Archive for January, 2010

In this article number 10 we deal with one of the four basic rules for correct behaviour with our dogs. (see art 6,7,8,9, for the other rules)

Some day I got a call from a frantic dog owner. She asked me to come to her. It was very urgent because her dogs “went mad” when she had visitors. Having heard similar observations from clients in every country where I lived, I am still amazed to see how typical these misunderstandings between human beings and animals are.

In the cities of the Western World we have created a growing distance between ourselves and Mother Nature. We see nature without hamburgers, houses, freeways, television sets, internet, computers as something strange. In our perception “nature” became something that can be exploited for our benefit. This has led to an ocean of pain as we are surrounded by compounds where we raise every year 60 billion animals in atrocious circumstances. We know that pigs are as intelligent as the Great Apes, yet they are born to mothers behind bars, raised in squalor and deprivation and slaughtered as juveniles. That is our bacon.

Fortunately our awareness is growing. Certainly in South Africa. Wangari Maathai, the first woman in Africa to receive the Nobel Peace Prize takes a stand for the rights of animals when she says: ”Respect them, protect them, speak for them.”

While our meat producing companies condemn billions of animals to an atrocious life, dog lovers also “spoil” their pets.

It is my opinion that “spoiling” our pets is cruel. We do not show them respect because “spoiling” is treating them as furry human beings.

I can assure you that our dogs are not human beings. Although animated movies, since Walt Disney started with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, are trying to tell us a different story.

Our dogs are dogs and if we treat them as such we show them the respect they deserve.

The sad thing is that “spoiled” dogs are given the impression by their owners that they have to be in charge of the pack. This misunderstanding leads to owners telling me “that their dogs are mad.” Every year millions of dogs are paying with their lives because many owners of “mad” dogs bring them to a willing vet and have them put down.

If you read my other articles (6,7,8,9) it is clear that we have to feed our dogs, acting as pack leaders (rule 1). When they perceive danger we have to take control of the situation (rule 2). Walking means “hunting” for our dogs and we have to be in charge of the hunt (rule 3).

Basic rule number 4 is dealing with our behaviour before and after a separation.

Let’s first explain what the word “separation” means.

For canines in the wild there are no houses, doors, locks, fences, holidays, shopping, travelling or visiting. They are born in a pack, live in a pack and die in a pack. They play together, they hunt together and sleep together. When does a separation occur in the pack?

The Alpha female with young pups will stay in the den when the other members of the pack go hunting. As soon as the pups are apt to eat solid food, mother will join the hunt while younger adults will stay at home with the pups as baby sitters.

An Alpha male can leave on his own when he wants to locate a herd of prey animals before ordering the pack members to join him for the hunt.

Each time a separation occurs in the pack everyone will observe the behaviour of the leaders and “read” the subtle messages in their body language. When the leaders want the others to accompany them or not, the message will be clear. What happens when the adults come back with food for the pups?

The young ones will approach the adults with a clear and specific behaviour. They will whine, lower their bodies, waggle the tails and lick the faces of the adults. The message is clear: we are pups and we want food. The adults will regurgitate the food they carry in their stomach in front of the pups. Mission accomplished.

Six months old youngsters will accompany the pack, discovering the rules of the hunter in a learning-by-doing-system.

After a separation Alphas will immediately upon arrival consolidate their position as leaders. They do it by ignoring the lower members of the pack who are begging for their attention. If the leaders do not act accordingly they will be challenged by members of the pack willing to take their position. You’ve grasped that?

Now analyse your behaviour as a home coming dog owner?

What do you discover? Each time you leave for work, for a shopping centre, for a visit to the neighbours you are saying: “Please be good Bobby. Mummy will come back soon!”

What happens when you come back home?

Is your dog barking and jumping?

Do you say things like: “Mummy is back darling!”

Do you bend down when your dog is jumping up, do you stroke her/him and say:” You are such a good boy/girl”?

If you do similar things you are sending a clear message to your dog.

The contents of the message are:” I respect my dog as the pack leader. “ If your dog acts accordingly, please do not call him “mad”. You are responsible for her/his behaviour. You have made her/him like that. However you can change her/his behaviour by changing YOUR behaviour. Start ignoring your dog before and after each separation and you will see the change.

Ignoring means:

do not look at your dog, do not touch her/him and do not say anything. Wait until the dog has calmed down and then call him/her, preferably when she/he is not close to you. When the dog runs to you, give her/him the best cuddle in the world.

Summary: when the dog wants your attention, ignore him/her. When she/he is ignoring you, get her/his attention and praise the dog for listening to you. Now you are behaving like a real pack leader and your dog is not “mad” anymore.

Comments Comments Off on #10 – HOW TO SAY “BYE” AND “HELLO” TO YOUR DOG

Being a professional dog listener I have established four basic rules of correct behaviour for dog owners. I have not invented these rules. My teachers have taught me the rules. My dogs have always been and will always be my teachers.

If you apply these four basic rules consistently, your dog will respect you as his pack leader.
These rules are:

1. When you feed your dog, use gesture eating. (art. 7)

2. When your dog perceives danger, you have to make it clear to him that the danger is real or not. (art. 8)

3. Walking a dog is hunting. A pack will never hunt without a leader. (art.9)

4. After a separation the pack leader ignores the lower members of the pack. (art.10)

In article 8 you can read about the correct behaviour when our dog perceives danger. Let’s take the example of visitors coming to see us. Whenever visitors arrive we do not necessarily perceive it as a dangerous situation. On the contrary. Many times we perceive it as very nice when friends, family or neighbours come to visit us. Some of us even like it when they drop in unannounced. Other friends might call us announcing their arrival.

Our dog doesn’t know that they have called us. When these friends arrive at the gate or ring our doorbell, our dog will run to the gate and bark. His instinct tells him that he has to be alert whenever someone approaches his home (=den). He perceives every visitor as danger, as “enemies” until he has recognised them or until we have made it clear that we allow the visitors to enter the territory. If we give them permission to enter the “den” they aren’t “enemies.”

It is clear that our perception of this situation and the way our dog perceives it is different. Take that into account whenever he hears the doorbell ring.


The same difference of perception exists between human and dog when “we go for a walk” or “ do walkies” or “play” with our dog. When we leave the home and take the dog along for a walk in the park then we go, well…for a walk in the park.

Is our dog thinking the same?

