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Behavioural Updates. Dog's aggression to babies. Dogs howling in the back of cars whilst travelling. The retrieval of a dumbbell


This has been a very busy week for me to try seeing as many dogs here in Spain as I can. It does teach me where places are though and how to follow directions. I do need such training badly, as I lost the airport again.

There is considerable interest in retraining dogs using the gas collars but they are still only a training aid. Using these at first does seem like some amazing solution but there is a potential to sit back and say thank heaven for some peace. Sorry not quite as easy as that and patience is required. The collar is just an attention grabber but they can stop some problems by them selves like persistent barking. Most important is the choice of reinforcement command used together with a change in owner's personal view of their dogs with preparedness not to feel that you may appear too foolish in front of people by showing your dog ecstatic praise. This is more a male problem than for women and having seen PC (Big) John Poole get down on his hands and knees to show ecstatic praise to his new pup simply because he sat on command surly we all can do the same. It is not for long, as eventually you dog will learn it only needs a smile from you to show your approval.

The days of Barbara Woodhouse who put dog training for men back 20 years has long gone but men do find it difficult to show their feelings particularly to a small dog trying its best to get through to you "what is it you want Dad? Talking to a vet many years ago I said it must be difficult to treat an animal that cannot speak. The reply was "No they do tell you if you watch and listen".

This week I have a problem that shows what I mean. I would like you to think what you would do if you could imagine imprisoned for life saw no one and the only companion was a fly. It would annoy you for sure but what would you do to occupy your time. Maybe try catching it with chopsticks and after many years, what if you caught it, what would you do. Let it go again or as a cat bored with playing with the mouse it caught, kill it. It is how we utilise our time that keeps us sane. It is the same for dogs but it does depend on what it likes to do to occupy its time. Some dogs like to do absolutely nothing whilst others need something to do. I have seen many working dogs who are sent into retirement spend hours running round in circles or destroying things simply because it has nothing to do. The rest fit somewhere in between and it maybe with the next case.

This dog I can only describe as huge. It is very friendly and very intelligent. It does not bark except at the unruly dog next door and will not walk in puddles. For the following annoyances, they have had their dog checked by one of the best vets in the UK and there is nothing wrong that may account for these. The main one is chasing shadows or light patterns. It is also very restless when people go swimming in the pool and is an attention seeker. Over the years, the owner has become quite knowledgeable about such problems and is following the current accepted methods of retraining.

For the attention seeking, the owners ignore the dog and ask their visiting friends to do the same. After a short while I let the dog show me what he does for attention and I ended up with this, huge dog across my lap and my faced washed free. Standing up and turning away did do the trick to stop this. Any other dog would find this sufficient but with this dog, his persistence knows no bounds. The owner says if the dog is not getting the attention he thinks he deserves he will collect towels or items like shoes or slippers of those present to say "Hi, look what I have found and do I have your attention now". Trying to ignore a dog that has your purse or best shoes is not an easy thing to do. The dog appears to have tried twice only urinating on the floor but the owner just ignored this sent the dog out and cleaned up. It should receive a medal for such persistence. The question is why does it want the attention and what does he want to do?

It is the shadow chasing that is annoying the owners most of all and so I had previously sent over one of my remote gas collars to try to dissuade the dog from continuing with this. This is one of those repetitive problems like dogs chasing their tails or trying to catch flies and these have become a habit fulfilling some need. What the owners must do is not use NO but find something to replace this that too has some reward.

With two weeks using the collar, the owners and friends have notice the dog has become quieter so in time continued use may break this cycle. The one change I have asked for is for the owners to change the reinforcement command from NO to COME. I think an alternative positive command with praise is better that a negative command with praise. We hoped to have a demonstration of the dogs shadow chasing but though this is worse when other people are in the house, it would not do it with me there. Maybe it does not consider me as people.

