Tag Archives: adult dog training

PULLING ON THE LEAD: LOOSE LEAD WALKING AND HEEL

The theory behind the loose lead walking is that if a dog pulls on the lead it is a reward to move forward, therefore it is important that you don’t allow your dog to pull you forward when they pull on the lead (As the dog is getting what is wants by pulling, not walking nicely).

Each time he/she pulls forward on the lead you need to stop walking. It is helpful if you are prepared to stop walking by watching the tension within the lead. As you see the lead go tight prepare yourself to stop (This gives much faster and more accurate feedback). There is no need to say anything as you stop walking. When the lead relaxes you can walk on. Eventually he / she will realise that pulling on the lead is not rewarded.

Now, you’re thinking; but I’m not going to get very far and how on earth do I exercise my dog?

2 options (plus more instruction below):  When using a short lead you could change directions when he/she pulls on the lead. This way you can keep moving and exercise your dog without allowing him/her to pull you forward.

The 2nd option is to use an extendable lead for exercise walks; I use a short lead for training and walking along the road & use an extendable lead when down at the park etc. I give my pup a warning word when I am putting the break on (stop) and also when he is about to reach the end of the lead. Provided the extendable lead is of good quality and is the correct size for your dog it should provide little resistance & therefore not contribute to pulling. The extendable lead allows more freedom and exercise in between training your dog to walk correctly on the lead. When using the extendable lead it is still important to ensure the dog is not pulling forward when they get to the end of the lead or when the lead is locked in at a short length.

Loose lead walking and ‘Heel’

To build on the loose lead walking is the heel command: the heel command will encourage your dog to walk alongside of you.

To start with the heel command, have your dog walking on the lead at your left side (this is usually the side away from the traffic). With a treat (or toy) in your left hand hold it in front your dog to help to lure him / her in the correct position. I generally hold the lead in my right hand or have the lead over my right wrist and lightly hold it and guide it with my left hand. Do not wrap the lead around your wrist as it can be unsafe if your dog lunges ahead and pulls you off-balance. If your dog jumps up at the treat (or toy) as you are practising the heel command just ignore this, but ensure he/she cannot take the treat from you. Verbally reward your dog as he/she walks nicely at your side. Occasionally give the treat. The ideal time to reward your dog is when he/she is looking forward and relaxed.

To encourage your dog to walk correctly on the lead it is useful to combine the above two techniques. If you are having trouble with this or if your dog is too strong for you then you may wish to look at a walking harness, head collar or training collar (like a limited slip collar). A walking harness (provided it is anti-pull and not a regular harness or car harness) will help you get faster results however you should still apply the same training techniques. The head collars give good results for large or strong dogs but they take some getting used to & the dog may play up a bit when they are first used. The training collars are useful and easy to use but once again the training still needs to be done to ensure long term results.

More free articles on our Free Articles page. Visit and get helpful and valuable tips for your dogs now!

Notes by Sarah McMullen of Clever Creatures April 2011

Advertisements

Overview of Fears, Phobias and Anxieties in Dogs and Cats

What is fear?

Fear is a physiologic, behavioural and emotional reaction to stimuli that an animal encounters. The physiologic reaction results in an increase in heart rate, increased respiratory rate (panting), sweating, trembling, pacing and possibly urination and defecation. Behaviourally an animal will exhibit changes in body posture and activity when afraid. The animal may engage in an avoidance response such as fleeing or hiding. A fearful animal may assume body postures that are protective such as lowering of the body and head, placing the ears closer to the head, widened eyes, and tail tucked under the body. If the animal perceives a threat, the response can also include elements of defensive aggression. Whether an animal fights or flees when frightened depends on its genetic predisposition, previous experience (what it has learned from similar situations in the past) and the environment that it is in (see below). The emotional reaction in animals can be difficult to gauge because animals are non-verbal. However, by observation of body postures and facial expressions it is possible to conclude that an animal is afraid.  On the other hand, pets may modify their behavioural responses with repeated exposure to the stimuli if the stimulus has been successfully removed by aggression or if escape has been successful.  Therefore what you see at the present time may not be the same as when the problem first began.

Is fear ever an abnormal response in animals?

In many situations it is “acceptable and understandable” for an animal to be afraid. However, there are times when animals exhibit fear when it is maladaptive or dangerous for humans. When animals are frightened they may become aggressive (fight), run away (flight), or stay still (freeze). The response a pet exhibits depends on the pet’s personality, the type of stimulus, previous experience with the stimulus, whether it is on its own property (where it is more likely to fight), whether it is in the presence of offspring or family members (where it is more likely to fight), or whether it is cornered or restrained and unable to escape (where it is more likely to fight).

What is a phobia?

This is an intense response to a situation that the animal perceives as fear inducing. The response is out of proportion to the stimulus and is maladaptive. Common phobias in animals involve noises and places. Phobic responses have physiologic, behavioural and emotional responses similar to fear, but they are extremely exaggerated. See our handout on canine fears and phobias

What is anxiety?

