Why cant we be together

Dogs live in social groups naturally. Some are just pairs but others can be up 13 strong. The dog’s ability to socialise is the number one reason that they have through history been an integral part of our families. Recently there are more and more dogs suffering from what is called separation anxiety, I personally believe this is due to working families and also childless couples getting them and treating them like substitute children. I will not lie; this is one of the most difficult problems to successfully over come. It requires patience, organisation and a lengthy process. In this part I am only going to aid in how you can begin this, as so many dogs react differently I cannot give a stage by stage guide.

The anxiety itself can come in many forms from barking to destruction and soiling to self mutilation. It is essential that in the early stages of rehabilitation that you take it slow and make your dog comfortable before moving on. Make your goals small and achievable because as soon as your dog becomes anxious again you are right back to square one.

If you have a dog that soils it is important that you never punish them when you return. Your dog will have no understanding of why you are punishing him and believe that you returning is a negative thing thus making you going away even more stressful. Just clean it up with no fuss.

If you have a barker then you cannot allow them to bark and howl all day without expecting a visit from your local council and facing a fine.

Destruction is not done out of spite, there can be lots of factors for it, boredom or stress. It is essential that your dog is kept in a crate for his own safety (if you have never used a crate please ask for information on this).

 

To begin with most separation cases what I find is when the owner is actually at home their dog is constantly with them. You leave the room, they leave the room. You can’t even pee without company. If your dog can’t bear to spend five minutes alone then how in god’s name will it cope with an hour? If you have to work for long periods of time then organise a dog walker/sitter or recruit a family member that has the luxury of not working to help. If you have no help then you have to ask yourself the question is this fair on my dog?

Get your dog used to a crate; the crate is going to become your dog’s space. Somewhere safe to be. Make sure that he is comfortable going in and out before you start to leave him. Begin by closing the door of the crate and leaving the room. If your dog starts to cry or become upset do not let him out! You will only reinforce that making a fuss makes you return, ignore him. This could go on for a while but stand firm. Make sure that he can see you, don’t go out of your house and leave him! As soon as he settles (he will), perhaps he may just fall asleep or lie down watching you. Give him three minutes of calm and then open the crate, don’t make a fuss or pet him just walk away. If he stays in the crate that is ok, if he follows you about just ignore him. What you are doing here is showing him that if he howls you are less likely to return. Congratulations you have reached first base. Continue to do this at periods of time that you are around so that you can reinforce calm behaviour gradually extending the time spent in the crate. Once you get up to 1 hour of calm you can then start to leave. When I say an hour I mean he goes to his crate gets in lies down and you close the door. Silence!

Begin leaving him alone in the house in his crate for short periods; Dogs shouldn’t be left alone for anymore than a four hour period anyway! Leave the house and walk around the block. Do not make a fuss when you leave, so many people say “be good mummy won’t be long” to a dog this is “I’m leaving now time to get upset”. When you return to the house again don’t make a fuss, if he is sleeping in the crate then leave well alone if he gets up and is excited to see you then leave him until he calms and then let him out. Again just gradually build up the time you are leaving him. You can provide something to chew in your absence such as a Kong or nylabones. No raw hide or chews of that nature as he could choke on it when you aren’t there.

Work up to 3 hours and then you can try putting him in his crate and not closing the door returning to the very first stages by only doing that when you are around and building on that again. Be cautious not to go to fast. I find that dogs cotton on very quickly to this method and start to view the crate as a good thing. Good luck.

 

 

The power of positivity X©

Golden Oldie

As a dog grows older, like a human, they go through not only changes that can be seen but also internal and behavioural changes.

At first it is easy to spot an ageing dog, their muzzles and sometimes whole face is greying, they move slower and with less intent and they respond to noises slower( if at all ). But all the obvious changes are only the tip of the iceberg. The ageing process is inevitable for all species. It effects individuals differently and for some earlier than others. You cannot influence the “blueprint” for life span but you can make sure that you help your dog reach its maximum life span with as much comfort as possible. Life span is decided genetically but external influences such as environment or disease can dramatically reduce this.

