Thursday, 11 September 2014

Dog Training Tips by Nick Jones MA with ~Whittard of Chelsea~

A video has been made to accompany these notes. View it on Youtube here.


1) Toilet training. 


In the early days puppies need to relieve themselves approximately every hour. Practicing the following procedure in a calm, structured manner is an excellent way to create a sound habit for the future.


Take your puppy on a lead to the door. Keep a treat in your back pocket, place your puppy into the sit position and give the ‘Wait’ command using a flat hand signal. Slowly open the door resetting your pup should he jump outside before being asked. Once the door is open, step outside turning to face your dog and then invite him to follow you after a brief pause.

Walk him to a designated place and then use your key phrase to encourage him to do his business. I like the term ‘Hurry up’ for example. Praise your dog in a calm way as he relieves himself and once he takes a pace away from that spot, lean in to give the treat and offer pleasant physical and verbal praise.

When re entering the home, again ask for a brief sit and wait before opening the door. Insert a brief pause before inviting the dog to return back inside with you. To complete this routine ask for the ‘Sit’ and then release him from the lead using a cheerful ‘Okay’ command.

2) Introducing the recall.


The most important aspect of any dog’s behaviour in a public space when off the lead is his readiness to return promptly when called. This means we have a dog that is safe and can enjoy his walks to the fullest. Starting recall training in the home is an excellent way to create the first steps to a reliable puppy, enabling the owner to develop the method as the dog matures.


A method I favour and use frequently is to set aside about half of the pup’s daily food intake and place this into a jar or two to be used for short training sessions each day. This way the dog is working for his food creating a greater motivation in the process.
Working with a partner, take a small handful of food each and go to opposite ends of the room. One person, the holder, leads the puppy to their end of the room using the collar or lead. Both people sit on the floor facing each other. Then, the person not holding the dog, the caller, will need to give a bright recall command. The caller should open their arms and with a bright voice and lots of encouragement, call the dog using a simple phrase such as ‘Charlie come!’ Once the dog is wriggling to be released, the holder can let him go to run into the open arms of the caller. As he enters the space of the caller, they should ask for a sit holding a treat above the dog’s head to encourage that position and then feed him immediately, giving warm verbal and physical praise.

Turn the puppy to face the other person ready to repeat the process. The holder should remain quiet so as not to confuse or distract the dog, allowing the caller to be the encouragement and exciting place to run to.

Once your puppy is reliably running between two people when called, sitting on arrival and understands the rules to this fun game, you can begin to extend the distances by using a long hallway for example. As your pup improves, make each stage more challenging by continuing to extend these distances. Placing the caller out of sight just behind a door for example is a great way to introduce a more challenging recall. Start by using adjacent rooms and in the end this could be from in the garden back into the home. The variety is really down to your imagination!

Adolescent dogs.

1) No jumping up. 


Having confidence that your dog will sit politely when being greeted and made a fuss of is more enjoyable than owning a dog that leaps all over people in or out of the home. All family members should practice this simple technique in your own home each time you greet the dog to prevent the unwanted action of jumping up. Naturally, the bigger the dog the more serious this issue can be!


When any family member returns home or comes back into the room after a period that creates enthusiasm in your dog, it’s advisable to keep these returns calm and non-excitable. Dropping to your knees and making a huge fuss will only serve to reinforce over excitement and this will often lead to your dog jumping up on you. The behaviour we practice in the home will invariably become behaviour shown outside of the home. Prevention is much easier than a cure; so do keep the returns to your dog low key.

When returning to your dog after a short time apart ask him to sit whilst holding the treat back over the dog’s head to encourage the desired position. As soon as your dog sits lean in and offer the treat without delay. Then, with one hand place a thumb under the collar to gently hold the dog in that position, whilst your other hand gives calm affection to your dog. Depending on the size of the dog you may like to go into the kneeling position.

Should your dog attempt to jump up into your face whilst you are giving affection, use the collar holding hand to stop this upward action whilst issuing a brief ‘Ah-Ah!’ type sound to let him know this is unwanted behaviour. Once he is in a settled position you can finish your mini greeting session with a release word such as ‘Okay…’ as you then stand up and walk away.

