Why’s it gotta be clove??

It’s another Sunday morning musing 😆 and this one may be a bit controversial. These are my thoughts and opinions you are more than welcome to drive on by without giving them a second thought.

We are half way through a beginner Scentwork course and I’m thinking about odour.
More specifically I’m thinking about the odours we choose when we are teaching detection tasks. With detection becoming an increasingly popular sport and leisure activity for human and dog teams it surprises me that I rarely see any posts about the pros and cons of the odours we use.

I’m putting aside odours that are chosen for service and operational dogs because of a need (narcotics, biological samples, glucose levels, peanut or other allergens) as a large can of worms for a different day! I am just considering odour that is chosen for sport, fun and exercise.

The world is full of odour but dogs prioritise what’s important to them, food, water, social opportunities and nuances, health and the living world around them.

For detection we first take an odour that has little or no relevance and make it important to the dog through a process of classical conditioning,

when you smell this, something happens.

For most pet dogs this would involve positive reinforcement using food, in operational or working dogs this would commonly be adrenaline (fast moving ball or other arousing play), again …. can of worms = different post, different day !

So to do this effectively we are best to chose an odour that the dog would rarely come across outside of training at least for the initial stage, so we can speed up the connection of smell = reward.

We want the odour to be safe both for the dog and for the human handling it.

We want it to be legal, it would be embarrassing if the police came knocking on the door to confiscate your training kit

We want it to be easily and cheaply available so we can refresh often

We want it to be easy to handle, not to contaminate its surroundings as most of us don’t have access to unlimited training venues

When enrolling onto a detection/nose work course it is incredibly rare that there is any discussion of what odour you might chose and why. Most commonly you are given an odour as an absolute ‘you must use’

I have no idea why!

Starting with clove as absolutely the most common odour used in pet dog detection in the UK , firstly I can find a clove by smell in a large room so to a dogs nose this is the olfactory equivalent of a fog horn. Haven’t you ever been in a room where a perfume, or smell was so overpowering that you felt sick and headachy? Consider how poor your sense of smell is compared to a dog. Even when we reduce the scent source by using soaks and containers there is no subtlety in the odour of clove, no pieces of the puzzle. It is a one note tune. With a high oil content it transfers odour onto other surfaces easily. I’m also not convinced it is a neutral odour health wise. Clove oil is antibacterial, anti microbial, insecticidal and a numbing agent.

Not the odour for me!

Next we have gun oil. Gun oil is a refined petroleum-based lubricant, commonly it contains additives designed to protect the metal parts of a gun from corrosion and to alter viscosity and volatility. Given that oil contaminates and is contaminated incredibly easily if you live in a rural community where shooting is common (as I do) you and your dog will probably come across this substance frequently, on clothing, vehicles, handles, switches, other items that people may touch. It’s hard to completely avoid contaminating your search area and your stored kit, even using soaks, shells and containers. These factors alone make it an undesirable choice to me. But most importantly for me, considering the contents I can think of 50 substances right now I would rather my dog spent time breathing into their precious delicate nose than this.

Absolutely not the odour for me!

Truffle oil. Ok this is more complicated as I can understand the reasoning behind this choice. Truffle is an intrinsically appetising smell for many dogs and they have a highly complex scent profile. This profile varies greatly according to species, time of year, temperature, weather patterns, soil type and on and on so has the potential for an interesting and varied training choice. But fresh truffles are expensive, seasonally restricted and just plain hard to get hold of except for a fortunate few. So for detection it is common to use truffle oil. Good truffle oil is traditionally made by soaking pieces of or less desirable truffles in a virgin or light oil such as olive, the oils can then be drained off and bottled. However many of the available truffle oils are made using a manufactured odour compound and have had no contact with a real truffle. This may work to the sports trainers benefit as will reduce the variety and complexity of the true truffle odours.


It’s oil, as well as the previously mentioned problem of contamination. Speaking as someone who managed to spill half a tiny bottle of truffle oil in her car I admit that it’s a deal breaker for me as despite repeated shampooing that car smelt like a dead thing when opening the doors until it’s final day. Food grade oils spoil and become rancid with contact to the air and changes in temperature so the oil must be freshly opened and stored appropriately.

Not the odour for me, although I was lucky enough to do a course with the lovely Andrea Misto and bought enough fresh truffle to train for a few months sadly as yet, my poodle has not secured a fresh supply in the wild however I keep my fingers crossed!

Dried tea leaves. After learning about enriched environments from Turid Rugaas, I was introduced to Scent Detect Find in Burton on Trent who has developed a careful and thoughtful modular approach to detection training for which I am highly grateful whenever I see any of my dogs lovely passive indications. Her odour of choice is a smoked black tea (lapsang souchong). There are many advantages to this as a choice and I still use it as one of my dogs primary odour. It’s easily available, and quite consistent as produced regionally so many of the organic variations remain similar. There are several distinctive qualities, the grade of leaf used, the type of wood used to smoke it and how it is stored after smoking. It has a complex odour profile making it an interesting and challenging puzzle to put together for the dog. It’s dry and stable. Pretty much the only complaint I have with it is that tea leaves create dust and are in small shredded pieces so contamination can be an issue around your scent kit and training area.

Sometimes the odour for me

A while ago I started to look for a solution that fitted my needs better. That’s when I started to look at using liquorice. Used in its root form it is dry, stable, cheap and easy to get hold of. It’s an intrinsically appetising smell to many dogs. It has a complex odour profile and the food grade varieties widely available only come from limited regions.

Mostly the odour for me ☺️


Click to access molecules-25-05948-v2.pdf



Click to access farag_et_al._2012_journal_of_food_science.pdf

The Puppy Diaries part 4

Eek, its all getting very exciting now!

This is the final push to get our house and garden ready for our new little man but more importantly we are preparing our dogs for the change to their lives. Its right that we put a lot of thought into helping the new baby cope with the transition away from their birth family and home but too often we dont consider how much of an impact a strange little baby will be to our adult dogs. We just turn up with them and suddenly they find themselves sharing all of their stuff including our time and attention with this interloper.

Even for dogs who are used to new dogs staying in the home and like spending time with puppies its going to be an adjustment so part of our preparations are to smooth the way to help our adults make the best of this situation. We complete the changes to the house and garden a while before the baby is due to arrive, this gives our adults chance to negotiate around them and also we can tweak stuff that doesn’t work well for them. I dont go overboard on puppy proofing everything, there is nothing that is incredibly dangerous to dogs easily accessible in our house except stairs and cables but a few practical changes will make life easier.

The area of the living room which will be where puppy and I spend the first few nights (until the nightime wee trips are down to one or none) is sectioned off. This means that I have an enclosed puppy proofed area where I don’t need to worry that he will hurt himself and a place where one of the house hoomans can be comfy while keeping him company when the other is showering/cooking/etc. In time this is where we would like him to chill out when we are absent so building an association of calm relaxation to here will pay off. The adults can get in and out over the barrier and have an elevated bed just outside to help if they want to keep out of the puppys reach for a while but still be close to us. (there are multiple desirable resting areas around the house and garden but they will often prioritise the ones that are closest to wherever we are.) The top and bottom of the stairs will be barriered so our adults need to get used to that as although it will only be a tempory measure they are used to having free movement around the house. Using stairs both up and down puts an incredible strain on the puppys developing body and it really is best avoided for as long as possible.

