dog behaviour


A snarling red dog.


Probably not.

‘Rage syndrome’ is a label applied to dogs who are described as biting their humans out of the blue and with no warning. The attacks are often described as frenzied and the dog is often said to have been acting normally seconds before the attack. ‘Rage syndrome’ is most often described in solid coloured Cocker Spaniels, especially red ones, but has also been described in other spaniels and non-spaniel breeds.

There is little good scientific research on ‘Rage syndrome’ and what there is points to this most often being a problem behaviour related to rescource guarding rather than a mysterious tendancy to attack for no reason. In their 1996 paper Podberscek and Serpell (1) did find increased aggression in solid colour cockers, but attributed most of it to ‘social dominance’ and protection of territory and possessions. They suggested there was a genetic component to the behaviour, which is not surprising as we accept that many personality traits have a genetic basis. It may have been that by paying more attention to the colours of dogs than to temperament breeders were creating pups with traits unsuitable for familiy life.

In their book ‘EMRA Intelligence’ Falconer-Taylor, Neville, and Strong (2) describe a typical case presented to the behaviourist as ‘Cocker Rage’. What they found was not a dog with an incurable genetic predisposition to unpredictable aggression, but a rather bored and frustrated dog . He was trying to communicate to his people when he was unhappy through his body language, and if they ignored that by growling, but sometimes they just didn’t hear his communication and he was pushed to snap at them. By teaching his owners how to meet his needs and listen to him, Bracken the Cocker becaome a content and safe family pet.

When someone tells me that a dog has ‘rage syndrome’ there are three key questions I ask. Could the dog be in pain? Where was the dog when the aggression occured? Was there anything of value to the dog around when the aggression occured?

Pain affects sleep, mobility, can be chronic but with acute flare-ups, it can affect mood and we appreciate in humans that it will make us short-tempered, so why not dogs? If the aggression is related to grooming and handling a through vet check to look for pain is advisable. Even aggression related to being stroked can be because the person accidentally touched a sore area.

Often the aggression is related to objects such as a bed or sofa, toys, and found items or to food and treats. It can even be connected to a particular person. This is termed ‘resource guarding’ and is understandable when you thing that without shelter, food, and protection a dog could die! Puppies need to be taught early on that humans (and other pets) are not going to steal their food. They need to be taught good cues to get off beds and furniture for a reward, and they need to be taught to give up toys or found objects on cue for a reward. Sleeping dogs should be gently roused so they aren’t startled into biting and dogs should be controlled around flash points like the front door as this area causes a complicated mix of strong emptions in so many dogs!


“Yes,” you say, “but the dog I’m talking about just bit out of the blue with no warning!”

This is rarely true, at least not to begin with. Dogs are very good at communicating how they feel, but humans are not very good at listening to dogs. I say ‘listening’ but I should say ‘watching’ as most dog communication is non verbal. Early signs that a dog is not comfortable can be trying to withdrawn from contact, stiffness, a slow stiff tail wag, showing the whites of the eyes, and pining the ears back. If we ignore those the dog might try showing their teeth, standing over an object, or growling. At this point people tend to notice and might punish the dog by shouting or even hitting the dog. This works to stop the dog snarling or growling, but it doesn’t stop the dog feeling very unhappy about the situation. The dog learns not to growl, because they get punished so goes straight from subtle body language into an air snap. If you watch dogs together they are veyr good at dodging warning air snaps… people less so, and we get bitten. At this point most dogs who have been taught that biting people is not acceptable retreat and ‘look guilty’, they don’t show the frenzied attack of the ‘rage’ dog. But, if their bite is met with screaming, shouting, or hitting the dog may be so afraid that they attack as a form of self-defence. Sadly this can result in severe injuries to anyone who is in the way and could even be fatal to a child.


