Leading through communication

“When a leader understands the power of communication, each interaction can become intentional and always respectful regardless of the reason. Respectful communication is achieved by maintaining a ‘heart at peace’ and seeing the other as a person.”

(Source unknown: from Choice Dynamic International management course notes)

Every interaction is an opportunity to lead and influence.

Trust and mutual respect can be shown through thoughtful communication.

These are what builds relationships.

Recognise, appreciate and reinforce what matters.

Build confidence and stimulate new ideas.

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Top 10 tips for new rescue dogs (Finding Furever Homes)

Finding Furever Home’s Advice for settling a new rescue dog into your home.  These tips were published in an article in the Staffordshire News originally (with permission to share):

1. Initially, restrict access to just certain areas of the house – a big open space after a kennel existence can be daunting and offer opportunities for things to go wrong.

2. Sofas, beds and furniture is for another day – for now we are establishing boundaries and a few basic rules and that means giving the dog its own comfy space – bed, crate, quilt – something on the floor and where it can be in peace and quiet and learn that it is your house and allow it to fit into your rules.

3. Keep children away from the dog for periods of time and do not let children smother the dog – it deserves time, space and respect from all family members especially the youngest ones.

4. Make walks quiet, calm and on the lead – don’t let your dog run off the lead until you have built a bond and trained and tested recall in an enclosed space.

5. Keep the same routine the rescue had as much as possible with times for meals and food etc. – gradually alter the times slowly to fit with your own routine

6. Keep meal times quiet, calm and allow the dog to eat in peace at its own pace with no hassle or hindrance. Stick to the food it had at rescue and do not be tempted to feed it too many rich treats. Any change in diet should be introduced slowly.

7. Be clear on the rules you intend to enforce – don’t “feel sorry for the rescue dog” and allow it all sorts of liberties that you will not allow it later. Be consistent.

8. Start to leave the dog home alone for short periods and gradually build up the time it is left alone.

9. Take your time. Do not ask too much of the dog. It does not know you, your expectations, your family or even why it has left the routine and security of kennels.

10. Don’t be afraid to ask the rescue for help and support if you need and don’t just ignore the perceived problem and then decide to give up.

Read more: http://www.staffordshirenewsletter.co.uk/Dog-charity-launches-campaign-reveals-pathetic/story-28431225-detail/story.html#ixzz3ve1r2Ozi

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Safety Signals in training


Dogs need us to provide them with safety.  Safety as a need and reinforcer for behaviour, and our role in providing it, is vastly under-considered in dog training and what we demand of our dogs throughout their lives.

Dogs need safety:

  • in place
  • in rituals (including interactions)
  • in people

They need us to provide emotional leadership and guidance on how to respond to the environment.

Safety signals

Safety signals are things that tell an animal they are safe.

Examples of things that are safety signals for humans are:

  • Home
  • Teddy Bear
  • “Comfort blanket” (or the equivalent for us adults, our favourite big sloppy jumper)
  • Your Mum. (whatever age you are!)

Examples of things that are safety signals for dogs:

  • Doggy den (crate or bed – or they may choose the sofa as the place where they feel safe!)
  • Blanket or something that smells of home or their owner
  • Home/the car – familiar places where they spend a lot of time with you
  • Their owners

Safety signals need not just be concrete objects or people.  They can also be actions, rituals or routines, that help one feel safe.  Like shaking hands, or offering someone a cup of tea.

For dogs, asking them to perform an action that they have been taught using reward-based methods, are confident and comfortable in doing, and enjoy doing, such as a Sit, can be a safety signal.  Your regular morning or night-time routine with them can be a safety signal.

If the dog doesn’t feel comfortable in the routine, if there are conflicting demands on him, if he feels unsafe or uncertain whether there will be a predictable outcome, it won’t be a safety signal.

Dogs owners and the interactions they have with them can provide signals of safety that help in training.

There is a Welsh word ‘cwtch’ that has no literal translation in English but can be broadly translated as 1) a cupboard or cubby-hole or 2) a hug or cuddle.

The Urban Dictionary describes it is ‘the Welsh word for an affectionate hug. There’s no literal English translation, but its nearest equivalent is “safe place”. So if you give someone a cwtch, you’re giving them a “safe place”.’

Other descriptions given include

‘ Snuggling and cuddling and loving and protecting and safeguarding and claiming, all rolled into one.’


‘A cwtch creates a private safe place in a room or in two peoples hearts.’

How apt!

