|Posted on September 10, 2020 at 12:00 AM|
Everyone likes to receive a present, right. This is not about going to the pet shop or the clever marketing of dog toys. What I am going to discuss is a much richer present to give your dog, being PRESENT.
Animals in comparison to humans are relatively unburdened of a restless mind, it is not a good survival trait. Conversely in western society humans are subjected to mass pollution of the mind eg. television, phone, social media, advertising. Whilst all of these examples can be used productively they can be targeted towards keeping you addicted and condition the mind for constant need of device based stimulation.
Now even a walk or outdoor exercise requires ear buds and a device for some. This has transferred over to walking Fido, you know the dog that you love. Immersion in a device is being prioritised over our chosen companion. A physical lead may bind you but not truly connect you. Good thing is we can start new habits and condition more beneficial behaviours for both you and your dog. The health benefits of walking and exercise are irrefutable. I believe these are exponentially increased when done with loving attention and connection.
One observation I have learned from training a variety of clients is the advantage of working with an owner who already has this awareness. Regardless of what training you embark on it is clear to me that what dog trainers are teaching owners is presence and technique. If a client is already capable of being fully present, with their dog and the lesson, it allows full advancement on technique.
If you struggle to give full attention to your dog or a single task it is worthwhile considering other aspects where this may be prevalent for you. This is unlikely to only relate to the time you spend with your dog or when learning a new skill. The training I offer requires clients to be fully aware of their own actions as well as Fido which requires concentration. For clients who struggle to naturally focus do not panic we gradually build both dog and client up.
Effective and evidence based training is mandatory to achieve real life results. Dogs are very attune to knowing when someone is present with them. So if you learn to be present whilst training your dog I am sure success awaits. However if you have not learned to be present with your dog outside of training you can have Jekyll and Hyde.
Working on naturally being present in your life is not just beneficial for your life but also for Fido. It is pretty common to see an owner and dog completely disconnected, only anchored together by a lead. Both are missing out on being mentally connected, sharing an adventure, engaging and interacting. If a dog teaches you nothing else let it be the importance and joy of being present. We are often reminded of how short a dog life can be, in comparison to ours, so be here now for them.
|Posted on February 16, 2016 at 4:15 AM||comments (8335)|
Similar to your own start in life your dog’s starts with education then moving to employment and ideally becoming a productive member of society. You may be thinking my dog does not earn qualifications but you are responsible for their schooling. So in order for our dogs to perform tasks we need some core skills to achieve this. An example of this would be some foundation obedience work stay, heel and recall or simply teaching them how to behave socially and appropriately when meeting new people or dogs. The key thing to understand is you are responsible for educating your dog and then expanding their skill set gradually. A similar responsibility should lie upon you like a child that is home schooled. Without properly educating your dog and building suitable foundations you will only frustrate both yourself and the dog.
In our society we have a similar problem I see within dogs. We have those who are unemployed that actively seek work but there is also another element those who choose not to work. They may choose to live off family or some even benefits but ultimately they become an unproductive member of society not valuing the rewards of work or life. Some people spoil their dog so much they need not want or work for anything. This is not constructive in creating a healthy training relationship or a participant in society. Rewards and luxuries should not be taken for granted but earned, there is satisfaction in achievement. Changes to lifestyle, structure, interaction and rewards must be made. These dogs are crucially missing out on mental stimulation, challenge them to start working and solve the puzzle. Acknowledge the inherent value dogs have in working and figuring out task activities. An animal capable of controlling flocks of sheep, search and rescue, guiding the blind, gun and hunting dogs to name only a few. A dog should not be degraded to a Jeremy Kyle dog sitting watching day time television living on hand outs.
Those unemployed dogs that are actively seeking work are a trainers dream. These dogs want to work but nobody ever clearly told them what to do and when to do it. Give them employment and put them to work. This is about nourishing a desire to work and give job and life satisfaction. In your own life, school or work, there will have been a variety of lessons or jobs you particularly enjoyed and others if you are like me bored you. Unfortunately in life there are skills that are essential to learn regardless of enjoyment but it is no life if that is all.
