Vals not pregnant anymore

Sep 22, 2015

If you haven’t already read about Val’s false pregnancy you can do so below. This is a post about the strange way that it ended.

After several months of pregnancy in my house, some real, some hysterical I want to tell you all how it has ended.

On 22 July my wife gave birth to a gorgeous baby boy. As her real pregnancy came to an end, so to did Valerie’s fake one. First things first, I have to get some gloating out of the way. This is my Son. Ripley Danger Stuart.


Ok now we can talk about how it all went down. At 38 weeks, Ripley hadn’t engaged and so our obstetrician made the decision that he would be a planned C section. Since the hospital is about 30 minutes from our house and I wanted the opportunity to stay at the hospital for the duration of our stay I decided to put the dogs in a boarding Kennel for the entire time we would be in hospital.

Both my dogs, Val and Ryder stay at Pet Resorts Australia in Dural. We’ve always had great experiences with them and I know that during their stay they are safe and well looked after. The staff there are also no nonsense dog trainers, as opposed to dog “enthusiasts” so handling my two high drive dogs is no problem for them.

The best advice I could get from vets and just general fonts of knowledge in the dog world was that the best and safest way to bring Val’s false pregnancy to an end was to give her a baby. So during our stay at the hospital I made my way down to the gift shop and bought Val a nice soft toy Rhinoceros (They were out of Springer Spaniels).

The stuffed toy spent a day in the crib with Ripley and absorbed his smell nicely. He was due to come home on Monday morning so on Sunday night I went out to pick up the dogs. I took the wrap that he had been wearing all day as well. Waiting in their crates in the car were the baby stench soaked items. A wrap for Ryder, and a stuffed toy for Valerie.

Both dogs were immediately very interested in these items. Ryder had a good sniff of his and then just collapsed ready to go home. Valerie curled up around hers and went to sleep. I hoped my plan had worked but I wasn’t sure. By the time we got home it seemed it had. Val came out of the crate with the “baby” in her mouth. Carrying it very gently by the back of the neck, she ran into the house and was displaying it rather fondly.

At this stage I couldn’t be sure whether she was just happy about a new toy or if in fact she had taken it as a baby. BUT, when Ryder decided he too was going to play with it, suddenly it was very clear she thought it was not only alive, but hers. There is no fighting over toys in the house. I’ve never let the dogs fight over toys and they know it wont be accepted. So when Val placed the “baby” on the ground and started growling at Ryder as he approached then bit him on the neck when she felt he got to close, I knew she was serious. The creepiest part of this whole thing was when she started trying to feed it.

As I lay awake in bed that night I wondered if I had done the right thing? Sure, maybe her pregnancy symptoms would go away but what then? How long is she going to feed this toy? When will she realise its not alive? Will that cause her to go into depression? Turns out it was a lot of worry over nothing.

When Ripley came home the next day, both dogs greeted him excitedly. They paid their respects and gave him a good sniff on the head. Then Val ran off, came back with the toy and started destroying it. I hadn’t fooled her. She realised all she had was a stuffed rhinoceros and now there was a real live baby available for her to mother. Human or not, she wanted to mother him.

In the night as Ripley would cry and want to be fed, Valerie would be available to feed. She would wait at the top of the baby gate on our stairs, staring, waiting, hoping for an opportunity. To be honest it was pretty creepy.

At about the 3 week mark I noticed that her pregnancy symptoms had started to fade away. And now as I write this, Ripley is 9 weeks old and Valerie clearly loves him, but has given up on the idea that he is her baby.

So that’s how it has all come to a peculiar end.


Val's Pregnant! Well sort of but actually not really

Jul 16, 2015

This is an unusual post with a little bit of science mixed in with a whole bunch of crazy guesses and hunches.

The Background

When we first decided to film a puppy raising tutorial series we thought that an important part of the series was informing pet dog owners that it’s their responsibility to desex (spay or neuter) their dogs. We discussed with Alex, who bred Val that we intended to have her desexed and show that as part of our video series.

