Archive for the ‘Dog Behaviour’ Category

Favorite Video Friday – Best Friends   Leave a comment

Oh my, you have to watch this video, it’s just perfect – will put a smile on your face and give you the warm fuzzies!

Although there is the odd moment when the German Shepherd demonstrates her/his inclination to resource guarding, these are mates, having fun.  Just what we want from our dogs.

Favorite Video Friday – Best Friends.

Why Everything You Know about Wolf Packs is Wrong   Leave a comment

Further to my previous posts about wolves and their relevance to dog training, have a look at:

Why Everything you know about wolf packs is wrong

So What’s the Fuss?   Leave a comment

Why does it matter if dogs aren’t really wolves in doggie clothing?

There was a subtle shift in my mind set when I began to take this on board a couple of years ago. What we think tends to inform our actions. So if I think my dog is really wolf, and wolves have such a bad rep, then I need to be on top of keeping my ‘wolf’ in check. So even though I love my dogs, I have to be a disciplinarian and strong authority figure. I cannot let my guard slip (especially with large German Shepherds who are way too smart!) and need to sit on any ‘signs’ of rebellion.

But once I understood that the information is flawed (see previous blog “Wolf?”), I did quite a bit of thinking over time about how that would change my relationship with my own dogs and how I would advise owners of the cute little pups who come to Rose’s Puppy School. It was important that my thinking led to responsible advice handed out to trusting humans. The wrong advice could lead to injury and heartbreak further down the line.

So yes, dogs need guidance and leadership from their humans, but they don’t need punishment. Behaviours we find unacceptable can be interrupted and made unsuccessful consistently for a puppy so that that behaviour falls off the possible options the dogs has to pick from in a given situation. Instead we can substitute behaviours that are more acceptable that we reinforce over and over until that option is the dog’s first choice.

I love hearing from owners about how the puppy is learning not to jump because they have made jumping boring by ignoring the bouncing baby and teaching them to sit and greet a hand instead.

A problem owners often come up against is when their otherwise loving pet decides that couches are made for him, and growls because they try and turf him off. He’s not actually telling them that he’s the boss and a higher ranking animal. He’s just saying he likes that spot and isn’t willing to share or move. You’ll need to entice him off the couch and onto his own bed (lots of yummy treats or a delicious stuffed hoof will make that change a much better option) – do NOT punish him for being on the couch or growling – that could rouse his resource guarding instinct and lead to an argument you may not win. For a while restrict access to the couch when you are not there to remind him he has his own bed. Keep reinforcing the correct sleeping spot and cue ‘on your bed’, ‘go settle’.

Jumping and sleeping quarters are just 2 of many areas of possible confusion when bringing up this different species. The more you read and listen and work with your dog, the more you’ll understand and learn about how to adapt her canine instincts to your human expectations.

Posted 20/10/2012 by Rose's Puppy School in Dog Behaviour, Rose's Reflections

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Wolf?   Leave a comment

So what’s the story with dogs and wolves?  We hear here there and everywhere that wolves live in a hierarchical society using strength and aggression to secure a higher place in the pack; that they are led by an alpha male and female that exert their authority by means of dominant displays.  We have also been told that dogs are closely related to wolves and therefore use the same social structure and that if we want to live with a dog we need to understand how to be the alpha somebody or other.

This is the theory that I’ve ‘grown up’ in the dog world hearing and to be honest using, without questioning it.  But one aspect that has always disturbed me with this model is that talking ‘dominance’ gives some humans the idea that they can use physical force to get their dogs to listen, often going too far in their anger with a ‘disobedient’ animal.  Once I learned about positive reinforcement and clicker training I was thrilled to have tools to work with my beloved GSDs without force, and from then on I did all I could to spread the word.  Ever since I started Rose’s Puppy School in 1998 I’ve preached PR as the way to go.

