October 2019 Newsletter

Dominance in Dogs: Owners’ Reports Are Scientifically Valid

New research shows owners’ assessments of dominance are ethologically sound.

I recently read an important new research paper that’s available online by Enikő Kubinyi​ and Lisa J. Wallis called “Dominance in dogs as rated by owners corresponds to ethologically valid markers of dominance,” the detailed results of which are well worth sharing with any people who live with dogs, as well as those who don’t. Dominance in dogs is well established by detailed ethological research; however, as the researchers point out, “to date, no study has examined how owners perceive dominance in dogs, and what different behaviors and personality types are used to describe dominant and subordinate individuals.” A detailed discussion of dominance in dogs can be found in Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Doand the authors of this new essay also nicely review available literature.

As a fan of “citizen science,” the results of Enikő Kubinyi​ and Lisa Wallis’s study were of great interest to me, and I was pleased they could answer a few questions about their research project, some of which went beyond what readers will see in the published paper. (See “How Well Do You Know What Dogs Do, Think, and Feel?” and “Dog Smarts: The Science of What They Think About and Know.”) Our interview went as follows. 

Why did you do your study, and what questions were you trying to answer?

The term “dominance” is often used by dog owners to describe dogs; however, there may be little agreement regarding its meaning, as dominance is defined differently in ethology, psychology, among the public, and in the popular press. So, we set out to examine what owners mean when they talk about dominance between dogs.

Previous ethological studies have established that dominance relationships do exist between pairs/groups of pet dogs, usually by measuring specific behaviors shown by dogs when interacting in a lab, facility, or dog play park. Scientists record the dogs’ behaviors when interacting, which then allows them to determine each dogs’ position and to predict how the dogs will behave in future conflict situations. This information is vitally important when it comes to managing multiple dogs living in the same household. In comparison to scientists, owners are in a unique position, as they observe their dogs daily throughout their lives, and therefore have a wealth of knowledge concerning their dogs’ relationships and interactions. Despite this fact, only few studies have focused on examining relationships of dogs living in the home environment, and none have sought to determine how owners perceive the relationships between their dogs, and whether they believe that dominance relationships exist. Therefore, we set out to examine if owners reported one of their dogs as dominant and the different behaviors they used to describe dominant and subordinate individuals.

How did you conduct your research?

We surveyed 1,156 Hungarian owners of more than one dog to determine how owners perceive dominance relationships in dog dyads. Based on previous studies, owner questionnaires could be a valid method, as the quality of data produced by citizen scientists has proven to be satisfactory.

How did you define dominance?

Since we were interested in understanding whether dog owners believe that one of their dogs is “dominant” to the other and what sorts of behaviors and personality traits both dominant and subordinate individuals may display according to the owner, we did not define dominance in the questionnaire, as we did not want to influence their answers. Instead, we asked owners: Which of the dogs is the “boss” (has a dominant status) to the best of your knowledge: “A” or “B”? Owners could also select “Similar” if both dogs fit the description, or “N/A”. When the owners marked “N/A,” we assumed that they could not answer the question as neither of the dogs appeared to be dominant to the owner, or they were unsure/did not fully understand the question. We also asked 20 other questions, each corresponding to a different behavior, personality trait, or characteristic (e.g., “Which dog acquires the better resting place?”), and then investigated the associations between dogs that had been designated as “dominant” and the 20 characteristics. Our hope was that owners responded to the questions intuitively, using the knowledge they had gained through daily observations of their dogs’ relationships and interactions, as well as their own understanding of the concept of dominance. Which was the only way we could answer our research question of how the dog-owning public view dominance between dogs living in their households. However, in the paper we emphasized the ethological definition of dominance. In ethology, the word dominance is used to describe the long-term social relationships between individuals belonging to a group, which is established through force, aggression, and submission, and serves to determine priority access to resources (such as food, mates, and preferred resting places). The consistent winner is referred to as the dominant, and the loser the subordinate. Once the relationship has been established, the subordinate offers submission behaviors, such as licking the mouth of the dominant. There is typically no longer a need for the dominant to use force or aggression, and thus the potential for conflict is reduced, which is very advantageous for a group.

What are some of your major findings?

Owners interpreted dominance based on specific behaviors, obtaining resources and certain personality traits, which supports that dominance relationships are robust and well-perceivable components of companion dog behavior. Dogs rated as dominant usually have priority access to certain resources, such as food, rewards, resting places, and they are perceived to undertake specific tasks, such as “guarding” through barking more, walking in the front during walks (i.e., “leading” the group), defending the group in case of perceived danger, etc. They display dominance: more frequently accept that the other dogs lick their mouth and mark over the other’s urination. They have characteristic personality traits: smarter, more aggressive, and impulsive, and they are older than subordinates according to the owners. Asking which dog wins fights is highly predictive if it did occur (fighting occurred in approximately 70 percent of pairs). Physical condition, obedience, sequence of greeting the owner and retrieving balls were unrelated to the perceived dominance.

Were there any surprises?

We were surprised that 87 percent of owners indicated that their dogs differed in their social status, and only 10 percent perceived them as similar. We assumed that more owners would be unable to detect differences in rank in their dogs, perhaps because the dogs had a different type of relationship, which was not based on dominance: For example, they were non-interactive (they co-existed without social interactions, i.e., they avoided each other), or they had an “egalitarian” relationship (the partners affiliated regularly, e.g., played with each other, without agonistic behavior). Also, we did not expect to find that in mixed-sex dyads, females were more frequently rated as dominant than males. This might be because dominant females were more often neutered than dominant males, and previous studies have found that aggression occurs more often in neutered females compared to intact females and neutered males.