I have encountered a very small number of dogs who I believe have something pathological behind their aggression which we might call ‘rage’. In The Behavioural Biology of Dogs, Hedhammar and Hultin-Jäderlund (3) note that abnormal EEGs have been found in some dogs displaying ‘rage’ which point towards the idea that it is a form of epilepsy. I know people who live with hallucinatory forms of epilepsy which can be frightening until they get a diagnosis. I can imagine that seeing a frightening or confusing image could cause the symptoms of my ‘rage’ cases, namely dilated pupils (described by owners as trhe eyes going red as they see the retina) suggesting their ‘flight or flight’ system is triggered, and growling at thin air. People get bitten when they try to comfort the dog, or move into the field of vision and the bites are deep and multiple as when dogs are in self-defence mode.

I have not had great success with these pathological cases. Other vets and behaviourists have found anti-epileptic drugs to help some dogs, but many are euthanased as their atacks cannot be predicted or managed.


  1. Sit down and identify when your dog growls and snaps. Often ‘random’ aggression is not so random when you really think about it. This can give you and your behaviourist clues as to why your dog isn’t happy.
  2. Book a vet check. Your behaviourist will want this before engaging in anything other than an emergency management plan. Make sure your vet knows why you are asking and does a thorough examination including the mouth, eyes, ears, abdomen, and musculoskeletal system. If your dog is aggressive when handled this may require pre-visit medication and a muzzle. Your vet may want to do blood tests, especially in older animals where medical conditions can make them less tolerant.
  3. Engage with a behaviourist who understands the emotional basis of problem behaviours such as those with COAPE qualifications and/or CAPBT members.


I don’t usually do references, but here are two articles you can read, and a book you can buy or find in a library that I used in writing this piece.



You’ve taken your puppy to the vets for their final puppy vaccination. The vet hands over the completed vaccination card, gives your puppy a treat and the says, “the next big thing is neutering, shall we get them booked in?” Yikes!


Vets want to get a lot of information across to new puppy owners in a short space of time. Vets want you to think about your dog becoming fertile well before they do. Vets want to avoid accidental mating, unwanted litters, roaming dogs, and avoidable diseases associated with ‘entire’ dogs.

I like to introduce the dog reproduction question by asking, “are you planning to neuter your dog?” as this allows my client to guide the rest of the conversation. If they answer, “we are hoping to breed” I can discuss health testing, mate selection, all the scary negatives, and all the lovely positives. If they answer, “yes, when should we book the surgery” I can discuss the optimal time based on their individual circumstances. If they answer, “we don’t know” again, this opens up a different discussion on the pros and cons which take their circumstances into account.


Most female dogs will experience their first fertile period (called a ‘season’ or ‘heat’ between the age of 6 and 18months. Larger breeds tend to have their first season later than small breeds, and the pattern often follows that of their mother. The average time between seasons is 7 months, though some bitches will only have one season a year.

During her season your bitch will have swelling of her vulva, a bloody discharge from the vulva, and she will become attractive to male dogs. The season lasts 21-28 days for most bitches with a fertile window from day 10 in the average bitch. With rapid hormonal changes you may seem changes in your dog’s temperament. During her season your dog should not be walked where other dogs might be off lead and she should not attend training classes or competitions. If you own both male and female dogs they should be kept apart during her season. Neutered male dogs can mate and tie with a bitch and if this happens when they aren’t supervised injuries can occur to both dogs.

Around 2months after her season your bitch may show signs of pseudocyesis (false, or phantom pregnancy) because she has very similar hormone levels after her season if she is pregnant and if she is not! False pregnancy usually shows as swollen mammary glands with some milk production, but it can cause a swollen belly, false labour, and behavioural changes.


No seasons. This is useful for mixed groups of dogs and working/ sporting dogs where being out of action for two months of the year is undesirable.

No pregnancy. Although it should be simple to prevent unwanted mating, and despite there being drugs available to stop a pregnancy after a mismating, removing the risk of accidental puppies is a key factor in many owners choosing to neuter their female dog. This is also the prime reason rescue centres will neuter, or rehome on a neutering contract.

Reduced risk of mammary cancers. The studies on mammary (breast) cancer risk in dogs are old, but it is probably still valid to warn that the risk of mammary tumours increases exponentially after the first season. Neutering at any stage is believed to halt the risk (but not reduce it further).

