Dogs in a Stressful Environment | How Stressful Environments Affect Dogs

  • By Peter Hargreaves
  • 13 Jul, 2017

Keeping dogs in a stressful environment can have a significant effect on their physical and psychological well-being. Before we explore these effects, let's look at what constitutes a stressful environment for a dog.

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Potential Causes of Stress

Dogs in a stressful environment can be affected in two ways:

Physically - Physical stress may be caused by fatigue, hunger, injury, thermal extremes or thirst.

Psychologically - Psychological stress may be due to fear caused by restraint, neglect or handling, as well as unfamiliar environments or objects.

Specific factors likely to create a stressful environment for dogs include:

Temperature - This is the effective ambient temperature of the dog's environment, which combines heat radiation, humidity and precipitation. The comfort zone is the range within the dog does not have to increase his/her normal metabolic rate to feel well and comfortable. Outside this comfort zone, there are the:

·       Lower Critical Temperature : Dogs in a stressful environment with temperatures below the lower critical temperature may show symptoms of cold stress, which may, for example, be indicated by an increase in his/her food intake

·       Upper Critical Temperature : In environments where temperatures exceed the upper critical temperature, heat stress may be accompanied by decreased food intake, for instance.

Poor Ventilation - Dogs need fresh air, too, and lack of air movement throughout the dog's environment could result in physical stress for your pet.

Overcrowding - Keeping too many animals within any given area may also become stressful for a dog.

Transportation - While some dogs do enjoy car journeys, many find being transported from one place to another incredibly stressful. This is particularly the case when they are transported in a cage, trailer or truck.

Unfamiliar Living Spaces - Moving come or even making changes within an existing home can also be intensely stressful for dogs.

Pests - Fleas, flies and lice; mosquitoes and ticks are as irritating for dogs as they are for humans and can cause a dog a great deal of both physical and psychological stress.

Human Exposure - Poorly socialised dogs can find environments where they are exposed to many different, often unfamiliar people extremely stressful.

Working Equipment - For working dogs, unfamiliar equipment and/or facilities can be stressful, especially if using said equipment causes them pain as well.

Stressed Owners - Dogs pick up on their owners' emotions. If you are stressed, upset or unwell, your dog will feel this and could get just as 'stressed out' as you are. A household with lots of heated, loud arguments, for instance, could cause the dog to become fearful.

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Signs of Stress

Often affected by elevated/increased respiratory and heart rates and dehydration, dogs in a stressful environment will show certain types of behaviour, including:

·      Making excessive noise (barking, 'moaning', whining)

·      Lethargy

·      Attempts to run away

·      Isolation (all dogs like a little 'alone time' now and then, but if your dog is continually seeking isolation, chances are he/she is stressed about something)

·      Excessive, destructive chewing

·      Digging

·      Hyperactivity

·      Growling, showing of teeth and other aggressive behaviour

·      Constant urination

·      Keeping the tail between the legs

Most stress-causing factors and subsequent stress-related behaviours can be prevented.

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Preventing Stress

Stress can be minimised by:

·      Keeping temperatures within the dog's comfort zone. This includes providing shade and bedding not likely to hold heat; rinsing the environment down; regularly providing fresh water, using fans/opening windows when temperatures exceed 24 degrees C (75.2 degrees F).

·      Ensuring adequate ventilation and providing access to outside areas during the day.

·      Making sure to avoid overcrowding and ensuring each animal has ample space to lie down, as well as his/her own feeding/drinking space.

·      Practising getting your dog in/out of the car, cage or truck and going for short journeys to begin with to get him/her used to being transported. During longer journeys, a few stops to exercise and offer water and/or food should be provided. As both heat and very windy conditions can cause stress, it is best to avoid transportation during such conditions.

·      Ensuring your dog has familiar objects around him/her when moving home/making changes to your home; spending time with him/her to reassure him/her and giving them time and space to get used to the new environment.

·      Ensuring living environments care clean, well-maintained and free of pests. This includes providing pest control both on the animal and within the environment.

·      Socialising your dog slowly, gently and a little at a time. It is better to introduce your dog to one or two people at a time, rather than exposing them to a room full of unfamiliar people.

·      Ensuring equipment for working dogs reflects their normal actions and motions without inflicting pain.

In a stressful home, spending as much time as possible with your dog, 'making a fuss' of him/her and providing plenty of reassurance, as well as play time and exercise will help to calm your dog.

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Treating Stress

Dogs in a stressful environment can often be effectively helped by:

·      Removing stress-generating factors from the environment

·      Providing water to prevent dehydration

·      Increasing opportunities to exercise

·      Ensuring the dog's stress/behaviour is not caused by underlying medical issues by consulting a veterinarian

If all else fails and your dog continues to display stress-related behaviours, a dog behaviourist may be able to help.

Contact Us

Our dog behaviourists have the skills and experience to help your dog overcome stress and live a happy, contented live. If you believe your dog is suffering from stress, or if certain stress-related behaviours have become long-standing habits, give us a call on 07776761289, contact us online or drop us an e-mail at: enquiries@dogharmony.co.uk today.

Please note that we will endeavour to answer online/e-mail enquiries as quickly as humanly possible.

By Peter Hargreaves 11 Aug, 2017

Should you be taking your dog for miles and miles of walks/runs? Should you be completely exhausting your pet with endless games of fetch or tug? The fact is, while physical exercise is without doubt essential, mental stimulation can relax a dog and help him/her become a happy, well-behaved family member.

Mental Stimulation Can Relax a Dog - The Basics

So, what exactly is mental stimulation? Think, for a moment, back to your time at school. Despite sitting at a desk for around 7 hours, rather than running about (which you would, we have no doubt, probably have preferred to tedious lessons), you got home completely exhausted and quite ready to have a nap. The reason you were so tired is simple: you spent the whole day working with your brain, tiring it out with maths calculations, discussions about literature, meaningful conversations, and so on. Like the rest of your body, your brain uses fuel (vitamins, minerals, food) to function. Using fuel leaves you (your brain) mentally tired.

