Saturday, 28 March 2015

Easy does it.

In the dog club, here in Brussels, where I was secretary for many years, our trainers used to say: “corriger votre chien” which translates as “correct your dog”.  What does this mean? 
Basically it means that the dog has to do what’s asked of him and his handler has to make his dog fine tune the exercise if it’s not quite right. 
There is a whole repertoire of exercises which are the same the world over.  Training techniques vary but the end result is the same. 
I found a quote in a book written by a 17th C cleric which has nothing to do with dog training but I found it highly relevant.
“Corrections administered with gentleness and affection are more effective than those administered with anger and passion”.        

Monday, 23 March 2015

Where's the boss?

Cesar Millan says: "Dogs have an ingrained pack mentality.  If you're not asserting leadership over your dog, your dog will try to compensate by showing dominant or unstable behavior".
I am reading his books and hopefully by the end of it, I will be the leader of my pack. 

Friday, 20 March 2015

Walk your dog, do not let your dog walk you.

If your dog walks in front of you while on a lead, he is actually taking control of the walk and reinforcing, in his mind, his status as pack leader. In the pack dynamic, the leader goes first, goes ahead and takes charge. In fact, the dog is not relaxed because he is on a mission and has the responsibility to lead the pack.  The walk is actually stressful for him. Plus he does not get proper exercise.  This can lead to many behavioural issues which are often wrongly attributed to the characteristics of the breed or the dog’s personality.
It is important to realise that it is not just the act of having the dog walk to heel that consolidates your position as pack leader.  Who leads the walk? 
Does the dog pull?  Does the dog follow you?  Does the dog watch you?  Does the dog feel where you want to go?  Does he understand your body language?  Does he want to go and sniff?  The dog is smart and can feel your weaknesses.  So stay focused and calm and don’t dither and don’t give the dog the opportunity to lead.

Armed with this knowledge, I set off with Ozzy in the forest yesterday.  Here is the account of how it went:

·         Get out of car after my command. “Wait”.
·         Set off with Ozzy on the lead.  Ozzy is glued to my left leg, his right shoulder touches my left knee.
·         Ozzy is desperate to relieve himself.  I don’t let him.  Walk on a bit.
·         Let Ozzy off the lead so he can relieve himself. 
·         Ozzy goes back on the lead and we walk on with Ozzy to heel. Did this for a bit.  We make a few left turns, a few right turns, a few full turns.
·         Took out a new ball and played with him.  Throw, retrieve the ball and bring it back to me.  Did this for a bit.
·         Call Ozzy to heel.  Meaning Ozzy has to come to my left and sit beside me.
·         Walk to heel without the lead this time.  Did this for a  while. 
·         Took out the ball and played with him.  Did this for a bit.
·         Decided we had had enough.  Took the ball away from him and put it I my pocket.

After a period of walking off and on the lead, of playing with the ball and doing some exercises, I decided we had had enough.  I let him run around and sniff and roll in the leaves. 
As we were walking back to the car, he came beside me and walked all the way to the car to heel and off the lead without being asked!

I was in charge the whole time. I decided when we stopped, when we walked on, when to play with the ball, when to find a nice bush to cock his leg, when to get in or out of the car, when to change direction, whether we were walking fast or slow. I did not give him any opportunity to stray.   Ozzy was as good as gold and a model dog although some exercises need to be perfected but we’ll get there. 

Perseverance, consistency and understanding are the key words of the day.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Fifty shades of agggression;

What we are talking about is:   Possession Aggression.  That’s what it is.

And what does it mean?

There are many types of possession aggression.  Some dogs guard their food bowl, their toys, their bed.  
Others steal a sock in the laundry basket, run off with it and show aggression when it’s owner wants to take it away. 
Some show aggression when someone just picks something off the floor or when they go up to the dog to stroke it or to take it’s lead off the peg.

