Understanding & Eliminating Pet Behaviour Problems

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Why do I need a behaviour counsellor?

A pet whose behaviour has become difficult is often unhappy, and a nightmare, rather than a joy to own. Although vets are great at sorting out physical problems, only a trained pet behaviour counsellor can help find out why your pet is behaving badly and develop a solution you are happy with, so that you end up with a well-behaved, polite, valued, and loved addition to the family.

Problem behaviour rarely gets better of its own accord, and usually gets worse. So it’s best to contact a pet behaviour counsellor as soon as possible after the behaviour develops.

One of the main reasons why pets are re-homed or destroyed is because of behaviour issues. It is my aim to reduce that number, and help you to develop a harmonious relationship between you and your pet.

What problems do pets have?

If your pet dog, cat, rabbit, rodent, reptile (or whatever companion animal you own), is displaying any sort of behaviour that’s a problem to you, help is available. I mainly treat dogs and cats, but the general principles of how their ancestors would have behaved in the wild, how they have had to adapt to live with people, and how they learn, can be applied to any species.

Dog problems vary greatly, but include barking, chewing and destructiveness, aggression, problems with children, difficulty in the car or at the vet’s, chasing (of livestock, postmen, bicycles etc.), digging, inappropriate toileting, eating faeces, difficulty with being left alone, phobias and fears, stealing, guarding and flank licking.

Cat problems include toileting in inappropriate places, indoor spraying, aggression, fearfulness, problems with taking them to the vet, and scratching of the furniture.

“…Will carry on with all the things you have taught us in the classes. Truffle and I enjoyed them and you have refreshed my knowledge in such a nice way. You have a lovely manner and I am glad we chose your classes. If in the future I need any guidance we shall be in touch.” Mary Jane

“We so loved our classes with you…Gandalf is well trained (most of the time..!) thanks to you and all you taught us…he’s our first dog…xx” Daphne

“Just wanted to say thank you for the classes which have been incredibly useful and hopefully have equipped Dexter and me to learn how to fit into each other’s lives…a man stopped me to ask how I had managed to make him ‘so good at walking on the lead.” Jan

“This is an extremely belated note to thank you for all your help and advice while Georgie was at puppy school. I really did value being able to ask you for help while I was feeling unsure about things. Thank you.” Neil

“The kids (and me) were really sad not to finish off the course with our group – it has been such a lovely experience for us all & Fletcher is coming on a treat!” Alison

“I didn’t get chance to say thank you last night at puppy school! It has been great fun and I never expected Tooley to learn all those commands!” Jo

“Thank you Pen, for being one of Milo’s helpers, and for helping us very much too. It was a pleasure to meet you and to experience your beautiful teaching.” Karen

“All in all, I’m delighted – he’s done better than I imagined he would and is fitting into my lifestyle quite well.” Jay

“We could not have done it without you.” Penny

“Mole LOVED his session with you.  His “hissy-fits” are almost non existent now! Thank you again, you’re VERY gifted with dogs!” Charlotte

“Thanks so much for all your encouragement and support over the last few weeks, you are such a great teacher and we loved coming to your classes.” Ros

“I am a huge fan of Penaran, she really knows her stuff and adores the animals! I did both her puppy training which was excellent – 6 weeks to keep you focused and I still have knowledge that we learned then, and several private sessions to deal with more specific behavioural points. My dog has the best recall and that for me has made having a dog so easy and enjoyable. Thanks to Pen, I understand my dog (we met Pen when he was 8 weeks!) he is well trained well behaved dog. This wouldn’t have happened without her as dogs need training as do the owners! Personally, I have now known Pen for almost 3 years and have recommended her on Facebook and think she is not only excellent at her job, caring for the animals and a professional. Thanks Pen!” Sophie

