Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
We all speak with one voice and owners understand us
Continuing with the theme of what owners, vets, and behaviourists require of each other in curing problems, a case came in this week that is a good example of what I am explaining.
The most important point is that we all work together and all understand the problems and cures. Working in our own little worlds with our own languages it is sometimes difficult for a vet to understand the behaviourist or the other way round or each has their own pet methods of curing the problem. Even different behaviourists with different experience promote differing solutions.
Such a lack of similarity leaves the pet owners wondering who is right and which way to turn. If advice is different from different people how does anyone know which expert is giving the correct method?
The most important aim for us is to solve the problem that will satisfy the owner. The problem is though some owners have their own ideas of how their dogs think which can stop the correct cure from working. Owners must be able to know that there is a cure if they are prepared to follow prescribed procedures. Owners need to trust the cure offered is the correct one so they must have the faith in the people that are proposing them.
Calling oneself a vet after following many years of study and exams is certainly an important credential yet working with animals does not allow vets the opportunity of in-depth study of animal behaviourism. At least they have knowledge but they do accept they have not had the experience in behavioural solving that an experience behaviourst has acquired.
I always suggest that owners having pet problems should first ask their vet for their advice. Often they can solve these or recognise that in some cases changing their pet’s diet solves many other problems.
You will have noticed I have not included obedience trainers here because basic training does not, no matter how well advertised, cure imbedded dog behavioural problems. A dog frightened of scooters or children is not the cured by learning to walk to heel in some field. It may well give the owners some control but it is not the answer. Even socialising with those dogs at the school does not mean dogs are socialised with dogs anywhere else and only socialisation training can do this.
I recently recived a request to provide some socialisation classes and though I do an assessment class, I only do the one in order to see what problems the dog has. After that, I offer a training plan that the owners can follow that will correct those problems. That is all that owners normally need.
I do not see any need for an owner to spend a fortune on regular obedience training when the dog can already walk reasonably well by the owner’s side and is not a problem with most other things but that it simply does not like walking in town or near cars etc. Learning to walk in field or church hall is of little help.
Owners have been telling me of the costs of obedience training here in Spain and to me it would seem like they are asked to have to buy a new car simply because the windscreen wipers do not work. Normally an eight-week safety-training course is all that owners need if they are not interested in competition training.
You may recall I wrote some weeks ago that we were trying to bring together other behaviourists here in the Costa Blanca so that we not only sing the same song but also that everybody understands all the words.
Again, the following case study does show why we need to show owners continuity of effective cures for problems. It seems as if we have broadened out even further and I have heard from Lisa Crisp who lives in the Costa del Sol and is a behaviourst as well as writing similar articles in her area. She would like to join with us in order to broaden and standardise our cures by combining all our talents and experiences.
Her welcome response also answered a number of requests I have been receiving about where owners could purchase Burns Pet food. I understand that this type of food claims it can solve many of the common pet problems. To be honest I had never heard of it.
In the UK, I have always fed my dogs on raw meat so I am new to all in one balanced dried pet food that seems common place now. Apparently, Lisa also sells this Burns food and looking for someone to transport this up to the Costa Blanca for those who wish to purchase this. If any carriers are interested or are running back empty from the south, please do contact Lisa Crisp direct.
On the subject of dog food I have been asked what I feed Winston. When I first collected him, the shelter gave me a full bag of the typical type of dried food they had always been feeding him. I had seen him rapidly eat this at the shelter as if this was to be his last meal. Once at home he was not so keen and I thought this was probably due to the lack of competition. After a month, he still was not that interested but that was what I fed him. Only by removing the bowl after 10 minutes could I speed him up and to actually finish it. I was also concerned with dried food in such a hot climate.
On a trip down south, I was talking to Trevor Ellis who ran the Manchester Police dog section and he suggested I tried adding a little tinned dog food like the English version of Chappie. He also suggested that if Winston went to the toilet more than twice a day I was feeding him too much.