If when returning to your dog he is showing excessive excitement, you should walk away and ignore him until he is calm enough to carry out the method as described above.

Setting these foundations in place will enable you to cope with visitors to the home much more easily and combining the above method with placing your dog on a lead before people enter the home is an ideal way to retain calm, controlled behaviour. In summary, the consistent rule for your dog is that calm behaviour whilst sitting equals the desired greeting.

2) Go to bed.


Teaching a young dog to go to his bed and stay there for a determined period of time can make life a great deal more relaxed when for example you eat your own meal or to place your dog out of your way when you have a guest in your home who may not love dogs as much as you do.


With your dog next to you and a few feet away from his bed, throw a treat into the bed and encourage him to go there and eat it. Once in his bed give verbal praise and reward him there with another treat.

Call him to you to bring him out of the bed and repeat this routine a few times so that he associates his bed as being a great place to be where he is treated with food. Once you are happy that he is willingly going into his bed for the food, you can then introduce the verbal command ‘On your bed’ whilst he is doing so. This way you place a label on his actions ready for future use.

The next stage will be to point to his bed without throwing the treat whilst issuing the ‘On your bed’ command at the same time. Once he is sitting or standing in the bed you can reward him with the treat immediately.

Once this is consistent, you can begin to insert short ‘Stay’ commands by using stuffed food toys to encourage a longer stay in the bed. Use the ‘Okay’ release word to let him know he can move out of the bed. As always, build up the duration of the ‘Stay’ command in keeping with his progress.

Adult dogs.

1) The ‘Find it’ game.


The ultimate simple game that can be adapted for dogs of virtually all ages and breeds in virtually any location. Watching your dog furiously beat his tail with excitement whilst searching out an item you have hidden from him is a real thrill.
As with all new training methods or games, start off with small and easy steps making it harder in keeping with your dog’s sense of increased skill and enthusiasm as you progress together.


With the help of a partner (or use the ‘Sit and Stay’ command if your dog knows it) they should hold the dog by the collar as you place a favourite treat or toy under an item such as a light flower pot on the floor or a cushion on the sofa. Allow the dog to see you placing the item there from a few feet away. When you’re ready release him and use the ‘Find it!’ command in an encouraging tone and allow him to move to the hidden item. Praise him warmly once he has found it and if it’s a toy use the ‘Give’ command after a brief play with that item.

To develop this game you can begin to carry out the same method above but from greater distances whereby in the end you could place the item in a room upstairs and you release him from a downstairs starting position. Hearing your dog thunder up the stairs and along the landing is a really fun way to keep any dog busy and to hone his senses at the same time!

Nick Jones MA. MCFBA
0775 909 3394
01299 402484

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Separation anxiety in dogs. Back to basics.

This actually depends on the base reason for the destruction. For example, is the dog young and bored and being destructive? Is the dog older and simply under exercised? Or and most importantly is the dog anxious about being left alone (separation anxiety) and being destructive as a means of displacement behaviour?

Video and audio evidence usually allows the owner to establish which of the above is true and then to decide a way forward. The first options are relatively easy to address, whereas the separation anxiety requires delicate handling to ensure that the right measures are being offered to swiftly overcome the problem for the dog.

I'd like to add that dogs that suffer from separation anxiety are not just destructive. The behaviour I have found is dealt with in different ways with different dogs. Some are destructive to the home eating their way through doors and walls given enough time, some are very vocal by barking, whining or a full on howl. Some may mess in their environment and some may self harm by licking or chewing the coat or paws and so on.

What can be done to keep stress at a minimum?

In an ideal world we would start to proof the dog to cope to be alone when it is young by the early introduction and use of a crate and to then build up time alone in the home which should be seen as a positive event with an opportunity to sleep after exercise, eating and toileting.

We don't have this luxury with a rescue or older dog for example and so then a programme to overcome the stress needs to be put together to move the dog gradually into a calmer mind set when left alone. 