My definition of employment for a pet dog is working from incorporating obedience commands on a walk or light scent work, retrieves, agility, tug etc. Now like everyone who starts a job their education does not stop in fact some of the jobs I worked it started. On the job feedback and training is always required and is your responsibility. We should always be teaching in mind to reduce our influence and begin to trust in our dog’s ability to learn the job and make good decisions.
Suitable employment is finding a befitting job you are qualified to do. Throughout your dog’s education watch what they understand and enjoy more. Your dogs breed can sometimes be a good indication in what this will be but do not assume it to be true. Spend time with your dog, bond and discover the individual. Embrace their strengths and fulfil their passion, by allowing your dog to express themselves in a job they excel in. One of the most beautiful sights I continue to see with any dog is when they begin to communicate, understand and discover purpose. From personal experience doing something your passionate about is when you feel truly alive.
Paws for Walkies
|Posted on November 3, 2015 at 10:10 AM||comments (26418)|
Imagine going through your own life where you could do anything you liked whenever you wanted, sounds great doesn’t it. You could ignore all social or safety implications of your actions. Ultimately exist to gratify only yourself, most people would term that selfish. Now some people do believe that dogs exist to simply please only themselves.
One of the most common problems I see dog owners face is when their dog begins to self-reward. Now a simple example is a dog that learns to steal food from the worktops or the rubbish bin. There is no desired behaviour required to earn this reward. The dog must simply get to the food and eat. Now this loop and pattern will continue as long as the dog is achieving its desired reward. So the easy answer is to stop the dog achieving the reward and teach them how / when they are given food. Hopefully this is an easy principle for most people to follow.
Now by far the most satisfying reward I see with most dogs is high arousal. This can be from frantically jumping on guests, intensely initiating play with its owner mouthing or toys, barking at the postman, fence fighting the dog next door and yes even reactivity. Any response when the dog responds by going to a high state of stimulation.
(Please see http://www.pawsforwalkies.com/apps/blog/show/39515281-is-your-dog-an-adrenaline-junkie- for more information)
So what better way than to use the dogs own biological reward when working or training your dog. I term this as a healthy outlet for the dog. So like the food example above let’s clearly teach how / when they are given the reward rather than the dog manifest self-rewarding outlets. I work all dogs in my care daily in defaulting to calm / low arousal and having a command to switch to high arousal. Now this can be as simple as your dog calmly walking to heel and giving an instruction to run on in front then back in. With my own dogs I vary our high level activites from running, chasing, scent work, playing, tug, climbing & the odd bike run.
The problem most owners face is that cue for arousal rewarding behaviour is usually triggered by the environment not the owner. So your dog may hear the doorbell, see a person or dog and start to escalate to a high level of arousal. This intensity is rarely necessary and ultimately can become self-gratifying for the dog. To be fair to the dog I advise providing them with a healthy outlet where they can get that biological fulfilment and ideally harness it to better your relationship. You can then be satisfied when working on teaching approapriate or inapproariate arousal / intensity levels.
A dog that has learned to heavily self-reward usually results in really poor awareness of their handler and will be detrimental to constructive training relationship. You must represent value to the dog and how your dog views you and your relationship is vital. Poor attentiveness also results in a disconnection in helping your dog when facing fears or uncertainty. The dog can develop a pattern of acting alone and there is no trust in feeling isolated.
It is essential when training your dog that it is combined with a healthy working relationship. One way to help recapture or enhance your dog’s attentiveness is to control rewarding behaviour. Rather than your dog freely act alone make it something you do together if it is appropriate behaviour. Wait for eye contact before offering rewards or release commands, being part of rewarding behaviour will enrich your relationship. For some dog training issues you may need to heavily control these rewards and movement initially. Ideally strive for a relationship that thrives on co-operation.
