Is Planet Earth Round?

Well the simple answer to that is yes! Of course we know that, if anybody asked you that question nowadays you’d probably be very amused.

Why do I ask this on a dog training blog I hear you say? Well I have been asked this question so much lately on social media, training consults and class…..what is the question? “Do I need to be a pack leader?” “Do I need to be alpha?” and dare I say it “Do I have a dominant dog?”

Let’s look first of all at why some owners/trainers believe that the only way to get your dog to pay attention and have it function correctly in society is to be “pack leader”.

So first what is dominance? Well the correct meaning for dominance is: – High status in a social group, usually acquired as the result of aggression, that involves the tendency to take priority in access to limited resources, as food, mates, or space.

Ok so before we go any further a couple of problems here from the outset, “limited resources” jumps out at me, do most pet dogs live in “limited resources”? Are you kidding me? Well by doing a little maths on this I have come up with a figure of approximately £27,000.00 in a dog’s lifetime ,based on one of my dogs and this wouldn’t include unforeseen vet costs & accidents ( I hope my husband doesn’t read this!) and this is limited resources? So with most pet dogs not living in an environment where they have to compete for essential resources why would you base any training on this definition?

The second thing that pops out is “usually acquired as a result of aggression”, would that not mean then if you treated your dog with non-aversive techniques, never exposed them to aggression, understood their basics needs, realised that a dog will only repeat a behaviour it finds rewarding and focus your attention on rewarding acceptable behaviours there would then be no need to be dominant? I really don’t think you need a PhD to work that one out. So I would definitely say that dominant based training/treatment will only lead you into a relationship that was centred around aggression on your part, and we all know aggression only breeds aggression and eventually someone has to back down and become oppressed. Hardly paints the picture of man’s best friend does it?

Look at it from another angle, are you a dog? Do you resemble a dog? Can you clearly communicate in a dog like manner? Do you have large floppy ears? A tail? Do you walk around on all fours? Do you scent mark on trees? (Please don’t try this last one whilst walking like a dog I can guarantee a wet leg!) I can answer all these for you. NO! So then why would you think that your dog would clearly understand that you are “Alpha” dog without actually being a dog first? Sounds a bit silly huh? And so now you may begin to realise why poor Fido is so confused!!! I watched a documentary recently where it explained just how clever dogs are at reading human body language, looking to the side of our faces that show emotions. Humans display emotions on the right side of the face so when we look at one another we have a left gaze bias. Remarkably dogs do the same. Dogs don’t observe other dogs in this way. So is it then not fair enough to say that as the more intelligent species we are seriously lagging behind?

I think it’s also fair to say that if a dog doesn’t view you as a dog then it will not view a human as a pack. Dog owners often refer to “pack” behaviour to either train their dog or to resolve issues. Dogs aren’t wolves; dogs have evolved from the same ancestor as the wolf but have evolved in a very different way. Comparing dog behaviour to wolf behaviour is much like using ape behaviour when dealing with a human. When you start to use pack theory towards your dog you will inevitably go down the road of rank reduction, showing the dog who’s the boss. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are using violence or aggression but it could be eating before your dog or walking through doorways first. These methods have been proven to have no influence in the dogs overall perception to your relationship, instead it only teaches them what to expect in these specific situations. You could maybe find yourself on the further end of the spectrum and be using techniques such as alpha rolls, scruffing, using your heels at the bottom of the ribs or the touch aiming to replicate the correction of another dog, this will only lead to your dog being anxious about you and other humans and could potentially lead to aggression. Inevitably all you are going to teach your dog to do is comply or else. Again this isn’t in my opinion the bases for a mutually respectful relationship.

When doing research for this piece I found myself looking into what is described as dominant behaviours, what to look for, and to be rather honest I was shocked at the list. Here are most of the ones I could find.

  1. Stubborn
  2. Headstrong & wilful
  3. Demanding
  4. Pushy
  5. Begging
  6. Pushing a toy into you or pawing in order to get you to play
  7. Nudging to be petted
  8. Sitting in high places
  9. Guarding a human
  10. Barking or whining at humans
  11. 11.  High pitched screams in protest if the dog doesn’t wish to do something
  12. Jumping or putting paws on humans
  13. Persistence about being on a piece of furniture
  14. Refusing to walk on a leash
  15. Nipping at peoples ankles when they leave
  16. Not listening to known commands
  17. Dislikes people touching their food
  18. Standing on a humans lap
  19. Persistence about where they sleep
  20. Annoyance if disturbed whilst sleeping
  21. Likes to sleep on a human
  22. Licking (giving kisses)
  23. Carrying themselves with a proud gait