There are probably two main factors to consider when addressing separation anxiety cases . One is the relationship that the owner maintains with the dog and the other is finding a way to gradually increase the time the dog can cope when left alone so that it resembles an acceptable period that the owner is likely to require when going shopping or out for an evening and so on.

Over bonding is possible with a dog and this can result from an owner that is unable to disengage from the dog at times and is constantly looking at, touching and talking to the dog either to please the owner or in response to the dog's efforts and wishes. To address this aspect effectively the owner often needs guidance from me to learn some simple fresh rules to follow to engage with the dog. We are likely to also look at other areas where overbonding can occur and this would involve making an assessment on where the dog sleeps at night and where it is able to rest during the day.

To increase time alone I usually involve a feeding system via a stuffed Kong and combine this with various other techniques that are called 'Rapid Returns' and also to place the dog on an 'Attention Diet'. The rapid returns begin at a matter of seconds depending on the severity of the condition whereby the owner goes in and out of a room and notes the behaviour both sides of a closed door, increasing the time away from the dog as it improves in the process. The attention diet is a set programme whereby I guide the owner through how to ignore at first and to then reintroduce attention (on the owner's terms) as the dog improves. I find the above combination (along with numerous other well balanced measures) a highly effective approach, although it should be said that some cases of separation anxiety require weeks if not months of work on the owner's part, so a determined and consistent approach is often needed.

What sort of toys do you recommend to keep your dog’s mind active?

Interestingly, provided the dog is being left for a reasonable period of time (up to four hours for an adult dog) I would like to think the dog is quiet and resting or asleep even. This is said in the view that the dog will have been exercised, fed and watered and given toilet breaks before leaving the dog for that period. Having said that, I am in favour of dogs working for their food and the gradual release of the dog's food via a Kong or similar device can be invaluable.

How would you advise introducing a crate to a dog?

This should be done when the dog is young and it will see the crate as a calm, secure place to be. With older dogs, a slightly longer approach will be required whereby feeding in the crate is helpful and to only close the door for short periods during the day and to seek to increase these periods as the dog progresses. Covering the crate with a sheet can help some to create a greater sense of security and quiet.

If your dog is left at home and destroys something, sometimes it can look ‘guilty’- is this possible? Is it worth shouting at your dog after the event has already happened?

Although I understand the owner's frustration at damage when they return home, to berate the dog will only serve to cause concern towards the owner and the way they can behave in an unpredictable and at times frighteneing manner. A dog is unable to understand the values a human places of 'things' and has no idea what an iPhone or remote control does or costs to give an example. Young dogs need supervision and containing for sensible periods of time, hence the use of a crate. The same goes for soiling in the home. This will not be improved by becoming angry with the dog. The dog is likely to conclude that it just should not have done its business 'there' but 'over-there' instead. Taking time to reward and mark the behaviour we do want to see is the best way forward in this respect. An interruption sound such as a clap-clap can work should you find your dog doing something unwanted in the home and then a calm redirection to a suitable area is quite acceptable. The trick is to stay calm and collected and to try to 'think dog' and hopefully my above notes will help this thinking.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Overcoming barking at the door bell.

I have had good results with engrained habits by changing the doorbell device and tone altogether and to set up a new training schedule that gets the dog going to its bed (or a set location such as a mat) and being rewarded for doing so until it becomes second nature, or until you at least have a good degree of control and the dog is no longer reactive. If you’re using a clicker this would complement this approach well. If not, just read on below.

The doorbell devices I suggest are wireless and this will allow you to practice throughout the day at random times whilst you have the buzzer in your pocket out of sight. By the way, I do this with new pups to the house, preventing the habit from forming in the first place!

Disable the existing doorbell, and for the next 2 weeks or so you’ll be without a bell so a sticker on the door letting people know may help.

Your method would be something like this:

Press the new doorbell buzzer in your pocket and say ‘On your bed!’ in a positive bright voice as it chimes. Ignore any barking and direct your dog to the bed area (allowing the dog to drag a lead may assist in directing the dog as you can stand on and then lift this to initially control your dog) and once your dog is sitting nicely on the chosen spot, immediately treat with high value food. This food could be chicken, ham or liver cake as examples. Once quiet and calm, reward your dog and stay calm in your voice so as not to excite. Use of the ‘Stay’ command here will be useful, and combine the command with a flat open hand to enforce the verbal command.

