A question of ethics – part 2


I heard Kathy Sdao talk about this clip and ClickerExpo last year

Let’s look at this video clip for a few seconds (please ignore the annoying sound effects) and think about the following questions. Magnussen is the bad guy and John Watson on the right is the good guy.

Is this aversive to Watson?
Is Magnussen abusing his power?
Does he know Watson is powerless here?
Is it painful to Watson?
Would Watson rather he wasn’t in this postion or subjected to this treatment?
What is the relationship here?
What is Magnussen trying to achieve?

Although this is a scene from a TV programme all these points are worth considering when we apply them to dog training.

If we are using a tool or technique where the dog is either working to avoid the application of the tool or working to have it’s application removed, it is, by very definition, aversive. Pain shouldn’t be the entire barometer of whether to use a tool or not.

Years ago I had a boss who used to micromanage and nit-pick everything. When he was around, our actions were constantly subjected to the most detailed scrutiny. Nothing he did was painful to us but it was very stressful working under him. The results were that some of us started to push back against his authority and other shut down. Productivity went up hugely when he was on holiday. His very presence was aversve to the team and his absence was a huge relief.

If you are going to use any training tool, these are things we need to consider and consider with much thought rather than using the bog standard “it doesn’t hurt” response. I once heard an e-collar trainer describe the low level stimulations (shocks) as being like an insect bite, nothing more, just a bit unpleasant. Would you rather not be bitten by an insect. Have you ever been in your bedroom at night and can hear a mosquito buzzing around? Do you leave it be or do you get up and try to remove it? Even the slightlest unpleasant consequence can accumulate to something very stressful. A stone in your shoe? Remove it or walk around with it all day? It doesn’t hurt, right? So it can’t be that bad.

We hear e-collar and prong collar trainers justify the use of their tools by saying it doesn’t hurt the dog, it’s merely information to the dog. Would the dog rather you didn’t apply the stimulation (shock) in the first place?

To quote Dr Susan Friedman – “Effectiveness is not enough”


Oh, Magnussen gets his comeuppance in the end.

A question of ethics – part 1


I was at the office today (our local park) doing a consultation with a man and his Labrador, working on recall and loose lead walking (connection). We have a really nice community at the park on weekday mornings, the professional dog walkers, the power walkers without dogs, the recreational cyclists and the dog people walking their own dogs.

There is a fella who I see who has two GSDs who he has trained to a high level from the brief glimpses I get of him (I see him several times over the month). He appears to use positive trainng methods from what I can see. He uses food to reinforce the behaviour which he likes and I’ve never seen him physically correct his dogs. When he asks the dogs to do something though, he’s not really asking, he’s telling.

This fella knows I’m a dog trainer and from reading his body language (he never says hello to anyone etc) I get the impression that’s he is trying to show me how it’s really done. Today (and every other dog he sees me), he put his dogs in a sit stay in the middle of the path and walked away. There were other dogs and people around walking past his dogs. The dogs were transfixed by him and then he called them, they raced towards him and then held a heel position targeting his hands for about 50m or so. They were then reinforced with food. Impressive? Yes, maybe. Ethical? I’m not so sure. If this had been in competition for a dog sport, then yes, it’s impressive. If it had been in preparation for that dog sport competition, then yes, cool also. My issues is that it’s done for the benefit of all those watching and at the dogs’ expense to boot.

For me it would be far more impressive if his dogs were walking with him off lead, moving forward in front of him, sniffing, moving with him when he walked on and behaving in an appropriate social manner with dogs and people. But they’re not. The appear to be automatons, with little choice and not allow ot behave like dogs (I’ve never seen them sniff when out)

Training with positive methods isn’t enough. We need to train with an ethical mindset too. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Until next time, have a great Christmas.

John and the Glasgow Dog Trainer Team

Kay Laurence – Scotland Training Thoughtfully

If you’re a dog owner or dog trainer then this will be of interest to you…

Why should you attend?

Maybe you’re a curious  Dog Trainer who wants to learn advanced skills & train dogs properly.  Staying well away from e-collars and aversive training, but you might be frustrated at the results you’re getting?

Perhaps you’re a Dog owner who wants to be able to have happy, well behaved dogs.

Ideal for people who have respect for the dog, who show compassion and care about the welfare of the animals.  They don’t speak our language and are essentially our captives – they have no choice.

If your dog’s confused then you’re not doing your job properly.  Dogs are often forced by “shock jocks” to perform or comply.  You’ve maybe said to yourself “There has to be a better way.”

What will be covered?

“Scotland Training Thoughtfully” – training people to train and treat the animals well

3 day seminar November 11-13th.   A 1.30 Friday afternoon start then 9.30 – 4.30 Saturday and Sunday.

