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Bringing Your Puppy Home

Bringing your puppy home for the first time is an exciting step in your journey together.  Ensuring that you have prepared your home thoroughly and thought through how to manage the first few days, can help to make the transition as smooth and stress free as possible, both for you and your new addition.

Before you collect your puppy:

  • Check what the breeder will be giving you when you collect your puppy. Many breeders will give you a blanket or a toy which has been kept in the puppy pen.  Having an item which has a familiar scent, or smell of their mother, can help a puppy feel more secure when they come home to a new environment.
  • You should check whether the breeder will give you a small supply of puppy food, and what this will be. Even if you intend to change your puppy’s diet later, providing your puppy is healthy it is best to keep them on the food they are used to for at least a fortnight. Suddenly switching food can cause stress and an upset tummy. You must ensure your puppy has settled in well before implementing any change, which must be done very gradually.  Please speak to your veterinary surgeon if you are concerned by your dog’s diet, feeding or stools.

Preparing the home:

  • Think about where your puppy will spend most of his day. Is this area clear of anything you don’t want him to chew?  Can he have constant access to water in this place?  Will you be able to keep an eye on him throughout the day to aid toilet training?  Is there space for him to sleep and play?
  • Setting up strategically placed baby gates around the house can help to keep your puppy contained and away from areas which might not be puppy proof.
  • Crate training provides your puppy with a cosy space where he feels safe and can rest undisturbed. The crate must be big enough for him to freely stand up and turn around. Not all dogs will accept being shut in a crate straight away; you will need to spend time teaching your puppy to enjoy his time in the crate. Filling it with a cosy bed, keeping his toys and feeding him meals inside the crate can help this process.  If your puppy is happy to spend short periods of time in a crate/pen, it will aid the toilet training process, and ensure he can’t get up to mischief if you aren’t watching.
  • Think about where you will keep the crate/bed in the house. It must be easily accessible to your puppy. It’s a good idea to position it in a place where you spend a lot of time, but away from the traffic of a busy household.  That way when he spends time in the crate, he won’t be excluded but will have enough peace and quiet to relax and sleep.  You also want to ensure you have easy access to the garden from this location, to aid with toilet training.
  • Puppies need toys! It’s a good idea to have a range of toys made from different textures i.e. some soft toys, rope toys, rubber toys, chew toys etc. Your puppy must always have access to these toys to play with and chew on.  Ensure all toys are size appropriate for your breed of puppy, and don’t have any small pieces that can be chewed off and swallowed.
  • Consider purchasing a Snuggle Puppy, which helps your puppy for the first few nights when acclimatising to sleeping away from the litter. These include a heat pack and a pulsating ‘heart’ which mimics a heartbeat.
  • Many puppies settle better with the assistance of the Adaptil range of pheromone products. Have a look at their website ( for the complete range.

The journey home:

  • Ensure you have lots of towels as there’s chance your puppy will eliminate or vomit on the way home.
  • Your puppy may go in a carrier, but our preference is for him to sit on the passenger seat on someone’s lap, so they feel more secure. If you are concerned about safety, then they may sit in the carrier (which is secured by the seat belt) or next to a passenger on the back seat or be on a car harness.
  • If your puppy is travelling a fair distance you may need to stop for a toilet break. Don’t put your puppy on the ground but you may see if they will eliminate on a puppy pad in the boot of the car.

First few days home

  • Don’t expect too much from your puppy in the first few days. They will sleep an awful lot and the most important thing is to encourage them to feel settled and get them used to a routine.  Remember some puppies don’t even have any bladder awareness at eight weeks, so don’t get frustrated if you have accidents in the home for the first few days, this is perfectly normal.
  • Socialisation is vital but do make sure your puppy has plenty of quiet time and opportunity to rest and sleep in the first few days.
  • It is imperative your puppy experiences no stress in immediate days after coming home, so please shield from emotional harm, including very loud noises.

Daily routine:

  • Looking after a puppy can feel like a full-time job! You will need to make sure he gets plenty of stimulation, as well as opportunities to interact and play throughout the day.  He will also need a lot of sleep and it’s essential that he gets time out to rest.  This can be tricky if you have children, they will need to learn to give the puppy space when required.
  • If you go to work, consider whether your puppy will need someone to spend time with while you aren’t there. Whilst puppies do need to learn to be left home alone in your absence, the length of time will need to be introduced gradually. A puppy who is left home alone all day is likely to become bored and stressed. You will also need someone to let your puppy out in the garden for regular toilet breaks, until their bladder has developed, and they have become house trained.

Night-time routine:

  • The first few nights can be a big adjustment for your puppy. Consider where you want your puppy to sleep.  If it’s downstairs, you will need to consider sleeping downstairs near your puppy. While you should avoid having the puppy sleep on the bed with you, being close to their crate will be reassuring for the first few nights until they are settled into their new home.
  • Try to keep your puppy awake for an hour before bedtime, to make sure he is adequately tired.
  • Ensure he has been to the toilet as close to bedtime as possible. Some puppies may need to relieve themselves again in the night; you will need to be prepared to get up and let them out for a toilet break, until their bladder/bowels have developed enough to hold through the night.

Multi-pet households:

  • If you have other pets in the house, you will need to carefully consider how you introduce them to your new arrival, to make it a positive experience for all.
  • Existing pets may not always appreciate the arrival of a bouncy new puppy, so you must ensure they have a space to retreat and time away from the puppy if need be.
  • You must always be around to supervise their interactions until both the puppy and the existing pet are settled and calm in each other’s company.


Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey. 07969 997 272.

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How Can Tellington TTouch Help My Dog?

Written by Kerry Jenkinson, Tellington TTouch Practitioner, P2

Tellington TTouch Practitioner

Using TTouch Bodywork and Groundwork on a regular basis can help your dog to become a more calm and confident canine, building a deeper relationship with your dog based on co-operation, trust and understanding.

Observing your dog on a daily basis will help you notice any subtle changes that might occur both physically and mentally. Postural changes can happen when tension is carried throughout your dog’s body.  This can be as a result of a medical problem, injury, change of circumstance or emotional upheaval etc.

