Dog Only Knows Behaviour and Training with June Pennell
Dog Only Knows Behaviour and Trainingwith June Pennell

Do You Have An Anxious Dog?

June Pennell, ISCP, INTODogs (CCB & CDT), ICAN (CCB & CDT), PPG, UK Dog Charter

9 May 2024 


Signs your dog may be stressed and anxious

'Stress signals' as they are called, are just body language signs that show us that a puppy or dog is not feeling 100% comfortable in that moment. The ones they display before they get to growling and snapping. These two are last ditch attempts to communicate and they will be telling you they are uncomfortable well before they get to the growling, snapping and biting stage. You just need to listen and watch out for them, i.e., learn to speak dog!


It is really important to recognise the subtle gestures a dog exhibits if he feels uneasy, stressed or concerned at any time so that you can then be guided by these and respond accordingly, i.e., give the dog more space, remove them from the upsetting situation, or merely look or turn away from him (being face to face and giving eye contact between dogs is considered rude and threatening but we expect out dogs to be comfortable when we do it to them).  

You may see any of the following signals:

  • Tension in the face or body/stillness (they can frown too)
  • Pushing away or avoiding you, a member of your family, or a visitor (this can include rolling over for an apparent tummy rub - it isn't always tickle me, it could be please leave me alone too)
  • Fidgeting and rolling about when touched or groomed/handled
  • Mouthing at hands during handling
  • Yawning
  • Lip licking, nose licking
  • Looking away or turning the head away
  • Leaning their body weight away from you when you are close
  • Walking away
  • Sitting or lying down (other than when you expect it)
  • Sniffing the ground
  • Walking in a curve (towards us)
  • Body shake – as if shaking off when wet

The list is not exhaustive, but the signals listed are ones that often go unnoticed. 

A dog (or puppy) might exhibit these signals for many reasons, and it may take a keen eye at first to notice them, however, with practise and an empathic approach you will quickly start to notice the slightest of 'tells'.  

It might be due to a distant or loud sound, another dog watching him, your demeanour, body posture or facial expressions. This may include him getting eye contact from someone he doesn't know (we have to be trustworthy and earn the right to do this), or you may just be a little too close, leaning over or touching him in a way your dog considers overwhelming at the moment. It takes time to earn their trust in order to touch him all over so please don't presume you have been given permission without checking each time. 

You should also encourage your family and friends to notice the smaller details during interactions with your dog should you notice any signs of concern, so they know how to react if the dog is feeling under pressure. 

It is important that you take your time and maintain an emotional connection with your dog. If you are in doubt at any time, or should you notice your dog struggling while with someone else, simply suggest your dog needs a break from what they are doing. Allow them the time and space they need to recover their equilibrium.  We all need a bit of time and space away from what stresses us out. 

Seek professional advice if you notice these stress signals regularly as a professional will be able to delve into why this is happening and help you make changes to help your dog become more comfortable in general. 


The stress bucket?

Imagine that we all carry around a little bucket with us. Into the bucket each day goes all the excitement we have felt, all the shocks we have experienced, all the exercise we have taken, all the things we have been fearful of and even all the fun we have had! It may surprise you to know that the chemicals and hormones associated with each of these emotions and feelings are the same and an excess of these chemicals affect us in the same way. Well, you may when you realise that the behaviour of an over-excited and over-tired toddler having a tantrum resembles the state our dogs can get into when they are barking and lunging at other dogs and people or are nipping and biting at our heels because we aren't walking quick enough or aren't entertaining them enough.  Of course, fear is fear, whether it is a human, or a dog, but did you know that they can suffer from PTSD too. 


The chemicals involved are mainly Adrenaline and the stress hormone, Cortisol and these will flood our systems. Unless we provide a 'tap' to empty that stress bucket, it will overflow and the dog will be 'over-threshold', which is just a way of saying, they can no longer cope with what is happening to them.  They don't have the higher brain capacity to rationalise that they need to calm down and take their mind off the thing stressing them so we must do this for them. They just don't know how to deal with these big emotions. Even adult dogs are only the equivalent in terms of brain development as a 2–3-year-old child so please don't expect your dog to cope with being over-threshold without your help.


Punishment won't help either, in fact, it just makes it worse. They are already suffering so there is no reason in the world to make them suffer even more. 


It is far better to recognise that your dog is approaching the 'over-threshold' stage and take action immediately rather than allow them to become completely overwhelmed. As an approved trainer of service dogs for Veterans With Dogs, I know that we teach the dogs to interrupt the veteran who is starting to get anxious and that's what we should do for our dogs too. Interrupt and take action before it gets worse.  


We need to bring our dogs out of their 'emotional' brain and back into their 'thinking' brain as I like to call them but it may also be moving them from 'flight and fight' to 'rest and digest' status but that isn't as easy as just throwing a switch, think of it more as a period of 'cooling down' after a run.  so, think about taking them somewhere quitter and allowing them to chill out with some sniffing, chewing or licking as each of the things help counteract the effect of Adrenaline and Cortisol.   


Emotional contagion

The one thing that most people forget is that dogs have over many years as our companions learned to detect our emotional states. This would have been a valuable evolutionary development for them; knowing if a human was calm and relaxed (and therefore more trustworthy) or stressed and upset (and therefore unpredictable) would have put them at an advantage. This ability, I call it their superpower, would have kept them safer 2,000 years ago just as it does, today.


