XL Bully Government Definitions

The XL Bully & UK Criminal Law

By: Colin Tennant MA Canine Behaviour & Psychology – Expert Court Witness

UK government, encompassing England and Wales, has recently implemented changes in the law pertaining to the ownership of American Bully XL dogs. These modifications come in response to concerns regarding the behaviour and potential risks associated with specific dog breeds. The primary goal of these regulations is to enhance public safety and reduce the likelihood of incidents involving such breeds.

Under these updated regulations, American Bully XL owners need to be well-informed about the law and the legal implications associated with their breed. The changes in the legislation are as follows:

  1. Ownership Ban: Commencing on February 1, 2024, it will be unlawful to own American Bully XL dogs in England and Wales, unless an exemption has been applied for and subsequently granted.
  2. Sales, Breeding, Abandonment, and Giveaway Ban: As of December 31, 2023, it is prohibited to engage in the sale, breeding, abandonment, or giving away of American Bully XL dogs.
  3. Lead and Muzzle Requirement: When in public, American Bully XL dogs are mandated to be restrained on a lead and muzzled.
  4. Neutering Requirement: For American Bully XL dogs less than one year old by January 31, 2024, neutering must be completed by the conclusion of 2024. For dogs older than one year, neutering must be performed by June 30, 2024.

Find a CFBA Canine Expert to Assist you with XL Bully Identification

It is of paramount importance for dog owners and breeders in England and Wales to familiarize themselves with these regulations and ensure strict compliance to prevent potential legal consequences and penalties. If there is any uncertainty about the breed’s classification or whether it falls under this legislation, it is advisable to seek an assessment. The Canine & Feline Behaviour Association maintains a nationally accredited team of experts who may provide valuable assistance in this regard. Further information can be found at this link: https://cfba.uk/dog-expert-witness-list/

The UK Government Breed definition is below.

General impression

Large dog with a muscular body and blocky head, suggesting great strength and power for its size. Powerfully built individual.


  • Adult male from 20in (51 cm) at the withers
  • Adult female from 19in (48cm) at the withers


  • Heavy, large and broad
  • The length from the tip of the nose to a well-defined stop (indentation between muzzle and the head) is equal to around a 1/3 of the length from the stop to the back of the head
  • Muzzle blocky or slightly squared to fall away below the eyes
  • Topline of muzzle straight
  • Prominent cheek muscles with strong, well-defined jaws and lips semi-close
  • Often having prominent wrinkles on face
  • Nose is large with well opened nostrils


Level or scissor bite.


  • Heavy, muscular, slightly arched, tapering from the shoulders to the base of the skull
  • Medium in length


  • Shoulder blades are long, well-muscled and well laid back
  • Upper arm length is about equal to the length of the shoulder blades and joined at a 35 to 45 angle to the ground
  • Front legs straight, strong and very muscular with dog standing high on the pasterns (area between feet and ankles)
  • Elbows set close to the body
  • Distance from the withers to elbows about the same as the distance from the elbow to the bottom of the feet


  • Heavily-muscled
  • Large, blocky body giving impression of great power for size
  • Broad, deep chest with well sprung ribs
  • Chest may be wider than deep
  • Topline level and straight
  • Loin short and firm
  • Generally appears square shaped from point of the shoulder to the point of the buttocks compared with the withers (tallest point on the dogs body excluding head and shoulders) to the ground


  • Strong, muscular and broad
  • Thighs well developed with thick musculature
  • From behind, both pasterns are typically straight and parallel to each other
  • Muscular development, angulation and width in balance with forequarters


  • Rounded, medium in size and in proportion to body
  • Compact and well arched


Medium length and low set
Tapers to a point to end at about the level of the hocks
Generally assumes a straight or pump handle shape when dog relaxed


Glossy, smooth, close, single


Bite: the relative position of the upper and lower teeth when the mouth is closed.

Coat: the hairy outer covering of the skin.

Croup: part of the back from the front of the pelvis to root of the tail.

Forequarters: the front part of dog excluding head and neck.

Hindquarters: rear part of dog from behind the loin.

Loin: the region between the last rib and the beginning of the pelvis.

Muzzle: the length from the tip of the nose to the stop.

Pasterns: the pastern is the lower part of the foreleg, just above the foot and below the wrist. Similarly, in the hind leg, the pastern is the portion located above the foot and below the heel (also known as the hock). Every canine possesses a pair of front and rear pasterns.

Scissor bite: the upper front teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.

Spring of rib: degree of curvature of rib cage

Tail set: the position of the tail on the croup

Topline: an outline after the withers to the tail set. Viewed from the side of the dog or from above.

Withers: the highest point of body immediately behind the neck where height is measured.

XL Bully Dog Ban and Fitting a Muzzle Guide

From 1 February 2024 it will be a criminal offence to own an XL Bully Dog in England and Wales unless you have a Certificate of Exemption for your dog.

You will need to adhere to strict rules such as microchipping your dog and keeping it on a lead and muzzled when in public.

Getting an XL Bully dog accustomed to wearing a muzzle is a significant process, and it’s vital to introduce the muzzle slowly while creating positive associations for the dog. Hastening this introduction can lead to the dog experiencing stress or anxiety regarding the muzzle.

Fitting a Muzzle (Obtainable on line from the Company of Animals) www.companyofanimals.com

Step 1: Introduction

  1. To ensure your XL Bully dog can comfortably open its mouth while wearing a muzzle, it’s essential to create positive associations. Rushing this process can lead to frustration if your dog reacts negatively. To prevent this, follow these steps:
  2. Start by having your dog sit on a lead and collar, ensuring you have several enticing treats within reach.
  3. Gently place the muzzle on your dog’s snout without fastening it.
  4. Instantly reward your dog through the openings in the muzzle.
  5. Repeat this process five times until your dog immediately associates the muzzle with treats provided in rapid succession.
  6. Next, leave the muzzle on your dog for a few minutes, and then promptly remove it.

This initial impression is vital, as mistakes during this phase can significantly prolong the process.

Step 2: Repetition

Repeat the above process three times a day for about five to ten minutes per session. Continue this routine for three days, ensuring you fasten the muzzle each time.

Step 3: Gradual Progress

On the fourth day, attach the lead and secure the muzzle on your dog. Walk your dog a short distance inside your home or garden and reward your dog at regular intervals.

If your dog exhibits signs of panic, attempts to remove the muzzle, or engages in unusual behaviours like rubbing its head on the floor (which is normal during the adjustment phase), distract your dog with treats and use the lead to encourage it to sit.

Step 4: In-House Training

It’s beneficial to leave the muzzle on your dog indoors for about ten to fifteen minutes twice a day. As your dog becomes more accustomed to the muzzle without fuss, you’re making progress toward normalizing its use.

Step 5: Outdoor Use

Once you can walk your dog around your house or garden without any adverse reactions, your dog is ready for normal outdoor use with the muzzle.

Final Advice

Persistence is crucial, and it’s important not to give up or feel sorry for your dog during this process, as the law serves as a reminder of why you’re undertaking this effort. With patience and consistent positive reinforcement, most dogs will adapt to the muzzle and associate it with enjoyable experiences such as walks and treats.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to ensure your dog’s comfort and safety while wearing a muzzle. Take your time and follow this gradual approach. There’s no harm in stepping back a few stages if necessary. Different dogs may react differently, and it’s important to acknowledge that dogs may eventually become accustomed to wearing a muzzle but rarely enjoy it, much like you wouldn’t.

Colin Tennant MA Canine Behaviour & Psychology

Chairman CFBA

Why Theory Is Not As Effective As Practise

Why theory is not as effective as practise in canine behaviour and training

The study of theories pertaining to dog behaviour and training offers a compelling perspective within this field. Nonetheless, individuals who have recently completed courses in dog behaviour often tend to place significant reliance on these theoretical constructs. This inclination can be attributed to their stage of career development, where they may lack the practical experience, skills, or knowledge to critically assess and challenge the theories they have acquired.

Consequently, it becomes imperative for those seeking to gain knowledge in dog behaviour, training, and the broader realm of canine welfare to seek guidance from individuals who possess quantitative insights gained from extensive real-world involvement, as opposed to those solely rooted in academic frameworks. While certain academic programs explicitly declare their theoretical nature, there is a tendency to omit the fact that the information provided largely comprises theories and perspectives borrowed from published works, without direct application in the instructor’s own experiences.

Hence, it is crucial to emphasize that at the Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour and Training, our team of instructors possesses a minimum of a decade’s worth of hands-on experience, having addressed hundreds, if not thousands, of dog behaviour and training cases on the frontline. This practical exposure forms the foundation for our teaching methodology, ensuring that our guidance is firmly rooted in reality, experience, and the skills honed through personal practice. While we do incorporate theoretical concepts and alternative viewpoints from external sources into our curriculum, we do so from the vantage point of practitioners who have first-hand knowledge of what it takes to effectively educate in this field.

In the subsequent discourse, we will explore some of the strengths and limitations inherent in the utilization of theory as compared to practical fieldwork in the context of dog behaviour and training.

  1. “Theory provides a solid foundation, but practice reveals the nuances and complexities that theory cannot predict.”
  2. “In practice, real-world constraints often necessitate compromises that theoretical models do not or cannot account for.”
  3. “Theoretical knowledge is valuable, but practical experience is essential for translating that knowledge into real-world solutions.”
  4. “Theory may offer idealised solutions, but practical situations require adaptability and the ability to address unexpected challenges.”
  5. “Theoretical frameworks lack the individuality and variability that practical situations demand, especially in personalized fields like healthcare and education.”
  6. “Practice often involves a trial-and-error process, which allows for the refinement of methods and strategies that theory alone cannot provide.”
  7. “Theory tends to oversimplify complex real-world scenarios, while practical experience highlights the multifaceted nature of problems and solutions.”
  8. “In many cases, ethical and moral considerations come into play in practice, which may not be adequately addressed in theoretical models.”
  9. “While theory provides a roadmap, it is in practice that we discover the potholes, detours, and alternate routes to success.”
  10. “The gap between theory and practice underscores the importance of learning from experience, as real-world application reveals the limitations and shortcomings of theory.”

These statements emphasize the limitations of theory in various fields and highlight the importance of practical experience in addressing the complexities of real-life situations.

Theory versus breed reality

In theory, if you desire to teach your dog the recall command, which instructs the dog to return when called, theory alone may not adequately consider the surrounding circumstances, location, canine population density, the dog’s previous history, or any negative behaviours it may have acquired, unless it is a young puppy.

Advising individuals to reward their dog upon its return seems plausible in theory and makes logical sense. When instructing a highly adaptable puppy or a youthful adolescent dog, in a tranquil setting like your own garden, the expected results are often achieved. Most dog trainers have intuitively employed such methods long before the theory of operant conditioning, which offers a scientific rationale for its effectiveness, was elucidated. Operant conditioning did not originate these training practices; rather, it provided a systematic explanation for their efficacy.

However, when dealing with breeds that were not specifically bred for establishing eye contact with humans or forming strong bonds due to their historical roles in serving human masters, the application of theory can become less effective. Breeds such as basset hounds, foxhounds, and beagles, which have been bred to enhance their olfactory capabilities and to lead rather than seek guidance from humans, can pose challenges when teaching recall. Attempting to teach them to return using treats or similar rewards can prove to be a formidable task.

Conversely, instructing breeds like border collies or herding breeds such as German shepherds or Malinois, which exhibit a greater predisposition to focus on human interaction, tends to be far more successful. These breeds have been cultivated for their ability to communicate with their handlers, and their intelligence is tailored toward human engagement. When approached correctly in their early development, motivating them with toys, food, or the allure of being in your company and receiving praise yields more favourable results.

This underscores the significance of ensuring that those imparting knowledge have substantial field experience encompassing diverse dog breeds in various settings, and have effectively handled numerous dogs with pre-existing training issues or ingrained behavioural problems. To rectify these deeply rooted habits, one necessitates the expertise of a highly skilled trainer and or behaviourist with the requisite practical experience. Terriers bred for combative pugnaciousness or toy breeds, which are primarily bred for companionship, come to mind in this context as more challenging and simply do not bend to theories in training.

