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Surrey and South London Dog Training and Behaviour

Professional and friendly dog training across Surrey and South London

Our Blog

Puppy Training - overnight housetraining

Written by Louise, February 2018 

At some point in every Puppy School course I am asked by an owner "how do I stop my puppy from toileting (or waking me up) during the night?". These owners are usually experiencing relatively successful housetraining throughout the day by being vigilant, spotting the "I need the toilet" behaviours (distracted, sniffing, circling) and by knowing the times that their puppy will likely need to toilet (upon waking, after eating/drinking, after excitement). So why are they often greeted by mess in the morning, or worse, disturbed sleep as their pup wakes them up during the night? 

The first question I have for them - what time is the puppy's last meal? 9 times out of 10 the answer is 6/7pm and the puppy wakes up around 2am. If this is the case, the first step (and usually the solution to the problem) is to feed the puppy's dinner later, spreading the other meals out accordingly. A puppy digests its meal in roughly 8 hours. So if an owner is feeding their pup at 6pm, he's waking up at 2am because his body is telling him it's time to poop. Not all puppies will be 2am poopers, but their digestive system may well be waking them up - and when young puppies wake up, they pee.  So, if you'd like your puppy to sleep through the night, try feeding his last meal of the day at 9/10pm, make sure he toilets before bed and he should settle until around 6am, when you can get up and immediately take him outside.

For more help with housetraining please contact us

Training Tips: How to teach "settle"

Written by Louise, February 2018 

Whether you have a new puppy, a recently rescued dog or a well established canine, learning to lie down and relax on cue is really useful training to have.  In week 3 of our Puppy School course we teach young puppies to do this - and that's a big ask for excitable bouncy pups, but they understand and even the liveliest puppies learn to chill out when their owners are sitting, listening to their next instructions. 

This exercise can be trained to older dogs as well as puppies. With any new training exercise it's best to start in a quiet, familiar environment with minimal distractions. The only prerequisite is that your pooch can be lured into a "down" position. You may find it helpful to have a little blanket or small bed at your feet  for your dog to settle on. 

  1. Have your dog on a lead and place your foot on the lead so it's reasonably short but long enough that your pup can stand, sit and lie down comfortably. 
  2. Lure your dog into a down position, quietly say "settle" and scatter several small pieces of treat between his front paws
  3. Wait a few seconds and then put a few more pieces of treat between his front paws
  4. If he stands up, simply lure him back into a down
  5. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until your dog is staying in a down position at your feet
  6. Reduce the frequency of the treats gradually by increasing the time between treats and try to reward when he's not looking up at you (avoid looking directly at your dog - we want to reward calm, relaxed behaviour rather than for your dog lying down looking up at you).
  7. Once he's mastered this at home, you can train in busier locations such as pubs, cafes and public transport.

For more help training your dog to settle, or if you would like us to join you for training in the pub, please get in touch!

Will tuggy games turn my puppy into a terror?

Written by Adele, March 2018 

Play is a huge part of any dog’s life and toys are an invaluable tool in training. Toy play is great for building and strengthening bonds between owner and puppy, it’s a great energy burner, gives an outlet for unwanted puppy biting and channels instinctive behaviours such as chasing appropriately.

So why is there such a misconception in playing tug of war games? It is one of the most common worries I come across when talking to owners -that playing tuggy games will build their dog's jaw strength and make them aggressive. The truth is, playing constructive tuggy games with some basic rules can help to improve your puppy’s self control, help to prevent unwanted behaviours from developing and strengthens the bond between you and your puppy.

There are lots of toys on the market to choose from but I've found the best tuggy toys for puppies are long, soft plaited toys. These won’t cause damage to tiny puppy teeth and will ensure that said teeth stay far away from your hands.

To introduce tug games, use two identical toys, keeping one hidden initially. You want to make the toy fast moving and enticing, keeping it low on the ground to avoid your puppy from jumping up. Tease your puppy with near misses and then let him win it, giving him a tug of war game then let him have it. Your puppy will likely run away to parade it around you. Keep your cool, then whip out the other toy and make that really fun enticing your puppy to drop the original toy and come to engage with you. Once your puppy is reliably exchanging the toys the word ‘Drop’ can be introduced as a cue to introduce some structure to the game. If your puppy gets a little bit too excitable or accidentally makes contact with you skin, the game ends abruptly, walk away and leave your puppy to settle down.