We have picked one main exit that we will use for pup to get into the garden. Although both doors will be open most of the time its useful to have a planned route as the pee trips are so frequent in the first stage of becoming clean in the house. Puppies don’t have the muscle control necessary to prevent their waste from coming out so good management is the key to ensure the habit is formed by the time the muscle control comes on line. Puppy pads or a litter tray inside by the exit you have chosen creates an emergency target in case time runs out when you are still fumbling to get the door open or if you haven’t noticed the pup making their own way to try to get to outside until too late. Its worth considering how easy it is for the puppy to actually get outside, for example our garden is all different levels. The doors have a big sill then there are multiple steps onto the first level. Shortening the steps or using a ramp will make the journey easier particularly as our boy is a teeny pup with little legs. Ensure the fence line and any areas of standing water are secure, a small puppy can wriggle their way through remarkably tiny gaps particularly once they have settled in and begun to explore in ernest.

Our dogs have also already begun to ‘meet’ their new housemate. Cloths and soft items containing the others scent have been exchanged and we will do a final exchange the day before we collect him. Sadly, COVID has meant this process was less comprehensive than I would have normally chosen. I would have liked to also have several in person meetings before he came home with us but we are softening the shock as much as we can.

Along with all the changes we are doing lots of calm enjoyable activities with our adults, treat searches and sniffy walks. Adding a new member to our family is our decision so we have to make it as easy as possible for it to be a good thing for them too 😉

The Puppy Diaries part 3

The 3 Amigos

Since I had the great fortune to have several decades of my training perspective turned upside down by Turid Rugas, Karen Webb, Winkie Spiers, Anne Lill Kvam and Dr Amber Batson all in the space of 2 years, my life with dogs changed for the better. Never has this been at the forefront of my mind than right now with less than 2 weeks before a baby joins our family. Its no secret that I’ve made a deliberate move away from ‘obedience’ training. There are things that dogs are safer learning as an automatic reaction (’emergency stop’ is one and ‘leave’ is another) but in reality they are few and far between and we train them really just for the 1 time in 5 years we may need to use them to save the dogs life. Everything else I want to give to my dogs is covered by the experience and ability to make good choices for themselves.

However, as soon as we knew he would be joining us I enrolled us into puppy classes. Yes really 🙂 There are a couple of reasons why. I’ve a pretty good understanding about dogs and I’ve put in considerable work to keep improving and adding to that but there are always gaps and as detailed below, being a puppy parent is hard work. Every dog will teach you something new and having experienced professionals to bounce ideas off during this process is essential. There is a social element too, it’s useful to have a cohort of dogs and owners who are all going through the same thing. You can form social groups that continue on after the 6 week class has finished and those could become the first members of your puppy’s tribe.

Another reason to start planning this early is that great classes generally have a waiting list and it may also take a while to do your research, visit some different classes and decide which one is the right fit for you. Research is crucial , dog training is an unregulated industry and as such anyone can do a couple of courses and start charging for lessons.

There is a strange assumption among the ‘lightly qualified’ that puppy classes are the easiest and its a good place to start becoming a trainer. I have never understood this as let me be frank, new puppy parents are often high maintainence, they are dealing with all the things that people deal with when sharing their home with a new infant, they are sleep deprived, they are trying to develop new routines and habits, navigate feeding choices, toilet training, biting, they are coping with the babies dependance and most people are desperate to do a perfect job of raising this precious baby. To help people through this, puppy class trainers need superb people skills to be good at what they do, they need above average communication skills and to understand their subject inside out. Then there’s the dog skills and experience, to be a good puppy class trainer you need to have incredible skills in observation, understand of development and learning plus the ability to put that into real time.

Puppies brains are set up for learning. Their experiences of the world are creating the networks by which they will interact and understand the world for the rest of their life. Mistakes at this point can easily change the course of dogs lives. Thats some next level resonsibility right there!

I’m fortunate that my professional life has meant I already knew people running great classes and so I enrolled us on the two that I considered the best choices. The first one is a live week by week online class with my wonderful mentor and friend Winkie Spiers. Unlike a more traditional class, this is a fantastic course to begin before the new puppy arrives as it takes the student through understanding the dogs needs and how the environment and routine can be set up for success. The first, most impactful experiences the dog goes through can be managed to create the best outcome for the whole family rather than trying to back track and fix what we have got wrong. The other fantastic thing about this course is that you can attend from anywhere in the world. We will also be meeting up for some social walks once we are allowed out and about.

Our other class is with the lovely Amy Thompson from Behaviour is Communication. This is an in person class focusing mainly on life skills and early experience. Amy has the perfect mix of academic knowledge, hands on experience and great people skills. Attending this class will be 121 time for me and puppy as well as a wider social experience with the other puppies, at 2 kg our boy will be tiny and it’s a valuable opportunity for puppies to become familiar with different sizes and shapes of dogs in a safe and secure setting.

This week I will be getting the house ready for the arrival and also both of us will be getting vaccinations, although against different illnesses! He is spending lots of time learning social skills from his siblings and wider family, I am very much looking forward to meeting him ❤



The Puppy Diaries Pt 2

The Supernaturals

Its been 8 years since we last welcomed a puppy into our family. One of the side effects in investing a huge amount of time into education is that the more you know, the more you understand the potential pitfalls so it is not an exaggeration to say that I am feeling a large amount of aprehension along with my excitement. There are some things which we have decided to do very differently than previous times based on this knowledge though. Through doing Dr Amber Batson’s basic and advanced aggression, separation and abnormal behaviours plus her brand new Puppy Power courses, I have been digging down into attachment theory for a few years (something that I wish I had learned about many more years ago as my own child is now approaching 30!) This led to reading many of the studies that indicate there is something broken in our approach to puppy rearing (and human child rearing).

Our boy is now 8 weeks old. This is the upper age that traditionally we are taught to believe the puppy should be taken from their parent(s) and siblings in order to best socialise and bond with them. In fact in the current model many puppies are significantly younger than that when first being separated from their mothers at 4-6 weeks for part or all of the day and then are sold into new homes at 6-8 weeks. In the wild it has been observed that many puppies are still intermittently nursing until up to 12 weeks of age. They are not receiving much of their nutritional requirements this way but there is still an important process happening. Skin contact, pheromone release, comfort and reassurance. If that opportunity is removed at 4 weeks, what is the impact on that baby?

