Sunday, October 30, 2022

Finally, the answer to how does a dog smell, it’s really rather well actually.

                                                                        Source Hidden Ways Your Pet Can Suffer From Your Stress (

So, you may have seen in the news recently, a story about dogs being able to sniff out stress in human breath and sweat. It is no surprise to me that dogs can sense stress as dogs read human body language particularly well, noticing the slightest changes, this is hard wired into them as a survival skill. This is no surprise to scientist either, as previous studies have suggested that dogs can sense stress in humans, but what is remarkable about this new study is that it proves dogs can pick up the chemical signals with an average accuracy of 93.75%. Pretty impressive, right, but can our stress levels impact on our dog’s health? 

Humans have 30 main measures of neurological and physiological stress, of which we share 27 of these with dogs. Physiologically we practically share the same nervous system and its workings, we are 98% the same anatomically, and neurologically we share the same mechanics, according to Andy Hale, a certified Animal behaviourist, founder of Dog Centred Care, behaviour consultant for British Isles Grooming Association & Pet Remedy, and an all-round lovely chap. Previous studies have shown that stress hormone levels in dogs and humans synchronise over time with the level in the human being mirrored in the dog (Sundman et al. 2019).
Taken from Long-term stress levels are synchronized in dogs and their owners - PubMed ( (Sundman, A.S. et al. 2019) 

 The thicker the arrow, the bigger the impact on the dog’s long-term cortisol, so yes, our stress levels do impact our dog’s health. There is also the consideration of whether your dog is an optimistic or pessimistic dog, for those of you that just eye rolled stay with me here, I have the science to back this up. The study Canine Sense and Sensibility: Tipping Points and Responses Latency Variability as an Optimism Index in a Canine Judgement Bias Assessment (Starling et al, 2014) showed the way a dog perceives the world around them can be affected by whether the dog is an optimistic or pessimistic dog.
So, when an optimistic dog encounters a new experience, like meeting a dog showing a negative behaviour towards them, the dog is more likely to have a positive view, and although may be unsure to start with, recovers quickly. The pessimistic dog on the other hand will have a negative view and will be more likely to have a reaction or switch off engaging, even when the new experience is not a negative experience, like passing a large dog who does not engage with them. So, a pessimistic dog could be less resilient with dealing with our stress than an optimistic dog. 

 If, like me, you are now stressing out that your stressing out is stressing your dog out, don’t panic! Here are few ideas to keep you and your dog happy and reset any negative residues we may passed on to them. 

Go on a Sniffari rather than a walk 
This is remarkably simple, quick, and effective, read more about sniffaris below. 

Try some Animal Centred Freework 
Benefits for the dog:
Lowers arousal levels 
Licking releases tension in the jaw 
Releases good endorphins 
Low impact workout 
Sensory educational exercise 
Reset & relax 
Improved rate of recovery if dog becomes aroused or stressed

Sounds good, right? I start and finish all my grooms with some ACE Freework. Click the link below to find out ways to use Ace Freework in your home. 

There are also 2 fantastic groups you can join on Facebook, search for:

ACE Connections

ACEing August

Do something you know your dog enjoys 
Try to avoid puzzles toys that may frustrate them or activities that will get them over aroused, for example throwing a ball continually. 
For my dog it could be: 
 chasing her slowly around the garden, pretending I’m going to get whatever toy is in her mouth 
 getting on the floor with her and playing tug of war 
 letting her play with my hair (yanking it out of my head with her teeth and claws, she loves it) 
 cuddles on the sofa 
 giving her something out of the recycling bin 
 letting her lick the yoghurt pot 
 giving her a pair of socks from the sock draw 
 sitting on the bed looking out the window 

Keep a check on our own anxious behaviour 
Do you shorten the lead, tense your arms/body or hold your breath because you are predicting a negative behaviour from your dog. Your dog will notice these changes, and this will increase the likelihood of creating a reaction in your dog. 

Our emotions and our bodies can be positively influenced by our minds, especially through imagery. Practice comforting imagery, it can be reliving a childhood memory or visualising anything that brings you comfort and makes you feel safe. Don’t rely on positive thoughts as we can fall into thinking traps, using imagery is far more effective, and using our senses to ground us to the here and now. 