A distressed guardian is almost certainly going to have a dog that is on edge too, often choosing to get as far away from us as possible when we are over-aroused ourselves although some dogs naturally know to come to you and try to help you. They don't know why we are stressed, but the fact that we are in that highly aroused 'flight and fight' mode ourselves will mean many dogs will put themselves into that state too. They don't know if we are getting ready to run away from something dangerous or to defend ourselves, so they will match our energy just in case they need to do the same.  Being in this sort of state all the time, or chronically stressed as it is known, is harmful to humans and dogs alike. It can bring on or exacerbate existing serious health issues and can cause early death. 


So, if you are a hyper-active fidgety person with lots of nervous energy or are feeling distressed remember that you may be flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, and that it is highly likely your dog will have the same chemicals in their system too. Think about bringing your own stress levels down with yoga, mindfulness, breathing exercises and other calming activities, and you are likely to see your dog's stress bucket empty and behavioural 'issues' reduce too.


You might also be surprised to see your dog joining you in your calming sessions and this will be because he wants to 'catch' your calmer energy and enjoy being around this calmer version of you. 

De-stressing and environmental enrichment activities

There are lots of things that can effectively be a tap in a stress bucket or help slow down the build-up of stress in the first place:

  • Certain scents and pheromones can calm fearful or over-anxious dogs. I like the Pet Remedy Diffuser to be on in the room where your dog rests mist of the time (probably the sitting room or kitchen). Pet Remedy is available online (use my discount code JUNE25 at the checkout for a 25% discount) or at Pets at Home. Use the spray version on your trousers when out walking is the pheromone version.
  • Start introducing some enrichment activities to help dissipate some of the stress hormones that have built up. Have some stuffed and frozen Kong in the freezer, marrow bones and natural chews, like the Yakers chews, readily available for when visitors arrive or something stressful has occurred. 
  • Kong dry food wobble dispensers can be used as an alternative for a bowl on occasions (I like the routine of a bowl and lots of dogs like to know when their food is coming so I donlt do this all the time). It is useful for when you are expecting visitors, especially strangers. Foraging for food like this will encourage him to use his primary sense of smell and it is fun.
  • There are other puzzle toys you can buy or make, the simplest is three paper cups and hide food underneath and your dog has to sniff out and indicate which one it is under.
  • Licki mats used with Xylitol free peanut butter, liver paste or soaked and mashed up kibble is great for dogs.  Chewing and licking releases endorphins or ‘feel good’ chemicals which we all have in our brains. Anything that makes him feel good in stressful circumstances will help. 
  • Use ‘Sprinkles’ in the garden and on a snuffle mat inside. Any environmental enrichment is wonderful for dogs left for short periods alone, when trying to keep them calm while something exciting is happening or just as a de-stressing exercise. It also tires dogs mentally rather than being just physically tired.
  • Do some fun trick training with your dog where he must use his brain. Training helps a dog understand what’s expected of him, and what you are communicating to him. His world will make more sense and be less stressful for him. Teach him how to sit, stay, come, sit in front of you and some of the 'heelwork' positions. The ‘finish position’ where he has to go around and sit next to your left leg. Using positive training methods with high value treats as rewards, he could learn how to shake paws, fetch, rollover and spin in quite a short amount of time. Any of these cues can then be used as distraction activities when you encounter strangers, or someone comes to the door.  Touch is another useful cue for distractions and on walks.
  • Google ‘brain games for dogs’ and you will find the book Brain Games by Claire Arrowsmith which is full of great ideas. Anything that engages the parasympathetic nervous system (thinking brain) and stop them using their sympathetic nervous system (emotional brain) is good. 
  • Teach the ‘Let’s Go’ command as an interrupter - let’s go into the kitchen for a treat (have a bowl of treats readily available, but out of reach, on the counter).
  • Learn a little more about dog body language as this helps you predict when your dog may be about to react to something or is generally uncomfortable and you need to get him out of the situation. I highly recommend Turid Rugaas’ book ‘On Talking Terms with Dogs – Calming Signals’.  
  • You may want to investigate Bach Flower Remedies which can be added to food and water – 2 drops twice a day. The Rescue Remedy is for general distress and Mimulus, for known fears, would be a good starting point. This link will provide you with more information
  • Hedgerow Hounds have a Tranquil Blend of herbs that can be added to a dog’s food.
  • TTouch massage and ACE Freework can help promote relaxation and lower stress levels.
  • Develop part of the garden as a sensory garden (or a single plant pot indoors). It can be stimulating to their brains to experience different smells, surfaces and touches. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it’s just thinking ‘outside the box’ a little.   My dogs love sniffing lavender, rosemary to name but a few.
  • There is some evidence to suggest that specially designed bio-acoustic music has a calming effect on dogs that are exposed to it. It calms fearful dogs in any situation, as well as dogs that have phobias to certain noises. Music has a positive effect when played in environments or situations that a dog might find overwhelming such as in a car, boarding facility, shelter, day-care or at the veterinarian. Music can also help promote relaxation when played at home or calm a dog that suffers from anxiety when left alone. You can purchase Through a Dogs Ear CDs but I tend to just play Classic FM or reggae if my dogs are alone. 
  • If a dog is too overwhelmed to learn, calming supplements or medication might be needed. This will 'take the edge off' the fear or anxiety, so your dog is able to learn again. Fear causes shut down and when a dog is shut down no learning can take place. Medication can help him get to a better place but must only be used on the advice of your veterinarian. 


June Pennell

Certified Canine Behaviourist & Trainer Association of INTODogs,  ICAN CCB & CDT), Chartered Member of the UK Dog Charter, Approved Trainer with Veterans with Dogs, Professional Member of Pet Professional Guild

The Stress Bucket and the time Cortisol is said to dissipate (not sure who to credit for the diagrams above but if you know please let me know)

Signals to look out for

Graphic courtesy of

Table of calming activities (I wrote this for puppies,

but it is also relevant for adult dogs).

