Category: Pet Behaviour

Ali's Animal Answers > Posts > Pet Behaviour

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.


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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.


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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.


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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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Common Behavioural Problems: Tail Chasing

Common Behavioural Problems: Tail Chasing

Behaviour Banner

Tail chasing can be a harmless behaviour; however, when performed regularly, and encouraged, can become a behavioural problem (and even damaging to the health of your dog).

Tail chasing (see video) often starts when the dog is young. When you have a puppy, and it is playing and bouncing around and being adorable and silly – and it chases that waggy thing behind it, and the pup is running in circles trying to catch that wild tail! You sit watching this cute display; cooing and talking to the puppy in your excited voice (you know the one I mean)! This, to your puppy, is encouraging the behaviour.

Try, despite how adorable it can be in a young dog, to discourage this behaviour. If you don’t, this behaviour may lead to obsessive compulsive behaviour or damaging attention seeking behaviour in your adult dog. The word compulsive is used to describe the repetitive, irresistible urge to perform a behaviour. Discourage this behaviour as a puppy, and throughout the life of your dog, to reduce the likelihood of this behaviour problem occurring.

Adult dogs with obsessive tenancies can become obsessed with catching their tail, and if they do, they can obsessively chew. The behaviour does not necessarily have a purpose to it, however the dog feels the need to perform it anyway – even past the point of pain. This can be severely damaging to the health of the dog, as obsessive chewing can occur past the point of pain and cause series damage (which can be a behavioural problem in and of itself).  A dog who repeatedly performs a compulsive behaviour may find that it gets in the way of normal activity – normal life. Tail chasing becomes the primary need in the life of the dog – so much so that the dog may lose weight, due to missing meals performing the behaviour; the dog may become lethargic/ exhausted, due to staying awake more to perform the behaviour; the dog my become anxious when not performing the behaviour.

Tail Chasing - Open Source Image
Tail Chasing – Open Source Image

This type of behaviour is more likely to develop in dogs whose living conditions cause stress/ anxiety. Dogs in situations where they are stressed; which can contribute to the compulsive disorders developing. Such as; dogs who spend a lot of time tied up, or confined to living in small areas, or a dog experiencing social issues – long separation from a companion or discord in social relationships, for example. Dogs with the opportunity to perform normal dog behaviour, or do not get the chance to socialise with people and other animals can succumb to obsessive, compulsive behaviour. Alternatively, there could be an underlying medical issue causing the behaviour.

Seek advice from your vet if you suspect that your dog has an obsessive behaviour – your vet may refer you to a dog behaviourist. Your vet will also be able to tell you if the behaviour is being caused by a health issue, and treat any health problems caused by the behaviour.


Image is open source, Google images. The video is a YouTube video, from the search result of “dog tail chasing”. The image and video are NOT my own.


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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Adapting – Adaptil

Adapting – Adaptil

So my Dad got a new job… in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He moved there, and has been flying back and forth to keep seeing us, until everything is sorted our end too; my Mum and sister will shortly follow with the dog, but I’m staying put in England in a place of my own. I have adapted fairly well (even if I have been without internet for the best part of a month – hence the lack of posts); and I’m sure my family will adapt too, and eventually the dog.

Bedlington Terrier
Barney

The first thing we thought of for the dog, for Barney, was the travel. He hates travel. Even 5 minutes down the road to the park or the vet, he cries and gets foul odoured stress-breath! He can’t be sedated for the flight or the ferry in case anything happens, he needs to be awake and able to get himself out of any trouble. So, the decision was made to keep him with the family to travel – so that’s the long (8 hour) ferry. He needs a kennel booking but the family can go be with him, and it’s overnight so we hope he’ll just sleep.

However to make the transition easier, we have opted to try the Adaptil* dog collar; to relieve at least some of the stress he will experience through this long journey. The Adaptil dog collar is much like the plug-in diffuser, in the sense it releases the same calming pheromone as the plug-in – just in a different way. As I said in my post about dogs and fireworks (http://alisanswers.com/index.php/2014/10/23/common-behavioural-problems-fireworks-anxiety-dogs/); the collar works with the heat of the animal; activated by the heat it releases the pheromone into the blood stream. The collar will last approximately 4 weeks, and keep working – which will also help him settle into the new house and surroundings; and should help with his preference of being the only dog, and help him to adapt to the new neighbour (Golden Retriever). Once the collar is taken off, it stops working – if taken off before the 4 weeks is up, you can keep hold of it as it’ll work again later.

It can be ordered through your vet, bought in/ ordered through a pet store, or via the internet – I bought Barney’s from Amazon.

So let’s see how well he copes – putting Adaptil to the test, helping Barney to adapt!

Adaptil Collar - from www.amazon.co.uk
Adaptil Collar – from www.amazon.co.uk

NB. Adaptil is for dogs only.

*Adaptil comes in the forms of collar, diffuser, and spray. Feliway is the cat version; coming in the forms of collar and diffuser.

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