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Joyce Stranger Dog Trainer

Interview with an Author and Canine Behaviourist

* Joyce, How did you get into dog training?

How indeed!  I grew up with dogs in the family. I was five years older than the next in the family...twin boy and girl who were self sufficient...and seven years older than my youngest sister.


My only real companion was the family dog. I spent much of my time with him and with books. In those days it was safe to go for long walks and I explored all the local countryside alone with my dog.

He was an Airedale cross who came when I was ten and died when I was twenty five. He was placid, he was gentle, and very easy to train.  

With him I often lay and watched wild animals... there were so many more then, and so many more birds.

It did not occur to me that he was an exceptional dog. Till in 1971, with my own family grown and off my hands, I bought my first pedigree. A Golden Retriever.  I had in the meantime had a number of proxy dogs I walked  and
taught for friends and looked after if they were away, but with writing and lecturing and also with a husband,  an older son and twin boy and girl, did not feel I had time for a dog of my own.


Now they were all away and I decided to buy a dog and to compete in working trials with him.

My pup proved to have extreme hip dysplasia. He was
boisterous all the same, very unruly and out of hand though he was a delightful character.

Gentle, mostly, though his favourite game was to barge
me.  He also had severe digestive problems which at one time were so bad I was reported to the RSPCA.

My vet saw them off fast as we practically lived in his surgery and between us we found out how to manage him.
He proved to have pancreas deficiency.

He was given six months to live when he was eighteen months old.  

He was nearly fourteen when he died. With diet and an enzyme extract he looked like a normal dog and when we moved when he was five the new vet refused to believe he needed the pills. My ex-vet (on the phone) soon disillusioned him.

He was so difficult to control I took him to dog club... something I had never heard of before.  I didn't much like the way they trained...and I didn't make progress.

I can lip read and once as I went in someone said 'oh lord, here comes that mad woman and her mad dog.'

I went from person to person for help and did gain it in the end from a collie breeder, Audrey Wickham, who bred the Sadghylls, then doing very well in Obedience.  

She also bred Blue Peter's Shep (a Golden Retriever).  She put me on the right track but something was still wrong and I didn't know what.

I competed occasionally  with Janus and also a friend asked me to go as her assistant to a Manchester Adult Evening class titled dog training, care and management.  We were both paid and I did this until 1976 when we moved.

I found out in 1977 when I bought a new pup, wanting to do Working Trials with her. When she was gun tested I had Janus and my second dog Puma with me. The two bitches turned their heads when the gun was fired.

My friend told me to put them in the car and walk towards him with Janus.

Janus was stone deaf.

As soon as I knew that I changed all my training methods and used toys and hand signals and tit-bits.  

In 1971 training was still in the dark ages and this was very much frowned on.  We ended up doing quite well in Obediecnce.

I couldn't go often due to my job... I seemed to be lecturing, giving talks, opening things, going to schools....but he has left me over 100 place rosettes.

And an immense amount of experience I would never have got with an easier dog.


As I couldn't walk Janus far, I began to walk German Shepherds for a friend who bred them.

I would leave him in a kennel and take out four adult dogs,
different every time, and walk them on a five mile round tour.

She had about twelve dogs and I might have almost any combination. They were never a trouble, walked easily on the lead, and were great fun, they were all so different.

Then one of them had pups and I bought one of the pups.

Sadly, she got lead poisoning while still in the kennels. Her brother died but she and another brother had the antidote. 

I took her all the same, not realising how it would affect her. Lead poisoning destroys memory and learning ability.

I doubt if my reputation improved as I now had a daft dog (not yet diagnosed as deaf) and a zombie.

I wrote to Great Ormonde Street Hospital who sent me the details of the treatment for lead damaged children.

It makes new pathways in the brain. It took around eighteen months to teach Puma any new thing, but once she had learned it she was fool proof, and so proud of herself. 

I showed her in Breed and she had one Championship Certificate but then had to retire as the
poisoning  caught up with her and she went blind.

But I competed with her in Obedience before she retired ( at eight) and she has left me not only a wall full of Breed show rosettes, mostly Firsts, but several thirds in Obedience... and those I value more as it was such an effort teaching her.

She was a very sweet dog, a German Shepherd and had one litter of six pups. Some of her ancestors are still around.

Look for Velindre Gorsefield Puma in your pedigrees, though she may be far back now.

The way I had to teach her has proved invaluable with nervous or very slow to learn dogs.


When my husband was made redundant  in 1976 we moved to Wales. We had a very trying time, re-building an old cottage around ourselves and also  both my in-laws became seriously ill and had to go into nursing homes, and died with
in six months of each other.

