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Be alert to the effect of lockdown on pet's health, vet says

Greencross Vets warns that pets too are at risk of the mental and physical health impact of lockdowns, particularly with restrictions in movement and travel.

Greencross Vets Regional Clinical Director, Dr. Adam Sternberg, says that it is important that pet parents are alert to the changes in pets’ behaviour that may indicate they are struggling with adjusting to the new way of life.

“Just like the rest of the family, lockdown can impact pets mental and physical health due to a sudden change in environment. Pets can develop anxiety, weight issues, restlessness due to the impact of the lockdowns and change to their routine. It’s crucial that pet parents are alert to the potential impacts of lockdown on pets before small symptoms eventuate into larger health issues” he said.

Dr. Sternberg has released the top issues that Greencross Vets have seen with pets due to lockdown, as well as practical advice to ensure that pets’ health and happiness is maintained in lockdown.


“Play time is incredibly important to keep pets mentally stimulated and also to strengthen the pet and human bond. 

Signs of anxiety, boredom and restlessness in dogs can include digging holes, chewing objects or themselves and pacing up and down. It’s incredibly important to play with your pet regularly, particularly if you see them exhibit any of these behaviours which can lead to other behavioural issues in the longer term. 

The health benefits of bonding with pets are well documented so quality play time will be beneficial for the health of pets and people alike. There are some fantastic toys available that will help keep them entertained, or you can play interactive games like fetch or hide and seek. 

If you don’t have toys at home to keep your pup stimulated, Petbarn is open for zero-contact click and collect and also offers same day delivery.”

“Cats, and some dogs, are also at high risk of anxiety if there are more people at home than usual, particularly with kids if they are loud. Try to find them an area in the home where they can relax with less noise for part of the day if possible.”

Weight Gain

“With a restriction of exercising in your area, and dog walking services on hold, it is very easy for dogs to put on weight, particularly if they are usually quite active. 

Weight gain in turn, puts additional pressure on potentially arthritic joints, which is very common this time of year and makes pets lethargic and susceptible to urinary infections. 

Make sure you’re taking your dog for a walk daily and feed your dog extra healthy if they are getting less exercise than usual. 

Don’t forget pets can’t eat a lot of human foods, so if the family is eating extra takeaway in lockdown make sure your pet isn’t having any of the leftovers. If you want to cook your pet a special meal, The Nosh Project offers recipes for their human-grade, high quality pet meals on their website. With the addition of the supplement Nourish 27, these meals will have all of the nutrients your dog needs.”


“With kids at home during the day and parents extra busy with home schooling, small objects can easily be left on the ground accidentally, which we sadly saw to be the cause of increased incidence of choking and gut blockages in the last lockdowns. 

Be extra vigilant to keep the floor clear if you have kids at home as dogs can chew, and choke on, items such as hair elastics and toys. If you aren’t able to be constantly picking up after the kids, as many of us aren’t, it might be best to leave your pet in another room for parts of the day to keep them safe and encourage the kids to put their toys away too, which is great for parents alike!”

What to do if you’re concerned

With minimal contact across veterinary services, Greencross Vets has ramped up its 24/7 online WebVet service that allows pet parents and clients to access vet advice anytime, anywhere from the comfort of their own home. 

For more urgent matters Greencross Vets around the country continue to operate for the health of pets. 

For emergencies, Animal Referral Hospital is open 24/7.

MEDIA RELEASE, 26th July 2021

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Decoding Separation Anxiety in Pets: Impacts and Solutions

Pre-pay farewells for furry family members gathering pace

A rising number of Australian pet owners are planning ahead by pre-paying for their beloved fur baby’s farewell costs, so they can reduce their emotional and financial stress when the time comes to say goodbye.

National home vet visit booking service, Pawssum Mobile Vets, has begun offering services on the back of a booming demand.

Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world, with 6 out of 10 households nationally owning a pet.

Pawssum Vets Operational Manager Kiri Brandli said that pet owners were increasingly seeking out pre-paid end-of-life service plans for their furry family member.

“Saying farewell to a pet, who may have been with your family for a very long time, is incredibly emotional and, with greater financial stress hitting many people on the back of the pandemic, we were getting more and more requests to add a pre-pay option to the home-based euthanasia care we offer,” she said.

