Pets In Practice


Telephone: 07843 559441

Dog Behaviour Advice

Pets in Practise is the only veterinary approved behavioural practice for the following Veterinary Centres:

  • Burghfield Veterinary Surgery – Burghfield Common
  • Moor Cottage Veterinary Hospital - Binfield
  • St Vincents Veterinary Surgery - Wokingham
  • Sunninghill Vets - Sunninghill
  • Castle Vets - Reading
  • Beechwood Veterinary Centre – Woodley and Twyford

Please contact Pets in Practise via our contact us page for more details.

dog-behaviour-advice-imgDoes your Dog:

  • Pull on the lead or fail to come when called?
  • Jump up on greeting or excessively bark?
  • Act destructively within the home or soil indoors?
  • Dig holes and destroy gardens?
  • Show aggression to people and other dogs?
  • Chase cars, cycles, motorbikes, children, cats or horses?

Recall Problems

There are lots of reasons why your dog will not respond to a recall command.

Questions need to be asked such as whether the dog has been, or is going to training classes and what these classes were or are like? If your dog has never been taught to return to you when free of the lead he / she is unlikely to know what you expect of him or her. Good training classes will make your dog want to return to you, not feel like he or she has to!

How much exercise is given and how long do you spend on training? If a dog is not getting sufficient exercise and play, it is likely to want to elongate his / her exercise and play session by remaining off the lead for as long as possible.

How do you react when the dog returns? If you punish your dog when he / she eventually returns to you there is a great chance they will not come back to you again. When you think about it, would you? I know I wouldn’t want to return to someone just to be punished, and our dogs are no different!

recall-behaviourAre there distractions? It is hard for a dog to ignore the presence of other dogs, people, bunnies etc. When you begin recall training it is important to make the environment as distraction free as possible. People find it hard to concentrate on reading when the television is on, a dog, new to recall training, will find it hard to respond in an environment that has distractions.

Do you play with your dog? If your dog has a high need to play and only gets play from other dogs in the park it will see you as much less exciting than those other dogs and therefore be more likely to ignore you when you think it’s time to go home. I am sure parents of young children will know what I mean here, especially when I ask you to remember those times when you spend much longer at a children’s playground than you wanted to because your offspring wants to remain on the swing / slide / climbing frame (delete where appropriate). Lots of the work Pets in Practise offer in teaching the recall in classes and 1-2-1’s includes getting your dog to see you not the other dogs, as ultra exciting and being someone fun to play with and someone they want to return to, not have to return to.

Does the dog have a high chase drive and therefore want to chase every jogger and cyclist across the park, or car down the road? Dogs like to run, and some, especially those built to chase, e.g. hounds, herding breeds, like to run even more. Not only will a dog like this need to be taught a really super duper recall but also work on the cause of the chase is essential in resolving this behaviour. It is essential that dogs who like to chase, are given an appropiate outlet for their chasing and ball retrieve is one such outlet. All dogs can learn to enjoy retrieving a ball even those breeds who you wouldn't expect to see playing ball, e.g. a whippet! To prove it can be done with any breed here is a video clip of a whippet called Blaze who attended our puppy and Improver's training classes  - Blaze playing ball.

As with all problem behaviours it is necessary to look at what is causing the dog to ignore your calls and treat this in order to get a dog to return to you because they want to, when you want them to. With all behaviour or training problems there is never one cause found and therefore one solution can't be provided. A good behaviourist will always want to meet the dog with their owner to see the problem for themselves.

bark Bark BARK

bark-bark-barkBarking allows dogs to communicate their intentions to others.

There are various reasons why a dog barks. Frightened, anxious, excited or bored dogs bark. A bark could be directed towards another dog or person (friend or foe) in a bid to get their attention or to get them to retreat. Like all behaviour problems it is really important that the cause of the barking is found and remedied. A good behaviourist will want to find out the reason for the dogs barking and not just resort to stopping it. By addressing the cause of the barking a permanent resolution can be found which is much better than the temporary fix that using apparatus and methods to stop the barking, will achieve. As you can imagine disallowing someone from screaming when they are scared is pretty cruel, and the same can be said with using apparatus (e.g. Anti Bark collars) on frightened dogs to prevent them from barking.