In conclusion, it is essential to recognize that theory serves as a foundational framework, while practical application, bolstered by hands-on experience, is the crux of successful dog behaviour and training.

By: Colin Tennant MA. FCFBA

Dog on Dog Attacks

Dog on Dog attacks – Specifically UK Government View.

The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Make dogs attacking other pets a specific criminal offence”.
Government responded:

Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 already provides for offences to be dealt with. We do not consider it necessary to introduce another offence. 

We recognise that dog attacks on other pets can have horrific consequences, and we take this issue very seriously. We consider that current dog control powers and our ongoing work to improve their application are sufficient to address this issue without the need to introduce a specific offence. 

Police and local authorities have a range of powers available to tackle dangerous dogs and irresponsible dog ownership across all breeds of dog, including in cases where a dog attacks another pet. 

It is an offence under section 3(1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to allow any dog to be dangerously out of control in any place. The law does not specifically exclude an attack by a dog on another animal from the offence of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control. 

Case law supports the possibility of prosecutions being brought under section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 in relation to dog-on-dog attacks. Successful cases have also been brought for dog-on-cat attacks using section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. It will, however, be for the Crown Prosecution Service to assess, on a case-by-case basis, whether to proceed with a prosecution under the legislation. 

Section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871 also allows a complaint to be made to a Magistrates’ court where a dog is “dangerous and not kept under proper control”. The court may make any Order it considers appropriate, to require the owner to keep the dog under proper control, or if necessary, that it be destroyed. 

Under the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 the police and local authorities can issue community protection notices (CPN) to address anti-social behaviour involving dogs and prevent dog control issues becoming more serious. A CPN could require the owner of a dog to stop or start doing certain things to reduce the impact of the dog’s behaviour on the community. This could include specific requirements such as wearing a lead or muzzle in public, attending dog training, or ensuring that a garden is securely enclosed so a dog cannot escape. 

Under this legislation, enforcement authorities also have powers to make Public Spaces Protection Orders excluding dogs from certain areas, insisting they are kept on leads, or restricting the number of dogs that can be walked by one person at any one time. 

We are working in partnership with police forces and local authorities across England and Wales to ensure the full range of existing dog control powers mentioned above are effectively applied. As part of this, we have been collaborating with enforcers to deliver sessions to share best practice in preventive dog control enforcement and encourage multi-agency working to ensure dog control issues are addressed before they escalate.
In December 2021, Defra also published research in collaboration with Middlesex University investigating measures to reduce dog attacks and promote responsible dog ownership across all breeds of dog. 

In response to this research, we are working with police, local authorities and animal welfare organisations to consider how the recommendations could be taken forward and to identify ways in which to improve the application of the full range of existing dog control powers. 

We are also considering the role of education and training (for both dogs and their owners) in reducing the risk of dog attacks, as well as considering how we can improve data collection and recording and enforcement practices. 

Conclusions from this work are expected later this year. These should address all aspects of tackling irresponsible dog ownership effectively, from prevention to robust, consistent enforcement, focussing on owners as well as on their dogs. 

If a Member of Parliament introduces legislation through a Private Members’ Bill, we will consider it carefully.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 

Click this link to view the response online: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/637398?reveal_response=yes

The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.

The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee: https://petition.parliament.uk/help#petitions-committee

The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

Prosecuting Dog Owners if a Dog Knocks a Person Over

Dog Jumping Up

Whippey v Jones

Colin Tennant, FCFBA MA, (criminal & Civil Court expert witness) presents a illustrative case in which a Great Dane, present in a public location, leaped onto an individual, causing him to fall and sustain injuries. This case serves as a notable instance highlighting the relevance of the Animals Act 1971 and serves as a cautionary narrative emphasizing the importance of adequately training and controlling dogs within public areas. The expenses incurred in pursuing this case, ultimately reaching the appellate courts, would have amounted to a substantial financial burden for both parties involved


Mr Jones was visiting Leeds on business and decided to do some running training. While running along the footpath by the river, he was knocked into the area of his right shoulder by a Great Dane named Hector, who was off the leash and owned by Mr Whippey. Mr Jones suffered damages as a result of this incident and sued Mr Whippey.

Ex Tempore Judgment

The judge ruled that Mr Jones was not liable to Mr Whippey under the Animals Act 1971, but held that Mr Whippey was liable to Mr Jones in negligence. The judge allowed Mr Whippey to appeal in general terms. The judge also found that Hector was “the most gentle of creatures” and that Great Danes in general are not aggressive towards human beings. The judge found that Hector had no tendency to jump up at other people. Mr Whippey had stated in evidence that he would only let the dogs off the leash if he was satisfied that no one was about in the park area. However, the judge did not make an express finding that Mr Whippey should have seen that Mr Jones was running nearby along the footpath at the time that Hector was let off the lead.


Mr Giles Mooney, who appeared for Mr Whippey, argued that the judge erred in finding that Mr Whippey had been negligent. He submitted that, given his findings of fact, the judge’s conclusion that Mr Whippey had been negligent in handling Hector that day could not be criticised.

Duty of Care

In this case, Mr Whippey clearly owed a duty of care to Mr Jones with regard to the way Mr Whippey handled Hector in the public park in Leeds that afternoon and the judge so found. The effect of the judgment is that the judge found that Mr Whippey had failed to take sufficient care to ensure that there were no other people about before he let Hector off the lead. This is clear from classic statements of the law on the standard of care that is expected of people in circumstances where they owe a duty of care to others. Nor is the remote possibility of injury occurring enough; there must be sufficient probability to lead a reasonable man to anticipate it.

Legal Test

In my judgment, the test that the judge applied in the first sentence of paragraph 17 of his judgment does not accurately reflect those statements of the law. A good way to check whether the judge applied the right test is by reference to the judge’s findings when he dismissed Mr Jones’ claim under section 2(2) of the Animals Act 1971. The judge held that Mr Jones had failed to prove any of the three elements set out in section 2(2) of that Act, all of which must be established before Mr Whippey, as Hector’s keeper, could have been held liable under that Act for damage caused to Mr Jones by Hector. The judge held that Mr Jones failed to prove that the “damage” that he has suffered, i.e. a personal injury resulting from physical contact with Hector, ” was of a type which the animal was likely to cause. In my opinion, it demonstrates that the judge did not apply the correct legal test.

Here is a link to the whole case on the Casemine website https://www.casemine.com/judgement/uk/5a8ff70a60d03e7f57ea6822

Is Positive Only Dog Training just Dogma?

Colin Tennant

Positive ONLY Dog Trainers are failing too may dogs with ineffective repetition methods.

The Bad Ideologue of our Time

Colin Christopher Tennant MA. FCFBA Criminal Court Canine Expert Witness

Dog Training Methodologies

Today I am addressing the issue of dog training methodologies, which cause a number of disturbing conflicts in the world of dog training and behaviour, mainly propagated by non-professionals with an ideological misunderstanding of science and moreover practical experience of urban dog life. I state clearly that I operate on the principals of science and operant conditioning.

General dog training methods without doubt have changed for the better and the concentration on reward-based training, which I have always championed, is better for dogs. I love dogs; that’s why I want to enjoy the full enchantment of their characters by means of a good social connection.

Reward dog training is not new; it’s always been here. I was reading a book from the 1880’s and most of the training methods were reward based, which was surprising because the treatment of humans at that time was pretty brutal in Britain.

I shall proffer an example of training that has always been executed by trainers in Britain: Olfactory led training – known as scent work with dogs. You cannot force a dog to use its olfactory system in scenting/tracking; it can only be induced via a reward generally with an exciting voice tone and end game. Trainers from previous generations trained that system and have continued to-date. It’s not new or recently discovered. As a teenager I trained many dogs of different breeds in competition for searches and tracking people and an array of (discarded) objects in competitive obedience, working trials as well as with operational Police dogs.

When dogs receive reward reinforcement for their actions, their sense-associated endorphins increase which is linked with the external motivator, such as their trainer/owner whose own endorphins ignite too coincidently. Confident and stimulated dogs become interested, which increases their feeling of well-being. I will not go into the science here in all its complexities other than to state in principal the below:

Positive and Negative Reinforcement and Punishment brief

Reinforcement Punishment
Positive Something is added to increase the likelihood of a behaviour. Something is added to decrease the likelihood of a behaviour.
Negative Something is removed to increase the likelihood of a behaviour. Something is removed to decrease the likelihood of a behaviour.

My take and lifelong experience is this – a dog will only wish to repeat a behaviour that is rewarding and decreases or ceases a behaviour that is unrewarding. Humans are much the same. I wrote that over thirty years ago in articles and books, but experienced it by observations in my teens with my working trials dogs in competition, as mentioned above.

Ideally a reward based training regime is the best. Having trained a minimum of over 15,000 dogs (not including behaviour cases) in my lifetime and mostly one to one dog training in public, often under the most difficult circumstances, one has to use flexible training methods to be successful in an urban environment. Dog Law is also watching today and that without equivocation can activate whilst you are trying to rehabilitate or train a difficult dog.

Colin Tennant

The confusing myriad of amateurs versus professionals and lack of clear skill boundaries is endemic in the dog world.

The first matter to address is sorting the wheat trainers from the chaff trainers and the many conversations my colleagues and I have had with pet dog owners can only lead to one conclusion: The professional trainer with quantitative full-time experience as well as courses completed and the life experiences of practice are the minority. They deal mostly with the dogs that have especially challenging behaviour issues. It is unfortunate that most “positive only” trainers are the hobbyist type who dabble at the edges and are certainly not qualified as industry professionals. They are often the loudest on social media having endless time on their hands; they often appear narcissistic and need attention – social media is of course heaven for them. Their virtual signalling is their elixir of life.

Over four decades I have met and chatted to many of these hobbyist trainers and many do a good job within the limits of their knowledge and time invested in learning – they are, on the whole, part-timers averaging about 2 to 5 hours training/instructing a week, which is fine for beginner classes and basics. They are not professional trainers, however, nor can they be by sheer logical accumulative knowledge be described as a professional. Conversely, the good ones don’t make false claims or train outside of their knowledge base and don’t spend their life attacking others on line for attention.

Bad idea pathogens

Too many “positive only” trainers propagate “bad idea pathogens”, that are killing common sense and rational debate in the area of dog training and behaviour. Many regurgitate a lot of ineffective training claims through their frenetic activity – spending more time on social media than actually training dogs and making statements of purported fact that are generally unsupported by results or court level evidence. They seem to share the toxicity of many Internet trolls, being driven on by attention seeking and moralising negative behaviours.

I place these aberrant trainers in three classifications using the red traffic light code:

Green – state that they are “positive only”, but use correction and negative reinforcement when necessary even if rarely. These are using the term “positive” in a very flexible manner often for marketing purposes.

Amber: are more ideologically programmed and are unrealistic in claiming results especially with difficult dog cases, but despite failure, continue the mantra of “positive only”. They are frequently deluded and disabled by intelligent thought.

Red: fanatics occupy this space and I feel these ideologues are dangerous. They do more harm than good, confuse owners and are intolerant of reality, others’ opinions and are generally ineffective beyond basic commands, which in fact most pet owners can train their dogs to do without any trainer’s assistance.

Dog education organisations

Are dog organisations generally good and well intentioned? Yes. However, the fact you belong to an organisation does not guarantee expertise as a dog trainer for the public and less so professional knowledge levels. However, organisations such as The Guild of Dog Trainers www.godt.uk have set minimum standards to attain the status of Master Trainer.

The Guild of Dog Trainers offers in-house education courses to enable learners to acquire a variety of skills essential to those aspiring to be professional dog trainers. In addition, there is the opportunity to attain the highest academic and vocational training offered by the Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour and Training (CIDBT) www.cidbt.org.uk This is a unique higher educational partnership in the UK. Both organisations are supported by The Pet Education, Training and Behaviour Council, which was the first of its type in Britain to set minimum standards in dog training and behaviour. See www.petbc.uk for further information.

In addition there are many professional dog trainers who are not members of any organisation and are highly skilled; I call these the independent trainers. The successful ones need recommendation and as such, like all good dog trainers, produce satisfactory results hence why they are successful.