“People just don’t want to be in a position where they won’t be able to afford to help their fur baby peacefully cross the rainbow bridge. By planning ahead and pre-paying, they will have peace of mind that they are able to give their pet the farewell they deserve, when the sad time arrives.”

Pawssum’s pre-paid end-of-life service includes compassionate at-home euthanasia by an experienced veterinarian and supportive aftercare services, including the return of a pet’s ashes to the owner’s home.

“The level of grief experienced after the loss of a pet is becoming better understood and many people are now seeking out counselling, as losing a fur baby can be significant and traumatic for some time,” said Ms Brandli.

“Given how traumatic it can be, taking the right steps now to reduce the amount of stress you experience as your pet gets closer to passing away, can be very helpful.

“And being able to say goodbye at home in a peaceful, calm, private and familiar space is now very much the norm.”
Pawssum offers its end-of-life services in all major Australian cities.

Pawssum Mobile Vets are available 7 days a week until late and pet goodbyes can be planned for weekends and evenings to suit all family members who may wish to be with their beloved pet.

Telehealth vet video conferencing with a Pawssum veterinarian who specialises in end-of-life care can also offer guidance to help owners figure out if their pet can still be treated to stay comfortable or if they are too unwell for quality-of-life care to continue.

For details, head to 

MEDIA RELEASE, 26th July 2021

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Groundbreaking new gut health supplement gives Aussie dogs the gift of true health

Poseidon Animal Health, the Australian business behind Poseidon Equine - the country’s fastest growing horse gut health business - has today launched a ground-breaking new gut health product. And this time it’s for dogs.

Digestive K9 is the first product to launch for Poseidon Canine, part of the Poseidon Animal Health family. It’s a gut health supplement designed in consultation with a leading team of dog health experts, with natural gut health-boosting ingredients to support your dog’s overall health and wellbeing.

Not only does Digestive K9 feature natural ingredients which are scientifically-proven to support good gut health, it also features BioK9, a powerful bespoke prebiotic, postbiotic and para-probiotic created for Poseidon Canine by international dog health experts.

More than 80 dogs, with help from their humans, have taken part in trials of Digestive K9, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.

One trial participant, dog breeder, Sarah Tuckey, said: “I have found that my dogs just love it, licking their bowls clean. Their coats are glowing, thick, shiny and so healthy, their teeth are healthy and they have regular bowel movements. I cannot recommend this product highly enough, I certainly know my dogs will be on it for life!”

Linda Goldspink-Lord
, co-founder of Poseidon Animal Health, said: “The feedback from the trial participants has been overwhelmingly positive - with many reporting their dogs are more relaxed, less stressed, less anxious, with better skin and coat condition and better sleep patterns. 

Even older dogs got a new spring in their step. The power of the gut in impacting overall health and wellbeing is truly amazing.

“Since launching Poseidon Equine just over three years ago, we’ve seen first-hand how good gut health can change the lives of horses for the better, and we’re so excited to bring the benefits of good gut health to dogs. The gut is linked directly with behaviour, anxiety and stress, the immune system, skin and coat condition, and so much more. Digestive K9 is designed to lay the foundations for dogs of any age to enjoy true health.”

After welcoming a new puppy - a Cavoodle called Oscar - into their lives last year, Linda thought it was only fair to create a gut health supplement for their other furry four-legged friends. They’ve worked with a highly-skilled team, including a holistic veterinarian, pet nutritionist and animal naturopath, and an animal microbiologist, to formulate Digestive K9.

“Oscar started on some of the ingredients in Digestive K9 when only a few months old. The results were amazing. He has been this calm happy dog who copes with anything life throws at him. He has been completely different to any other dog I have ever owned. His level of joy and happiness is amazing to watch and I put it all down to his healthy gut.”

Ruth Hatten, the pet nutritionist and animal naturopath who has helped create Digestive K9, said the gut health supplement is the first of its kind, thanks to a trademarked pre, para and postbiotic and the combination of naturally sourced ingredients:

Digestive K9 has been formulated with food based ingredients designed to support the canine digestive system. There is nothing artificial in the product and there are no cheap fillers. Just a selection of healthy and scientifically backed ingredients that work together synergistically to help your dog have a healthy digestive system."