The dog does not like the water and when it is at the seaside, it will try to bite the waves. At the poolside, it will go round and round showing apprehension for the people in the pool and if possible will try to drag people out to safety. It will play with floatation aids and will if it can get a hold of them probably chew them up in what looks more like a good game. It has fallen in on a few occasions but into the deep end and does not know to swim to the steps to get out. Having to haul such a heavy dog out of the chlorinated pool has probably reinforced the dogs fear.

When you have some repetitive symptoms it could be the dog is bored. Maybe it is not ready for retirement. Possibly, some fun training like tracking, Police dog training or agility. Maybe it needs something to stimulate it or occupy its time. Most toys it has had it destroys though the one thing it cannot destroy is the Kong. This could keep him occupied but any treats inserted in it are extract in a few minutes. What it needs is some cheesy food with the consistency of chewing gum to keep this dog occupied. I will see if any such product exists. Either this or it needs to play scrabble or have a Play Station 2.

We will see how a few more weeks with collar work for the shadow chasing and for the pool problem when it becomes a bit warmer, I will go to see the dog and try to encourage it and come into the water at the steps end to play and to show it there is nothing to fear.

Dog's aggression to babies and very young children

I have received a very concerned email regarding a medium sized dog snapping at the owner's child that is now crawling about the floor. The dog has been in the house for 8 years and now comes along a baby. What should she do?

This is not an easy one but we must put children first. One unguarded moment and a child's' life is changed forever. We do hear of people who go through this same phase with their dogs and have no problem so why do some dogs resent or are jealous of a new child entering the family.

Most dogs are not hierarchical so have no care if a new soul enters the pack and the dog is demoted one place. On the other hand some dogs do resent this and will seek out attention to find reinforcement that their station within the pack is still the same but higher than that of this smelly little thing crawling all over the place. That is why it is best to keep your attention towards you dog the same and never positively show it more attention, as this will support its belief that it has an improvement within the pack and a placing higher than that of the baby.

I would recommend you purchase a muzzle before the baby comes home and teach your dog to become use to it. This way you can at least relax a little. It is then necessary that your dog sees the baby gradually and when you remove the muzzle, your baby can become a fountain of food (titbits). If your baby becomes a positive improvement to your dog's tummy, they will become the best of friends. I can still remember watching a young child and a dog licking the same ice cream on the beach at Scarborough. Yuck.

Dogs howling in the back of cars whilst travelling

If you own a husky type then you will know what this means and how they make a mockery of any in car entertainment. Your dog could of course be commenting about your driving or choice of music or it could be just singing along to the bearings or disc brakes sounds that are normally above human levels of hearing. If you think, it could be your car at fault then do try your dog in another car and if this helps ask the garage to smear copper ease onto your disc pads to quieten them. Another trick is to find an off station position on your radio to produce a "Shussssh" sound that is a bit like White Noise. This may counteract the bearings sound and stop your dog singing. I do not mean this as solutions only indicate if sound is the problem.

The Retrieve of a dumbbell

From the Kennel Club for Working Trials it says upon a command from the judge, you will throw a dumbbell, which your dog should then retrieve. If you take up Obedience Competition then this becomes a little more and very precise. For me and most other people this is too much for normal daily life. If we become too strict, it knocks all the fun out of the game.

Unless you wish to work in competitions then in my dog training classes I accept your dog fetching anything back. It could be its ball or squeaky toy or what ever and so long as the dog brought it back to you that would be sufficient for playing with your dog. Never chase after your dog or you will never get it back.

Training for this is usually to teach the throw the stick game but I did have a dog the other week that will not play fetch. No one has ever taught it but the new owners will have this to look forward to teaching him this.

One problem people do have is encouraging the dog to hold. The best and accepted method is just to place the item into your dog's jaws gently saying HOLD. Give lots of praise as you hold the bottom jaw and stroke the top jaw so keeping the article in your dog's mouth. Do look happy as well. This method is translating the command to the action then you can finish with Leave and again much praise. Once you have the hold and the retrieve working well you will find you can dispense with having to say the hold command. I still use it when I think my dog has found an odd article and I need him to keep holding it.


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