Do you really think that he is going for a walk too?

Then you are in for a surprise, because animals never go for a walk. The Even our ancestors never went for a walk.

For millions of years they lived in a world without cars, trains or planes. They spend long hours hunting and gathering and later working the land in order to provide for their families.

The industrial revolution changed all that.

The vast majority of our fellow citizens are not working the land anymore. We use all sorts of means of transport to go from one place to another. The result is that today we drive to the gym at 5.00 in the morning, before driving to our jobs. In the evening we will again drive home and maybe take a small stroll with the dog. But…

Dogs do not drive cars.

Whenever you leave your home with your dog, remember that he has two considerations in his head: “I am going to hunt and kill,” or “I am going to get killed by another predator.”

Pack animals hunt together. The pack is their life insurance.

The pack provides safety, survival, food and procreation.

The better the pack is organised, the more successful the hunt will be. If some members of the pack are ill of wounded it reflects upon every other member of that pack.

The consequences are that we humans have to behave as a pack leader when we are walking our dog. How do we do that?

My firm advice is to never walk your dogs outside, when you do not have total control of your dog inside your home.

Do you think that you will be able to call your dog in the park if you cannot call him in your own garden? Of course not.

Let’s say that you have taught your dog to Sit, Stay and Come each time you feed him for al least two months.

Let’s say that you are able to call him and make him stay put when there is someone at the front door. Then it might be the right time to go outside with your dog and take him for a walk on the leash. Only when he has grown accustomed to the distractions of the outside world, when he shows his respect to you by not pulling on the leash, by sitting on command, then you can start walking him off the leash.

If the recall is working perfectly at home, start doing it with your dog on a long leash or attached to a long piece of string. When he reacts immediately and full of joy to your command “Bobby Come”, then you can start doing the same off the leash in an area with no distractions. The best thing to do is to choose an open area because that enables you to keep an eye upon your dog. The golden rule is that, whenever your dog walks in a certain direction you walk (or run) in the opposite direction. Make him pay attention to you. Make him do what his ancestors have been doing for millions of years. During the hunt, they pay attention to what the pack leader does and they stay together. Some dog owners call me and complain about their dog because he is “always running away and never coming back”. If you have the same complaints about your dog, think about the way he could call me and complain about you.

You go walking=hunting with him and you do not offer the safety of the pack. You do not offer him the leadership that is necessary for a successful hunt. Do you think this dog will feel comfortable walking with you? I doubt it.

Comments Comments Off on #9 – WALKING YOUR DOG

Ever been to visit a friend’s home where the dog is all over you the minute you enter the house?

Was her/his dog barking at you, showing his teeth, growling, running in circles around you, jumping up on you, soiling the new clothes you just bought, licking your face, throwing your child to the floor, salivating on your shoes, biting your hands, tearing a hole in your pants?

Ever had to listen to the explanation your friend gave?

Heard her/him say that “normally” the dog does not bite? Meanwhile you were massaging your sore hand or looking at the hole in your trousers.

Do you remember how your friend said that “normally” the dog was as good as gold but that she/he tended to go “crazy” with visitors?

Ever been through it?

Did you like the experience?

Are you looking forward to another visit to that friend?

Having read my article number 7 you are familiar with basic rule number 1. If you have been feeding your dog according to that rule he has learned the commands Sit, Stay and Come. This is very nice because you use these commands whenever our dogs perceive DANGER.

Protecting your pack does not mean that you have to behave like John Wayne or Sylvester Stallone. Fighting with a dangerous enemy is not the only option. Running away from a dangerous situation can be a perfect way of protecting a pack.

Wolfs live in vast territories. Whenever they perceive danger they have 3 options: they can freeze, attack or run away. Many dogs have to live in small gardens surrounded by fences. We all know how dogs “like” to run alongside a fence, barking at dogs or persons on the other side.

In the wild packs of wolfs do not socialize. They do not have tea with the neighbours or gather in a bar for a drink with members of other packs. Wolf packs avoid and respect each other.

Our dogs cannot do that because they are confined to very small spaces and we do not want them to run away. Let’s have a look at some common situations.


When a visitor rings the bell or knocks at the front door, many dogs will perceive this as danger and will bark accordingly. Not because they are bad dogs. On the contrary, they are very good dogs. They perceive danger, sound the alarm and expect our decision.

If we do not have control over our dog, he will accompany us to the front door, bark, jump up and annoy the visitor. He does this because we allow him to do it.

But you can put a stop to it. Now is the time to use the commands Come and Stay you taught him during the feeding process (see article number 7). I am not talking about persons using a fully trained guard dog. My advice is intended for all the dog owners who complain about the “bad” habits of their “crazy” dogs.

Let’s start at the front door. If you have applying my Basic Rule Number 1 (art 7) you call your dog away from the door with a “Come” and you put him in a “Stay” before letting the visitor enter your home. The dog has to keep the Stay position, until we give a release command. You can for instance use the word “Run” as the release command but it does not really matter what kind of word it is. Just make sure you always use the same word for the same command. As soon as the visitor has taken a seat we can release our dog from his Stay, he can then approach the person, sniff and walk away. The very best thing your visitor can do is to ignore your dog, i.e. that she/he does not touch the dog, she/he does not look at her/him and she/he does not say anything to your dog. If you omitted teaching your dog the Come and Stay commands, I suggest that you start practising the feeding ritual. In the mean time my advice is to confine your dog behind a closed door the moment you hear your doorbell. As soon as your visitor is seated ask her/him to ignore your dog. Invite your dog back into the room when he is not scratching, whining or barking. When you let him in and she/he does not behave him/herself, do not shout, take her/him by the collar en put her/him again behind a closed door. Keep on repeating the process until your dog calms down and leaves your visitor in peace.


Whenever my dogs run to the gate and bark, I have a look. There is a reason for their barking and I want to know this reason. Then I will say “thank you”, call them to me and praise them for a job well done.


With the exception of trained gun dogs, most pets do not like loud noises. Thunderstorms, fireworks, engines of tractors, planes or lorries do cause stress for us and for our dogs. Usually we know the cause of the noise. But our dogs don’t always know that cause. If she/he shows that she/he is afraid of a loud bang, do not console her/him. The more you console a dog, the more anxious she/he will become. What we must do is ignore the dog and show her/him that we are not frightened by the noise. If the leader does not show signs of anxiety, our dog will copy the leader’s behaviour.