The next ‘aha’ understanding came when I read ‘Dogs’ by Ray Coppinger and attended a seminar he gave in Cape Town.  Here we learned about the differences between dogs and wolves and that the pack theory had been shown to be incorrect in the light of more recent research.  Yeah for DNA!

So point no 1 is that wolves are dogs closest living relatives.  However, point 2, dogs are not descended from wolves – rather modern wolves and dogs share a common ancestry that diverged 10 000+ years ago into 2 separate species.

Point 3: The wolves that were studied in the past were North American Timber wolves (less closely related to dogs than European wolves) in captivity.  Unrelated, in confined spaces, leaderless, competing for food, space, and mating privileges.  This is very different to the wolf in its natural habitat, now shown to live in family groups, usually mom, dad and the kids.  In other words, a family.  Successful families live co-operatively, with parents as leaders but the kids have roles to play too, especially the teenagers who help with the younger cubs.  Observers say that there is little overt aggression in the wolf family groups, that is reserved for intruders.  Not pussy cats no, but also not the dominance driven animal usually portrayed.

So wrong assumptions, wrong wolves, wrong situations have led us up the garden path and only in the last 10 years or so have biologists and scientists come to a better understanding through observation of wild wolves and DNA research.  This is a very simplified version but if you’re interested, check out John Bradshaw’s’ In Defence of Dogs’ and Coppinger’s ‘Dogs’. I’m sure we’ll learn more in the years to come.

I haven’t even begun on the differences between dogs and wolves, but for now, using the wolf as a possible model:  your dog needs you to be his ‘leader’ but not his boss, he needs your authority wielded with love, not aggression or dominance. You’re not the alpha, you’re the parent (if I can use that word without being accused of anthropomorphism).  Science has shown that dogs are not trying to take over your world, they just keep doing what works for them and it’s up to us to mold their behaviour to fit into our world successfully.

Posted 05/10/2012 by Rose's Puppy School in Dog Behaviour, Rose's Reflections

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It’s time to get the word out!   Leave a comment

  • I am not an animal behaviourist so cannot call myself an expert in this field.  I have had years of interacting with dogs as pets, working towards competitions and helping others achieve their goals, coupled with being interested, concerned and enthusiastic.
  • All this exposure to dogs and also to humans who are expert in behaviour or biology has led to a gradual change in my understanding of how dogs relate to each other and to humans.  Being a trainer and vet nurse I’ve had the opportunity to attend seminars, lectures and conferences; meet behaviourists, biologists, vets; read books; observe my own dogs and the 100s of puppies that’ve passed through Rose’s Puppy School.
  • These are a few books that I’ve read that have been influential on this journey of understanding dogs:

Ray Coppinger : Dogs: A New Understanding of Canine Origin, Behaviour and Evolution

John Bradshaw: In Defence of Dogs (apparently now in paperback as “Dog Sense”)

Jean Donaldson: Culture Clash and Dogs are from Neptune

Pat Miller: Power of Positive Dog Training

Karin Pryor: Don’t Shoot the Dog 1985

  • Ray Coppinger’s seminar made me sit and up and really start to grapple with understanding the origin of dogs and how that should change what I do and how I view canine behaviour.
  • I am concerned that the changes in attitude and understanding are not filtering down to owners and breeders.  That’s one reason that I think puppy school can be of great benefit in that we do much more than just give pups an opportunity to interact with others in their species in a controlled environment.  In a well run puppy school there should be lots of sharing of information to owners and opportunity for them to ask questions and begin their own journey of understanding.
  • John Bradshaw said: “Owners and dogs have been at the mercy of poor quality trickled-down information used by traditional, militaristic training.” That is so true and I am determined to be part of the ongoing learning and conversation around understanding dogs that has begun over the last few years.
  • Next blog I’ll write more about these ‘new’ ideas  concerning the history of dogs and how they relate to humans.Wolf?

