Thursday, 17 April 2014

WHEN SHOULD MY DOG BE ON A LEAD?

According to the Kennel Club’s guidance, which is on their ‘Responsibility and Care leaflet. 

“No matter how well trained or under control a dog might be, it should never be walked off lead in environmentally unsuitable areas or those that do not permit dogs to be off lead”

Lets face it, there are people out there that do not like to interact with dogs. I know, weird, but listen.
Many people have had frightening encounters with dogs just walking down the street. There are many other reasons why we dog owners should be a bit more appreciative of how other people think.
People with mobility limitations, senior citizens, parents with children, people with assistance dogs, other dog owners who’s dogs are maybe reactive or sick, maybe in rehabilitation after surgery. I have a black Lab called Ben who last week just went through some major surgery to remove a Lipoma. Quite a large fatty lump about the size of a grapefruit hanging under his belly. But he is now just recovering and doesn’t get out for long walks. To complicate matters worse he has bilateral laryngeal paralyses, which means I can no longer put a collar around his neck. So I have to use a harness. The point is when I walk him I am constantly looking out for other dog/owner combinations to make sure they don’t come anywhere near us, because I know Ben is a bit grumpy right now and protective of his wound. The people I have described above see a lead as signal that the oncoming dog is under control and won’t jump on them or attack their children. The lead in this case reduces their panic and reassures them. Another reason for keeping our dogs on a lead in public places is that it keeps them safe. Every time something happens, like our dog runs over and knocks over a child or has a go at another dog, or even runs out in front of a car chasing a ball, its always ‘the first time they have ever done that’. Off course it is, because once they have done that one time we learn and make sure it doesn’t happen again by putting them on a lead. Well take this as a warning now, our dogs are not robots. Our dogs are great dogs, but like us they sometimes don’t make great decisions. Sometimes nature gets the better of them and their hard wired instincts are just too powerful and the ‘chase’ is on. And every time it happens we are caught out. I don’t care how good your dog is at walking by your side under voice control. With the right motivation your dog will at some point make a conscious decision to take off, just when you least expect it.
So for your sake, for the sake of your dog and for the sake of other people and other dogs. Keep your dog on a lead in environmentally unsuitable areas. And when you eventually get to an area that is safe to let them off a lead you must remain constantly vigil. Get rid of the phone, don’t get engrossed in a conversation and make sure you can see your dog at all times. Be safe, be smart, be a responsible dog owner. We are ALL depending on you.

Monday, 14 April 2014

HIERARCHY: WHAT DOES ALL THIS NONESENSE MEAN?

When you hear behaviourists talk about hierarchy they tend to talk about wolf packs and alpha leaders. What does all that mean though and why do you need to know about it when interacting with your four legged friend. All you want to do is take him for a walk and play fetch. You want to be able to call him and he comes running happily to your side. And when he does something wrong you only have to say “No that’s enough”. So do I need to know anything about hierarchy for that? Well actually yes you do. Let me explain.


Now to begin with i’m not going to tell you that your dog is a wolf, because it’s not. Nor is it a small person in a furry coat. But recent research suggests that your dog is a sub species of the grey wolf and the its name was changed in 1993 from Canis Lupis, to Canis Familiaris to reflect that it is a sub species of the grey wolf. Offcourse man has changed the appearance of this sub species over many decades to the many varieties of shapes and sizes of the dog we have today. Initially they were changed to give particular traits; like guarding, hunting etc. However the dogs brain is still hard wired even today to a pack mentality. Just like the wolves in the wild have a pack mentality our dogs have a natural instinct to socially interact with its human pack. So some of the ‘pack rules’ will apply. For example doge will need a structure in their lives, a hierarchy. They need to know who the leader is and if its not going to be you then they will step up to the plate. But being a dog they are incapable of being a leader to a multi species pack of humans and dogs. they don’t have the intellect to be our leader and to ask them to do so would put there under severe stress and lead to all sorts of problems and usually does. So we need to be the leader as do all humans in the ‘pack’. But being a leader does not mean being a bully, a big man, aggressive. Its about having the right attitude, an air of authority. Its about defining the basis of mutual respect. Being clam, confident, and consistent will go along way to building a bond between you and your dog and a basis for communication. When I was a school I had this one teacher, Mr Nelson the Chemistry teacher. He never shouted, or got angry. He never hit me. But he knew how to get me to ‘pull my socks up’. He knew how to encourage me to do better. He had this air of authority that you knew if you stepped out of line you were in trouble.
Recent research carried out at the wolf sanitary in America suggests that the hierarchy found in a wolf pack is very similar to a family pack. There are two adults and one or more generations of off spring. Just like a human family pack, were mum and dad are the alpha and there are brothers and sisters in the pack.
If we think back to when we were kids;
We knew how to behave in the house. There was a time for horsing around and there was a time to calm down and get on with our homework. In my house I have my ‘chair’ that I like to sit on when dinner is over and I want to settle down in front of the telly. Sure during the day other members of the house can sit on the chair, but when I get home they get up and give me my place. Children would never push through a door first in front of their mums and dads. In fact if they didnt stop and hold the door open they might get rebuked. When we have parties and have adult guests over there is generally a spread laid out on the table. Only after the guests have been to the table are the children allowed to take something. When we went shopping as a family, whining about wanting something from the shelves in the store got no response whatsoever. It was not tolerated. Neither was pulling you along the road to get to the play park or other desirable destination. Children were taught how to behave both at home and out in public and woe betide anyone who misbehaved out side and caused such embarrassment. Is any of this starting to ring just a bit remotely true. The multi species pack is no different, the humans are the alpha’s and the dogs being the pack members. It is therefore incumbent upon us to teach our ‘canine children’ what the rules and boundaries are. We need to communicate to them how to ‘behave’ both inside and outside the home. We have the skills we just need to apply them to our ‘other’ children. But before we can do that we need to learn ‘how’ to communicate with them.......
In my next blog entry I will discuss how we can learn to communicate with our canine children.
Till then.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

I MIGHT HAVE A GRUSKY

When Wally Conron created the Labradoodle he opened up a can of worms. He is reported now as saying he made a mistake. What followed was an explosion of ‘designer’ dogs. From Cockapoo (cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle), a Puggle (a Beagle and a Pug), a Shih Poo ( a Shih tzu and a Poodle) a Goli ( a Golden Retriever and a Collie), and a Jackaroo (a Jack Russell and a Poodle). There are countless more I am sure and no doubt more to follow. But it started me thinking. I rescued a Northern Inuit from Dogs Trust a few years a go. The behaviourist there told me that was her breed description, albeit Northern Inuits are not a recognised breed by the Kennel Club in the UK yet. But it got me thinking, is Northern Inuit the right name for her or should she be called something else in line with the variations above. Northern Inuits were originally cross bred between German Shepherds and Huskies, or German Shepherds and Alaskan Malamutes. the idea was that the breeder wanted something that looked like a wolf but had the temperament of a German Shepherd. So does that make Miya a Grusky perhaps? Or maybe a Huskation (a cross between a Husky and an Alsation) I think I prefer Grusky, what do you think?