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Clever Dog: Understand What Your Dog is Telling You Sarah Whitehead Man is not ape. Dog is not wolf.From startling facts about its origins, to the fundamental reasons behind dog and man’s unbreakable attachment, Clever Dog: Understand What Your Dog is Telling You explores the myths that so many pet owners have been led to believe – and forms conclusions as to how our future relationship with the dog needs to change in order to survive, and thrive.With her unique understanding of the secret language of dogs and her belief that all dogs are ‘clever dogs’, Sarah uses amusing anecdote and useful case histories to discover the mysteries of dog behaviour and show us a way of communicating with the four-legged friend who shares our hearts and homes.Dog lovers can look at their best friends in a new light and create the perfect bond. As a world-leading expert in canine psychology, and often acknowledged as the ‘trainer’s trainer’, Sarah Whitehead shares her unique understanding of dogs in Clever Dog. With sections on Life, Love, Health and Happiness, this is a book about how we can become a harmonious team with our best friend. Here at last are the secrets your dog wants you to know.With fascinating case studies and expert practical advice, Clever Dog is much more than a guidebook – it is the book your dog would want you to buy. CLEVER DOG Understand What Your Dog is Telling You Sarah Whitehead Dedication (#ulink_279a6fc7-1703-5540-b597-cd3f96c8377c) Contents Cover (#ua86db7cc-9b80-50cb-be94-4cea9e672703) Title Page (#u19b74d2b-2122-587b-9834-0e75bc60d81e) Dedication Introduction: Dogs and dinner parties Part 1: LIFE 1 - Dominance: The wolf legend and other myths 2 - Canine communication systems: Learning the lingo 3 - Team building: Stress immunisation for your puppy Part 2: LOVE 4 - Emotions and addictions: Dogs who love too much 5 - Relationships: How your dog sees the world 6 - Sociability: Choosing the perfect dog for you Part 3: HEALTH 7 - You are what you eat: The effects of diet on behaviour 8 - Stress and anxiety: On the couch 9 - Sex: Hormonal hounds Part 4: HAPPINESS 10 - Life with purpose: Going with the flow 11 - Protection and connection: Park life 12 - Learning: What gets rewarded gets repeated 13 - Training in a foreign language: ET come home Conclusion: A dog by my side Bibliography Fabulous websites Acknowledgements Copyright About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo) Dogs are a household subject and one – it seems – on which everyone has a fascinating opinion. Numerous dinner parties attest to this. There I am enjoying a nice glass of Chablis and a friendly chat when someone asks what I do for a living. I’ve never yet said ‘I’m in IT’ but I may well consider it in future because no sooner have I confessed that I’m a pet behaviour specialist than someone comments: ‘Ooh, that’s great. I have a dog you could help with.’ At this stage, of course, they don’t really want my help – they just want to talk about Bonzo’s latest naughty adventure and, frankly, I love a good dog story. Once they are done, the comments from the other guests are revealing. Having heard how Bonzo bites people, runs off, barks all day or eats the carpet, someone will always say, ‘I know how to stop him doing that’ – and that someone is never me! Invariably, the ‘expert’ will proclaim the most hideous, punitive measure to be a complete and universal cure. Apparently, it’s OK to suggest to a complete stranger that they use an electric shock collar on their dog, that they should rub their dog’s nose in faecal matter or that they should strangle the poor thing on a choke chain, all in the name of training. Uh oh. At this point in the conversation, there’s a small pause. The circle of guests stop and turn to me. ‘So, what do you think of doing that?’ Pass another glass of wine, please, and make it a big one. Strong opinions on dog behaviour are not confined to the social scene. Over the years, I’ve appeared as an expert witness in court cases where the magistrates have, quite literally, the power of life or death over someone else’s pet. These cases are often depressingly complex, costly and time-consuming, and yet, all too often, after I’ve given evidence on a specific behavioural aspect, the magistrate will say something along the lines of: ‘Thank you, Ms Whitehead, but I think we know how dogs behave.’ My work as a pet behaviour counsellor has kept me busy, impassioned, fascinated and laughing for the past twenty years. In that time, I have had the honour of meeting thousands of dogs and owners across the UK and internationally, and have relished the chance to ‘talk dog’ with them. I now specialise in aggression problems and the more weird and wonderful behaviours dogs can present, while my practice deals with every kind of canine behaviour problem that you can think of – and then some. Working on referral from veterinary practices around the country, we are constantly in touch with the practicalities of canine training and behaviour – and still, after all these years, I love every minute of it. Perhaps the fact that dogs are so common in our culture works against them. They pervade our domestic existence and yet they are remarkably under-researched. Want to find out about dog behaviour? Nine times out of ten you will be forced to read literature on wolves, studies on rats and research on pigeons. This is the equivalent of studying human psychology by examining the behaviour patterns of the great apes. It may be interesting and relevant, but it isn’t the same as studying the actual species that we live with day in, day out. Maybe the scarcity of rigorous scientific research on domestic dogs is the reason why so many myths about their behaviour pervade our society. In many cases, these myths have become so ingrained that we accept them as truth, never questioning where they came from or how factually correct they actually are. In this book, just as in my everyday work as a pet behaviour specialist, I will propose some new ways of thinking about dogs. Some of these may be thought-provoking, some even shocking. In an age when we are all too often blinded by the ideas we are fed by television, the lures of urban myth and the promise of a fifteen-minute fix, it’s all too easy to think about dogs from a purely human perspective. Instead, perhaps now is the time to think about life from the dog’s point of view: to let go of all the previous theories that you have toyed with, to open your mind and, as my mentor the late John Fisher always said, ‘Think Dog’. Case history: Ice, the misunderstood Malamute ‘This is a wolf you are dealing with here!’ barked the training instructor. ‘You need to show him who’s boss.’ With that, the big man strode across the room, grabbed the lead from the humiliated owner who had been struggling to get her dog to sit, and strung him up so that his front feet were off the floor. At eight months old, Ice, the big, grey-and-white Malamute, had never been treated like this before and did what any reasonable dog would do when it thought its life was under threat: he became very still, averted his gaze, and uttered a long, low warning growl from deep in his throat. ‘No dog’s gonna growl at me,’ stormed the instructor, and with one swift movement he launched himself at the dog and managed to wrestle him to the ground and onto his back. Ice wet himself in fear. ‘There,’ said the trainer. ‘He’s submitted.’ He got up and wiped the urine from his sleeve. Ice stayed where he was, lips drawn back and tail curled defensively under his belly. ‘Now, you need to do that every day,’ said the instructor. ‘It’s called an alpha rollover. It’s what the pack leader would do to the other wolves in the pack to keep them submissive. You need to act like a pack leader, and doing this exercise every day is part of it. OK?’ Ice’s owners, Keith and Sharon, nodded in quiet agreement. They took back the lead and sat down at the side of the hall with a very subdued dog by their side. It wasn’t nice to see their pet being manhandled, but it did seem to have an effect on him. After all, he was a big, powerful dog – Malamutes may look like Huskies, but they are bigger and stronger – and he had started to pull them towards strangers in the street. They knew that they couldn’t allow him to become out of control. Keith and Sharon did their homework every day as instructed – or at least they tried to. Over the following week, they subjected Ice to repeated ‘alpha rollovers’. The first day, Ice seemed to think it was a bit of a joke. He took Sharon’s arm in his mouth and held it as if he was playing, but she persisted and forced him onto his back. He lay there looking bemused, and jumped up again as soon as she let go. On the second day, things weren’t so easy. As Sharon approached, Ice dodged out of the way and tried to flee the room. Between them, Keith and Sharon caught the huge dog and pinned him down, but he growled continuously and Sharon was sure he tried to snap as they let him get up. By the Thursday – you’ve guessed it – Ice was having none of it. He had tried every trick in the doggie book to get his owners to stop behaving so weirdly and his patience had run out. When they approached him, Ice bared his teeth and snarled so ferociously that Sharon was genuinely frightened; Keith probably was as well – and who could blame him? They decided to leave Ice alone. The next night, they were back at the dog training class. For the first time since joining the class a few weeks before, Ice stiffened as he entered the hall and growled at a lady who reached out her hand to stroke him. This took Keith and Sharon completely by surprise, as he had always been friendly with the other owners before. The fray attracted the attention of the instructor who came stomping towards them, red in the face and looking as though he meant business. This time, however, Ice was ready for him. As the instructor leant forward to take the lead from Keith, Ice saw his opportunity and lunged at him, teeth on full display and barking (well, spitting) with full force. Unfortunately, at this point the instructor made a terrible mistake. Instead of backing off, turning away or reducing the level of threat he was showing the dog, he moved towards him, determined in his own uniquely human way to have the last word. His lesson was a clear one. Ice bit him on the arm. With Sharon in tears, Keith shaking with adrenaline and Ice in disgrace, they were ordered to leave the hall, the instructor’s final words ringing in their ears: ‘That dog is out of control. He’s dominant and aggressive and you should have him put down. If you don’t, I’ll report you.’ Keith and Sharon sat on the sofa in their front room as they relayed this sorry tale to me. Pale and anxious, they frequently glanced at each other for reassurance, clearly worried about what I was going to say. They feared they were going to lose their precious dog. Sadly, this is a story I am all too familiar with, in one form or another. It’s so tempting to believe the traditional story: a caveman tames a wild wolf and they both live happily ever after. However, this myth fails on so many counts that it’s a wonder it has prevailed for so long. Domestic dogs are not simply tame wolves. Nor do tame wolves ever become ‘domestic’, no matter how well they have been hand-reared. Although dogs and wolves share a genetic background, failing to distinguish between the two species is as misguided as failing to distinguish between man and ape. So, how did such myths come to be so prevalent in our society? Why is it that so many books, television programmes and self-styled ‘experts’ are still claiming that dogs are really the ‘wolf on your sofa’? Many of the tales told about wolf behaviour are simply untrue. The idea that the alpha pair always eat first is one example. If this were truly the case, how on earth would wolf cubs survive? Such a claim simply doesn’t make evolutionary sense. The fact is that wolves are highly social and a kill is shared amongst the pack – with youngsters, adolescents and even elderly wolves getting a good meal, often before the other adult members of the group. Other theories – such as the idea of a linear hierarchy – where a strict ladder of rank exists – are based on captive packs. However, keeping any kind of predatory animal in a restricted area with others of its own kind is a far cry from ‘natural’ behaviour; we only have to watch the Big Brother television show to appreciate that! Even the idea of submission has been woefully misinterpreted. Wolves living a free and wild existence don’t exert dominance over each other in order to elicit submission; on the contrary, submission is offered freely by one wolf to another in order to gain reassurance – something quite different – and it’s a behaviour that’s not shared by their domestic cousins, the dog. Indeed, wolf cubs raised with domestic dogs sometimes illustrate this in the oddest ways, with the cubs trying to push their muzzles inside the jaws of their rather bemused domestic dog elders. While some of the misinformation that exists about ‘wolves versus dogs’ is simply amusing, in my role as a canine behaviour specialist, I have first-hand evidence of the problems such ingrained and unquestioned beliefs can cause. The idea that dogs view humans as a part of a pack, and that they must observe pack rules in order to be ‘leader’, has led to some extraordinary urban myths. These include encouraging owners to sit in their dogs’ beds to show them who’s boss, and telling them to ignore their dogs when they first come home in case the dog tries to ‘dominate them’. Owners are asked to pretend to eat before feeding their dog in a misplaced effort to show the dog he’s bottom of the pile. Some even follow the advice to pin their dogs down, in a so-called ‘alpha rollover’. What dogs think of these appalling misjudgements of their communication systems is anyone’s guess. How they put up with these bizarre human ways is even more of a mystery, but to me, the greatest travesty is that very few people stop to question the rationale behind the rules they are given. So, if dogs are not wolves in disguise, what are they? Well, there is strong evidence to suggest that dogs are just big babies! Instead of developing into full-blown adult wolves, evolution has caused a genetic shift, bringing about both physical and behavioural changes. Domestic dogs’ skulls are smaller than wolves’, their teeth are relatively undeveloped and their reproductive cycles are different. Domestic dogs yelp, they whine and they bark – all characteristics that are lost by the time a wolf is five months old. In other words, dogs stay for ever as juveniles – playful, puppy-like and highly dependent on their parents. Dogs and humans share a long and successful history together because of the ability to get along, and because they need us. This sociability is based on good communication (dogs are great at this, while we do our best), the ability to share (a juvenile attribute) and teamwork. Just watch a sheepdog and his handler work, or a Retriever in the field, fetching birds back to the gamekeeper. They are not in competition with each other but are operating as a team, each with different but equal skills. Perhaps my greatest challenge when working with pet dog owners is to get the message across that your dog is not an adversary but an ally. Work together and the team will build bonds so strong they will never be broken. Work against each other in the belief that your dog is trying to dominate you, and the relationship will start to suffer. During the whole time that Sharon, Kevin and I were chatting, Ice lay on the floor looking nonchalant, as only a Malamute can. He was one of the most beautiful dogs I have ever seen, with ice-blue eyes (hence the name), a thick, plush coat and a face that you just wanted to snuggle into. However, every time I so much as moved my hands, he became still and rolled his eyes slightly – a clear and perfectly polite canine communication warning me to keep my distance. Since I’d entered the house, Ice had kept a careful eye on me. He was not proactive and as long as I held back, I knew I was going to be safe around him. He just needed to know the same about me. It was little surprise that Ice thought I was likely to be bad news. Ever since the training class incident, Keith and Sharon had received few visitors, and had taken to walking Ice in the early hours of the morning so as to avoid other people, fearful that he would act aggressively and force them into making a final decision. Poor Ice had been kept a virtual prisoner in the home, and although he was well cared for, his owners had been ‘tip-toeing’ around him, fearful of what he might do next. As in many such cases, the road to success would require a careful combination of planning and action. Ice desperately needed an active social life in order to re-establish his social skills with other people and other dogs. But in the early stages, my uppermost goal was to build the family’s confidence in each other once again. We started with some basic training. Training is often under-rated in these situations, but it can be the glue that holds the family together while relationships are reformed. Thankfully, training these days can be fast, fun and friendly. Gone are the days of ‘stomp and jerk’ techniques. Indeed, what we know now is how much faster dogs learn if they are encouraged to use their brains rather than brawn. Nowadays, there are many enlightened trainers and instructors out there who are using behavioural understanding to underpin their training – a far cry from the outdated techniques that poor Ice had been subjected to. Ice was a fast learner. With the help of some tasty morsels of cheese, we had him sitting up and (quite literally) eating out of my hand within minutes. Having motivated him to want to engage in some fun interactions with his owners, we encouraged him to sit, lie down and give a paw on command. We finished with a finale of ‘be a bear’ – a great trick in which the dog sits up in a begging position and looks as cute as cute can be. Inspired, his owners were given two weeks to practise these new behaviours. Ice was to be engaged in ‘fun training’ twice a day, using food and a relaxed approach, and was to get used to wearing a special head collar so that his owners could take him for a walk without being towed along behind him. Head collars allow almost complete control, like power steering, and make perfect sense in cases where the owner needs to avoid getting into a battle of strength with a big