Figure of 8 leads….

Its been a while since we’ve posted, its been so busy at creche things have got away with us! The blog is soon to be taken over by some of the creche staff who will pop by to introduce themselves soon.

As often mentioned, at The Dog House Creche we are 100% positive reinforcement based training. There are no choke chains, slip leads, harsh corrections etc (why is a different story).

So as you can imagine, I’m rather embarrassed by my daft lurcher who fails to listen to anything I say and tends to walk on lead like some strange breed of kangaroo. Off lead he is fab, on lead he turns into a monster. He is tall and strong so I have a harder time holding him than some of my larger customer dogs, the bouncing is REALLY hard to fight against.

I have tried all of the tools in my tool box. Treats – he ignores them, stop start – it takes an hour to get anywhere and then its usually that we are both so tired I can’t cope. I am the client that I HATE, who gives in, makes do and just ignores the issues. Many trainers are – they train all day and then don’t want to do the same at home!

I’ve tried harnesses, canny collars ( a fab tool but he ended up learning how to slip it regularly), and various lead/harness combos. So I finally gave in and decided to try a figure of 8 lead.

I am VERY vocal in my dislike for anything that tightens on the nose and neck as they often fit wrong and cause injury, so for me to try this is a BIG step. I am sure I would be able to train him another way if I have hours and hours of time to work with him, but sadly I don’t – I need a quick fix. Something that I put my clients off – so I am aware how hypercritical I am being!

The lead arrived and I offered my apologies to Archie, I know he’s going to hate it. But it slipped straight on and he seemed less bothered than I was. The transformation was instant, gone was my kangaroo boy and here was a nice walking greyhound. Sure he tried to get it off the way he does the canny collar, but once he realised he couldn’t he just walked.


I have no intention of keeping him on it for life, however I will say that I was perhaps wrong about figure of 8 leads, the entire walk it was lose and had little tension on it, he just didn’t pull.

But not all figure of 8 leads are the same. If you want one – make sure you purchase the flat ‘padded’ ones, not the slip lead versions. Slip lead figure of 8’s tend to be course woven materials that are made into a tube – tighten it around your hand hard and see how much it hurts, its like rope burn! The flat ones are less harsh – I tried it on myself first so can assure you its not painful!

Good luck!


Muzzle Training


Its been a while! things have got hectic here!

This weeks training help – Muzzle Training.

People are funny, they react in all sorts of negative ways to a dog in a muzzle, or to being told their dog would benefit from one. I don’t understand why!

Lets start with the dog that you see in the park with a muzzle on. How do you react? Most people will instantly tense probably show some sort of pain on their face (purposeful or not) and clip their dog on lead, or change direction. Some take it a step further – I’ve been told that I shouldn’t have such a dangerous animal in a dog park, or that it should be put down! The worst response though is the idiot that thinks he can cure your dog in one easy step – usually by saying ‘take the muzzle off and I’ll do xyz’. XYZ could be an alpha roll (rolling and pinning the dog), biting the dog hear or allowing it to bite and then yelling. NONE of these methods work. NONE. EVER.

I’m quite thick-skinned, but I’ve had owners in tears on the phone because of the know it all in the park. Most owners of muzzled dogs are super sensitive about it anyway, with this so-called help!

We all know that muzzles stop a dog biting, but what you don’t know is WHY that dog in the park is muzzled. Yes muzzles are a great tool for dogs that show aggression for one reason or another (often aggression is based in fear so that nasty dog, is probably just terrified of your friendly dog). But they are also used for dogs that have a special diet to stop them eating things they find on a walk, for dogs that have a high prey drive (retired grey hounds often haven’t seen anything other than other grey hounds ever, so muzzling helps protect cats and other small furries), or because of a legal requirement.

There are a number of banned breeds in the UK, and all round the world there are different legislative requirements for certain dogs to be muzzled. These dogs may be aggressive, or perhaps they were just unlucky enough to be born with certain head measurements that class them as ‘pit type’ meaning they can never go out in public with out a muzzle.

So we don’t know why that dog is muzzled, yet most still react badly. It is good manners to put your dog on lead if the other dog is, but is also polite to check if the muzzled dog is off lead if it is ok for yours to approach.

Owners that chose to muzzle their dogs are often some of the most responsible ones I meet. They have chosen to take precautions to ensure their dog is safe, be it from eating something that could cause issues or to prevent a negative reaction to other dogs, animals or people.