Copyright Dogs Only Knows Behaviour & Training with June Pennell


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Thinking of Adopting a Rescue Dog?

June Pennell, ISCP, INTODogs (CCB & CDT), ICAN (CCB & CDT), PPG, UK Dog Charter

Written April 2024 (Published in the Labrador Lifeline Trust Magazine May 2024)


We probably all have some romantic ideas about walking our perfect and very well-behaved, dog along the beach or through a field of poppies (a Cadbury’s Flake advert for those old enough to remember it). Life is not always like that, of course, and to make an adoption truly work, there needs to be an honest assessment of our lifestyle and needs. Finding a dog that truly fits in with our life can take a while and it is a decision that shouldn't be rushed.


Which dog is right for you?

Try thinking about your daily routine, your work commitments, your living space, your family commitments, and your holiday plans. Think too about the cost of owning a small dog as opposed to a large dog, in terms of food, insurance, vet’s fees, and boarding if you can’t take your dog on holiday with you. Do you have a backup plan if you are taken ill and can’t look after your dog for a while?


It helps to research the different dog breeds, and their general traits but please bear in mind that every dog is an individual and you shouldn't expect them to be exactly as described online. Dogs are a product of their genes, the conditions the mother lives in while pregnant, and their experiences, both as a puppy and as an older dog. Just like us, they are all different.    


You should look for a suitable match in terms of size, energy level, grooming needs and general temperament. A dog that fits in with your lifestyle, is crucial as it is an enduring commitment and one worth taking the time to get right from the start!


Some simple questions to ask yourself might be:

  • “Do I have the time to devote to looking after a dog?”
  • “Am I prepared to walk my dog in less-than-perfect weather conditions?”
  • “Will my work commitments change, and will I be able to make arrangements for my dog if they do?”
  • “Will having a dog limit the properties I can rent?”
  • “What do I want to be able to do with my dog? e.g., go on holiday, run with my dog, go to the pub for a quiet drink and expect them to sit quietly under the table, do dog sports with you, chill out in my garden while you garden or read a book, take my dog to visit sick or elderly people in the local care home etc.

All these are valid activities we can do with our dogs and if the rescue understands what you are looking for then they can help direct you towards the right dog for you.


As an example, a stay-at-home person who is content to have their dog potter around the garden with them for most of the day will need a very different dog from someone who wants to go travelling and paddle boarding with their dog every weekend. The last thing a highly active couple needs is a couch potato or introverted dog who would rather not meet lots of new people and the opposite is true too!


These sorts of mismatches often result in a dog going back to the rescue which is not ideal for the adopter and can be upsetting for the dog who may just be starting to feel a part of the family.


Finding the right breed

So, having done lots of research and paid multiple visits to rescue and rehoming centres, you might be at the stage of knowing better what sort of dog might suit you.


Once you know what you are looking for, the next step would be to match your needs to a suitable breed and then a specific dog. It is best to do this through a reputable rescue, either one of the large rehoming charities or a smaller breed-specific rescue, like Labrador Lifeline Trust. Reputable rescues like this will offer you backup and this is crucial because should you need advice, or heaven forbid, something goes wrong, a reputable rescue will help you.


I’m assuming as you are reading this, you have considered all the above questions and have decided a Labrador is right for you. Yay! Good choice!


Dogs have personalities too

Don’t just focus on how a dog looks. Just like people, dogs can be on the introverted/extroverted spectrum and knowing which type of personality you are looking for is something your rescue needs to know when matching you with a dog.


Of course, not all rescue dogs get to show their full temperament and personality while in kennels and this is why fostering is so important and why getting to know the dog before taking them home is crucial.


Getting to know a rescue dog before taking them home

As we have already covered, a dog's compatibility with your lifestyle is crucial for a successful adoption, and once you have found a potentially suitable dog, it is important to spend time getting to know them. Ideally, you should introduce your immediate family and those who visit you regularly (those with two legs or four) before taking the dog home. It is imperative that everyone is committed to the chosen dog and that they get on.


Ask the rescue for information about each potential dog's background, medical history, and any known behavioural issues as this can help you make an informed decision. Help and advice on training and behaviour modification will always be available from reputable rescues and they can tell you what work they have done already to resolve the issue.


Introductions to new people and dogs

If you can avoid it, don’t introduce anyone outside your immediate household to your dog for the first few days. When you do start introducing them, do so one at a time, or even one person every few days to ensure they are not overwhelmed. Keep the energy levels down so your dog doesn’t get over-excited or over-aroused (this involves the same chemicals in the system as anxiety).


Calmness is your friend when making new friends and this approach applies to meeting new people as well as new dogs. Have your friend/s sit down and be relaxed before bringing your new dog in on the lead to say hello. Only allow them off-lead when you can see they are comfortable. If they are over-excited or look anxious, just take them out again, give them a chew or filled Kong and allow them to calm down before trying it again later. If they have been in kennels for a while, it is a daunting prospect for a new dog to be expected to meet lots of new people in a short space of time.



Although there are no quick fixes in training and behaviour, there is often a lot that can be done to change unwanted behaviour in a reasonable amount of time especially if everyone is on the same page regarding positive rewards-based training. A behaviourist will always want to know ‘what is keeping the behaviour going?’, ‘what is reinforcing it?’ So often we accidentally reinforce unwanted behaviours that once identified, can be changed quite quickly so don’t be put off by minor behavioural issues.


It is important to understand that no dog, not even a puppy, comes without the responsibility to offer gentle guidance and training.


No dog comes fully trained and perfect! Where would be the fun in that? Being a dog parent is just like being a parent to a child and a similar amount of patience and understanding is needed!

