Recent science is pointing to Dog's having memories especially when the memory is linked to emotion, further indicating the complexities of their mind.
"...They not only remember...what they have done ...but also what their owner did. For example, they may watch the owner cut the roses in the garden one day, and then when they see those flowers again, this memory could pop up in their mind. This could happen without showing any change in behavior, because this is just a spontaneous 'thought,' although in some other cases such thoughts may actually become causes of (spontaneous) behaviour." - Excerpt from Marc Berkoff, Phd, Dogs Remember More Than You Think
Around this time of year and 25 Days into our Canine Christmas Countdown, mentally stimulating activities not only tires the dogs and calms him down, but you have created a memory of happiness around the activity. How do you find these mind-stimulating activities?
Well, recently we launched the Snuffle Mat in Canada. It is an activity where the dog uses a Mat filled with long layers of fabric, and the dog is required to find treats within folds of material, thus 'snuffling' through the mat. The first time you put it down, the dog is completely engaged using his nose and mind to find the treats, setting the stage for a great memory.
But what is equally important using the Snuffle Mat, is what happens 'after' they are done. The Snuffle Mat must be removed right away and placed out of reach. Why? Because the next time you bring it out, you will see their memory working and your dog will become excited remembering the joy they felt the first time, and how he enjoyed snuffling.
It becomes very powerful every time you bring it out, if you remember to remove it directly after it is completed. Consider the next time you want to redirect behaviour, like barking or just relieve boredom. The Snuffle Mat is an excellent ways to enrich your pet's life and create great Christmas memories.
'Yesterday 16 dogs were stolen in a dog-walkers van. It must have been a terrifying ordeal and I can't even begin to imagine if this happened to me, or any one dog in our care. Now the recovery must occur, both for the dog's and their caregivers.
To help, here are some suggestions to help your dog regain his balance and confidence (I use 'him' for ease of reading but your dog may be a 'her'):
Sparky Smith is a Certified Behaviour Consultant and Associate Director of the International School for Canine Psychology and Behaviour in Canada. Sparky services clients in Canada via remote video conferencing. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (705)788-7688.
For Day 40 of our Canine Care Christmas Countdown, we focus on barking at people on the street as it becomes busier with families coming home, and holiday shopping.
Barking at people walking down the street is rewarding through your dog's eyes. He barks to tell the person walking by "Don't even think about it! You are not to come into my home! I am fierce and will bite you!", and in his mind, he sees it working. Those enjoying their walk do move past the house and don't come in. That is how the barking plays out in your dog's thought process. He is simply trying his best to be a valued member of the household by protecting the home.
What we want to avoid at all cost is any punishment for barking, e.g. Shouting, Shock Collars, Citronella Collars. Why? You are suppressing and frustrating the dog. It associates pain with protecting the house, a natural instinct. If the dog gets used it, you need to increase the punishment and then where will it end? I recommend that those considering a shock collar is to use it on themselves first to truly understand what it feels like, remembering the dog's emotional capacity is the same as a 2-year old child. A citronella collar shoots what a dog hates into its face. I recommend before placing one of these on your dog, is to squirt a bottle of perfume directly onto your face. How long does it last? A punishment which last far longer than then when the barking ends. Do you want to punish your dog all day for barking at the mailman? Do you believe he will even remember the connection after being sprayed? What are you really teaching your dog? If you guessed to hate the collar, be scared to do anything that could set it off, and decimate the dog's confidence and happiness, your right.
The goals to change this behaviour is to redirect and then reinforce not barking. There are three stages to stop the barking. First, to interrupt the behaviour, second, to re-focus the mind elsewhere, and third, positively reinforcing 'not' barking. The risk in implementing a 'not-barking' behaviour shift to not unintentionally reinforce the barking. You reinforce barking when you miss the second stage. To successfully achieve the second stage, you want to achieve a full 10 seconds of not barking, before positive reinforcement.
A client and I have been working on recall commands. Every time she says 'here' the dog comes running. For the first stage, it is a great interrupter and can be used to interrupt the barking. But it is not enough. If the second stage of re-focusing mind is skipped., it will fail to stop the barking, possibly reinforce the barking as a good thing, and worse possibly undermine the effectiveness of the recall command, 'here.' Re-focusing the mind may be as simple as holding the treat for a few seconds longer allowing the dog to nibble but not gobble the reward for coming. It makes the dog have to work to get the treat, but not so hard as to not be rewarded for coming when called. Once the reward being nibbled on is finished, a gentle rub or scratch provides additional positive reinforcement. I like to include the phrase, "nice quiet" to provide the behaviour a name the dog will come to recognize.