My husband suggested I bought a new puppy to make up for the past months. I began to show again, as we had been very tied up. And I bought my new pup in 1977.

This was  another German Shepherd pup, but unlike Puma she was  a nightmare on four legs. For two years I was on the verge of putting her down.

My only consolation was that most of her brothers and sisters were put down. They were both wild and fierce.  

I hate giving up on a dog. So I hung on, and saw one person after another to try and  her sort out.

I know now why she was like that but I didn't then.  Her breeding was wrong, and she had never been socialised as pup. She lived in a barn, and her mother had had so many litters she hated her pups.

Also I did not know a lot at the time about alpha dogs Chita was Alpha plus...a boss dog in every way. Janus did not allow her to take his place but Puma gave up and became third dog.

The first two  experts I went to were a husband and wife who did not like her and said so. They both 'showed me how to handle her'. She bit both of them, as they each  gave her an immensely hard lead check. (1978).

I had no help from dog clubs so started my own where  I could control what went on.

I decided she needed socialising and in the next few months she came wherever I went.

By the time she was six months old she had been with me to around twenty talks I gave to senior sitizens, Mother's Unions etc. She had been to six schools, where I talked to classes all day with her beside me.

She had been to a children's bookshow in the crypt of the Liverpool Roman Catholic Cathedral.  From trying to bite people she now gave them over enthusiastic welcomes.

She was a fiend with other dogs. On lead, she never dared. I could not let her off lead as she attacked any dog in sight.

This, I realised much later, was due to her being badly bitten at sixteen weeks by the village rogue. And is the reason for many other dogs that hate dogs.

I took her on a course, when she was eleven months old,  with Charlie Wyant who said he had only ever met one dog like her. He at the time was an Obedience Great, having had eleven champions and worked every year since I knew of him at Cruft's in the big ring.

I took her back on another course when she was four.  He looked at her and said ,' Is that the dog I saw before? I didn't expect to see her alive.'

At the end of the course he said, 'If you can train THAT, you can train anything.'

She remained liable to do her own thing at times. A local farmer watched me train her one day and said, 'I had a bitch like that once.'

'Oh yes?'

'Yes. very reliable. I could rely on her to let me down but only when it mattered.'

She never did anything by halves. When she was eight we competed in working trials and the judge (who taught police dog handlers) told me she would settle down when she was four.

Another judge, also a police dog handler. at the end of our working stint said,

'What a HELL of a dog. What a Hell of an education. Aren't you lucky?'

I wasn't so sure but now realise indeed I was lucky; few people have had to cope with dogs like her, and the professionals don't. They put them down. 

By the time she was eight we were doing quite well in Trials; she usually got full marks for agility; that was a nine foot long jump, a six foot high scaling wall, and a three foot hurdle.

Also search, where she had  to find three small objects like a sparking plug or a large key or a piece of carpet about five inches square, in a large square, and bring them to me. I couldn't go in the square.

She also had to track, and she loved that. That year she became the 1000th PAT dog.  She visited the stroke unit at the hospital till she herself had a stroke and became too restless to sit still for long.  She died at thirteen, in 1991.

I have only met one like her since. He belonged to Sheila Bailey at the Derbyshire Canine Centre. Like Chita did for me, he expanded her education.

Coda only lasted six years. Chita lasted thirteen and at the end nobody would believe the books I wrote about her.

They thought I exaggerated. But I didn't. I played her down... she was, as the judge said, one HELL of an education. She taught me more than any dog I have ever known.


Puma died in 1980, due to damage from the lead.
Janus died in 1984. Chita was now the only dog and was very subdued, even for her. So in 1986 I let myself be talked in buying Josse, a two year old German Shepherd who had had seven male owners before me.

I only found that out after I had taken him on and owned him four months.

Four nightmare months as Josse knew one thing extremely well. Men were meant to be killed.  He did accept my husband, though he had little to do with him. I was Josse's new world.

I found out the hard way that if anyone tried to take his lead from me he bit.  Not them but me, trying to hold onto me and make sure he wasn't pulled away from me.

The only way anyone else could handle him was for them to hold out a very tempting tit-bit, stand well away and when I dropped the lead he ran to them and they picked it up.

This was the only way I could leave him in kennels with the man who sold him to me.

But time, and determination paid off and by the time he was six I could take him with Chita and stay in a hotel near my mother who was in a Home. He now sat when he saw a man and did not move till I told him he could.

Josse was even more of an education. He proved sadly to have haemophilia and though the vet and I kept him going for four years, in the end he burst a major internal vessel and died in 1990.


I have now lived with Troy for twelve years. I hope for more time with her. She is my dream dog, the dog I aimed for and never quite got.

