PUNISHMENT SUCKS FOR PUPPIES

HOW DO I STOP MY PUPPY BITING?

It’s a common question on dogs forums on the internet, I have seen it several times this week. I have seen some great blogs and videos on puppy biting from award winning trainers, and I post links to them. But still, most of the replies are,

“I shook a can of stones at my puppy and he stopped.”

“I sprayed my puppy with water!”

“I’ve seen a TV show where he shouts ‘No’ and the puppy stops. You just gave to show them who is boss.”

Urgh.

Let’s ask a new question…

WHY IS MY PUPPY BITING ME?

THIS is the question that an emotions based behaviourist asks. Is the puppy frustrated, over-tired, teething, or just doing puppy play with its humans? Or did you buy a dog bred to love biting?!

Once you know why the puppy is biting you can set about fixing it.

Frustrated puppy: change the game, teach an alternate behaviour, go back a step with your training, make sure all his emotional needs are met.

Over-tired puppy; make sure he isn’t getting too much exercise, avoid too much stimulating play before cuddle time, make sure he gets to rest during the day.

Teething puppy: redirect chewing on to frozen rope raggies, carrots, or teething toys.

Puppy play: play between puppies is bitey! Redirect your puppy onto toys, show him that play with humans can’t involve teeth.

Bought a Malinois: seek advice on putting the bite on cue and games that will provide an appropriate outlet for the biting behaviour he loves!

WHY DOES PUNISHMENT SUCK?

If you punish the puppy with a spray bottle or a rattle can, and it works (because your puppy bites less) have you fixed the problem? No. Because the puppy still feels the things that lead him to bite in the first place.

If he is frustrated he might hold back before biting harder. If he is teething, he will go off and chew up your stuff. If he is over-tired he will develop a new coping strategy which could be destruction or howling. If it’s play, or his built in drives then you will build more frustration. You will have a dog that looks obedient, but is not happy.

The same goes for a growling dog… punish the growl, take away the warning system, get a dog that just bites because he still feels the same way. Or worse, because the person he trusted has scared him (or worse).

NO NO. OR NO, BUT…

‘No’ can be a dirty word in positive dog training! But honestly, we all use it from time to time! The trick is to say ‘No, but’. To show you dog a different behaviour, that you like, that he likes, that you can praise him for!

So, next time your dog is doing something you don’t like, don’t ask ‘How do I stop this?’ ask ‘Why is my dogs doing this?’, then ‘What could I get my dog to do instead which we both like?’

WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Our Vet Vicky hold the COAPE Level 6 Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour and Training. COAPE teach about animal emotions in behaviour and training, resulting in methods of fixing problem behaviour that really lead to happier pets, and owners. COAPE offer courses for pet owners, vet nurses, vets, trainers, and aspiring behaviourists!

Follow this link to the COAPE Homepage

DOG BEHAVIOUR HACKS

HOW DO I STOP MY DOG BARKING AT THE DELVIERY PEOPLE?

THE PROBLEM

Covid-19’s stay at home message and the closing of non-essential retail means that more people are getting shopping delivered to their homes than ever before. This means more delivery people coming to the door, knocking or ringing a bell, and sending dogs into a fury of barking. Barking at the Postie has always been a common problem, but with more people at home all day to hear the barking it may now be more of a problem than ever.

WHY DOES MY DOG BARK AT THE DELIVERY PERSON?

Dogs may bark when the door is knocked or the doorbell rung because they excited at the thought of a visitor, or, more often, because they are worried about a stranger entering their home. Despite barking at the door being a big ‘pet peeve’ for many owners, it is a behaviour that humans admired in early dogs. One of the first jobs which dogs had was barking to alert people to threats.

So, the dog barks to alert people to the potential intruder. If people are at home, they often shout at the dog. But the dogs may see this as joining in, rather than a reprimand. If there is nobody at home the dog barks and the delivery person leaves. In both cases the dog gets a reward! The people join in the barking reinforcing the dog’s opinion that barking is the right thing to do, and then the ‘threat’ goes away! The dog feels better and that behaviour becomes more likely next time.

HOW DO I STOP MY DOG BARKING AT DELIVERIES?