Dr Renee O'Duhring, who is a leading Australian holistic vet and consulting vet for Poseidon Canine, says that up until now, there were no digestive health supplements on the market she could confidently recommend:

“With all kinds of regular assaults on your dog's gut (and overall) health, such as poor diet, pollution, parasites, de-wormers, medication, and lifestyle stress, gut support needs to be a daily and ongoing event. Poseidon Canine have made this easy with their well-researched and expertly developed product 'Digestive K9'. 

With a background in equine health, they understand the importance of quality feed supplements, and in Digestive K9 they have created the perfect product for dogs! Not only is it your go-to product for supporting your dog to thrive, but it is easy to use, and dogs actually LIKE IT!”

Linda says: “With expert help, we’ve researched the most powerful natural ingredients to boost a dog’s gut health, formulated specifically for the canine digestive system. This includes extracts from pineapple, green-lipped mussels, spirulina and a whole host of other proven ingredients.”

Digestive K9 is the first product to launch in the Poseidon Canine range, with other gut health products for dogs currently in the research and development phase.

Price & Where to Buy:

RRP: from $37.50 (150g sachet). Also available in a 350g sachet.

Find out more at

About Poseidon Animal Health

Poseidon Animal Health is based in Wollongong and is the parent company of Poseidon Equine and Poseidon Canine.

Poseidon Equine makes three best-selling horse gut health products. The company has received thousands of testimonials from customers about the transformative powers of gut health for horses, from hobby horse enthusiasts to eventing horses, show jumpers, race trainers and breeders. Poseidon Equine’s products are available online and through the network of 325+ retailers stocking products around Australia and New Zealand.

Poseidon Canine launched in February 2021, bringing the benefits of good gut health to Australia’s dogs.

MEDIA RELEASE, 23rd July 2021

Greencross Vets
 today announced an alarming new statistic, that found over 80% of Australian cats and dogs will develop dental disease by 3 years of age.

Greencross Vets Director, Dr. Michael Yazbeck (lead image) says “Dental disease is a serious issue that continues to be overlooked by Aussie pet parents who don’t realise pets' teeth need daily bushing and a regular dental routine”.
“Dental disease is painful for pets and can often progress to a severe stage before the pet is even taken to the vet." 
"If you can’t remember the last time you brushed your pet’s teeth, there is a high likelihood they could be suffering from dental disease,” he said.

Greencross Vets has partnered with Petbarn to warn the public of the 7 signs of dental disease and provide practical pet dental advice in an attempt to lower the statistics and reduce the number of Aussie pets that are unknowingly suffering.

Dental disease is inflammation of the gums and supporting tissues caused by a build-up of plaque and tartar. This occurs both above and below the gum line and over time can lead to the destruction of the supportive tissues of the teeth, including bone, resulting in bad breath, oral pain and loss of teeth. 

If left untreated, dental disease advances and can contribute to certain forms of heart, liver and kidney problems.

There are 7 signs of dental disease that pet owners can look out for, and should take their pet to the vet if they notice them:

1. Bad smelling breath

2. Discolouration or build-up of plaque and tartar on teeth

3. Redness of inflammation of the gum

4. Difficulty eating or loss of appetite

5. Discomfort, lumps, or bleeding around mouth

6. Swelling under the eye

7. Pawing at the mouth or chattering of the teeth

Maintaining pets’ dental health is essential to their overall wellbeing. In most cases, dental disease is preventable with the right care. Dog owners can protect their dog’s teeth and health in a number of ways:

1. Brush their teeth with a pet toothbrush

2. Feed dental treats and chews

3. Feed a dental diet

4. Play with dental toys

5. Use plaque control gels, rinses and water additives

6. Regularly visit the vet who can perform dental examinations and provide prevention and treatment plans

MEDIA RELEASE, 14th July 2021

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Zoetis and Beyond Blue continue to support mental health and reduce stigma around mental health in the veterinary industry

An increase in workload and workflow is contributing to burnout, ill health and loss of wellbeing for Australian veterinarians and their nursing staff, according to Dr Natasha Wilks (lead photo), a veterinarian and Beyond Blue volunteer.

Dr Wilks has experienced first-hand the challenges COVID-19 has had on businesses and their teams over the past 14 months and says:
 “the need for mental health support has never been more important.” 
Worryingly, research shows that on average, an Australian vet takes their own life every twelve weeks, four times the rate of the general population.

“There are so many things which weigh on our minds; the long hours, financial struggles, and the difficult situations veterinarians are placed in such as delivering bad news to pet owners, emotional responses from clients unable to afford bills and even violence at the hands of customers,” continues Dr Wilks, who is also a veterinary career coach helping veterinary staff cope with the challenges of the profession and improve their wellbeing.