The human definition of anxiety is a diffuse feeling of impending danger or threat. It appears that animals can exhibit this diffuse type of anxiety, often manifested as generalized anxious behaviour in either specific situations (the veterinary hospital, new locations) or in a non-specific way (anything out of the routine schedule or environment). Anxiety is manifested by some of the same physiologic signs as fear, but also may be displayed as displacement or redirected behaviours, destructive behaviours, or excessive vocalization, and may become stereotypic or compulsive over time.

What types of stimuli might trigger fears, phobias or anxieties?

The triggers for these behaviours are as varied as there are breeds of dogs and cats. Animals may be frightened of people, other animals, places or things. Others may only respond with fear or phobia in one particular situation such as toward a thunderstorm.

What causes fearful, phobic or anxious responses?

Sometimes fear is the result of an early experience that was unpleasant or perceived by the animal as unpleasant. If the fearful response was successful at chasing away the stimulus, or if the pet escaped from the stimulus, the behaviour has been rewarded and therefore is likely to be repeated. Owners that try to stop the behaviour by providing treats or affection may actually serve to further reinforce the behaviour the animal is performing at that time.  Also, it should be noted that punishment, in close association with exposure to a stimulus might further cause fear and anxiety toward that stimulus.  If the owner is frustrated or anxious or the stimulus is threatening, this too will further aggravate (and justify) the fear.  Finally should the stimulus retreat or be removed during a display of fear aggression, the aggressive display will have been reinforced.

It does not take an unpleasant experience however for fear to develop. Any stimuli (people, places, sights, sounds, etc.) that a dog or cat has not been exposed to during its sensitive period of development, which is up to 3 months of age in dogs and 2 months in cats, may become a fear evoking stimulus. For example, the dog or cat that is exposed to adults, but not to children, during development may become fearful when first exposed to the sights, sounds or odours of young children. The pet’s genetics also contribute to its level of fears and phobias to stimuli.

Phobic responses can occur from just one exposure or gradually increase over continued exposure. In many cases of anxiety, neurotransmitter (brain chemical) function and levels may be altered and contribute to the overall behaviour. Again, learning or the consequences that follow the phobic response (rewards, escape, punishment) may aggravate the problem.

Illness, pain and the effects of aging may lead to an increase in fear or anxiety in situations where there was previously little or no evidence. These changes may change the way a pet perceives or responds to a stimulus. Age related changes in the brain (cognitive decline) or in the sensory system (hearing, sight), arthritis, diseases that affect the hormonal system such as an increase or decrease in thyroid hormones or an overactive pituitary gland (Cushing’s) and organ decline (liver, kidneys) are just a few examples of health and age related problems that might contribute to increasing fear and anxiety. Therefore, for any pet with fear or anxiety, but especially those that are intense, generalized, have any other concurrent signs or do not arise until adulthood or older age, a full physical examination and some blood tests if indicated would be warranted.

Is it possible to prevent fears, phobias and anxieties?

A good program of socialization and exposure to many new and novel things while an animal is young can be helpful in preventing fears and phobias. However, in the phenomena of “one trial” learning, an event is so traumatic that only one exposure can create fears, phobias or anxieties.  Socialization and fear prevention for dogs and socialization and fear prevention in cats are covered in separate handouts.

Owner responses when their pet experiences a new situation that could potentially be frightening are important. Calm reassurances, happy cheerful tones, and relaxed body postures of owners help pets experience new things without fear. Bringing along treats and play toys and giving them to the pet when it enters new environments (e.g. veterinary clinic, schoolyard) or when it meets new people or other pets can help turn the situation into one that is positive. Conversely, if you show anxiety, apprehension or frustration with your pet, or if you try to use punishment to stop undesirable behaviour, you will likely make your pet more anxious.  Knowing your pet and their individual temperament will help determine what situations you can and should expose your pet to.

How can these problems of fears and phobias be treated?

Each time your pet is exposed to an anxiety, fear, or phobia-inducing situation and cannot be made to calm down, the problem is likely to worsen. Finding a way to control, relax, calm, or distract your pet in the presence of the stimulus is needed to correct the problem and to teach your pet that there is nothing to be feared. A pet’s fear and anxiety will be lessened by an owner who is calm and in control.  For most cases of fear, behaviour modification techniques, where the pet is exposed to mild levels of the stimuli and rewarded for non-fearful behaviour, are utilized. For low levels of fear or anxiety, especially when the pet is being exposed to new stimuli, many pets will calm down with continued exposure, as long as nothing is done to aggravate the fear. These retraining techniques are discussed in our handout on Behaviour modification – desensitization and counter-conditioning.  Consequences that reinforce the fearful behaviours (inadvertent rewards or retreat of the stimulus) or aggravate the fear (punishment) must be identified and removed. Exposure to stimuli that have an unpleasant or negative outcome (e.g. an aggressive dog, a child that pulls the dog’s tail) also serve to instil further fear.  Drug therapy may also be a useful adjunct to behaviour therapy techniques and may be necessary in the treatment of some phobias.

