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EU Dangerous Dogs Act, separation anxiety, tracking from the judges view Spanish working trials information

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I have been back in Spain this week to give demonstrations to local Vets of the corrective use of the Master plus, Aboistop and Pet Persuader for where dog problems have become out of hand. I also happened to bring along with me some Liver and Heart dog treats. I seemed to have made countless friends with both dogs and cats alike in handing out these.

I also visited Benidorm Dog rescue centre and I had the opportunity to look round. One lady working there would like to copy the lead taken by Blue Cross in curing dog behaviour problems to give dogs a better chance of finding new homes. One of her ideas was to place timid dogs in with better-adjusted dogs to help teach them to become less frightened. Sounds like a very good idea. I also became aware of the problem of caterpillars found in pine trees that will eat dogs alive if they have the opportunity. Strange planet this is.

In the centre, I found they have a lovely husky that showed he had their usual full control and dormancy of all the dogs in his compound. One dog wanted to touch me but needed to keep looking over his shoulder to see if the husky objected and he did. That Husky would make me a lovely bombproof dog.

EU Dangerous Dogs Act

I have at last heard some results from the EU regarding their views on the way forward for the Dangerous Dogs Acts that they have currently under review.

It now seems that the very draconian plan to phase out all large dogs to stop dog aggression, as put forward by Germany, has been replaced by allowing all member states to regulate them selves. The EU is still though reviewing this position. I hope this is shelving such a measure and is allowing owners more time to appreciate that a dog is a loaded gun and we do have a responsibility for the protection of children by teaching our dogs not to use aggression. Certainly, the German Campaign group have highlighted to the European commission the problems of such measures and they have indicated they will not be pursuing plans for a dangerous dogs directive in the EU.

Can anyone disagree that the protection of children is paramount over the ownership and responsibly of owning our dogs? If we are not prepared, to accept this responsibility and do something about curbing dog attacks on children then our respective governments do have a duty to step in and they could still adopt other such draconian measures. As a parent and dog lover, I do see both sides of the fence.

We can all say our dog will never bite the child next door but how can we be so sure. I know for all my experience, I still could not fully guarantee that my dog, under certain circumstances, would not bite so for me I would not disapprove if my dog needed to wear a muzzle. At least I am holstering my loaded gun with the safety on. The additional advantages are dogs become less aggressive, people are less fearful but most of all children are safer.

I am informed that the next time the European Parliament holds a hearing or a meeting on dangerous dog laws I am invited in their belief it would be very constructive for MEPs to hear my views. Sounds like a big step in the right direction and I hope I express just the right words.

Last week it was suggested to me that for all my efforts in my work against dog aggression against children I could at least take some comfort that I may have at least saved the life of one child. For those who know me one is not enough and it never will be.

Separation anxiety.

Whilst sat in my car in Javea Port with the rain pouring down I received a phone call from a dog owner here asking for some advice. By chance, the owner was just about to throw out the article on dog aggression and found my telephone number. They thought I was in England so were surprised when I told them the rain I was experiencing was Spanish rain.

The owners had an older medium sized dog that was very loving and never showed any sign of aggression but did show signs of submission by lying on its side just simply to have the lead put on it. A problem that started two weeks after coming into the home was separation anxiety when the owners went out. The dog scratched at the door and may have once had the ability to open doors. On another occasion, the dog had put teeth marks in the rubbish bin lid.

The advice they received was to take the dog to a training class. During a period of free play or dog-socialisation, the dog had reacted with aggression upsetting all the owners of all the dogs. The instructor advised the owner to walk away and the dog followed but this show of aggression was a cause for great concern by everyone.

My first thought was a muzzle and the use of a gas collar but I had to return to the UK on the next Wednesday, the day of the next class. As I traveled to my next appointment, it began to puzzle me why a dog would show aggression that was totally out of previous character and yet showing signs of submissiveness. I know some of the history so I felt I needed to see the dog. An hour later, I arrived and met a very calm and passive dog. Once sat down the dog came up to me and wanted attention. The owners smiled, as they were aware of the problem and were dealing with this by ignoring it as I was but I was also alternating to see how bad it could get. The dog was very good; it gave up, and lay down when I ignored it.

I assessed the dog and gave it some very strong dominancy signs, which it totally ignored. I gave it a big hug round its neck with my face next to its muzzle and still absolutely no aggression. I then asked the owners if the dog had in fact shown the fearful response by bowing its front end, tilting the head up and curling its lip whilst growling. The owners agreed this was the stance shown by their dog and confirmed it had not tried to attack the other dogs but had only given this major warning sign of leave me alone.

As the dog moved round to face the owner, I detected the possibility of a problem with the right back leg and the cheek on the right was flatter than the left side. The owners confirmed they too had also noticed this and maybe their vet will find there is a problem here that may account for the dogs need to warn the other boisterous dogs to keep away.