I would suggest you join a rewards-based/positive/force-free training class (these are all terms to look for when choosing your class) for older dogs (often called follow-on, good manners, adolescent or maintenance classes), or you could start doing the Kennel Club’s Good Citizen  Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards – these are designed to help you teach your dog good manners and important life skills and have fun doing it.   


Understand your limitations though, if you don’t feel able to work with a dog that is scared of other dogs for example, you must say, and not feel you have to take a particular dog because you feel sorry for it. Be realistic at all times!


So, in summary:

  • Be honest with yourself about what you need.
  • Choose your rescue centre wisely - a good rescue will be fine if you ask lots of questions and make multiple visits to get to know a dog before deciding to take them home. They understand how heartbreaking it can be for everyone involved when a dog is returned because the match wasn't right.
  • Get to know your chosen dog before taking them home.
  • Prepare your home and garden before welcoming your dog home.
  • Slowly introduce the people who are going to be important in your dog’s life – don’t overwhelm them by introducing them all at once!
  • Be prepared to spend time training and socialising your dog with unfamiliar things, people and dogs.
  • Above all, treat them with compassion, and give them time to settle so they can let their personality shine though.

You won't regret it!


June Pennell

Certified Canine Behaviourist & Trainer Association of INTODogs,  ICAN CCB & CDT), Chartered Member of the UK Dog Charter, Approved Trainer with Veterans with Dogs, Member of Pet Professional Guild


Is Love Enough?

June Pennell, ISCP, INTODogs (CCB & CDT), ICAN (CCB & CDT), PPG, UK Dog Charter

March 2021 (Published in the Labrador Lifeline Trust Magazine, Your Dog Magazine, Pet Professional Guild Magazine and Do No Harm Magazine)


I would love to be able to say that love is enough to help a troubled dog. It may be enough for a dog with no behavioural issues but to be able to change a dog who is reactive towards other dogs or strangers, just by showing him that he is loved, is an attractive idea, but is it possible? I think my answer has to be, “maybe, but probably not”.  


So many of us (me included) would like our adopted dog to be a “perfect dog”; at least one that that fits with most people’s vision of a perfect dog - happy go lucky, waggy tailed, confident extrovert, who is delighted to interact with every dog or human they meet and plays with all the children in the park!


But is it possible to achieve this just by showing them love alone?  Is it a realistic goal?  Is it fair on our dog that we have such high expectations of them? Dogs are sentient beings with their own character and personality so should we be trying to change them into something they are not? I really don’t think so. If, however, we are trying to help them feel more comfortable in our world, well, then I am all for it!


If love means you are providing your dog with shelter, a place to call home and a quiet, soft and warm place to rest, given access to good nutrition and water, which the dog may have been deprived of in the past, then yes, love is going to help. He will certainly appreciate having his biological needs satisfied.


If love means you are making sure your dog has sufficient exercise, is groomed gently without stress and promptly gets any veterinary care he needs, then now love is really starting to make a difference to his life.


If love means you are giving your dog space to learn how to trust you, you are guiding him with consistency and compassion, becoming his protector and advocate, well you are now starting to really rock, and love will be having a really positive impact on your relationship.


Dogs have emotional needs and just like humans, they need security, love, trust and to be cared for by someone who exhibits consistency and benevolent leadership. No one likes not knowing where we stand in a relationship and not have someone who says yes one minute and no, the next!


Linda Michael’s shows it so well in her Hierarchy of Dog Needs. From this we learn that we need to be satisfying our dogs needs at the lowest level (biological) before we can move onto the next level up and so on up the whole pyramid. Yes, love is there in the second tier of emotional needs but there is so much more that we need to provide for them!

If love means you are both enjoying shared experiences, having fun together, and he is having some fun with another dog, even if it is just one dog that he is familiar with, then love is working, and you are fulfilling his social needs (Tier 3).


If your love extends to giving your dog some choice on a dog walk, which should be just that, the dog’s walk, a time he can call the shots for just a while and have some choice in his life. Choice for a dog is a huge thing in a world where we control our so much of our dogs’ lives. We decide when they eat, poop, sleep and when they can go out so giving a dog an opportunity to make just a few decisions is liberating and refreshing for them and will be hugely appreciated. I hate seeing a dog route marched by his guardian without a thought for what the dog wants to do. If your dog is getting the freedom to choose then your love for your dog is definitely making a difference to him.


Talking of walks, a dog’s major sense is their olfactory system, and according to Virginia Morell this is 100 million times more powerful than ours so having opportunities to use this amazing skill out on a walk is crucial to their well-being (Morrell, 2020). To not allow this is probably the same as insisting we only go out with a hood over our head!


Sniffing releases natural endorphins which help anxious, fearful and over aroused dog calm themselves, and if this makes their walk more enjoyable then it is worth waiting for them to investigate that flower or lamp post for a while, isn’t it? It really is important we let them collect the ‘peemail’ as knowing the gender, life-stage and health of the dog who passed by an hour ago, or even a day ago, is going to help our dogs learn more about their world, and help them to assess how safe they are in the environment.


Of course, if the scary dog passed by recently, they are going to know that too, and we need to watch their body language to know how they might feel about that. At times, we do need to just turn around and avoid the scary thing.


When 'Herbie' joined us, he was scared of people and would bark and lunge at them, and we feared he could bite if he was stressed enough or put in a position where he felt he had no choice. So, we even though we were very sociable people, having fallen in love with Herbie during our first meeting, and feeling strongly that all dogs deserve a second chance, we looked at how we could change our lifestyle to accommodate Herbie. We stopped inviting people to the home for a time, so Herbie has the time he needed to get to know us, and just us. This was quite a commitment, but for us, Herbie was a dog that showed us love from the moment he met us, and we felt we had no choice. How could we not rise to the challenge of taking this troubled dog home with us? But if we had thought love would be enough to ‘sort’ all his issues then we would have been completely wrong.