Tug games are not just great for puppies but are also a useful outlet for stress and frustration based behaviours and so can be a useful for dogs of all ages and backgrounds.

For more advice get in contact for some 121 training to learn more about the advantages of toy play and its use in training. 

Loves walks, hates harness?

Written by Louise, July 2018 

"My dog loves going for walks but whenever I pick up his harness he runs away". Sound familiar? Harnesses are now very popular for walking dogs and they're great for a number of different reasons; they use less pressure on the dog's neck, they're often more comfortable than being walked on a collar and they can be useful for training. So why am I seeing so many dogs at the moment who wriggle, protest or run away on the sight of their harnesses, surely the dogs must know that means they're going for a walk? The fact is that many dogs have had harnesses put on them without any form of choice or reward - the dog wasn't given the option to wear the harness, it was just put on them. Furthermore, most harnesses require physical manipulation of the dog and are taken off and on again while owners figure out how they work and how to resize them. Once you take these things into considerations, it's no wonder some dogs aren't keen!

There are seemingly endless varieties of harness, some go over the head, some are step-in, others are more complicated and have multiple bits to clip onto, some claim to stop your dog pulling (they usually don't!), some tighten and some just look nice.

Our favourite is the Perfect Fit harness as it can be fully clipped on without the dog having to put his head or legs through, plus it's super comfortable and has a handy chest ring. 

The good news is that dogs can easily be taught to remain relaxed while their harness is put on - or even better, they can be taught to willingly participate in the process. This can be done by sitting with your dog's harness and plenty of tasty treats, waiting for him to come to you and allowing him to CHOOSE to put the harness on by putting his own head through (not you putting it over his head) or stepping in using a treat lure or simply rewarding him for standing whilst still giving him the option of moving away should he wish. Allow yourself a few minutes before a walk to take the time to positively association your dog to his harness and you'll have a happier pooch in no time. 

For more help in training your dog to love his harness, muzzle or for any other training please contact us.

The handsome dog in the photo is Teddy, currently on foster with Louise and looking for his forever home, if you could be his new family please visit

Fostering Can Change the World

Written by Louise, August,2018 

This is a blog entry I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now. Those of you who follow me on social media will have undoubtedly seen that from March to August this year we had a bundle of ginger fluff in the form of a spirited German Spitz called Teddy. Ted lived with us as a foster dog having found himself back in rescue, a week after being unsuccessfully rehomed. To say his behaviour in the initial months was challenging is somewhat of an understatement, but with time, patience and kindness he found he was able to trust us and his previous worries faded away. Last week we took him to his forever home where by all reports he’s flourishing and living the dream with 100 acres of land to freely run with his new dog pals and a goat called Martin.

Teddy was the latest of many foster dogs and after five months, he had also stayed the longest. But, it’s not only behaviourally tricky dogs that need fostering. From December to January we had German Shepherd puppies that were too young to be rehomed or stay in a kennel. Last year we had Othello, an elderly chocolate Labrador who was tied up to the gates of the rescue in the middle of the night, he found kennel life very stressful and was much happier in a foster home. He ended up charming my Dad and now they live together, both retired and enjoying each other’s company. Before Othello we had a miniature poodle and an overweight pug who both needed minor surgery before finding loving new homes and prior to them we had a terrified Jack Russell cross Chihuahua called Taco. Taco was found in a carrier bag, spent two weeks petrified and barely moving in a kennel, came home and chose to live in our downstairs bathroom for the first few days before coming out of his shell and learning to trust people, perhaps for the first time. After a couple of months he too found a perfect quiet home in Somerset where he’s thriving. These are the dogs who’ve lived in our house, with our existing pets over the past twelve months or so and I’m sure it won’t be long until another one comes along in need of our help.

If we’d kept all the dogs and cats we’d have over 100 animals by now. A few fosters have ended up becoming permanent members of our family; Travis was one of five puppies that needed hand rearing, having lost his mum when he was just one week old. Peppa had lots of medical issues and just seemed to slot into the family well, so she ended up staying. Ripley was back in rescue after three homes had given up on her and being a sucker for a black and tan dog, I brought her home too. We foster kittens when needed, and our cats Totti and Pickle started off as fosters too. The best and worst part of fostering is when the job is complete and we have to part ways with the animals - just ask anyone who’s rehomed one of the puppies I’ve hand reared - or Teddy’s new owner - and they’ll vouch for the amount of tears shed whilst saying goodbye. But that’s what it’s all about, helping a dog or cat out who needs an extra bit of TLC until a new home is found for them. Our house certainly isn’t empty (although it is quieter without Teddy) as we have three little kittens currently residing in our spare bedroom until they’re old enough to find new homes.

