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Resource Guarding In Dogs

 

resource-guarding

What is Resource guarding?

When dogs behave aggressively when in possession of things – like food, toys, owners, crates, couches – it is called as resource guarding.

Is Resource guarding an abnormal behaviour?

The simple answer here is – No. Resource guarding is an adaptive trait in dogs, which has given them an advantage in survival and reproduction over the non-guarders since the time they had to fend for themselves in the wild. Also, if your dogs were resource guarders, and tomorrow they had to fend for themselves for some reason, Resource guarding would be a very valuable trait in them. This is a very natural behaviour for your dog. If we really think about it, humans have survived and progressed because they are one of the biggest resource guarders. However, since dogs are held to such high standards when they live with humans that this behaviour is not acceptable anymore.

Is resource guarding a dominant behaviour?

Not necessarily. It has been speculated at times if resource guarding was a result of dominance in dogs. However, it was also seen that eventually, a resource guarder responds well to a well planned desensitization and counterconditioning techniques. In these techniques, we do not “show the dog, who is the boss”. Instead we carefully make a plan to desensitize the dog to having people and things touching his valuable resources and getting a good outcome out of it. Although it takes a while to use these techniques, when done correctly, the dog will eventually stop guarding his resources. Also, there are so many resource guarders who are seen with other non-dominant behaviour traits – lack of confidence, tucking the tail between the hind legs, submissive urination, fearfulness. It may be fair to conclude that resource guarding is not always a dominant behavioural trait. It can be said to be more of an adaptive trait than anything else.

Crate Training – Good Or Bad For The Dogs?

Brossard-Puppy-Training

GOOD OR BAD?

We often feel that if we wouldn’t like to be sitting around in a cage, how could we put our canine companions in one! A crate or a play pen often looks like a prison to us and so it is difficult for us to relate it with something positive. Whether a dog would actually enjoy his time in the crate or not depends on how he perceives the crate. It is also based on his previous experiences with a crate. If a puppy is trained to associate the crate to all things positive, he will be more willing to go back in there the next time around. If he has had negative experiences associated with the crate, it could be traumatic for him to stay in one.

Dogs usually prefer a spot in the house where they can hide from the hustle and bustle of the house. A crate could act as their safe little haven (their own bedroom if you will) within the house. When wild dogs need a shut eye, they normally sleep in their own den, a safe pace where they could rest without becoming someone else’s meal. Today’s domestic dog too can consider the crate as their den to get their regular naps.

CONFINEMENT DURATION

Even though crates are not bad for dogs/puppies, it is important to know how long can you keep a puppy or a dog crated during a day. This duration essentially varies for different dogs based on their breed, age, medical conditions if any and their feeding schedules. Normally a puppy will need to be taken out more frequently to relieve themselves than an adult dog. A puppy will need to be taken out every 3-4 hours based on how frequently he needs to relieve himself. Also it is very important to understand that the dog’s other needs like sufficient exercise, mental stimulation and opportunities to go out need to be taken care of by the owner.

CHOOSING A CRATE

Once you decide to crate train your dog, the most important things to consider while buying a crate are its size and material. The size of the crate should be big enough so that the dog will be able to stand, sit and lie down comfortably(with his legs stretched) in the crate. The dog should not be cramped up when you put him inside. It is also essential to consider that some dogs need more space vertically while sitting than while standing so make sure the crate is a right fit for the dog before buying one. If it is a large breed then be prepared to change the crate and upgrade to a bigger one when the puppy grows. You can also refer to the APDT guidelines for choosing the right crate for your dog.

There are several types of crates available for dogs. Which material you choose depends on what kind of a dog you have. If you have a small dog, who isn’t very destructive you can go for a soft-sided, wooden or plastic crate. However if you have a big dog, you may need a heavy duty wired crate.

HOUSEBREAKING

Crates can be a great tool when it comes to housebreaking your puppy. It is however essential to understand that just leaving a puppy in the crate for longer periods of time can cause anxiety in some dogs and they may start to soil the crate. Also it is necessary to know when the puppy really needs to go out and take him out when he needs to relieve himself. If dogs get in the habit of soiling the crate it becomes extremely difficult to teach him otherwise. Also, it is very traumatizing for them to have to poop or pee in the place where they sleep. If you choose a crate of appropriate size(neither too big nor too small) It will be like your dog’s own room which he will be unlikely to soil. If the crate is too big, the dog will have space for his bedroom and then some more for his bathroom.