Young dogs don’t typically begin to disperse from the family group until after 5 or 6 months of age, the average is around a year and a significant amount remain with their family group for the rest of their lives. These other adults will provide an important social role for the new puppies. Firstly they protect them, puppies who are left without the protection of an adult have a very high mortality rate. They provide for them by bringing back and regurgitating food, females other than the mother may lactate and allow puppies to nurse. They provide education, puppies learn from the adults around them. They learn what to pay attention to and what to ignore, they learn how to find and access resources and most importantly they learn how to use their language. Dog communication relies on body language and pheromones with some vocalisation, most of this rich language seems to be used to allow social contact while avoiding the risk of conflict and actual aggression. If we are taking puppies at 6-8 weeks and placing them in a home where they are the only dog, who is going to spend all those months teaching them how to communicate effectively?

Why is all this relevant? Firstly we need to think about what we are priming the brain to do. As said above, babies are vulnerable, baby mammals particularly so they rely so heavily on the protective relationship of their parent(s) and in many social grouping species the other members of their extended family. The world is a dangerous place so when that protection is absent or removed, the brain activates threat detection pathways to respond (fight, flight, freeze and fiddle) but the infant body hasn’t the strength or the ability to be be very effective in either of the first two responses, think about how often we see freeze and fiddle in puppies and misinterpret the reason? By separating them from their primary care giver we can see that there is a chance the brain is already being primed to be better at seeing danger. Experiencing those fears and dangers without the solid safe predictable presence of mum (and other adults) means those threat detecting pathways are active more often and for longer. The brain develops in the directions that are relevant based of experience, so if there is more scary stuff, you need to become faster at identifying scary stuff in order to survive. Increase your tools to drive away and protect yourself from scary stuff. The problem is these are often the very behaviours that see dogs become unsuitable for pet homes, reactivity, separation anxiety, aggression, barking. All of these may be traceable at least in some part to these early experiences training the brain to be worried and pessimistic about new stuff. To quote Amber Batson ‘what we learn first, we learn best’.

We are very lucky with our breeder, she practices a natural approach to weaning so the babies were introduced and offered liquid food, semi soft and then textured food from 3 weeks onwards but they were never separated from mum. Once they were mobile they were introduced to the other adults which includes dad, aunties and uncles, grandparents and great grandparents. The grannies both began to allow the puppies to nurse from them and at 8 weeks they are still occasionally doing so. The puppies are gaining a education into communication that I can’t provide (even though our boy will be joining our other two dogs) so we took the decision that we wanted him to have longer with his parents, siblings and his extended family, we won’t be collecting him until he is almost 11 weeks old. Puppies are so adorable and they change so fast that it’s incredibly tempting to want to collect them as early as possible but this is a period we cant do over so we want to take every chance to stack the deck in our puppy’s favour 🐾

The Puppy Diaries Pt 1

How much is that doggy in the window?

So our new puppy is 7 weeks old, for many people looking to add a puppy to their family this is around the point that they first have contact with whoever they were buying from, increasingly this is after seeing an advert online advertising puppies for sale.

There are pitfalls with this method. From an emotional point of view we have a saying, you see em, you’ll buy em. It is a well documented effect that puppies have on humans, known as the baby schema effect, this is a release of dopamine and oxytocin in the brain when we see baby mammals. Because human babies are helpless for many months a biological urge to respond in a caring way when we see certain features is an evolutionary advantage for the species, visual cues like a soft round body shape, large rounded eyes and a small nose and mouth trigger this response. So when that baby is in front of you or even when you are looking at a photo or video, you may not be best placed to make an objective decision. Particularly if the puppy looks like it is in trouble or in a bad situation. This is just what the dealers in puppy farmed or illegally imported puppies trade on. Your compassionate desire to help that poor baby can fund and invest in this dreadful practice, meaning more babies will suffer as a result. Although here in the UK , campaigners successfully fought for and won ‘Lucys Law’ an addition to the animal welfare act which should ensure that puppies and kittens are sold in their place of birth, in the presence of their mother, and not sold or resold by a third party. Sadly at present, the wholesale farming and importing of puppies for commercial sale is a multi million pound industry and the events of 2020 saw the figures involved rise dramatically along with demand.

We also need to consider what preparations need to be made, think how long we take to get ready to add a baby human to our family. Usually we get several months to emotionally and practically prepare for this infant addition. We may read and take classes to help us learn skills, we form social groups to provide a network of help and support, we arrange the house to make it safe, we plan sufficient time off work and arrange care so our babies are never left vulnerable and alone, we set up the professional team that will help us with health concerns and to monitor the infants development, we begin to arrange for their education and how they will integrate into the world. Why do we think that our puppies will need less in order to grow into well adjusted healthy adults?

For us the relationship with our breeder actually began around 10 years ago, 2 years before we were lucky enough to buy our baby Poppet from her (picture above). Good breeders have a waiting list of potential families and a selection process. This means that in most cases all puppies will be spoken for by the time the litter is born. So by the time we went to meet our new baby we had seen several generations of the breeders dogs, we had a knowledge about her experience and her ethics, and we had had the chance to build a relationship with her.

Why is this important?

It’s a relationship that should last at least for the lifetime of the dog. A good breeder will be the first and most reliable safety net for the dogs they breed and their new families. They love and care for those dogs for their whole lives. For ethical breeders, puppies are not a product, they are extended family.

In part 2 I will start to look at the preparations we are making to help our new baby arrive and become part of our family. ☺️

The Art of Walk

How often does your dog walk on a walk?

It sounds like a silly question doesn’t it but take a minute to think about it? When our dogs are on lead we are very often not aware of how they are moving and the speed they are traveling at. Apart from some giant breeds most dogs walking pace is significantly slower than humans walking pace, so unless we are super aware of our own speed dogs learn at a very young age that the only way to not be pulled off their feet when they are on lead is to trot or even run.

Firstly, do you know what walk actually looks like. Check out this excellent video for clear examples of each gait (pattern of footsteps)

A great exercise that Turid Rugaas asks her students to do is a gait watch. For this all you need is a notebook and pen , then to sit anywhere that has plenty of pedestrians and any dogs passing will be on lead. Note down the breed/type of dog and the gait they are travelling at. In my experience, very few will be walking. Try it for yourself and please share your findings.

So why does this matter?

It matters because it is unnatural, stress enducing and counter productive


In this and other studies of free ranging dogs the data suggests that when left to their own devices, in urban environments with access to predictable resources and social contact, dogs do most of their active movement at a walking pace. Trotting is an traveling gait, it’s used to get from somewhere to somewhere in the shortest time while using the least amount of energy. It is not an exploring pace, a dog can follow an scent trail while trotting but will regularly slow, walk and stop in order to analyse scent in any detail. When we take our dogs out, we are not just trying to give them exercise, we are also giving them their only opportunity to access and learn about the wider world. By slowing our pace down we start to provide the opportunity for our dogs to take in more information about their environment and the other individuals who share it. The fantastic dog pulse study has observed a drop in pulse rate while sniffing (enviromental, no food present) which indicates that time spent sniffing will have calming effect.