At first, his habit was to sit with his head bowed and rarely offer eye contact which was heart breaking and you have to wonder what has happened to a dog to make him fearful of looking up at someone. But over the first few weeks his head came up and he would look at us briefly. His body language, when he realised, he could come to you, ask to go out or for you to play with him AND we understood what he wanted, was amazing!  Happy dances don’t cover it!


Of course, he had a friend and role model in Jonty, our GSD, and very soon they adored each other. Seeing them playing together, sleeping in the same bed, made me realise that it’s not just our love that can make a difference.


Previously, in the kennels Herbie’s only real longer-term companion had died leaving him pretty much alone for a significant period. Having a companion has made a huge difference to Herbie.


Realising that Herbie disliked eye contact, unless he knows someone well, was an important discovery as now we knew we had to make sure anyone he met didn’t try to look at him directly and also didn’t talk to him, at least at first. If ignored, he would begin to gather some data about the new person and usually feel a bit more comfortable about them being there. It was still important he was on lead, of course, just in case his fear became overwhelming for him. It is difficult to surf that line between exposing him to his trigger at a safe level and ‘flooding’ him. Sometimes we get it wrong.


We had always been careful to not put him in a position where he was faced with lots of scary strangers (as much as was possible) so we walked in remote places, avoiding places where we were likely to meet groups of people. He was walked on a 10-metre lead which gave him some freedom to sniff and experience the world as much as possible while we worked on his recall first. All this helped to lower his stress levels and the more his stress levels dropped the more we saw the real Herbie at home.  He was a fun loving, affectionate dog who loved nothing more than to sit on your lap in the evening.


We slowly muzzle trained him, rewarding him for seeing the muzzle, touching the muzzle, hearing the buckle do up well before we put the muzzle on him. When he finally went out of the house wearing a muzzle, he was well used to it and it did not add to any stress he might suffer if people were around.


Although we were careful to protect him, there were times when we saw him overreact to seeing someone in the distance, a bicycle or dirt bike coming down the lane. If this happened, we usually chose to not walk him the next day but substituted the walk for some environmental enrichment at home - a snuffle mat, a licky mat, or some scent games all of which would give him an opportunity to dissipate the stress hormone, Cortisol, that would have built up in his system during the scary episode.


Our dogs definitely have a way of surprising us through! Herbie’s first additional new friend happened without us putting much effort into the introduction at all. It may be significant in that we probably didn’t have time to worry about it and plunged right in?


My nephew, who is very confident with dogs, arrived unexpectedly, so we put Herbie on lead, and we armed ourselves with some treats to do some desentisation and counterconditioning in the hope this would help Herbie understand that good things can happen while having a stranger in the house. Well, within 10 minutes of Steve arriving at the house, Herbie was outside on the sun lounger with him, upside down with his legs in the air!  

I think that Herbie gained some additional confidence that day and learned that he can deal with this potentially stressful situation in a different way. There was an incredibly positive outcome for him and that should help build his optimism in the same situation in future.

No doubt, the fact that we had spent a long time working on Herbie’s well-being, building up the level of trust he had in us, convincing him we would keep him safe, combined with Steve’s confidence, helped make this an easy introduction. It seemed Herbie was attracted to my nephew’s positive energy, much like the day he first met us, when he chose us, rather than the other way around!


Whatever it was on that day, Herbie proved he has it in him to make friends with strangers! It seems once he knows you are no threat; you become a member of his inner circle, and he loves you to bits from that day forward!  It is getting into that inner circle that is the challenge for some people.


We went on to introduce him to other friends over the following twelve month and now has a small circle of trusted people who can come into the home whether we are there or not. Friends that can let the dogs out for us which is something we feared we would never be able to do with Herbie.


Once again, Herbie proved that he can do it, and he positively enjoys human company! I am eternally grateful that some of our friends were happy to endure their first meeting with Herbie, if he barked at them, it would sound pretty aggressive. Although they knew that they were always safe, I still thank them for loving dogs enough to want to help Herbie.

Love comes into it yet again, it seems!


It was meeting one of our friends and her dogs coming towards us one day while out on walk that brought about one of Herbie’s biggest positive changes. He was alert to someone coming towards us, he had weight forward and he watch watching intently, but that was about it. No barking, no lunging. As they got closer, the realisation it was a friend made such a huge impact on him! I am convinced that now when he sees people on the horizon, he looks to see if it is a friend.  That’s a major change in thinking, from being scared of everyone on the horizon to now being open to the possibility it is someone he knows and wants to see. The great thing is he is not overly disappointed if it isn’t them and the positive feelings allow him to shrug off the fact that it is a stranger.  


However, with a few people he has made it very clear he was never going to accept them, and I can only wonder why that might be? I have to respect it though. Maybe they remind him of people who have hurt him? Do they have a particular energy that worries him? For these people, it will be a matter of always having to ‘control and manage’ Herbie around them. Thankfully, it is only a couple of people so far. He is even learning to like his scentwork instructor after a shaky start, probably because he loves the work so much, and is so very good at it so gets lots of praise and rewards for finding the scent! He is less bothered about who is standing 3 metres away.


