SDOS Episode 19 – How to make your dog’s crate a great place to be with Sian Ryan


Episode 19 – Today Dom is talking to awesome dog trainer Sian Ryan from Developing Dogs. If your dog has an injury or needs to be on crate rest for any length of time then you need to hear what Sian has to say in this episode. It’s vital you think about your dog’s mental and emotional needs all the time especially when they are poorly and Sian gives some tips for how you can do that with yours.

[.44] Welcome to episode 19! [1.38] What would be on your dog’s Santa list [2.33] Alex goes all doggy Father Christmas on me [3.15] What you really should buy your dog this Christmas [4.01] Why joining my Inner Circle will be the best present you can give your dog [5.47] Welcome to today’s guest Sian Ryan [6.13] The Greyhound Round [7.14] Sian’s embarrassing dog training moment [9.22] How did Sian get involved with dogs? [12.50] What is Sian’s awesome book about? [17.30] Giving owners emotional support [18.40] How to stimulate a dog on crate rest [20.50] It’s only common sense if you know it! [21.30] Why you need to throw away the bowl. [22.30] Why is Sian learning to run? [23.56] Sian’s website and Facebook details [25.08] Coming up on next week’s show….

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Sian:      It’s only common sense, if you’ve come across it before, if you’ve been told about it before, you’ve read it before. We deal everyday, I’m sure, with people who aren’t aware of the massive food toys that there are out there or aren’t aware that it’s okay to feed your dog out of a food toy, they don’t have to have their food out of a bowl.

Dom:     Hello me bonnie bens an welcome to Episode 19, 19, of The Superhero Dog Owner Show. I’m Dom Hodgson, your host. I’m joined by my very good friend, producer and all around technical wizard, Alex the video guy.

Alex:      Hello.

Dom:     I wasn’t going to say that. I wasn’t going to say that. How’s it going Alex? Have you been busy?

Alex:      Yes. Very busy.

Dom:     Have you started your Christmas shopping?

Alex:      I’ve started it, but I have not finished it. There’s still plenty …

Dom:     Running out of time, dude.

Alex:      I know it happens every year. I keep saying I’m going to do it nice and early. People think you’re ridiculous for buying your Christmas stuff in November or October or January. They’re the smart people.

Dom:     Planning ahead. Who’s laughing now?

Alex:      Exactly.

Dom:     Not me and you sitting here with no presents. Don’t worry because our respective partners don’t watch us anyway. It’s not a problem. It’s not a problem.

Alex:      Exactly. They don’t know.

Dom:     What about dog gifts, Alex? If a dog was going to his list to Santa, his Santa letter, what do you think would be on your dog’s Santa list?

Alex:      Probably for most dogs there’d be some gravy bones or some treats on there.

Dom:     Yeah, sure.

Alex:      Kongs, treat dispensers, toys, that kind of thing, or maybe for the dog who prefers like an experience [inaudible 00:02:01] like some of us who prefer going to the spa or maybe getting a super car experience or something like that instead of like a physical gift, maybe they’d prefer a lovely day out somewhere.

Dom:     With their owner.

Alex:      Yeah, like an extended trip to the Lake District or something like that. Do you know what I mean? Like a proper adventure.

Dom:     A big old walk, a big old adventure. Yeah, good one. I think that’s right. I think if you were doggy Father Christmas, Alex, I think all the dogs in the world would be very happy with that.

Alex:      That’s good. I’ll work on that for next time.

Dom:     Some good suggestions there. I think it’s important that even though you’re … I find this with some dog owners. It’s easy to just go somewhere like Pets at Home and something like that and spend fifty quid on junk really. There are some good toys that you’ve described there without a doubt, but there’s some stuff that sometimes you’re just buying for buying’s sake. I think getting something that’s going to really help you with your dog. A lot of owners I think will be far better off buying a long lead rather than a cuddly toy that they dog’s just going to rip up. You can really quickly, by using a long lead and stopping your dog from say running away from you, chasing pheasants or playing with other dogs, you can really quickly teach your dog that you’re a fun person to be with at the park. You’re as much fun as that pheasant. Obviously it takes a bit of effort.

