NOVEMBER 2nd 2019

Life for dogs on the  island of  Nomuka, situated in the Ha’apai group of islands in the Kingdom of Tonga is far removed from our Western society.


Our dogs know only of life living as part of our families,  are treated to car rides, walks with their owners along a sandy beach or a windy forest trail.  If you are anything at all like me, your dog may get a birthday and Christmas present! And may also be allowed to occasionally sleep on your bed, or your comfy lounge suite!


We know them as man’s best friend, and they happily take on that role. They are often the first to greet you when you arrive home from a long day, always with that happy, excited wagging tail. They assist us to search for those that we have lost. they lead the way for those that cannot see, they provide us comfort and understanding when it seems no-one else in the world cares.


I don’t know about you, but I certainly can’t imagine not having my four-legged friend in my life.



bag of puppies
sleepy pups

Recently I volunteered with South Pacific Animal Welfare on the island of Nomuka.

Nomuka is 7 square kilometres and around 400 people call the island their home along with an unknown population of dogs.


The goal of our trip was to de-sex 120 dogs and cats, provide general veterinary support, clinical examinations, parvovirus vaccines, parasite care, education and livestock animal husbandry.

Life for a dog in Nomuka is so far removed from our own dog’s life’s that it is like they live in a totally different world. Only some dogs are owned, they don’t have collars or leads. They don’t know the joy of going for a walk or having a ride in a car. And most definitely know nothing of a birthday or Christmas gift.


Instead dogs make up part of the Tongan diet.

They are mostly fearful  of people.

Dogs are chased, hit, and have to dodge machetes and vehicles.


It is a game of survival.

Survival to fight other dogs over resources such as food and water.

Survival to find a safe place to sleep.

Survival from discomfort from injuries and disease.

Survival from living in fear and distress in their overwelming environments.


It is hard to see these poor dogs being so afraid in the world they have been born into.

It was not their choice to be brought into this place.


But as with all things in this world we have to start somewhere although it was hard to see how dogs were being treated with the knowledge that life could be so much better. The road to better education and treatment of man’s best friend in Nomuka has begun.


The children were very interested and willing to learn and help us care for their dogs.


It was heart warming to see them take control and bring along their dogs to be de-sexed, vaccinated and treated for fleas and worms.


Change starts with a new generation.

I feel priveleged to be a part of this change.


pulse ox


Above Left: One of my patients that I was monitoring during a routine de-sexing surgery. There are no anesthetic machines. Paitents are mantained under IV anaesthetics, and are constantly monitored.


Above Right: One of the paitents that stole our hearts nicknamed ‘Dobby’

Dobby looked much like a walking skeleton with no muscle and all the bones in her body showing. There were many dogs and puppies in a similar condition.




Dobby in the sand


Above: Dobby, 3 days after having surgery,  some extra loving care, and food! Looking much healthier already and happily playing in the sand.


If you would like to donate to help support the work that South Pacific Animal Welfare do, you can donate to their give a little page here.






JUNE 23rd 2019
sam & clicker
sam & clicker 1



Clicker training, so what’s the go?! I am sure you have heard about it and maybe you have even tried it! How did it go for you? Did you feel like you knew what you were doing? And did it help you to train your dog effectively?


Using a clicker as a tool for dog training helps to identify the exact moment that your dog (cat, rabbit or even fish) performs a behaviour. You use it to mark that behaviour, in doing so it helps your pet get the indicator they need in a timely manner. Dogs for instance need to be reinforced 3 seconds after they have performed the behaviour that you asked for. Getting a treat to them is great, but without the tool of a clicker it is very likely that by the time they are given the treat it has been much longer than those 3 seconds, so they may not know exactly what the treat is then for. Therefore using a clicker will help your pet learn faster, I’m sure you as an owner would be quite happy with that!


How do you then start clicker training? The first step is to go out and get yourself a clicker and some tasty treats! Then you have to pair the sound of the clicker with a treat reward often enough that the sound will become a reward in itself. You will need to in the beginning simply click and give a treat straight away (remember the 3 seconds)! It has to be quick! Once you have done that a few times start leaving giving a treat for a few extra seconds. You should start to see your dog looking for the treat after you click the clicker. If you are not seeing this then you have moved too quickly, so you need to go back and do more practice of just clicking and giving the treat straight away. Once your dog has started to get the hang of it with the delay of the treat reward, you are ready to take it a bit further. I recommend getting some treats in a small bowl and sitting them beside you in the evening while you are relaxing. Click every now and then and watch for your dog’s response, he/she should now come running at the sound of the clicker. And just as before, if your dog doesn’t come running you need to go back a step, maybe just try when your dog is already nearby and there are few distractions.


