All posts by emmalee72

House training

One of the worries many people have about taking on a shelter dog is in house-training it. The good news is that many dogs, including those who have been in the refuge for years, never go to the toilet in the house. Older dogs have bigger bladders and stronger habits. Many dogs wait until they are out of the enclosures before they will go to the toilet, and even in the refuge, they are ‘clean’ because they have been trained to be. It can be very hard for some dogs to break those habits. As someone who has had many foster dogs through her home, I have a few tips for you and a great video.

Toilet training is about creating good habits, and you can start those before you even get home. The great news is that it is much easier with adult dogs who know when they want to eliminate.

Adult dogs often go where they have already been. Uncastrated or castrated male dogs are often keen to go over the top of previous sites to reinforce their scent. They’ll also go where female dogs have gone to ‘over-mark’. Female dogs, on the other hand, can be very lazy and use scent much less. It can be much more difficult to housetrain a female – and that can be for medical reasons related to sterilisation, or because they are less interested in marking territory.

The best thing you can do to encourage a dog to urinate then is to take it to a spot that other dogs have been and wait until they go. You don’t need to use praise with a dog who eliminates outside because they might think you are rewarding them for eliminating rather than for eliminating outside. As Dog Rescue Carcassonne say: “- Giving treats for toileting in the garden, again the dog is being rewarded for what he did not where he did it. Whilst this is not going to be as big a problem as the reprimand, the clever dog will learn to do lots of little wees and never fully empty their bladder. The insecure dog may wee indoors to appease you if you get cross about something else because they know that this is something that pleases you and gets rewarded.”

Make sure as you leave the refuge that the dog has eliminated, especially if you have a long journey.

When you arrive home, you may be keen to get them inside, but keep them on the lead and walk them around the garden until they do their business. Make sure you stay outside for another ten minutes or so because you don’t want to reinforce that doing their business marks the end of your time outside. You don’t want a dog who holds on just so he can enjoy the garden more! A lead will ensure you can keep them in the spot that YOU want them to go, and you can check that they’ve gone properly.

When introducing them to your home, keep them on a lead for the first thirty minutes or so and if they show the remotest leg cock or lady squat, distract them, move them away and take them outside. Walk them all around your home and only when you are happy there’s been no cocking or squatting, let them off the lead. Watch them for the first hour or so to make sure they are not wandering around happily doing their business. If they do, distract, move them away and take them outside again. If a dog never pees in the house, they are never likely to. Once they’ve gone, however, it can be impossible to stop because no matter how you try, that place will still smell of pee and they will want to go again in the same spot. If they do go, a very strong smelling cleaner and some fabric spray can mask it. Bleach is essentially ammonia and the smell resembles that of urine – so no bleach!

Remember that although dogs do not generally like to urinate where they sleep or eat, they may do it where other dogs sleep or eat – thus, they might do it on another dog’s bed or near another dog’s food bowl. Not only that, dogs don’t have a real concept of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ as we do. In the house, there are ‘familiar places’ and ‘unfamiliar places’ and not all are pee-proof in a dog’s mind. Generally, the less you use a room, the more likely it might be to attract a dog’s attention as a spare toilet. Keep doors shut and supervise your dog’s movements – watch for the signs they might be about to go. Good management is crucial.

After this, treat your new rescue like a puppy. Take them outside the very first thing in the morning. Wait until they’ve done their business before going back inside, even if it means standing outside watching them in the pouring rain. Take them before and after eating. Take them if they’ve just stopped playing. Take them if they’ve just woken up. Take them before bedtime. Don’t be afraid to remove all water sources after 9pm for a couple of nights and take them out before bedtime. Empty bladders are less likely to stimulate the need to pee.

Dog poop generally comes just before or after each meal. If you feed twice a day, expect them to go twice a day and expect it to be within 30 minutes either side of regular mealtimes. It can take up to a month for their bodies to get used to a new food regime, so be patient and supervise them until you know they’ve gone.

Remember, it’s on you to supervise, not on the dog to tell you. Accidents happen because you’ve not been quite vigilant enough, so don’t be cross at the dog. Do not punish the dog or rub their nose in it. It’s up to us to teach them and accidents – though frustrating – are to be ignored.

The tough thing to work on can be when the dog is alone and unsupervised in your home, especially if you have to go out or work. A smaller, enclosed, secure space is better for this, especially if it is a place they regularly sleep or eat in. Many dog trainers recommend a crate for this very reason. As it can be very hard to stop a dog going indoors once it’s started, crate training can help with that.

This video from Zak George talks you through some of the best practices for toilet training, including crate training. Be aware – crates are not for all dogs. As he says, “crate training will never be acceptable for some dogs.”

Finally, if you are having real problems, especially if your dog seems to be trying to pee and not able to go, take them to the vet. Real struggles to keep it in may be related to a medical issue, not a behavioural issue.

Further reading:

Dr Marty Becker

Introducing a new dog

At the pound and the refuge, the staff are experts in introductions. We make up between seven and forty new pairs of dogs a week and there are several things we do that can help you as well. The choices we make are based very much on choices you can make before adopting.

There are decisions we make without knowing the history or personality of the dog. These decisions are based on gender, breed and size. Female-female introductions can be the hardest ones and can cause the worst fights. Male-male introductions can also be very difficult, especially if neither dog is castrated. The easiest introductions are between sterilised females and castrated males. There are no hormones and no agendas.

Size is also a factor. Similar-sized dogs are generally less aggressive as they feel less afraid of their new partner. Small dogs can feel intimidated by bigger dogs. Bigger dogs can be very afraid of smaller dogs, believe it or not.

Breed is a final factor. If a dog’s breed is one for independence, you may find you are working against hundreds of generations of careful selective breeding to end up with a dog who is independent, territorial and protective. For this reason, shepherds and rottweilers can be very hard to pair with others if they have not been socialised at an early age. Likewise, hounds who have been bred to work as a pack and live with other dogs may find it very distressing to be on their own. Recent studies have shown up to 70% of dogs feel anxious when left alone, and that is reduced to 35% when they have a friend. That’s a lot of dogs who need company and who need the presence of a canine companion.

These factors do not mean it’s impossible to integrate two dogs. I have two entire males who get on fine. One is a Malinois shepherd and the other is a collie x flat-coated retriever. It works because there are other factors to consider: personality and history.

Personality very much depends on what you know about your dog. How are they around others? You know better than any other about how your dog gets on with others. Have you socialised your dog? Are they used to meeting others and even living with others? Have you had other dogs in your home? If the answer is no to any of these questions, you may have a bit of work to do before taking on another dog. Please don’t assume that a puppy is the solution if you are looking to adopt a dog. If your dog is poorly-socialised, doesn’t meet other dogs regularly (at least once a day) and has never lived with another dog for more than 24 hours, you may want to ask yourself why you want to change the dynamic of your home. A puppy is as big a threat as a full-grown dog to some.

When you know your dogs, you know how they are around others. My American Cocker Tilly is fairly well-socialised but she yaps like a fiend at other dogs for about two minutes. If they do nothing, once she’s said her bit, she is happy to get on with her daily business. She needs to be the boss and she will happily tell another dog off if she feels threatened or if she feels it is getting in her space. She doesn’t like dogs who invade her space but she is fine if they have good manners and leave her alone.

For a long time, I thought Heston was not okay with other males. This is not true. He is very good with older dogs and very respectful of their space. He is also fabulous with puppies and bigger dogs. He hates other dogs to sniff him over much, but he loves to sniff them – kind of ironic. He is actually okay with males if I am in control of how they meet and if they do not bark at him. Once the two minute tension of a first meeting is over, he is fine. I trust him completely with little dogs as well. The older he gets, the wider his repertoire of dogs is.

