A Practical Guide To A Better Relationship Between You & Your Best Friend by Stephen G King © 2005-2013 (First Published K9 Magazine UK)

Everyone loves their dog; it goes without saying, right? And they love us back just as much. However, have you ever stopped to consider the possibility that there are ways and means that could enable us to love our lives with dogs even more than we do now?

People who share their lives with dogs do so for a variety of reasons. Companionship, protection, self-image and entertainment are just some of the motivations for becoming a dog owner. Unlike our people relationships, we rarely question how we can improve upon the two way connection between ourselves and our dogs. Why? Because dogs are, by nature, incredibly adaptable and acquiescent, we feel that as long as they’re not doing anything palpably offensive and they are delivering the goods on what dogs do best, were content. Conversely, provided were giving them food, drink and a dry place to sleep, so are they.

Given our unconscious predisposition for failing to scrutinize our human/canine relationships, we thought we’d provide an insight into what makes us both tick as well as looking at methods we can use to improve each other’s lives for the better.

Acclaimed animal behaviour expert Stephen G King UK explains the key motivations of the human/canine relationship from the dog’s perspective.

Our dogs spend a fair degree of their time on their own or have, at most, one other friend to share their company.

So what happens to us and our pets in those periods between sleeping, walking and eating?

Well scientifically it is an environmental event called enrichment.

As were getting scientific at this point, here’s the technical explanation; Environmental enrichment is the provision of stimuli, which promotes the expression of species- appropriate behaviour with stimulating activities. Phew!

The dog, as is commonly known, is a species descended from the wolf, possibly the Southern wolf (Canis lupus pallipes). Wolves themselves are social carnivores that can combine into packs, although they operate within three survival categories:

1 Solitary predators

2 Family pack hunters

3 Large pack hunters.

Thousands of years of domestication and man-made selection have produced breeds, with modified social repertoires.

Many dogs have breed specific behaviours that are hard-wired such as the Springer Spaniel who is visually orientated and seems to be distracted by anything that moves in the air, such as a leaf falling from a tree.

The Border Collie likes to herd and chase joggers, motor bikes and other things that move across the ground.

Owners of such dogs often wonder why their dog is not paying attention in an outdoor environment, despite having their favourite treats on hand which normally work so well at home.

For this type of dog, food cannot compete with a field of birds or a herd of sheep on the move. So enrichment for this type of dog is quite specifically defined. They’re almost telling you, nay screaming at you, about what makes them tick above all else but maybe you haven’t consciously read these signals in the past.

Activity levels

Dogs spend a considerable portion of there time inactive, however, as an opportunist, the dog is adapted to seeking a wide variety of rewarding situations in unpredictable locations. The dog is therefore much more likely to be interested in novel items and circumstances. In contrast, a predictable and limiting environment may make these non-active periods boring and as such we see an overall decrease in interaction within the environment. The dog becomes socially and emotionally lethargic.

The dog is famed as being a very adaptable animal and a healthy adult can cope with a range of conditions, particularly if it has access to areas with different environmental surroundings.

Animals have emotionally complex lives and need appropriate environments and stimulation.

Good housing, giving the dog a place of their own in the home, affords them the opportunity to exercise a degree of choice, to manipulate or chew safe objects, to interact with humans, to choose not to interact, to play, to rest, all of which satisfies their behavioural needs.

Environmental Enrichment for Companion Animals

Providing a positive, rewarding and stimulating environment based on trust and affection teaches our pets to stay enthusiastic and interested.

The purpose of environmental enrichment is to increase the overall welfare of the dog by allowing them to burn off calories in a safe and natural way, which in turn allows them to behave more naturally in a restricted environment.

The dog learns to cope with unexpected changes in the environment, and is less likely to be stressed by handling, restraint or changes in environment. A decrease in emotion based behaviour can lead to a decrease in physiological and psychological stress.

Things Dogs Like To Work For

Food, water, sexual stimulation, foraging, sniffing / scenting, attention, grooming, coolness (when body temperature is high), and warmth (when the body temperature is low). These are all known as primary reinforcers.

As these examples suggest, primary reinforcers often have to do with biological processes. Some primary reinforcers are not immediately obvious; for instance if you were a dog restrained in your home/kennel and cannot move about or get out, the chance of freedom can be very reinforcing and you would strive to achieve it more than a dog who had open access to fields for most of their day.