When the faster pace is sustained because of our movement we can be blocking this natural process and even accidentally punishing it, as when a dog does stop to sniff they often receive collar/harness tension in the second before the stop is recognised at the other end of the lead. Sadly we will have all also seen dogs being dragged away while desperately still trying to sniff.

Physically, most dogs do not have the conformation, conditioning, appropriate warm up /cool down, after and pre care muscle treatment or nutrition to safely engage in sustained running without sustaining injury or damage.

Pain is a common cause of reactive behaviours

Walking requires the use of core muscles, think of it as pilates for dogs. Engaging in slow, precise, deliberate movement has a huge impact on physical fitness and flexibility (any decent horse trainer will tell you that if the walk isn’t balanced then there’s no benefit in trotting or cantering)

Pulling on lead is one of the most common ‘problem behaviours’ listed by training clients. There are so many aversive, constricting and punishment based pieces of equipment sold to the public to correct this behaviour. These work either by restricting the dogs ability to breath and causing discomfort. Compressing the dog sensitive muzzle and preventing them from choosing where to sniff. Lifting and squeezing their chest and front legs. All these ways to punish a behaviour that only exists because we caused it in the first place. Instead, why not practice The Art of Walk and see the results for yourself 🙂

Its not just John

In dog training circles there is a well documented ongoing case about a UK trainer. Now, I’m not going to discuss any of the details as I have no first hand knowlege of him other than one very brief meeting along with his online presence where I took the decision that he was not a person I wished to have any contact with. You can read more about the ongoing case here if you are unfamiliar


I wanted to write this post after a recent conversation with a young female trainer who described insistant and unwanted sexual advances made by a male trainer she was hosting to deliver a course. Not only did she feel that she had no recourse to complain but she was certain that any complaint would lead to a destruction of her career. She saw this as a common and accepted part of the industry and would continue to rebook him for courses and presumably put up with the unwanted attention.

There are laws protecting people in the workplace from sexual advances from coworkers (not as complete as they should be and not always actioned but at least a framework) but in unregulated industries consisting of mostly self employed people there seems to be little or no protection from this sort of innapropriate behaviour and it is beyond dangerous. Its easy to see why so many begin to see their professionals contacts as extensions of their social lives and so a blurring of boundries has taken place. Many of these people are travelling to deliver courses regularly and seem to adopt a ‘what happens on the course, stays on the course’ attitude and view each pool of clients with the same attitude that they would walk into a bar on friday night (pre covid of course!).

Part of the problem may be one of demographics, most course attendees of any dog training course I have ever done have been female and with the recent increase of interest in dog training there are many more younger women at these events and yet proportunately there are more male trainers delivering the courses. Its time that the same standard of professional behaviour that are supposed to apply to the rest of the working world apply to the dog training world. The only way this will happen is with help and support from established figures both male and female so that unprofessional and predatory behaviour is met with serious professional consequences

The rules are pretty simple and straight forward.

It really isnt complicated or difficult.

If you are paying someone for their professional knowledge or experience,

if they are paying you for your professional knowledge or experience,

if they are in a mentor or mentee position with you

If you are professionally repsonsible for them or they for you

Do not attempt to engage in sexual activity with them

I’m glad that so many people have now been able to speak out about Johns behaviour and I applaud their courage. I think we need to have the wider conversation about the industry that still finds this acceptable.

Its not just John

#dearjohn #ibelievethewomen #metoo #moderndogtraining

The Collected Proclaimations of Princess Poppet Rocket 1st




Her Royal Poodleness, Princess Poppet the 1st would like to take the opportunity to wish her faithful and obedient human subjects health and vigor for 2015. Here follows her Royal proclamations
1. Her Royal Fuzziness would like it to be known that she will now no longer be considered as one of the floor dogs.
2. More tributes of sausages will be given.
3. Cino and Teaser are not to collect tributes as they have proved themselves to be treacherous and untrustworthy.
4. The current sleeping arrangements are unsatisfactory and from hereforth Princess Poppet the 1st shall sleep in the sofa and Cino and Teaser shall be moved into the box. If space proves to be an issue, they shall be fed less until they fit.
All the toys shall continue to be the property of Princess Poppet the 1st, failure to recognise this fact shall be punishable by Her Royal Fuzziness.
That is all







Her Royal Poodlyness, Princess Poppet the 1st would like to extend wishes of good health and prosperity to all her loyal 2leg, 3leg and 4leg subjects. Here follows the royal proclamation….

1. Her Royal Fuzziness was gratified to finally be given her rightful place as a front seat dog although the 2legs have continued to place her in the co pilot’s chair and so not always been reliable in arriving at the desired destination. This will be rectified.

2. Princess Poppet the 1st will also be receiving CVs (canis valorous) for the position of co pilot as the resident floor dogs are inadequate for such an honoured occupation. Teaser is scruffy and a poor navigator, he appears to completely rely on something he calls the cat nav and so mostly he wants to go through hedges and up into trees. Cino is not very bright and has problems understanding that the road signs for a roundabout do not mean there is a ball on the road so go round and round trying to find it.

3. While Her Royal Cuteness understands that austerity measures mean that times are somewhat hard, she feels that the levels of tributes are still falling short of appropriate. This will be rectified as it would be a terrible shame if people suddenly started finding poops in their shoes wouldn’t it?

4. There should be more toys available for Princess Poppet to steal from the floor dogs in order that they are reminded of her magnificence. All the toys are and will always be the sole property of the Poodle Princess

5. The weather is unacceptable which has led to an unprecedented level of bathing, this must end. Whoever is responsible for the sky hose need to jolly well sort it out or there will be consequences






It is the time when Her Most Royal Fuzzball’s faithful subjects will once again be honoured with furry wisdom and guidance in order to honour and serve their ruler more adequately.

1. Princess Poppet 1st was extremely saddened to discover that ‘Brexit’ was in fact not a new and exciting bikkit. Her Royal Fluffiness is now given to understand that it is actually a process to make it more difficult to meet and acquire new and exciting subjects, this is highly displeasing.

2. The diplomatic visits to the pod place have been most illuminating, they are having a definite and positive effect on the royal household’s two legged subjects. There has been increased volume of steak tributes during this time and Princess Poppet 1st is keen to make it known that this is most pleasing in her sight (and even more pleasing in her mouth) although feels that Durham has been incorrectly positioned and should be relocated to the Cotswolds. It has also been a wonderful opportunity to meet with fellow rulers. Her Royal Friskiness has most notably enjoyed Her time with Queen Fia, Empress Molly and a most interesting delegation known only as ‘Kai and The Shits’ who seem to be some sort of anarcho-syndicalist commune.

3. The floor dogs still fail to observe the appropriate levels of deference, even allowing for their sadly limited intellect and the fact they are both a ‘bit spesh’, and in Teaser’s case strongly resemble a compost heap. Failure to demonstrate improvement will result in sanctions.

4. Bad people continue to trespass in the royal residence without Princess Poppet 1st giving permission. This must cease!

