Millie the Big-hearted Labradoodle

Millie the Big-hearted Labradoodle

In this blog post The Animal Talent Team have decided to share Louise’s heartfelt Facebook post about Millie the Big-hearted Labradoodle.

Here is a little background to fill you in. This is taken from the GoFundMe page our team set up to assist Millie’s family cover her surgery and veterinary expenses.


The Background

Millie the effervescent, friendly Labradoodle was savagely beaten and shot in the head with a spear gun on 21st January 2018, in a horrendous act of animal cruelty.  The news of this callous and brutal attack has been widely reported by the Australian and International media.

Millie is now fighting for her life.

Millie is a one-in-a-million dog – loving, loyal, friendly with other dogs and much-loved by her family and the local community. She is a dog with a big heart and sweet, gentle nature.

Her injuries are extensive and too graphic for us to detail here. In brief, she has a collapsed lung, a fractured skull and serious internal and skeletal injuries. She is receiving around-the-clock specialist veterinary care and may be facing further surgery.

Millie is only 3 years old and just starting out in her life journey. She is a happy-go-lucky, family pet with a big personality and loves nothing more than a trip to the beach, meeting up with her doggie friends, sunning herself on the sand, playing a game of fetch and frolicking in the waves. Millie is a crowd-stopper at the beach, people are constantly amazed by her out-going, friendly nature and her love of life.  She laps up the attention and is always happy for extra pats.

Millie is a real character when she is ready for a game her special trick is to head to the laundry basket, grab a sock then bound over to her family with it hanging from the corner of her mouth like it’s an extra droopy tongue.

Millie loves kids enjoying nothing more than joining in with all their games. Her family say, “She thinks she’s one of the kids! ”

At the end of a long dog day, Millie loves to chill and get some belly rubs in before it’s time to curl up beside her mum for a long snooze.

Millie sounds like a dream dog and that’s because she is. She is that one-in-a-million rare find who is loved and adored by her family, friends and community – both two and four-legged.

In a world impacted by cruelness, greed and hate, we need all the Millie’s we can get.


Louise’s Post

Millie is the epitome of determination and hope, here’s why. Every day I see the bond between animals and humans. I’ve seen some amazing stories of recovery, both humans and animals. I don’t just work with dogs, I bond and work with their humans.

In the last few days I’ve experienced a range of strong emotions anger, disbelief, sadness, confusion, disappointment and…. hope.

I’m watching a dog with serious and numerous life threatening injuries begin to slowly heal herself and with that healing, begin to heal her family, to change their emotions from anger and resentment, to hope and gratitude.

Millie, was last week, a young (3 years), vibrant, awesome dog who enjoyed the company of people, beach walks and couch surfing; until she was struck down by a violent act, through no fault of her own, other than simply being a dog. Just a dog. But Millie is more than that. Despite her injuries she is digging deep and making small but steady improvements.

What her future will look like for her and her family is unclear. None of their lives will ever really be the same. No one can turn back the clock. But this loveable, ‘oodley’ dog gives us hope that if she can heal her body, we can also learn to heal ourselves, deal with our emotions (with the support of a community) and start again creating new memories and starting to heal each other.

This is one of my favourite Millie pics and I’m really hoping that one day I can witness her back on the beach.

That is my wish for Millie and her family I hope it comes true.


Brain Gym for Dogs

Brain Gym for Dogs

We all know dogs need physical exercise to keep them fit and healthy, but did you know dogs thrive on mental exercise? Mental exercise stimulates the brain as well as the body and it is equally as important.

Organising a brain gym for your dog isn’t difficult, it can be as simple as taking your dog out to explore the world. Expanding his world and allowing him to experience different things will give his senses a work-out and will also allow you to practice your training techniques. The added bonus is your dog’s confidence will increase, he’ll be more capable of thinking for himself and it’s a great way to proof his behaviours.

Enrichment games are another great way to give your dog his daily mental push-ups. There are a heap of puzzle games for dogs available check your local pet store, jump online or if you’re local head down to our training school.

Muffin Tin Game for Dogs

One of my favourites is The Muffin Tin Game. Here’s how it works:

Grab an old muffin tin or mini muffin tin if you have a smaller pooch. Turn it upside down and place some treats between the bumps. To get at the treats, he’ll have to push the food around from different angles. This is a great puzzle for larger dogs as they can’t flip the tin over.

When he’s played this game a few times, you can change it up. This time keep the tin upright and place some treats randomly into half the cups. Cover each section with a tennis ball.

How do you mentally exercise your dog?
We’d love to her about the enrichment games you do with your dog. Let us know in the comments below.

Animal Training & Puppies – Why, I have been M.I.A!

Animal Training & Puppies – Why, I have been M.I.A!

Well as most of you have probably worked out I’m an intermittent blogger – however I do have a very good reason – over the last few months I have been more time poor than usual and the reason …. A new four legged addition.