If your dog is playing in the garden and is suddenly frightened by a big bang, call her/him inside and ignore her/him until he/she has calmed down.


If you are walking your dog off lead and you perceive “danger” because you noticed joggers, walkers, cyclists or other dogs coming your way, call your dog with a “Come” and walk/run away in the opposite direction. If you show that kind of respect for joggers, walkers and cyclists they will be grateful for what you have done. You obviously have your dog under control and you will be respected for it.

In article number 8 you can learn how to “hunt” with your dog in your own garden.

Comments Comments Off on #8 – DOGS PERCEIVING DANGER

If you did not read my article number 6 you must know that it is about the Captain from Koepenick. He was a man who started impersonating a German army captain in the small village of Koepenick. Every inhabitant believed him to be a true captain because he was wearing an army uniform in a very convincing way. In my article number 6 I suggest that if we are not born leaders, we could at least start acting like one in the eyes of our dog.

If you did not read my article number 6 you must know that it is about the Captain from Koepenick. He was a man who started impersonating a German army captain in the small village of Koepenick. Every inhabitant believed him to be a true captain because he was wearing an army uniform in a very convincing way. In my article number 6 I suggest that if we are not born leaders, we could at least start acting like one in the eyes of our dog. Just like the fake captain from Koepenick did with the army uniform he found in a pawn shop. Scientists have calculated that only 5 percent of any group of people are real leaders. On the other hand I have been told that 37 percent of all households in South Africa have dogs. This can lead to catastrophic situations for dogs because if there is no leader in the human family their instinct tells them to assume the position of pack leader. It is in their nature. The moment these perfect dogs do this, the owners start calling them “bad dogs”.

The dogs are doing an excellent job but the dog owners do not know this. What happens then? Let me give you an example. In the United States 8 MILLION dogs are being put down every year because of “behavioural problems.” My statement is: there are no “bad” dogs. But dog owners who sacrifice healthy dogs do not know this. It seems that a similar situation exists in South Africa. A vet with a large practice in Johannesburg explained to me how often dog owners bring their pet asking to put the dog down because he is for instance “peeing on the kitchen floor”.

Let me put this bluntly: many dog owners do not know how to behave correctly with their pets and millions of dogs are paying for this ignorance WITH THEIR LIVES.

Dear reader I am very, very glad that you are reading this article because I can assure you that you can lead a happy life with your pet if you apply a few basic rules.

If you are not a born leader you can put yourself in the position of the leader of the pack just by learning the basic rules. Here we go with BASIC RULE NUMBER ONE.


How many times a day?

If your dog is younger than 6 months feed him/her 4 times a day. If his age is between 6 months and 1 year feed him/her 3 times a day. If he/she is between 1 and 6 years old feed him/her twice a day and if he/she is over 6 years old feed him/her 3 times a day.

Which food?

I have always fed my dogs natural dried food. About one third of all the clients I have ever worked with, have behavioural problems with their dogs because of what they feed him/her. Many manufacturers mix dog food with preservatives, additives and other chemicals that enhance the smell and the taste of the product they sell. Some want to make it look more attractive to HUMANS by including green, red and yellow dyes, with the implication that these colours represent vegetables, meat and cereal. Dogs cannot see the colours, but there is evidence that the dyes can produce hyperactivity and cause destructive behaviour.

I always avoid food with too much salt and sugar.

I never give my dog snacks with sugar nor sweets or chocolate. Especially chocolate is a killer for dogs because they cannot digest the theobromine it contains.

I always READ THE LABELS before I buy anything.

If you do not want to give your dog dried food, you can cook a mixture of vegetables, chicken and rice. Avoid red meat or any other high protein food because it can provoke aggressiveness, jumpiness, moods or nervousness. Especially if you cannot offer your dog enough possibilities to exercise.

When do we feed?

I feed my adult dogs twice a day, in the early morning and in the late afternoon.

How to feed as a leader?

When I am busy filling the bowls I do not want my dogs bothering me. They have to keep a distance of at least one meter.

Having filled the bowls I will carry them outside and put them on a table. While all my dogs are watching me I will eat something, for instance a piece of bread, an apple, a banana or a pot of yoghurt.

When I am finished eating I will give the command “SIT” by bringing their noses upwards. (When I teach clients how to bring their dogs to the SIT position I usually say: “If you bring up the nose, down goes the bum.”) Then I pick up the bowls, tell my dogs to “STAY” and walk away from them. At a distance of 5 m I will call each of them by name and order them with the word COME to their bowl. Calling them to their food bowl I will always respect the existing hierarchy in the pack. To say it clearly: I will call my Alpha male first, then the Alpha female etc… until I call the lowest in the pack last. (The lowest in the pecking order is called the “Omega”) As soon as a dog approaches his/her bowl, I walk away from it and leave the dog in peace.

But I will keep an eye on them. The moment they are finished I will pick up the empty bowls, clean them and put them in the cupboard. I can assure you that by using this rule you will achieve two things: first, by eating something before feeding them you show your dogs that you are the pack leader. Secondly your dogs will learn the commands “sit”, “stay” and “come” in a very short time.

In article number 8 I explain how we behave when our dog perceives danger.

Comments Comments Off on #7 – HOW TO FEED OUR DOGS?


In a canine family there is no such thing as democracy. No one organizes elections and there are no political parties. As soon as Mom has a new litter her dominant pup will show its dominance by finding the best teat on her belly fighting off the other pups. The dominant pup will drink most of the milk and will consequently grow into a strong animal. This pup will grow up as a leader not because it wants to become one but because it was born like one.

With human beings it is more or less the same. Only recently I read an article about leadership in the English Sunday Times. The author explained that in any group of people only five percent are capable of being a true leader. Amazed with the low percentage? Look around and you will see proof of it in every human organization. Every human group structure has leaders and followers, be it a state, a municipality, a tennis club or a car wash company.


That he/she is nervous, inconsistent and afraid? That he/she runs around like a headless chicken whenever in danger? That she/he has never any patience, is unclear in everything she/he says and becomes violent when we do not immediately understand an unclear message?

Is this what we expect from a true leader? Or do we want our leaders to be honest, patient, confident, consistent, clear, courageous, calm, noble and leading by example?

So, only five percent can be a true leader in our society?

But certainly more than five percent of our population owns one or more dogs. Do you see where I am getting at?