Now I must have a serious issue because there are a lot on this list that my dogs do. It seems that any behaviour a dog does it is labelled as dominant. And what was the advice given if you have any of these dominant issues- Be the pack leader and always be calm and assertive. Is it just me or is anyone else clueless to what this means? The other advice given is “Training is conditioning and it creates a surrendering state of mind or calm submission”. Well that one blew me over the edge, when training a dog you are merely rewarding acceptable behaviours to increase the likelihood of those behaviours occurring again. Then you are adding a cue and teaching your dog the human word that goes with the behaviour. Shoot me if I’ve got that wrong. I mean you aren’t even teaching the dog the behaviour, they already know how to walk, sit, stand, lie down, offer a paw, play bow, bark etc. You aren’t really clever if your dog sits, you are however really clever if your dog sits on cue in all environments in any situation first time you ask for a sit. This doesn’t come with “eating first” this comes with teaching your dog first the word that goes with the behaviour and then taking your dog to a variety of places and asking for it again and again and rewarding them for doing so. And if you are looking at this list and perhaps have an issue with your dog not liking you touching their food then contact a professional that uses animal learning theory and force free training to help you get on the right track so as not to effect the bond that should exist between owner and dog.

So what are my thoughts on what a dog wants out of their life? On observing my own dogs and the hundreds of clients I have a year I would conclude a happy, peaceful and fulfilled existence. Where they feel safe and free from abusive treatment both physically and mentally. I look at my relationship with my own hounds and view it the same as I view any other relationship I have with my family and friends. I want them to do things because they want to, because they know I have their best interests at heart, they can come to me for anything because I care not because I am their leader.

So to finish this off if you still consider using “pack theory” to interact with your dog please be careful next time you go for a walk, you may just fall off the edge of Earth.

The power of positivity X©CD (329 of 409)

Preventing problems part two – the coexistence of children and dogs

DOGS AND CHILDREN

One of the most worrying problems that any dog owner or parent faces is the potential risk of dogs and children living together. When the family dog bites a child us dog trainers hear only too often “There was no warning”, this is not the case in most circumstances. Dogs will send out signals of stress it’s up to dog owners to get more savvy about these signs. Please look for signs of stress when dealing with your dog. Signs of stress are panting, yawning, whining, wide eyes, growling, showing teeth, raised heckles, tails tucked under & avoiding eye contact. If you see any of these signs then ease off the pressure of whatever it is you are doing.

In England in 2012 1,040 children under 10 years old were admitted to hospital following a dog bite. 494 of these for plastic surgery and a staggering 278 were admitted to the oral and facial surgery unit.

So how do you stop these frightening situations?

NEVER leave children unattended with a dog, no matter the size, breed or age. Even if the dog has the sweetest nature and you strongly believe it would never happen, once is enough. Responsible adult supervision at all times is an absolute necessary.

Always give your dog a space of their own to retreat to, make sure all children are taught to respect this space, even toddlers will respond to positive reinforcement for staying away. Always give your dog an escape route, by this I mean the dog should always have a clear exit to their “safe zone”. Dogs that can’t escape are more likely to bite in self-defence.

Children must be taught to handle dogs with respect, it is not acceptable for a child of any age to poke, pull, hit or kick the dog. Toddlers exploring fingers in mouths, eyes, ears, and tails are a true test for any dog. Don’t allow your baby/toddler/child to do this!

No matter what you think that photograph you are taking allowing your child to lay on the dog so show the social networking world how good your dog is with kids, it’s not cute!!! It’s enough to get a sharp intake of breath from any dog training professional. The baby on your knee tugging the dog’s ear is irresponsible.

I am not suggesting here that there should be no interaction between children and dogs, as a mum I find it a beautiful relationship to observe, taking every opportunity to teach my children how to respect another living being.

 

How do I prepare my dog for the new arrival?

It could be that you already have a dog and you have just found out that you are expecting the patter of tiny feet. Congratulations!!! Parenthood is a fabulous thing; you are about to have the most full on experience of your life, if you thought a puppy was hard you’re in for a huge shock.

Begin when you are pregnant preparing your dog for the arrival, don’t wait until junior comes home! Dogs get stressed at change (so do I!) and stress can cause some nasty reactions. If you make all your changes when junior comes home your dog can easily associate the stress of life directly to the arrival of your precious addition.

