October 18th, 2011 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments
Thank goodness for foster homes (and Maria). A lot of our adoptions are those that take place behind the scenes, that is, dogs moving from temporary care into forever homes, like today’s lucky girl Bellie. Her adopters have other small dogs from HKDR so she’ll have a built-in four-legged family.
I brought Skittle over from Lamma for an adoption interview which turned out to be successful, so now it will be Puddle’s turn. Both of these poodles have what would be considered behaviour issues, though I would call them a lack of understanding about the needs of this breed. They are highly intelligent and extremely active, and that means that they are demanding in terms of exercise and the need for mental stimulation (which includes positive training).
I’ve said many times that behaviour problems in dogs are almost always due to them not being understood, and nothing to do with any “badness” in them. People who send their dogs away for training with complete strangers are missing the point, which is that being trained alongside the dog is essential. After all, who is the dog going to be living with when the weeks or months of “boarding school” are over? The trainer?
I had another good lesson and reminder about the importance of subtle clues and how dogs pick up on them, from my blind dog Roley. His complete lack of any vision doesn’t make a difference to his life in any way except for one. He can tell when any dog or person is around, he can run around the garden without a problem and he has even started trying to come on the daily hikes with the other dogs, steaming out of the gate and dashing up the path towards the woods without any hesitation. I just watch him in awe as he climbs, jumps, swerves in and out of the trees, and never once stumbles or crashes into anything. But the one thing he can’t do is to read the visual cues of other dogs, that means that while he knows they’re there he can’t tell if they are inviting him to play or telling him otherwise. This doesn’t really present any problem when they are all out in the garden and running around as there’s no real fighting and the dogs just want to have a game, but the problem comes at night when they are all brought inside. Roley shares an outside house and small area with a few other dogs, and his strategy is always the same when I finally catch him and push him through the gate, and that is to have a go at the first dog he comes across. I’ve worked out that this is his way of telling them that he’s not to be messed with, because being confined with other dogs and no way of escape makes him feel vulnerable. Roley uses the “attack being the best form of defence” strategy to compensate for him not being able to see the other dogs and read their body language or facial expressions. Once he has duffed his victim up and sent a clear warning to everyone else that he is tough and strong, then all is peaceful.
Dogs are incredibly perceptive to the smallest cues, which is why they even seem to be psychic sometimes. They notice everything, however insignificant it may seem to humans, and that can be a good or a a bad thing depending on how it’s used. Dogs that appear in films or on television are following their trainer’s off-camera cues when they are “acting”, and I’m sure a lot of you know that if you put on a particular pair of shoes, or even stand up at a certain time (as happens with me) that is a cue to the dog(s) that something is going to happen (usually food or a walk). Nothing escapes the keen senses of a dog, and that is why training can be so easy – or so difficult. If you confuse a dog by sending mixed messages, it really doesn’t know what is expected of it. Routine, consistency and repetition will always work, which also means if you consistently punish your dog, or change the rules on a whim, you will have a confused and “badly behaved” dog.
Being able to read and understand the dog’s own cues is also extremely important, because while a dog can’t vocalise its more subtle feelings, its body and face can tell you everything. We all know about barking, growling, yelping etc as a dog’s way of talking, but it also uses body language and posture as a form of communication, which to other dogs is as clear as any spoken human word. Noticing these things and learning what they mean can make a big difference to your connection with, and understanding of, your own dog(s), and that is a far better way of achieving the desired behavioural results than any other method.
I got one new dog from AFCD today. This was the one that I said had been left behind in a (highrise) apartment when his owner’s moved out, but I discovered today that wasn’t exactly the story. The dog had run into a building and been found on the sixteenth floor, so he’s either very smart and took the lift (elevator), or he climbed a lot of stairs. Either way he’s been a pet as he was still wearing a collar, and he’s a lovely boy, even if he is in need of a good brushing.