The Professional Standards for Dog Trainers and Behaviourists in the UK

In most professions a person who is not trained professionally cannot control or influence a professional body’s aims and standards – think of vets, electricians, engineers, etc. The people who set the standards for these professions are not part-timers who practice engineering at home working a few hours a week and thereafter be allowed to attend and influence professional meetings/committees on professional standards. It is simply not tolerated, however at various national meetings I have observed and attended – these hobbyists extol their opinions on dog behaviour training and without reservation can state are absolutely out of their knowledge depth. Opinions are fine, but not all are equal. Animal behaviour academics have also attended such meetings and are wholly unqualified to sit at the table at the behest of their mates and too are often clueless and as inexperienced as their cohorts.

The dog training and behaviour world is like the Wild West, which is why pet owners are so often confused. I have witnessed this nonsense at the Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC) meetings. Dog training hobbyists who frequently could not train or manage their own dogs and are absolutely not professional, were enjoined by clueless academics with doctorates in snakes, blackbirds and many other species – apart from dogs! – attempting to formulate dog training and behaviour protocols for professionals like me. Absolutely outrageous! But the academics got in first. They know how to work the system and set the agenda to suit themselves despite never working in the dog industry, so it’s not just some hobbyist trainers who interfere, academia also has its pervasive unqualified Trojans trying to wrest control of the dog industry for their own self-interest and especially in the dog behaviour discipline and monopolise a control. It’s often about power and academics love power. However, as Yogi Berra wrote: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is”.

It’s not surprising that the public experience great difficulty in finding a qualified dog trainer through this morass of misinformation and disinformation.

The more difficult dog behaviour and training challenges

Often a difficult dog has to be trained speedily and within a time frame set by owners, whether we like it or not and within their ability to afford that same advice; these are patent facts, often ignored by ineffective hobbyist trainers. These hectoring “positive only” types berate dog owners about how patient they need to be, shouldn’t own a dog if they’re not prepared to put the work in and so forth – this hectoring cuts no ice with a pet dog owner who understands the reality of their situation as by the time a professional dog trainer/behaviourist meets these pet dog owners their charges have normally been through the mill of endless “positive only” trainers proffering no solutions and with failures because of the ineffective one size fits all ideology. When positive/reward does not provoke change what do you do next? These ideologues have no answer.

I have heard of cases were they suggest euthanizing the dog and dogs have been killed at the vets not because the dog can not be assisted but by ineffective ideology. They simply do more wind bagging, stating the truth is anathema, can’t possibly admit a massive knowledge gap. As Albert Einstein stated “Genius has its limitations unlike stupidity”.

Difficult dogs presented to me are not my ideal cases, but that is the reality of practice in dog behaviour and people alike, not all people are as flexible as I would like, but that is the situation presented, not the one I chose. Another tactic “positive only” trainers use is to feign their love of dogs and exaggerate how we all need to hold hands and see it from the dog’s perspective, its sounds great and fluffy, but useless if the behaviour stays unchanged especially when criminal law is being broken, families are being destabilised and the dog is on final countdown. Sometimes I arrive on the scene just before the dog is about to be re-homed, euthanized or other awful final solution and that’s why time is critical for behavioural change. Aggression is a most difficult area and hardly any dog rescue centres take aggressive dogs in my experience despite their claims to the contrary. Attempting to re-home an aggressive dog is most difficult and rescue centres can be prosecuted in civil and criminal law if they get it wrong.

In general I have occasionally to use, where applicable, equipment to assist the management of difficult dogs, I do so because owners pay me for help in changing their dogs aberrant behaviour. The overwhelming majority of these dogs thereafter lead happy fruitful lives until old age with a great owner relationship. If using reward only worked I would use that as I am a reward based professional, but that is not always viable in such complex cases, especially in a difficult environment where a dog lives. I deal with critical cases, Urban comes to mind here. My job is to do my best to secure that dog’s future and life; in such circumstances a piece of food is not a solution hence why I am called in.

My dog training styles

Dogs without doubt contribute much to our eudaimonia and by return when training my own dogs from puppyhood, I use reward via voice tonality, toys, touch and much close interaction; the most powerful being psychological inducements to focus the dog on me in all situations in order to illicit the training responses I need at that time. In those same circumstances, teaching the dog, whether distracted or not, that I am worth watching because of the fun we can have together, that’s it in a nut shell – well a big nut shell. Early puppy conditioning is critical. 21 Days To Train Your Dog.

Early dog / puppy training development

At first when training my puppies it’s should always take place in really friendly induced conditions, in the house and garden until I can transfer the same training into areas with more distractions, the very environment they will have life experiences and within the social boundaries of dog law and their peer canines. The end game is a trained dog in all situations without constantly giving food, the main default of too many amateur trainers, which I call the three FFFs: Frenetic Food Feeders. If reward is used incorrectly or too often, positive reinforcement can cause dogs to become set in their ways and when the reward is not forthcoming they regress – and quickly. However, if dogs are accustomed to positive reinforcement for a specific behaviour, they may be resistant to change because they think they might not be rewarded for a different kind of behaviour. Dogs need to learn and understand that reinforcement is related to pre actions not just their behavioural action at the time, this is a critical psychological component often misunderstood.

Of course as a dog trainer I have been willing to spend inordinate amounts of time until I gain the best trained puppy/dog. That is not the same for many pet dog owners; their dog is a pet and the time they are willing to put in is not comparable to a trainer and surprisingly to some hobbyists with demands on their time. Fitting in with a dog behaviourist and trainer is not often a priority compared to say caring for their family and other mandatory daily duties. These are simple plain facts of modern life and will affect your advice as an expert.

I don’t know a trainer or behaviourist who would disagree that reward based induced training methods are superior to negative training styles, but that said “positive only” has its limits when serious aberrant behaviour is an established and well-practised behaviour in a dog whether inherent and compounded or learnt – that’s the crux of dynamics related to situational training.

Positive ideologues simply have no solutions for a dog which chases deer, attacks other dogs, attacks people, won’t come back for a reward, chases cars and many more problematic embedded behaviours other than endless lecturing with a bag of food. We are not talking about training a dog to take a treat to sit in an empty room and declare “look it works!”

I have solved all the above and many more complex behaviour issues always having a powerful component of maximum reward in such circumstances. Whether using a long line, face collar, check on a lead, voice admonishment commands, all are useful and essential in many circumstances. The dog, like a child, has to link sounds Yes and No as approval and disapproval to guide its development in our complex society.

The algorithmic “positive only” ideologue.

These people spend much time using discursive construction of truth, ideology and thereafter the emergence of post-truth narratives in contemporary dog behavioural training psychology. It’s a form of canine Marxism, except most of the adherents would not understand the politics of that destructive ideology; their primary academic reading is Facebook.

They seem ideologically possessed and can be predicted easily, in fact everything that they are going to say is an algorithmic substructure of their “positive only” dogma, which is usually predicated on several repetitive axioms and which automatically generates speech content on what they are about to say. This alleviates any responsibility for thinking on what they are about to say, but allows them to believe that they have full control and knowledge about the entire positive training dictum without a moment’s thinking. That is an ideologue and the reason why they are a danger to dogs and owners alike; they don’t think they are separated from dog training problems in the real complex world, their way is the only way and everybody, however skilled who does not believe in such ideological junk, is bad. They are the Mecca of one-style-fits-all dog training served in a pompous, smug, self-satisfying style. They ooze social media narcissism.

I have always seen my job to educate dog owners and students to understand the dog’s mind, its instinctive drives, to train dogs using the most efficient and successful styles to achieve the model outcome and with genuine kindness. I use operant conditioning as defined by science, which has component parts of positive and negative, it’s how humans and all mammals learn.

English Criminal Dog Law trumps all dog training methodologies

Our society is ruled by criminal and civil law and the egregious dog laws trump all training methods that may expose the dog owner to prosecution if unheeded. Most dog owners overwhelmingly live in urban environments, many don’t have vehicles and their training of a difficult dog with aberrant behaviour can break the dog laws as they stand today in public or in a private dwelling.

Most dog owners do not have a secluded field or training space, spending all year using spurious, ineffective “positive only” methods. Even those owners who have limited empty spaces still have to re-engage into urban landscapes with the corresponding difficulties at some point. They are daily exposed to dogs and people – not all social interactions on their terms, but as presented in real society. They often have family and other time restrictions. The Law is watching them and they frequently walk in constant fear of a confrontation with other dogs and or people; most have already had several bad experiences and have worked out where not to walk if possible, what time of day, in the least crowded area if any. They don’t need a patronising “positive only” trainer to tell them the blindingly obvious and paying for it accompanied by “give it a treat”. They need advice that works. In essence they are the experts of their specific dog’s reactions in society and are asking for behavioural advice that works – not “don’t walk near dogs, find somewhere quiet, he needs space”. How strange that the owner never worked that out.

The following critical factors determine training/behaviour methods used but not all:

  • The dog behaviour problem is as seriousness as the owner views it
  • Time frame dictated by circumstances and seriousness of the behaviour
  • The criminal and civil law consequences for the dog and its owner if any
  • The safety of the public and family who encounter dogs out of control, if any
  • The owner’s willingness to follow a long and or short term programme
  • The dog’s living circumstances and family members involved
  • The outside environment it moves in and social interactions daily encountered
  • Any current legal actions to be or are triggered at the time
  • Long and short term desired outcomes

I must have heard several hundred stories from clients who have the same formalistic prelude from the positive ideological trainer, which in general contains the following:

Their modus operandi

  • “I am kind and absolutely positive
  • I love dogs
  • I use methods that are gentle – anybody who disagrees is bad
  • This may take some time to alter your dog’s behaviour (which is a euphemism for forever)
  • I need to explain your dog’s needs (ignoring the owners)
  • You have to follow all these rules (meaning put your kids and life on hold)
  • Nothing negative must happen (ignoring the massive negative that the dog may lose its home)

They go on and on in this ideological lecture until the dog leaves the room out of boredom and when it comes to methodologies they are applied whether workable or not. When they don’t work, press repeat and keep up the ideological non-working algorithm, because there is no more to offer through this vacuous simplicity. They have no genuine empathy for the dog’s owner, only their own agenda: It’s not about dogs it’s about them, self-delusion and belonging to the “woke brigade of intolerance”.

The bill is then demanded and when no dog training change takes place it’s either the owner’s fault or let’s charge you again for another programmed patronising lecture, which is equally ineffective until the owner loses patience and realises this person is faking it. Some disappointed pet owners eventually find a good professional trainer after such a harrowing experience and the new trainer/behaviourist who is competent, versatile and gets a result from the starting point that is now worse for the new trainer because of delays.

Owners who are not lucky enough to find a professional skilled trainer believe their dog is beyond skilled help – having experienced a series of ideologues through the door and view all trainers the same. The dog is then disposed of in ways previously described.

How do I know this, because we currently have records of hundreds of these cases from CFBA members and other dog trainers from organisations like the BIPDT, GoDT and many independent trainers. Let me give you a few examples to illustrate the problem:

Dog Behaviour Case: dog endlessly barking

My colleague was called to house where a dog was barking at every noise from inside the home and at people passing outside the home in front of the house day and night on a residential street. The owner had received many complaints and under the noise abatement criminal act (Environmental Protection Act, 1990) – all this was upsetting her family situation, notwithstanding the barking was driving her family mad too. It was obvious to any behaviourist that the dog was of a mildly fearful/anxious disposition. It had also learnt that barking over hundreds of occasions alerted the owner who came running and spoke (shouted) to the dog – a great reinforcement, but in essence it didn’t need a reinforcement, it was barking as a base temperament defect. That’s the quick version.

The owner, via a vet, was recommended an animal behaviourist from an organisation well known in the UK. The behaviourist told the owner that she was “positive only” in approach and the normal half hour of how she was nice, understood dogs and wrote a long rambling report that said nothing other than endless possibilities, theorised waffle and maybe another consultation.

The behaviourist’s main recommendation was for the owner to blank out all her windows facing the street for a few weeks so the dog had no eye stimulation to bark. The owner did this, placing her house in semi darkness with lots of greaseproof paper and gaffer tape!