So what can you do to help your dog feel more comfortable and confident and help them cope in situations that they may find stressful?

Flat Hand Assessments

You can start to gather information as to where your dog may be carrying tension throughout his body by making a flat hand assessment.

Instead of just stroking your dog, mindfully move your hands over his body and watch for any reaction that he may express.  These can be very subtle from looking at the area that you are touching to placing his nose on your hand.  He may sit or lie down on the area that you have just stroked in order to stop the contact or he might start to play or fool around as a distraction to avoid contact.

If this doesn’t work he may become very still (freeze) and his eyes become hard and staring.  This is a definite sign to stop what you are doing as his next move might be to snap at you.  Other signs are more obvious – curling a lip or growling.  This is an escalation of their behaviour which can occur if we ignore the more subtle signs that they express.

Using the back of your hand for this process is less threatening for your dog and enables you to feel any changes in temperature.

Coat changes such as the hair standing up or looking dull, dry and scurfy or a change in colour can be caused by a lack of circulation and tension.  Check how easy it is for your dog to pick his feet up by lifting each leg slowly.  If the foot feels rooted to the ground he may be carrying tension in his shoulders or hindquarters.  You can also check the wear on his pads and nails of his feet as this will show you where he puts the most pressure.


Using your hands to make specific gentle movements of the skin on your dog’s body will stimulate the nervous system into responding in a positive way.  It will help to release tension and improve circulation, reducing levels of stress and helping him to relax.  Some simple ear work, making long gentle strokes from the base of the ear to the tip can help to lower heart and respiration rates.

I found this particularly useful at the vets where my dog, Wilbur, becomes a quivering wreck.  Being able to calmly work his ears lowered his stress levels and stopped him from shaking.  This has also been useful for both my dogs as they are worried by fireworks.  Together with ear work a body wrap (stretchy elastic bandage), put on around their body so that it is just in contact, gives them a sense of security helping them to settle.

Sarah (owner, Pet Necessities Training & Behaviour) also found this helpful with a previous dog, Billy. He had become blind and was becoming distressed at night and would pace when Sarah went to bed.  He was also concerned about being left and suffered an increase in anxiety due to his loss of sight.  I showed Sarah some bodywork which she did with him in the evening which helped him to relax.  Sarah used an Equafleece T-Shirt (instead of the body wrap as this can be left on when you are not there), which made a big difference to Billy; he would wear this whenever he had to be left.


Groundwork has many benefits for our dogs and for ourselves.  It can teach us to really observe our dogs and see how their posture affects how they think and feel, allowing us to pick up on the small subtle changes that can lead to reactive behaviour.  Groundwork will also teach us the subtle ways that we can influence our dogs as well as patience and understanding.

Dogs take information in through sight, smell, hearing and touch.  If a dog is carrying tension in his body it will inhibit his ability to learn and take on new information and can heighten or decrease his senses (e.g., sight, smell and hearing).  This can cause him to react to situations rather than make a calm and considered choice.  Our posture and how we react can also influence our dogs and so learning how to change ourselves and release tension that we may be holding and transmitting down the lead will be really beneficial.

The groundwork side of TTouch is useful for helping to build confidence and improve focus.  Taking our dogs over a series of low level obstacles, poles and different surfaces will give them different experiences and can show them and you their potential to be successful rather than their limits.  Asking your dog to move in a slow measured way, rather than rushing, teaches them to be better balanced with more body awareness as well as improving coordination and athletic ability.

Having a dog that pulls on the collar and lead can be very frustrating for both the dog and you.  It will also set up areas of tension in the neck, shoulders and hindquarters. With the use of bodywraps (stretchy elastic bandages), we can improve proprioception (awareness of where his limbs are and coordination), and also give a feeling of security, helping to calm and settle your dog.  The bodywrap can also be part of the process in introducing your dog to wearing a harness.

Wearing a harness can be more beneficial for dogs that pull on the collar and lead as it takes the pressure off of the dogs neck.  Using two points of contact on the harness makes it easier to help your dog be in better balance and stops any damage that may be done to their neck with constant pulling.

Moving them slowly through the groundwork on the harness and two points of contact will engage their brain and start to help them focus.  It will improve paw/eye coordination (great for dogs that do agility), as they are asked to move mindfully over and through the obstacles.  Doing some groundwork will encourage flexibility and suppleness which will help put less strain and wear and tear on your dog’s joints.

Groundwork can be a safe way to introduce dogs to situations that they find stressful.  If they are worried by other dogs or indeed people, these can then be introduced during groundwork in a controlled and stress free way so building the dog’s confidence and ability to cope with these situations.

Ten minutes of groundwork can be much more beneficial for dogs that are on limited exercise as it is mentally stimulating and won’t tire them out physically.  Sessions can be kept short and the introduction of some bodywork (TTouches), whilst doing the groundwork will help your dog to relax and release any tension that they may be carrying.

My previous dog Trevor was attacked whilst we were out walking.  He was very distressed and very sore from being pulled around by the other dogs.  I used specific TTouches (bodywork) to help with any bruising that had occurred and to help reduce his stress levels.  He didn’t want to go out for walks as he was very concerned about meeting other dogs.  To help build his confidence I set up some groundwork for him.  This proved really beneficial and within a few days he was happily going for walks again and interacting with other dogs.

Together with the Bodywork you can help to release tension and show your dog how to change their posture and to move in a more functional and balanced way. This will help to alleviate stress on joints as well as giving them a sense of well-being physically, mentally and emotionally.


For further information on our Tellington TTouch Workshops, please click here.

For the date of our next TTouch Workshop, please click here.

Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey. 07969 997 272.


