Is Your Cat Suffering Whisker Stress?

You've probably heard that your cat's whiskers are highly sensitive. Indeed, whiskers provide cats with vital sensory information about their environment. But have you heard the term "whisker stress" and, if not, what is whisker stress and could your cat be experiencing it?

The role of whiskers:

Whiskers are modified hairs which are deeply rooted and rich in blood vessels and nerve endings. They are used by mammals to supplement their short-distance vision, providing information on the distance, size, shape and texture of surrounding objects as well as air pressure. Cats typically have between eight and 12 whiskers on each side of their face and additional tufts of whiskers above their eyes and on their chin.

What is Whisker Stress?

Whisker stress is caused when a cat's sensitive whiskers continually touch the sides of it's food bowl while eating. Many cats are affected by whisker stress on a daily basis, especially those fed from a deep food bowl. This causes the whiskers to hit the sides of the bowl every time the cat eats a mouthful of food (see image below).

Whiskers contain proprioceptors; sensory receptors which detect the slightest change in pressure. When whiskers constantly make contact with the side of the food bowl (or cat flap etc) it can cause significant irritation. The result is a cat that can appear picky or finicky with food - Ever seen a cat flick it's food out of the bowl? The reality, however, is that eating from the deep bowl is very uncomfortable.

Wild living felines have choice in terms of where they consume their food (e.g. on the ground, high up in a tree, in hiding etc). Most pet cats are fed from their food bowl, so they cannot eat in a way that is most comfortable for them.

Notice how this cat's whiskers hit the sides of the bowl while its eating

How to prevent whisker stress:

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent your cat experiencing whisker stress.

  • Choose a wide food dish with shallow walls or, even better, ditch the food bowl and provide meals in a food dispensing puzzle toy or activity feeder. No wild living feline (or other animal) gets high quality food for free, served up in a bowl, without having to work for it. Making cats work for their food is an excellent form of environmental enrichment and provides additional physical activity and opportunities for problem solving which is especially important for indoor-only cats. Research supports this idea, showing that animals prefer to work for their food; a phenomenon known as "contra-freeloading".
  • Consider providing fresh water via a cat fountain instead of a bowl or provide a wide and shallow water bowl. 
  • Ensure any cat flaps or access holes are wide enough to avoid touching your cat's whiskers as some cats may avoid using them if they cause irritation to their whiskers.
  • Avoid touching or playing with your cat's whiskers.

Finally, NEVER cut or trim your cat's whiskers. Cutting the whiskers can cause them to become disorientated, scared and stressed. 

We'd love to hear about any changes you notice in your cat's behaviour after implementing some of these ideas!

Dr Kate xo

Not All Treats Are Equal When Training Your Pet

According to the principles of Operant Conditioning, animals (including us!) change their behaviour depending on its consequences. Behaviours that result in a desired consequence are repeated or strengthened whereas behaviours resulting in an unpleasant consequence, or none at all, are weakened or avoided. This means that animals do what works for them; what they find most rewarding (reinforcing) in any given situation throughout their lives. You can learn more about Operant Conditioning HERE.

There are a number of factors that influence exactly what an animal finds rewarding or reinforcing. These include it's species, breed/breed type, temperament, personality, past experiences, likes and dislikes, health status, age, the immediate environment, time of day etc.

Why use treats when training you pet?

Most animal trainers recommend food as the best reward for desired behaviours. Food is classified as a "primary reinforcer" or biological need. Primary reinforcers include food, drink and shelter. Food is innately reinforcing and it works exceptionally well in training to teach dogs (and all animals) desired behaviours. But not all food is equal. Just because you think the treats you're using are rewarding to your dog (or other animal), doesn't mean they are the most rewarding or effective treats to use.

Why treat selection is important

When choosing the type of treats to train your dog (or any pet), you should be aiming for high value treats for your particular animal. This is because the higher the value of the food, the more motivated your dog will be and the quicker they will learn. Many dog owners use their dogs regular kibble or dry food in training and, if you have a very food motivated dog, this might work just fine. However, most dogs tend to find their kibble relatively low value, as they eat it every day. In general, foods dogs find highly valuable include cooked chicken, cheese and hotdogs/devon but this varies depending on the dog (see Figure 1 for a general indication of treat value for most dogs).