This process is the same for dogs. Ensuring your dog uses his/her brain to get mentally tired is therefore as essential for his/her well-being as providing physical exercise. Increasing physical exercise only will merely serve to increase your dog's stamina, as opposed to tiring him/her out. Mental stimulation can relax a dog by ensuring he/she is mentally, as well as physically tired.

Mental Stimulation Can Relax a Dog - Suggestions

There are many ways in which you can provide mental stimulation and relax a dog. Here are some of them, but please note that this list is by no means exhaustive - find your own ways (it's good to get creative!) and/or talk to other pet owners to learn how they mentally stimulate their dogs for more ideas.

Basic Obedience/Advanced Training Classes - Training your dog is fantastic fun, builds a stronger bond between you & your dog, teaches your dog to respond reliably to requests and mentally tires him/her out. Giving you a mentally tired, relaxed dog who wants to respond to your requests, training is ultimately great for both you and your pet. Naturally, it is important to practise everything you have learned wherever you go, at home and on walks, at other people's homes - in short, wherever you go with him/her.

Puzzle, Treat Dispensing and/or 'Work-to-Eat' Toys - Offering food in toys they have to work on to get the food (as opposed to placing it into a bowl for them to 'inhale' it in no time at all) makes a dog think and will subsequently mentally tire and relax a dog. It wil not only relax a dog but will also make the food last longer. There are many such toys on the market, including some that can be filled with a mixture of dry/wet food and some for dry food only. Some examples of such food-dispensing toys include the:

·      'Kong Wobbler', 'Buster Food Cube' & ' Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug'

·      'Omega Paw Tricky Treat Ball', 'Busy Buddy Kibble Nibble' & 'IQ Treat Ball'

·      'Busy Buddy Magic Mushroom' and varying slow feed bowls/puzzle toys from Ethical Pets and Outward Hound

Nose Work Games - Make use of dogs' innate sniffing ability to mentally stimulate and relax a dog. Teach him/her the request to 'Find it' by saying it, then placing food onto the floor. When your dog starts to search for food when you say this even before you have placed the food onto the floor, you know he/she knows what 'Find it' means. At this point, you can get a little more creative and hide food/treats in boxes or other containers. Make finding it quite easy to begin with to ensure he/she enjoys the game, then start hiding these containers (with a treat/food in them, of course!) in harder to find places.

Teaching Tricks - Use reinforcement-based training (giving your dog a nice treat when he/she learns something new) to teach your dog new tricks (i.e. shake paws, 'tidy up' his/her toys, jump through a hula hoop or two, etc.). Reinforcement-based training is a fun way to build & maintain your relationship and mentally tire & relax a dog.

Mixing Training & Play - Another way t mentally tire and relax a dog is to bring basic obedience cues into play sessions. You could, for instance, ask your dog to 'Sit' before throwing his/her favourite toy for a game of fetch or tell him/her to 'Sit' and 'Wait' before allowing him/her to 'Take it' when about to have a game of tug. This will not only tire and relax a dog in general, but will also teach him/her to think and calm him/herself down while playing so he/she doesn't get too enthusiastic (and rowdy!)

In the long run, a good, providing a balanced mix of physical exercise and mental stimulation will physically and mentally tire and relax a dog, so get creative and have some fun with your dog! He/she will thank you for it by being calm, relaxed and well behaved wherever you go.

Finding it Difficult to Relax a Dog

Sometimes, stress and/or medical issues can make it difficult to properly relax a dog. If this is the case with your pet, it is imperative to visit your veterinarian to rule out medical problems. Consulting a dog behaviourist can also help to calm and relax a dog. Give our experienced dog behaviourists a call on 07776761289 today to learn more.

By Peter Hargreaves 03 Aug, 2017
So, what is the difference between a dog trainer and a dog behaviourist? Before answering this question, let's look at what trainers and behaviourists actually do.

The Role of Dog Trainers

Providing an important service, dog trainers can help teach your dog to be a perfect companion. Some trainers teach basic manners and actions like, for instance, 'Sit', Stay' or 'Come'; 'Walk nicely' on a leash, 'Lie down', and so on. Others teach pets how not to do something, like, for example, jumping up on people, lounging on beds or sofas or diving into dustbins.

Then, of course, there are more specialist trainers who provide advanced training including, for instance, protection/guard training; scent discrimination, totally off-leash commands and search & rescue or guide dog training.

Due to these differences, it is important to make sure you - and any potential trainer you may enlist - know exactly what it is you expect and want your dog to learn.

The Role of Dog Behaviourists

Dog behaviourists typically deal with dogs that display disruptive, destructive or unusually aggressive behaviour. Often due to stress, emotional problems and/or lack of human interaction/socialisation (both of which in turn can cause both stress and emotional problems), such behaviours may include excessive chewing and/or barking, growling, biting or showing of teeth; lack of or excessive appetite and lethargy, for example.

A dog behaviourist will begin by assessing what is causing your dog to behave in a certain way. Having determined the cause of the problem, he/she will then devise a plan - of which you will invariably be an integral part - to help your dog.

A dog constantly chewing on furniture, shoes or indeed anything else he/she can get his/her teeth into while you are out may, for example, be suffering from separation anxiety. In this case, the behaviourists will help your dog realise that no matter how long you are gone, you will always come back to him/her. He/she will also show you ways to minimise this anxiety. This may include ways to get your dog used to being alone, keeping him 'busy' while you are out, etc.

If a dog can be approached only by his/her owner and acts fearfully or aggressively when others approach him/her, on th other hand, may have been socialised inadequately of suffered from lack of human interaction when just a pup. Here, the behaviourist will focus his/her efforts on socialising this dog/showing you how to get your pet used to other people.

It should perhaps be noted here that chewing can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition, as can many other behavioural issues. A dog suffering from gastrointestinal issues may, for instance, chew to combat nausea, while a dog in pain due to an injury or medical condition may refuse to eat or become overly aggressive. Ruling out such issues by seeking advice from a veterinarian is therefore vital.

