Midge Hall Secure Dog Field

7th April

Yesterday we took a trip over to Midge Hall Secure Dog Field! It's a great way for the dogs to let off some steam and also practice our group recalls! It was a little bit muddy (thanks weather) but they have a handy onsite hose to rinse the dogs, and your boots off!

It's a bargain price for an hours uninterrupted exercise.

If you like the sound of that, head over to their booking page and bag yourselves a slot!

Happy International Bull Terrier Day! 

1st April 2024

Is there really a better day to celebrate the Bull Terrier?! 

Happy National Terrier Day!

Every year on 27th March here at Nell and Co, we celebrate National Terrier Day! Both Four and Venom are the forerunners this year!


March 20th 2024

This is a great quote, from a long disappeared article, that is especially relevant with the ever increasing number of dogs (and humans!). It both applies to human and dog interaction as well as your dogs interaction with other dogs.

"So, if you want to greet someone’s dog, ask; and whatever their answer is, respect it and don’t take it personally because it’s not intended in that manner. Most dog owners are not indiscriminate jerks, and if a person says, “no,” there is likely a reason — the dog doesn’t feel comfortable being touched by strangers, the person is in a hurry, the dog is working, the dog is in training, the dog may bite you."

Let's talk rewards!

March 15th 2024

If you hadn't already noticed, here at Nell and Co, we are reward based trainers aka force free. Now, we know some people aren't fond of this kind of training, but it works for us!

When we talk about reward based training, people tend to instantly think we only use food and that, in turn, leads to "won't my dog get fat?". The answer to that is no, not unless you are feeding them more food than they require! Using food to train doesn't automatically mean your dog will gain 10kg and become a footstool. Ideally what you should be doing if you are using food to train is reduce their intake at a meal or meals, not feed them a meal at all or burn off the excess calories via exercise. 

The type of food is also important, not so much to us but to the dog. If you're trying to train using the same old food, they're going to get bored, hell they might not even particularly like it, so mix it up! We aren't saying go out and spend £50 on the latest canine cupcakes, but what you feed, plays a part in what you get effort wise from your dog(unless your dog is literally a dustbin like Flint, but most aren't!).

Cost can play a huge factor in your choice of food, more so now when it can be a choice between turning your lights on or buying a loaf of bread, so handy tip, take some of the regular kibble, put it in a jar or container with a few small cubes of cheese, a chopped cocktail sausage or chopped up dried sprat and instantly turn your boring old kibble into a canine delicacy (the sprat works especially well, it stinks).

That's enough about food (though you better all be dishing some kibble into a container now and adding something stinky to it!), Other ways to reward your dog, because not all dogs will work for food, are with play - ideally a game involving you, something where the interaction is directly with you, so you are the source of the fun. Playing with a tuggy is a good one, or using a ball on a rope so you can throw it and it doubles as a tuggy. Play does take some skill but if your dog has a favourite toy, use it for training!

The lesser talked about reward is using another behaviour.  Confused? Let us explain.

Some dogs really like sniffing, so sniffing can be used as a reward, bob a cue on it when they aren't working and are having a general nosey in the undergrowth (for example "go sniff!") And, with enough repetition, you can use it as a reward for working! Maybe your dog really likes spins and twists? Those can also be used as rewards!

We would still recommend using a combination or rewards, it keeps things fun and interesting, it also means if you have a selection of things you use, when your dog does something amazing or nails that behaviour on the third attempt, you have a range of reward and can go with the one your dog loves the most, rather than offering something that isn't quite so high value.

What do you all use as rewards and what is your dogs highest value one?!

Stuck with your training?

March 9th 2024

Something not looking like you imagined, or not working out, doesn't mean you've failed! If something didn't work or you got something you weren't expecting, try take a step back and figure out how it happened.

Try looking at equipment placement, where you rewarded, when you marked, if you skipped some steps to a behaviour, if you are rushing them because you really want them to do it (but they aren't quite ready)..

There can be many, or just one variable as to why things just aren't clicking. Sometimes it's easier to see where you're going wrong and others, you can't see any reason that something isn't working!

One thing that can help with this is filming your sessions.

Filming your training is not just helpful for seeing how training is going or for problem solving, it's also a great way to track your progress and keep a catalogue of what you and your dog know and can do!

Another great reason to film your training is that it makes it much easier to receive feedback and ask for help, or even to showcase how pleased you are with the work you are both doing!

