Archive for the ‘Pet’ Tag

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?
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Air Kong Fetch Stick   Leave a comment

Super puppy toy

 

I discovered this toy years ago when I had German Shepherd pups.  Using positive reinforcement training methods I needed a dog toy that could replace food rewards in training, partly because food only works up to a point to keep a dog’s attention and also because training for Schutzhund (IPO working trials) we want high drive and energy.  So a toy on a rope was called for but young dogs struggle to catch a ball easily.  There are various other ‘sausage’ type toys on the market, but not many of them have the rope attached for playing ‘tug of peace’ as a reward for correct heeling or recalls.

The Air Kong Fetch Stick works really well and I recommend them to my puppy school clients as they make great park toys to get a good recall.  This toy fits into the interactive toy category and should not be left lying around for dogs to chew on by themselves, or play tug with each other. It’s meant for human-dog interaction and should be put away after play.  It should retail at under R100.00.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking with the Woofs – Your Story   Leave a comment

So what can I advise from my own experience to help you achieve a happy walk?

  • It’s about your close relationship with your dog as well as obedience.  You’re a team or family, walking together, having fun.  Chat to your dogs a little, let them know you’re happy to be there with them, don’t let them go more than a few meters away from you, teach them that staying near to you is where the good stuff happens. 
  • Teach ‘watch me’ or ‘look’ so when you speak your dog actually tunes in.
  • Teaching ‘recall’ is vital – never, ever let your dog off lead if you’re not sure he’ll come back to you.  Practise recall on lead, using the normal lead or a long line, with many repetitions in all possible situations.  Once you have some confidence in your pup, let him trail a long (5 –10m) lead that you can quickly reach to ensure his obedience.
  • Walk with a toy on a rope that you and your pup play with at home.  When you call him, wiggle the toy excitedly and play ‘tug of peace’ when he comes in – you need to be more exciting than the other dogs – well, at least try!!
  • In the early days, arm yourself with treats in a treat bag and clicker as well as the toy.
  • Keeping moving quite quickly, humans are sooo boring when they walk slowly. Vary the route and direction, keep them guessing a little.
  • When you’re near other dogs, call your pup in closer to you and try to distract him from rushing up to them.  Young dogs often get into trouble in their enthusiasm which is unappreciated by older dogs.  It takes can take ages for a happy youngster to learn this (or at least it took ages for Minka!) but keep working at it until you just have to use a warning tone for your dog to respond.
  • Keep your dog away from dogs on lead – sometimes it’s because the other dog is aggressive and it’s not fair for your pooch to wind them up, besides being dangerous.
  • Pick up after your dog – ‘Bags on Board’ is a roll of doggie doo bags to keep in your pocket or clipped to the lead. 
  • I seldom actually ‘recall’ my dogs, they just never move that far away that I need to.  I think this comes about because I’ve done lots of heel work with them so being close to mom is in itself rewarding now.  Teaching with positive reinforcement methods means your dog will be ever hopeful of goodies or a game. 
  • Practise in your garden: move away from your pup, call him to your side and when he arrives, click and treat.  Move away again, click and treat.  You can lure him in close if necessary but only reward him when he’s in close to you.  This teaches him to come to heel and to watch what you’re doing because you’re unpredictable. 
  • Begin when your pup is just 9-10 weeks old by going to a reputable puppy school (with just 4 – 6 pups per trainer) where the emphasis is on dog-human relationship building and successful, controlled interaction between dogs.  It is NOT about wild play with other pups, it’s about him learning sensible, polite doggie language so he can behave appropriately when meeting all kinds of dogs.  They learn a lot in play, but also on lead in class.

So, once your pup has had all his vaccinations, get out there and begin a lifetime of pleasure and exercise!  The more you do it the easier it will get. 

Walking with the Woofs – My Story   Leave a comment

Lately I’ve been thinking about how to help people achieve relaxed, enjoyable walks with their dogs, using my years of experience walking German Shepherds and Jack Russell Terriers.

It starts with a good place to walk, preferably off lead, although it can still be a great experience on lead.  Off lead is where most guardians come unstuck, but if you can get it right, the pleasure of walking with your fast moving, free dogs is immense!