The husband came home and was not pleased with what seemed intolerable advice. However, because the behaviourist had a Clinical Animal Behaviour Degree he relented. It was true she had a degree in animals not specifically dogs, but little qualitative skills or experience just an academic theory degree. I will cut to the chase, after one week the dog still barked at exactly the same rate throughout the day and at similar levels, if not more; its barking was now intolerable and with the complaints, the owner was fearing impending criminal law action. After the owner sent repeated emails and calls stating that nothing had changed the behaviourist suggested another £350.00 chat as the pet insurance had ran out. The husband took all the window coverings off and said the dog had to go.

My colleague from The Canine & Feline Behaviour Association subsequently arrived via a recommendation to the owner who was frantic to keep her dog. He assessed all the triggers and what could be achieved realistically not theoretically, in that time frame. He placed a number of behavioural redirection programmes in place and used Dog Training Discs to distract the dog with the word “No”. Lo and behold the dog on that first day ceased barking within a few one-minute lessons, timing and noise association being crucial. He also pointed out what was blindingly obvious, but many “behaviourists” may not know, the dog’s extraordinary hearing skill was the main trigger of outside pedestrian noise, not sight. The previous expert missed the obvious, which demonstrated why skill and experience can not be replaced by theory.

My colleague introduced a few re directed games as follow-ups to the discs and Kong food release programmes to alleviate boredom too. And after a few days the owner stated that the average of 30 or more barking sessions had reduced to a few, which were instantly interrupted via the disc noise and command “NO”. It was solved. The husband was relieved and the dog stayed and all worked out. Do note that there where other programmes introduced to work on the dogs’ temperament, but the first dramatic change was that the dog no longer spent most of the day stressed with its owner’s anger when it barked. Peace reigned and most of all the owner reported a much more calm dog and their relationship was now positive, the dog became more relaxed and so did the owners. The psychological behaviour and atmosphere of the owners being angry at their dog dissipated, inducing the dog to a calmer state.

Negative interactions with dogs that “positive trainers” execute but are ignorant of

  • Taking a puppy from its mother (mild to critical separation anxiety stress): Negative
  • Stopping dogs getting to other dogs, a natural drive: Negative
  • Leaving a dog in a car and walking away – dogs are pack animals and get stressed initially: Negative
  • Placing a dog on lead and collar/harness restricts a dog’s freedom: Negative action
  • Stopping a dog chasing animals, a natural instinctive behaviour: Negative
  • Keeping a dog in house with no free access 24/7 causes stress re defecation: Negative

Head collars and muzzles can be useful and are used by most dog trainers behaviourists and many positive only trainers, but very few dogs do not react negatively to such attachments to their head/face however introduced and many positive only trainers seem oblivious to the psychological harm they impose on a dog day after day. All muzzles face collars are not positive from a dogs mind set – they are negative and alien. They maybe necessary and overtime a dog may become conditioned to accept them but that does not negate the initial negativity and often permanent fear and or rejection of the face coverings – for many dogs the experience is traumatic and even years later they still dislike the muzzles/face collars. Proffering a treat does not negate what I have described. These facts taken from our CFBA records of 5000 dogs monitored.

Long lines may be essential but without equivocation is negative by restriction, end tightening of the line and a sudden stop on the neck or harness. Harnesses can also cause a negative reaction on a dog hence why dogs initially try to remove them with there teeth, roll and rub against objects to get rid of the body clamp. The dog experiences the harness as a negative and most unnatural. All the aforementioned training equipment maybe necessary in some cases but to delude yourself its all positive is simply lack or reality and more to do with blind dogma as previously described.

Laws and social rules mean we have to enact the above, but do not mean the actions are positive; they are all negative on a dog’s free spirit and pretending you are “positive only” is not a truism.

Social Media Negativity

Unfortunately, we seem to have landed in a place whereby dog orientated social media commentators are vindictive and scurrilous to the point of being vile where too many of them claim qualification or expertise and have an odious opinion. Not all opinions or qualifications are equal and voicing an opinion or criticising another should be based on full-time training and professional experience, not on the last unsubstantiated Tweet or Facebook comment.

These angry, driven people seem to be desirous of occupying the high moral ground which unfortunately for them is as shallow as their sociopathic tendencies.

I have worked with dogs and people all of my life and I am sceptical of the words “new” and “modern” in training, which generally means not new or modern just semantics and word games with endless non-evidenced claims at being better, kinder and the end game of narcissistic attention seeking on the internet by the trainer. I only engage with professional, skilled people who matter, gain results and who have a body of excellent work behind them and are not anonymous.

I am open to new ideas but they do have to work and be practical for pet owners. Hot air claims are just that. One trainer claims he can train any dog out of its aberrant behaviour via games, now that’s positive is it not? That’s some claim, it’s not true of course and he cannot validate these extraordinary claims. Twenty five years before his claim I trained dogs via motivational games and still do, that’s how we taught police dogs to track or attack criminals. So what is it he states that is unequivocally untrue? He claims that “All behaviour problems can be solved via by games”. But his ilk attracts the naive and especially the “positive only” ideologues. Look, he can achieve miracles; follow the prophet of Facebook.

Dog aggression a reality check

Another claim is that using food endlessly will stop a dog exhibiting aggression and solve the issue. First, only mildly aggressive dogs especially fear based ones, can be influenced, but rarely cured by using food only; conversely, seriously embedded aggressions cannot be solved by food (treats), so that claim is also de facto untrue – at best it’s a momentary distraction, but not a focus changer. A pet owner following this nonsensical advice simply builds up the negative behaviours as time passes – their dog’s repetitive aggressive displays over a longer period of time causes the behaviour to embed further. In essence the positive only dogma has compounded the aberrant dog behaviour and all too often after method failure, the “positive only” trainer culprit does not answer the phone or email request and goes into hiding like an ostrich.

“Positive only” can mean so many different things to different trainers. Some use negative and positive, but state they are “positive only” which is confusing to say the least. Others claim ”positive only”, but happily use a lead or long line for recall, which has a check action when the dog runs its course, but don’t realise that that’s negative according to the ideological nonsense of “positive only”. So it’s worth defining each trainer’s claims so we know where we are.

My holistic reward based approach is good, but has to be combined with reality and real situations not ideology regurgitated on some Facebook page.

The Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour & Training have had a philosophical statement on line for 18 years stating the following: “Any person who feels that they have dog training behaviour methods which are effective/kinder than any we teach are welcome to come to the CIDBT training institute to demonstrate such methods on camera. We will embrace such methods if they prove to be more efficient and work. To date not one dog trainer in Britain has offered to example such skills at the CIDBT, but thousands claim on social media they know better.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and Positive only ideologues

A surreal dogma led hobby trainer may suggest you only EVER use a positive treat to get your dog’s attention when it displays aggression to another dog on the street, but can’t quite explain and blatantly ignore the realities of holding a large dog propelling its self-bulk forward with vocalised aggression and possibly with biting intent, one hand holding food is generally not workable whilst being dragged over, issuing commands above the noise of traffic and barking is most unclear especially when the only consequence for the aggressive dogs is a treat if proffered or the motivation to attack, or defend itself whichever is the greater motivation. And if the aggression is dog targeted the handler cannot control other dog’s episodic approaches to his aggressive dog – these are innumerable in complexity.

They may even recommend a dog harness so your dog can use three times its strength to pull you off balance unless you are an Olympic weight trainer, simultaneously telling you it’s better for the dog (kind) and ignoring your struggles or inability to stay on your feet. It’s this patent unwillingness to use common sense that’s a serious issue for these hobbyists.

If the treat was the greater motivator well all the tens of thousands of aggressive dog’s behaviour would be solved quickly and this article would be superfluous. Not so, back to reality, in essence the way practical training combined with psychological manipulation works is that “the motivation to induce a dog to follow your commands and or wishes has to be greater than the dogs drive to do what it wishes to do at that time and in that location”. It’s that simple!

There is nothing intrinsic in a dogs mind set to want to be trained, to do what you want or even to wish to please you in anyway. Its only inherent function is to follow its evolutionary instincts in each environment you place it in be it a field, a car or a park or killing your neighbours pet rabbit. The fact that the dogs have been domesticated does not mean it’s not a wild animal; domestication modifies its natural evolutionary instincts sufficient for us to manage them. Like all pack group species that particular pack behaviour we manipulate in dog training to our advantage “The Pack”. Unlike domestic cats which are a solitary.

The fear driven dog is being walked down the street on a lead its defensively aggressive but has learnt to execute fake and or fear vocalisation aggression as a pretext defence action and barks leaps at or barks or intimidates a person with a dog in that same street. The criminal dog law The Dangerous Dogs Act is now broken; the handler of this aggressor dog, commits the offence of owning a dangerously out of control dog in public. This is initiated via a complaint from the target person to the Police and or by third party too. The target person does not have to be bitten or even nearly bitten they simply have to state they were in fear of being attacked. Once, as a trainer, you tie yourself to an ideology that is the end of your learning.

The law states Dangerous Dogs Act, 1991

A dog shall be regarded as dangerously out of control on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person or assistance dog, whether or not it actually does so. (Section 10(3) Dangerous Dogs Act 1991).

Case Law: In addition: The dog trainer/handler is liable in case law. More than one person may be ‘in charge’ of a dog at any given time.

It does not matter what you the owner of the aggressive dog believes to be true of your dog’s temperament. The dog owner of the aforementioned aggressor dog is liable to be arrested or summoned, fined and their dog possibly seized, thereafter the owner cannot visit the dog if the Police decide. All from that one action, on that street, on that day with your titbit following an expert’s nonsense.

That should make the ideologue think when training other people’s dogs, but they don’t, they simply follow more of the same, unfortunately for the pet dog owner and to their dog’s detriment. How do I know this? Because I have worked in the criminal court circuit for 30 years plus and am Home Office trained in criminal law and dog law. I meet many people in court as a result of circumstances I have just alluded to. I always advise pet owners who have had this awful amateurish training advice to issue a civil action against the trainer for damages; one cannot just ignore this mistreatment of loving pet owners, because the trainer means well or apparently loves dogs, these trainers need to learn more and note their limitations.

The Dangerous Dogs Act, 1991 does not decree that the owner of the aggressor dog and or the “positive only” trainer accompanying them can try to dissuade the dog in the middle of this aggressive action via a treat, as if one can realistically place a treat in front of a dog’s nose whilst it is surging forward in a micro second. The law says you will control it, meaning STOP the dog immediately; pull it back/stopping the leap immediately; stop the growling immediately. These are negative actions pulling or checking the dog back under operant conditioning and what thousands of dog owners do each day in Britain knowing their dogs’ trigger points as they try to manage such dogs in public or private. And all this in a noisy urban street were commands are not even audible to the dog’s ears when it is growling, barking or set on its course of action. That is reality. Of course many or most of these dogs are not going to bite and some are muzzled, but the law does not allow for what might be the outcome only on the initial perceived aggressive action by the target person. As stated from my descriptions the law is technically broken.

A pet dog owners rights

Any pet dog owner who is indoctrinated with the accompanying diatribe of how “positive only” trainers are lovely, kind, the best, love dogs, do not use any lead force to bring their dog back to their personal space immediately should demand the following: Tell the “positive only” trainer to sign a legal agreement that they accept full lawful responsibility and accept all legal consequences including fines and paying for the dog’s incarceration if seized, as well as court prosecution and defence costs. That is the starting point for the dog owner. I tell owners to get a signed statement to that effect. Strange when asked to sign, the ideologue trainer disappears making the normal excuses. If “positive only” works, what’s the issue? It’s them fiddling around the edges of dog behaviour purporting be an expert, which they are not. That is why I believe them to be dangerous and very unkind to dogs and pet dog owners and wholly responsible for dogs with mild aggressive behaviour becoming out of control through inadequate advice over time.

Of course a trainer who uses necessary force to stop such aggressive behaviour is not placing the pet owner in such circumstances, is obeying the law and does not have to sign any document.

