Spaying and Neutering

In the latest blog in our behavioural series we are going to take a look at the issue of neutering and spaying

There is no doubt that this is a contentious issue. Opinion is hugely divided between when to neuter or spay and in fact whether to do it at all. So let’s start with some facts….
At around 6 months of age Dogs both male and female start to become greatly influenced by sexual hormones. Next to eating this is the highest drive any Dog will have.

When Dogs are left intact their drive to mate can become overwhelming.

Male Dogs start to become territorial, hence the scent marking and guarding, and sometimes highly aggressive.
Some female Dogs will have their first season at around 6 months of age. Most female Dogs will have their first season at around 12 months of age, but it can even be up to 18 months of age.
Some female Dogs will then have a season every six months thereafter. However, most female Dogs will actually only have one heat cycle per year, especially larger Dogs

A female can be in heat from between 4 to 25 days depending on the Dog
A Female Dog is most fertile about 12 days after the bleeding starts

Dogs that are left intact have a huge build up of sex related Hormones which can have a hugely negative effect on both their behaviour and their health.
I personally believe that leaving a Dog intact that never has the opportunity to mate is actually cruel. Dogs left this way are highly frustrated and can become depressed.

Aside from preventing female Dogs from becoming pregnant, Neutering/spaying a Dog also has some highly beneficial effects on their health.

Spaying/neutering a Dog can help prevent:
Testicular Cancer
Ovarian Cancer
Mammary Tumours
Perianal gland adenomas
Venereal Tumours
Male Dogs are less likely to roam away from home and get lost

When to Neuter or Spay a Dog:
This is a subject that causes huge debate amongst Dog Care Professionals. Some professionals claim that it is best to neuter/spay a Dog prior to sexual maturity (Or in the case of a female Dog prior to their first season)
Some professionals argue ferociously that it is best to wait until after sexual maturity (Or in the case of a female Dog after their first season)
There is no absolute rule of thumb so it becomes an individual choice. However, there are some facts that you should be aware of

The argument for neutering/spaying prior to sexual maturity…. Female Dogs that are spayed prior to having their first season have a much lower risk of developing mammary cancer (Around 25% lower). With every season that passes the Dog’s chances of developing this cancer increases
In respect of male Dogs, neutering them prior to their sexual maturity will help prevent them from developing aggressive behaviour that once they have developed can become a learned behaviour and is more likely to be permanent

Some people also claim that it is best to neuter/spay a Dog before they fully develop their sexual drive to save them from this frustrating experience.

The argument for neutering/spaying after sexual maturity
Up until about six months of age puppies are still growing and developing. Critically their bones are still developing. Some people claim that neutering/spaying prior to this point will hinder this development.

Some people believe that if you neuter/spay a puppy before they reach sexual maturity they will remain a puppy. There is actually no medical basis for this argument

When not to Spay a Dog
It is essential that a Dog not be spayed during a season or when they are about to come into season. At this time a Dog’s blood vessels are larger and this poses a higher risk in surgery.
It is also important not to spay a Dog 8 weeks after she has been in season because at this time the Dog could be suffering from a hormonal imbalance known as a false pregnancy. The surgery could cause a further hormonal imbalance which would be unfair to the Dog. If she is producing milk as a result of the imbalance, it could also make the surgical wound more difficult to heal

Ultimately, the decision of whether to neuter/spay a Dog is a choice that only an owner can make. If you are unsure speak with your Vet and other professionals to ensure any decision you make is made having considered all the available facts
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Behavioural Series – Barking

Excessive barking can quickly turn a happy home into a house of horror. Sadly many thousands of Dogs end up in shelters every year for this very reason, but there are lots of positive and reasonably easy methods that can be used to stop excessive barking all you need to know is what they are. Luckily for you we do and in the latest Blog in our behavioural series we have written them down for you!

Finding the Cause

It is possible for a Dog to get into a repetitive pattern of barking behaviour leading them to bark and bark because this is what they have learned to do, but in the vast majority of cases Dogs bark for a specific reason. In short when a Dog barks they are communicating something. The key to stopping excessive barking is to finding out why it is happening. It is also important to mention that you should never seek to stop a Dog from barking completely. Barking is a healthy means of communication as long as it is not excessive.

