Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
Understanding, updates and Winston
I wrote last week that the answer to all things is to understand but the way and how we understand does cause us all a problem. Do you remember the old parlour game to pass a sentence round the room whispering person to person to see what it comes out like at the other end. The famous one was send reinforcements we are going to advance came out send three and four pence we are going to a dance. What this means is when we pass on information we can add or subtract from the original message with our own knowledge. Similarly, you may not understand a method when I describe it yet you may easily understand it when the original writer describes it to you.
A simple case was for my daughter where the maths teacher was unable to explain to my daughter in a way she could understand. Yet, a university student who gave her private lessons explained it so easily to her. It is matching up necessary communications for the teacher to teach in the way the student learns. Getting that right is the difficulty for all of us. It is the same for dogs they too think something you are doing to help the dog it may feel you are trying to harm it.
All the expertise I have acquired from other people this I have then used to help create my own experience. As soon as we absorb information, we automatically taint it with our own knowledge and prejudices. Someone who is a Labour supporter will read a Tory writer in a different way to someone who is a Tory supporter. They are the same words but we already are critical of a writer simply because of ones own feelings. When I write the current best method, these are the ones that currently work and the most popular. There are many different methods and it is possible to suggest to owners to try another if one does not seem to work. Each dog is different in character as are the owners.
I was looking at a web site the other day and see a trainer wrote he would never ever give titbits to a dog. He thinks that after 30 years of enforcement training the dogs would not show him respect if he were begging them to do his commands. Another web site was forever feeding titbits as the best method for teaching. A tip I picked up was to stop American Pit Bulls showing aggression at other dogs. When on the walk and the owner would see another dog they would feed the dog a meal of titbits until the other dog had gone. This was positive as it meant that to the dog when it sees another dog, it means food not aggression and apparently, it works. (Possibly, they will end up with lots of fat American Pit bulls)
For me I suppose I am in the middle I will use food to translate the command into an action using food and praise. Once the dog understands what it should do when hearing the command then I only need to give praise. If it regresses or loose interest, I can go back to titbits for a while.
One of the biggest problems we have when training our dogs are distractions for both the dogs and handlers. If you do not have a good recall in your home and garden how can you expect good recalls outside. Outside is where there are so many distractions that can encourage your dog to make a conscious decision whether to obey the command without question or to think the distraction looks more interesting so thinks my owner will have to wait as normally. Even for owners we can call the dog then something distracts us and we leave the dog the opportunity to disregard our command.
The rule that dogs survive by is they sense and so they react according to the way they have learned or the way we have taught them. If you can train your dog with this rule as a guide, you should understand why your dog does what he does and if necessary correct it.
Many people are unable to understand why other people have so many problems with training when they have had none and they never went to dog classes nor ever read a training book. This is usually the normal percentage of 60% of dogs and owners that have a reasonable communications and the dogs just want a nice quiet life. Unfortunately, if the owners do not understand their dogs then this will create a problem that needs solving.
I met with John Rogerson this week and he was saying that we have so many preconceived ideas about how our dogs should behave. When they do not act as we expect them to, we try to cover it up or ignore it. The so often used excuse is that when a dog does something he should not the owners often say, "He has never done that before". Owners are in need of a new excuse as this one is wearing a little bit thin now.
Since the introduction of the Dangerous Dogs Acts throughout Europe John agrees, people who now purchase a dog are accountable for their dog's actions. There is no more saying when a dog bites it is only natural. It is true dogs bite but now owners must accept that. The only way to change this situation is to either train the dogs not to bite or pay the price when they do. To purchase a dog as a guard dog is now too dangerous to contemplate. To allow a dog to become aggressive and you do nothing is lighting a fuse. You may be lucky and keep you dog under control. You may even have some near misses but it is like driving a car with out insurance one day an accident may happen and then it is too late. I can only ask you to please check with your insurance agent or company what would be the consequences if, hypothetically, your dog bit someone.
A dog owner asked me if his dog was on the dangerous dog list and it was not. The problem was his dog had bitten a jogger and was worried if that made a difference. The Acts are worded almost the same through out Europe and any dog that is just worrying people is enough to be caught by the Act. It is often the fact that many insurance companies will try to evade having to pay out a claim and house insurance my not cover his dog if they find his dog has already attacked a person. He was saying he could not ask them as that is like telling the insurance company that he does indeed have a dog that may bite again so increasing the premiums or not insuring his dog. Maybe it is worth looking at a special insurance policy designed for dogs that may bite.
I am also surprised at the number of people who do not have any medical insurance for their dogs. If your dog does become ill, the costs can soon mount up. I do think the Vets are cheaper than in the UK but never the less I do know of some dogs incurring some large bills for their owners. I think some people try to balance it by saying to themselves that when the time comes it is just paying the premiums out they have not paid to date. That is all right if you break-even here but it could be your unlucky turn to receive the big bills.
I know taking our cats to the vets now usually costs us about 70 euros for the various work he has to do for my daughters youngest cat and there is nothing we can do now but to keep paying. For those of you who are coming out to Spain or have just arrived I do recommend you to go to your local vets to register your pets micro chip and have them checked for immunity for all the diseases that can affect them here then get them immunised. Apparently if we had done this with our cats the vets could have given them immunity to the aids like diseases they have now. I wish I had known that before.
For the dog who is always excited and barking in the back of the car the collar is I feel almost useless as all trips were still for his benefit and so he would even squeak with excitement even if the collar was saying be quiet. I have suggested that there is no point in more air and the owner must retrain by showing the dog that most journeys are not for his benefit. John was saying that a few trips down to the vet are a very rapid cure for this one. I replied that I am trying to persuade people to train their dogs that there is nothing to fear from trips to the vet. I leave it to you to choose on this one.
I had a lady telephone me to say she had followed the normal advice to stop her dogs barking at her gate. She was using a whistle with a recall, titbits and lots of praise. It was working well for a while but then with two of then, they were winding each other up so making a bigger distraction than the owner calling to them with the whistle. She asked could she try a collar. I felt it was a shame she had achieved so much when they had only relapsed. I suggested she persevere a little longer adding running away from the dogs when she is calling them.
What she was doing was correct but I think the passers-by are a bigger distraction with lots of excitement from the other dog. The owner must create a bigger distraction. It is important to teach recalls for no real reason at all if just to teach them to react every time. Teaching them only when people go by creates errors so the more errors the more likely the next time will be the same. You need many successes under many situations in order teach the dogs a recall into a matter of reaction.
Whilst I have been back to the UK Winston has been back to the kennels. When I take him, he is eager to get in his kennel and even more glad to see me when I go to collect him. He is in need a blood test but he is very fidgety when people try to hold him or to touch his rear end. I have asked as many people to touch him to show him there is nothing to fear and to learn to relax. He is a lot better but the test will be when I book him in for them to take his blood. I have tested him to see if a week away he has forgotten anything but his sits are automatic and without command up comes his paw when he asks for something. Will I be able to sleep on my own tonight?