There is an intrinsic motivational value of task activity within dogs. This value can be unique to each dog, typically higher in working dogs. Learn what your dog needs to be satisfied and be present in helping them achieve fulfilment. Once you have a co-operative relationship with your dog you will start to discover it doesn’t come down to the dog pleasing themselves but working for your relationship, interaction and acknowledgment. I like seeing working dogs, I love seeing dogs work.
Paws for Walkies
|Posted on October 24, 2015 at 11:30 AM||comments (6213)|
We all want our dogs to have the highest quality of life and a major part of that should be helping reduce our dog’s daily stress. Unfortunately there is no clear black and white diagram for you to follow. Sure there are plenty available illustrations of dog body language on the internet but none I have found to be accurate or helpful for clients. I viewed one recently that said if your dog’s ears were back, sideways or forwards it was a signal of stress, so it seems unless you have clipped your dog’s ears off it is stressed. The reality is it is all in context with the dog and its response.
There are obvious high end stress signs of whining, pacing, agitation, obsessive behaviours and reactivity but that is usually the result of a build-up of accumulated stress. To help identify a stress response look for shifts in the dog’s body language, a variance if you will, combined with any change of intensity. So if the dog’s ears have moved from back to forward I would consider this one sign they have become more alert they are actively listening. I would pair this with any other shifts in the body such as tension, posture, movement and eyes. Tail carriage can be a really good gauge of a dog’s arousal and stress level. I have mentioned this to some people and they will say “his tail is always up when he is outside” my reply is think of your dog when they are casually walking around the house this should hopefully be calm, think how different the body language and movement is, now picture it. Compare that to your dog right now, think of the contrast.
A common term new clients occasionally use is unpredictable. Usually the dog will fall into two categories
- The dog shows shifts in body language due to stress but the owners did not know how to recognise it
- The dog is stuck living in a highly aroused state, already over stressed
If anyone reading this has encountered high levels of stress within their own life wouldn’t it be great if someone was there next to you and interrupted you in the first few seconds stopping the stress gaining momentum. That’s what you can be for your dog, the person helping reduce stress and make sense of the world. I would implore that it is essential that you are aware of your own ability to emotional regulate yourself. In a previous blog I discuss emotional regulation (http://www.pawsforwalkies.com/apps/blog/show/43042727-emotional-regulation-perceived-love) If you neglect your own ability to deal with stress you may end up drowning in your own emotional responses failing to help your dog as effectively as possible.
Dogs can respond to many forms of communication that are widely used as interrupters in dog training verbal, visual, scent and sensation. I have found the most effective interrupters are verbal, visual and sensation. Through these ways of communicating we can provide our dogs with information that can help them.
Effective lead work can be constant source of communication with a dog and a clear way to interrupt stress. Likewise body language can also be used as an interrupter if taught properly to your dog. Successful interruptions are generally seen by a break of focus and ideally some form of attentiveness. You can now begin to mark these responses with a word building up verbal interrupter. A clicker can also be used for a clear and consistent noise. We can now start to help by using our interruption before the dog is overcome by stress.
Start to try and recognise unnecessary stress responses in your dogs. One of most common issues people have with their dog is pulling on the lead. The collective reason amongst the dogs I have worked with is the dog’s arousal level before the walk. So many dogs associate high stress levels with the pre walk responding with an unnecessarily intensity to owners putting a jacket/shoes on, lifting the lead, putting the lead on, going to the door etc. Ideally we must interrupt the stress responses and reward or move forward with calm and attentive behaviour. Teaching a good bed or stay command whilst you work on these activities and periodically rewarding the stay can really help here. Working to reduce these stresses makes a huge difference to the dog’s ability to respond to their handler and be attentive. Most people do not have the time to work on this as they take the dog for a walk so set aside some time for training.
