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Training Tips

Poppy’s training snippets – socialisation

“One size does not fit at” True

“Every dog is different” Also true

“They have their own characters and instincts” True too.


Only so much of your dog’s ability is innate, in other words, what they are born with, what they now become is up to you. My family pack is comprised of a scent hound, a sight hound and a herding dog. All completely different but the one thing they have in common is they are sociable and know how to behave in a human environment.

Socialisation is a subject very dear to my heart. Whilst I am going to approach this from the point of  view of having a new pup it applies equally to older dogs especially those from rescue centres who may not have been socialised as puppies.

The day I met Poppy, that fateful day when I was asked to foster her. When she crawled onto my lap on the floor of the SPA Carcassonne office and stole my heart, she was 3 months old and a very frightened little puppy. I will never know what happened to her but no pup should ever be that traumatised. Socialising her was of primary importance and as it was people who frightened her most I needed to expose her to as many as possible in a positive way. My friends, family and dog club members became willing guinea pigs but I also took her out and about to meet perfect strangers. She hasn’t completely overcome her fear and I still have to be vigilant but at almost 6 months olď she is now a confident young dog who can walk through a crowded market and settle beside me in a café.

Puppies by nature are generally friendly and curious. They learn by exploring the world around them, by smelling by tasting and touching, but mostly from their mother and by playing with their siblings and extended family. That, however, does not fit them for living in a human world so when we take on a puppy, or indeed any dog, it is up to us to teach it how to behave and survive in our environment.

The optimum age for socialising your new puppy is between 3 and 5-6 months of age. At 2 to 3 months they should have had their essential vaccinations and can be taken out and about. At 5-6 months the fear factor kicks in; this is basic survival instinct and anything unknown becomes something to be wary of. As you can see it is a very small window of opportunity!

What is socialisation

In simple terms, this is taking your pup out and about and exposing them to everyday life. To the market, a cafe, the school gates, along busy roads, where there are cyclists and joggers, to the duck pond or to meet the horses in the local farmer’s field. Making sure your dog says ‘hello to as many people and animals along the way as possible.The experiences your puppy has now will never be forgotten so positive encounters with people, including children, and other dogs/animals are very important and the time you consecrate to it will repay you many times over.  Conversely, bad experiences now may be difficult to overcome in the future.

A dog that has not been socialised often has no idea how to behave when placed in a social situation. A young child who has never played with other children and who is suddenly taken to a playground, or sent to a nursery, will have no idea how to interact with others in their peer group.  They may be frightened and run and hide or, through fear, may be aggressive in their attitude towards them. So it is with dogs and aggression through fear is the worst kind because it can be unpredictable. A frightened dog has only two options, flight or fight; if it feels trapped it will choose fight, often without warning.

If you have a dog school near you this is an excellent way to accustom your pup to other dogs and people in a safe environment. At a Puppy School you will be shown how to train your puppy effectively and without stress but even more important your little one will learn how to ‘play nicely’ with other puppies and to inhibit their bite.  They will meet other dogs of varying shapes and sizes and other humans too, (also of varying shapes and sizes!), with glasses and hats, big coats and umbrellas.  They will learn to walk on different surfaces, to go over jumps and small bridges and through tunnels.  All these experiences will help ensure that they will become a well-rounded dog, friendly to humans and other dogs, and one that you can take anywhere, which ultimately is what most of us want.

Dos and don’ts

Always be very calm around your dog. Shouting is ineffective, they hear better than you, and it will only serve to excite or frighten.

Your body language is important, be relaxed and smile at your dog.*

Always praise good behaviour and ignore unwanted behaviour. To be rewarded your dog will repeat the desired behaviour and unwanted behaviour will gradually disappear.

Most importantly NEVER reassure a frightened dog! This goes against our nature, we instinctively want to protect and cuddle, but this is the worst thing you could do. Your dog will perceive the reassurance as there bring something to be worried about.

Don’t force your dog to confront something it is worried about, work around it at a safe distance until they feel comfortable enough to approach. If the problem is a person then It’s imperative to allow your dog to make the first move. **

Shirley Reddell




*&** more on these subjects in another blog

Poppy’s Training Snippets – Toilet Training and Feeding

Poppy training snippets!

As well as being a trainer I also foster pups for the SPA at Carcassonne. It’s very rewarding!

Should you have the time to dedicate to this, new fosterers are always welcome and support is on hand.

As a trainer, it is easy to stand in front of a group of puppy parents and tell them “if you do this, the result will be.. “

In reality, the pups I’ve fostered have taught me a valuable lesson, one that I hope will make me a better trainer.

One size does not fit all!

Poppy is now 5 months old and already knows all the basic commands – sit down, come, stay and she walks well on the lead. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I have put the training in place of course but can claim little credit I fear! That honour goes to my two other dogs from whom she has learned ( SIT/DOWN/COME/STAY ETC =REWARD !!!), plus she is part Border Collie, reputed to be one of the most intelligent breeds.

Indeed one size does not fit all but that just means that you need to adapt to the dog you have and these particular training guidelines apply to all.

In the next few episodes of Poppy’s training snippets we are going to cover, not sit, down, stay but the questions I most get asked at ‘dog school”.


Contact/teaching your dog its name


Separation Anxiety

Destruction in the home

Plus a subject very dear to my heart- socialisation.