We expected to find that age would explain the relationships between the dyads, perhaps better than dominance status, as previous studies have found that older dogs are more often dominant than young individuals. However, in the current study, dominance status, as perceived by the owner, explained dog-to-dog interactions better than the age of the dogs. Yet when we examined only the dyads where a younger individual was dominant, we found that 64 percent of the dominants licked the mouth of the older individual, which is a sign of submission. We reasoned that the owners may have perceived the younger individual to be dominant, as it was more motivated to obtain resources, perhaps because it was faster/more active, as well as showed higher aggression and impulsivity in comparison to the older dog. Possibly, these younger individuals may have started to test the older dog to establish boundaries. Regardless, there is still a lot to learn about how age differences influence relationships in pet dogs.

What are some practical aspects of your results?

Owners are responsible for choosing the social partners of their dogs, so they have a duty to try to ensure that relationships are as amicable as possible. For example, owners could reinforce the position of older individuals in order to reduce competition and avoid keeping multiple dogs of the same sex and age. We found great individual differences in dogs’ relationships and hope in the future to examine these more closely and include affiliative aspects as well as long-term changes. It’s important to note that our study represents a snapshot in time in the lives of the dogs, and that dog relationships are dynamic and may change according to context and learning.

What are some of your current projects?

Both of us work in the Senior Family Dog Project in Budapest. We explore the cognitive aging of family dogs with not only behavioral, but also neuroscientific and genetic testing methods. The results are expected to provide guidelines for a healthy lifestyle to promote successful aging and to aid our understanding of the biological background of human cognitive aging through the non-invasive use of the pet dog as an animal model. The “dominance study” was a side project, and originated from Eniko’s previous study on the collective motion of a dog pack. At that time, it was not clear what questionnaire items should be used to map dominance hierarchies between dogs, and we aimed to fill the gap.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers?

We would like to emphasize that the current study examined owners’ ratings of their dogs and did not attempt to validate these ratings with the dogs’ behavior in real-life situations. Another topic for future research is the relationship of owners with the dogs within their household, and how this might influence the intraspecific relationships between their dogs, a topic that is currently hotly debated. Since some dog owners describe dogs that often show dominant behavior towards other dogs as having a “dominant personality,” studies linking personality traits to owner-perceived dominance status would be especially useful to help clarify the correct terminology to the public. We hope to publish a paper on this topic in the near future. So watch this space!


Thank you so much Enikő and Lisa for your important research and for agreeing to answer these questions, the answers to some of which expand what you wrote about in your published essay. Your results are very important, and I hope others will follow up with more research on dominance and its assessment in dogs. 

Stay tuned for further discussions of the behavior of dogs and the ways in which citizen science can help us learn about them and other animals. It’s encouraging that so many of the people with whom Enikő and Lisa had contact know what they’re talking about and are fluent in dog.


Bekoff, Marc. 2018. Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

_____. Dominance in Free-Ranging Dogs: Age and Social TolerancePsychology Today, May 18, 2017.

_____. Dogs Display Dominance: Deniers Offer No Credible DebatePsychology Today, July 7, 2016.

_____. Dominance and Pseudoscience: Making Sense of NonsensePsychology Today, January 13, 2013. 

_____. Social Dominance Is Not a MythPsychology Today, February 15, 2012. 

Kubinyi E, Wallis LJ. 2019. Dominance in dogs as rated by owners corresponds to ethologically valid markers of dominance. PeerJ 


Woman gives up job as backing singer for Spice Girls and Kings of Leon to be a cat whisperer

Anita Kelsey


ANITA KELSEY reckons she has a purr-fect job . . . as a cat whisperer. She works her magic on problem moggies all over the country and can tame almost any feline.

Anita was once a backing singer with Kings Of Leon and the Spice Girls — even winning a MOBO award. But she turned her back on fame, which is music to cats’ ears.

She studied feline grooming and behaviour to graduate from Middlesex University with a first-class honours degree in cat psychology.

Anita, 56, from Notting Hill, West London, said: “I’ve always loved cats and knew I had the same passion about them as I do with music. When I was young, I wanted to be a vet or a singer. I’ve done the singing bit and I guess this is the closest I’ll get to being a vet! I’m happy to settle for that.”

She has dealt with fighting in multi-cat households, aggressive pets and much-loved moggies who refuse to use a litter tray. Anita also works to build confidence in nervous rescue-cats and ease anxiety in cats that over-groom to the point of injury.

She says: “Problems creep in when owners treat their beloved cats not as pets but like children, not making sufficient outlets for their natural instincts and behaviours.”

Vets may refer cats with problems to her, or clients contact her directly.

She said: “I’ve issued very naughty cats with ASBO certificates. The clients frame them! One of the big issues with solving cat-behaviour cases is the time it takes their owners to realise there’s a problem and getting help.

“If an issue has been occurring for some time, it may turn into a habit, which is far more difficult to break.

“Or could be happening for different reasons than those which prompted the original trigger.”

Here are Anita’s top tips to deal with cat-astrophes.

Going nuts indoors. “If a cat lives indoors and doesn’t have outside space or is in a high-rise apartment, they may be desperate for some breeze on their fur. Put them on a lead and take them for a walk to stop them crying in the house.”

Depression. “Have you moved house, altered your home in some way or got a new partner? A cat can become withdrawn and change behaviours to resemble a depressed state if their daily rituals alter. Cats do not like change or disruption.”