THE HARD WAY

It is possible to teach the dog an alternative behaviour when the door knocks. First, teach your dog to ‘go to bed’. Next have someone knock the door or ring the bell (or record the noise on your phone) before asking the dog to ‘go to bed’. Reward when he does. Over time the door knock/bell will replace you saying ‘go to bed’ and will cue the dog trotting off to his bed. This works really well for dogs that get over the top with visitors.

It is also possible to keep some of the barking by putting that on cue. Say ‘speak’ then trigger your dog to bark, join in and be very excited! Then stop and wait for your dog to stop too. As he does, say ‘quiet’ and give a food reward. If you train this well it is possible to start and stop your dog barking which is great for security, if you feel unsafe just ask your dog to speak!

The trouble with these approached is that if you aren’t there for a door knock the dog may not choose the ‘bed’ behaviour or controlled barking, and won’t be rewarded for it. It may be hard to avoid deliveries during the time you are retraining your dog.

THE EASY WAY

Move to the Falkland Islands as they do not have a postal delivery service. If that isn’t practical, remove the delivery people from your doorstep. Instead of having a letterbox on your front door, place a mailbox on your property, but as far from your door as possible. For parcels, you can buy lockboxes which also reduce the risk of theft.

For specific problem behaviours please contact us by email to arrange an appointment. Be aware that until June 2021 we are not able to undertake home visits. health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk

COVID – 19 UPDATE

We are pleased that there is finally a roadmap for England to come out of lockdown. However, this does not mean we are back to business as usual and will not be for some time.

We do not plan to take on new clients for home visit acupuncture, problem behaviours, or herbal medicine until June 2021.

We will be continuing to support our existing clients taking the precautions which have kept us safe over the past 12 months.

Limited appointments are available on Wednesday mornings at Companion Care Vets in Eastbourne. Please contact the practice directly on 10232 649315 (be patient, they are very busy!).

We will also continue to offer a phone/ Whatsapp consulting service where this is appropriate.

Thank you for your understanding during what has a been a prolonged difficult time for us all.

UNHAPPY NEW YEAR

SUSPENSION OF SERVICES

The worsening Covid-19 situation makes it impossible for us to take on any new clients for home visits for acupuncture, behaviour consultations, or holistic consultations.

Our Vet Vicky Payne has taken on extra hours at Companion Care Vets in Eastbourne to help ease the pressure that splitting the team in two is causing . Emails, texts, and messages will only be dealt with on Thursdays and Fridays.

We will continue to provide support for existing clients, and may be able to offer assistance by telephone in some cases.

Thank you for your patience.

IS YOUR DOG ON THE NAUGHTY LIST?

THERE ARE NO NAUGHTY PUPS!

Christmas is one of the rare times when there is enough time for a busy veterinary herbalist and behaviourist to sit down and watch a film. And one of my favourites is ‘Fred Claus’. If you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil the whole film, but it all comes down to whether Fred deems the children ‘naughty’ or ‘nice’. Fred realises that the ‘naughty’ children aren’t naughty at all… they are scared, lonely, bullied, acting up because of their circumstances. And I feel the same about dogs.

WHY IS MY DOG ACTING UP?

When assessing a dog with a problem behaviour I have a lot of questions.

Where was he born? How was he brought up? Fred in the movie feels overshadowed by his saintly older brother. Puppies don’t come as blank slates, their behaviour can be influenced by their breed, their parents’ temperament, and their early life experiences. Sometimes people just expect too much; a retriever puppy is going to retriever, just like a four year old kid is going to sit up watching for Santa.

Could he have a medical problem? Over 70% of dogs at a top behaviour center have pain making their behaviour worse! Arthritis, gut problems, ear infections, sight issues are amongst the things I will be ruling out. Sometimes if we fix the health problem, the behaviour returns to normal.

What’s going on at home? In the film, poor Slam ends up at the top of the naughty list for fighting in the children’s home. But poor kid, he doesn’t have the love and structure he needs. The same goes for dogs, many have struggled to cope with the changes that Covid-19 has brought to their lives, and have had added stress at times like fireworks season and Christmas. A stable routine and a safe space to retire to when it all gets too much could be just what your dog needs.

HOW TO LIVE ‘HAPPILY EVER AFTER’

Does the film have a happy ending? Of course. Everyone learns the true meaning of Christmas and Slam gets his Christmas wish (a puppy! I know, don’t get me started on that one). So how do we make sure the ‘problem dogs’ get a fairytail ending?

