog of 2018/19, then the ever present stalwarts; the Labradors, Spaniels and Terriers. However take a snapshot of your local park at any one time and you’ll be surprised how many breeds are present.

So what does this mean for our dogs?

Well it means that we ask a lot of them every day when we take them outside to socialise.

Dogs read each other’s body language, they suss each other out based on communication that you may not even be aware of. It is based initially on their appearance and movements. In today’s parks our dogs are required to competently read the body language of dogs with a vast range of appearances; different sizes, tails lengths and carriages, fur lengths, face shapes, playstyles, greeting styles etc.  Add into the mix that through artificial selection we have interfered with our dogs’ natural ability to communicate. Dock a dog’s tail and they lose a communication device. Shorten their muzzle and their face is harder to read.

The social butterflies in our parks don’t have much problem adapting to this. They have more than likely had a great start in life, born of two confident parents, a reputable breeder who had socialised them well, a savvy owner who had carried this on. A relatively clean slate of life experiences leading to the bombproof, optimistic dog who thinks everyone is a potential friend. He can also read when someone isn’t keen on being his friend, and he’s cool with that too.  I’ve certainly met a few of these dogs but the majority in my experience are a lot more selective.

My own dog started life with us when she was 1 year old and she had no clue as to how to get on with dogs. Her innate ability to read dogs was obviously hampered by a sketchy upbringing for her first year. Years later and she’s manageable (well she’s amazing, but then I am biased) but she has her preferred dogs. Dita for some reason cannot resist the lure of a male, Bichon Frise. Just a glance at their fluffy white butts gets her all excited - if they are also intact then it’s Christmas time for her. However, in walks a German Shepherd and dark Dita emerges!

I see it a bit like people; I don’t like every single person in the world, instead I have preferred personality types based on my own life experiences and interests. I have people that on first glance I can say yea we’ll probably get on, others who I’ll judge as not my kind of person. As a fairly well socialised person I can handle myself well in life but there will be people that trigger me and I may not be super polite all the time, (don't use your indicators when you are driving and we are no longer friends! #roadrage).

Our dogs are the same; based on their own experiences they’ll judge other dogs, they’ll have preferences based on dogs who play well with them, move like them or have similar vibe, energy etc. They’ll hold grudges perhaps against breeds that they’ve had bad experiences of in the past.

We just need to do our best when they are young to help them be optimistic about the world but accept that they are all individuals and if they’d rather avoid a dog or indeed a person then they need you to back them up and move them out of a situation.

Let’s appreciate how skilled our dogs are for the most part at getting along, don’t panic if they don’t like everyone and get professional help if they are really struggling to cope.  They all deal with A LOT of requirements from us and being awesomely friendly to everyone shouldn’t have be one of them….IMO!

What is the most important thing to teach your puppy / dog?

There is one vital lesson you must teach your puppy / dog and it is never too late to start. Do so now and everything else will fall into place!

Lesson: To respond to their name.

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It sounds so simple but is often overlooked. Responding to their name should be an impulse. To achieve this takes practice.

Take every available opportunity to reward your puppy or dog for responding to their name.

  • Reward recall in the house - calling them between rooms. Keep little pots of kibble all around

  • Always have treats/kibble on walks to reward response to name outdoors - where it is more distracting

  • Always use their name in a positive upbeat way. Never call their name to get them to something they don’t like (in our house that's the bath!)

Being able to get your dog’s attention is the essential first step in all training. You can’t recall them if they don't respond to their name and you can’t get them to walk nicely by your side if they are paying attention to everything but you.

Teach them that good things come from you.

You are the source of praise and reward. They must be able to trust you if you are to make progress in training together.

They check in with you and they get good stuff!

You call their name and they always get praise and reward when they come to you.

The more we bond with our puppies / dogs, the more valuable we become to them. They’ll recall better, learn faster and be more willing to work with us.

We can bond through finding ways to pay them attention - it works both ways.

Be fun - bring toys on the walk, aim to be more interesting than the other dogs and people in the park.

The more effort you put in then the easier training becomes. Together you can face any challenge!

If you’d like any advice on the above don't hesitate to get in contact.


Why Sign up?


Training is for all dogs - not just for puppies getting to grips with their new world, or adults who have developed issues living in our crazy, busy world - but for all.

Training promotes bonding with your dog.

Whether you learn tricks together or work on basic obedience, it is of benefit to you both. My own dog has taken on a new lease of life in the past two years since I've increased her training experiences. She is 11 but acts like a puppy!