Here are some causes of barking:

  • Alone barking - dogs are social animals and can get quite stressed if they are left on their own. Barking when alone can be caused by separation anxiety. Dogs affected with this behavioural condition get very very worried and frightened when they are left alone.
  • Watch this clip and see if you can diagnose the emotional state of this dog, i.e. is he barking because he is frustrated or anxious? Want to know if you are right or like more information about this particular case? Then please contact us.
  • Anxiety barking - a dog who is stressed by his or her surroundings will sometimes bark to make him/herself feel better (singing can have the same effect with us, unless like me you have a particularly bad singing voice and then it just makes you and everyone else feel much worse!).

Barking is also infectious with one barking dog setting off another (the film 101 Dalmatians best describes this).

As with all behaviour problems a good behaviourist should come out and see the problems for themselves before giving advice on how to resolve. We wouldn’t expect doctors to just prescribe pain relief over the phone without even checking out our pain, so always doubt advice that is given by someone who has never met your dog. Even if the doctor saw us it would be much more likely that finding the cause of our pain will help us more than just providing pain relief, so don’t accept any suggestion that JUST deals directly with subduing the barking without finding the cause of it first.

Soiling Indoors

Is this due to a medical problem? A previously clean dog who has now begun to toilet indoors, especially if this is combined with a high thirst, should always be checked out by their Vet prior to any behaviour modification being undertaken.

soiling-indoorsOnce the vet has confirmed the dog is healthy the behaviourst will check the routine of the dog and ask you lots of questions. Checking the dog has access to a garden or appropriate indoor toileting facilities is pretty important as like humans dogs need to toilet regularly. Those who have been stuck for hours in motorway traffic jams will understand why using makeshift toilet areas (e.g. the hard shoulder of the M4) is sometimes essential. If a dog cannot access outdoors and has not been provided with any appropriate toilet facilities indoors they will use other less appropriate indoor areas to toilet instead. Is being outside now a scary option for the dog? Dogs can become scared of outdoors, especially around firework night. If they are not comfortable with toileting outside they may start to use indoors instead. How are you cleaning the area? Some products will mask the smell of urine to us but will leave a scent which can still be detected by a dog. Dogs are creatures of habit and so once they have defined an area indoors as their toilet area it becomes difficult to eradicate. Is the dog stressed when left? Anxiety causes a loss of bladder and bowel control so a dog that is unhappy about being left could soil indoors. Where is the dog soiling and when?

As with all behavioural conditions it is imperative that the reasons for the soiling are found; once these are discovered and corrected the soiling should stop.

Dog to Dog Aggression Problems

aggression-problemsIn the 8 years of being a behaviourist I have dealt with well over 600 dog to dog aggression cases (averaging out to nearly two a week!). Although not in all, most cases I have encountered involve fear aggression. Therefore the diagnosis of an aggressive dog being "too confident" or "dominant" is simply not the case. There are many reasons why a dog is dog aggressive and it is vital that help is found in finding these reasons as well as treating them.

The same can be said for dog to human aggression. I am reluctant to give any advice on aggression cases without being able to come out and see the problem for myself, I also like to be able to work alongside the dogs vet as medical reasons can be the cause of a sudden onset of aggression.

There are many problems which a dog can experience throughout his or her long life. One statement I base all my work around is that it is VITAL TO FIND THE CAUSE not JUST TREAT THE SYMPTOMS. It is often easier for someone who has behaviour experience with lots of different dogs from both rescue, working and pet homes and whom is impartial to find the cause, than the family whose dog is suffering from it.

Desensitisation Program for Pups and Dogs with Travel problems

Getting puppies and dogs used to the car.

If your puppy or dog is sick or a dribbler in the car, or shows anxiety when getting in then he/she is probably displaying stress signs associated with travelling.

