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Behavioural updates. Aid for you to use if your dog shows aggression to bikes etc

I wonder is it the power of the Press in keeping people informed that creates changes in attitudes for the better. I refer to the last weeks article regarding Benicarlo council where the courts upheld that local councils are legally responsible for roaming dogs and liable to pay compensation to anyone bitten by one. Is it this legal ruling that has prompted Bennisa to now come to an agreement with the dog shelter? The CBN reports that the council will now pay the Shelter 150 euros for each dog they take in and help with the building work. This seems like a good result and paves the way to keep roaming dogs under control. Maybe the council for the Alfaz del Pi's rescue association will also come to the same decision.

Please do support these shelters, as they are not only rescuing dogs to re-home them but they take away the strays and remove any potential dangers. From the articles you now know, using Romania as an example, what BAD looks like with the unpalatable options now envisaged to cure this. If we take no notice something similar, but I am sure not as serious, can occur here. If we can help the shelters in giving them our much-needed support, we can stop this ever happening.

I also read in the CBN an irate letter from a jogger who came across an owner with a seemingly aggressive dog. I can understand the writer's annoyance and I am certain many others share the writer's sentiments in varying degrees. There is an ever-increasing level of complaints about dog aggression, dogs fowling the streets, dogs barking and dogs being generally unruly. Again, as ordinary people become more aware of their rights under the laws they are saying to them selves, "I do not have to put up with this". For dog owners like it or not changes are coming.

In January of this year, I was discussing with John Rogerson why the numbers of dogs owned in the UK is falling. My first thought was this is due to the Dangerous Dogs Act but it is due more to the gradually increasing rules that govern our dog ownership. You cannot take dogs onto football pitches or into restaurants on beaches where people and in particular where children play. The killer rules are the gradual increase in streets and areas where you need to keep your dog on a lead and having to clean up after your dog with plastic bags and scoops. I certainly do not wish to do this and why I trained my dogs to go on command in appropriate areas.

Relationships are now short lived and having a dog is a long-term commitment. Gradually these restrictions will feed into our systems across Europe making people think twice about owning a dog. These are helpful steps forward for both humans and dogs in our ability to coexist in our modern times. I am certain that there are some dog owners who feel it is they who are being penalised by these insidious increases in restrictions but logically can you fault them?

I also read in the Daily Mail a report given to the British Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress that animals may need therapy for those that show signs of obsessive compulsive disorders like chasing flies, shadows and tails etc. We are now told the cause is a genetic predisposition problem needing medical therapy using expensive anti-depressive drugs and finding an alternative outlet for the animals. The charge is 135 per hour for the specialist treatment sessions.

The report says such disorders are not a result of boredom yet they go on to say the cause can be from the stress of living in an un-stimulating environment. Sounds like a good discription of boredom to me.

The answer given is for the pets to avoid any kind of reinforcement of such behaviour and to have a more stimulating environment, more exercise and toys that get the pets out of the behavioural rut. Did you not just read the very same here in last weeks article?

Non of us, humans or animals are genetically perfect so it is obvious some will be prone to odd individual tendencies like stroking your nose or pulling your ear or what ever that makes us feel contented. As for a dog that chases flies or its tail it gets enjoyment out of the action otherwise they would not do it. For year's owners, trainers and behaviourists have always suggested instead of simply saying NO offer pets a rewarding alternative that will most probably change what was to the animal simply a comforting habit. I used to twiddle with my hair when I was problem solving but now it is so short I got out of the habit. I still do this if my hair is long again so it reminds me to get it cut.

It seems as if they have simply rehashed old established remedies as something new to promote a therapy at an exorbitant price.

The weather is getting hotter and time to consider dogs in cars. They need very good ventilation if they have to stay for even a short time. If you have to leave them, do offer shade and water in none spill containers? Please consider where to park as it may only be in the shade when you first park. Any one with any helpful tips on how they keep their dogs cool living in Spain please send them in and I will pass them on.

