"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 May, 2013


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Don’t be worried about setbacks.

If you have decided to help your dog be happier by working on his behaviour issues never be discouraged by setbacks.

I naively thought that once we had achieved a change in behaviour that the change would be permanent.

What a fool I was.

Humans have setbacks when they attempt to change some unwanted behaviour, so why wouldn’t dogs?

Anger or disappointment are emotions that will slow down your improved relationship with your dog. Your dog needs a calm leader who recognises that it’s ‘three steps forward and one step back’.

Your reaction to the setbacks is very important.

Your dog needs to see that you are taking it in your stride and moving the both of you forward.

Remember it’s your body language that your dog hears, not your words.

A calm assertive leader; that’s what he needs.


Rivals for Affection.



I guess this battle has been going on for as long as there have been cats and dogs. They probably both know that they are ‘rivals for affection’.

You don’t have to be a dog person or a cat person but most of us lean one way or the other.

I’ve known some amazing cats in my life but to be truthful, what made them ‘great’ was that they were more like independent dogs than your run of the mill cat.

Amazingly dogs get all the bad press while cats do an amazing amount of damage to native wildlife (at least they do here in Australia).


Photo credit

The Things You See When You Are Walking Your Dogs.


This poor bloke parks his Land Rover and when he comes back someone has nicked the front half.


“A bunch of animals in this town”.

Friendly Sniff.


A while back we bought some leads on the internet. They are printed with different words to denote different needs that your dog might have. As you can see Honey has one which is green and says ‘FRIENDLY’. She should have one that says INDIFFERENT but they don’t make those. She will put up with being patted but she would much rather that people did not bother her.

She has the same problem that Zed has; she’s cute and fluffy so the kids and the little old ladies all want a pat.

Zed has a lead that says CAUTION, for good reason. Sometimes you might get out alive but not often! We got the lead for those times when I am distracted. We thought that a bright red lead with CAUTION on it might make people think before getting too close.

We wasted our money. People see it as a challenge! We even had one bloke walk along side of us and say, “i’m ignoring the sign’. I thought he was joking but he just kept getting closer. As long as we are walking Zed is in traveling mode which means that he looks to me for guidance. We can even walk with dogs he does not like as long as we aretraveling’. The closer this guy got the more Zed kept looking at me. He was trying to warn me that this bloke was too close. Eventually I had to say to this nicely dressed businessman, “If you keep ignoring me my dog is going to bite you”. He just smiled but I think that MY body language got the point across!

Every dog needs its own space. For some dogs that can be quite flexible and for others like Zed, that space is specific. He will tolerate humans he does not know as long as they stay at least three feet away.

Personal space; we all need some and so do our dogs, even if they are cute and fluffy.

Long Ago.


This photo was probably taken in 1980.

The little boy is my eldest son, and the puppy is Ginger, a red Australian terrier.

I grew up with greyhounds, but my first dog was Digger, also a red Australian terrier. Digger was really my dad’s dog. Mum would not let dogs in the house so this little guy lived in the garage. My dad loved him very much, and he loved dad. About ten years after this shot was taken my dad died suddenly, and my mum was left with her grief and a dog she did not want. A few months after dad died mum found this little guy lying dead on the back lawn. There was nothing physically wrong with him he just missed my dad.

I’d heard the expression ‘he pined away’, but this was the first time I had seen it happen.

It breaks my heart, even now, to think of it.

With what  I have learned, if this had happened now I could take that little dog and look out for him for his remaining years, but back then I was dealing with my own grief and foolishly did not think I could take care of a dog.

I have very few regrets in life, but if I had this time over again, I would not let this little guy die of loneliness.

Every Dog Needs A Job.


I know it is stating the obvious but, dogs are pack animals.

Every dog has an inbuilt desire to see it’s pack survive. To that end every dog in a pack contributes whatever skills it has to ensure the packs survival.

In our pack Zed has taken on the role of warning the pack if strangers approach. If they get too close he is prepared to put his small body on the line and attack, no matter how big the intruder may be. Honey backs him up if his barks rise about the usual ‘there’s someone out there and I’m not sure who they are’ pitch. Honey will make the required noise but it is not in her nature to fight, she leaves the front line defending to Zed.

Honey’s job is to mother us all and make sure that we have clean eyes and ears (if I don’t wake up early enough in the morning my ears get a good going over). She want to be sure that we all get enough sleep and she will lead us by the hand in the direction of the bedroom if she thinks we have been up too late watching movies! She worries a lot about the welfare of the various members of our pack and if one is missing for any length of time she patrols the house and the yard looking for them.

The most important job in any pack is pack leader, but just as in the human world, not all dogs are emotionally equipped to lead. All dogs know that every pack MUST have a leader and if you as the human do not assume that role your dog will step up and assume that job. This can cause your dog a great deal of stress as he/she is probably not equiped for the job. Her behaviour and her health will suffer.

You must exhibit the calm assertive energy that is required of a pack leader so that your dog does not have to do that job.

Obviously hunting is a very important activity for a pack and every member plays their part in finding food and water.

The leaders (often a mated pair) will decide where to hunt and the pack follows.

Every time you go for a walk you are fulfilling this ‘hunting’ need in your dog.

This is why your dog should never be in front of you on the walk; you are the pack leader, you decide where the pack goes.