Dogs have territorial instincts and this goes back thousands of years before domestication.  In those dark times dogs had to put all their efforts in survival and had to fight over everything.   Food primarily but also for a save place to shelter from the elements and predators.  Although they live in your house, they consider it to be their territory. So it’s a free for all as far as they are concerned.  Well, I don’t agree with that.  A house should have “off limits” areas.  One such “off limit” area is the matrimonial bedroom.  Some dogs who have access to it’s owner bed become so possessive of that space that they growl/bite and make it quite clear the owner cannot have access to his own bed.  Or the dog who sits on the sofa with you watching TV and will growl/bites when you move him off.  Owners of small toy dog types such as Yorkshire Terriers have to deal with this often.  These little dogs will bark/growl at anybody who comes close especially if they are being held in their owner’s arms because they consider their owner to be their exclusive property. Nobody calls this aggression.  In their case it’s called jealousy.  I don’t think that’s fair on big dogs.  Their attitude is just as defensive and potentially dangerous.       

Possession Aggression is not necessarily a sign of dominance.  There is evidence that some of these aggressive dogs are victims of submissive peeing when there in the presence of another dog or human they feel is superior or intimidating.  It is a subconscious response that cannot be controlled.

OK.  So these aggressive dogs are sissies. So what is it then?

Many dogs who are otherwise obedient, show this behaviour. 
Dogs soon learn that if they show aggression to another dog or to a human, the latter  will back away.  They become very good at instigating aggression.  The dog has promoted himself to a high status. 

So what happens? 

The dog steals something which belongs to his owner like a pair of socks in boots or something which is food related like a tea towel and runs off.  More often than not this happens when the dog wants to draw attention to himself.  He runs under the table or chases round the room.  He knows his owner will come after him.  The dog is in control at this point because his owner is chasing him, probably shouting or yelling at him.  As the owner closes in, the dog becomes aggressive and growls/snaps/bites.  The owner backs away.  The dog has won.   

If this behaviour is not corrected, it will happen more often and intensify with serious consequences.

What to do?

Put stuff out of his reach.  This is easily said but difficult to apply.  Your home cannot be like Fort Knox.

If he does steal something, ignore him.  He steals something, let him have it.

Distract him with a toy.  Better still give him a treat.  He will drop what he has in his mouth and you can retrieve what he has stolen.  This does not work if he has stolen half a camembert.  I have tried and tested this method.  Food is instinct.  It’s not to be messed with. 

Teach him the “drop” / “give” command.

Put a leash on him in the house.  Let it trail so that you can correct him when he has an unacceptable behaviour.

Don’t run after him, do not shout at him.  Don’t meet aggression with aggression.

This is my thought for the day:  we have to re-establish the pecking order and revise our status with Ozzy.





Friday, 27 February 2015

Where does that leave Ozzy?

The other day I was Ozzy’s third bite victim. 
In the summer, Ozzy had pinched a piece of wood and took it under the table.  When my husband went to retrieve it, Ozzy snapped.  He did not draw blood.  There were tooth marks and a bruise.  The friend who came to stay had put her handbag on the floor by the table leg.  When she went to get something out of it, Ozzy snapped.  He did not draw blood.  Tooth marks and bruising. His ball was close to the bag. After these two incidents we were advised to have Ozzy castrated.  We did and his behaviour changed.  He has become more placid, less agitated, less macho, less "doggy", less amorous towards male visitors. 

A few days ago, Ozzy went to pinch something unsavoury out of the rubbish bin.  I went up to him to take it out of his mouth.  He bit my hand.  

So where does that leave Ozzy? 

I know what my vet would say. He should be put down.  Some caring friends who have no experience with dogs, say the same and I understand their arguments.

When Ozzy steals something and takes it under the table, it’s his.  When he steals food or food related items such as oven gloves or tea towels, he is a liability when you want to take it out of his mouth.  This is the only time he shows aggressive behaviour.  And of course he is not a Chihuahua.  He is  big dog and can therefore potentially do more harm.

How can a family pet who is generally obedient behave like this?  He never growls, does not threaten.  I can take his food bowl away when he eats.  He obeys to the commands he has been thought.  Comes back in the forest when called.   He is not aggressive towards other dogs or towards humans although he has to check out strangers before befriending them.  He is not a dangerous dog.  He does not get upset if another dog takes his ball or his stick.  He does not attack other dogs or humans.  He is clever and smart.  Wants cuddles. 