Dunblane Hydro so it’s central to all of the major cities.

Friday – “Why we train THIS way, not THAT way” considerations of training, ethics, philosophy. Why we make training choices, why other choices are excluded.

Saturday – Error-less Learning. How to manage the environment to set up the dog and owner for success

Sunday – Future Focus. How will you train tomorrow? Become a trainer of the future – a skilful trainer.

Investment £175 [the equivalent of a week’s worth of client sessions]

Room holds 75 people

Taught by Kay Laurence from Wagmore Dog Training.  Kay was in search & rescue, has competed at Crufts and now trains the trainers.  She’s on the Faculty of the Karen Pryor Academy [Karen is the author of “Don’t Shoot The Dog” which is often the first book Dog Trainers are told to read].  A regular speaker at the Institute Of Modern Dog Trainers, she runs the TAKL training school, she’s written four books and has produced numerous DVD’s.

It’s like PhD students going to listen to Steven Hawking.  Kay is one of the best in the world and won’t be back in Scotland for another year.

How does it work?

This is NOT a traditional dog training course.  The entire event will be guided by the needs of the delegates, making it a unique and tailor made event that is unavailable anywhere else.

Kay will deliver the training in a direct, no nonsense manner that is effective and gets results.  Her manner is ethical, unique and gets results.  You’ll learn hands on tools that you can use immediately.

There will be an Open Panel Q&A on Sunday where you can get all of your questions answered by a panel of experts.  Joining Kay will be:

Clare Russell DipCABT. Fully qualified pet behaviour therapist, highly experienced in rehabilitation of rescue dogs and dealing with aggression. Over 15 years’ experience of class teaching. Coached and mentored by Kay Laurence since 2009 and currently a staff member of Trainer Accredited by Kay Laurence accreditation scheme.

John McGuigan is a qualified dog trainer and is on staff with The Institute of Modern Dog Trainers. He has a wealth of experience dealing with aggressive and reactive dogs with a very high success rate. He teaches easy to follow, practical solutions to helping your dog overcome aggression and reactivity.

What if I do attend?

If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll find this to be a very satisfying and effective training.

Picture yourself doing the right thing, upping your standard of training and keeping bang up to date with modern methods that work.

Imagine the “aha’s” and insights you’ll get from such a high calibre trainer.  Many of Kay’s students have had breakthroughs after experiencing her first hand.  Your ability will soar!

You will need to book well in advance as this could sell out.

You’ll get inspiration, you’ll make connections and you’ll have a deeper level of understanding.


What do I do next?

Book now at


For more information please email Clare Russell  – cl.russell64@outlook.com

Special rates from accommodation will be available at

Hilton Dunblane

Dunblane Hydro Perth Road, FK15 0HG


Learning how to learn, it’s important for humans too.



I have a joint Honours Degree in Immunology and Microbiology, I graduated in 1996. In my honours year, I studied Bacteriology as part of my Microbiology degree and Molecular Genetics as part of my Immunology course. Dr Anderson taught us bacteriology and Dr Henry Brseski taught us molecular genetics. To give you a bit of the background, I really enjoyed the microbiology portion of my degree, not so much the immunology part and definitely did not like the biochemistry portion (sorry Henry)

Dr Anderson taught us my providing detailed noted which he very often dictated and I came away with 4 or 5 pages of notes after every lecture. He was engaging and entertaining and I did my Honours dissertation under him. Dr B was slightly more standoffish and I really didn’t like him up until I was in 4th year (senior). When Dr B took us for molecular genetics, he came in the first day and gave us a handout with 5 pages of small printed notes (5 single side pages). He told us everything we needed to know and understand was in those 5 pages. My intital thoughts were

“Are you having a laugh? 5 sides of notes?”  (I was much more restrained then than now).

Over the next 12 weeks, the class would sit down and tease apart each of the points on those 5 pages and discuss, study and understand them. I spent many hours on my own doing exactly the same thing with those 5 horribly frustrating pages, which I can still picture so very clearly. At the end of the term, I passed both courses and achieved similar marks.

Fast forward 20 years later. I still have a really basic understanding of bacteriology. I know there is a difference between gram positive and gram negative bacteria but I could not tell you for the life of me which bugs fall into which class. On the other hand, I can explain to my kids and to anyone willing to learn, how DNA works, how it replicates, how genes switch on etc.

How does this relate to training our dogs? The last year has been massive learning curve with Watson. Behaviour is lawful and she follows the laws like any other being on the planet but I had to go back to the drawing board to fully understand and tease apart and contemplate what was going on with her.