Figure 1: Hierarchy of treat value for most dogs

To find out which treats your dog values most, why not conduct a choice experiment? This involves lining up a few different treat options (e.g. kibble, liver treats, cheese, chicken) and, during several trials, seeing which treats your dog consistently prefers. If your dog shows a clear preference for certain treats, these are the treats you should train with.

Another indication a particular treat is high value is how quickly your dog consumes it. If your dog scoffs the treats at lightning speed that's a pretty good sign their high value. But if your dog sniffs them a few times, picks one up, drops it and picks it up again before eating it, this indicates the treat is not very high value. Variety is also important. So try to mix it up a bit and avoid using the same treats day in, day out.

What about other rewards?

Although food is the best reward to use in training, it's important to combine it with other things your dog finds rewarding. These other rewards are referred to as "secondary reinforcers" and can include praise, pats, favourite toys, games, going for a walk and the opportunity to play with another dog. Secondary reinforcers are extremely useful for when you don't have food on hand, or you want to phase food out, and you still want to reward desired behaviour.

Again, it's important to establish if the secondary reinforcers you are using are actually rewarding to your dog. We often assume our dogs enjoy pats, but sometimes they don't. Here's a video to help you determine if your dog find pats reinforcing. The best indicator of whether your dog finds something rewarding is an increase in the behaviour you're rewarding. If the behaviour is not increasing (or strengthening) then the reward you're using is not reinforcing enough.

So now you know how important treat selection is in training, why not put it into practice and see what difference it makes. We'd love to hear your experiences!

Piranha Puppies: How to bring an end to the BITE!

I’ve seen several clients recently with puppies and young dogs who bite and mouth them REALLY hard, often causing scratches, bleeding and bruising. Puppies vary in the intensity and duration of their biting and chewing. Given plenty of appropriate items to chew on, many will not direct this behaviour towards their human family. When they do, however, it can vary from mildly annoying to painful and scary.

Why do some puppies bite hard?

Biting and mouthing is normal puppy behaviour. Puppies explore the world with their muzzles (smelling, tasting, chewing) and biting and chewing on things, including our limbs and clothing, helps puppies learn about the world around them. It also helps to relieve pain associated with teething. This means that biting and chewing is a self-rewarding behaviour and will continue while it provides desired consequences (pain relief, entertainment etc.).

When puppies are with their mother and litter mates they learn many important social behaviours, one of these is called “bite-inhibition”. Bite inhibition is a dog's ability to control the pressure of its mouth and teeth, to cause little or no damage to the recipient of the bite. 

During normal play and rough housing young puppies inevitably bite each other and their mother. The high-pitched yelps given off by the receiver of the bite signal to the offender that the bite was too hard and it hurt. The consequence often being the play session is over.

With repeated interactions puppies learn quickly to modulate their bites to avoid conflict. Sometimes, puppies are separated from their mother and litter mates too early, missing this important learning opportunity, and may be prone to bite harder than normal.

The good news is that given time, most puppies will eventually grow out of the biting stage. That said, there are steps you can take to avoid being bitten and to teach your puppy to bite their toys instead…

How to stop the bite:

You can reduce the likelihood of being bitten by your puppy by following these tips:
  • Encourage your puppy to bite and chew on appropriate items such as chew toys, chew treats and feeding toys. Reward your puppy with attention, praise and high value treats for chewing on these toys. You can also put treats inside toys or smear them with peanut butter to make them extra tempting.
  • If your puppy’s teeth contact your skin immediately give out a high pitched yelp sound (to make the unwanted behaviour) and remove your attention from your puppy (completely ignore them) for a few moments. As soon as your puppy stops biting immediately reward that behaviour with your attention and praise. If your puppy continues to bite you remove yourself from the room for several minutes. Repeat as necessary.
  • As you’re moving around the home or backyard, flapping clothing can tempt some puppies to latch on. Avoid pulling away and creating a fun game of tug. Rather, try not to make a big fuss. Stand still, be boring and ignore your puppy until they stop or throw a ball or toy away from you for your puppy to chase, allowing yourself safe passage.
  • Do not allow your puppy to chew or mouth your hands (or feet) in play. Also avoid using your hands to rough house your puppy. Use toys instead. You want to teach your puppy to be gentle with your hands and feet and to bite and chew their toys instead.
  • Have a variety of different sizes and textured toys available for your puppy to play with. Rubber toys (e.g. Kongs), rope toys, squeaky toys, balls and treat puzzles are popular choices. Tug toys such as the Tether Tug or Home Alone are great choices for dogs that love tug games, once they’re a little older. It’s also important to rotate toys and introduce new ones every so often to help prevent boredom.

