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Informative Blogs

An ongoing series of informative entries

Inspector Gadget - Do gadgets really work?

25th August 2020

There are hundreds of different gadgets on the market, promising a multitude of cures, from collars that stop your dog from barking, harnesses or special leads to stop pulling, muzzles to stop them biting, thunder jackets to help with anxiety and so on. The question is however, do they work? 

We are so busy with our lives that we often opt for a quick fix, rather than addressing the real problem. We do this with our own wellbeing too, as well as our dogs behaviour. We have a bad stomach, so we reach for the antacids, headaches we take paracetamol, anxiety we take antidepressants and on it goes, but just like our aliments, there is always an underlying cause. So when your dog is barking, pulling you down the street, attacking other dogs etc, it’s not because you have a bad dog, he/she is doing it for a reason and a gadget is just putting a plaster on it, which as we all know, eventually falls off. 

Just like a lot of new gadgets when they hit the market, they become the latest trend and owners who either want the best for their dogs, or are desperate to cure their dogs unwanted behaviour, buy into the idea that they need this new gadget in order to have a happy and well behaved dog.

Gadgets might seem to work at first, but oddly enough this is combined with the owners feeling more relaxed that they have now found a cure and acting more contented around the dog. Dogs read body language and energy and therefore the dog picks up on this more relaxed energy and calms down, and we think ‘whoop whoop’, the gadget works. However, once the gadget has become familiar to the dog, the unwanted behaviour either returns or is replaced by a new unwanted behaviour. If you think about shock collars (electric, sound or vibration) what these actually do is punish the dog for carrying out one of its most natural instinct, which is to ward off danger and in return for doing their job, they get a shock and do not understand why, which just add trauma to an already stressed dog. Imagine, shocking your child in the neck every time he or she interrupted your conversation? You just wouldn’t do it.

Dog’s don’t speak our language and they never will, so it’s up to us to understand theirs and communicate to them using their signals. Curing unwanted behaviour is relatively simple, but you have to look at the root cause and not turn to the latest gadget. A dog that understands its place in the family unit, will be happy and contended and will want to please you.

To find our more about Canine Behaviour please click here

Dogs & Face Masks

25th June 2020

Dogs not only read our body language but our facial expressions too, so for some dogs seeing people with masks on their face is going to be alarming, so it's important to get your dog used this, as face masks might be here to stay.  To help you with this The Dogs Trust has written an interested blog, which has been extracted below. 

You'll need: Tasty treats, Something to cover your face, like a scarf or bandana, a face mask (homemade or bought). Start at home where your dog is comfortable, take it slowly and make sure they stay relaxed.

Step 1 - Simply hold your hand over your mouth and nose for a moment then give your dog a treat. Repeat this several times so they get used to your face being slightly obscured and learn this means a treat is coming their way.

Step 2 - Next, keep talking as you cover your mouth and nose to get your dog used to hearing you speak without seeing your mouth moving. For dogs seeing our faces move is very important, so this might take a little time to get used to! Repeat several times so they’re comfortable listening to you talking with your face covered and then getting their treat.

Step 3 - Use a scarf or bandana and cover your mouth and nose for a little longer and reward your dog, so they learn that this isn’t anything to worry about.

Step 4 - As long as your dog appears relaxed, start to move around the room while your face is covered, talking to your dog and giving them treats as you go.

Step 5 - Introduce the face mask itself. Let your dog see you trying it on, then talk to them and move around as before while scattering treats or feeding them by hand. They’ll learn that seeing people walking and talking in facemasks isn’t anything to be concerned about.

Step 6 - Once your dog is comfortable with you wearing a face mask, start again from the beginning with others in the home so your dog feels comfortable no matter who has their face covered.

Now you’re ready to try outside in your garden or the street. Repeat any steps necessary so your dog is always relaxed. Take your mask out with you on walks and give your dog a treat every time you see anyone else wearing one! Over time, with plenty rewards, they’ll soon be taking people in face masks in their stride.

This blog was extracted from the Dogs Trust Website and can be found here

Easy Like Sunday Morning

4th July 2020

Does your dog go crazy at noises? Do they act like your shadow when you're at home? Do they pull on the lead? Bark at other dogs? Or have selective hearing when out on a walk? We are so used to seeing this kind of behaviour, that we think this is ‘normal’ dog behaviour. But it’s not!! That should be a relief to some of you, or maybe a shock to others. A relaxed and contented dog will sleep most of the time, waking up to go to the toilet, maybe have a bum scratch from their owner or go out for a walk.

Whilst it’s true that some breeds need more stimulation than others, the majority of this so called ‘normal’ behaviour, is due to our dogs being a little overwhelmed with the world around them, and not fully understanding their place within the family unit in which they reside. We sometimes forget that dogs are fundamentally an apex predator, with a simple instinct to survive and do not understand our world of car’s, postmen, binmen, fireworks and so on.