Petting anxiety. “Some cats don’t like too much stroking. Watch and listen to them. Do they actually look like they enjoy being picked up? Cats prefer low-intensity, less intrusive interactions in short bursts.”

Spraying and marking. “Cats spray to leave their scent and mark their territory but it can also be related to stress. Is the litter tray too small or too near to a noisy entrance? They could be seeing or sensing other cats in the area.”

Coping with a fat cat. “When their waist starts to disappear, it’s time to question what you are giving them and why. Their natural diet is meat, not biscuits. Never free-feed. If food is available all day, every day, your cat will eat it.”

Source:  www.thesun.co.uk

Thank you for your patience while I continue to learn this new blog software.  – Diane

Please submit your blogs to Diane:  dianekunas@yahoo.com

July 2019 Newsletter

New Member Welcome

by Estella Vaz

Guinea pigs were the pets I was allowed to have as a child and I loved them, but really I wanted a dog.  So eleven years ago, I decided that the time was right for a dog and I walked into my local rescue center and asked if they had any terriers.  The lady I was talking to answered “yes, we have lovely male fox terrier cross”.  Needless to say, a week later this young fox terrier cross came to live with me and changed my life.

As the dog ran off with my Birkenstocks for the umpteenth time, chewed up the telephone, pooped on the bed, piddled up the fireplace and had daily standoffs with my husband, I realised that this dog was not quite so ‘lovely’ and a bit of a handful.  Never one to hide from a challenge off to doggy training school we went, along with the implementation of a routine and an exercise program.  I learnt how to manage and understand his needs and as a deep bond with him grew we became a team.  Eight months later, I was back at the kennels – a Jack Russell terrier bitch joined our family with a whole different set of issues that needed addressing. 

After completing training with the JRT, I started helping as an assistant at the training school.  I found that I enjoyed helping people learn with their dogs and as a bonus I got to cuddle lots of puppies.  The instructor who owns the training school also performed temperament and behaviour assessments at the local rescue center. This seemed a natural progression and allowed me to expand my understanding of dogs by observing and handling a great variety of breeds. This work, as anyone who works with

Estella Vaz

rescue dogs knows, can be very emotional and as a result a couple more terriers came to join our expanding family, each with their own little character and issues.

Eventually, I decided that I could only learn so much studying on my own and it was time to commit to a formal canine education.  Therefore I started studying with the Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour & Training and over the years I have gradually worked my way through a number of the courses and workshops.  Eventually I was able to start my own practice ‘Doggie Delinquents’ providing behavioural consultations and 1:1 training for puppies and adult dogs, covering part of East Midlands (Leicestershire, Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire).  Having lived with behavioural issues with my dogs, I can truly understand how challenging and stressful this can be for owners, so I get a lot of satisfaction from helping owners work their way through their issues and improve not only their lives but their dogs too.   

As for the dog that started this journey, he still has his moments but we both have certainly come a long way from those early days.

Estella Vaz, MCFBA

International Book Award for Lez Graham


                                      Mainstream & Independent Titles Score Top Honors in the                                              10th Annual International Book Awards 

Simon & Schuster, St. Martin’s Press, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, John Wiley & Son, Rowman & Little Publishing Group, Taschen, New World Library, Forge Books,  American Cancer Society and hundreds of national and international Independent Houses contribute to this year’s Outstanding Competition!

Animals/Pets: General
                             Manners not Mayhem : A common-sense approach to raising, training                                      and living with your puppy by Lez Graham, MA
Braidwood Books

Lez Graham

More Good News for Lez:               

The Pet Gundog was in the top 1.3% of all books sold on amazon last week!

Congratulations Lez!

Lez Graham, MA. FCFBA

CFBA Member Discounts

A Reminder of all CFBA Member Discounts

20% off of all courses for CFBA Members using the code cfba20 at the checkout.

Benyfit Natural

20% Off all products for CFBA Members when using CFBA20 at the checkout.


10% off of trade prices when ordering 10 or more units (mixed). You will need to email your order to info@gencon-allin1.co.uk

You can also get 10% off of retail prices when ordering less than 10 units using the code CFBA10 at the checkout.

Sara Abbott Artist


10% Off of a bespoke artwork experience. (Visiting the home, taking photographs, choosing an image and an oil on canvass  delivered back to you). £50 will also be donated to a dog rescue organisation.

For Dog Trainers

15% Off all products using the code CFBA15 at the checkout.

KJK Rope Dog Leads


20% Off of all products. Must be ordered by telephone 01884 254191 or email customerserviceskjk@btconnect.com


10% off of all orders using this link: https://gravyo.co.uk/discount/CFBA10INTRO or simply using the code CFBA10INTRO at the checkout.


Members of the CFBA are invited to join the referral scheme – you will receive a unique reference number to provide to clients and when they place their order the client receives a free full size product with their order and so do you as a thank you for referring. Excellent products.

The Golden Paste Company

10% Off all products when using the code ‘Canine&FelineAssociation’ at the checkout.

Please email your blog entries to dianekunas@yahoo.com

June 2019 Newsletter

A Message for all CFBA Members

A message for all CFBA members,

This is just to remind all members who have signed up to the new membership subscription payment service, your payments will be taken automatically on their renewal date.

So if you’re a full member, your payment of £175 will be taken annually, or £43.75 every three months – depending on which subscription you chose.

Likewise if you’re an associate member, your payment of £65 will be taken annually, or £32.50 every six months – depending on which subscription you chose.