Another option is asking for feedback from other people. Having someone else helping you train or to talk through training with, can be invaluable too! Especially if you don't like the idea of filming! Use you can use your attendance to a class, a one to one, online classes, Facebook groups or a mate to offer constructive and helpful feedback!

Having another set of eyes on a session can mean they might see something you've missed or not noticed, they might make suggestions on how to try tweaking what you're doing, they might have an entirely different way you can try and train, maybe they'll be as puzzled as you but, two heads are better than one when it comes to brainstorming!

The important thing is that you don't give up. That doesn't mean you can't leave an exercise for now and do something else for a while but whatever you do, don't quit completely!

If you are hitting a wall in your training, reach out. If you are struggling with something, ask for help or another point of view. Hell, just ask someone for a chat so you can have a rant! It doesn't always have to be around training! Everyone, at some point will have hit that same point you are at, or they will have broken a behaviour they already had. Absolutely NOBODY is perfect, even trainers make mistakes.

Mistakes (should!) help us learn, don't view them as a failure, try viewing them another way to track progression and a way of skilling up!

So, rather than struggling on alone, reach out, send the trainer a message, join that Facebook group or sign up to that class!

Training: Competitive Obedience

March 4th 2024

In light of it being Crufts week, we will take a look at Obedience!

Usually seen and thought of as a boring sport, it's actually only as boring as you make it!

Let's try and reframe it. Most of the exercises you can probably do! The competition versions just require more precision. We have walking to heel on and off lead and recall in Pre Beginners, and in Beginners and novice, all that plus a retrieve. In the higher levels, you have send to a place, sit/down/stand at a distance, walking at different paces and positions on the move.

Really, it's the extreme sports version of what you learn in a puppy class!

Every exercise needed for competition, you can teach without it being boring. For you or the dog!

Every exercise can be broken down into bitesized chunks so that you can get the precision (and speed in some exercises!) needed for the full behaviour you are training, If you keep it fun and exciting, your dog will find it fun and exciting, which makes you feel like its rewarding, which makes you reward them, then the circle continues.

You can add speed to your reward, play after they nail a position, have a food circuit, throw some tricks in, make what you're training a game and STILL come out of it with the precision you need.

Sure, it's not as simple as a few games and you have the best obedience dog, it does take a lot (we mean an awful lot) of training, but like we mentioned in a previous post, training sessions don't have to be an hour long! They can be a short five minute session a couple of times a day, or one commerical break sessions. It all counts!

And just because you train it, doesn't mean you have to rush to compete. Whilst working on nailing the precision and tidying up your exercises, you can go and check out shows without your dog, or take your dog to get you both used to the venues, see what's involved and get speaking to people.

Then, even when you want to try out competing, you don't have to enter to work, you can go in and train!

This is a fantastic way to proof what you've been training, get your dog competition ready, build their confidence or get them used to working in a ring!

You don't even have to do the full competition round, most judges when asked will allow you to do a training round! At BCOS, they even have an award for the best training round!

All the Nell and Co crew are involved in our Obedience training. Nell will never enter anything competition wise, but ask her to come into heel and she will slam into you, because we've made it one of the most rewarding places to be! Flint, Four and Schwarz also love training, Schwarz especially so! His entire demeanor changes when training, he is most confident when doing anything obedience related, he knows the exercises, he knows it's fun and rewarding, who wouldn't love it!

So why not give it a try?!

Training and Patience

Feb 29th 2024

Patience. Everyone has some, some more than others, and it's one thing that is very easy to lose!

Context: Training your dog(s).

There are infinite reasons why, during training you can lose your patience, not all of them are down to the dog. In fact, most of them are down to us. Unless it's a full moon. That one is definitely not under anyone's control😅

The most frequent reason may *look* like your dog is being a huge pain in the arse, being stubborn or ignorant, or doing it on purpose. In actual fact, the problem is usually down to communication.

Or unclear communication.

Somewhere between what you picture or think you want/are asking from them and what the dog thinks you want, there is missing information. It might just be a little or it might be a chasm.

Maybe it's your type of or lack of reward, maybe it's your reward placement?

Maybe you thought they were getting "it" so skipped ahead?

Maybe they're having a bad day, not feeling it or are in pain. Or maybe you are experiencing one or all of these things?

These can all or do impact communication.

Let's take a look at type of rewards. We have praise/interaction with human, food and toys.

Some dogs are ok with praise, highly foodie or have a favourite toy and will work forever for these things. Sometimes though, what we *think* our dog classes as high value (aka best thing ever), isn't actually what *they* think.