Despite being both a professional and experienced dog trainer the reality is, it still takes a great deal of time and patience to blend in a new energetic bundle of fur into an already established household. Normal morning routines are turned on their ear as this cute and furry new addition grabs a school shoe and tears around the house with it with a teenager in tow screeching that they will miss the bus. Hmmm wonder why the shoe was lying in the middle of the floor to start with – anyway another discussion for another day.


I run a busy dog training school and most days all the dogs come to work – they help out with lessons or classes on a fairly regular basis so get to see a range of dogs.   Hmmm – ever wondered why most dog trainers don’t have their own puppy out in a class demonstrating – The reason? Well that’s because we are just like every other dog owner on the planet, except we probably have more experience and a few more techniques and proven methods up our sleeve. We are human and puppies are not perfect, mine not even close – because most dogs who come to live with me will be involved in a competitive environment (dog sports) and other interesting projects they get to be a normal inquisitive puppy when they are out and about, a little later (around about now) they need to start to learn to concentrate and carry out basic instructions – they can have fun with a few friends but for a few seconds I’ll need them to focus and process a simple instruction. Is this easy, not always, but it’s really important to know that dogs don’t have to be perfect – puppies especially will make lots of mistakes, be very distracted and often overly enthusiastic when we need them to be calm. The answer – just breathe and work your way through things one step at a time.

In the beginning pick a time in your day that’s the least distracting and spend no more than 5 minutes on a simple behaviour – my preference is to use reward based methods – no one can tell you how many repetitions of a behaviour with appropriate rewards it will take to teach your puppy that’s all part of the journey of working out how your new addition works.

Manage your environment – if the kids have Lego out or you have to sit at the computer and pay bills (or write a blog) then put the puppy outside or in a crate – its ok that they don’t get to spend every minute of every day with you – it’s a normal part of a busy household routine.

Make sure that you find at least a couple of times in your day to spend playing with your puppy – teach them to fetch, play tug or even just personal play like patting and touching – it’s great for them and will make you feel good to.

Some people love puppies and miss the puppy breath and little teeth marks in the furniture those puppy teeth can put holes in anything – they are young for such a short time (fortunately)– I enjoy watching them evolve into problem solving and enthusiastic happy companions – however in order to become a well-adjusted dog – exploring and moving through all those different developmental stages it’s important that you put in the time, establishing a routine, boundaries and with patience you will work out how the process of reward based training works.

What is a good dog?

What is a good dog?

What is a good dog?

A dog sits quietly next to its owner. While she chats in an animated fashion to a friend. They are in a park and it’s a lovely spring day – plenty of sounds and pleasant dramas fill the air.

The dog is a golden retriever – it stares off into the distance. The dog doesn’t look in the owner’s direction. Nor for that matter, the owners friends’.

A couple of young children come around the corner followed by their mother, without checking with the owner first they run up to the dog and start squealing and patting the dog. Giggling and chatting at the same time, the dog just burrows its head and is tolerant. As the mother walks away she say “What a good dog”.


Observing this reaction and series of events started me wondering. What is a good dog in the eyes of an average pet owner?

  • One that never asks for engagement or interaction from its owner and will never chose to great a friendly stranger
  • One that never turns its head to identify that unusual sound; squealing children or a verbal greeting
  • Never strains at the lead or runs off to investigate the smells at the dog park
  • A dog that silently endures children
  • Doesn’t bark at strangers approaching
  • Quiet acceptance of anything and everything around them

When it was time to leave, he quietly plodded along next to his owner on a loose lead. An accessory of a perfectly behaved companion – I am often intrigued by owners and their expectations of daily life with a pet dog. What starts in the form of an ‘idea’ can rapidly turn into an unbelievable struggle to contain the chaos that an addition of a canine companion adds to everyday family life.

Dogs have needs that go way beyond the simple need for food, water and shelter. Different breeds with specific genetic traits have different requirements for activity and mental stimulation. Sometimes owners become overwhelmed rather than content when their new pet cannot just behave and meet the criteria of a good dog or an ideal pet.


A Tool

Some owners get a dog for a specific purpose. They think that they are just being practical, here are a few reasons;

  • To be a companion for an existing dog in the household
  • To guard the house
  • As a playmate for the children
  • To help motivate and increase physical activity

While these are all valid reasons – dogs don’t arrive in any household understanding what their ‘job; is. Deciding to get a dog to address something in your life or perhaps to be a catalyst for change isn’t a bad thing but it is important that owners are prepared for the reality of owning a dog and the journey they are beginning. Own a dog can bring plenty of benefits but it will come at a cost in terms of time, energy and money.