I am fortunate to have access fo several world class tutors who I can call on for help. Sometimes it takes me weeks or months of thought to even formulate the questions I want to ask. Everytime I go leave my tutors, I have more quesions than answers and the process begins again. As a result of this, my skill set in being able to train Watson well has increased dramatically. I see things I didn’t see before. I often have moments like in the movie “Unlimited” with Bradley Cooper when he takes the magic pill and his mind opens up. I have these magic pill moments more and more often. This is because I have leaned how to learn properly, or at least am well on my journey. Thess “aha!” moments happen very unexpectedly; when I’m driving, washing the dishes, making dinner etc.

The Positively Excellent Dog Trainers Workshops are designed to encourage this. This is how Clare Russell who runs them with me learned from Kay Laurence. This is how I learned under Clare, Kay and Dr Henry in 1996. It is very uncomfortable at first as we generally haven’t been taught that way before (unless you went to a Jesuit school), but I can guarantee you when you make the commitment to learning this way, you too will have your magic pill moments, very often when you are least expexcting it. If you are working with us, trust the process and trause that we will guide you.

Enjoy the process and the outcome will take care of itself.

The physical effects of stress on our dogs


We know that stress affects us physically. When we are under acute stress, our faces look tired and tense, and we hold a lot of tension in our bodies. When we are under chronic stress, our health suffers. Our digestive and immune systems are compromised and our mental health suffers too.

Is it any different with our dogs? We know that some dogs who do not like travelling in the car will vomit or have loose stools when they are given the chance to go to the toilet. Dogs also can instantly start to cast hair during times of stress. This is the effect stress can have on our dogs.

The three account I am about to give are purely anecdotal but they give some examples of my own observations.

Marcy is a one year old Dobermann. I went to see her as she was having difficulty settling down in the house and mouthing and jumping to get attention. Her owners had engaged a “dog whisperer” who suggested removing all the good things from Marcy’s life, including petting and exclude her from the social circle of the family when she did unwanted behaviour. When I went to see Marcy and her family, her body was tense, her coat was full of dander and she panted and paced all the time. Marcy’s owners had been concentrating on what they wanted her not to do, rather than what they wanted her to do and as a result Marcy had no clue what was expected of her. I suggested structured play and petting times on which were started and finished, where both Marcy and the owners could initiate and say “not now”, and stuffed Kongs to keep her occupied when she was to settle. Every time she settled in the living room, her owners would either tell her she was a good girl, pet her or give her a treat. We also implemented some positive reinforcement training sessions as to engage her brain. One of the coolest things about clicker training is the change in body biochemistry which results. Every time the dog hear the click during training, dopamine is released which helps the dog feel better. Over time, the body chemistry is rebalanced and the dog is less stressed.

When I returned to see Marcy two weeks later, she was a physically different dog which the owners had also noted. Her coat was in great condition, she wasn’t casting hair or dander and her body was visibly more relaxed. Teaching her what was expected of her and using positive reinforcement training to do it worked wonders on this dog’s stress levels in a few short weeks.

The second dog I noticed this in recently was a 5 year old Poodle called Riley.  Riley is an extremely nervous wee dog who doesn’t like other dogs sniffing at his rear end. As a result, he holds a huge amount of tension in his hind quarters, like he’s constantly pulling his backside away to protect it. This then makes Riley’s posture constantly bent. He looks as if he is in a lot of physical pain. June, his owner, had already taken him to the vet who had given him the all clear physically. June was hugely motivated to help Riley and has done a truly excellent job learning everything she can about nervous dogs and learning theory to help him. We changed Riley from a flexi lead to a longer lead, which allowed both June and Riley more movement around other dogs, and taught Riley he had the choice to move towards other dogs or away from them at his own pace. We also did a few clicker training session a day with him for the same reasons stated above. A month later, Riley’s body had started to straighten out. His gait is better and again he looks physically more comfortable. We still have a way to go but he is getting better each week.

Lastly there is Brody the Staffy. I first met Brody and his folks in the park. His issues were that he didn’t like either dogs or people too close to him and would sometimes lunge and muzzle punch. He generally did a really good job controlling his own space by moving away. We did some reasonable work with him in the park but I suggested we do a session in the house with him. A week later, when I visited their house, I couldn’t believe the difference between Brody inside and out. I hadn’t thought he was that bad outside but inside he was a real clown, a super relaxed, friendly, bouncy Staffy and looked truly happy. More clicker training to help with his biochemistry as well as a few other things we put in place.

The above cases are just a few I’ve been aware of. Read up on the physical effects of stress on dogs. Look out for them in your own dog. These can very often be resolved by teaching your dog what is expected of him or her and using modern, non-aversive methods to do so.

