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Behavioural updates and the diary of an adopted shelter dog

You may recall an article in the CBN regarding a small child in Cullera who needed forty stitches following a savage a dog attack. At a friends request last week I went to Leeds to visit a family who had a 6-year-old son similarly badly bitten by a local dog. They were concerned that the owners of the dog had requested a behaviourist in the hope of persuading the court not to issue a destruction order. They know other children in the area regularly teased the dog so making the dog so aggressive and assume no one can ever retrain it. The owners of the dog accept that the child in question had never teased the dog but was simply the unfortunate one there when the dog apparently snapped. The parents understand the behaviourist is currently retraining the dog and will appear in court to confirm the dog's rehabilitation and will ask for leniency for the dog.

There is little comfort I could give them and I could only say that the dog, because of poor socialbilty it will have believed it had a right to attack their child. I cannot answer the one question "why us" nor why others quietly think there but for the grace of god. I can only say that I would also try to save the dog providing the owners were prepared to follow a retraining programme and by the time the case came to court, the dog had shown improvement together with much better control by the owners. In control, I mean the way the dog is with other people and not in effect locking the dog away. I would also like to see a requirement by the court for a 6-month reassessment by the behaviourist to become obligatory.

As it is with the Shelter dog I will keep checking him for any sign of lunging at children but I am 95% certain he will not do this again. The remaining 5% is only due to the fact I do not know why he did this in the first place and that off the lead he was quite happy with children.

I have just read the article from Tom Cain about the puppy farms here and it is sad such activities exist simply for financial gain especially when there are laws supposedly outlawing such practices. I can only agree with his advice that if you are interested in having a dog do pay a visit to your local shelter first as they have many dogs looking for a new home: I did.

I have a number of dogs that do not bark whilst they are wearing the Aboistop collars but do when they are not wearing them. As an experiment, I have made a dummy one and we will see if the dogs will realise that this collar does not emit anything and see if they remain quiet. For one dog, the owners have just stopped refilling the collar and this is working but there are now other problems surfacing. The dog has started sitting in the way of the owner so she cannot get to the kitchen and has to go round. I have said to simply show she is going through what ever and that the dog will have to move. There is also some grumbling by the dog and it has taken to growling at a friends bitch. I still believe this is still to do with the fractured hip in some way but I will lend the owners one of my compressed air cans to give them more control.

The other day whilst walking Winston a dog charged up to him showing major aggression. I am currently teaching Winston not to retaliate so I used the compressed air and the other dog shot off. I hope at our next meeting this dog will be more amenable to our legitimate presence. I am very pleased with Winston, as he will now walk calmly past all the gardens where dogs bark at him. Though his hackles are still up he does not bark in retaliation and will walk away unperturbed.

I must call in to see the Vet regarding the dog that had the poorly ears who now it is feeling much better has taking to chasing the neighbours vehicles. I am sure this is only some game play that needs correcting to something less worrying. If he will chase my car then using compressed air should stop this action.

I am hoping on Tuesday to teach Winston to swim and then I can go to visit the dog that chases shadows. The other problem was it also becomes very anxcious for members of the family when they are swimming in their pool.

I must also visit the owners where their dog bit the daughter when she tried to take a sweetie paper away from it. Whilst compressed air will deter any further attacks, I must correct the owner's errors of dominancy training.

Anyone interested in dominancy training please read Jan Fennell's book "The Dog Whisperer". She, like me, has lived with a pack of dogs and has written some very good descriptions of ways you can retrain yourselves to improve your control over your dogs.

I also have a request to give some private training, as the owner is unhappy with the local available training classes. She tells me she has read most of the books on the more modern training methods but for heelwork, she is having little success. The problem is she has a naturally dominant dog that must be out in front whilst walking. She tells me she went for a walk and kept walking backwards or stopping when ever the dog went in front and it took her over three hours to walk three kilometres. Whilst this is the correct method to adopt, it does not seem to be getting through to the dog.