If you LOVED chocolate, and someone wanted to pay you in chocolate to learn a new skill, for a while, that might be ok. But what if it was a choice between chocolate or money?

Sure, you love chocolate but if there is something that has more worth to you, and someone keeps paying you in chocolate, you're going to get a bit bored, in fact you will probably get so bored with the chocolate that it actually puts you off doing the work.

Yes, rewards can actually discourage work. So, try to change things up. Don't think that just because they usually work for one thing, that offering something else can't get you a better outcome and a more motivated dog!

Let's skip ahead to skipping ahead😅

Some dogs can generalise really well, most don't. You've probably all said at some point "well, my dog does it at home". And they might, but did you take it straight from there and throw them into a busy high street to train, or did you take the training back to basics and start again in new environments?

Did you see something you wanted to train that consisted of a few behaviours your dog can already do so just went for the end result, or did you take time to slowly link them little steps at a time and show they what you would like?

(Or do you have a dog at the other end of the scale, who knows many behaviours and is trying to guess what you now want and throwing all sorts of unwanted things out, in this instance I would separate things down still and slow them down so that they have to pay attention rather than guessing aka Flint!)

The final maybes..sometimes, they just aren't in the mood, or we aren't. So don't train, or do train but do things they already know, or do some smaller steps, get a couple of repetitions in and end the session, do some enrichment, or do nothing. Doing nothing is better than damaging a relationship or ruining any work you have already done!

Pain is similar. Pain makes it harder to concentrate, certain movements can exacerbate it and, let's face it, even in people who have an abundance of patience, pain will make grumpy!

Why not ask if your dog wants to train? Sounds a bit stupid but it actually works with some dogs. If, before everyone session you ask if they want to train, that becomes a cue to them that you are going to do something fun with them (just like picking the dogs lead or saying "walkies" is a cue you're going out😉). If you are going to start this, be aware that if they don't move off the sofa, it's probably for one of the👆🏻reasons, so don't push it, take it as a no, and ask again later.

Also give them an opt out. This takes some concentrated effort from you, as this is usually the point where patience is lost. YOU will need to look at what your dog is saying, it could be they've had enough, in which case, end the session. It could be you're boring them or the reward is boring, in which case, try switching something up or end the session.

It could be that you have skipped steps and need to figure out at which point they understood, where you lost them and if you can add in more steps, but you can end the session whilst you figure that out😉

Our long winded point? Training is about communication, and because they don't speak English, WE need to look at what they might be saying, or we might be doing that isn't working, and adjust what we say and do, until they do understand. Even if that means cutting a session short until we figure it out!

Keeping Training FUN!

Feb 24th 2024

Training is serious business, or so it can seem...

When you see people training, it can look very serious. There is a lot of precision to some training, the dogs can be under immense physical (and mental!) pressure, each incremental step of something may be painstakingly being trained, the concentration needed from you and your dog requires a lot of effort, there are written (and unwritten) rules and regulations...the list could go on and on.

BUT and it's a big one, that doesn't mean you can't have or make things fun whilst training! Even in the (probably) most serious (and mythically, boring) of sports, where it can be almost impossible to see anyone smile, ever, you can keep training fun!

Comp Obedience, we're looking at you.

Now, here at Nell and Co, this is our main sport. We aren't offended if you think it looks boring as hell and that it seems akin to a Dementor in its soul sapping.

We would also politely disagree with you that it is.

Sure, we have a serious comp face, it's hard to do anything but have a straight face when you're trying to concentrate on breathing, listening to instructions, walk in a straight line, not fall over and hoping your dog decides today is a good day to work. We also train hard and put a lot (or a little, depends on the day!) Time into our training but we try to keep it fun, for all of us, more so the dogs, we *want* them to think it's the best sport on the planet, we want them to think it's fun, so we have to make it fun.

You're all probably wondering how you can make anything like this fun. It's easy. You need to add the fun in. You can use food, toys, play, whatever you want that brings enjoyment to your dog!

Speed things up, slow them down, make rewards fast, drag the reward out, keep them thinking, throw the reward forward, make them jump for it, reward behind, throw a trick in, make your retrieve interesting, recall them and turn it into a game of chase...all these things can make (what appear to be "dull") exercises, fun and exciting.

Then keep doing these things but ask them to work for a little longer, then a little longer, then do it in a practice ring, then go and practice in public parks and places, then ask them to work for a little longer and do it all again...all the time making sure you reward them at some point to keep it fun!

This doesn't just apply to obedience, making work and training fun, works in all training and dog sports!