If the dog returns to the barking directly after all three stages are carried out to the letter, it reveals that the dog is finding a great reward from the barking. The 'here' would still work to interrupt the barking, but his mind needs to be totally refocused away from the barking. He needs about ten full seconds where he has to puzzle out something more important than the reward he feels when he is fiercely protecting your home. So 'here' is a great command to break him from barking, but it must be followed by redirecting his focus in an equally rewarding & stimulating manner. Think about what he loves; you, scratches, new squeaky toys, puzzles, and 'find me' games. Now, which one of these will provide him with ten full-seconds of re-focusing. If nothing pops out at you as a way to refocus him, that is okay.
Another alternative strategy is to respond to the barking by leading him calmly and gently out of the room where he is barking - this will re-focus him as he won't know where you are going. Do not pull or push. Leading your dog anywhere must be a good experience for the dog. Otherwise, you can compound the issue. Once he is out of the room and you have him away from the barking for a full 10 seconds, kneel to the side of your dog and give him a lovely scratch and say "nice quiet" (your positive reinforcement that he is not barking). Next, with his lead still on bring him back into the living room and very quietly and gently remove the lead. While this takes a lot of commitment to do this each and every time, it allows the stages to be met to change the behaviour. Eventually, he will learn that barking does not lead to the reward of seeing people scared off by his ferociousness. The critical mistake you want to avoid is any negativity in being led away, or having his lead put on, remain gentle and firm, and ensure you complete the positive reinforcement.
Let me know if you are experiencing any problems with barking. I service the Muskoka region in person, and via video conferencing, anywhere in Canada. Read more about my Behaviour Training Services.
We have discuss travelling over the holidays, but Kurgo just posted a great blog that is worth the read.
TIPS FOR EASY HOLIDAY TRAVEL WITH YOUR DOG
You see a box under the tree moving. It is marked with holes and you hear a little whine. Someone has decided to give a puppy for Christmas. Sadly, it is never a good idea to give a pet for a gift. The emotional commitment, the preparation to plan to care for a puppy, the developing of a support network are all missing activities necessary to promote a forever-home for a dog.
Every year the puppy mill industry gets a boost as the holidays approach. Video's of Christmas Puppies fills one's heart during a highly sentimental time. Puppy mill pets are riddled with physical and mental disabilities which can last a lifetime. It is misguided intentions to give a surprise gift of a dog, regardless of how delighted the recipient may be. Statistics show that the outcome is largely a dog who is confused, depressed and in a shelter.
Like a new baby, a puppy is wonderful and challenging. Sacrifices and compromises by each family member must be made to help the puppy mature into a well-balanced and healthy dog. There are financial concerns that must be budgeted such as vaccinations, veterinarian bills, toys and training equipment, beds, bowls and even securing areas of the home for safety reasons. There is also boarding, puppy nannies, and training expenses. If you don't know the background of the pup, the future caregiver will also need to budget for a Canine Behaviourist, because puppy mill pups are as a rule unstable. Without this thought & planning process, those receiving a puppy at Christmas haven't made the critical choice to accept the changes required. They are likely to not change their routine and lifestyle necessary to help accommodate the care of a puppy.
An alternative gift to giving a puppy for Christmas is to buy a life-like stuffed toy. Present it in a box or even a crate, like you would a living dog. Put a note in the gift that if the person would like a puppy, you would be happy to go with them to the local SPCA to choose one in the New Year, and that you will pay for the adoption costs. This approach provides the necessary thinking time to consider the implications of a puppy.
See Day 47 Tips on Visitors' Ground-Rules Around Your Dog
We all have in-laws or family members who insist on helping your dog break house rule. A piece of turkey slipped from a dinner plate and popped into your dog’s eager mouth, a pat on the cushions inviting your dog on the furniture, rough play with your dog, or disciplining your dog with a swat on it’s nose. It happens all the time.
This Christmas, let visitors know the ground-rules early set by you, his guardian and caregiver. And let them know the reasons and risk of repercussions. Be firm. Here are some of the ones I would include:
Providing these ground-rules allows for discussions up front before the festiviites start. Your visitors and relatives will respect your clarity and decisions if presented in a calm and confident manner. Plan to include these helpful messages and thoughts as part of your successful holiday gathering.
See Day 48 Tips on Pay it Forward Gift Gifting
The first thing I do when I am planning for the holidays is to write a list of everyone I want to buy for, and I also jot down what they are passionate about. One way to truly honour a person who loves dogs is give a gift that gives back. Below is a list of worthy dog-related organizations to consider purchasing your gift from:
Iheartdogs.com: Provides a load of great gifts for dog-lovers and every purchase goes to feeding shelter dogs. How cool is that!? You give a gift to a friend and then, give another gift to a shelter dog. Pretty perfect isn't it.
Ontario SPCA: Not only great dog-friendly calendars, but you can donate a toy, food, or sponsor a dog in the shelter on behalf of your favorite dog-lover. What a way to beautiful way to warm the heart of someone you care about, and a dog being cared for at the OSPCA.