The intention has and always will be that Val is a pet. She doesn’t have a job, other than to be a fun dog. Fun to me is training lots of tricks, games and behaviours. I like to try lots of different techniques as I learn from more and more trainers and my dogs are often the test subjects.

For those of you who have watched our video series you may remember Ghost.

Ghost and Val grew up together and have been best friends right from the beginning. We were training Ghost at the same time as Val. Ghost is a working dog. He was trained to track, bite and detect! One day when we were training some detection skills with Ghost we thought we would give Val a turn.

Right there in Sam’s garage Val, who was being trained to focus and Heel at the time showed us all the attributes you could ever want to see in a working dog.

Now I’m no detection guru but what we saw in Val was an eagerness and drive to work. When the item was hard to find she never showed any sign of giving up, rather, her resolve was strengthen to find it. Luckily for us we filmed the third run through ever. Check it out below.


Right away Sam and I discussed that we should not desex Val. While she is unlikely to be a detection dog herself, she could be the mother of some amazing ones. It’s not a decision we took lightly. We called Alex from Canicula Kennels to ask his permission. The plan at this point was not to breed her but only to keep that option open. Alex, who had been tracking Val’s progress was happy that we had contacted him and agreed to help us assess first if breeding Val would better the breed, and second who she could perhaps be bred to. When we met up with the English Springer Spaniel Club to get footage of Val’s parents competing in the Gun Dog Trials, everyone agreed that Val was a fantastic dog that would likely breed excellent working dogs.

Now it’s not as simple as that. It wasn’t decided that she would be bred, just that she would not yet be desexed so that that option is still available. We would assess her temperament and her phenotype when she came of an appropriate age. She is still too young and we have not yet had her hips and elbows X-rayed.

Now Some Science

Female Dogs will go through their first “heat” some time between 6 and 18 months of age. Smaller Breeds tend to be earlier and the larger or giant breeds tend to be later. If you are planning to desex your bitch, like all pet owners should, then it is best and safest to do that prior to her first heat.

To put it very simply " heat " cycles vary, but on average last two to three weeks for most dogs. "Heat " should be considered to begin with the first signs of vulvar discharge, or when the female begins licking or paying attention to her vulva. The vulva will begin to appear swollen. It ends when all discharge ceases and the vulva has returned to its normal size. Pregnancy in bitches lasts an average of 65 days.

Why is that relevant?

Valerie had her first “heat” starting 2nd Apr this year. It finished on the 22nd of April. It can be a hectic time for a dog owner as her personality was remarkably different and it’s best not to do any training during this period. So as is advised I wasn’t overly demanding of her and just took her on simple walks at 4 in the morning to make sure she never encountered any other dogs. When she was at home she was separated from my other dog Ryder, despite him being desexed. His capability to get her pregnant is gone, but not his urges! When we were out, one was locked inside and one locked outside. Under supervision they were sometimes together but I am confident he never mounted her.

About a week after she came out of “heat” I noticed her enlarged nipples. It had me a little concerned but nothing over the top. It was when her Vulva become swollen again that I started to Panic!

Val started to display A LOT of the signs that a bitch is pregnant! With a swollen vulva and nipples freaking me out, I was only comforted by the fact that her appetite was fine and she was at her usual energy level of energizer bunny equivalence. But it was playing on my mind. How could she possibly be pregnant? I did everything right. I was so careful. A dog must have jumped into our yard!

That was the only explanation I could come up with. One day while I was at work and Val was locked outside, a local dog has jumped my fence and mounted her. My fence is only a 6” color bond number and I’ve watched my malinois jump it like it wasn’t even there. He only stays in the yard because he likes it here. “How could I be so negligent” I thought? What a hypocrite I am! I tell anyone that will listen about how accidental pregnancies like this are a huge problem. Rescues are full of puppies from unidentified matings. Thousands of these puppies get put down every year! Others develop all sorts of behavioural and physical problems when they have competing genetics. What horrible dog had gotten my baby girl pregnant and what manner of monsters were growing inside of her! All this was running through my head as I realized it just wasn’t possible.