Whose dog wouldn't want to train with you?!

Make and keep it fun for your dog, they'll make and keep it fun, and rewarding for you!

Proofing your Training

Feb 18th 2024

How many times have you gone to a class, been asked if your dog can do X behaviour and then when it comes to showing that they can, your dog has sat there with a blank look on their face?

It should be called the "my dog can do it home" phenomenon. 

You know they can do it there, trainers know they can probably do it there!

The reason they suddenly can't do it in a class? 

Dogs don't conceptualise very well. If all your training is done at home, thats potentially the only place they can do those behaviours. They haven't "clicked" that if you ask for "sit", it means whenever you ask for it. They think it means bum hits floor at home.

How to solve the "they do it at home" phenomenon?

Once you've got them doing something spot on, every time, at home, teach them again in your yard or garden, then that piece of spare land near the carpark, then on the park when it's quiet, then when it's busy.

This is what's known as "proofing" a behaviour.

All this essentially means is that you've practiced doing the behaviour with different distractions and in different places, so that your dog should be able to perform said behaviour anywhere, which means they've grasped the concept

At first you might have to show them what you mean multiple times in each new location, eventually though, you have to spend less time showing them and they can skip ahead a few steps to the end behaviour!

Let's talk Muzzles

Feb 12th 2024

There are a lot of misconceptions about muzzles, so along with going through a few different types, we're going to try help clear some of those misconceptions up!

Dogs can wear muzzles for many reasons, some don't like other dogs or people, or have been bred to chase down small fluffy animals, some are scavengers, some like to play a bit too rough with their friends, some may have an injury and for some it can be used as a deterrent to try and reduce the number of people approaching their perfectly well balanced dog, as they would just like to crack on with their walk.  

Here at Nell and Co, all our dogs are muzzle trained, even Flint. 

The most important things about muzzles are: training your dog to wear one, making sure they have room to pant and drink, and that it is well fitting.

A poorly fitted muzzle will not only be uncomfortable for your dog, but you also risk it slipping off or being able to be removed by your dog, which defeats the purpose.

There are a couple of great videos on YouTube, one by the Blue Cross and one by Chirag Patel showing you how to get started with training.

We will come back to getting a well fitting one when we go through makes and types.

Now, some dogs only need a muzzle short term or for occasional use (like a vet visit), but some will be long term wearers. 

This doesn't mean you haven't put enough training in or that there is something wrong with your dog, what it means is you continue to be a responsible dog owner and protect your dog.

I can hear you all wondering how muzzle wearing protects YOUR dog. Well, using the example of your dog scavenging, if your dog can't get to the food, you're saving yourself a vets bill because they've eaten a rotting seagull carcass! If your dog doesn't like other dogs, it reduces the likelihood of them being able to bite a dog that's invading their space, saving a vets bill and your dog potentially getting seized. If you own an ex racing greyhound, it prevents your dog taking out the neighborhood cats, again, it protects you and your dog for vets, bills and legal action!

Now, there are many different types of muzzles available, from basket to mesh to full vented plastic. The only one your dog shouldn't be wearing outdoors or whilst exercising are the MESH ones that pin your dogs mouth closed, (unless your dog is injured and/or as part of some treatment a vet has said they need to wear it) and with this, you also need to bear in mind that whilst your dog is wearing a muzzle, it isn't a 100% failsafe. Things can still go wrong, and a muzzle punch from a dog wearing one, can still cause damage, it could break, or they could get it snagged and come out of it, but, back to types!

Firstly, measure your dog! You will need circumference measurements of their muzzle (snout), both at the end and closest to their eyes, neck measurement, the distance from the back of their neck down to the start of their muzzle and the length of their muzzle.

Now, some dogs fall outside all muzzle makers sizing, even the bespoke makers, this is especially true for brachycephalic breeds, like Pekingese, Pug and Shih tzu, the main company who seem to be able to make ones suitable are Jafco.

The easiest and most affordable to get hold of are Baskerville (black) usually these fit wider headed dogs better, and Company of animals (tan) which tend to fit slender faced dogs better. They are available from Pets at Home, who have a policy whereby you can purchase one, take it to your car to try on your dog, and if it's the wrong size, go back in and swap it (and repeat until you find one that fits), or you can take your dog in and try them on (muzzle training games beforehand will help with this!).

There are also metal basket muzzles available that can be picked up in select pet stores and online.