In my Court experience, if you tell a Judge you were a “positive only” trainer and attempting to dissuade the dog from its aggressive action by being kind and with treats – it will be viewed as negligent and irresponsible – you will feel the full weight of the law and suffer a criminal record too if found culpable in civil and or criminal cases. Be warned “positive only” trainers. This law also applies in all dog training venues and even your home or garden.

Humans with our large brains comparative to animals, understand consequences theoretically should not need negative reinforcers. In a light hearted way I used to teach students that when a driver goes through a red traffic light he’s fined – NEGATIVE – if he drives through a green one he receives no reward. Why don’t we give people a fiver for driving through a green light POSITIVE? Because some will always drive through a red one, because the fiver is not always a motivator!

We have thousands of laws that all have negative outcome if broken. Negative reinforcers do work. Dogs don’t have the luxury of a complex mind that can foresee consequences of an action other than by immediate experience, so like a young child they need clear black and white boundaries that match their brain limitations given at the time of an action.

If you are a fair, kind, good dog trainer who uses mainly rewards, but embraces the notion that there should be no consequence for unwanted behaviour, the dog will continue to respond in that manner. It knows no different unless corrected.

I have advised a number of trainers to use law to expose people who libel on line. It’s worth reading such laws. Each time I have issued legal proceedings the outcome has been excellent for me, not so good for the libeller.

Do I let dog owners off the hook for their errors of judgement in dog ownership? No, I am very aware that they choose the wrong breed and/or don’t put the research in before purchasing a dog. After over 20.000 client cases I would be remiss to not mention that. However, humans have natural drives and behaviours, which means they make plenty of errors and once they ask for help our job is not to be negative by berating them, but to show skill, compassion and most of all teach an operable set of skills which change their skill set and thereafter the dog’s behaviour in the quickest time frame. That is a professional canine educator.

Colin Tennant, March 2022

Table of Contents

Dog Law & Covid 19

Dog Law: Covid 19 and the implications of breaking the law relating to dogs and dog ownership.

We are now one year on into the Covid 19 pandemic and still not out of the woods yet. We are all aware of the cause and effect it has had on the human population, the mental health issues, poverty, and depression many people have suffered and are still experiencing from as result of this worldwide disease. But have you given thought to what our canine companions have had to deal with likewise, many of the puppies and young adolescent dogs that have been purchased or obtained during this period and also suffering and going to suffer as a result?

There are some owners who have had to wait a considerable some period of time before being able to get the puppy or dog they have so desired. For them unfortunately the puppy arrived at the wrong time in 2020 as the Pandemic took in hold and in March stringent restrictions were put upon us all to prevent the spread of this disease. Then there were those owners who just obtained a puppy to give them a purpose of being, whilst being isolated during this period, as it seemed the right thing to do without giving any forethought about the consequences that this would entail.

Due to the restrictions and on the advice given during the lockdown periods, if owners have complied as instructed to do so then all owners of new puppies and new dogs have not had the opportunity to do the right thing for these dogs and get them integrated and socialised as they should or would have done under normal circumstances.

All interpersonal group training had to stop between humans and their dogs, thus their dogs have no doubt suffered as a direct result. There has been a marked increase in online training, that cannot be denied, but that training does not and will never replace the social interaction all dogs need and require to be socially acceptable dogs within our communities.

As a direct result of this lack of ability to integrate our puppies and dogs, this is now become very evident in the reported increases in dog related problems that owners are now experiencing with their canine pets. By missing that most critical learning period of a puppy’s life there appears to be more and more related displayed aggression incidents coming to the fore. I as a trainer and clinical canine behaviourist and expert witness in dog law related matters am being called upon even more so now, then I have ever been to try to help owners deal with these issues.

Owners are in despair because those puppies have now grown and have not had the opportunity to get the life experience and training opportunities, they should have had during their growing periods thus far. There are now more and more reported cases of displayed dog aggression incidents either towards other dogs / animals and humans alike.

So, when it comes to the legalities of dog ownership and Dog law more owners are going to and are now finding themselves having to deal with the consequences of not having been able to train their dogs as they should or would have done so if we had not found ourselves in this predicament due to this outbreak.

More and more offences are being committed by the dogs and owners alike, some through ignorance of the law relating to dogs, and others not being responsible enough by taking proper control of their dogs, thus by not having their dogs under proper control several offences can be and are being committed under several sections of Dog Law. Under Section 2 Dogs Act 1871 Civil proceedings can be taken against the owner of a dog that is dangerous and not kept under proper control. The dangerousness alleged can be towards people or animals and the legislation applies to incidents in both public and private places.

As such owners could find themselves committing an offence without even realising that they are doing so, or should I say by allowing their dogs to be so out of control it could lead you in front of a Civil magistrate’s court hearing.

Section 2 of The Dogs Act 1871, states if your dog is not under proper control and deemed to be dangerous it could result in a control order being placed on you and your dog (with or without conditions being attached) or even having your dog destroyed by order of the courts. As the Dogs Act is dealt with as a civil complaint and as such it can be brought by anyone before the courts.

This could then get even worse for the dogs and its owners should the matter escalate to a criminal offence, as an offence under Section 3 of The Dangerous dogs Act 1991 could be committed as this law states as an owner, or a person in charge of the dog, and it commits an offence if the dog causes reasonable apprehension to a person that they will be injured, whether or not the person is actually injured. No criminal intent or recklessness is required for liability to arise and a person can therefore be guilty of an offence even if your dog is on a lead and has never behaved in that manner before.

Where no injury is actually caused the matter may only be dealt with in a magistrates’ court and the maximum penalty is 6 months imprisonment and / or a fine of £5,000. The court will have the power to order that the dog be destroyed or kept under proper control and they may specify the measures for keeping your dog under control, (keeping your dog on a short lead in public, having the dog muzzled etc.,) the court can also disqualify you from keeping dogs and order you to pay compensation to the victim.

If your dog should injury somebody, or an assistance dog (e.g., a guide dog) then a more serious ‘AGGRAVATED’ offence is committed. The injury does not have to be a full-on bite, it can be a scratch or bruise and that would make it ‘aggravated’. If it were an aggravated offence, then this can be dealt with in either the magistrates court or go up to the Crown Courts and the maximum penalties are now:

  • Injury to an assistance dog – 3 years imprisonment.
  • Injury to a person – 5 years imprisonment.
  • Death to a person – 14 years imprisonment

Where an ‘aggravated’ offence is committed the court MUST order that the dog be destroyed unless it is satisfied that you are a suitable owner and a fit and proper person to own a dog, that the dog does not pose a risk to the public. This is when you would need to consider expert evidence from a suitably qualified canine behaviourist.

So, by allowing your dog to run up to other dogs and or people and it then acts or reacts in an aggressive manner, or if you are not able to recall your dog away then technically you have demonstrated that you do not have proper control over your dog.

I often see many dogs out in public (which under the dog law legislation) who do not have a collar with a tag attached to the collar, this likewise is a criminal offence by law a dog must wear a collar with a tag attached- it must bear its owner’s name and address. You could be fined up to £2,000 if you don not comply (there a few exceptions to working dogs when being worked not having to wear a collar at the time of doing so). Many owners who put harnesses on their dogs think that because the dog has a harness on (some with tags attached many with not) and that the dog is (should) microchipped, then they do not see the necessity for their dog to wear a collar when in public. How wrong they are. The legislation can be found under the Control of Dogs Order 1992.

By Colin Spender BA Hons,
CFBA member
Canine & Feline behaviour Association

Science: Dog attacks increase

CFBA Science Team: Dr Estella Vaz, Colin Tennant MA, Dr David Sands and Ross McCarthy MA

Growing evidence revealed by CFBA 2020/2021 Survey that dog-on-dog attacks are on the increase’

Dr David D Sands, Clinical Canine Companion Behaviourist CFBA Fellow and Companion ‘Animal Science’ Consultant January 2021

“dog-on dog attacks are clearly on the rise”

The UK is widely known as a nation of dog lovers. Yet, while owners can be seen walking a wide variety of dog breeds on streets, lanes, beaches, woodland, parkland and countryside walks, there is a dark, underlying statistic that should alert both the public and authorities that all is not well in the kingdom of companion dogs. A recent CFBA survey has indicated that dog-on dog attacks are clearly on the rise.

Responsible owners usually have an accepted level of control over their companion dogs. Some will have complete confidence in their pet’s obedience – on or off lead in public spaces – others some degree of control.

CFBA members, canine behaviour experts and competent dog trainers report that they are receiving a steady stream of reports of incidents where owners and dogs have been exposed to uncontrollable dogs with their dog walkers neglecting to offer an acceptable level of recall or control.

Concerned by the increasing number of accounts relating to dog-on-dog aggression in public spaces led to a consensus that the CFBA should develop a survey to establish if there is sufficient first hand evidence to confirm the anecdotal perception that incidents of dog aggression are steadily increasing year on year.

The survey was developed to gather data from an online survey. Each form featured 61 sections of relevant questions developed by a dedicated CFBA team. The document focused on dog ownership and the dog-on-dog incidents directly experienced by owners. This was independently distributed through Company of Animals – Our Dogs – CFBA and other sources, as a result, over 700 forms were completed and returned for analysis.

Dog walkers completing the survey forms have recited stories of walks rudely interrupted by the unacceptable behaviour of hyperactive or aggressive dogs. These episodes often cause emotional distress to owners and trigger long-lasting fear-responses in their own dogs. This can subsequently change dog- walks from a pleasant to an apprehension experience.

‘Survey reveals the true emotional and physical cost of increasing incidents in dog-on-dog attacks’

Often, these worrying episodes are from other out of control dogs, a significant distance away from their owners. Some of the most extreme incidents of dog aggression have resulted in trauma to owners and injuries requiring GP and hospital treatment for them and veterinary intervention for their dog.

When these acts of dog aggression involve injuries to animal-assistance and guide dogs, a single incident is known to undo at least a year of specialised training which is undertaken at significant cost.

The remit of the CFBA is to take a considered view on this and other topics involving dog ownership. The survey focus was to establish if dog-on-dog incidents are on the increase and if other significant aspects of dog ownership influenced the outcomes.

The overview aim of the survey is to provide up-to-date statistical data that could be made available to organisations and authorities responsible for reviewing current dog related legislation and provide information to help dog owners. It may even be the spur to encourage academic and professional dog trainers to combine forces with scientific and practical input to help deal with a growing issue affecting the healthy pursuit of most dog walkers.

The results of the survey may come as a surprise to some However, for the first time, this unique data can provide a clearer understanding for companion dog owners in respect of their personal experiences. In doing so, the statistics and analysis will be available to authorities and hopefully reach a wider public audience.

A summary may help to highlight the expectations and collective responsibilities of dog-walker when encountering other dogs in urban and rural public spaces.

The survey results have potential identified the potential limitations of The Dangerous Dog Act and Amendments which is primarily intended to protect members of the public from dog owners whose dogs are found to be ‘dangerously out of control’ in private dwellings and public spaces. While the act may criminalise owners found to have allowed their dog to be dangerously out of control, current laws fail to protect dog owners or their dogs when it has been found they have been exposed to incidents where their dog has been attacked by another dog.

The CFBA provides sufficient data to indicate there should be consideration for additional Dangerous Dog legislation to be in place that could criminalise an owner proven to have allowed their dog to be ‘dangerously out of control’ and attack another dog.

Whilst applying The Dogs Act 1871 in civil law could have serious consequences for any convicted offender, including destruction of a dog, legal action in these cases but is more complex for individuals to initiate.

Participants Analysis:

There were 703 on-line surveys completed as of the 25th March 2020. The majority of participants (92%) were located throughout the counties of England. The remaining participants were located in the rest of the United Kingdom and international participants (1%) also contributed.