I have joined a couple of free events through Cheshire Wildlife Trust, designed for wellbeing, and I learnt different grounding exercises, how to make bird feeders and to build a living feed feeder, about my local woods, all whilst meeting some lovely people. Have a look to see what’s on offer near you, I would thoroughly recommend it.

Signing off for now but with my spy glass at the ready to investigate another dog related mystery

Wag-Wagatha Christie 🔎🐾

Bright, E. W., “The Relationships in Anxiety”, Edition Dog, (48), pp. 14-18. 

Davey, J. wr., 2022. “Optimism Vs Pessimism” Edition Dog, (40), pp. 20-24. 

Hale, A. "Prspectives, Emotions & Behaviour' Webinar recorded 26th February 2022

Sundman, A.S. et al., 2019. Long-term stress levels are synchronized in dogs and their owners. Scientific reports. Available at:,among%20humans%20and%20between%20individuals%20of%20other%20species. [Accessed January 30, 2022]. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Man Bites Dog


<a href=''>Outdoor party photo created by freepik -</a>

It feels like every other day there is a story in my newsfeed about a serious dog attack, ending in a combination of a fatality, serious disfigurement, hospitalisation and a dog being put to sleep (I hate the term destroyed, it should never be used to describe the ending of a sentient beings life). I'm starting to feel that the media have got it in for dogs, although working in the canine industry, as a holistic dog groomer, I know there is also an increase in injuries in grooming salons. 

So, let's put this into some context, and this is where my previous self as a Data Manager gets her geek on.

  • There are 2 million more dogs in the UK over the last year, but the rise of attacks outpaces the growth in population. 
  • Alder Hay Hospital saw cases triple after the first lockdown.
  • West Midland Police recorded 800 dog attacks in 2020, which was a 3-year high. 
  • The Canine & Feline Behaviour Association reported a 54% increase in dog attacks from 2020 -2021. 
  • Top Hospitalisation by dog bites in England 2020-21 were in the age bracket 50-59 (1275 cases), then 0-9 (1104 cases).
  • Between 2013 and 2019 death by dog attacks ranged from zero (2018), to 5 (2015).
  • According to Wikipedia (don't worry I have tutted and rolled my eyes for you) so far this year there have been 7 fatalities due to dog attacks.  
  • In 2018 the highest amount of dog attacks in a commercial setting was in animal related services (vets, groomers, kennels, day care or training), with 78% of the incidences. 

Ok so there obviously real cause for concern here, are dogs revolting against their human oppressors? Are some dogs just bad dogs? Are some breeds just dangerous? No, of course not. Or are we part of the problem? In my opinion yes, definitely. Don't all jump on your soap boxes quite yet, give me a chance to explain. I am in no way saying that any of the people who have been killed or injured in dog attacks deserved it or knowingly caused it. I am talking on more general terms about the understanding of canine behaviour and training methods used. 

How many times have you heard the following?

You've got to show them who is boss

You need to show them you are the alpha dog

You need to assert your authority by being dominant

Cesar Millan, he's your man when it comes to training

Let me tell you categorically, YOU DON'T, AND HE'S NOT! And it is not just me that thinks this.  Victoria Stilwell believes that the drastic increase in attacks is down to confrontational dominance-based training methods, which is backed up by a recent study conducted for the Journal of Applied Animal Behaviour. 

<a href=''>Dog photo created by freepik -</a>

But have you heard of these, and understand what they mean?

Autonomic Nervous System

Sympathetic state


Trigger stacking

Calming signals

No, that's what I thought (for those smarty pants that have, unfortunately there is no prize, but knowledge is its own reward). Unless you have studied a canine behaviour qualification, or like me studied at the Holistic Grooming Academy and a member of other canine related educational hubs, I'm not sure how you would have.

Stilwell attributes the reason for most cases of aggression is to make the perceived threat go away, and the intension is not to harm. So, when confronted with dominance based training methods this has a counterproductive effect, acting as a stimulant and therefore sustaining the stress whilst suppressing the dogs emotions. She warns that although suppression of a dog’s emotions works quickly (which is why dominance based techniques are considered to get results) the increase in the stress hormones cortisol will take a long time to leave the body, therefore taking the dog a long time to recover.  Stilwell says “punishment, confrontation, and other unpleasant methods…in turn increases the likelihood that the dog will aggress again in the future".