You can of course cancel your subscription payment at anytime by signing into your PayPal account – or just get in touch with us and we can cancel it.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you need to clarify anything about your membership.

John Bowe

Dog Train-ing A Guide to Taking your Dog on the Train

Half of British dog owners (51%) refuse to go on holiday without their pets according to new research. And, a further 32% insist their dog is as much part of the family as their children. 

In addition, a staggering 54% would prefer to go on holiday with their dog than their partner, claiming they are better company (48%), better behaved (39%), don’t snore (30%) and don’t hog the bed (26%). 

The study of 1,000 British dog owners, commissioned by East Midlands Trains to celebrate the launch of a new range of pup-friendly provisions on selected routes, found that our four-legged friends are surprisingly well travelled. The average pooch ventures 500 miles every year, a third of dogs have been to a dog-friendly health spa (31%) and nearly a fifth (18%) have even attended a festival. 

However, many owners are unsure about rail travel, with 59% admitting they don’t know the rules concerning taking dogs on board. A third of people (30%) believe dogs aren’t actually allowed on trains, with nerves being the main reason for the majority of dog owners to avoid rail travel (55%) with their furry friends. Despite this, half (50%) of those polled said they would take their dogs on the train if they understood the on board rules. 

In response, East Midlands Trains has partnered with canine behaviourist, Colin Tennant, to devise the ‘Dog Train-ing’ guide specifically designed to help make travelling with four-legged friends as easy and as passenger-friendly as possible. 

Dog-owning passenger’s biggest travel concerns are addressed in the handy guide and video which sees Colin showing how our pooches can actually be the perfect train traveller. Major worries include the likes of dogs being too big to travel on board (36%), drooling (31%) and getting too excited (55%).  

The rail operator is also rolling out a range of pup-friendly provisions, including dog bowls at main stations and doggie treats (donuts bespoke for canine consumption) on board, to make travelling with pooches even easier.

Jake Kelly, Managing Director of East Midlands Trains says: “We welcome well-behaved pets on board and know there are plenty of advantages to travelling by train with your pet. However, it’s clear that some owners are unsure of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to bringing a dog on board. To help out, we’ve created a handy guide and are launching brand new doggy provisions on selected routes so that your dog, you and all other passengers are as comfortable as possible when using our services.” 

The research also discovered that most (69%) dog owners believe their fellow passengers are friendlier when they have their four-legged friend in tow, with two thirds (68%) polled revealing they have more conversations with their fellow passengers (68%) when accompanied by their pooch. Half of male dog owners even went as far to say that they could see these conversations leading to a date, compared to just 38% of women. 

Male dog owners also thought their pooch travelled better than their partner (32%) – twice as much as women (15%). So, it seems dogs really are a man’s best friend. 

Elsewhere in the research, the study found that the average pooch had visited three countries in its lifetime, so it’s not surprising that more than half (56%) of owners aged 18-29 year old owners said their dogs are more seasoned travellers than their parents.

Whilst a third (31%) of British dog owners admit to taking their dogs abroad with them, 14% confess they only take a UK staycation where they know their pooch is welcome. Blackpool Pier (16%), Stonehenge (16%), Land’s End (15%) and Big Ben (14%) are amongst the top tourist hotspots Brits love to visit with their dogs.

To download the handy ‘Dog Train-ing’ guide, and find out the services rolling out the doggy perks, visit the East Midlands Trains website:


May 2019 Newsletter

Introducing the New CFBA Magazine Forum

Editor Introduction

Dear Members,

Please allow me to introduce our new magazine forum!  Instead of a quarterly PDF containing anywhere from 8 – 12 articles, I will send 2 – 4 article blog updates via email, similar to what you have received here.  I will email the blogs when relevant news and news of interest is brought to my attention, and where applicable I will source further, complementary articles to add to the theme of the blog.  Once published, updates will only be made available to CFBA members, to include a blog archive.

I always welcome unsolicited articles, and will still request articles or input based on the subject at hand, at which time I hope you will embrace the opportunity to share your expertise.  Many of you have been diligent about doing so, to include a series of formerly published small business articles recently sent to me by Dean Hart (which will be used in upcoming marketing blogs).


As another example, one of the articles in this blog is written by me – an editorial of one of our member’s books.  I know there are many published authors within our association, thus, and again, I encourage you to share your work with the rest of us, whether you provide your own summary or submit an editorial or testimonials written by others. 

I am also interested in breed articles, rehabilitation challenges and successes, and insight into your individual work …

For this blog, and in addition to this introduction and member book editorial, I also welcome new member, Sam O’Connor.

Diane Kunas, MA, MCFBA

New Member Introduction by Sam O'Connor

I know it’s a cliché but I have been obsessed with dogs ever since I was a child.  I have no idea where my interest came from – we didn’t have pets in the family at all, I wasn’t allowed a dog as my parents worked all day but from as early as I can remember I would invent imaginary dogs that I pretended I was walking round the garden and was desperate to play with my friends dogs all the time. I was forever going up to stroke dogs I didn’t know that were tied up outside the supermarket, which not surprisingly resulted in me getting snapped at quite frequently!  This never put me off though and dogs held my interest throughout childhood, even doing my work experience placement at a local boarding kennels, until eventually I came to a bit of a crossroads and a huge decision to make – do I go to University or do I go and work with dogs?

