Everything travels down the lead

There’s a saying among dog trainers and handlers: Everything travels down the lead. Because working with a dog is about much more than the commands that we give them. It’s about the way in which we give them. About our tone of voice. Our body language. Even the mood we’re in. To work effectively with a dog, we need to be in the right frame of mind. And we need to put everything else aside. Continue reading

The control subject

While we had Molly out with us for Ozzy’s training yesterday, we decided to do a bit of an experiment. After we’d finished Ozzy’s searches, Ozzy and I wandered off to hide in a pre-agreed area and Natalie unleashed Molly to come and look for us. Would she find us? Would she find us before it got dark? Would an untrained but energetic and highly enthusiastic Labrador be able to do what Ozzy (with all of her three months of training so far) does seemingly without a second thought? Or would it all go terribly wrong? Continue reading

Training time

It was a lovely sunny day today, and I’d managed to get my various chores done by lunchtime, which left time for a nice lunch and a trip to nearby Leigh Woods for some search dog training with Ozzy. It was the first sunny weekend day for some time, though, so we were far from the only people who had chosen this particular destination. Which made for some odd looks as Ozzy and I charged through the undergrowth. Continue reading

The Labrador-a-saurus

As far as Labradors go, Ozzy can be a bit of a snuggler. All the more so after a busy day of training, running around and generally being a bit of a puppy. And especially as the days – and evenings – get that little bit nippier and the nights draw in. But thanks to Natalie and her crochet talents, we have the answer. And so I’m proud to present… Continue reading

It’s mud-time. Again.

As Ozzy gets older, I’m increasing gradually the distance that she comes running with me. She’s just gone eighteen months now, and we’ve worked our way up slowly to a little over three miles. Well, I run just over three miles, but she races around so much she probably runs about eight. But that’s not the problem. The problem is something a bit less Strava-friendly. The problem, as per usual at this time of year, is mud. Continue reading

Dog tales

As we enter the ‘cold and windy’ part of the rainy season here in Somerset, it’s welly boots all round whenever we leave the house. Especially if we’re walking the dogs, as all of our normal walks are now several inches deep in the boggy stuff.

Pulling on my wellies for this morning’s trundle, I was reminded of a recent visit to one of my consulting clients, an agricultural college with a thriving community of farming and equestrian students. Arriving a little early for a meeting, I popped over to the campus cafe.

I was greeted by a huge pile of welly boots stacked up outside the door. Inside, a horde of students, clearly having just finished their early morning chores around the farm and stables, was drinking gallons of hot chocolate and steaming up the windows with their excited chatter. Continue reading

With the clocks gone back

Now that the clocks have gone back, the nights truly are drawing in. Here in Somerset, the sun sets well before 5pm now and it’s pretty much dark by six. Which means that, for the days when I’m working at home, we’ve had to switch to our ‘winter’ evening schedule. But, to be honest, I’m struggling. Continue reading

Being a dog (A book review)

Anyone who has a dog will know that their sense of smell is far superior to our own. But how does their nose work? What is it capable of? And what can we learn from our dogs about the world around us?
Being a Dog - Book Cover

In ‘Being a dog: Following the dog into a world of smell’, psychologist and animal behaviourist Alexandra Horowitz sets out to answer these questions.

She learns from experts in all things scent and scentwork, from perfume creators to truffle dog trainers. And she observes her own dogs in their scent-based world.

Horowitz also works to improve her own sense of smell, engaging with ‘scent tours’ around the city, participating in experiments and training herself to be more aware of the smells around her.

I really like this book, with its fusion of scientific investigation and personal experiences. Sure, it does go off on a bit of a tangent at times, but overall it’s a highly enjoyable read.

It also provides an excellent overview of the different ways in which dogs can be trained to use their sense of smell, from search and rescue to the detection of explosives, cancer and (my personal favourite) Orca scat (yes, that’s Killer Whale poo).

There are lots of books about how the sense of smell works. And there are plenty about the different ways in which dogs use their sense of smell to help us. But there are very few that explore both. And I have yet to find one that does it as well as this one.

You can find the book on Amazon, but I’d much prefer you ordered it from your local independent bookshop. Or order it from my local bookshop, which is Books on the Hill in Clevedon, Somerset.

An unexpected day of rest

Having been away for a couple of days during the week, I started the day today with a long list of things I wanted to get done. A bit of work, some projects in the garden, a good long walk or two with the dogs, perhaps lunch out somewhere, catching up with some reading, and a training session or two with Ozzy*. But I think we all know, of course, that was never really going to happen. Continue reading

The ten paw tango

We’ve had Ozzy, our Labrador puppy, for six months now. And it’s over a year since I started Googling ‘getting a second dog’ and poring over the advice on how to make sure an existing dog and a new dog get on well. But on reflection, the internet only really gave half the story. So here’s my battle-scarred contribution to the great ‘second puppy’ debate. Continue reading