“You have a special gift for sharing your expertise which makes me feel confident rather than daunted or patronised. Perhaps what I appreciated more than anything was how you valued & enjoyed each dog for their uniqueness, even finding validating things to say about the tardiness of some dogs and their humans to pick up the skills. (Er, yes, Skippy and me!) And you made the class such fun (loved the dressing up exercise!) and also safe, a big issue for me given how teeny Skippy is. I was so grateful to you for not only letting me bring Pearl when she was postoperative, but assigning a volunteer to look after her so I could focus on Skippy. You are very clear, patient, inspiring, flexible, creative and, to repeat myself, super-knowledgeable. Puppy Class is such a crucial life experience for the dogs and I will always look back on it, and on your training, with happiness and gratitude.” Marion

“Pen has been helping me train my 1 year old Goldendoodle, Coby, to become my disability assistance dog ever since he was just a few months old. He has come leaps and bounds since then, and is now a very well rounded dog who has returned my independence and loves what he does. This is hugely thanks to Pens incredible work! Her puppy school and puppy university classes built a very strong foundation for Cobys training, and they were great fun to take part in. Her home visits have also helped immensely – not only does she give great training and behavioural advice, but Pen is such a lovely and kind person. Whether you need just a bit of training advice or help with serious behavioral issues, I cannot recommend anyone better than Pen to help!” Talya

“Pen has been helping my dog and I for the last few months. From what I have experienced, her affinity with dogs and humans is clear and unquestionable. I have found Pen’s kindness, patience and generosity to be quite extraordinary, in combination with her experience and expertise. My dog is a rescue with some complex issues due to her history. Pen is incredibly sensitive to the needs of both me and my dog and we are so grateful to her for sharing her time and knowledge with us.” Catherine

“Definitely do this if you have a new puppy. It’s brilliant …We’ve had huge success in training our puppy thanks to Pen’s 6-week long courses (attended two at different ages) and a one-to-one before our baby is due to get prepared. Full of ideas, resources and encouragement, which makes training easier and more motivating for owners. Just a thoroughly nice person too!!” Natalia

“Pen is a great trainer. She is lovely with dogs, ever so patient and has always useful tips for any situation. It was a pleasure to attend her class, I hope I will be able to do so again in the future.” Morena

“I have attended many puppy classes as i am a dog minder/ daycare/ dog walker, when a client was getting a puppy I was keen to learn new training methods. Penarens Puppy School at the Finchley Vet with a small class of up to 4 dogs is easily the best class I have been to. Her class is also excellent value highly recommended if you live in North West London and have a puppy. The correct training with kind methods is key to a happy, healthy puppy, young dog and an easy life in the long term for owner and dog.” Jayne

“Just a note to let you know how well Barney is doing, since we last saw you. He is doing GREAT! On the Heath his recall is SO much better. I can now have him off the lead for most of the time, including in the depths of the woods & he comes back. It’s such a joy & takes so much of the stress out of it.” Karen

“We took our puppy Lex to Pen’s puppy training classes when he was 12 weeks old. As owners we learned so much. Pen is so patient and friendly and we loved her classes. She didn’t judge us, but worked with us and gave us loads of advice about any issues we had. We now have a fabulous dog who is confident and well behaved. We would recommend Pen to any dog/puppy owners. She is amazing!” Jude

“Our puppy stella went to puppy school and puppy university. she LOVES Pen and learnt lots of fantastic skills, including door manners and some tricks. She’s a fantastically calm, well-balanced dog (and for a terrier too!) and will be in many ways thanks to the calm teaching she received, and support we received as new puppy parents. Would recommend to everyone who has a new puppy and wants to give them the best start.” Craig

“Pen is great. We took our first dog to puppy school and then puppy university. Pen gave us such insight that we signed up to puppy school with our second dog – even as seasoned dog owners we learned loads! And she’s always on hand for follow ups. Round here we all think she’s brilliant!” Stephen

“Awesome, intelligent trainer! Taught me massively how to teach my dog properly. Recommend to anyone having any sought of problems with their pets.” Niko

“We hired Pen for a session with our puppy, to check how we were doing with our training and we learnt SO MUCH in a short amount of time. She helped us reframe some of the training and, in some cases, take a different approach and it made all the difference. Sometimes the smallest changes make a huge difference. She also gave us a good insight into the psychology of puppies which is really empowering for us when we interact with our puppy! Pen really understands the spirit of puppies! Thank you Pen. P.S. the lickimat is a winner. xx” Gwen