Consequently many dogs have to live with owners who do not know how to be a true leader in a canine pack. When the human being does not offer leadership, the dog automatically takes the position we left open, because he/she knows that a pack cannot survive without a true leader. This causes problems for owners and dogs because a canine behaviour that is vital in the wild can be rather annoying in a suburban living room.


Captain of Koepenick

How do we cope with our dogs if we don’t have a clue about true leadership in a canine pack? We use choke chains, spiked collars, collars emitting electrical shocks and other vicious gimmicks pushing our dogs into the state of submissiveness of an anxious slave.

Or we can accept that our dogs are always barking, pulling on the leash, running off, relieving themselves in the house and bite us when they feel like it. In both cases we can think that the problems are not our fault. We can pretend that we had bad luck because we acquired a “bad” dog.

The answer is NO. There is a third option.

There are tools we can use in order to become a true pack leader.

We can do what the legendary Captain of Koepenick has done at the start of the 20th century. This jolly good fellow wasn’t a real captain but he disguised himself in an army uniform and started acting as if he was an officer in the German army. Given our “natural” respect for people in uniform, all the inhabitants of the small German village called Koepenick treated the fake captain with admiration, consideration and deference.

Now don’t run to the nearest army surplus shop. I do not want you to buy an old army uniform in order to become a canine pack leader. I was only making a comparison. What you need to use in your daily life with your dog are these four basic rules.

1. Feed your dog as a leader? 2. Behave like a leader when your dog perceives danger? 3. Behave like a leader when your dog is hunting? 4. Behave like a leader after a separation from your dog?

If these four basic rules become your German army uniform you will become the Captain of Koepenick in your own household. How do you go about?


If you use the four rules consistently, your dog will start respecting you as his/her leader. I say “consistently” and that means always and without any compromise or exception. The “captain” did not pay a visit to the mayor of Koepenick in his beautiful uniform, returning a few days later in the clothes of the simple man he really was. It would have taken the mayor a few seconds to discover that the “captain” was a fake.

If you are not consistent with your dogs, they will react like the mayor. If we use for example the feeding ritual only now and then, they will know that we are not their “real” leaders.

A president is not the leader of the nation between 10 and 12 o’clock in the morning. She/he is always our president.

Our managing director is not only managing the company on Saturday afternoon. She/he is always in charge. I n a similar way we do not stop for a red robot light on Fridays and disregard it the other days of the week. If we are not consistent in our respect for robots we jeopardize our lives. If we are not consistent with our dogs, we will turn them into “bad” dogs. We will be blaming them for our lack of leadership. In article number 7 you find the details of the first basic rule.

Comments Comments Off on #6 – HOW TO BE A PACK LEADER?

Remember what we spoke about in article number 3? I was interpreting the message I received from Tony. For your convenience I include another copy of his message.

My daughter has a miniature Jack Russell bitch 2 years old (spayed) and a Boxer brindle 1 year old but much bigger than the Jack Russell.

Both my daughter and son in law are away from home all day and the two dogs plus a pavement special got on well for over a year. The Boxer which came to them as a small puppy but has now grown to a big dog started bullying the little Jack Russell and my son in law was one day phoned by the neighbour to inform him that he must come home quickly as the Boxer was busy killing the Jack Russell. The little dog had apparently crawled under a Wendy house and the Boxer just managed to bite his legs and tail end. The Boxer a bitch has been spayed about 5 weeks ago and the Vet was sure that this was the reason for its aggressiveness. The little Jack Russell has been at my house for about 6 weeks and last weekend we took her back to her home to see what the outcome would be. No change and the Boxer plus the pavement special when there is no one about go for the little Jack Russell. I have noticed that the little Jack Russell is a troublemaker as she bites the hind legs of the Boxer when her boss is nearby.

Can you please let me know what the reason for this behaviour could be? The Jack Russell is now at my house away from the Boxer and is a pleasure to have but when anyone passes the front gate she goes berserk but the person can put his hand through the gate and pat her head and she is very friendly.

What can we do to get the two of them to live together again?

I thank you for your assistance.

I explained in article number 3 that Terriers have been bred in order to create a perfect and fearless killing machine. If you own for instance a Fox Terrier, there will not be many rats left in your home. Many owners of Jack Russell or Yorkshire Terriers tend to forget these qualities of their dogs. Owners of Pit Bull Terriers on the other hand tend to cherish the courage of their pets. I also supposed that the owners of the Jack Russell bitch had “spoiled” the dog because they had to leave her alone all day. It is normal that dog owners feel guilty about this and compensate this feeling by spoiling the pet. But “spoiling” creates dogs that think they are in charge of the human family. Many owners call spoiled pets “problem dogs”, having created the problems themselves in the first place.

Let’s continue with the case. We have a family with a “spoiled” Jack Russell terrier bitch that is left alone all day. One year later a Boxer bitch arrives and when she approaches adulthood both bitches cannot get along anymore. Why not?

I do not know for sure because I have not seen dogs or owners, but I am going to compare with similar cases I’ve met before. Very often dog owners think that the solution for a lonely dog is…a second dog. I can understand that because I am a human being. But as a dog, or in this case as a bitch I might not agree at all. If I were the Jack Russell bitch, this is how I would feel:

All my life I have been pampered by my owners, what has given me the impression that they want me to be pack leader. I always get their attention whenever I want it. I jump on their lap when I feel like it and I consider every chair in the home as my property. I am the very centre of the universe for them. But look, all of a sudden there is another bitch in MY pack. Each time the owners pay attention to the new bitch, I tell them “Hey, what are you doing? I am the boss here. I consider you as my subordinates. You should pay attention to me and not to her.

What the Jack Russell bitch thinks is perfectly acceptable in nature. Within a wolf pack only the Alpha female will probably come in heat and mate with the Alpha male. All the other females will accept her dominant position or leave the pack. In the domestic home no bitch can leave the pack because we will prevent it.

Most fighting between domestic bitches starts in the presence of the owners because of “jealousy”. I would not call it jealousy. I understand that a dominant bitch refuses to have another female in the home because her instinct tells her that this means competition.

…the Jack Russell is a troublemaker as she bites the hind legs of the Boxer WHEN HER BOSS IS NEARBY.” Wrong. This dog is no troublemaker. She is fighting for the attention of her owners.