While other industries might have experienced a decrease in work, vet practices were busier than ever during the pandemic, and continue to be. An increased number of people working from home, pandemic puppy purchases and pet owners spending more time at home with their animals have led to increased clinic visitation.

“While hugely rewarding, the veterinary profession also entails numerous challenges to mental health that necessitate the need for proactive management. Currently, the increase in workload is exceeding capacity all day, every day. 

Vets are exhausted and overwhelmed. It is like running an ultra-marathon. There is currently a huge demand for vets and nursing staff, and with everyone in the practice being so busy, there can be breakdowns in team dynamics,” says Dr Wilks.

Dr Wilks is supporting the partnership between leading Animal Health company Zoetis and Beyond Blue, which is in its sixth year, with an on-demand webinar, Wellbeing for Vet Practices, with practical strategies for maintaining mental wellbeing in practice for vets and clinic staff.

Zoetis, who works closely with vet practices around Australia, supports the mental health challenges faced by the veterinarian industry through its crucial mental health partnership with Beyond Blue

Over the past five years, Zoetis has helped raise $500,000 by donating $5 from products sold during the campaign period. In 2021, Zoetis aims to once again reach its $100,000 fundraising target by the end of the year.
“Zoetis is proud to once again be supporting Beyond Blue and the important work they do” 
says Lance Williams, Zoetis Senior Vice President and Cluster Lead, Australia and New Zealand. “We knew that supporting vet mental health was critical when we first embarked on this support campaign, but we didn’t know then just how important the partnership would be. Together we have made strong progress in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of veterinarians, practice staff and nurses, and we are passionate about helping again this year.”

“All funds raised by Zoetis go towards the Beyond Blue Support Service. To date, Zoetis’ donations across veterinary and rural farming initiatives have allowed over 8,000 people, including vets, to get the help they need through the Beyond Blue Support Service and we are hoping to help more people this year,” he adds.

Beyond Blue CEO Georgie Harman said the Beyond Blue Support Service continued to experience increased demand since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This year has brought its challenges and people have got in touch with us for many reasons. They might be feeling worried, lonely, concerned about their mental health or the mental health of friends and loved ones, finances or job security,” Ms Harman said.

“Whatever the reason, Beyond Blue wants people to know that no problem is too big or small to reach out. Sometimes, just talking to someone can make a difference, and support is always available.

“We are very grateful to have the ongoing support of Zoetis and look forward to working together so our Australian vets can access support. They help so many of us and our animals, now let’s help them,” said Ms Harman.

The Beyond Blue Support Service offers free and immediate counselling, advice and referrals via phone, webchat or email. In addition to the Support Service, Beyond Blue’s online resources can help people take steps towards recovery and feel less alone. 

Beyond Blue’s online forums tap into a peer network that gives people connection and support from others who have been through similar experiences. The forums are safe and welcoming, monitored by a specially trained team.

Beyond Blue’s NewAccess for Small Business Owners is a free and confidential mental health coaching program. Delivered over six telehealth sessions, coaches who themselves have a small business background, help small business owners experiencing stress and worry. Coaches operate with oversight from clinicians and are trained to refer participants to specialist services if required. 

For more information, visit

For more information about depression and anxiety, visit
To talk to a mental health professional for free, contact the 24/7 Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 22 46 36.

Free web chat is also available from 3pm until midnight at and you can join the forums for free and download the safety planning BeyondNow app from the website.

For more information on how you can help Zoetis to raise vital funds to encourage mental health through its partnership with Beyond Blue please visit

1 Suicide in Australian Veterinarians by Jones-Fairnie, Ferroni, Silburn, Lawrence, Australian Veterinary Journal

MEDIA RELEASE, 12th July 2021
Stage set for epic Trans-Tasman working dog challenge

For the first time ever, the Cobber Working Dog Challenge is welcoming New Zealand dogs to compete against their Australian counterparts.

Today, the twelve dogs vying to be crowned the hardest working dog are announced.

Each dog will wear a GPS collar to track how far, fast and for how long they work over a three-week period.

Now in its sixth year, the 2021 Cobber Challenge will run from 16 August to 5 September.

