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Steadiness to gun and food refusal

It was not long after we came to Spain that whilst I was crossing a street in Moraria I noticed a man with metal tube on wheels attached to a long handle in order to push this along the road. (Some of you know what is coming). Half way across the road there was an almighty explosion that I thought ETA had struck. I then noticed Sebastian from the electrical shop was just standing unperturbed and I realised that the bang was from this tube. I am glad I have a strong heart. A dog on the other hand could now have been half way home or up a lamppost. The frequency of these experiences with so many fiestas is all to common in Spain and teaching dogs not to jump out of their skins seems an appropriate exercise.

All my dogs enjoyed a good firework display and just sat in our back garden watching in awe at the spectacle. They were accustomed to every type of bang we could conjure to make them aware that noise was something not to fear. Mind you watching some of the Spanish displays you can also feel the explosion, something I did not notice in the United Kingdom displays. I have also noticed many Spanish owners just holding in their arms their little dogs at such displays and they seem unperturbed by the noise.

From the early days of receiving our new puppy, we create games that include as many noises we can find like dropping pan lids during a game and to continue the play as if nothing had happened. We would then progress onto balloons of a similar colour. These would be blown up to about half full and given to the dog to play with. As soon as the dog bit the balloon it produced a bang and we gave plenty of praise and as if by magic produced another balloon. The pup could not associate the little bit of rubber on the floor to the original balloon and that it believed by some miracle we had made it disappear with a bang and reappear again. Gradually we blew the balloons up to full to produce an even bigger bang. We used paper bags, crisp packets in fact anything that would make a noise. Eventually we would then progress to playing exciting games of Cowboy and Indians with children’s cap guns. We then used .22 short blanks followed by .22 long blanks and then onto the bigger guns including shotguns. We thought up as many games as we could in order to included all and every bang we could produce. By this method, we can condition the dogs to accept bangs, as an everyday part of life, were harmless and full of fun. Though we start with puppies, you can just as easily retrain older dogs to become use to these events as well by playing the same noisy games. In the United Kingdom we have been conditioned to hide away our dogs and cats from firework displays as they could be harmful and frightening but like all of us if we get use to something we do survive and come to enjoy the experience. If you watch the dog’s ears when they see the flash, they automatically fold them back to reduce their noise intake. Just try shouting at your dog and you will see what I mean. Here in Spain it looks as if pets simply grow up to accept them.

Talking to Vets here in Spain the poisoning of pets appears quite common for reasons of burglary or just hatred of the dogs. Food refusal in the United Kingdom is a standard test in the Police and Civilian competitions so again from the puppy stage we normally train straight away but not as a game.

First, we must consider how they would administer the poison and how we can counter this effectively. A healthy dog is a natural scavenger and opportunist concerning food. If any dog found a piece of liver in its driveway, it would eat it in a moment. Another trick is for a person to say “Good dog” and throw a piece of meat to the dog who again would eat it as a reward. In fact, if a property were on the list of burglar I would expect that if dogs patrolled the grounds a knife or a silenced gun would prove more effective. Opportunist or professional burglars cannot sit around for hours so they need something that is fast acting. Never the less there is a problem so how do you protect your dog from poisoning. Again, you can teach the older dogs as well as puppies so if you feel your dog is in danger you will have to make some new rules regarding the feeding time. First of all the family must be involved with the choice of a command to eat. Neither do you give demonstrations to anyone of how and what you have done. This is like your PIN number. As on occasions you may take your dogs, somewhere else feed your dog on a very distinctive designed rubber or plastic mat with its own feeding bowl and water bowel. I had a drinking fountain and taught my dogs how to operate it, as I hate standing water. Away from home, they drank directly from water bottles with a spout. A useful trick is to use food as the command to speak (bark) so if someone were to offer food to your dog or it finds food he would commence barking. Never use food as a reward whilst teaching this exercise lots of praise will suffice.

There are some commercial dog products called taste deterrents that are now available you can purchase that leave the dog with a very bad taste if it is smeared onto things you do not want chewing or injected into things you don’t want eating. Many years ago, my father smeared mustard on the top edge of our spaniel’s wicker dog basket but it only made it taste better and by the next morning, we only had the base left.

You must choose a command word for eat that you all will remember and stick to it. Every meal time place the meal on the distinctive mat and give the command. Do not use the meal as a test by placing it anywhere else other than the mat, as that action is a big tease. Stick to this routine religiously.

Obtain some meat of the type you dog will eat and leave it lying around for your dog to find. If it tries to eat any say no and the speak command. Once your dog starts to bark, give it loads of praise and do something your dog likes to do but no food or titbits. The first attempt is easiest after your dog has already eaten just to get your dog use to the routine. You can use the lead to help you enforce the no command. If you find your dog tasting the food, try injecting the taste deterrent into the meat and let your dog have a taste whilst you watch from a distance. Try this product in all sorts of tasty meats and sweets until either the dog is happy not to touch the items or you think it is now detecting the product. There are other similar products so using different ones will help condition the dog not to bother trying but just to bark or if you are not at home just to walk away or if someone has tempted it, to bark at them. I will check to see if you can purchase these products in Spain and I will obtain some from the United Kingdom and America. Remember a dog will only repeat doing some thing it likes to do so if eating meat left laying around produces a bad result it is likely not to do this again. You must practice with your dog regularly to maintain this memory and you should find that on the occasion there is an attempt to poison your dog they do not succeed. The question the dog will ask is what is in it for me is that not having a nasty taste experience it will therefore obtain lots and lots of praise. Just remember that for a hundred successful practices just the real one will harm your dog so practices puts the odds of success in your favour.

When I was in one competition the criminal was hiding in a trailer with a load of liver. My dog searched the field and then found the criminal and all the liver. So awed by all the liver he just looked at it and drooled forgetting about any barking to indicate to me he had found the criminal. After a few moments, he started to bark and fell out of the trailer followed by a lot of laughter from the criminal. Even whilst I searched him, he could not stop laughing with tears rolling down his face. As we escorted the criminal back the judge, ask what happened. Tip had seen the liver and forgot everything for a while as if Christmas had just come. Not until the criminal offered Tip some liver did he suddenly panic and remembered what he was suppose to do. He started panic barking at the criminal and then fell backwards out of the trailer possibly thinking he had let the team down. The criminal said he wished he had had a camera as my dogs face was a picture when he realised he had made such an error. (Never mind I am just the handler).

Next week I have some local cases that you may find of interest, as both are representative of my previous articles on leadership problems. One is where a bitch has taken on the full roll of the leader and another where a year old dog considers it only has one roll of leadership left to maintain.

Every dog and bitch has a built in blue print or tick list of what makes a leader. In the wild if both the male and female leaders died, the pack would be without any leadership. Instinct takes over on how the next in line can become the rightful leaders. Without the experience of living in a pack, they know what they should do but have not the learned skills of how to accomplish this. This makes for some very confusing behaviour that we at first find very illogical.

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