***

This client information sheet is based on material written by Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB © Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used by Clever Creatures with permission under license. March 28, 2011

BEHAVIOUR PROBLEMS OF OLDER PETS

It is not unusual for behaviour problems to develop in older pets and often there may be multiple concurrent problems. It is also important to note that some of the changes associated with aging may not seem significant, but even a minor change in behaviour might be indicative of underlying medical problems or a decline in cognitive dysfunction. Since early diagnosis and treatment can control or slow the progress of many disease conditions, be certain to advise your veterinarian if there is any change in your pet’s behaviour.

What are some of the causes of behaviour changes in senior pets?

  1. Many of the problems have similar causes to those in younger pets. Changes in the household, changes in the environment and new stressors can lead to problems regardless of age. For instance moving, a change in work schedule, a family
  2. member leaving the home, or new additions to the family such as a spouse or baby, can have a dramatic impact on the pet’s behaviour. In addition, it is likely most older pets will be more resistant or less able to adapt to change.
  3. Older pets are also likely to develop an increasing number of medical and degenerative problems as they age. Any of the organ systems can be affected and play a role in the development of a wide variety of behaviour problems. For example, diseases of the urinary system and kidneys can lead to house-soiling. Diseases of the endocrine organs such as the thyroid gland and pituitary gland can lead to a variety of behavioural and personality changes. A decline in the senses (hearing and sight), painful conditions, and those that affect mobility may cause the pet to be more irritable or more fearful of approach and handling (see handout on Behaviour – ‘causes and diagnosis of problems’ for more details).
  4. As with other organs, the brain is susceptible to age related degenerative processes that can affect the pet’s behaviour, personality, memory, and learning ability. When these changes occur, the pet may show varying degrees of cognitive decline (discussed below) and in pets that are more severely affected, this might be referred to as cognitive dysfunction or senility. Many of these changes are similar to what occurs in aging humans. In fact, the amyloid deposits that are found in the brain of dogs with cognitive dysfunction are similar to what is seen in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in people.

How can I find out why my pet’s behaviour has changed?

Regardless of age, every behaviour case should begin with a complete veterinary physical examination and a clinical and behavioural history. In addition, blood tests and a urinalysis may be needed to rule out organ disease and endocrine imbalances, especially in the older pet. Sometimes a more in-depth examination of a particular organ system may be indicated. Additional laboratory tests, radiographs, ultrasound, spinal tests, brain scans, or perhaps a referral to a specialist may all be appropriate. A decision on which tests are needed would be based on the pet’s age, previous health problems, any ongoing drug or dietary therapy and an evaluation of all of its medical and behavioural signs and the findings of the physical exam.

My pet is quite old. Is there any point in doing these tests?  What can be done?

Unfortunately many pet owners do not even discuss behaviour changes with their veterinarians since they feel that the changes are a normal part of aging and perhaps nothing can be done for their dog or cat. This is far from the truth. Many problems have an underlying medical cause that can be treated or controlled with drugs, diet or perhaps surgery. Hormonal changes associated with an underactive or overactive thyroid gland, diabetes, diseases of the pituitary gland, and testicular tumours can all lead to dramatic changes in the pet’s behaviour and many of these problems can be treated or controlled. Degenerative organ systems can often be aided with nutritional supplementation or dietary changes. High blood pressure, cardiac disease and respiratory disease may be treatable with medication, which may dramatically improve the quality and even length of the pet’s life. Drugs and dietary therapy are also available that are useful in the treatment of age related cognitive dysfunction.

What are some things to look out for?

Changes in behaviour (see cognitive dysfunction below), an increase or decrease in appetite or drinking, an increased frequency or amount of urination, loss of urine control (dribbling urine, bedwetting), changes in stool consistency or frequency, skin and hair coat changes, lumps and bumps, mouth odour or bleeding gums, stiffness or soreness, excessive panting, coughing, changes in weight (increase or decrease), and tremors or shaking are some of the more common signs that should be reported, should they develop in your pet.

What is cognitive dysfunction and how is it diagnosed?

It is generally believed that, as in people, a dog or cat’s cognitive function tends to decline with age. If your dog has one or more of the signs below and all potential physical or medical causes have been ruled out, it may be due to cognitive dysfunction. Of course, it is also possible that cognitive dysfunction can arise concurrently with other medical problems, so that it might be difficult to determine the exact cause of each sign. Over the past few years the signs commonly attributed to cognitive dysfunctions have been described by the acronym DISH (Disorientation, alterations in Interactions with family members, Sleep-wake cycle and activity level changes or House soiling). However this may not be a sufficiently complete list to describe all of the categories in which a decline in cognitive function might be seen. These might include:

  • Disorientation (such as getting lost in familiar areas such as the home or yard)

Social interactions might be altered between the pet and owner or pet and other pets – some pets may appear to be more clingy while others might be disinterested or even irritable when petted or approached.