There are those that say if your dog is muzzled and set upon by another dog it is unable to defend itself, that’s true, but it is not a reason not to muzzle your dog. If you have a muzzled dog, not only will people avoid you but you will also be aware of the issues all the time – it’s a constant reminder which means you are less likely to be taken by surprise by another dog.  Very few people have had their dogs set up on by another without any warning – usually it happens when they are all playing and it turns nasty, if your dog is muzzled and out of the action then the chances of an attack are reduced.

Don’t judge, them support them! I walk a dog in a muzzle who is terrified of other dogs, she  is muzzled for safety although she has never bitten. She would love a dog friend that would let her walk near them without interacting, but every dog she sees is taken away. It’s quite sad when you think about it.

Muzzle Training:

Choosing to muzzle your dog is just the first stage – you cannot just put a muzzle on and be done. It takes time, patience and lots and lots of rewards!

Imagine someone tried to put a muzzle on you, they might get away with it the first time if there was a surprise, but the second, maybe third time – you are ready!!

ALWAYS get a basket muzzle, not only can the dog still bite or pick food up through a cloth  muzzle but they don’t allow them to pant either, leading to issue with over heating. Basket muzzles allow full mouth movement in the basket and dogs can drink and take treats though them. I’d also recommend getting a muzzle in a contrasting colour to the dogs fur – that way they can be seen at a distance and if you need space people will give it to you.

So stage 1 (I use ‘she’ in here, but obviously it works for boys too!)

Introducing the muzzle. Don’t even think about pushing it on or clipping the latch at this stage!

Get some super tasty food that is sticky and smelly – cream cheese, pate, dog meat etc.

Slather it on the inside of the basket, right down the end.

Let the dog chose to put her nose into the basket, just hold it still – don’t push it toward her or pull it away, when she puts her head in, praise her, even if she only does it for a second. Let her keep going back for as long as she wants, praise her every time.

Repeat 2 -3 times a day

Once she is confident and pleased to see the muzzle, try to encourage her to keep her head in there a little longer by putting less food in, and pushing it right to the end (she has to work for it!).

Step 2:

Once she keeps her head in the muzzle for a few seconds, start to introduce the muzzle command. Say ‘muzzle’ every time she puts her head in, and then praise (make sure there is still food in there!).

Start to say muzzle before she puts her head in, and she’ll soon learn that it’s a command to do just that.

Start moving the muzzle to a little further away from her nose, so she has to move to put her nose in it, once she actively does that you know she’s got the command down pat!

Step 3:

Once she knows the muzzle command, ask her to put her head in and then hold the praise for a few seconds, this encourages her to keep her head in there longer, extend it to 10 sec, 20 etc.

Step 4:

Start clicking the buckle of the muzzle (not around her head, just click it), when she is eating the treat in the end of the muzzle. The click is quite loud so you need to make sure she is expecting it when you finally do it up round her head.

Keep the praise up!

Step 5:

Start to move the straps into their buckle position, but don’t buckle them yet – let her get used to the fact that they come up round the head (some come across the bridge of the nose too). Praise & reward.

Step 6:

Once she lets you do what ever you want with the straps its time to buckle them, buckle and unbuckle immediately, then leave it closed a second or two, then five seconds and so on.

Make sure there is lots of praise and if she seems upset, take it off and repeat steps 4 and 5.

Before long she will happily wear the muzzle as it’s a pleasant thing, not a bad thing!

Blue Cross have a fab video to help you:



I once didn’t know what the zoomies were, I had small, calm dogs who didn’t zoom anywhere. Sure they played for a few mins at a time and ran out in the fields, but they didn’t zoom. Some of you reading this won’t have experienced the zoomies either. I think there are a few types of dogs that zoom, huskies and mals do it, but most commonly it’s the lurchers, sighthounds and longdogs.

So what are the zoomies?

Quite simply – running like you’ve never run before, for the fun of it, for the thrill and just because you can RUN.The dog spins, turns, dashes and then runs some more. I want to zoom – I want to have that freedom that Archie does when he flies. Anything can set the zoomies off – from me getting home from work, to having a poo, to the rain.

There is a serious side to zoomies however, a quick internet search reveals worried owners who are looking for their dogs braking system, after zoomie related injuries. Its not just the dogs either – every lurcher owner will be proud to show off their ‘launch’ bruises (where you are used as a starting block) or even collision injuries!

Here’s my foot just hours after being launched from 😦

lurcher zoom

Why do they do it then?

