Category: Pet Behaviour

Ali's Animal Answers > Posts > Pet Behaviour
Puppy Tails (1)

Puppy Tails (1)


Introducing Rollo; active, happy, speedy puppy with bundles of energy and lots of love to give. He is a lurcher (greyhound mix) collie mix, and the best birthday gift a girl could hope for!

Rollo, when we first brought him home 殺

He is our newest addition to the family – at 11 weeks old now, he is having his second set of vaccinations (and microchip) this afternoon, meaning he will be able explore the big, wide world beyond the house and garden!

In this, the first puppy “tail”/ tale, we will look at some of the habituation training we’ve been doing with Rollo, to prepare him for the big, wide world out there!

Rollo at 8 weeks old.

Firstly, for those who are unfamiliar with habituation training, this is training that teaches a dog to be okay with a stimulus. Basically, you acclimatise the dog to the stimulus you’re exposing it to.

It is important, when habituating your dog to a stimulus, that you do not comfort your dog. If a dog acts fearfully or anxiously to something they need not fear, and comfort is given to that reaction it will reinforce the fear/ anxiety to that stimulus. By comforting your dog you are reinforcing to them that their reaction was correct.

Some of the main sound stimuli that dogs often show fear toward are:

• Thunder
• Fireworks
• Vacuum cleaner
• Loud vehicles

To habituate Rollo to these sounds, he first had to be exposed to the sounds and his reaction gauged, to know where to begin.

Let’s look at the first two; thunder and fireworks – not sound stimuli that you can schedule training around, as you often get little to no warning of when these sounds may come up in life (you can’t always rely on the weather forecast ).

We are fortunate to have a (modest) surround sound system in our living room, as well as a Chromecast device which allows us to play sounds and videos via the TV and the surround sound. So, to introduce Rollo to the stimuli of thunder and fireworks we found videos and sound clips online, and played them through the surround sound. Starting off at a very low volume (which we struggled to hear, but Rollo (having superior dog hearing) could hear just fine) we played several different videos – firstly of fireworks, then the same with thunder.

Rollo was unsure the first few times we played the fireworks – he sought comfort the first time, and whined a little in his uncertainty. We carried on as normal with what we were doing, and encouraged Rollo to continue playing with his toys. We did this several times over a couple of weeks – after a week he just didn’t react any more, but continued with whatever he was doing (playing, eating, napping, etc.) at the time.

After the first few times, when Rollo’s reaction was lessening, we increased the volume each time to continue habituating him to this noise. The volume increases didn’t seem to get much of a response from Rollo, other than that he seemed to acknowledge the sudden noise interrupting his day. During the second week, with the volume at a suitable level Rollo had completely given up on reacting in any kind of negative or anxious way to the fireworks stimulus.

We repeated this training method with playing thunder through the surround sound with Rollo, and his reaction was significantly less to the thunder than to the fireworks. This may be due to the firework habituation training having gone so well, or simply because Rollo is unaffected by the noise (my previous dog, Barney, used to love to bark at thunder and fireworks just to join in being noisy – not out of any fear or anxiety). After just over a week of doing this with thunder, Rollo was showing no negative or anxious reactions – success!

Rollo age 10 weeks, enjoying his teddy – giving no reaction to the noises from the surround sound system.

We still occasionally play thunder and fireworks, just to keep the habituation successful whilst he’s still young. The real test of this habituation training will be when he hears thunder and fireworks for real, for the first time!

Throughout the above, Rollo was also being habituated to the vacuum cleaner – let’s face it, I can’t not vacuum so he needs to gets used to that! We have a Henry Hoover, which Rollo was very suspicious of at first, as Henry was a lot bigger than him when we first brought Rollo home! Rollo pawed and mouthed at Henry with his strange nose and funny feet! He wasn’t too fussed on Henry until the noise came… That spooked Rollo the first time – he barked and whined and ran away from Henry. Rollo soon settled down as we didn’t react to Henry (or comfort Rollo) and he soon realised the noise was nothing to fear.

But then came the movement; a noisy Henry in the corner is one thing, but a noisy Henry moving around the house is another! Using Henry to actually vacuum (not just so Rollo could get used to the sound) sparked the barking and whining and retreating reaction again. Again, we didn’t react or comfort, and we (whoever wasn’t manning the vacuum) encouraged Rollo to continue what he was doing.