“Thanks again for the lesson last night. Looking back on the last 3 weeks I feel that Blini’s behaviour has changed so much, and that makes me hope that we’re on the right track. I think it was the first week Blini didn’t bark at other dogs and actually relaxed around them.” Alison

Pen is a fabulous trainer. I took my puppy there and was bowled over at what an excellent, patient and talented trainer she is. It is all reward based training so I have been left with a happy confident dog. Pen had a solution for everything, involved the whole family making it fun for my daughter which enabled her to take in all we were taught. Can’t recommend her highly enough!” Liz

“We have thoroughly enjoyed puppy classes, particularly Olive!” Sara


“We have been working with Penaran on relaxing ‘Vulric’ [a wolf dog] around food, especially outside of the home. At the moment we do a lot of impulse control games in a variety of locations, and are trying to take it slow by going to more coffee shops with V, instead of restaurants with tons of food. This makes it a little easier for him to resist. He is settling down and supposedly snoozing, but always seems aware enough to lift his big wolf face if a waiter is passing by with food to serve. We hired Penaran because we heard of how knowledgeable and invested she is – and she has taken the time to get to know ‘Vulric’ and us, how he ticks and how we work together, to design exercises around our specific setup. Training communities are great and I love that so many of you trust me enough to ask for advice, but nothing replaces having someone qualified be physically present to watch your interactions and teach you new and betters ways to do things.” Lora

“We and katie have come a million miles since we reached out to you in September last year. She is such a different dog and we are so much more relaxed!” Carol

“Without Pen our baby Bronn (cat) would not be her wonderful self today. She was so stressed and losing hair but, thanks to Pen’s advice, Bronn is improving day by day and returning to her younger more cheerful self. I cannot recommend Pen more highly or with more enthusiasm. Thank you Pen. You’re a miracle worker.” Naomi

“Penaran’s advice is sound, it works and it’s so obvious that it comes from a place of knowledge and genuine care for the dog.” Caroline

“Just a little update on Jack! He is doing really well! First he got much more relaxed in the office, and now we even managed to get him signed up to one of the dog sitters you recommended. She seems to be getting on well, we met in a cafe for the first time, she brought lots of cheese and there was no problem whatsoever when she came to our flat. It’s his second day with her and all looks good!Thanks for all your help 😉 Christoph

“Thank you very much for giving me the confidence to work with Nacho in a calm and controlled manner. There is still a lot of work to do but this was a great start.” Vanessa

“Roger is calmer and happier overall, and he is much less barky around other dogs. He’s put on even more weight, and we’re more confident as owners.” Tom

“Gilly now (nearly) patiently lets me clip his nails, but he goes straight to the kitchen afterwards, waiting for his chicken reward..this has taken ages to achieve but would’ve been impossible if I’d rushed him..I totally believe in you & your methods, you’re great! 🙂 X” Jo

“Thank you so much for coming around again and seeing how much Genco has improved with the advice and guidance you have given us. He’s doing very well, though we understand he is a working progress and will continue working on him.” Marcia

“It is no exaggeration to say that when I called Penaran I was utterly desperate. For about 7 years one of my two cats had been ‘marking his territory” by urinating in the house in more and more areas. There was hardly a surface, a bed, a jacket or almost anything in the house which hadn’t been doused. Even a good friend who was sitting talking to me was given an incredibly well-aimed attack and had to leave at once to go home and have a shower! Behaviour like this was obviously highly embarrassing not to mention the stench in the house and the damage to furniture, books, clothes and other things. As if this wasn’t enough the other cat had started imitating this behaviour which he took to be the cool thing to do.From the first time Pen visited my house, studied the set-up and began to give me the benefit of her profound knowledge of cats I began to feel some hope for a change. By following her precious advice, given with patience and understanding, both my cats have completely stopped urinating around the house and are walking around with glittering halos. I can’t say how grateful I am to have met Pen as her help has turned around an unlivable situation.” Jan

“Pen Higgs did a fantastic job coaching me in how to train my exuberant handful of a Cocker Spaniel to stop;