When we bring a dog into our family, it needs to know where it fits within that unit. It’s a bit like when we have visitors staying over; they generally don’t behave how they would in their own house, as they are respectful of 'our' rules and boundaries. They understand that they are not the decision makers in our homes. The same applies to dogs, we need to set the boundaries as to what they can and cannot do. I always find it amusing when owners let their dogs jump all over guests and their furniture. But imagine if your children did that? I’m fairly sure you wouldn’t allow it.

When our dogs are clear of the ground rules, they do not bark at every noise, they do not take you for a walk, they do not yap at other dogs; they are simply more relaxed, happy and easy like Sunday morning.

To find our more about Canine Behaviour please click here

Hit the road Jack - and don't ya come back!

8th June 2020

Have you ever been to visit someone and when you get up to leave their dog starts barking at you? or even worse when you turn your back, it delivers a nasty nip and you’re left wondered what you did wrong and the owner somewhat embarrassed?? Or maybe you’ve been out on a walk and have been confronted by an aggressive dog? A frightening situation indeed!

When dealing with unwanted behaviour, I often tell owners to turn their back on their dog when it is jumping up and trying to get attention, and, as best they can, to continue with what they are doing. I do this, as it gives the dog a strong message that you are not entertaining its demands while it is in this hyper state. However, there is a caveat to that.

In some circumstances turning your back can exacerbate the situation and a dog that seems to be quiet and calm, can spring into action the moment a person turns their back and the dog delivers a quick nip When on the back of the leg or bottom and if the dog is really big, the neck.

This is a mistake I made when working with a client whose dog was incredibly nervous and had taken on the role of protector. To the dog I was an intruder and, although I was there to help, the dog did not know this and as far as she was concerned, I was a threat. After about 90 minutes, I got up to leave; the dog started to bark and as soon as my back was turned, she delivered a nasty nip on my backside. Lucky for me, my phone was in my back pocket which took the brunt of her bite and saved me from a trip to A&E. In her role of protector, she was simply telling me to “Hit The Road Jack” and don’t come back!!

Fortunately for me, the dog’s owners took onboard my advice and my next 3 visits were non-eventful, but what should you do if you find yourself in a similar situation? The safest thing is to ask the owners to take hold of the dog, so you can exit safely. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you are confronted by an aggressive dog, do not attempt to make friends, simply lower your eyes and back away from the dog until enough distance is made so you feel safe. Do not turn your back in this instance as the chances are that you will receive a nasty nip or worse.

To find our more about Canine Behaviour please click here

Pack Status - You're not the boss of me!

10th May 2020

The method I teach is all based around the pecking order and responsibility within the family unit. As the saying goes - anyone can steer a ship, but we need someone to know where we are going. There are varying opinions about whether status still exists in domesticated dogs, so I’m going to use the current situation we all find ourselves in to answer that.

Firstly, dogs are no different to us or any other species, in that they have one main goal and that is to survive. Despite dogs having been domesticated for about 15 thousand years, their DNA is that of a wolf, and therefore the instinctual behaviours of a wolf run through their blood and are at the very core of how they think and behave. You effectively have a wolf in your living room (even if it is a chihuahua). Their survival is underpinned by the need to have a strong leader that can find food, lead them when on a hunt (the Walk) and deal with Perceived Danger (the postman etc), and if they have full confidence in that leader, they will follow him/her without question.

Now for those that say that hierarchy no longer exists, lets apply the above to our current situation. We have a Prime Minister (the Alpha in this instance) and associates who are guiding us through this pandemic. They advise where and how to get our food (the Hunt) and we are learning more about the virus (the Perceived Danger) that threatens our survival. We continually question our leader to check he is up to the challenge of getting us through this alive.

Unfortunately, as some of us have witnessed, there are always those in society who go against the rules, so we have other members who police them and ultimately issue punishments, as those few are putting the safety of the rest of us at risk. We have all seen dogs come together and will have observed that within a very short period of time, a more dominant (Alpha) dog will emerge and a pecking order to that new pack will develop, which they figure out for themselves. The Alpha will keep order; is the first to eat; will deal with any jokers or rule breakers within the pack and will ward off any potential danger. Sometimes, he will be challenged by another dog that believes he is a more competent leader, and that’s when a fight will break out.

Whilst we are free to make some personal decisions, hierarchy governs our entire world. Think about this for a moment. As parents, you are Alpha over your children, at work, you take direction from your boss, you feed instructions down to your subordinates, in games from football to tennis, there is always a captain or an umpire and so on. There is always someone who makes the final decision - An Alpha, a King Pin!

To find our more about Canine Behaviour please click here

Don't leave me this way - Separation Anxiety

1st May 2020

Separation Anxiety in dogs is a very distressing problem for a lot of owners and can present itself in a myriad of ways such as destructive behaviour, constant howling, self-harming and soiling in the home. However, the distress this causes to the owners is nothing compared to the stress that the poor dogs are going through.