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    Social Interactions of Pet Dogs - Canine & Feline Behaviour Association Scientific Survey 2020 - 2021


    Canine and Feline Behaviour Association (CFBA) members reported via clients, personal encounters and media sources that currently, a growing number of dogs appear to react adversely when interacting with other dogs. This can result in aggressive displays of varying intensity toward other dogs, causing trauma to the dog and the owner. An aggressive dog, regardless of the root cause, is an issue in society and owners of dogs that are classified as ‘out of control’ under section 3 of the Dangerous Dog Act 1991 ¹ can be prosecuted. Therefore, as an organisation, the CFBA created a unique survey of dog owners to gain a better understanding of the current status regarding social interactions of our pet dogs, with a focus on incidents of dog directed aggression. In addition, other aspects of dog ownership were also considered to provide an overview of our pet dogs’ lifestyle. The overall aim being one of education, to allow us to use this research to help educate pet owners (and ourselves as an organisation), to enjoy the outside world with our dogs and interact safely with other dogs, pet owners and the general public.


    A survey was developed to gain the required overview of our pet dogs’ lifestyle, consisting of 61 questions and open to all breeds and stages of life. Each survey was designed to be answered for one dog, participants with multiple dogs in a household were invited to complete additional surveys. The survey questions were aimed to provide numerical data as to what is currently happening on a national scale and not the reasons why behaviours are happening. The data obtained, would identify topics of interest for further investigation. Survey-based studies are a standard way to gather data from a large population set. However, data gained from survey-based studies do have limitations, due to the subjectivity of the participant answering the question and the design of the survey itself. The survey was embedded into the CFBA website and links were shared via social media from the primary sources of the Canine & Feline Behaviour Association, Guild of Dog Trainers and Our Dogs Newspaper, and by electronic mail from the Company of Animals. The survey was available for two months and closed on 25th March 2020.

    Participant Analysis

    There were 703 online surveys completed as of the 25th March 2020. The majority of participants (92%) were located throughout the counties of England. The remaining participants were located in the rest of the United Kingdom and international participants (1%) also contributed.

    The participants completing the survey represented all adult age ranges (Table 1) with middle aged adults (46 – 65 years old) being the most represented (59%).

    Table 1: Age Range of Participants:

    Participants Age (years) n (%)
    18 - 25 27 (4%)
    26 - 35 92 (13%)
    36 - 45 96 (14%)
    46 - 55 221 (31%)
    56 - 65 196 (28%)
    66 plus 71 (10%)

    When examining the human family that lived with the dogs participating in the survey, 60% lived with two adults, 19% with one adult, 14% with three adults and the rest with four or more adults. Furthermore, a high percentage of dogs (80%) were not living in the same household as children (Table 2), so have less familiarity to children’s mannerisms and behaviours.

    Table 2: Number of Children in Participants Household:

    Children in Household (n) n (%)
    0 564 (80%)
    1 59 (8%)
    2 61 (9%)
    3 11 (2%)
    4 7 (1%)
    5 or more 1 (0%)

    The high number of dogs living in a child free household can be attributed to either participants having no offspring, or having older children who have either left home or have been included as part of the household adult count.

    When analysing companion dogs in each household, data showed that almost half of the participants (47%) owned one dog (Figure 1). This is at odds with surveys performed by the pet food manufacturers association (pfma) which reported UK data in 2017 and 2019 that 74% and 72% respectively, were single dog households. Due to the surveys primary distribution channels, it is possible that our survey includes a higher proportion of breeders and dog professionals, who tend to own multiple dogs.

    In addition to a dog, 40% of the participants owned other pets. Our survey indicated that the most frequent pet dogs lived with was a cat, 24% (n=166) of participants owning a cat, either on its own or in combination with a variety of other pets.

    Figure 1: Number of Dogs Owned per Participant.

    Results and Discussion

    Dogs Background Analysis
    All age ranges were covered by the survey. The majority of dogs (80%) were adult dogs (2 years and over). The remaining dogs were primarily adolescents (15%), and puppies. The breeds recorded in the surveyed dog population were:

    • 75% of dogs, accounted for 116 different recognised breeds, three quarters of these have pedigree papers. Labrador Retrievers, German shepherd dogs and Cocker Spaniels were the most popular recognised breeds and accounted for 148 of dogs in the survey.
    • 21% of dogs, were identified as either a Poodle cross, mixed / mongrel or crossbreed (other than Poodle).
    • 4% of dog breeds could not be determined as participants incorrectly entered more than one dog in the text field.

    Gender of dogs were generally balanced in the survey with male dogs accounting for 55%, and just over two thirds (65%) of dogs that took part were neutered. The survey showed that the majority of the dogs were neutered during adolescence and early adulthood (Figure 2), with 58% being neutered between 6 months – 1 year old.

    Figure 2: Age of Neuter

    As indicated previously, recognised breeds made up three quarters of the surveyed dog population. Therefore, it is not surprising that 70% of dogs in the survey were obtained from a breeder (Table 3)[2]. With 60% of participants having obtained their dog under 12 weeks of age (Table 4).

    Table 3: Surveyed Dog Population Obtained From:

    Dog obtained from n (%)
    House Breeder 357 (51%)
    Kennel Breeder 134 (19%)
    Rescue Centre 117 (17%)
    Farm 21 (3%)
    Overseas 18 (3%)
    Pet shop 2 (0%)
    Other source 54 (8%)

    Before obtaining a dog, 505 participants saw the dam, and 270 participants saw the sire of their puppy.

    Table 4: Age of Puppy / Dog When Obtained.

    Age of puppy / dog when obtained Participants (%)
    Under 12 weeks 422 (60%)
    12 weeks - 6 months 129 (18%)
    6 months - 2 years 79 (11%)
    2 years or more 73 (10%)
    In general, the surveyed dog population was healthy. 10% of the dogs were on prescribed medication, primarily for the long-term management of chronic issues. Only one dog was on medication prescribed for anxiety-based issues related to age.

    Dog Training Analysis
    Dog training, whether at basic or advanced levels, provides a set of conditioned actions that the owner can access to communicate with their dog. There are different styles and views on training [3-8], it was not the aim of this survey to investigate the training technique used to train the dog. The questions asked were aimed at assessing the effectiveness of the training undertaken. The results obtained are provided in Table 5.

    Table 5: Dog Training Results

    Questions on dog training Yes n (%) No n (%)
    Have you self-trained your dog in obedience? 572 (81%) 131 (19%)
    Have you attended a dog training club with your dog? 516 (73%) 187 (27%)
    Has a professional dog trainer helped you train your dog? 450 (64%) 253 (36%)
    Have you ever consulted a canine behaviourist about your dog? 204 (29%) 499 (71%)
    Does your dog pull on the lead? 281 (40%) 422 (60%)
    Is your dog allowed off-lead during daily exercise? 571 (81%) 132 (19%)

    Data showed that club training remains an important place for owners to learn skills with nearly three quarters of the surveyed dog population taken to a training club at some point in their life.

    Loose lead walking and recall are two basic training skills that are taught to dogs from puppyhood. Yet, these two skills are the ones that owners generally have issues with outside of the training hall / environment. Considering the number of participants in the survey who either self-trained their dogs, attended a training club or used the services of a professional trainer, 40% of dogs pulled on the lead when walking. There were 33 dogs in the survey that were aged ‘6 months and under’ so may not have been fully trained yet. However, a significant number of dogs remain (n=248 once puppy figures are removed) that do not walk on a loose lead. Suggesting that training methods or the transfer to ‘everyday life’ of this particular skill may not be effective. It is noted, that some participants may disregard the importance for a dog to walk without pulling on the lead, so without understanding this variable only a partial conclusion can be made.

    Data identified that 81% of the dogs that took part in the survey are allowed off-lead during daily exercise. However, 2% of the total number of participants indicated that their dog has no recall and 27% indicated that their dog sometimes returns. Therefore, nearly a third of dogs surveyed had unreliable or no recall. When put into context, these results indicate that only 87% of the dogs surveyed that are allowed off-lead are considered to have a reliable recall.

    Of the 2% of owners that indicated that their dog doesn’t return to them (n=16 out of a total of 703 participating dogs). The primary reason for their dogs not recalling was hunting or scavenging (45%), followed by smelling (27%), meeting other dogs (12%), meeting people (9%) and playing (6%).

    Dog on Dog Social Interaction Analysis

    Dog social interactions are complicated, and problems with dog directed aggression can be the result of a number of factors, such as genetics, environment, development and social learning [9-13]. In the CFBA survey, 60% of participants indicated that their dog enjoys meeting other dogs and considered them as having a friendly attitude. A further 13% indicated that their dog doesn’t like meeting dogs, and the remaining owners identified that size, breed, gender or colour were contributing factors to their dog socially interacting with others (Figure 3). It must be noted that owner personality [14] and perception of other dogs could influence their dog’s ability to socially interact.

    Figure 3: Results of Participating Dog Populations Sociability

    Of the 40% of dogs that struggled with social interactions, 5% were classed by the participants as having an aggressive attitude, 16% as ignoring others dogs and the remaining classed as nervous or fearful.

    The majority of participants (73%) indicated that their dog does not attack or challenge others. However, 3% (n=24) were classed as having attacked or challenged other dogs and a further 24% (n=167) have sometimes attacked or challenged others. Therefore, 191 of our 703 participants have dogs that attack or challenge other dogs. These results are similar to a study performed by Casey et al [15] in 2012, they reported that 22% of UK owners identified their dog as aggressive (barking, lunging, growling or biting) to unfamiliar dogs.

    Table 5 identified that 132 participants did not allow their dog off lead for exercise, yet 191 of the dogs in our study are known to attack or challenge other dogs. Only 7 participants identified that they use a muzzle during a walk.

    Unfortunately, results showed that 54% (n=380) of the dog population in our survey had been either attacked or challenged by another dog. The definition of ‘attack or challenge’ was not described by the authors of the survey.

    When analysing the impact of an attack or challenge on the dog, just over half (58%) of the dogs that were attacked or challenged currently had no change of reaction toward other dogs. The remaining dogs (42%, n=160) that were attacked or challenged, were affected socially developing avoidance behaviours (11%) or aggressive displays of barking / lunging / biting (25%), with 6% recorded as being scared of other dogs.

    One of the reasons people bring a dog into their life is to go on walks with them and dogs are walked in a variety of places all over the United Kingdom. The participants (n=380) that have encountered dog attacks or challenges were required to indicate the year and place of the incident (participants could enter multiple incidents for that single dog). It must also be noted that only half of the dogs in the survey were alive pre-2016, leading to a smaller data set. Figure 4 shows the results obtained.

    Figure 4: Year and place of attack or challenge by another dog

    In total there were 923 events recorded, indicating that dogs in our survey may have experienced multiple attacks or challenges from unfamiliar dogs. The area where most attacks and challenges have occurred are public parks, with 69 incidents recorded for 2019 alone. The areas with least attacks are national parks and beaches or coastal paths. These areas could be lower risk, due to limited accessibility with the majority of dogs only visiting the beach for a day trip or holiday.

    According to the data set, since 2018 there has been a significant rise of incidents in all areas. Interestingly ‘attacks in the street’ was identified as the place where the most attacks or challenges occurred during the first quarter of 2020 (n=30). This surge may be related to the memory being fresh, or dogs being more likely to be walked on streets over winter months.

    The survey was made available during February – March 2020, therefore data for attacks is restricted to the first quarter of 2020. However, the limited 2020 figures gathered provided sufficient data to identify a rise in comparison to previous full years. The data set gathered has limitations due to the accuracy of human memory [16], increase in study dog population numbers over time and the subjectivity of participants. However, the data suggests incidents are increasing.

    Dog on dog encounters also have a post episode effect on the handler of the dog that had been attacked or challenged. 36% of the participants who indicated they had been subjected to an encounter, recorded that their walk was less relaxed and a further 14% reported subsequently walking different routes. We consider it an unacceptable statistic that 27% of the total participants in the study had experienced negative dog on dog encounters that had a long-term effect on their daily walks.

    Half of the dogs that attacked the participants’ dog approached with aggressive behaviour, while only 7% were classed as approaching with fearful behaviour. A further 32% of the dogs were attacked by dogs that initially approached displaying friendly or playful behaviour. Not all handlers have the same experience and knowledge regarding the subtleties of canine body language, which can be difficult to read especially from a distance [17, 18]. Furthermore, handlers could be less likely to interpret the signals their dogs are projecting onto the oncoming dog, which can initiate negative encounters.