Next, there are Sighthound/Lurcher muzzles, these tend to be much longer in the snout with deeper openings and made from plastic, these are usually available online, especially from Sighthound charities who sell them as part of fundraising. These also tend to come in many colours, and have a closed ended option.

Now we move onto the more expensive versions, which, if your dog is wearing a muzzle long term, can be a good investment (unless your dog shuns their bespoke one, eh Nell🤦🏻‍♂️).

We have Bumas, who make made to measure using biothane, comes in a variety of colours, and can have extra straps put in if your dog scavenges. Muzzle Movement who's are a soft rounded rubber, similar to Baskerville but a lot more spacious and soft, come in a variety of pastel colours, with biothane straps available in a wider range of colours and finally, Jafco, who make theirs similar to the basket but it is instead a vinyl or polyethelene vented "box", comes in limited colours, but is the most bite proof/resistant.

So, as you can see, when it comes to muzzles, there are as many reasons to a dog wearing one, as there are companies who make them (for most breeds!). 

They don't always mean a dog is vicious, they shouldn't pin your dogs mouth closed*, a muzzle trained dog can be a life saver in an emergency, they can come as plain or brightly coloured as you would like and a muzzled dog means they have a responsible owner!

If you would like some help with muzzle training and the videos we mentioned above aren't helping, please drop us a message as we will be happy to try and help!

Training: Let's talk Scentwork!

Feb 5th 2024

Many of you have probably heard about Scentwork (or you've seen us post about our classes on here!) but, let's delve a little deeper into this sport!

This sport utilises your dogs most powerful sense, their sense of smell! 

Dogs have more olfactory receptors than humans. They have around 200-300 million, compared to our 6 million!

Explains why when you've just tried to sneakily inhale that biscuit, they know!

Similarly to Mantrailing, it's a sport that doesn't need much in the way of specialist equipment, is accessible and open to all breeds and handlers, open to all abilities, and it's great for reactive or anxious dogs!

There are several Scentwork companies out there, who all teach slightly differently but the overall outcome is the same: you pair your dog to a scent, they search for it, then let you know when they've located the source of the scent!

The majority of companies teach a passive or freeze indication, which means when the dogs find the scent source they stop and "point" to the source, predominantly with either a nose target or a sit/down.

A few companies, along with Competitive Obedience, also teach an active indication, which means your dog finds the source and retrieves it!

I bet many of you probably didn't know that you already do a variation on the Scentwork taught in classes! Hiding treats or a toy for your dog, is Scentwork!

You can pair your dog to any scent (as long as it's not toxic or aversive to the dog!), but if you wanted to get some work in before joining a class, the most frequently used scents for passive searching are Kong (the red one only), Clove, Tea and  Napier Gun oil.

Here at Nell and Co we predominantly now use Napier Gun oil but we can and do use both Kong and tea! If you wanted to join a class and had already paired your dog with a different scent, you are more than welcome to use yours, as that's exactly why we now use tea in some of our sessions!

Three huge benefits with Scentwork are: 

It's portable. 

You can take it ANYWHERE! All you need is some of your chosen scent. Going on holiday? Want to add something extra to a walk? Haven't been able to get out due to the weather? Dog is on limited exercise? Spice up their day with some Scentwork. The more imaginative you can be, the more fun it will be for your dog!

It's tiring! 

Did you know that by doing around 15 minutes of Scentwork is equivalent to a 60 minute walk?! So if you have a dog that you are struggling to tire out, ditch the walk and do some Scentwork!

It's confidence building. This is the biggest one for us. If you have an especially anxious or reactive dog, Scentwork can be used to help them build confidence. Due to all the training being at the dogs pace, and being able to adapt the environment to suit the dog, you can 100% set them up for success, add or remove distractions, increase and decrease the difficulty, accept a longer or shorter indication, all the session is about the dog being successful, and being successful increase confidence! Giving the dog a job, that they know they can do, makes them more resilient too! So if they are worried about people, you can slowly add those in. The same with if they're anxious around other dogs, you can start to add one dog into your session, at a distance, and then work on bringing that dog closer, with your dog still being able to work.

We have many anxious, excitable or reactive dogs join us in our Scent classes, all have increased in confidence and some of them can work with other dogs in the class, some can't, but all these things are ok! We think everyone should be able to attend a class!

This is why one of our main classes is Scentwork and open to all dogs. Every session can be run with one dog working at a time, then, if they are ready, we can work on adding something or someone else into that session but only when your dog is ready!

We have both indoor and outdoor sessions, along with afternoon and evening sessions. We can also offer them as a One to One if you cannot get to a class!