I did pick her out with far more knowledge and thought. I have been puppy testing for some years, working out a profile for each pup and how they will develop which is
enormous fun. I have tested many litters now and am delighted to find the first impressions are usually right.

Troy was in one of those litters . Another German Shepherd. I looked at her final scores and thought if I didn't have her I would  regret it for the rest of my life.

I did buy her and have never regretted it for one second. The only small sorrow is that just after I bought her my husband had a stroke, the first of several and a heart attack, and since then I have been unable to take part
in shows.

I could get a sitter for shopping but did not feel I ought to for something others might regard as frivolous. Had I had her instead of Janus in 1971 I would have soared to the top in no time... and I would have learned nothing!

Nor would I have written the six books about my dogs.

There is no book about Troy as publishers tell me dog books don't sell. Though she creeps in at the back door in some of the fiction books.

* What sort of things should a person look for in a dog training club or consultant when they are thinking about training their dog? What sort of things should make someone run away from a particular club as quickly
as possible?

If going to a new club I would go without my dog for the first lesson so that I could watch exactly what went on.
I would listen. I have left for the following reasons.

1) Noise.

I do not expect dogs to bark during my lessons or handlers to chatter to one another.

I do not like  heavy feet and paws thumping on a hard floor.

I expect handlers to be appropriately dressed, not wearing silly shoes, or long skirts, or with flowing hair and jewelry that falls over the dog as they bend over it.  It is easier to train if you can take a professional attitude.  A brash pup belonging to someone else may well swing on a long skirt.

2) Too many dogs on the floor at the same time.

3) Too many spectators and a constant buzz of voices with the instructor yelling above them, and dogs getting stressed as a result.

4)Small children out of control running among the dogs and in danger of being bitten.

5)Handlers treated discourteously and over criticised, and reduced to feeling small. An instructor's task is to build morale, not break it.

6)A lack of structuring so that dogs cant progress.

7)Round and round the hall heelwork which teaches nothing but bad habits.

8)The stays turned into a nightmare exercise for the dogs instead of building up their confidence.

9)Handlers arranged so that dogs face one another, when you get eye contact and then lunging out and barking.

10)Dogs too close to one another.

11)Handlers allowed to sit in the same place each week, so that dogs become territorial and defend their dens.

12)Sits and downs practiced in the same place; the dogs should be moved before being put into another position or they will slide from sit to down in stays. Also I prefer to put dogs down from the stand so that this doesn't happen.

13) Do people seem happy and enjoy training or is it a terrible chore?

14). I look for a quite and competent instructor who can plan the lessons in such away that the dogs progress; who can put over that homework MUST be done or it is pointless coming.

In my lessons each handler has goals to aim for. There are seven certificates, two of which should be obtained within six weeks. The others take a little longer and more effort but at the end the dogs should be able to do a number of things, including drop at a distance if running away and
drop on command wherever they are when told.

Each handler gets a certificate and a rosette and those that achieve the down at a distance get a shield.

15) Also does the instructor praise the handlers or is it all constant criticism? Do they teach or just issue commands?

16) I prefer instructors who have experience of other breeds as well as collies.

I have had, in the past few years, some five hundred dogs of some fifty different breeds. Around twenty dogs a week mostly for one to one lessons.

Many are guarding breeds and  breeds used for shooting, but the smallest at present are two brothers that are Chihuahua/Pomeranian crosses, and are now on their third certificates, as are two Tibetan terriers.

The biggest is a mastiff who started two weeks ago and has just earned his first certificate.

I haven't found any un-trainable breeds.

I do find that intelligence can vary in a breed just as it does among humans. Also you can get dogs that are short sighted and cant retrieve if things are thrown to far, and others that have hearing problems.

I had one dog that apparently has no sense of smell, though I suspect the habit some people have of hitting the dog on the nose had something to do with that.

Their noses are much more complex than ours  and are very easily injured.

If people write to me about a dog club and it seems unsatisfactory I suggest they leave and buy David Weston's book... Dog Training the Gentle Modern Method, (Fleetfoot press)  which is absolutely brilliant and you can work through that by yourself and do far more good than constant exposure to a place that makes your dog far worse.

Also I would want to see dogs on proper leads and collars.

I belong to organisations that ban choke chain collars; these can do untold damage if wrongly used and they are not easy to use. A half check which consists of webbing and a chain is far better and it can't be put on wrong.

I keep a supply of really brilliant leads and collars from the Kumfi range. They also have excellent harnesses both for car and for walking, and muzzles and a halti type piece of equipment called a dogalter which can be adjusted and doesn't slide into the dog's eyes.

* What, in your opinion, are the fundamentals to training a dog that you'd like dog owners out there to know?