Veterinarians without Borders: Provides help and assistance to dogs in Northern Canada, ensuring a reduction in outbreaks of rabies, parvovirus, and distemper. You can purchase e-gifts, and your favorite dog-lover will receive an e-card showing your donation on their behalf. No rush, no line-up and you celebrate your connection to animals in the most generous way.
PAWS Canada: A local registered charity with a no-kill policy dedicated to helping homeless, abused and abandoned animals. For every donation of $50 or more they acknowledge your gift by sending a certificate to the special person in whose name the gift was made.
Adding a donation, or purchasing a gift to help animals in need is both wonderful and thoughtful. Plan to contact any of these organizations early so there is time to mail or ship your purchases.
See Day 49 Tips on Pet First Aid
Children crying out in delight as they discover in the folds of the brightly colored wrap, their heart’s desire. Eye’s alight with the novelty of new play, and electronic screams, warnings and other robotic sounds circle the air. Running and shouting with glee, while Mom and Dad finish up dinner preparations. The table is set, the tablecloth draping over the side of what is soon to be a buffet. Roast Beef, Turkey or Ham, the smells tantalize and we begin salivating at the thought. And then the worse happens. Someone notices the dog doesn’t look right. He is trembling and whining, and lying down. Now what?
As hard as it is to consider any loved one, including your best friend, being somehow hurt over the holidays, it does happen. One of the greatest life-time, not to be returned gifts, is being able to save their lives. As this point, leading up to the holidays, attending a St. John’s Ambulance Pet First Aid course provides incredible assurance that you can cope with the unexpected.
Martin and I each carry or have close at hand a First-Aid Fanny-pack with bandages, tape, scissors and other accessories to ensure if something does go wrong we have the tools to provide first response aid until we can get our dogs to the vet. We know this can save their lives.
The kit and the course is provided all over Ontario and buying the course for a friend is also a great Christmas gift for the Dog Lover who seem to have everything.
I Want To Know More About Pet First Aid
See Day 50 Tips on Lighting Up Your Holiday Walks
Bright lights, dark nights, and twinkling lights of holiday decorations are beautiful and worth enjoying walks that take them all in. Walking your dog at night can unfold all sorts of wonders from neighborhood decorations, to catching up with good friends as they too go for walks. It is a time of good tidings and meeting up with old acquaintances.
Walking at night in Muskoka is filled with more natural wonders. For example, there is no store-bought decorations that can compete with the stunning landscape of snow-laced pine trees, green and gold this time of year, or winter-berries capped with white as their red plump skin glisten in the cold air. And then you can look up, and see the amazing tapestry of stars above your head, so very bright with Huntsville's Dark Sky Initiative.
We can plan early to ensure as we walk in the city or the country that we are safe from hazards such as tripping hazards on poorly-lit pathways, or locating our four-legged friend when he is off-leash in the back paddock. Purchasing reflective gear, whether a collar or a coat is a good start to making sure your dog can be seen. Some collars light up allowing you to keep an eye on your dog if they are off-leash. A personal LED headlight is an exceptional way to navigate through winter fields and keep your hands free.
Make sure your winter walk with your best friend is outfitted to enjoy both the well-walked pathways and also off the beaten paths too. Being prepared with personal lighting for you and your friends opens up adventures - and don't forget to look up into the star-lit sky.
See Day 51 Tips on Christmas Travel with your Dog
Traveling with your dog over the holidays? Plan now to increase the security of your dog's travel arrangements. Your dog may be more comfortable roaming around untethered in the back seat, or possibly on your lap, however, it is a risk to everyone in the vehicle, including your dog.
Seat belt legislation came into effect in Ontario, January 1976. It was meant to reduce the number of deaths caused by drivers not buckling up. A driver not wearing a seat-belt is 40 times more likely to be killed. This sobering fact may adjust the way you travel with your Best Friend. If this doesn't, you may be surprised that a dog in your lap is cause for distracted driving offense which is $386. fine and loss of demerit points.
It is not hard to begin training your Dog to buckle up or stay in a secured travel case, it just takes patience and positive reinforcement. Now is the time to get started on this important safety precaution. Begin by purchasing a good harness. We like Kurgo's as they are crash tested to save your dog should the worse happen. Kurgo's harnesses also come with instructions to connect the harness to the seat belt, allowing bigger dogs to move and lie down, but not run around and become a possible distraction. For smaller dogs, it is all about the carriers. Plan to make the carrier the best place ever by putting some of your dog's favorite chew toys and treats into the case, Take time to let your dog get used to the carrier before securing it into your vehicle. By creating the carrier to be a safe and fun place for your dog, there is an added bonus of using it as his bed for overnight stays.
See Day 52 Tips on Paw Care & Winter Booties
'Sparky' Smith is a Canine Behaviorist and Practioner, educated through the International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour, earning her ISCP.DIP.CANINE.PRAC.