Monday, 11 August 2014

The process or the end result?

Hello again

So as I'm feeling happy on this beautiful Monday morning, I thought it was about time to treat you all to a snippet of my first exhibition, combining photography with music to excite and exhilarate. For those of you that follow me for the animals, do not worry animals will always feature.

Whether putting together these images, compiling a new song, or training the dogs or horses, I have found that there seem to be two very different stances as to how people keep motivated;

One is by focusing on the outcome, the end result. 
The other is by enjoying the process, the activity in its own right.

Sometimes rushing to reach that end result, can lead to problems, affecting the well-being of all involved due to the intense pressure that one may put on him/herself. It can lead to the ever growing fad of finding that magical 'quick fix' rather than taking life as it is and enjoying the ride.

I enjoy the process, it is the process of working with art, music or animals that brings the therapeutic effect. I'm speaking both personally, and professionally here, personally it makes me live in the moment - a sort of meditation if you like - and professionally I witness people change as they learn to relax and enjoy living in the moment, without worrying about the past or the future.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings, you just want a peak at the pictures don't you ;)

This guy was amazing, we had a long chat when he stopped after this session. I showed him some of the images and noted that he looked a bit worried in the first. He then carefully explained the sheer amount of politics when spraying over a fellow artists tag, all made sense then! I love the contrast between the man in the suit stuck in his business bubble with the artist - both absorbed in their own lives only inches away from one another.


For those critical eyes, you can see that I have kept the images as raw as possible, without processing. This better reflected the mood of the subjects and of myself. Spot the added paws too, additional designing!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Can human-animal relationships be mutually beneficial?

So, I know that it has been a while, lets just say I have been away overcoming life's challenges and learning from them.

I have gone about starting this blog once more, this time with a focus not only on animal welfare and training ideas (although the theme will underpin all that is said) Instead I want to engage with you through an exploration of the therapeutic benefits that we all receive from the simpler things in life.

As an animal behaviourist, I began my career with a slightly narrow-minded belief that my life-long ambition would be to make sure humans stop destroying the well-being of the animals on our planet. Hhhmmm, well, I now cringe when I admit to this!!

There is just so much more to consider within the dynamics of the relationships that humans and animals have in our society, can we work together instead to promote a more positive attitude, simply helping to balance the well-being of both the human and the animal?

Since starting out, I have seen how relationships can be out of balance, whether it is the well-being of the animal at risk, the well-being of the human at risk, or of both. What I really love, what really truly inspires me, is when I see both human and animal flourish in a happy, healthy dynamic.

To end this little starting blog, I just wanted to let you in on an experience that I have had earlier this year. With a series of unfortunate events, including the untimely death of a close friend, the sudden passing of my beloved stallion Zachery, and a marriage breakdown (well - breakdown on his part with a 21 year old! but lets move on) I took my two dogs for a walk on the beach. Whilst considering who I am, where I am going, and many more deep and conflicting thoughts, I spotted my beautiful Boxer x SBT Sheba living in the moment. Within that moment I left my irrational mind behind, and laughed out loud, not stopping to look backwards. Surely this moment in my relationship with Sheba could be considered mutually beneficial? 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Safe, positive, child-dog relationships

Sometimes we find that unpredictable or loud children can be a cause of stress for a family dog. Here are a few tips to help you manage happy children and dogs!

  • We must all understand with biting behaviour; a puppy is not being nasty or aggressive.  He is just behaving in the same way as he would when interacting with his litter mates, but he needs to learn that this is not OK when he is interacting with people.
  • Baby gates are a great tool. With the dog on one side and the child the other, the child can safely ask for a command such as a sit and drop the dog a treat when he does it.  Practised over several weeks/months, this also teaches a dog not to jump up at children but to  sit/lie down in front of them and in time will  teach them to copy this behaviour elsewhere without a barrier.
  • Young children should always be supervised and taught to place treats on the floor. This way the dog learns not to raid young children’s hands for treats and that everything comes from the floor near him.  It also teaches a dog to stop before reaching a small child and search the floor, thus preventing the risk of a dog jumping up and knocking the child over.
  • Help your children to learn more about dogs and how to behave well around them. The Kennel Club Safe and Sound Scheme has some great free resources 
  •  Teach your dog ‘gently’:
-   Get a treat in your hand and show your dog what you have got. Make sure he does not snatch it from you.  If he does, close it in your hand.

-    Close your fist on the treat, and hold it out towards the dog.

-   Let him sniff your hand and when he is calm, preferably when he is sitting, open your hand so the dog can take the treat from the palm of your hand.  If he goes to snatch, close your hand again.

-     Try to refrain from saying anything.

-    Repeat this several times. If the dog tries to scrabble or bite at your fist, just close your hand. Try again in a few seconds, waiting until the dog is calm before you present the treat. In time, the dog will learn that he is only rewarded with the treat when he does not snatch. If he starts licking your hand, then open it up for the treat.  You are looking for a more gentle behaviour and when this is offered, you can open your hand and add the command ‘gently’.

-   With practice your dog will learn the consequence of this and then other people can try giving him a treat.  Make sure you leave children to last when the dog has really got the hang of taking a treat gently. 