So here’s what happens with my dogs:

We go regularly to the park – a wonderful, huge space ringed by the Hottentots Holland Mountains, with sports fields and open grassed areas.  A river chortles along one side, at this time of the year it is boiling and tumbling rather than chortling after all the rain.  There are lots of trees along the river so it’s a pleasure even in summer.   Many locals run and cycle there, and of course it’s a dog walker’s paradise.  There are busy times of the day when you can pass more than 50 people and their dogs, depending on which way you go. 

Sometimes we go to the beach at Strand.  Here it can be more challenging for my big, energetic girls (GSDs) who cover so much ground quickly as the space is narrower with fewer options for changing direction and avoiding a possible problem.  I am so proud of them when they meet and greet and politely choose not to respond to silly little yappers, or jumpy youngsters.  They keep an eye on me and all I need to do is keep moving and maybe quietly call them away to have them break away and come after me.  Shepherd bitches are not known for their patience so I am aware of their tolerance limits.  Uschi usually chooses to not engage, but if she does she’s polite and disinterested.  If she’s carrying a toy she’ll warn with a growl but never anything more.  She’s a balanced dog with a happy temperament.   Her daughter Minka is more reactive and much more interested in interacting with other dogs, but not keen on playing anymore.  If a game starts I have to watch her that she doesn’t switch from ‘play’ to ‘prey’.  Rather bossy, in typical insecure child fashion.

We’ve had 3 Jack Russells over the years and it’s been just as much fun with them, despite their terrier tendencies to prefer going down a mole hill to keeping up with me!  Sometimes it was my 2 GSDS, Pepsi our JR and my dad’s JR Minchie too – 4 bitches all walking very happily together.  Sadly we had to put Pepsi (see photo in  post Reflections 27/12/11) and Minchie to sleep in May so now it’s just the big girls.

I’ll unpack my tips on achieving a happy walk in the next post.

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.

A Normal Dog?   Leave a comment

This is so true, we hear it all the time, and our animal welfare kennels are evidence of the misunderstandings that abound between dog and human.  If you’re reading this, you’re already stepping into the category of  ‘abnormal’ owner, so well done!:-)

A NORMAL DOG??

By Tracy Nonomalcao (USA)

Recently, a colleague and friend posted a picture on Facebook accompanied by a caption saying something to the effect of “does anyone have ‘normal’ dogs?” indicating that her dogs had a variety of issues which she was dedicated to working with – separation anxiety, noise sensitivity, fear aggression, etc.  “All I ever wanted was a normal dog!”

I frequently hear this in my practice and am forced to ask, “Really?  You really think you want a ‘normal’ dog?!”

What exactly is a ‘normal’ dog?  Here are some characteristics of normal dogs:

  • normal dogs bite
  • normal dogs have no standards as to appropriate elimination sites with the exception of “where I sleep is out of bounds”
  • normal dogs do not come when called if something more interesting is going on
  • normal dogs default to responding to new stimuli in their environment fearfully.  Fear is a survival adaptation and keeps a dog safe.
  • normal dogs chew, dissect, and destroy things
  • normal dogs resource guard
  • normal dogs bark and growl
  • normal dogs dig holes
  • normal dogs hump legs
  • normal dogs vocalize when left alone
  • normal dogs chase squirrels, deer, and cats
  • normal dogs kill small animals
  • normal dogs pull on the leash
  • normal dogs often like to run around as fast as they can, even if they knock over small children or grandma in the process
  • normal dogs lift their legs and pee on trees, even when we bring those trees into our houses and put lights and ornaments all over them
  • normal dogs like to sniff EVERYTHING – crotches (human and canine), fire hydrants, trees, bushes, gopher holes
  • normal dogs eat poop
  • normal dogs tear up the garbage, counter surf, and eat expensive panties or heels
  • normal dogs roll in poop and dead things
  • normal dogs do not like every dog they meet
  • normal dogs do not want to be hugged, kissed, touched, or stared at by every person they meet in every situation
  • normal dogs don’t like having their nails trimmed, mats removed from their coat, or grooming
  • normal dogs don’t naturally love being crated
  • normal dogs don’t naturally love wearing sweaters, being carried in purses or strollers, or wearing booties

Looking at all these things that normal dogs do, how many of you want one?  All of these things are NORMAL DOG BEHAVIOURS. 

If humans did not intervene, these are the things that dogs would do naturally.  I’d argue that very, very few humans would even know what to do with a truly “normal” dog if they came across one.  Normal dogs do not make good pets.