Some owners think that spaying will bring the solution. It is my experience that it can lead to more fighting. It is no good having one bitch spayed, if it is the dominant bitch. It would indeed stimulate the fighting. Maybe this is what happened in Tony’s case. The Jack Russell bitch is probably a spoiled but not a dominant dog. Maybe the Boxer bitch was becoming the dominant one in the pack as she grew older. Spaying her will then provoke more fights as she now has to put in an extra effort to assert her dominance. I refer to what Tony said in his message:

The Boxer bitch has been spayed about 5 weeks ago and the vet was sure that this was the reason for its aggressiveness.

What is the solution in a case like this?

It is never an option to spoil our dogs. We must learn how to communicate with them, we must respect them as dogs and assume the responsibility of pack leaders.

If you own a bitch and you want to introduce a second dog in your home, it would be better to go for a male instead of a second bitch.

If you have two bitches and you are in trouble, ask the advice of a behaviourist to find out which one is dominant. As soon as you know that, make it clear that you are the pack leader and always confirm the position of the dominant bitch. Do not “protect” the subordinate bitch from the dominant one. It will only lead to more fights. If none of that is possible, find a new home for one of the bitches. Which is exactly what Tony has done.

Comments Comments Off on #4 – JACK RUSSELL TERRIER – PART 2

Educating dogs is all about communication. Just like writing articles for a local newspaper is communication. Receiving messages from readers is communication. Don’t you agree that there can only be real communication between us when we understand each other? If I would write this article in Spanish, you would not be able to read it even if I were the best dog listener in South Africa.

I know that many dogs have similar experiences. They do not understand their owners, especially if these are yelling at them. The result is frustration, anger and stress for everyone concerned. We are only able to educate our dogs if we understand them. Just like you are able to understand me when I write in English. The following message offers me the opportunity to explain the world from a dog’s point of view. I received it from reader Tony Walters who gave me permission to publish his text.

Dear Mr Bruno,

Some time ago I saw an article in our local newspaper…My daughter has a miniature Jack Russell bitch 2 years old (spayed) and a Boxer brindle 1 year old but much bigger than the Jack Russell.

Both my daughter and son in law are away from home all day and the two dogs plus a pavement special got on well for over a year. The Boxer which came to them as a small puppy but has now grown to a big dog started bullying the little Jack Russell and my son in law was one day phoned by the neighbour to inform him that he must come home quickly as the Boxer was busy killing the Jack Russell. The little dog had apparently crawled under a Wendy house and the Boxer just managed to bite his legs and tail end. The Boxer a bitch has been spayed about 5 weeks ago and the Vet was sure that this was the reason for its aggressiveness. The little Jack Russell has been at my house for about 6 weeks and last weekend we took her back to her home to see what the outcome would be. No change and the Boxer plus the pavement special when there is no one about go for the little Jack Russell. I have noticed that the little Jack Russell is a troublemaker as she bites the hind legs of the Boxer when her boss is nearby.

Can you please let me know what the reason for this behaviour could be? The Jack Russell is now at my house away from the Boxer and is a pleasure to have but when anyone passes the front gate she goes berserk but the person can put his hand through the gate and pat her head and she is very friendly.

What can we do to get the two of them to live together again?

I thank you for your assistance.

This is a very interesting message. It illustrates how misunderstandings can occur between loving dog owners and their pets. Tony has clearly tried to give as much information as possible and he is eager to find the solution for his daughter and son in law. But with all the knowledge and experience I have at my disposal it is nevertheless as good as impossible to offer a clear solution. In order to do so I would have to visit the owners and analyse how they have educated their dogs and how they communicate with them. Speaking in general terms I will give it a try. However I will not be able to give all the answers in the space of one article.

Here is a list of the facts in the message:

1. We have three dogs whereof two are bitches.
2. I have no information about the third dog.
3. The Jack Russell bitch was the first dog the owners acquired.
4. The Boxer came one year later and is supposedly one year younger.
5. Both dogs have always been alone at home during the weekdays.
6. The Boxer bitch has been spayed a short while ago and according to the vet this is the reason for her “aggressiveness”.
7. The little dog has been separated from the pack in the hope that it would “cure” her.
8. She bites the Boxer when her boss is nearby.
9. She runs to the gate and goes “berserk” when there are passers by.
10. She is friendly to persons patting her on the head at the gate.
11. The small dog is a terrier.

Very often small dogs are handled as if they were toys for human beings. They are “spoiled”, turned into lap dogs, they are picked up very often and often treated like surrogate children. Many times I have witnessed it with owners of the very fashionable Yorkshire terrier. The results of the “spoiling” can be disastrous for dogs and owners. Remember that the full name of Tony’s dog is Jack Russell TERRIER. Terriers derive their name from the Latin word “terra” which means “earth”. When the breed was created we wanted them to enter tunnels and caves in order to kill rodents. In other words they had to be fearless killing machines. Today we want to own a terrier because they are so “cute” and small but we forgotten what they have been bred for.

Once I did a house call for a client who owned a Jack Russell terrier. I could not see the lower part of my clients face and her husband had to do the talking, because the dog had bitten her when she had picked him up. This dog slept with the owners in their bed under the covers. I wrote an article about it called “The undercover dog”. The bill for the plastic surgery of my client was many times larger than my fee.

In Tony’s case the terrier was the first dog in the house of his children. They had to leave the dog alone all day and returning home they probably felt guilty and “spoiled” her. The dog’s interpretation of “spoiling” is that she is in charge of the family and that the owners are her subordinates. In her canine world the human family is her pack and she is the lead dog. When dog owners “spoil” a dog they do things like feeding the dog titbits from their plates, being at their dog’s call whenever she wants their attention, allowing that the dog jumps on their lap, showering the dog with toys, giving the dog access to the bedroom and even allowing her to sleep on the bed. If you “spoil” small dogs like that (or for that matter any kind of dog) they will do what Tony mentions in his email message: ”When anyone passes the front gate she goes berserk…” Running to the gate and barking is a normal thing to do for a dog. Dogs are (like their wolf ancestors) very territorial and it is vital to defend the habitat against intruders. Today we want our dogs to live in extremely artificial habitats called “cities” but our pets still react instinctively as if they are in the wild. A dog that runs to the gate and barks is sounding the alarm and defending its territory.