The dog appeared well trained and socialised so additional obedience training in a class seemed pointless. It was normally well associated with other dogs that it met during its walks and had never shown any previous signs of aggression.

To the problem of separation anxiety, I suggested the normal teaching to leave the house on a regular basis for moments without making any fuss of leaving. One thing the owners did before they left was to move the dog’s basket into the kitchen creating a sign of impending separation. I suggested purchasing another basket to leave in the kitchen all the time so the dog became desensitised to the owners coming, going, and gradually increasing this.

A further suggestion, which the owner had also considered, was a dog sitter for a while just to take notes of what the dog did whilst the owners went out for a meal. If the owners feed the dog and walk it some time before the leaving the dog, this may help it feel more inclined to settle.

One other nice point was I had asked what games the dog liked to play and the owners told me the dog did not like to play any games. The dog just showed no interest in what ever the current owners tried. I found some space, got down on the floor, played rough, and tumble and in moments, the dog was playing this natural puppy game just as if it was a puppy again. Dogs never forget their basic rules but I feel sure that from its previous ownership history no one has played with this dog for many years. I leave the owners to enjoy teaching it to play again.

Finger nibbling and play biting

I came across a web site Champ dogs that was suppose to be a self help site of stating your doggy problem and hopefully finding someone who had solved this with their dog. The idea seems great but some writers have set themselves up as behaviourists with very little experience. We must all learn but we must all speak from the same proven and accepted book. They are on occasions issuing homespun advice contrary to currently accepted opinion. There were some good tips though and you do need to sort the good from the bad.

There was one common problem where there was a preoccupation with bite inhibition, which seems to teach a dog to bite without hurting. They seemed to promote this as acceptable for dogs to hold your hands or fingers by their teeth and lead the owners round the house.

Current thinking is to curtail all finger nibbling or play biting because of the obvious consequences of children’s normal reaction to pull away and the possibly of them running away leading the dog onto chase and attack. Please believe me this scenario does happen all too frequently. There are far more attacks attributable to dogs allowed to finger nibble than there is to any conceivable benefit from teaching a dog to hold your hand or fingers.

If you have a puppy trying to finger nibble do stop this as soon as it occurs and there are many ways of curing this. The obvious is to get up and walk away so never playing the game. Depending of the severity the game has over time become there are more sophisticated methods to try. One good one I came across which is similar to John Roberson’s method of using a taste deterrent is to smear your fingers with hot chilies. Good idea so long as your dog is not into “hot chili human fingers”.

Tracking from the Judges view.

After eighteen years, I met up this week with my friend Ex Greater Manchester Police PC Trevor Ellis. He was one of the longest serving dog handlers in the United Kingdom. By coincidence, we talked about Ex North Yorkshire Police dog section PC (Big) John Poole and by chance, I met him in a Pub in York today. A further coincidence is he too is moving to northern Spain.

All three of us are like-minded that when we are judging tracking we set track patterns that the majority of dogs can complete given the conditions. We therefore award marks for every leg, corner, how the team find articles, how they negotiate the track and the time taken. If you do negotiate the track in a wishy washy sort of a way then you will not get all the marks as compared to a team that are very quick and precise. We always prepare to award full marks to the highest standard of dog we could expect to compete and so dogs that do not perform to this standard will lose marks. This did mean that if you did complete the track the team may not attain sufficient marks to qualify but at least they had a successful track.

For those of you who have worked in the United Kingdom you may have come across some Judges who have set very difficult track patterns in order to fail many of the dogs. This leaves them having to mark only those excellent teams that do complete the track. Our feeling is that this is unfair not to judge your ability to negotiate acute, obtuse or right angle corners if you never reach them. For the dogs, they should always succeed.

We also consider competition tracks are still a learning process so we always give each competitor a resume of where they lost marks in order they can learn. This may be why Trevor has taken such a great interest in the working in the Schutzhund competitions where tracking and working are set as a very high and precise working standard that the teams have to achieve.

Both say they are willing to Judge here in Spain so those of you who are interested in taking part in this Sport will find much encouragement and help from their wealth of experience. Both were very popular Judges.

Spanish working trails information.

While I have been here, I have had a look at the land that is ideally suitable for teaching dogs to track. I found plenty of land with lots of lush vegetation that will make good teaching tracks. Tracking through the orange groves would be great providing the legs are in straight lines otherwise the line will get wrapped round the trees. I just need to find a local farmer who has an area we can use. Each track is about half a mile and takes up about eight acres of land. Any help here will be accepted.

Next week:
Behavioural updates,
Roaming Dogs
Dogs showing possessive aggression of their toys,
Tracking from the track layers view,
Spanish working trials information

If you have any questions or queries, please contact me. My ID on Yahoo messenger is alannewmanmoore. If you cannot obtain any special doggy items please look at www.companyofanimals.co.uk and I can bring them over for you.

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