Why Is It Important To Know What Your Dog Likes To Work For?

Prevention is better than cure. Knowing what a dog likes and will work for is an important factor in having a stimulated dog; especially if the animal spends most of the time looking at four walls and food is provided independent of its behaviour.

In the wild, dogs are hunter-scavengers; it is natural for them to spend a large amount of their daily energy looking for food. Pet dog’s needs are similar and in contrast certain elements of our own lifestyle which have been forced upon the dog for our convenience could in fact lead to a degree of lethargy in the animal’s behaviour, feeding a dog once a day is a prime example.

If you’ve ever been on a long haul flight or even a medium distance air passage, can you recall how excited you were about the in flight meal?

You spend the first hour getting comfortable and then the rest of the journey you’re reliant on the stewards breaking up the monotony of the trip by bringing you food, drinks, snacks or putting on a film. Your environment, your stimulation is in THEIR hands and there’s not much you can do about it.

You get to a point where you are so looking forward to the dried out cheese sandwiches brought by the flight crew you could almost describe it as a genuinely stimulating event in an otherwise boring passage of your life. You anticipate, you imagine what the foods going to taste like, you wonder what might be accompanying it and then it finally arrives, what a build up, are then, in a few short moments, all gone. Now you’re back to waiting and anticipating again and you are lulled back into the monotony of the flight.

Welcome to your dog’s world! Imagine waiting all day, anticipating those fantastic few moments when your food is being prepared, you know it’s coming, you can smell it, this is your meal and NO mistaking, oh this is truly exciting then, in seconds, it’s all over. Gone, Bored again. What can I do to shake this feeling of tediousness? I know, I’m going to pull all the washing off the line outside. That looks like fun.

Feeding your dog periodically through the day, without the need to increase their overall volume of food can give them a great deal of mental stimulation. They’ll love it!

When undesirable behaviours such as, mischief, destruction, anxiety or even aggression manifest themselves, boredom born of a monotonous life can often be traced as the route cause.

Introverted behaviour such as sucking, licking and biting oneself on the paws, wrists and flank areas can be another expression of the dog’s boredom. Whether the dog is bored or not, anxious or not, behavioural enrichment is required to keep the dog happy and healthy and, in nearly all cases, your dog’s environment and therefore behavioural enrichment is controlled almost exclusively by you.

Stimulation: Dog activity puzzles.

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Puppy Training Course starts 8th September 2012

Puppies need to be 20 weeks or under at the start of the course – but the earlier the better! (maximum 4 in a class)

The course covers House training; Good behaviour in every room; Learning to chew the right things; Staying off the furniture; Getting a good relationship; Dealing with puppies who  Dig up the garden; Play biting, Crossing the road safely; Getting his attention; Coming back when called; Getting your puppy used to being handled; Socialization with adults, children and other pets; Stopping puppy from rushing outside; Sit, stand, down  – Clicker training with food effectively; Off the lead; Come back when called out on a walk; Greeting people without jumping up;  Walking on a loose lead; Getting him used to being handled, and bone manners;  Hand signals, Whistle signals. Telphone 02 08590 3604 for more details.

Click to Calm: Healing The Aggressive Dog By Emma Parsons: Book Review

Owning an aggressive dog can be a very distressing experience for all concerned.Healing The Aggressive Dog Click to Calm is extremely helpful in giving practical step by step recipes for treating aggressive dogs in a humane manner. It is nice and easy read for those who are trying to help their dog. It is particularly helpful for those treating dog-dog fear based aggression, although also very useful for other types of aggression. Click to calm creates a more relaxed dog around other dogs. It explains very clearly methods you can use to work with your dog aggressive dog, and methods of how to prevent your dog from becoming aggressive in the first place. It deals with all types of aggressive dogs. It details the writers own struggle in well organized sections. Whatever type of aggressive incident you have encountered Emma Parsons has a means of coping with it.

DOG TRAINING, the YUM and YUK of life!

Like the Laws of gravity, the laws of learning are always in effect, its not whether we should use these laws, but how do we use them effectively.

YUM. So if the laws of learning are always in effect why not use some methods and rewards that dogs really appreciate such as food, toys, touch and your attention to get what is needed? YUK. Over the years we have seen all sorts of “spin” on how we train our favourite furry friend, from the heavy use of Check/Choke chains, with some people even resorting to Electric Collars, what a shame! Read the rest of this entry »


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