Friday, 30 March 2012

TO CHOKE OR NOT TO CHOKE...THAT IS THE QUESTION?


Choke chains Or check chains or slip collars/leads. We changed the name because Choke chain is not PC anymore. Just like Christmas or the Golly on the Jam jar. Its a Choke chain, designed to deliver pain to your dog for doing something you dont want it to do, lets call a spade a spade, or should that be shovel? Anders Hallgren  Swedish Animal Behaviorist carried out a study in 1992 and concluded that of the dogs in the study that had been on the receiving end of harsh jerks of the lead as a means of correction for pulling, 91% had cervical injuries, (Neck injuries). A leading chiropractor who examined the dogs with the neck injuries concluded  that a further 78% had spinal injuries which seemed to constitute an irritation which led to anxiety and aggression. In layman's terms the dog had a back injury because its owner kept jerking on the choke chain which led the dog to be firstly upset and then angry. Kind of common sense really when you think of it. So there you are holding onto a very large dog suffering from a spinal injury so naturally its in agony and short tempered. Along comes an innocent bystander with their obedient poodle and your dog snaps at it, which results in you jerking back on the lead causing even more pain resulting in it kicking off even more, completely spiralling out of control. So much for the summer evening stroll along the river bank with your faithful companion by your side. Their nasty pieces of equipment just as bad as shock collars. Stop using them, your injuring your dog, and if thats the only way you know how to persuade your dog to walk by your side, seek help. Or do the dog a favour and give it to someone who the dog does want to walk beside of its own free will. By for now.......

ANXIETY - SEPERATION

A friend of mine recently had to have her dog put to sleep. I read somewhere that some people like to think that when their pet dies it goes over Rainbow bridge. Rainbow bridge leads to a meadow where your pet dog plays, waiting for the day when you join it and together you both go to heaven. I can see how that can be comforting to know that you join up again in the after life with your faithful friend who has no doubt been a part of your life for between 10 or 20 years. My Spice was 19 years young when her time ran out. That is a fair old age for a dog to live. What is more remakable was that she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer when she was 9 or 10 and the vet told us at the time that she had maybe 12 months left to live. Spice was a great dog, a medium sized brindle coloured cross breed. Extremely intelligent. Back whe we just got her from a rescue home, I knew very little about canine behavior or obedience training. But she managed to teach me enough for us to form a good relationship. I never understood her in the same way as I understand the dogs I have now. And that was because I never knew anything about how dogs think. So looking back, and knowing what I know now I have to marvel at how she was able to get me to understand her. They say in all the text books I read that dogs dont have emotions like people, and that we shouldnt try to give them associate them with human traits. I am trying to sell my house at this time and I'm reminded of the only time before when we were selling our house. Same thing happened we had the house up for sale for months, with viewer after viewer trudging through our flat with not one taker. This lasted for six months, it was the most stressful time of my life. It was coming up to the summer holidays and still no takers. So we decided to take the house off the market whilst we went on holiday. Spice went into kennels for two weeks and off we went. The kennels she went to were really good and knew spice very well so she was happy to go there and usually ended up in the kennel owners house with her own dog for company. When we came back we imediately put the house back up for sale. My wife was pregnant with our first child and we had to move from the one bedroom flat to a house with more rooms and a garden for spice. The first week we put the house on the market we had a viewer on the Monday night. Along they came and seemed very interested. Next day the called and asked could they bring their parents to see the flat on the Thursday. Great a genuinely interested viewer. On the Thursday I came home from work as normal, however not normal was that I didnt take Spice out straight away. The thought was that I would wait till just before the viewer came and then I would take her out whilst my wife showed them round the flat. We lived above a newsagent and as luck would have it we had no milk. So I nipped downstairs telling Spice that she wasnt going out yet, amd I promised her I would take her out for a lovely long walk when the viewers came in about an hour. I shut the door and went downstairs. I was litterally only five minutes and when I came back up I opened the front door to the hallway and a foot wide strip of carpet had been torn from the front door all the way back to the wall. The viewers were due in 30 minutes. Now all the books will tell you this was not Spice saying `and thats for leaving me in here and not taking me out`. But it certainly felt like it. Dogs dont have human emotions, they dont hold grudges, they dont wait to get you back. Wouldnt life be a whole lot simpler if we as humans learned a thing or two from our canine friends. There would be less fighting over trivial matters. Bye for now.......