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Top Tips for Having a Happy & Well-Behaved Dog

Here’s our top dog training tips:

    • Never shout at, hit, yank, push or pull your dog.
    • Training must be fun! If you are not enjoying it then neither is your dog … he should see it as a game.
    • Make sure you always have your dog’s attention before you ask for any command. If he is not looking at you then there is a high chance that he is not listening to you.
    • Vary the commands you are practising, never expect your dog to repeat the same exercise more than a few times in a row.
    • Use toys as well as food rewards in your training. Vary the toys, types of treats and the delivery of the reward during a training session … keep him guessing! Remember that once your dog has learnt a behaviour there is no need to reward every time; instead save your rewards for his best attempts. Grade your rewards so he gets the high-value titbits for putting in extra effort.
    • Practise your training out on a walk. You cannot expect your dog to perform perfectly in a public situation if you only practise in the security of your back garden. Also appreciate that dogs learn by situational learning, so your dog may see “sit” indoors as a completely different behaviour to “sit” in the park.
    • If you are not in the mood to train, don’t train! Your dog will pick up on your negative mood and won’t respond as you hope, causing a vicious circle and resulting in a frustrating training session.
    • Always end each training session on a positive note and before your dog gets tired and de-motivated.
    • Lower your expectations in environments with lots of distractions.
    • Remember that any attention your dog receives from you is reward; so, what you may see as a scolding, your dog may see as a game! Try to ignore unwanted behaviours and only give your dog attention when he is offering a behaviour you like.
    • Make sure your dog is receiving an adequate amount of mental and physical stimulation. Mental stimulation involves your dog using his brain, e.g. using food dispensing toys, playing, training, searching for food etc … the list is endless.
    • Practise, practise, practise! You cannot expect your dog to learn a behaviour after just a few repetitions, you must carry out a small amount of training each day for the rest of your dog’s life to keep the behaviours fluent.


Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey. 07969 997 272.

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Confidence Building Exercises for your Dog

If you have a dog who is lacking in confidence, there are various confidence building exercises you can try to increase their resilience towards negative emotional states.  A few can be carried out each day, to ensure your dog feels successful and empowered, but not over-worked as this can be stressful for them.  Rest days are also equally important for dogs, and there is research that shows dogs learn a lot while they are sleeping, so little and often is the key.

Examples of confidence building exercises:

Searching and hunting games:

  • Hiding food around the house and garden and encouraging the dog to “find”. Make this very easy to start with, but in time leave treats inside items and at different levels.
  • Hiding food in cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, boxes full of shredded paper, Snuffle Treat Mats, screwed up towels, etc.
  • Hide a toy (or clam shell toy with food inside) somewhere in the house or garden and encourage to “find”. Again, really easy to start with.  Throw toy as the reward.
  • Scatter feeding: throwing dry proportion of food in the garden and encouraging dog to search for it.
  • Playing with various activity toys (Nina Ottosson, Trixie Activity Toys) with handler.

Clicker Training Exercises:

  • Free shaping on items such as cardboard boxes. Click and reward the dog for interacting with the box in any way (except destroying it).  This could be using paws, mouth, moving around the box, getting in the box, turning it over, etc.  In order to obtain unique behaviours, you must withhold your click once the dog has performed one exercise twice.  If you continue to click the same behaviours, the dog will never offer anything different.  Remember: touching the box with a paw on one side is a different behaviour to touching with the paw on another side.
  • Hand touches: touching your hand with their nose. Hold hand at different heights and start to move your hand so they have to follow it for a period before receiving their click.
  • Other nose targeting exercises: Touching the end of a target stick, pole, or wooden spoon. Encourage the dog to also touch a small post-it note, which can then be stuck to items away from you (e.g. to touch it on a wall at the other side of the room).
  • Targeting with a paw(s): Encourage the dog to touch a marker or upturned bowl with their paw. This item can then be moved further away to add distance.
  • Encourage the dog to place their front paws on a box, small step or wobble cushion. They can then be sent onto this item at a distance.  Once front paws achieved, back paws can be worked on.
  • Teach your dog to go “away” to bed, towel or marker on the floor.

Fun Tricks:

  • Roll over (“roll”)
  • Play dead (“bang”)
  • Spin/twist
  • Give paw (“1” & “2”)
  • Give both paws (“both”)
  • Commando crawl (“crawl”)
  • Play bow (“bend”)
  • Weave legs (“weave”/”legs”)
  • Wave (“wave”)
  • Circle around handler in both directions (“circle”/”wind”)
  • Retrieve post from letter box (“get the post”)
  • Hold dumbbell (“hold”)
  • Put waste paper in bin/tidy toys into box (“tidy up”/”in the box”)
  • Stand in-between the handler’s legs (“middle”)
  • To “go around” an item and then return to the handler.  This can be a pole in the ground, washing line, cone, etc. (“go round”)
  • To catch a treat (“catch”)

Basic Training Exercises:

  • Reinforcing all training commands on a daily basis helps to increase a dog’s confidence. This can be simply performing “sit”, “down”, “come” “heel”, “leave”, etc.  When a dog is successful at an exercise, they feel empowered, which in turn increases their confidence.

Fun Agility:

If appropriate for your dog’s age and breed, you can set up some fun agility equipment in the garden. This can be:

  • Poles on top of flower pots
  • You can purchase children’s tunnels fairly cheaply
  • Put bamboo sticks in the grass to make weave poles
  • Teach your dog to jump through a hoop.  This can be tied to two poles and stuck in the ground if required
  • You can make a “see-saw” by placing a piece of wood on top of a piece of guttering
  • You can purchase back garden agility equipment online

Different Surfaces/Objects to Manoeuvre:

Encouraging your dog to walk across different surfaces, rewarding them as they go. Examples:

  • To sit on a cushion or small mattress
  • To walk across a tarpaulin/black bag/plastic bag

Objects to manoeuvre:

  • Step over poles laid on the ground.  One end of these can then be raised slightly on a plant pot
  • Weave through cones placed in a line
  • Get up onto different objects.  This could be a log, rock, tree stump, park bench, etc.
  • Walk across a large piece of rope laid out in different formations on the ground
  • To walk across pieces of guttering laid on the floor
  • Sit in a beach tent or under a large umbrella
  • Walk/crawl under a pole
  • To walk through a towel/sheet hung from something

Fun, fun, fun:

Play with toys with your dog on a regular basis.  As a dog plays it releases endorphins, which makes them feel fantastic!  Encourage your dog to chase a ball, play tug of war, chase a toy on the end of a flirt pole, etc.


Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.  07969 997 272.

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Keeping your Dogs Happy and Safe over Christmas

The festive season is filled with fun and laughter for many families, but some dogs can struggle with it.  Keeping your dogs happy and safe over Christmas is essential to ensure everyone has a jolly good time.  Christmas festivities can be a bit scary for some dogs. It can be especially so for pups who may have never experienced this time of year before.  Christmas trees with funny lights; large crowds of people being merry; more visitors than usual, often carrying big bags and wearing silly red hats …some dogs may find it hard to deal with.  So, while you are getting into the festive cheer, spare a thought for your dog.   Consider the disruption to routine, and allow him extra time and space to reflect upon the commotion in his household.

Keeping dogs happy and safe at Christmas

If you have an anxious or reactive dog, then this time of year can be really challenging for you both. Sensitive dogs often benefit from a stable routine, and our work and home patterns often change over this period.  The timing and duration of walks often change, and they can be busier. These dogs may need more sleep than usual, and lots of quiet time.  They also benefit from brain activity and scenting games, to help lower their arousal levels.

 Christmas for dogs

Ways to help your dog over this season

  • Ensure your dog doesn’t miss out on their essential physical and mental stimulation each day. Dogs are often forgotten during all the commotion and given less exercise or left for longer periods.  A stuffed food toy can be given when the dog is left. We have a very comprehensive list of toy-stuffing recipes on our website.  You can also save part or all of your dog’s daily food allowance to feed out of these toys throughout the day.
  • Try and keep your dog’s routine the same, where possible. This really does help to reduce their stress levels.
  • Allow your dog to meet guests at their own pace. Accept that they may prefer not to be hugged or petted.
  • Some dogs like to have a “den” area to help them feel more secure in a busy household. Hiding is a natural coping strategy designed to limit the exposure to the stimulus.  Dogs with anxiety issues tend to prefer to move to the safety of a den area when they feel emotionally challenged.  This can be a covered crate, an area such as behind a sofa, or under the bed.  Let him settle wherever he feels the most comfortable.
  • Take care if there are visiting dogs to the house. Introduce them on neutral territory first and ensure there are no high-value items lying around that could encourage arguments.  Segregate dogs that are getting very stressed.  We advise periods of separation to allow some quiet time.
  • If your dog is not used to visiting children then more space should be given.  Closely watch their emotional state. Separate them from the child at any signs of concern (lip licking, yawning, blinking, looking away, etc).
  • Some dogs are sound sensitive and strongly dislike the bangs and pops from crackers, party poppers and fizzy alcohol. Shield them from these noises where possible.
  • Don’t dress your dog up in silly costumes unless you are sure they are happy with it.
  • Wearing a Thundershirt, KarmaWrap or Equafleece T-Shirt to give them a “portable-hug” will benefit many dogs.
  • Long-lasting treats such as Yakers, Pure Dog Stag Bars, FarmFood Antler Bars, Anco Roots and Bullbars are great for occupying dogs during periods of high activity and helping them settle down.
  • If your dog is staying with you in someone else’s home, try and ensure they have their familiar items.  This includes beds, toys and feeding bowls.
  • Consider the impact of trigger stacking. Trigger stacking is where a number of incidents causing an emotional response happen over a space of time.  So, an increase of people, the presence of children, loud laughter, etc., could all result in your dog acting “out of character” because their stress levels build up.

Dogs and Christmas

Foods your dog must not eat over Christmas

  • There are lots of foods that are poisonous to dogs. Take care with chocolate, mince pies, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, nuts (especially macadamia and walnuts), alcohol, onions and garlic.
  • It’s not only foods you must take into consideration.  The many Christmas decorations that are around the house can cause injury, or worse. Tinsel and broken ball baubles for example, can be fatal.

Keeping dogs happy and safe at Christmas

Dangerous Christmas Gifts

  • Take care that your dog doesn’t destroy that plastic squeaky toy within 2 minutes of receiving it and eat bits of plastic. The stuffing in soft toys is dangerous if ingested.
  • Many of the Christmas rawhide gifts are very unnatural and a choking hazard. Never leave your dog unattended with these.


Unfortunately, the New Year celebrations also mean fireworks.  Have a read of our Fireworks Blog to give you ideas on how to help your dog on 31st December.


Keeping dogs happy and safe at Christmas

Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.  07969 997 272.

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Helping Dogs over the Firework Season

Often owners are searching for ways to assist dogs over the firework season.  This is because for many of us, and our pets, the firework season is very distressing.  No-one likes to see their beloved pets distressed.  Some will cower in a corner whilst shaking, whereas others will frantically try and get to the fireworks, sometimes injuring themselves in the process.  For many dogs it a very unhappy time, and it seems to go on for weeks on end.

Dog scared of fireworks

The noises caused by the fireworks can cause fear, anxiety and sometimes a phobia.  Research shows that the large majority of noise phobias involve either loud quick sounds (e.g. fireworks, gunshots) or thunder. It is also reported that fear of fireworks is the most commonly reported noise phobia in dogs, with the second being fear of thunder.

Fear is the apprehension of a stimulus, event or object.  It is essential for animals to feel fear in order to survive.  Fear triggers the “fight or flight” response, characterised by increased heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension, which allows the individual to escape from danger of defend itself against a predator.  This coping mechanism is called upon in the presence or absence of a stimulus.  The brain’s job is to regulate the strength and duration of this coping mechanism, but this can sometimes fail.

Anxiety is a reaction of apprehension or uneasiness to an anticipated danger or threat.  Signs are physiologic (increased heart rate, autonomic arousal) or behavioural (restlessness, freezing, lip licking).

Phobia:  A phobia is an unreasonable fear reaction prompting extreme and irrational avoidance responses.  The physiological responses to a phobic stimulus include trembling, tachycardia (fast heart rate), tachypnea (rapid breathing) and gastrointestinal disturbances (loss of bowel control).