  • Anxiety might be increased

Activity levels often decrease so that the pet is seen sleeping more or less playful and exploratory. However some pets also become more active and restless with pacing, or even stereotypic behaviours such as licking or bouts of barking.

  • Appetite and self-hygiene may be affected either as an increase or decrease in these behaviours.
  • Altered sleep cycles with increased waking or restlessness at night.

Altered learning or memory as demonstrated by an inability to retrain, loss of performance (such as commands, working ability, or previous training) or house soiling (no longer can remember where to eliminate or how to signal).

In one study of dogs that were 11-16 years of age, 28% of owners of 11 to 12 year old dogs and 68% of owners of 15 to 16 year old dogs reported that their dog exhibited at least one of the signs above. However, it’s important to note that these are signs noticed by pet owners in comparison to when their dog was younger. Research has shown that if you were to try and train your dog on some new learning tasks, that after about 7 years of age many dogs begin to show a decline in memory and learning ability. Similarly owners of older cats reported that for cats 11-15, 35% of owners reported at least one sign of cognitive decline and that this rose to 50% in cats over 15.  Treatment options tend to be most effective at slowing or reversing decline when they are instituted early in the course of disease. Therefore, be certain to report any of these signs to your veterinarian immediately.

Do pets get Alzheimer’s?

Many of the same changes and lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease in people have also been recognized in dogs and cats. Should multiple behaviour problems develop and these changes progress to the point where the dog or cat is no longer a “functional” pet, the condition may be consistent with senility or dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.

Can geriatric behaviour problems be treated?

In many cases the answer is yes. Of course, if there are medical problems contributing to the behaviour changes, the problem may not be treatable. The key therefore is to report changes and bring in your pet for assessment as soon as new problems arise.

Dogs that develop behaviour problems due to underlying medical conditions may need alterations in their schedule or environment in order to deal with these problems. If the condition is treatable and can be controlled or resolved (e.g. Cushing’s disease, infections, painful conditions) then, as discussed, you must be prepared to retrain the dog, since the new habit may persist. For example, the house-soiling pet may have less duration of control due to its medical problems. If these conditions cannot be controlled, then the pet’s schedule (more frequent trips outdoors), or environment (installing a dog door, paper training) may have to be modified. With conditions that affect a cat’s mobility, adjustments may be needed to the pet’s environment, litter box placement, or type of litter box, (e.g. a lower sided box).

In cognitive dysfunction, an increase in a neurotoxic protein called beta amyloid, an increase in damage due to toxic free radicals, a loss of neurons, and alterations in neurotransmitters such as dopamine may be responsible for many of the behaviour changes. Both drug therapy and dietary therapy are now available that might improve these signs and potentially slow the decline.  Again early diagnosis and intervention is likely to have the greatest effects.

Selegiline is a drug that has been licensed for the treatment of cognitive decline in dogs in North America. It is classed as an MAOB inhibitor but its action may be to enhance neurotransmitter function such as noradrenaline and dopamine, to help reduce free radical damage in the brain and perhaps as a neuroprotective drug (see details in our handout on drug therapy). Many of the signs listed above (DISH) may be improved by treatment with selegiline.

Another method of managing senior behaviour problems is a prescription diet that is designed to protect against and possibly reverse damage due to toxic free radicals. It is enhanced with a variety of antioxidants including vitamin E, Selenium, vitamin C and fruits and vegetables. It is also supplemented with essential fatty acids in the form of fish oils and some factors to help the cell’s mitochondria function more efficiently including carnitine and lipoic acid. The diet has been shown to improve learning ability and memory in old dogs and improve many of the clinical signs listed above (e.g. DISH).

There are also a number of other medications, some licensed for use in European countries (such as nicergoline and propentofylline).  They are behaviour-modifying drugs that might also enhance cognitive function by increasing blood flow through the brain or by enhancing neurotransmitter function.   For the treatment of specific signs such as anxiety disorders and altered sleep wake cycles, other drugs and natural therapeutics may be useful, but special caution and consideration should be given as to the potential side effects in the elderly.

In both human and animal medicine the diagnosis and treatment of age related cognitive decline is a growing area of concern.  In addition to a number of therapeutic agents that are presently in development, a number of combination supplements are now available that use a variety of antioxidant, nutraceutical, vitamin, mineral and herbal preparations for cognitive decline.  Although for the most part untested, these products may be useful in improving clinical signs or slowing the progress of the disease.

It is important to note that once new habits are learned, retraining and changes to the environment may also be needed to resolve the problem. For example, in addition to drug therapy, dogs that have begun to eliminate indoors will need to be retrained much like a puppy that has begun to eliminate indoors.