If your dog is currently in residence in the spare room that will become the nursery then act now, move your dog to where they are going to sleep. Find your dog another cosy spot to call their own. Make sure it’s an equally great place; we do not want to affect your dog’s quality of life here. If your dog is currently in residence on your bed I can tell you this will not be possible when your baby comes home so get them off NOW, place a nice basket in your room and begin getting them used to that before moving them out completely. Make it a very rewarding place to be with lots of treats and praise for being there. Prevent access to your bed when you are not there by closing the door. I also extended this to my sons nursery….it was a no dog zone; as much as your dog needs their space your baby needs the same. A baby gate across the door is a very effective barrier. In fact it’s a wise move to start popping baby gates up, this way if you need to leave a room then the dog should come with you and you can then safely shut a gate preventing accidents.

The other no go zone is going to be cuddled up with mummy on the sofa, it is quite frankly ridiculous to even consider nursing a baby with a dog lying across you, get your dog used to cuddle time being on the floor, there is nothing more soul-destroying than one day the dog is on your lap contented whilst you relax and watch TV to the next day getting shouted at to get off. So again act now.

Look for potential problems, does your dog like to race you on the stairs? Does your dog love to jump all over you when you come home? Do they like to get right in all the shopping bags to inspect what you purchased at Tesco? All of these are potential problems, think about it now and do something about it. If you wait until babies’ arrival and then implement all your changes you are not really creating a good association to your dog.

What about introducing my dog to my baby?

Let me tell you from experience when labour hits it hits hard!! You and your partner will rush out the house in a whirl wind of excitement, apprehension and pain (for mum!!!) your poor dog is probably at home wondering what all the fuss is, then after a few hours (if you’re lucky) dad returns home, then leaves, then comes home. If at all possible get your dog used to going for a walk with a relative, friend or dog walker as you could be in hospital for a few days. Whilst you’re in the hospital give one of the used baby blankets to your partner to take home and let your dog sniff. When your dog is sniffing this then give them a treat, this is going to begin building up a good association to this smell. Put the blanket in a sealed bag and bring it out at intervals repeating sniff then treat.

When the day arrives that mum comes home then mum should enter the house first, alone. Your dog probably hasn’t seen you for a few days and may get excited. So go in first and calm them down, once calm dad can bring in baby, please encourage him to bring junior in in his arms rather than in the baby carrier. Mum should be armed with some tasty treats, if your dog tries to jump dad can then turn his back and mum can give the dog a treat for sitting. When your dog is calm let them have a little sniff then mum can give a treat and then why not give your dog a tasty Kong in their safe spot whilst you fuss your gorgeous new baby.

Make sure you don’t wait until baby is sleeping to interact with your dog; you want them to know that the presence of baby means good things not the absence of baby means attention. Lots of frozen Kongs, chews, treats and toys will help you.

When you go out walking with your pram do not attach your dogs leash to the pram!!! One false move from the dog can spell disaster.

 

All of these tips will help you have a good future. If you are in any doubt then contact a local force free dog trainer to help you. I have put below some rules you should go over with your children to keep them safe.

Doggy rules

 

  1. Never touch a dog that you don’t know.
  2. Even if you know the dog, always ask the owner permission first.
  3. Even when you have permission, don’t invade the dog’s body space. Allow the dog to come up to you and sniff the top of your closed fist (palm down). If the dog doesn’t want to come and greet you, respect that and leave it alone. Don’t approach a dog from behind. Don’t pet directly on the top of its head. This could be threatening for the dog because the top of its head can be very sensitive, so it’s best to pet on the back or chest.
  4. Never stare at a dog and never put your face close to a dogs face. Remember to look at the dog briefly and then look away, look at the dog, and then look away. These are calming signals and you are telling the dog that you aren’t a threat.
  5. Do not tease a dog.
  6. Do not touch a dog that has been tied up or left in a garden or outside a shop.
  7. Tell an adult immediately if you see a dog loose. Do not touch it.
  8. Do not touch a dog while it’s eating. You wouldn’t want a dog to come and take what you are eating.
  9. Do not touch a dog while it is sleeping. You might startle it and it might snap without thinking.
  10. Do not take a toy or bone away from a dog if it is playing with it.

11. Do not push a dog off the sofa or chair if you want to sit there. Always get an adult to remove the dog for you.

  1. Don’t scream or run away from a dog. If a strange dog comes up to you and you are scared, fold your arms, stand still, look away and completely ignore it until it loses interest in you and goes away. The boring you are the quicker it will go away.
  2. If a dog tries to bite you, put a bag or coat between you and the dog and slowly back away to a safe place.
  3. In the unlikely event a dog starts to bite you, get on the floor and curl up like a hedgehog putting your arms around your head, stay as still as you can until help comes.
  4. Remember a dog is an animal and not a cuddly toy. Dogs don’t like being hugged. Be gentle and don’t rough play.

 

 

 

 

 

The power of positivity X©

Preventing problems part one -How to avoid the fear factor

As you are well aware I deal with a variety of dog related problems in my work, some of the time I can’t help but think these problems could’ve been prevented in the first place. This has to be dealt with when your puppy is young. Begin as soon as you get them from the breeder.

