The National Dog Behaviour Conference 2018

Where do you find a stellar line up of canine professionals in one place sharing ideas to improve dogs lives??  At the National Dog Behaviour Conference that’s where!!

It was my first time attending this event which is hosted by Victoria Stilwell and her Positively team (www.positively.com) however the event itself is now in its fifth year and continues to attract top names from the canine training and behavioural industry.

It is a two-day event attended by likeminded dog lovers who all want to improve dogs lives in a positive way.  There were dog trainers, dog behaviourists, dog walkers, dog groomers, vets, vet nurses, rescue workers and volunteers, all whom want to help dogs cope better in a human world.

It’s also a great place to meet up with old friends (my fellow Victoria Stilwell Academy graduates) and make new ones!

We were spoilt with a top line up of sponsors such as Pet Remedy, Butternut Box, K9 Connectables and Feelwells who were on hand to discuss their products…I came away with some fantastic new goodies to try with my clients!!

Here is a summary of the topics discussed across the 2 days

Sarah Fisher – Rethinking trigger stacking

If you have a passion for dog behaviour you MUST attend an event where Sarah is speaking.  She is an inspiration in the new wave of dog training.  She talked in detail about TTouch instructor Edie-Jane Eaton’s ‘candle concept’.  This is about observing our dogs to look for triggers (or candles) that could be causing behavioural issues and how we ‘snuff’ these candles out to help dogs cope and therefore behave better (whilst being careful we don’t light others in the meantime).  This could be looking at whether a dog is in pain or discomfort, their diet, their environment, our own body language and behaviour plus many other factors.

She talked through some case studies such as Pupagano from the BBC1 series Nightmare Pets SOS in which she featured as the behaviourist (you can watch it in the link below) plus her experiences with young Henry who came to her for help after everything else had failed.


Dr John Bradshaw – If dogs love us so much, how must they feel when we live them behind?

Dr John has written many books about dogs and dog behaviour and it was an honour to hear him speak. One of the most common behavioural issues that owners face is separation distress when they leave the house.

He talked about the human issue of ‘Anthropomorphism’ which in simple terms means we think of our dogs as little humans and attribute our ways of thinking and behaviours to them when they are a completely different species, this can result in us interpreting their actions incorrectly.

4 out of 5 dogs suffer from separation distress but will show it in different ways.  Some defecate, some chew, some bark, some do nothing (doesn’t mean they aren’t stressed).  The behaviours exhibited are coping mechanisms and unfortunately many dogs get punished for this when their owner returns which only increases the stress and anxiety they feel when left alone.

He talked passionately about prevention is better than cure and my job as a trainer is to educate my clients on how to avoid separation distress developing by putting measures in place from puppyhood.

You can find out more about this topic by clicking here


Jo Pay – Creative enrichment; how to keep a busy dog busy

Jo is a fantastic trainer and behaviourist and is also the European co-ordinator for the Victoria Stilwell Academy.  She is the proud owner of 2 Border Collies and talked in detail about the techniques she uses to enrich her dogs lives through training, play and other mental stimulation alongside physical activity.   As our dogs get older, it is even more pertinent to think about how we keep their brains active when their bodies start to slow down however mental stimulation and enrichment is vital at any age.  See my blog on enrichment for more info


Pam Mackinnon – Handle with care; how to be your dog’s best teammate

Pam is an expert in Scent work and talked with passion about the role of the handler in Scent work and how this activity can enrich both dogs and their owners lives and improve their bond.  After all smell is a dog’s primary sense so let them use it to have fun!

She did some great demos with her fab dogs Cherry and Ella who worked the audience perfectly!

Chirag Patel – Chirag’s case studies

Another star of BBC 1’s Nightmare Pet’s SOS and a world-nouned behaviourist, Chirag talked us through some case studies about how offering your dog choice to communicate to us can build a more trusting relationship and help change behaviour.  We also had some great demos from his own dog Cody!

Sian Ryan – Self-control or good habits?  Understanding and building a well-behaved dog

Sian took us on a journey of understanding impulsivity, self-control, frustration and habit formation and the impact these habits can have on our dogs.  She gave us practical ideas to share with clients for incorporating simple exercises into the daily lives of their dogs