Photo (supplied): Emma Stocks' dog Koby, from Coolac, NSW

It promises to add to the Aussie vs Kiwi friendly rivalry, already stoked by the rugby union Bledisloe Cup that runs between the nations through August.

Each day of the competition, data is uploaded to the Cobber Challenge website so fans can follow the performance of their favourite dogs and national team.

Three New Zealand and nine Australian dogs will compete.

New Zealand will be represented by three Heading Dogs – a new breed for the Cobber Challenge that has historically been dominated by Kelpies, Border Collies and Coolies.

Stock manager Cam Clayton from Ashburton in Canterbury, New Zealand, says his dog Pine is his best mate.

“When the day is long and work is hard, Pine is always there and happy to work. I believe we have a really good chance to take out this competition,” says Cam.

“I think we’ll give the Aussies a run for their money.”

Two of the Australian entrants have competed before but think this will be their year: Daniel Pumpa who is now working in Koorawatha, NSW, and Bree How in Tunbridge, Tasmania.

Bree How's dog Kit (Tasmania)
As assistant manager on a lamb fattening operation, Daniel and his dog Turbo are doing more stock work than ever, and will be marking lambs during the Cobber Challenge. Overcoming a broken back in 2017, this Kelpie is strong and fit enough to return for a comeback series.

“It’s awesome to compete against the New Zealanders because it will show the differences between us and then in how we handle our dogs and ourselves.”

Daniel thinks the New Zealanders will be tough competition because they cast their dogs a lot more to cover steep country compared to many of the Australian competitors who take their dogs to stock on a motorbike.

Bree is competing with Kit, who was a pup when Bree competed in the Cobber Challenge in 2018. Three years on, Kit has become the main dog in Bree’s team of six Kelpies.

While 2021 will be Antony Mulder’s first Cobber Challenge, his wife Heidi has competed twice. Antony’s keen to see if he and Ritz can beat Heidi’s performance and show how much work dogs do in northern Queensland and their toughness.

Kellie Savage, Cobber’s Marketing Manager, is excited to have New Zealand on board for this year’s Cobber Challenge.

“The three Kiwi competitors work in incredible landscapes and I think their dogs will cover impressive distances,” Kellie says.

“We’re thankful to everyone who applied. How much everyone values their dogs as part of the farm team shone through in the nominations.”

Cobber Working Dog Food will provide the fuel for these dogs, as it does for thousands of working dogs every day around the country.

For three weeks, the dogs will be scored based on distance, speed and duration of work per day with points accumulated based on daily activity to determine the winner of the Cobber Challenge trophy.

People can follow the performance of their favourite dog at and on the Cobber Dog Facebook page.

Competitors for the 2021 Cobber Challenge

New Zealand
  • Cam Clayton and Pine, from Ashburton, Canterbury
  • Josh Tosh and Trix, from Dipton, Southland
  • Peter Aitken and Spark, from Millers Flat, Otago
  • Antony Mulder and Narroonda Ritz, from Prairie, Queensland
  • James Knight and Krui Snowy, from Devon Park, Queensland
  • Daniel Pumpa and Turbo, from Koorawatha, NSW
  • Emma Stocks and Koby, from Coolac, NSW
  • Bradley Dunlop and Roxy, Wanganella, NSW
  • Rob Sibley and Boof, from Kojonup, WA
  • Ben Jeffery and Skyblue Jack, from Wannon, Victoria
  • James Leahy and Glenlyon Jill, from Highlands, Victoria
  • Bree How and Kit, from Oatlands, Tasmania

MEDIA RELEASE, 12th July 2021

Agility Dog Club of SA hosts the July Games Trial featuring a full day of competition

On Saturday 24th July 2021, the Agility Dog Club of SA will host their only Games trial of the year featuring a full day of competition.

This event will be held at their new grounds of Golflands Reserve in Glenelg North, starting from 9am.

The July competition features Strategic Pairs where a team of two handlers and dogs take turns completing a series of obstacles around a course. If one makes a mistake the other must complete that obstacle in a race against the time to cross the line. 

The second event is Gamblers where points are allocated to each piece of equipment on a scale of difficulty and competitors must make up their own course to acquire as many points as possible before going clear on a short final run. 

The final competition is Snooker where - like in the game of snooker - handlers must ensure their dog jumps clear over a ‘red’ jump then complete a ‘colour’ obstacle three times before staying clear over a numbered closing sequence. This is a game of skill and again the aim is to acquire as many points as possible.