For the next six weeks I will give guidance to what I believe are the worst problems that begin at puppy level and then like a tree the problem just grows until you the owner can’t cope anymore.

FEAR!!!!

How do I get a dog I can take anywhere?

When you go to select a puppy make sure you do your research, does this breed suit you and your lifestyle? By this I mean please don’t buy a collie if you’re a couch potato or a husky if you don’t like exercise, I am not targeting these two breeds I am just using them as an example. After that look into breeders, are they a reputable breeder? Do they ask you lots of questions? Are they giving you an opportunity to ask LOTS of questions? Please make sure the answer to all these questions is “yes”! Onto when you pick your puppy, if the puppy is petrified and hides at the back of the whelp box imagine what it will do when you take it home….my advice, turn around, walk away and source another breeder. For fearful puppies unfortunately the damage is already done, leave these puppies to people who know what they are doing and can help.

Getting a puppy is an opportunity to have everything you ever wanted in a dog. You can take them anywhere, they are not afraid of fireworks or traffic. They cope well with kids and all humans. This will be down to your teaching in the early weeks, making sure that you build up positive associations to every aspect of your busy life style and more. You can easily influence them at this stage by reacting in a way that can cause an issue, without meaning it I hasten to add. It’s very similar to a human child, I see parents making their children scared of dogs because they are scared of dogs, My husband is petrified of wasps and imprinted that on my eldest son. I am not good with heights and on one holiday we had the top floor in a hotel (14 floors up) with a huge balcony overlooking the Cancun beach, instead of making my kids scared for a few days I went out on the balcony alone looking straight forward rather than down, don’t get me wrong it didn’t cure my vertigo but I was then able to stand on the balcony with the kids without panicking and enjoy the view.

So an example for your puppy, you are walking down the street with your new bundle on a leash (after vaccinations!!) and you spot a larger dog or perhaps a breed that receives negative press, you tense up slightly a little concerned that harm could come to you or your puppy. If this situation turns out badly then you will not only reinforce your own fear but will then start a fear in your puppy which can potentially take a long time with a lot of hard work to solve.

So how do you avoid these scenarios? By remaining calm and being ready to give tasty treats every time you feel your puppy is unsure. If however it is you who is frightened then turn and walk the other way. It is a very simple thing to do. Paint a picture in your mind of a positive outcome and relax, chances are nothing will happen anyway! In turn your puppy will detect your calm and will feel secure that YOU can deal with any situation. We once had a lovely woman attend puppy class with a 14 week old toy breed; on her form it said her puppy was really terrified of Rottweiler’s. When I questioned her regarding this, I thought that her delightful bundle (who appeared bomb proof) had had a negative experience with the breed. It turned out her puppy had never met one! The lady herself had a bad experience with a previous dog of hers and was carrying that bad experience over. Can you imagine if that lady had seen a rottie, she would have scooped that puppy up in sheer panic and potentially created a problem! Instead we had a previous client come in with her Rottweiler and let the lady handle that dog; turns out she fell for the breed (not a difficult thing to do)

The other common one is excitement to visitors into the home, your puppy is only reacting to you rushing to answer the door. If your puppy is excited at the prospect of you opening the door imagine what they are going to be like when you actually open it. Remain calm ask for a little distance and then open the door. Stick a note on your door, learner puppy please be patient!

Get them used to loud bangs, traffic, vet waiting rooms, buses, trains, wheelie bins, children, old people, people in high vis vests etc. You SHOULD do this before vaccination, carry them though don’t let them walk. You more than likely have a three to four week wait before they are fully covered and by that time it’s probably too late!dylan

With my puppies it’s all about the social in the early days, short trips on a busy high street armed with kibble & liver….Kibble for average things like woman or parked cars and liver for harder things like buses, push chairs and children. This helps them build up good experiences with things. I put on the history channel whilst we play, there is always war documentaries on with plenty bangs, I have this down low at first and then build it up, if at any stage your puppy looks a little freaked then turn it down you’ve went to fast. This is firework preparation. I take them to the local school at home time, I let the kids come and say hi, I give the kids kibble to feed them so long as the puppy sits ,You should already be doing this by carrying them! I start with quiet kids and by the end of a week kids are screaming with excitement, stroking and enjoying giving the puppy a biscuit, I will add here however make sure that your puppy is COMFORTABLE with fuss, you don’t want to cause the opposite and make them frightened. I also sit at the bus station, train station, park benches, outside supermarkets, anywhere I think my dog may one day have to go. Armed with kibble, liver & peanut butter biscuits! Just sitting watching the world go by is an excellent training session in itself.