Dogs, like people, can suffer from travel sickness, but rather than this condition being caused by motion sickness it tends to be caused by the stress of being in the car.

travelling-dogTo begin with it is necessary to lower the anxiety of the puppy or dog so start off by placing the puppy or dog in the car with you next to him/her, feed a couple of treats and then let the puppy or dog come back out again. At this stage the doors must remain open so the puppy or dog does not feel enclosed and as such the puppy or dog must remain on the lead to ensure they are kept safe and under control at all times. Please make sure the puppy or dog's collar and lead are appropriate for the job.

If the puppy or dog does not eat or eats quickly this is a sign that the puppy or dog is quite anxious, so make sure these sessions are short but frequent. Favourite toys and bedding familiar to the puppy or dog will help settle him/her in the car, so set this up before you ask your puppy or dog to get in. The idea here is to only have the puppy or dog in the car long enough to eat two or three treats and then he/she is allowed out again. (If your puppy or dog is motivated more by toys/games than food (wish I was), play with the puppy or dog instead of feeding treats).

Once the puppy or dog is relaxed, the next stage is to shut the door with you in still in there with him/her. Again feed two or three treats and then let him/her out again. The following stage should only be attempted once you are sure you puppy or dog is relaxed in the car with the door shut. If this is the case you can now begin to feed the puppy or dog his/her meals in the car, difference being this time he/she is shut in there while you watch from outside.

As soon as the puppy or dog is comfortable with being in the car alone, now turn on the engine and allow it to run while the puppy or dog is in the car eating. This needs a lot of practice and time to help your puppy or dog learn to tolerate the car. Once you are sure your puppy or dog is comfortable you can now progress to popping your puppy or dog in the car with his/her bed, toys, Kong stuffed with food and driving just 100m’s down the road, returning back again. Keeping the distance short will help the puppy or dog to get used to the car quicker. As soon as the puppy or dog is no longer stressed while travelling short journeys ensure that most of the car journeys end somewhere nice for the puppy or dog (e.g. arriving at one of our training venues). A lot of travel problems are caused by the only trip in the car being to the VETS, therefore not a great association for the puppy or dog, even if the vet is super nice.

Socialising Your Dog

Why is socialisation so important?

dog-socialisationSocialisation is a process by which a young puppy (up to the age of 12 weeks) approaches new experiences with curiosity rather than fear. Fear inhibits learning so if a puppy, still protected by its mother, is not afraid of novel experiences, it allows this puppy to learn much more quickly about its surroundings. As the puppy matures, the absence of its mother means it needs to be more cautious of anything new and therefore is more likely to be fearful when approaching novel stimuli. The more a young puppy (between 3 and 12 weeks) comes into contact with, i.e. variations of human (adult, child, male, female etc) other puppies / dogs and other animals, the more accepting a puppy will be of human, dog and other animal contact as it matures. A young puppy whose socialisation has been compromised due to inadequate or inappropriate experiences is often nervous of new encounters as it matures past the age of 12 weeks. Therefore socialisation, which is literally exposing a young puppy to as many new experiences and enjoyable encounters as possible, is crucial in the development of a well adjusted adult dog, who is not unduly fearful and is typically accepting of new things. Dogs that lack appropriate early socialisation can mature to be shy, fearful and sometimes aggressive and normally are referred to Pet Behaviourists for anxiety, fear or aggression disorders. As the saying goes "prevention is better than cure" and certainly in the instance of treating an fearful dog, whose behaviour has been caused by inadequate socialisation, the cure is much harder than the original effort needed for good socialisation.

If anything is affecting your enjoyment of your dog, or your dogs enjoyment of life don't put up with it - Contact Pets in Practise.

Looking for help?


Are you looking for a pet behaviourist to help with your pet's problem behaviour?

If yes please click here to read how to ensure you get the best possible behaviour help you and your pet deserves.

Also click here to read what can tragically happen if you allow an unqualified and/or inexperienced person help you with your pet's behaviour or training
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Nicole Crooks RVN, BSc(Hons), DipCABT, NCert(AnBeh)

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