Alex:      You and your dog are going to get a lot more out of it then potentially if it was just something …

Dom:     Yeah, it’s going to be a really good investment I think. Another good investment if you’re not afraid of putting a bit of effort in with your dog will be to join my inner circle. My inner circle is buzzing with pet dog owners who are learning how to bond and connect and basically have more fun with their dog. They’re having more control. We’re all helping each other. They’re all loving the canine coaching chronicle they’re getting once a month. Generally, it’s going really well. If you think about joining the inner circle, if you read and have bought and have implemented stuff what’s in my book, How to Be Your Dog’s Superhero, and you want to learn more about how to have more fun with your dog. The book kind of tells you what to do, but very much the inner circle’s about me showing you and about me holding people’s hands whilst they try and implement the lessons that we teach in the book. If you want to learn more, you’re not prepared to put a bit of effort in with your dog or with your dogs, we have a number of people in the group who have more than one dog as well, you should go to You can join the inner circle there. You login details straight away, and I’ll see you on the inside. I’ll be saying hello to you before you even finish watching this podcast. We’ve got another guest today, Alex.

Alex:      Exciting.

Dom:     Yeah, this is one of our earlier guests. We were recording and somebody I really wanted to talk to because I actually bought her book before I even knew her. Her book is called No Walks, No Worries. What happened was, Sydney, my little Cocker Spaniel, he hurt his cruciate, did his cruciate ligament in his knee. We had to have crate rest for quite a while, and I was panicking because I’ve got this Cocker. We talk about that in the interview with Sian. She hasn’t just wrote a book. She’s got loads of super stuff going on down at Developing Dogs, which is her business down in Cambridgeshire. This is the interview, Alex. Please press play.

Alex:      Play.

Dom:     I’m joined today by Sian Ryan. Welcome Sian.

Sian:      Thanks very much for having me, Dom.

Dom:     No worries. Thanks very much for taking the time our of your busy day. I know you’ve got an appointment coming up very soon to see a little doggy. Thanks very much for taking the time to speak to us today. We’re going to dive straight into the Greyhound round. I’m going to ask you six questions. I want your first answer that comes into your head. This is to allow us to get to know you a bit better before we get into the more meaty dog training stuff. All right? Your favourite dog cartoon character?

Sian:      Snoopy

Dom:     Good one, good one. Red or white wine?

Sian:      Oh, white every time. Sauvignon blanc if any of my clients are watching. Or Proseco.

Dom:     We’ll put that in the show notes as well just so they make sure that they get that information. Indian or Chinese food?

Sian:      Indian.

Dom:     Good stuff. Your favourite superhero?

Sian:      God I don’t have one. I suppose I should say Wonder Woman, shouldn’t I? It’s about the only female one that there is.

Dom:     Female solidarity there. All right. Pick a walk. A Westy in the woods or a Pomeranian in the park?

Sian:      Westy in the woods.

Dom:     Yeah, good choice, good choice. Dog ownership is a wonderful thing. We’ve got a lot of pet dog owners who are watching the show, but it can also be quite hard as well at time. It can be hard for dog trainers too. Tell us about what’s been one of the worst or the most embarrassing things that’s ever happened to you as a dog trainer.

Sian:      I guess, probably one of the kind of the most upsetting experiences. I was doing some research with some rescue dogs when I was working for the University of Lincoln, and we were looking at whether they had a positive or negative outlook on life and whether we could measure that. I was working with one dog who we were teaching them to tug at our hands for treats. I was working with one dog who was a really really lovely lovely dog, but clearly got very frustrated, and during the course of the thing when he didn’t get the treat when he was expecting one, he actually decided to latch on to me, start humping me really painfully. Massive bruises down my legs. Had to kind of go to the rescue centre and say, he’s humping me really badly only to be told well, he’s never done that to any of us.

Dom:     Sure he hasn’t.

Sian:      Yes, I was kind of like, yeah I know that. It’s probably because he’s never been in this kind of environment before. We found this out because he didn’t get what he was expecting, and this was his response and things like that. Yes, that thing of A, being humped by quite a large dog, ending up with bruises all over me, and yes having to say, “Yeah, sorry. I messed up. I pushed him too hard. He couldn’t deal with this.” They’re going, “He’s never done that to any of us.” Bless him. He was a sweetheart, but he just couldn’t deal with the not getting what he was expected.