Stress is factor of life, removing unnecessary stresses and reducing daily stress should be a goal for both you and your dog.
Below is a link of the first few days of a dog I worked at the start of the year which has some text to help you identify some stress signs and you will see body language and verbal interrupters used also
Paws for Walkies
|Posted on June 1, 2015 at 11:25 AM||comments (3466)|
Most people are horrified with abuse stories and pictures of dogs on social media, rightly gathering mass disgust and contempt. These are often emaciated dogs or shocking terms of abuse. Some dogs have endured extreme ordeals and it highlights the remarkable ability that dogs have to adapt and survive even in adversity. What I want to discuss is the more common distress that is overlooked wilful neglect. To clear the terminology up one short definition would be for someone to intentionally fail to care properly. If you look into child care neglect can be defined as the on-going failure to meet a child's basic needs. When we take ownership of a dog we become the guardian who is responsible for their care and basic needs. Everyone would likely have different definition of basic needs but one definite essential I want to discuss is health.
Most owners love their dog but strangely that does not always translate to their care for the dog. I have heard a few dog trainers describe this before as loving a dog to death, it may be dramatic to catch the eye but it does have some merit. I would however argue against the use of the word loving as to jeopardise your dog’s life span or health it is not love.
In 2014 the PDSA issued and carried out the PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW)Report. There are some incredible statics in the study.
- 1/3 of dogs in UK are overweight or obese
- 89% of pet owners are aware of obesity related health issues like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis
- 88% acknowledge overweight pets will have a shortened life span.
Why are there so many obese dogs when the majority of owners are conscious it is detrimental to the dog’s health, life quality and longevity?
I can advise more on how dogs get obese, though I am sure you may already know some answers.
(In very rare cases dogs may have a contributing illness which you would need to speak to a vet)
Poor Diet – Ensure you feed a good quality and nutritious food. Talk to professionals with experience or knowledge in nutrition.
Treats - Your dog does not need a daily dose of treats especially if you are feeding a complete and balanced dog food. If you are training your dog use his kibble or a healthy alternative.
Overfeeding – Ensure your dog only intakes the correct portion size of their food. On days when you do give treats, reduce the amount of food given in your dog’s main meal.
Lack of Exercise – All dogs need physical and mental exercise daily but a sad reality is some dogs do not even see outside of a house or garden. Working dogs have been breed to perform tasks and seek a job to do. This energy and drive in the dog needs a healthy outlet or will also likely manifest in problem behaviours.
Dogs will ultimately adapt and survive to their life and surroundings. So yes a dog can stay in a house the majority of its life and only visit the garden for toileting but what quality of life and the fulfilment does the dog have? We take on a greater obligation in caring for a dog than just giving them a home. Our love and responsibility should be to honour, care and respect them as an animal and pet, ensuring we do not wilfully neglect any aspect of their life.
Paws for Walkies
|Posted on April 1, 2015 at 3:45 PM||comments (3854)|
The word fear usually brings to mind something dangerous, harmful or painful. We must be aware what impact an environment, distraction, sound, smell or noise has on our dogs. It is natural for a dog to be fearful otherwise it would not survive. However we must ensure that natural level of fear they have is adapted to our lives.
For example a gunshot should evoke a fear on animal being hunted or in the wild; it gives them a stronger chance of survival. However some dogs are used for hunting, as gundogs, so we condition them to be confident around firing and loud noises in order to perform a task.
So the same noise that could install fear in one dog could also have no impact on the second dog. The second dog has adapted and been conditioned to realise this noise is not dangerous, harmful or painful, it is simply a noise, there is no impulse to flee or hide. We cannot allow the fear to gain momentum and should not allow the dog to think that running away or hiding is how they survive when it is unnecessary.
Our dogs need us to help them adapt in all aspects of living with us and our heavily human orientated environments. We must strive to reduce our dogs stress by removing unnecessary fears. Our dogs don’t know it is irrational; they are acting to on impulse to survive. So how would we do that?