Whilst Rollo doesn’t react so extremely any more to Henry, he still usually stops what he’s doing and watches from a safe distance until Henry is quiet and back in his corner. This is a good reaction in my book, for the time being, as Rollo is not fearful or anxious, but we will continue to work on this as Rollo also isn’t completely comfortable around the noisy, moving Henry (he may never be, but dog training is an ongoing thing).

Rollo age 9 weeks, with his Nylabone chew, showing mild interest in Henry Hoover’s stationary noisiness.

Finally, when we’ve had Rollo on his various leads in the front and back gardens (lead training will be covered in a future “Puppy Tail”), we’ve used the opportunity to allow him to become habituated to the noises of the neighbours, the street and various vehicles.

Our back garden backs onto a train track, with fairly frequently running trains (at all hours of the day and night). Foxes often run around the neighborhood, and there are plenty of birds and squirrels around too! Cats roaming their territories, and dogs in neighbouring gardens or being walked down our street, are frequent sights. Cars, motorcycles, buses, lorries, cyclists and pedestrians are also frequent down our (relatively busy) little road. All of these things, and more, have caught Rollo’s attention and sparked a reaction in the beginning.

Trains and other vehicles, and the local wildlife, Rollo just takes in his stride now – they’re just part of the background noise to life. People and other dogs he so badly wants to interact with, which is only natural whilst he’s confined to the house and gardens – this training will continue on walks in the outside world. Cats, he doesn’t (at the moment) react to in any way as they stay well out of reach.

He does still enjoy watching the world go by from the driveway, now he’s used to the noises and activities going on, on our road. The main thing is that Rollo has been given the time and the training to acclimatise to these everyday stimuli, so these things are less of a worry when he is able to go for walks beyond the realm of his home and gardens.

Rollo age 10.5 weeks enjoying watching the world go by, from the safety of the driveway.

All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


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Dog photography

Dog photography


Just a brief post to share some photos of Tilly and her friends, now that she’s enjoying being with other dogs again (successful but still ongoing rehabilitation with Tilly)! It’s a thrill to see her socialising well still, for the most part, and getting excited to see her friends.

My dad always told me, when I needed to take photos of animals as part of coursework for my college diploma and my university degree, that to get the best photos of animals you need to get on their level! Now that was tricky when I had an assignment about giraffe’s!

You may not be an avid photographer, but we all take photos of our pets! I like candid photos as much as the next person, but I also love how my animal photos look when I follow my dad’s advice and get on their level. Just thought I’d share this little tip with you all! See for yourself below…


All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


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Cat Proofing Your Garden

Dogs and cats are among the most popular pets in Western culture… neighbouring animals using your garden as a litter box is not usually a welcome habit.
Four Methods to repel cats from using your garden as a litter box: Odour repellents, Plants as repellents, Fence modifications, and If you can’t beat them…

Titbit: Tilly the mix-breed rescue

Titbit: Tilly the mix-breed rescue


AMIDST THE CRAZINESS of the world right now, in times of lock-down (for many countries), there are a lot of people crying out for help. With people being made jobless, or being furloughed, or too unwell to help themselves – whatever the reason – we need to stand together (2 m/ 6 ft apart) until this is all over. I am based in England, UK and I noticed that Facebook (at least on my app) has a COVID-19 help centre, for people to offer and/ or request help during these uncertain times… this is how I came to meet Tilly! Her owner cannot walk her all the time at the moment, so I have the privilege of walking her when I am needed.

Tilly is a beautiful 10 year old mix-breed, who was rescued by her owner at age 5. She can be nervy of bigger dogs, due to previous bad experiences; overall she is a happy, well-behaved, loving girly living her ‘golden years’. She has been a breath of fresh to me during lock-down, as she is my four-legged (almost) daily exercise companion – being an animal lover, going for a walk is just that little bit better with an animal by my side!

Tilly

It’s always fun (i.m.o.) getting to know a new animal; getting to know their personality and who they are! As her hearing and sight are not what they used to be, I have had to learn to adapt some of my normal dog walking style to fit in with her.

As regular readers of my website posts (if there are any) will know, my little Barney crossed the rainbow bridge September 2019, aged 15. His eyes were getting cloudy, but his hearing was still pretty decent. I often use a ‘click’ sound to encourage a dog to keep close/ up and to ‘whistle’ to recall a dog from a distance; with Tilly being harder of hearing, I have learned to give a ‘whistle’ in lieu of a ‘click’ and she responds well.