dog, who is clearly going to win. After all, no one would consider walking a horse on a piece of string. This bit of kit made all the difference to Sharon, as she could walk Ice with confidence when using it. After two weeks of indoor practice, we were ready to hit the streets – and it didn’t have to be at two o’clock in the morning either. Poor Keith and Sharon had lost so much confidence in their ability to handle their dog that we formulated a programme of ‘stop on sight’. This meant that every time we saw someone walking our way, we asked Ice to give us attention, stop and sit. How, you might ask? Through good, old-fashioned bribery. In fact, this is not the ‘giving in’ that many people think it is. In the first few instances when Ice saw someone heading towards him, we simply showed him that we had some delicious chunks of cooked chicken on offer. This immediately produced the desired result, However, the next part was pure magic. Imagine you have been summoned to see the boss. Generally, when this happens it’s not good news. As you walk towards his or her office door, you start to feel a little anxious, your palms get sweaty and you begin formulating defensive arguments in your head to stave off possible attack. However, when you go in, your boss greets you with a big smile and holds out his hand to congratulate you. You have earned a bonus. He gives you £1000 in cash on the spot. You are overjoyed! On the same day the following week, you are once again called to the boss’s office – and the same thing happens all over again. Unbelievably, this is repeated a third time, at the same time and on the same day of the week. Now, just imagine how you feel going into work in the fourth week. Are you elated? Full of hopeful expectation? You bet! Rewards that are linked to circumstances (days of the week, visual cues, people) have the power to affect your emotional state, not just your behaviour. With this in mind, we worked on the equivalent canine scenario, and watched as Ice made giant conceptual leaps. During the following six weeks, the appearance of someone walking towards him in the street prompted him to whip round, sit down and look up at his owner, without having to be bribed, cajoled or reminded. Even better, he even started to offer ‘be a bear’, which elicited smiles and laughter from those walking past where they might once have given him a wide berth. These new responses were heavily rewarded. We played with Ice in the park, the street and in the communal front garden of his owners’ home. We gave him chicken, dried liver, hot dog sausages and fish treats for being calm and social around new people both inside and outside his home. We praised him for good behaviour and ignored it when he got it wrong. It worked like a dream. Within three months, without any drama, pretending to be Alpha leader, punishment or Alpha rollovers, Keith and Sharon found themselves back in control – and completely besotted with their lovely dog again. TOP TIPS ON BUILDING A GREAT RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR DOG » Work on building a trusting relationship with your dog. Don’t assume he is trying to challenge you for ‘leadership’. The best dog/owner combinations are teams, not competitors. » Start as you mean to go on. If you don’t want your huge, muddy dog getting on the sofa when he’s three years old, don’t let him do it when he’s twelve weeks old – no matter how cute. » Start training early, the second that you can – especially with big breeds. The old adage that you can’t start to train a dog until he’s six months old is wrong. Just think how much easier it is for children to learn a new language than it is for adults. » Be consistent. Agree rules and boundaries within your family – and stick to them. Write them down if it will help to avoid domestic arguments later. Dogs like to know exactly what they can and can’t do. » Choose a training class that uses kind, fair and effective methods. The days of choke chains and ‘yank and jerk’ training are long gone. » Use brain, not brawn. If your dog tries to manipulate a situation by engaging in a battle of strength, immediately disengage and use your superior intellect to defuse the situation. Many dogs enjoy physical confrontation – so you will ‘win’ by refusing to compete in this way. » Replace negative commands with positive ones. For example, ask your dog to sit rather than nagging him not to jump up. » Clicker training is a great way to teach dogs new tricks that can have an effect on their emotional states and the way they behave generally, not just their immediate actions. They also impress humans. Clicker training is fast, fun and kind, and can be used in all sorts of ways. The clicker – a small plastic tool that makes a double click sound when pressed, effectively acts as an ‘interpreter’ between human and animal, marking the behaviour that earned the reward, and making the whole learning experience one that is focused on trial and success, rather than trial and error. This, of course, has an impact on emotion, too. I know how my dogs look and behave when I get out the clicker to do some training – it’s the highlight of their day, and it also has the effect of making me feel happy, too. Want to try clicker training but don’t know where to start? Find a good instructor or class at www.apdt.co.uk or watch easy-to-follow demos on the Internet. My favourites are www.trainyourdogonline.com and www.clickertraining.com, where Karen Pryor demonstrates by training a fish. Try it for fun – you’ll be amazed what your dog can do. Over the past ten years, there has been a huge increase in awareness about animal behaviour – and, in particular, dog behaviour. Not a day goes by when there isn’t some news item, television show or a headline that involves dogs – and this has made my life as a behaviour specialist both easier and more difficult at the same time. On the plus side, owners now know that they can get help for their pets when things aren’t going according to plan. Those TV shows make my phone ring! On the minus side, the idea still endures that dogs are attempting to take control and are secretly trying to find ways to dominate their owners – despite the fact that their lack of opposable thumbs makes it impossible for them to open their own dog food! There’s a simple but extremely effective way of keeping an open mind when watching dog programmes on TV: watch the dogs, not the people. Dogs don’t lie. They don’t try to look good for the camera. They don’t nod and smile when they feel dubious and uncomfortable. Dogs express their emotions in ways that are unique to canine society, but which are also remarkably similar to those that we know and understand. With a little extra effort, humans can become proficient in speaking ‘canine’ and they can then have free-flowing and honest communication with their dogs. Next time you watch a TV show about dogs, look at an internet video clip or gaze at your own dog, try to decide what he might be saying and what message he is trying to get across. I bet you any money it won’t be a statement about rank, challenge or dominance; it’s more likely to be a plea for understanding and the desire to be a player in a well-balanced team. Case history: Dave, the fearful German Shepherd Dogs talk. There’s little doubt about that. However, on the whole, humans are bad at listening. From the owner who complains that their dog looks guilty when they come home to find their sofa chewed, to the person who is shocked that their dog was wagging its tail while barking aggressively at a visitor, miscommunication is rife. In order to live with us peacefully, dogs have to learn about the oddities of human behaviour: the fact that we wave our arms about when we speak, that we like to greet each other by hugging (a sexual or threatening gesture to a dog) and that we disregard olfactory communication almost entirely (probably best). However, in return, not many humans bother to learn ‘canine’ as a foreign language. This is a shame, because dogs communicate in ways that we can hardly conceive. For example, they can register huge amounts of information from scent – gleaning messages about another dog’s sexual status and health, and how long ago they were in town – in much the same way as we get information from reading a newspaper. While this may be out of our range, watching dogs and reading them is not – and it’s something that’s addictive when you know what you are looking for. Just like us, dogs can use both long-distance and intimate communication to express themselves. While we might plaster words on an advertising billboard or make a phone call to get our message across great distances, dogs use scent and big visual signals to communicate over time and space. Ever seen a dog scratch up the area where he has just urinated or defecated? He’s leaving a clear visual marker to emphasise his olfactory point. Ever listened to a dog barking or howling and heard another one reply? He’s just made a long-distance call. In common with humans, dogs use subtle facial expressions and body language to communicate close up. Some expressions are remarkably similar to ours, and need little or no interpretation. Despite huge variation in the physical appearance of dogs, no matter what their sizes and shapes, we can all recognise a