Monday 30 March 2015

Howling Ozzy


The howl is the one sound wolves and dogs have in common.
Howls are long, melodious sounds that sweep through many different pitches which are more efficient and more audible over a long distance than a single pitch sound.  Why?  Because sound that travels long distance must overcome obstacles such as trees and their leaves or an uneven terrain.   
Wolves howl to communicate across large distances.  They will frequently howl when they are separated from the pack to keep or re-establish contact with the pack but also to deter members from another pack.  Often they howl to raise the alarm, to regroup as a pack,  to reinforce the cohesion of the pack.
Some dogs howl.  Others do not.  Dogs will howl when the hear the sirene of an ambulance or fire brigade or the ice cream van. 
Howling in dogs does not happen often.  A dog gets no reply when he howls so the behaviour is not reinforced and that’s discouraging.
Ozzy howls whenever an ambulance drives past the house.

I must admit I find it a spine chilling sound.  A call from the wild.


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.