For example if we take a dog that is fearful of other dogs. Now we are walking down the street and it sees another dog. If you stop and analyse the biggest motivator a dog would have at this point is removing the fear. The dog being stressed and consumed with fear wants to remove itself from the fear. It is the biggest motivator.
The same dog can learn it doesn’t have to remove itself it can remove the other dog by reacting or behaving in a certain way. The dog at this point also is allowed to vent its stress in an unhealthy way and to certain extent enjoy it. Any dog going to an intense level of being will undoubtedly be enjoying the release. So now we have a fearful dog also learning to self-reward. Some dogs even revel and thrive on the buzz, learning to seek the thrill of the fight.
I want to control as many rewards as possible with most dogs and certainly high value ones. There is generally a divide amongst some dog trainers at this point. Where we need to have something of higher value to the dog as we are opposing something that the dog could term highly fearful or learned it’s highly rewarding. One way would be to starve the dog to create a stronger food drive in the dog, tapping into survival mode of the dog where food is a necessary resource to stay alive over acting out. Others will look to make the dog confront its fear and correct any reactivity.
I try to work in preventing any reactivity by having communication that can clearly interrupt any build-up of intensity. I work to have the dog with me mentally and know I am the gateway to rewards. I achieve this by controlling the dogs movement in an environment, entry through thresholds, heeling and become its source to focus on. If I can see something the dog wants to do I control it and look for a specific behaviour or state of mind before giving the reward. Whilst using food can be a good motivator a dog who looks to you for guidance and all rewards is an invaluable motivator. Dog training is never linear, it requires a truer understanding of how to best help our four legged friends not only survive but thrive.
Paws for Walkies
|Posted on January 26, 2015 at 1:05 PM||comments (2141)|
Emotional regulation is the ability to focus attention to a task and the ability to supress inappropriate behaviour or emotional responses. It involves initiating, inhibiting, or modulating your mental state or behaviour in a situation. Emotional regulation is a highly significant function in human life.
Ok, so you may be wondering what does this have to do with dogs. It has everything to do with a human’s ability to clearly reflect, control, compose themselves and think rationally. It is imperative if we want to truly help a dog we must be able to do this first so our communication and judgement is not clouded by emotion but defined by the rationality.
Separation Anxiety is often one of the toughest things for dog owners to overcome. Often owners describe their dog as they love me or people. It is clear at this point in our need as humans to be emotional by perceiving love. If we are regulating our emotions and thinking about this rationally we have a dog with an unhealthy and irrational dependency nothing to do with love. The answer is not love it is structure, control, hard work, consistency, correctly timed interaction and rewards.
Love is one the most common phrases I hear from dog owners. My dog loves other dogs, my dog loves food, my dog loves people etc. In each case I bump my emotional translator on which equates to the dog is excited by dogs, food and people. The dog is likely to have an on sight reaction or predetermined energy release to each of these. If the dog cannot release its energy by getting closer you can start to see the dog stressed by these things we presume he loves. By always allowing the dog to move forward or obtain the reward on its own impulse we lose a reward that we could have controlled and harnessed.
Some dogs are stressed and do not have any preconceived happiness with people or other dogs. Often rescues dogs have attached stories which pull further into your heart strings, bringing out sympathy and feeling sorry for the dog. This often causes new owners to over compensate when introducing the dog to their new life, people, dogs and house. Becoming subject to their emotions some owners can even use this to excuse dangerous behaviour. These dogs need empathy and help not our sympathetic emotions.
If we are uncontrolled emotionally as owners we only reduce our dog’s potential in having a healthy, safe and better quality of life. Any stressed dog needs rational course of action over an emotional reaction.
The love I have for my dogs comes from my connection with them, seeing them blossom and fulfilling their potential. We are human, we are emotional but we can be intelligent with our emotions.