*****************************************************************

This client information sheet is based on material written by Debra Horwitz, DVM, Diplomate ACVB & Gary Landsberg, DVM, Diplomate ACVB © Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used by Clever Creatures with permission under license. March 10, 2011

DISOBEDIENCE; Hints and Tips

How can I prevent my puppy from becoming a disobedient dog?

An early start to training and frequent exercise sessions are necessary to prevent puppies from becoming too rowdy.  Waiting to train your puppy until it is 5 or 6 months of age can often let these disobedient behaviours take hold.  Then you have to undo behaviours you don’t like in order to get the ones you want.  Puppies are like sponges and learn very quickly, but they also have very short attention spans. Motivate your puppy to perform using positive reinforcement; i.e. make training fun! Exercise should be frequent but not excessive for young dogs; make sure it’s not just physical exercise but include enrichment and socialization as well. With early training, excitable puppies can often have their behaviour channelled in the correct direction.

Hints and Tips

Reprimands and punishment are often unsuccessful.  Punishment may reward behaviour by providing attention.  Punishment that is too harsh can lead to anxiety, fear of the owner and problems such as fear aggression, submissive urination & displacement behaviours.

Sometimes demanding behaviour is rewarded while quiet behaviour is ignored.  If this is what is happening in your home; deal with it by treating all demanding behaviour with inattention and reward calm, non-demanding behaviour with play and attention.

Energetic dogs need exercise every day. The more active the dog, the more exercise it needs. Without it your dog will vent its energy into undesirable behaviour and this can also lead to disobedience.

It is very important to practice the training that you may ultimately need & practice this in different situations (calm and quiet first and then introduce distractions).

An example of this is training the dog to sit and stay near the front entrance.

How will the dog know to sit and not run out the door when people come to visit, (a highly excitable event), if the dog has never practiced doing so? (Both when things were calm and then at distracting times).

Another example is training classes; the time when you really need your dog to respond to you is likely to be when they are distracted or in a busy area. Make sure you take your dog to training classes so they can practice training in a busy, distracting environment; don’t just practice at home!

 

Jumping up!

This seems to be a very common problem in puppies, but unfortunately it can be a real problem with older dogs as well. Not good if your adult dog weighs 40kg!

Prevention is better than cure. If you have a new pup or dog make sure you set the rules straight away. And this means making sure all family members comply. Sometimes it’s not the 4 legged family member that is the problem; it’s often the smaller 2 legged variety!

Jumping up is not abnormal, it’s just unacceptable. Your dog or puppy is going to get excited and playful, and when seeking out your attention or playing, your dog is likely to jump up at times. How you deal with this behaviour will affect the dogs’ future actions.

Dog Jumping Up!

Dog Jumping Up a Lot!

Jumping up is attention seeking so if you give attention by pushing the dog down, telling the dog off, giving eye contact or worse still, patting or playing with your dog then you will encourage the behaviour (making it much harder to retrain later on). Adults and children should withdraw all contact and turn away from the dog.

Children (and adults) may find it helps to cross their arms and turn away. Walk away if needed. If you indulge the behaviour and give the dog attention when it is excitable and out of control you may also have the problem of the dog grabbing at clothes and chasing (more on that another time).

Make sure everyone is consistent when dealing with jumping up. If 1 person is not sticking to the training you will have trouble correcting the problem.

Reward for all 4 feet being on the ground & reward calm relaxed behaviour. Teach the dog to sit for attention or upon approach. Outdoor dogs can benefit from time inside as calm behaviour is needed & encouraged when they come indoors. If your dog is not used to being inside bring them in on a lead and get them to settle on their bed or mat.

When visitors arrive put the dog on a lead so you can control the behaviour (keep a spare slip lead by the door) that way your dog won’t have control over the interaction with the visitor and the visitor won’t be able to encourage bad habits such as jumping up.

Jumping up may get worse before it gets better as your dog may try harder to get a response from you. Don’t give up, persistence is the key!

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the most common behaviour problems in dogs. It is a very serious behaviour problem and can be very stressful for both dogs and the family members. To reduce the likelihood of a dog developing separation anxiety it is important that dogs learn to have time on their own and enjoy that time on their own. This should start with young puppies. As much as it is nice to smother a new pup with lots of love and attention make sure they have time on their own in a secure area or play pen. During this time provide them with a variety of toys and things to chew on (a great way to introduce toys which dispense food or Kong dog toys stuffed with treats or a meal).

Puppies should come from reputable breeders. I have seen dogs who are genetically prone to separation anxiety (rare but I have seen it). I have also seen a number of dogs who are weaned too early who develop attachment related disorders such as separation anxiety (my first dog developed separation anxiety quite early and she had been taken from her mum at 5 weeks of age). Dogs in pet shops are often weaned too early as are dogs from irresponsible breeders (puppy farms and some ‘back yard’ breeders). A puppy should not be taken from its mum before 7 weeks of age. So if you are looking for a new pup then do the research first and do resist the temptation to buy on impulse!