Steadily and constantly feed your dog whilst on the bed. Keep your dog on the bed for 30 seconds to start with and then with each practice aim to extend the bed stay periods gradually each day by a further 10 seconds or less if progress is slower.

Once the time is up on the bed for that session, use a clear ‘OK!’ release command and then walk away putting the food away ready for use next time round. A few of these each day assuming you’re there to practice, will be ideal. Aim for 3-4 short sessions per day.

Later on, once the above is looking good, you could walk your dog to a location near the front door and ask it to sit and stay on a mat (you could clip your dog onto a lead set up there in advance which is fixed to a banister for example) and then go to answer the door having activated the doorbell first. This can be done with your ‘invisible guest’ to begin with, and then to use family members as trials and then arrange to move on to real visitors with the excitement that brings. Really go for it with the ‘invisible guest’ and talk to them at the door as you would a real person whilst keeping a close eye on your dog. Immediately go back and reset the dogs should he move off the location mat.

Hopefully you can see how I very gradually increase the scenario in keeping with improvement in the dog’s behaviour. Always look upon it as baby steps along the chain until you achieve what it is you want.

At the final stage you can fix the buzzer to the front door as your training will be ready to cope with real callers. A second buzzer that you can use inside the home during this settling in or transition phase will allow controlled practice sessions and should further help your efforts.

A simple approach, but it works and has been developed by me over the years based on experience alongside trial and error.

Good luck and get buzzing!

Nick Jones MA. MCFBA
Alpha Dog Behaviour
01299 404356
0775 9093394

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Puppy behaviour.

So, you have a new puppy and you may be having issues such as:

• Toilet training problems.
• Puppy aggression.
• Nipping / biting.
• Night time barking.
• Feeding / diet concerns.
• Unsure how to socialise your pup.
• Wanting to start basic training.

A puppy visit could be your solution!

Having a puppy is one of the nicest things that you could experience, and people have them for many reasons. Most of course simply want a companion dog that fits in well with the family be it on holiday or on leafy Sunday walks. Others may have other roles lined up for the dog, say a dog to run with, do agility, obedience work or a hunting dog. The vast majority of these dogs will live in the home, and will need to start off on the right foot in terms of fitting in with our rules and ideas of human living.

However, many people soon begin to lose that warm feeling when they see and experience the behaviour that such a cute furry ball can show! It is perfectly possible to bring things quickly back on track and this is why I offer a special puppy visit.

There is already a great deal written on puppies, their early days, weeks and months, and sensible approaches to choosing the right breed or type for you. I won't be going into great detail here for this very reason, but I do want to high-light a few things that could save you unnecessary heart ache now and into the future. I see my puppy visits as an excellent opportunity to address the element of prevention rather than cure later on once the wrong behaviour has become learned and indeed a real problem.

I offer a special puppy visit whereby we can take a few hours to go through each of the areas you may be finding problematical, and to address them in detail leaving you feeling confident on how to handle and deal with behaviour which you may find surprising in such a young dog. I have spoken to many a distressed owner of very young dogs that are at their wits end as to how to deal with a few issues that have grown and are making the experience a misery instead of the joy it could be. It needn't be this way...
For example, such young dogs can be doing some (or all!) of the following behaviour:

• Biting / Nipping problems
• Aggressive play or behaviour
• Chewing the house to pieces
• Barking at night - broken sleep patterns (great fun for you when you need to go to work and the dog can sleep   all day!)
• Toileting in the 'wrong' places
• Jumping up problems
• Grabbing and holding of clothing
• Harassing the older dog / cat
• Rudimentary training

A number of these can start by finding a particular behaviour amusing or funny, and then we continue not fully realising how this could be a problem for you later on.

