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TOP TIP: Fireworks and the anxious dog.

October 4, 2012adminTips0

Some Dos and Don’ts…

If you have a dog that gets very anxious around fireworks, it’s quite natural and almost instinctual for many us to try and soothe any nervous behaviour we see, often by talking quietly to a dog in a comforting way and petting him or her too, saying things like, “it will be okay, Sammy…don’t worry” over and over.

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Some people will sit for ages with an anxious dog and stroke and kiss, believing they are supporting him in this kind way. This approach is, however, unfortunately unlikely to have any positive effect (for the dog) even though the person is being kind and believes he is making things better as it is applying human psychology to dogs, an approach where, even though the intention is kind and good, can often make matters worse. The dog’s interpretation is likely to be ‘you are sitting here, stroking me, talking quietly to me…and you’re on the floor too…you never do that…you’re obviously very frightened too! Everyone’s frightened…and no one is in control…’

So, what should you do? As strange as it may seem, you should do your best to ignore a dog in this state of mind and behave naturally, so that the dog ‘gets from you’…from your behaviour alone…that there is nothing to be concerned about. Don’t touch or make a fuss of an anxious dog and try not to look at him for any sustained period. It can be tough, very, but you will help more in this ‘ignoring way’ than if you try to soothe with words or by petting. Be positive, turn the radio and the TV on and try to just get on with things. The message here is that if you’re relaxed and in control, your dog will be less anxious as a result. Over time his anxiety should significantly decrease. Using a crate and covering it with a heavy blanket is a good way of providing your dog with a safe haven or den when he feels anxious; I prefer to leave a crate door open so a dog can go in and out whenever he likes. Just the knowledge that he has free access to a very secure/dark place in the home will in itself reduce any anxiety levels. If he settles down in his crate of his own accord, by all means check on him every now and again but say very little and leave him alone for a time after that. Appear confident and you will give him confidence.

If you have a dog that gets very anxious when he hears fireworks or loud noises, alternative strategies can be discussed/explored so contact the LoveK9 team if you have specific queries.

FAQ: I’m anxious about letting my dog off-lead for the first time. Can you help?

July 10, 2012adminQuestions0

One strategy would be to…

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    • Teach the recall or ‘come’ command, first at home without too many distractions. Rehearse this always just before you put on his lead, before you play games with him and just before he gets any treat.
    • Try to walk with other people and, preferably with their dogs – but you should do this strictly on-lead for a week or more, as this kind of activity will get your dog into the habit of listening to you when other people and their dogs are around, teaching him the important lesson that he shouldn’t ‘tune you out’…no matter what’s happening.
    • Start off by letting your dog off-lead in a safe enclosed area – a garden or tennis court, for example, and try to have at least one other dog present who gets on well with your dog and always comes back when called. Practice giving off-lead time in short 1 or 2 minute periods always rewarding a prompt recall with a juicy treat and/or affection.
    • Have confidence. If you get tense and anticipate a negative behaviour when you’re about to let your dog off-lead, then this is not a good starting point for you or your dog. Try to relax and pass confident vibes to your dog.
    • A key point here is that you must get into the habit of letting your dog off-lead only when he is relaxed. He must be asked to ‘Wait’ and ‘Sit’ for example, then wait for about 10 seconds of quietness/patience and then let him have a ‘play time’. In this way you have started the off-lead behaviour by asking him to relax and listen to you, and he is rewarded as a result…so he’ll be more likely to listen the next time you want his attention.
    • Use a training-lead (a very long lead that attaches to the dog’s collar and trails behind) if you feel it will help or give you more confidence
    • Training any dog correctly to a whistle is definitely worth considering too – using a whistle effectively is likely to significantly improve most dogs’ recall skills.
    • Build up the frequency of your ‘off-lead play-times’ gradually and before you know it your dog will be enjoying himself off-lead in the park.

FAQ: My dog pulls on the lead and it’s getting really bad. What can I do to stop it?

July 10, 2012adminQuestions0

A really good strategy for tackling any pulling behaviour is to start by first teaching the ‘Wait’ command. This command teaches a puppy or older dog that tension in the lead equals a negative connection between him and his handler/owner. The Wait command works by teaching a dog to ‘wait politely with you on a relaxed lead’ but you need to practise this at home initially, where distractions are minimal.