Prevention of uterine disease. Pyometra is a life threatening infection of the womb which might affect as many as 1 in 4 bitches over 8 years (based on insurance company data from a country where routine neutering is banned). Uterine cancers are less common.

Other cancers. The risk of some other cancers is reduced by neutering. The research is breed specific and should be discussed with your vet.


Surgical risk. All surgical procedures carry a risk of incidents, including death. The bitch spay is the most dangerous operation that vets do on a daily basis. Very young, very old, overweight, and sick animals are at higher risk.

Behaviour change. Most bitches have the same temperament after spaying as they did between seasons. In rare cases a bitch can become more aggressive after neutering, but these are usually slightly aggressive before and it is thought they have been masculinised in the womb by their male siblings.

Musculoskeletal problems. Several joint problems may be more likely in neutered bitches. There isn’t a clear causal link in all cases and the link could be due to higher rates of obesity in neutered dogs, different exercise patterns, or other environmental factors. Neutering before bone growth has stopped can alter the lengths of the leg bones and this could be a factor in joint problems.

Other cancers. The risk of some cancers is increased by neutering. The research is breed specific and should be discussed with your vet.

Urinary incontinence. Urine leaking is more likely in spayed bitches and may occur earlier than in entire bitches. It can be controlled with medication.

Weight and coat changes. Neutered females are at a higher risk of weight gain and long coated breeds may develop a fluffy coat. These effects can be managed!


Traditional Ovariohysterectomy (spay). This option is still the most common in the UK. The vet makes an incision (from a few cm’s to the full length of the belly) and removed the ovaries and uterus. This operation takes 30-60minutes and dogs go home the same day. This option is suitable for all dogs, including older dogs who may have uterine disease. Exercise should be restricted for 4-6weeks.

Ovariectomy. This is a popular option in Europe where the ovaries are removed but the uterus is left. There is no risk of pyometra if the ovaries are fully removed. This option is most suited to young botches where there is a low risk of uterine disease. Ovariectomy can be performed through a traditional incision or by laparoscopic surgery. Recovery is still 4-6 weeks.

Laparoscopic spay. Increasingly popular as initial recovery may be faster and the incisions might be smaller, but the set up and anaesthetic time can be longer. Usually the ovaries are removed, but the uterus left, so this is more suitable for younger bitches. Full recovery still takes 4-6 weeks!

Medical options. An injection can be given to delay or prevent seasons. It can only be used after the first season and can increase the risk of pyometra and future infertility.

Hysterectomy. Also called ‘ovary sparing spay’ this is one which I do not believe has a place in UK dog care. The uterus is removed but the ovaries are left so the risks and benefits are the same as for an entire bitch (other than pregnancy), except that you have added surgical risk.

Tubal ligation. Useful in humans, but again, this leaves you with all the problems of an entire female apart from pregnancy.


Peadiatric spay 12-16weeks. This is not common in the UK, but is requested by some breeders prior to sale, and may be done by rescue centres. The advantage is population control pure and simple and avoids having to follow up on neutering contracts. Many vets have concerns about the effects of puppies not having a normal hormonal influence as they develop, both on behavioural and physical health. Luckily, these are usually small breed dogs with lower overall risk of joint problems and where juvenile behaviour may be preferred.

Pre-pubertal spay 6-7months. This has been the preferred option of many vets and assistance dog charities for some time. The surgery is easier as the dogs are slim , and there is no complication about timing around seasons and no loss of training time at a critical stage for working dogs. Neutering at this age keeps mammary tumour risk to a minimum. These surgeries can be booked in at the last vaccination which avoids clients forgetting to book. More recently, studies have suggested that neutering larger breeds prior to puberty and the end of bone growth could increase the chance of joint problems and some cancers. Now I would recommend spaying at this age only for toy and small breed dogs or where circumstances mean that a season would be very difficult to manage.