Here is a brief guide as to how to create a well mannered pup:

• Socialisation should be your main thought from the very beginning. This period begins to close down at approximately 12 weeks, and the brain is less receptive to new experiences. Therefore from day one introduce as much variety as possible. Dogs and people of all ages and sizes, shapes etc. Be sure the dog is safe at all times, and that you are able to quickly intervene if things get ‘out of hand’. Some keywords for you to consider: Dogs, People, Cars, Buses, Livestock, Pubs, Towns, Traffic, Your local vet…simply drop in for a pleasant hello and leave again! Ignore proper socialisation at your peril!

• Now is the time to introduce simple training. Sit, Down, Come and Stay is a good start, and the introduction to the lead and collar whilst walking with you in the home and garden and then outside as you progress. Keep it short, fun and simple.

• Be sure your dog remains on a good brand of food and that you are avoiding the supermarket end of brands…these contain many unnecessary additives that can affect behaviour and do not meet the dog's nutritional requirements.

• Set up good early practice with toilet training for a reliable dog into the future. Feel free to call me for further advice.

• Be sure that you dog is showing good manners, and don’t let your pup get away with behaviour you would find unacceptable in the adult dog; start as you mean to carry on.

• The use of a crate for your puppy is invaluable. I can provide high quality crates at less than shop prices…a free guide would be provided also.

• Be sure your dog will allow full body inspections and grooming. Start now with short sessions to prevent future problems.

I can be
Contacted at any time for one to one puppy visits in the comfort of your own home. Please call free of obligation for costs and further details.
All puppy visits are followed up with free on-going advice and support via telephone or email for the life of the dog.

Nick Jones MCFBA
Alpha Dog Behaviour


Thursday, 4 February 2010

Dog Flaps

The dog flap.
We all love an easy life, and a dog flap can offer a big opportunity to take a back seat and let the dog do as it wishes. I often see problem behaviour associated with dog flaps. The dog can let itself in and out and is not within your control when it is outside. They are I recognise handy for allowing the dog out to toilet, but even then a young dog may be prone to the thought of turning and eating its own faeces. This is not uncommon with dogs that are not thoroughly ‘schooled’ with toilet training behaviour outside when they remain young. The dog may also go on to eat other items on the floor leading to digestive upsets and so on.

I personally do not allow my own dogs outside unless I’m there to supervise, and/or fully trust the dog’s behaviour. Free access can also lead to an over developed sense of perimeter guarding, so be aware of this and reconsider access altogether should you be struggling in any way. I have also seen dogs rush out to see off birds or squirrels, this can create an obsessive cycle of events so again be careful.

If introduced at the correct age on the basis that your dog can be trusted it can be a useful device. Introduce it too early and allow your dog free reign then sit back and watch the problems arise.

As always I am here should you wish to discuss your dog's behaviour.

Nick Jones

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Agression and small dogs.

I seem to be going through a run of helping people that have small dogs with aggression. From a practitioners point of view there is less risk than dealing with a large dog such as a Labrador or German Shepherd say, but the behaviour remains as serious none the less.

Aggression to people invokes the Dangerous Dogs Act, and many people are either blissfully unaware or (often both) have not been reported for their dog's behaviour...yet.

Small dogs 'get away' with such behaviour for far longer as people may even see it as amusing at first until a child is involved, or the risk has become so great the owner is compelled to act.

People are often surprised at my fees for dealing with such behaviour as it can run into the hundreds. What needs to be considered however is the sheer amount of time that we will need to spend together to get to the bottom of the issue/s and to set up new practices to calmly guide the dog away from its previous unwanted behaviour. I also offer life time support via phone, email or face to face if the client chooses to pay for such ongoing support.

It's fair to say that changing aggressive behaviour is a long term commitment that needs management as much as behavioural modification. Management (or a lack of it) can often be the catalyst for such behaviours becoming installed and then practiced by a dog. My dogs are free from behavioural problems, but this is in the main due to my management, rather than many hours spent training them.

Small dogs share many more privileges with the owner than many big dogs simply as a result of their size. Smaller dogs can slip onto your lap no problem. Many are perfectly agile and can take up a small space on the owners bed or pillow. Nothing wrong with dogs on beds per se, but as with all things rules and expectations need to be set for a balanced life together. Some owners allow smaller dogs to get away with behaviour that would not be allowed in a bigger dog. This may be issue like jumping up, not recalling smartly or begging for food to offer a few examples.

