"The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man's." – Mark Twain, Letter to W D Howells, 4/2/1899

Archive for February, 2013

The Visitor


She is black and white and her nickname is ‘the cow’. My son, her master, gave her the name and if the photo was side on you would know why.

She came to stay with us when her mistress was very sick. Introducing her into the pack was something like planning the D day landings. She was a puppy at this stage and Zed was suspicious of all that energy and he was sure she was up to no good. He put her in her place right from the start and it took a bit of work to convince him that he was going over the top. Zed does not submit easily so putting him on his side until he calmed down was a bit of a process, and so was staying calm throughout. The situation improved but not to the point where I was comfortable leaving them alone.

Fast forward six months.

This delightful little creature is back among us once again. Not quite the squirming puppy that she was but still getting into mischief, and more. My reading glass went in a raid organised during my shower. The reading glasses had to be put down as they had lost an arm in the attack. (I’m writing this through what looks like a thick fog).

Amazingly Zed has decided that she is now OK to have around, there have even been games. He has taught her to bark when she is very happy to see someone come home (her owners are very happy that she has learned this!!!!!!). I have been trying to teach her to walk on a lead and we are making some progress. She is also learning how to be a calm female from Honey (Honey is the epitome of calmness and poise).We get a lot of comments and smiles on our walks because when it starts to go pear shaped I look a lot like Ben Hur rounding the final bend!

The ‘little cow’ is only here while my son and his lady find a house to rent so my time with this little one is limited. I’m doing my best to enjoy every moment.

If you look at the photo (my son took this one) you will see what I mean.



Zed’s approach to life is damn near perfect.

He sleeps until something interesting starts to happen, and when it does he is ‘instant on’.

Everything is interesting.

A game is only an old toilet roll or a sock away.

He comes when he is called without need for reward.

He would love to take over but he doesn’t because he knows that I’m leading the way, but if I falter he is ready to assume command.

He may look like he is asleep but he’s always on alert, as that black and white sheep dog next door could attack at any moment; the bloke who delivers stuff could come to the front door or another dog in the neighbourhood could give the alarm.

He knows that waiters and waitresses are wonderful people who bring food to our table, some of which might come his way, but all other humans are potentially evil. Once he gets to know you and decides that you are worthy of inclusion into the pack he is always happy to see you, even if you have been away for a long time.

He knows that small children and little old ladies are going to cause trouble but he deals with them in different ways. Small children get frequent warnings ‘to stay away’. Mostly they are smart enough to get the message but little old ladies don’t listen and believe that they can tame anything, so they keep on coming even though the humans tell them not to. Zed let’s them pat him but as they withdraw they get a sharp reminder that you don’t approach a dog, you let him/her approach you.

Zed knows that lying in sunlight is one of life’s best things and that when your sister says the game is over it’s over!

He also knows when one of the humans in his house is feeling low he does the only thing he is capable of, he stays very close.

He loves riding in cars and going for walks especially with the big dogs across the road. He would love to sort out the naughty one and he has tried a couple of times  but his big heart is outmatched by her considerable size. Even though they are uneasy friends Zed does enjoy a ‘pack walk’ and particularly with big dogs.

Image Generally speaking, if he was a little bit calmer he would have the perfect outlook on life but then again, if he was a bit calmer he would not be Zed and that would be sad.


The Power Of The Walk; Part 2.


Never begin a walk with an excited dog as you are just asking for trouble.

Take as much time as is necessary to get your dogs calm and submissive before you go.

If you only have a limited amount of time don’t let this rush you into beginning before your dogs are calm and focusing on you.

If this means that you have to wait for fifteen minutes for your dogs to be calm and you only get a ten minute walk, then so be it.

You will find that the calming down time will diminish very quickly if you show the patience to do it right in the early days. Our dogs worked it out very quickly.

Pulling the lead to the side will usually stop an unwanted behaviour and send the message to your dog that she needs to refocus. This maneuver works by sending your dog’s brain out of balance for a moment. Your dog will, very quickly, learn that this sideways tug on the lead means that you are disagreeing with her behaviour.

Bring treats to reinforce your dogs good behaviour but always remember that your dog sees you as giving her affection simply by being with her and experiencing the walk together.

Every now and then you will notice that she looks at you. This eye contact is a sign of affection from her to you.

Eye contact is a very powerful signal in the dog world, and dogs meeting each other for the first time will avoid direct eye contact as this is seen as a challenge and can quickly turn into a fight. Pack members use eye contact as a way of reinforcing the bonds that hold the pack together so your dog looking directly at you is a sign of trust and if you do your part it will also be a sign of respect, the kind of respect afforded to a pack leader.

The Power Of The Walk.

If your dog was a member of a wild pack she would wake up, stretch, and set off to follow her pack leader on an all day hunt for water and food.

No matter how big or small your dog may be she has the same need to ‘travel’ that her wild ancestors had and you are honouring her true nature when you enable her to ‘travel’.

We have learned to walk our dogs every day, twice a day for at least 30 minutes.

