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Pointing in the right Direction.

I receive many emails and telephone calls from owners who have read my articles and found that when they have applied my suggestions their dogs have responded well. A few say they have not worked. This was simply because they did not know how to use them the right way the first time. When we advice correctional methods that fail this raises the question as who is pointing owners in the right direction.

Here at the Costa Blanca Behaviourist and Training Centre, we are always seeking out those behaviourist and trainers that use up to date methods and modern techniques that do not us pain to achieve their aims. Unfortunately, we find the old enforcement methods are still very prevalent here. It will take time for painless techniques and better pet understanding to overtake the commonly accepted and sometimes-brutal methods of training.

The one way for owners to judge which method works would be for them to try each one in turn but this is no way to train any dog as using the wrong method first could undermine the use of a better method later. Many owners find the old enforcement methods so well established they have to use them but many owners now do question why they should have to control their dog using pain.

For owners that do find they have a problem how can they consider which trainer or behaviourist is telling them the correct method that will work correctly and quickly.

I review so many cases where previous behaviourists or trainers have attempted to solve dog problems and owners have explained how they operate. I see so much lack of understanding that comes from simply reading books and then following the standardised instructions without appreciating everything that they see. So often, the focus is solely on the dog as the problem instead of considering the owners.

Take Separation anxiety as a simple example. I do nothing to the dog at all. I ask the owners to change their interaction with their dog by improving their leadership skills. I also explain the ways they previously interacted with their dog and why this was the cause of why their dog is petrified of the owners leaving the house. I explain why their dog will seek out by any means anything that will help make their owners return home. As time passes dogs, learn that by destroying the house achieves this. Even though the owners chastise their dog for the damage, it is still attention towards the dog and that is all it seeks.

How does an owner comprehend it is they that are the problem and not their dog? The owners did not destroy the house or bark incessantly so why should they not blame the dog. Humans are very caring people towards their dogs so how can they be in anyway to blame.

Most owners also believe someone somewhere must know how to stop their dog damaging their house or incessantly barking but whom.

Some time ago, I wrote about a dog that had an ear infection where their vets were trying to kill the mites in the dog’s ear but with little effect. I suggested they try the Pet Hospital in Altea where the vet told them that the past treatment was only trying to cure a symptom not the cause.

If you have re-occurring headaches, painkillers will stop the pain but they do not cure the cause, which could be simply the need for reading glasses.

We have the same problem with separation anxiety. The barking and destruction are only symptoms but not the cause. Humans are the cause. Imagine being in a land where no one spoke your language and you feared for your survival. How would you react if you did not understand that the people though having different customs were only trying to help but you could not understand this and would you not naturally show fear?

The case I had the other month was of a dog with separation anxiety and I explained to the owner the normal methods they should use that should make the dog relax and accept being on its own at times as normal and that there was nothing to fear. Some weeks later, the owner called me to say ignoring the dog did no good at all and it was now destroying the house so much that he had resorted to hitting the dog. This told me that they did not know how to ignore a dog properly and this is understandable from only listening to instructions given over a telephone.

Whilst Michael Schumacher could easily write a book on how to drive a car, he could not transfer his actual reaction skills to the reader. If only we could learn to fly a helicopter in a few seconds by downloading the information as in the film Matrix. He can only point the reader in the right direction of what to do and what should happen but the skill will always remain a learned one. At least the reader should know what should happen. Imagine what would happen if someone simply jumped into a car without any knowledge and actually started the engine.

I explained to the owner that I would need to see how they actually interacted with their dog. I could then show them how to correct this so the dog would become calm in the future as they changed over from overly fussing and chastising the dog by showing the proper leadership skills that would make the dog feel comfortable.

I explained our fees and I would call again to make a mutual appointment. A few days later, I telephoned the owner who said that he had decided to send the dog away for retraining by a local dog trainer.

It would seem the logical thing to do but what will in fact happen. The first thing is the dog will go to the trainer and it will be fine. Do I hear you ask why? Simply the trainer will have leadership skills and as the action has effectively cut the umbilical cord between the dog and owners, the dog can settle. It is almost as if the trainer has rescued the dog from foreigners

I looked after a dog for a week as the owners were worried about placing it into kennels yet with me, it was fine. No problems at all but when it went back it returned to guarding its owners and not letting them out of their house.

Though this was dominancy separation anxiety, where it treated the owners as its wards and it needed to protect them. I could not retrain the dog because it actually needs the owners to learn to dominate their dog. They would not do this as they did not believe a dog could do this to them.

Similarly, for the dog taken away by the trainer when it returns it will soon return to its old ways because the owners will not have changed. Even if they had trust in the trainer, the owners, when they leave the house, will look at the dog in the same way as before to see if it has improved and this will trigger the old response of fear in the dog once again.

The result will be that the owners will blame the trainer and feel the dog is just a bad or is a problem dog. No one wishes their house destroyed so the dog could end up at a shelter to find a new home simply because the owners were looking in the wrong direction of who was to blame.

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