As dog owners we make assumptions based on our human logic as to why our dogs do what they do, and a lot of owners believe that Separation Anxiety is due to the dog loving us too much and wanting to be with us all the time. Therefore, when we go out, the dog misses us, as he does not know where we have gone and for how long, which puts them in a state of distress.

Think about your role as a parent or a carer - if your child goes on a play date, you want to know: where they are going, who is going to be there and what time they will be back, but despite knowing these answers, you will probably maintain a level of anxiety until your child is returned home safely. However, when we the parents/carers go out, we don’t feel we have to go into the same amount of details to our children, because we are in charge and can take care of ourselves and our children accept that.

We tend to view dogs as domesticated animals that are dependent on us, totally omitting the fact that a dog is an apex predator with instinctual responsibilities to other pack members. In any collection of pack animals, you will see that the decision makers do not have to justify themselves when they leave the group, nor are the other group members concerned when they do so. They know that the decision maker is the smartest, most experienced and reliable member of the group that can take care of themselves. If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety it is because they believe they have responsibility for your safety. Whilst this may sound rather sweet, the anxiety that this causes the dog, is not sweet – think how you would feel if your child went missing for a few hours.

When your dog views you as a junior member or incapable of making decisions for the pack, they will assume responsibility and take on the role of alpha and this is where the behaviour problems start. Dogs with separation anxiety are missing you because they have lost sight and sound of their charges and have no idea where you have gone, if you are safe, or if you will ever return.

A method you can start practising now, to help alleviate Separation Anxiety when you return to work is ‘Gesture Leaving’. This is very simply and effective and involves you walking out the door, stopping for a second and then coming back in, without any fuss what-so-ever. What your dog will see, is you going and returning safe and sound without incident. It is important that you do not acknowledge your dog when you return, as you want to demonstrate that it’s none of its business where you have been. The more you practice Gesture Leaving, the better the results and it only takes a second. So, every time you nip the loo or put the kettle on, just go out the front door, close it, then come back in and continue to get on with your day. You can do this 100 times a day if you wish, the more times, the better the results. You can then build up the amount of time that you stay out, so for example walk out, count to 10 and come back in and repeat soon after. You must ensure that you come back in before the dog starts to get concerned, so there is absolutely no trauma involved in the process.

To convince your dog that you are the decision maker within your pack, you must demonstrate competence in four key areas (Status, Food, The Walk and Perceived Danger) as these are the rules that dogs live by!

I offer a complete program that helps you to understand and speak the language of your canine friend.  This puts you in the role of alpha, which takes the responsibility away from your dog, making for a more relaxed and happy life for all concerned.

To find our more about Canine Behaviour please click here

To Sit or not to Sit - That is the question?

1st April 2020

More often than not ‘Sit’ is one of the first commands we teach to our dogs, but why? What purpose does it serve? In our world it is paramount that certain dogs are taught to respond to particular instructions. For example; support dogs, drug detection dogs and guide dogs all need to react to certain ​sights, smells, noises etc. However, getting a dog to ‘Sit’ just because, can have no real benefit and in some situations can cause the dog and owner considerable stress.

A lot of owners will make a dog sit when putting on its lead, when waiting to cross the road, or as a means of control when the dog is behaving in an undesirable way. However, if we look at this through the eyes of a dog, we are actually going against its natural instinct of fight or flight in the presence of perceived danger. Dogs do not understand that cars, lorries etc, pose no risk and are just taking us humans from A to B. For a dog these ‘unknowns’ are potentially dangerous situations and the dog will feel much happier to remain on his feet, thus retaining his most basic instinct survival of flight or fight. By pushing it’s bottom down into the sit position will only increase its anxiety. Think of when you feel agitated or anxious, the last thing you want to do is sit down!!

For a dog to sit or lay down on its own accord, it must feel happy and relaxed. To do this it must first establish that there is no present danger and the people around them are also calm and relaxed. If there are agitated or stressed people around, the dog will not want to be off it’s feet and neither will you!

Here at Hounds ‘n’ Harmony we prefer to teach the dog how to control its own behaviour via consequence of action. So for example, if your dog gets very excited at the presence of the lead, simply put the lead down and do not continue until the dog has calmed down. It will not take long for the dog to realise that he has to remain calm in order to get out of the house. This same method can be applied to other behaviour, such as jumping up. By ignoring the behaviour, the dog will soon realise that it has nothing to gain and it actually gets what it wants (acknowledgement) far quicker if he patiently waits. Think of how we apply similar rules to children, ignoring the bad behaviour and praising the good.

Next time you are in a situation where you know that your dog will feel uneasy (for a lot of owners, this can be the Vet), just remain calm and give your dog some time to adjust to the situation. If he feels safer standing, do not force him to sit, this will only increase his and your anxiety, especially when he keeps getting up.

So to conclude: if you do want to teach your dog to sit, then do so when your dog is feeling happy and relaxed, which is normally in their home environment. Do not force the matter when outside, remember if he wants to stand, it’s because he does not feel comfortable in the situation and wants to be ready to carry out his basic instincts if necessary.

To find our more about Canine Behaviour please click here