The Top Reasons That Dogs Bark

Alerting – This bark is about alerting you or other Dogs of a potential threat with the Dog’s territory. This barking will either be continuous and rapid with a mid-range pitch if the Dog knows there is a threat or rapid in short bursts with a mid-range pitch if the Dog just suspects there is a threat

Loneliness– This bark is a Dogs way of checking if there is anyone out there because they are lonely. This barking will go on over a long time, but there will be pauses while the Dog checks for a response to their call. It may also be accompanied by whimpering and howling

Anxiety – It is thought that Dogs who are anxious may bark to soothe themselves. This type of barking will be higher in pitch and will often be accompanied by whimpering and howling

Boredom – This type of barking just goes on and on. The theory is that Dogs bark when bored to drain excess energy and simply in order to have something to do. This type of barking is often the one that humans find the most annoying

Excitement – This is the one that Dog owners have no problem recognising. It is often accompanied by lots of movement and it sounds happy and playful. It will often literally sound like “ruff”

Warning – If a Dog feels threatened they may resort to growling and barking to issue a warning to the perceived threat. This type of barking will most often start off at a low pitch and increase in both pitch and frequency if the threat continues

Pain or Fear – If a Dog is suffering their barking will often be high pitched like a yelp or scream

Treating the Cause
Once you have figured out why your Dog is barking you can treat the cause rather than the barking, which is just a symptom.

If your Dog is barking due to loneliness, anxiety or boredom there is plenty you can do to resolve this. As ever it comes down to common sense. Make sure your Dog gets plenty of exercise and opportunity to socialise with as many different people and Dogs as possible. Give your Dog activities to do that keep them busy. You can try Kong toys and Nina Ottosson toys too. Make sure your Dog isn’t left alone for long periods. You can employ the services of Dog walkers or Dog Day Care Centres to break the day up for your Dog.

If your Dog is barking in order to alert, you can teach them a command to bark and then a different command to stop. Use positive reinforcement techniques (Plenty of praise and reward). Keep the training sessions short and remember it will take a few months. Once the Dog gives you a reliable response you can use the stop command whenever you feel the barking is excessive
If your Dog is barking as a warning remove the perceived threat

If your Dog is barking in pain or fear it is vital to understand what they are scared of and seek medical attention immediately if necessary. If the barking is a fear reaction, use positive reinforcement techniques to create a positive association with the person, item or Dog that is the focus of the fear reaction
As ever if you need support to resolve this issue, speak to the team at Wags Doggy Day Care and School of Excellence, we will be happy to help!

Behavioural Series – Food Guarding

Food guarding behaviour is a common problem reported by Dog owners and often causes significant concern. Dog owners fear that this behaviour will lead to physical aggression from their Dog and for those people who have children in the house this can be very worrying As with any aspect of Dog behaviour there is a significant amount of misleading information and dangerous advice available to owners and sadly such advice only serves to exacerbates the issue In this week’s blog we look at the reason for food guarding behaviour in Dogs and how this behaviour can be resolved.

In order to resolve this problem we first need to understand why it might be happening..

Why do Dogs guard food?

Food is an incredibly valuable resource to Dogs, as it is to any species, and it is natural that they should wish to ensure it is not taken away from them.
Food guarding takes place when a Dog feels that this resource is under threat from a third party. This can be person or another animal. Upon perceiving this threat a Dog will take steps to protect the resource from this third party.

How can food guarding behaviour be recognised?

Most frequently a Dog who is guarding food will adopt a defensive body posture and may even use vocalisation, growling, to warn the third party to stay away from the food. However, it is important to realise that each Dog is different and depending on their breed, age, previous experience of such situations, temperament and environment they may each choose a different way of addressing the threat they perceive to this resource.

It is also essential to understand that the warning signs that a Dog feels that their food is being threatened can often be very subtle and easily missed. For example, a Dog may choose not to growl, but instead freeze for a short time or even turn their head away from the third party while keeping their eyes turned in their direction. In any case if a Dog feels that their warnings are going unheeded they may then choose to escalate the behaviour. This is where eventually a Dog may resort to physical action such as snapping or in worst cases biting the third party.
As stated the strategies a Dog uses to protect their food are in part dependent upon whether these strategies have been successful in the past. For example, if a Dog has been in this situation before and they used growling as a warning and this stopped the threat, they are far more likely to resort to this tactic again. Furthermore, it should also be noted that not all Dogs will escalate the behaviour in the same way. For example, it does not always follow that a Dog will first adopt defensive body language, then growl and then lunge/snap and then bite. The order of behaviour will be individual to the Dog and some Dogs never escalate the behaviour to the point of biting.
As an owner it is essential to be aware of such behaviour however subtle

What not to do

As mentioned there is a lot of misleading information and inaccurate advice out there. One of the most common falsehoods is that if a Dog displays food guarding behaviour it is behaving in a dominant fashion and the owner must assert their status as pack leader or alpha to show the Dog who is boss.
The most common way of owners asserting their authority is to wait until the Dog is eating and then to take the food away from the Dog until the Dog submits Not only is this absurd it is actually incredibly dangerous