Paws for Walkies
|Posted on December 21, 2014 at 7:10 AM||comments (5343)|
The human version of A/A most people would recognise as an organisation helping people with a dependency. Understanding Dog A/A is the gateway to having insight into preventing problem behaviours and offering your dog quality of life.
Firstly I would like to explain dog’s relaxation and rest time. In nature most dogs would hunt and scavenge involving stalking, chasing, climbing, jumping, killing, eating etc. These activities would use up a lot of energy so the dog would naturally relax after releasing this energy and eventually rest. Domestic dogs have obviously evolved from this. Dog owners ideally strive to give their dogs a similar energy release but sometimes forget to fulfil rest or relaxation time. We have chosen to domesticate the dog and we subject them to our lifestyles which are increasingly removed from the nature where they originate. I’m making the point of mentioning this as so many dogs are deprived of a healthy outlet for their energy and subsequently they never achieve a true release of energy to completely relax. If a healthy and satisfactory energy outlet is not present that energy will manifest unhealthy and dangerous behaviours. The key when I am analysing or working with a dog is being able to know what the dog looks like truly relaxed. I can achieve this by installing a structure of exercise and stimulation followed by rest. For anyone unsure of what a relaxed and content dog looks like I have copied a picture below. Generally speaking I would anticipate relaxed tail, ears, body, eyes and breathing if the dog was relaxed. If I am aware of these aspects of the dog I can easily see the change when I present the dog to a situation or environment they may perceive as stressful.
First A – Anxiety
Most people are aware of anxiety in people; it can be defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome. The level of anxiety is always in the mind of the beholder, so an everyday task for you could be somebody’s worse fear. Some people will even be familiar with dogs having separation anxiety which is just a specific time when the anxiety materialises. However dogs like people can go through anxiety regularly. Anxiety really becomes a problem when it becomes habitual and forceful. Physical symptoms include the dog whining, whimpering, shaking and panting. People often feel sorry for dogs when displaying these behaviours but the dog needs our help at this point not our affection. A common example is a dog that gets extremely excited or aroused simply on sight of a person. Unfortunately with some of the dogs I have worked with this definitely goes to obsessive/forceful category rather than just friendly. If for any reason the dog cannot get to the person behind a door or in crate we see the anxiety set in. All due to this anticipation of seeing a person but not being able to get to them.
The key whether coming out a crate, exiting a car or leaving the house is how you allow the dog to move forward. I am only moving forward or rewarding the dog when the dog is back to being relaxed. I do not want to be a source of excited stress on the dog simply by sight.
Second A – Adrenaline
(see http://www.pawsforwalkies.com/apps/blog/show/39515281-is-your-dog-an-adrenaline-junkie- for more informaiton)
When presented with anxiety the often dangerous coping mechanism is adrenaline a hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that increases rates of blood circulation, breathing, and carbohydrate metabolism and prepares muscles for exertion. Physical symptoms in your dog include pupil dilation, fixation, rigid body, frantic movement, increase of energy and breathing. Like anxiety, adrenaline is part of you and your dog’s everyday life it again becomes a problem when it is uncontrolled and produced at unnecessary times. When we are exercising for example we will generally produce small and required amounts of adrenaline. When we are then surprised or presented with an immediately dangerous situation we will produce more adrenaline in order to tackle or avoid the problem. All of this is natural. However if we become irrationally anxious and respond with adrenaline we are likely to rashly respond to our situation in a panic rather than make a decision. Your dog is the exact same if they learn that an adrenaline response is a way of removing or coping with a situation or stress they will take it. This is when we start to see your typical problem behaviours of running away, snapping, lunging, charging, attacking etc. A dog in this state is not thinking about any action but simply responding in a panic.