Amigo would prefer to be an only dog. He is not a fan of other dogs. He never wants to smell them. When I got him, I thought he was fine with other dogs. I had no idea of his history and had never seen him react to other dogs. Now I know him, I know he is fine with other dogs who are under control. Off-lead, in-your-face dogs with no manners are his worst nightmare.

Ralf was fine with all other dogs. All. He was never aggressive or grumbly, although he was a bit of a humper. Tobby is great with other dogs, but he doesn’t have good boundaries. He likes to say hello and if they don’t say hello back, he gets a bit obsessive. If they say hello back, he’s fine and he’s moved on. He is not a fan of puppies or small dogs who run in between his legs. He is scared of terriers. I know this stuff now.

These are the kind of things you need to know about your own dogs before you adopt another.

Once you know your own dogs, you can make sensible decisions about what would be a good match for your dogs. And despite what your own heart wants, your dogs might disagree. It’s them you have to listen to.

So how do we make greetings go smoothly?

At the refuge, we take them into neutral territory. This is the alley behind the refuge. It’s “owned” by two hundred dogs, so it’s not got any emotional stakes. We walk in the same direction, about 100 metres apart, and we gradually close the gap. You can make a choice if you have reactive dogs about who goes at the front. Sometimes it’s better to have the reactive dog at the back so that they can see the dog as they move towards them. How long you take depends on the dog. There’s no rush. It can take minutes, hours or even days. That’s all fine.

Wait until you can get the dog’s attention on you and do not approach the other dog until you can.

Take your time moving in closely and keep moving in the same direction as the other dog, making the distance smaller and smaller. Maintain a positive mood with the other handler and chat to them as you get closer. Ignore the dogs as much as you can.

When you are happy that the initial fear, curiosity and aggression has disappeared and the dogs are more under your control (or back to their normal energy levels!) you can walk alongside the other person. Keep the dogs at a safe distance so that they cannot lunge to attack the other dog. Do not force your dogs to sniff each other or get in each other’s faces. Dogs take time to suss out the other one and you’ll see them looking at each other as they size each other up and begin to relax.

Walk alongside each other and gradually relax the leads so that they can approach each other. Be prepared to separate them and never, ever get in between two dogs who decide to turn on each other. If this happens, pull them away and quickly walk off, getting as much space as you can between the dogs.

Watch for signs of playfulness between the dogs, but don’t force it or expect it. Some dogs take seconds to decide to play; others may never, ever engage in playful behaviour. Both are fine.

Watch the dogs’ body language as well. A wagging tail is not a sign of playfulness or friendliness in all circumstances. This blog post from Tails from the Lab is great for explaining doggie body language in more detail.

You can see posture asserting going on here between Ralf and Heston, tails raised high, Ralf deliberately avoiding Heston’s gaze. They’re both panting a bit because it’s stressful. Heston’s eyes look worried and they really are sizing each other up.



Heston’s tail is down and he’s loose, but Ralf’s hackles are up a little and his tail is raised high. He’s making himself all big. He lookes Heston in the eye and Heston looks away. Ralf’s wagging tail is big and high. This is not friendly wagging. It’s posture wagging. I’m not worried though. It took them three or four minutes for them to set their own boundaries.

I’ve heard people before say “you’ve got to let the dogs sort it out”, but I don’t agree. Many dogs are very excited on greeting. I’ve no doubt Heston would have attacked Tobby had I let him. Ten minutes later and we’re feeding them side by side on the lead. Heston has bad doggie manners and if I’d not have managed that situation, it would have ended badly. There was no need for a fight, no need for posturing. That initial greeting went well and where I’d been prepared for an afternoon, it took less than an hour.

Once you know your own dog’s likes and dislikes, it makes it a lot easier. You should also ask the refuge for dogs that are generally good with the type of dogs you have. Even if the dog has not been at the refuge a very long time, it is likely that they will know whether dogs are generally good with others or not.

If you have a pack of dogs, introduce the new dog to the most troublesome first, and take as long as it needs. Get that dynamic out of the way. Then bring in the least troublesome ones. Within half an hour, the dogs will be more familiar with each other and more familiar with their boundaries. Make sure your dogs are well-exercised before you meet. On the day that I brought Tobby home, Heston had a 16-km walk in the morning and then an hour of fetch. I also have a massive bag of treats for each dog and reward them for all positive behaviours.

You can also watch this great video from Zak George who introduces two dogs. It’s very useful.

The more you are prepared, the better. When you make small, gentle steps and take a bit of time to ensure that the dogs have time to check each other out, you have a much better chance of success.

You will see in the video the ‘head over back’ kind of move that Sadie makes over Deuce – that’s one thing I try to watch out for – having seen lots of dogs pairing up, it’s not good doggie manners and it often ends badly. What he says about picking up toys and treats is vital as well. It may be many months before your dogs feel happy to share toys or beds, and these can be real flashpoints.

I’d also advise getting a new dog bed and introducing your new dog to their safe space. They should have something that is theirs alone.

Separate feeding spaces (different rooms) is also a good idea so that you can build up to eating in the same space. I always give my new dogs their bowl first and make sure they have plenty in it, because I trust my own dogs to be patient where I don’t trust the new dog. Quite honestly, someone sniffing around my plate would make me feel a bit snarly too.

Time your dog adoption so that you have plenty of time at home to spend with them and take it slowly. Don’t feel obliged to introduce toys and play into the relationship and keep an eye on how they behave around beds, confined spaces outdoor spaces,  and around you. Dogs seem to feel most under pressure when they have something worth guarding (a bed, a toy, some food or you) or when they are confined in too small a space (so hallways, door spaces or staircases)

Black Dogs

There’s a lot of pseudo-research about black dogs and their time in the refuge, or about black animals and their chance of adoption. Some of this research has hard facts behind it. A black puppy is less likely to be adopted than his brown sibling, for instance. Many people say that black dogs are less seen in refuges, less likely to be adopted. Research shows that people spend much less time in front of the enclosures housing black dogs than they do for dogs of all other colours.

From a photographer’s point of view, black dogs are really hard to photograph. Cameras find it difficult to metre for black shades when they are in contrast with lighter shades. Many black dogs come out a dirty shade of grey which does nothing for their glorious, glossy coats.

Look at my Heston, for example.


He still looks a bit grey even though I’ve really edited this photo.

And since photos are the main way to attract people’s interest in specific dogs, if black dogs’ photos can’t do them justice, it means that fewer people are going to come and see them.

Photographer Fred Levy was one such person to take an interest in black dogs in shelters. He shot them against a black background. If he faced as many people telling him not to do it as I did, well, he’d never have got it off the ground. Luckily, I’d seen what marvellous photos he was taking. Since I didn’t have any better ideas, and since I am a notorious magpie of all that is wonderful, I decided I’d do the same thing. Just without a studio, a professional camera, an assistant or any lighting. The day I hung up a sheet of black satin at the refuge was the day that everyone thought I’d gone mad.

But I got this.


I just love the way the black background makes the black tones of a dog’s fur shine. It’s just stupendous. It took a bit of playing around on Picmonkey (in the days before I upped the stakes and invested in Photoshop) I still love this photo. This is Dexter, by the way. He’s a little bouncy. By a little, I mean in the way Tigger is a little bouncy. I think he has a lot of extract of malt for his breakfast.


This is my lovely Pongo, who recently found a home. That’s a good thing because I was sorely tempted, and five dogs – well, that’s a whole other level of dogginess.

This is one shoot where you might want to see behind the curtain and know what I’m up against.