So get creative and get out there!!!

The power of positivity X©

Remember Swap shop?

There is nothing more amusing in the world than watching an owner chase their dog around like a lunatic trying to get them to drop something. I watch with a smile on my face thinking “I thought we were the bright ones” I can only imagine the joy the dog is experiencing. I bet he stands with his mates and say’s “Hey you guys, my human is the best entertainment EVER!!! Watch this!” Sound familiar? Are you really sure that your dog knows what “drop it” means?

This is an important command that should be introduced to your dog as early as possible. It also must be taught in a positive way to minimise rebellion.

Remember your dog doesn’t know what drop it means so you must teach him. To learn “drop it” you must always “swap it”. The easiest way to remember this is pretend objects are currency. So if your dog runs off with a sock you put a value on that object, so let’s say it’s worth £5.00 you then have to swap the sock with something of a greater value, always begin using food, so get yourself a tasty piece of chicken which is worth £10.00 and make it look interesting, “oh, Scooby look at this? What have I got?” as your dog approaches you present the tasty treat right in front of his nose, as he drops the sock say “ drop it” whilst you are giving him the chicken. With your other hand if you are kneeling or crouching remove the sock from under his head. If you are standing use your foot to move the sock towards you. The reason for this is if your dog still has his head over the sock he is effectively still in possession of it and as soon as he is finished the treat may try to retrieve it, if your hand gets in the way he may see this as you being rude and nip you or he may accidentally catch your hand. This will be considered rude to try and remove something that belongs to him that is why in the early stages of “drop it” we always use a swap method.

Never chase your dog if he gets something you will only increase the value of the object he has, he’ll be thinking “Boy they really want this it must be important” and also turn it into a game. Playing controlled games of “drop it” will make it fun for both you and also increase his manners!

Give your dog a toy, make it look interesting and simply say “drop it”. If he immediately get’s it, which he will then reward & praise. Gradually increase the distance between the two of using the command and also gradually decrease the reward given to perhaps just a clap and then other times a treat. This will keep him wondering “when is the food coming?” and keep it exciting for him.

You must keep yourself & your dog safe when doing this so read on to understand the canine code of claiming.

UNDERSTANDING CLAIMING

Dogs claim everything toys, food, doors, windows, cars and even people. You cannot allow them to do this!

They will place their heads over objects (food, bones, toys etc) to let you know “this is mine!” you must learn “drop it” for these scenarios!

If you ever approach your dog when he has something and he places his head over it DO NOT grab it, this could get you a nasty nip, affecting your relationship.

If he has something in his mouth DO NOT try to physically remove it, this could again result in a nasty nip, and quite frankly you deserve it.

If he has something and runs &/or hides from you DO NOT chase him, you will only prove that the object is important to you therefore making him less likely to give up or he may just try to eat it which may cause all manner of medical issues.

TO DROP IT ALWAYS SWAP IT!

 

The power of positivity X©

Bite inhibition and prevention

It is a fact that dogs & puppies use their mouths. Puppies will chew on anything when teething but also it is exploration of new objects “can I eat it?” This behaviour is similar to a human toddler; they put everything in their mouth!

Firstly on the subject of chewing, dogs & puppies love to chew, it’s a de-stressor. If you do not provide something they will find their own object. Be careful what you provide, if you give an old shoe how will your dog know the difference between old shoes & new shoes? Kongs and other dog safe products are available on the market. To avoid unwanted chewing put your puppy into their crate when you can’t keep an eye on them as old habits die hard!

For the puppy that gets all excited and starts mouthing you please don’t worry, you don’t have a potential killer in your midst. Again this is normal. When dogs play together they do use their mouth. Their skin is much tougher than our peachy effort, we damage much more easily. It is up to US to teach them that in a way that they understand. Don’t punish them and certainly don’t fear them. If you punish you will only make your puppy fearful of you, they don’t understand our world. If you are fearful you may make yourself a little bully that never learns to use their mouth softly!

Please remember puppies that learn bite inhibition are far less likely to bite when they are adults!

When you are playing with your puppy allow them to use their mouth, we are going to teach them gradually to not use their teeth. Your first base is anything painful (with milk teeth tends to be everything). When the bite is painful make a high pitched “OW!” noise and stop playing for a minute, you can make a show by going in a huff for a minute. It is important that you start playing again. Keep repeating until they get the message that the “OW!” noise is enough to stop them. Second base is the “No teeth” command. When you are playing and the mouthing starts say “No teeth” and give them something to have in their mouth. If they put the pressure on then back to “OW!” and finish the game. Once you get into a habit as soon as you say “No teeth” you will notice that your puppy lets go of your hand. Reward with a huge good dog!!!