Ten Thoughts to a Better Relationship with Your Dog   Leave a comment

 

ONE   Your dog can never take responsibility for getting trained. You must take the responsibility, time and effort to educate your dog. This means that you must also take the responsibility of learning to communicate with your dog. Without communication there can be no education.

TWO  In the canine world there are no such things as equals. You will either lead or follow. Dogs’ reasoning ability is similar to a two-year-old child. A two-year-old child does not make an effective leader. You must be the leader. A leader is the decision maker, stays calm and takes responsibility, gives clear directives and praise – a leader does not shout, use physical force, increase stress.

THREE   Every time you interact with your dog, he is learning something. If you are not teaching him the right behaviour he is learning the wrong behaviour.

FOUR “Negative attention” to a dog, is still attention. If the only way your dog can get attention is by being bad, you will train him to act bad for attention. Remember to always reward your dog for good behaviour. Pay attention when he is doing something right and let him know that you like it.

FIVE    The consistency of your dog’s behaviour good or bad will mirror the consistency of your training. If you train your dog repeating the command 10 times, you can expect the dog to respond 10% of the time.

SIX  A dog’s concept of right and wrong is very different from ours.  Do not expect your dog to know what you may think of as right or wrong

SEVEN  If you are correcting the dog, are you certain that the dog understands why it is being corrected? Have you educated and then generalised the concept?

EIGHT  In nature there is no form of punishment, only consequences. If you can stop thinking punishment and focus on what the dog perceives as the consequences of his actions, you will make more headway in any situation.

NINE  If you are constantly reacting to the dog’s behaviour, it is the dog that is training you! You must decide what behaviour you want and educate the dog to that behaviour.

TEN  You are your dog’s primary role model. If you want quiet calm behaviour, then your must role model quiet calm behaviour.

 