Post- puberty. This is my preferred option in most cases where a dog is not required for breeding or showing. For most breeds of dog neutering 3-4 months after their first or second season at 18-24 months gives the best balance of risks and benefits. It is vital that there is no sign of phantom pregnancy when the bitch is spayed.

Post- puppies/ end of career. I work with a lot of working dog clients and clients who wish to breed their dogs. For these dogs I advise neutering once the breeding or competition career is over. At 7-8 years old the bitch is still fit and well enough for routine surgery, but we can remove the risk of pyometra as she gets older. I often see uterine disease in older bitches, and owners report they are ‘happier’ and ‘act younger’ after surgery so I can only imagine some have been suffering uterine pain.

No neutering. Of course, there is the option to not neuter at all. If you chose this option make sure you check regularly for mammary lumps and keep notes on the dates and duration of your dogs seasons. If you notice heavier bleeding, bleeding between her normal seasons, or symptoms of pyometra contact your vet for advice urgently.


Most of this blog concerns female dogs as the options, risk, and benefits are more complicated. Most clients want to neuter their male dogs because they are worried about aggression, but male hormone related aggression is really not very common. More dogs come to me with variations of fear aggression, and neutering these dogs could make them worse. Neutering male dogs will reduce urine marking, searching for females, male aggression, and distress over in-season females. It won’t calm him down or make him easier to train!

Puberty in male dogs happens from 6 months old, and will happen later in larger dogs. There will be behaviour changes as testosterone surges and falls and your dog may show mild aggression to other dogs at times. I prefer to manage male dogs through puberty and neuter them when their behaviour is stable if required.


Reduces ‘male’ behaviours including roaming, marking, and male aggression.

Removes the risk of testicular cancer and reduces the risk of perianal adenoma and perineal hernia.

Prevents benign prostate enlargement, but not prostate cancer.

Prevents pregnancy. Does not always prevent mating!


Surgical risk. Although castration is less dangerous than spaying there are still anaesthetic risks and potential for complications.

Behaviour change. Nervous dogs may become more fearful after neutering.

Musculoskeletal problems. A higher risk of joint disease is found in neutered male dogs, but, as with females, there could be factors such as obesity and exercise at play as well as direct effects from neutering. As with females, neutering before growth plate closure can alter the length of bones.

Cancers. The risk of some cancers increases with neutering. These risks are breed specific and should be discussed with your vet.

Weight gain and coat changes. As with female dogs, neutered males are prone to weight gain and long coated breed can become fluffy.


Castration. The testicles are removed, the scrotum is usually left unless diseased. This is the most common form of neutering for male dogs in the UK. Fertility declines very rapidly (days) but male behaviours related to testosterone will take a few weeks to decrease.

Medical castration. An implant is available which stops testosterone production. The testicles shrink, but most dogs will become fertile again when the implant wears off, and it can be removed. There is a risk of increased aggression in the first 4 weeks after treatment. A shorter acting injection can also be given but this can give different behavioural results to castration.

Vasectomy. Removing a section of the vas deferens makes a dog infertile but otherwise he will behave as an entire dog. It is an uncommon procedure in the UK for dogs.


Neutering is less time dependant in males than in females.

Paediatric neutering 12-16weeks. This is carried out by a few breeders and rescue centres before rehoming to prevent breeding. The effects on growth and behaviour are not well studied but many vets have concerns about removing hormones at such a young age.

Pre-pubertal 6-7months. This is most suitable for toy and small breeds who have finished growing but care should be taken to avoid neutering when a dog is entering puberty and has an unstable temperament.

Post-pubertal neutering. Recommended for most dogs which need to be neutered. The appropriate age will depend on the breed and also how long the effects of puberty last. Medium breeds can be neutered from 12-18months of age, but large and giant breed dogs may benefit from later neutering. There is no upper age limit for neutering, but in mature dogs may require the removal of the scrotum to reduce the risk of post-op complications such as swelling and haematoma development.