Choose the right dog: explore your chosen breed or types history, exercise requirements, temperament, and grooming needs. Gundogs are going to retrieve everything, terriers like to rip stuff up, toy dogs want human company, ‘doodles’ need professional grooming every 6 weeks…

Choose the right breeder or rescue: expect to be asked a lot of questions and don’t be upset if it is decided you aren’t right for a particular dog or puppy. Never be rushed into a decision and make sure you have support after you take your new friend home.

Train! Your new dog needs to have clear rules from day 1 and you need to teach him what’s allowed and when. There are many great trainers offering on-line courses when physical courses aren’t possible. Training is not a 6weeks and done thing, it is an everyday all of life thing, and it should be great fun!

Vets: your dogs should visit the vets once or twice a year for a health check even if he is well. Catching health problems early reduces the chance of problem behaviours starting.

Never forget your dog is a dog. It can be hard to be a dog in a human world, so if they are heading for your ‘naughty list’ take a step back and you might just find they need a bit of understanding.

That’s Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care signing off for 2020. We’ll be back on 5th January ready for whatever challenged 2021 brings. But first, A Muppet Christmas Carol, mulled wine, and a mince pie!

May your Christmas be safe and peaceful.

THE FIRST RULE OF RECALL

HELP, MY DOG HAS LOST HIS RECALL!

This is a story about me, my dog, and the first rule of recall.

We went to the beach, me and my five dogs. The beach at low tide is fun time. There is no real training, there are very few rules. The dogs can run, play, swim. They need to come back when I ask so that they don’t scare kids, annoy dogs on leads, or chase sea gulls.

When the senior dog chose scavenging on the stone instead of paddling I was cool with that, we could see each other and the beach was pretty empty. As we approached a busier but of beach I called him, he looked at me, then chose to keep mooching up the beach. I called again, and whistled. He moved away. I tried a stop whistle…he moved further away. He looked concerned. I ran up the beach, not to chase him but to try and cut him off. He looked very worried. I am now calling him like some demented banshee, not an experienced dog trainer and behaviourist. I wave the treat bag…nothing.

I now tell him to “go and love himself” (or word to that effect!) and head off down the beach to give the rest of the crew some snacks. This has the desired effect and down comes senior spaniel in that crabby posture that means ‘don’t beat me’. He doesn’t get beaten, but all spaniels know this pose.

I am fuming. This is not the relaxed beach walk I wanted and my reliable old boy is being an idiot. So what do I do? I take a deep breath and do ‘The First Rule of Recall’ I pop him on the lead and I tell him he’s a good boy, and he gets some treats. We walk a while with him on the lead, then do some short freedom and recall and reward practises. But what went wrong?

HOW TO KILL YOUR DOG’S RECALL

I can guess what happened. Senior dog has been allowed to run free on walks with my other half. Sometimes he goes on a spaniel mission and chases a duck, eats some bits a hawk has left behind. Sometimes he doesn’t listen when he’s called. After all, why would he come back? Mr Owner doesn’t have a ball, doesn’t have treats, puts him on the lead and takes him home. Senior dog is having a much better time making his own games with the ducks and his own snacks of bits of dead rabbit. Senior spaniel can hear Mr Owner getting cross (Mr Owner is going to be late for work now) and eventually he goes back. Mr Owner tells senior spaniel off and route marches him home. Fun? No.

What has senior spaniel learned? To avoid going back because it ends the fun and gets you shouted at.

HOW TO FIX YOUR DOG’S RECALL

The First Rule of Recall

No matter how cross you are, how later you are, how embarrassed you are, when your dog comes back pop their lead on and then reward them. If they have ignored multiple recall cues, this can be low key. A ‘good boy’ and a low value treat. But NEVER punish them. If you shout, or worse, you are only punishing your dog for coming back. He can’t understand you are punishing him for ignoring you. Punishing the dog when he is back with you makes a good recall next time LESS likely.

As you walk along with your ‘naughty’ dog on his lead, think about why this happened.

Have you regularly made coming back more rewarding than not coming back? If you only call your dog up to stop him saying hello to another dog, leaping into a stinky bog, or to go home… you are the fun police. Spice up the recall reward, even with older dogs. Sometimes recall for a game, sometimes for a treat, sometimes for a bit of lead walking before getting let off to run again. Try to recall your dog before they are self rewarding with a game of chase the squirrel and make sure what you have on offer is just as much fun. Occasionally add a jackpot recall reward like a big juicy sausage! Think about adding a clear cue such as a whistle that can never sounds cross and will carry a long way.