Some people use the ‘controlled crying’ technique when they get a new puppy & I can see there is a place for this as a way to deal with attention seeking when the puppy is settled in, but I don’t believe it is in the dogs best interest to be suddenly taken from littermates and left locked in room to ‘cry it out’. The transition from the breeder & litter mates to the new family should be smooth and this includes getting a pup used to being on its own gradually. It has enough anxiety to deal with not to have more forced on it if it can be avoided. A better alternative for a new puppy would be to have a pen (or crate) in the living area or to use a child gate barrier so the puppy can see people around it but gets used to having time on its own whilst still being safe. Using toys, chew toys and music a dog can then be taught to relax whilst it’s in its new area.

For a dog that already has separation anxiety it is very important that you seek help from an expert (Have a chat to your vet about who they would recommend). Your dog may need medication but it is not always required. Generally dogs should not be on medication unless they are also undergoing behaviour modification or are soon to start. Medication can help to reduce the dogs’ anxiety and make it easier to learn new behaviours (and we want them to be the right behaviours!) There are natural products also. For mild cases Rescue remedy or other flower essences may help as can herbal nerve tonics for pets. Room sprays such as home alone room spray or aroma calm can be used in conjunction with other products or medication to make the environment more relaxing.

The aim when treating separation anxiety is to reduce the dogs’ dependence on the family or human that it lives with. This should be done slowly and carefully under expert guidance. It helps if the dog has a secure area where it feels safe. For many dogs this will be indoors when the family goes out. If the dog is destructive it will need to be a ‘sacrificial’ space where it doesn’t matter if the dog damages the door or similar. Just make sure the dog is safe and can’t hurt itself or escape. Doggy daycare may also be an option for some dogs and may be a useful way for the dog to reduce dependence on particular family members. However I wouldn’t rely on it totally. Like us dogs do need time on their own. And don’t forget the importance of exercise! I don’t know about you but exercise is a wonderful stress relief for me, and walking the dog benefits both human and the dog. Exercise should be both on and off lead and provide the dog with both a balance of physical and mental enrichment.

When the dog is to be left alone ensure it has plenty to do to keep itself occupied. Food treats are very useful for this and you may wish to feed the dog its breakfast or meal when you go out, or leave them with a suitable bone or rawhide chew which can keep them occupied for longer. If the dog is so anxious that it won’t eat then you need to speak to your vet about medication and coping strategies. If you don’t already have a copy see our booklet “101 Ways to keep your dog entertained” (a free sample or the whole booklet can be downloaded via the links page on our website). It is very important that the dog is given mental stimulation to keep it busy and you may also find toys that encourage the dog to pull, chew or tear up could help reduce the dogs’ anxiety and likelihood of targeting other items.

And lastly, training and attention seeking behaviour. Dogs should not be encouraged to follow the humans around the house. Dogs who constantly seek out the humans should be ignored when they display this anxious behaviour (beware it may get worse before it gets better so stick with it). The dogs’ behaviour should also be ignored if they constantly seek out pats and attention. Making sure you call them over for pats and it should be on your terms. You dog still needs your attention but try to focus it along with a bit of training so your dog comes to you or first does something for you on command. Think about some training games also which help build up your dogs confidence. Incorporate training into your daily routine and not only will your dog have a clearer idea of what you want from it, but it will be more relaxed with the extra physical and mental stimulation.

As I mentioned earlier it is important to incorporate all strategies at once. Just trying things in dribs and drabs will not enable you to fix this problem. Seek expert advice for a tailored program to suit your family.

THE LOSS OF A PET

“The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief.

But the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love.”

Losing an animal companion is one of the hardest things we will ever experience. I’d like to say that I have a solution to getting over the grief of losing an animal close to us but I don’t know of one & would it feel right to ‘just get over’ him or her? I don’t think so. And if anyone tells you to ‘get over it’ or it’s only an animal, then stay well clear of them as they are not the person you should be keeping company with at this time.

I don’t think the grieving process should be rushed & I don’t think that you should feel that you should be recovering so quickly. Not only was this animal a part of your family, but the communication usually runs so deep that there is an extremely strong bond. Some people will never feel this bond with their animal companion, and that’s ok (but their loss) and for those of you that do feel that intense heartfelt wrenching when you think about your recently, or long lost companion that’s ok, and you should feel very lucky indeed. That level of devotion went both ways.

Below is a quote from a German Shepherd calendar I was once given.

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion”.

Right now might be a time that you are feeling guilty, that you think that you could have done more, should have done more, that you shouldn’t have been so strict, should have been with him or her at the time, or even worse that you had to be the one to make the decision. This is natural. Euthanasia is an extremely hard decision but we are lucky that we can make that choice to stop the suffering. Things happen for a reason and you can’t change time, so stop beating yourself up.

So now on a more positive note, what can you do? You need to function; you need to be able to carry on with life. This doesn’t mean you are not grieving or have to stop grieving. It’s just that you need to be able to function with your life around the grief.