1.) The training has to be consistent. Every member of the household makes the dog obey the same rules and treats it in the same way and uses the same commands.

It is a good idea to have a family powwow and get everyone involved. It is not always easy with children, but they do have to understand the dog is not a toy and must not be tortured by the things they do.

House training done the wrong way can start a whole lot of  problems as the puppy doesn't understand he shouldn't mess indoors; but he can somewhere else: outside.

The puppy thinks he can't do it ANYWHERE, especially if he is punished often for doing it in the wrong place.

So he hangs until he bursts and remains unpredictable.

Those who say rub his nose in it don't help. They need their noses rubbed in it.

If he does it in the wrong place it needs ignoring. He needs to be taken out at least ten times a day and praised when he does right and brought in the second he has done it so he knows why he went out.

No use just putting him out and expecting him to know by telepathy what you want!

He feels evicted, and is scared...he is very tiny... and its cold or wet so he sits and shivers outside the door and then  as he comes in relaxes, and bingo...there it is.

In my opinion a great deal hinges on correct and happy house training.  Done right most pups learn in a few days.

2) Puppies are scared of shouting and people who rush at them and pick them up... they take some days to settle in.

They have just been stolen from their mums and why should they fall in love with you at once? That love and trust has to be earned. Every time the pup is punished there is loss of trust and he can become afraid of you.

So every time he see you he cringes or worse, wets the floor in terror.

Life is even more difficult for rescued dogs as often they were ill treated before being dumped or removed from their first homes...and it is necessary to take great care in restoring the love and trust in humans to them.

3) One of my past vets had a notice on his waiting room wall which read

Please remember dogs are NOT babies in fur coats. They are animals who do not think or behave as we do.

* What are the three most common mistakes you see someone new to dog training make, and what should they be doing instead?

There are so many things that can go wrong.

These are the most frequent that I have to help with when people come to me. Mostly they wait till the dog is right out of hand and has reached the teenage idiocy stage when it is really hard to teach.

Too often I am the last stage before the Rescue Centre.

Yes, I can mostly  prevent that, but it would have been much easier had the owner known more about dogs in the first place. I always wish they would ask advice or read a book first.  

Which is why I wrote my own 'How to Own a Sensible Dog.' It is aimed at first time owners but many others have said it has helped them even though they may have had dogs before.

The new one is always different. Few people realise that:

1)  Spoiling that new puppy with too much attention is not a good idea.

 You can't start too young.

That eight week old puppy, unless carefully guided, will within a few short weeks, become a demanding monster.

Everyone adores him, so he is feted and spoiled and in no time at all convinced he is the most important part of the household.. BUT that guiding must be FUN.

Also sadly, you do have to educate not only the puppy but often the family and all your friends who with the best motives in the world, undo all the good work you have done.

OK... so puppy has come home and has settled and he races to you to be greeted and jumps up at your legs. Sweet. Such a tiny thing and so much fervour and wag and wiggle. It's great. So you fuss and cuddle him and reward him.


You have just ensured that in six months time you will come to someone like me and say  'He jumps up at everyone and we cant stop him.'

It would have been easy to stop when he was tiny; now... it is going to be a major job. And it will only work if every single person who meets him does NOT allow him to jump up.

The 'friend' who says 'oh, I like him jumping up,' is a saboteur. The next person he jumps on might be a two year old he knocks over and who fractures his skull; or a ninety year old who he knocks over and who breaks her hip
and dies a few weeks later of pneumonia. 

One of my owners was on the steps when her grown GSD jumped at her. She fell down them and broke her arm.

Which decided her to come for teaching. It took an awful lot of doing with that dog as he was three years old and had spent those years convinced people loved being jumped on.

So when pup jumps up, you walk away and pretend he is invisible. When he has calmed down you call him, show him a nice treat, and then when he is sitting calmly, he is rewarded and fussed.

When folk come to visit, put him on his lead and take him to the door and tell him to sit. They can only take notice of him while he is sitting... not if he is behaving like a salmon on a line.

It works well and it works fast and I am always delighted when people come for lessons with a twelve week old puppy as there is so much we can do before the hormones begin to blaze at 6-10 months depending on the dog. People see 'my' pups in public places and ask why they behave so well. Which is when I often get another puppy to help teach.

2)This is a very common mistake.

What else do folks do when the dog jumps up?

They shout DOWN. Then they go to dog class and discover the dog WON'T lie down. Every other dog does, but theirs doesn't.


Because 'down' to that dog means 'don't jump up.' It doesn't mean lie down on the floor. So you can shout all you like, but he wont go DOWN because he IS down. He isn't jumping up. Nothing will make him understand the word has
another meaning. So we have to say 'lie' or 'flat.'