5. Insufficient rabbits……………Get it together people, how hard can it be?

6. Princess Poppet 1st would be most pleased to receive a visit from President Elect Donald Trump’s hair, however the fat shouty man underneath it may stay at home.

7. Her Most Royal Haughtiness has noticed some glaring administration errors in the comings and going of her hooman subjects, clearly it is not desirable to dismiss David Bowie, George Michael and Carrie Fisher while keeping Nigel Farrage, Peter Mandelson and Jeremy Clarkson. No more of these errors shall be tolerated.

8. Princess Poppet 1st wishes her loyal subjects a prosperous and most excellent year







Princess Poppet Rocket I 2018 Proclaimations to Her people

It has been an interesting year and while improvements have undoubtedly taken place, Her Royal Stinkiness has graciously agreed to once again enlighten her subjects with the Royal Wisdom.

The visits to the pod place continue to inspire a positive improvement in the behaviour of the household two-legs. This is most pleasing to Her Esteemed Fluffiness although she noted that her command that Durham be relocated to the Cotswolds for ease of access has not yet been actioned. The discovery of Unit 13 is a very welcome one as this has led to a much needed increase in food tributes without the floor dogs around to spoil things. HRP is not clear what has led the two legs to develop this obsession for teabags and why, if they like them so much, they keep losing them.

It has come to the attention of Her Royal Poodliness that whoever is responsible for the sky taps has been not doing a very good job, this has led to an unwanted frequency of extra baths. This will not be allowed to continue

HRP Princess Poppet I will not be issuing an invitation for a state visit to Donald Trump’s hair as it appears that the fat shouty man underneath it would be its plus 1

During the last 12 months HRP Princess Poppet I has generously been adding body mass in order that there shall be more of her for her subjects to adore. It is undesirable that Cino and Teaser, the floor dogs, should emulate their betters in this regard as they take up too much room in the Royal chariot as it is.

Her Royal Fuzziness continues to feel displeasure at the repeated talk of Brexit, once it was made clear that it was not, in fact, a new and exciting bikkit it is unclear why it was needed. Resources would be better spent on poodle related matters.

HRP Princess Poppet I is pleased to reveal that she has discovered a new and exciting level in the royal household containing diverse and interesting beds. She is enjoying her daily visits before the two legs get up, although the tallest of the two legs is clearly overawed by the royal visits and sometimes closes the door. Her Royal Fuzziness will be forgiving, as this must be attributed to an oversight but it should be rectified forthwith.

Although the planned remodel of the household gardens was a welcome one, HRF believes that it should have been achieved without allowing oiks to roam the royal residence. Cino revealed himself as an untrustworthy defender as he demonstrated a shameless level of obsequency and general suckyuppyness towards the invaders. It is not clear if he is a defector or merely defective

The re acceptance of the Davie two leg was a slightly prolonged event. HRP had to put in many hours of rigorous training to ensure he achieved the accepted standard of poodle care that is required. Sadly just as this standard was achieved he escaped and now returns only for short periods of time. HRF also observes that although frequently carrying the most enjoyable aroma of beef and chicken this has not translated into food tributes and this must be rectified with immediate effect

The new treat dispensing box in the kitchen is a good thing, HRP notes that there is room for many more of these devices so expects the roll out to commence within weeks.

Her Most Fluffy and Divine Royal Princess wishes all her loyal hoomans a joyous and loving 2018. The year of the dog begins in February so remember to follow the example that this noble and most excellent species offers to you

Sleep, eat and play whenever you can
Be curious and learn





Her Magnificence Princess Poppet Rocket 1st once more has extended a loving and benevolent furry paw towards Her dear friends and loyal subjects, once more generously sharing her thoughts and wishes (that’s orders, for those of you you still do not speak Poodlese) for 2019.
**amendment- the lateness of this publication is entirely due to Her Royal Fluffiness’ undersecretary lazing about all day with a face like a slapped bottom, complaining about feeling ‘a little fragile’. While Her Majesty understands that the underlings must have some enrichment this should not be allowed to interfere with essential royal duties henceforth.

1. Tributes are now reaching an almost acceptable level but Her Royal Fluffiness believes that the quality must always be improved. Roast meats are tasty but with a little imagination We believe that subjects could reach for greater standards.

2. The other resident two legs has been spending time away from the household, Her Royal Fuzziness very much approves of this because he is doubtless recruiting and reinforcing new areas of the Poodle Empire, also because without his overzealous and unwarranted gate keeping, Princess Poppet sleeps in her rightful place in the center of the upstairs bed.

3. Her Royal Highness is very pleased at the addition of The Dog Nose, an annex which has been filled with the most entertaining collection. She very much looks forward to uncovering the persons of the diverse animal species that appear to be also residing there as they regularly leave their scents, but to date, they have eluded Her.

4. Her Royal Furriness was well pleased by the reduction of sky hose activity but the sky fire was left on rather too much. She believes that a better balance should be reached as The Royal Paws don’t appreciate being fried and Teaser is rather ungallant when it comes to sharing the best fan.

5. The two legs are reaching a better understanding of appropriate Royal activity and so it is with pleasure that Her Royal Princess can report a honing of her already magnificent olfactory expertise

6. The floor dogs have a nice new sofa to sleep on, Her Royal Fluffiness likes to watch them enjoying it from her rightful place on top of the two legs.

6. Events in the two leg world appear to be inexplicable, the Royal Wisdom is to ignore all that nonsense and place more energy into canine concerns.
Live in every moment
investigate anything that interests you
forgive and love easily
dont snap when a look will do
walk away from conflict, shake it off and find something better to do






HRP Princess Poppet Rocket 1st wishes to extend blessings to all loyal subjects for 2020 and the new decade. Here follows Her Fluffy Majesty’s Commandments.

1. HRP Princess Poppet 1st feels that Brexit is much easier to understand with a little understanding of resource guarding behaviour. She wishes to point out that the cure for this is increasing availability of resources, not reducing them. All resources actually belong to The Most Royal Poodle anyway so subjects should stop squabbling over them like a bunch of cat people

2, The sky hose was left running for far too long last year, this leads to an increase in unscheduled bathing and is most undesirable. Whichever minion is responsible will be facing a severe poke with the royal paw when identified. It will be recified this year.

3. Her Royal Fuzziness wishes to announce that Cino dog is to be honoured with the new title of Creaky making his full name Creaky Mr Cino and is to be officially recognised as lord of the floor dogs. This is to show Royal thanks for a lifetime of service to the Royal Poodle Person and also to annoy the Teaserdoodle

4. Tributes have finally reached a mostly acceptable level with the addition of unit 50 to Her Royal Pawsomness’ Empire. Because she generously understands that two legs need something to work towards to remain happy, she suggests that steak, scampi, fish and chips are all areas that are underrepresented in tributes so there is still room for improvement.

5. HRP Princess Poppet is very much pleased by the increase in recognition for her superior olfactory brilliance, however she is not sure why the two legs wish to keep finding tea when she is equally good at finding mousies, bunnies and other nice crunchy things.