I read on one blog that its fear (, which in all honesty I disagree with. We are not talking tail down, ears back, wide eyed running – that is an assumption from people who don’t know the true zoomies. True zoomies are obviously fun, can start spontaneously and the dogs appear to enjoy them. I can think of few lurcher owners who would say their dog was scared when zooming. The same blog says they are frequent, random activity periods, I think he meant frenetic, but we’ll give him that one. FRENETIC random activity periods, (FRAP) is the technical name for these zoomies. FRAP is common in puppies, and the experts don’t relate it to fear at all, but energy. As the dog gets older, the frequency of FRAPing is reduced, unless you have a breed that store energy up for small sharp bursts- like lurchers, greyhounds etc. They were bred to use a lot of energy in a short period of time, and so they do it via zoomies. I don’t have any studies on the subject but I’d bet those that are working dogs zoom less at home!.  Nearly all dogs display FRAPs after a bath, which may well be fear based, a bath is traumatic for most dogs – but maybe they just feel good!

Should I be worried – What should I do?

There’s no simple answer. Zoomies can be dangerous for dog and human if they occur in a small space. But a dog that is zooming to use up energy is going to be less of a bother in the house when that energy has gone. Zoomies can and do happen in the big wide world, but mostly at home where the dog is more relaxed. Set up a zoomie trigger – imitate a play bow or teach them a cue to start zooming in a safe area, don’t chase them – it will undo any recall work you have done. But most of all – enjoy it! The zoomies are a wonderful thing to watch, and seem like a wonderful thing to do!

Zoomie Competition

I ran a competition on my shop facebook page asking for the best pictures or videos of zoomies my ‘likers’ had. What a response! Nearly all lurchers, which I expected but so many fun moments!

The winner’s picture was of Summer the lurcher not stopping and colliding with her ‘sister’ JRT Tilly.  1797989_943909505625236_6613223518155393099_n

Summer is a 4 year old lurcher who was dumped on the M25. She suffered terribly, was emancipated and obviously neglected. Owner Gerri loves to see Summer dash about, as it shows how much she has come on since adoption.  Well done to Summer, Tilly and Gerri who have a bag of goodies on the way to them!

Runner up was Henry, he zooms for no reason other than to zoom, and perhaps because his feet were cold! unfortunately the video was not loading on the blog so here’s a picture instead 😀


Henry is a saluki x borzoi and his owner, Steve says he is a typical lurcher, 30 seconds of energy tires him out for the day.

Other runners up included:

10689851_10153002192018888_5287713613202486305_n 10661974_10154752741150607_8734531519790938103_o 15276_10152381807211439_1209373440018631660_n 10641106_10203816422945829_4757250282965527231_n 10711036_10154661226475214_5901132998211628630_n 10649024_10154681278495459_929665122058938300_o 10300898_10204358140689919_5984872720996956279_n 10537186_10201836748840487_7867575380315011413_o 1489037_836507986380576_2325503459611407768_n

Does your dog zoom? Why do you think he does it?

Does your dog like the rain?


Willow (pictured above) does not. Its hard not to laugh when she pulls faces like that (it was only drizzling!) but I know an awful lot of dog owners that say ‘my dog won’t go out in the rain’. I am one of them!

My Jackapoo (jack russel x poodle – aka mutt) spent the first 3 years of his life refusing to leave the house when it was wet or windy. It was more than a little embarrassing to be seen trying to encourage this little tiny scrap of a dog along the road, not 2 foot from the house 🙂

2012-07-21 007

This dislike for any kind of weather was a bit of an issue, considering we live in yorkshire which has exactly 3.23333 sunny days per year and 986 million drops of rain (ok so maybe I’m not sure on the stats). I also live next to farm land so the wind whistles over the fields and really upsets the little man. Toilet training was a nightmare, I’d open the door and he’d look at me as if i was crazy.  Then came Archie:


This adorable little bundle of fluff is another rain hater. Now fully grown he will happily dive into puddles, the sea, streams but one rain drop hits him and its the end of the world.


There are of course dogs that adore the rain Harry a collie that I walk seems to come alive when its raining. The muddier the better as far as he is concerned.

There are a number of reasons dogs are hesitant to go out in the rain (and in Yogi’s case, wind) – the first being the noise. Dogs hearing is far more sensitive than ours, and all those rain drops hitting different surfaces at different times must be an awful lot of noise to process.

The second reason is something I’ve worked out over the years of being a dog owner – short coats often equal rain haters. Willow and her two sisters (Florence and Honey) all refuse to leave the porch in the rain and when they are out getting wet they show their displeasure by shaking constantly. I should imagine its cold and uncomfortable getting such a short coat wet – think how clammy your skin feels when you get caught in the rain. Our old Dobermann was the same, she would refuse to go out in the wet, even to toilet.

So for those of us that own rain haters – what can we do?