As she can be nervous of bigger dogs (especially if they are over-excited or lunge (even in play)), I have become more vigilant with taking stock of any dogs in the area; noting size, behaviour, and whether or not they are off-leash. In terms of her deteriorating eye-sight, she can definitely find her way with her nose if she is struggling to see; I am ensuring to talk to her and/ or allow her to smell me before going in to fuss and pet her – just so she is aware I’m there, and avoid startling her!

I am sure Tilly is adapting to me, as much as I am to her; as we continue to get to know each other better, and learn to be out together in the current climate, I am enjoying her company and hope I prove to be an enjoyable exercise companion to her too!


All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of the social media pages…
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Dog Training: Basic Tips

Dog Training: Basic Tips


I AM HOPING, in some future posts, to go into each point in more detail. For now, I just wanted to share some basic tips to think about, when training your dog/ puppy. As always, any questions or comments can be left on the website, or via Facebook or Twitter (as below).

1. Relationship and Behaviour

Building a trusting relationship with the dog is key. Nothing builds trust better than time – spend time with the dog, let them take all the time they need to come to you and to trust you. Physical contact helps to reinforce the relationship, the way in which you approach physical contact will also impact the way the animal interacts with you.

Me & My Barney

2. Control the Session

Remaining calm is a key component to remaining in control of the situation. Dogs are great at picking up on your energy and your mood; if you are stressed or anxious, they will pick up on this and be more likely to react to this; if you are calm and in control, they will feel relaxed and more likely to feel they can trust you.

If you feel like things are starting to get out of control, take a breath and step back – end the session if you have to, but keeping yourself and the animal safe, and as least stressed as possible, will benefit you both more than trying to push through. Knowing when to stop, and when to push through a barrier, is sometimes tricky.

3. Patience and Persistence

Just like people, dogs learn at different rates; they’re all individuals, with their own learning speed and strengths. If the dog isn’t getting something as quick as you would like, just be patient, and encourage any little successes – for example; if you are teaching a dog to give paw and they lift their foot but don’t give it, reward this and encourage this to help them.

Barney “giving paw”

Pictured below is Maggie, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, who I worked with and trained. She was in a rescue kennels where I worked, and was very toy-aggressive; she would try to take your hand if you tried to take her toy… after 3 months of working with her, she was still very toy-possessive, but no longer toy-aggressive. She still had a long way to go, but it took 3 months to get her to such a positive place to work from. Try not to be discouraged if things aren’t progressing as fast as you’d like – go at the pace of the dog; persistently but patiently.

Maggie

4. Understanding

There is a saying that Altitude is Attitude – meaning, in terms of dogs, that the dog who physically holds the highest ground, also holds the the highest rank in the hierarchy; they see themselves as the Alpha, the dominant dog, the top dog. This is very helpful to have in your mind for any kind of training; a dog that knows their place (not Alpha), has boundaries and structure, is a happy dog.

Being able to interpret what your pet is saying, with body language and facial expressions, help in understanding what your pet is telling you and how they are feeling.

5. Praise and Reward

This doesn’t mean you need to stock your cupboards full of dog treats! Praise can be fussing with positive words, petting and/or play. If the dog breed you are working with is prone to weight gain, it may be best to choose other options of reward, aside from treats, and/or invest in some healthier treats (for example; when I was a teenager, my best friend had a border collie who loved carrots – this was a good way to reward her with a healthy treat).

Jake – toy reward

6. Discourage Unwanted Behaviours Early

This doesn’t mean implementing negative training methods if your dog is not behaving in the desired manner; I mean this more in the sense of training your new puppy, or when working with an anxious dog or a rescue dog; let me explain a little…

Many behavioural issues in adults dogs come about by encouragement from us, because when this behaviour is performed as a puppy it’s seen as “cute”or “funny”. Let’s use tail chasing as an example; people laugh and fuss when a puppy chases it’s tail because it is amusing and/ or “cute” – this can lead to to tail chewing, often obsessively, and they can damage their own tail by doing so. This could just lead to damage to furniture, etc. when the dog is grown, and is too big to tail chase without knocking things over – thus causing the dog to be told off.

If your pup is doing a behaviour that could be (a) harmful to themselves in the future, or (b) a nuisance when performed by the adult dog, try to gently discourage this behaviour as early as possible, to prevent it from becoming an issue later on.

Puppy Winston – treat reward

All images are either open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of the social media pages…
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Titbit follow-up: Bertie the Schnauzer

Titbit follow-up: Bertie the Schnauzer

So training with Bertie has been pretty straight-forward, and quite easy – until the last time we had a trainging session, in which we continued lead training!