Both A/A are interlinked but my definitions above are based on a threshold existing between anxiety and adrenaline. I will work with a dog displaying anxiety symptoms but as soon as I see it build to adrenaline symptoms I know I need to reset, slow it down or rethink. Erratic adrenaline responses are preventable. I often here “there was no warning sign” prior to an incident or behaviour problem occurring. If you know what your dog is like relaxed you then just need to be aware of the any anxiety symptom and that is your moment to act. Control the situation before you get an eruption. Dogs need help not pity. In my experience A/A has been permitted and learned behaviour. It is often unnecessary and irrational for our dogs to have these responses so we must communicate that clearly to them in order for them to live less stressful and healthier lives. Ensuring a healthy diet with sufficient and regular exercise can definitely help. There will undoubtedly always be stress in our daily lives but ensuring it is limited and has as little impact as possible is what I aim for with my dogs. The most beautiful affection you can give a dog is a content and natural fulfilled life absent our society’s stress. As our culture grows on convenience your dog does not so spend the time to live harmoniously together.
Paws for Walkies
|Posted on October 14, 2014 at 4:45 PM||comments (1133)|
By nature dogs are inherently social animals with each other. The vast majority of dogs these days are heavily exposed to humans when young so this drive to be part of a group or sense of belonging easily transpires to humans. Within each dog the level of this will vary depending on individual character and socialisation in puppy hood. This is what I refer to as social drive within a dog.
A dog with a high social drive left uncontrolled can be a social disaster. They often bolt away from their owner when it sees another dog or person regardless of the in-between dangers on route. Even if the dog successfully manages to get to, its target reward, the person or other dog is now subjected to the dogs behaviour. Here in the UK this is a really common issue when dogs off lead are given too much freedom with little to no control. If we truly love our dogs we want to ensure their safety at all times. Rushing people or other dogs is dangerous and extremely poor social etiquette. Sadly a lot of clients regularly tell me they are scared to walk in certain areas due to irresponsible owners with no control over their dog. This behaviour not only has safety implications for the dog bolting but also the person or dog it rushes towards. If the handler of the dog feels nervous by the rushing dog in turn freezing this leaves their dog vulnerable to the other dogs behaviour. Repeat this a few times and any dog will lose trust in its handler. They will start anticipating this when encountering dogs on a walk resulting in so many behavioural issues e.g. fight or flight. If you want your dog to feel safe and trust you please never allow your dog to feel vulnerable. Protect your dog and advocate for them removing any unsocial person or dog from their space.
A dog with a high social drive controlled can be a dream dog. From raising or adopting the dog we want to teach the dog how to get any reward. Most people conceive a reward as only food or toys. A reward for me is anything the dog desires. So if we know the dog wants to be in our direct social / personal space this is something we can use as a reward. I refer to personal space as a metre radius around you. Often this concept is overlooked and the dog is always receiving the reward without working for it. Using this simple concept of teaching your dog when they are allowed in your personal space gives you an unlimited reward to use when your dog is behaving correctly. Your affection when controlled and given in this way means so much more to a dog as they are earning it rather than just getting something at liberty. An example I often compare this to when certain dog owners leave dog food out all the time. As the reward / food is available constantly the dog decides when they will receive it. There is no appetite for the reward as it freely available, therefore dogs fed like this often graze and their set dog food never means that much to them. So apply this principle to your personal space and affection. Control and harness your dogs social drive. Only give your personal space and affection at appropriate times. We want to use this to our advantage on the walks. This helps your personal space become an area you control. You will be more improtant and rewarding than the other people & dogs in the distance.
By controlling the social drive in your dog you in turn create a dog wanting to please and work for you. Engage with your dog appropriately and suitably on your walk to keep them interested in you. Supplementary rewards can be used to assist in training or bonding with our dogs but having a dogs focus without using supplementary rewards for me is a true bond.
Below is a clip from our dog adventures demonstrating controlling scoial drive in a group of dogs
Paws for Walkies
|Posted on May 4, 2014 at 11:55 AM||comments (281)|
Everyone needs to and should be walking their dog daily but rarely do most people think about the quality of this time we spend with our dog. A common approach is that we must physically exhaust our dog on the walk to satisfy their needs. Our dogs obviously do need physical exercises daily but we must be aware of what habit we are creating for our dogs.