You can start clicker training at any age, so this is not something that will work only with puppies! Just look at the photos above, Sam only started clicker training at 4 years old! Look how interested in the clicker he is!


As a positive reinforcement trainer, clicker training is something our trainer Lisa uses routinely, if you are considering using Four Happy Paws for your future training needs, this is a technique that you will be taught to utilise. It is something that you will wonder how you went without once you get used to using this tool. And you can use it on any pet you want to train, no matter what the age is! SO what are you waiting for?! Get out there and give it a try!!





JUNE 5th 2019

Dog sports! What do you think of when you hear those 2 words? Do you think about agility, obedience or maybe dogs running some kind of relay race!!?? While there are many different types of dog sports out there to choose from, Treibball is one that looks to be a lot of fun for everybody, the owners, spectators and of course the dogs and is awesome in our view as it is a sport that uses positive reinforcement! Read on to find out more about this emerging dog sport.






Treibball uses a dog’s herding or chasing instincts as well as obedience skills. The difference is instead of using stock, exercise balls are used instead!! The sport originated in Germany in 2003 and is great way for dogs to use mental and physical stimulation. In some cases it is an easier sport than herding as you don’t need other animals and it takes up much less space. The balls used are typically yoga type balls that are between 45 – 75cm and are often larger than the smaller breeds of dogs. The dogs must ‘herd’ the balls into a net which is about the size of a soccer goal at the end of the course. Eight balls are placed in a field in a triangular pattern with boundaries marked and the dog must keep the balls within the boundary. The dog is not able to bite or break the ball, and handlers are not able to shout at or force the dog to perform. Dogs normally have around 15 minutes to ‘herd’ the balls into the netThis sport is more suited to herding breeds like collies and cattle dogs but also smaller breeds like terriers. But really if you have a dog that likes to chase things this is probably a good sport to try. To me it sure looks like a lot of fun!! Check out your local dog clubs for more information on this cool dog sport. As this sport is not yet officially recognised there are no restrictions on ages or breeds, So it is a great time to give it a go!!



JUNE 3rd 2019

There is a whole lot of jargon when it comes to dog training, but don’t worry we are here to help! Here are some terms that are often used you may find that theses are things that you already know! You just didn’t realise that there is a word used to describe it!



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Discrimination is to distinguish between what the relevant stimulus is from all the other things that are going on in the environment. Dogs need to learn to discriminate so they can pick out the stimulus that matters in any given situation.


An example is a dog that has learnt to discriminate the relevant stimulus of the cue “stay” from other stimuli such as other people, and animal distractions, or noise distractions from the environment. A dog that has learnt to discriminate will take note of the word “stay” in any different situation or environment.




Generalisation is when the same response can be given even when the other stimulus is different. So if the dog is in the park or at home he will still be able to perform the desired response.


An example of generalisation is when your dog will sit when in your home and can also sit when out walking in the park, and can also do so for male or female owner as it is the cue that matters, not where the dog is or who is asking him to sit.




Salience is the importance of a stimulus. And can include any other stimuli in the environment that your dog pays attention to at the time.


An example would be, when you get ready to leave for work and each time you put your dog in his crate before you leave. The objects that are salient to your dog might be your work shoes, the car keys, your handbag. When your dog sees you interacting with these things he may wait for you to give him a treat as to him these stimuli are of importance, or salient.




Preparedness is when certain stimuli are associated together more willingly than others. This can be feelings and sounds or a feeling and food. Preparedness can make a difference to what stimulus an animal associates with a response. It can make some stimuli easier for an animal to learn about.


An example of preparedness is seen in an animal that is unwell that learns to associate the food they last ate with the feeling of being sick, so in the future they avoid the food to try and avoid the feeling.




Extinction is when reinforcement for behaviour is no longer being given. During extinction the response gradual declines.


An example of extinction might be you stop giving your dog a pat when he brings you his toy. So he gradually stops bringing the toy to you.