With a little time, patience and consistency, your puppy will learn that chewing on their toys is WAY better (because it results in lots of additional reinforcement) than chewing on you (which results in being ignored).

Now go have fun with your puppy!

How To Stop Your Dog Jumping Up

Jumping up on people is one of the most common issues I help dog owners to address. It tends to occur most when visitors arrive and when family members return home from an absence. These are exciting events for dogs, especially those who may have been home alone all day. 

Although many small dog owners tolerate their dog jumping up on them, a large dog is a different story. In their exuberance, heavy dogs with big paws and claws (and big teeth!) can cause bruising and damage to clothing. Most visitors to the home don't appreciate being jumped and slobbered on either, even if they assure you it's ok.

Image credit: Mr.TinDC via Flickr
Why do dogs jump up?
So, why do dogs jump up on people? The short answer is; because the behaviour has been reinforced (rewarded) in the past. 

All behaviour is driven by consequences. Animals repeat behaviours that have a desired consequence. Conversely, they tend to avoid repeating behaviours that have an unpleasant consequence. Animals continually change their behaviour to do what's most reinforcing for them, based on their unique likes and dislikes, wants and needs, in any given situation.

When it comes to jumping up most people respond to the behaviour in (variations of) one of three ways: 1) They pat and greet the dog, 2) People who are scared of dogs might squeal or yell and put their hands in the air moving erratically or 3) They scold the dog telling it to stop/get down and/or push it away. 

Not all people will respond the same way to any one dog that jumps up and therefore a dog is likely to get a mix of responses to the behaviour. For many dogs, being told off or pushed away still reinforces the behaviour because it's still attention, even though it's intended as a punishment. Furthermore, if the consequence of jumping up is inconsistent; sometimes rewarded, sometimes punished, sometimes resulting in an exciting reaction this is known as intermittent reinforcement which will result in the jumping up behaviour continuing.

How to stop your dog jumping up
To stop your dog from jumping up when you or your guests enter your home you must remove all reinforcement for the behaviour (i.e. attention, reaction). More importantly, you need to teach your dog what you want them to do instead (e.g. sit calmly or have four paws on the floor) by consistently reinforcing the desired behaviour.
Image credit: Pete Markham via Flickr
Have some of your dogs favourite treats on hand when you arrive home or when guests come over. It's best to practice this exercise with your dog several times yourself, so he understands what's expected, before it's attempted with visitors. 

When you come through the door immediately ask your dog to sit and show him you have treats (this will make him more likely to comply). As soon as he sits, reward the behaviour with a treat and praise. Take a few steps and ask for another sit or reward your dog if he hasn't jumped up. As soon as he does jump up on you turn your back and completely ignore him. Don't tell him off, don't even look at him. Pretend as though he's not even there. As soon as he stops jumping turn to him and reward four paws on the floor or ask him to sit and reward the sit. Repeat as necessary. 

It's critical that the consequences for your dog's jumping up and sitting are immediate - As soon as he jumps up he's ignored (unpleasant consequence). As soon as he sits, he gets a treat, pat and praise (pleasurable consequence). With consistency and repetition your dog will change his behaviour to do what works (sit calmly when you or guests enter the house) because that behaviour results in the things your dog desires (treats, praise, pats) whereas jumping up results in being ignored.

Consistency is key and this means having ALL people who come to your house respond in the same way. If this doesn't happen, the risk is that jumping will be intermittently reinforced, and the behaviour will persist. If you're having guests over and you can't do the training it's best to put your dog in another area of the house to ensure that jumping up isn't accidentally reinforced.

Why not go a step further and teach your dog to go to their bed (or a mat), and stay there until released, when you come home, visitors arrive or when the doorbell rings? For step-by-step instructions on how to train this behaviour, read this article.

A Canine Conundrum: To Hug or Not to Hug?

I recently received an email which made me feel nauseous. In it, a concerned dog owner explained how his dog isn’t great with children because when they put their arms around the dog’s neck and hug it, or get up close to the dog’s face, the dog responds by snapping or growling. The email goes on to explain that the dog has never bitten or made contact but the behaviour is a concern because their toddler loves to interact with the dog and other children just want to hug it because of how cute it looks. This isn’t the first email I’ve received about dogs that behave aggressively when people (especially children or strangers) get too close, hug or grab a dog and it won’t be the last. In fact, in my work as an animal behaviourist and consultant, human-directed aggression is a common issue I’m called in to assist with.