Pet guardians and vets would like a simple answer, but the truth is there isn’t a one size fits all recommendation. Review studies have assessed all the current data to try and suggest minimum neutering ages for common breeds that take into account all the positives and negatives, but environment and lifestyle are important factors too. The bets advice is to discuss neutering with a vet your trust in order to make a plan to suit you and your dog.



We will not be taking on any new clients or patients until 15th February 2022. We are busy in January with existing clients, covering at Companion Care Vets in Eastbourne, and making time for our own dogs. We will be closed completely between January 29th and February 13th for a well earned break.

No apologies… we can’t pour from an empty cup.


We only treat animals on referral from your primary care vet. Although most owners contact us directly, your vet will be asked to complete the referral form, and to email all relevant clinical history. Your pet must be a registered and active client of a veterinary practice which offers 24hour emergency care (on or off site) in order to use the services of Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care.

We offer home visits in the Hastings, Bexhill, Battle, and Eastbourne areas. We do not have a practice building!

Our vet Vicky has a regular clinic at Companion Care Vets in Eastbourne.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and all that jazz…




Covid-19’s stay at home message and the closing of non-essential retail means that more people are getting shopping delivered to their homes than ever before. This means more delivery people coming to the door, knocking or ringing a bell, and sending dogs into a fury of barking. Barking at the Postie has always been a common problem, but with more people at home all day to hear the barking it may now be more of a problem than ever.


Dogs may bark when the door is knocked or the doorbell rung because they excited at the thought of a visitor, or, more often, because they are worried about a stranger entering their home. Despite barking at the door being a big ‘pet peeve’ for many owners, it is a behaviour that humans admired in early dogs. One of the first jobs which dogs had was barking to alert people to threats.

So, the dog barks to alert people to the potential intruder. If people are at home, they often shout at the dog. But the dogs may see this as joining in, rather than a reprimand. If there is nobody at home the dog barks and the delivery person leaves. In both cases the dog gets a reward! The people join in the barking reinforcing the dog’s opinion that barking is the right thing to do, and then the ‘threat’ goes away! The dog feels better and that behaviour becomes more likely next time.



It is possible to teach the dog an alternative behaviour when the door knocks. First, teach your dog to ‘go to bed’. Next have someone knock the door or ring the bell (or record the noise on your phone) before asking the dog to ‘go to bed’. Reward when he does. Over time the door knock/bell will replace you saying ‘go to bed’ and will cue the dog trotting off to his bed. This works really well for dogs that get over the top with visitors.

It is also possible to keep some of the barking by putting that on cue. Say ‘speak’ then trigger your dog to bark, join in and be very excited! Then stop and wait for your dog to stop too. As he does, say ‘quiet’ and give a food reward. If you train this well it is possible to start and stop your dog barking which is great for security, if you feel unsafe just ask your dog to speak!

The trouble with these approached is that if you aren’t there for a door knock the dog may not choose the ‘bed’ behaviour or controlled barking, and won’t be rewarded for it. It may be hard to avoid deliveries during the time you are retraining your dog.


Move to the Falkland Islands as they do not have a postal delivery service. If that isn’t practical, remove the delivery people from your doorstep. Instead of having a letterbox on your front door, place a mailbox on your property, but as far from your door as possible. For parcels, you can buy lockboxes which also reduce the risk of theft.

For specific problem behaviours please contact us by email to arrange an appointment. Be aware that until June 2021 we are not able to undertake home visits.



Christmas is one of the rare times when there is enough time for a busy veterinary herbalist and behaviourist to sit down and watch a film. And one of my favourites is ‘Fred Claus’. If you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil the whole film, but it all comes down to whether Fred deems the children ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’. Fred realises that the ‘naughty’ children aren’t naughty at all… they are scared, lonely, bullied, acting up because of their circumstances. And I feel the same about dogs.


When assessing a dog with a problem behaviour I have a lot of questions.

Where was he born? How was he brought up? Fred in the movie feels overshadowed by his saintly older brother. Puppies don’t come as blank slates, their behaviour can be influenced by their breed, their parents’ temperament, and their early life experiences. Sometimes people just expect too much; a retriever puppy is going to retriever, just like a four year old kid is going to sit up watching for Santa.