The Difference Between a Dog Trainer and a Dog Behaviourist

Having explored what a dog trainer and a dog behaviourist do, the difference between a dog trainer and a dog behaviourist becomes clear and simple: a dog trainer teaches, while a dog behaviourist explains the behaviour of dogs and provides the means to improve this behaviour to make your dog an easier to live with, better behaved friend.

Contact Us

With more than 20 years' experience as specialists in dog behaviour & training, we are fully aware of the fact that every owner/pet relationship is totally unique - as is each and every individual pet's problem. We therefore approach each case individually, assess the situation from a unique, specific perspective and then devise the most suitable plan for you and your dog to return to a happy, harmonious life together.

To learn more about our services and/or arrange for an appointment, please do not hesitate to call us on 07776761289 now.


By Peter Hargreaves 18 Jul, 2017

Old School Training

In old school training, trainers use a dominant approach. Offering less patience and expecting almost immediate results, od school trainers typically may offer some praise, but generally use more redirecting or corrective methods (choke chains, other punitive measures, that may cause pain and/or distress) without offering any rewards.

Focusing mostly on what a dog is doing wrong rather than what he/she is doing right, these trainers tend to believe that many behaviours displayed by dogs are due to them wanting to dominate you and/or be the 'pack leader'.

This 'pack leader' analogy is frequently used by old school trainers to describe owner/dog relationships. In wolf or wild dog societies, the pack leader is usually the one who sits (much of the time) on his own. When walking around, he has got to 'act his part' and 'play the tough guy'. Keeping their tails firmly tucked under and their ears back, other pack members will lick his face, act submissively and generally show him that they are no threat to him and have no intention to challenge his mating tights. Mating is, after all, the main role of the pack leader - which, to me, does not sound much like a human/dog relationship.

Positive Reward Training

In positive reward training, trainers focus on what a dog is doing right. Using patience, motivation and redirection techniques involving praise, food, toys and clickers, positive reward training does not put everything a dog does down to an attempt to dominate or be pack leader/follower but understands that many of a dog's behaviours are due to breed traits, early education and socialisation.

Understanding that a dog does not have to be submissive in order to listen and that dogs like to work - and succeed - as a team, positive reward trainers want dogs to be confident, rather than submissive.

Rather than punishing a wrong action or behaviour, the 'right' actions and good behaviour are rewarded with treats, praise and/or 'play time' with a favourite toy.

Patience, practice and good, proper teaching can help a dog learn the appropriate behaviour for any situation it is 'thrown' into, as well as helping to build good communication skills between owners and their dogs.

Old School Training Vs. Positive Reward Training

Old school training focuses on ensuring your dog sees you as the 'pack leader' and submissively does as he/she is told (if for no other reason than for fear of the potential 'punishment' if he/she fails to obey a command).

Positive reward training, on the other hand, encourages a positive relationship and improves communication between you and your dog while allowing your dog to work as a team with you in a confident and altogether happier fashion.

In a nutshell, old school training vs. positive reward training is the difference between 'being a pack leader' with a submissive, potentially fearful and stressed dog and being a teacher who educates his/her dog with patience, praise and rewards to become a confident, happy and well-behaved family member.

Our Approach

Using positive reinforcement (positive reward training), we provide personalised dog training sessions designed to meet your dog's specific needs/breed needs. Sessions include:

·      Puppy Training

·      House Training

·      Safety around Children Training

·      Scent/Nose Work Training Gun Dog Training and

·      Advanced Obedience Training

·      Obedience training will include teaching your dog to:

·      Sit/lie down upon command.

·      Come when called.

·      Sit-stay on command

·      Not misbehave/pull on the lead.

Using the language used by dogs to communicate, we will also teach you/your dog calming signals and educate you to read your dog's signals and correctly interpret whatever your dog is attempting to tell you. In addition, we will show you how to avoid conflicts with other dogs while walking your dog.

To learn more about our positive reward training sessions and/or book a session, please call us on 07776761289. Alternatively, you can also contact us online of via e-mail at: enquiries@dogharmony.co.uk.

 

By Peter Hargreaves 13 Jul, 2017

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Potential Causes of Stress

Dogs in a stressful environment can be affected in two ways:

Physically - Physical stress may be caused by fatigue, hunger, injury, thermal extremes or thirst.

Psychologically - Psychological stress may be due to fear caused by restraint, neglect or handling, as well as unfamiliar environments or objects.

Specific factors likely to create a stressful environment for dogs include:

Temperature - This is the effective ambient temperature of the dog's environment, which combines heat radiation, humidity and precipitation. The comfort zone is the range within the dog does not have to increase his/her normal metabolic rate to feel well and comfortable. Outside this comfort zone, there are the:

·       Lower Critical Temperature : Dogs in a stressful environment with temperatures below the lower critical temperature may show symptoms of cold stress, which may, for example, be indicated by an increase in his/her food intake

·       Upper Critical Temperature : In environments where temperatures exceed the upper critical temperature, heat stress may be accompanied by decreased food intake, for instance.

Poor Ventilation - Dogs need fresh air, too, and lack of air movement throughout the dog's environment could result in physical stress for your pet.

Overcrowding - Keeping too many animals within any given area may also become stressful for a dog.

Transportation - While some dogs do enjoy car journeys, many find being transported from one place to another incredibly stressful. This is particularly the case when they are transported in a cage, trailer or truck.

Unfamiliar Living Spaces - Moving come or even making changes within an existing home can also be intensely stressful for dogs.

Pests - Fleas, flies and lice; mosquitoes and ticks are as irritating for dogs as they are for humans and can cause a dog a great deal of both physical and psychological stress.

Human Exposure - Poorly socialised dogs can find environments where they are exposed to many different, often unfamiliar people extremely stressful.

Working Equipment - For working dogs, unfamiliar equipment and/or facilities can be stressful, especially if using said equipment causes them pain as well.