Many dogs are not adequately habituated to these particular loud noises over time, so instead become sensitised.  This is the opposite of habituation where the presence of the stimuli creates a bigger response than its earlier presence.  Frequent exposure to these highly aversive events cause the brain to quickly activate alarm-threat pathways encouraging fear and startle responses.


Fireworks Phobias in Dogs

Ways to help your dog over this season

  • Ensure your dog has had plenty of physical and mental stimulation throughout the day.  A highly-strung dog with lots of pent-up energy is going to be far more difficult to keep calm and relaxed.  Do not walk your dog after dark and make sure he has been out to the toilet before darkness falls so he has no reason to need to go outside.
  • Provide your dog with a “den” area to help him feel more secure.  Hiding is a natural coping strategy designed to limit the exposure to the stimulus and dogs with anxiety issues tend to prefer to move to the safety of a den area when they feel emotionally challenged.  This is because they frequently try to get to places where the sound level is lower and multiple closed sides assist with this.  This can be a covered crate, an area such as behind a sofa, or under the bed.  Let him settle wherever he feels the most comfortable.  You may be the safe place your dog requires, so if cuddles under a blanket on the sofa are what is required, then so be it.
  • Close curtains and keep lights on to minimise flashes and sudden brightness.
  • Have a TV or radio on at a reasonably high, but comfortable volume to help drown out the sounds of fireworks.
  • If you know your dog will be scared, don’t leave him home alone.
  • Do feel free to comfort and support your dog when you feel he needs you.  Try and distract him whenever he is showing fear by giving him treats, playing games or doing some training exercises.  Generally, distracting him away from the fear is the best approach and all these things will improve his emotional state.  Ensure you avoid any punishment as this will make the dog far more distressed.  The best approach is to be cheery and jolly, to help lighten their mood.
  • There are various products on the market to assist with anxiety reduction.  These include the Adaptil products, Zylkene, Nutricalm, etc.  Speak to your veterinary surgeon about using any of these products before purchasing them online.  In some cases, pharmacological treatment is required to assist your dog during this period.  This must be used in conjunction with a behaviour modification programme from an appropriately qualified specialist.

Adaptil for firework fears

Desensitisation and counter-conditioning to treat noise sensitivities

Systematic desensitisation and counter-conditioning are the most effective methods when treating a noise sensitivity.  Systematic desensitisation is when an animal’s response to a stimulus is gradually reduced, to the point that it is in a neutral emotional state.  This is accomplished by progressively exposing the animal to increasingly intense forms of the stimulus while the animal is stress-free.  Counter-conditioning involves exposure to gradually increasing feared stimuli whilst concurrently encouraging emotions that are incompatible with fear.  The Dogs Trust website has free sound files you can download for this process.  Although this method takes some time before results are seen, it is often extremely successful.  This method should not be undertaken unless advice is taken from a qualified specialist.


The “portable hug”

Other products have a more immediate effect and can be used once a dog shows signs of distress, or to avoid them getting into a negative emotional state.  The Thundershirt, KarmaWrap and Equafleece T-Shirt are worn by the dog and provide a “portable-hug” based on the practice of Tellington TTouch.  These should be worn at various times during the day, not just when the stimuli is present, to avoid it becoming a predictive cue.

Keep your dog occupied

Keeping your dog distracted while fireworks are going off is an excellent way of helping to keep them calm.  Using long-lasting chews such as Yakers, Pure Dog Stag Bars, Deer Antlers, Anco Roots and Buffalo Horns will not only give them something to focus on beside the bangs and flashes, but chewing releases endorphins which will help to feel more relaxed.

A stuffed Kong, Tux, Traxx, K9 Connectables or Quest is another ideal way to keep your dog distracted during fireworks.  These are easily made in advance and frozen, ready to use whenever they are needed.  It’s easy to make up these stuffed toys in batches so there’s no need for last-minute preparation.  Once you’ve purchased appropriate toys the recipes themselves can be very inexpensive and you can use everyday food items that you’ll find in most kitchens!  We have a very comprehensive list of toy-stuffing recipes.  You can also save part or all of your dog’s daily food allowance to feed out of these toys during the evening.


Interactive dog toys are also invaluable and can play a great part in focussing your dog’s attention.  These include the Snuffle Treat Mat and many of the toys found in our Mental Stimulation section.


Training games

Training games are a great way to keep your dog entertained and help them stay in better emotional balance.  There are many types of games you can play:

  • Home-made food toys: This could be a box full of shredded paper with treats inside, a plastic bottle filled with treats and squashed, or a squashed cardboard tube with a few yummy morsels inside and allow him to shred the lot! You may also consider hiding treats in a towel.
  • Hiding food around the house and garden and encourage the dog to “find”. Make this very easy to start with, but in time leave treats inside items and at different levels.  With some dogs, the only way to occupy them when the bigger bangs are occurring is to constantly throw food rewards around the home for them to find … this is perfectly fine.  Tiny morsels of really high-value treats (e.g. liver, cheese, ham) may be required if their fear response is greater.  For some dogs, food is not much of a draw so games with their favourite toy may be a better approach.
  • There are various activity toys on the market (e.g. Nina Ottosson, Trixie Activity Toys) that can be played with your dog.
  • Some dogs just enjoy the interaction with their owners and this is enough to distract them from the noises. This can be simply performing “sit”, “down”, “come” “heel”, “leave”, etc.  When a dog is successful at an exercise, they feel empowered, which in turn increases their confidence.  Ensure they are rewarded handsomely for each correct response.