Jenny Barnes. spokesperson for the ADCSA said that the competition is an opportunity for everyone to have even more fun than usual with the rules slightly different to a normal competition. 

“Choosing their own course means competitors can take advantage of obstacles their dogs excel at while if they happen to knock a jump in Gamblers and Strategic Pairs or even in Snooker (at Novice level) they can still gain a qualification as long as they are accurate elsewhere despite not winning”.

“Games can be fun for the audience to watch as competitors will often complete popular obstacles such as weavers several times on one course and of course the enjoyment for dogs and handlers is clear to see just taking part”. 

“Strategic Pairs is the only time you’ll see two dogs and their handlers on the course at once and while a well-oiled team is amazing to watch, sometimes mayhem ensues as dogs and handlers have to rush to the other side of the ring to complete an obstacle that their teammate has faulted while that teammate swaps to a different part of the course”.

Dog agility is a sport suitable for most breeds with canines as small as Pugs and Jack Russell Terriers right up to large breeds such as DobermansGolden Retrievers, Collies and Labradors plus working breeds such as KelpiesBorder Collies and Australian Shepherds.

Handlers can be any age with everyone from teenagers to seniors taking part in training and competing dogs and if any spectators are interested in looking to join a club and start training there will be information available at the event.

When: Saturday 24th July 2021, from 9:00am to 4:00pm

Entry and parking are free and families are welcome to find a spot ringside to watch the action with onsite catering available.

For the latest details, follow this event's Facebook page.

Photography credit (all): Jenny Barnes Photography 

Related Topics:

With half the country in lockdown and more time on our hands than we'd like, maybe this is the opportunity to all take a collective breath and question what our dogs really need...

Dog trainer Mel Ritterman from Cooper and Kids reflects on why our expectations are at odds with the reality of owning of a companion animal including correctly identifying canine behaviour and meeting our own dogs' individual needs...

There is so much more to helping our dogs than just training new behaviours to “fix” their “problems”! 
It is not our dogs that are broken - it is our expectations that need to be adjusted. 
I know that people look at dog trainers as people that should come into the home and just fix their dogs' “problem” but more often than not, there are so many more pieces to the puzzle.

Yes, we can possibly “fix” that one issue by masking it with a new behaviour we prefer to see instead. But is this actually going to fix the underlying reason of why the behaviour is happening in the first place

So today I am going to help give you a little bit more of an understanding as to the WHY behind behaviour in order to help you to understand your dog better.

Why do we get dogs in the first place? We get them to be a part of the family. We get them to make us happy and to make them happy. 

So how do we do this? How do we ensure they are happy? Firstly we must realise that they are dogs. They are a different species to us
We get pet dogs and we just expect them to slot into our human world and know what to do and to be okay with it. 

So as their owner, their guardian, their person – you need to learn to understand your dog. Listen to your dog. Know how to meet your dog’s essential needs. Set them up for success and make them feel safe and loved in this world.

So many of the behaviours that people want “fixed” in their dogs are often very natural behaviours for a dog (digging, mouthing, chewing, barking). We just need to teach them how to have outlets for these natural behaviours that are acceptable in our human world.

If we don’t understand the underlying reason of why these “unwanted behaviours” are happening, they are likely to resurface later on...

✔️ A dog pulling on the leadYes, we can train them not to pull on the lead, but have you ever stopped to think, why is your dog pulling in the first place? What is the underlying reason? Are they totally stressed out and overwhelmed by the big wide world? Are they just too excited and don’t know how to control their arousal levels? Have they learnt that pulling gets them to the park faster?

✔️ A dog jumping on visitors at the front door: Yes, we can train the dog to sit instead of jumping or go and station on their mat when the doorbell rings. But why is the dog jumping in the first place? In this situation, more often than not people will mistake what they think is excitement for a dog who is actually struggling to cope and feels overwhelmed when new people come into the home. 

So instead of just teaching a sit or stay on a mat, how can we actually help them to feel better and less overwhelmed when visitors arrive?

✔️ Then when it comes to the more “aggressive” behaviours such as growling, barking, lunging, snapping, biting etc., have you ever stopped to think the dog might not be doing to this hurt you or the other dog… they might actually be doing it because they have been trying to express their fear, discomfort or pain in so many other ways that were missed? That weren’t understood or heard? So now they have escalated because it’s the only way they can be heard. 