This is my lovely Kayser. He’s my current favourite boy. He’s still waiting for a home, but because he is a category dog, meaning there’s a lot of paperwork and training involved in taking him because he is a crossbreed rottweiler, very few people will be even slightly interested in him. Category dogs are here for the long term very sadly.

He’s a great example of the ‘behind the scenes’


I’ve got about a metre and a half of black silk, by three metres long. I’ve taped it to the side of the pound office, but the tape’s not holding, so Marianna’s not just holding Kayser, she’s also holding the black silk up with her knee.

At that point as well, everyone’s come over to see what I’m doing, and trying to get a dog to focus on me when I’ve got an audience of twenty is almost impossible. Plus, there’s always people who think THEY can get Kayser to look at the camera by calling him, so he looks at them rather than at me. Some people aren’t blessed with brains.


Then you remember you’re working with dogs and sometimes they pull weird expressions.


Or they move too fast for your camera speed, because you’re trying to be a good photographer and keep that ISO low.


Or you get a kind of nice one, but he’s not looking quite at the camera and you’ve not got the whole head in focus, even if his eyes are.


But then you get one or two you think you can work with. Then it’s ‘Next’ because you have twenty-five black dogs to photograph and you’re not sure you can get through them all.

In the end though, they all look marvellous.

website header

Unlike the Advent calendar campaign, where most dogs found a home within a couple of months, only four dogs of these ten have found a home. Balou, Elios, Eloy, Amon, Hoogy and Kayser are still waiting, as are Tyron, Carlos, Aster, Elga and all of their friends.

It’s time we all start looking past the ‘black dog’ and seeing a soul who needs a home.














Operation Oldie

Adopting an oldie is a decision that many families make not quite knowing what they are letting themselves in for. None of us know how long our dog will stay with us and we make the decision with two very big questions in mind.

Can I face the inevitability of their death?

Can I manage the financial responsibility of an older dog?

Whilst these are very real considerations to bear in mind, it’s important to remember that it’s a sad fact that all animals will die and we have no way of knowing how far into the future that time will be. A one-year-old comes with no guarantee of living until they are eighteen. A ten-year-old has no guarantee of dying within the next year. We simply can never know how many days a dog has in it. Of course, adopting an oldie, it is more likely that you will have to face this situation sooner than you would if you adopted a younger dog, but there are several reasons why you should bear age in mind and then make a rational decision that puts age firmly back where it belongs: with every other decision you make about adoption. It is something you need to know, but not something you should base your decision on.

Sadly, many conversations involving adoption are focused on age. Too often, we see the age of the animal as a hindrance and do not take into consideration our own age. Around twenty percent of the dogs at the refuge have arrived there following the death of their owner.

Many dogs at the refuge spend longer than average waiting for a home if they are old. At the refuge, we even have discussions about whether or not we want to put the age of the dog on their public information records, as so many people are put off by knowing the dog is a golden oldie. “Too old!” is a statement the refuge staff are used to hearing.

Honestly, that’s a bit of a shame.

Take Ralf.

my big ralfie

Although Ralf was twelve when he arrived with me, he didn’t act it. He was in great health for a dog of his age and size, and he even won Dogs Today Magazine’s Golden Oldie of the Month award. Only twenty four hours before he died, I found myself wondering if he’d make it to eighteen. Whilst he had only seven months of retirement at my house, following his arrival at the refuge in June 2014, he reminded me of several things.

  • Old dogs don’t have to cost you a lot of money in vets’ bills. Ralf had accrued one vet bill of 68€ other than his final bills at the end of his life. He’d got in a scrap with a badger and I was worried he’d get an infection. 40€ of that fee was for an emergency appointment.
  • Old dogs aren’t all old codgers. That wasn’t the first badger he caught. He is also the only dog I’ve ever owned where I had to say, “you are not bringing that dead boar in the car!”
  • Their health is usually fine as long as you provide them a diet with plenty of nutrients and if you notice they have pain while doing something like walking then giving them supplements will help them.
  • If YOU don’t adopt the old boys, the likelihood is that everyone else will walk past them as well.
  • Walking past the old dogs in the refuge for precisely that reason increases the likelihood that they will pass their last days and months there, dying of old age. That they were left homeless in their golden years is disgusting enough; to be judged over and over again because we’re too squeamish about death is just as sad.
  • The death of an old dog in your arms is much less painful than knowing they would have died behind bars at a refuge if you hadn’t taken that chance.
  • The sadness of a death after seven months of adopted life doesn’t mean that you wish those seven months weren’t a risk worth taking.
  • It’s still sad to think of Ralf, six months after he died. It still makes me laugh to see his goofy face and his big head. My life would be poorer for never having had him in it.

So think about age. Take into consideration as you would with a two-year-old dog. But unless you are prepared to say, “I can’t take this two-year-old dog because they might die,” please don’t say it of a ten-year-old either.

Think about cost too. Know that the cost of a dog’s old age will hit you whether you face it right now or you face it in ten years’ time. At some point, unless you plan on dumping your dog at the refuge, you will have to pay the price of having a geriatric animal in your care.

Then bear in mind that Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis provide a fund for many elderly dogs in refuges across France to promote their adoption. When you adopt a dog from one of their partner refuges, you can access up to 600€ for vets’ fees. You take your dog to the vet. The vet sends the bill to Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis. It’s that simple.

Other than the costs of vaccinations or euthanasia, the fund can be used for any treatment over 30€. Your vet may also keep a running tab for you so that smaller medications can be totted up and run together to send on one bill. You have no paperwork to fill out; you hand over your “proof of adoption” letter and the vet does the rest.

That can be very useful when you take on a dog like Tobby.


Tobby came with advanced arthritis. He had been at the refuge for fourteen months and his condition had been deteriorating progressively. A bout of giardia didn’t help either. He weighed 21kg when I adopted him – very skinny for a Malinois.

Unlike Ralf, who had no ongoing medical issues and nothing that was “treatable”, Tobby takes daily medication for his arthritis. At 30€ a bottle for 10 days’ treatment, it’s on the expensive side. Plus, he has a specialist diet. However, when I asked the vet for the best way to economise on his treatment, she ordered a bigger bottle that lasts for three months and costs 80€. That means it will be many, many months before I need to start paying for Tobby’s treatment out of my own wallet.

To be frank, the expense of a fourth dog would not be one I would be able to pay for had I not got the support of this fund. I’m sure there are many people who might like to take on another dog but do not have the means to pay vets’ bills. Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis make it an easy decision to make. Knowing that Tobby has had six months of life in a home with warm beds, exercise, cuddles and good food without costing me very much at all is definitely something to consider. I don’t know how many good days he has left in him: I monitor his health and quality of life constantly without knowing if next week, or next month, he may not want to go on any more, or may not be able to.

Will it be hard when it’s his time? Of course. It’s always hard when a dog or cat leaves our life. But seeing him lying on the couch across from me, staring at me with a profound intensity that’s either adoration, confusion or wind, it’s a whole lot nicer than knowing he’s in the refuge, still waiting for his forever home until he’s given up hope completely.

If you would like to know more about Operation Oldies, or you would like to adopt one of our beautiful oldies, please get in touch.

Choosing your dog

There are many reasons to adopt a dog rather than buying one from a breeder. There are no reasons at all for buying a puppy from a puppy farm. For further information on selecting a good breeder, this pdf from the Humane Society will help you make the right decision. You should also read this article by Zazie Todd on Companion Animal Psychology which will help you make your choice if you are looking for a puppy.

Rescuing a dog rather than buying one from a breeder does not mean you have to sacrifice your love for particular breeds. At any one time, about thirty percent of the dogs at the Refuge de l’Angoumois conform to a breed standard, if they do not come with pedigree papers (called LOF papers in France).