There is little we can do about the noise, perhaps wait until the heaviest down pour has finished before taking pups out.  Some days you may have to miss a walk, that doesn’t make you a bad owner, it makes you a considerate one. A walk that is a chore will make the dog less likely to want to go out next time its raining. Make the rain fun – play games, give treats for venturing outside when its raining but never, ever force them out – let them take thier own time.

For those with short coats, the simplest thing to do is buy a coat. Make sure to introduce the coat slowly to them, don’t just put it on and make them like it, take your time – make the coat a fun thing to wear. Coats should be form fitting light weight and of course water proof. Waxed jackets are great but always check that they are washable – they get muddy and you want to be able to shove them in on a 40 degree wash at some point.

If you do chose to put a coat on your pup, make sure it does not cover their head or ears – dogs need to use their whole face and ears for communication. The coat will cover the hackles, so as a responsible owner you need to keep a close eye on any doggy chats that are going on, keep your dog safe (dry) and happy.


Toilet Training Your Dog


(Photo from Dog

The most common question a new dog owner has – ‘How do I train him/her to go to the toilet outside?’

The answer: TIME.

Ok so it’s not that simple, but essentially time is the key. I’ve seen posts on facebook forums asking why their 9 week old puppy isn’t learning, despite trying ‘everything’. She’s 9 weeks old, her bladder isn’t capable of holding everything in for the 4 – 6 hours you’ve left her, or 10 hours overnight. Give her time. Same for a 14 week old, and even some 6 month olds – every dog takes a different amount of time, and some will be clean by 12 weeks, others like my yogi took 18 months + to be reliable.  When you consider a puppies bladder is likely to be the size of a thimble, we ask an awful lot of them.

So here I lay out my tips to potty train. They are not fool proof or written in stone, find what works for you, your dog and your situation. I will confess to using a piece by Sally Bradbury and adapting it to my preferred method – so some of this may seem familiar to those that have read any of her work.

Toilet Training –  Adapted from a piece by Sally Bradbury

First thing to remember is that we do not want to teach the puppy that going to the toilet is bad, naughty or any other negative. All this does is make pup worried to toilet anywhere and can lead to all sorts of long term issues. NEVER tell your dog off for going to the toilet inappropriately. NEVER use force or punishment, the old rolled up newspaper trick is not effective and cruel.

Look at the body language in this picture, what do you see?

dog worried

(photo from dog boarding surrey)

The dog is not ‘ashamed’ or ‘guilty’ but scared of the owners body language and presumably voice. Not the relationship you want with your pup. The method outlined below will help you get what you want (a potty trained dog) and help build the bond with your pup long term.

What we want to do is let puppy (or adult dog) know that its best to wee outside, and the best way to do that is constistant routine and watching pup like a hawk!

When you first get your pup, introduce this routine immeadiatley – if you have a confident pup or older dog, go directly to the back yard / garden and get a first toilet there – don’t force a very young pup to meet the big outside world straight away though.

Once your pup is ready you need to be prepared to take your puppy to the garden:

As soon as they wake from a big sleep or even a short nap.
After eating.
After taking a drink.
Before, during andare.
Before you go out.
Before bedtime
At least once per night (I usually do a 12am and 3am run for the first week or so) – you can extend this as the weeks go on.

And then at least once every twenty minutes in between unless they are asleep. During periods of activity change that to every ten to twenty minutes.

If you find that you are getting accidents in between, then shorten it to every fifteen minutes, then to ten if needed. Set an alarm so you don’t forget!.

Make going outside fun, I usually use a high, fun voice saying ‘outside for wee-wees’ – you need to distinguish that you want a specific action, you are not going out to play.  Stay outside with your pup. Do not nag or distract him, or try to engage in play – just mooch about and he will do the same and eventually eliminate. Do not stay outside for more than 5 minutes. If he has not toiletted, bring him in calmly and wait inside for 5 minutes, watching for signs that he might toilet (sniffing, circling, squatting) then repeat the process outside – you need him to work out what you are going out for, letting him wander around for 20 mins isn’t helping the connection. When he does toilet you can chose your reward – some say that quiet praise is sufficient, others use a food reward, I prefer a lot of excitable praise – but again, find what you like to do.  Once pup has eliminated, you can either stay out or go back indoors. If you stay out make sure you engage in a game or something fun – changing the tone of the garden time. Don’t forget if you do stay out he may need another toilet before going in, so praise if he initiates it on his own, or take him out five minutes after the game is finished.