Training: Classes Vs One to One

Jan 29th 2024

Both have their pros and cons, so let's delve right into some of those, starting with classes!

Classes: Pros: Usually the easiest to find and full of like minded people! Great for social networking, a fantastic way to teach your dog that they can't interact with every dog they meet, a good way to train with distraction, you can see progression over the weeks, equipment is usually provided, seeing others work can help you with your training/problem solving, people might ask questions you hadn't thought of, usually cheaper than one to one training, some have a one dog in working at a time policy so that if you have an anxious or reactive dog, you can still be part of the social aspect and finally, there are so many different classes available that there is something for everyone.

Cons: Can be about numbers through the door rather than customer service, can be overwhelming or unsuitable for your dog if they are anxious or reactive, you don't get much time with the trainer, you might not gel with the other people, there might be too many distractions for your dog, your dog might not like classes (it happens!) And you might not like them.

One to ones: Pros: You get the full attention of the trainer, you can ask as many questions as you like without worrying what someone might think, the session should be tailored to you, your learning style and your dog, you get a write up of what's been covered, you can choose the environment you train at, you can choose what you would like to work on, great for starting training with anxious and reactive dogs, you can see progression over the sessions and a good way to get extra training or work on foundations before joining a class.

Cons: No social networking, you have to spend the entire time with the one trainer, can be too overwhelming with information, the environment might be ideal for your dog, you might feel more anxious because you are the only person there, there are less predictable distractions, they are usually more expensive than classes and it can be hard to have something demonstrated.

As you can see, there are some really great pros and cons for both classes and one to ones and there will be more you could probably add to each list!

We love both types of training, classes are great, even though we are not so secret introverts here, we do still like small social groups, they are a great way to expand your social circle, they are good for working with distraction and working on proofing some of your training. We also think one to one training is great because sometimes, we want that extra personal training, with no or fewer distractions, we may want to work on something outside of class, we might need extra help with something, we might just not be feeling up to being in a class (or our dog might not!).

If you were reading the class section, you may have noticed we mentioned a one dog working at a time type of training.

We really like this style, it is a great way of bridging one to ones with classes, or if you want to make sure your dog can cope in a class environment, it can be a great way to get them prepared. It also means for the time that your dog is in class, you get the full attention of the trainer, so they are more likely to pick up on anything you may need tweaking and tailor your part of the session to your and your dog. It's also a good way for to meet other dog people, especially if you have an anxious or reactive dog who isn't ready for a full class, you get the benefit of watching others work their dogs, and can still have a matter with them, and there is a possibility that they have been through something similar on their dog owning journey. Peer support should never be underestimated!

Naturally, there can be similar cons to a one dog working session as there are for classes and One to Ones but they a really good gateway between the two!

The downside is that not every trainer can offer sessions that run like this or many sessions and classes but it's worth asking your trainer if they can, or if they offer classes with smaller numbers. 

Here at Nell and Co all our classes are kept to smaller numbers and we can run a one dog working sessions for our Scent classes and weekend workshops!

Training: Old Dog, New Tricks

Jan 21st 2024

Whilst we don't disagree that as our dogs get older, they should be able to enjoy doing a little less, this doesn't mean that they can't learn tonnes of new behaviours and skills!

Whether you are fostering/adopting an older dog or yours is getting on a bit and becoming a bit too much of a couch potato (and beginning to look like one!) There are so many fun things you can do to keep them active, get them thinking and add a bit of a challenge to their day!

Contrary to popular belief you CAN actually teach an older dog, new "tricks". It might take testing out a few different types of training or activities, and you might have to do it all in baby steps and be very very patient, but you can both learn more things at any age! So we're going to give you some ideas!

As our resident OAP, Nell still joins in lots of things! Sometimes we don't have the choice because she will barge in wanting in on the action, but mostly, she enjoys a challenge, so why not keep teaching her too? Anything we learn at workshops from other trainers, we try out with Nell too, we may not always ask for as much precision, but we still have a go! It doesn't always go well and she might switch to throwing out her favourite tricks, but as long we are working together, we don't really mind!

She still gets to go Mantrailing, we don't always do a mega long trail, we don't always start on only a scent article,  but we still get out there as a team and trail. 

Sometimes we use Nell to see how we can adapt something to teach someone else, and sometimes, we just shout "Sprinkles" and throw a handful of food all over the floor

Sometimes you might have to make adjustments to what you want to do with them, especially if they're getting a bit slower and stiffer. Just because they may be a bit "well aged" doesn't mean they should miss out or you should stop training completely.