Image 1: Do you think this dog is enjoying being hugged? 

What’s wrong with hugging dogs?

So why do some dogs respond aggressively to being hugged? What’s wrong with hugging dogs? It’s how we show them we love them so it must be ok, right? The answer may surprise you…Research looking into this phenomenon is lacking in the scientific literature. However, this issue came to light last year when canine behaviour expert Stanley Coren wrote an article for Psychology Today about an informal study he did (not published in the scientific literature) in which photos of people hugging dogs, freely available on the internet, were analysed for signs of canine stress or anxiety. The results of this study indicated that about 82% of the dogs in the photos showed some indication of discomfort, stress or anxiety. Not surprisingly, this article caused some controversy, upsetting many dog owners who take pleasure in hugging their dogs.

Hugging is a form of intimacy found in all human societies. We inherited this tendency from our closest relatives, chimpanzees, who also hug and kiss one another. So it’s not surprising that humans use hugs as a reward for their dogs. The thing is, dogs don’t hug one another and have not evolved to understand what a human hug means. The closest thing that dogs might do to each other that resembles a hug is mounting - both a sexual behaviour and one used to communicate dominance1 - or during an argument (see image #2 below). So what kind of message are we sending our dogs when we hug them?! The answer lies in their body language…

Image 2: These dogs may look like they're hugging but they're actually fighting.
Credit: David Shankbone CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons

How can I tell if my dog enjoys being hugged?

I used to hug my dogs too, especially my Boxer, Archie. I could tell he didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. Rather, he tolerated it. I did it because I enjoyed it and it felt good but rarely did I stop and think, is he really ok with being hugged, until I knew better. Like many dog owners, I assumed he understood the sentiments behind the hug. Something else to consider is that not all hugs are equal and different styles of hugs may be tolerated, or even enjoyed, more than others. For example, a bear hug with both arms tightly held around a dog’s neck, shoulders or body (see images 3 & 4) is more likely to cause stress because it momentarily immobilises the dog. In contrast, a familiar arm over a dog that’s comfortably resting combined with gentle patting or stroking or cradling a puppy while it's sleeping (see image 5) are likely to be pleasurable and enjoyable for both parties. Archie preferred this style of hug to a bear hug and once this became blindingly obvious to me,  I changed the way I hugged him. 

Image 3: This dog may appear to be enjoying the hug and "kissing" it's owner. but looks can be deceiving - licking the owners face is an appeasement behaviour.

Image 4: A different style of hug but still this dog is uncomfortable. 
Image 5: This puppy is calm and relaxed being held and stroked.

You can tell if your dog enjoys hugs and what kind of hug it prefers by observing it’s body language. Signs of stress that indicate hugs may not be your dogs thing include: lip licking, whale eye (whites of the eyes clearly visible), ears held back or down, turning away, yawning, avoiding eye contact, panting, lifting a paw and avoidance. More overt body language which indicates you should immediately stop hugging your dog include baring teeth, growling, snapping, nipping and biting. Signs of a dog that is relaxed and potentially enjoying being hugged can include a loose body, soft/squinty/closed eyes, a relaxed mouth and facial expression, lying down, head resting on you, ears in a neutral position and steady breathing (see image 5 again). For more information on reading canine body language, including signs of stress/anxiety or relaxation, see this article.

I'm not saying you should never hug your dog again. The take home message here is not to assume all dogs like hugs because it's quite likely the opposite is true. Rather, I suggest erring on the side of caution, especially if you have a dog with an unknown history, young children or a dog that is fearful or anxious. Don’t hug dogs you don’t know. You have no idea of their temperament, personality or past experiences. Even if it’s the cutest damn dog you’ve ever seen. You wouldn’t hug a complete stranger and, even if you did, you would stop if they told you too. 

