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.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Dog Behaviourist in Bristol

This weekend (4th May '13) marks my last but one open day at the Just For Pets store Bristol. I'll be there between 10 - 2 offering free dog behaviour and dog training advice. I have been working closely with the Just For Pets stores for a few years now and find each branch a really positive experience.

Bring your dog along if you like (no aggressive dogs please) and we can go through your concerns together in a non formal setting.

In the mean time feel free to connect with me in the following ways:

Google Plus
Web site

Monday, 28 January 2013

Assessing dogs with foster children.

Always a pleasure to receive positive feedback in my work. Here is a letter I received today from an organisation I have been doing more work with recently. Assessing dogs with regard to its suitability to allow a child in the home carries a good deal of responsibility as you might imagine, but it is rewarding work and as a parent myself something I am passionate about.
Nick Jones completes independent dog assessments for our prospective foster carers where applicants have large or boisterous dogs, or dogs that raise any concerns in regards to their reactions around young people.

Nick is extremely knowledgeable about what an agency requires in regards to report writing and has presented well at the visits he has undertaken for our agency.

The reports received have always been extremely well written and go above and beyond our expectations, ensuring all eventualities are covered well.

Alongside this, Nick has been extremely flexible and has provided all reports in a timely manner.

Jennifer Dear
National Panel Coordinator.
Advanced Foster Care

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Positive feedback is always nice...

Dear Nick

Many thanks for your notes and all the accompanying guidance.

We found your visit extremely helpful and encouraging.

Your approach is so practical as well as clearly very expert, and we have started to implement your welcome advice at once of course.

We shall soon be in touch to fix a January meeting as agreed, and shall gladly keep you posted.

Many thanks and it was very pleasant and interesting to meet you.

Kind regards.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Like the new Face Book page?

After a number of years running my Face Book page on a personal level, I have finally decided to change it to a small business page that enables greater access from the public to my working life and hopefully skills that they can benefit from.

Visit and 'Like' me here

I love interacting with people on all levels, so do be brave and drop me a line there, I'd love that.

Warm regards,

Nick Jones MA

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

Dog Math...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A guide to taking your dog on your holiday

Not only do I work as a full time dog behaviourist, I am a proud dad to my lovely daughter and there's my better half Sara. Our daughter is now 13, and since her birth we have become firm advocates of holidaying within the UK with our dogs.

Most of our breaks are coastal, exploring Cornwall and Devon extensively as we live in land-bound Worcestershire. Holidaying with your dogs is great fun, but does bring fresh challenges that can be overcome with a little forethought. The following advice is aimed at providing a number of tips to ensure you leave any holiday experience with your head held high, and your dogs being ambassadors for the canine community.

  1. Preparation.

    Consistency is key to ensure that your dog remains as calm and relaxed as possible. Pack the same food as you would normally feed your dog, taking adequate supplies. Take familiar bedding – no accommodation likes dogs on beds or furniture. Think about the equipment you are likely to need during the holiday including leads, toys, chews and so on.

    In the final stages of packing avoid heightened levels of anxiety by splitting responsibilities across the home. Ideally, one person can exercise the dogs, whilst the other completes the final stages of packing. Dogs can find such disruption stressful, and moderate exercise is an excellent preparation prior to a journey.
  1. Travel.

    Ideally your dog should be familiar and happy with your chosen method of travel beforehand. If you know your dog finds it stressful, then seek to remedy this well before your travel date. Avoid feeding close to travel to avoid sickness. Exercise your dog so that it is physically tired, and ensure that the travel space is secure from loose items such as luggage that may fall on your dog during the journey. A comfortable temperature with familiar bedding will also help the journey. Be sure to provide adequate supplies of fresh water and to factor in toilet breaks along the journey. Also consider shades on car  windows that can quickly heat up should the English sun shine.

  2. Accommodation. B&B / Hotel / Caravan / Tent.

    Due consideration for the specific rules for your accommodation should be taken into account. Adhere to toileting area rules, where your dog is going to sleep and ensure that your dog does not form a nuisance to other residents. Make sure that you are aware of local vet details in advance of your stay.

    If your dog is acclimatised to the use of a crate, this can be a good way to contain your dog for sensible periods in the day, or whilst sleeping at night. Crates can also help avoid destruction to other people’s property and ensure peace of mind for you as the owner.

    Consider the individual needs of your dog when choosing holiday accommodation. If your dog is prone to be vocal, consider when staying on a camp or caravan site try to pre book a quieter pitch away from people regularly passing. It's important that your dog is not given the opportunity to become protective of your location. The use of an appropriate fixing point such as a long line to keep your dog contained on site, a comfortable place to rest and a chew or toy to keep them busy should help minimise the opportunity to be vocal towards passers by. Provide shade and water, especially if hot. Placing the dog behind a windbreak may help if the dog is prone to constantly bark at passers by.

  3. Dog behaviour in a public place.

    It is very likely that you will encounter a beach, park or town environment where the manners of your dog will come under scrutiny. The level of behaviour that your dog demonstrates at home will be the best it can achieve when on holiday. Therefore your control with recall, toileting locations and consideration of other people and dogs must be taken into account whilst you are away. If you have a dog that will recall, understands basic obedience commands, and is good with other dogs and people you can allow them the appropriate levels of flexibility when in public. However, if your dog fails to meet an acceptable standard in one of these three key areas make sure you restrict their behaviour so that you don’t cause offence or concern towards other people.

    It is essential to ensure that you always remove any faeces, and that you correctly dispose of it. Carry more poo bags than you think you need. Nothing worse than being caught short for a bag!

    Consider researching the area you visit before hand as a number of beaches are closed to dogs during the peak season. This has caught us out a few times and now go prepared with a list. You can find good information on the internet for this.

  1. Environmental & Safety Factors.

    Considerations should be given to extremes of temperature. Your dog may need shelter from the sun, lotion for sensitive areas of the body such as the nose and ridge of back. Always provide plenty of fresh clean water. Hydration is particularly important when near the sea regardless of the temperature. Most dogs will lap at sea water when thirsty, but I find this causes a great thirst due to the Diuretic effect of saline. Consider carrying fresh water with you when on the beach.

    Do ensure your dog has adequate identification. This could take the form of micro chipping, or at least ID on its collar.
Taking your dog away with you should enhance your holiday experience. They should be an ambassador to the canine community, and enhance your overall enjoyment and relationship.

A key point to remember is that the behaviour your dog is capable now will be the behaviour you see when on holiday. If you know you need to work on a particular area, seek the guidance of a reputable trainer to point you in the right direction.

Happy Holidays!

Nick Jones MA. MCFBA