I’ll share with you how I have coped with my losses in the past and maybe others can give their input as to what has helped them.

Crying; it’s okay!

Lots of walks; it enabled me to feel close to my dog who had passed away, especially when I did ‘our’ walks. I’m sure I sometimes heard the tinkle of her collar.

Rescue remedy (or emergency essence) you can get oral drops or room sprays; ideal for you and other animal companions in the home.

Share the memories; get together with those who shared the love with your animal companion. Laugh about the naughty things he or she did. Share a big block of chocolate or a glass of wine if that helps!

Make a scrapbook or photo album. Maybe go through your online photos and get a photo book created.

A place in the garden. Create a small garden in memory of your pet or plant a tree. If you are in a rental then perhaps plant up a large pot or rescue an old garden bench / seat and apply some paint and a bit of tlc; you could also get a plaque made up and attach it to the seat. It will help to sit outdoors and feel close to your pets special place.

Share. Go through and wash your pet’s bowls, favourite toys and bedding. Pack it up in a nice box or donate it to another animal that may be in need. I still have some of my dog’s old toys, and the special memories that go with them.

Spend time with other animals. It may be hard but perhaps visit your friends with animals, or offer to take a friends dog for a walk or sit with a friend’s cat. You may find volunteering at a rescue centre helps.

Additional Advices & Tips on Coping with Pet Loss

From Moira Anderson Allen, M.Ed.

Anyone who considers a pet a beloved friend, companion, or family member knows the intense pain that accompanies the loss of that friend. Following are some tips on coping with that grief, and with the difficult decisions one faces upon the loss of a pet.

1. Am I crazy to hurt so much?

Intense grief over the loss of a pet is normal and natural. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s silly, crazy, or overly sentimental to grieve!

During the years you spent with your pet (even if they were few), it became a significant and constant part of your life. It was a source of comfort and companionship, of unconditional love and acceptance, of fun and joy. So don’t be surprised if you feel devastated by the loss of such a relationship.

People who don’t understand the pet/owner bond may not understand your pain. All that matters, however, is how you feel. Don’t let others dictate your feelings: They are valid, and may be extremely painful. But remember, you are not alone: Thousands of pet owners have gone through the same feelings.

2. What Can I Expect to Feel?

Different people experience grief in different ways. Besides your sorrow and loss, you may also experience the following emotions:

Guilt may occur if you feel responsible for your pet’s death-the “if only I had been more careful” syndrome. It is pointless and often erroneous to burden yourself with guilt for the accident or illness that claimed your pet’s life, and only makes it more difficult to resolve your grief.

Denial makes it difficult to accept that your pet is really gone. It’s hard to imagine that your pet won’t greet you when you come home, or that it doesn’t need its evening meal. Some pet owners carry this to extremes, and fear their pet is still alive and suffering somewhere. Others find it hard to get a new pet for fear of being “disloyal” to the old.

Anger may be directed at the illness that killed your pet, the driver of the speeding car, the veterinarian who “failed” to save its life. Sometimes it is justified, but when carried to extremes, it distracts you from the important task of resolving your grief.

Depression is a natural consequence of grief, but can leave you powerless to cope with your feelings. Extreme depression robs you of motivation and energy, causing you to dwell upon your sorrow.

3. What can I do about my feelings?

The most important step you can take is to be honest about your feelings. Don’t deny your pain, or your feelings of anger and guilt. Only by examining and coming to terms with your feelings can you begin to work through them.

You have a right to feel pain and grief! Someone you loved has died, and you feel alone and bereaved. You have a right to feel anger and guilt, as well. Acknowledge your feelings first, then ask yourself whether the circumstances actually justify them.

Locking away grief doesn’t make it go away. Express it. Cry, scream, pound the floor, and talk it out. Do what helps you the most. Don’t try to avoid grief by not thinking about your pet; instead, reminisce about the good times. This will help you understand what your pet’s loss actually means to you.

Some find it helpful to express their feelings and memories in poems, stories, or letters to the pet. Other strategies including rearranging your schedule to fill in the times you would have spent with your pet; preparing a memorial such as a photo collage; and talking to others about your loss.

4. Who can I talk to?

If your family or friends love pets, they’ll understand what you’re going through. Don’t hide your feelings in a misguided effort to appear strong and calm! Working through your feelings with another person is one of the best ways to put them in perspective and find ways to handle them. Find someone you can talk to about how much the pet meant to you and how much you miss it-someone you feel comfortable crying and grieving with.

If you don’t have family or friends who understand, or if you need more help, ask your veterinarian or humane association to recommend a pet loss counselor or support group. Check with your church or hospital for grief counseling. Remember, your grief is genuine and deserving of support.