If you miss a beat and see him start to toilet in the house, don’t panic – try your ‘outside’ cue to see if he’ll come out with you. If he’s already started, ignore him and go outside waiting for him to join you when he’s finished. If he’s not started the lift him and take him outside, using you cue all the time. Do not tell him off.

If your puppy toilets in the house and you’ve not seen him do it –  it is because you haven’t toilet trained him yet and didn’t take him outside when he needed to go. When this happens take a rolled up newspaper and hit yourself over the head whilst repeating the words “I forgot to watch my puppy. I forgot to watch my puppy” If your puppy laughs at you when you do this – praise him.

Seriously – just think, oops – must do better, and clean the mess up with little fuss. If you can do so with pup elsewhere, even better. Use biological washing powder or a pet specific cleaner – nothing with bleach in as it smells like urine and will encourage him to go there again.

If you use a crate or puppy pen, take pup straight out of the crate to the garden and follow the guidelines above, some say crates make toilet training easier, some say that the use of them is lazy, personally I like them, but don’t think they are a replacement for patience and consistency!

Common mistakes during toilet training.

Using newspaper or puppy training pads. Whilst it may aid the clearing up process it can be very confusing for the pup that is taught or permitted to toilet in the house to make the transition to going outside and will often result in a pup that when playing in the garden will simply hold on until they are back indoors because that is where the toilet is.

Leaving the door open. This does nothing to teach the pup to toilet outside only – it removes the ‘inside / outside’ separation and doesn’t encourage bladder control. A dog that can go outside whenever it feels the urge, doesn’t learn to hold it.

Expecting your pup to tell you when he needs to go out. Once a pup understands that outside is where the toilet is then he may start to let you know he needs out. But for starters you need to set the pace!

Giving your pup an en suite in his crate. Do not encourage your pup to toilet in his crate by putting puppy pads in there. If you have to leave puppy for a while and he is going to need to go then best to have the crate inside a larger pen or blocked off area and leave the crate door open so that he can get away from his bed to toilet.
N.B. Areas indoors where pup has had an accident are best cleaned with a dilute of biological washing powder. Avoid using disinfectant as this contains ammonia and can encourage pup to pee there again.

Why punishment does not work for house training.

A typical morning in the life of an 8 week old pup.

7:00am Puppy pees in the garden – Owner present. Gets praised

7.30am Puppy pees in the kitchen – Owner present. Gets a reprimand

8:15am Puppy pees in the lounge – Owner not present. Nothing happens except relief

9:00am Puppy pees in the lounge – Owner present. Gets a reprimand

9:30 am Puppy pees in the kitchen – Owner not present. Nothing, just relief

11:00am Puppy pees in the garden – Owner doesn’t notice Just relief again

11:30am Puppy pees under the dining room table – Owner not present. Nothing happens

12:15pm Puppy pees in the garden – Owner present – gets praise

What we think we are teaching puppy is that it is good to pee in the garden and wrong to pee in the house but what the pup is actually learning is that sometimes it is rewarding to pee when the owner is present and sometimes it is dangerous. However it is always safe to go when the owner is not present and that so far the safest place is under the dining room table.

Never deny your dog water in the mistaken belief that this will aid toilet training. It won’t. It will make the urine stronger, it may impact on your dog’s health, i.e. cause kidney problems or urinary tract infections.if the dog drinks greedily and excessively when it is available knowing it will be taken away. Dogs must have clean fresh water available all of the time.

About Me – Georgina


I’m George – the human one in the picture obviously. The furry one is Willow a beautiful weimanener who belongs to one of our dog walking customers. It is my voice you will hear 9 times out of 10 on this blog. Mainly because it was all my idea, but also because The Dog House brand is also my baby and I am the one who drives it.

About me:

I’m in my thirties (nope not giving away more than that!) and have a FdSc in Animal Management and Behaviour as well as a BSc (Hons) in Animal Behaviour and Welfare. I am currently studying for a MSc in International Animal Welfare, Ethics and Legislation at Edinburgh University.

I am The Dog House’s on site behaviourist, I over see day care and ensure all dogs induction assessments are completed before they are set free to play. I also monitor the play to ensure its always fun and not stressful for any dog. I run the centers training programmes and help visiting trainers whilst they are here.

My background is quite varied, I started in zoo’s and even a swan rescue center back in my school days. I then spent a long time volunteering and researching wolves at UK Wolf Conservation Trust. I was lucky enough to get a job straight out of university at a leading UK based pet charity in a rehoming center which is where I learnt about companion animals, in particular dogs.

I have a real love for dogs and want to help others enjoy their pets – nearly every home I visit first apologises for their dog, I don’t want them to do that, I want them to be proud to invite visitors into thier homes!