Fear of Fireworks   Leave a comment

By Niki Elliott – ThinkingPets.com
Unfortunately this is the time of year when fireworks are being set off in all our neighbourhoods, and every year the noise level of these fireworks increases. It is like living in the middle of a war zone in some areas. Many dogs and cats are developing bad reactions to fireworks as well as gunshots and other loud noises. A little fear or anxiety in response to loud noises is normal for animals as well as people but when these fearful responses are out of proportion to the real threat, the animals revert back to survival mode and this is where it becomes a problem.
It is vitally important to try and prepare your pets to help them get through the night of terror with the least amount of stress.
Make a safe place for your pet to go into. You will probably have noticed that your pet goes into the shower, under a bed or even into the garage when he is anxious or feels threatened. Make this place more comfortable, maybe even darker. Put his most favourite bed in there and encourage him to go and settle there, even when there is no noise going on. Put some of his favourite toys in there and some really tasty chewies. Get your pet to go in there and enjoy the chewies when he is not afraid. That way he will “like” his shelter and associate it with good things and will want to go there when times get tough.
Often the problem is made worse because your pet doesn’t know where to go to escape. These are the animals who end up just running wildly on the street or forcing themselves through security gates in an attempt to get away from the noise. You need somewhere for them to hide. Choose a room that is naturally quiet in the centre of the house and has no windows. Prepare this place well in advance. If your dog tends to try and dig or burrow to get away from the noise then put lots of blankets down for him. Put a piece of your clothing with your smell on down for him as well. Your scent will be a familiar smell and will comfort your pet. One person I know has built a bomb shelter in their garden for their dog to go into!
Put a DAP for dogs and Feliway for cats diffuser, obtainable from your Vet, in the cat or dog’s hiding place or get the DAP/Feliway Calming Collar to put on your pet or use the DAP/Feliway spray in the area. If you are using the diffuser, it should be left operating 24 hours a day, do not switch it on and off trying to save electricity – this just uses up more of the liquid in a shorter space of time. Install the diffuser a few weeks before the firework event and until 2 weeks after. There are always fireworks going off for a few days before and after the actual date. DAP/Feliway is a pheromone that helps pets feel much more relaxed and confidant when they might otherwise be stressed. Close the windows, draw the curtains and put on some music. Music with a good beat is best. This will minimise the amount of noise coming into the room from outside. You don’t want your pet to see the flashes of the fireworks as they explode.
You can leave some food and water for your pet as well as some chewies and familiar high value toys. This will help reduce the tension and make him feel better, but some animals are so fearful that they are physically unable to eat once the noise starts. Their bodies had flipped over into survival mode and the main organs have shut down allowing the body to prepare for flight. It is a good idea to make sure that your pet has emptied his bladder an hour before the noise starts. The place you and your pet decide is the best place must be accessible to your pet at all times. It is vital to make sure that doors are leading into and out area are not likely to shut and trap your pet inside or out of the room. On the day of the fireworks give your dog a large stodgy carbohydrate rich meal in the late afternoon. Pasta, mashed potato or overcooked rice is ideal, and will help to make him feel calm and sleepy as the night draws in.
If your vet has given you medication to reduce your pet’s fears make sure that you follow the prescription precisely. Also start with the medication long before the noise starts, otherwise it is too late and often won’t make any difference at all.
As soon as the fireworks start take your pet to his hiding place and encourage him to stay there. Don’t get cross with him when he is scared, it will only make him more frightened. Also don’t mollycoddle your pet. This will make him think there is something to be afraid of. Ignore his fearful behaviour and play games with him using treats as a reward. We want him to associate fireworks with a great game and some tasty treats.
You can also get some ear plugs to block out some of the noise. Just make sure they fit properly, you don’t want to hurt your pet’s ears when you push them in, nor do you want to push them in too far. Just far enough for them to block the ear canal and yet accessible for you to remove once the fireworks are over.
You will need to get some professional help to sort out your pet’s noise problem. Do this before New Year which will be the next time we will probably experience fireworks. Many animals can be treated using behavioural methods called desensitisation and counter conditioning. Specially made recordings of fireworks can be used to train animals not to react to the noises they fear and a CD called Sounds Scary from Kyron can be obtained from your Vet.
TTouch, which is a method of working with fearful animals, can be used to help your pet overcome its fear of fireworks. TTouch builds confidence and a confident animal is not a fearful animal. TTouch combines bodywork, which is certain touches with ground work exercises. These exercises boost the animal’s confidence. There is also a Thundershirt that can be used to help calm your pet. If you don’t have one of these you can use a dog coat or T-shirt. Secure it around the belly with a piece of elastic or make a knot on the back with a scrunchie. This can have a calming effect on your pet like a swaddling blanket on a baby. Doing some of touches on your pet’s ears will also help to calm your pet and most dogs really love it. If you decide to do touch work on your pet, don’t wait until the
fireworks start! You’ll be much more successful if you do the work before to relieve tensions in the body and boost your pet’s confidence. Then when the fireworks start, he’ll be less likely to react. By working with your pet before the firework “season” it will already be established as something good and not necessarily associated with the fireworks. There are names of all the TTouch Practitioners in
different area of the country on the TTouch website http://www.ttouchsa.co.za if you want some help with learning the touches.
Groundwork through a Confidence course helps to bring more awareness to the body of your pet. This is usually done for dogs but you can do some of the exercises with a cat. Simple exercises at a slow pace, allow the animal to feel its body in perfect balance. Set up a simple maze in your garden and lead your pet through it slowly. Put down some poles and see how well your pet picks up its
feet over them. Use dome boards on tyres for your pet to walk over. The more successful he is the better he will feel about himself and when the noise starts it won’t bother him as much.
Never punish an animal that is fearful of loud noises, this will only make the situation worse as he will associate the punishment with the noise and fear the noise even more. Also don’t flood your animal with loud noises, trying to show him there is nothing to be afraid of. This will make him even more fearful. If you have the Sound Scary CD only play it softly as back ground noise. You should
barely be able to hear it. Your pet’s hearing is so much better than yours.