3) He wont come when I call him.

The puppy has been allowed to do as he chooses without anyone teaching him to the contrary.

A good breeder will start that habit early. As soon as the pups are weaned. Puppy, puppy, come and they all rush to the food bowl.

But most don't bother so pup hasn't got that grounding.

It's no use calling him unless he will be rewarded when coming. If I have a new pup I keep treats in my pocket and every so often call puppy to come and the second he reaches me he gets a little tit-bit and a cuddle. Lovely to come.

If he is scolded when he comes he wont come  again. Why should he? People who grab the dog by the throat and drag them to them wont get their dogs  willingly either.

Families can play a lovely game as often as they like. Each member stands in a different part of the room or garden and takes turns in calling puppy. He gets an instant reward when he does come. Since repetition is what they need
you cant do too much of this.

If pups come to me that wont come I hold the puppy and send the owner to stand as far away ( pup cant run off and get lost) as possible.

The puppy doesn't know me and gets worried...owner calls, I let go of the lead and puppy races to the owner for a reward and a cuddle.

Other games we play are hide the biscuit or toy...pup has to find it.

Hide the owner. Pup has to find its owner.

Have a series of containers... I use big yoghurt tubs or the kind that hold fresh soup at the supermarkets; I put out ten of those with a tit-bit in one of them...puppy has to hunt the tit-bit.

They love these games and it gives them occupation, makes them use their brains and they are less likely to get into real mischief.

If my pup starts to chew something he shouldn't I get his favourite toy and throw it away from whatever he is busy with; then we have a game, and the pup forgets what he was about to do and I have substituted activity for boredom.

So much can be done in those first few weeks.  Breeders who say don't train him till six months or a year old are forgetting the pups will be in the house, not a kennel, and they are thinking of the working shows.

There are two other things I tell new owners.

a) Whatever we learn, whether human or animal, it takes six weeks to sink in, provided it is practised daily.

You can't start lessons, take three weeks off and expect dog to have progressed!

All you do is begin at the beginning every time you take the dog for a lesson and no progress is possible. At the fifth week there is a hiccup. Whether dog or human, at this time we seem to forget all we learned and it becomes very frustrating.

This is the time many people give up; whether training dogs (it works with the dog too) or slimming, or learning French.

Push on determinedly and by the sixth week the hang-up is over. I am told this is when something goes from short term memory into long term memory.

You think you know it, but you don't. Your brain says 'hang on... I need to think about this.

Remember learning to drive and being  sure you knew how to reverse and turning the wheel the wrong way?
It is a learning blip...and if you practise harder, then the routine is stored and you get good results.

b) People ring up and say 'how many lessons do I need?' 

Which is like asking 'how long is a piece of string?'

Few dogs learn anything in even six lessons. Most of my owners ...those who are really committed...come for anything up to year. Some for more as then we can really have fun with very advanced exercises and some of them may want to begin to show.

How long did it take to learn tennis and did you go to Wimbledon a and compete in a few weeks? How long does it take to become a very good pianist, or an athlete?

How long does it take to learn any job at all and do it well?

Why should a dog with no experience whatever learn any faster than a human being who has consciousness and intelligence and reason?

He wont do it right every time.

I make mistakes in a lot of things. I am not always a perfect driver. I don't turn out cordon bleu meals every time I cook. (Don't turn them out that often in fact!)

I diet, and then buy chocolate. So why expect my dog to be absolutely perfect? If every dog was, then there would be no point in working them in shows as they'd all win, every time!

But we do need to be CONSISTENT.

Dogs understand NEVER. They understand ALWAYS. They don't understand SOMETIMES, like jump up when you are clean but not when you are muddy.

If we are inconsistent and sometimes let a dog do something and then next time punish him, we are also being cruel.

* What's the most bizarre, strange or funny case you've ever dealt with?

I think it was probably a  two year old West Highland Terrier.  He was a little monster. He lived in a house backing on to an alleyway that led to a school and children threw things at him.  He barked nonstop if out in the garden.

He wouldn't  let anyone near his food, or his toys, or his bed. Visitors were in danger of being bitten as was his owner, who was partly disabled. If she tried to take anything from him or stop him indulging  in one of his many undesirable habits, he growled and snapped and tried to bite.

I made house visits and I hated them at first  as I was sure I would be bitten. We started a 'teach your dog to behave' sequence.


This was divided into four portions and when he finished one, the plate was removed (empty) and re-filled. It took two days for him to learn that plate being taken away meant more, not deprivation. End of problem.