Stressed Owners - Dogs pick up on their owners' emotions. If you are stressed, upset or unwell, your dog will feel this and could get just as 'stressed out' as you are. A household with lots of heated, loud arguments, for instance, could cause the dog to become fearful.

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Signs of Stress

Often affected by elevated/increased respiratory and heart rates and dehydration, dogs in a stressful environment will show certain types of behaviour, including:

·      Making excessive noise (barking, 'moaning', whining)

·      Lethargy

·      Attempts to run away

·      Isolation (all dogs like a little 'alone time' now and then, but if your dog is continually seeking isolation, chances are he/she is stressed about something)

·      Excessive, destructive chewing

·      Digging

·      Hyperactivity

·      Growling, showing of teeth and other aggressive behaviour

·      Constant urination

·      Keeping the tail between the legs

Most stress-causing factors and subsequent stress-related behaviours can be prevented.

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Preventing Stress

Stress can be minimised by:

·      Keeping temperatures within the dog's comfort zone. This includes providing shade and bedding not likely to hold heat; rinsing the environment down; regularly providing fresh water, using fans/opening windows when temperatures exceed 24 degrees C (75.2 degrees F).

·      Ensuring adequate ventilation and providing access to outside areas during the day.

·      Making sure to avoid overcrowding and ensuring each animal has ample space to lie down, as well as his/her own feeding/drinking space.

·      Practising getting your dog in/out of the car, cage or truck and going for short journeys to begin with to get him/her used to being transported. During longer journeys, a few stops to exercise and offer water and/or food should be provided. As both heat and very windy conditions can cause stress, it is best to avoid transportation during such conditions.

·      Ensuring your dog has familiar objects around him/her when moving home/making changes to your home; spending time with him/her to reassure him/her and giving them time and space to get used to the new environment.

·      Ensuring living environments care clean, well-maintained and free of pests. This includes providing pest control both on the animal and within the environment.

·      Socialising your dog slowly, gently and a little at a time. It is better to introduce your dog to one or two people at a time, rather than exposing them to a room full of unfamiliar people.

·      Ensuring equipment for working dogs reflects their normal actions and motions without inflicting pain.

In a stressful home, spending as much time as possible with your dog, 'making a fuss' of him/her and providing plenty of reassurance, as well as play time and exercise will help to calm your dog.

Dogs in a Stressful Environment - Treating Stress

Dogs in a stressful environment can often be effectively helped by:

·      Removing stress-generating factors from the environment

·      Providing water to prevent dehydration

·      Increasing opportunities to exercise

·      Ensuring the dog's stress/behaviour is not caused by underlying medical issues by consulting a veterinarian

If all else fails and your dog continues to display stress-related behaviours, a dog behaviourist may be able to help.

Contact Us

Our dog behaviourists have the skills and experience to help your dog overcome stress and live a happy, contented live. If you believe your dog is suffering from stress, or if certain stress-related behaviours have become long-standing habits, give us a call on 07776761289, contact us online or drop us an e-mail at: enquiries@dogharmony.co.uk today.

Please note that we will endeavour to answer online/e-mail enquiries as quickly as humanly possible.

By Peter Hargreaves 23 Jun, 2017

How Dogs React to Stress - Loss of Appetite

One of the ways how dogs react to stress is by losing their appetite. Dogs don't diet or fast like humans do, so if your dog suddenly has little to no interest in food, it is imperative to seek advice from a veterinarian. This is of utmost importance because loss of appetite may not only be caused by stress or anxiety, but also by an underlying health problem - including, for example, anorexia - which could lead to radical weight loss.

How Dogs React to Stress - Digestive Issues

Although usually associated with food intolerances or diseases, digestive issues, including both constipation and diarrhoea, can also be manifestations of how dogs react to stress and anxiety. If constipation diarrhoea or other digestive issues are abnormally severe (in particular if the problem lasts in excess of 24 hours and/or there is blood in your dog's vomit or stool, which may indicate a food borne illness), it is vital to see your veterinarian.

How Dogs React to Stress - Isolation

Most dogs do like a little 'alone time' once in a while. However, if your dog is continually isolating her/himself from people or other pets, you should ask your vet to help you identify the cause of this strange behaviour. Voluntary isolation like this is not only how dogs react to stress/anxiety, but could also indicate an underlying sickness.

How Dogs React to Stress - Increased Sleeping

Another manifestation of how dogs react to stress and anxiety is excessive sleeping and/or lethargy. Often one of the first signs of a dog being traumatised, injured or sick, lethargy can also be a symptom of health conditions including, among others:

·      Diarrhoea & severe dehydration

·      Diabetes, anaemia & hypothyroidism

·      Tumours, heart or liver disease and poisoning

Speaking to your vet as soon as possible if your dog is sleeping significantly more than usual or extremely lethargic is therefore imperative.

How Dogs React to Stress - Aggression

In some cases, how dogs react to stress/sickness may manifest itself in aggressive behaviour/actions towards people or other animals. This aggression is often accompanied by submissive behaviour and/or fearful facial expressions/body postures. Again, it is vital to consult a vet or veterinary behaviourist to deal with the problem before it gets worse.

Treatment will focus on behaviour management techniques designed to help your dog with his/her anxiety, stress and anger, as well as preventing injury to your dog him/herself, other animals and humans (when away from home, muzzles and similar devices can also be helpful).

How Dogs React to Stress - Excessive Chewing

Some dogs show their stress/anxiety by chewing excessively on furniture, shoes, socks, kids' toys and other inappropriate objects. Often due to separation anxiety when left alone, excessive chewing may also be caused by medical issues including intestinal parasites, nutritional deficiencies caused by a poor diet or gastrointestinal problems. Getting a vet to rule out such medical issues is again of utmost importance. Separation anxiety can often be reduced by gradually getting your dog used to being left alone and not making 'a fuss' before leaving/upon your return.