In the past, we have focussed very much on the valuable techniques of desensitisation and counterconditioning to work with Herbie’s fear, and these had provided the amazing improvements we saw up to about 6 months ago, but it seemed by the end of last summer that we had reached a plateau. Yes, he could Look at That (LAT) and Look at Me (LAM), he could remain calm while people walked past us at a much closer range than ever before, and he had human friends. However, did I feel that he would make the right choice and ignore someone if off lead? No, I wasn’t sure he would.


So, during the Covid crisis, we decided to rent a secure field where we could work with him in a different way, and this is where Grisha Stewart’s BAT techniques came in. The field is totally secure and even has a double fence along one long edge where a public foot path runs alongside. This means it is perfectly okay to have Herbie off lead even when someone walks past. Ideally, for BAT he should be on a long lead, and he should choose to not advance towards the trigger (in our case the person) but the greatest of Herbie’s successes have been when he is off lead. He can now ignore the person, he can be called away on his way over to see the person, he can go see them and remain calm, walk alongside the person and their dog and disengage on his own and do all of that with a lovely wiggly soft body showing only happiness.


I am not sure Herbie could have done this before we started practicing the BAT techniques. That is not to say that LAT is not effective, it really is but sometimes we need to use all the tools we have in our toolkit.


Of course, I still won’t trust him with strangers off lead where he can reach them, but the longer he can display this level of restraint, and the more he sees this is his ‘go to behaviour’ the better.  


If you ask me what changed Herbie’s attitude the most, I might say that he knows we are his secure base, that we will protect him no matter what (Mariti et al., 2013). But is that love? I don’t think it is just love. I think it is love added to the knowledge of how to help him further and the commitment to do whatever is necessary?


Adele Walters reported in the Vet Med magazine article that Rowena Packer, a lecturer in companion animal behaviour and welfare science at the Royal Veterinary College, agreed that the ‘animal lover’ label inhibited progress. “I think we love them, but I don’t think we understand them, nor do we respect them in many cases” (Walters, 2021).


I don’t think love alone would have helped Herbie, but it is certainly a great start and something he absolutely couldn’t do without!


June Pennell, ISCP, INTODogs (CCB & CDT), ICAN (CCB & CDT), PPG, UK Dog Charter

International School for Canine Psychology and Behaviour Limited Principal


References List


The Essential Needs of Your Dog


Dogs, like humans, have basic needs for shelter, food and water, companionship, affection and a sense of belonging; to have the opportunity to exercise, play and to be free from pain. 


Animal welfare standards exist for farmed animals in many countries in the world and there are, in some countries, similar requirements for companion animals. Although I feel sure not many people realise it, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 places a duty of care on dog owners in the UK to ensure they take reasonable steps in all circumstances to meet the Five Welfare Needs of their animals:


Environment - the need for a suitable environment

A dog should be provided with a suitable place to live, their own clean and dry bed in a quiet space which is free from draughts. He needs regular opportunities to toilet and a safe place to play, explore and exercise (the amount of the latter may vary depending on the age and health of the individual dog, but most dogs will need exercise every day). Dogs are inquisitive and will investigate their space and it is the responsibility of owners to keep their dog’s environment free from hazards and frightening ‘things’.


Diet - the need for a suitable diet

A dog should be provided with a well-balanced, nutritional diet together with constant access to water. The diet should be appropriate for the age, health and activity level of the dog and owners should monitor changes to weight and behaviour so amounts of food or the type of food given can be changed or tailored to the dog’s needs. Owners should also protect dogs from poisonous substances and toxic foods such as chocolate and raisins.  


Behaviour - the need to express normal behaviour

A dog needs the opportunity to be properly socialised with other animals and everyday occurrences whilst a puppy in order to grow up to be a confident and well-behaved adult dog. They should be trained (using only positive, reward-based methods) to have good recall for their own safety off lead, toilet appropriately and to safely play with other dogs and humans. Good training enhances our relationship with a dog and their relationship with us. Where behavioural issues do exist owners should seek professional advice.


Companionship – the need to have appropriate company

Dogs are sociable animals and require the company of humans and usually other animals. However, if it is necessary for them to live apart from other animals perhaps because of previous aggression issues, owners should accommodate this need. As sociable animals, dogs should not be regularly left alone for more than 4 hours a day and preferably not every day. Without adequate companionship, dogs can become distressed, depressed, lonely, bored and destructive. 


Health - the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Owners should check regularly for signs of injury and illness and seek veterinary advice as soon as it becomes necessary. Professional advice should also be sought regarding neutering, vaccinations, parasite treatments and dental care in order to maintain long-term health. Dogs also need to be regularly groomed and nails trimmed not just for cosmetic reasons but in order to maintain good skin health, posture and mobility. Owners are encouraged to take out pet insurance to cover unexpected veterinary fees and costs of medication as this can often be expensive and on-going for many years in the case of chronic conditions. Finally, in April 2016 it became a legal requirement for all dogs to be micro-chipped which will ensure, for example, ownership can be proved and making it easier for lost dogs to be quickly reunited with their owners preventing extended periods of distress. 


June Pennell, ISCP, INTODogs (CCB & CDT), ICAN (CCB & CDT), PPG, UK Dog Charter

5th May 2024



The Dominance Myth

9th May 2024


The idea of a ‘dominant dog’ seems to have been hijacked by celebrity dog trainers and exponents of the now outdated ‘wolf pack’ dominance theory of dog behaviour. They believe that dogs want to dominate their human guardians to become the ‘alpha’ (dominant member in the relationship). They also believe that dogs are likely to become ‘pushy’ or aggressive towards their guardian if the guardian doesn’t show their own dominance over their dog.