When I was 18, going to University was the thing to do.  Everyone at my school went, and I would never have imagined that I would be any different or have the confidence to be different.  Animal behaviour degrees weren’t on offer back then and the closest thing I could get to anything related to my interest was Zoology and I tailored my A-levels towards this.. However, soon after my work experience, I spotted a tiny advert in the back of “Dog World” newspaper for Bellmead Kennel staff Training College in Berkshire, the largest & most popular animal boarding facility in the South East.  Bellmead was offering a year’s placement to study for an NVQ in Animal Care & Management and whilst this was “going against the grain” as far as my school was concerned, ultimately, I decided this was the right route for me and at 18, I took a leap of faith. 

Bellmead wasn’t just a dog & cat boarding facility and a training college, it was also the country residence for the most famous rescue in the UK, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home. 

Right from the start I was in my element, surrounded by dogs of all shapes and sizes, some who had owners, some who didn’t, but it wasn’t all fluffy puppies & cute kittens, it was really, really hard work!  Having sad that it was probably the best year of my life – I was out in the real world feeling really lucky that I was getting to do exactly what I had dreamed of, watching and learning how to handle and train dogs.  

That first year at Bellmead turned into a 23 year career in the animal welfare industry working in numerous different roles including running & managing a rehoming department, collecting stray dogs as a Local Authority dog warden, working as a canine temperament assessor, handling and training dogs of all ages, breeds & temperaments & most recently in an extremely emotionally challenging position as an intake co-ordinator for Battersea, helping people who were no longer in a position to care for their dogs.

I’ve owned two dogs of my own – Tia, a Border Terrier X who suffered with nervous aggression towards people & dogs and Dudley, a deaf Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  I worked so hard with Tia’s issues and we made such great progress together that she went on to compete in agility and was also a Battersea mascot, making appearances & greeting guests at various red-carpet events, attending photoshoots and starring in an TV advert for the Home. 

So here I am now with a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. My skills have come from observing, handling & training literally thousands of dogs but I feel my full-time career within animal welfare is drawing to a natural close. Not because I don’t genuinely love it, I do, but because, like many jobs that involve such heightened emotions & hard-hitting issues, it definitely gets harder to cope with as you get older!

My choice now is to put everything I have learnt along the way into practice and utilise it to prevent more dogs ending up in rescue.  I am passionate about educating people in how to raise and socialise their puppies in the very best way so as to avoid the sorts of problems I faced with my own dog & have seen in so very many of those who come through rescue and I want to work with those owners who are struggling with their dogs but who are committed to working through problems.  

I have recently committed to updating my education and am currently working towards a Higher Certificate in Professional Canine Behaviour Practice with Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour & Training.  Late last year I was ackowledged as a Master Trainer with the Guild of Dog trainers and am proud to say I am the newest full member of the CFBA. 

I offer private, 1-2-1 training for puppies & adult dogs and behaviour consultations throughout Surrey & West London.

Sam O’Connor, MCFBA


Puppy Coach by Jo Croft: Book Review by Diane Kunas

I recently welcomed a puppy to my home!  It’s been a while, so I thought it a good idea to brush up on what is new in the land of puppy journalism – for both my puppy and professional benefits.  What better way to start than to check out what my CFBA colleagues had to write on the subject! The reading began with Puppy Coach by Jo Croft (2017). 

Puppy Coach is literally everything and all-encompassing puppy: 30 Chapters and 300+ pages, all of which I read in a matter of days.  Of course I was very motivated by the impending arrival of my pup, but my eagerness to keep reading went beyond my own puppy-brain – it is an incredibly solid and immensely practical book! 

Another sign of a good (and again, practical) book are the number of pages that are dog-eared, and mine looks like it’s prepared for a lecture.  And while I could list the depth and breadth of what is covered, much of which, to my knowledge, has not been covered in so much detail and in one place, my biggest takeaway was an overarching theme of keeping calm regardless of whether you’re training, engaging in play, socialising, or when you’re dealing with the whole realm of common puppy problems.  This may seem like common sense, especially when you work with at least one puppy every other day of the week, it is different when the puppy is your responsibility every second of their critical, early developing life!  Therefore, and with this said, maybe the best sign of all is that I believe either I have an exceptionally remarkable puppy, or I am doing an exceptionally remarkable job –  I am inclined to say the latter, because at the top of my mind and at every moment (even when the ‘mini monster’ horns were full-on out), I stayed calm, and what is shaping before me is a calm and balanced dog. I’d like to think that this book reminded me of what I needed to remember most, and it set me up to success!

In perfect world, all new and novice dog owners would be required to complete the tasks at the end of each chapter.  If one doesn’t have time, inclination or interest to do so, perhaps they are not ready to take on a puppy!

Understanding Cats on Amazon Prime Video

Colin Tennant and John Bowe were at Barker Brown’s ‘The Pet Show’ in Earl’s Court, this is where we met cat behaviourist Roger Tabor. Following discussions about working on a project to make various videos about cats, we went on to make five titles, The Cat Indoors, Understanding Cats, The Cat Outdoors, The Mystery of the Cat and Breaking Bad Habits for Cats.

Further to this Roger Tabor was asked to make eight short programmes on various cat topics for the BBC. So the three of us with the help of many others started work on the series and all eight programmes were completed in the Autumn of 1995.

We are pleased to say this series is now available to watch for free if you’re an Amazon Prime Customer, you can also purchase the series. Click on the image below to take you to the listing on Amazon. You can also search on Amazon Prime for ‘Roger Tabor’ or ‘Colin Tennant’ Your feedback of the series is welcome.