TIME-OUTS – MANAGEMENT TOOL

The crate is also great as a management tool. If the dog is too much of a chewer or a destroyer, the crate can be also used as a management tool when you cannot supervise him. This however cannot be a substitute for training. Crate can be used for timeouts as a punishment too, however the dog should be extremely comfortable with the crate before it can be used as a punisher as well. Just like children can be sent to their room as a punishment and they will not be scared of their room, similarly the dogs can also be sent to their room(the crate) for punishment. However before that can be done, the dog should have accepted the crate as his room or his go to place in the house. He should be able to understand that the crate is not the reason he is getting punished, his behaviour is!

Apart from all these things, it is extremely essential to give your dog a lot of exercise, mental stimulation and a lot of socialisation which are a very important part of the dog’s development.

All You Need To Know About the Alpha Roll

alpha-roll

WHAT IS ALPHA ROLL?

Alpha Roll is an old school technique used to discipline a dog. If a dog misbehaves, he is flipped onto his back ( or sometimes onto his side) and held in that position by his chest or sometimes throat. The theory behind this is supposed to be that the dog understands that you are the pack leader and calms down.

 

ORIGIN OF ALPHA ROLL

Rudolph Schenkel, an animal behaviourist published a paper in 1947 titled “Expression Studies on Wolves”. This paper was based on Schenkel’s short term study of captive wolves during the 1930s and 1940s. This study was done in Switzerland in the Basle zoological garden. The idea of an Alpha wolf comes from here. In 1976, The Monks of New Skete published a book in which the “Alpha-wolf Roll-over” (now shortened to “Alpha Roll”) was popularized. Monks reviewed the early observations of the captive wolf study done in 1940s and concluded that alpha roll could be used as a technique to show one’s authority over a dog.

WHY IS ALPHA-ROLL NOT APPLICABLE TO THE DOMESTIC DOG?

First of all, the alpha roll technique was designed based on two things:

  1. Alpha wolf(study of captive wolves in 1940s): The wolves involved in this study were unrelated and upto 10 wolves were kept in a small area of 10*20 meters of floor space. Due to the smaller area and no where to go, there were constant conflicts among these wolves. They had to keep on fighting to be on the top position in the hierarchy. This is usually not the case with the wolves staying in the wild.
  2. Submissive Roll-over: The submissive wolves do a roll over in front of an alpha wolf. Although this observation is true, the roll over is voluntary and not forced by the stronger wolves .

Although the Monks of New Skete in their book “How to be your dog’s best friend” popularized the Alpha roll, they recanted and strongly discouraged the use of alpha roll in the second edition of their book in 2002.

Another problem with this alpha roll theory is that wolves have evolved for thousands of years to become the domestic dogs that live with us today. Even though the domestic dog has descended from the wolf, they don’t have much in common with their ancestors anymore. So even if the pack theory was applicable to the wolves, it is not to the domestic dog of today.

The pack theory(based on a study on captive wolves) that the wolves have to fight for their place in the hierarchy does not even apply to the wolves in the wild, so it seems too far fetched that it applies to today’s dog.

HOW DOES THE ALPHA ROLL AFFECT YOUR DOG?

When a roll over is not a voluntary act and if you do it to your dog, it can be considered by your dog as an act of aggression. The dog may get really stressed at this point and may feel that you are trying to threaten him. Since there is no way for your dog to escape from that situation, he may become overwhelmed and some dogs can even develop fear based aggression. It is also said that the alpha roll was done in extreme cases where there was an intention to kill between the wolves. Needless to say that this will have an adverse effect on your relationship with your dog. He will not be able to trust you anymore. Many owners get bit while performing alpha rolls. Some dogs may not react aggressively to the rolls, however the dog-human relationship is definitely affected by the alpha roll.

WE ARE NOT DOGS, OUR DOGS KNOW IT!

Ultimately, our dogs know that we are not dogs, so the presumption that they would even consider us a part of their canine pack is so far fetched. So let us try to be humans instead of trying to be dogs in a pack of dogs. If you think about it, humans did not pet wolves by trying to be aggressive with them. The relationship between humans and wolves was mutually rewarding and so it got us to where we are with dogs today.