Monday, 26 March 2012

PUPPY SOCIALISATION


The primary and most important time for puppy socialization is the first three months of life… For this reason, it should be the standard of care for puppies to receive such socialization before they are fully vaccinated… While puppies’ immune systems are still developing during these early months… appropriate care makes the risk of infection relatively small compared to the chance of death from a behavior problem.” - The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior *Puppies provided with poor socialization or deprived of environmental exposure often develop lifelong deficits and dysfunctional behaviors. A puppy isolated early in life from other puppies and humans will not only fail to establish satisfying social contact, or enjoy companionship with people later in life (such puppies are extremely fearful of any social contact), they will also exhibit widespread behavioral and cognitive disabilities as well. Isolated puppies exhibit poor learning and problem-solving abilities and are extremely hyperactive or rigidly inhibited, are emotionally over-reactive and unable to encounter novel social or environmental situations without extreme fear and avoidance, and are socially and sexually incapacitated." – “Handbook of Applied Behavior and Training, Steven R. Lindsay”.In order to prevent unwanted behaviours later in your dog’s life, it is clear that socialising the pup at a very early stage will greatly reduce that risk. It was interesting to read that socialisation should begin as early as the first 12 days from when the pup is born. Indeed further research has highlighted that there are roughly ten key stages in the socialisation of puppies.


DEVELOPMENT STAGES                      AGE

Neonatal Period           Birth to 12 Days
Transitional period       13 to 20 days
Awareness period        21 to 23 days
Canine socialisation     21 to 49 days
Human socialisation     7 to 12 weeks
Fear imprint period       8 to 11 weeks
Seniority classification 4 to 8 months
Flight instinct period    4 to 8 months
Second fear period       6 to 14 months
Maturity                     1 to 4 years

Dr. Ian Dunbar in his book “After you get your puppy……the clock is ticking”, outlines 5 key stages in a puppies development.

1. Neonatal (birth - 2 weeks);
2. Transitional (2-3 weeks);
3. Socialisation 3-13 weeks);
4. Adolescence (13 weeks - 6 months);
5. Adulthood.
Taken from the studies carried out by John Paul Scott and John Fuller.