Toilet training

For me, this follows on from cage training and is linked to feeding.

By training your dog to sleep in a cage /crate as described in the last snippet, and also in a leaflet obtainable from Dog Rescue Carcassonne, you will be well on the way to having a dog who sleeps all night and is clean/dry in the morning. This is because they are hardwired not to foul their own den/sleeping area. Imagine how it would be in a den with a whole litter of pups if they all pooed and peed where they slept. Yes, of course, there are accidents at first but every pup I have fostered and trained in this way has ‘got it’ within the first few days.

If you don’t want to use a crate for your dog do at least restrict the area they are allowed in unsupervised. A couple of movable child safety gates is all that is needed. Dogs need boundaries and a feeling of security and will settle much quicker if not allowed to roam. Place their bed in a corner, against a wall even under a table, but never in a corridor or the middle of a space. Some toilet training and behavioural problems are caused by anxiety due to too much freedom and the lack of a ‘safe’ place to sleep.

Puppies can, and will, poo up to 10 times a day and wee even more. Like young children, they cannot at this stage always control their bodily functions. So, to avoid ‘accidents’, ideally, take your pup out at regular intervals and always as soon as they have eaten/drunk, giving lavish praise when they ‘perform’.


Pups up to 6 months old need to eat 3 times a day (daily ration based on final adult weight  ÷3). Whatever food you choose, make sure it is good quality and suitable for puppies. Always weigh the food so you can monitor how much your pup is eating. To make sure your pup eats regularly never leave the food bowl on the floor. Place the bowl in front of your pup (if they have learned SIT now is a good time to reinforce this behaviour) if they refuse to eat or walk away, remove the bowl. Give no more food until the next mealtime and only the prescribed one-third ration. In this way, your pup will quickly learn to eat when food is given.

Bonus – regular food = regular poo

Dos and don’ts

Never tell your pup off for pooing or weeing in the ‘wrong’ place. They don’t know it is the wrong place, they may think you are telling them off for toileting which in turn could cause stress. You will almost certainly prolong the toilet training period.

It is us up to you to teach your new companion where to relieve themselves so just remove them to where they should go and clean up calmly. White household vinegar (vinaigre d’alcool) in solution is excellent for this purpose as it neutralises the smell of the urine.

Take your pup to the same place each time to ‘toilet’ as the scents will help them to ‘go’

Always praise your dog when they toilet outside in the ‘right place.

Never leave a food bowl on the floor. Your dog will learn to graze rather than eat properly. This will affect your dog’s ‘output’ and possibly the workings of his digestive system.

Always feed as good a quality food as possible.

Shirley Reddell





Poppy’s Training Snippets – Crate training


Poppys training snippets…Shirley Reddell

People often refer to me as a dog trainer, the truth, however, is that the only dogs I train are my own and the SPA puppies I have in foster from time to time. In reality what I do, or try to do,  is help people understand and train their own dogs. I recently adopted Poppy a border x puppy who was in foster with me.

Here is the first snippet from her training diaries.

Day 1 Crate training.

The first thing Poppy needed to learn was to be happy in a cage, despite being a very frightened pup she took to it straight away and a peaceful night for all was the result.

I am a great advocate of cage/crate training for new puppies and also for some adolescent or adult dogs, especially those adopted from a refuge who may never have lived inside, in a house/home. Some may tell you this is cruel but actually, it is the complete opposite. Dogs do not see it that way, being in a cage for them resembles a den and is security, safety and comfort.

Why crate train your dog?

Essential for a puppy, a scared rescue dog or bewildered adult. Your dog will look on it as their safe place and will go there of their own accord when they need some peace and quiet.  For a rest after a long walk or to get away from the kids!

Many people make the mistake of giving their new puppy or dog too much freedom which can cause house training issues. Puppies especially need to be kept safe when left alone, or they will inevitably get into trouble. Peeing and pooing everywhere and often chewing whatever is available. Shoes, electrical wires all is fair game to a bored pup.

For you there are even more plus points.

Your puppy will very quickly sleep all night and as an added bonus will be clean and dry in the morning.

For pups and older dogs you  will be able to leave them in the cage whilst you go out for short periods and there will be no destruction or mess as to come back to.

You will avoid the issue of separation anxiety.

How to crate train your dog.

Initially at least put the cage in a place where you spend a lot of the time, place a bed/cushion in there along with a toy or two and encourage them in with some tasty treats.

Leave the door open and allow your dog to investigate the space. Once they are comfortable and settle down close the door for a few minutes at a time. Most pups get used to this super fast. Make a habit of imposing an hour in their crate morning and afternoon. Just like toddlers they need down time or will get fractious.

My pups have the bonus of having other dogs around and generally settle in their cage in the kitchen with the others. If you have just adopted a single puppy or dog I would encourage you to have their cage in your bedroom for a couple of nights until they settle.

Dos and don’ts

Never use the crate as a punishment, always make it a positive experience with treats and praise.

Make sure your crate is large enough for your dog to get up and turn around.

Do not leave your dog crated for too long during the day. (a couple of hours max). Dogs are social animals and need company, if left too long it could have a negative effect.

Over the next few weeks we will be discussing,


Toilet Training

Separation Anxiety

And much more..

Shirley Reddell