Clicker Training Exercises

Clicker training is a great way of mentally stimulating your dog and giving him something to focus on other than the fireworks.  There are various exercises you can work on with a clicker:

  • Free shaping on items such as cardboard boxes. Click and reward the dog for interacting with the box in any way (except destroying it).  This could be using paws, mouth, moving around the box, getting in the box, turning it over, etc.  In order to obtain unique behaviours, you must withhold your click once the dog has performed one exercise twice.  If you continue to click the same behaviours, the dog will never offer anything different.  Remember: touching the box with a paw on one side is a different behaviour to touching with the paw on another side.
  • Hand touches: touching your hand with their nose. Hold hand at different heights and start to move your hand so they have to follow it for a period before receiving their click.
  • Other nose targeting exercises: Touching the end of a target stick, pole, or wooden spoon. Encourage the dog to also touch a small post-it note, which can then be stuck to items away from you (e.g. to touch it on a wall at the other side of the room).
  • Targeting with a paw(s): Encourage the dog to touch a marker or upturned bowl with their paw. This item can then be moved further away to add distance.
  • Encourage the dog to place their front paws on a box, small step or wobble cushion. They can then be sent onto this item at a distance.  Once front paws achieved, back paws can be worked on.
  • Teach your dog to go “away” to bed, towel or marker on the floor.

Example fun tricks:

  • Roll over
  • Play dead
  • Spin/twist
  • Give paw
  • Give both paws
  • Commando crawl
  • Play bow
  • Weave legs
  • Wave
  • Circle around handler in both directions
  • Retrieve post from letter box
  • Hold dumbbell
  • Put waste paper in bin/tidy toys into box
  • Stand in-between the handler’s legs
  • To “go around” an item and then return to the handler.  This can be a chair, waste paper bin, cone, etc.
  • To catch a treat


An up-to-date microchip and collar with ID tag are essential in case the worst should happen and you are separated from your dog.  Some dogs have been known to jump out of bedroom windows and scale 6-foot fences when distressed, so take great care with them.


When your dog is in a heightened state of anxiety they can behave out-of-character.  They may need more space in the home and on walks for a few days after a stressful event.

Further help

If your dog really struggles over this period you may need to consider seeking some professional advice.  It is essential that this person is a qualified clinical animal behaviourist as it’s essential that reward-based, up-to-date and scientific advice is given.

APBC Member Surrey

Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.  07969 997 272.

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Appropriate Play with your Dog

Learning to play should be an important part of every dog’s life. Whether you have a young puppy needing to learn appropriate forms of play, or an older dog learning to engage in social behaviour, encouraging the right type play has so many benefits.  Besides being fun for both you and your dog, play helps dogs to express natural social behaviour, it provides an outlet for mental and physical energy and activates the release of endorphins into your dog’s system. The natural release of this ‘feel-good’ hormone leads to happier, confident and relaxed dogs.  Not only is play a great way to reduce stress and build confidence in your dog, but it plays a huge role in creating a strong positive bond and healthy relationship between you and your dog.



So how do we encourage the right kind of play with our dogs? The first thing to understand is that every dog is different, and therefore every dog will have a different preference on what constitutes a fun game. While some dogs will play fetch with a ball for hours, other dogs prefer tuggy games, and others prefer games with food, such as scent-work, etc.

Play with toys:

There are hundreds of different types of toys on the market. The type of toy your dog will engage and interact with will depend entirely on each individual dog; some dogs enjoy chasing after a toy that has been thrown; other dogs like to chase a toy that’s quickly moved around the floor.


Playing a game of ‘tug’ with a toy is a great way to interact with your dog.  Many people have misconceptions about playing tuggy games with dogs, believing it encourages dominance and rough behaviour in dogs. This is not true, in fact, quite the opposite!  It is a great bond-building activity and should be encouraged.  When playing this sort of game, it’s important to have a good “leave” command to ensure the play stays under control. Introducing the “leave” command into the game is a good way to teach your dog self-control and good manners whilst playing. When your dog has a firm grip of the toy in his mouth, calmly but firmly say “leave” (just once), whilst gently bunching the toy up in your hands and pressing it into your body. This will mean your dog cannot continue the game of tug and will eventually release the toy.  At this point you can praise your dog, give him a “take it” command and allow the game to continue.  The more you practise, the quicker your dog will get at responding to the “leave” command.  By allowing him to have the toy back again and continuing the game, it teaches your dog the “leave” command is not a punishment, and you will find that he will be more willing to respond to it in other aspects of life.


Acceptable Play with your Dog

What not to accept in play:

Whilst play is hugely rewarding for your dog, and can be a great tool to use in training and bonding, it’s important to set some ground rules to ensure that the type of play you are encouraging is appropriate:

  • Don’t encourage your dog to jump up when playing with toys. Allowing dogs to jump for toys can lead to over-boisterous behaviour, and put your dog at risk of injury.
  • Don’t encourage rough-and-tumble games with your dog, or games that encourage nipping feet or hands. This is a common trap people often fall into with puppies, but you must bear in mind whatever behaviours you are encouraging from your dog will continue throughout adulthood. Such games may be funny or cute with a tiny puppy, but when your dog is fully grown, bigger, bouncier and has much stronger teeth, the game won’t be so cute any more.  If you have allowed your puppy to behave in this way, you can’t then expect your dog as an adult to understand the game is no longer allowed. Encouraging rough play in this way has major downfalls for adult dogs too. If your dog has been allowed to play roughly with some members of the family, he is likely to display the same form of behaviour to other people he meets, too.  This can cause serious problems when greeting children or vulnerable adults.
  • Only encourage play with appropriate items, i.e. his own toys. Many dogs develop attention-seeking behaviours in the form of stealing items they shouldn’t have. So, when your dog grabs your slippers, and you instantly start yelling and chasing him around the house, this is hugely rewarding and a great game of chase! Try to play with him little and often with his own toys to prevent such behaviour developing.  If he is bored and looking for something to do, direct him to his own toys.  If he picks up something he shouldn’t have, try to avoid giving him any attention for it, instead create a distraction e.g. ringing the doorbell, so you can then calmly take the item away without inadvertently rewarding him in the process.
  • It’s important for dogs to learn bite inhibition, especially during play. If your dog bites your hand by mistake, stop the game for a minute or two, until he is calm and relaxed again, at which point you can continue. This will help him to learn that biting your hand led to the end of the game, and therefore was the wrong thing to do. Don’t tell your dog off, or ‘scream’, as this will only wind him up even further. Do ensure that your toy is an appropriate size for your dog, so he has a better chance of biting the toy rather than you.