Before discussing how can help we must understand the process.

Firstly an older dog’s brain is 25% lighter than when he was younger. When he was younger & fitter he was able to transmit information in the Brain at around 225 miles an hour, now he is down to 50 miles per hour. The cells in his Brain stay stimulated for longer periods of time which then means they temporarily cannot receive or process new information, this effects short term memory which in turn makes learning new things more difficult. Dulling reaction times and giving us the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”.

Little micro haemorrhages can occur in the Brain which in turn can make older dogs more irritable when disturbed and also slower in obeying, orientation and learning.

The Pituitary Gland, which is responsible for the production of growth hormones, production is greatly reduced. This is the main reason for the ageing process.

All these changes take place in the Brain but there are also changes internally. Kidneys are often impaired with old age resulting in less concentrated urine and the necessity to drink more. The Liver in some dogs accumulates fat which is sometimes secondary to Diabetes. The Lungs and Heart function less well which inevitably reduces the supply of Oxygen and Blood, since this is the Brains main source of energy it will affect the function of it.

Along with these changes there are also sensory changes; Hearing is no longer as sensitive to higher end sounds. Eyesight becomes hazy and taste loses its intensity. However the sense of smell does remain.

In view of the physical changes a dog goes through you can to some extent prepare them when they are younger to help in the later years. I personally teach all my puppies hand signals for basic commands such as sit, stay, down, come & leave. I constantly switch from vocal to hand signal so they are kept familiar with them. This will help if my dogs encounter hearing problems in old age. Keeping a dog energetic and stimulated at all times through his life has been scientifically proven to increase life span. Lots of exercise and mental work outs can only be healthy. I also believe that a good quality diet will also help prevent health problems; it wouldn’t be healthy for me to eat convenience foods constantly throughout my life so make sure that your dog has a good organic meal. Make teeth brushing a daily grooming procedure as tooth decay in older dogs can lead to all sorts of painful scenarios.

As well as preparation a good owner of an elderly dog must be able to offer empathy to their age. It will take them longer to get to where they need to go, walks are important but should be kept short and more often rather than for long distances. With exercise you will get the heart rate going which in turn will increase oxygen levels; which as already mentioned is the Brains source of energy. It is important that the elderly are still allowed to socialise but make sure that they are comfortable so that they don’t become irritated by adolescents. Like elderly people, just because it takes a little more time to understand things there is no need to treat them as if they are stupid, teach them new things but remember it will take longer but that in its self can be part of the fun. Feeling secure in your patience again can only increase an aging dog’s confidence.

When at home ensure a good comfortable bed that is in a quiet spot, older dogs can be reactive if woken up unexpectedly. If you need to waken them, make sure you don’t startle and give an extra few minutes for them to come around, get their bearings and get mobile. If they have bad joint function, a towel around the tummy to create a sling is a good way of helping take the weight if necessary.

Potential homes for older rescue dogs can be difficult to find because of the trend that older dogs cannot learn or adjust. They certainly can learn new things and easily become part of a new family, it only requires a little more time and patience. I dog walk for a family that over the years have taken on three dogs over the age of ten. I have learnt that they fit in perfectly well and go on to lead very fulfilling lives with the correct environment.

I personally feel that just because they are getting older, which is a natural progression for everything living, doesn’t mean that they are finished. I would hate for society to chastise me for something I could not help. If kept stimulated and cared for any owner can give their dog the gift to live to their full potential.

The Power of Positivity X

Its my door

This is a step by step guide for dogs that jump on visitors when entering a property, bark excessively when door bell rings (or door knocked) or gets over excited at people entering.

The first stage is beginning a desensitisation period. The usual trigger for the above mentioned behaviours is a stimulus response to the knocking/ringing at your door. What our dogs learn is that when they hear a noise at the door we immediately answer, so in response to our reaction they do the same, only faster! This problem then escalates into extreme excitement before we even recognise that we have a problem.