Yes dogs can jump out of my yard if they really want to, but there’s no way to jump in! The yard behind me has massive fences and no dogs. And besides, I live in the city. There isn’t an intact male dog living anywhere near me. Pretty much everyone in my area has his or her dogs desexed. So why does my dog look pregnant? The only answer is a false pregnancy.

A false pregnancy is a condition where a bitch is showing symptoms of pregnancy, lactation, or nursing, without producing puppies. The affected female dog shows these symptoms about a month or two after her heat is over. It turns out that its actually not that uncommon. Its exact cause is unknown. However, hormonal imbalances, especially of progesterone and prolactin, are thought to play an important role in its development.

Things began getting out of hand with this false pregnancy and I started to panic again. The thing that pushed me over the edge was her weight gain. Valerie put on over 1kg and I got worried. So much so that I thought it was worth investing in an ultrasound to be sure Val wasn’t pregnant. I’ve never been so relieved in all my life.

Now the guesses

Why is this happening? Well, those that follow our Facebook page may remember this post from back in March.

My wife is pregnant with our first child. A little boy that’s due very soon. Somehow Jane’s pregnancy has leaked over into Valerie! Both my dogs love spending time listening to the sloshing sounds of the baby in her belly. We’re sure they know he’s in there. In fact I even think Ryder knew she was pregnant before we did. But that’s a story for another blog.

But really, they do spend a lot of time together. Is it possible that Val is picking up on the pregnancy hormones? Every indication leans towards yes. About a month ago Val started lactating. I’m not talking just swollen boobs, I mean full on massive boobs with milk coming out of them. And then something strange happened.

Sam and I went to Brisbane to run our first Tactical Working Dog Seminar. Being the MSK mascot Val came with us. Within 24 hours of being away from Jane, almost all her false pregnancy symptoms had gone. All her swelling reduced and I thought the ordeal was finally over. I wish I had taken better photos of her but you can see here that her nipples were back to normal while she was away.

Then, no sooner did we get home and all her pregnancy symptoms returned. As soon as she was back in the house with Jane, her little body decided it was pregnant again. Check out the enlarged nipples in this pic from just days ago.

Remember how I said pregnancies last 65 days in dogs? Go ahead and do the math. If Val was actually pregnant she would have given birth about 2 weeks ago! So how’s this going to end? My only guess is that when my wife gives birth, so will Valerie. I plan to bring home a special little soft toy to be her baby and hope for the best. But I will keep you all posted. 


Sam's Story

Mar 30, 2015

Like Pat I always get asked how I got started into dogs and training, truthfully my story pretty much consists of random events and good luck.


Like Pat I always get asked how I got started into dogs and training, truthfully my story pretty much consists of random events and good luck.

When I was still living In Belgium, both sides of the family utilized working dogs as part of their everyday life. My father was a Kennel Master for the Belgian Defence Force. It was rare for someone on his side of the family not to serve in the Military and as you can guess some made a career within the working dog stream.

My mothers side of the family have always been into gun dogs and traditional hunting. That still continues on to this day and they have always used the good old German Pointer.

So you could say that dogs run through my families bloodline. So as my family immigrated to Australia in late 80’s I had left the mecca for the some of the best trainers and dogs ever produced.

It wasn’t until my mid 20’s that I really got started in training. The first dog I bought was a German Shepherd called Jack, having no real idea what I was doing I was fighting to get as much information as I could, I joined a couple of local clubs but it wasn’t until my father started training me that my experience began to grow.

As my knowledge gradually grew, so did my desire to put that knowledge into practice. It was at that stage I also realised that I had taken Jack as far as his genetics would let me, and in order for me to move forward I have to find the dog that would allow me to move on to the next level.

It was during this time that I became a dog handler for the Military and received my first Military Working Dog, a Belgian Malinois from Schwarchund Kennels called, Uri.