Could he have a medical problem? Over 70% of dogs at a top behaviour center have pain making their behaviour worse! Arthritis, gut problems, ear infections, sight issues are amongst the things I will be ruling out. Sometimes if we fix the health problem, the behaviour returns to normal.

What’s going on at home? In the film, poor Slam ends up at the top of the naughty list for fighting in the children’s home. But poor kid, he doesn’t have the love and structure he needs. The same goes for dogs, many have struggled to cope with the changes that Covid-19 has brought to their lives, and have had added stress at times like fireworks season and Christmas. A stable routine and a safe space to retire to when it all gets too much could be just what your dog needs.


Does the film have a happy ending? Of course. Everyone learns the true meaning of Christmas and Slam gets his Christmas wish (a puppy! I know, don’t get me started on that one). So how do we make sure the ‘problem dogs’ get a fairytail ending?

Choose the right dog: explore your chosen breed or types history, exercise requirements, temperament, and grooming needs. Gundogs are going to retrieve everything, terriers like to rip stuff up, toy dogs want human company, ‘doodles’ need professional grooming every 6 weeks…

Choose the right breeder or rescue: expect to be asked a lot of questions and don’t be upset if it is decided you aren’t right for a particular dog or puppy. Never be rushed into a decision and make sure you have support after you take your new friend home.

Train! Your new dog needs to have clear rules from day 1 and you need to teach him what’s allowed and when. There are many great trainers offering on-line courses when physical courses aren’t possible. Training is not a 6weeks and done thing, it is an everyday all of life thing, and it should be great fun!

Vets: your dogs should visit the vets once or twice a year for a health check even if he is well. Catching health problems early reduces the chance of problem behaviours starting.

Never forget your dog is a dog. It can be hard to be a dog in a human world, so if they are heading for your ‘naughty list’ take a step back and you might just find they need a bit of understanding.

That’s Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care signing off for 2020. We’ll be back on 5th January ready for whatever challenged 2021 brings. But first, A Muppet Christmas Carol, mulled wine, and a mince pie!

May your Christmas be safe and peaceful.



This is a story about me, my dog, and the first rule of recall.

We went to the beach, me and my five dogs. The beach at low tide is fun time. There is no real training, there are very few rules. The dogs can run, play, swim. They need to come back when I ask so that they don’t scare kids, annoy dogs on leads, or chase sea gulls.

When the senior dog chose scavenging on the stone instead of paddling I was cool with that, we could see each other and the beach was pretty empty. As we approached a busier but of beach I called him, he looked at me, then chose to keep mooching up the beach. I called again, and whistled. He moved away. I tried a stop whistle…he moved further away. He looked concerned. I ran up the beach, not to chase him but to try and cut him off. He looked very worried. I am now calling him like some demented banshee, not an experienced dog trainer and behaviourist. I wave the treat bag…nothing.

I now tell him to “go and love himself” (or word to that effect!) and head off down the beach to give the rest of the crew some snacks. This has the desired effect and down comes senior spaniel in that crabby posture that means ‘don’t beat me’. He doesn’t get beaten, but all spaniels know this pose.

I am fuming. This is not the relaxed beach walk I wanted and my reliable old boy is being an idiot. So what do I do? I take a deep breath and do ‘The First Rule of Recall’ I pop him on the lead and I tell him he’s a good boy, and he gets some treats. We walk a while with him on the lead, then do some short freedom and recall and reward practises. But what went wrong?


I can guess what happened. Senior dog has been allowed to run free on walks with my other half. Sometimes he goes on a spaniel mission and chases a duck, eats some bits a hawk has left behind. Sometimes he doesn’t listen when he’s called. After all, why would he come back? Mr Owner doesn’t have a ball, doesn’t have treats, puts him on the lead and takes him home. Senior dog is having a much better time making his own games with the ducks and his own snacks of bits of dead rabbit. Senior spaniel can hear Mr Owner getting cross (Mr Owner is going to be late for work now) and eventually he goes back. Mr Owner tells senior spaniel off and route marches him home. Fun? No.