Dom:     No, no.

Sian:      They did put in some frustration tolerance training, but it’s just interesting how you get different responses and different people and different ways of sort of handling dogs.

Dom:     Yeah, definitely. You’re a dog trainer, behaviourist, author now. Before you were all of those things, you were just Sian the kid growing up in …

Sian:      Oh, I grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon or just down near to the Cotswolds.

Dom:     Who inspired you to start working with dogs? What compelled you to start this life of working with dogs?

Sian:      Well, you kind of have to fast forward about 30 years actually. When I was a kid, yeah I had lots of dogs, horses, cats, guinea pigs. We lived on the edge of a village, and sort of lots of animals and things. I then actually wanted to work, I wanted to be in politics and social policy and stuff like that. I ended up working in the health service for many years as an IT project manager. Along the way met my husband who claimed not to like dogs, not to be a dog lover, but I always knew that that was totally untrue, but anyway. He was a teacher at the time, and he told me he wanted to stop being a teacher and wanted to become a rowing coach. I was like well that’s fine. We met through rowing. We were both rowers. I can support you in that as long as we get a dog because if you’re going to be working evenings and weekends, I want something to keep me company. I want something to do. I want a dog because they can be with you during the day, and then when I’m home from work, I’ve got the dog. I’d really missed having a dog of my own as an adult. Family dogs and stuff weren’t mine by that point.

This was 12 years ago, I think, now. We got the dog, and as a result of that I got into dog training. I was asked by the people that I was training my dog with to join them and start teaching. Several years later after my husband kind of established as a rowing coach, I decided that I was living for my weekends when I was doing stuff for the dog. I was living for taking the week off work when he went to Henley regatta, so I had to look after the dog. I went into work, handed into my notice, and with a view that I was going to do something dog related. Didn’t know what, but I had three months to work that out. The day after I handed in my notice Lehman Brothers crashed. Then, sort of the global sort of recession, credit crunch, everything started. I was like oh this is a really good time to have done this. I did some part-time work whilst I studied, and the upshot of that is I did my Masters at University of Lincoln and then went to work for them for three years whilst Paddy stayed on in London as a rowing coach, and I lived up at Lincoln. That was kind of a very edited version of it. From there, you get the story about how we found this place and stuff as well.

Dom:     It all started with the dog then. Who was the dog?

Sian:      Sorry?

Dom:     Who was the dog?

Sian:      The dog is Riley who I think, she’s not, she was behind me. She’s a little Staffy cross who has taught me a lot. She’s had lots of health problems. She’s one of the reasons why No Walks, No Worries exists. Lots of health problems. Behaviour problems as a result. She’s absolutely adorable. Has been by my side through it all.

Dom:     Brilliant. Fantastic. I’m pleased you mentioned No Walks, No Worries because I want to talk about that now. I have my copy here. I’ve had it for a year or so. I think it’s a fab book. I think it’s an essential book actually for … I, myself, had a, I’ve got a Cocker Spaniel, who being a Cocker is really high energy, and we do sent work and all that kind of thing. Couple years ago when he did his cruciate ligament. All of a sudden, I thought my world and his world had ended when, you know, oh my god how am I going to keep this dog from moving around really for this period of time. No Walks, No Worries is just a fab resource, I think, because every dog owner at some point in their life, is going to unfortunately have their dog where they’re going to cut their paw or pull a ligament or something even worse even, where that dog is going to have some crate rest. Tell us a story about how the book came about then.

Sian:      Well, there’s lots of things that came together. I mentioned Riley who has has ongoing back problems, had various other things when she was younger. I’ve had to change what I did with her. We stopped agility and did things like that. That was kind of one thing. I then ended up fostering for Greyhound Gap, an absolutely adorable little Saluki cross puppy who was handed in at the vet’s because she’d badly broken one of her front legs, and the owners never came to collect her. She came to me with pins in her legs, 12 weeks old, having been in the vet’s for two weeks and under strict orders that she wasn’t allowed to be a puppy. She wasn’t allowed to run around. She wasn’t allowed to do anything. She had to be very restricted exercise. That in itself was a challenge for me. She was a dog who didn’t eat, had no interest in food. Food toys, food games, would struggle with getting her to be interested in that. Course she couldn’t play with toys. She couldn’t do anything that puppies needed to sort of try and keep them entertained.