Happy training.

Living with a dog in pain

Guest blog from Lindsay Docherty. Lindsay first came to me as a client a few years ago with Millie. Since then she has been studying both with the IMDT, and with Clare Russell and myself. She has been doing some work for me over the last few months.


Living with a dog in pain.


Living with a dog with a chronic pain condition can be difficult. There are two types of dogs, those who will suffer through the pain without any change in behaviour and those who suddenly feel under threat from their world.. The change in behaviour can range from a slight reluctance to perform tasks to the drastic who’s behaviour can change completely.

We currently have a dog who falls under the last category.

Millie is our 6 year old rescue dog. At the young age of 1 year old she had a bad fall and suffered internal injuries similar to those of a high speed impact in a car. Collapsed lung, bruised heart and a torn liver not to mention a huge amount of muscle damage.

Our happy friendly pup was now on a long journey of pain management and behaviour change. The changes didn’t happen over night. As her world suddenly became filled with danger and potential hurt to her she modified her behaviour to try and control it. Previously she was every dogs friend and used to love nothing more than a full on sparring session. This was now her idea of a nightmare. Her “friend” dogs were suddenly hurting her. In her mind it wasn’t that she was experiencing discomfort and the other dogs happened to be there it was the dogs themselves that were hurting her.

She’s now really sensitive to changes in her environment. A break in her routine unsettles her and can last for days.

People approaching her in the street spooks her. Visitors to the house is really difficult as she doesn’t want to be touched and that’s what most people want to do with a dog.

When travelling in the car she won’t lie down if she’s having bad pain day.

After a year and a half on and off medication and us making pretty much every training mistake you can during that time the pain had eased off enough to begin behaviour modification training.

Us learning the right approach to take and how to make her feel safe were the first steps.

She’s predictably unpredictable so if we work with the thinking that she’s going to react to everything we can set up the environment to help her make the right choice even in the toughest of situations.



As a puppy Millie was Mrs sociable though still a bit nervous around dogs that were quite full on.

After the fall the pain made her completely change in these situations and rather than removing herself she would lunge and bark and tried to get on top of the dogs that she was afraid of. In fight or flight terms she was definitely using the fight method to get the dogs to go away. Luckily she never progressed any further than a lunge and a bark.

Our initial goal was teaching her to remove herself from situations around other dogs that she previously would have reacted to and helping her when she couldn’t do it on her own.

Millie likes to control her own environment and the movement of dogs within it. We haven’t stopped her from doing this but instead heavily reinforced lower intensity behaviours. If she doesn’t want a young bouncy dog to jump on her that’s fair enough so strong eye contact with the dog or a low grumble are far better than a full on lunge, bark and pinning the dog to the ground.

We have to come up with a compromise with her where she can keep herself feeling in control and more importantly not be hurt but also that the other dogs we meet are kept safe.

We spent a long time teaching her avoidance before we let her start meeting other dogs. Only through persistence with the avoidance training and setting this up as the primary behaviour to perform around dogs were we sure that if she felt unsafe she would disengage and come to us for reinforcement for doing so rather than feeling she had to deal with the situation on her own.

If she isn’t happy with a dog’s presence and the dog doesn’t leave we ask her to come with us and we will take her away to a distance she feels safe whilst heavily reinforcing the moving away.

She’s now at the stage where she is able to make some pretty amazing choices in previously highly reactive situations. This can however change depending on the intensity of her pain from day to day.

If she’s having a bad day we take a few steps back and ask her what’s the best behaviour she can give us that day and work with that. Doing so she learns that we can ask her how she’s feeling that day and we won’t put pressure on her to give more than she can.

Something as simple as lying down in the front of car is too much for her some days. If we ask her to lie down and she doesn’t after a couple of requests we don’t get mad. She isn’t disobeying us she just simply can’t do it at that time.

As well as being on the initial stage of my dog trainer journey I am also a part time dog walker. Knowing Millie and how she feels about strange dogs I was able to introduce her to the new dogs whilst keeping her feeling safe around them and I’m happy to say that she now has a bunch of great K9 friends that she can run, play and wrestle with when we are out on our walks.

The first time she initiated play with one of the dogs I was I was in floods of tears whilst trying to video it! A real turning point for us as it had been 3 years since she had initiated play with a dog other than the other dog in our house Leo.

Living with a dog in pain isn’t easy. It’s a full time job especially if they are reactive. We are very lucky in that our good days are so good they make up for all the bad times. We love our girl, and by understanding her body language and what she needs from us to be successful, help to build the dog and owner bond every day.