For more tips and advice on safe dogs around the family, please do feel free to contact Katie on 07841 517543  or email her at

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Happy, healthy pets this Christmas - top tips!

The Christmas holidays brings with it wonderful times amongst those that we love, laughter, fun and all of the trimmings. But sometimes the furry members of our homes can become stressed by the changes that the holidays bring.

Here are a few top tips to help you enjoy Christmas with your beloved animals;

From now until January we change our home environment to accommodate the abundance of decorations that we have collected over the years. Cats are highly territorial, and even the slightest change to the home can evoke stress, leading to numerous behavioural problems, most often urination in the home, straying or aggression. Dogs are also adversely affected by the changes to their home, again triggering stress that could negatively impact their behaviour.

To avoid any problems developing this season, ensure that there is a room in the home, perhaps a spare bedroom or utility room - a room that is not altered or decorated as the rest of the home is. In this space set up a 'bolt hole' or 'sanctuary' where your cat or dog can retreat to during the season. Include bedding, treats, chews, toys, scratching posts, water bowls to help your pet feel that this is 'their' space for the season. This stability can really make the difference as to whether you end up calling on a behaviourist in the New Year!

It can also be useful to purchase a plug-in diffuser called FELIWAY (for cats) and ADAPTIL (for dogs) from your vets, plugging it in this 'bolt hole' or 'retreat'. These products have developed a synthetic copy of the natural comforting pheromones that your dog or cat would be exposed to when with their mothers, and have been found to help young and older dogs and cats cope with change. 


Further to this, it is really helpful to designate one responsible member of the household to watch over your pet. This person is responsible for ensuring that there is sufficient water, appropriate feed, chews, regular litter tray checks or regular walks and toileting breaks, throughout each day. Crucially, this is the person that has read this blog and therefore understands how stressed your dog may be becoming in the range of situations throughout the holidays.

Thirdly, during the holidays we have an abundance of visitors of all shapes and sizes. This again can bring a major change to your pets environment; with the doorbell ringing more than usual, people rushing around, high pitched voices around the games table, new toys with all manner of noises entering the home. 

With the increased excitement in the house, cats often cope by hiding away from the hustle and bustle, however dogs can find this difficult - caught in between "I want to be involved" and '"Wow this is scary!" - this can often lead to difficulties in jumping up, barking, urination and defecation, stealing food, and aggression.

Using new, tasty, safe chews, for example the KONG rubber hollow rubber toy stuffed with dog food (soaked if using dried feed) is great for distracting your dog onto an appropriate settling behaviour, e.g. lie on your bed licking at this chew for 20 minutes. These KONGS come in different sizes and rubber strengths dependant on whether you have a puppy or a heavy chewer.

Extra tip: freeze the soaked feed or dog meat to make the KONG chew last even longer!

Be aware of loud noises like crackers, champagne popping, screaming, loud music, flashy lights, even dancing, may be scary for your pet. Make sure that they have the opportunity to retreat to their 'bolt hole' at all times.

Lastly, it is really useful to note the details of your emergency vet, as this time of year brings a range of poisonous treats into the home. Keep alcohol, chocolate, coffee, salt, cooked bones, raisins, holly, mistletoe, lilies, and yew trees (to name a few hazards!) out of reach.

Follow these tips and you can ensure that everyone, human or otherwise, will have a wonderful  Christmas.

Happy Holidays!


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Understanding your Dog - Canine Communication

The dog has essentially 4 behavioural responses to tell us that they feel worried by something. 

It may be that they are worried about something that we are doing to them, grooming them or taking them to the vets for example; it may be that a certain object in the home is causing then anxiety; or it may be even that they are worried by something that we cannot even see! The problem is that if we misunderstand or misinterpret the early signs that our dog feels under threat, we can all too easily risk setting up a dangerous situation.

Take a look at the above image, if you notice that your dog is showing any of these signs, it is important to identify what it is that is causing this. This way you can take action to ensure that no behavioural problems develop over time. If you feel that your dog is displaying any signs of FIGHT behaviour, it is vital that you (a) immediately remove yourself and others from danger, and (b) assess the situation for the long term. 

Immediate action: 
Stop the activity that you are doing with the dog 
Give the dog the chance to take ‘flight’ - putting space between you and the dog. This may mean you moving away from the dog’s space. Have a confident, calm, positive approach 

DO NOT in any way punish the dog, the dog is behaving this way as it is feeling threatened, therefore any form of punishment will cause a more dangerous situation to occur.

Long term action: 
Seek veterinary advice, to check for medical causes of aggression, obtaining a referral to a qualified behaviour specialist where necessary. 

I hope you find this useful, as always, feel free to get in touch at if you have any questions at all. 

Useful links

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Dreaming cats and dogs? Did you know ...

As our pets seem to settle down at night and wake up with us in the morning it is tempting to assume that they must sleep the same way as we do, surely?

There are indeed similarities in sleep between cats and dogs with us humans, but there are also huge differences that can become significant when our animals are stressed.