These additional privileges can lead to a sense of over protection towards the owner (I saw this only last week and had a bitten shoe from a Dachshund as a result!). This element of over protection is in my view the most common. The owner may fail to understand how important it is to lead every dog regardless of size to allow the dog to relax and be at ease in its own skin. We should parent dogs, and make efforts to let the dog know it is the 'child' and we are the 'parent'. I am keen to point out that this can be done in a subtle, calm manner free from aggressive handling, shouting, eating before the dog (you may be pleased to stop that?) or relating to your dog as if it were a wolf.

There is no profound punch line to this article, other than to consider the way you relate to your own small (or not so small) dog and to think about the way you conduct your relationship.

I'm just leaving the office to see a small aggressive dog that hates visitors to the house. Wish me luck.

Nick Jones MCFBA
Dog behaviourist

Monday, 1 February 2010

Silent dog training

As many of you will know that follow my You Tube channel or Twitter I have a 5 month old puppy Max a wire haired Vizsla.

I want him to start to pay a little more attention to my hand signals and body language as well as my voice, so as of today I am going to work more with him using hand signals alone...WITHOUT Talking to him!

He's a bright boy, and I have just fed him his lunch along with a directing to a front door mat, the stay and wait and then the release to go eat his food. It was all done in silence which meant I had to reset him once, and the release looked a bit tentative, but his hungry tummy meant he kept going to his bowl. :)

I can see this will be a great way to get him watching me even more closely, and that I can control him in silence when needed. Much better and more subtle than using my voice at times don't you think?

Why not try it with your own dog? Do let me know how you get on!

Best wishes,


Thursday, 28 January 2010

Kong know he'll like it!

Here are some Kong Stuffing ideas to keep your dog happy....


1 fresh banana
2 tbs wheat germ ·
1 tbs plain yogurt (can use your pet's
favorite flavor as well) ·
Any KONG Toy that best fits your pet's
chewing temperament.

In a bowl, mash up banana. Then, add wheat germ and yogurt. Mash all ingredients together and use spoon to add to KONG. Freeze for 4 hours. Makes 1 serving for Medium KONG. Double for every KONG size that is bigger.

Fruit Salad:

Apple and carrot chunks
1/4 of a banana
Appropriate KONG toy

Place apples and carrots in KONG toy. Mush the bananas in large hole to hold fruit in place. You can include other fruits and veggies: orange slices, peach and/or nectarine chunks, celery sticks, broccoli and/or cauliflower, tomato and black olive mixture.

Veggie KONG Omelet:

Your choice of shredded cheese
Any veggies that your pet may like
Appropriate KONG toy

Scramble egg and fold in veggies. Put into KONG toy. Sprinkle with cheese over the top and microwave for about twenty seconds. Cool thoroughly before giving to pet.

Aunt Jeannie's Archeology KONG (for advanced dogs)

Fill your KONG toy (the larger the better!) in layers and pack as tightly as possible. LAYER ONE (deepest): KONG Stuff ’N Beef and Liver treats. LAYER TWO: KONG Stuff ’N Tail Mix or dry dog kibble, Cheerios, sugar-free, salt-free peanut butter, dried banana chips, apples and apricots. LAYER THREE: carrot sticks, turkey or leftover ravioli or tortellini. The last item inserted should be an apricot or piece of ravioli, presenting a smooth "finish" under the main opening. - by Jean Donaldson

KONG on a Rope:

KONG Stuff’N Tail Mix or dry dog kibble
Appropriate KONG toy

Pull the rope through the KONG toy and knot it. Hang this upside down from a tree, deck or post. The small hole should be facing the ground. Fill the large hole of the KONG toy with KONG Stuff’N Tail Mix or dry dog kibble. Make the toy hang just high enough that it is out of your dog's reach. Your dog will spend hours trying to retrieve the treats from the KONG toy. At the end of the day, take the remaining treats and give to your pet as a reward. This is advanced work for your dog. - by Ian Dunbar

Trixie's Favorite:

Trixie, a 50 pound Aussie/Springer mix, loves turkey meat and KONG Stuff’N Liver Snacks mixed with slightly moistened dog food nuggets frozen inside her Kong. She is very clean about unstuffing - some dogs are not! - by Joe Markham

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Finding balance with a 'difficult dog'

A little something for the weekend....