Playing with food:

Not all dogs are confident or motivated enough to play with toys; in which case using food can be a good method of teaching your dog to engage in play.  There are various soft toys on the market which allow you to put treats inside a Velcro pouch.  For some dogs, this is enough to incite their play instinct: chasing, tugging and sniffing out the treats, whilst interacting with you. For other dogs, you may have to be more creative!  For example, hiding treats under flower pots for your dogs to find is a good way to get him using his paws and nose and engaging in the environment.  There are also many toys available to buy which encourage similar play-type behaviour: Nina Ottosson toys are a good starting point and come in varying levels of difficulty.


Scentwork for your dog

Breed specific games:

If you are struggling to get your dog to play, then bear in mind that different breeds enjoy different types of game. For example, scent hounds such Beagles may engage more in scenting and hunting games. Terriers often like soft toys to chase and tug, whilst gundogs like to retrieve. It’s just a case of finding out what makes your dog tick.

Breed appropriate dog games

Teaching your dog to retrieve:

Many dogs enjoy playing a game of “fetch”. Whilst for some this may come naturally, other dogs will need to be taught how to play. Start by finding a toy that your dog likes. Encourage your dog to chase after it, by throwing it out a short distance. As soon as he picks it up, give him lots of praise and encourage him to bring it back to you.  You may need to be very enthusiastic!  If your dog picks up the toy but won’t bring it back, you could try running away from him, which will encourage him to run towards you.  Don’t chase after him as this defeats the object of the game.  Alternatively, you could start by having your dog on a lead, so if necessary you can use it to guide him back to you.  It’s important that you keep the game fun; he needs to learn its worth his while bringing the toy back to you for the game to continue.  For some dogs, it’s beneficial to reward with a treat for returning the toy in the early stages of learning.

Teaching your dog to retrieve

To keep your dog interested in play, always end the game before he gets bored, so he is left wanting more.  Have a range of different toys for him to play with. It is a good idea to rotate the toys he has access to in his toy box every few days. Every time you rotate them round he will feel like he is getting brand new toys all over again!


The most important thing, is to have fun!


Appropriate Play with your Dog


Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.  07969 997 272.

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Teaching a “watch” command

Teaching a dog to give you eye contact on command has many benefits.  It can be used to keep a distracted dog focussed, maintain attention or build confidence.  Some people prefer to use the word “look”, rather than the “watch” command.

"look" command in dog training

Many dogs, especially those who are young and exuberant, are easily distracted out on walks.  Owners can find it hard to gain their dog’s attention in certain situations, whether that be around other dogs or people, wildlife, joggers, cyclists, etc.  This often makes it hard to recall dogs in such situations or keep them focussed on walking nicely on a loose lead.  Teaching a “watch” command will enable you to keep your dog focussed on you.  This will improve his responsiveness to training, and encourage calm behaviour around certain stimuli.


Having a reliable “watch” command is also very useful for dogs that may be reactive in certain situations, or nervous around certain stimuli such as other dogs or people.  Teaching a “watch” command to such dogs will enable them to keep their attention on you and therefore be less worried about the environment around them.  By providing your dog with this alternative behaviour it will reduce his stress response and build his confidence.  This is the most effective way to reduce unwanted barking on a walk, for example.

"Watch" command in dog training

Teaching the “watch” command:

  • It’s important to start by teaching this behaviour in a location where there are few distractions and your dog feels secure, such as inside your home. Start by showing your dog a tasty treat, then hold this treat up to your eyes.  As your dog looks up at you, cue the behaviour with the command word “watch”, and after a few seconds reward your dog with the treat.  All the while your dog is making eye contact with you, you can praise and gently encourage the behaviour before giving him his treat.  In time, you can start increasing the length of time your dog is maintaining eye contact with you before earning his reward.  It is important to reward your dog for keeping eye contact before he looks away, so he is learning to hold your gaze in anticipation of the treat.  If you find your dog looks away or gets distracted, you will need to shorten the length of time you are expecting him to maintain eye contact, and reward him more frequently.
  • Once your dog has learnt the behaviour inside the home, you can start to practise in other environments, such as out on walks where the level of distraction may be higher.  Sometimes dogs find it harder to remain focused if they are too over excited or uncomfortable in certain situations.  If this is the case, you may need to move to a quieter area until your dog is calm enough to focus on you.  You can also consider increasing the value of your food reward or taking your dog out before a meal.  In difficult situations, you may only be expecting your dog to look at you for a split second to earn his reward.


Top tip:

Your dog does not have to be in a certain position to learn the “watch” command; some dogs may find it easier to practise the “watch” from a sit position, others may find it easier to keep focussed while on the move, whilst walking to “heel” for example.  It’s a good idea to practise this exercise from many different positions as you will often need your dog to keep moving whilst watching you to get yourselves out of difficult situations.


Teaching eye contact

Using a clicker to teach the “watch” command:

  • Dogs who have been clicker trained often pick up this command very quickly using the clicker to mark the behaviour. Using the method of ‘free-shaping’, you can allow your dog to work out for himself what you would  like him to do.  This often results in a much stronger behaviour, and a dog who chooses to offer eye contact much more readily.
  • Again, this will need to be started in a very quiet location at a time your dog is likely to be responsive. Starting with your dog in front of you, hold treats in one hand and clicker in the other (these may have to be behind your back if that’s all your dog will look at).  Patiently wait for your dog to look up at your face; as soon as he does, immediately click and reward him.  After he has done this a few times, you can start to add the verbal cue, i.e. as he looks up you, say “watch”, praise the behaviour, click and reward.  You can then start to increase the length of time he maintains eye contact, before clicking and rewarding him.  Once he has understood what to do, you can start by cueing him to “watch” before he looks up at you, so he is making eye contact upon the command word.
  • If your dog is struggling to work out what to do for himself, you can give him a helping hand. Using the same principle as above, hold a treat up to your eye and give your dog the verbal cue “watch” as he looks up at you. After a few seconds, click and reward your dog.