The Understanding Cats TV series now available on Amazon Prime Video

PETbc Award to Ross McCarthy

Ross McCarthy receiving his PETbc award from David Cavill on the CIDBT stand at Crufts 2019

Ross McCarthy M.A. FCFBA Canine Behaviour expert and psychologist became the latest winner of this national education award. The PETbc awards celebrate the extraordinary commitment, quality and innovation shown by canine education experts across the UK.

Today was more special than ever when David Cavill presented Ross with his award for professional achievement and at the 2019 N.E.C Crufts . This marking the PETbc commitment to awarding exceptional teachers and who work in the field of canine behaviour solutions.

Ross was most surprised at receiving the accolade and a number of other organisation representatives joined David and Ross at the event on the Crufts – Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour & Training stand.

PETbc chairman David Cavill said: “It gives me great pleasure to showcase the excellence and achievement taking place in the canine behaviour works which benefits all pet dog owners and their cherished dogs.. These awards promote those going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure their the best modern canine behaviour learning is imparted to students, clients and the wider industry from the most trusted experts in Great Britain and to promote enjoyable learning, building in confidence, and achieve the best standards in dog welfare and education.”

Why Do Puppies Bark and What Can We Do About It


Dogs are pack animals and geared for close socialisation with their own kind and we are and become the replacement pack.

Barking is a natural form of communication for puppies, a dog would hardly be a dog if it didn’t bark sometimes. Dogs bark for many and varied reasons; from a greeting to an alarm call and to do so is perfectly normal. Barks will differ from one dog to another and from one situation to another, you will probably come to recognise different barks (vocalisations) in your puppy.

However, barking can be prolonged or excessive, and then it can become a problem and causation needs to be identified.

Many owners give their puppy attention when they bark in an effort to calm them down but this can be interpreted as a connecting reward and make the problem worse called associative learning – so do make sure you not reacting and thereby re-enforcing the behaviour.

Some puppies bark because they are stressed at being separated from their owner and may be suffering from separation anxiety. In serious cases a canine behaviourist should be consulted from the www.cfba.co.uk

Others bark and howl because they don’t have enough stimuli to occupy their day. If owners routines change so they can’t spend as much time with their puppy, it may become frustrated or anxious, and as a result they may bark excessively.

Puppy’s can be left for short periods on their own and that is normal, provide interesting toys, maybe a Kong Toy stuffed with tit bits that forces the puppy to spend time extricating the juicy tit bits to deal with its temporary isolation and associated pleasure.

If your puppy starts to cry, howl or bark excessively, wait for silence then go into the room and make a mild fuss, but not too much, or you might encourage further barking.

Remember, its best to make sure your puppy understand basic rules from day one.

In an extreme case of barking it may be best to contact a member of the Canine & feline Behaviour Association. www.cfba.co.uk

Colin C. Tennant M.A. FCFBA.

The Wolf in our Dog

Whenever I read another distorted anti dog story in the media, perhaps of a dog attacking and injuring somebody, I am reminded that the domestic dog, be it a pedigree or a mongrel, still has some wolf tendencies within. I also have to accept that there is a lot of ignorance among dog owners and the media, which will not help in the general understanding of the incident. Dogs are an accepted part of our culture, the faithful, loyal, trusted friend, defender of house and owner, nevertheless we recoil in disbelief at yet another tabloid story blaming dogs for being dangerous. We wish to perceive the dog as a stable companion from the wild, tamed by us, in our homes. For the most part, the breeders modern, but more importantly the ancients, have made a good job of domesticating the wolf and through selective breeding have produced the plethora of breeds we see in our homes and in the show ring today.

In this article I wish to explore the wilder side of our dog friends in the hope that by understanding why dogs behave as they do we can minimise the bad behaviour and serious attacks upon people. As dog owners, if we could truly understand the full repertoire of dog communication, including vocalisation, touch, hearing, smell and body language our ability to train and control dogs safely would be much better; unfortunately, we still know little about how the dog’s mind works. Many experts believe that they do know and can produce highly trained dogs as proof. That demonstrates to me how the trainer has skillfully learnt to train a dog and does not necessarily prove that he or she understands its subtleties and its instincts.

Show Time
Take the show ring, for example, though we have domesticated the wolf into an endless variety of breeds, pedigree dogs, unlike their ancestors, have to deal with a show environment and learn how to negotiate their way around it without altercation. The fact that we concentrate so many dogs in one small congested space is in itself a success story, which illustrates how breeders have managed to mellow the wolf’s territorial instincts into accepting the close proximity of other dogs who are not pack members. However, the wolf’s innate behaviour is still very much alive in all the show beauties whatever their colour, size or shape and it is this, sometimes unpredictable, innate behaviour that we often try to suppress rather than understand.

The wolf, when he meets other wolves, is generally not predisposed to allowing them into his territory, let alone get so close as to actually give him the once over. His dominant stance and marking of territory is evident on initial contact. Suspicion is high and the freeze or fight triggers are at maximum level. Of course the show dog is not necessarily in its own territory. A car journey miraculously changes the territorial boundaries and all the show dogs have to deal with is this new, electrically lit landscape without any known secure areas, which is quite a test of temperament or more to the point, the result of breeder selection and domestication over the centuries.

We could argue about temperament here and what is good and bad, however, I believe temperament is of arbitrary importance and relevant only to circumstances. Many of the wolf’s natural behaviours would make dog shows on the whole impossible and breeders have tended to breed from specimens that show tolerant tendencies. You may hear, occasionally, a breeder say “he’s a bad one, he’s ready to take on anything that comes near”. What they are really describing is the wolf in their breed specimen’s clothing and that their specific dog has retained strong wolf-like dominant behaviour – even after many generations of breeding.