The Problem

Unfortunately there could very well be some problems to solve along the way. Dog ownership is never plain sailing – and I can tell you from experience that a great deal of my working day is made up of helping owners who have discovered that owning a dog is different and more challenging than they realised. Perhaps the expected a calm, quiet buddy instead they have a happy, focused play driven dog. Whatever the situation, the end result can be matched to the owners intention for their new companion.


The Answer??

We need to redefine what we believe to be a ‘good dog’ means. The traditional view that dogs should remain quietly out of our sight until we want them to do something is outdated and certain demands of what our dogs are capable of can be unrealistic. Instead we need to think of a ‘good dog’ in terms of what they can be taught and how much value an appropriate relationship with a dog can bring.

Your dog sleeping on your bed, Yes? Or No?

Your dog sleeping on your bed, Yes? Or No?

I get asked this question a lot during an average week.  My answer to that question is actually to throw the ball back in the owner’s court and ask them a couple of other questions ……


How have things been going with your relationship between you and your dog lately????


  • Is he/she compliant?

  • Tolerant of friendly strangers in your household?

If the owner is hesitant or says something like – well mostly, ummm except for when she stole food off the bench on Monday and then there was yesterday when she growled at the courier man wearing a day-glow vest doing a delivery….


My thought regarding being a professional dog trainer is not that it is my job to tell you how you should live your daily life with your chosen animal(s) but to educate regarding dog behaviour and related difficulties that make living amongst animals more of a daily challenge than it should be.


If there are some concerns about the inconsistent behaviour your dog is giving you then it really tends to suggest that there is a hiccup with your human-dog relationship and the dog needs to have learnt that being in your personal space is a privilege and one earnt by consistent good behaviour. By allowing your dog to choose its own behaviour (albeit sometimes indulging in predisposed genetic traits like chasing and an over developed scenting ability that results in bench surfing and food stealing) you are actually reinforcing those types of behaviours.


A period of time sleeping away from you even if it’s in a comfy bed in the corner of your bedroom can make all the difference to establishing a healthy and compliant relationship with your dog.


Of course if you are having consistent and on-going problems with behaviour then removing the dog from your bed is probably not going to be enough in itself you will also need to spend some time rewarding your dog for the desirable behaviours you are after.


Louise Harding is a Dog Trainer & Animal Wrangler for Animal Talent, based on the NSW Central Coast & for the Sydney area.

Retraining and re-homing animals needs careful consideration…Part 1

Retraining and re-homing animals needs careful consideration…Part 1

Today’s blog may make people uneasy, annoyed or perhaps provide an insight


First a little background – As a young child when walking home from school I would regularly see plenty of dogs lying in their front yards – some would be relaxing in the sun, some racing up and down the fence line and some would just be sitting looking. I would always have a useful piece of rope or a shoelace or something I could fashion into a dog lead.  From as young as about eight I would make a judgement based only on emotion not formal training, background knowledge or anything else that a particular dog was sad, lonely or homeless and I would take it upon myself to take this poor lonely dog home.  Was it homeless? Was it unloved? Was it badly treated?  No, usually not but nonetheless they would be bought home shampooed, fed, walked and cuddled.  This would last until the distraught owner turned up to collect them – you see I had a bit of a reputation for animal collection – cats, and dogs were my speciality the occasional bird – I do remember a pigeon called Pete and a hedgehog called Henrietta.  Anyway you get the concept.


As a professional dog trainer from time to time I catch myself regressing back into these old habits and I’m called upon to take a step back and objectively reassess and analyse objectively the situation.  I can honestly say that in the last decade or so I have helped retrain, rehabilitate and rehome many animals that have gone on to have wonderful forever homes with great owners.  Ok, a few are “foster fails” those who come here for short term fostering or training and then don’t leave – there’s Alfie the Papillion who I met during a dog training consult – and the owner in the middle of it decided that she didn’t want the dog as he had some behavioural problems – he came home and was re-trained for the most part by my twelve year old daughter!  These days the dogs I use for sport competitive obedience/agility are for the most part working breeds with high levels of energy that come from good working lines and have good confirmation.  However there will probably always be at least a couple who arrive and for one reason or another become a part of the family.


There are many different components to taking an animal from another environment, gaining its trust and respect and then with careful patient training turning it into a safe, respectful canine companion that can then go on to have a wonderful appropriate relationship with a new family. Sometimes for a variety of reasons it’s not always possible – I realise that isn’t what the wider community wants to hear.  Yes, we can re-train adult dogs, however it takes a carefully thought out process to do this – it’s really important that while we are re-training a dog with problem behaviours that the dog doesn’t become too dependent on its carer or trainer – otherwise an important step in the process called transference becomes almost impossible. Transference is where it is possible for an animal to follow basic commands for other people and not just be completely reliant on its carer.  An animal needs to learn trust but it also needs to learn self-restraint and self-control – sometimes despite our very best efforts, time, money and appropriate training a dog is unable to be re-trained, what then?

Part B will be posted tomorrow…

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