Extinction burst occurs during the extinction process. This is when the dog goes through a period of responding. It is thought this behaviour is motivated by frustration.


An example of this is when you have stopped rewarding your dog for jumping up. And although he has started to learn that he will not be petted for this behaviour, he may go through a period where he will increase his intensity to get your attention.






Spontaneous recovery is when the animal engages in the behaviour once again after a period of time being unexposed to the stimulus. These bursts might be less intense and last for less time. They almost become less frequent.


An example would be, you have been teaching your dog to sit and wait for his meal. You are a little delayed in giving him his meal one night and the dog goes back to rushing to get his meal. This is showing signs of spontaneous recovery.




So there you have it! Did you know some of these terms already? Or may be you have seen your dog demonstrating some of these things?


Dog behaviour is so interesting just observe them next time you are around them and see if you can pick out some of these things.




JUNE 1st 2019

Choker chains, shock collars, prong collars I’m sure you have heard of these things but have you ever thought about how using these items can affect your dog? Read on to find out!

choker chains, shock & prong collars (1)

using a shock collar for bark control for when a dog barks at a cat the dog may associate the cat with the shock not the bark. Therefore there is potential for the problem to escalate instead of improve.

Four Happy Paws For Thoughts


choker chains can cause some major damage to your dog such as tracheal damage or a sprained neck, so please have a long think about using these as training tools.

Four Happy Paws for Thoughts



Dogs primarily learn by association, but an association that appears likely to us may not be likely for the dog. For instance if using a shock collar for bark control and the dog barks at a cat the dog may associate the cat with the shock not the bark. Therefore there is potential for the problem to escalate instead of improve. You may end up with a dog that barks even more at cats, or one who hides from them.

If you use a choker chain to aid in training your dog to stop pulling while walking on the lead, you may find that this is ineffective. Most people who use choker chains to train this way find it doesn’t help with the undesired behaviour of pulling as they are most often used incorrectly. The other major concern is that choker chains can cause some major damage to your dog such as tracheal damage or a sprained neck. So for the safety of your dog it really is best not to use one. You can also have a similar problem with the dog associating the tightness around there neck with something else in their environment such as a cat or other dogs.

With a prong collar the damage that can physically occur to your dog can be even worse than with a choker chain and they can inflict extreme pain. They are inhumane and are prohibited to import into Australia from there are much better options out there than having to resort to something that can physically hurt your dog. Your dog is always learning, and what he associates with the pain around his neck could be anything in his environment




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We can use the dog’s way of learning by association to our advantage by pairing something good like a reward with a response. That way the dog learns to associate the two things. So in the future when the dog comes across that same stimulus it will come to associate it with something good. This way of training works so well because the bond between the owner and dog is strengthened. It is a much gentler approach so it works well with dogs that are fearful and you end up with a dog that is happier and more bonded to you. Who wouldn’t want that?


26th MAY 2019

There is so much talk in the dog training world about positive reinforcement training as this has been the method that creates a strong bond between owner and dog (or other pet). Do you really know what positive reinforcement is? If you are working with a trainer they should be able to easily explain what kinds of reinforcement there are.  At Four Happy Paws we strictly use positive reinforcement methods but it helps to know what the others are so you can identify the different training techniques. And choose a trainer that has the knowledge behind the methods that they choose.



little puppies




Positive reinforcement is to ADD something that INCREASES the likelihood of behaviour being performed again.

1.    A common training method that uses positive reinforcement is reward-based training such as clicker training.

2.    Conditions that need to be met using positive reinforcement would be that the reward needs to be highly valued enough for the dog to complete the task. The reward also needs to be given in a timely manner (within 0.5 seconds). The environment should also be free from distractions.

3.    Possible implications of using positive reinforcement would be an increase in the bond between dog and owner. The dog would be more willing to learn new behaviours as he is being rewarded in a positive way. The dog may learn easier and faster using this method.

4.    Possible negative implications of using positive reinforcement would maybe be weight-prone dogs being over fed with the use of treats (if owners don’t take the treats into account for their daily intake of food).





Negative reinforcement is to REMOVE something that INCREASES the likelihood of the behaviour being performed again.

1.    A common training method that uses negative reinforcement would be the use of a choke chain, which the pressure is released from (take something away) when the dog is walking nicely (to increase the likelihood that the behaviour is offered again).