They were all removed for three weeks. At the end of that he was allowed one at time as part of a training game such as hide and seek. As soon as the game was over the toy was put away. He was not allowed to run off with it and the owner had to end up with the toy.  After three weeks without he was surprisingly co-operative.


As soon as he got out of it first thing in the morning  the owner filled it with shoes, wellies, dustpan and brush, anything that wasn't his but was hers. He was allowed in it only at night. He learned that it was not his territory to defend at all costs; he had to share it.

Her lap.

He would sit there and growl and snap if she tried to get him off. So one meal was kibble and every time he got on her lap she put two pieces of kibble on the ground and praised him when he got off for them. He soon learned he could be cuddled but only when she chose to do so.


This was more difficult but I suggested she got some high fencing and halved the garden making a patio area by the house so he could go in and out without the children seeing him. This also stopped the barking as he couldn't see the children.


When I went I took really tasty tit-bits with me; liver cake; chicken; anything that turned him on; pork scratching did quite well. Within six visits he came to greet me. Then food was put on the window sill by the front door and every visitor who came gave him a tit-bit when he sat when
told. Visitors began to be greeted with pleasure.

He turned into a little charmer.

* What are your thoughts on "pushy", "confrontational" training, like staring down, knocking over a dog, Vs. "Co-Operation" training: positive rewards, and leading by example?

With any of these dogs the first thing I ask about is diet. The wrong diet can produce a villain. Change it and the results are unbelievable. Sadly many well known diet produce this effect.


A good shepherd when training his dog wears a cap with the brim pulled down over his eyes so that he cannot accidentally stare at his dog.

Stares are provocation for bold dogs and intimidating for sensitive dogs. The bold dog may react by attacking; the sensitive dog becomes scared and you cant train a scared dog well.

No one in their senses that I know would stare down a dog. The long loving 'I trust you completely' look is very different.

Knocking Over.

Knocking over the dog in my opinion  is a sign of a trainer who can't train. Or of a bully who wants a slave not a team mate. If I have aggressive dogs in, we don't start with training; we start with play, With Chita I went to many confrontational people  (not knowing any better then) and she bit most of them.

Then I met one of the the top working trials handlers who also trained dogs. He said 'Forget training and PLAY with her for a month.'

I did and it changed our lives.

 Once the dog relaxes and learns that he can have fun with you, there is no further need for confrontation and the various exercises can be incorporated as you play.

e.g. sit.... and I will throw the ball.
OK... down ...and I will throw the ball.
right....stand... and I will throw the ball.
Sit and I'll throw the ball after I have counted to sixty.

At this stage the dog has been taught without knowing he was being taught, and also he has relaxed and you are no longer a threat, so he doesn't have to be aggressive. ...and after that usually they are far more biddable and we can start with the more 'usual' kind of teaching.

I find positive rewards work well and work fast.

One of my new recruits came two weeks ago... a very large Mastiff whose attitude to life was so laid back he was boring.  The original Mr. Plod. His owner didn't believe in food rewards.

But I do and produced them. The owner was so impressed by the dog's sudden alacrity that he now brings them.

I once had to train four security guards at a factory who had never trained a dog but only had a trained one before. This time the firm was economising and got a rescue whose idea of doing anything was nil as he had been roaming the streets of a big town for four months before caught.

I think they were a little surprised to find their instructor was  a small woman past her first youth  and they weren't exactly receptive.

I asked to see the trained dog and was told he would kill me. He didn't and I had a pocket full of liver treats. I showed them things they didn't know that dog could do.

After that I had to supply all four with treats to teach
the new intake.

Our first goal was to get concentration  by doing combined stay and look at me exercises . The dog soon learned his job and remained a very good dog for the rest of his life. But it was all done by positive rewards.

If you want a good book on those get John Fisher's book. DOGWISE. It is a remarkable story but also a very useful guide to how to train a dog.


* What would you say, or want to say to the proponents of "choke-chains" and "pinch-collars"... who profess that those methods are the be-all and end-all to dog training?

I would give them the message I gave one of my handlers. She had a Welsh Terrier and came to a lesson one day very upset. The farmer next door had said it couldn't be a pedigree as you cant train Welsh Terriers. This one was in fact quite highly trained and doing competition work.

I told her to tell him maybe he couldn't train them  but I can.

It seems to me a sign of defeat to use brutality to teach a dog.   Having said that, if it were the only choice between using a prong collar and death, I would choose to use that, but it would be in the most exceptional circumstances. 

Also it must be in the hands of an expert, not an ordinary
owner as the lack of skill could be dangerous.

In thirty years of dog training, I have used one only once, on a dog that bit.

I find as I learn more about each dog there are far better ways of gaining the dog's trust and confidence, which is usually what is lacking in these dogs.