Tony’s dog does not go berserk. She thinks that she is in charge of the pack and it his her duty to defend. When the person who passes the gate pats her on the head, he is paying attention to her and showing respect. For her it means that he is confirming her status as pack leader. This is very gratifying. Next time she will again run to the gate and the owner will again say that she goes berserk.

I will continue interpreting Tony’s message from a dog’s point of view in article number 4.

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Assisting and helping dog owners to lead a happy life with their pets is a very interesting profession. It still amazes me how well the behaviour of a dog is reflected by the owner’s attitude. The Spanish must have known this since the beginning of time because they have a proverb that says “el perro es el reflejo del dueño”, meaning that “the dog is the reflection of the owner”. A difficulty for a canine behaviourist is that callers usually say something like “my dog needs a little bit of training”.

If someone thinks that his/her dog needs training, we are dealing with a well-meaning dog owner. He or she has seen a problem and has taken the decision to ask for professional advice. This kind of loving owner is really looking for a solution.

He or she will not bring the dog to a rescue centre, throw it out of the car on a motorway, abandon it in the woods or bring it to the vet to have it put down because it is a “bad” dog.

Nevertheless I will always see the surprise in the eyes of these well-meaning dog owners when I explain to them that I will not train their dog. What I will do is show them how they can train their dog themselves.

The main difficulty in this kind of work is not the dog. Many times my clients tell me “with you he is not doing it” or “with you he is doing it, but with me he refuses to do it”. This is why I will never start an educational program with clients, without having made an assessment of their behaviour with the dog. As soon as I start asking questions, they will tell me things like, “the dog is much more quiet with you than with other visitors”. Then I explain to them that it is because of my behaviour, which is probably different from what other visitors do with the dog. I do not consider the dog to be a human being, a child or a baby. I know that the dog is a dog and that its ancestors are wolfs. Humanizing the dog and treating him as if he is a spoiled child provokes behavioural problems. In my library I have many books about dogs, but nowhere can I find a better summary that explains how to understand our dog than in David Klein’s Book. Therefore I reproduce hereunder the chapter you can find on page 15 of David’s “A-Z Guide to Dogs”.

“Truly to understand dogs you first need to understand the behavioural instincts they have inherited from their forebears the wolves.

Your dog’s normal behaviour has its roots in the highly socialised wolf pack with its clearly defined dominance structure in which behavioural problems do not exist. The pack reflects the wolf’s desire for contact and affection, the two key attributes of our pet dogs today which have helped to make them man’s best friend.

Wolves live in social packs of around a dozen. When a litter is born to the dominant female the whole pack will help in it’s rearing. One example of how caring and protective the pack can be is the fact that bone or two of the senior females produce milk in case, for some reason, the mother cannot do so. The mother licks the pups to stimulate defecation and cleans up by eating the faeces. The den, with an access tunnel up to 12 feet in length, is always kept clean. As they grow older, the pups will learn to leave the den to defecate in a designated area.

The fight for dominance and a place in the strict hierarchy within the pack begins the moment the pups cluster around the mother’s teats for milk. The stronger, bolder pups get the rear teats with the best supply of milk. (This does not happen with cats as each kitten claims its own teat.)

The pups will soon start playing games amongst themselves. These games, fundamental to their learning process, involve chasing (preparing them for the day they become hunters), biting or mouthing (which develops the jaws for eating but its play is never hard enough to hurt), and tug-of-war (for wolves tear their prey apart and the winner gets the most meat). The mother praises her pups when they behave well by nibbling them around the ears or neck, the places you should pat a dog. She will show annoyance by eye contact or growling or, if absolutely necessary, by a mock attack which never hurts the pups. The whole pack, including the mother, feeds the pups once they are weaned. In the poor light of early morning or dusk when their sharp eyesight gives them the advantage, the pack goes off to hunt, headed by the pack leader with the others following in single file according to rank.

The pack can pick up the scent of a prey more than a mile away. While closing in, any of the wolves that spot the dung of the prey will roll in it to disguise their own smell, making it easier to get closer undetected. On sighting the prey, the pack splits up and circles it. Then either the lower-rank wolves drive the prey towards the leader to allow the more experienced of the pack to initiate the attack, or the whole circle closes in on the prey. After the kill, the pack leader will be the first to eat. Then the rest will gorge them; also eating whatever grazing material might be in the prey’s stomach. Wolves are carnivores but they supplement their diet, in the same way a dog will eat grass to supplement its food if there is a need. Any remnants are buried, to be dug up and eaten later, a thrifty habit inherited by dogs that dig up the bones they bury in the garden. When the wolves return to the lair, the pups will jump up and lick their mouths to get them to regurgitate some food, a behaviour reflected in the way puppy dogs today jump up to lick your hand. As the wolf pups get older the mother will bring back chunks of meat for them, an instinct we are reminded of today when our dog brings back a ball or a stick to us.

When threatened, a wolf, just like a dog, will fight, take flight or freeze. A submissive wolf will even roll over on its back. Growling and staring precedes an attack, which is carried out silently. The male wolves in a prowling pack will mark out a territory by urinating in short spurts or by defecating. The males can aim higher by cocking their legs and the higher up the urine is deposited on an object, the further the scent travels. Other packs of wolves or other animals will respect a marked territory. A pack hunting a prey has even been seen to give up the chase when the prey crosses over into another pack’s territory. A young male wolf, subdued by a more dominant one, might flee the pack to join other outcasts and form a new pack, in just the same way wild packs of dogs are formed today, or a fatally sick wolf might leave the pack, often at night, to die. When this happens, the ranks within the pack have to be adjusted and there can be fights to decide which one moves up or down, but they rarely result in wounds. There is no problem when the leader dies. The number two in the pack automatically takes its place.

The leader of the pack picks the most dominant female to mate with when she comes into season along with all the other females. So started selective breeding. The other males accept that they cannot mate but will indulge in mounting the females when they are not in heat. All the females menstruate around the same time. The lower ranking females (the weaker ones) instinctively know they have no right to be mated, but some will have a phantom pregnancy and will produce milk as a back up for the one selected for breeding. Around 10.000 years ago, early man allowed wolves, attracted by the smell of food, to approach his campfire. Puppies might have been taken from packs for children to play with but the wolf’s main attraction for man was its ability to guard by scenting danger. So the first dogs were working dogs, guarding the camps of early man, scenting danger or prey, and retrieving. Through breeding over the centuries, the working dog developed into different types to do specific jobs and in our own times was further refines into the special breeds seen at dog shows such as Crufts. Eventually, dogs came into our homes as pets and companions, completing the journey from Stone Age fire to the hearthrug.