To begin simply ask a family member or friend to knock/ring at your front door. Let your dog do his usual routine of responding but you do nothing, do not move to open the door, call your dog or correct them in anyway. After about a 30 second interval get you’re volunteer to repeat and you make no response. Continue to do this until your dog does not respond. Please note this can be time consuming but is essential as an initial step towards calm. One woof is allowed but the dog must move away from the door of free will and not be in a state of excitement. Once at this stage you are ready to move on. For future reference after the initial work this will have to be reinforced regularly until your dog understands that every time the door goes staying calm will get it opened quicker so I recommend popping a note on your door to say “dog in training please be patient”.

Stage two; ask your dog for a sit/stay a good distance from the door, we don’t want to put them off welcoming visitors! Once they are in this position approach door to answer. If at any point your dog gets up stop what you are doing and get your dog into a sit/stay. If you touch the door handle and they respond you stop get them to sit/stay, if you open the door and they respond shut the door and return to a sit/stay; this is why it is important that they are a good distance so they don’t get trapped in the door. When you can open the door and invite your guest in you can move onto the next stage. Please hold your dog in a sit/stay.

Stage three; when your guest comes in if your dog advances towards them get your guest to stop and turn their back, you should then get your dog by the collar (or house line http://www.ultimateanimals.co.uk/acatalog/info_17429VIT.html if safer) and walk them away getting your guest to leave and repeat stage two through three again. What you are going to achieve here is in order for your dog to get the attention they desire is to remain calm. At this point if your dog approaches your guest calmly that is ok. If you do get a calm reaction or if your dog remains in sit/stay then you are ready to move onto the next stage.

Stage four; so now your guest can enter your home without excessive barking or excitement it’s time to back that up, if your dog remains calm sniffing at your guest that is ok, your guest can then pat your dog, make sure they do not use a high pitch voice encouraging your dog to get excited. If this is successful then a reward for the dog and you can now go about your business! If at any point your dog goes to jump on your guest ask your guest to turn their back on your dog giving your dog no attention at all for jumping, as soon as the jumping stops your dog can be asked to sit and then rewarded for remaining on the ground (the best reward in these circumstances is attention as that is what the dog is seeking).

You will have to repeat this as many times as it takes to get the response that you find desired. Please do not get frustrated or keep giving your dog verbal commands as this will only confuse them interfering with the ability to learn. If you have a dog that jumps & mouths ask your guest to keep their arms folded until the dog calms down. It will benefit you and your dog to practice this as often as you can to get the best results quicker. Please remember patience & consistency is the best tools for the job.

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Puppy social guide

PUPPIES AGE (WEEKS)

SOCIALISATION TASK

BENEFITS

8

 

Begin your puppy’s new life with your family by introducing him to the immediate & extended family. Learning him about his home environment, where he is sleeping / quite time to get away from the kids (crate). Make sure that your crate is put in a comfortable spot; a happy medium is the best, not too quite a place but equally not too busy a place.

Getting him used to all the family members especially the children will familiarise him with all of you. Giving him his own space increases his security, creates a routine and decreases the chances of separation issues in the future.

8- Completion of vaccinations.

 

Although your puppy is not yet immunised you must begin to get him used to the sights and sounds of the outside world in which he lives. Wrap him in a blanket or a papoose and take him to the park(never let him down), a walk along the street and on a school run allowing people and children to say hello without making too much fuss. The object is to allow him to experience these things in a positive manner not too scare him.

If you leave the introduction to the wider world until after the completion of vaccinations (approx. 12 to 14 weeks old) your puppy may be quite fearful of the sound of traffic, bikes, noisy children etc. He may also be afraid of interactions with strangers.

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Not only should you have your puppy display good manners to the people within your family you must get him comfortable with visitors coming to your home.

Ask as many of your friends to come around (try keeping them away) to visit your new addition. Make sure you have plenty of treats, for both your dog & the visitors, so your puppy learns to greet people correctly. Make sure when he receives a visitor he adopts the sit position before being rewarded and petted.

It is important that your puppy realises that people will visit your home. In getting him to greet correctly will reduce the future adolescent dog jumping all over your visitors mouthing them etc. Bad dog manners are enough to put you off asking friends around or indeed people wanting to visit you.