Myself and Cheryl set up Happy Puppy & Action Dog classes so we could educate owners.

(Happy Puppy up to 6 months / Action dogs 6 months +).

  • We help puppy owners understand what’s normal behaviour for their puppy and how to deal with common issues.

    We demonstrate and practice life skills training. Covering, recall, loose lead walking, impulse control etc.

  • We help adult dog owners realise their dogs’ full potential, set them up for success, learn new tricks and take on new challenges.

We want to share our knowledge and encourage owners to better understand their companion.

We start each round of classes with a presentation covering nutrition, equipment, how dogs learn and much more. This mini-seminar on puppies and dogs is stand alone and gives our owners a wealth of knowledge to begin their journey.

You can join this 1 hr seminar for only £5 even if you don't plan to attend classes.

We then follow with practical classes using as many fun activities as we can think up to help puppy & adult dog learn.

We use and promote only kind, reward based methods. Having studied extensively, myself and Cheryl believe firmly that dogs learn best when they are happy and confident.

Dog First Aid


Attend a Dog First Aid course. It could save your dog’s life.

Today I attended a first aid course with Dog First Aid. I have been on the course before and always leave with my mind brimming full of information.

The course is relevant to dog owners and professionals. It covers topics such as Full Body examination; Dog fights; CPR; Seizures; Poisoning, Bleeding and much more.

My main takeaway is the need for Prevention. Whether it be in the home or out on walks, prevention and avoidance of an injury is always preferable to cure.


At Home:

Make sure all household cleaning products are out of reach.

Contents of a food compost bin are toxic to dogs, keep well out of reach and securely closed.

Familiarise yourself with a list of poisonous human foods and keep out of reach.

If you have a dog who will scavenge when left alone, make sure they don’t have access to food areas.

When using appliances such as the iron or hair straighteners, keep dogs away due to risk of a burn.

Keep all medications out of dogs reach - if in your hand bag then make sure you don’t set it down.

Don’t use slug pellets in your garden. They are highly poisonous to dogs.

Never feed raw hide treats. Despite their popularity in shops they are a dangerous choking hazard.


On Walks:

Keep your dog on-lead near roads and fully secured on car journeys.

Use a harness rather than collar - if your dog pulls there is a risk of trauma to their throat.

Keep on-lead near farm animals (fear of trampling), high waters (fear of drowning), fly tipping/rubbish (fear of cuts and general injuries).

In time for summer educate yourself on the symptoms of heatstroke.

In winter do not allow dogs to drink out of puddles near roads as they may have anti-freeze in them. Clean paws after walking on grit, it has chemicals in it that a dog may lick off its paws.  


General Points:

Know what’s normal for your dog i.e. respiration rate, pulse, gum colour, skin colour.

Get your dog used to being handled. Gently investigate their paw pads, skin, ears, gums etc. Knowing what’s normal helps you notice changes. Being comfortable with your touch makes emergency investigations less stressful.

Save your vets number in your phone. If traveling away with your dog, find out details of the nearest vet


This may all seem like common sense, and it is, but unless we take the time to think about the risks the world poses to our dogs’ health and safety, we may not make important changes to keep them safe. Accidents will happen despite our best prevention and so it is important to know what to do -

Attend a Dog First Aid course. It could save your dog’s life.


Taking it easy

When it's ok just to chill


It is all too easy to assume that our dogs have to go out everyday for set walks at set times. Often however we have created this need through routine and habit. Your dog asks to go out because it is conditioned to expect it at certain times. It is perfectly ok however to give your dog a day off, in fact it can be really good for them.

If you have an anxious dog for whom the outside world presents challenges, then a day off to relax and recoup can set them up to be more resilient the next time they leave the house. For a period our dog Dita became very noise sensitive, reacting really badly to loud traffic. We gave her intermittent days off from walks and she really grew in confidence.

If your dog would climb the walls at the idea of a day off walks then do consider why they have such a drive. Are you taking them out to throw a ball for an hour non stop, have you created an athletic dog who needs more and more exercise to satisfy their energy? These dogs can benefit from calmer walks, start to decrease the time spent running for a ball and increase time spend sniffing and mooching. Constant running for a ball places extreme pressure on a dogs joints. If in doubt,  video your dog running for the ball, watch in slow mo and see all the twists and turns and sliding they do. Also running to catch a ball is tapping into a dogs prey drive; in the wild they'd do this for short periods, expending lots of energy but it would be followed by long periods of eating and rest. They wouldn't go out the same time the next day and repeat.