Handlers know which of their dogs is likely to get them into trouble and what areas to avoid (normally congested ones) in order that dominant tensions do not get out of hand. I have watched, many a time, as handlers dash from ring to ring and drag their beauty past hundreds of others, failing to notice the intense communication the dogs are trying to display. It is somewhat comical to see the dogs doing their very best to impress their dog brethren at full speed ahead. Many of the more dominant dogs are eye-posing with ears erect and forward, this  even includes the droop-eared dogs (who think their ears are forward anyway). Many dogs are encouraged and trained by handlers to use their dominant display. It is no coincidence that when a show dog is centre ring the more dominant the display the better the dog looks, in my view, at least.

The lingering scents of females permeating the air, who have recently been in oestrus, are very powerful to all alert males. Dogs meeting for the first time generally try to establish the strict ranking structure of wolves, but it must be very confusing for many who, just as they are about to exchange status cards, are whisked off again to another ring to receive their reward perhaps a CC for the top wolf.

What fascinates me about this frenetic atmosphere is that, on the whole, the dogs actually get through this psychological turmoil without too many altercations. Through social conditioning breeders have adapted and manipulated the wolf’s social rules to the extreme. For a human to try and get a dog’s eye view of this it is worth imagining placing one’s self in a packed foreign city centre like Delhi. You would be lost, confused, nervous and suspicious of those who approached and spoke to you. You would not have the security of your home environment and you would be on full alert (flight or fight) and you may over react to an innocent approach by a street vendor. In the same way, an inexperienced show dog might snap at an approaching dog or human at a show. Some dogs just can’t stand the pressure and react aggressively or insecurely and breeders have to try to discourage it. This same dog probably shows a perfect temperament in its local park or home environment; unfortunately, it will not be judged on that as dog shows are about the day and what is presented before the judge. In the wild the wolf that displays less suspicion is unlikely to live long enough to reproduce the same genes in its future offspring and domestic dogs are bred for this non-suspicious reaction. An experienced breeder understands and will generally introduce their young pups to the show ring and ring craft classes as early as possible. The adaptable dog slowly gets used to all the mayhem and eventually becomes one of those well behaved show dogs patiently sitting on his bench waiting for the results.

The Dominant Dog
At Wolf Park, Pat Goodman, the resident biologist, has observed that trying to get a dominant wolf to roll over submissively and accept a playful touch depends on who is watching. The alfa wolf is less likely to obey if other wolves are present. Some dog breeders may remember a particularly dominant dog or bitch that was the alfa (top dog) in their breeding group and how they too may have resisted being told what to do, to roll over, execute a down stay position or have their tummy groomed in the presence of low ranking (status) pack members. My own black German Shepherd Dog, Ulrich, certainly did not like rolling over on his back when unknown dogs or humans were present. He was very sure of himself and did not enjoy such public, overt submission to me. Moreover, it was the wolf within him that knew the dangers of lower ranking wolves usurping his vulnerable position. For those of you who own dominant dogs or bitches, see if they perform any differently to your commands in private as opposed to in public with other dog or human onlookers.

The clever trainer will mainly use the reward based methods and contrary to the opinion of popular book taught weekend course experts (nouveau trainers) it is not new. Successful trainers have always known that it is quicker to teach what you want a dog to do rather than punish it for the negative action. Working Trials trainers are an excellent example of this training genre. They teach scent discrimination and tracking, always using inducement reward methods to encourage nose work – you cannot force a dog to track.

Wolves have little tolerance for physical punishment and restraint if a handler tries to enforce their will by trials of strength. The wolf becomes aggressive or shies away as it finds the human approach alien to its pack communication system. Because of domestication our pet dogs do appear accept a much higher degree of physical punishment and rough handling without too much complaint, but the wolf still lurks within them and on many occasions the rough handler is attacked, bitten or threatened by the dog. Such dogs are often categorised as dangerous, untrustworthy or badly bred when in fact they have retained a little too much of their wild ancestry for the bully’s liking. The truth is that if the handlers knew more about the dog/wolf’s mind then the confrontations would take place with less frequency and the same animal would be described as good tempered and with good breeding lines; so the way a dog is reared and treated will determine its temperament not just its breeding.

A large number of dogs returned to breeders as rejects, because of temperament are actually perfectly good specimens; unfortunately the owners have failed to socialise the puppies wisely and as we live in a blame culture the breeder becomes the whipping boy.

In my consulting rooms in Hertfordshire I am regularly presented with aggressive dogs; if the aggression is directed at me I have found that by pretending to engage is some nondescript activity like typing, reading or fiddling with some paperwork, during which I engage in no eye contact with the dog, the aggressive behaviour is quickly defused. I normally say to the owner ” oh you’ve brought your dog” or some other daft, irrelevant comment. Why? Because this is what dogs and wolves often do when they are encountering other high ranking dogs they are unsure of. Many, like me, play the pretending game of not noticing the other sniffing this and that – all of which is a procedure to convince the other that no intent to attack is imminent. They weigh up the opposition and providing both dominant dogs are socially skilled they keep a respectful distance. Humans often interrupt the meeting in a panic, shouting commands and the like causing a greater problem. The dog’s eyes flicker as they try to read all the confusing, half-baked signals from the owners and the sudden pulling or grabbing of one or more dogs sparks off a fight. This rarely happens with wolves.