My Positive Leadership Plan is there to offer a sensible, balanced starting point in maintaining respective roles in the home. The key thing to keep as a constant however, is your relationship with the dog and to maintain your role as leaders and essentially ‘controllers’. If you can do this and maintain a sense of balance in your approach (a time for direction and obedience, and then a time for play and affection) then it should feel like a natural and enjoyable experience. Dogs like boundaries and consistency, so your efforts need to be day in and day out without fail to ensure you keep things as you want them. Dogs (unlike us) do not have the ideas of working/not working, or weekdays and weekends; it’s just a continuum.

Nick Jones MCFBA
Dog Behaviourist.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Exercise and your dog

What better way to enjoy the great outdoors than to take your dog with you?
Exercising with your dog outside will lead you into some serious quality time together, helping to strengthen your bond with the dog, and leave you both feeling great!

Dogs, like people, are far less likely to exhibit behavioural problems when they are well exercised, leaving a deep sense of relaxation and calm, whilst being free from anxiety and stress as you bathe in those uplifting endorphins. Depending on the environment you have before you, you can do so many things with your dog when outside.

As well as playing fetch with the humble tennis ball, you could stretch your imagination to the Frisbee, cycling together, roller blading or swimming in the sea together  -if you live in a suitable climate! The UK is experiencing an interest in CaniX, which is basically running with a dog whilst it wears a harness connected to the handler via a stretchable chord.

So which breeds are suitable for such activities? The short answer is that virtually all dogs can be exercised outside in a way that allows them to have fun and remain fit. Certain types of dogs will prefer different ways to exercise their natural instincts.
Working breeds such as the gun dog group (Pointers, Labradors, Retrievers, Spaniels and so on) or pastoral breeds (Collies, German Shepherds, Old English Sheepdogs) will love virtually all forms of finding and returning an item to you.

Introduce entering into water for the same game and your dog will probably love it. This can be made into a more involved game involving nature’s obstacles to introduce agility and nose work to find a hidden item such as a toy you may have planted earlier.

The terrier group (Jack Russells, Border terriers, Airedales etc.) also love to seek items out in hard cover, and are no less adventurous or brave due to their reduced size. The instinct to thrash a toy they have retrieved may leave it in less than good shape, so ensure it is a tough one to play with.

All of the above breeds will happily run or walk as far as most people can due to the efficient stride and reserves of stamina. A number of the toy breeds can handle good levels of exercise too. This group includes breeds such as the Bichon Frise, Chihuahua, Papillon and Pomeranian. Simply downsize the same activities, and many will be surprised as to what a big heart they have!

Ideally a dog should be approximately eighteen months of age before giving it hard prolonged exercise, and a very gradual build up to that point is advisable. If in doubt consult your vet before commencing a fitness programme with your dog, or indeed your own doctor if you have not been very active for some time. It’s important to build the dog up gradually if your dog happens to be out of shape. Give regular easier rest days to begin with, and keep an eye out for lameness or cut pads for example. Dogs will often exercise with little regard for their own safety, and often show a much higher tolerance of pain than humans do.

So I hope the above has given food for thought, and encourages you to keep active with your dog.

A checklist to consider before each adventure will include the following:
  • A simple 1st aid kit for both of you. Your vet/doctor can help with this.
  • Carry a mobile, and the phone number of your vet/doctor.
  • Be sure to provide ICE information on your phone and papers carried.
  • Consider a simple GPS unit to mark your starting point if in unfamilar surrounds.
  • Let someone know where you’re going & expected time of return.
  • Take adequate food and fluids.
  • Take adequate clothing for the weather conditions.
  • Avoid exercise in excessively hot conditions.

Nick Jones Deciphering Dog Behaviour