How Dogs React to Stress - What You Can Do

Having explored how dogs react to stress, let's take a moment to look at what you can do to alleviate stress and anxiety in your dog.

The first thing to do if your dog's behaviour suddenly changes in some way or another is to consult your vet to rule out any medical issues, as well as provide you with recommendations on lowering your pet's level of stress. Some of the things you can do to help include:

Exercising/playing regularly with your dog - A good game of fetch, a nice long walk and similar physical activities are brilliant stress reducing activities for your dog (and yourself!).

Offering top quality dog food - His/her diet is an integral part of your dog's health and well-being. An improperly balanced diet for his/her stage of life and life style could have unforeseen consequences that could cause stress and anxiety.

Creating a 'safe zone' - Set an area of your home apart as a space your dog can escape to during high-stress events such as, for instance, parties, fireworks or thunderstorms. To minimise stress during such events, make sure:

·      Your dog has his/her favourite 'security blanket' (a toy, for instance) with him/her

·      To visit him/her frequently in his/her 'safe space' if it is not possible for you to stay with him/her until the end of the high-stress event

Staying with your dog during thunderstorms, fireworks, etc. will provide your dog with a great deal of reassurance and subsequently minimise the stress and anxiety he/she feels at such times.

Summary

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, how dogs react to stress varies from one animal to the next. As many of the ways in which a dog will react to stress could also indicate underlying illnesses, it is vital for you to look out for signs like those shown here and seek advice from your vet as soon as possible should you detect any of them. To prevent stress affecting your dog, you should also:

·      Offer your dog a balanced diet suitable for his/her stage of life/life style

·      Exercise/play with your dog on a regular basis

·      Make sure your dog has a safe place to go and provide him/her with as much reassurance as possible during fireworks, thunderstorms, fireworks and other high-stress events

Getting Expert Help

Using the latest in behaviour management techniques, our dog behaviourists have years of experience in helping dogs overcome stress and anxiety. If you believe your dog is suffering with stress/anxiety, please do not hesitate to call us on 07776761289 or get in touch via our online contact form today to get more information/advice and/or arrange an appointment.

By Peter Hargreaves 16 Jun, 2017
By Peter Hargreaves 14 Jun, 2017

Why Puppies Chew

Your puppy's first teeth start erupting at an age between around 3 and 8 weeks. At about 4 to 6 weeks of age, these temporary teeth are replaced gradually with permanent adult teeth. The painful teething process irritates your pup's gums and chewing helps to relieve the resulting discomfort.

While using their mouths to explore their world and relieving teething pain is normal behaviour for puppies, it can become inappropriate and undesirable behaviour if it:

·      Is directed towards furniture, shoes, hands or feet

·      Becomes a habit even after adult teeth have fully emerged

Other potential causes of inappropriate chewing include medical problems; instinct, boredom and separation anxiety.

Puppy Proofing Your Home

The first step towards curbing inappropriate chewing is to puppy proof your home by looking around for and removing dangers/items of interest to your inquisitive pup. This includes:

·      Placing household cleaners, chemicals & potentially toxic plants out of reach

·      Covering electrical cords or making them inaccessible to prevent inappropriate chewing causing electrocution

·      Removing objects your puppy may find appealing (children's toys, socks, shoes, etc.)

·      Blocking access to non-puppy-proofed rooms

You may also want to consider crate/cage training your puppy for times when you cannot supervise him/her.

Medical Problems

If inappropriate chewing behaviour is carried into adulthood, underlying medical conditions could be causing your dog's chewing habit or contribute towards it.

Intestinal parasites or a poor diet can, for example, cause nutritional deficiencies. These deficiencies could in turn cause pica (an appetite for largely non-nutritious substances), which could be wrongly interpreted as inappropriate chewing.

Chewing is also a canine coping mechanism triggered by nausea due to gastrointestinal problems. Getting a vet to check your puppy/dog to rule out such problems is therefore of utmost importance.

Correcting Instinct-Related Inappropriate Chewing

Even adult dogs enjoy a good chew and unless it is excessive, inappropriate chewing, this is perfectly normal, instinctive behaviour. Correcting your dog immediately & calmly every time you catch him/her chewing inappropriate objects, encouraging appropriate chewing and, of course, discouraging inappropriate chewing will minimise destruction.

Encouraging Appropriate Chewing

Encourage appropriate chewing by providing your dog with chew toys. Finding a chew toy your dog enjoys may take trial and error, but we generally recommend:

·       Being Careful with Beef & Rawhide Bones . Determined chewers can reduce these bones to small pieces that could be swallowed and become lodged in their oesophagus and/or their small intestine. Supervising your dog when offering such treats and removing smaller pieces likely to be swallowed is highly recommended.

·       Avoiding Chicken Bones . Splintering easily, chicken bones can create sharp fragments that could puncture your dog's gastrointestinal tract. Dental chews and Nyla bones are much safer alternatives.

·       Selecting Appropriately Sized Toys . Many dogs like balls and other chew toys. Make sure to choose a toy small enough to be picked up/carried by your dog, but large enough not to be accidentally swallowed. Many Kong-type dog toys have holes - make sure these holes are too small for your dog's lower jaw to get stuck in them.

·       Never giving your dog toys resembling inappropriate objects . Dogs can't tell the difference between old and new shoes, for example. Giving dogs old shoes to chew on and then scolding them for destroying new ones confuses them and will fail to correct inappropriate chewing.

Discouraging Inappropriate Chewing

Discourage inappropriate chewing immediately by:

·      Taking the object your dog is chewing on away

·      Scolding your dog

·      Directing your dog's attention towards an appropriate chew toy

·      Praising your dog for chewing this toy

This serves to help your dog gradually learn which objects may/may not be chewed.

Occasionally, discouraging established inappropriate chewing patterns can prove difficult. In such cases, applying noxious taste deterrents (like bitter apple, for example) to inappropriate objects may help to teach your dog to leave said object/s alone.