Days off don't mean ignoring your dog. They still need interaction. Try some enrichment games, food puzzles, searches around the house, tug play and trick training. 

As I write this it is a miserable rainy day and Dita has no interest in a walk, we will drive up to Pets at Home, she can have a sniff around it then home for some training games.



On lead or Off lead!?

There is nothing quite like watching your dog run free off lead, enjoying themselves and engaging with their environment. Playing with other dogs and splashing around in streams. However we must only afford them this freedom in safe areas and only if they have a good recall and can return to us when we want them to. Our job as dog owners is to be in control of our dogs in public and this includes when they are off lead. 


This topic can be a hot one! I am on a dog related Facebook group that won’t even allow discussions on the matter as it is guaranteed to cause arguments.

When should your dog be allowed off lead?

Having worked as a dog walker, managing groups of dogs, many different breeds, temperaments and training levels for years, I can honestly say I am well experienced in the matter. My top tips are:

1.       Only let your dog off lead if it has a reliable recall. Recall is a skill you must teach your dog. See my recall blog for some top tips. 


If your dog is in training or has a poor recall, keep it safe and on lead until you have made progress. You can attach a longline to a harness to allow your dog more space to roam while you practice their recall. 


2.       Only let your dog off lead well away from the road. Seeing people walk their dogs off lead on pavements, next to roads, baffles me. Dogs are animals and even the best trained dog may get a fright from a loud noise, spot a cat or squirrel and bolt. Wayne witnessed a dog being knocked over and killed along Roath Rec. The dog was off lead on the path next to the road. It was a horrific and tragic situation that no owner should have to experience. 


Our responsibility to our dogs is to keep them safe, and keeping them on lead when next to a road is imperative. They are like toddlers in their decision making and need us to look after them.


3.     Try not to let your off lead dog run up to another dog unless there is some sort of consent between yourself and the other owner.  Unless you know the other dog, you have no idea as to their temperament and they may not appreciate the approach. Instead recall them back to you and pass at a distance or put them on lead, especially if they are very excitable.  


This applies particularly if the other dog is on lead. A dog may be on lead as it is nervous, aggressive, unwell, over excitable, in training, or the owner simply wants it on lead. Your dog’s approach may cause undue stress to both the owner and the other dog.  Often dogs are less tolerant when on lead as they feel slightly trapped and so an off lead dog bouncing around them is rarely welcome.


If you are lucky enough to have a friendly sociable dog, you may not have experienced the stress of having an unknown dog approach. Help others by keeping your dog under control.


This brings us back to point 1. Only let your dog off lead if it has a reliable recall including away from other dogs!


NB: If you hire a dog walker, expect them to be really careful before letting your dog off lead. They should ask for your written permission and if your dog does not have a good recall, they should not be letting them off lead. If your dog had an incident with another dog or person while out with them, you may still be liable. 

At Walkn'Roll myself and Wayne are very experienced and don't let off our client's dogs without due caution. We know each dog is precious to their owner and we take our responsibility to them seriously. We will first carry out a set number of walks onlead to test their response to name and recall. We will utilise long lines to test this further. There will be some dogs we never let off due to circumstances and others who we let off as much as is safe to do so. If we meet other groups of dogs we always aim to avoid them to keep our dogs safe and under control.  


We are so lucky to have such wonderful parks on our doorstep here in Cardiff and they are for us all to share. As long as we are kind and considerate to one another and keep a keen eye on what our dogs are up to then there is no reason we can’t all get along! Things will go wrong, we can do our best and still our dog runs up and scoffs someone’s picnic or bounces over their nice clean white trousers, but just do your best, be aware of your surroundings and keep them on lead if in doubt. If your attention needs to be elsewhere i.e. on the phone, keep them onlead and out of bother.  


Being your dog’s champion means keeping them out of trouble on their walks!

Using your training in real life!

Using 'wait' command in a real life situation 

Obedience training is an excellent way to bond with your dog. The time you spend with them teaching new commands or tricks is really valuable. If you use reward based methods and keep it fun then you can achieve so much together. 

Don't leave your training to one side though, use it every day to keep the skills alive. Dita uses her 'wait' command in many different ways through the day. 



Reward based Muzzle Training

The beginning of our muzzle training journey. This is not a 'how to' video, I am simply sharing our experiences so far. 