6. The two legs are finally being honoured with The Royal Princess choosing to sleep on their heads during the dark time. She has been tolerant about their learning curve during this process but if the man friendbeast doesnt settle down soon he will be directed to alternative sleeping quarters.

7. Her Royal Furrybutt wishes all her subjects a healthy, happy and prosperous year.

With woofs, nose pokes and poodle paws
HRP Princess Poppet Rocket 1st

“Love is the emotion that a woman feels always for a poodle dog and sometimes for a man”
― George Jean Nathan


Her Royal Highness Princess Poppet Rocket 1st of her name once again grants Her faithful subjects reflections on the year past and instructions for the next

1. HRF Princess Poppet is deeply troubled that the world has been under attack from Corvids. She feels this latest threat should underline why she has always maintained a position of zero tolerance to any that she sees hopping around in the royal parklands. The Most Royal Poodle wishes to have it known that the fact that they become airborne is a threat which up until this point the two legs have not given the proper importance

2. Her Royal Furriness has been pleased by the nations two legs showing a better adherence to correct protocol. Most are now spending all of their days in their rightful place, with their canine masters. This is excellent and any effort to return to the previous system should be swiftly refused.

3. Her Royal Cuteness Princess Poppet Rocket 1st also notes the royal household staff have improved their offerings over last year although visits to the new exploring room havent been as frequent as one might wish so still plenty of room for improvement. She is pleased to note several more areas laid on to demonstrate her magnificent abilities. She still questions why the two legs are so obsessed with tea that they save the best offerings for its return but she understand that her subjects need their little diversions so is happy to indulge them.

4. Princess Poppet 1st deeply regrets the cancellation of so many of the trips and Royal tours this year. She understands that so many of her subjects benefit from being bounced on and frisked at by Her Most Magnificent Fuzziness. Rest assure that plans are in place to increase HRP outreach program in the coming year

5. Our beloved retainer The Venerable Mr Creaky Cino is still with us. Princess Poppet Rocket 1st is most pleased.

5. Her Royal Highness is compelled to note that the nomadic haystack known locally as the Teaser Doodle is also still part of the household staff. It has been noted that he has taken to exiting the palace with the male two legs twice a day and is no longer accompanying the daily royal progresses so careful attention should be paid to ensure he is not exerting a seditious influence.

6. Disturbing rumours of an addition to the royal household abound, with phrases like ‘the pitter patter of little paws’. Princess Poppet will, as always, extend a benevolent furry paw to all who reside just as long as they remember that the earth and everything in it remains the property of Her Royal Majesty

A slightly brief missive this year as the royal undersecretary has a head like a bag of hammers and a mouth that tastes like Teaser slept in in so Princess Poppet 1st is generously allowing her to go and find coffee.

A loving and hopeful New Year to you all.

Remember the example shown by Her Most Royal Poodle

Be curious and interested in the world around you. Protect and look after what’s precious. Enjoy what you do and if you don’t, do something else. Never pass up the opportunity to prance

Finding Your Tribe



I attended a great online interactive workshop recently focusing on becoming better at communicating and connecting with clients  (thanks to  https://www.alldogsaregood.com). We talked about the need for a strong support network of our own and since then the phrase ‘finding your tribe’ has been on my mind.

It has its roots in a concept about the natural size of a social group

‘The psychological demands of living in large groups mean that, in primates, species-typical group size correlates rather closely with the species’ brain size. On the primate model, our oversized brain would predict a group size of around 150, the number now known as Dunbar’s Number. We find it in the typical community size of hunter-gatherer societies, in the average village size in county after county in the Domesday book, as well as in 18th-century England….. It is also the average personal network size – the number of people with whom you have a personalised relationship, one that is reciprocal (I’d be willing to help you out, and I know that you’d help me) as well as having a history (we both know how we came to know each other).’

Robin Dunbar


There are degrees of closeness within that group size,

1. The 5 or 6 people who are our closest connections. These are the people we speak to with the most frequency and are able to maintain the most intimate relationships with, commonly those will be close family members or people we have a deep shared history with.

2. There are work friends, given the length of the average working day this can account for quite a sizeable amount of shared experience but they might not all be people we would choose to spend so much time with. We have facebook friends,  pub friends,  hobby friends, club friends, school friends and there are degrees of closeness with all of the people in those groups.

3. These are people like our neighbours, the fellow commutors, the shop keepers, the bus drivers, the milkman, postie etc, people we know by sight and to exchange polite greetings with.

With recent advances in technology, we have an unparalleled ability to connect with other peoples lives and yet polls and studies seem to suggest that people living in developed countries increasingly report feeling lonely and isolated. The first thing we need to be aware of is that social pain is real pain, the same regions of the brain that are activated in response to physical pain and damage are activated when we fear that our place in our socal group is under threat. Feeling disconnected, rejected or unwanted are all as painful to experience as a physical injury.

Social pain is a basic emotional response which tells us that our connections to others are weakening or have been lost or damaged. This motivates the repair and maintenance of those connections.


We are social creatures for a reason, it was this set of cooperative behaviours that allowed us to survive, thrive and pass on this genetic information. These traits are reinforced heavily from our birth as weak and helpless infants receiving round the clock attention, physical contact and nurturing.  Mortality rates go up as maternal and social care go down whether we are a rat, a dog, a cappuchin or a human.  Leaving a baby to cry alone in a crib or leaving a puppy to whine alone in a crate causes long term and permanant changes to their brain structure and chemistry,  it affects their ability to feel safe and secure for the rest of their lives. This damage also changes the infants understanding of how to form and maintain secure relationships.

With this in mind it makes sense as to why the relationship between people and their dogs has also changed notibly over the recent past.  A study conducted by Link last year asked several questions about peoples relationships with their dogs.

81% said they talked to their dog like they were a friend.

73%  told their dog things they wouldn’t say to anyone else.

90% said they felt safer with their dog nearby.

78% said they make life decisions based on their pet. More than 50% would avoid social occasions in order to be with their dog

75% reported they did not like to be away from their dog at all.

Studies done in the 80s and 90s proved that brief social connections (smiling, eye contact, verbal greeting) between strangers were much more likely to happen if one party was accompanied by a domestic dog, a further study showed that people were much more likely to agree to help a stranger if the stranger was accompanied by a dog. Researchers polled 2,700 men and women in four different cities,  Perth, San Diego, Portland, and Nashville and found that pet owners were 60% more likely to get to know new people in their neighbourhood. Fellow pet owners were more likely to meet up and interact on a regular basis, some of these relationships remained aquaintances, while others developed into deeper friendships and even relationships.

So its easy to see why this relationship works well for the human but what about for the dogs?

I know that dogs have an unusual ability to bond with us but I think they get more than enough of that in most situations so for now I’m just focusing on their relationships with other dogs.