Firstly, Dogs do not see humans as members of a pack and they do not assign ranks to other people or Dogs. This misconception is a result of a study conducted many years ago which claimed that Dogs, having descended from Wolves behave in the same manner. The people responsible for this study later published evidence to the contrary and made efforts to correct their previous mistakes, but sadly it was too late and this misconception was already “common knowledge”
Dog owners, trainers and so called experts have been using this misguided understanding to handle Dogs for years and unsurprisingly it has resulted in the loss of lives of many Dogs and injuries to many people and children

We now know that Dogs see us as family members, as loved ones. They are well aware that we are not bigger Dogs and that we are a different species. Dogs are not in a constant battle with us for pack status or trying to dominate us.

When Dogs guard food it is because they do not wish for it to be taken away. As such, by taking the food away from a Dog who has displayed food guarding behaviour an owner is carrying out the very action that the Dog was most afraid of. The owner makes the perceived threat a reality for the Dog. The natural response of the Dog is to escalate or intensify the guarding behaviour next time.

What should you do?

Well, let us be the first to say that food guarding is a problem and there is no substitute for expert advice from a qualified Dog behaviourist. As such, you may certainly consider seeking advice from a professional who can guide you through how to resolve the problem for your Dog, but we can also offer are a few useful tips that might help.

Remove the threat

This does not mean that you simply accept or tolerate the behaviour, but just that you seek to change the Dog’s incorrect perception that you or a third party are threatening their food.

How do you do that?

A safe, quiet environment…Provide the Dog with a quiet and safe environment in which to eat their food alone, somewhere they feel secure that their food is not under threat from a third party and therefore do not need to resort to guarding

A calm approach to feeding

Some owners will make a huge fuss over feeding their Dog and naturally the Dog becomes excited at feeding times, their adrenaline levels increase and with this heightened level of energy they may become reactive to third parties. Keep feeding times calm, do not make a fuss. Keep children and other animals away
For their own safety it is important to keep children and other animals away from a Dog who has food guarding issues while the Dog is eating. It is also important to note that even if a Dog does not currently display food guarding issues, this advice should be followed in order to proactively stop the Dog from developing this kind of behaviour

Create a new understanding

It is important to show the Dog that you are not a threat to their food. Dogs need to be shown that your presence when they are eating is a positive experience. As such, when you do pass the bowl of the Dog who is eating you might wish to try throwing in another small treat from a distance. This shows the Dog that your presence is not a threat to their food, but actually the complete opposite. Over time and with repetition the Dog learns that when you approach their bowl good things happen.

We hope that you have found our latest blog informative. As ever the Wags Dog Day Care team are on hand to offer any further support you may need

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Wags Doggy Day Care – Behavioural Series – Recall

In the first blogs in our behavioural series we explored the most effective, basic things you can do in order to help your Dog lead a happy life and proactively avoid behavioural issues. Having done so we will now move on to look at specific behavioural issues and how to prevent them and resolve them
The first behaviour we will tackle is recall.
Surprisingly getting their Dog to return to them reliably is fairly low down on most Dog owner’s wish list. However, teaching a Dog this skill is incredibly important.

Dogs will often run off to explore their environment unaware of the potential danger around them such as passing cars or other Dogs who might not wish to be approached. Certain people or small children might not wish to interact with your Dog or it might be that you have concerns about environmental hazards your Dog could face while out with you.

By ensuring your Dog will reliably return to you on command you can ensure that you are able to control any situation you and your Dog are presented with. Further to this, having your Dog return to you on command means that your Dog can enjoy the freedom of exploring the world without having to be on a lead at all times and you can enjoy walking with them without constantly having to control their on-lead behaviour.
Why do some Dogs struggle with recall?

The vast majority of Dogs spend a large percentage of their life indoors so it is only natural that when they do get the opportunity to explore the outside world that they get incredibly excited. This excitement coupled with all of the sights, sounds and smells that stimulate their senses and pique a Dog’s curiosity mean that they are often highly distracted and find it difficult to follow simple commands. On top of this they are enjoying themselves so much that they don’t want the experience to end, they want to carry on exploring not return to the owner who might then insist on taking the Dog home again.
When faced with an unresponsive Dog owners often become frustrated. It may be that they are trying to ensure their Dog’s safety in having the Dog return to them or simply that it’s time to go, but whatever the case when a Dog fails to return upon command it is instantly stressful for the owner. This stress often causes the owner to raise their voice and use a harsher tone of voice. They may start waving their arms about or walking toward the Dog with the intention of putting the Dog back on the lead. Dogs are incredibly good at reading our body language and upon seeing this change of demeanour in their owner it is not surprising that the Dog, wanting to avoid the confrontation, does the opposite of what their owner wants and may even move further away

Of course there is also the fact that returning to their owner upon command is simply a skill that the Dog has never been taught
How do you ensure a reliable recall?