Boredom and Inappropriate Chewing

Boredom and excess energy are common causes of inappropriate chewing. Prevent problems by providing regular, long walks and spending plenty of time playing with your dog. Expending excess energy your dog may otherwise direct towards excessive chewing and/or other inappropriate behaviours, regular exercise and play time will also help to reinforce your bond with your dog.

Separation Anxiety and Excessive Chewing

If your dog predominantly chews inappropriate objects when you are out, this behaviour may indicate separation anxiety - which will need to be dealt with to stop excessive chewing. We will look at separation anxiety in more detail at another time, but essentially, you can reduce this anxiety and subsequent inappropriate chewing by:

·       Ensuring your dog is in a resting, quiet mode while you're out by taking him/her for a brisk, long walk before you leave and rewarding your dog's resulting calm-submissive energy with water and food.

·       Practising the 'No Talk, No Touch, No Eye Contact' rule . Not making a fuss when leaving/coming home will reduce anxiety by communicating to your dog that your time apart is not a big deal. Depending on how severe your dog's anxiety is, you may have to practise this rule for anything between 5 and 60 minutes before leaving/after returning.

·       Staying calm & assertive . Leaving feelings of concern/guilt behind and projecting a pack leader's confident energy as you leave lets your dog know all will be well and helps reduce separation anxiety.

·       Getting your dog used to being alone . Leave for only 5 minutes to begin with, then gradually extend your time away until you can leave for eight hours without coming home to inappropriate chewing mayhem.

Expert Help

Struggling to correct your dog's inappropriate chewing behaviour? Our experienced dog behaviourists can help! Give us a call on 07776761289 or use our online contact form today to learn more and/or arrange an appointment.

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By Peter Hargreaves 10 Jun, 2017

Whenever I knock at new client’s door and hear very loud and frantic barking , followed by a few choice swore words telling that dog to shut up I generally know I am at the right address.

Any dog behaviourist will understand just how big a question this was. So when I ask the client “When does your dog bark?” the answer is usual the standard, “All the time and its driving me crazy!”

The reality, though, it might feel like it is all the time but dogs generally don’t bark all the time, there is always a trigger or a reason; dogs usually don’t bark just for fun something has caused the dog to start. Noise next door, postman, car or someone just walking past your window. To be able to answer this question it can take some considerable time to tease out the information out of the client. This is why barking issues are usually a behaviourist domain. Dogs bark for a variety of reasons and in the profession, we call this “vocalisation”.

                        First rule out medical reasons:

  • Deaf dogs : Deaf dogs can tend to bark more. This is interesting really, because they presumably can’t hear, but the wiring in the brain is there for them to communicate vocally to perceived sounds. It is likely they are responding to vibrations. Some deaf dogs can sometimes bark MORE than hearing dogs. I don’t admit to knowing why this is but I presume it could be due to frustration, stress, fear. It might be that they are responding to vibrations that trigger the vocalisation response that hearing dogs might have realised was not a bark to be responded to, but something else, like a road drill.
  • Dementia : As dogs age, some experience cognitive decline, e.g. dementia. One of the most common signs of this is barking for no apparent reason. Indeed, in these cases, there does not appear to be a trigger, they just bark without purpose, possibly because they feel confused and distressed.
  • Incontinence : A dog might bark in request to go out if they need to toilet. This can increase with old age as some can become incontinent.
  • Pain : Dogs can bark when they are in pain in order to bring about relief or to get an owner’s attention for help.
  • Other sensory changes : Such as eye sight problems. If the dog can’t see so well, this can be confusing, which can cause the dog to bark.

                                            Frustration:

Barking can be an outlet for frustration. For example, the dog sees a sandwich on the counter but can’t reach it. This might lead to the dog barking out of frustration, a bit like a human when we declare “Dammit” when we fail to achieve something we were trying to (in my case, un-jam the printer when my husband is not around to do this for me!).

Another place we might see frustration fairly frequently, is in dog training classes. A dog might bark in the direction of another dog because he wants to greet and is unable to do so. We often see an owner realise this and then release the lead so he can say “hello” to the dog next to him. Unfortunately, this actively reinforces the dog for barking and ensures barking will be repeated next time he wants to say "Hi." We can even see combinations of attention seeking, boredom and frustration in classes where the dog looks at the owner for some eye contact, but the owner is listening to an instructor. A combination of frustration and attention seeking leads the dog to bark, whereupon, the owner looks at him right away. This is an automatic response for us and terribly difficult to override. However, this does lead to barking being reinforced. This is why the use of quiet food delivery activity toys in dog training classes can be so helpful as it prevents boredom, helps dogs to focus on something other than other dogs or their owners’ attention resulting in calm dogs in a class.

                              Territorial barking:

Dogs may bark to make something go away. This barking is of a low pitch; other dogs/people recognise this and retreat further away. The warning bark is then rewarded as the other party moves away. So, barking can be territorial and its function is to keep other beings away from the dog. Many dogs practice barking all day (unbeknown to their owners) at dogs or people that pass their house. Inevitably these triggers disappear as they pass the house and then the dog stops barking as their job has been done. Often, without even knowing, dogs get a lot of practice at this when owners are out.The more it happens and gets reinforced, the more of a default behaviour it can become. When behaviours are performed frequently, our brains can develop short cuts for the behaviour, making them even more deep rooted into habits. 
                                    Howling:

Howling is a wolf behaviour and is known to draw members of the group back together. The howl is called and the other wolves join the group responding with howls. It is possible that this behaviour has been passed down to some dogs who can howl when left alone. The theory is that a dog would howl as, ethologically, it brings members back to the individual and may play a role in separation related issues in dogs. Even if a dog does not howl when left, barking can be done through frustration; eventually the owner returns so the barking gets reinforced. This shows the dog is not coping with separation and needs some help in adjusting to this. Sometimes howling can be done in response to a distant noise that triggers the dog to howl.