Today, we tend to pay to much attention to pedigree and ignore or fail to understand the dog itself and the basic instincts it has inherited from the wolf. Not understanding these basic instincts causes more behavioural problems between a dog and its owner than anything else – with the possible exception of giving your dog the wrong kind of food. For instance, dogs have inherited an instinctive urge to dominate but at the same time will respects its place in the pack. If you allow it, your dog will quite readily dominate you and be the leader of the pack, but if you assert yourself as the dominant one, it will accept you as the leader and will also quite happily accept its position in the family pecking order once it has been firmly established. For this reason it is not cruel to dominate your dog. The great behaviourist John Fisher, whom I am honoured to call a friend has said our problems with dogs arise when “their normal behaviour is exhibited at the wrong place at the wrong time.” The dog is behaving normally but for us the behaviour is untimely or undesirable or, far worse, we don’t understand why it is behaving in such a way. The fault is ours, not the dogs. It is our lack of understanding of the dog that creates the problem.

Make sure you do the right thing, in the right place, at the right time. And always remember, a dog is a dog. It is not a hairy human being. So don’t treat it as one.”

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What are the most important activities in a dog‘s life?

A dog never goes to the library, to the opera, the theatre, the bookshop, to an art gallery or to the supermarket.

Apart from sleeping, eating, drinking and procreating, what a dog prefers to do is to go hunting.

We on the other hand we want them to live a very artificial life as our companions. Dogs do not consider our homes to be “houses“. For them they are caves or holes we have dug in the ground. Whenever we leave that cave, our dogs do not go for a walk. They go hunting. To think otherwise is silly. It is humanising a dog. He will never be able to behave like us, but WE can try to understand HIS behaviour. The moment you leave your home, your dogs wants to sniff, to listen, to look, to search, to run, to walk slowly, to stand still and observe very attentively.


Because he is hunting. During this very important activity in a dog‘s life, it is our duty to be in charge of the hunt. If you are walking your dog on a lead and he is pulling, you are not in charge. He is.

If you are walking your dog off lead and he never runs back to you when you call him, you are not in charge. He is.

Only when you can walk your dog on a slack lead, you will be able to walk with him off lead. (If you want to learn how to do that, get in touch with me) And that is the moment when it starts to become really exciting for a dog owner.

Some time ago I overheard someone in a bar talking about dog training classes in the UK. The person explained that she stopped going to these classes because she thought that they were rather boring. I can understand that. In my dog training school I did many more things than only “obedience” exercises. We not only went walking with our members; we also organised excursions, tests, competitions and demonstrations.


Now try to imagine how exciting it must be for your dog and for you to go “hunting“ on an agility course. The dog runs through tunnels, over a catwalk, jumps over obstacles, follows all your signals, checks constantly what you are doing, watches how you are turning to the right, how you are turning to the left, how you are stopping at a table and how you start running again. At the end of this “hunt“ your dog can catch a rabbit. It is not a living animal but the toy you throw in front of him when he clears the last jump. He brings it back to you and you play with him, showing your enthusiasm about his clever performance. Would you like to do this?

Having passed successfully your test in general obedience you will have mastered the art of working with your dog off the lead. Then you can start discovering how exciting it is to work with your dog as a team. On an agility course your dog works with you and respects you as the pack leader who is really organising the hunt. The dog learns how to observe your smallest movements and you learn how to use the correct body language. You are working as a team and you are the team leader. It is great to discover how your dog learns to clear the obstacles, to see that his speed is increasing and to feel that you are fine-tuning your own running technique. I knew several ladies who were very glad to have shed some kilos on the agility course and some gents even quit smoking because they got addicted to something that is much better for their health than nicotine. Their new drug is called “agility.“


We had a dedicated group of dog handlers in our agility team. As agility was invented a long time ago in the UK, most of you will have heard something about it. But do you know what flyball is? No? Would you like to know? Just give me a call. I can explain it to you. I can put you in touch with companies producing the flyball machines and if you put a team together I can train you. The members of my Spanish teams loved it. You will love it too. Our Flyball Fanatics loved to show how they could send their dogs flying over the hurdles to the ball machine and call them back to the starting line. Our agility “addicts” loved to show how agile they were on the agility course. No one in my teams was ever complaining about boring lessons. On the contrary, they wanted to do as many runs on the course as they could get.

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I lived in Spain for 11 years and was confronted many times with stories about Spanish Galgos. I love the breed because two of my own dogs are descendants of Spanish Galgos.

(More information about these dogs at

I fully support every courageous person who is working for the protection of the Galgos. Therefore I included this story in the series of articles on my website.

In the course of a few months of 2005 the animal protection centre of la Sierra de Cadiz had rescued 12 abandoned Spanish Greyhounds. These beautiful dogs called “Galgos Españoles” are descendants of the famous Egyptian greyhounds. Juan Jesus Portillo, president of the local organisation “SOS Galgos”, decided to take charge of the 12 dogs in order to find a new home for them. These graceful animals are very good-natured and calm, but often they have been maltreated and/or abandoned by their owners.

For instance professional gamblers abandon them if their performances on the racetracks are not up to their wildest financial dreams.

SOS Galgos financed the expenses for providing the rescue dogs with a microchip and a thorough medical check. They were also properly fed and vaccinated, tested for illnesses, strained muscles and damaged joints. Very often their former owners make them run in races without the proper training and without offering them special crafty food. Instead of letting them have a warm up run before the races start, they confine the dogs to a kennel. Then, all of a sudden they have to start running at top speed, what inevitably leads to injuries.

The same happens to us too if we have to sprint 100 meters this evening without proper training and warming up exercises.

As soon as the 12 dogs were in pristine condition Juan Jesus Portillo got in touch with Steve Dunn and Gloria Armstrong. They represent AEGA (Allianza Americana Europea de Galgos) and “Greyhounds as Companion” in New York and Boston. They flew to Madrid and picked up the 12 Galgos. Both American charities are continuously looking for families willing to provide a happy new home for the abandoned Spanish Greyhounds. Soon Juan Jesus Portillo will visit the States to participate in a fête or Open House party, where he will be able to see the dogs in their new surroundings.