Further advice from a friend was to I should add some milk and even curdled milk goes down a treat. Another suggestion was to add a little amount of sunflower cooking oil to improve the condition of his coat. I never have done any of this but when I dropped some two-stroke oil on the floor whilst adding it to our scooter Winston licked it up and seemed to enjoy it. One thing I use to do was to add two raw eggs to all of my dog’s food and with a little biscuit, this formed part of their raw meat meal.
The first time Winston watched me mix into his dried meal some tinned meat, milk, two eggs, and sunflower oil his interest in his food is as it is today; he cannot eat it fast enough. As far as Winston is concerned, I have at last improved my dog feeding culinary skills.
This case study is a good example of giving the right cure and that owners can fully understand and came from the Association of Animals of Campello. There was a dog that seemed to have become a hooligan and could we offer advice to correct this.
We had recived some e-mails regarding this case from both the Association and the owners. Copies also went to a colleague for her views on the problem and possible cures. From this it was easy for the both of us to see that the descriptions given showed that the owners see the dog as having human qualities that in fact they do not possess. This is one of our greatest problems to resolve in having to prove to owners that dogs are in fact more selfish in their need to survive than we wish to have to accept.
I am not saying not to treat dog like children so long as we do not believe it. I talk to Winston and suggest things he does have child-like qualities but this part of the fun of have a pet.
I know that every morning and at every meeting following my return, Winston comes to me to lick my face in greeting. I do treat it like a normal human greeting but know that this is only Winston wishing to check with his leader that his place in the hierarchy is unchanged and he then goes off again happy.
An appointment time was agreed and Winston and I along went along to meet the Hooligan. The dog was in fact a typical young dog that, as I wrote last week, only needs to play. If the owners are unavailable or busy then the dog does everything, it can to attract their attention. These can range from jumping up on the owners to steeling clothing or tools to digging up plants and charging around the garden with them.
Even if you show anger or chase after your dog that has your best clothes in his mouth is to a dog a very good game. Even if you could catch up with your dog and you were even to hit your dog, this does not teach your dog not to do this. All this means is it must outrun you more successfully next time. It is all part of a big game, which the owners need to understand and must not play.
The owners in this case asked for help from another behaviourist and received information about some odd cures but one logical cure was to ignore the dog. This is correct but the person who told them to do this was not experienced enough to explain that this is part of a structured training programme.
The owners did ignore the dog and this seemed to work so they kept this up but after 3 days of constant ignoring the dog, it started seeking attention again. I was surprised it lasted 3 days. Normally a day and a half is the maximum a dog can tolerate such treatment.
The reason this failed was it was far too long. Using the ignoring your dog routine is for ten minuets after you return home, you ignore your dog. Only when the dog has settled down you add a further ten minutes before calling the dog over to you for praise. Even if the dogs does make some mistakes like fowling in the house or ripping up clothes or other damage there is no point is chastising the dog, as it has no idea why.
Suppose you return home to find your dog has done something terrible. If you look through the window, you will see one excited dog wishing to greet you. Only when you enter and see the carnage does this reflect in your face so influencing your body language. This signals to your dog your mood resulting in your dog appearing to look guilty. All it knows is you are unhappy and it ducks.
Dogs live in the now and history and future are not concepts dogs take much interest in.
For this dog its actions were of a normal juvenile dog that had become a little out of control. If owners are not use to the many variations found in dogs at this stage in their lives it does look like the dog is trying to be a hooligan but dogs do not do things for spite. All they are doing is trying to attract your attention.
It does not matter that you have gone out, as time is irrelevant. For your dog is in the now and if it is in need of your attention it will do something that it would do if you were there and you would normally show some response. It does not matter if the response is human anger; to your dog, you are showing it attention. When you return home and see such damage, the dog has long ago forgotten what it had done when it needed you.
Now I can only hope that the owners do now understand their dog much better and will with the help of compressed air to give them that edge my hope is they will follow the reasons and recommended methods for a cure and they should see an improvement very quickly.