It is as simple as that! If you have young kids I highly recommend that exciting games are not played between puppy and kid. Children should learn that dogs are not toys! You as a parent will know yourself if your child is mature enough to understand these rules. Also NEVER leave your puppy/dog & children unattended EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!! This will lead me nicely onto the second part of bite inhibition- bite prevention.

Every dog in the world has the capability to bite and do damage. Every human in the world has the capability to misinterpret a dog and cause such a bite. Every human should know how to prevent such actions happening.

Most dog bites come with a warning of one kind or another. Please look for signs of stress when dealing with your dog. Signs of stress are panting, yawning, whining, wide eyes, growling, showing teeth, raised heckles, tails tucked under & avoiding eye contact. See plenty warning! If you see any of these signs then ease off the pressure of whatever it is you are doing. This doesn’t mean you let the dog win….far from it, you are learning to understand the dogs threshold, you are communicating.

Children are bitten more by family dogs than any other, and this isn’t breed specific. Labradors will bite just as much as Staffordshire bull terriers!

Children move fast which encourages a dog’s prey drive to kick in. Children like to kiss dogs in the face; children have no understanding of the consequences even from a dog with a docile history. Children like to scream if they feel threatened, dogs don’t understand this and it can frighten them. Children like to hit if things aren’t going their own way, dogs don’t understand this and may perceive this as an attack. Children get very impersonal about personal space, sticking their fingers in ears, eyes, pulling tails or fur. These are all normal child like behaviours just as a dog who feels threatened will defend themselves is a natural behaviour!!!!! Children also think that the world is safe and it will never happen to them. Please keep your children and your dog safe! Most dog bites on children are in fact at the hands of a dog living in the family.

The power of positivity X©

How can I stop my dog reacting?

This step by step guide to desensitizing a dog to approaching/socialising with other dogs. A simple collar and training leash and collar.

REQUIRED

 

ü Large open field where you are unlikely to meet other dogs (only at first).

ü A friend who has an unresponsive dog.

ü A long training leash (so there is never any pressure on the leash).

ü Small treat rewards that can also act as a re director.

 

What to do!

 

  • Ø Begin by getting other dog & handler to walk onto field approx 50 yards away and wait.
  • Ø Start walking towards the dog with a loose leash praising for no reaction.
  • Ø As soon as dog reacts this is his “base line”, turn and walk away.
  • Ø Redirect dogs focus and walk to approx 1 foot of baseline, reward turn and walk away.
  • Ø Repeat this procedure gradually decreasing distance between you and other dog. N.B this could take a few sessions, please don’t rush as it’s essential that your dog remains calm.
  • Ø Once you are at the stage of getting approx. 5 feet away do not let dog lunge instead ask for a sit and reward.
  • Ø Then you can release from the sit and walk past the other dog about 5 feet and again ask for a sit and reward. 
  • Ø If at this stage both dogs are happy you can allow them to meet. If he becomes excited or overpowering simply turn and walk away and go back a stage and repeat.

When following this program if the dog fails at a section don’t be disheartened, simply go back a stage repeat, and end the session. Never push to fast as this will undo any work you have done. Always work below baseline and always remove before a reaction, in cases like this a dogs primary reinforcer is the removal of what causes the reaction, your food reward is a secondary reinforcer.

Never use leash corrections, instead let the leash run its length whilst you turn around and walk, use kissy noises to get him to follow you, always reward when he is parallel with you.

Once you can do it with one dog add in others and make it different, one dog walking one staying still.

This requires you to do it again & again for it to be effective.

Please remember “The power of positivity”© always wins.

Puppies!!!!!!!

The first twelve weeks in any puppy’s life are called the critical period, they must be exposed to all types of stimuli and scenarios in order to be both at ease with them and learn to cope with new situations. This critical period can be divided into three stages.

The first stage being The Neonatal period. This period lasts from birth until approximately two weeks old. In this period the puppies are solely dependent on their mother for everything. Firstly their brains are not properly developed and there is almost no EEG activity if we compare a puppy to a human baby the puppy is less developed. As a result of the under- development of the brain their eyes & ears are not yet functional and their movements are very uncoordinated, moving around in a kind of “swimming” manner.

They do however have a sense of smell although at this stage it is anosmic (they are able to smell but do not have the intelligence to make any form of connections with it). It is with this sense of smell that puppies can recognise their mothers and littermates; this “imprinting” begins at birth. As the puppy enters the world the dam will break the sack that has contained him/her in the womb and begin licking her newborn, consuming the after birth & umbilical cord. As she does this she is imprinting her puppy on herself, reducing rejection and beginning the strong mother/child bond. This imprinting then continues as the dam aids her puppies with urinating & defecating ( a necessity a puppy cannot perform unaided) as she is licking the genitals and indeed licking her puppies to keep them clean she is in turn imprinting herself onto her young. In doing this imprinting her young will find it much easier to locate her if they become separated and if they cannot find her they will whimper until she comes to the rescue.