Be the cwtch for your dog


To read further about the use of safety signals in animal training:

McGreevy, P. D., Henshall, C., Starling, M. J., McLean, A. N., & Boakes, R. A. (2014). The importance of safety signals in animal handling and training.Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 9(6), 382-387.

Payne, E., Boot, M., Starling, M., Henshall, C., McLean, A., Bennett, P., & McGreevy, P. (2015). Evidence of horsemanship and dogmanship and their application in veterinary contexts. The Veterinary Journal, 204(3), 247-254.



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The ABC behaviour change – how, where and when to change behaviour

It is not possible to change behaviour directly.  But by knowing the ABC behaviour change we can change behaviour by changing the environment, triggers or events that precede a behaviour and/or the consequences that result from the dog performing that behaviour.

The behaviour chain of any behaviour is:

A Antecedents

B Behaviour

C Consequences

Susan Friedman has written instructional guides and articles on Functional Behaviour Analysis, including step by step guides to addressing behaviour chains through functional analysis.

When a dog is showing problematic or dangerous behaviour, its difficult to distance ourselves from the relationship we have with our dog to look at that behaviour chain through functional analysis, rather than see it as a trait of that individual.

But the way that we, and any other animal, behaves at at one time is a function not only of our personality, but also of prior learning and experience, the environment, and our mood and emotional state at that moment in time (themselves influenced by the previous factors).

Functional assessment involves understanding what the environmental factors are that contribute to a dog showing a particular behaviour and how the consequences of the behaviour may increase or decrease the probability of the dog performing it under the same environmental factors in future.

Behaviours are generally performed to fulfil a function.  Sometimes its appropriate to change the underlying emotions that cause the dog to want that outcome (e.g. snapping at someone to get them to move away), and sometimes we need to recognise that the desire of the dog e.g. for attention, space, affection or stimulation is a normal, healthy need that they need our help in fulfilling in which case we need to make sure we fulfil those needs and give them more appropriate ways of expressing their desires.

This is one of the principles behind teaching dogs to sit to greet people.  Instead of jumping up (a normal, natural doggy greeting behaviour) we teach them a replacement behaviour that we prefer and will get the same outcome (to be greeted) for the dog.

Key points that Susan makes:

Focus on what you would like the dog to DO, not what they shouldn’t be doing

Make the problem behaviour irrelevant, inefficient and ineffective, while the alternative behaviour is made easy by the preceding antecedents and rewarding by its consequences.

Follow the Humane Hierarchy in any behaviour-change procedure

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Safety around Dogs

Keeping children (and adults) safe around dogs – and of course dogs safe around people – is a topic that occupies many dog behaviourists.  The 2015 APBC symposium was devoted to this subject and we are fortunate in the UK to have many dog welfare and behaviour organisations that provide information and advice on how to live with dogs safely. In Cambridgeshire, Wood Green Animal Charity, known for rehoming of companion and field animals, also have an education department which holds talks and events for schools and the community.





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Three steps to a better dog

Following these three simple rules will improve your dog’s behaviour, make your dog happier and strengthen the relationship you have with your dog.

When your dog’s reaction to something or someone is causing you, your dog or others a problem:

1. Don’t put your dog in situations where you know he or she will react.

The first step in any behaviour modification is to prevent the behaviour occurring.  Your dog will otherwise just be practicing ‘bad habits’.   They will also be practicing unwanted emotional responses and triggering unwanted emotional responses (annoyance, anger, frustration etc) in you!  So give your dog a break from those situations while you sort out how to help him or her.

2. Don’t correct or punish your dog if they do react.

Punishing your dog when he or she is over-excited, fearful or angry is unlikely to teach your dog what you intend it to and there is a possibility you will make things worse.

3. Reward your dog when he or she is spontaneously ‘good’.

Know what your dog finds rewarding and when (can be different according to the situation they are in). Then make sure your dog gets these rewards whenever he or she is behaving in the way you would like them to.

The steps are simple – but it can be hard to know how to implement them for your particular situation and your particular dog – contact us if you would like to ask about one to one or class training or behavioural help.

(with thanks to Karen Overall and Kendal Shepherd for being able to boil it down ‘in a nutshell’ so eloquently).

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What is Behaviour Modification?

True behaviour modification involves shaping (encouraging) certain behaviours in a safe, non-threatening context, using desensitisation and counter conditioning and replacing the rules that encourage the dog to react with new rules that allow the dog to relax and take cues from the environment (paraphrased from Karen Overall, Manual of Clinical Behavior). “For this to happen there must be clear signalling and learned trust from both parties and reliability from the humans” (Overall, p 66).

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