A diary of a newly adopted Shelter Dog

Now that I have my base in Spain, I have Winston to train up as my bombproof dog. Having spent his entire life in the Shelter and now at three years of age, he may think he had died and gone to heaven. Sometimes he was a little reluctant to jump back into the car and maybe he felt I was going to take him back to the shelter but now with his new mattress in the car he cant get in there fast enough.

When I collected Winston the shelter kitted me out with a supply of his usual food, a bowl, a big plastic bed and a blanket. I did not know where he would like to sleep so I left all the doors open and for the first night, he wandered about the secure garden. I looked outside a couple of times and found him in asleep in his basket. The next night I put some rugs down in my bedroom and woke the next morning to find him sleeping on one next to my bed. The third night up came the rugs and he attempted to climb on the bed. I simply said "Ah Ah" and then I turned my back towards him and pretended to go to sleep. I heard him go off into the kitchen and he slept all night on the kitchen rug. I do not try to decide where a dog will sleep but let them organise themselves. If one place is inappropriate, I will make another area appear more comfortable but I do not force them. If you try to make your dog sleep in a certain place your dog may read your tone as corrective and the bed becomes a penalty box and so your dog will not like sleeping there. I have brought his bed into the kitchen but he prefers the rug.

Winston's eating rhythm is upset now and has eaten loads of grass to try to help him settle. Moving house seems to upset tummies for both humans and dogs alike. He has made a few toilet mistakes in the large garden but as I am learning his natural rhythm and I have been able to praise him when he has gone to the toilet on his walks.

Maybe it is a characteristic of dogs from shelters that they do seek out human companionship and why Winston tried to become my shadow. I had to positively ignore him so that he would learn to go off on his own and explore. After a short period, I would call him to me for loads of praise and comfort. When I felt that I had shown him sufficient I would then go off and do something else. Another little problem is if I pat his shoulders, he wishes to mouth my fingers so I show I do not accept this and put my hands in my pockets. We also find that trying to place a medical collar and drops on his neck he becomes very agitated so I will have to touch him in this area more regularly to make him calmer. Eating a ginger nut worked a treat.

He did not seem to know how to play games but as he has settled in, I found he would play the normal chase game and he shot off round the garden at high speed charging back at me. When I pretended to try to catch him he would veer off in another direction. He also had a similar mad five minutes charging about in the long grass at the back of the Arenal much to the amusement of another dog walker. Whilst walking with my friends dogs Winston dropped into the play bow posture towards the dog and then we witnessed a high-speed chase through the orange groves until they were both shattered. I must purchase him one of those balls on a rope to really give him some exercise.

His will sit much quicker for my daughter than he does for me but my excuse is I am busy assessing his character and teaching him non-retaliatory aggression, recalls and redirection to non-verbal signals. Once I know he will sit on command for a titbit, I will teach him the down and the stand. Ginger nuts could work here to teach his these commands more quickly. Stays by showing him the flat of my palm is natural to a dog like a warning sign and I then I fasten him up. What I am teaching is that stay means I will return so just wait. When he knows I will always return I will teach this with out fastening his lead to something. Luckily waiting in the car is not a problem. It is strange but I use to leave the tailgate up my old truck when I use to live with seven German Shepherds and they would all prefer to reside in there than anywhere else. I now find Winston regularly asleep in the back of the car now.

The gasman came yesterday and he was my first visitor. He was a little apprehensive to see Winston so I said he was quite safe and that dog was no problem. Winston went up to him and greeted him then went to sit in the back of the car unconcerned about the engineer's comings and goings. Then next day the pool man came who also asked was the dog safe. I gave the same reply and he was pleased to see such a large good-natured dog. No one can understand why Winston never found a home. Whilst on our walks many people have come up to me and commented what a lovely dog he is.

Roger Mugford wrote in his book A'nt Misbehaving that experienced handlers seem to let their dogs get away with murder, as problems seem so simply corrected. It is as if we run on autopilot and read our dogs correcting any problems as they emerge. I will try not to correct everything straight away as I normally would but allow problems to surface and then go through the corrective procedures normally used. I hope by doing this I will see the same sort of problems many people encounter as you follow the perils of Winston.

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