Sarah Whitehead

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Sarah Whitehead is a behaviour specialist and trainer running a busy practice in the South of England.

Sarah originally trained with John Fisher and became his Head of Practice before his sad death in 1997. She now specialises in resolving behavioural problems in dogs and cats, as well as running the ‘Think Dog’ chain of puppy and dog training classes – with 18 branches now established.

Sarah is an international lecturer and a member of the APBC (Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors), UK APDT, and a Director of Alpha Education - an organisation providing accredited education courses in the field of behaviour and training. (www.thinkdog.org)

She is the author/editor of 23 books on canine and feline behaviour and training. Her books, ‘Puppy Training for Children’ and ‘The Puppy Survival Guide’ are bestsellers in several different languages and her new book published by Hamlyn, called ‘City Dog’ will be out in the Autumn.

Sarah has just launched a new online puppy training programme and is currently working on a new book titled ‘Talk Dog’ – a guide to canine body language and facial expression.

Sarah is a regular contributor to the specialist press, is a feature writer for Dogs Today magazine, and is a frequent guest on many TV and radio programmes.

As well as animal behaviour, Sarah has a special interest in human psychology. She is an NLP Master Practitioner and has a passion for successful strategies in adult learning.

Sarah lives in Berkshire, England, with Windsor, the Golden Retriever, Tao and Jackson – both rescue crosses, and Alex the cat – who rules the roost.

Blog posts by Sarah Whitehead

Conference time!

Wow, so looking forward to the APDT conference in San Francisco next week!

My lectures are planned, my video clips ready to go… now all I have to do is pack and say a long goodbye to my dogs. Surely I'm not the only one with separation anxiety when I go away (that's definitely me, not them!).

Some time ago a friend of mine told me that she thought the age of the conference was over, that the internet was the new mass media and that no one would bother to commit the time, effort and expense to head off to listen to other people speak, no matter how passionate they are about the subject. Clearly

 

Bed-wetters anonymous

Scent marking? Resource guarding? Frustration? Anxiety? Whatever is causing it, I think there’s an unspoken behaviour problem that not even professionals get to hear much about. What is it? Well, if your phone rings and a hesitant owner on the other end says something like, “This is really embarrassing but…” you might take a guess that their dog has peed (or worse) on their bed.

If you have had this happen to you (and I have, albeit a long time ago!), it’s just not something that you want to talk about. Well, that is, until someone else does… then the flood gates (excuse the pun) seem to open.

“Oh, my dog did that as well!”

“I was told it was dominance.”

“ It was awful – the puddle went right through the duvet and soaked into the mattress.”

“I can’t understand it, he’s perfectly house-trained in every other way.”

 
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Hipless Joe Jackson

Introducing Jackson. He’s a Chihuahua x Jack Russell. I know you think that’s a Jackahuahua, but to me it's a Chiwussell.

Here’s how we met.

There I was, doing a practical workshop for trainers at my local welfare centre. There he was, fresh in and anxious, trembling by the kennel bars. Our eyes met, my fingers touched his soft face, took in his shivering form and his attempts to meld himself through the bars to reach me. It was love at first sight.

Once out of the kennel, he proved to be even more charming. Gorgeous with people, cute, bright and sweet. At only five months old he was admittedly, snarling and barking at every other dog in the vicinity, like a miniature whirling dervish, but hey, what’s that amongst friends – it looked to me very much like the symptoms of having been in a kennel environment for last three weeks – and anyway, love is blind!

 

Owie!

They say dogs are good for you. Having just limped into the office with a nasty case of ‘nylabone foot’, I’m beginning to wonder!

If you’ve ever stood on one of these in the dark, in bare feet, I won’t have to explain the pain, the jumping about, or the expletives! And all this after laughing my head off having read about a top footballer who had to take six months off after dropping a jar of peanut butter on his foot. Clearly, karma at work.

Dogs reduce blood pressure in people that are stroking them. Dog owners suffer from fewer minor ailments, such as colds and flu, and many studies have shown that dogs are excellent for human health and well being, both short and long term. However, what nobody ever talks about are the many and various trivial ‘owies’ that dog owners quietly suffer: random toy injuries being just one.

 

View from the castle

OK, well I don’t actually live in Windsor castle, but close enough to see it out of my upstairs window!

Windsor is a beautiful place to live – not only are we home to the Queen of England and her famous Corgis (my claim to fame was rescuing one from the middle of the road and returning it to the gate keeper, who was less than complimentary about it!) – we also have plenty of green fields, open parkland and woodland – nearly all of which is open to lucky British dogs owners to walk their dogs on.

Of course, this idyllic environment also brings its own training challenges. The woodland is the home of free-roaming deer, squirrels and other small furries. The open parkland also happens to be where the local polo clubs exercise their horses (plenty of scope for unruly puppies to engage in chasing and horse poo eating as a double-whammy), and the fields are often unfenced, with roads running alongside or livestock temptingly close.

 

Brit Pop

The British are known as being a rather reserved bunch. We like tea and roast beef. We enjoy reading the newspapers on Sunday and moaning about the weather. We applaud stiff upper lips and not making a fuss. We love our dogs, and we regard them as important family members. Mostly though, we like them to cause us minimum embarrassment in social circles. In practice, this means saying hello politely to other dogs in the park, playing nicely when we have time (but not if we don’t) and being calm and sensible when visitors arrive at the house. Without wishing to make it sound as if we are all suffering from some form of insidious national neurosis, being British means enjoying a semblance of gentle control.

 
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