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Simply walk a few steps (indoors or in your garden) with your dog on lead and after a few seconds, once your dog is pulling you in one direction, stop and say ‘Wait’ calmly but firmly. At the same time you should gently pull the lead into your tummy and then immediately relax it, so that the lead is no longer taut. If your dog pulls again, then repeat the process over and over until he gets the idea that ‘Wait’ means ‘no tension in the lead.’ He can move around in front of you or behind you, remain standing in one position or even sit or lie down but, as soon as he pulls or you feel even a slight amount of tension in the lead, you must say ‘Wait’ and gently pull the lead into you and relax it, so that it is no longer taut. Wait for about 30 seconds and make sure that the lead remains relaxed during that time. Then walk forward a few steps and begin the exercise again. You must be positive throughout, telling your dog he is doing well when he is and give him the odd treat too to show him that this new ‘Wait’ behaviour pays dividends! Increase the walking distance over time and before long your dog will get the idea that pulling behaviour gets him nowhere fast.

As these are general guidelines only, please contact the LoveK9 team if you have particular queries relating to your own situation or individual canine.

FAQ: My dog eats his own poo…yuck! Can you help?

July 10, 2012adminQuestions0

Poo eating, more formally known as coprophagia, can develop over a period of time with an older dog or you might have a puppy that has started this behaviour recently. A dog might be behaving like this for many reasons; because it holds some appeal in terms of taste (!?) or psychological fulfillment or it could be that he is trying to hide the fact that he has soiled a particular area, if he was scolded previously for example.

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Obviously, you must use common sense here, so recognise that your dog may be lacking in nutrients too and take a close look at how, what and how much you’re feeding your dog, consult manufacturer’s feeding guidelines and ask your Vet for advice if you are unsure or have any concerns about your dog’s well-being.

One strategy to counter the poo-eating behaviour (if he’ s intent on eating his own) is to mix some pineapple (although I have heard courgettes can work too!) into a dog’s normal food. On digestion, the resultant waste is suddenly not so appealing after all! Practicing the ‘Leave’ command is also really important here. Begin by training and motivating your dog to ‘Leave’ an article or food, initially at home or in a park, and once you’re confident that your dog is responding well, start applying the same ‘Leave’ message to anything else that might be lurking on the ground! Being consistent is key.

TOP TIP: How to introduce a dog to his new crate

July 10, 2012adminTips0

A good general approach when introducing a crate is to…

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    • Agree with other family members where the crate is going to be situated at home and leave it in that position, at least initially. Set it up in the room without your dog present as this can become a noisy process.
    • Make the crate inviting – a soft blanket, toys and a few welcoming treats placed inside the crate will all help convince any dog that this is a good place to be! A really good idea is to cover the top of the crate with a heavy blanket so the new secure den becomes just that.
    • Make a fuss of your dog (not in an excited or over-the-top way) whenever he is in or anywhere near the crate initially. A simple ‘good boy’ and a gentle pat on the back is just fine. Giving a few tasty treats to your dog in or near the crate initially is also a good idea.
    • Then pay the new item little attention for about 10 minutes, be patient and allow your dog to get accustomed to the new item in his own time. Leave the crate door open.
    • Practice, only for a few minutes at a time, asking your dog to go in and out of the crate using treats/ball and a positive and patient attitude – your dog will glean confidence from your relaxed behaviour.
    • Before you know it the positive association will be made and you can start to train your dog to enjoy staying in the crate for a short time while you are present. Success!

As these are general guidelines only, common sense should of course be used at all times. No dog, whatever breed or size, should not be left in a crate for any period of time unless he is completely comfortable with the idea first, and then only for very short periods of time.

TOP TIP: Praise and correct, but not both at the same time!

July 10, 2012adminTips0

Sometimes people correct a particular canine behaviour at home when, for example, they see Rufus chewing a piece of furniture. This can involve a ‘No, Rufus, stop that!’ instruction and/or a range of other phrases!…but then, after only a second or two after Rufus stops chewing, they praise him for stopping and tell him ‘he’s such a good boy.’

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The message the person is obviously trying to send is “Good boy for stopping that chewing behaviour” but the message the dog is likely to receive is “Wow, they really liked that behaviour. Might try that again!” If someone interacts positively much too quickly after a negative behaviour, signals will get mixed up.

The general idea is if you feel you must address a negative behaviour, tell him ‘no’ and gain control of the situation, putting your dog on-lead if appropriate. Move him a few steps away from whatever was getting him into trouble and ask him to ‘Wait’ quietly for a minute or so. Then call him to you and praise the recall behaviour and then release him. The quiet time spent in between correction and praise brings clarity from your dog’s perspective and he gets the message, “That first behaviour is not on!…and we can now go on as normal…”

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