dog that looks miserable, is sad or in pain. Equally, we can assume that a dog with his ears up, his face rounded and relaxed, and his mouth pulled back into a ‘grin’ is showing happiness – just as we do (although most of us manage without moveable ears). Some of the other signals that dogs use to communicate may not be quite so obvious to us. A micro-expression is a brief, involuntary facial expression or body movement, which reveals the emotional state hidden inside. In humans, this is most noticeable when someone is trying to conceal how they are feeling and a tiny, almost imperceptible change of expression gives it away. In dogs, there is no attempt at concealment but they can act and move much faster than us so the change can be a subtle micro-expression: a fleeting second of stillness, a tiny turn of the ear, a slight widening of the gaze or the closing of a muzzle can all give us clues as to how they are feeling. Dave was brought to me by his worried owner. At the age of two, he had been re-homed from the local rescue centre where he had been living for some fifteen months. A handsome dog, Dave had been out to a new home and then back to the rescue centre several times. Panting heavily, he sat in my office like a dog on hot coals, watching every move I made. His face was a picture of stress and anxiety, his skinny body hunched and rounded, his tail tucked under. I hate seeing dogs like this. It’s a miserable state to be in, and although we might have to accept it once in a while when the dog is ill or has to undergo veterinary treatment, there is something deeply disturbing about seeing a dog so unhappy most of the time. George had now owned Dave for nearly five months. He had kept German Shepherds in the past, and lost his heart to this big dog he had found in the rescue centre where he was a volunteer dog walker. Dave had come into the kennel environment as a nervous but testosterone-charged adolescent. He was big and out of control, with no manners and no training. He jumped at everybody, and wrenched their shoulders out of their sockets when they tried to walk him. Worse, he began to hover in the back of the kennel then launch himself forwards with a volley of barking – enough to send all but the most experienced staff scurrying for safety. He hated being handled, and would put his jaws on anyone who tried. His future didn’t look good. Like any other animal, dogs are programmed to ensure their own survival. When faced with an immediate threat, the brain doesn’t take the time to ponder carefully all the possible outcomes of the situation but simply kicks into survival mode and causes the animal to react. This state is one we can all relate to. Nearly all of us have had an incident in our lives when we were scared and simply reacted out of self-preservation. Perhaps you have had a near-miss (or should that be near-hit?) car accident. Perhaps someone has threatened you, or you have been frightened by an animal (albeit a spider in the bath). On these occasions, the basic, most primitive part of your brain – known as the amygdala – simply takes over in order to keep you safe. Instead of information being transmitted to your cortex – the thinking, cognitive bits of your brain that allow you to do Sudoku puzzles and decide what to have for lunch – a message goes directly to your amygdala in what is described as the ‘fast and dirty’ route to reaction. It is your amygdala that makes you leap out of the way of a falling tree branch, swerve to avoid that oncoming car, and swiftly jerk your hand away from the bath plug when you notice the spider. The way an animal acts when under pressure will depend on a number of different factors: the species, the type or breed, the individual temperament or personality of the animal, its previous history and emotional state, and the circumstances of the actual event. The coping strategy an animal uses in a moment of crisis is one of what we call the ‘four Fs’. We have all heard of ‘flight’ and ‘fight’ – the strategies of running away or engaging in conflict – but there are two more Fs: ‘freeze’ and ‘flirt’. Freeze is the most common reaction to threat but as it is often fleeting and humans are poor at noticing it, it is frequently overlooked. Flirt is commonly seen too. Just think about a dog that would prefer you didn’t look in its ears; instead of putting up a fight or running off, it runs around manically, brings you a toy or leaps about like a puppy. Your amygdala is your greatest friend. It keeps you safe and sometimes saves your life. Unfortunately, it can also become your worst enemy. Watching a scary horror movie might make you jump during the film, but afterwards – when your amygdala is still wired – it can make you leap out of your skin at the imagined sound of a footstep on the stairs. Over-activating the brain and body’s flight or fight responses leads to over-activation of the brain’s recognition of threat signals, and if this situation becomes chronic, it can lead to weight loss, immune deficiencies, stomach disorders and skin problems. While in kennels, there’s no doubt that Dave was anxious and fearful. Faced with the choice of running away or standing to fight, I’m sure he would have preferred to high-tail it into the distance but the confines of the kennel walls prevented this and he began to oscillate between backing away and lunging forwards. Sadly, this is often how dogs learn to use defensive aggression and once they discover that it makes the ‘threat’ go away – exactly the impact they want – it quickly becomes an ingrained behaviour pattern that can be hard to break. To most humans, barking is threatening, annoying and largely meaningless. It’s something we want to stop rather than listen to. Ironically this is probably what most dogs would say about human speech! However, tune in to barking and it’s possible to hear that the intonation varies between barks and that even the frequency and rapidity of the sound communicates the dog’s emotional state and something of his message. A single, low ‘ouff’ is a quiet warning that tells of danger or potential threat. Known as an alarm bark, it is designed to warn others in the social group without giving away the dog’s position. Rapid-fire, joined-up barks tend to be defensive: they say ‘keep away’. High-pitched staccato yaps are more likely to be playful and show excitement. Such interpretations may seem subjective, but research has shown that even people who don’t own dogs can tell the difference between a dog barking because it is joyful and one which is upset or lonely, just by listening to an audio recording. Poor Dave was in survival mode from morning until night. George told me the dog even seemed to sleep with one eye open, and he was clearly suffering as a result. He was thin, despite being well fed. His coat condition was poor, with his hair coming out in handfuls – yet another sign of stress. He had repeated bouts of stomach trouble, for which the vets could find no clinical reason. It wouldn’t be long before his chronic stress began to cause a serious degeneration in his health. In order to work with Dave and George when they came to my clinic, I had to find a way to move about safely in his presence. Although he was not proactively aggressive, there was little doubt that he would use defensive measures to make me back off whenever he felt scared. Simply crossing my legs was enough to trigger him to bark and lunge at me, and even I find it stressful to be continuously threatened – it triggers my amygdala, too! Our first strategy was a rather unusual one. Many traditional trainers would have tried to intervene using punishment or a ‘startle’ technique, such as throwing a can of pebbles at the dog, but it was clear to me that Dave needed to relax rather than feel more threatened. Inspired by the work of ‘Tellington Touch’ practitioners, who use gentle ‘body work’ and very specific massage-like touches to calm their animal patients, I sometimes use close-fitting fabric wrapped around the dog’s body in order to give them a sense of security. In the past, I have used bandage-like ‘body wraps’, or have taken a trip to the local charity shop to buy kids’ T-shirts. If you get the right size, the dog’s front paws go through the armholes and, after a little tailoring with a pair of scissors, the T-shirt can fit over the dog’s head and round the chest quite snugly. Nowadays, you can buy actual doggie body wraps designed for this purpose, rather than as a fashion accessory – and their effect can be pretty remarkable. The way in which body wraps or close-fitting fabric seem to calm anxious or frightened dogs is still up for discussion. It’s possible they alter the dog’s awareness, so that it focuses on its own body rather than external sights or sounds, or they may simply give the dog a sense of security. Either way, they have proved very useful in many cases, especially when the dog is afraid of fireworks or thunder – and with no side effects, they are sometimes worth a try. Dave certainly looked smart in his body wrap and seemed calmer when wearing it when in stressful situations. Next, we needed to establish a base-line of security for Dave where he would feel safe enough to eat. Eating is important because the very act of chewing seems to calm dogs (part of the reason why anxious dogs chew up the furniture when their owners leave), and the pleasure of eating tasty treats can reward good behaviour. However, offering a fearful dog a dry dog biscuit is a little like offering me five pounds to go bungee jumping. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t entertain the idea for anything less than £50,000. For this reason, I had a bag full of home-made liver-cake ready and waiting. However, there was no way I could simply put my hand out and expect Dave to take a treat from me. He was far too fearful. Instead, I asked George to take the treats and open the bag. Dave did what any sensible dog would do and turned his nose to sniff the delicious aroma. Liver-cake Recipe The ultimate training treat – no dog will be able to resist your charms when you carry a pocketful of liver-cake! 1lb (450g) liver (lamb’s or pig’s) 1 teaspoon of oil 2 eggs 1lb (450g) granary flour 2 cloves of garlic (optional) A dash of milk » Liquidise the liver with the eggs, milk, oil and garlic in a blender. » Add to the flour and mix. » Put into a microwavable dish and cook in the microwave on full power for 6–10 minutes. The cake should bounce back when pressed lightly, when cooked. » Cut the cake into slices and freeze. Take out of the freezer when required and defrost before use. (Note: for dogs with sensitive tummies, you can substitute a tin of tuna for the liver.) That was good enough. Using a clicker, George marked the head turning and sniffing behaviour, then offered Dave a treat from the bag. Like many German Shepherds, Dave was immediately suspicious. He refused the treat and it dropped to the floor. I told George to leave it there and to show Dave the bag full of goodies. Once again, Dave moved his nose a couple of centimetres towards the food. George clicked again. This time, he didn’t attempt to feed Dave the treat he had earned but instead dropped it onto the floor next to the other one. Dave sat back slightly. He looked at George, then at the two treats on the floor. I could almost see his brain whirring. He looked back at George, then deliberately moved his nose again towards the bag. He got his click and the food treat went on the floor. Dave just couldn’t resist the number of treats on the floor. He bent his head slowly, very slowly, and sniffed them. George clicked and added a fourth treat to the collection. Dave put his tongue out and tasted one of the bits of liver-cake. Click, and another appeared. He took one into his mouth. Looking for all the world as if he were being poisoned, he ate it very tentatively. I tried not to look at him in case it put him off. Deciding that he might live after all, he ate another. Now that we had a little window of opportunity, it was important to use it wisely. I gave George a running commentary on Dave’s body language and facial expression – which I was checking out of the corner of my eye – as we started, very slowly and deliberately, to click and treat Dave for any hint of muscle relaxation, facial softness, or averted eye contact. It is well known in human psychology circles that body language, physical movement and even posture can directly affect our emotional state. In a rather neat experiment by researcher Fritz Strack in 1988, subjects were asked to rate how funny they found cartoons while they held a pen in their mouths. Participants consistently rated them as more humorous when they held the pen between their teeth, an action that forced their mouths into a semi-smile, than they did when they held the pen in their lips, which forced a partial frown. This study has since been replicated several times, all with the same fascinating results: facial expression can affect mood, rather than just the other way around. Still sceptical? Sit in a slumped position and hunch your shoulders forward. Let your head droop towards your chest. Sigh deeply once or twice. Look at your feet. How do you feel now? Perhaps it’s no accident that we describe the feeling this posture can engender as being ‘down’. Now, change your posture and see how it changes your state. Just try to be depressed while standing up tall, clapping your hands in front of you, smiling and keeping your shoulders back. Now look up and to the left. Walk about briskly. OK, you may feel a little silly, but humour me – the chances are you will feel much more cheerful. Fearful dogs tend to keep their heads still while moving their eyes to follow anything they think may be threatening, so George clicked for Dave’s head turns, no matter how small. Scared dogs keep their ears pinned back to their heads, while relaxed and confident ones allow their ears to be in a relaxed but alert position, so George clicked ear movements too. Tension nearly always causes dogs to shut their mouths and hold their breath, or to stress pant – a bit like human hyperventilation. George clicked and treated Dave for a relaxed mouth and, when unsure what else to reward, simply for eating in the presence of someone scary. In that first session, all I wanted Dave to learn was that good things can happen around a stranger. He had little idea why he was being clicked and treated, but he came as close to enjoying an outing as he ever had before, and despite the fact that I couldn’t risk getting up to see them out, I was pleased with our gentle progress. George went home armed with Dave’s body wrap and clicker, with instructions to reward calm and quiet behaviour whenever possible. Over the next two months, George and I worked with Dave several times a week. Gradually, very gradually, the big dog began to relax in my presence and accept me moving about close to him. He would still startle if surprised by a sudden movement, but given enough space he would choose to back away from me rather than attempt to get me to move. However, we still needed to give him some different options when meeting other people. George and I started to watch Dave for unconscious reactions when he felt fearful and defensive. We videoed his behaviour and watched it repeatedly for clues. The most obvious of these was a tendency to move backwards one or two tiny paces before coming forwards again in a barrage of lunging and barking. George used the clicker to mark the ‘backing up’ behaviour, and then reinforced or rewarded it with a piece of food. He needed to be pretty accurate, but the exquisite timing of the click allowed this and we soon began to see results. Indeed, by the end of the session Dave was backing away four paces instead of just two. I sensed we might have a chance of encouraging him to choose that option in a moment of panic and sent the pair home to practise once again. The following week I arranged a home visit to see how Dave and George were getting on. In this new setting, Dave was once again unnerved by the presence of a stranger, and barked at me from behind the safety of a baby gate across the kitchen door. George ignored this completely, knowing that any attempts at intervention or ‘discipline’ would only fuel the big dog’s anxiety. Instead, once Dave’s initial fear had subsided, he was brought in on a long line to allow him freedom but also keep him under control. Instead of rushing at me, teeth bared and frothing with saliva, Dave’s new-found option kicked in. He took one look at me and gracefully retreated, by neatly reversing out of the room. Encouraged by his own success, and lured by the sounds of George and I chatting and laughing about this new development, Dave soon reappeared – peering round the edge of the door to see what was going on. This of course elicited a click and treat from George, which brought the big dog another couple of paces into the room. For the next twenty minutes, Dave shuttled back and forth, in and out of the living room doorway, in forward and reverse gears. Finally, discovering that this was rather tiring, he decided to come right in and say hello. This was the break-through we needed. Allowing him to make his own decision about whether to retreat or approach seemed to give him new-found confidence, which in turn helped to bolster his emotional state when he was around new people and new situations. While Dave was never going to be a dog to wear his heart on his sleeve, at least he had a strategy to employ when the going got tough. Quite literally, the tough got going. TOP TIPS FOR COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR DOG » Learning any new language takes a little time and effort. Try to think about how your dog is feeling, rather than simply imposing a human interpretation. » Basic play gestures, such as the play bow, in which the front end is held in a low stalking posture and the dog’s bottom stays in the air, are easy to spot once you know what to look for. » Dogs clearly experience emotions, but don’t be fooled into thinking they are the same as ours. For example, most dogs that appear to be looking guilty are really showing fear. » Watch out for stress symptoms in your dog, especially in new situations or those that could present a risk – such as around children. Stressed or anxious dogs may react defensively so be proactive in removing your dog from a situation in which he’s showing signs of being uncomfortable. » Watching video footage of your dog allows you to view in slow motion, repeat clips and to watch without sound – all of which will help you to notice