Why do we need to sleep? Sleep has two key functions one can be termed sleep of the body and the other sleep of the mind. The sleep of the mind happens during a stage of sleep termed REM or ‘dreaming’ sleep. In cats and dogs, this dreaming sleep happens when they are lying on their side with legs stretched out. Breathing and heart rate may change and rapid eye movement is observed (hence the name of this type of sleep!) It is this stage that is essential for processing the events of the day, learning is consolidated.

Dogs need at least 12 hours sleep each day, cats at least 16 hours a day!

Studies show that unlike cats, dogs have about 23 bouts of sleep/wake cycles, lasting about 20 minutes over each 8 hour night. Each cycle consists of about 16 minutes of sleep and 5 minutes fully awake. Also, groups of dogs show unsynchronised sleep/wake cycles. This means that in the wild, one or two dogs will always be alert while the others sleep and so able to watch for danger. Clever really!

The same studies also looked at the effect of moving cats and dogs to new locations - how does rehoming or moving house for example, affect the sleep patterns of our pets? They found that all the cats and dogs studied failed to achieve REM sleep on the first night and the length of sleeping bouts halved. Another interesting observation was in dogs that slept close to their owners were observed to go straight into REM sleep, indicating that they were secure and fully relaxed.

Animal in as their ability to cope with a new home is affected by poor sleep.
Just like us, if we have had a bad nights sleep, we less able to take in new information and adapt to a different situations. This is the same for our animals, whether we want our new cat to learn about the cat flap or settle quickly in their new home, or wanting our dog to learn the ‘sit’ and ‘wait’ quickly, we need to make sure they have had a good nights sleep.

So with research in mind here are a few handy hints to improve the sleeping patterns of your cat or dog, whether he or she is new into the home or not ...


A choice of bedding kept away from food bowls or litter trays
A variety of ‘hideaways’ (cardboard boxes are sufficient)
A variety of high up spaces for the cat to ‘hide’ and feel safer
Bed spaces that are large enough for stretching out
Warn spots (hot water bottles wrapped in fleece blankets or special ‘heat pads’)
Remember you will need the above per cat in the home.


Make sure the bed is large enough for the dog to lie flat out
Keep the bed in a quieter area of the home
Keep the bed away from radiators, fridges,freezers, washing machines as these can all disturb sleep cycles
If your dog isn’t using your bed, think about why this is happening; is it the location, bed type, disturbing objects that are interfering in your dogs sleep?

Remember at least 70% of behaviour problems are darastically decreased by improving our animals' sleep patterns! Happy dreaming!

Katie Bristow-Wade


Empson, J (2002) "Sleep and dreaming" Palgrave, Great Britain

Adams, G and Johnson, K (1993) "Sleep wake cycles and other night-time behaviours of the domestic dog Canis familiaris" Applied Animal Behavour Science, 36: 233-48

Simpson, H (2008) "Teach yourself dog" NAC Library, Carmarthen

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Mutually beneficial relationships

With the stresses and strains of everyday life more and more people are noticing the potential positive affects that animals can bring to adults and children alike.

As pet owners, we know that when we have had a bad day at the office, there is nothing better than being greeted by our animals. Whether we are riding our horses, walking the dog, or just cuddling up on the sofa with the cat, there is an increasing amount of research indicating the true value that our pets have on our health and well being.

There are various ways that animals can help people, and it is categorized in so many different ways - Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT ) , Animal Assisted Activity (AAA), Animal Assisted Intervention (AAI) .... the list goes on.Essentially, with all the above, the aim is to bring an animal into the world of an individual, where he/she becomes a fundamental part of a person's treatment. It is designed to improve the physical, social, emotional, and/or cognitive functioning of the patient, as well as provide education, build life skills, and develop motivation.

To give you an example, a child with autism may be finding it difficult to cope in a world as it can seem extremely unpredictable and therefore frightening at times. This often causes a child to breakdown (having what is often called a “tantrum” or “meltdown”.

Now, I could go on about the research involved in this area, how it is thought that dogs help children affected by autism, but as I have been involved in a project of this kind, I would rather mention the firsthand accounts as to how dogs provide comfort and reassurance, really changing the lives of these children and families so dramatically in such a short space of time.I have witnessed the transformation of a 12 year old girl affected by autism, very withdrawn, terrified of leaving the home, simply through the presence of a dog, she became more confident, learning how to care for the dog and understand its own potential fears, and overcame her own anxieties over time.

I have also experienced a boy of 7 years old talking for the first time, he first day that his puppy arrived at the home, that motivation to speak to a person that is non-judgment.This is wonderful, the building of positive relationships between person and animal for improved health and well being. Indeed, this is an area that is fast developing within the UK, and will increase in time.

However, it is vital that these relationships are positive for all involved, both the person and the animal. We do not want stressed animals - whether in the form of a horse who is fearful of people, a cat that is stressed being passed from pillar to post, or a dog that may snap at any moment. We want animals who are full of character, feel confident in themselves, and positive about the world.

So perhaps this area is not as simple as it sounds after all? It is not a matter of simply paring an animal with a person and hoping that it goes to plan, its about raising confident animals in positive environments, to build truly therapeutic relationships between people and animals for the future.