There really is so much to think about isn’t there?
I recently read a book which got my brain ticking. It said so much of what I had been thinking and teaching but explained it in a really easy to understand way. 

The book [1] written by the amazing Kim Brophey - is called Meet Your Dog: The Game- Changing Guide to Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior

Kim Brophey developed a revolutionary, comprehensive framework called the L.E.G.S model, a new way of looking at things based on modern science that allows owners to identify what their dog is struggling with, why, and how they can fix it. It explains the four aspects of a dog’s behaviour, whilst most others usually just focus on the Learning aspect, this model looks at the whole picture.

What does L.E.G.S stand for? 
Learning, Environment, Genetics and Self. All four incredibly important pieces to the puzzle. “When these four aspects are in balance, they work in harmony, but if not, they can create disruptive, even dangerous, behaviour or lead to the dog being surrendered to a shelter.”[1]

This is a model that helps both trainers and dog owners to be able to explain the WHY better and give a new understanding of what motivates and affects our dog's behaviour

Once we understand this model, we will be able to form more understanding, empathetic and realistic views of what is actually going on in the dog and how we can actually help them, rather than just “fix” the one “problem”. So let me break each one down for you...

1) Learning = your dog’s experience and education:

No matter what we “teach” our dogs, they are learning all the time. Learning is of course important when looking at our dogs behaviour but it is just one piece of the puzzle. Our dogs are forever learning that their behaviours will result in consequences

The behaviours that get them what they want, are the behaviours that are likely to be repeatedFor example, your dog barks at you and looks at his food bowl at 6pm every night, what do you do? You feed him. He learns that the barking is working so he will do it the next night and the next night and so on.

Our dogs also learn via association

Every time that toddler crawls towards the dog, you start yelling at the toddler to stop, the dog will learn to associate that toddler with you getting angry and in turn they may become fearful of the toddler approaching. 

So yes, training dogs is “important” but we must remember that our dogs are always learning!

2) Environment = the many aspects of your dog’s external world:

When looking at our dogs and behaviour it is always important to consider their external environment. 

A Bernese Mountain Dog in a really hot humid climate, or a Border Collie in a tiny boxed-in apartment, when you see dogs like these exhibiting “behavioural problems” how about first taking a look at their environment? Their external world. 

Even though we might think we are giving them “the best,” what we picture the best environment might not be ideal to them

I still remember so clearly taking my kids to the zoo a couple of years ago and seeing the one lion in a small enclosure just pacing up and down, up and down. I felt so sad for that poor animal. The environment and lack of enrichment was making the poor thing so incredibly stressed out.

So when you have a “behavioural problem” with your dog, have a think about the environment first - is there something in the environment that can be changed to help “fix” or at least help what’s going on? A dog living in a city apartment complex with banging and drilling going on all day is likely to be grumpier than the dog living in a nice big spacious house in the quiet suburbs. Why? Because of the environment. The environment is making it impossible for this dog to get proper sleep, to the able to unwind and actually decompress and relax. 

So yes, the external environment is incredibly important when looking at a dog's overall behaviour and wellbeing

Using enrichment can be a beautiful way to help set up the environment for the better too.  Enrichment is ways of making your dog’s days more exciting.

Giving them things to do. 

Helping them to use their brains, their noses and to enjoy life. Think about this, really think about it. Think about their environment. 

Think about how you can make their environment more enriching, so it actually helps to set your dog up to get it right and to enjoy their days.

3) Genetics = the DNA that designed your dog inside and out:

Genetics also play a big part in helping us to understand a dog's behaviour. It is such an important piece of the puzzle. I mean look at dogs, how different is each breed: their size, their shape, their coats, temperaments and personalities, the list goes on. They really are so different. And why is that? Whether we like it or not, for generations and generations different breeds were bred for actual reasons. 

Specific traits were bred into our dogs to help mankind in so many different ways. It is important to know what kind of job your dog was bred to do. It will help you to understand your dog SO much better.

What are the 10 different dog breed groups?