As I was happy with Uri, I then Spoke to Danny Jagodic from Schwarchund Malinois and purchased another dog named Xantos. I was also fortunate to train with Danny during this time. Over my time I had numerous dogs that came from Danny’s kennels.

I had expected to find all the answers I was looking for through the Military, but to my dismay I found the depth of knowledge within the Military very shallow, including that most of the handler’s considered dog training more of a Job than a passion. As a result I booked a ticket to Europe. I started first off in Belgium and I was extremely lucky to train with Germain Paulwes at his club and attend numerous NVBK competitions, from there I visited various Policing agencies including many different clubs and breeders

I then travelled all the way to the Netherlands where I was fortunate enough to train with Willem Gepken at his KNPV club, it was also during this time that I got to see my first KNPV trial. I was able to train with Jelmer Reep, Kay Odin and Krijn Van Urk, who taught me a lot about young dog development. I was also very lucky to visit the Amsterdam Police Dog Kennels.

K9 Dog Training

After returning to Australia and getting back to work, I went through a little depression with the dogs, I missed Belgium, the Netherlands and all of my family who still live there. But the main reason was that I knew that I was missing out on so much in terms of building forward momentum in my K9 education.

During the next couple of months I was lucky enough to receive Kukay’s Aras KNPV PH1 from Danny and at a later date I was able to acquire Schwarchund Landres. A phenomenal female. It was at this Point that I met my now good friend George Kontos and his legendary Malinois, Sniper, who was the last of the old Dutch/Belgian bloodlines. I began to spend a lot of time training with George, we had very similar concepts on working dogs and worked extremely well together and as a result we conducted numerous trips from Sydney to Melbourne and vice versa . After much research and guidance from our European counter parts we decided to Breed Landres to Sniper. We had extremely good success with that litter. I also returned back to Europe with George for training.

So every two years, work permitting I return back to Belgium and the Netherlands and I have been lucky every time to make new friends and see some spectacular dogs. I’ve now seen a couple of KNPV championships, I’ve also seen various NVBK championships, Mondio Ring competitions and was lucky enough to train in these various programs, whilst being guided by some fantastic mentors.

On my most recent trip I was very fortunate to meet some fantastic individuals and their dogs, people like Corneke and Gijs Bergwerff and their rock star Lion, Andryana Cokic and her international superstar Goliatt, Marcel Aalders and the spectacular Branco, Henk Verbeek with his super quality and highly impressive dogs, one of which I now own (Jack), Jean Lobbinger and the famous Anthrax. Also I have to thank Chris Race in the US for allowing me to use Manni in my breeding program.

I can’t forget the local talent here in Australia like Vendo Vincent, Trevor Williams, Zac Hughes, Justin Bott, Cheyne Cole Mathew Blades and Adam Neild for always supporting the cause and the numerous hours in training. There are many more people to name but I’d be here until Christmas.

I guess I better mention Pat Stuart, It’s been an extreme pleasure working with him, his enthusiasm and ability is second to none.

That’s one thing people need to realise when they start training, you will meet people from all walks of life who no matter their backgrounds will help you on your journey to become a better owner and help you build an unbeatable relationship with your dog(s). At the end of the day we are all one big pack, some of us just take a different a route to get to the den.

So for me dog training and even just spending time with my dogs is an addiction. I live and breathe it every day and look for better ways to improve myself, I talk to everyone and deal with as many trainers as I can, regardless of their background or experience.

At the end of the day, the training is not the important part for me when I work the dogs. That’s a bi-product of my passion and dedication, the main reason for my love of spending time with dogs is that every minute I spend time with them, the world disappears, all my trials and tribulations no longer exist. For that moment in time nothing else exists but me and my best friend and dog GWEN, her dedication, her loyalty and her love cannot be replicated.

For I know that should I ever hit my lowest point, no matter how deep it is or how dark, that my little Meerkat will be there by my side and for her I am her world and for that I owe her everything.

