Category: Training

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.


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: 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…
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
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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…
. Facebook (Ali’s Animal Answers)
. Twitter (@AlisAnswers)
. LinkedIn (Ali Lloyd)

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