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Owners need canine leadership skills

For most cases when dealing with dog behavioural problems it only needs humans to change the way they interact with their dogs to make improvements. In these past weeks, writing about the problems of Captain in Canada and the Siberian husky in Hong Kong all that it needed to correct their problems was to change the way their owners acted towards their dogs.

Many owners tell me they know it is their problem and not their dogs but just do not know how correct the situation. Others will not accept that they are wrong so therefore it must their dog to be at fault. The problem for the latter is their dogs remain confused and so the problem is never resolved even becoming worse until possibly the owners either they put up with the problem or the dog is eventually re homed or sent to a shelter.

I have had a number of owners who initially contacted me describing to me normal symptoms of separation anxiety. Such anxiety is not the actual problem; it is the consequence from confusion of human/canine interaction.

They have then told me that their dog has destroyed their home or garden costing them as much as €6,000 to repair. Whilst some owners accept, they are doing something wrong many see my advice as criticism and will not accept it often saying they have had dogs all their lives so it must be the dog.

I do find some owners who just will not accept they have to make any changes in the way they interact with their dogs. For most dogs, it only requires owners to change their body language or voice to make a major impact and create rapid changes to the dog’s behaviour. One of the most useful aids is for us to mimic that gruff bark used by dogs towards other dogs, or use the substitute of compressed air in order to achieve the same response.

A do find a few owners that when I advise them of a plan I need them to follow will say to me no “We cannot do that as it will be cruel and upsetting for our dog”. Their dog has recently destroyed their home or has kept them imprisoned because they do not wish to upset the dog or their neighbours.

What we have are owners believing they are kind and caring yet inadvertently have created severe stress in their dog. Imagine dogs so terrified of their owners leaving them on their own in the house or garden. Now that is stressful.

A common problem is I tell owners that their dogs are suffering from separation anxiety and I recommend a list of things that will cure the problem. In most cases, it works quickly and the owners are happy but all I have done is to teach owners to become leaders within the human/canine pack. I have not had to do anything to the dog at all.

Talking to John Rogerson some years ago, he reminded me of the old saying that you can make all the people understand some of the time. You can make all the people understand some of the time but you cannot make all the people understand all of the time. Maybe in time as you read what owners have done and describe their successes in their own words this will help those who are wavering as to the benefits of behavioural correction.

We also have a further problem in that there are many old established methods of training that appear to work based on using pain in varying degrees. There are also many so called new ways but again they work in some areas but they do not work in every case.

In any theory of why something works, there can be many alternative views as to why. It is no good having a theory if it does not answer all the questions. As with the flat earth society, there were many reasons such a theory would work but believers knowingly ignored questions they could not answer. Only accepting the world is round answers all such questions but many people did not wish to accept because it meant they had to admit they had been wrong. It does not matter if we are wrong. In reality, it is simply progress where we seek out a theory that can answer all the questions. When we have done this then we can change theory into fact. Believing in the wrong theory is only a normal step in finding the truth.

We have been studying dogs and wolves for many years now and we understand so much of their language. We now have a book that from long-term observations translates dog/wolf body language and their sounds in a way we can understand. We know it is correct because we can see the language repeated by other groups of wolves and many we can see in our dogs.

All such studies using the power of the internet are linking us all together to give a fuller understanding of what is going on with our dogs. The problem remains for us is our human misunderstanding because of the continuous need for humanising of our dogs.

Normally this is not a problem unless owners actually believe their dogs have learned human qualities when in fact we can interpret their dog’s actions for some other reason.

My father always told me never get into arguments about people’s pets because they are defenceless animals and owners will protect them at all cost. Occasionally though I must walk away, having seen a distressed dog that will remain as it is because the owners wish to choose other reasons than for them to look at themselves in a mirror. I would not say this for the benefit of the owner but for the benefit of their dog.

It is sad that the owners prefer to believe I am wrong or I am simply just another witch doctor behaviourist trying to make a fast buck. I am amazed on some occasions when owners have spent so much money on repairs and paid some previous behaviourist that by the time they contact me even when my fees are minuscule to their previous costs they wish to believe the dog is the problem. They are reluctant to believe that behaviourist actually can help.

It is for this reason I have started to include the emails of owners that are describing how the correctional methods are actually working. From reading such emails where the owners have made such changes to the way they appear to their dogs, they have had immediate effect on their dogs. All it takes it for humans to act with leadership skills that dogs can readily understand.

This does not mean that all dog owners need to become leaders of men. Dogs do not need that level of expertises. All dogs need is to be feel safe in a social structure that matches their pre programmed environmental needs in order for their survival. It is not like learning another language with a need to understand it; all you have to do is look as if you do.

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