We got through it. She ended up being with me for nine months through three different surgeries, and finally ended up having her leg amputated. Then, went off to her new home, a as well-adjusted puppy as she was ever going to be. She was fabulous. She was absolutely awesome. Brilliant with other dogs. Loved people. Eventually started eating when she was about two years old from what her owners say. She made me think a lot about what’s her needs. I’ve got to keep the socialisation. I’ve got to be able to do all of this stuff. I’ve got to meet her emotional needs, her physical needs, and her mental needs. That was kind of part of it.

Then, I was working the behaviour clinic at the University of Lincoln, and we had a spate of cases where the dogs had been absolutely fine until something had prevented them from going for walks, injury, owner’s illness, various different things. It wasn’t the actual injury, the physical stuff or the ill health that caused the dog’s problems. It was the lack of access to their normal routines to the outside world to people visiting them, etcetera, that seemed to have triggered the issues. It just made us think that there’s a gap out there. There was nothing. Lots of stuff, there’s brilliant books, brain games for dogs, and that kind of stuff that will keep your dogs mentally occupied. There was nothing that encouraged owners to think about the rest of it, the emotional stuff, the physical stuff that they can do in those circumstances. To try and get across that walking is not just about your dog going out there and running around. There’s all sort of other things that happen when you take your dogs for walks.

Those two came together. Then, again, one of the Masters students at University of Lincoln wanted to look at what advice was being given, and the results from her research suggested that very few vets were giving behavioural advice. They were saying stick the dog on crate rest for six weeks but not sort of the … The very best that she found was that they were giving advice on how to crate train and how to loose lead walk. She didn’t actually monitor the appropriateness of that advice. Again, there was nothing that said think about your dog’s emotional needs and nothing to support the owner as well. As you’ve said, that moment where your vet says, “Oh just keep him quiet for six weeks.” Your heart just goes I can’t do that. I just can’t do that.

Dom:     You’re feeling your dog.

Sian:      You panic about how am I going to do this. What am I going to do? We just wanted to produce something that gave people support, gave people the ability to plan what they were going to do. The book could have been four times as long, ten times as long, because there were so many ideas out there. We decided we can’t make this a training book. We can give you the outline and then hopefully people will follow up on some of the book’s suggestions that we give, or they’ll go onto Youtube and they’ll look at the great videos that are out there for those different things.

Dom:     It’s a fab book. The illustrations, the pictures are superb. It’s really simple to follow. I love it. If there’s a dog owner watching us now, and their dog’s just cut his paw or he’s had a cruciate or he’s got a leg removed or something like that, what would be the kind of top three things that you would suggest, easiest things that they could do to stimulate that dog and to keep them good?

Sian:      I think it depends on how long the dog is going to be confined for. One of the points we make in the book is if you are facing a dog with say an external fixator who is not going to be allowed to move for the next three months, then the important things are to get that dog to love that crate, to get that dog to love relaxing, to get that dog to be content in that situation.

Dom:     Make it a pleasurable place for the dog to be in.

Sian:      Yeah, because that’s where they’re going to be confined. That’s what you need. For a dog who’s cut his paw and is just going to be on lead walks for a few days, the crate rest is less important. The quick wins there are do you need a different sort of harness or a different head collar that you have to rapidly introduce, make fun for the dog, so that you can walk them safely, so they’re not going to cut their paws. What we kind of say initially is think about absolutely everything. Don’t discount everything. Make a list if you need to, and then look at what your quick wins are for your particular situation. Often things like that are getting a baby gate up to stop the dog from going up the stairs, buying a new harness or head collar, and buying a crate if you don’t have one already but getting something in place, taping up the doorbell, so that no one can, put a note on the door. One of my clients did an awesome note for her dog when he was needing not to be excited by the door, and stuck it on the door, taped up the doorbell, put a thing over the knocker, so that the dog didn’t get stressed by that.

Dom:     Fantastic advice. It’s practical. It’s things that people can do straight away. You don’t have to be a dog trainer to do that, do you? You just have to be sensible and know what to do.