Your dog’s mental state can be the cause of so many unsocial and dangerous behaviours. This is why some dog trainers only ever recommend doing training exercises after extensive physical exercise. The reason for this is to help remove adrenaline from the body and physically exhaust the dog to the point they have little energy remaining. This can make training exercises much easier and should only be used in my opinion a few times and with care. As the dog physically has less energy they will be less likely to have the intensity behind their responses. A dog over-adrenalized can be extremely erratic, due to this they can be a danger to themselves and others.
“There are no intentions in an over-adrenalized dog, only actions. "Intention" implies deliberate choice. A dog in this state is not capable of deliberate action.” – Chad Mackin, Pack to Basics
Dogs will and should have an adrenaline response when necessary just like humans. I described in an earlier blog “Adrenaline should only be produced as a response from the body to help you deal with a dangerous or alerted situation. If it is produced regularly at any other time it is mentally and physically unhealthy” - www.pawsforwalkies.com/apps/blog/show/39515281-is-your-dog-an-adrenaline-junkie-
One of the problems of the physical exhaustion approach when used too often or for excessive periods we start building stamina and creating an athlete in our dog. The approach that I use and recommend is focusing on the quality of our daily walks and monitoring your dog’s mental state. You should see this as your chance to work your dog every day. As a society time is a concept that is always in the forefront of our thoughts. For example we start our dog walk off with a preconceived route and time which we must adhere to in order to continue our already busy lifestyle. What I am suggesting is that we slow things down a little and start teaching our dogs the behaviour we want from them. Family dog owners will always have a limited time that they can spend on walks due to other commitments but we do not need complete our defined route. We can turn around or change our route if you are restricted for time, try to focus on your interaction rather than walking a route.
So, where to start?
One of the most important parts of your walk is the build up to leaving the house. If this is uncontrolled and your dog is already over stimulated this will continue on to the walk. Teaching your dog to be calm and attentive before you leave the house cannot be underestimated. The best advice I can offer without meeting your individual dog at this point is to take your time when doing your rituals of shoes, jacket and lead etc. We do not need to encourage any high energy responses at this point by saying anything to the dog. DO NOT BUILD EXCITEMENT. Ideally give the dog one place to stay while you prepare and every time they move from the area stop what you’re doing and instruct them back. Practise this exercise when leaving the house also. If you do not have the time to practice when you are less restricted for time, then think of this time spent as part of the walk. DO NOT RUSH OUT THE DOOR. Please take the time to create a new calm habit with your dog.
“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still” -Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika
I would highly recommend going to different environments with your dog and allowing them to observe it. Initially try to do this with your dog in quiet environments. Ideally once your dog relaxes we can reward this behaviour. If your dog is relaxed in the lower level environments you should look to gradually increase the distraction levels possibly by going to different areas. What we want to do is teach our dog to be relaxed on the walks and in different environments. Below is a quote centred on Yoga which has a profound connection with my ethos on walking a dog.
“The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic system, which is often identified with the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic, which is identified with what’s been called the relaxation response. When you do yoga — the deep breathing, the stretching, the movements that release muscle tension, the relaxed focus on being present in your body — you initiate a process that turns the fight-or-flight system off and the relaxation response on. That has a dramatic effect on the body. The heartbeat slows, respiration decreases, blood pressure decreases. The body seizes this chance to turn on the healing mechanisms” - Richard Faulds
I want to have relaxing walks with my dogs. By doing these simple steps and slowing our walks down we teach our dogs to cope with their environment out of adrenaline. In my view training and teaching these habits remove the need for extreme physical exhaustion in our dog’s daily life. We must always fulfil our dogs need for physical and mental exercise but the quality of that stimulation should always be the priority.
Paws for Walkies