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Behavioural updates and the diary of an adopted shelter dog III

So much has happened this week it is difficult to know where to start.

I have learned that the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe who has some influence with the EU is now in favour of the more direct approach to cure the deed not ban the breed. They can now say that there is no statistical proof that banning particular breeds has had any effect on reducing the incidents of dog attacks. Dog owners and Associations have been campaigning for this approach for years so maybe this is a small step in the right direction.

On my travels, we discussed the subject again of aggressive training. This revolved around the sort of training where the instructor or handler believes he must dominate the dog with pain in order the dog obeys and respects them. The problem here is that it appears to work and I have met some of these so called Hard handlers with their Hard dogs but though they would compete in working trials competitions they could never work completely as a team and so never progressed very far.

I for one do not wish a dog to live in fear of me and I remember something John Rogerson use to say that we are not looking for dominancy over a dog but that we have influence over our dogs. Such hard bash and crash methods and on occasions taking the dog round the back of the building to kick the proverbial out of it is simply torture and as we know torture works.

I hate to see an owner having a dog by their side that is obviously too scared to move without a command. The other problem John says is that though the most aggressive trainer in the family may have the dog petrified of them is the dog similarly petrified of the other members of the household. I say repeatedly that everyone in the family should train their dog so that they all can have, as John puts it, an influence over their dog.

It was sad to read Tom Cain's' article last week about the so called shelter near Torrevieja but pleasing to hear that because of his intervention the local council is now prepared to do something quickly to improve these dogs lives.

This story does show a huge distinction between this and those shelters organised by far more caring people. I was meeting Andréa Ropolthy of APASA to collect the keys to the apartment when an ex Javea shelter dog walked past us. It immediately recognised Andréa and began jumping all over her. Winston is just the same when he meets any of the helpers that he knows when they come up to say hello to their Famous Winston. When dogs act in this way, it speaks volumes about the care shown by such people to all their dogs in the shelters.

On the Javea Shelter open day, I met a gentleman who comes in to take a dog out for day trips so he can assess them and then write a report for any potential owner to give them a much better idea of the dog's character. This is an excellent idea and hope more dog-knowledgeable people may like to do the same. This way more dogs will find new homes more quickly.

Behavioural updates

I have been to see the vet regarding the dog with the poorly ears and he was happy for me to start to retrain the dog. You may recall that now it is feeling better it has taken up chasing the neighbour's motorbikes, cars and even the builders vans and the JCB. The owners assured me the dog would bark and attack my car if I called but alas, the dog must have heard I was coming as he was on his very best behaviour. I drove up without any problem and greeted by a few woofs to tell me he was there. >From the discription of these so-called attacks, the vet and I agree this is all probably a game. The Spanish may feel fearful and get out of their cars waving their arms about and shouting but the dog may simply think "Good game, Good game".

Later in the afternoon, some workmen arrived and normally this dog would shoot up the hillside and attack their vehicle. Nothing happened at all. Even when I took the dog up on the lead to meet the workmen, he did nothing other than a few woofs with his tail wagging. I have left the owners with a remote collar so that if he does do anything again they can fire the gas and this may dissuade him from playing any more games.

One other thing this dog loves is to go to the rubbish tip and bring back a plastic bag like a children's lucky dip bag so he can have an exciting rummage through it. This dog has spent most of its life attached to a running line and left to guard the property. The owners would love to be able to let him have his freedom but the dog seems to feel more secure when he is attached to his line rather that wandering about upsetting the neighbours. He is quite harmless.

During the afternoon, the dog did start to go off on a walk about so I told Winston to go and find him, which he did. I was very pleased with him because as I called them both back Winston was mouthing to the other dog to say, "come on we are being called". Even the owners were surprised he came back. I use to watch my leader dog do this to any of my slower dogs when I had called them all back to me.

Diary of an adopted shelter dog

Last week I listed some of the problems I have found and this is being unfair and very negative when in reality there are so many positives that I could list for Winston. I only showing you that we all have similar problems with our dogs and how we can all solve them in the same way.

He did start to chew up his car mattress whilst I was driving from Altea to Consentaina and with such a winding road; maybe it became his comfort blanket. I fortunately caught him doing this so I simple moaned at him and then ignored him for half an hour and that did the trick.