He’s not so keen to walk to heel when he knows a run on the field is just around the corner! But his owners and I have been working with him and he is getting better each time we go out. He is quite good with his recall training, but sometimes gets distracted by the 10 metre lead and decides to play with that instead!

Bertie

Initially treat motivation and reward was enough, especially with the basics; with more distractions and unwillingness to walk without pulling, I implemented a new reward – his favourite squeaky toy! This saw the change in his behaviour, as the motivation to be good for the reward was renewed. Clearly the treats are not what he’s most interested in as a reward, but play time with his favourite squeaky toy is a great reward; he is now motivated to do well again.

Don’t give up when training your pup gets tough – change tactics, change reward, change your approach – incorporate whatever positive thing works.


All other images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
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Prepping for your Pup!

Prepping for your Pup!


So you’ve picked your pup and soon (s)he’ll arrive, and make a lovely addition to your household!

Boston Terrier puppy

We love our pets (as per my first ever website post), and part of that love comes before we’ve even brought them home – in ensuring we are ready and able to properly care and provide for them.

Dogs are a very popular pet; preparing for an adopted adult dog and preparing for a puppy are different things. This post will focus on preparing for a brand new little puppy.

Preparation depends a lot on the breed you have chosen – the attributes belonging to the breed of dog you have chosen. Choosing a breed should tie in with your lifestyle – don’t get a breed of dog that requires what you can’t provide. For further information about specific dog breeds, pop me a message or check out my posts covering A-Z of Dog Breeds.


Food, Water and the Bowls that hold them!

Bowls should be the appropriate size and weight for the breed you have chosen; a large dog breed will require larger, heavier bowls than a small dog breed.
If your pup will grow into a tall dog, you may want to invest in bowls that will fit into a stand as your pup grows bigger! A large dog will strong, and move small items (such as food/water bowls) around easily, so heavy duty bowls may be more suitable, to prevent your pup pushing them bowls (and spilling the contents) as they eat/drink.
Small dogs are suited to smaller bowls, and medium dogs to medium bowls, etc. The weight of a smaller bowl will depend on the breed – if it’s a stronger/heftier breed (e.g. British Bulldog) you have chosen you may wish to opt for a weightier bowl, than if you have chosen a petite/lightweight breed (e.g. Italian Greyhound).
The depth of the bowl should reflect the length of muzzle and shape of the head/face of your chosen breed – a short-snouted dog will struggle to reach the bottom of a deep bowl. You can even get bowls specifically designed to keep long, floppy ears out of the dish and nice and clean!

Food will size specific and often age specific, and breed specific too with some brands. Do your research into top brands – don’t compromise with a poor diet for a bargain! There are plenty of top-notch foods out their that won’t break the bank, as well as the ones that will stretch your wallet a bit further! Depending on how quickly the dog breed you have chosen will reach maturity, will determine how long your pup should stay on puppy food – this should be indicated on the packaging (in my opinion, any food brand worth their salt will provide this information). Between 6-18 months old, your dog will have reached sexual maturity (at this point dogs often get neutered), but they may continue to grow to full size for some time after that. Small dogs tend to reach maturity closer to 6 months and are often full grown at 12-18 months; where as larger breeds tend to reach maturity later and can take 2 years to become fully grown.


Beds, crates and safe spaces

As mentioned above, the breed and size of your dog plays a big factor in getting ready for them. If you plan on crate training your pup (which I personally would recommend) think about the best option – if you plan on keeping the crate throughout your pets adult life, for travel or holidays or “just in case!” (like we did with our family dog) then buy for an adult dog! Don’t buy a little crate for the pup, buy the size you will need in the future to accommodate the size of dog you will have. In my experience, crates don’t tend to differ too significantly in price as the sizes go up, so it’s more advisable to spend a tenner or so more for the correct adult size than end up spending the X amount now and then X+ amount again in the future.
Post on Crate Training to follow.

Beds – sizing being the obvious factor here, but also take into account where your pup will be sleeping and what characteristics the breeds is known for. Some breeds are known for chewing through anything – you don’t want your pup chewing their way through nice pillow stuffing that can clog up their gut, just for the sake of wanting them to have a soft bed they can snuggle into. Dogs are brilliant and keeping themselves warm, and you’d be surprised how insulating a lining of newspaper under the bedding can be!
The bed and/or crate will be your pet’s “safe space” – this is where teaching children and others comes in. If your dog takes themselves off to their bed and/or crate, do not disturb them or harass them but leave them to it; they need to know this is their space and it is safe for them to have peace from children and from excitement and anything else.