5. When is the right time to euthanize a pet?

Your veterinarian is the best judge of your pet’s physical condition; however, you are the best judge of the quality of your pet’s daily life. If a pet has a good appetite, responds to attention, seeks its owner’s company, and participates in play or family life, many owners feel that this is not the time. However, if a pet is in constant pain, undergoing difficult and stressful treatments that aren’t helping greatly, unresponsive to affection, unaware of its surroundings, and uninterested in life, a caring pet owner will probably choose to end the beloved companion’s suffering.

Evaluate your pet’s health honestly and unselfishly with your veterinarian. Prolonging a pet’s suffering in order to prevent your own ultimately helps neither of you. Nothing can make this decision an easy or painless one, but it is truly the final act of love that you can make for your pet.

6. Should I stay during euthanasia?

Many feel this is the ultimate gesture of love and comfort you can offer your pet. Some feel relief and comfort themselves by staying: They were able to see that their pet passed peacefully and without pain, and that it was truly gone. For many, not witnessing the death (and not seeing the body) makes it more difficult to accept that the pet is really gone. However, this can be traumatic, and you must ask yourself honestly whether you will be able to handle it. Uncontrolled emotions and tears-though natural-are likely to upset your pet.

Some clinics are more open than others to allowing the owner to stay during euthanasia. Some veterinarians are also willing to euthanize a pet at home. Others have come to an owner’s car to administer the injection. Again, consider what will be least traumatic for you and your pet, and discuss your desires and concerns with your veterinarian. If your clinic is not able to accommodate your wishes, request a referral.

7. What do I do next?

When a pet dies, you must choose how to handle its remains. Sometimes, in the midst of grief, it may seem easiest to leave the pet at the clinic for disposal. Check with your clinic to find out whether there is a fee for such disposal. Some shelters also accept such remains, though many charge a fee for disposal.

If you prefer a more formal option, several are available. Home burial is a popular choice, if you have sufficient property for it. It is economical and enables you to design your own funeral ceremony at little cost. However, city regulations usually prohibit pet burials, and this is not a good choice for renters or people who move frequently.

To many, a pet cemetery provides a sense of dignity, security, and permanence. Owners appreciate the serene surroundings and care of the gravesite. Cemetery costs vary depending on the services you select, as well as upon the type of pet you have. Cremation is a less expensive option that allows you to handle your pet’s remains in a variety of ways: bury them (even in the city), scatter them in a favourite location, place them in a columbarium, or even keep them with you in a decorative urn (of which wide varieties are available).

Check with your veterinarian, pet shop, or phone directory for options available in your area. Consider your living situation, personal and religious values, finances, and future plans when making your decision. It’s also wise to make such plans in advance, rather than hurriedly in the midst of grief.

8. What should I tell my children?

You are the best judge of how much information your children can handle about death and the loss of their pet. Don’t underestimate them, however. You may find that, by being honest with them about your pet’s loss, you may be able to address some fears and misperceptions they have about death.

Honesty is important. If you say the pet was “put to sleep,” make sure your children understand the difference between death and ordinary sleep. Never say the pet “went away,” or your child may wonder what he or she did to make it leave, and wait in anguish for its return. That also makes it harder for a child to accept a new pet. Make it clear that the pet will not come back, but that it is happy and free of pain.

Never assume a child is too young or too old to grieve. Never criticize a child for tears, or tell them to “be strong” or not to feel sad. Be honest about your own sorrow; don’t try to hide it, or children may feel required to hide their grief as well. Discuss the issue with the entire family, and give everyone a chance to work through their grief at their own pace.

9. Will my other pets grieve?

Pets observe every change in a household, and are bound to notice the absence of a companion. Pets often form strong attachments to one another, and the survivor of such a pair may seem to grieve for its companion. Cats grieve for dogs, and dogs for cats.

You may need to give your surviving pets a lot of extra attention and love to help them through this period. Remember that, if you are going to introduce a new pet, your surviving pets may not accept the newcomer right away, but new bonds will grow in time. Meanwhile, the love of your surviving pets can be wonderfully healing for your own grief.

10. Should I get a new pet right away?

Generally, the answer is no. One needs time to work through grief and loss before attempting to build a relationship with a new pet. If your emotions are still in turmoil, you may resent a new pet for trying to “take the place” of the old-for what you really want is your old pet back. Children in particular may feel that loving a new pet is “disloyal” to the previous pet.

When you do get a new pet, avoid getting a “lookalike” pet, which makes comparisons all the more likely. Don’t expect your new pet to be “just like” the one you lost, but allow it to develop its own personality. Never give a new pet the same name or nickname as the old. Avoid the temptation to compare the new pet to the old one: It can be hard to remember that your beloved companion also caused a few problems when it was young!

A new pet should be acquired because you are ready to move forward and build a new relationship-rather than looking backward and mourning your loss. When you are ready, select an animal with whom you can build another long, loving relationship-because this is what having a pet is all about!

Article Resource: http://www.pet-loss.net/

Dedicated to Cilla, Kiah, Ace, Whiskey, Heidi and Marmalade… Lost but not forgotten.