We now know that this theory was based incorrectly on captive wolf groups, where behaviour between normally separate family groups forced to live alongside each other in captivity, caused tensions resulting in ‘unnatural’ behaviour not seen in the wild. In the wild, family groups remain separate, and resources are shared, but forcing groups together resulted in competition and squabbling not normally seen in the wild. Exponents of the dominance theory have incorrectly cited these ‘unnatural’ wolf behaviours as part of the domesticated dogs’ heritage.  Sadly, they have been used to justify aggressive disciplining of dogs when exhibiting what they consider to be dominant behaviour. This type of discipline includes ‘alpha rolls’, where a dog is forcibly turned over on its back and pinned down by the throat, kicking, suspending from leads, hitting and punching.


Positive and force-free dog trainers understand that the observations of the captive wolf groups led to incorrect assumptions about domesticated dogs. Observations of dogs, in scientific studies, show dogs do not see humans as dogs and want to cooperate with us, not dominate us.


A dog’s natural instinct is for survival and dogs have evolved over the last 30,000 years to work with us to best ensure that survival. They depend upon us for not just their food but also for leadership, companionship, and safety. I believe when a dog exhibits fear-aggression it is because this contract has been broken in some way.


Guardianship should be about having a balanced relationship with your dog. There should be mutual trust, affection and an understanding that you will keep the dog safe from harm. I believe that you should always guide your dog to choose to do the right thing. When they don’t make the right choice, you should react calmly and redirect them without raising your voice and certainly without causing distress. I do, however, believe that you should also teach your dog that it cannot have everything it wants when it wants it and that cooperation leads to a comfortable life. I find it strange that this principle is understood by the majority when it comes to parenting children, but they do not see the connection with ‘parenting’ their dog.


Some dogs are definitely more confident and assertive than others; the result of nature, nurture or their own life experiences, or more usually a combination of all of these. Some dogs carry themselves with more confidence than others, when meeting strange dogs and humans. These dogs generally have an upright posture, appear more interested and alert, and are happy to return direct eye contact. Some dogs use their confidence, or over confidence perhaps, to show superiority (or dominance used in a correct way) over other dogs.


The difference between these two personality types is often interpreted as the first dog being more ‘dominant’ over the second but the mere use of this word conjures up the outdated ‘dominance over humans’ theory to many people and the association is proving hard to dislodge in peoples’ minds.


A positive trainer is more likely to interpret the difference between the two types of personality and calmly, and with kindness, explore what they might do to help make the first dog appear friendlier and the second dog more confident in the situation.


June Pennell, ISCP.Dip.Canine.Prac., INTODogs (CCB & CDT), ICAN (CCB & CDT), PPG, UK Dog Charter



Coping with the Loss of a Pet: Understanding the Science Behind Heartbreak

23rd February 2024


Writing a post about International Dog Day earlier today has led me to reminisce about the wonderful dogs I have shared my life with over the years and what an incredibly painful experience it is to lose our beloved pets.


It leaves us feeling empty and heartbroken: the bond we develop with our pets is unique and profound, making their loss feel like losing a member of our family. Heartbreak is an emotion that we've all experienced at some point in our lives, and let's be honest, it hurts – both emotionally and physically. But have you ever wondered why heartbreak can feel so physically painful?


Recent studies have shown that heartbreak activates the same areas of the brain that are associated with physical pain. When we experience deep loss, our brains release stress hormones, such as cortisol, which can lead to aches, pain, and even an increased susceptibility to illness. The act of bereavement triggers the brain's emotional centres, causing a surge of these stress hormones which can lead to other physical symptoms like fatigue, loss of appetite, and difficulty sleeping, all of which only seems to deepen the emotional pain we feel when our pets are gone.


Remembering and honouring your pet, or celebrating the legacy they have left you, can also contribute to healing. Create a memorial with their pictures, write a letter expressing your feelings, or consider planting a tree in their memory. These acts can provide solace and allow you to commemorate the special bond you shared.

Remember, heartbreak may be painful, but it is also an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. So, take the time to heal and be gentle with yourself during this challenging period and don't hesitate to seek professional help if needed.


Grief counselling or therapy can offer valuable guidance and support. Cruse is great! Though the pain of pet bereavement may never completely fade, understanding its scientific roots and actively working towards healing can help us through this painful period.


Remember, it's okay to grieve and take the time to heal – you're not alone, and there are resources available to help you navigate this journey of loss.







June Pennell, ISCP, INTODogs (CCB & CDT), ICAN (CCB & CDT), PPG, UK Dog Charter


Dogs and the Law

10th January 2022


I believe all dog owners in the UK need to be aware that The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 exists and that it has implications for all dog owners (and carers) not just those owning dogs of the banned ‘pit bull type’ breeds.  


They need to know the law changed in 2014 to cover private property and to give greater protection to assistance dogs. Section 3 of the Act applies to every dog in England & Wales, and it makes no distinction as to whether the dog is pure bred, a cross breed, a mongrel or to its size. Since 2014 the Act says it is a criminal offence and action can be taken against the owner, or the person in charge of the dog if that is not the owner, when a dog is considered to be dangerously out of control. This now applies to both public places and private property including the owner’s or keeper’s home. A dog will be considered to be dangerously out of control if it injures someone or “on any occasion on which there are grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person or assistance dog.”  


Section 1 relates to Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). In the UK this is defined by the Secretary of State as a “type appearing to him to be bred for fighting or to have the characteristics of a type bred for that purpose”. The banned breeds are Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino, and Fila Braziliero.  Under this law owners of registered dogs must ensure that the dog is neutered, micro-chipped, insured, kept in secure conditions and prevent it from escaping. The law also states that “it is illegal for anyone to breed, sell, exchange advertise or expose for sale, make or offer such a dog as a gift, allow such a dog in public without a lead and muzzle, abandon, or be in possession of a dog as named above.”