We want our dogs to respect us and not be scared of us. It is important to remember that respect comes out of mutual trust. Thanks to the scientific studies, there are so many positive reinforcement techniques available to us today which help the dog learn new things while strengthening the bond between the dogs and humans. So let us try to make this world a better place by using positive techniques for our canine companions as well!

How To Care For Your Dog in Extreme Winters

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DOES MY DOG NEED CLOTHES?

The most frequently asked question during winters is, does my dog need clothes during winter? There are different factors to consider while answering this question : How extreme is the weather where you live, what kind of fur does your dog have and does it seem to be sufficient, does she shiver when outside. You know your dog better than anyone else.

If you feel your dog is not comfortable with the cold, it is always a good idea to get her a sweater. If you have a dog with thick fur she might not need a sweater. If you have a dog with a thin coat like a Chihuahua and you stay in extreme temperatures, it is a good idea to have her wear a sweater or a jacket to protect her form the extreme weather.

 

HOW TO CARE FOR THE PAWS

In winters the salt and ice melters can get stuck in your dog’s paws which could lead to infection and or cracking of the paws. Either put on booties or apply generous amounts of petroleum jelly on the paws before going outside. The jelly not only protects the paws from cracking but also prevents from the paw pads becoming wet because of the snow/water. If your dog has cracked paws because of the cold try using balms especially made for them. After a walk, make sure to wipe their paws off and check if anything is stuck between them.

 

GROOMING IN WINTERS

Keep the nails trimmed so that it doesn’t get caught and break. Do not bathe your dog outside and if you bathe him at home, make sure she is completely dry before going outside in the cold. Switching to a dry shampoo in winters is a better idea. Do not trim/clip the fur on your dog because that is what will keep her warm when outside.

 

PRE-WINTER TRAINING

You will need to examine your dog’s paw frequently in the winters so try to get him used to it before it becomes a necessity. If your dog is uncomfortable with that, get him trained to give the paws and desensitize him to you touching his paw. Train your dog to walk on a loose leash before it becomes too slippery to handle.

 

PROTECTION AGAINST COLD WEATHER CHEMICALS

Car Anti-freeze is one of the most harmful chemicals with a sweet taste that appeals to the dogs. It often leaks from the car radiators. It is however a deadly poison even when consumed in very small quantities. Clean up if there are any spills where your dog has access to. Salts and ice melters can also cause skin irritation so wipe them off the feet and stomach in case of small dogs after coming back from a walk.

 

HEALTH CONDITIONS RELATED TO COLD WEATHER

Frostbite is very common in humans and dogs and it is a tissue injury caused due to extreme cold. The most common areas where it occurs are tail, ears, feet or scrotum. It can also stay hidden under the fur so check for the signs of it. Another common condition is hypothermia which is a result of extended exposure to extreme cold and can be life threatening. Watch out for signs like a weak pulse, lethargy, shivering.

 

CARING FOR OUTDOOR DOGS

It is a good idea usually to have your dog inside all winter. If that is not possible and (and only if you have an outdoor kind of dog who can sustain the winters), have a heated, warm shelter(wind-proof) where she can go and rest. Have a clean and a dry bed there all the time. Outdoor dogs burn more calories due to the cold so increase their food ration. Have fresh water for her available all the time. Make sure it has not frozen. Use heated bowls for food and water if necessary.

Trick Training – Why Is It Good For Your Dog!!

vector illustration of dog juggling bones

Trick training is teaching your dog new things, and the trick is to use treats to do that! You can teach your dog to give paw, play dead, fetch the newspaper/or any other object for that matter, or even dance on songs! The possibilities are endless once you start teaching your dog different tricks.

Just like any other methods of training using treats to train your dog can be dangerous for your dog if not done in a right manner. Dogs can become food aggressive very quickly if the right training techniques are not used. The first step to trick training is to teach your dog to behave in front of the food. It is extremely important that your dog stays calm before he gets his first treat. You definitely do not want your dog whining, howling, jumping, barking or even worse snapping at you for the food. Once he calms down infront of food, that is when the real training begins.

Now some people might wonder why is there a need to do any trick training at all! We teach our dogs obedience commands and shouldn’t that be it? Once dogs learn a set of certain commands(which most dogs are very quick at learning) they don’t have anything new to challenge their brains with. Teaching your dog new tricks keeps them mentally stimulated. The more challenges they have, the earlier they tend to tire themselves out. Did you know that walking your dog for two hours equals teaching him new tricks for only 30 minutes! Trick training is also very calming for your dog because he gets a sense of satisfaction in learning and executing something new.