The newborn litter cannot regulate their own body temperature and rely on mum and indeed one other for heat. One thing a puppy can do is feel, they will react to pain although sluggish there is still a reaction (hence why tail docking in young pup is cruel).

Puppies at this stage have no teeth so therefore show no interest in solids and relies completely on the dam for all their nutritional needs.

Neonatal puppies are helpless with their mothers and if something was to happen to her i.e. illness or death, it could have a very detrimental effect on them even into adulthood and beyond, however, It is essential for them to be exposed to gentle handling from humans. This handling will help the development of the Adrenal-pituitary system; this system controls reactions to stress, mood and emotions as well as body processes such as digestion, the immune system and energy use.

It is during this Neonatal period that all breeders have the puppies in the home rather than a kennel or garage and are handling them sensibly when possible. This is very important to aid their development. It helps accelerate maturity and also prepares them to cope with stresses. This exposure to mild stress, handling and being away from the litter warmth does benefit puppies massively at this stage and for life!

The next phase of the Critical period is The Transitional Period. This period covers from two weeks of age to around four weeks old. This is when all the puppies’ sensory abilities come on line; by sensory I mean touch, taste, sight, sound, smell and movement. “The eyelids open and the optic nerve becomes Myelinated”. Myelin is like an electrical insulator essential for the proper function of the nervous system.

The eye sight develops rapidly with the beginning of vision at around ten days old and by approximately fifteen days old it is nearly adult-like. Along with the visual abilities the ear canals also open and the puppies can hear the environment around them, because of the rapid maturity of the brain they can also respond to the sounds and respond quicker to pain. The brain is now pushing out in all directions with the ability to learn at an adult capacity by just four weeks of age.

Body heat can be controlled by the youngsters now which comes along just in time for entrance of movement. A puppy at two weeks old can sit, by three weeks stand and by four weeks walk, because of the maturity of the brain and also the ability to move they now become slightly more adventurous. Much less dependent on their mother, they can toilet un-aided so now is a time it is beneficial for the breeder to ensure that the “whelping-box” has enough room to not only allow for safe movement but a toilet corner so that good toileting manners can begin.

Interactions with littermates now become important. They can wag tails and growl, their relationship maybe agonistic at times, this is important as will help shape the puppy’s personality for the future. Because of the sudden growth in social needs now is the best time to start gently introducing different people & children (well behaved kids only!). Breeders should provide a stimulating environment for the young this is important as not only will it increase their happiness but also their intelligence. Exposure to sounds that every house hold contains TV’s, Hoovers, microwaves etc will help prepare them for the homes ahead. At this age they will show little fear to noises as they will have the complete security of their mother, brothers & sisters to help them out.

 The Transitional period also marks the development of teeth and the introduction to solid food, puppies’ can now chew and lap. There is endless amusement in watching a puppy discovering food for the first few times!

Although the Transitional Period has a lot of mile stones both mentally & physically it is only a preparation to the next stage.

 The Socialisation Period. This period lasts from four weeks up until eight weeks of age, this period will inevitably mark huge changes in a puppy’s life one of them being adoption to a family. They will have to take the leap from the world of being a littermate to being a family pet with all the requirements and responsibilities that come with being “our dog”.

On the physical side of things they are fully functional and coordination will increase in improvement. Male puppies will already be masculinised and maybe mounting other puppies, they will get a further hormone surge during puberty.

It’s the learning and emotional responses that really define this period.

This is when the social responses to dominate or submit come into play, the relationship between dam & puppy goes from epimeletic-care giving(mum), et-epimeletic-care seeking(puppy) to one of dominance-mum, submission-puppy. This can be a subtle as the puppy going to nurse and the dam walking away.

How the dam teaches the art of dominance on her puppies will be paramount in their future social skills. If she is too aggressive with her responses her puppies will more than likely be over-submissive in interactions or if she is too soft her puppies may not clearly read boundaries in the future. Like any mother the perfect balance gives the best security for growing infants. I do like the manner that Roger Abrantes describes this as “subdominance” it gives it a more complex angle than simply black & whiteImage. Dog social patterns are not unlike ours and different dogs have strengths and weaknesses that help their “pack” in the whole, just as in our families & communities every person has a role to perform.