As mentioned before I now have five dogs of my own, my two Labs were bought from a breeder at the age of eight weeks and the other three were all rescue dogs acquired at different ages, and at different times I add, ranging from seven months to fourteen months. What was interesting after doing the research for the question above was how I am able to recognise some of the unwanted learned behaviours that each of the rescue dogs came with and indeed how the labs developed, due to my misguidance, some unwanted behaviours which I later had to retrain to correct.
A few years after getting the Lab pups we decided to get a rescue dog. We got Laya a medium sized sandy coloured cross breed. Right from the first day home we knew she was very nervous around men. Particularly men in uniforms.
Her history was that she had been turned out into the street not long after she had been weaned and lived off the streets for four or five months. She was then captured by the local dog warden and put into animal shelter. She was rehomed but because of her issues she again was put out onto the street and again caught by the dog warden and back into animal shelter. Her behaviour was such that she was not ideally suited to be rehomed to your average household as lengthy and patent rehabilitation was required. It was sheer luck that we came upon her and my wife being a soft touch for a hard luck story soon convinced me we had to give this pup a chance. There were two incidents early on which caused us some alarm. The first was when we stupidly left a bag of kitchen rubbish on the floor and Laya decided to go into the bag naturally to scavenge. This had been her norm for the first few months of her life living on the street. Hearing the rustling I moved to the kitchen and called her name at the same time moved up behind her to take hold of her by the neck and get her out the bag. As I touched the back of her neck she wheeled round with a ferocious snarl for her size to tell me to back off this was hers. However as quick as she snarled she backed down rather sheepishly and moved away. Instinct had taken over. The second and more alarming incident was not many months after we were attending a local gala day and had been walking around mingling with folks and had been getting admiring glances because of the two labs and this cute looking puppy. People had been coming up to say hello and whilst the labs were their usual delighted to see every body Laya would move round behind my wife or myself away from the strangers. We went back to the car and put the dogs in the back. It was a 4 x 4 and so we sat at the back door with the door open and strategically sat so that the dogs couldn’t get past us out the door. Again people strolled by and made admiring nods and comments, however one little boy decided he would come over and say hello, as quick as a flash he stretched past me to clap Laya inside the car. At this, she lunged forward baring teeth and snarling quite ferociously. Fortunately she never made contact and the lad had good reflexes. But that was a warning that she had issues and we hadn’t been aware of them. To ‘fix’ these issues we embarked on an intense rehabilitation program desensitising her to both men, particularly men in uniforms i.e. Postmen, Policemen, Lollipop men and men in high Vis jackets and children both male and female. The alternative to success was unthinkable. By far her favourite thing was playing with a ball. We used this to make every interaction with adult males and children a positive experience. Encouraging as many strangers as we could find in parks, the local training school, whilst walking in the street to ‘play’ fetch with Laya with a ball we carried everywhere. It took time for her to trust us and the individuals but I’m happy to report there have been no further incidents and indeed she is quite calm when men approach and happily goes to children to initiate play with a ball.
According to Dr. Ian Dunbar in his book “After you get your puppy…the clock is ticking”. The second most important thing you can teach your puppy is to be people friendly, especially the family it is living with. The most important thing to teach your puppy is bite inhibition.

Bite inhibition means training for a "soft mouth. It teaches your pup to use his mouth gently with people”. Says Melissa Alexander in her journal Click for Joy: Questions and Answers from Clicker Trainers and their Dogs. This is another of the situations on my list of things that I would want to introduce to my new puppy.  The reasons are fairly common sense. If a puppy is not taught bite inhibition early on then the consequences later on can be a potential train wreck. From having a sore nip when roughhousing with your young adult dog to something far more worse if the dog is in a fight mode where flight is not an option. Examples given by Dr Dunbar include were the dog is perhaps accidentally trod upon whilst sleeping or perhaps chewing on a tasty bone. A dog that has no bite inhibition can cause and adult and more worryingly a child serious damage. The dog does not understand the action by the human maybe an accident, it just reacts instinctively. If the dog has been taught good bite inhibition then the likely hood of damage done to skin or flesh is greatly reduced.
Even dog on dog interactions are less stressful. When two dogs meet and don’t exactly hit it off, any escalation is usually a lot of snarling and snapping with very little or no contact where dogs have good bite inhibition. However dogs who have not had the opportunity to play fight with other canines or adults does not learn not to bite down hard when making contact and that is when ears get bitten or necks and blood is drawn. This is unacceptable and causes great distress to the injured party and indeed their owners. There have been many recorded instances in the press of children being mauled by their family pet. I don’t suggest that these dogs have never had bite inhibition training, but if properly socialized and taught proper bite inhibition then the likely hood of an adult dog causing damage is greatly reduced. However, leaving any child unsupervised with the family pet is never recommended. I have five dogs and they have all been properly socialized and I trust them completely around adults and children alike. We live next door to a family who has an eight year old girl, who can be very excitable at times. Although I don’t think for one minute any of my dogs would harm her, accidents always happen when you are not around and the fact that the five dogs are playing together can sometimes times lead to competition for attention and even competition for resource possession i.e. the ball. I therefore ensure that play between my neighbor’s daughter and my dogs are always supervised by an adult, one that I know my dogs will listen to.
           