1. The natural dogsSiberian Husky, Samoyed, Shar-Pei...

2. The sighthoundsGreyhound, Whippet, Irish Wolfhound...

3. The scent hounds – Basset Hound, Beagle, Bloodhound...

4. The guardian dogs – Bernese Mountain Dog, German Shepherd, Great Dane...

5. The toy dogsCavalier King Charles Spaniel, Toy Poodle, Pug, Maltese, Shih Tzu...

6. The gun dogsGolden Retriever, Weimaraner, Labrador, English Cocker Spaniel, Hungarian Vizsla...

7. The Terriers – Miniature Schnauzer, Airedale Terrier, West Highland Terrier...

8. The BulldogsBoxer, Bullmastiff, Bull Terrier, English and American Bulldog...

9. The herding dogsBorder Collie, Australian Shepherd, Blue Heeler, Kelpie...

10. The world dogs – no specific breeds

In Kim’s book she goes through each of these groups in amazing detail. So many "
Aha!" moments when reading through each one. I literally had a dog in mind for each group and her explanations literally explained them to a tea. 

Once you understand this and understand more about the importance that their DNA, their genetics play in shaping their behaviours, the more understanding you will be of your dog. And the more you will be able to help them and ultimately the better relationship you will have with your dog.

4) Self = the unique interior world of your dog e.g. health, development, age, sex and individuality:

Have you ever thought to stop and look at the individual in front of you? Let’s try and look at each dog. Each dogs is its own self! 

Malinois Porthos & Aramis are littermates but
have very different personalities
So often I talk to multi-dog families and they will often say: "I wish dog A was more like dog B". Unfortunately, just like humans – dogs are all different - even if they are from the same litter or even if they live in the same home and had the same upbringing

It’s just like human siblings. When looking at the self, we need to realise that internal factors such as the dog's health, age, nutrition, discomfort, pain, nausea, hormones, energy levels, can in fact play a big part in our dog's behaviour. 

When looking at behaviour, you also must consider, how are they feeling within themselves? Look at the age of the dog, the health of the dog? Could it be possible that they are slightly losing their hearing or their eye site as they get older? Might they have started developing some arthritis and might have some degree of pain. When in doubt and a behaviour really does change out of the blue, always check in with your vet

Dogs can’t talk to us to tell us when they’re in pain or something is wrong so you must be their biggest advocate. We must always look at each dog's individual personality. 

Learning to read your dog’s body language to me, is one of the most important things in pet dog ownership. Once you understand your dog’s body language, you can help them when they are feeling worried, nervous, anxious and you can see when they are happy so you can start to do more of those things. Each dog will also have its own set of likes and dislikes and through their body language, you will be able to learn this and help them. Each dog will have its own quirks.

Plus, just like humans, dogs will have good days and bad days

For those in the dog industry, we need to realise that we can’t come up with the same plan for each dog we work with – because each dog is different, each dog is its own self.

Understanding your dog is so much more than just “training” your dog. Meeting all of your dog’s needs is what matters. As hard as it might be, as dog owners, we need to stop comparing ourselves to others. Seeing a dog down the street and wishing your dog would “behave” like that dog. Just like people, we are all different, for so many reasons, and so are our dogs. The quicker we realise this, the quicker we can help them. 

The quicker we lower our expectations and make them realistic expectations and stop trying to use “quick” fixes, the quicker we will be able to help them. So let’s start to look at the bigger picture, let’s look at the WHY. 

Let’s take into consideration all the pieces of the puzzle: Learning, Environment, Genetics and Self

Then let’s help our dogs by being kind, caring and compassionate. Build that trust and respect. And ultimately work to help your dog so you can both living a happy, safe and fun life together.

If you live in Australia, the Pet Professional Guild Australia (PPGA) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) are two great resources to find a force-free trainer in your area.

written by Mel Ritterman from Cooper and Kids, June 2021 for Australian Dog Lover

About the Writer

Mel Ritterman is an IAABC accredited dog trainer, a Family Paws Parent Educator and a busy mum to three young children and her Golden Retriever, Cooper

Mel has a psychology background and has always had a serious love for dogs as well as a love for learning about the science of behaviour. Mel uses force-free, positive, science-based training and loves helping to educate families on this too.

Mel’s business, Cooper and Kids specialises in creating safe, happy and positive relationships between babies, kids and dogs.


1. Brophey, K. (2018) Meet Your Dog: The Game-Changing Guide to Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior.

Disclaimer: Cooper and Kids will not be liable for anything that happens to you, your dog or children by following the advice and tips in this article. If you have real concerns or worries about your dog and/or safety of your children, please seek out a professional to come and assess the situation asap.

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