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Hopefully you haven’t purchased a puppy to leave at home whilst you go to work for 12 hours a day! But you have to get him used to being left alone for short periods at first. Make sure he has toileted and is happy, put him into his crate without any fuss, leave him a Kong filled with some of his dried kibble and leave a radio or TV on for background noise. Go and do some grocery shopping or any other task you need to perform but do not leave him for more than an hour at a time, build this time up gradually over the next four weeks but never for more than 3 hours at this age. If you are planning to use a dog walker in the future it might be an idea to introduce him to them now.

During this stage of development it is essential that your puppy is not left for hours on end alone, apart from the need to be fed & go the toilet dogs are companion animals and hate being left alone for too long. If however you plan to be around most of the time a situation will arise in the future when you have to go out. Getting your puppy used to these situations at the age prevents problems in the future. If you are using a dog walker get them to come to your home and visit for a pee/play break, make sure they wash their hands before touching your puppy!

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Make sure you play and interact with your puppy often during the day. Playing with toys together not only helps his development and your bond together but gives you an opportunity to begin training commands like not biting your hand, use your mouth on the toy instead! Whilst you are interacting together you can groom and check your puppy all over, paws, eyes, mouth & ears. Get all the members of your family & friends to do the same.

Playing is very important. It is how dogs & indeed humans learn one another’s limitations. Handling your puppy is essential to get him used to being touched in a positive manner where he wouldn’t normally expect to be touched. You must prepare him for vet trips where he may have a sore ear which within itself is a bad enough experience but if he was never taught for a human to touch him there will make the trip a far worse one for him and the vet.

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The car- The first experience your puppy would have had (possibly) of a car journey would be leaving his litter to begin his new life with you. Try to make a few short positive trips before his next journey to the vet for his first vaccinations. Make sure he has an empty tummy to minimise being sick. If he appears distressed you don’t have to drive anywhere just sit in the car for a little while gradually building up time until you can move. If he is fine make the journeys short followed by a little play to let him associate a trip in the car with good things, it is a good idea to recruit help so he is not alone whilst you drive.

One of the great plus points of having a dog is day trips with the family to the beach or out in the countryside for a good day out and picnic. Essentially in order to get these places you have to travel. Getting a dog used to car journeys whilst they are young builds up a positive association to car journeys and prevents travel sickness.

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Now your puppy is ready to go out walks get him used to walking on leash, it is unrealistic to expect him to “walk to heel” as soon as you venture out but essential that you begin leash manners. Use treats to keep him at your side as much as possible always using a treat/reward system, walking beside you should be a good thing but if you are constantly jerking on his neck he will inevitably not see at as pleasure. Make sure that he generalises his welcoming strangers into your home in the correct manner by sitting not jumping when outside. Get strangers to greet him by asking for a sit then treat & praise rather than encouraging or allowing him to jump up.

All too often I see members of the public being walked by their puppies and thinking that they will grow into in walking beside them. Consistency from the first day would be far better for both dog and owner. Walking a dog is of the best points of being a dog owner and it should be a joy rather than a task. Also in my own experience your puppy jumps up and you attempt to lure him into a sit asking people to give him a treat for sitting (that I will happily supply) they generally answer “it’s ok I don’t mind he is only young” It makes me want to scream, you won’t say that in four months time when my large dog gets muddy paws all over your coat. CONSISTENCY from day one!

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Find a good puppy class and get started. Don’t wait from problems to occur and then call a professional to help you; prevention is far greater than a cure.

Even if you have had a puppy before the benefits from attending a class are huge. Your puppy will be allowed to socialise with dogs of a similar age as well as learn new things. The guidance from a good professional will help you pin point problems before they becoming rooted and you as an owner get to socialise with other owners that you will potentially meet when out on a walk.

13-16

Extending time alone. Your puppy should now be more than happy to be left for a while alone. You can start extending this and also if you are using a dog walker he will be going out with them also.