Top tip:

Remember that the clicker marks the point of correct behaviour.  It tells the dog exactly when he has done the right thing and a reward is about to follow.  Don’t be tempted to use the clicker as a means to get your dog’s attention; doing this will de-value the clicker and your dog will become less responsive to it.


Please note:

If your dog is not responding to the “watch” command then he is a situation where his arousal levels are too high to learn.  Please make the situation easier for him and try again.


Further help required?

If you feel you require professional assistance with your dog’s behaviour then we can assist you via an individual training session or behaviour consultation, depending on the complexity of the issue.


Teaching a "watch" command

Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.  07969 997 272.

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Handling Exercises for Puppies

Handling exercises for puppies

It is important to practise handling exercises with your puppy from day one.  Teaching your puppy to remain calm and confident whilst being handled, will ensure that as an adult dog he can cope with every day scenarios from being groomed to being examined by the vet.

Individual Puppy Training


The type of tools needed for grooming will depend on every individual pet, and the type of fur he has.  When teaching a puppy to accept being groomed, it is sensible to start with a soft brush, that won’t pull or tug his coat, to get him used to the sensation (a Zoom Groom is ideal).  Start by holding a treat in one hand under your puppy’s nose, whilst slowly and gently running the brush over him with the other hand.  It is important to verbally praise your puppy for remaining calm throughout the process.


To begin with, your puppy will need fairly frequent rewards to encourage him to remain patient and to learn to enjoy being groomed.  When your puppy is used to the process and is able to remain relaxed throughout, you can start to reduce the amount of food rewards he receives.  In time, you will be able to groom your puppy without food under his nose; although it is important to still reward him intermittently to reinforce appropriate behaviour.  Should your puppy begin to get wound up by the process, and start play biting for example, it may be necessary to go back a step, and increase the food rewards he receives for remaining calm.  This will help to keep him relaxed and without the opportunity to become frustrated and fidget.  Some puppies accept and enjoy being groomed very quickly, whilst others may take slightly longer, and may need higher value treats for this exercise.


Never tell your puppy off for becoming fidgety, but instead praise him when he is calm and relaxed. Grooming can be quite stressful for some dogs, so it is important to teach him to enjoy the process.  Always keep each grooming session short and end on a positive note (i.e. with him relaxed).

Puppy House Visits in Surrey, Middlesex and Berkshire


Throughout your puppy’s life, there will be many instances when he will need to be physically handled; for example, during trips to the vet, treating a cut paw, removing ticks, etc.  In order to ensure that such occasions are as least stressful and easy as possible for your dog to endure, it is important to teach him to accept being handled from as early as possible.


Start by holding a treat under your puppy’s nose to keep him occupied, whilst you run your other hand over his body.  Pick each foot up in turn, rewarding him after holding each paw for a second or two to start with.   Once you are able to pick each foot up without your puppy fidgeting, you can progress to examining your puppy’s paws and toes more thoroughly before each treat.  Whilst doing so, make sure you are verbally praising your puppy for remaining calm.  In the same way, you can practise examining his tail.  To examine his eyes, start by gently holding his head still for a second, before giving him a treat.  Once he has learnt to accept that, progress to gently examining his eyes, rewarding intermittently.  Similarly, you can inspect his ears and teeth in the same way.  Gently lift your puppy’s lips, praising him calmly as you do so, and give him a treat after a second or two.


In time you can increase the duration of the examination before rewarding him.  This is something your puppy will need to learn to accept and experience during his trips to the vet.  Therefore, it is important to practise such exercises to build his confidence, before expecting him to accept a stranger to do the same.


Teeth Cleaning:

Toothbrushes for dogs come in many different forms.  Some are similar to a human toothbrush, others are designed to sit over your finger like a glove, so using your finger to brush your dog’s teeth.  As always, it is important to teach your puppy to accept having his teeth brushed, rather than forcing him to endure it.


If you have practised handling your puppy as above, he should be confident having his teeth looked at before you start the cleaning process.  Start by allowing him to lick the toothpaste off the brush, so he learns that the toothbrush coming towards him is not a scary object.  Next, gently lift his lips, and brush the teeth at the front of his mouth for a second or two before stopping and giving him a treat.  Many puppies aren’t comfortable with the sensation of tooth brushing, so it’s important to keep the sessions short before rewarding.  This will teach him that if he remains calm and accepts his teeth being brushed, a positive reward will follow.


In time, you can increase the duration of the brushing before each reward, as well as progressing to brushing the molars at the back of his mouth too.  If your puppy becomes anxious or fidgety, go back a step.  Make the sessions shorter and more rewarding for him, before expecting him to cope with his all his teeth being brushed in one go.

Ear inspection and cleaning:

Whilst some breeds of dog are more predisposed to ear infection and dirty ears than others, it is important for all dogs to learn to accept having their ears examined and potentially cleaned.  Start by holding a treat under your puppy’s nose with one hand, whilst using your other hand to lift, stoke and touch your puppy’s ears.  If he accepts this without fuss, progress to examining his ears with both hands..  You should calmly praise him, and reward him with a treat at the end.


Once your puppy is able to remain relaxed throughout this process, you can begin to gently clean inside his ears with some wet cotton wool.  This will get him used to the sensation, before rewarding him.  As always, ensure your puppy is calm and relaxed before expecting too much from him.  If he struggles, go back a step, and make the process more rewarding for him.

Handling exercises for puppies


Once your dog is happy to be handled by yourself, consider asking other members of the family and friends to do the same exercises.  This should be closely supervised, but it should be done to ensure your dog is used to be handled by various people of different ages, genders, sizes, etc.


Please consider:

Some dogs are more accepting of handling if they are occupied with something.  A stuffed Kong or Snuffle Treat Mat work well to take your dog’s mind off of the process and give them a positive association to it.  Some dogs are more tolerant of grooming if they have a toy in their mouth rather than using a food reward.


Pet Necessities Professional Dog Training – Egham, Surrey.  07969 997 272.

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