If you have a love for a particular breed, please feel free to contact us and ask. Whether you have a love of Yorkies, German Shepherds or Newfoundlands, we may have a dog at the refuge that is perfect for you. Please bear in mind that pure-breed dogs move more quickly in some circumstances than mixed-breed dogs and that you may have to wait. You may also want to check out Seconde Chance, a website that allows you to search for dogs by breed and links to all refuges and associations across France. Another way to find an association that specialises in the kind of dog you love is to type in the name of the dog breed, plus ‘association sauvetage France’ into Google which may help you locate your favourite woofers, especially if they are more rare and less likely to find themselves in a refuge. You may have to wait a while, but you get the added bonus of getting the kind of dog you know well or love dearly, as well as the benefit of rescuing.

If you are looking for a labrador, a beagle or a scruffy griffon, look no further! We’re certain to have something that you’d like.

For those of you who are less particular or who have their hearts open to whichever dog they might fall for, these simple questions may help you define the dog you want. These are questions we often ask at the refuge to help narrow down which dogs will suit your lifestyle. Sadly, taking on ‘any old dog’ if you are not equipped for this may lead to a swift return for the dog and will leave you wary of future adoptions.

  1. What level of exercise will you be able to provide for the dog over the next fifteen years? If you are ‘of an age’ (excuse my diplomacy) will you be wanting to walk a hound who is still in the prime of his life when you are eighty or eighty-five? If you are uncertain about your job, will you be able to guarantee that the two hours’ walk a day that you can offer now will be available to the dog in two years’ time? If you have a family, though you might think your children will be happy to play with the dog for hours at a time, will they still feel the same as grumpy teenagers? Choose a rescue dog that not only suits your needs now, but your needs in the future, and think carefully about what you can offer a dog. A big garden is not exercise. It is just another room to a dog. Many dogs will see the garden the same way as they view your dining room: just another space that they won’t use unless you’re in it with them. Getting an energetic dog because you have a big garden is often a recipe for disaster. Energetic dogs need you to exercise them, not to leave them unsupervised in the garden, hoping they will tire themselves out. Make sure you ask about the dog’s energy levels and explain what kind of a life you can offer to your future pet.
  2. Are you able to groom high-maintenance dogs, like Newfoundlands, or do you want a dog like a collie that just needs a brush every now and again? Are you prepared for shedding? Will you be prepared to take the dog to a groomer if you cannot clip it yourself? If a dog doesn’t shed, it may need clipping or stripping so bear in mind how much time a week you want to spend grooming your pet. Don’t be afraid to rule out particular breeds and cross-breeds, or to prioritise them.
  3. How much space to you have to offer a dog? Do you have a small apartment and would prefer a small dog, or do you have the space for a larger dog? Many large dogs have lower energy levels and are happy to live in smaller houses, but you might not be so happy to have them constantly under your feet. Think about how secure your garden is and whether or not a dog would find it easy to escape from. You can specify what kind of life you can offer and ask for a dog to suit your home needs.
  4. How many dogs do you encounter on a daily basis? Do you need your dog to be well-socialised? Do you live in an urban area where many people walk their dogs? Do you live in a space where you can walk your dogs frequently without encountering other dogs? You can ask to see dogs that are well-socialised if you need a dog that will not be reactive on the lead when you pass others, or a dog that enjoys the company of other dogs.
  5. What are your family’s doggie needs? Do you have young children that need a dog that has good bite inhibition and is restrained and confident around children? Do you have older children who are looking for a dog they can interact with? Do you have visitors who are afraid of dogs? Make sure you are clear about your family situation and make sure you explain this clearly. Taking the whole family with you when you go to meet your future pet may seem like a bit of a chore, but it will ensure that everyone feels happy around the dog.
  6. Do you have other animals who have particular preferences? If you have cats, make sure you ask for a dog that has been tested with cats, and make sure you have explored ways to introduce new animals to each other. A dog that has previously shown no signs of interest in a cat may give chase if the cat runs off. A cat that has previously been fine around dogs may feel threatened if the dog sniffs too vigorously. If you have other dogs, make sure you take them to meet your new pet and follow guidance on integrating new animals.
  7. Have you researched dog breeds carefully, once you have narrowed down the kind of dog that you are interested in? Although breed characteristics are no determiner of personality, they can help you understand your dog and its behaviours. Whilst you should never make judgements about behaviour based on stereotypes, it is worth considering these when you have fallen in love with a particular dog. What are the likely behaviours, both positive and negative, of this breed?

With these seven questions in mind, you are more likely to be able to pick out a dog that will be your perfect family pet. A little consideration at the adoption stage makes all the difference.

Lost animals

If you have lost your dog, do not despair. The large majority turn up quickly and most turn up within hours.

First, it is worth waiting for a short period of about half an hour wherever you last saw your dog. Many dogs, even on unfamiliar territory, have the ability to retrace their steps. If your dog has escaped on a walk, they may well make their way home if they are within 10 km or so. If your dog has escaped from your home, they will probably have their bearings and be able to return.

The main problem with waiting for dogs to return to you is that they may encounter dangers out in the real world, or they may become a danger themselves. The only time when you may feel there is little point waiting for your dog is when your dog is very fearful or timid, or if your dog is relatively new. If you can, enlist family members or friends to stay at home or where you lost sight of the dog whilst you organise a better search party.

When you are happy that the dog can get back in at your home or that there is someone waiting where you lost sight of the dog, start to do an initial tour of the area on bike or by car, using wider and wider circles but coming back frequently to where they ran from. If you see people, ask them if they have seen your dog. Remember to look near bins and houses, and to listen out for the Midnight Barking. If your dog passes a garden, the dogs there may well bark and let you know where your dog is.

Circle back on yourself and then expand outwards again. Intercepting your dog as early as possible means that they are less likely to run off beyond their limits and get lost.

Stop at shops, houses or businesses and ask them to keep an eye out for your dog. Leave them a mobile phone number.

Ask if a friend can supervise an online campaign and start to print out leaflets to hand out.

Contact ICAD with your dog’s details and make sure your contact details are up to date. You can also allow anyone who finds the dog to contact you directly.

Keep an eye out on and chien-perdu to check if anyone has found your dog.

Publish an announcement on these sites and also on Facebook along with a couple of good-quality photos. Don’t forget to put in as much detail as possible. What you might describe as a Parson Russell terrier may well be a ratier to somebody else. Leave out a little detail so that you can ask the finder to verify the dog. You would be horrified to learn how many people will take advantage of you at a time like this. You may, for instance, want to withhold the collar colour or a distinctive patch.

Many dogs turn up overnight. They are hungry and tired, their adventure is over and they come home. Fearful dogs will need a different approach as they will need you to continue looking for them. It is likely they will ‘go to ground’ because they are scared.

If your dog is still missing after 12 hours, print out posters to post on lampposts, in letterboxes and to give to neighbours where the dog went missing. Check with vets within 20km, with the emergency services and with the fourrière (pound) to see if your dog has been found. Use your Yellow Pages to ensure you cover them all. Even an elderly dog can cover ten miles in a day. If they are picked up, they may be driven to a vet or fourrière that is further away.

Tell your post delivery person, local bakers and local merchants who drive about. They may well see your dog or speak to someone who has. Share your dog’s photo everywhere but don’t give up hope. Most lost dogs manage to make their way home safely. The more people looking for them, the more likely it is that they will be found.



Found animals

What to do if you find a stray dog in France.