I decided to train Dita to wear a muzzle. It was motivated by a trip to the vets were Dita was very uncomfortable with a procedure. They offered to put a muzzle on her but as she has never worn one before I didn't want to scare her. Instead I held her head and took the risk. As she is getting older and may need more health checks I decided to train her to accept a muzzle so to reduce her stress if/when she has to wear one. 


As with any training I do with Dita I based it around reward based methods. I want her to have positive associations with the muzzle, which is after all just a piece of plastic to her. We tend to have negative associations with them but the reality is they are a fantastic tool and if introduced slowly and positively, dogs can feel quite comfortable in them.


This video is a snapshot of 9 different sessions. Each involved lots of repetitions not shown here. Good training takes things slowly and at a speed matched to the dog. 


Dogs need muzzles for many reasons. Maybe they scavenge and eat dangerous things, maybe they are dog/people aggressive and the owner is minimising risks. If you see someone out with a muzzle on their dog then know that they are a responsible dog owner.


We will continue with our training, doing the same sessions but outside, keeping it on for longer and doing different things whilst it's on. 


Should you want to try then note every dog is different, some may take to a muzzle immediately with zero fuss, some may take a long time. The important thing is to always watch your dog's body language, any signs of stress then step back a stage, and as always, consult a professional dog trainer if in any doubt. 



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"Virtually all natural dog behaviours - chewing, barking, rough play, chasing moving objects...….are considered by humans to be behaviour problems. The rules that seem so obvious to us make absolutely no sense to dogs" (Jean Donaldson, The Culture Clash). 

One of tonight's lessons at Dogs Trust Dog School was all about chewing & mouthing. Normal behaviours to dogs, that without direction from us can become problem behaviours. 

Chewing feels good, whether for a puppy who is teething or an adult dog who just wants to chow down. Our dog Dita loves to chew on a Pigs Ear and it keeps her occupied for ages. Chewing can help to calm and relax a dog.

Mouthing in a puppy is normal but those teeth are sharp and we need to help puppies realise that they mustn't bite hard and that there are other rewarding things to mouth/chew on!

If your dog is chewing things you don't want it to, consider the following:

1. Could it be bored/frustrated? If you don't offer an outlet for your dogs energy it will find things to occupy itself. The problem with the dog choosing what to do, is that often it will find things that are not compatible with what we'd like, i.e. chewing your skirting boards!

If you have a puppy it is your job to puppy proof your house. If it's in reach of puppy then it's your fault if it gets it! Crates are a great way to keep your dog safe when you aren't around to keep an eye out. (NB you must train your puppy/dog to enjoy it's crate, consult a professional if in doubt).

Consider are you exercising your dog enough? How much physical exercise depends on many factors, including breed, age, health. Also there are different types of physical exercise. Consult a vet if in doubt as to the amount and consider the breed when working out what to do. Every dog is different, an adult working dog like a Collie will not be convinced with 2 x short walks around the block, whereas an older slower or non working breed might be perfectly happy with this.  

No matter what breed, mental exercise is just as essential to stave off boredom. Little 5/10 mins training sessions, working on tricks or obedience can be a great way to settle your dog. 

2. Does your dog have things to chew on that are appropriate to you? Puppies will chew hands, feet, ankles...anything at their level. This is normal but you need to teach them that instead of you, they should chew their toy or munch on their kong.  

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Adult dogs also need appropriate toys/food to chew on and the shops are full of safe dog friendly options.

As I mentioned in my enrichment blog, there are many different ways to feed your dog that can offer an outlet for energy and an opportunity to chew. The ancestors of our dogs were not fed from nice clean bowls, they would have chewed on carcasses etc

If you are having trouble with your dog's mouthing or chewing consult a professional dog trainer who can help find the reason for the behaviour and help you guide your puppy/dog to make better choices. 



Dog Trainer: My Journey so far!


I have run Walkn’Roll with my partner Wayne and our dog/CEO Dita for the past 6 years. I have learned so much about dog behaviour, breeds and dog handling over that time. The progression into Dog Training has seemed an obvious one to me over the past couple of years.

I want to do it the right way and I am taking my time to gain the relevant theoretical knowledge. I am completing two online, accredited Diplomas with Canine Principles. I attend face to face courses with the IMDT (Institute of Modern Dog Trainers), read books, listen to podcasts, follow other trainers online and am currently gaining hands-on experience through volunteering at the Dogs Trust Dog School.