So how does fostering change the world? Well, it doesn’t really, not in the grand scheme of things. It doesn’t stop the constant flow of animals finding themselves in rescues in need of a new home. However if you take an animal on foster, not only is it incredibly rewarding but you will give them a new chance at life and for that animal, you will change their world. If you can offer time, patience and empathy then please consider fostering an animal for your local rescue centre and who knows, it might change your world too. 

For more information on fostering please visit Battersea's website

Time to Prepare for Bonfire Night!

Written by Louise, October ,2018 

We are ​fast approaching the time of year that many pet owners dread - fireworks season. The loud bangs and high pitched noises associated with the colourful displays create a buzz with most people, but can absolutely terrify our furry friends. 

So now is the time to do something about it. You can help prepare your dog (or cat) weeks in advance by pairing the sound of fireworks with something fun or delicious. It's so easy to do! Use decent speakers (laptop speakers are typically not so good for this) and firework sounds either online or via a sounds CD and simply start playing the noises at 0 volume, turning it up very gradually until your pet notices the sound (NB: an ear twitch is sufficient, no more than that and certainly not loud enough to cause a negative reaction please). At this quiet level - bearing in mind you might not be able to hear it - do something fun such as a game with a favourite toy or practising known tricks for up to ten minutes. Repeat this every day and you should find that your pet's ear twitch happens when the noises are progressively louder. After two weeks you should hopefully have the noises played at a loud volume, as long as your pet is happy with this. 

For more helpful tips via a video we did two years ago with Sainsbury's Bank click on the photo to the left of this blog post.

If you would like one of our trainers to help you with desensitising your dog to fireworks noises or any other training please contact us.

Tips for introducing your puppy to other dogs

Written by Louise, February 2020

Not so much a blog post as a link to a video I've made for Puppy School's weekly Puppy Q&A. A vlog? Maybe! 

Check out the video by clicking on the photo. 

Puppy Rumbles, Puppy Parties and Play.

Written by Louise, January 2021

Socialising your puppy does not mean lots of free running with other dogs in the park whilst the owners stand still and chat. We are seeing many cases, more than usual at the moment, of puppies who are being taken to play with other puppies either in the park or at a vet surgery or daycare and who are now starting to show antisocial behaviours around other dogs.

Dog to dog interaction and managing play needs to be done so carefully to ensure it's a positive experience for all involved and takes a lot of observation and interrupting to prevent problems arising.

A social dog is one who is relaxed in the presence of other dogs, can read when another dog wants to interact and when they don't. Puppies typically learn nothing beneficial from playing with other puppies. Puppies do not all have a good understanding of social cues and will miss the subtle signs that another puppy does not want to play with them. This then causes the subtle puppy to either have to react in a stronger manner (i.e. barking, snapping and chasing the pup away) in order to obtain social distance or scares them into running away.

If your puppy runs over to every other dog he sees, teach him to be calm by keeping him under control with a long line or short lead and reward him with a treat for looking at the other dog. The more this happens, the more he will look at a dog and associate a reward from you - and will remain calm. You'll need to practise at a distance at which he can take food to begin with.

Do not go to the park and stand chatting to others whilst the dogs run and wrestle. This forces interactions to go on longer than is beneficial and teaches puppies to either be completely dog-focussed and OTT "he's only playing" or scares them because their attempts at avoidance are ineffective.

Aim for short, calm greetings with steady adult dogs. If your puppy is worried (avoiding, barking, jumping forwards and backwards, lip licking, ears back etc), be your puppy's mobile safe space by bending down to offer support and backup if he needs it in the form of a quick pet. Gently buffer the other dog away from yours whilst bending down if needed, keeping your puppy free and this will help your puppy gain confidence knowing you're there as backup if needed.

On lead interactions should last no more than 3 seconds. That's plenty to say hi, essentially shaking doggy hands then move on. Dog cannot properly play when on lead so any longer than 3 seconds tends to lead to frustration from one or both.

PLAY with your puppy on a walk! Their source of fun should not solely be other dogs. Get yourseves a sheepskin toy from Tug-e-nuff and have mad games with them!

Make sure to check out our video on puppy body language too which will help you read your puppy and other dogs.