  1. If you can easily catch the dog with no threat to your person, check if the dog has a collar tag and call the owner if so.
  2. If the dog has no collar or you cannot safely catch the dog, report the dog/take the dog to the mairie of the commune in which the dog was found. In lieu of this, you may also wish to try a local vet or the gendarmerie. N.B. please do not take the dog directly to the pound (fourrière) yourself. If you cannot easily trap the dog yourself, contact the mairie or the emergency services directly.
  3. Assist in sharing announcements locally and online. Posting signs in the neighbourhood and leaving details with local post office workers/police officers/bakers or delivery vans can also work. Local vets are also an option.

From stray to shelter

It is quite common in France to see a wandering dog. Please bear in mind that you are under no obligation to try and catch a dog. Not only that, you may find yourself with injuries from dogs who may not wish to be caught or may be aggressive with strangers. Many dogs are very capable of returning home without intervention and it can be tricky to know if you are picking up a stray or if you are interrupting the morning constitutional of a dog who walks himself. If the dog is moving cheerfully and purposefully, it probably knows where it is. It is worth keeping an eye on this dog from a distance. If the dog is slow, approaches you, seems lethargic, distressed or injured, or is out late at night or on a busy road, it is worth intervening. A collar is often a sign that the dog has caring owners who would like it back, especially one with a tag. Dogs without collars are statistically more likely to have been abandoned rather than straying.
If you are having any trouble catching a stray dog, but you are sure the dog isn’t likely to find its own way home easily or safely, there are options you can take.

Your first port of call for any animal found straying on public land is to contact the mairie of the commune. Only the maire or his staff have the power to seize or order the seizure of a stray animal. The emergency services can act in their place if the mairie is shut. Usually, once notified of a stray, they will send out an employee of the commune who is charged with the apprehension of stray animals. Sometimes they will contact the pound (fourrière) for assistance, or may ask the chasse association or a local vet. Once the animal is picked up, the maire calls the local pound who have responsibility for stray animals and the animal will pass to the local pound. Please do not try to capture a dog who seems very timid or very aggressive. The pound staff are very skilled in handling dogs and could save you from a nasty injury.

If your mairie are a little reticent in helping, you may find your local chasse master or mistress is a great help. They may be able to help you or lend you humane traps. You may wish to contact the fourrière to borrow a humane trap but bear in mind that few are big enough for dogs larger than a labrador. Your local vet may also have traps.

If you manage to catch an animal that is straying, your obligation is to take it to the mairie of the commune in which the animal was found. You may also want to take it to a local vet to see if they have a tattoo or electronic chip registered to a particular owner, but please understand that the vet may or may not know the legal proceedings if the animal is not registered. Some have good relationships with the pound and may be able to bypass the normal channels, but you are under no obligation to take the animal to the vet. Some vets have an agreement with their local mairie to handle stray animals. You can also take the dog to your local gendarmerie or police nationale, who are often equipped with microchip readers. If the animal is injured a local vet can administer the necessary first aid.

This system is a well-established one and most mairies will not look surprised if you turn up with a dog. Some have special holding areas or kennels particularly designed to keep the dog safe for the short period before the pound arrive to pick up the dog. The maire may also know to whom the dog belongs and may reunite the animal with their owner.

Once the maire has received the dog, most have a contract with a particular pound for collection of stray animals. The dog will pass to the relevant pound. Departments in France have a legal obligation to have a pound to deal with the stray animals.

At the pound, the staff will try every available method to find the owners of the dog. Their first check is for a collar with a phone number, a chip or tattoo. They also have access to national databases and other sites – tools that are much further reaching than those of your local vet. Please bear in mind that sticking a found dog on Facebook will no doubt be a useless undertaking for many older French people and just because a dog isn’t on Chien Perdu doesn’t mean it does not have owners looking for it, albeit in more ‘old-fashioned’ ways.

It is also worth bearing in mind that if you find a dog who is very skinny, it is not necessarily mistreated. It may be old, ill or have been so scared of people that the only way it has allowed itself to come in close enough proximity to be caught is because it is so weak. A healthy, well-nourished dog may hide for weeks and only seek contact or be found when they are too weak to run away. It is also worth remembering that the dog may have travelled a very long way in pursuit of a deer or another dog and can turn up in a pitiful state when lost. Do not keep the dog yourself: this is theft.

You can also be of great assistance by running a publicity campaign online and in your local area to help the pound relocate an owner. Check on Chien Perdu and put up an announcement in ‘chiens trouvés’ if the fourrière haven’t already done so. Contact Pet Alert for your department on Facebook. (e.g. Pet Alert 16) and for neighbouring departments. Check the refuge website (do a search for ‘fourrière’ or ‘syndicat de la fourrière’ plus the number of your department) e.g. fourrière 87 and keep an eye on their website/other social media. Mostly you will find that the fourrière will carry out these activities but you can assist if not. You can also contact ICAD although the fourrière will also do this.

A very useful thing to do is running local campaigns as the fourrières do not have the ability to do this.

What to do if I would like to adopt an animal I have found

For many reasons, people form an emotional bond with stray animals but please remember that the animal does not belong to you, even if unidentified or if paperwork is out of date. Just because the dog is not chipped does not mean there is not a family looking for it and many ‘unidentified’ dogs find their home again. Another reason the dog must pass through the pound is to enforce the laws about animal identification and they can impose a fine on anyone who allows their dog to stray or who has not tattooed or chipped their dog, or kept their records up to date. A final reason is that the pound is the liaison with the state veterinary services who keep an eye on disease. All stray animals must be checked by a vet after 90 days of their arrival in an animal shelter to ensure they have not shown signs of contagious diseases like rabies.

So what happens at the pound?

First, the pound check for owners. They may also be in touch with a large number of other associations and agencies who can help to trace owners or find homes.

Then the pound are responsible for checking the health of an animal.

The animal has a minimum stay of 8 days whilst efforts are made to trace owners. During this time, if you have become attached to the animal, you may ask that their time is spent with you instead of at the pound. You can also make it known that you would like to adopt the animal if its current owners are not found.

After their time in the pound, there are a number of things that can happen. Please remember that departments are under no legal obligation to re-home strays or to have an animal shelter that can rehome animals. Some ‘animal shelters’ are extended pounds who can keep dogs alive until they run out of space. This could be as short as one day or as long as ten years. Some have a relationship with a refuge/SPA (société protectrice animaux) who will attempt to re-home the animal. Some refuges have a policy of euthanasia. Others do not. If you are worried about what will happen once the dog has spent its eight obligatory days in the pound, please ask the pound. This varies from department to department. Do not assume, however, that it is instant euthanasia or that the staff in pounds where euthanasia is a sad necessity are happy to carry out this work.

If the animal passes into a refuge, its chip details will be re-registered, or it will be chipped for the first time. It will also be vaccinated. Its 90-day health monitoring will continue. If the dog is adopted in this time, its new owners become responsible for the 90-day health visit. If the dog is still at the refuge, the refuge staff are responsible for this health check-up.

In the pound, the dog may accumulate fees and fines for their owners. Firstly there is a fine for allowing an animal to stray. Secondly, each day there is a fee for their upkeep. Finally, there is a fine for having a non-identified animal. For this reason, a stray can quickly accumulate many fines and fees and an owner may choose to surrender the animal rather than pay. Some owners are never found. In these cases, the dog passes over to an animal shelter, where one exists. Animal shelters have their own policies and practices for rehoming. Please remember that animal shelters (refuges/SPA) and pounds (fourrières) are legally different entities, even though there is often a strong bond between them and a collaborative approach to the animals in their care. Some pounds and refuges are on the same site which makes it confusing. Although refuge staff can be helpful and redirect you, please understand that there is not much use in contacting your local refuge and that you need to be in touch with the maire.