Entry into Dog Training is a bit of a maze when you first start out. I could have set up 6 years ago as a trainer with no qualifications or experience (there is no regulation) or I could study for another ten years and still not know it all. I’m trying to strike a healthy balance. Make sure I know my stuff and can practice it. 

In my previous life I qualified as a teacher and that path was reassuringly laid out for me. Do this, study that, and once you pass you are a teacher. Then you had people guiding you through your first years, shadowing you, making suggestions, ensuring you carried out Continuous Professional Development.

With Dog Training, however, you are on your own. It is up to you to find your opportunities and put yourself out there, to research the many, many qualifications and membership bodies to be part of. It’s not for the faint-hearted but I am enjoying my journey and the path is becoming clearer the further along I go.

I have been lucky enough to meet some fantastic peers and role models who give me something to aspire to, each approaching the training world in a different way but giving me lots of advice and encouragement.  

I have been volunteering with the Dog’s Trust Dog School now for almost a year. Below is a video made by a film studies student. She chose me as a case study and covered some of my thoughts on training.



It has been great hands-on experience for me; I can practice my training skills and put the theory I am learning into practice, all while supporting a very important charity.

As mentioned I am completing a Canine Coaching Diploma and Canine Behaviour Diploma with Canine Principles. Both Diplomas are accredited and the information is up to date and all based around positive training. Once achieved I will feel qualified to offer advice in a professional capacity. I have currently achieved full marks on my first 3 modules. 

I will keep you all posted on my adventures into the world of Dog Training. Hopefully, we will soon be able to offer training alongside the dog walking and cat sitting we currently offer through Walkn’Roll. 

Reliable Recall

Teaching your dog a reliable recall is incredibly important. We want our dogs to have the freedom to run off-lead, enjoy themselves and carry out their natural behaviours.

However unless the dog has been taught a reliable recall, being off-lead is a risky business and not recommended. It is our legal responsibility to have our dogs under control and recall is the first port of call

Does reliable mean 100% success? No of course not, dogs are animals and act as such. However good recall training will greatly improve the probability of your dog returning to you. 

Recall training is like training in the gym, the more you do the better it gets. Stop paying it any attention and it gets slack and floppy! 


Here are my top 10 tips;

1. Work on their name recognition indoors. If you can't get attention indoors, you have no chance outside. Why not use their dinner to train. Call their name then once you get focus feed them. Repeat each evening for a week. If using kibble use ten bits of kibble to repeat tens times in one session.

Initially you may only be rewarding a look in your general direction. By the end of the week, you call their name and they zoom in to greet you! I aim for getting the dog physically in front of me and gaining eye contact as the success marker/end goal for this exercise. 

A good relationship with you is vital for good recall. My dogs recall has improved of late as I have worked on her trick training more. The two may seem disconnected but they are definitely not. The trick training is really good fun for us both and so our bond has improved. The feeding exercise above will make your dog think you are amazing! 

2. Once moving into recall training, choose a recall word and pair it with their name. For my dog I use 'Dita Come!' Their name alone doesn't give any instruction it simply gets their attention. The recall word gives them an actual instruction.

Decide what this instruction means i.e. for Dita she only gets the reward if she runs to me and stays around. Other people like their dog to come to them and sit, others like their dog to run to them and heel by their side. It doesn't really matter but make sure you only reward the behaviour you want repeated. Be clear in your own mind as to your criteria otherwise the dog gets confused

3. Don't use their name to call them to something they don't like (i.e. the bath), always keep positive associations with their name & practice indoors. If your dog won't recall in the house then it's too soon to expect it outdoors

4. Whilst in training/unsure of a dogs recall, use a long-line attached to a harness (never a collar). You can then work up to dropping the long line then eventually removing it

5. Start somewhere quiet and work up to somewhere more distracting. We want the dog to succeed to make it easy for them. Think indoors, then garden then quiet street then local park.

6. Always reward a dog for returning, I use treats, praise, play, a cuddle, whatever works for the dog. When in initial training reward EVERY single time (you'll need to start carrying treats/toys out on your walk. Why do you think all trainers & professional dog walkers have treat pouches).

Don't be a scrooge. Start with a yummy treat guaranteed to get their attention. If they run back to you from some really lovely smell or fun play with another dog and get some boring kibble, they won't bother running back to you next time. Make it worth their while. Once well trained you can lower the value of the food reward, you can also vary how often you reward. Although a 'good boy, 'good girl' never does any harm

7. Never scold a dog who takes too long to return, they'll just take even longer next time. Also if they are slow to recall it is a sure sign you haven't trained it well enough! 