Four of the worst dogs I ever had proved to have brain tumours. There is nothing you can do about that.  The danger sign is a red flash in the eyes.

*And what would you suggest instead, to replace those methods?

I have described these under other headings.. always positive, always make the training a happy occasion, always end each training session with a game.

Keep sessions very short. Two minutes several times day is much better than a long session and it always  breaks up what must be mostly very boring days for the dogs.

Heelwork to music can be done indoors and is fun and dogs love it.

I never do long sessions of heeling; a few steps and sit, or down, or stand, or stay. ....gradually the dogs learn not to pull. as their movement is interrupted before they get the impetus to pull.

Also I tell owners not to say HEEL when the dog is elsewhere until they have taught the heel position which we do as an exercise as we do attention.

In order that owners will concentrate when teaching the stays, I have them counting; gradually to higher and higher figures.

One of the dogs coming at present is a Shar-Pei who lives with a little boy of four. The child had a playmate in and they were playing hide and seek. The boy was counting aloud and when the mother looked at the dog, he was sitting and staying, listening to the count!

This does incidentally speed stays so that if they continue to count all the time, going off lead and then out of sight are not so alarming to the dog as that voice is there to re-assure them and then of course you can stop counting once he knows the stay thoroughly.

I have described my four earlier dogs elsewhere., Troy is a dream dog, a German Shepherd now 12...she can do all the exercises needed for both Obedience and Working Trials though obviously now she is slow and not as good as she once was.

I couldn't compete with her as though coming from HD
tested parents, she has bad HD and has had arthritis since she was two.

She comes to my group classes, handled by anyone who is free, such as a wife come with a husband. I have found she can play them up as if never taught and she is a remarkable teacher herself as they have to make sure they use my hand signals and commands or she fails to understand.

I use hand signals a lot as many dogs go deaf in old age and they are a great benefit then. Janus taught me how important hands are, and how accurate each signal must be as he was a genius at misinterpreting and surprising me by thinking my hand had said something different to what I
thought it said.

One of Troy's party tricks is to sit on command to any word I choose but sit...she is watching my hands, not listening to what I say.

Of my past dogs, Janus was a clown, full of himself and quite unaware he wasn't a top specimen of his breed.  He swaggered with delight in the Obedience  ring, and loved everyone.  He used to come with me to children's book shows where he was treated like a big teddy bear which he adored.  He was a Golden Retriever.

Puma was my dog...aloof with most people. Very gentle and if a dog attacked her she just stood still and looked at her.

I never knew her retaliate, even once when bitten by a Jackie that raced out of a gate. She walked on bleeding
with her nose in the air which rather baffled him. She adored puppies and once stole four kittens and cuddled them, rather to their mother's dismay. They were too young to know fear.

Chita was very much my dog and though a villain at first she turned into a trooper...a real team mate and we had a lot of fun together. She kept me active as she needed at least three hours exercise each day or she was impossible to live with until she was about twelve.

Josse with me was the sweetest dog imaginable. But he had to be watched as he did not trust people. He had very good reason not to, as he had not been well treated in his five of his six homes.

His first owner died when the dog was nine months old and he changed hands five times before he came to me at just under two we think.

* Do you have any books or more information people can get about you?

Training books.

-A Puppy in the Home.
-How to rear Puppies without Aggression.
-So you want your bitch to have Puppies.
-Have fun with your dog ( training without tears)
-Who's Boss? How to live in harmony with your Dog.
-A Dog's Guide to Buying Humans. ( Cartoons and fun).
-A Dog beside Me.  ( A collection of published poems about dogs.)
-How to Own a Sensible Dog.

Books about my own dogs.

Two's Company. Two for Joy. Three's a Pack. A dog in a million. Dog Days. Double or Quit.

About me:

-Member of the United Kingdom Registry of Canine Behaviourists.
-Member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.
-Member of the Canine and Feline Advisory Centre.
-President of People and Dogs Society ( PADS)
-President of Canine Concern ( England).
-Patron of the Canine Epilepsy Support Group.
-Short listed ( four on list) in 1992 for the Golden Bone Award for Dog Writer of the Year.

I write regular articles for magazines such as Dog Training Weekly. I hope to write at least two more dog books but it is not easy to find publishers these days.

* What are your thoughts on dog events where dogs are shown like 'Crufts' here in the UK? -the good and the bad-

I think events like Cruft's are fine for the right dog. I took Puma twice and she hated every minute; too noisy, too hot, too many dogs and she was a country dog. 

But if you have the right dog, as for show jumping you need a show off horse, then I see no reason to oppose them.