Your first stop off point is always the mairie of the commune in which the dog was found, who will direct you further if necessary. Unless you choose to intervene further, this is the first and only visit you need to make.

About me

And more to the point, how did I end up here?

I’m Emma. I’m an English teacher, examiner and writer based in South-West France. I also offer full-time behavioural support to adoptants of dogs from our shelter and also from other local shelters.  Sometimes my work involves dogs who owners want to keep instead of surrendering but they have run out of options.

I’ve always been an animal lover and my heart belongs to rescues. I’ve never had a dog that wasn’t.

me and ticker

This is me with our family cocker spaniel. I’ve always loved cockers. If I could go with one breed, cockers would be it. American, English, working… I don’t care. That said, volunteering is a bit like experimenting in a library with a load of new book types. I’ve become a massive fan of wire-haired fox terriers (because they’re small and think they’re rottweilers, not unlike me) and I love big muttley types. Rotties are also fabulous, and I’m a beagle fan too. If it’s scruffy, I’ll love it. If it’s needy and vulnerable, I’ll love it. If it’s a bit shouty, I’ll love it. That goes for people too.

Since working in rescue in France, I’ve come to see the extent of the problem with ‘security’ dogs like Malis and GSD, many of whom are subjected to the most horrendous training regimes. Whilst the problem with hunt dogs will persist until hunting with packs of dogs is no longer legal, at least they are kept in packs and have company. For malis and GSD, they are often kept alone and isolated in tiny crates for much of the time. You can read about it here (in French) The plight of the malinois has touched me more than any other aspect of my work.

My dogs

Currently I have three dogs. I also foster for the refuge from time to time. I have a geriatric malinois, a groenendael cross and a young baby maligator. I’ve dialled back the fostering, but I’ve had over a hundred dogs stay here, even if only for a night or two. Some make it through the week before they’re rehomed. One great big lump was here over a year, but it doesn’t always go like that. I often have a bathroom full of kittens during kitty season too.

Tilly was with me the longest. She was a pedigree American cocker and she was the apple of my eye. She reminded me all about accidental peeing, about dogs that root through the bins, about dogs who don’t like being touched, and about pushing chairs under so she couldn’t check out the table the moment I stand up. She came to me aged five when her family returned to the UK without her, and she lived with me 9 years. She liked to lie with her legs out like a frog and she was the only dog who slept on my bed the whole night. Tilly was a shouty princess and didn’t like dog-dog kisses, or puppies who don’t have an off switch. She didn’t care if they were 5 kg or 50 kg. She sat nearest to the kitchen just in case the fridge spontaneously blew up and food needed protecting in her stomach.


She liked to get dirty and though she was small, she once chased a stag. She knew no fear. She’d also have done anything for a biscuit. Her heel was perfect if I had rawhide about my person.

When Tilly arrived with me, she didn’t know how to play. She played a little as she aged and she loved squeaky toys. She also learned the joy of chasing things, the fun of finding pheasants in bushes, the pleasure of sitting on a sofa by my side rather than always being in her basket, and the happiness of walks. She died in March 2019 following years of ear problems and tummy troubles.

I loved my scruffy Tilly Popper with all of my heart.

After Tilly came my puppy, Heston. He’d been left in a box with his siblings as a day-old pup and was subsequently hand-raised. He’s been with me since he was seven weeks old. I’m responsible for all his great behaviour and all of his shouty, barky teenage ways. He’s seven now and he’s currently having a rest following working on his gundog skill. He blasted through heelwork to music and then tracking and scentwork. He’s a dab hand at finding lost dogs in the forest and he found fourteen lost dogs last year. Heston is a dog’s dog. He loves to play with other dogs and he’s always patient with puppies. Older dogs need a bit of a gentle introduction but he soon remembers his manners even if he likes to set out his stall first. Heston is a groenendael X and he is beautiful. He is so smart and so energetic. He also has epilepsy and we’re navigating a calmer, quieter life.

A hunter once offered me 500€ for Heston. He’s that good at tracking things. Butterflies, swallows, crows, jays, herons, partridge, pheasant, grouse, rabbit, hare, roe deer, wild boar, deer… Heston will chase it all. To be fair, he’s become much more exclusive as a grown-up and hare are his favourite. When he finds his target, he usually wags his tail and barks at it if it doesn’t respond. He’s the only dog I know that didn’t understand why the fox he’d just found didn’t want to play with him. It was for that reason I stopped doing heelwork and agility with him and started scentwork. He was just going through the motions. Now we’re doing a lot of gundog stuff to help him master his chase urges when distinguishing scents. No good getting distracted if you’re in hare territory. He’s the only gundog shepherd I know.

After Heston, there was Amigo… the dog I hand-picked as bomb-proof and non-aggressive with other dogs… the dog that got in a scrap with Heston the moment he arrived. Amigo was a people’s dog rather than a dog’s dog. He’d have been very happy to be the only dog and he suffered others. Amigo was an introverted soul among all my happy extroverts. Where they are happy to have new stuff presented to them, Amigo would have rather stayed by my side. Happily, he settled down (though it took four months of hard work and patient integration) and then Amigo was the one dog who ALWAYS looks at me with those eyes that said, ‘please let it be me and you and nobody else’.

Meego (as he was better known) was my most obedient dog and he was my absolute treasure. He came to me aged (maybe) seven from the refuge and spent a happy four years here. Meego was my dream dog. He was a super hunter as well and he loved chasing rabbit. He once brought me a boar piglet that he’d killed. That was nice of him. Where Heston wags and barks at things, Meeg had the killer inside. Best guess is that he was a griffon x border collie. To be honest, he was as muttley as it’s possible to be. I only ever saw one dog like him. He also had shot pellets in his shoulder from his former life, whatever that might have been. He came to the refuge in February 2014 and came to live with me two months later. Sadly, it’s easy to know how he was taught such good manners; a fly swatter made him hide beneath the table. Amigo had a stroke back in January 2017, and another in August – we navigated the joys of canine cognitive dysfunction and enjoyed our last fourteen months together. In September 2017, he was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. He had vestibular attacks from time to time too. Sadly, he died in March 2018 as his pulmonary fibrosis worsened.

Tobby was my first wobbly malinois. He passed away in November 2016 and he has left the most massive hole in my heart – so much so that I pine for Malinois and it hurts every time I see one of his discarded toys. He got to the ripe age of fifteen, having been here twenty-one glorious months. I took him because I thought he had maybe a couple of weeks left, and my mercy mission turned into a full-on adoption. He got slower and slower as arthritis gave way to cauda equida syndrome and to neurological problems as he aged. Tobby had the worst arthritis and nerve damage I ever saw a dog to have and still be walking. He walked like that old vampire who was all stiff and weird. Tobby didn’t care. He had a wonderful time here for his retirement. He was just a darling. Though he couldn’t sit and give a paw easily, he still tried. He also stared at me intently and liked to keep me in his eyeline in his basket at night. He just looked at me in that way that makes me wonder if he’s just taking me in. Tobby taught me all about predatory drift and separation anxiety and how malis can be flock managers as well as police dogs and security guys.


Tobby mostly had a toy in his mouth. He didn’t want you to play with him, he just wanted to carry it around. Tobby loved kittens and he loved other dogs. I miss him most with the entirety of my heart. My next dog will be a malinois, I know it for sure.