Alongside the relationship change with a puppy’s mum the importance of role play with littermates is a great practice run for helping a puppy’s etiquette in the future. Through the interactions they have with one another they begin to learn how to express themselves and also how they are best perceived. All the arts of play make for a situation to learn. Obvious ones are improving physical movements, coordination, timing, balance, problem solving, confidence and intelligence. It also aids in learning by making mistakes (experiential learning), learning to make bonds with others and lets a puppy practice his/her dominance for the future.

At approximately five weeks old a puppy’s fear response develops, they are still young enough to recover from frightening sounds etc very quickly it is later on around eight to ten weeks of age that fear attachment is established, around the time the average pedigree dog in the UK is sold on. Unfortunately for the puppy this is the period when he/she should be getting their first vaccinations, probably why so many dogs are frightened with a trip to the Vet. As an owner it is your responsibility to make this as stress free as possible!

Between six to eight weeks of age a puppy’s instinct to make friends with others overcomes their natural instinct to be cautious of strangers; this definitely works in the favour of his/her new family.

In a nut shell the Socialisation Period does what it says on the tin, it is all about learning and trying new social skills. Breeders should expose puppies to all sorts of stimuli during this period, in my opinion too much is not enough. From getting them accustomed to having their nails clipped to hairdryers (for dogs that will need to visit the groomers!), putting them into papooses and taking them outside to see & hear traffic to short happy journeys in a car, letting them experience the feeling of different textures on their paws ( concrete, grass etc) to children handling them. To me socialisation has a greater influence on your dog’s future behaviour than their breed type does and it’s always better to socialise than try to correct un-desired behaviours in the future!

Photograph courtesy of Andy Biggar 

50 Shades of stay

I was recently asked a question, “What is the difference between what a dog owner thinks about a dog and a behaviourist? How do they differ?”

I immediately couldn’t answer it; I found it an impossible question. After many nights awake and asking unsuspecting friends I am still at a cross road with this.

Let’s take the average dog owner, well nowadays there is no such thing. Every dog owner I meet confesses to being a dog expert in one way or another whether it be they know the most about the rare breed they have and every relative both living and dead there dog has or my favourite, I can train dogs because I watch Cesar (I won’t even start on that topic as it’s so widely argued right now!)

The first thing that came into my head was the anthropomorphic emotions that owners project onto their dogs on a daily basis, “he ate my shoes because I left him”, “she pees the floor to get me back”, “he doesn’t come back when called because he knows I’m going to my mums and he hates it there” the list is truly endless, I am yet waiting for someone to tell me that their dog can’t sit because of its star sign!

While it is nonsense to make assumptions that a dog is on a mission to get even with his owner at every possibility I do think that owners shouldn’t face rolling eyes and the feeling that their beloved pet is little more than a domesticated wolf that through years of selective breeding simply needs a job to do?

So how do we get balance? We “dog experts” can’t agree on most things anyway. Honestly try it; the only thing you’ll get a room full of dog people to agree on is BSL is ineffective!!! I will just quickly state here that this is changing thankfully and sometimes a good debate is how we find answers.

However I do know that a dog is not a furry person. I can only go on what I feel about my dogs and how I think they feel about me. I LOVE my dogs, I don’t collect them from the kennel after a two week holiday and ignore them (much to the kennel owners horror) I make a fuss of them, shoot me, I’ve missed my buddies just as much as I miss my kids after a school trip and definitely more than I’ve missed my husband after a business trip, It’s not that I love them anymore, hey I’m a realist my children are definitely more important than my dogs. But I am down on that reception floor like a maniac telling my beloved ridgebacks that mummies missed them……does this then mean I know little about dog behaviour? Am I an unfit dog trainer? Am I allowing my dogs to “dominate” me? Am I projecting my emotional response onto them?………….If that’s the case then why have I got nearly twenty stone of red love coming at me like a freight train, all slobbers and love….yes LOVE!!! I said it MY DOGS LOVE ME!

Now I’ll pop my scientific cap on. I know that dogs have emotions, that is a fact. They don’t live in “the here and the now” as they have a memory….Like it or not traumatic experiences are easier committed to the long term memory than any other experiences. in.

The reason they destroy your possessions when you go out is down to two factors 1) you left things lying out 2) you haven’t got them used to being left alone comfortably, dogs are after all social animals just like us. The reason they pee the floor is your methods during toilet training did not reinforce going outside is better, the reason they don’t come back when called is coming back to you marks something negative whether it be being put back on the leash or a lecture.

So where are my thoughts in all this? How do opinions differ? I don’t think they do, I strongly believe that most compassionate dog experts acknowledge that dogs are special, have feelings, express those feelings to their beloved owners. The difference………….A good dog behaviourist knows how to interpret those feelings!

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