You may look at it as ‘going for a walk’ but your dog sees it as something much more primal. The pack will form bonds that last a lifetime by living and working together. Every dog knows that the survival of the pack is paramount and every decision that the pack leader makes is designed to make the pack stronger.

As humans we must be our dogs pack leader and we will achieve this by exhibiting calm assertive energy. Dogs will not follow weak energy and dogs see anger and frustration as weak energy.


Your dog may trust you because you feed her but she will only respect you if you show the calm assertive energy that all dogs recognise in a pack leader.


The respect that you seek starts with ‘the walk’.


The first thing to remember is that leaders lead, that is to say your dog should never be in front of you. You walk through the front door first and during the walk your dog must be next to or behind you, never in front of you.


I would be willing to bet that at the moment your dog is dragging you all over the place when you walk her, I know that our two dogs certainly did and I doubted that I could ever change that.

We learned about the need to keep our dogs next to us and the simple technique for achieving this. We transmit our mood, energy and what we want our dogs to do through the lead.

The goal is to have no tension on the lead until we need to transmit a message to our dog.

When you first try to keep your dog from moving in front of you you will be tempted to pull back on the lead. Your dog is getting the message “Please pull me along the footpath”, and this is not the message you are trying to send. Instead, pull up on the lead, in this way you are lifting the dogs weight off its front legs and sending the message, “You are moving too fast”. You will be pleasantly surprised by how quickly your dog will understand what you want.

You will know that you are getting somewhere when you see your dog look up at you and make eye contact. This eye contact is your dog saying, “What do you want me to do now?”

You want your dog to get into traveling mode quickly so you must discourage her previous habit of pulling in all directions. To help her to get into a rhythm and to reinforce the fact that you are leading this walk, do not allow your dog to sniff the ground or to urinate until at least 10 minutes into the walk and then only when you decide to allow it. This is seen as a reward for concentrating on what you want her to do.

It is important to remember that all dogs want to work. They need to be challenged and focusing during the walk is a challenge. So is waiting. Dogs use up a lot of energy just waiting for your next command, and this is energy that she might be using to eat your couch!

By Terry Barca


Waiting patiently. Waiting expends a dogs energy. Every dog needs a job and waiting and walking are good jobs to have.











Have you ever wondered how they got there?

People, I mean.

People who flash into your life and leave just as abruptly.

They leave their mark. If we never see them again, we are forever changed, if only in a small way.


A wise man once said, “The more I see of people, the more I like my dog.” There are times when this is hard to argue with.

We almost didn’t get to meet Jessy. She was coming out of the BP service station on Burwood Highway in Tecoma, and I nearly missed seeing her weave through the busy traffic.


My attention was taken by an old lady who was also taking her life in her hands trying to cross this busy highway. She was trying to get to the bus stop on the other side, and Jessy was trying to cross from the bus stop to get to our…

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The Beginning of Understanding

“Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable. They might be a bit out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well.”

Bonnie Wilcox.

A little while ago we noticed that our two dogs were developing some bad habits. We tried all the usual things like getting them to respond to verbal commands, sit, stay, roll over; you know the kind of things I mean, but it did not seem to help. The youngest of our two dogs was by far the best at following verbal commands but had the worst bad habits. He would lunge at people as they walked past and it got to the point where we were concerned about people’s safety.

It was his good fortune to be born small, cute, white and fluffy and as a result people cut him a lot of slack.

We wanted our dogs to be happy and fulfilled and we wanted to be able to take them anywhere without worrying about their behaviour, so we dived into the study of dog psychology. We had done the dog training thing, now we wanted to know how dogs react and why.

We learned some amazing things along the way and our dogs are now balanced and happy, and so are we.

Rather than let everything we have learned go to waste I decided to share some of it with you in a series of articles.

So, where should I start?

Probably the most important early lesson that we learned was that dogs mirror their owners emotional state, which means that if our dog has problems there is probably something in us that needs attention.

Most people (and this included us to a degree) see their dogs as small four legged humans and this is where the problems start.

Dogs are animals first then dog then breed then their name and it is important to remember the order of things.

Dogs are pack animals (so are humans) and the survival of the pack is your dog’s top priority. Every pack needs a calm assertive leader and without it the pack will not survive.

Obviously the humans in your house should be seen as the pack leaders (there can be more than one) but in our house our dogs had slowly realised that we were not showing calm assertive leadership and for the sake of the pack they stepped up into that role even though they were not emotionally suited to do so.

So how did we take back the leadership roles?

We did it by learning that our dogs are not small humans and they have needs that HAVE to be met.

In the wild, dogs wake up stretch and follow their pack leader on a search for food and water that can take up most of the day.

So what does this mean for us as responsible dog owners?

It means that we must walk our dogs EVERY day, twice a day if possible for at least thirty minutes.

Walking your dog is so important that I will devote the entire next article to explaining what we learned about the ‘power of the walk’.

In the coming months I will share what we learned about the correct way for a dog to greet strangers, feeding rituals to enhance your position as pack leader, the difference between a correction and punishment, why we should never give affection when our dog is doing something that we disagree with, and many other fascinating things as well.

Terry Barca is the author of “SCHOOME: An Adventure in Home Schooling”