Every pack will usually have a ‘sergeant at arms’, or a peace maker, if you will.

Every pack will have it’s disagreements as various pack members vie for status within the pack. The leader will not usually get involved (but one look from the leader will usually result in instant obedience!) In our pack Zed would like to be ‘the sheriff’. He know instinctively that unstable behaviour is a danger to the pack and on more than one occasion he has stepped up to deal with it. The dog across the road is badly behaved and Zed has tried to sort her out on a couple of occasions and it matters little to him that she is four times his size! Unfortunately, Zed also sees puppies and small children exhibiting the unstable, loud, erratic behaviour that can threaten the pack so he tries to deal with that.

He takes his job seriously.

My job is to let him know that I’ve got the situation under control and that, on this occasion, I don’t need his help.

Zed knows that small children and little old ladies are evil and must be watched at all times for any dangerous behaviour!

In our pack we go out hunting (going for a walk in human terms) and then we eat, because we have worked for our tucker*.

Every dog needs a job.

*Ausisie slang for food.

Photo credit



Fortunately, this little dog managed to get his point across although I’m not sure why this young man wanted to know.

I wonder if Little Tommy Tinker understands him just as well.

A while back we set out to learn our dogs language, which has been an interesting journey. So much of what our dogs tell us does not come in the form of ‘words’.

One of our dogs ‘talks’ a lot. He has a different bark for a variety of different wants and emotions, our other dogs relies a lot on body language and ‘looks’. She will stare at us in different ways according with her needs, unfortunately she uses the same look for ‘feed me’ and ‘walk me’ so we need to guess a bit sometimes.

We figure that they do their best to understand our language so the least we can do is try and learn theirs.

So far it has been a lot of fun and it helps to cement us as the pack leaders.

Photo credit:

Important Safety Tip.


Drawing credit

Never poke your dog in the head with a small flag and don’t let your dog lie on the railway tracks when the train is coming.

The EYES Have It.


If we want to understand our dogs then we must learn their language.

Dogs are all about body language and eye contact is very important in dog land.


When dogs first meet they avoid eye contact because in this setting eye contact means aggression. If a dog means no harm it will approach another dog slightly turned away from it but if it is challenging that dog it will be straight on with full eye contact. Every dog knows this signal; understanding it is a matter of survival.


Humans need to remember this; no matter how cute the dog is it will not like being looked at directly in the eyes.

Generally speaking it is a good idea to let a dog approach you and not the other way around.


No matter how cool the dog looks it is best to play by their rules and treat them with respect. If you see a dog avoiding your gaze he is showing you respect particularly if he is giving you space at the same time.


If the dog is on his home turf expect him to be concerned about you at the start. Watch to see if he gives you space before trying to enter his property. Again his eyes will give you valuable clues. And your eyes will help him to know what your intentions are.


Eye contact from your dog is a sign of respect and love. When you are out walking and your dog looks at you he/she is telling you that they are having a great time and that they love being in your company.


“When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.” ~A.D. Williams …

Asking for eye contact from your dog is an important part of of your dogs training as eye contact is one of the ways that the pack communicate with each other.

The pack leader only needs to look at a dog that is behaving baldly and the behaviour stops!

You want your dog to see you as it’s pack leader so communicating with yours eyes is vital. A stern look is worth a thousand words. Always get eye contact with your dog after it has done something you disagree with.


The eyes tell the story.


Every look is a love letter from your dog.


Cafes and dogs go together. The look of love.

Went out for milk, came home with a puppy.

Zed was only 5 weeks old when my wife ‘rescued’ him from a pet shop in Adelaide. This photo shows him attempting to eat my shoe the day after the rescue.

Five weeks is way too young to be taken away from his litter, but there he was in a pet shop in Adelaide.

My wife and my daughter in law went out for milk and came home with a puppy!

To say that I was angry would be a galactic sized understatement!

But let’s put my anger to one side for a moment and talk about how Zed chose my wife.

Quite simply, he walked up to the glass in the window of the pet shop and poked his tongue out at her. It also helped that his sisters were a bit sleepy and he was full of life.

I wonder how many puppies get ‘chosen’ this way?

Probably quite a few.

What we now know about dog psychology would have told my wife that Zed was a high energy dog and probably not suited to our quiet, lay back lifestyle.

But then again, I don’t think it would have made any difference.

All through or history together, dogs and humans have been attracted to each other. Somewhere along the way, a friendly wolf worked out that if he hung around the human’s camp and helped him hunt, there would always be food and shelter. The humans worked out that dogs/wolves are excellent hunters and this made his job that much easier.

This partnership has been going on for a long time, so it made sense for Zed to approach the human; it was in his genes.

Let’s not sugar coat it……… pet shops are a terrible place to buy a dog!

The best dog for us would have been one of the sleepy dogs showing a bit of interest, but not too much.

It is a tribute to Zed (and to us) that he fits in so well with our pack. He has to put his natural tendencies to one side, and he does, because he wants to fit in. He wants to be a member of this pack. It is very difficult for him at times as he wants to be the enforcer, but that is not the role that he needs to play in this pack.

As you can see my anger died down and Zed made it to Melbourne. Not a single accident on our journey back. My leather seats came through without a mark.