Right from the start we are altering the development of the dogs ability to be a happy, secure, social being.  In a natural setting the weaning period is between 7-13 weeks during which there is a gradual decrease in the time that the mother will settle and let the pups suckle, at the same time there is an increase in bringing food back to the puppies which allows for the transition from milk to solids and also develops their social skills with competing siblings. They are becoming familiar with the scents of the immediate environment as they are brought back with returning adults.  Around 4 months they begin to move and explore the world in more detail but recieve protection from a familiar adult care giver. Dispersal from the family group begins after this period,  around 5-6 months however many do not disperse until 12+ months and some remain with their family group after this time. Meeting unfamiliar dogs is mostly a process, there are scent introductions, visual, auditory information all taking place before they get in each others physical space.

Human practice is to remove mum from the pups as early as 4-5 weeks either for part of the day or entirely to force weaning. Removed from their family group at 7-10 weeks of age, often taken into a new home with no familiar sensory elements. Often with no resident dog.  Use of confinement is common.  Minimal contact with other dogs until the vaccination period is up. Then when the time comes to go out into the big wide world we take them out and they meet strange dogs, over and over again.

Its a testiment to dogs as a species that any of them survive this process not totally disfunctional

This brings me back to the idea of Finding Your Tribe. Its an idea that I think would benefit the dogs who share our lives. We interrupt the process which they would learn about safety, communication and social skills so it is up to us to make sure they still get those opportunities. Back at the begining I talked about the different levels of social contact and this is relevant in our dogs lives too.

1. The closest friends. I think dogs should have a core group of dog friends. It might be just one or two, it might be ten or twelve but dogs should be given the opportunity to build long term relationships with other dogs who they feel completely safe and comfortable with. For puppies and young dogs its so beneficial to spend quality time with well rounded adult dogs. Social learning is an important way that dogs learn about the world and how to react to it so give them a good teacher to learn from.

2. The play friends. Social skills, create opportunities for social activities with other dogs which aren’t just manic running and aroused rough and tumble games. Sniffy walks, treat searches, interesting environments, practicing their communication and their social skills. Spending time with each other doesnt have to be energetic or overtly playful, it can just be sharing the same space.

3. The pass on by friends. Teaching them how to deal with this is potentially one of the most important life skills both for us and them. How to pass other dogs and humans politely,  the equivelent of a nod, smile and  ‘good morning’. Humans tend to walk in straight lines, social dogs walk in curves, circles, turn aways and sniffs. If we mimic what social dogs do when we have our dogs on leash, we create the model that they will find most comfortable. (Link to Turid’s wonderful book at the bottom)



Nicolas Guéguen & Serge Ciccotti (2008) Domestic Dogs as Facilitators in Social Interaction: An Evaluation of Helping and Courtship Behaviors, Anthrozoös, 21:4, 339-349


Why rejection hurts











A Knotty Problem – stress and the groomer part 2

In the previous post I looked at coats and coat types, now Im going to detail the possible triggers in the grooming process and some of the ways that I have found to relieve them either through changes to the owners routine or in the grooming environment and reduce the trigger stacking effect. Ive broken this down based on the order of the grooming process and listed as blocks of common problems then possible solutions. This is just based on my experience and understanding. Your mileage may vary


-Car/travel sickness and anxiety, the dog only goes to the vet or the groomer by car

-Matting causing pain and discomfort

-Previous association, traumatic or uncomfortable past visits

-Unknown or scary environment

-Injury/illness, you would not believe how many times I have had to tell the client to turn around and go straight to the vet

-Long walks/fast exercise straight before coming, many clients think this is a good idea

-Hungry/thirsty/needing the toilet

How can we help

-Separate work on improving the dogs experience of the car, find a groomer close enough to walk to in the short term

-Good coat management, no dog should ever be matted as a matter of course

-Change the context. Set a new day 1 with a new groomer or a distinct way of doing things so we can start a different learning experience

-Social visits, will describe those in a moment

-Daily health checks, so owners are aware of the condition and fitness of their dogs

-A sniffy walk instead of running around

-Basic needs should be always be met!

Ideal first visits (2 stages)

These can be done at the start or end of the day. I do give them for free but we should be expecting to pay for this time. One of the problems we see is the devaluing of professionals time, its an investment in our dogs comfort and wellbeing.


-Lay out an enriched environment before the dogs arrival

-Owner stays, they have a cup of tea, we chat and take detailed information about the dog while observing the dog exploring. talk over the persons expectations and hopes.

-We show the dog the toilet area.

-Treat search or chew to finish, starting to build the association of calm enjoyment with the location

-Depending on the dogs personality and experience, this stage can be repeated until the dog is comfortable and also following any traumatic or stressful visits

Second Visit

30-60 mins

-If grooming in a separate area we move into that area

-I have another calm friendly happy dog on the table so the new dog can watch some of the processes and see that dog enjoying the contact

-Allow the new dog to investigate not placing any demands or requests on them

-Introduce the sounds and routines one by one in a controlled way, watching and responding to the dogs feelings.

-Start to introduce consent based handling techniques

-Providing soft bedding areas and chews. If there is any food anxiety then offer the chews after making provisions for the other dog

Although it seems at first like a lot of hoops to jump through, this pays off with a dog who is easier and safer to groom, happier to take part and owners who are more confident and tend to have good standards about home maintenance.

Handling and physical proximity


-Fear, looming and being leaned over, being picked up or restrained, previous associations of fear or pain,

-The smell of other fearful or stressed dogs

-Is the groomer stressed or in pain?

-Is the coat knotted or matted, is the dog more sensitive to certain parts of their body because of injuries and other reasons

-Memory of pain, nail trimming, being cut.

-Compulsion and panic, is too much being asked or demanded from them, do they feel rushed or pressured?

-Moved into stress positions , holding up legs, angles of neck

How can we help?

-Recognising, respecting and responding,

-Stepping back from the ‘naughty’ label and understanding that this is the dogs reality or their truth

-CPD, better awareness of their emotions, needs and language

-Choice, simply by allowing the dog enough time and ability to control their experience we usually find the dog is willing to accommodate us doing what we need to do

-No restraints, no muzzles. They set groomers up to fail as they ensure they will take less notice of the dogs communication. If we are routinely needing to muzzle a dog in this environment we are already past what is suitable for that dog and we need to take a step back and come up with a more holistic plan. If necessary working with the vet to use medication/anaesthesia that can buy us time to work on a longer term without compromising safety or forming a negative association to us and our environment.

-Compulsion is sometimes the lesser of two evils, when we are looking at an immediate welfare need we might have limited choice in how we can help but it is up to us to leave as much choice as possible or to minimise the impact. For example, with a severely matted dog then leaving them for several weeks isn’t an option but can we do social visits every other day for a week and then groom over 2 or 3 days? We might be able to overshadow the most stressful elements and work on them as learning processes later

-Recognise pain and treat prior to grooming along with adapting the handling to ensure the dogs comfort (think about how many dogs have severe conformational faults which lead to early onset arthritis and painful conditions – eg shi tzu, bichon, poodle)

-Preparation and maintenance. This is the biggest and most important way to help the dog. All happy grooming starts at home



-Feeling insecure,  tables wobble,  they may be set too high, the dog may fear falling and not have enough grip

-Restrained/ feeling trapped, this is often excused as a safety issue

-Loomed over/ feeling threatened

How can we help?

