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Which way to turn

Last week I wrote about a dog sent away to a trainer in order to try to solve the problem of separation anxiety. I said that the dog would indeed appear to improve because the separation had effectively cut the umbilical cord the owners had inadvertently recreated.

The trainer would find that the dog whilst in their care would react normally. Only when the dog returned to the owners would the dog reconnect with the owners and the barking whining and household destruction would start all over again. For such problems, the owners must learn how their dog thinks so they can act in a way that makes their dog relax whilst the owners are away for any length of time.

The next case also involves a dog taken away for retraining for behavioural problems and again this case revolves around how owners perceive doggy problems.

The owner purchased a largish breed of puppy at six weeks old. The owner had wanted to collect the dog at eight to ten weeks but the shop has already taken delivery of the puppy at a far too early age. This meant it had not been socialised correctly with other puppies and this did create a problem for it meeting with other dogs.

One other problem was it had an enlarged heart. For this dog, exercising the dog was a nightmare as it grew it became stronger and far too strong for the owner. Someone came to walk the dog but even with an enlarge heart the walk was inadequate for its very active mind. Whilst treating the dog as in invalid was an option, it is sad the owner would never let the puppy live as other dogs even if this policy did shorten its life.

For the pulling on the lead, I suggested a Halti and this did solve the problem though initially it tried to stop having to wear it by lying down in the hope the owner would remove the Halti. Once over this problem it had the problem of jumping up at people who entered the property and the owner says many people stopped coming to the property as they could not manage with the dog jumping all over them.

For Kathryn Hollings and me, we did not have any problem because again, we simply gave the dog no eye contact at all and it never jumped up at us. I do appreciated it is difficult to ignore a dog in this situation but it does work.

A further problem was it barked and the neighbours began to complain. Added to this the dog would not leave people alone when they were eating and this too was becoming a nightmare.

If you are not as agile as you once were and choosing to buy a puppy you will find it is not yet ready for retirement. An adult dog may well simply paddle about the house and remain by the owner’s side as a companion but during the puppy stage, such dogs are very boisterous and not yet ready to settle down.

Puppies need to explore, meet other dogs, people and generally play as much as they can. Such dogs need lots of exercise to tire them out so that they do lie down in front of the fire and sleep. Any dog not receiving such exercise will start climbing the walls in frustration at trying to find all manner of ways to stimulate itself, but the owner saw such activity as destructive and rowdy.

The consulting vets when informed about the problems even considered tranquilizers to quieten the dog down. For me this sort of exuberance is normal for a puppy and I think part of the pleasure in watching our puppy grow so long as we are able to influence it not to do things that we consider naughty like chewing up shoes when it becomes bored.

I did suggest the dog have more exercise that was comfortable for the dog with its condition. I let my dog Rolly do what he liked as he suffered from bad hip dysplasia and he did enjoy life to the full but eventually the hips took their toll but that was better for him than treating him like some invalid.

The next thing I heard was the vets suggested a local behaviourist who took the dog away for a few weeks. After this period, the dog returned along with a dog crate and choke chain for a further two weeks of training with the owner. All this was going to cost the owner 500 euros.

The owner soon realised that all that had happened was the dog had been obedience trained but it could do all this even if not to competition standard. This still leaves the problem of the dog barking and jumping up at people. The behaviourist said they could not solve it and suggested using one of my Aboistop citronella collars.

For the further training, the behaviourist attached the Halti safety strap to the choker. This it seems was to enforce better heelwork using the choker but used it so hard it rammed the Halti into the dogs face and broke the G clip on the lead. That was certainly must have been one very hard jerk. I cannot understand any need to improve the heelwork when the Halti had already done this and the owner had never requested this.

For the still continuing jumping up at people, the behaviourist simply kneed the dog hard in the chest. That would certainly work but it is a little excessive not forgetting that the dog had an enlarged heart.

To solve this problem I rented the owner the use of one of my remote citronella collars. I explained it was important to give a command to the dog to get down or off and when the dog still jumps up activate the collar using the remote fob releasing the citronella gas. The idea is to teach the dog that if it disobeys its owners command then the gas is released. It should only take two weeks at the most otherwise the dog will become de-sensitised to its continued use and the collar becomes ineffective. The last time I saw the dog it had improved and was not jumping up at us even though we looked directly at it and encouraged it to play.

For jumping up at people when whilst they are eating at the table this was still a problem that the behaviourist could not stop. When I was eating it never bothered me so to show what to do I made eye contact with the dog and it came to me looking for food. As it drew near to my plate, I immediately moved my face towards the dogs face and gave the normal gruff bark making it shoot off to sit next to its owner. They have now tried this and found it works.

Sending dogs away for training has inherent problems least of all that for obedience training especially the owner only learns the commands not how to train the dog. Once the dog returns, it only takes a few weeks before the dog returns to its own disobedient ways as before. The owner feels annoyed at paying such large sums of money only to be back to square one. For the training, the owner will blame the owners as it worked well for the trainer. As I wrote last week, it is not possible to pass on motor skills to other people. They must learn such skills for themselves.

There are some exceptions to letting someone work with a dog to solve problems and I will write about then in the next article.

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