2.    Conditions that need to be met using negative reinforcement would be the item you are removing has to reinforce the behaviour you want to be effective. The dog would have to associate the right stimuli to understand what the owner is trying to teach. The action of taking something away also needs to be completed in a timely manner (within 0.5 seconds).

3.    Possible positive implications of using negative reinforcement would be that the owner might be feel they are in control of their dog using this method. Some owners may prefer a hands on approach and feel they are showing the dog what they want him to do.


4.    Possible negative implications of using negative reinforcement would be the dog doesn’t make the right association so takes longer to learn what the owner is requiring from them. The dog may become frustrated as it is not easy for them to associate the two actions.







Positive punishment is to ADD something that DECREASES the likelihood of the behaviour being performed again.

1.    A common training method that uses positive punishment would be the use of shock collars.

2.    Conditions that need to be met using positive punishment would be that the stimulus is added in a timely manner and in the right context.

3.    Possible positive implications that owners may believe are that their dog will learn fast and if it has a shock collar that automatically goes off so that the owner feels they don’t have to make too much of an effort on their part.

4.    Possible negative implications of using positive punishment would be that the dog doesn’t make the right association to the attended stimulus and may even become either fearful or more aggressive towards the stimulus instead.





Negative punishment is to REMOVE something that DECREASES the likelihood of the behaviour being performed again.

1.    A common training method that uses negative punishment is an owner removing his or her attention from the dog, to decrease the likelihood of the behaviour being offered again.

2.    Conditions that need to be met using negative punishment are that the owner removes their attention in a timely manner. The owner would need to remove all attention for the method to be successful.

3.    Possible positive implications of negative punishment are that the owner might be happy to remove their attention from the dog to give themselves time out if they are finding the situation overwhelming.

4.    Possible negative implications of using negative punishment are that the dog might associate the wrong thing, and may not understand. The bond between owner and dog may be affected in a negative way. It might not be practical in all situations.



25th MAY 2019

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Have you ever thought about how your dog might see the world there might be things that surprise you. There are quite a few differences between the way we see our world and a dogs perspective. And it helps to know them as they can impact the way you train, and  it can also help you to recognise any distractions they might have. Here  are a few of the ways that we differ..

Colour – Dogs experience a colour range most strongly when it is in the range of blues and greens but often confuse red and green. This can be utilised by choosing the right coloured equipment for the task. For example pick a blue ball to play fetch on a green field as this will help the dog to identify the object more efficiently.

Perception of motion – Dogs can see more in every second than we do. We can utilise this by harnessing their ability to assist us e.g. in hunting as they will see where a prey might drop before we would.

Vision in dim light – Dogs have pupils that dilate for capturing maximum light. We can utilise this by training our dogs indoors with lighting as training during dusk is not as effective because the dog’s eyesight being better than ours can put us at a disadvantage.

Acuity – estimated to be 20-40% that of humans. This can be utilised by keeping in mind that for your dog objects ahead that are stationary may not be able to be distinguished between. For example, if when taking your reactive prey-driven dog for a walk and you spot a stationary rabbit 25 metres away you will know that your dog most likely hasn’t seen it and maybe it would be best to change direction!

Field of Vision – Dogs have a visual field of 240 degrees and humans 200 degrees, but have a blind spot right in front of their nose. We can utilize this when playing fetch with a dog by throwing the item more to the side, and assisting them by pointing out something to them directly in front of their nose.

Hopefully this has helped you identify some things that can help when training or out walking your dog. It is interesting the differences in vision that we have, use the above differences to your advantage when you are next out training or waling your dog!


I have my new puppy home! What now??!

May 19th 2019
8-16 weeks

Congratulations! You have got your new puppy, and I bet that cute ball of fluff is demanding all your attention right now! This is the most important time in a dogs life in regards to socialisation so I can’t stress enough the benefits of getting things right at this age. So many dogs wind up in shelters or worse are euthanised for behaviour problems, so many behaviour issues steam from puppies that have not been adequately socialised from a young age. Do you see why it is so important to spend some time now on that precious wee pup so that he or she grows in to a confident adult dog? What things should you be introducing them to then? Read on to find the things I think are important to introduce your pup to in a safe and controlled environment.

I can’t stress enough the benefits of getting things right at this age. So many dogs wind up in shelters or worse are euthanised for behaviour problems.