-Grooming on the floor if the dog is more comfortable there

-Using a non slip surface, many tables don’t give enough grip even with rubber tops. Yoga

mats can be cut to size easily and clamped to the surface

-Set the table low enough for the dog to jump on and off safely, if concerns about hard floor then padding round with towels or beds

-A clear route on and off, the dog shouldn’t feel that the only way off is through the groomer

-Blocking the two other sides prevents the risk of falling

-No restraints

-Groomer sits to groom, lowering them to a less threatening position helps prevent looming

-Groomer positions themselves angled side on to the dog, lowering the risk of intimidation



-Hair must be clean to groom , brushing and clipping dirty, matted hair increases the risk of causing pain, damage to the follicles and skin, infection, destroys blades and scissors

-Slippery surfaces, plastic, metal or enamel surfaces are slippery even when dry, when wet and soapy they become even less secure for the dog. The more insecure they feel the stiffer they will be, trying to grip the surface with their nails and less safe they become.

-Feel of the water on the skin, as we have already seen the coat is designed to keep water out and protect the skin from intrusions.

(Imagine wearing a pair of socks for a week then taking them off and someone tracing their fingers up the sole of your foot !!)

-Scent, many of the products used are scented for human tolerances which will be a sensory onslaught for dogs. We are altering their smell which is a critical part of their identity and communication

How can we help?

-Management of coat

-Flat bottomed bathing area, a good non slip surface

-Steps or ramp into the bath area so the dog steps in

-Use a harness restraint, once a dog is soapy and wet they will chill very quickly so only put them in there when you know they are able to cope with the whole procedure

-Temperature should be close or a little warmer than skin temperature, No surprise that most dogs dont like being bathed with the hose, swimming and water play are different as water is often not touching the skin directly.

-Start with water directed over the hand and then begin to massage in, introducing the sensation gradually

-Use a bathing brush or zoom groom to remove the majority of the undercoat, this cuts down on time spent drying and brushing after the bath, also ensures the shampoo is taken into and then rinsed from the entire coat

-Cut the nails in the bath if possible, overshadowing means we can avoid another stressful event later

-Use unscented or mildly scented products

-Conditioner on longer areas that are not going to be clipped off, tangles are less painful to brush out

-Allow them to shake as often as they want, it helps!



-Coat must be dried both for health and to be groomed as clippers will clog in damp hair

-Noise, there are two different driers commonly used

Blaster, blows out warm air at very high velocity, louder but faster, also will blow undercoat debris, dead skin out of the coat via a flexible hose. Noise in excess of 100 decibels at the point of the hose (approximate noise at a rock concert)

Finishing drier, a very large hair drier, fixed to a stand and blows hot air from a rigid hose. Needs to be used with a brush to part the hair to work effectively, noise in excess of 95 decibels at the point of the hose. (approximate noise riding a motorbike)

Note that the dogs ear will not generally be at the point of the hose however its important to notice the sheer volume that is being produced

-Air pressure, the noise and air flow can be extremely stressful, especially for dogs with upright and large ears. The dog may already have sound phobias.

-Heat, the driers can generate enough heat to burn the skin. Any large change in temperature can shake the dogs thermoregulatory system, this can be particularly dangerous for young dogs who’s system hasn’t developed fully yet and old dogs who’s system might not be as effective anymore. Also dogs with shortened muzzles or any other reason that affects the ability to maintain a safe body temperature.

How can we help?

-Use the appropriate tools for the dog and their coat

-Use wicking towels to draw as much of the water out of the coat manually before drying

-Ventilation, trying to ensure the temperature of the room remains steady and monitor minutely signs of any signs of heat stress

-Take as many breaks as the dog needs

-Using a snood, hood or other ways of muffling the ears

-Short durations, being aware that even for humans at those volumes hearing loss can occur in 30 mins for the drier and 7.5 mins for the blaster. Dogs hearing is much more acute than ours

-Enabling the dog to lie down during the drying process

– Chews, lickmats or Kongs can be a nice accompaniment but if done right, most dogs will doze or sleep

Clipping and trimming


-Danger of sharp objects

-Clippers only go underneath mats, not through them. The result will be as short as the mats are tight

-Human expectations, groomers and owners both want a good looking result BUT the dog just wants to be pain and discomfort free.

-Noise of clippers

-Handling of sensitive area of the dogs body, particularly if they are also painful

-Vulnerability, areas where extreme caution must be observed, eyes and face, folds and crevices, bottom and hygiene areas, are often areas the dog is most protective over (critical for survival)

How can we help?

-Regular and effective coat management. The coat gets the care it requires, the dog is not having to endure 6 or 8 weeks worth of grooming in a 2 hour visit

-Manage expectations, a less than perfect finish on a happier and more relaxed dog is a better outcome than a perfect finish on a stressed and overwhelmed dog.

-Keep the coat at a length that can be maintained within the dogs comfort level and owners capability

-Understand that grooming out large areas of mats is unfair to the dog and a violation of their trust

-Prepare the dog to be fully comfortable with all areas of their body that will need to be handled, this will also pay off thousand fold for the dog in cases of injury or vet handling


Chin rests and touching around their eyes, ears and areas where they cant see your hand

Being comfortable with having their feet handled

Tails and bottoms,

Most importantly, if there are areas that the dog is uncomfortable about, the groomer should not be the first one who finds this out.

Everyone needs to be prepared

After care

-Toilet and a drink

-Chews or treat searches

-Social time with other dogs if appropriate

-If the owner left then they should always come in and sit for a few minutes. This gives the dog the chance to say hello and then go back to what they were doing before. Its a chance for the groomer to talk over the groom, flagging up any concerns or informing the client if any aftercare will be needed

eg  could we cut all the nails or will we need to do some short just nail visits

do they need some social visits

were there parasites, infections, injuries,

changes in the coat that might indicate something that needs the vets attention

have they lost/gained weight. Was that what the owner had been trying to achieve

Did we have to clip the hygiene areas very short? Is there a risk of irritatio, if so,  what to do

This helps manage expectations and problems

After leaving

-Rest, no long or fast exercise

-Keep in a nice comfortable temp for several hours to allow the body to acclimatise properly particularly for young and old dogs

-Manage problems, communicate

Kirsty 🙂

P.s. I closed my grooming business at christmas last year in order to focus on my work at The Dog Nose but I still have around 20 dogs who I will groom for the rest of their life (or the rest of mine, whichever is longer) as they would find the move to a new groomer too stressful. Like almost all of the groomers that I have ever met, I love my clients dogs as my own. Grooming can be hard, dirty, often thankless and lonely and the people who are brave enough to do it deserve the support to do the best job they can xxx