As with almost any modification to a Dog’s behaviour this takes practice and persistence on the owner’s behalf

Returning upon command when practiced and repeated will become a habit for the Dog over time, but to begin with owners need to start by making returning worth it for their Dog

Like us, Dogs tend to engage in behaviours which are rewarding and make them feel good

Remember, when outside the Dog is having a great time so coming back to you has to be more interesting or rewarding than what they are doing in order to make it worth while

To start with purchase a long training lead that allows your Dog to move a significant distance away from you. Allow your Dog to roam as far as the lead will allow them to. When the Dog does eventually return to you, reward this behaviour with a really tasty treat or lots of praise and repeat this each and every time the Dog makes the decision to return.
After a few repetitions add the command you intend to use when you want the Dog to return to you just as the Dog starts to do so and then reward them as usual.
You can then move onto giving the Dog the command you have established before they start to move towards you. Once again when the Dog returns you should reward them. This skill needs to be practiced frequently in short bursts over a period of weeks. Do take into account that each Dog will learn at a different pace
Once the Dog is responding to the command reliably on the lead, it is time to try them off the lead. As with any training, it is a great idea to stack the odds in your favour. As such, you might find it easier to start the off-lead recall training at a quiet time of day when there are fewer people and Dogs around which can act as distractions It is also a good idea to choose a quiet, secure area such as a tennis court. If you are using treats you might wish to start this training before the Dog has eaten so that the treats are of a higher value to the Dog.

In this scenario, let the Dog off their lead. Allow the Dog time to explore the environment before you begin and give the command and reward as usual. Again do this in short, frequent bursts. You can then reward the Dog by taking them on a walk straight after
Realistically it can take months to embed this skill into your Dog’s repertoire so don’t get too frustrated if progress is slow.

Once your Dog has mastered this skill in a secure, quiet area, you can then move onto trying this in a more difficult situation where there are more distractions. At this point it might be best to walk the Dog before starting the training so that they have had a chance to get rid of some of their energy and explore the environment a little bit
Top Tips

For recall use the tastiest treats you possibly can so that coming back to you is really rewarding
Stay calm and use a light, loving tone of voice when giving the command or giving praise so that your Dog wants to come to you when asked to.

Make coming back to you fun by making it a game – Use trees to hide from your Dog and use the command to begin a really fun game of hide and seek
If your Dog is reluctant to return to you, do not chase them as this can become a game. If it is safe to do so, walk away from your Dog as they are far more likely to follow

We truly hope this helps, but should you need any further assistance with recall, speak to the team at Wags Dog Day Care and School of Excellence

Behavioural Series – Setting your Dog up for Success

Wags Blogs – Behavioural Series – Setting your Dog up for Success

Throughout the following series of blogs we will be exploring behavioural issues that owners frequently experience in respect of their Dogs and the various methods and techniques, which can be employed in order to help resolve them.

Resolving a behavioural issue in Dogs can be difficult. It often requires a significant amount of time, patience and commitment from the owner. As with any problem in life, it is far better to proactively prevent a problem from occurring then to try and fix it once it has. As such, in this the first blog in our behavioural series, we will look at how owners can help to do this by setting their Dog up for success
What do we mean by setting a Dog up for success?
As we have frequently made reference to in previous Blogs, however close the bond between humans and Dogs, Dogs are ultimately a different species with a very different way of experiencing the world. We simply cannot expect them to navigate our complex human society without providing them with guidance and support.

In short when we talk about setting a Dog up for success we mean doing everything possible to give them the best possible chance of coexisting happily with their families and with all of the other humans and animals they are likely to encounter within their lifetime.

So how can we set a Dog up for success?
The answer that the vast majority of people would reach for would be training. Although, training is undoubtedly important and can play a fundamental role in developing a Dogs’ basic life skills as well as enhancing the bond between a Dog and their owner, it is actually only part of a much bigger picture.
In truth we must start on a far more basic level.


As our understanding of Dogs develops we are beginning to understand that diet can play a big part not only in a Dogs’ state of health, but also in their behaviour.