Another area I consider is more a necessity than anything else is car travel. I have had a number of handlers come to me saying that their dog is not a good traveller. Car travel these days is more and more frequent. A lot of dog owners now live in urban areas and often have to travel even short distances by car to get to an area where they can give their dogs much needed off lead exercise in a safe area. We don’t have many if any dog parks in the UK like America, but we do have plenty of open countryside and beaches which are at most one to two hours drive away from anywhere in the country. However getting your dog to be quiet and be still in the car for up to two hours is not easy. So the earlier you can acclimatise your pup to car travel the better. All of my dogs travel in the back of my pickup. It is not an open back and has a hard top. But they need to be able to travel together and not be anxious as I travel for up to two hours every other weekend taking my dogs down to Berwick Upon Tweed to the holiday caravan.
So it is imperative that my dogs can travel comfortably and without stress for up to two hours in the back of the pickup. Most dog owners don’t have the luxury of having a pick up where the dogs are separated from the passenger area of a car, it is therefore more important in this case for puppy to be relaxed and enjoy the ride. The other reason we need a relaxed pup or dog in the car is hat it could potentially be a hazard whilst driving if the driver is either taking his or her eyes off the road to see what’s fretting the puppy or worse, the pup escapes the baggage area and clambers over the driver whilst travelling.

In conclusion then there are many areas of socialisation for your new puppy and other than bite inhibition and socialisation with children and adult males you should prioritise what is most important for your puppy relative to your individual lifestyle and needs. In my case car travel, for someone living on a farm it may be the farm animals, chickens and horses etc. However what is clear is that the more you socialise your puppy and introduce it to as many different situations and people the more likely you will have a balanced well mannered puppy as it grows into adolescence and adulthood.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

INTRODUCTION

Hi My name is Thomas and welcome to my blog. I have never done this before so it should a new experience for both of us. Me for writing it and you for reading it. On this blog I am going to share with you my experiences of being a dog owner and the trials and tribulations that I encounter on a daily basis. Firstly though a bit about my background. I work full time in a factory as an Operations Manager but in my spare time I devote a lot of energy into spending time with my lovely wife and our five dogs. I have always had dogs even when I lived at home with my parents. There was always a dog in the house. When I married nearly 30 years ago it seemed appropriate that I get a dog. We got Spice a medium sized brindle coloured cross breed from an animal rescue center in Glasgow. She was our only dog for the next 19 years until old age finally took her over and off she went over Rainbow bridge. Hopefully waiting in the meadow for me. After she passed away I vowed then never to get another dog the pain of losing her was too much. She went to sleep in the November and I lasted until March the following year before the urge to get another dog overcame me. My wife decided that she would like to join in and we decided to get a Labrador dog each. A boy for me and a girl for my wife. I carried out some research and eventually found a breeder in Ayrshire who had one male and four female pups for sale. I visited the breeder saw the parents and was happy to proceed with taking the male and one of the females. That was the start of an adventure which I am still on. We decided to take the pups to training classes. Something I never thought of doing with Spice. That was when my interest in training and behavior was born. Since then I have gained a teaching qualification through the British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers and a qualification on Canine Psychology with the Animal Care College. I am also a volunteer assessor now with German Shepherd Rescue - Scotland. I run my own One - 2 - One Basic obedience training business and have increased my pack now to five dogs. The two Labs, two medium sized cross breeds which we got from SSPCA and B.A.R.K. kennels in Berwick Upon Tweed, and a white Northern Inuit which came last from Dogs Trust in Glasgow.

I read and research anything and everything I can get my hands on about dogs and dog behavior which I find fascinating, and I enjoy nothing more than watching my pack interact and communicate with each other.

I will try to make this blog funny but educational. If anybody wants to know anything or would like me to discuss anything drop me a line.
Let me know what you think I love feedback.
So long for now.