Teach children not to hug (or even approach) dogs they don’t know. Teach them that dogs prefer a gentle scratch under the chin or on their chest - and only if they are relaxed and approach calmly of their own accord to interact. Just as we wouldn’t expect a child to hug or kiss a complete stranger it’s unfair to expect our dogs to tolerate the same thing from people they don't know. Dogs probably tolerate hugs from people they have a strong attachment bond, and trusting relationship with, but that doesn’t mean we should expect them to tolerate a hug from anyone, let alone a complete stranger. You can learn more about how to "ask" your dog if they'd like a pat or a hug by watching this excellent YouTube video.

Overall, K. L. (1997). Clinical behavioral medicine for small animals. Mosby-Year Book, Inc..

Holiday Hazards! How To Keep Pets Safe This Christmas

Christmas is such an exciting time, not just for us but also for our pets. We tend to be home on holidays, there are more people coming and going and the kids are home from school. But with all the fuss and excitement comes some hidden dangers for our pets, some of which you may not have considered...

Christmas trees and decorations:

Christmas trees, both real and artificial, can be irresistible to curious cats and playful puppies. All that bright and shimmery tinsel, flashing lights and hanging decorations can make exciting new toys to play with. As lovely as they are to look at, tree decorations can be hazardous. Baubles can break and cut paws if they're stood on and decorations can cause choking or gastrointestinal obstruction if eaten. Christmas tree lights pose an electric shock risk when they're turned on with puppies, kittens and rabbits most likely to chew on them. Cats and kittens may also be tempted to climb the tree as it provides a high vantage point and this could easily cause the tree to topple over. The presents underneath the tree, especially edibles (e.g. nuts and chocolate), can also be problematic (see below).
Image: Steve Jurvetson on Flickr
If your pets are obsessed with your tree and the decorations you can try barricading it with a playpen or placing the tree in a room your pets can't access. If you have some time, you can teach your pets that being on their beds or just leaving the tree alone is very rewarding by reinforcing that behaviour with high value treats. Done frequently and consistently this will help reduce the likelihood they will focus on the tree. That said, when you're not home the tree may be the most interesting thing for your pets to play with, so it's best to ensure they can't access it when you're out!

Festive foods:

We all like to over indulge at Christmas time but did you know some of the festive foods we consume  can be downright dangerous for our pets? The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) warns not to allow pets to eat these popular festive foods:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Nutmeg
  3. Grapes and raisins (including Christmas pudding and mince tarts)
  4. Avocado
  5. Macadamia nuts
  6. Onion and garlic
  7. Turkey skin, pork crackling, sausages and other fatty meats
  8. Alcohol

If consumed, even in small quantities, these foods can cause illness and be potentially toxic. If you suspect your dog has been poisoned, call your vet immediately for advice.


Celebratory fireworks come hand in hand with Christmas and New Years Eve. As much as we love the raucous cracking explosions of colour across the night sky, fireworks cause many of our pets to run for cover, literally. Fear of loud noises is completely normal and is a survival mechanisms in animals. However, when the fear becomes excessive it's called a phobia. Dogs, particularly, can suffer from a phobia of fireworks causing a range of symptoms include pacing, panting, barking, whining, house soiling, attempting to escape the home or backyard (particularly when home alone). Some dogs become so terrified they cause damage to themselves and the home in their attempts to escape the noisy light show.

If your dog is scared of fireworks it's best not to leave them home alone, especially if you have a fireworks display scheduled for your local area. Bringing your dog inside, drawing the curtains and having the TV on with the volume high can help drown out the sound. Distractions such as a puzzle toy filled with high value treats given to your dog just before fireworks start can help take your dog's mind off the scary event and help create a positive association with them. In extreme cases, fast action anti-anxiety medications may be required to help your dog cope. This should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Ensure your pet's microchip and ID tag details are up to date in case they do manage to escape your property. This will make it much easier for people to reunite you with your lost pet. Professional help is available if your dog is phobic of fireworks (and thunderstorms, as they often occur in tandem) and should be sought. Look for a well qualified and reputable dog trainer (who specialises in treating fears and phobias), a qualified animal behaviourist or veterinary behaviourist.

By keeping these potential dangers in mind you and your pet are sure to stay safe and enjoy the silly season together. Merry Christmas!

Lead Reactivity Part 2: How to avoid or resolve it

As discussed in Part 1, lead reactivity can be a serious problem that should not be ignored, especially if it's developed into its more aggressive form. The good news is the behaviour can be avoided or, if it’s already a problem, successfully modified.

