Author: Leonie St Clair

Pets Corner: Biting puppies

In the course of lockdown there has been an enormous increase in puppy ownership. Every other call I have had has been from a new owner who is worried and confused by puppy biting.  They ask, is this normal? Surely it should not be this bad? Will I cope? I want to reassure as many new owners as possible that, yes, biting is normal, and, yes, it hurts. The solution involves a consistent and systematic approach by everyone interacting with your puppy. There can be no half measures if you want to nip puppy biting in the bud. Most pups will have had plenty of practice terrorising and roughing up litter mates. It is surprising how intense puppy play can be.  Using needle sharp teeth, pups explore the limits of play and inadvertently hurt each other. Once a pup is hurt, he may snarl and retaliate but often as not he will simply remove himself for a while and the ‘biter’ loses his playmate. Each pup learns very quickly if I want to play with …

Pets Corner: can a dog be too ‘friendly’?

The problem with over- friendly dogs and puppies is something I have written about before, however, with so many of you getting new pups, now feels a good time for a refresh. How can a dog ever be too friendly you ask? To be clear a friendly, relaxed outlook is great, we do not want nervous, uptight dogs and puppies. However, there is friendly and then there is rude, boorish, overbearing behaviour that is erroneously labelled as friendly. Dogs are intelligent enough but they are not capable of self-analysis or reflective thought. A dog is incapable of reasoning that their own behaviour might have caused another dog or person to respond to them in an aggressive manner. There lies the rub. Allow your dog or your puppy to impose itself uninvited onto other dogs and you run the risk of an unfriendly response which in turn may lead your dog to learn other dogs are unreliable, resulting in anxiety and possibly aggression down the line. Of course, some dogs may welcome interactions with most dogs …

Pets Corner: life in lockdown

Leonie St Clair writes Pets Corner for SE Magazines.  Read her latest article here: As I write this it is difficult to know for how much longer lockdown is to continue. A phased return to the workplace in June could still leave significant numbers facing isolation, although it is hoped that by high summer there may be some respite, if only until the autumn. In terms of the impact of the pandemic on pet owners, there has been plenty of online information.  From the government and other reputable sources about managing pets as well as the important fact that pets can carry the virus on their fur and paws, making regular hand washing after contact with your pet a must. Fortunately, dog walking has been viewed as essential exercise and many will have benefitted from this, not least the dogs. However, peering into the future, two possible consequences of lockdown are of particular concern for behaviourists. The first is in igniting or augmenting separation issues in dogs, the second is the impact on socialisation of …

Pets Corner: Scaredy Cats

Separation anxiety is a well- known behaviour issue in the dog world and most dog owners will have heard of it or know someone who’s pet has a problem with being alone. However, it is much less recognised that cats may also suffer forms of distress when they are left by their owners. Cats are viewed as a solitary, less social species than dogs and it is not unusual for owners to go away and have a neighbour feed the cat. For some cats this can work but for others it may cause quite significant distress. Recent research suggests many cats have a much greater need for owner proximity than was thought. This is not to say cats are as dependent on humans as are most dogs but they are not indifferent to the company of owners they have bonded with either. Reasons for separation issues in cats: Certain breeds, like Burmese and Siamese, seem to be more prone to separation issues, as are orphan cats and cats weaned too early (before 8 weeks). Cats …

Pets Corner: Why use a houseline?

  Those of you with autumn pups will now be heading towards dog adolescence and all the challenges that brings. Young dogs often go off the rails at this time and the ‘perfect puppy’ can suddenly morph into ‘Dennis the Menace’. Puppy play biting can try our patience but teenage zoomies- which might involve nipping human body parts as your hound does the wall of death round your living room- can tip us all over the edge. Adolescence is also the time unwanted behaviours like jumping up at guests re-emerge. The teenage brain gets overloaded by the process of growing up and the dogs can seem to regress. As we know, teenagers also tend to push the boundaries and try new things. Young dogs may suddenly refuse to move from a comfy spot on the sofa when asked or go deaf to your recall cue when out in the garden.  Most of these issues are temporary and owners should stick with all and any training through this stage. However, a houseline can become an invaluable …