You may recall I said that we could all act aggressively if the right buttons are pressed. Whilst I was having a meal a very large 18-year-old youth stood face on looking at Winston and though he meant Winston no harm he started a low growl. Later that day two children stood at a door looking into a room we that we were in and again came this low growl. Such a stance of face on with eye-to-eye contact is to a dog is a normal sign of aggression though in these cases this was never the intention. I know now how Winston interprets such body language and so I can easily retrain him by using normal socialisation methods so he knows to ignore such stances when used by humans. I am not going to keep him away from people so making matters worse as many people do but take the positive approach by simulating the stance with the help of friends and show Winston that no aggression is intended and so he learns there is no need to feel concerned and growl.

Training Winston is reminding me of many important points I should mention to you that I forget because much of my training I am running on autopilot. Please do touch your dog when they are by your side. I see many people walking their dogs without any sign of appreciation to the dog. Dogs love to know you are happy with them. Praise your dogs often and if they are doing nothing just call them to you and give them lots of praise. It is just finding the right balance that does not make your dog over excited.

I do spend a lot of time with Winston but a number of times in the morning I found I had company in my bed. I simply get up and let him out into the garden. I will now close the bedroom door for a while to see if this cures this dominant tendency. He now sleeps in the kitchen but in the morning, he goes out and sleeps in the back of the car so he can see me through the window for when I wake and then he charges in to greet me with lots of fuss.

My daughter Amber and a friend have taught him the down using titbits. It is a little slow but it is working. With this success, Amber started to teach him the stay still using the titbits. To see how this was progressing I left him in an un-tethered down outside a café while I went to get him some water. I only had to return to correct him once as he moved into a stand but he does at least know what stay means.

Without games for all his life, he does know his genetic chase me game and when he takes off it is lovely sight to watch. He becomes very excited now in the car now when he sees and smells we are going for a walk at the back of the Arenal in amongst the long grass. He loves to charge about in there and his legs must have built in shock absorbers the way he twists and turns. He is a very agile dog.

If your dog loves this game, you can step in front of your dog to make him veer off but never chase him. This is the way you control the game. When you decide to stop, show your dog you have finished the game. On no account, use the stop as a ploy to catch your dog, as this will ruin your recalls. Dogs cannot understand devious behaviour so they will keep away from you until they are certain the game is truly finished.

Fortunately I we have had no more accidents in the garden now that I have learned his natural rhythm. We have plenty of rough ground nearby where I can give him a good long walk first thing in the morning. When he is on his morning walk, I also use this time to call him to me whenever cars are coming and so we can practice the recall. I also use my arms to redirect him to which roads I want him to go down or when I want him to move away from barking dogs.

I always watch which road Winston wants to go down and then I go down the other. This is my way of reinforcing to our little pack I lead and the pack goes where I want it to go not where Winston wishes to go. I say nothing as I go down the other street so when he realises I have gone he has to rush back to catch up with me again. This is excellent reinforcement for him to keep his eyes on me all the time.

He is a very happy dog and loves to meet people who wish to meet him. When he meets other dogs he will regularly display the lets play posture but on some occasions, he tries to shows dominancy and so needs me to calm him down. He is learning though.

When you wish to introduce two dogs for the first time start with them off each other's territory and try to maintain a slack lead. Taut leads can encourage aggression. Once all the initial posturing and smelling is completed, you can then begin to let them play together. Later you can try introductions at one another's homes.

Luckily, our cats do not run from dogs so Winston just looks at them. I am certain if they were to run he would chase thinking that it was a game but when a cat turns, dogs beware. Amber keeps trying to socilise them both until they are prepared to tolerate each other without any more hissing or barking. A week later on our walk, he saw a cat dart off into a garden and did initially rush forward to investigate but I called him and he came back. Ambers socialising of the cats with Winston seems to have his instinct to chase under control.

I have found Winston has a good nose and I have started to leave articles in places on his walk to see how he reacts to the scent. He is very good. I will now try to arrange a training day once I can find some suitable land so anyone interested to join me please send me your details. I will be contacting those who have already sent me their names but please check to be sure.

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