Avoiding Lead Reactivity

There's a lot you can do to help avoid your puppy or adult dog from developing lead reactivity. Remember, most lead reactivity and aggression, whether towards people, other dogs, animals or inanimate objects, develops due to past unpleasant or scary experiences. Try to avoid such experiences by reading and responding appropriately to your dogs behaviour and body language. This is easier said than done, as research suggests people are not proficient at correctly interpreting dog behaviour and emotions. You can read more about how to accurately interpret canine body language here and here and see a quick video demonstration here and a more detailed one here. If you notice your dog is uncomfortable in a situation, move them away until they relax again. Remember when your dog is on lead, and feels unsafe or threatened for any reason, their escape option (flight response) is not available and they’re much more likely to use aggression (fight response) in an effort to make the scary thing go away. It’s up to us to ensure we can accurately read our dogs (and others) to avoid placing them in situations in which they resort to reactivity and aggression.

In addition, work on making outings on the lead extra positive. Most dogs already love going for a walk because of the novel sights and smells and the opportunity to explore. However you can boost and help maintain the positive association with things your dog encounters during walks (e.g. cars, bikes, other dogs, strangers, kids etc) by pairing them with things your dog values (e.g. high value treats, pats, praise, favourite toys, games etc). By doing this extra work, you can help negate any mildly negative experiences your dog may have. Also work on rewarding your dog for calm and compliant behaviour while on lead. This is also helpful for dogs that become overly excited and frustrated when on lead. So many dog owners underestimate the importance of teaching their puppy how to walk nicely on the lead – a foundation behaviour which will provide the building blocks of a great relationship. Learn more about lead training your puppy and adult dog here and here. This might be stating the obvious but dogs don’t come automatically programmed to walk nicely on the lead and be model canine citizens. They need to be taught how and, as their guardians, it is our responsibility to dedicate the time and patients to teach them.

A happy and relaxed dog
(Image: Alex Pearson on Flickr)

Resolving Lead Reactivity

If your dog is already lead reactive or aggressive you firstly need to identify the trigger or triggers for the behaviour (e.g. other dogs, strangers, trucks etc) and the critical distance (or threshold) at which your dog begins to show early signs of fear, stress or anxiety. These are often subtle (e.g. lip licking, panting, ears held back, hard eyes, paw lift, focused attention on the trigger etc) and preclude the more overt signs of reactivity and aggression (e.g. barking, growling, pulling on the lead, pilo-erection). Next you need to work on changing your dog’s emotional response to the trigger (e.g. seeing another dog) from a negative association due to fear to a positive association while under threshold. Sounds easy enough but what does this involve? 

The most common approach is a combination of desensitisation (gradual exposure to the stimulus under threshold - with enough distance between it and your dog so as your dog remains relatively relaxed and engaged in the training) and Classic Counter-Conditioning (pairing the presence of the stimulus with something pleasurable such as favourite treats). For example, your dog sees another dog and immediately receives a favourite treat. After several short sessions pairing the just the presence of another dog with high value treats you want to switch to Operant Conditioning in which your dog learns to become more comfortable with the approach of another dog and looks to you for reinforcement. This is when you can ask for and reinforce, a known behaviour such as 'sit' or 'look'. This positive reinforcement training helps to activate the reward pathway in the brain releasing Dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for producing a natural “high” (but more on behavioural neuroscience in a future post!). With consistency and repetition, your dog learns that the previously scary stimulus now predicts good things and no longer poses danger. The result, over time, should be a marked reduction in reactive and aggressive behaviour.

There are numerous protocols available, based on these principles, that have been developed by experts to assist you to work on resolving your dog's lead reactivity. Choose one that’s feasible and realistic for you. Here’s a few I recommend:

Image: MarkScottAustinTX on Flickr

Things don’t always go to plan in the real world. You may encounter situations out of your control that elicit a reactive or aggressive response even after you’ve made some good progress (e.g. another dog slipping it’s lead and running up to your dog or a kid on a skateboard seemingly appearing out of nowhere). The key is to pick up where you left off and keep going. There is no quick fix. Dogs, like us, are continuously learning based on their experiences. It’s up to us to guide and enhance their experiences as much as possible to optimise their welfare and wellbeing.

Finally, if you feel you don't have the skills or knowledge to work to resolve your dog's lead reactivity or aggression, or you have tried several things that haven’t worked, then please seek professional help. Doing so is in everyone's best interest: Yours, your dog's and the community's.