subtle aspects of your dog’s body language and facial expression. » Dogs don’t understand human words, so if you shout at your dog it probably sounds to them as if you are barking encouragement. » Your tone of voice is important when talking to your dog – low tones can sound gruff, while high-pitched sounds can be exciting – but your body language is even more crucial. For this reason, try not to bend over your dog or stand ‘square on’ facing a dog that is lacking confidence. » Dogs watch our body language and facial expressions avidly. They can easily tell when we are engaged with them or not, and can be encouraged or intimidated by even small changes in our posture and movements. » Dog wraps and T-shirts can be a helpful tool when treating dogs with fear-based problems – however, in my opinion, that’s no excuse to dress a dog up like a human just for amusement. Dogs definitely look and function best in their own ‘ready-made’ outfits. All too often, dogs showing aggression are labelled as dominant. Their owners are told they have no control because their dogs lack respect for them, and that they must re-establish their leadership in all manner of ways that domestic dogs are meant to understand. When I see a dog that is showing aggression, however, I take a different route. I look for the underlying emotional state – and this, in the vast majority of cases, starts out as fear. Fearful dogs would always rather avoid confrontation. They don’t want to take risks or escalate the threat they are experiencing. It’s dangerous. Avoidance is not possible in many situations – we block dogs’ opportunities for flight by having them on the lead, in a kennel, or tied up – and this means they are effectively forced to take defensive action. Once this has happened and the behaviour has been reinforced, or rewarded, by relief and success, then of course it is going to happen again and again. Unfortunately, for some dogs this new strategy is enough to alter their emotional state from one of fear to one of satisfaction. Now we have a dog that knows how to use aggression and enjoys it. That’s a whole different can of worms. The dog that had no way of coping has developed a strategy that works for him. Sadly, it is one that rarely works for us and in the worst-case scenarios the dog can no longer be kept as a family pet. With this in mind, our mission should surely be to focus on prevention, rather than struggling for a cure. Puppies come into this world with a whole set of genetic potentials, and some of those will be connected to just how well they cope under pressure. While we would like our dogs to live a wonderful, stress-free life, the reality is that this can’t always be the case. Every day, I have to get out of bed too early, get ready in no time, go in the office, deal with e-mails, phone calls, traffic and technology, fix the printer, tussle with the mail, work my way through a hundred little annoyances – and that’s all on a good day! Dogs also have to deal with life as it happens, warts and all – and how they learn to do this, how they learn to build effective coping strategies, is largely up to us. Case history: Amber, the cotton-wool Cocker Spaniel puppy One of the most potent arguments that the old-fashioned ‘pack’ theorists rely on is that in order to live together, dogs – and, by default, people – must fit into a structured hierarchy. This notion was based on the work of a Norwegian zoologist called Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe in 1921. He looked at social systems amongst hens and developed the idea of a ‘pecking order’ – a hierarchy based on physical dominance, in which one hen would peck another in order to establish rank. The phrase ‘pecking order’ has become commonplace in everyday parlance in this country and many others to describe social hierarchy. However, it takes more than a single step to extrapolate chicken behaviour to that of the wolf or dog (or even humans), and this is where myth and reality part company. Watch wild dogs hunting as a pack, and what you see is not a rigid hierarchy at work but a fluid and flexible team operation. In any group of wild dogs there will inevitably be some individuals that are particularly fast, light on their feet or agile. These may be the dogs that chase the prey animal to tire it, effectively corralling it towards other members of the group that have different but no less impressive skills. For example, there might be one or two dogs that are recklessly fearless, and these are the ones who get the job of hanging onto the prey’s nose until other heavier or stronger team members do what they are good at and bring the prey down. In such an efficient hunting team, no individual has supremacy over any other; in fact, each individual has an equally important part to play in their survival. Ah, but what about competition over resources, I hear you ask? What about those classic wildlife documentary scenes where you see two wolves – or even a group of adolescent youngsters – wrestling over a piece of hide or the last bone from the kill? Surely hierarchy has a part to play there? Well, in my view, only humans would watch a group of dogs tussle over a remnant and instantly come to the conclusion that they are competing. What about the possibility that they may be co-operating to rip apart pieces of carcass that are impossible to tackle alone? How about the idea that they might be gathering information about each other? Dogs that rely on a team to hunt need to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They need to know whether one individual is faster, stronger, slower or weaker on the right side or the left, and the time to find this out is not at the moment when an extremely angry warthog is bearing down on you, but well in advance during everyday interactions. Of course, many dog owners find the idea that dogs are really wolves in disguise appealing. It’s fun – and rather powerful – to imagine that somehow humans took wolf cubs, raised them in their caves and ‘created’ domestic dogs. The myth says that we then managed to manipulate how they look and act, breeding them for long coats, short legs and droopy ears, and as long as we maintained ‘alpha’ status then we remained in control. The myth is wrong, though. As I mentioned in Chapter 1, domestic dogs are not the same as wolves. Despite sharing the vast majority of their genes with their cousins, they are simply not the same creature, as some wonderful 1960s studies demonstrated rather neatly. In 1959 Dmitri Belyaev, a Russian geneticist, launched a long-term experiment to tame foxes with the initial aim of making them easier to handle for the fur trade. While this may seem horribly unethical to us now, in those days it was essential that captive animals bred for their fur were easy to care for and manage – primarily because injury resulted in the potential loss of the pelt’s commercial value. Starting with a population of caged wild foxes, which demonstrated typical fear and aggression towards humans, Belyaev selected cubs from each generation based on one criterion only – those that were tamest around people. Changes began to appear very rapidly. It took only six generations of breeding for the foxes to start showing friendly behaviours, such as approaching when their keepers arrived rather than running away. Even more amazing was that after only thirty-five generations of breeding for friendly temperament, Belyaev’s foxes began to act like domestic dogs. The foxes wagged their tails when they saw their human carers approaching, whined for affection, used appeasement signals and made care-soliciting gestures. However, what was remarkable was not that Belyaev succeeded in breeding friendly foxes that seemed truly to like human contact; it was that with those behavioural changes came unexpected physiological ones too. The friendly foxes lost their pricked ears and developed floppy ones instead. Their coats changed and acquired black and white patches, like a Collie, and became long and plush. Their tails turned up at the end, like a dog’s, rather than hanging down like a normal fox’s brush. In addition, the females came into season twice a year, like a bitch, rather than once a year, like a vixen. The foxes also started to bark in a way that was quite unlike anything the keepers had ever heard from a fox before. Clearly, the genetic shift that caused ‘domestication’ in these foxes also had many other effects, which resulted in dog-like characteristics. Perhaps, as some eminent ethologists such as Ray Coppinger believe, a very similar set of circumstances occurred among wolves. Some of them might have shown less fear of humans way back in our collective past, and they were the ones that were inevitably ‘selected’ for breeding by the people who lived close to them, and probably used them as a food source too. Such ‘domesticated’ attributes are certainly abundant in the juvenile and social dogs that we keep today. Artificial selection for appearance has done the rest, creating dogs as huge as the Great Dane and as diminutive as the Chihuahua – but this has only occurred relatively recently in dog terms. However, although domestication may have taken the adult wolf out of the dog, it’s important to understand that the dog itself is not fully ‘tame’ unless we help to make it