Tobby took the place of the dog who is always missing from my soul and the dog who was my dog number four. That dog was Ralf. I started with two dogs and then went to three. Three was my limit until Ralf strayed from the refuge (it happens!) and made his way 10km where I found him on his way to my house (at least, that’s where I think he was going). Ralf was a huge labrador/shepherd cross of twelve years old. He’d been a guard dog all his life. He was Golden Oldie of the Month – Mr November, no less – for Dogs Today Magazine. In dog years, he was 108. Ralf dug holes all over my garden, stole sugar from the cupboard, rooted through the bins, took things off the table, hogged the sofa, went crazy when he saw badgers and once carried the dead boar pig over five kilometres. He’s the only dog I ever had to tell off for trying to bring a dead thing in the car.


I miss Ralf enormously. All 45kg of him. His massive paws left huge prints there and I can safely say there will never be another Ralf. He had a burst spleen aged 13 and the vet found his liver and lungs were also riddled with tumours. I’d say he had a good innings, but he had 12 years of living at a sawmill and 7 months of chasing badgers and lying on sofas. Ralf taught me that you should always have room in your home for a dog who needs you and he taught me that badgers give as good as they get, even old wounded ones.

I also had a semi-permanent lodger who is both marvellous and an enormous pest: Mr Effel aka The Feff. He found his permanent home in November 2017 after 18 months in foster.

The Feff belonged to an old lady who went into a nursing home. She didn’t want her dogs to go to the shelter, so our secretary convinced me to take them. I did because one was a blind labrador. I thought The Feff would find a home and the blind labrador would live out his days here. Well, the blind labrador found a home and The Feff hung  around like a bad smell. Luckily, I was equipped with the ways of the shepherd having been taught well by Tobby. Predatory drift x 10 for this guy who likes to chase lawnmowers, bikes and joggers. He was fab with other dogs, although he and Heston had man wars about man stuff that involves a lot of staring and posturing.

Flika came as a surprise addition. She turned up aged 8 at the shelter and spent 9 months there in 2013. She was returned once with separation anxiety, escape attempts and destruction. Then she was adopted again. Sadly, she was then sold on as a “guard dog” where she spent four years in a warehouse before making a break for it (or being abandoned). She arrived back at the pound with arthritis, cauda equida like Tobby, a missing eye and cystitis. The first time I saw her, she was having a nosebleed on my shoe. I never saw a dog having a nosebleed and I can’t stand oldies in the shelter. I had a space, so I took her home. We’re navigating separation anxiety, severe storm phobia and health issues, but she is the sweetest girl. She walks like an excited cat on a lead and likes to chase cars. She is a social butterfly and loves anything living. Today, she stood watching the cows for ten minutes and she was itching for them to come and say hi. Those cows are so ignorant.

Finally, my most recent hot mess: Lidy. Lidy had three years at the shelter and not without reason. We’re still navigating the complexities of life but we do have a rock solid relationship on which we’re building a better relationship with the world. Lidy is the worst of malinois gone wrong: territorial, predatory, aggressive with strangers, aggressive with other dogs, mouthy, addicted to dopamine and adrenaline. 

Luckily, I love her very much. I forgave her for grabbing my pony tail and not letting go. I also forgave her for putting holes in my clothes. She arrived with me in November 2019. 

I work mostly with vet referrals these days although I used to do much more with shelters. Now most of my work is post-bite.  My work with rehomed dogs include separation anxiety, repetitive behaviours, isolation distress, resource guarding, or lack of socialisation and work their way up to much more extreme cases of aggression.  Many are common-or-garden fix-over-the-phone type of problems. Some of those dogs are pre-surrender. Just like the shouty kids at school, it was always the misunderstood hard nuts that got to me, and it still is. 

I also do a lot of the photos of our dogs for the shelter site.

That involves cold sessions in kennels with dogs who don’t have a history with me and whose history I don’t have, and sticking a big black eye in their face. Click and Treat photography, for sure.

As for the techno stuff, I’m a Canon fan. I have bog-standard entry-level equipment, a top-of-the-line 50mm lens, Photoshop and a night school photography qualification that was more about getting down and dirty with chemicals in darkrooms than it was about using cloning to edit out dog slobber and accidental excitements. I photograph dogs at the refuge. Well, that’s one of the things I do. It’s my way of helping to find them homes, since I already have three dogs of my own and I don’t have room for another hundred or so. I switched last year to a Sony Mirrorless and haven’t looked back. 

I’m also a member of the board of trustees at the refuge, where we decide important stuff like staffing, budgets and how to deal with large donations or massive, unexpected budget cuts as well as the not-so-important stuff like where we can get a cheap supply of pens. I’m particularly interested in dog rehabilitation after abusive or traumatic homes, and how we can make the shelter the best stepping-stone we can. I don’t have to do much. The director and the president have it all wrapped up. I love the shelter and the more I learn about dogs and their needs, the more I realise just what an amazing place our shelter is.

My worst dog moment was when a dog called Nichman decided that play might involve a bit of light humping with me on the floor in the mud. My best dog moment was getting two ‘untouchable’ bitey, fearful spaniels eating out of my hands in less than two minutes and accepting cuddles within an hour. My best dog photography moment was winning a year’s supply of Dogs’ Today magazine. My worst dog photography moments are too numerous to mention but are getting fewer and further between.

I took up the books again to support humans and dogs cope n the world, and I completed my thesis on assessment of aggression in the shelter. I also do a lot of professional development. I graduated with distinction on an advanced canine behaviour course that took me about two years to complete. My dissertation at that level was on people’s experiences of adopting shelter dogs. It used fancy words like phenomenological and hermeneutics, but at its heart, it was about understanding the drive to adopt. 

I graduated in a double degree of English and Psychology in 1994.  That followed by 13 years of in-class teaching and consultancy. My post-grad in Change Leadership would have been easier if it were acceptable to clicker-train humans, though I confess I use biscuit and cake in the same way with humans. Luckily, the psychology bit of my first degree is as useful now as the learning bit of my second post-gra and the camera stuff of my night school studies. It all came together in the end. I still teach and I am involved at a senior level with GCSE English assessment in the UK. I like seeing potential achieved, and that is true of all my students, be they human, canine or feline. It’s all about the learning for me, be you a Hairy Quadruped or Naked Ape.

I’m also a tutor at The DoGenius where I very happily write and teach courses. Life’s goals met, right there. Learning, writing, speaking and teaching about dogs. 

I’m also a member of the Pet Professional Guild and I’m very proud to be certified as a shelter dog behaviour consultant by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. 


The pages on this website are written in response to common issues raised by our adoptants and my posts are rooted in the work of pet ethologists, behaviour consultants and positive dog trainers as well as my own case studies and practice.

Thanks very much for reading!

Courses followed:

The International School of Canine Psychology and Behaviour: diploma (completed July 2017) & advanced diploma (graduated with distinction, January 2020)

Sirius Dog Training: 4-day puppy training course

University of Edinburgh: Animal Welfare

Behavior Works: Living and Learning with Animals 8 week course

The Pound


“The Pound” has such negative connotations that it can be hard to explain that the people who work for the pound are actually charged with ensuring that stray animals are brought to a place of safety and cared for. In France, the pound is known as la fourrière. 

In Charente, the Syndicat Mixte de la Fourrière is a committee of elected officials charged with ensuring the security, health and safety of stray animals. They award contracts to services who can offer to catch, collect and keep stray cats and dogs, as well as attempting to find owners. Currently, there are two agencies responsible for strays: the pound at Champagnoux and the pound on site at the Refuge de l’Angoumois.

The kennels at Champagnoux are responsible for the southern sector of the department. The fourrière de l’Angoumois is responsible for 242 communes in the North and East of the department.



The pounds are legally obliged to keep all animals for at least eight days. There are two reasons behind this. The first reason is to attempt to locate owners; the second is to ensure a quarantine period for infectious diseases.