So in short, welcome to the Pack.

Dog Training K9 


When Close Enough Isn’t Good Enough

Mar 04, 2015

When we are training a dog, or living with a dog we consider fully trained, CLOSE ENOUGH IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Remember our goal is always to develop a bond so strong with our dog that their engagement and focus on us will make any distraction fade off into the background.

Our goal whenever we are teaching ANYTHING to our puppy is to do it POSITIVELY! It’s up to us, as the puppy’s leader, to teach it how to become the dog that we want. Old School methods of crashing and banging the puppy through behaviors might have worked in the past, but they decrease the puppy’s drive and motivation to learn. Not to mention the potential damage to our relationship with the puppy.

You will notice that throughout our entire video series, all the behaviors we wanted to nurture and enhance with Valerie were simply prompted with a lure and rewarded with food, affection or play. But what happens when the value of that Food, Affection or Play is less then the value the dog perceives in doing something else?

We advocate and promote active engagement with your puppy. We want our puppy to see us as the Sun Moon and Stars. Always looking to us for leadership and guidance! Always wanting something that we have! By following the steps laid out in our video series you will get this from your puppy.

We teach our puppy lots of different things. Some of them are cute tricks that are just fun to do. Others are obedience-based commands that might some day save our puppies life. So how can our puppy tell the difference between these? Well, THEY CAN’T!

Before we can discuss how to handle a situation where your puppy isn’t doing what you ask of it, we need to all get on the same page and explain how you know for sure that your puppy knows what you want.

  • Teaching Phase

Whenever we are teaching something new, we start in a distraction free environment. There is nothing of interest but us and we will have the puppy’s full attention.

  • Introducing Distractions Phase

When we have the puppy going through the motions of whatever behavior we are teaching in a distraction free environment we slowly start to introduce distractions. A distraction could simply be having another person nearby and then build up to being right amongst an environment so busy that the dog has to really focus to stay engaged with us.

  • Proofing Phase

This is where we test the puppy. We must be 100% sure the puppy knows what is being asked of it. We must have put the puppy in a similar situation with similar distractions and have had success. We ask the puppy to complete the behavior and if it doesn’t then and only then do we coerce and compel it to comply.

So, what behavior’s do we proof and what do we not? The answer is ALL OF THEM! All behaviors can be proofed with very simple techniques, causing almost no stress to the puppy.

So why is all this relevant?

Imagine a scenario where a pet dog owner is in the park with a group of friends. In front of their friends they ask the dog to sit, but it doesn’t. Normally, through embarrassment or to avoid an uncomfortable situation everyone laughs it off and the dog continues to play. You may hear an excuse like “oh it’s because I don’t have food with me” or “he’s tired that’s why.” The people go back to talking and the dog continues playing and everyone puts the situation behind them.

Everyone but the dog!

The dog has just learned that he can choose not to listen to his leader. And not just when the leader says to sit. But when the leader says anything!

So what went wrong? Does the dog not know how to sit on command? Or did he choose to ignore his leader. Either way it’s the human’s fault. And that human may just have put his dog’s life in danger.

When we are training a dog, or living with a dog we consider fully trained, CLOSE ENOUGH IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH. If you are going to ask your dog to do something for you, you must be in a position to reward it for that behavior and be prepared to take control of the situation and guide the dog into that behavior if need be.

So how do we keep our dog safe WHILE avoiding embarrassment? I’ll tell you.

  • Put the work in and concentrate on training those key behaviors that are going to keep your dog safe.
    • RECALL
    • HEEL
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you haven’t proofed a behavior then look around, assess the level of distraction you are working under and make an informed decision on whether you should even give that command.
  • Follow through. If you do end up in a situation where your dog ignores you then you need to correct it and carry out the necessary retraining right there and then.


Remember our goal is always to develop a bond so strong with our dog that their engagement and focus on us will make any distraction fade off into the background, but if you are not there yet, be careful. Close enough is not good enough. 

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