                        Excitement barking:

Dogs can bark when very excited especially when it’s time for a walk. This tends to be of a higher pitch and can be quite continuous until the source of the excitement has gone out of sight. When playing games with our dogs, dogs can bark almost as if saying “Hurry up”. It is likely that frustration is also involved but dogs will often bark out of excitement when playing with their humans as well as when playing with some other dogs, or watching activities that are highly stimulating for them.

                        Stress barking:

Dogs can bark because they are stressed and it helps to release tension. However, barking also CAUSES stress to humans. If a human is exposed to chronic barking in dogs it continually activates our autonomic nervous system and our endocrine system which can lead to stress. This is why nuisance barking can be so serious, and can have devastating effects on the mental health of those who live nearby, especially if this leads to sleep disruption. It is also one reason why I act on barking in classes, I find it emotionally wearing so I do everything within my power to solve barking issues in class.

                                               Attention seeking:

The dog in the phone call was barking at his mum because she wasn’t giving him her full attention, she was talking to somebody else- me! By barking at her he got her to look at him so he found barking was an effective method of getting her attention. During the call she turned around and shouted ”Shut up”, but actually, even though it temporarily made her  feel better, he was rewarded for barking with her attention and the barking continued. This attention barking behaviour will never disappear if it continues to be successful for the dog.

                            Demanding bark:

Again, dogs might bark because they need something; the dog might be shut in the garden and want to come in. The dog might need to go to the toilet. Perhaps elicited by a little frustration, this bark is insistent and will continue until the dog's need has been met. The barking is reinforced by the need being met so will be repeated the next time this need occurs. Sometimes we want to reinforce this and as long as we know what the dog means he is providing useful information for us to act on. I take my wife’s little dog out a lot when I am with clients and he now barks, he is 12 years old, just to get a treat!!

                      Boredom barking:

Dogs that have little to occupy themselves will bark to alleviate boredom. Boredom barking often involves the same phrase at medium pitch repeated over and over at a medium speed with no urgency to it, "woof woof woof.........woof woof woof....... woof woof woof....."  Just like a small child saying "are we nearly there yet.... are we nearly there yet.... are we nearly there yet...? This is the easiest barking problem to solve as, quite simply, by providing a dog with increased exercise and mental stimulation or a bit of company, the barking should stop. But don't just go out and get another dog to solve this problem as your dog might not like another dog and you may end up with different problems.

If you have a barking dog, and need to resolve the problem, first we need to identify WHY your dog barks. Once we know this, we can develop strategies to help them to stop barking. Please don't just punish your dog for barking because barking is communication. We all know that bad things happen when communications break down! Accept that your dog is trying to tell you something and make it your job to translate what he is saying or ask for help from a qualified dog behaviourist. Read my article on classical music for dogs

                          Greeting barking:

Dogs can bark when greeting known people. This is usually a couple of barks that stop when the person greets them. These barks with be of medium or high pitch if the person is a known friendly person.


                                Alarm barking:

Your dog is telling you that something is going on that he is worried about. A quite distinctive rapid volley in sequences of 2 to 4 higher pitch barks that may be preceded by some cautious “ buff .. buff… buff” type barking. It is worth investigating this kind of bark as your dog thinks there might be an intruder. Of course, it could just be a fox in your garden. I have known of a very canny dog that used to do this to distract the other resident dog from the best seat in the house. As soon as that dog went to investigate his alarm call, the initiating dog nicked his seat and went to sleep!

                            Taught Barking:

Some dogs can bark on cue, indeed I am currently trying to teach my working Golden Retriever to bark on command. We call it speak in the trade. Of course, I will also have to teach him to stop barking at command. I have worked with some clients who taught their dog to bark but did not teach him to stop barking.

 Peter Hargreaves

 

By Peter Hargreaves 10 Jun, 2017

                                                        Classical music Proven To reduce stress in Dogs

Stress, excessive barking and separation anxiety in dogs is a common and serious issue causing considerable stress in owners. It can cause nervous behaviours like chewing, destruction and pacing, along with urinating and defecating in the household. If you work in a rescue centre with anxious dogs, or have a dog at home that howls every time you leave him alone, there are simple ways to help calm and soothe nerves without drugs or medication. Simply changing his mood with the right music can relax him enough to rest and fall asleep without destroying your home in the process.

Classical music  has a calming effect on  dogs  in rehoming centres, according to research carried out for the Scottish SPCA. During the study,  dogs ' stress levels decreased significantly after the  music  was played into their kennel

  Use music to soothe dog separation anxiety.

Pick The Right Tune!

Many people leave their radio on all day hoping it will keep their pets entertained and help battle loneliness but never give it another thought that classical music may be more beneficial. Dogs understand music differently than we do, so it’s wise not to assume they will like the same Rock RM or City Radio playing hip-hop, blues and country that you tap your foot to. Dogs hear at a higher frequency than people do and process audio differently. Animals may hear your music as annoying and would rather listen to their own music designed with the right pitches and tones.

Amazon sell tunes specifically designed for dogs, like a CD from Canine Lullabies. Dogs will visually start relaxing when listening to simple melodies and fewer instruments in the music mix. Dog-designed music typically promises to stop unwanted barking, reduce hyperactivity and calm your dog in the car and home. Whenever I get a client’s dog that is stressed out the first thing I do is switch on the CD with specific dog related classical music and after a few hours that dog always stops barking and appears to become a lot more relaxed. 

Appeal to Your Classical Canine Tastes

You may not need anything special to calm your dog other than what’s already on classical FM. The Journal of Veterinary Behaviour shows that classical music can actually reduce anxiety and stress in dogs and comfort them. This can be especially helpful for dogs living in shelters and rescue dogs newly introduced to your home after suffering from social isolation. Dogs listening to classical music are shown to spend more time in a resting state and bark less than other dogs. 

Help Your Dog Sleeps

Anxious dogs that have difficulty resting or sleeping could benefit from canine-designed music like Through a Dog’s Ear. This CD builds on Dr. Alfred Tomatis’ psycho-acoustic research and can be found on amazon.(This is the CD I use whenever I go out in the car or have a client’s dog boarding) He realised sound could work as a nutrient for the nervous system and studied how it affected the human nervous system.