Looked at simply, food is fuel. By giving a Dog a balance of the vitamins and nutrients they require, we put them in a much better position from which to cope with the world

Sadly a huge proportion of the Dog foods available in today’s market contain very little nutritious value and due to clever marketing many Dog owners fail to realise that their Dog is just not getting the fuel they need to thrive.
Doing even a small amount of research about exactly what your Dogs’ food actually contains and how might affect them can make a very big difference
At Wags Dog Day Care we have nutritional experts who can offer you support if you feel you need it.

Physical Stimulation

The physical abilities of Dogs are simply incredible. We must remember that many Dogs are built to roam over huge distances and have huge amounts of stamina and energy. Many owners recognise that their Dogs need walking, but in truth this is just one form of exercise.

As with anything we do for our Dogs, it is much wiser to give them a balance of physical activities. For example, walking, running, swimming, digging, agility. When we actually consider it, there are many physical activities we can offer our Dogs, it just requires some thought. However, as with any other aspect of caring for our Dogs, putting a little thought into offering them variety in this area can go a long way in making sure they live a long and happy life

Mental Stimulation
Giving our Dogs enjoyable mental challenges is not only a great way of helping them to drain their energy, but also one of the best ways to help them become confident problem solvers.
By giving them a chance to exercise their mind and learn we can in fact encourage them to think rather than panic when presented with a new experience. This will make it far easier for our Dogs to cope well with new situations and makes it far less likely that behavioural issues will arise.
There are lots of ways to give Dogs the opportunity to use their brain, but the best way is through playing games with them on a one to one basis for shorts periods as frequently as possible.
There are lots of good books out there which help owners to use things they already have at home to create fun little games for their Dogs to enjoy and learn from.
For those owners who prefer to buy games for their Dog they are available at relatively low cost.
Once again the Wags team can offer advice in this area to those who would like it.

Emotional Stimulation

Dogs beyond any other species on the planet seem to be able to read our emotional state with a great deal of success. They are very responsive to our moods and the emotional environment in which they are in. It sounds simple, but dealing with our Dogs in a calm manner gives them a sense of security which allows them to respond in a calm way. Of course this is only part of the equation.
Dogs seem to thrive when they socialise. This means in order for them to be happy and balanced they need to be given lots of opportunity to do this.
Our Dogs should be given the opportunity to socialise with as many different people and animals as possible as well as the chance to explore new environments
Playing with other Dogs is a great release and gives Dogs a chance to build upon vital social skills they need to live a happy life
The answer
Having read all of the above one thing should stand out: This isn’t rocket science
In fact, setting our Dogs up for success is actually reasonably simple. Our Dogs need balance. A balanced diet, a balance of physical mental and emotional stimulation, a balanced approach from their owner
If we provide our Dogs with balance, we set them up for success!

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Wags Blogs – Behavioural Series

The topic of Dog behaviour has had significant media attention in recent years, not least because of the shocking incidents of Dog aggression witnessed across the UK.

However, most people only begin to think about Dog behaviour once it becomes a problem they need to resolve.

In fact, if asked to think about the topic of Dog behaviour most people think of behavioural issues such as chewing, barking, toileting, pulling on the lead etc. However, all of these things are actually just symptoms of the same problem: Dogs are a different species, who speak a different language, living in a complex human society, which they do not understand. Behavioural issues begin to occur because of this fact. Only if we accept this as being true can we have a hope of preventing and resolving such issues
Dogs, like children, do not come with a hard wired understanding of how to thrive in the world. In taking them into our homes it becomes our duty to learn their language and to help them successfully navigate our complex society. If we dedicate ourselves to this goal we can not only resolve behavioural issues we encounter in our Dogs, we can actually prevent them and enjoy the many benefits of living in harmony with our Dogs

At Wags Dog Day Care we are privileged to spend our day in the company of the most incredible Dogs. Each of these Dogs has their own unique, heart melting personality. Each of these Dogs has their own way of viewing the world and their own way of learning. It is impossible to spend time with them and not fall in love with them. Put simply each Dog we care for at Wags has become part of our family.
We are also privileged to work with Owners who love their Dogs beyond compare. It could not be clearer to us that the owner of each Wags Dog wants the best for them.

The team at Wags love these Dogs, we don’t just want them to have a great day, we, like their owners, want them to have a great life.
In honour of this fact in the next series of Blogs we will be discussing Dog behaviour in general and giving away tips that Dog behaviourists charge hundreds of pounds for on how to prevent and resolve common issues.

We will start this series with the golden rule of Dog behaviour. If you choose to learn one thing from the next series of Blogs you should make it this:
If you want your Dog to repeat a behaviour then reward this behaviour. If you want your Dog to stop a behaviour then ignore this behaviour.
We hope that you enjoy this series of Blogs and that in writing them we can play a part in helping you and your Dog to enjoy the best possible life together!