Tag Archives: boisterous dogs

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.

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Notes by Sarah McMullen of Clever Creatures April 2011

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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.

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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

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!