    Results indicated that the number of dogs being attacked or challenged are balanced between on-lead to off-lead. However, the attacking dogs were predominately off-lead (88%) with their owner in sight (82%). Of the participants that had experienced an attack or a challenge, 200 of them indicated that the attacking dog’s owner had tried to recall their dog ineffectively. A highly significant statistic is that, in 205 encounters participants reported that the attacking dog’s owner did not take responsibility for their own dog’s behaviour. This means that just over half of the attacked dogs’ owners (54%) had to deal with the incident that had been initiated by someone else’s out of control dog.

    27% of the 380 participants having reported an attack or challenge, indicated that these were non-contact events. These dogs were likely to have been subjected to challenging behaviour. The remaining 73% (n=278) of dogs were subjected to attacks where bodily contact was made between dogs. Only 45 dogs were recorded as having to receive veterinary treatment because of the injuries they received during the attack. When this figure is taken into context over all participants in the study, 6% of dogs received injuries significant enough for veterinary treatment to be required (no fatalities were recorded).

    When the participants were asked to describe their own reactions during the dog attack, it was clear from the descriptions provided that for many the event was clearly a traumatic experience. There were a range of actions that the participants of this study took when finding themselves confronted by an aggressive encounter with a dog. Answers were collated and the most common actions are recorded in Table 6. The results recorded that only 19 participants identified that the attacking dog owner helped separate the dogs or took control of their dog without prompting.

    Table 6: Participant Action Taken During a Dog on Dog Attack

    Action taken Participants
    Verbal reaction (scream / shout) to scare or distract attacking dog. 71
    Block the attacking dog with either the body, leg, foot or stick. 53
    Physically restraining or pulling (or trying to pull) attacking dog off, by grabbing the collar / scruff / tail / back legs. 47
    Manoeuvred / pulled own dog out of the way and moved away. 36
    Recalled own dog and tried to move to area of safety. 31
    Directly shouted at owner to control their dog (note: this action was also used in conjunction with other actions, where this happened it was classed as a secondary action and not counted here). 25
    Kicked or hit attacking dog (including hitting with objects such as walking sticks and items that were in situ). 23
    8% (n=31) of owners who experienced a dog on dog incident recorded that they received an injury. The injuries that were described in the survey were grouped according to areas of the body that were injured (Table 7). The most common injuries were bites and lacerations to the hands or fingers. Injuries to hands / fingers / arms can be sustained when owners try to fight off and defend their dog (and themselves) against the attacking dog.

    Table 7: Areas of Injuries Received

    Injuries Number of injuries received
    Bites / lacerations to hands and / or fingers 10
    Bites / lacerations to legs 6
    Bites / lacerations to arms 4
    Bites / lacerations to head or facial area 4
    Bites / lacerations / bruising to undetermined body area 6
    Concussion 1

    From the overall participants (n=380) who indicated they were on the receiving end of an attack or challenge, only 23 reported the incident to the police and / or their local dog warden. This significant statistic does not encompass all the dog owners that recorded an injury by an attacking dog (n=31), taking into consideration that each injury was reportable under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 [1]. The data research indicates a failure in the system, and potentially allows handlers to repeatedly offend, which may lead to further incidents that would cause trauma and injury to others (dog owners and canine) without any consequences.

    Dog to Human Social Interaction Analysis

    Outside the Home
    The survey showed that 15% of the dogs didn’t like meeting strangers on walks. It is recognised that this figure was taken from a ‘yes or no’ based question, when in reality many interacting factors are involved to trigger a dog’s response to a stranger, so it is likely that this figure is possibly elevated [19]. This is supported by Table 8, which shows the typical reaction of the participant’s dog when meeting a stranger (outside the home). From these results, 21 dogs behaved aggressively towards people (aggression was described as barking / snarling / lunging or biting) with 10 dogs recorded as having nipped or bitten a stranger during a walk.

    Table 8: Dog Reaction to Strangers (outside the home)

    Reaction n (%)
    Calm and friendly 406 (58%)
    Excited (bouncy / pulls on lead / very waggy tail) 227 (32%)
    Fearful (tries to pull away / avoids / cowers / tucks tail under body) 49 (7%)
    Aggressive (barks / snarls / lunges / bites) 21 (3%)

    Barking is a natural alert response form of communication for a dog. Dogs are highly likely to encounter a variety of stimulants during a walk, and in this research, we wanted to identify what are the main trigger points for barking. The options provided are urban driven, since public interaction is usually greatest within an urban setting. Figure 5 shows that of the 703 participating dogs, 296 do not bark during a walk. However, for those dogs that do bark, the top three triggers are: dogs, cats and strangers.

    Figure 5: Barking Triggers (NB: Participants could choose multiple options.)

    Dog to Human Social Interaction Analysis – In the Home

    The survey showed that 14% of participant’s dogs can growl, bite or challenge visitors to the home. To understand this further, participants were required to choose the best description of their dog’s greeting to visitors (Figure 6). This question was designed to give a general overview of social interaction toward visitors. It is recognised that dogs can react differently towards known and unknown visitors and also a mixture of behaviours can be displayed when greeting a visitor (e.g. jumping up and excitability).

    Figure 6: Dog’s Reaction to Visitors

    In comparison when visitors left, 95% of the dogs in the survey were classed as not bothered. The remaining dogs reacted by barking at the visitor as they left with only 2 dogs recorded as either lunging, snapping or biting the visitor.

    The survey revealed that 10% of our participant’s dogs growl, bite or challenge family members, with ≤ 5% of the dogs displaying resource guarding behaviours (Table 9), with treats and chews being a popular item of value [20,21].

    Table 9: Results to Show Dog’s Reactions

    Dog’s reaction in the following situations: No n (%) Yes n (%)
    Does your dog get aggressive when toys are taken from it? 688 (98%) 15 (2%)
    Does your dog get aggressive when food / food bowl is removed or touched? 678 (96%) 25 (4%)
    Does your dog get aggressive when treats / chews are taken from it? 667 (95%) 36 (5%)
    Does your dog bark when someone is at the door? 224 (32%) 479 (68%)
    Does your dog stop barking when you ask it to? 233 (33%) 470 (67%)
    Does your dog bark at the post person? 441 (63%) 262 (37%)
    Does your dog rip up your letters / papers? 627 (89%) 76 (11%)

    Daily Exercise Analysis

    The survey showed that women were the main exercise provider with 73% of participants indicating that a woman owner walks the dog most often. Others walking the dog most often were male owners (23%), dog walker (2%), other family members excluding children (1%) and other (1%).

    The data does not reveal the gender of person who completed the survey. It is therefore difficult to conclude if this is a true figure [22] or that women are more likely to complete these types of survey, which may have skewed the data.

    The most frequent total daily length of time that participant’s dogs are walked for was indicated as between 1 – 1.5 hours (Figure 7).

    Figure 7: Total Length of Daily Walk

    During walks, 51% of participants regularly play with their dogs. A further 36% of participants sometimes played with their dogs during a walk and of our 703 dogs only 90 were not actively played with during a walk.

    Dog owners have the possibility to use a wide variety of equipment while walking their dogs and the CFBA wanted to understand the participant’s preferences. Note, this question was to look at preference in general, not to justify the use of one piece of equipment over another.

    From the results shown in Figure 8, the flat collar, body harness (no brands or harness styles were specified) and 1.2 m (4 ft) lead were the most popular options participants used to walk their dogs. Participants could choose multiple options.

    Results indicated that leads were not used by all participants. Leads (various types) were chosen 463 times as a piece of equipment participants used to walk their dog.

    Furthermore, the use of a muzzle is low (n=7), considering that as discussed previously, 10 dogs in the survey have bitten or nipped a stranger during a walk and 21 dogs were described as reacting aggressively towards strangers during the walk. However, insufficient data is available to understand these dogs’ behaviour and their exercise environment, to make an accurate conclusion.

    Figure 8: Equipment Used During a Walk

    Diet Analysis

    Due to advances in canine nutrition and understanding, owners now are able to make informed choices regarding what they feed their dogs to maximise digestion and overall health. There is a wide variety of brands and types of commercial food that is now available.

    Participants could choose multiple diet options as required. The results obtained showed that 50% of the time, participants fed their dog with kibble (dry food), followed by raw food (25%), wet food (18%) and lastly home cooked food (7%).

    It was unexpected that raw food would be the second most popular food after kibble. However, a rise in popularity in raw food was also observed in polls performed by food website allaboutdogfood.co.uk. Our survey did not differentiate between participants using commercially available complete raw recipes or homemade raw meals.

    Feeding regimes may be adjusted during the lifecycle of a dog or due to individual requirements. The survey indicated that 80% of participants fed their dog twice daily. The remaining participants fed their dogs once daily (12%), or three or more times (8%). The survey dog population included 33 dogs that were aged 6 months and under, which would account for half of the dogs that were fed three times or more daily. The kitchen remains the place where the majority (n=529) of participants fed their dog.

    It was found that up to half of our survey dog population supplemented their food by faeces ingestion (coprophagia). Other species faeces (e.g. sheep, rabbit, cats) was favoured over canine faeces (Table 10).

    Table 10: Coprophagia

    Does your dog eat …... Yes n (%) No n (%)
    Its own faeces 39 (6%) 664 (94%)
    Another dog’s faeces 56 (8%) 647 (92%)
    Any other type of faeces (cats, sheep, rabbit etc.) 351 (50%) 352 (50%)

    Noise Sensitivity Analysis

    Unexpected noises such as fireworks, gunshots, smoke alarms, house alarms, and traffic are known triggers for noise sensitivity in dogs. Fireworks are a common cause of a fearful response in many noise sensitive dogs [23] and every year magazine articles are published about how to support dogs during the firework and festive seasons.

    The survey showed that only 17% (n=119) of participants indicated that their dog adversely reacted to noise. From these 119 dogs, owners identified that 89 reacted to fireworks, 33 reacted to alarms, 29 reacted to vacuum cleaner, 19 reacted to traffic and 62 reacted to ‘other’ noises. Many dogs that are noise sensitive are often sensitive to more than one noise therefore, the survey allowed participants to indicate multiple triggers. Fireworks were the primary noise that the dogs reacted to, however from the data gathered this only represented 13% of the total number of survey participants.

    These results were lower than anticipated. Noise sensitivity in dogs has been investigated by various academic groups [23-28] and these show that the prevalence of noise sensitivity in dogs varies between 20% – 50%. When the CFBA survey results were compared to the literature, it was found that the data gathered was lower for noise sensitivity in dogs, especially for fireworks. The most obvious reason for this, is that the CFBA survey unlike the literature studies, was not designed to explore the behaviour profile for noise sensitivity, only to provide a basic yes or no answer if the participant’s dog reacted badly to noise and if ‘yes’ what it reacted to. Furthermore, survey questions are open to the participant’s subjectivity and interpretation of the question against their dog’s behaviour which can limit data sets [24].

    Separation Related Behaviour Analysis

    Separation related behaviours are associated with a wide range of causes and are often traumatic for both dog and owner. Therefore, questions were phrased to obtain a general overview of behaviour, to be able to identify if a further study was necessary. The survey showed that the majority of participants (93%) could leave their dog alone in the home for 2 hours or more without fuss.

    Of the dogs (n=655) that could be confidently left alone in the home for 2 hours or more without fuss, participants were asked what length of time they would usually leave their dog alone for. As predicted, most participants (68%) left dogs alone for 3-4 hours which typically coincides with a lunch break visit in a working day. A small percentage of participants (3%) chose not to leave their dog alone for longer than 1 hour. At the other end of the time scale 4% of participants left their dogs alone for 8 hours or more. There was no frequency associated to these findings.

    Further information from all participants was gathered regarding their dog’s behaviour in the home. The results are shown in Table 11.

    Table 11: Behaviours in the Home.