What has senior spaniel learned? To avoid going back because it ends the fun and gets you shouted at.


The First Rule of Recall

No matter how cross you are, how later you are, how embarrassed you are, when your dog comes back pop their lead on and then reward them. If they have ignored multiple recall cues, this can be low key. A ‘good boy’ and a low value treat. But NEVER punish them. If you shout, or worse, you are only punishing your dog for coming back. He can’t understand you are punishing him for ignoring you. Punishing the dog when he is back with you makes a good recall next time LESS likely.

As you walk along with your ‘naughty’ dog on his lead, think about why this happened.

Have you regularly made coming back more rewarding than not coming back? If you only call your dog up to stop him saying hello to another dog, leaping into a stinky bog, or to go home… you are the fun police. Spice up the recall reward, even with older dogs. Sometimes recall for a game, sometimes for a treat, sometimes for a bit of lead walking before getting let off to run again. Try to recall your dog before they are self rewarding with a game of chase the squirrel and make sure what you have on offer is just as much fun. Occasionally add a jackpot recall reward like a big juicy sausage! Think about adding a clear cue such as a whistle that can never sounds cross and will carry a long way.


The rest of our walk was better. Senior dog got fishy snacks for staying with me and Mr Owner will be given some rules on what to do when he walks senior dog! Training is never over…


If your dog has a recall problem there are lots of exercises that can help improve things. We offer one-to-one training sessions for minor training issues like this (but places are limited in the winter months) at £50 for 45minutes in our field. Please email for information and booking.


The return to lockdown means that all the bookings Vet Vicky had to work and compete her dogs have been cancelled until at least December. This means our diary is suddenly a bit empty.

We are not as restricted in the services we can offer during this lockdown so we would love to see some new patients for acupuncture, behavioural assessment, and holistic consultations. We are happy to offer phone or WhatsApp consultations for some behavioural issues, holistic consultations, and puppy support.

Email for information.

Use us or lose us!



Urgh, it’s that time of year again. Firework petition season. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have serious reservations about people with no pyrotechnical training being able to buy industrial fireworks to let off in their backyard, but I think the focus of pet owner’s energy is in the wrong place.

I fully support calls for fireworks to be restricted to organised displays. The event can be advertised in advance, animal owners (and those with babies, PTSD, or who just hate fireworks) can make arrangements, and let’s be honest the displays are just a whole lot better and safer. But this still leaves a problem; what to do with the pets who are scared of fireworks.


It might seem tardy to post this after Bonfire Night…but 5th November is just the start of the fireworks season (unless you live in East Sussex where we have a big display somewhere every weekend from September to December in normal years!). Fireworks are an important part of Diwali, Christmas, and New Year events. And this year, with organised displays likely to be banned, there will be more unpredictable home displays.


Walk dogs in the daylight and get cast indoors before dusk. Move outdoor caged pets inside.

Use curtains to muffle sounds and light and keep indoors well lit.

Mask noises with music or the TV.

Make your pet a secure snuggly den to hide in.

If your pet wants to snuggle up for a cuddle, let them. If they need to roam the house, let them do that instead.

Distract your pet with a game, tasty treats, or some training.

Contact your vet for calming pheremones, supplements, or medications.


This is where I get frustrated. Every November there are hundreds of posts about pets being scared of fireworks. Yet how many of these pets get help from a behaviourist? I have only worked with one noise phobia case this year (he’s doing really well with a combination of more interesting walks, medication when required, and a new surround sound TV!). Whilst I don’t promise your dog will react like my spaniels (bang = where is the thing to fetch) it is possible to reduce the fear felt by most dogs through counter conditioning and desensitisation, and to come up with medication protocols for those who remain distressed.