Fourrières in France can only release dogs and cats to another association, not to individuals. For this reason, any dog or cat not rehomed at the end of their period at the pound may pass over to an association. For the most part, dogs and cats at the fourrière de l’Angoumois pass over to the refuge.

The fourrière can be called on twenty-four hours a day to catch animals or collect animals. The only agencies who can request the fourrière do this in Charente are the town halls and the emergency services. Some vets may agree to take an animal and the fourrière have been known to pick up strays that have arrived in this way. For further information on what to do if you have lost or found an animal, you can find further information on the site.

More dogs than cats are found straying by the fourrière de l’Angoumois. In 2014, 729 dogs were picked up by the fourrière de l’Angoumois. 52% of these were returned to their home. In theory, 100% of animals should be returned to owners, since it is a legal obligation to identify your animal with a microchip. Often, dogs are identified but the owner’s details are not up to date on ICAD, the national database of dog and cat owners. Sometimes, owners deny knowledge of their dog. Occasionally, they refuse to pay fines and fees.

Of the 331 dogs in 2014 that were not claimed, 318 passed over to the refuge de l’Angoumois. The remaining dogs were rehomed by associations specialising in pedigree dogs.

From time to time, the fourrière is required by law to assess and, if necessary, arrange for the euthanasia of dogs who have bitten, clawed or attacked people or other animals. Thankfully, the number of dogs assessed by the specialist vet who then go on to be judged a danger is very small.

The other function of the fourrière is a very sad one. Certain individuals would prefer to abandon their animal at the end of its life rather than to care for it appropriately. Thus, very occasionally, dogs who are too sick are also given care and support in their final hours.

Dogs who are not identified are also unlikely to have been vaccinated. Thus it is a sad fact of fourrière life that once diseases like parvovirus are introduced, it can spread quickly. This highly contagious disease is often fatal. There are no drugs that can kill parvovirus. Vaccination is highly effective. In unvaccinated dogs, the mortality rate can be as high as 90%. Puppies, adolescent dogs and old dogs who have never been vaccinated are unfortunately exposed at the pound to a number of diseases, despite all the preventative measures in place.

That said, the 48% of dogs who pass over to the refuge de l’Angoumois are then in a great place to find themselves a home.

For the cats, it is a different story, and a sad story at that. Only 3% of cats brought into the pound go on to find their owners. The overwhelming majority of cats are not identified. In 2014, 683 cats came into the fourrière de l’Angoumois. One in three cats to come in to the pound are feral and in 2014, no sterilise/release programme existed in Charente. Feral cats with no chance of being rehomed cannot pass into the refuge and sadly, the majority ended up being euthanised. Since June 2015, the fourrière is working with 30 Millions d’Amis to sterilise, identify and release feral cats. Town halls simply have to ring the fourrière to coordinate this programme. It is free to communes in Charente. Unfortunately, trap-neuter-release programmes have yet to prove their efficiency and the best method of ensuring the cat population doesn’t grow unnecessarily is in neutering your animal.

In 2014, 294 cats were passed on to associations for rehoming. These cats are social, friendly and used to people: they have belonged to someone. It is very sad that so many go unclaimed with owners who have not identified their cat having no way of finding them unless they come to the refuge. Many people just assume that their cat has died or been killed. Where possible, even if cats have tested positive for FIV, the fourrière tries hard to find an association who will take them. The refuge accepted 283 cats that came in via the fourrière. 11 found homes via other associations.

A small number of cats each month are euthanised for medical reasons. The summer months brings a huge increase in the number of cats and kittens who arrive. In November, fifteen cats came in to the fourrière. In July, the number was almost ten times that.

The fourrière, then, is far from being a place of sadness or fear. It is the agency that reunites lost dogs and cats with happy owners; it is also the front line of care and health. This is not true of all departments in France. A pound is a legal obligation according to French law. A refuge is not. Having the fourrière on site at Mornac means that the refuge is able to anticipate numbers and needs, make pairs of dogs that can be kept together and take the baton much more efficiently regarding medical treatments. Although it is true that many animals who arrive at the fourrière are stressed and anxious, many have been on the run for some time. Indeed, many dogs and cats that arrive may only have been caught because they were hungry enough to put them in contact with a caring human being.

We hope to keep the fourrière contract at Mornac for the foreseeable future.

Adoption Tarifs

To adopt an animal at the Refuge de l’Angoumois, you need to provide three things:

  • proof of ID (driver’s licence, passport etc)
  • proof of address (utility bill etc)
  • payment by cheque or in cash

Many people ask why there are adoption tarifs. The reason is simple. Adoption fees account for almost a quarter of the refuge income, and without it, we would not be able to accept as many animals. Your fee allows us to pay it forward and invest in new arrivals. Think of it less as an adoption fee and more as a donation to support our work. The tarifs vary as well. Pedigree dogs, even ‘second hand’ ones, are easier to rehome and fewer and further between. Female dogs are more expensive because their sterilisation is more costly than a castration. Older dogs do not have such a high tarif as we are mindful that they will no doubt have vet’s bills from time to time. This is true of young dogs too. The sad fact is that many people would not think about adopting an eight-year-old dog and the tarif reflects our desire for them to be rehomed. Dogs over the age of 10 benefit from the support of Fondation 30 Millions d’Amis, a French charity who will settle vet bills up to an amount of 600€. Their condition for doing so is that the refuge do not accept more than 50€ in donation for an oldie.

The same question arises over kitten costs. The fact is that to chip, vaccinate and sterilise your kitten, it will cost you roughly three times what is asked for as a fee. There is NO such thing as a free kitten, unless you intend to go without doing one of these three steps. If you go without sterilising them, you are contributing to an earlier death, since unsterilised cats have an expected lifespan that is four years shorter than a sterilised cat, or adding to the likelihood of their straying in search of a mate. If you go without vaccinating your cat, you open them up to the risk of a variety of preventable infections, some of which have a 60% mortality rate. Even if you do not wish to vaccinate your cat through to old age, all vets recommend the first set and the booster. Finally, an unchipped cat has no way to find its way home to you. With over 100 cats at the refuge at any one time, there are no doubt owners who think their cat is long dead when in fact, they are waiting for a home. 95% of cats that arrive by the pound are unchipped. Only a small number of these are truly feral. Only by missing out on all three essential kitty costs would you actually save yourself money.

Castrated male crossbreed dogs (under 7): 190€

All dogs leave only on the understanding that you will have them castrated at your earliest convenience and provide a statement to that effect from your vet.

Female sterilised crossbreed dogs (under 7): 230€

Pedigree dogs (under 7): 210€ – 250€ depending on gender and sterilisation

Male puppy (under 6 months): 220€

Female puppy (under 6 months): 260€

All puppies leave with a voucher for obligatory sterilisation.

Dogs (male or female) between 7-10 years of age: 80€

Dogs over 10: a donation of your choice

All cats older than 4 months are tested for feline leukaemia and FIV.

Adult females: 130€

Adult males: 110€

Kittens: 100€ (including a voucher for compulsory sterilisation)

For dogs or cats, these prices reflect the cost of their vaccinations and their identification. All animals leaving the refuge have been given standard vaccinations and are identified.

Many people ask about the paperwork they need to complete after adoption. The answer is: none! We fill in and update the ICAD records for dogs and cats, which generally takes about 3 weeks to come back with your name on. Should your animal go missing in that time, if found their chip will still have the refuge contact details and we will be able to get in touch with you.

Sometimes, you will have a home visit in the case of certain dogs. Sometimes the refuge may ask to do a pre-visit as well. This is usually only with animals who we know will be problematic. For dogs who come in via the pound, there is an obligatory 90-day health check to ensure that they are in good health and not presenting signs of infectious diseases.