Sian:      Have someone to have suggested it because a lot of the time, for us as dog trainers, and certainly it came out in the back research that was done as well. One of the reasons why vets didn’t give behaviour advice or advice about how to keep dogs happy in their crates for six weeks because they believed it was just common sense. It’s only common sense if you’ve come across it before, if you’ve been told about it before, you’ve read it before. We deal every day, I’m sure, with people who aren’t aware of the massive range of food toys that are out there or aren’t aware that it’s okay to feed your dog out of a food toy. They don’t have to have their food out of a bowl. Because the important things, lots of people have sort of come up with this list of what do I need to get when I get a dog, and it’s a collar, a lead, a food bowel, a bed. It’s like food bowel is way down my list of priorities.

Dom:     Throw away the bowel, we’re always saying that up here.

Sian:      A metal bowel, nah.

Dom:     Great advice again. Thanks for that Sian. That’s some really good tips that people can use straight away. Again I would highly recommend people purchase the book even if they don’t have a dog with an injury. I think it’s great to get them used to doing less physical activities, isn’t it. That’s another reason for anyone to buy it as well. We’re coming to the end of the interview now. Where can, when you’re not doing behavioural work, running classes, writing books, and getting in good on podcasts, what does Sian Ryan like to do to chill out.

Sian:      I don’t get much time to chill out.

Dom:     Walk the dog.

Sian:      Yeah, pretty much. No, I’m making a concerted effort a bit more this year. My mother was very ill from August last year and died in January, and that has made me reassess a little bit. Previous two years have been very much about getting this business up and running. The Developing Dogs training centre started a couple of years ago, and new to the area, new business. It’s been very intense. This year I am making a concerted effort to do stuff for me. I am just learning to run at the moment, which seems like an ordinary thing.

Dom:     I saw that. Your gait’s getting better.

Sian:      It’s been really really good for me. It’s given me a sort of focus. I love learning to do new stuff because I think as a trainer, I’m teaching people. I like to be taught things because I pick up stuff from other people in terms of oh that’s a really good way of engaging. I also think it’s really important to not be the expert. I think it’s really important to keep learning. I’m doing some stand-up paddle boarding as well this year. I’ve done some surfing. I’m just making an effort to try different things and do different things. Other than that, I will be found with a glass of wine and a book and hopefully sometimes with a very very good group of female friends down in London who have been an absolute support within the group for the last, god, 12 years we’ve known each other.

Dom:     Brilliant, brilliant. It’s so important to have a good support network isn’t it.

Sian:      Yeah

Dom:     Yeah, that’s fantastic. Well, thanks very much for your time today Sian. Where can people go to find out more about you, the book, and what you do.

Sian:      The website gives everything about the classes that we run, the workshops that we do, the facilities that we have here. Yes, I’ve got a blog on there, so it’s a good place to have a look, or else we’ve got a Facebook page as well, developing dogs on Facebook will find us.

Dom:     Awesome, awesome. Well, thanks very much for your time once again. I look forward to having you on this show next time.

Sian:      Thank you. Take care.

Dom:     Thanks Sian.

Sian:      Bye.

Dom:     Alex, how awesome was that?

Alex:      You got there before me. It was awesome.

Dom:     It was brilliant, yeah. She’s super, super knowledgeable Sian. I really appreciate her giving the time, as I appreciate all of the dog trainers who we get on the show, giving up their time. You should definitely check her book out. It’s well worth buying. It’s full of pictures and stuff. It’s fantastic. Next week on the show, Alex, I’m going to do something that I’ve been promising to do for you for the last few weeks.

Alex:      Okay.

Dom:     We’re going to finally leave this god forsaken freezing cold van, and we’re going to decamp to the fireside. We’re going to have a fireside podcast. I’m not quite sure how cheesy it’s going to be yet. Me and Alex may be wearing onesies. We may not be, but we’re going to be talking about food with dogs. We’re going to be talking about how you can use the food a lot better to have a bit more fun and have more control with your dog. You do not want to miss that episode. If you’re enjoying the podcast, please head over to iTunes and leave us a rating and a review. Yeah, that would make you feel good, and it would make us feel even better. That’s it from me.

Alex:      That’s it from me.

Dom:     Thanks very much for watching, and if we don’t see you through the week, we’ll see you through the window.



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Dom Hodgson