so. My mother, a primary school head teacher for thirty years, always stood by the adage, ‘Show me the boy before he is five, and I’ll show you the man’. While genetics have a huge part to play in canine behaviour traits, there is little doubt that the early weeks of a puppy’s life are also integral to the way the dog will behave as an adult. If you deny a puppy the chance to meet other dogs, people and the outside world, you can end up with a dog that is effectively institutionalised and fearful of all new experiences. Puppies who are not exposed to all the sights, sounds and smells that life has to offer before the age of twelve to sixteen weeks may never gain confidence in later life, and may always have problems relating to other dogs or humans. This makes sense. Keep a child locked away in isolation until he or she is eight years old and we would not expect him or her to make a quick and easy social recovery. In fact, we would expect that he or she would be affected for life. It’s obvious that puppies should have lots of positive experiences in those early days and weeks, but they also need to experience ‘real life’ in a gentle way too. Only by experiencing different emotional states can dogs learn to cope with them, and this means dealing with negative emotions as well as positive ones. The first time anything negative happens in a puppy’s life is at about four weeks of age. Up until then, everything that it needs and wants has been supplied by its mother. Warmth, food in the form of milk, protection, even going to the toilet is prompted by mum – who licks the puppies’ bellies to stimulate them to urinate and defecate. Then, gradually, the puppies begin to grow teeth. These are small and sharp and now when they latch on to their mother to feed, they hurt her! This produces an important reaction – mum starts to say no. For the first time in their lives, the puppies are denied something they want. Every time they see her, they clamour to feed, but while she will still allow some feeding, on other occasions she will turn around and walk away from them. Soon, she will also walk off during feeding, leaving puppies to drop off her teats unceremoniously as she goes. As time goes by and the puppies start to develop more muscular co-ordination and the ability to move more quickly and determinedly, mum may have to step up her rejection techniques. She might fix them with a direct stare followed by a deep growl or even a snap or nose-butt if the hungry pups don’t back away. In this way, the puppy learns what hard stares mean. Here we should also explode the myth that mother dogs shake puppies by the back of the neck to discipline them. Picking up and shaking only has one purpose in the canine world: it’s a killing mechanism (and one that nearly every dog owner is familiar with, as dogs play at ‘killing’ their toys as part of an enjoyable game). It’s clearly not a maternal gesture. Over time, puppies learn to control their own impulses to rush at their mother and mob her in an attempt to get a feed. In a wild situation, the mother and other adults would bring solid food to the pups via regurgitation, thus successfully redirecting their attention from teats to mouth. For this reason pups still want to lick at our faces and mouths. Domestic dogs rarely regurgitate for their puppies – yet another link with their wild cousins which has been diluted by social evolution. However, it’s at this stage that humans start to take over the parental role and supply solid food in a dish to take over from where mum left off. The whole weaning process is the pups’ very first lesson in how to cope with that most difficult of emotions – frustration. Of course, it won’t be the last time that puppies experience this. Living with humans exposes them to frustration every single day. In order to get used to it, puppies between eight and eighteen weeks should get out and about to meet and mix with as many other dogs, people, sights, sounds and smells as possible. This builds confidence and reduces anxiety, but it also buffers the puppy for the fact that not everything is going to go their way, not everyone they meet is going to be lovely, and not every dog is going to want to play. Getting this in perspective is basically a numbers game. Venture out for the first time at fourteen weeks old and bump straight into a grumpy adult female Dobermann, and the pup might be forgiven for believing that all other dogs are like this – and learn to avoid them. Meet fifty dogs – males and females, young and old, some lively and playful, some snappy and irritable and some indifferent, and the pup’s view of the world will be far more balanced. A local vet gave me a call to say she wanted to refer a client for behavioural help. The client had been in that morning for her dog’s first vaccination, but it had not gone well – indeed, the vet was now sporting a plaster on her wrist where she had been bitten. The bite was quite nasty, and unexpected – primarily because the dog was only fifteen weeks old! Amber’s owner, Tina, called me soon after. She said that she was shocked, not because her beautiful puppy had bitten the vet but because the vet thought she needed behavioural help. In her view, the vet must have really hurt the puppy to make her bite. We arranged to meet. Amber was indeed a beautiful puppy. The Cocker Spaniel lay cradled in her owner’s arms as I was led into the hallway of her new home. I put up a hand to touch her but she turned her face into the crook of her owner’s arm and trembled with fear. At fifteen weeks of age, this was not a good response to the careful hand of a stranger. Puppies should be outgoing, curious and friendly, not fearful and withdrawn. We went into the lounge and Amber’s owner placed the puppy carefully on a fleece blanket next to her on the sofa. The puppy glanced at me over her shoulder then slunk down, tucking herself behind her owner’s back, clearly hoping that if she couldn’t see me, I wouldn’t be able to see her. Amber had come home only a few days before. Her new owner had chosen the breeder carefully and she showed me her puppy’s pedigree forms with reverence. ‘She has bred Cocker Spaniels for years,’ Tina told me proudly. ‘I saw Amber’s mother and grandmother – they were all stunning. Her grandmother was a champion, you know.’ The puppy had crawled round behind her back and was now heading towards the edge of the sofa. Tina jumped up and scooped it up in her arms, lest the puppy should get too close to the edge. ‘The breeder told me how fragile puppies are at this age,’ she said. ‘She kept them on their own in a warm, padded box, and wouldn’t even let other people handle them. They’re just too precious.’ Indeed, I thought. ‘I think she might need to go to the bathroom,’ Tina said suddenly, and carried the puppy towards the kitchen. Following, I expected to see Tina heading towards the back door but instead she turned off down the hallway, and then – to my surprise – took her into the downstairs loo. There she placed the puppy on a special ‘housetraining mat’ to do her business. Now, while these ‘flat nappies’ have become very popular with new puppy owners because they mean that the pup doesn’t have to go outside, they effectively condone indoor toileting. This means that owners often need to housetrain their puppy twice: first to the mat, second to the garden. Worse, in my opinion, is that using puppy pads may limit a dog’s experiences and mean that it risks being under-exposed to the world at large. Some years ago, I appeared on a national TV chat show where the topic of discussion was whether people who live in apartments or flats should ever have dogs as pets. Most of the experts on the show condemned the idea of keeping dogs in high-rise accommodation, saying that they need space both indoors and out. I stood out as a lone voice. As someone who had been one of those city-dwelling owners who lived happily and responsibly with a dog in an upstairs flat, I felt I could speak from experience. There are actually some positive behavioural advantages to raising a pup in an urban jungle. Not least of these is the fact that when you don’t have a garden or yard, you are forced to take the puppy out and about to meet the world a minimum of eight times a day just for him or her to go to the toilet – potentially seven times more than a puppy living a country existence. Poor Amber. With so little in the way of life experience and such a sheltered start, she had no coping strategies to fall back on when life threw a minor glitch in her path – in the form of having an injection – and she had over-reacted horribly as a result. The harsh fact is that dogs of all ages need to learn how to cope with being examined, having their teeth cleaned, their nails clipped, their ears inspected, their tails held. They need to put up with minor discomfort in the form of injections, anal gland emptying, temperature-taking and a multitude of other common procedures. All of these trivial little annoyances need to be accepted, not fought over or fussed about, and it is only through extensive amounts of handling, exposure and repetition at an early age that dogs learn to take them in their stride. At fifteen weeks old, Amber’s reactions to other people already represented a behavioural emergency – but getting Amber’s doting owner to see that she needed to loosen the apron strings and let her little dog stand on her own four feet was going to be tough. Knowing that the best understanding always comes from experience rather than explanation, I invited Amber and her owner to attend a ‘puppy nursery class’ that my practice colleagues and I were running during the evenings in a nearby school. I told her it was an ideal opportunity to meet other puppy owners in a gentle social environment. It was also a dramatic eye-opener. On Amber’s first session, she sat on her owner’s lap and hid her face, not once so much as glancing at the other puppies who were quietly practising training, sniffing each other or enjoying short play sessions with each other. ‘Is your puppy ill?’ asked a little girl who was there with her family training their Cairn Terrier pup. ‘Why can’t she come and play with the other puppies?’ Amber’s owner looked at me with tears in her eyes. ‘None of the other puppies are reacting like this,’ she whispered. ‘I hadn’t realised how painfully shy she is.’ It was a turning point. Very gently, very gradually, Amber’s owner tentatively allowed her puppy to explore the house, and then the garden. She practically had to sit on her hands not to dash over and save the puppy from clambering down her six-inch-high rockery. She took her out in the car, let friends touch her and hold her – and even on one occasion left her overnight with a friend (although she did admit to calling almost every hour). Amber’s transformation had begun. The following week when she returned to the puppy class, Amber sat on the floor – although admittedly under her owner’s chair. She managed a sneaky sniff of another pup’s tail as it walked past and even ate a treat given to her by the little girl with the Cairn Terrier. By week three of the course, Amber could practise ‘sits’ and ‘downs’ with the rest of the class. She couldn’t yet cope with playing or walking on the lead in the middle of the room, but she wagged her tail and looked more relaxed than I could have hoped for. By week five, she was offering play bows to the Cairn Terrier and had made a friend in a Bichon Frise puppy who was also a little shy. Everyone could see her progress now. On the final night of the puppy course, Amber’s owner arrived with her pup on a new pink collar and lead. She walked into the room with confidence, sat down and watched as her puppy was happy to be petted by the little girl and a friend who had come to watch the puppy ‘graduation’ ceremony, in which I say a few words about how each puppy has developed during the six-week course and comment on their achievements. When it was Amber’s turn, I hardly needed to remind the class how much more confident Amber had become. They burst into a spontaneous round of applause in their genuine desire to congratulate her owner for all her efforts. They too could see that a crisis had been averted. Packing up that evening, I was surprised to hear a voice behind me. Amber’s owner held out a brown paper bag. ‘I just wanted to give you something,’ she said. ‘You know, for the teacher, from Amber and me.’ I opened the bag. It contained a round and shiny apple. It was undoubtedly the best I’ve ever eaten. TOP TIPS FOR ‘STRESS IMMUNISING’ AND SOCIALISING PUPPIES » Start young. Even if your puppy has not yet completed all his vaccinations, you can carry him out and about to meet the world. The first critical window of opportunity for puppies to learn to cope with everyday life is before twelve weeks; after this, every day becomes potentially more difficult. » Try not to wrap your puppy in cotton wool. He or she needs to learn how to cope with life. The balance between protection and exposure is an important one. » Dogs need to be exposed repeatedly to all the sights, sounds, touches, smells and even tastes of their environment. Treat your puppy as if he is going to be a guide dog by taking him out and about as much as possible. » Be brave enough to leave your puppy home alone for short periods. » Find a good puppy class and enrol your dog as soon as they allow. The class should be specifically for pups of eighteen weeks and under, and should offer a combination of carefully controlled socialisation with other puppies and kind, gentle training. » Even very young puppies can sometimes show problem behaviours. Don’t be fooled into thinking that he or she will grow out of it. Seek help early if you need it. » Puppies and children are a wonderful, if sometimes wild, combination. Make sure that both have ‘calm down’ periods and that your puppy has somewhere he can go and rest undisturbed. Never leave your puppy unsupervised with children. » Pups of eight weeks old can learn basic manners and training, such as ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘come when called’ and multitudes of simple tricks such as ‘spin’, ‘rollover’ and ‘give a paw’. Learning is easy and fun when you are young. » Puppies often go through a ‘fear period’, characterised by being confident one day and then being scared of something commonplace the next. Don’t reinforce the fear by giving attention; instead, pretend nothing has happened, wait until your pup recovers, then reward him for being brave the next time he encounters the same thing. » Introduce your puppy to good-natured adult dogs as soon as you can. A ‘telling off’ from an older dog may be perfectly appropriate if your pup is too bumptious. This is distinguishable from aggression as it is all noise and bluster with no risk of damage. Don’t panic if it happens, as it’s likely to do you a favour. » Two puppies from the same litter need to be walked, trained and socialised separately if they are to develop as individuals in their own right, and not many owners have the time or dedication needed for this. Pups that are over-dependent on each other or an older dog in the same household run the risk of lacking real-world experience and may have problems later. Amber’s story is not uncommon. Her initial inability to cope with life outside a very small, protected world was caused by a complete lack of experience in those precious, formative weeks. This gives clues as to how pups should be raised once they are in a new home, but also what should happen while they are still with their breeder, their litter mates and their mum. Pups need a balance of protection and stimulation, of security and gentle exposure. Such a tightrope cannot be carefully negotiated if the pup is over-protected, shielded from everyone and everything. For those that are born in a barn, surrounded by the barking of other dogs, with only the warmth of a heat lamp and the feel of shredded newspaper for stimulation, the outcome is strangely similar. Sadly, puppy farms are still common in the UK, with enough prospective owners willing to take on dogs that have been bred and raised in social deprivation, despite all the problems that we know this can cause. A pup’s early experience can make or break its chances of becoming a family member. Of course, it’s hard to turn down the kids’ pleas and say no to a pup, even if you know it hasn’t been reared in the right way. Sometimes it is precisely because you know that the conditions are poor that you want to ‘rescue’ the pup and offer it a home. Dogs have a way of getting into our hearts like no other animal. They compel us to take them, to care for them and to spend inordinate amounts of time and money on them. All those songs are right: love makes us crazy – and it can make our dogs a little bit daft too. Case history: Sam, the besotted Springer Spaniel Going out to work if you keep dogs has always been controversial. Clearly, it’s not feasible to keep a dog if you are out for eight or ten hours a day. Dogs are social animals, and even if they are given food, water and shelter, their emotional welfare demands that they have exercise, company and stimulation during the day. However, it’s an ironic fact that in order to keep pets, most of us have to go out to work to be able to buy their food, pay their vet bills and buy them all the many beds, treats and little extras that make them (and us) happy. Like most things in life, achieving harmony is all about balance. It should be perfectly reasonable to leave your dog at home for a realistic period of time. Of course, what is a realistic period of time will depend on both dog and owner. For example, a puppy of only twelve weeks cannot be expected to go more than two hours without needing to go out to the toilet and have some meaningful interaction. Dogs over the age of a year who know the routine and have had exercise and stimulation may be OK left for four or even five hours, especially if their owner is savvy and leaves them with plenty of things to do in their absence. In fact, I have treated some dogs for behavioural problems that have been caused by owner over-obsession. Some of them would probably have paid me themselves if I could have persuaded their owners to go out and leave them in peace for a couple of hours! It’s when the balance goes wrong that I sometimes find my phone ringing, as I did with Sam. Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/sarah-whitehead/clever-dog-understand-what-your-dog-is-telling-you/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
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