dog naughty list



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.