If you have taught them any tricks, for example paw, spin, down, dead, you can, rather than reward each trick, see if you can chain them together to make a longer behaviour before rewarding, or teach them to give you a back paw, spin the other way...or maybe you did lots of obedience with them and want to add another dimension to your heelwork, make use of that amazing retrieve and send away, spice things up and take a look at Do more with your dogs HUGE tricks list and see how many you can tick off with your dog, and get them a trick title!

You could take up Scentwork, you might not want to go out a class but you can teach variations if it at home. Hide some food or a toy for them and send them searching, get inventive with where you hide it, hide it within something's a nice and affordable way to keep them entertained!

You could go down the enrichment route. If you have used puzzle feeders or licky mats, then did you know that with a little bit of imagination you can make some brain games from things you already have in your house? Your cardboard recycling is a good place to start, save one of your big boxes, throw all your toilet rolls in it, screw all your newspapers up and throw those in too, sprinkle in some treats and boom, free toy. Pinterest has some great ideas for free or low-cost DIY enrichment toys (it's where we get ours from!).

Mantrailing is another way to keep them active and entertained. It doesn't have to be about aiming to do the longest, triple blind, twenty decoy, hard scent article start trail ever known. You can do it for fun, without ever doing a double blind, or you can make it your goal to get to the highest achievement level! That's one of the great things about mantrailing, you can just do you! 

You can just have an afternoon out with some friends, letting your dog enjoy finding their missing person on a trail tailored to you both.

If you want something more active but aren't keen on the idea of Mantrailing, you could give Hoopers a go. This is another sport where you can learn for fun, or to go all out and compete. If you imagine croquet, with no mallet, and the ball is your dog. That's Hoopers! You direct your dog around barrels and through hoops on specially designed courses, at whatever pace your dog wants to go (similar for you, unless your dog wants to run and you can't keep up, but then you get to work on distance handling!).

It's not as easy as it sounds (just ask anyone that has been on our hoopers workshops!) but it is great fun and a nice alternative sport!

Everything here can be done with any age of dog, or you can start doing the foundation work for it. I think we can end up doing a disservice to our older dogs by letting them eat and sleep and just have a potter. Sure if the pottering is their physical limit, then don't push them into doing an intensely physical sport, but we should be doing a little something to enrich their lives and keeping them physically and mentally active for as long as they are capable.

Training: Choosing a Trainer

Jan 16th 2024

There are many, many things to consider when choosing a trainer. Most importantly what training methods they use but also, their personality, what they offer, what times they offer it, do they do online classes, in person, evening, daytime, weekend...

It's all well and good finding a trainer who ethically trains but once you've found them, do you even like them? Could you spend an hour plus in a room with them? Does their laugh make your skin crawl? 

I can hear you questioning why this is important. 

It's important because you will get more from the session if you can stand the person teaching you. You don't have to love them but you do have to at least like them a little bit!

Once that part is out of the way, do they offer what you are looking for?

There is no point wanting to teach your dog X, they only offer Y so you'll go with them anyway. It *is* possible to find one you like that offers what you want to train! 

If you can't find a trainer in your locality that does offer what you're looking for, try reaching out to one and asking if they know one who does, most trainers have a little network where, if they don't offer something, they can recommend someone who does.

Another thing to consider is if you can check things out before doing the thing you've chosen to do. Now, not all trainers will offer this but some, including us here at Nell and Co, do, which is arranging for you to come down to meet us and watch part of a class or session. It's worth asking the trainer you are thinking of going to if they do offer this, so you can see how they train, what they're like in sessions (if you like them!), see some of the other people who train, even chat to a couple (as long as you aren't disturbing the class!) - which is a great way to ice break and reduces your anxiety a little about rocking up to a class full of people you don't know, ask more questions and get a general feel about things.

Sometimes, there isn't a trainer super close to you, if you're lucky, there might be one round the corner, for most of you, there won't be and you'll have to travel. Usually there will be a trainer within 30 mintues to an hour that will have a class on offer that you would like to do, and if there isn't, see if that trainer offers online training or has plans to hold something closer to you, you never know, if there is enough interest, some trainers will and do travel! If all else fails and you really want to do *the thing*, then ask if it's possible for the trainer to offer training you on a 121 basis!

This is usually a little more costly but is strangely better value for money as you have the trainers undivided attention for the full session, can ask as many questions as you like without worrying what anyone else thinks and usually comes with reports and handouts (along with homework!) With the option to contact them outside of sessions too!