    Behaviours in the home: No n (%) Yes n (%)
    Is your dog destructive when left alone? 662 (94%) 41 (6%)
    Does your dog howl / whine / cry when left alone? 643 (91%) 60 (9%)
    Does your dog toilet indoors when left alone? 678 (96%) 25 (4%)
    Does your dog toilet indoors when you are present? 685 (97%) 18 (3%)
    Does your dog groom or lick itself excessively? 672 (96%) 31 (4%)
    Does your dog chase shadows, lights or excessively chase its tail? 684 (97%) 19 (3%)
    Does your dog show inappropriate sexual behaviour? 667 (95%) 36 (5%)

    The survey showed that the top three places for participant’s dogs to sleep were the bedroom (n=263), the kitchen (n=231) and the living room (n=174). Only 10 dogs were identified as sleeping outdoors in the garden or kennel. The bedroom has become the most frequent place where dogs sleep in the home with 26% of our survey dog population sleeping in or on the bed with a family member.


    As an organisation, the CFBA wanted to gain a better understanding of the current social interactions of our pet dogs with a focus on incidents of dog directed aggression. The data gathered so far reflects a high percentage of companion dogs lack the expected level of positive social interaction skills, and 40% of the surveyed dog population display undesirable or antisocial responses when interacting with other dogs.

    Furthermore, the data concluded that 54% of the surveyed dog population had been attacked or challenged by another dog. With 25% of these dogs going on to develop aggressive displays (barking/lunging/biting) to other dogs. Only 6% of the total surveyed dog population received injuries significant enough for veterinary treatment. Although dog fatalities are known to have occurred during episodes of dog-directed aggression, there is an absence of fatalities recorded in this survey.

    The survey revealed that the place where the highest risk of your dog being attacked are public parks, and national parks the least likely place. However, results indicated that over the last two years there appears to have been an overall increase in dog directed aggression in all areas popular with dog walking, with 27% of participants in the survey suffering a long-term effect on their daily walk due to an attack from an out of control dog.

    The survey showed that training schools and clubs are a popular place for owners to take their dogs. These should be places to teach skill sets relevant to living in a modern world with current laws or legislation, and to provide owners with support in transferring skills from the training environment. This is particularly the case with recall training, as a third of the surveyed dog population had unreliable or no recall. Dogs with weak recall skills can be an issue to others (regardless of the original intent of the dog) and a danger to themselves.

    As an organisation, the CFBA has a remit to educate clients and dog owners regarding how to protect themselves and their dogs when under attack to minimise injury, as results indicated that the majority of attacking dog owners do not take control of their dog.


    1. Dangerous Dog Act 1991

    2. Gazzano, A., Mariti, C., Notari, L., Sighieri, C., & McBride, E.A., Effects of early gentling and early environment on emotional development of puppies. Appl Anim Behav Sci (2008) 110: 294-304.

    3. Hiby, E.F., Rooney, N.J, Bradshaw, J.W.S., Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behaviour and welfare. Anim Welf. (2004) 13:63–9.

    4. Rooney, N.J., Cowan, S., Training methods and owner–dog interactions: links with dog behaviour and learning ability. Appl Anim Behav Sci. (2011) 132:169–77. doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.03.007.

    5. Gulherme, F.J., Olsson, I.A.S., De Castro, V.A.C., Do aversive-based training methods actually compromise dog welfare? A literature review. Appl Anim Behav Sci. (2017) 196:1–12. doi: 10.1016/j.applanim.2017.07.001.

    6. Reisner, I. (2017), The learning dog: a discussion of training methods. The Domestic Dog, Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with people (2nd Edition), Serpell, J. (2017), Cambridge University Press, UK.

    7. Blackwell, E.J., Twells, C., Seawright, A., Casey, R.A., The relationship between training methods and the occurrence of behavior problems, as reported by owners, in a population of domestic dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior (2008) 3, 207-217.

    8. Herron, M.E., Shofer, F.S., Reisner, I.R., Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors. Appl Anim Behav Sci. (2009) 117: 47-54.

    9. Lockwood, R. (2017), Ethology, ecology and epidemiology of canine aggression. The Domestic Dog, Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with people (2nd Edition), Serpell, J. (2017), Cambridge University Press, UK.

    10. Pérez-Guisado, J., Muñoz-Serrano, A., Factors Linked to Dominance Aggression in Dogs. J. Anim. Vet. Adv. (2009) 8(2): 336-342.

    11. Cameron, D.B., Canine dominance-associated aggression concepts, incidents, and treatment in private behavior practice. Appl Anim Behav Sci. (1997) 52: 265-274.

    12. Wells, D.L., Hepper, P.G., Prevalence of behaviour problems reported by owners of dogs purchased from an animal rescue shelter. Appl Anim Behav Sci. (2000) 69: 55-65

    13. Sands, D.D., (2008), Know your dog. Hamlyn, London. pp. 64-146.

    14. Gobbo, E., Zupan, M., Dogs’ Sociability, Owners’ Neuroticism and Attachment Style to Pets as Predictors of Dog Aggression. Animals (2020), 10, 315.

    15. Casey, R.A., Loflus, B., Bolster, C., Richards, G.J., Blackwell, E.J., Interdog aggression in a UK owner survey: Prevalence, co-occurrence in different contexts and risk factors. Veterinary Record (2012) doi:10.1136/vr.100997.

    16. Manzanero, A.L. & Recio, M., El recuerdo de hechos traumáticos: exactitud, tipos y características. Cuadernos de Medicina Forense, (2012). 18(1):19-25. doi:10.4321/S1135-76062012000100003.

    17. Bradshaw, J., Rooney, N., (2017), Dog social behaviour and communication. The Domestic Dog, Its Evolution, Behaviour and Interactions with people (2nd Edition), Serpell, J. (2017), Cambridge University Press, UK.

    18. Tami, G., Gallagher, A., Description of the behaviour of domestic dog (Canis familiaris) by experienced and inexperienced people. Appl Anim Behav Sci (2009) 120: 159–169.

    19. Casey, R.A., Loftus, B., Bolster, C., Richards, G.J., Blackwell, E.J., Human directed aggression in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris): Occurrence in different contexts and risk factors. Appl Anim Behav Sci (2014) 152: 52– 63.

    20. Jacobs, J.A., Pearl, D.L., Coe, J.B., Widowski, T.M., Niel, L., Ability of owners to identify resource guarding behaviour in the domestic dog. Appl Anim Behav Sci (2017) 188: 77–83.

    21. Takeuchi, Y., Ogata, N., Houpt, K.A., Scarlett, J.M., Differences in background and the outcome of three behavior problems of dogs. Appl Anim Behav Sci (2000) 69: 297-308.

    22. Hoffman, C.L., Chen, P., Serpell, J.A., Jacobson, K.C., Do dog behavioural characteristics predict the quality of the relationship between the dogs and their owners? Hum Anim Interact Bull. (2013) 1(1): 20–37.

    23. Salones, M., Sulkama, S., Mikkola, S., Puurunen, J., Hakanen. E., Tirrra, K., Araujo, C., Lohi, H., Prevalence, comorbidity, and breed differences in canine anxiety in 13,700 Finnish pet dogs. Nature research Scientific Reports (2020) doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-59837-z

    24. Blackwell, E.J., Bradshaw, J.W.S., & Casey, R.A., Fear responses to noises in domestic dogs: Prevalence, risk factors and cooccurrence with other fear related behaviour. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013) 145: 15–25.

    25. Martínez, Á.G., Santamarina Pernas, G., Diéguez Casalta, F.J., Suárez Rey, M.L. & De la Cruz Palomino, L.F., Risk factors associated with behavioral problems in dogs. J. Vet. Behav. Clin. Appl. Res. (2011) 6: 225–231.

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    Let’s Talk About Cats by Anita Kelsey

    Let’s Talk About Cats: Conversations on Feline Behaviour features 16 unique in-depth conversations with devoted feline experts, each chapter answering a question about our cats. An abundance of catty conversation points which provide many useful takeaways for cat owners to improve their own every-day connection with their cats.

    This book, the first of its kind, presents the combined wisdom of experts from all over the world on the psychology, behaviour, diet and training of cats, in a relaxed and conversational style. Contributors include Jackson Galaxy, star of My Cat From Hell, and composer David Teie, whose ground-breaking album, Music for Cats, was released by the Universal Music Group.

    Each illuminating chapter exudes a love for cats and a wealth of fascinating insights.

    This book is packed with helpful advice, guidance and true stories from the author’s own professional experience of cat care topics, explaining the most important cat concepts, giving food for thought and expanding on all the most important issues and debates in the cat world.

    Let's Talk About Cats by Anita Kelsey


    “I would thoroughly recommend Anita for a cat’s eye perspective of the world, She is thoroughly enlightening and very friendly too” – Claire Bass. Humane Society International

    “Insightful and very touching at times. Cat lovers will recognise their own experiences in this book and hopefully enrich their knowledge of their feline companions” Michale Hallam. Your Cat Magazine

    “This book is the most comprehensive book about cats that I’ve ever read. It literally covers everything that you can possibly think about, and it’s very well laid out and interesting” – Book Blogger – sibzzreads

    “Absolutely one to read!” – Books are cool – book blogger

    Canine First Aid Part II

    Normal Dog Parameters

    In early February we introduced the beginning of a CFBA blog series entitled Canine First Aid by Rachel Bean.  The first article was the Introduction to First Aid followed by an Introduction to Rachel Bean, RVN.

    There was an unfortunate interruption while we were all adjusting to the ‘new normal’, but over the next few weeks, we will resume the series, starting with Normal Dog Parameters followed by Haemorrhage (Bleeding), Stings, Allergic Reactions & Anaphlaxis, and finally, Poisons & Pesticides.

    Normal Temperature, Heart, and Respiratory Rates in Dogs

    Attending to your dog’s wellbeing should include basic knowledge of their normal Parameters also known as Vital Signs. If you can recognise normal vital signs then you will be able to establish when vital signs are abnormal and contact your Vet much sooner. This will aid the speed of a potential illness being treated much quicker.

    Please keep in mind that these normal values for dogs are approximations and do not apply to every dog in every situation. If you have health concerns about your dog, be sure to consult with your Vet for advice.

    Normal Temperature for a dog is 38.3 C to 38.7 C

    Most Digital thermometers are in Celsius. It is good practice to have a digital thermometer in your Canine First Aid Kit for whenever you need to check a rectal temperature.

    Temperature Abnormalities can be:

    • HYPERTHERMIA: Caused by exercise, agility, working trials or simply running.
    • PYREXIA: Caused by Infections such as infected wounds
    • HYPERTHERMIA: Caused by Hypovolemic Shock,
    • DIPHASIC: Caused by Distemper and other neurological conditions.


    Blood pumped into the Aorta during ventricular contraction creates a wave that travels from the heart to the peripheral arteries. This is the Pulse.

    Normal Pulse rate for a dog is

    • Small Dog – 100 beats a minute
    • Medium Dog – 80 beats a minute
    • Large/Giant Dog – 50 beats a minute

    Taking a pulse rate – Feel how many pulses you can feel in 15 seconds, times by 4 – this gives you the minute rate.

    The best place to take a pulse rate from is the Femoral Artery located on the inside of either back leg midthigh region or the heart beat itself located behind the elbow.


    Pulse Abnormalities can be:

    • Raised rate
    • Lowered rate
    • Weak pulse
    • Irregular pulse


    Respiration is the normal exchange of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide between the air and body tissues. Normal Respiration for a dog is 10 To 30 breaths a minute 

    Abnormal Breathing rates:

    • Increased Breathing is called Tachypnea
    • Decreased breathing is called Bradypnea
    • Difficulty breathing is called Dyspnea

    Mucous Membrane Colours

    Any discolouration of the mucous membranes (gums) can be a lack of oxygen, blood flow, or dehydration. Always seek Veterinary advice if you notice this with your dogs gums.

    The gums can also feel “tacky”, meaning they are dry and sticky, where they should be moist like the inside of your mouth. This, along with discolouration, can indicate an emergency.

    Take the time to check your dog’s gums frequently. Knowing what they look like on a regular basis.

    Normal CAPILLARY Refill time for a Dog is 1 to 2  Seconds

    Pale gums caused by Anaemia or internal bleeding. 

    Cyanosis caused by lack of Oxygen
    Jaundice caused by Liver Issues
    Cyanosis caused by lack of Oxygen

    Table of Contents

    Articles welcome: dianekunas@yahoo.com