You should be able to stroke your pet, to handle them if necessary in their bed – they shouldn’t be possessive of their “safe space” to the extent they may get aggressive. Do stroke your pet in their bed and/or crate but not for long, but often enough so they allow you into their “safe space” when necessary.


Collars, leads and “walkies!” related titbits

Get your pup used to a collar – puppy collars are gentle on the new skin and new fur of a young pup. Put the collar on for 5 minutes a day at first, and build up the amount of time over a few weeks. Once your puppy is ready for their first set of vaccinations you can try a collar on for a few hours building up as you see fit until their second set of injections, when you can take them for a walk. Before they can go out into the big, wide world you can take them around your garden or home on collar and lead (or harness or whatever you will use to walk them).

Puppy collar modelled by Tilly


Teaching your pup to walk well on a lead is essential – especially if you plan on walking with just a collar and lead. If you plan to use a harness or a gentle leader (personally I’d advise against using a Halti) get them used to this also with the collar and lead. If you do plan to use a harness, do your research and get the best type of harness for your breed – I would advise against a harness that goes round the chest and over the shoulders as this restricts movement; go for a hardness that goes from the chest, around the shoulders. Do not use a harness on breeds designed to pull, as this will encourage pulling. If you plan to use a gentle leader, ensure you fit your pet with the correct size to ensure full control and that your pet will not slip out of it. Alternatives are check chains and half-check chains – I personally would never use a check chain, and certainly if you are unsure how to set it up for safe use as you could choke your pet; half-check chains are a lot safer, as they do not require set up as they are half chain and half collar. I personally do not prefer either but if you insist on one, go with the half-check.

Gentle Leader


Once your pup is big enough for “walkies”, keep walks short and interesting until they’re big enough to walk further an explore more. If you plan to walk your dog off lead in any location, then off the lead training should be done before hand, in a safe area, to ensure your dog’s safety when out and about off the lead.
 For further information on the above section check out my Loose the Leash! post.

On a related note, for travel in the car I suggest getting a suitable harness or travel seat/carrier. Do not let your dog loose in your car whilst driving – you may have a well behaved dog, but good behaviour won’t stop your dog flying out the windscreen or into a person (or worse) in the event of a crash. My little pooch (pictured below in his car harness) weighs around 10 kg – just imagine the damage 10 kg can do loose in a car in a crash… safety first, for you and them!

Please do check out my other website posts or send me a message via any of my contact details below for further information on any of the above, or advice for walking equipment and/or on and off the lead training.

(Car) Harness – note straps go around the shoulders, not across.




All images are WordPress supplied, open source Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
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Titbit: Macy the Staffie

Titbit: Macy the Staffie

So this morning I went for a walk/ training session with a friend and her Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Macy (pictured). Sensibly, Macy is muzzled on walks as she (like many Staffie’s and other breeds) has a particular dislike toward her fellow canine. She will grumble, whine, moan, and often pull on her lead when other dogs are around – and is particularly displeased if coming into contact with another dog.

This morning Macy (and owner) learned that it is okay for other dogs to walk past (on and off the lead), and that large groups of dogs do not have to be an issue either. Macy kept her focus on the person walking her on the lead, and made very little noise or motion toward other dogs on this morning’s walk.

Macy was walked close to heel, with the led loop around the walker’s wrist, and the other hand holding part way down the lead to keep her to heel, while other dogs were around. She was walked on the opposite side of the pavement to the other dog(s), with the walker in between Macy and the other dogs. This kept Macy focusing on what the walker was doing, rather than on who else was walking past, and whether or not she wanted to eat them! 😉

When a more difficult challenge was presented – lots of dogs coming from lots of directions – Macy and her walker stood still, backed up against something (fence/ wall/ tree/ etc.) on a short lead; the walker talked to Macy to keep her focused, and not distracted by all of the other dogs.

These basic method meant for a pleasant walk and a happy Macy (and owner) – her owner feels like Macy has called her a liar due to how well behaved Macy was, with a little bit of direction.


All images are open source, Google images, or my own – or photos donated for use by the pet owners.


If you have any questions or comments; please post a comment below, or contact Ali’s Answers via one of my social media pages…
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