Sometimes though, it can be a choice between not doing what you've planned, changing plans or travelling.

Now, travelling isn't always a bad thing, you can meet some amazing people and trainers this way! You do have to factor in travel time and costs but if it's feasible, then go for it!

So no matter what you want to train, there *is* a trainer out there to suit you and your dog!

Training: Not Today, Thank you!

Jan 12th 2024

Sometimes, even the best planned out session can go to pot. You might not be in the mood, your dog might not be in the mood, somewhere in what you are trying to teach, there might be a communication issue and your dog isn't "getting it"...numerous things can and do happen meaning your session looks nothing like you envision.

Let's look at the first two first. 

If you aren't in the mood, don't train! Save your planned session for another day, and either have a day off or switch it to a fun session, do some shaping, play with them but don't train. 

If your dog isn't in the mood, don't train! As above, either save your plan for another day or switch to having some fun, give them a long lasting chew, try something entirely different, switch to something easy and end the short session on a high note.

There is no rule or law that says just because you have a session all planned out, you can't reschedule. Like with finding time to train, things don't always go to plan, it will potentially do more harm than good if you or your dog aren't in the frame of mind to teach or learn, so wait and see if in a few hours you feel more up for it, if not, postpone it again. 

Your dog won't die if you miss a day!

Let's move onto looking at the third reason: Miscommunication.

It can be frustrating for both you as a handler and the dog if, during training, your dog just isn't "getting it". Especially if it's a behaviour you know they know.

In this instance, it's going to need a look at the bigger picture, which can be hard because it could be anything from you skipped some steps in the chain, they have only ever done the behaviour in X place, your body position is different, your tone of voice is different, you went to fast from luring to verbal command, they might be full/bored/tired/need the loo...

There are so many variables for this one, but as the handler, you can narrow this down, some are easier to figure out than others and some will take some experience to recognise but if you are still stood there looking at your dog, and they're stood their looking at you like you've grown another head, end the session!

End it on a high note, have a play or do a food circuit, do some of their favourite behaviours or give them a chew, but end the session.

Then take a breather, grab a brew or a bath, Netflix for a while, do some odd jobs around the house. Give both of you the chance to chill for a while.

Then, when you're chilled, see if there is anything on just some of the things we suggested that could be happening, maybe we're. But only when you're chilled.

Once you've chilled you can look at what was happening with a more clear and open mind, out of the moment. It gives you a learning opportunity that you don't have in your training session. 

It gives you a chance to look at improving your communication, did your dog give you any physical or body language clues you missed when training but in hindsight can now see?

Training should be fun and rewarding for both of you, but communication is paramount to your training, so if it isn't going right, or happening at all, give yourselves a break and look at if there is anything you can tweak or may have overlooked to get going again. When you are both ready!

Training: Going back to basics

Jan 8th 2024

Sometimes, in your training, you need to strip things back, or revisit some foundations. This could be because you rushed something, your dog didn't fully understand and is now stuck, you want to smarten something up, your dog is now too enthusiastic and is moving out of position🤦🏻‍♂️, or if you just want to cement the foundations a little more!

There is never anything wrong with looking at what you're doing and stripping it back down, it can be easier to spot problems and it is definitely easier to fix something if you break it all the way back down and build it back up.

That's what we've been doing with Schwarz !

Since we really worked on play as a reward in combination with food, his drive to do heelwork and obedience training has soared, but with this has come forging forward (the sooner we get to the end the sooner he wins😉 not bad thinking to be fair!) And he is overturning on turns, which really doesn't help us because it was something we let the side down on too with the knackered leg pushing him out, especially on our rights and about turns.

So, we've been working on getting in position, pushing on, and reintroduced our nose touch - then also added in a "follow" cue to give him a focus, so he has to pay attention, rather than assume he knows what we're doing...all without killing off his enthusiasm. 

Away from Schwarz, we had worked on neater footwork, and aiming to walk in straighter lines, so we brought that into this session (hence why we look weird, we are using the mirrors to try and concentrate on our walking😅).

Enthusiasm. This is what we don't want to lose, and whilst he might not look it, Schwarz is very sensitive, and any hint of he is doing something "wrong" (aka, we as the handler haven't communicated clearly what we would like our dog to do) means he will shut down and quit playing.

We have to think on our feet sometimes to make sure he understands what we want, without him getting something "wrong". This is the beauty of stripping something back, there is less chance of miscommunication!

We get the behaviour and they keep the enthusiasm. 

Win win!