Through a Dog’s Ear builds on that foundation of research and expands it toward dogs. They studied how canines process auditory information and music and created audio that naturally triggers relaxation responses. This type of response is ideal for noisy, crowded dog shelters, but can also benefit dogs in your home that are stressed out, nervous or hyperactive and show difficulty winding down and sleeping.                                          

                                                                     Let Your Dogs Howl

In 1980, Carnegie Hall hosted an orchestral debut , Howl, featuring the musical work of 20 human voices and 3 dogs. Were they really singing? Research shows canines have a sense of pitch and can be encouraged to howl when the long note on a violin is playing. Some people like to think the howl is a form of singing, while others just think the dogs are having a good time. Regardless of why your dog is howling at the music, if he seems to enjoy it, let him serenade you. Just maybe not at bedtime.

Peter Hargreaves

By Peter Hargreaves 10 Jun, 2017

                                               Why Mental Stimulation is Important For Dogs  

Dogs need both mental and physical exercise to be balanced and healthy. Finding ways to mentally stimulate a dog can be challenging. Dogs that work, police dogs, drug dogs and working gundogs generally find mental stimulation by working and resolving problems constantly. It is unusual to find behavioural issues with working dogs with the majority of behavioural issues found in pet and rescue dogs. There is plenty of research that demonstrates that when a dog is mentally challenged this dog is a lot calmer around the household

Understanding the need for and providing opportunities for physical exercise is relatively common knowledge among dog owners. Walking your dog is a great example of this. But what happens when you dog spends the rest of the day just staring at the 4 walls in your house. He becomes bored! And when he becomes bored the chewing and other destructive behaviours start.  But the concept that having a dog or dogs is a partnership and that your dog wants and needs to spend QUALITY and STIMULATING time with you, is more difficult for the pet owner to understand. It is not enough to spend time just walking or stroking them; dogs want to use their brains!  Imagine a 6 year old child never going to school!  Dogs have wonderful, intelligent, imaginative and creative brains that need to be challenged and stretched to help prevent boredom-related behaviour issues.(Barking, chewing and other problems) Using some of the ideas listed will not only help dogs’ brains, but will also improve relationships with our dogs.

*Most of these ideas are intended for the owner to be involved or for the owner to supervise the dog. There is a section at the end of things to leave for the dog when she/he is left alone.*

Create A Challenging Snack

Feed at least one snack a day in a mentally stimulating and challenging way:

  • In a food puzzle such as a Kong, (Pets at Home will stock these) freeze the treats overnight and then give to your pet frozen
  • Throw the food, if its dry food, into some long grass in the garden. You dog like and wants to use his nose when hunting for his food. Dogs that use their nose a lot are much calmer
  • Put the food in an empty, dry (labels, rings, and caps removed) Coke Cola bottles, milk jugs, water bottles. Let your dog figure out how to get the food out
  • Put the food in a tin and watch your dog try and take the lid off
  • Use the food as a treat in a training session.

Stimulating Dog Games

Get creative and play games with your dog. Here are a few games that are simple and quick to play every day.

  • Hide and seek – with people, toys, and food. Hide his food in the garden and watch him hunt for it
  • Introduce clicker training
  • Hide dry food behind cushions on the settee
  • Musical chairs – play music, play with your dog, when the music stops ask your dog to execute a behaviour on a mat or a rug, when the music starts again, play again
  • What can you do? – get your clicker and treats, ask your dog “what can you do?” start clicking and treating offered behaviours (your dog will probably do SOMETHING to get you to click/treat – use these behaviours to play this game – when we play this, the dogs must offer different behaviours to get the click/treat. Note: this is not a shaping exercise; this is a game.)
  • 101 Things to Do With a Box (or a laundry basket)

Toys

Toys come in all shapes and sizes. They are great tools to prevent boredom and enrich a dog’s life.

  • Flirt pole, look on amazon for one. Small breeds such as terriers love this as it gets their prey drive going. (I like the Kong version because it’s easy to change out the toy at the end of the line).
  • Using a long line and tie old pillow case on the end – your own version of lure coursing (think greyhound racing and chasing the lure). Run in front of your dog and watch him chase the pillow case
  • Ice sculptures – bowl or bucket or bottom half of a gallon jug – fill with water, toys, treats (carrots and apples work really well!) – freeze – put outside for your dog to play with, interact with, get the toys and treats out of.
  • Old suitcase – start with one suitcase, put some treats or a favourite toy in it, have your dog get the treats/toy out of the suitcase. Make it more interesting by using peanut butter, spray cheese, or cream cheese as a treat.
  • Yoga mat – unroll, sprinkle treats, roll back up. Have your dog unroll the mat and get treats.
  • Small round basket, I use clay garden pots – put treats or a toy under the upturned basket/pot and have your dog figure out how to get them.
  • Old phone books covered in duct tape. Play with different things your dog can do with these. Two paws on (front, back, right, left), four paws on, two paws on move around, etc. You can use a clicker for this

Other Activities

·        Scent or nose work classes are a great class for dogs who need to be stimulated/challenged!

·        Agility class

·        Mountain rescue

·        Make your daily walks move exciting by doing basic sits, downs and recalls. Take treats and throw them into long grass so you dog has to hunt for these

  • Join a walking group that takes regular walks with their dogs (I DO NOT recommend off-leash, play group type walks – the walk should be as much about you and your dog as the social aspect for you with the other humans. It should NOT be about the dogs physically socializing.)
  • Teach the dog tricks –
  • At home turn on the classical music station on the radio. Research in Scotland has shown that dogs will relax to music. I have special dog classical music CD’s that I always leave on when I go out

Mental stimulation is as important as physical stimulation for dogs. Encourage your clients to plays games and work with their dogs to build their bond and prevent boredom in their dogs.

 Peter Hargreaves

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