<a href="">Kids playing photo created by gpointstudio -</a>

There are other factors that can affect aggression:

Testosterone levels in males from 18m – 2 yrs

Pain and other medical reasons

Idiopathic aggression - linked to epilepsy

So, what can we do to educate ourselves on the topic? Good question, here are a few starting points.

 For the dog owner:

 Holistic Grooming At Home (

 Read books by Victoria Stilwell, look her up on-line and learn positive training methods

Train Your Dog Positively: Understand Your Dog and Solve Common Behavior Problems Including Separation Anxiety, Excessive Barking, Aggression, Ho: ... Housetraining, Leash Pulling, and More!: Stilwell, Victoria: 9781607744146: Books

Follow the debate on dog attacks and read the recommendations from the report below

MDX-backed study suggests dog attacks could be reduced through responsible ownership | Middlesex University London



For the dog groomer:

Study the full Holistic Grooming Diploma,  just study the units that interest you, or become a member

All Courses - The Holistic Grooming Academy

Read books from the founder of the Holistic Grooming Academy

The Magic of Holistic Grooming: A No-Nonsense Guide To Pawsitively Grooming Your Dog With Less Stress: A No-Nonsense Guide On How To Pawsitively Groom Your Dog With Less Stress: Zikmann, Stephanie, Watson, Jo, Kira, Esme, Fishburn, Dr Isla: 9781527288485: Books

Read books by Sue Williamson

Taking the Grrr out of Grooming Salon: Trust Based Techniques for a calmer grooming experience: Williamson, Sue, Harvey, Jane, Fisher, Sarah: 9798712268986: Books

Join Sue's educational hub, Facebook group or pay for individual webinars

Home - Happy Paws With Sue

On-line  training from Veterinarian Sophie Bell

Canine Health & Welfare In The Groom Room (


For children:

Makes a great present

Children's Picture Books | I Can Be A Dog Detective!

Coming soon a children's course from the Holistic Grooming Academy

Learn To Groom My Dog - for Children (

On-line educational resource for children

Kids Around Dogs


Signing off for now but with my spy glass at the ready to investigate another dog related mystery

Wag-Wagatha Christie 🔎🐾


Bell, S., Canine Health & Welfare In The Groom Room - Animal Love Pet First-Aid ( [Accessed June 18, 2022]. 

Green, A., 2010. Dog attack & dog bite statistics (the lies). Dog News. Available at: [Accessed May 21, 2022].

James, E. & Carr, J., 2022. UK dog attack crisis sparked by Lockdown 'Impulse Buys' as Maulings Double. The Sun. Available at: [Accessed May 22, 2022].

Mattinson, P., 2021. Negative reinforcement in dog training. The Happy Puppy Site. Available at: [Accessed May 23, 2022].

Oxley, J.A., Christley, R. & Westgarth, C., 2017. Contexts and consequences of dog bite incidents. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. Available at: [Accessed May 21, 2022].

Stewart, C., 2022. Dog bite victims in England 2020/21, by age. Statista. Available at: [Accessed May 21, 2022].

Stilwell, V., 2013. How to train your dog positively, Ten Speed Press.

Stilwell, V., 2019. The secret language of dogs: Unlocking the canine mind for a happier pet, London: Hamlyn, an imprint of Octopus Publishing Group.

Williamson, S, 2021. Taking the Grrr out of the Grooming Salon 2nd ed., Amazon.

unknown, unknown, 2021. Deaths and hospitalisations following a dog bite from 1981 to 2019. Deaths and hospitalisations following a dog bite from 1981 to 2019 - Office for National Statistics. Available at: [Accessed May 21, 2022].

Usborne, S., 2021. Dog-bite Britain: The problem with the pandemic puppy explosion. The Guardian. Available at: [Accessed May 21, 2022].

Zickmann, S., 2021. The Magic of Holistic Grooming, Unknown, Unknown: Amazon.

Finally, the answer to how does a dog smell, it’s really rather well actually.

                                                                                          Source  Hidden Ways Your Pet Can Suffer From Your ...