Look for a breeder who habituates their puppies or kittens to noise from an early age. I play my puppies CDs of fireworks, gunshot, traffic, babies….everything! This continues most days until they are at least 6 months old. I often play noises when they are eating or doing some training. As my pups get older I play the noise CDs less often, but often enough that they stay unconcerned. If they show any anxiety the volume goes down and I pair the noise with play or food. If a bang means sausage is coming it is much harder to stay worried about bangs!

Due to Covid-19 restrictions cancelling all our planned gundog work for November we now have extra appointments available. We are happy to do phone and WhatsApp consultations for noise phobias now which can be followed up with home visits next year.

Contact us at for a referral form and prices.



There are few things that make our vet happier than meeting clients with a new puppy.

There are few things that worry her more than meeting new clients with two new puppies!

We know how it happens…the family visit the breeder to chose their pup…there are two left that they just can’t pick between…and they’ll be great company for each other…and you can train one each…BUT…


There is no doubt that two puppies will entertain each other while you are busy at work, cooking dinner or rounding up the kids.

Unfortunately this is where problems can start. The pups have so much fun together they don’t need you at all! In order to train a puppy you need to build a bond with it. This is easily done if you are the source of all food, play and cuddles but less so if the puppy can get play and physical contact from another puppy. It’s almost like twins who invent a secret language!

Added to that you’ll have double bills for vaccines, neutering, insurance, training classes, kennels…..


Dogs aren’t really pack animals. They are social individuals, much like humans and they have evolved to live alongside humans. Dogs have developed body language and vocal gestures which they only use with humans and, unlike most other domestic pets, can get along without doggy companionship as long as they get plenty of stimulation from their humans and get to meet and play with friendly dogs on a regular basis.

All of this said it is wonderful when you do own more than one dog. Our vet Vicky never thought her first dog missed out, until she got a second…and a third! “It’s lovely to watch them play with each other in a different way than they do with me.” But it’s not always easy, “They do need to be separated at mealtimes, especially when they have bones. And sometimes, if they need different exercise levels I can do three or four walks a day!” Vicky recommends waiting until your first puppy is fully trained and mature, or until your rescue dog is totally settled, before looking for a new dog. This could mean leaving 18months to 2 years between puppies or a year between rescue dogs.

Our Vet Vicky is currently working on her level 5 COAPE Diploma in Companion Animal Training and Behaviour to add to the range of services she offers.




Most owners will answer, “I know him better than anyone!” but do you really know what is normal for your pet and would you spot early signs of illness?

Some symptoms such as coughing, limping or vomiting are easy to spot but what about more subtle changes?


A good pet owner will notice how their pet normally eats and drinks, and how much. Eating more slowly or becoming more hungry can be symptoms of illness. Chewing on one side of the mouth could indicate dental pain as could dribbling in small herbivores. With small pets such as hamsters check they aren’t simply storing the food and not returning to eat it. A good pet owner will also know how much their pet normally drinks. If drinking increases think about causes such as hot weather, drier food or a leaky water bottle for small pets. A great pet owner will measure water intake if they think it has increased and this information can give the vet a lot of information.

Good pet owners also monitor what comes out, taking note of how often and how much their pet urinates and noticing any changes in smell or colour. Some changes can be normal, for instance rabbit urine can turn bright orange with some foods! Good owners also observe their pets poop as consistency, frequency and even the shape can change in some illnesses. Seeing soft faeces in the rabbit hutch is a particular worry as this in uneaten caecotroph which can be a symptom of serious dental or gut disease.

Toiletting in diferent or innapropriate places can also be a sign of physical as well as behavioural problems.


Changes in behaviour can be the most subtle indicators of illness and wellness, especially in herbivores and cats (who can behave like a prey animal as well as being a predator).

Some behaviour changes may be very obvious, such as a dog not wanting to go for a walk or a rabbit becoming aggressive when handled but others such as a cat changing their sleeping place from the window ledge to the rug could easily be missed. Behaviour can change with medical problems as well as ‘behavioural’ problems so a check-up from your vet is advisable before embarking on any behavioural treatment or training.

Become a great pet owner and take the time to REALLY know your pet inside out!