This is a topic I have written about numerous times, but unfortunately it is a problem that comes up again and again: Unrealistic expectations for rescued dogs. 
Adopting a rescue and giving a dog a second chance, can be a wonderful, rewarding experience – BUT it can also be extremely challenging and managing a dog with a difficult past can be life-changing. 

This article covers what we can do to be more realistic and set rescued dogs up for success.

There seem to be two extreme views on this subject, one being that dogs should never be medicated to address behaviour problems (medication is a cop-out) and the other view that certain “medications” (I use quotation marks, as I include various supplements and forms of “self” medication in this statement) can cure everything and should be dished out like smarties. This article looks at the role medication can play in behaviour modification and emotional well-being and examines when it may be appropriate and when it is not appropriate to use it.

Genetics & Behaviour - Does Breed Matter?

The subject of genetics and the effect of genetics on behaviour comes up a lot. Many people will happily accept that a terrier may be prone to digging or a border collie is more likely to herd things, because that is what they were bred to do. However, when it comes to things like aggression, people become very touchy at any inference that behaviour may be linked to genetic predisposition. This article is not about assigning “good” or “bad” traits to any breed, but is rather an honest discussion of how genetics influences certain types of behaviour and how understanding this can be helpful in training, managing and fulfilling the needs of the dogs that we live and work with.

Rescued dogs are an incredibly popular choice for many people wanting to add a dog to their family these days. While adopting a rescued dog can be a very generous thing to do and can ultimately be very rewarding, many people really have no idea of what to expect when adopting a dog and can end up in situations they were not prepared for. In this article, I look at some of the realities of adopting a rescue and some of the things which should be considered, before making that decision. 

Playing Fetch - the new Prime Evil?

There have been quite a few articles that have come out this year, strongly advising dog owners against allowing their dogs to fetch a ball. What used to often be advised as an outlet for energy and an opportunity to rehearse the predatory sequence on a safe, controllable object is now viewed in some circles as a harmful addiction that is detrimental to a dog’s emotional well-being. But before we all start throwing our dogs’ favourite balls out with the bathwater, let’s have a proper look at the pros and cons of ball (or some other toy) fetching and whether all the fuss is really warranted:

What is the best food to feed your dog? Can one compare dogs and wolves when it comes to suitable nutrition? Is commercial pet food dangerous? Is raw really better? Finally, can nutrition affect behaviour?

These questions and more are answered in this book, with some surprising answers. The Good Dog Diet, is a simple and straight forward guide to choosing the food that is right for your dog and identifying aspects of your dog’s diet which could be contributing to behaviour or health problems. It is NOT a prescriptive manual aimed at swaying anyone to feed a particular type of food. The aim is to increase awareness of what is required for proper nutrition and to help every owner ensure that their dog is getting the optimum nutrition for their specific dog, in the form they feel most comfortable with.

Please will you help me Socialise my Adult Dog?

Can you socialise an adult dog? What do we do with dogs that missed out on socialisation as puppies? Why can't we just throw them together with other dogs and hope for the best? This article addresses some of the misconceptions around "socialising" adult dogs and what can and can't be done to help dogs adjust to encounters with other dogs when they have not had the chance to develop healthy social skills as puppies.

What does it really mean to be a behaviourist?

There are many people working with dogs or other animals who claim to be "behaviourists", but a behaviourist is a professional with qualifications in various scientific fields which many of these people do not hold. In fact many people claiming to be dog experts have never studied dog behaviour at all? In the same way that having children does not qualify one to be a child psychologist and having a brain does not qualify you to be a neurosurgeon, having a dog (or even many dogs) does NOT qualify someone to be a behaviourist and resolve behaviour problems. So how do you know if the "professional" you are consulting is really qualified to help your dog?

The Dog Whisperer Phenomenon

Many people think Cesar Milan has all the answers to all their dog-owning problems, but unfortunately Cesar's methods leave much to be desired and qualified trainers and behaviourists spend a lot of time picking up the pieces and undoing the harm done by the myths put forward by his TV show.

Coping with the death of a dog

Dealing with the death of an animal that has shared your life and home is traumatic and the emotions involved are the same ones we experience when we lose a human friend or family member. While those who have never bonded closely with an animal may not understand how we feel, people whose dogs are regarded as part of the family go through a very real and necessary grieving process. Having grieved for my own animals and having comforted many bereaved dog owners, I have realised how important the grieving process is and would like to share some things that have helped me and others along the way..

Pit Bulls - Just like Any other dog?

Pit Bulls are becoming the "go-to" pet for families and the number of Pittie and Pittie mixes that we see in our training classes is phenomenal. Unfortunately, the "environment myth" (it is all how you raise them) has given people a false sense of security and blinded them to the realities of owning a dog with the genetic make up of a "fighting" breed. But what are these realities and what do people selecting this kind of dog need to know in order to avoid disaster down the road? 

Please just stop!

With another whole year almost having passed, making it almost 20 years that I have worked with dogs and their owners, it seems a frustrating reality that some things just do not change. My colleagues and I spend many hours discussing the highs and lows of our profession and despite the increasing amount of information available to the public, there are just certain things that don't seem to filter through. Tragically we see dog owners making the same mistakes over and over again....

Are Rottweilers Dangerous Dogs

After reading my article on Pit Bulls, someone commented that they would like to see a similar article on Rottweilers. Obviously this person felt the same way about both breeds and clearly didn't realise that I have three Rottweilers myself! However, Rottweilers do get a lot of bad press and they do unfortunately feature as one of the breeds that has been involved in human fatalities (although so do Golden Retrievers Husky's, Malamutes, German Shepherds, Chows, Border Collies and many others, including one incident with a Dachshund).  I became a Rottweiler owner by choice, after I became a behaviourist and trainer. My knowledge and experience attracted me to the breed and many of my colleagues also seem to feel the same. Yet, we also feel the same about Pit Bulls... So what is the fundamental difference between these breeds and why do we view them so differently?

Is Paco really a hero?

Earlier this year (2016), a Pit Bull named Paco was shot and killed by police after he and another Pit Bull killed a scrap metal collector who had entered the owner's property, apparently illegally. Scores of people, including many shelters and rescue organisations have hailed the dog a hero since his death, applauding him for "protecting his family". But video footage of the incident has something different to tell us. 

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Kommetjie Canine College

Kommetjie

Cape Town

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