When wolves interact with each other the main authority they use is psychological not physical, but to the novice observer it can appear to be the opposite. Teeth flashing, growling, snapping and squawking – all seems to be chaos, but if you observe closely, muzzle clamping by one wolf to another may seem like biting; in reality, however, the inhibition not to bite the fellow pack member is working well. The dominant wolf may appear to be forcing the other wolf down to the ground by strength, but in fact this is not usually possible as they tend to be equally matched. The lower ranking wolf goes down through its own wish to show deference to the dominant wolf, which uses its mouth to push and direct the lower ranking wolf downwards. This is not the same as a trainer forcing a dog down by pure physical strength.

Sexual Behaviour
Unlike domesticated dogs wolves only come into oestrus yearly; from November onwards the entire pack becomes involved and is stimulated by the various hormonal changes as well as an abundance of pheromones – scent signals – that the bitches give off. In this heightened and very reactive atmosphere, the staff at Wolf Park take more safety precautions as the aggression in the pack is fueled by competition and can cause displaced aggression onto the staff. This is a dangerous situation for the unwary and has an interesting analogy with the domestic dog.

What I find fascinating about dog sexual behaviour is the fact that many breeders, including myself, have known for years that though most stud dogs behave in a gentlemanly way, there are individuals who behave more like wolves. These males will growl or threaten humans they are familiar with when a bitch in oestrus is ready to mate. The handler may try to discipline or control the stud dog, which increases the tension and the dog sees the handler as a pack member and a challenger for the bitch. As most stud dogs mate regularly and only the top wolf mates regularly in the wild, the domestic stud dog by definition behaves like a top dog and as a consequence may on occasion challenge the handler or nearby perceived rivals. So does that dog have a bad temperament or is it just behaving like a dog? Most breeders will know the answer.

Young Children
When dogs are sexually aroused, children in their company can become a target for displaced sexual attention, sometimes arousal and out of character aggression. We must remember that these individual dogs are reacting to their deep down innate behaviour. It is not personal or hate driven; it is as normal as men and women fancying each other and fighting off the competition. Experienced breeders who have witnessed these aggressive sexual behaviours probably take precautions and children are not generally present during mating sessions. However, if we move the scene to a public park and a pet male dog picks up the strong, highly stimulating scent of a bitch, I have seen a dog begin to mount a child nearby due to their size and approachability. I believe the dog confuses the child for the bitch, as odd as it might seem and as there is no organised pack order, the resulting sexual behaviour is confused and erratic. When I have seen people try to remove the dog, it grips onto the child in a sudden burst of competitive aggression, though normally a few sharp commands tend to bring the dog back to its real world and the child can be separated. Again we should learn why the dog acts in the way it does instead of describing the dog’s temperament as defective.

The ongoing work at Wolf Park will hopefully help all domestic dog owners and breeders to delve into their dog’s mind to find out how it truly works. After all it was man who invited the wolf into our alien environment. I have an image in my mind of a lady living in Mayfair, London, who will read this, probably lying on her four poster bed adorned with silks and tapestries. She will be looking at her little Lhasa Aphso stretched out in ostentatious comfort and she is saying “Darling, can you believe it, that Mr Tennant thinks you’re in an alien environment”.

by Colin Tennant

The Evolution of the Dog

Until recently, archaeological findings were the only evidence to pinpoint the beginning of man’s symbiotic relationship with dog. The commonly accepted date of dog’s domestication was placed at 10,000 to 14,000 years ago. However, anthropologist, Dr. Colin Groves, now suggests that the human-dog relationship could be almost as old as modern man, himself.

Basing his hypothesis on a recent DNA research project, Dr. Groves uses the results to support his statement that “humans domesticated dogs and dogs domesticated humans.” Led by biologist, Robert K. Wayne of UCLA, a team of international geneticists studied mutations in the DNA of 162 wolves, 140 purebred dogs of 67 breeds, 5 coyotes and 8 Simian jackals. Finding many more mutations than would have been possible had dog been domesticated 14,000 years ago, they concluded that dog’s domestication took place over 100,000 years ago.

The study further showed that dogs do not share DNA with either the coyote or jackal and have only one common ancestor – the wolf. There is, however, evidence to support the theory that domestic dogs originated from multiple wolf populations over a wide geographic area, this has not yet been proven conclusively.

There is no doubt that dogs are the oldest of all domesticated species and their domestication was based on a mutually beneficial relationship with man. In return for companionship and food, the early ancestor of the dog assisted man in tracking, hunting, guarding and a variety of other purposes. Eventually man began to selectively breed these animals for specific traits. Physical characteristics changed and individual breeds began to take shape. As man wandered across Asia and Europe, he took his dogs with him, using them for additional tasks and further breeding them for selected qualities that would better enable them to perform specific duties.

Valuable insight into the evolution of dogs can be gained by studying a small group of primitive breeds believed to be descended from the Indian Plains wolf. Some members of this group are genuinely primitive, being at an early stage of domestication, while others show the dramatic effects of human intervention in their breeding.

Today, more than 400 breeds of purebred dogs exist throughout the world. Of these, the AKC recognises only 140 while the CKC recognises 162. A further 140 are awaiting CKC recognition. Breeds currently recognised, are categorised into one of seven groups, based on the purpose for which they were developed; although many no longer perform their original function, the history of each breed is an intrinsic part of the standard, helping to set the ideal that breeders strive to attain.

Robert Wayne