  • Pulling like crazy on his lead
  • Barking in inappropriate situations
  • Displaying jealousy of his terrier housemate
  • Being frightened of the vacuum cleaner
  • Running off on walks
  • And much, much, more

Even if you’ve read the Puppy Training books and attended classes Pen takes it all to the next level.  From Pen you come to understand why your dog does what he does and how to address it. She will spend time with you and your dog and provides lots of notes with helpful instructions and tips for practice.  Thanks to her I now have an exceptionally well behaved exuberant Cocker Spaniel and I know I couldn’t have done it without her. Thanks a million Pen.” Patricia

“I hired Pen to help me understand my dog, as he started to dislike one of his fellow office dogs seemingly without reason. She collected so much information, both in written and then discussion format, and clearly takes very thought-through decisions rather than jumping to cookie-cutter techniques. My adolescent, entire male was back to being happy, walking with the other dog within 20 minutes of Pen training with us – not saying this because she is a miracle-worker and not expecting for issues to be fixed in this time frame, but rather an example of how accurate her assessment of behaviour is, and the training techniques she then recommends to suit this. After our meeting, she followed up with a list of exercises that we are now working through. I feel confident in sticking to the plan she devised for us, and I have found her very responsive where I have had any follow up questions, which is frankly a surprise given her busy schedule and I am not taking for granted. I would absolutely pay her again if I have a new behavioural issue with my dog, I think it is the best proof that professional help is worth every penny and I have recommended her to a number of other owners already.” Lora

“Pen had loads of ideas to help us with our young dog who had become very fearful of noises. She never made us feel that we had done anything wrong and had a lovely friendly and helpful manner. He is now much better but she is helping us with another problem which arose after he got bitten recently, yet this was not part of the original contract at all. We are very grateful for everything she is doing for us.” Dianne

“I can’t thank you enough for your support and guidance – it’s made all the difference in being able to help Lewis and Baxter settle in together and build positive habits. The timing of the last lesson you gave us was impeccable. It really nipped the burgeoning difficulties in the bud and helped my confidence with them too.” Marian

“I don’t think any other method would have worked for June, our 3yo rescued Lab mix bread. We were completely lost (June and us!) when she arrived, 5 months ago, and have now a happy dog, able to socialise and enjoy her walks off the leash…it seemed impossible back then!” Natalia

“Penaran is a really great dog trainer and behaviourist. She helped us a lot with our little naughty dog Shlomi who has anxieties and resource guarding problems. Penaran helped us to figure out his problems and created a plan on how to tackle it. I can highly recommend her and I wish I had found her a bit earlier when my dog was still a bit younger. Thank you Pen!” Nora

“My little girl was quite a worry with her guarding, and with Pens help and advice I feel much better in handling it, and she has improved so much! She still has work to do, but thats on me to just keep on following the plan which Pen had laid out, thank you.” Dante

“My labradoodle Bella was so fearful of being taken on a train that she would refuse to walk in the direction of any railway station or railway line, and would refuse to walk under railway bridges. She would also refuse to go out in the dark and eventually began refusing any route other than the route to the park. By building up her confidence at home, she will now venture out after dark to get a sausage, will run and walk under/ over railway bridges and is generally willing to try different routes for our street walks. It is early days and we are taking it slowly so I am not going to try taking her on a train until she is much more confident.” Linda

“I cannot tell you how pleased and proud I am. It is such a huge relief – Alfie can now climb onto my bed at night (now the officially preferred sleeping space of both kittens) without the stress of his wet urine soaked feet. Also, no urine and poopy mess to clear in the morning or evening. Pure stress free bliss! It all feels so wonderful – such a huge weight lifted!” Sharon

“Pen has been so totally brilliant in helping me and my children come up with kind and clever ways to understand and engage and train our new puppy. She has patiently shown us how to encourage him to do the things we want him to do, with lots of idea on how to distract him when he wants to do the opposite! She has sent detailed notes to refer back to after each session and is always available on text or email for any questions. Really feel like we have learned so much from her and would recommend her 100%.” Michelle