What we want in a pet dog is abnormal behaviour.  We want a creature which has evolved for millennia as a hunter to act like prey doesn’t matter.  We want dogs to learn to go potty outside the house, even when we bring doggy bathrooms (trees) into our homes as holiday decorations.

We want dogs to like every dog and person they meet.  We want dogs to be silent animals.  We want dogs to walk politely on a loose leash, even though our walking pace is comparatively very slow.  (Have you ever been caught behind someone who moves slowly when you’re in a hurry, either walking or driving?  Frustrating!)

We want dogs to never bite, no matter what, even when they are harassed, abused, and neglected.

What we want from dogs are behaviours which are ethologically incompatible with their evolution as a species.  We like dogs, but not their “dogginess.”  Normal dogs end up in shelters for just this reason.  Abnormal dogs get to stay in their homes. Part of the problem is also in what is defined as “normal dog owner” behaviour.

“Normal” dog owners:

  • don’t take their dog to class
  • don’t go out of their way to socialize the dog extensively and appropriately during puppyhood
  • place their dog’s physical and mental stimulation needs somewhere around #894 on their list of priorities
  • don’t manage their dogs to prevent rehearsal of bad behaviour
  • focus on what their dog is doing “wrong” and ignoring the dog when he does the “right” things
  • don’t train their dogs and then blame the dog for misbehaving
  • expect dogs know the difference between “right” and “wrong” naturally
  • look for a quick fix to behaviour problems
  • choose to confine the dog to the back yard, turn him into a shelter, or have him euthanized before consulting with a behaviour professional to address the problem

Normal dog owners get normal dog behaviours.  Abnormal dog owners are proactive about preventing behaviour problems and address any new problems as soon as they are noticed.  If they don’t know what to do about a problem, they research to find a good trainer who uses dog-friendly training methods.  They exercise and train their dogs, even if they are busy.  They make spending time with the dog and helping him thrive, a priority.

While no dog is perfect, realizing that virtually everything we expect of dogs is unnatural for them highlights the need for training.  Part of what makes dogs so wonderful is the fact that they are generally more than happy to exchange behaviours which are rooted in hundreds of thousands of years of instinct for an owner that will spend a few minutes a day training them to offer alternative, incompatible, and socially desirable behaviours.

Dogs don’t come “perfect,” whether they are brought into the home as puppies or as adult dogs they need training.  Well-behaved dogs rarely happen by chance, they are usually well-trained dogs.  “Bad” behaviour in dogs is not bad behaviour to dogs, it is simply normal behaviour.  I think that society does dogs a disservice with the assumption that “good behaviours” are the norm and “bad behaviours” are aberrant.  It is the dogs that pay for this misunderstanding, often with their lives.  It’s like something out of the Twilight Zone.

Posted 24/08/2011 by Rose's Puppy School in Dog Behaviour

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“In Defence of Dogs”   Leave a comment

I haven’t got very much further with the Monks of Skete book, partly because I began to feel uneasy with it when paging through the photos – they clearly still use quite a lot of force in their training methods.  I’ll keep at it and comment here when I’m done.  In the meantime I’ve had this info sent to me on a newish book that seems to align more with my ethos on dogs and training:  In Defence of Dogs by Prof John Bradshaw.  I’ve ordered it at work, so will share more when I’ve read it.  It’s exciting to see more and more literature coming out that reflects more of the understanding we’ve gained over the past few years that moves us away from using force and punishment in training.

Tonight was the last class for the Tuesday group.  I really enjoy seeing how each pup has developed over the 5 weeks, and how their relationship with their guardian has improved.  At the end of an exquisitely beautiful day (supposedly winter!), after a yummy lunch at Black Marlin near Simonstown, it was good to see ‘my’ pups and their humans enjoying their time in class.

Why dog trainers will have to change their ways

Professor John Bradshaw is leading a revolution in the study of canine behaviour. ‘Dogs don’t want to control people, they want to control their own lives,’ he says.

***

The first idea to bite the dust is so huge and entrenched that some owners will struggle to adjust. We have had it drummed into us by trainers such as Cesar Millan that because dogs are descended from wolves (their DNA is almost identical), they behave like wolves and can be understood as “pack” animals. The received thinking has been that dogs seek to “dominate” and that our task is to assert ourselves as pack leaders – alpha males and females – and not allow dogs to get the upper paw.

Read the whole story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/jul/17/dog-training-john-bradshaw-animal-behaviour

Posted 09/08/2011 by Rose's Puppy School in Book Reviews

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