What most of us need to know is how to protect our dogs and the punishments for breaking the law. This is likely to be a destruction order for the dog and prosecution of the owner or carer with maximum penalties of 3 years prison for the injury or death of an assistance dog, 5 years prison for injury of a person and 14 years prison for the death of a person. There is also likely to be a fine and compensation to pay. If a child under 16 years old is left in charge of a dog, the head of the household will be deemed responsible. There was a ruling in 2013 that says if you can prove you left your dog in the charge of a fit and proper person you may have some defence.


Although not included in the Dangerous Dogs Act I would advise owners that they should be aware that in some public areas Dog Control Orders (now PSPOs) exist and there will be local council signs giving dog owners’ instructions. They should know that farmers still have the right to kill a dog if it is worrying livestock and from 6 April 2006 all dogs over the age of 8 weeks need to be micro-chipped.


I have a number of reservations about the UK Dangerous Dogs Act and the Breed Specific Legislation it contains. The laws are confusing which leads in particular to a lack of clarity over which breeds are actually banned and a misunderstanding that it doesn’t relate to you if you own, for example, a Labrador.

I worry about what constitutes private property; your home is and if an incident were to occur there may be a ‘householder case’ defence but this doesn’t extend to your garden, where if someone uninvited is injured by your dog, the dog may be presumed to be dangerous. There have been cases of dogs being euthanised in these circumstances and I find this unacceptable.  

I also have major reservations about the phrase “grounds for reasonable apprehension that it will injure any person or assistance dog.” There are a great number of people generally apprehensive or afraid of dogs but we must rely upon a decision on what is considered ‘reasonable apprehension’. I asked several local police officers for their definition of reasonable apprehension and received a number of different answers. What is reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to another but I hope common sense would prevail. 


In my opinion BSL is discriminatory and I have a compulsion to say that “the law is an ass!” The banned breeds are not recognised in the UK and this makes identification difficult. The law relies purely on whether a dog LOOKS LIKE a banned breed. Surely legislation should focus on deed and not breed! No breed is inherently dangerous.


BSL ignores scientific research that the pit bull terrier type dog is physiologically no different from any other breed and that they simply have strongly muscled jaws in common with many other breeds. It also ignores anti-social behaviour by people who raise and influence their dogs to be aggressive, irresponsible dog ownership and the continuing rise in dog bites from non banned breeds. There are no preventative measures included in the law.


The press recently reported on seized dogs, that are always denied bail and visits from family, and who are subsequently being kept for up to two years in a cage without being walked. This must not be allowed to continue.


Not directly related but I also believe that the press has demonised certain breeds. I seem to recall the German Shepherd being top of the list in the 1990s, the Rottweiler in the 2000s and currently it’s the turn of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. I believe this just makes them more attractive to people who want to flout the law and use dogs as ‘status’ animals. Having adopted one of these it makes me furious that this is being encouraged.


June Pennell, ISCP, INTODogs (CCB & CDT), ICAN (CCB & CDT), PPG, UK Dog Charter



Coping with Pet Loss: Common Stages of Grief

Losing a beloved pet is indeed heartbreaking, and it's natural to go through various stages of grief during this difficult time. While everyone's grieving process is unique, there are commonly recognised stages that people may go through:


1. Denial: Initially, it can be hard to accept the reality of the loss. You might find yourself thinking that your pet will come back or that this is just a bad dream.


2. Anger: Feelings of anger, resentment, and frustration can arise. You might be angry at yourself, the circumstances, or even your pet for leaving.


3. Bargaining: Many individuals try to make deals or promises to bring their pet back or change the outcome. This stage often involves thoughts of "what if" or "if only."


4. Depression: It is normal to feel intense sadness, emptiness, and loneliness after losing a pet. You may withdraw from others, have trouble sleeping, or experience a loss of appetite.


5. Acceptance: In time, you may reach a stage of acceptance where you begin to come to terms with the loss. This doesn't mean you forget or stop loving your pet, but rather that you find a way to integrate their absence into your life.


Please remember that grief is a very personal experience, and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. It's important to be kind to yourself, allow yourself to feel the pain, and seek support from family, friends, or even professional grief counsellors if needed.


June Pennell, ISCP, INTODogs (CCB & CDT), ICAN (CCB & CDT), PPG, UK Dog Charter

Sometimes you just have to write it down!

Certified and Chartered Behaviourist and Trainer

Sep 22, 2022
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My Sunday

Aug 29, 2021
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Resource guarding, what is it and what can we do about it?

Jul 5, 2021
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At a glance:


  • Diploma (L5) in Canine Psychology & Behaviour. 
  • Diploma (L5) in Canine Nutrition
  • Diploma (L4) in Canine Aggression
  • Award in Education & Training (Ofqual L3).
  • Certificates in Body Language and Bereavement Counselling (also Tutor of this course).  


  • INTO Dogs Certified Canine Behaviourist & Certified Canine Trainer (CCB & CCT). 
  • ICAN Certified Animal Behaviourist & Certified Animal Trainer (CAB & CAT).

Professional Memberships:


Professional Appointments:

  • Approved Trainer with Veterans with Dogs working with veterans and service dogs.
  • Published writer Your Dog Magazine, Edition Dog Magazine, Barks Magazine (PPG) and numerous rescue organisations' in-house magazines.


I continue to keep my skills and training up to date with dozens of hours of CPD a year. 

Areas covered:

I cover mainly the Andover, Amesbury, Salisbury, Stockbridge, Winchester area as I am based near the Wiltshire / Hampshire Border. Please contact me if in doubt.

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