Behavioural updates

Nothing much to report this week but I do have the gas collar for the barking dog and Roger Mugford has sent me some recipes for sticky foods I am assured will take a dog many hours of rewarding enjoyment for it to extract it from inside a Kong. Well for those who read last weeks article now know I have just the right candidate to prove this.

I will give the Javea Shelter dog another day out to check he is still well socialised and is ready for his trip to his new home and owners in Switzerland.

Just one point following on from last weeks article and the use of the compressed air canister as a close proximity aid for dog aggression etc. I will not sell this to owners unless they fully understand the necessity of the timing in its use and how to use it as part of a formulated retraining plan. If you had two dogs fighting in the street and you were to use the compressed air with the dogs off the lead one or both could run off and under a vehicle. Used on a nervous dog or cat you may not see them for days after they have disappeared. Like the gas collars it is only another simple training aid to help retrain but it makes it that much quicker.

An Aid for you to use if your dog shows aggression to bikes etc

You may remember Princess Anne and her dog that had chased after two children on bikes and how Roger Mugford had retrained the dog to stop this using a Master Plus gas collar to dissuade the dog not to ignore the owners command to come for a reward. Notice not a NO command used here.

The simple logic to a dog is that it will do something repeatedly if it receives some benefit from doing it. If it does not have some gain then it will stop.

If we look at Pavlov's dogs, again they learnt that for a bell ringing food appeared so the dogs would salivate. To make dogs learn more quickly food would not always be the reward in order to stimulate memory implanting. The dogs were then well conditioned. If you wish to retrain to something else, ringing the bell with no more food rewards the dogs will soon learn not to respond. On the other hand, they are now eager to respond to any new stimulus. If you teach your dog with a clicker, the click informs the dog that it will receive a reward and or praise if it conforms to a command.

I have had a number of enquiries recently about dogs chasing children on bikes, skateboards etc and how do they retrain them. Many people simply want to borrow the collars without incurring the expense of a retraining programme so wishing to try to retrain them themselves. Is this possible and the answer is yes and no.

If the dog had the right command and reward on the very first occasion it tried to chase a bike then they would not chase them. By giving the wrong commands at the wrong time and using protectionism along with the owners own apprehension relayed to the dog down the lead then there is a lot to change for both dog and owner.

Owners are aware that their dog is potentially dangerous yet one person said to me "I will only put a muzzle on my dog as a last resort". My answer is as always if you had a gun that could go off at anytime would you not think it wise to remove the bullets. The next statement I hear is that if they cannot retrain themselves they will keep the dog away from children and bikes and keep it locked up. My answer to this is as always what do you do if the dog gets out. The owner of the Staffy using a muzzle says that people respect her for using it and she has no problem with its use.

For not wishing to incur the cost of retraining, owners are prepared to take on a very big risk. I do find it very difficult to walk away from such cases because I have seen the subsequent carnage of following such misplaced confidence. The hesitancy is maybe because the owners have been trying to retrain their dog for a long time without success and think it will also take ages for a behaviourist or trainer to correct. Often, like Princess Ann's dog, specialists usually solve them quite simply and quickly.

So where are owners going wrong? It is in the use of NO or negative commands. Remember the dog that retaliated at dogs savagely barking behind a fence only had two squirts of gas for the dog to obey the Come command with praise. No was never said to the dog and yet now four months later it still does not retaliate. Remember last week I asked the owner of the dog chasing shadows to use the Come command with praise rather than No with praise simply because it is a happy command and a much better alternative. You should not need to say NO to your dog just an alternative command that you can praise your dog for responding to.

The second point is owners are aware of the danger but they show negative protection by keeping the dog away from the potential problems instead of positive re-training. Is it not better if a dog does not like bikes to become use to them and learn not to chase them?

Sometimes a fresh experienced eye with some lateral thinking can probably see all the problems and cure them very quickly.

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