I find dog training far more fun when I ignore the needs for showing; we can do all sorts of things that they don't do in shows.

Recall over ten hurdles and through a tunnel. Retrieve over a hurdle. Send the dog away over a hurdle.

Agility worries me as a lot of dogs are thrust into it too soon, not muscled up correctly or warmed up before jumping and liable to injury.

Also a lot of dogs don't like the din and yelling that can go on. Again you need the right dog but if a dog doesn't like it it doesn't seem to me fair to the dog to force it into a situation that it finds upsetting.

You cant train every dog to top standard however good a trainer you are.

Many dogs that are at Cruft's are something like twentieth dogs for their owners. One worked at Cruft's when Janus was ten; during  that time the owner had had twenty dogs and discarded most as useless at about two years old.

In such cases the handler's ego has priority; the dog is just a tool, and only appreciated if he proves to be a top dog.

As in the Breed ring I have always objected to judges who say of a dog that they didn't give a prize to,  'I threw him out with the rubbish.'

To me a dog is a unique character whether he is a mongrel or a pedigree. Every puppy is a miracle and  new adventure, and who knows where that will lead?

All my dogs were rungs on a ladder that led to what I do now. Each teaching me how to deal with the next in a better way than before.

* What's the basic philosophy/psychology behind good, long-term dog training, for optimal results?

I would put the basic philosophy for good dog training down to kindness, commitment, consistency, caring, dedication, open mindedness as new ideas may often open up something that seemed impossible, and learning as much as
possible of the way a dog thinks... which is not as we think.

* Do you think it's wise, and advantageous to learn about pack hierarchy in the wild, with Wolves? Can we learn from watching a Wolf packs behaviour, etc?

I am not sure that pack hierarchy in the wild is even the same as pack hierarchy in a Zoo environment. 

I do however think that the more we learn about the ways of animals the better we are able to think about those in our care.  But we have so altered the dog environment that what applies in the wild may well not apply here. I am not sure about this.

I often wonder about puppy tests. Most of those I test have been civilised before I test them. They are used to humans and human homes.  Suppose they and the mother were left in the wild? Would I get the same results? I am pretty sure not.

* How would you advise someone on teaching their dog to stop chasing cats, for good?

I stop chasing by getting the dog to do very solid stays and not move under any circumstances. Stay while other dogs play around them. Stay while people play ball. Stay while I watch a football match. (local schools). And to be able to call 'stay' as the dog runs.

I have stopped my dog chasing rabbits and pheasants this way  (they are a daily occurrence in my garden in the middle of fields)  and do it with sheep and bicycle and car chasers,
though I do recommend even a trained dog is never left off lead near farm animals... It needs lots of practice.


* Any Last comments you'd like to add that you feel strongly about or you feel are important issues, in relation to dog training/behavior?

As to how I feel about other dog issues:

I wish everyone knew that it is unwise to buy a puppy from a place where it and the litter and mother are kept in kennel, barn or stable without any other interaction.

They need to know a great deal before sold to be successful, to trust humans, to see other animals, to know about gardens and trees and wind and traffic.

I have a friend who breed Golden Retrievers. I wish everyone did as she does. We worked out a puppy routine and a pappy pack to go with the pup when sold.

They go out in the car from four weeks on in a box...they visit bank, pet shop and hairdresser.

They see humans of all ages and sizes, for coffee, lunch, tea. The are in a room with radio, washing machine and freezer so know about noises They know about lights going on and off. 

They know about curtains being drawn.  They live with five big dogs, so have five mothers. When they are sold each has its own pedigree and the necessary Kennel Club

It also has a soft toy it has had as its own for the past week plus a  piece of blanket on which it slept with the litter the night before it was sold.

A photo of is first day with mum and litter, of the day before
it was sold, and of its father. A month's supply of food in case it isn't available in its new district; and a copy of my booklet A Puppy in the Home.

Also a diet sheet and an exercise sheet as pups don't need a lot of hardens their muscles which clamp on to soft bones and can give serious leg problems later.

I have also tested each puppy and written a profile on it which goes with it.
e.g. 'This pup is a bit wary of new things...needs a lot of re-assurance'.

or 'This is a cocky little fellow who must be put in his place or he will rule the roost.'

This ought to be common practice but it isn't.

I can usually tell when dogs come for training, without being told,  where the pup came from, whether a good breeder who socialised, or a breeder who kept dogs in kennels and though well fed and looked after, they don't know much; or a pet shop, a dealer, or a puppy farm. And that is a fast road to disaster.

I want the dogs that come to be to be as well loved by their neighbours as they are by their owners and not, as one owner said of her dog, 'A headache on four legs.'

Joyce  Stranger