8. If you are going to be busy on your phone etc, just keep them on lead!  If a dog gets to run off and ignore you then it is simply 'practicing' the unwanted behaviour and it will get more and more ingrained. 

9. Consult a trainer if you are not seeing results, every dog is different and one size does not fit all! Dogs with a very strong prey drive will benefit from a professionals input or those with other behaviour issues may need those addressed first

10. Remember it is never too late. Yes starting from a pup is the best fit but you can certainly start afresh with an adult dog (believe me!)

Have fun training, bringing a positive energy will get better results from your dog. 

Food Enrichment

Our dogs (& cats) are scavengers, we owners know this. When was the last time you were able to set down a plate of food and leave the room with a dog present!?

So let's appeal to that natural instinct and feed our dogs in a more interesting way. 

There are some excellent ideas on the Facebook group: Canine Enrichment. Here people share lots of homemade ideas for ways to feed their dogs. 

Ways I feed Dita:

  1. From a kong
  2. From a food puzzle
  3. On a walk, rewarding for behaviours I want her to repeat
  4. Scattering in a cardboard box with tissue paper inside
  5. Clicker training in the house
  6. At a training class
  7. Scattered on grass (great way to calm a dog down)
  8. In her bowl (in the morning) 


What you feed is just as important as how you feed. The website is a great source of information. It rates food out of 5* and lets you search for your dogs size, age etc to find out good foods. 

See my Facebook video for examples of Dita's food puzzles.



Enrichment on walks

Enrichment on walks

As discussed on my vlog, there are three keys ways we can enrich our dogs’ walks.

If you make the effort to enrich their time with you, they will pay you back with better focus and the bond between you will improve.

1. Let them sniff:

"As we see the world, the dog smells it. The dog's universe is a stratum of complex odors. The world of scents is at least as rich as the world of sight" (Alexandra Horowitz, Author of Inside of a Dog).

Choose to let them sniff as much as they want on a particular walk or at a stage during a walk. Sniffing is vital and rewarding for dogs, they glean information that is of importance to them. We don’t need to know why, it’s part of their doggy inner world. If we drag them by everything they lose out. A walk without a sniffing is like us walking blindfolded.

2. Try new locations: Take them around a different street walk, drive somewhere new, watch how engaged and excited they become. We are all creatures of habit and find walks we like but you don’t need to stick to them all the time. Or instead of a walk on a particular day, why not try a training class instead. They are great fun and a mental workout for your dog is just a tiring as a long walk. 

3. Be more fun! Dogs are perpetual toddlers, they love to goof around and love it when we do too. You are their whole world, we have other people in our lives but dogs only have us. Be fun, enjoy their company, reward them for good behaviour. It will improve your bond and often has positive results on behaviour. A dog will recall quicker to you if you worth coming back to.

Alabama Rot

Alabama Rot is a canine disease of unknown cause. It affects all breeds, ages and sizes of dog. Cases of the disease have been confirmed recently in South Wales. 

The first sign of the disease is usually a sore, not caused by an injury. 

The following information was taken from Vets 4 Pets website:

"Most commonly, these sores are found below the elbow or knee and appear as a distinct swelling, a patch of red skin, or

are open and ulcer-like. Within approximately two to seven days, the affected dogs develop outward signs of sudden kidney

failure which can include vomiting, reduced hunger, and an unusual tiredness. Skin sores and sudden kidney failure are not

unique to this disease alone, and are actually more likely to be caused by some other disease. Your vet will run a number of


Visit the site for more information & images.

What we are doing: 

We are taking vet advice which is to wash off dogs paws after walks where they have been very muddy. We have antibacterial wipes and a water pump to help. More often than not there is a clean stream at the end of our walks which gets most of the mud off.

We have chosen to avoid woodland areas as there seems to a perceived link between confirmed cases and this type of area although opinions differ on this. In general there is a lot of 'unknown' around the disease. 

What you must do:

Be vigilant and check your dogs paws, legs, tummy on a regular basis. Don't force them or rush it, especially if they have sensitive paws. Wait until they are relaxed, having a cuddle and gently investigate. Use treats if necessary to make it a nicer experience for them. If you spot anything you are unsure of, particularly a sore or lesion that has no explanation then take your dog to the vet.   

In terms of probability, it is extremely unlikely your dog or even a dog you know will suffer from this but information is power so spread the word!