It is wrong to say: “Spaniards are cruel with animals”. Many Spaniards are against bullfights. The city council of Barcelona, the second biggest town in Spain after Madrid, has for instance declared Barcelona a “city free of bullfights”

Juan Jesus Portillo is one of the many Spaniards who dedicate their lives to protecting and rescuing animals. I honour him and all the other Spanish friends for what they do.


One of my clients has three dogs. Two of them are young and lively rascals but the third one is an old German Shepherd Dog (GSD). This big beautiful dog is 8 years old but suffers so badly from hip dysplasia (HD) that she is constantly on painkillers. Speaking to my client I tried to prepare her for the fatal moment when a decision will have to be taken. I know from personal experience that to take this final decision is very painful indeed. When I lost one of my dogs, I had the impression that I was walking in a daze. For a whole week I could not concentrate nor work because I felt overwhelmed by the pain. I needed another dog to put me back on my feet. As soon as my new puppy arrived she helped me tremendously in overcoming my grief. She was worth all the attention I could give her and this took my mind of the death of my old dog. Just to tell you that I know how painful it is to loose a dog forever. Nevertheless I think that we may not prolong the life of a dog unnecessarily if it suffers from an incurable illness. A pet that can hardly walk although it is stuffed with painkillers has no quality life. I believe that it is possible to say farewell to our dogs in a very soothing way. I know that some people can talk to their animals and we can certainly learn how to listen to them. Recently I saw a lady running from the surgery of a vet. She was crying and she wanted to get away as quickly as possible. No pet was accompanying her. I knew that she had lost a valuable friend and I felt pain in my chest. I could imagine how she went to see the vet with her beloved animal and how she had to leave the surgery without. This is a terrible experience. For all of us. If you have an elderly dog and the moment has come to say farewell, I would prefer it to happen in a different way. I would invite the vet to my home. I would take time to talk to my dog and thank him for all the happiness he brought into my life. I would explain him that time has come for a fond farewell. Then I would take the dog in my arms, look into his eyes and I signal the vet to give the injections.


It took George Bernard Shaw to write something like “as long as we have slaughterhouses we will have battlefields.” I fully agree with him. Doctor Albert Schweitzer not only received the Nobel Price for Peace in 1952, but I remember him most of all because of the respect he had for every living creature. He used to stress how dangerous it is if we start thinking that an animal is nothing more than a throwaway article. Life is sacred. For every one of us, but also for every animal. Forgetting this will inevitably lead to a point where the life of a human being is not important anymore. Thank you Doctor Schweitzer. We had to wait till 1978, when the UNESCO finally published the Universal Declaration of Animal Rights. Twenty-five years later a Spanish Declaration of Rights for Dogs and Cats has been published. Article one states that no companion dog can survive without our help. To abandon such a dog is not only a disgrace but also a cruel and degrading deed. Thank you for the Spanish Declaration and let’s now go and talk to the hunters who killed 22 dogs with illegal poison last week.


Do you want some clear examples of dogs reacting to what happens in the homes of their owners? Ever heard about a dog that was soiling the carpet when you had a fight with your partner? Ever seen a dog that was vomiting while his owner was on a very strict diet? Ever been to a house that was a complete chaos, where the dog had a skin allergy that was aggravated by the nervousness of the owners? I remember entering a property where the garden was nothing but a junkyard. A bunch of black dogs were running and barking while their owner was shouting. In the living room I had to clear a chair of all the rubbish that was lying on it, before I could sit down. Every other single piece of furniture was covered with pots, pans, clothes and other bits and pieces. Having offered me a not very clean cup of tea, the owner of the six black dogs started explaining that his pets were not obedient. That was the problem you see. Not only his home and his garden were total chaos. His explanations were just as chaotic. It did not surprise me when he called his dogs “these assholes”. He also explained that if his dogs would have been intelligent dogs, he would have been able to train them. But unfortunately they were assholes. It was plain obvious for him that he had only been unlucky with these dogs. There was nothing wrong with his behaviour or his state of mind. Trying to teach this owner how to change his behaviour proved to be an uphill struggle.

Rather often I meet dog owners who speak in a negative way about their dogs. Female dog owners are very good in spoiling their pets so that they end up with an anthropomorphic neurosis. What leads their dogs to become the dominant force in the human pack. Some male customers are often so frustrated about their inability to communicate with their dogs that they resort to scolding, shouting and cursing. Do you think that it helps to create a harmonious relationship with your dog if you shower him with volleys of oaths? Let me give you a different example. When I speak to my black male, I look into his eyes and call him “my Black Prince”: Because I admire not only his elegance but also his brilliant coat, his beautiful eyes, his aristocratic bearings, his swiftness when he runs and his control of difficult situations I really think of him as a prince. I consider it a privilege that he is willing to share his life with me. Over the years he has been teaching me a lot. For me it is a humbling experience. I will never call him a stupid dog. I would be an asshole to do that.


Last week I quoted Maureen from Torrevieja, who wrote me about her rather negative experience with a local dog trainer. I never train dogs. I try to educate dog owners. When they are willing to change their attitude, the doggy problems disappear. I think that human beings do not have the right to break, tame, train or teach a dog a lesson (nor a horse, lion, tiger, dolphin etc…). We should treat them with humility because we can learn so much from them. Observing our pets is much more interesting than many stupid programs on the box. Our pets can teach us what it means to behave like a pack leader and we can show them how they can adapt to our industrialised society. Our attitude to our dogs, and to animals in general, must be one of gratitude, reverence, respect and awe. They are our passports to a better and happy life. If you are the owner of a dog from a rescue centre, try to think of your animal as an abused kid whose life is now in your hands. Try to imagine how this animal feels. Make the comparison with your first day at kindergarten. I do remember my first day as if it was yesterday and not 56 years ago. I cried and wept because I thought that my mum was never going to come back. Try to think about your feelings on that first school day. It will help you understand your dog when you return home and discover that he has destroyed your new settee. When you left him alone for five hours, he thought that his mum was never coming back. He was so stressed that he had to do something. Instead of chewing his nails, smoking a packet of cigarettes, jangling his keys, stroking his beard or scratching his hair he chewed the settee. It was not his fault. He had to do it or he would literally have gone crazy. You omitted educating him. Remembering your first school day or any other scary experience in your childhood will help you understand your dogs’ anxiety in similar circumstances.

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