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We all have dog problems and to let them play is the best therapy

Most people seem to think that I should not have problems with Winston. It is a natural assumption that I will have trained him to perfection making him like a champion obedience dog. No, I have not.

One problem is Winston has to work for a living in that he must help me retrain difficult dogs. Now most of the dogs he has met up to now have not been real aggressive dogs. The dogs we have seen though outwardly, the owners believe their dogs are showing signs of aggression when really all they want to do is play.

Winston lived for most of his life in the shelter from a puppy until he was three and a half years so he is mainly socialised with dogs more that humans but he seems to prefer women. This is probably due to the workers in most shelters being predominately women. One problem I now have is that he has read the old sign on our gate “Cuidado Perro Peligroso” and so has become overly protective of the lady who owns the Villa.

Certainly this is not practising what I preach having a dog that now rushes to the gate to bark at a passing dog or growling at people who do not walk straight in but stand nervously at the gate. He looks a good guard dog but I know he would not attack but never the less I must stop this. The law is no one should be in fear of my dog even if he were never to bite.

When I first started to train Winston the one main problem was to stop him retaliating if attacked. Winston is very agile and very fast so I want him to use only those skills and not actually fight even if he quite adapt at taking care of himself.

Some say I have turned him into a wimp. That to some degree is true but retaliation is just not helpful in retraining an aggressive dog. I need Winston to learn to like playing with all other dogs and using the right doggy language, he can teach even the most difficult dog to learn to play.

We regularly go to see dogs where the owners believed their dogs were showing aggression yet when we do see them they only wanted to play. This is very rewarding because the owners actually see this for themselves and realise their fears were groundless.

This is not to say they were wrong in trying to protect their dogs until they were certain. It is dangerous to experiment with someone else’s dog and then they find that their dog was showing true aggression and harmed another dog.

This is where Winston comes in and I have to train him to put himself at risk. There will be times where some dogs will be aggressive and we need to know which dogs are or are not aggressive so we can correctly retrain them without Winston coming to any harm is my responsibility. He must learn to rely and trust that I know what I am doing as well as my reading correctly Winston’s signals telling me whether the dog is dangerous or just suffering from play deprivation.

I have had some owners complain that German owners when they walk their dogs and see someone else dog walking let theirs off their leads. This is in fact the right thing to do, as the dogs are most often less aggressive off a lead. The problem is that owners let their fear travel down the lead making the dogs become defensive and show aggression. I doubt the German owners would let their dogs off the lead if they knew they were normally aggressive but they are trying to socialise their dogs correctly. This does not always mean there will not be a confrontation because a dog on a lead that shows territorial aggression will create a mirror response. Who then is to blame?

When we go on our Sunday walk, we see many people with dogs where our dogs will just rush up, meet, and play until we have to move on. There are some times we meet people who pick their dogs up or try to hide their dogs. The owners are even showing their dog that they are fearful yet their dogs are just wagging their tails and would love to play yet the owner will have none of it. I am certain that such owners honestly believe their dog will come to harm if they did not protect their dog. They are not prepared to accept that their dog would just love the opportunity to run around with other dogs.

Last night I went past a caravan where there was a dog fastened to a line. Winston went up teasing it to play so I called him away when the Spanish owner came out saying there was no problem and let his dog off the line. I never got Winston back for over half an hour as they ran and ran playing at play fighting until they were both finally worn out. They both had a wonderful time and it is lovely to watch them enjoying the game.

A colleague was telling me she had gone to village where many Spanish owners let their dogs play together in the streets. This is very similar to the roaming dogs of Romania or in New York. There was no sign of aggression and all the dogs were happy but when she through a ball for them: wow, the chance to play. This is what most dogs want to be able to do. Having a ball to chase was even better.

By selective breeding, we have attempted to maintain the puppy likeness that you do not see in adult wolves. Yes, all wolves like to play and will do so for hours but humans like our dogs to retain the puppy look. Because of this, most of our dogs just want to play all the time. Many of the problems we see result from plain boredom where their owners could or would not provide sufficient playtime.

We have a reluctance to accept that we have designed dogs to remain like playful puppies and in an infinite pack that result in them needing lots of playtime. Please do not become overly protective and deny them sufficient fun time. This is one of the reasons dogs are becoming more aggressive.

I know owners are naturally protective of their puppy dog and feel they must keep it from harm as well as not letting it harm other people. This would seem the natural and civilised thing to do but if you look at the statistics of dogs allowed freedom and those that are restricted to a definable territory then restricted dogs learn to show increased territorial aggression more than we have ever seen before.

Reading this the solution would seem I am advocating that we should just let them all out and play together and yes they will and do get along fine because it is their natural rules of how dogs in the infinite pack live together.

This is obviously unacceptable as it is in Romania or in villages where dogs just run about freely and happily as this will inevitable create an accident of some sort or fouling the streets and not everyone is pro dog.

This is why we need socialbility as the middle way in which dogs have a degree of freedom to supervised play as well as having periods of restriction in the owner’s homes.

Dogs have to live in our world and we must be aware of the restrictions we have in order for us to live together. This is what socialisation is all about so if we can persuade owners to stop using protectionism as the way they think is stopping aggression when in fact it is only making it worse. We need to let our dogs play together.

Update on article 77 “No Warning Notices Given”

I have recived many emails now from owners taking the Costa Blanca News into their local English vet surgery’s and finding they know so little about the sort of protection our pets require for living here in Spain or even world wide now.

Some have never heard of Leishmaniosis nor the Scalibor collar or ExSpot. Certainly there seems little warning about the need to immunising cats against Feline Leukemia.

I had an email request for information at to whether it was wise to bring pets over at all with the risks of such diseases. I would say if owners were only coming for a few weeks, with the trauma of travel, then probably English Kennels or catteries are more preferable. If it is for longer periods then providing we are aware of what the Spanish vets feel is necessary in order to protect your pets and you follow their advice then there should not be a problem.

Nothing can be 100% safe and it is just as possible for our pets to contract something just as nasty back in the UK as it is to find something here in Spain. We have to remember our pets do like to be with us and the risk is slight if we immunise against everything we can, take care, and heed local warnings.

Having sent the owners, my advice they visited their vets who agreed the owners should not worry about the problem so long as they do as much as they can to protect them and be watchful. The vet then asked where he could find more information as he had other owners that were coming out to Spain and wished to be able to inform them the best immunisations that owners need for their pets. I have emailed them the Leishmaniosis web information site along with the Feline Leukemia help site.

It would seem that gradually the power of the Costa Blanca News is making progress so that in England, vets are now giving warnings notices to pet owners but it will still be some time before this is normal.

Of course, it would be better if all the vets knew all of our Spanish vets requirements for the best protection for our pets here in Spain. Until then, let us remember to be careful out there.

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