Along with the treats, toys, plenty of praises, a little bit of belly rub and other things that your dog may like can also be used as a reward. All dogs love to please their owners. Teaching him new tricks is a great way to let him win your praise and affection. If you are thinking of using treats as a reward to train your dog, it is best to practice before meals, when the dog is really hungry, that will motivate him to work for food. It is also a good idea to subtract the amount of food used as treats from his daily ration of food to keep him healthy.

If you forget to practice the tricks with your dog, the dog tends to forget them. So it is always a good idea to practice regularly, short practice sessions at a time. The key to a successful trick training program is, a lot of practice, discipline in front of food and a lot of fun with your canine companion!

When Can I Start Training My Puppy/Dog?

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‘When can I start training my puppy/dog?’ is the most frequently asked question by the dog owners. The shortest answer to this question is as soon as you bring the puppy/dog home. Your puppy starts learning from you, the moment you bring him home; whether you teach him or not!

If you don’t teach him, he will probably learn something you don’t want him to. For example, if he climbs up on the couch and you don’t do anything about it just because you are too tired to get him off the couch, he learns that it is okay to sit on the couch. The next thing you know he has started jumping on it already!

Every interaction between you and your puppy is a teaching session for him/her. The entire puppyhood is a training experience for him. Just like human babies, they learn what you teach them to do. The most important thing to consider in training your puppy/dog is his/her personality. Each dog has a different personality; he could be super energetic or a couch potato; he could be a crazy retriever or a really laid back dog. Once you know which kind of personality your dog has, it becomes easier to work with him.

The next thing to understand about your dog is what works for him. Some dogs work for food, others work for toys; some work for a belly rub and others for a swim in the pool; some just work to please you. No one knows your dog better than you do! Once you know exactly what works for him, use that to teach him tricks. And the most important thing of all is never forget to have a lot of fun while doing so!

Popular Myths About Dog Behaviour

 

Myth 1: A wagging tail means the dog is happy

Most dogs almost always wag their tails when they are happy and excited about something but a wagging tail doesn’t necessarily mean a happy dog. Dogs wag their tails when they feel threatened. It can also indicate a social challenge in some situations where a dog is trying to establish his superior position in a pack(dominance). The dog can also wag his tail when he feels uncomfortable in a situation. The context is important and so is the kind of wagging, the speed and the rest of the body language. This is the reason why many people get bit.

While understanding the dog behavior, it is not just one sign you look at. The combination of different parts of the body language needs to be taken into account before you come to any conclusion. .

 

Myth 2: Dogs attack without a warning

Dogs almost always give a warning before attacking you. It may not always be a growl or a bark. Some dogs give cold stares, some dogs freeze in their tracks, some just growl and let you know they are not comfortable. Each dog might have a different style to convey the warning, they almost always give a warning before they attack. There are certain situations where the dog may hardly give any warning before the attack but more often than not, there is a warning. If you recognize the warning signs and stop making the dog uncomfortable, chances are he will back away!

 

Myth 3: Dogs jumping up are trying to dominate us.

This myth could not have been farther from the truth! Jumping up to greet you at your face is more often than not an appeasement behaviour which dogs offer in an effort to make you happy. In the wolf world, subordinate wolves lick the face of an alpha wolf! So jumping up to lick our faces is anything but dominant. The dog/puppy is just trying to get your attention. With appropriate training, you can let him/her know that there are other, better ways to get your attention than jumping up on you.

 

Myth 4: All Growling dogs are aggressive.

Dogs can growl sometimes to tell you to back off in certain situations, this does not mean they are always angry when they growl. Sometimes dogs also play-growl which is in no way an act of aggression. You will notice that sometimes when you are playing a tug of war you can hear your dog growling, most of the times it is playful growling. (If you are not sure if the growl is an aggressive growl or a playful one, it is a good idea to consult a behaviorist instead of taking the risk of being bit)

Myth 5: Dogs know what they did wrong, they look so guilty.

Dogs do not have complex emotions like us humans. When you come back home and see a chewed up couch, and scream angrily at your dog, the dog cowers because he is responding to your body language, not because he feels guilty. Try using the same angry tone of voice when he has not done anything and you will notice the dog still looks guilty!