It’s a known fact that Australian shepherds have a nervous disposition.   

My friend, Jules, who is 85 years old and knows all there is to know about dogs, says it’s our fault for not being strong pack leaders.  We are too soft and lenient with Ozzy. He thinks that we will succeed with boot camp type training and attitude change on our behalf.   

I want to give Ozzy another chance but will we succeed? 

I am reading all my books of wisdom for help. 

I feel we have to seek advice from people who know about dog behaviour.

How do you go about finding somebody who is not a charlatan?  Anybody can call himself a behaviourist in Belgium.  Better still “professional behaviourist”.   You can read a book, put a plaque on your door and cash in the Euros.  What do they know, I do not know myself?

As a qualified dog trainer, I feel this is a real challenge. 



Monday, 16 February 2015

Eat your heart out!

Dogs smell other dogs faeces as a way of learning about them. From this, the dog can tell the sex of the dog who left it. If it’s a male’s it will tell it how masculine he was and if it’s a female’s whether she is coming into season or is on heat. So vital information is passed on this way. However some dogs eat other dogs’ stools which is not so pleasant. This is know as coprophagy from the Greek copros meaning faeces and from phagein meaning to eat.
There are many theories why dogs do this:
-To get attention from their owners.
-From anxiety, stress, or having been punished for bad behaviour.
-From boredom.
-Because puppies taste everything and discover that faeces are edible and, perhaps, tasty.
-Because dogs are, by nature, scavengers, and this is within the range of scavenger behaviour.
-Because the texture and temperature of fresh faeces approximates that of regurgitated food, which is how canine mothers in the wild would provide solid food.
-Because of the protein content of the faeces, or over-feeding, leading to large concentrations of undigested matter in the faeces.
-Due to assorted health problems
-Because they are hungry, such as when eating routines are changed, food is withheld, or nutrients are not properly absorbed.
-Carnivores may sometimes eat or roll in the faeces of their prey to ingest and exude scents which camouflage their own.
Dr Bruce Fogle, a Canadian vet and author of many books, writes that dogs as they grow up may suffer from a lack of digestive enzymes. He recommends feeding dogs enzyme-containing food such as pineapple, pumpkin or papaya fruit. Sounds exotic to me as dogs are basically carnivores.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Nearer, my God, to thee.

First class passengers would have participated in an informal dog show on RMS Titanic on 12th April 1915 if the ship had not gone down. Quite a number of dogs were on board and a few survived.
Since the first lifeboats to be launched were not full, no one objected to dogs being carried in them. It is recorded that a Pomeranian belonging to Elizabeth Barrett Rothschild, 54, wife of leather magnate Martin Rothschild was lucky. Martin went down with the ship but Elizabeth and her pet survived. They were on the lifeboat 6.
Margaret Hays, 24, travelling alone, managed to carry her Pomeranian to Lifeboat 7.
Henry Sleeper Harper of the publishing company, 48, and his Pekinese went to the Lifeboat 3 and managed to escape unharmed.
As for the other dogs they drowned like their owners even though someone took pity on the dogs and let them out of their kennels, unable to bear the thought of them drowning while being trapped in there.
A canary, it would seem, also survived to the sinking!
Ann Isham, 50, refused to enter in the lifeboat without her large Great Dane. She was found in the water two days after the sinking of the ship embracing her dog.
One dog however was a real hero! The first officer's large black Newfoundland, Rigel, stayed behind with the ship. He treaded the icy waters after the sinking, desperate to find his master. At the same time, the SS Carpathia was speeding to the scene to search for survivors. In the darkness, no one saw that a lifeboat was in its path and the passengers were too weak to shout or signal their presence. Reports say Rigel swam between the lifeboat and the SS Carpathia, barking continuously. Finally, the Captain heard Rigel and ordered to stop all engines. The dog swam in front of the lifeboat and guided it to safety. Once on board, Rigel seemed physically unaffected by his ordeal. He stood with paws on the rail barking in futility for his lost master until he was taken below for food and medical attention. Jonas Brigg, one of the Carpathia’s sailors adopted Rigel.