Lisa Coppins – Four Happy Paws

  • People – People in wheelchairs, pushing prams, on mobility scooters, on scooters, skateboards and bikes
  • Environment noise – thunder, fireworks, gunshots and sirens.
  • Places- vet clinics, pet stores, friends and families houses, any other pet friendly stores
  • Situations – being left alone for short periods, being in a crate, car journeys’, being in different weather situations.
  • Vehicles- cars, trucks, motorbikes, trailers and boats.



Please also see the pervious post which lists things that you should introduce a puppy to from birth to 8 weeks. The list above is adding to what hopefully the breeder has already been doing. If you have adopted a puppy from an unknown environment it is highly advisable to start with the things on the pervious list and then move to the ones on the above list. Any questions please get in touch!




MAY 14th 2019

If you are planning to breed your dog, or get a new puppy it is a really good idea to think about or ask the breeder about the socialisation that is been given. There is so much to consider, and it really is very important to take the time to do so. So many problem behaviours can be avoided if the right socialisation is given right from the start. Read on to find out how to start the process and give your puppy the best start possible.

puppy birth - 8 weeks


In a safe and controlled environment puppies from birth to 8 weeks old should be exposed to –


People – men, women, children, babies, seniors, people of different heights, weights, ethnicities, hair colour, people wearing different items of clothing, glasses, hats coats or in uniform.


Animals – other dogs of different ages, sizes and breeds, cats, livestock, small animals like guinea pigs, birds, horses and rabbits.


Surfaces – grass, gravel, sand, carpet, lino/tile.


Environmental noise – usual household noises like tvs, phones, microwaves, dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers lawn mowers and washing machines. Music, traffic noise, animal sounds, people sounds (laughing, babies crying).


Handling – having all parts of the body touched, being bathed, being restrained, being groomed, being petted it different ways.



As a  breeder you should take all these suggestions on board for several reasons. Firstly, the puppies will more likely settle in to their new homes much more easily resulting in new owners being very happy with the pups and less likely to return them. The puppies will be willing to engage with new owners and will form bonds with them easily because of the previous positive experiences that they have had. Giving puppies these experiences gives them the best possible start in life as these early experiences are the most powerful.

And if you are purchasing a puppy you should also look for a breeder that has thought about a socialisation programme that is including all these things, I really can’t express how important these first weeks are to a puppies life.

Do the best for your pet! 

Best friends are forever!






MAY 5th 2019
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When you start training your dog, cat, rabbit or any other pet it is important to think about the treats you are using, how you are using them, what you are using and how much you are giving. All these things are really important and will help you get the results that you are aiming for.


How are you using your treats?


Giving your dog treats while training can work in your favour if you know some techniques to include. For example if during training your pet performs exceptionally well you can give them a treat JACKPOT! This works much the same as winning the jackpot at lotto; we keep playing for the hope that we might win that jackpot again. Animals learn with positive reinforcement in the exact same way, they will keep trying in hope of gaining that extra tasty treat. Another way you can use an extra tasty treat is to use a technique called JUMPSTART, this is when you show your pet the treat before asking for a response this way your pet will have some extra motivation. Who doesn’t need that for time to time?


What are you using for your treats?


Quality of the treats you use is really important; imagine if someone said to your child that if they went out and washed the car they would get a plate full of brussel sprouts as a reward. I imagine the majority of kids would turn their noses up at both washing the car and the brussel sprouts! Dogs can be the same; if you use their normal food as a treat it may not provide them enough motivation. It is a much better idea to find something they really like, and even mix it up a bit so they don’t know what they will get. Doing so will keep them interested and motivated, give it a go and let me know how it helped to make a difference!


How much are you giving?


Apart from when using techniques such as the ones mentioned above (Jackpot and Jumpstart), the amount you are giving during training sessions matters! The best treats to use are of the semi-dry variety as these can be easily broken up into smaller pieces, and smaller pieces can be more effective. This is because the act of eating is a reward itself, so eating many smaller pieces is a bigger reward that eating a bigger treat (of the same kind).


In summary, use your treats wisely, choose treats you know your pet will be willing to work for to give them the motivation to complete the response you are asking of them. Keep some extra special treats aside to help provide some extra motivation when you feel your pet needs it. And break your treats up in to small pieces, as just the act of eating is a reward in itself.