Again it is essential if you are to have a normal life to get your puppy used to being left. Do not only do it during the day but also introduce an evening (not is they have been left during that day for a period of time). This gets your dog used to all scenarios.

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Out in the park. You should be taking your puppy lots of different walks, do not be tempted to go too far as they are still young and tire easily. When you are introducing your puppy to other dogs make sure that they are safe. Do not let your young dog off the leash to run around like a maniac greeting every tom, dick & harry. Take your puppy to the dogs and make sure that the other dog and owner are comfortable with the situation.

Other owners know there dogs (or should) so you have to check that is safe for your puppy to meet them. You will not only be keeping your puppy from being potentially harmed but also teaching him proper etiquette. Again waiting until he is adolescent and thinking he will grow out of it is very naive. This is when most social problems can begin through no fault of your puppy; again prevention is better than cure.

13-16

You must continue to play with your puppy both at home and when outside. This will teach them about not getting too excited and help with the puppy biting. If they are hell bent on biting you rather than the toy say “ouch!” and end the game for a few minutes by walking away. Always return to see if they got it.

 

I find playing and interacting with them outside prevents them from running off to find something far more interesting than you!

17-20

By now you should be able to venture further afield. You’re now “young dog” should not be jumping on people when they meet and also socialising with other canines correctly. Make sure that you are not always doing the same walks and meeting the same people, you must challenge your puppy. Taking him to different places sometimes in the car, makes for a far more exciting life for both of you. You should be doing lots of stimulating things, practicing recalls, playing with a ball, doing sits & stays outside and even playing hide & seek together. You should also every now and again return him to the leash for a little time out and a calm walk, always let him go again so that he doesn’t learn that by putting on the leash means we are going home, he will quickly cease to come back.

It is really important as your puppy enters adolescence to make each and every walk interesting. Training never ends and every walk should be an opportunity to fine tune skills.

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A trip to the vet should not always be for treatment. Take your dog to the vet simply to pop your head in the door, you can always buy a chew or a bag of biscuits or ask for your dog to be weighed. Most vets would welcome first your custom and the fact that you are making trips to vets easier.

I have done this with all my puppies and I now have grown dogs that will happily let a vet handle them at their sorest point, I am delighted that they behave so well they are on the blood donor scheme helping other dogs when needed and they don’t mind a bit!

 

The socialisation of your puppy is very important. You must however recognise that how you go about this differs from breed to breed and individual to individual. Some breeds are naturally wary of strangers whilst others are very welcoming to anyone. Akitas for example are renowned for their protectiveness and their devotion to family members. Keeping that in mind they will more than likely require early socialisation with strangers both into your home and whilst outside to help desensitise that side of them on the other hand a Flat-coated Retriever is more than happy to meet and greet anyone so they will require more training in not becoming over excited when welcoming people. Along with breed there are individual concerns, some puppies are very confident and will require you as their owner to not allow them to attempt to take over situations as they could be a nuisance to others (both people and dogs) and other puppies are far more introverted, perhaps even fearful which will then require you to be much more gentle and understanding when introducing them to new situations, over eagerness on your part could make them far worse.

Puppies that are under socialised will inevitably find all new situations difficult. They will become very fearful which can unfortunately lead to aggression. If you miss out getting them used to people at an early age will make them impossible to be handled by anyone. When that puppy has to go the vets for example he will probably require a muzzle to prevent him from biting and he will be petrified. If you do not allow them to socialise correctly with other dogs your puppy could be overly friendly and overly boisterous making dogs wary and perhaps aggressive towards him, which in turn could make him aggressive. Again the other side of the coin he could be very nervous and fearful perhaps nipping other dogs for getting too close or running away whenever he sees another canine. All these situations will make taking your dog anywhere an almost military task. I personally have witnessed a couple walking their dog about 200 yards apart with a walkie talkie making sure the coast is clear. Absolutely ludicrous behaviour. Easily prevented with proper socialisation.

Socialisation is a tight rope, you can for some dogs never do enough whilst others too much. Always make sure your dog is listening to you and he is comfortable with whatever you are introducing to him before proceeding.