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

The rest of our walk was better. Senior dog got fishy snacks for staying with me and Mr Owner will be given some rules on what to do when he walks senior dog! Training is never over…

HELP WITH RECALL

If your dog has a recall problem there are lots of exercises that can help improve things. We offer one-to-one training sessions for minor training issues like this (but places are limited in the winter months) at £50 for 45minutes in our field. Please email health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk for information and booking.

APPOINTMENTS AVAILABLE!

The return to lockdown means that all the bookings Vet Vicky had to work and compete her dogs have been cancelled until at least December. This means our diary is suddenly a bit empty.

We are not as restricted in the services we can offer during this lockdown so we would love to see some new patients for acupuncture, behavioural assessment, and holistic consultations. We are happy to offer phone or WhatsApp consultations for some behavioural issues, holistic consultations, and puppy support.

Email health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk for information.

Use us or lose us!

IS YOUR PET AFRAID OF FIREWORKS?

MY DOG HATES FIREWORKS – LET’S BAN THEM!

Urgh, it’s that time of year again. Firework petition season. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have serious reservations about people with no pyrotechnical training being able to buy industrial fireworks to let off in their backyard, but I think the focus of pet owner’s energy is in the wrong place.

I fully support calls for fireworks to be restricted to organised displays. The event can be advertised in advance, animal owners (and those with babies, PTSD, or who just hate fireworks) can make arrangements, and let’s be honest the displays are just a whole lot better and safer. But this still leaves a problem; what to do with the pets who are scared of fireworks.

HELPING YOUR PET COPE WITH FIREWORKS

It might seem tardy to post this after Bonfire Night…but 5th November is just the start of the fireworks season (unless you live in East Sussex where we have a big display somewhere every weekend from September to December in normal years!). Fireworks are an important part of Diwali, Christmas, and New Year events. And this year, with organised displays likely to be banned, there will be more unpredictable home displays.

HELPING YOU PET WITH FIREWORKS NOW

Walk dogs in the daylight and get cast indoors before dusk. Move outdoor caged pets inside.

Use curtains to muffle sounds and light and keep indoors well lit.

Mask noises with music or the TV.

Make your pet a secure snuggly den to hide in.

If your pet wants to snuggle up for a cuddle, let them. If they need to roam the house, let them do that instead.

Distract your pet with a game, tasty treats, or some training.

Contact your vet for calming pheremones, supplements, or medications.

HELPING YOUR PET WITH FIREWORKS FOR THE FUTURE

This is where I get frustrated. Every November there are hundreds of posts about pets being scared of fireworks. Yet how many of these pets get help from a behaviourist? I have only worked with one noise phobia case this year (he’s doing really well with a combination of more interesting walks, medication when required, and a new surround sound TV!). Whilst I don’t promise your dog will react like my spaniels (bang = where is the thing to fetch) it is possible to reduce the fear felt by most dogs through counter conditioning and desensitisation, and to come up with medication protocols for those who remain distressed.

PREVENTING FIREWORK FEAR IN YOUR NEXT PET

Look for a breeder who habituates their puppies or kittens to noise from an early age. I play my puppies CDs of fireworks, gunshot, traffic, babies….everything! This continues most days until they are at least 6 months old. I often play noises when they are eating or doing some training. As my pups get older I play the noise CDs less often, but often enough that they stay unconcerned. If they show any anxiety the volume goes down and I pair the noise with play or food. If a bang means sausage is coming it is much harder to stay worried about bangs!

Due to Covid-19 restrictions cancelling all our planned gundog work for November we now have extra appointments available. We are happy to do phone and WhatsApp consultations for noise phobias now which can be followed up with home visits next year.

Contact us at health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk for a referral form and prices.

SUFFERING IN SILENCE?

IS YOUR PET IN PAIN?

OBVIOUS SIGNS OF PAIN

Most pet owners can notice obvious signs that their pet is in pain. These include limping, difficulty getting up after rest, and stiffness. Some animals may moan or yelp too.

LESS OBVIOUS SIGNS OF PAIN

Many pets hide their pain really well. Less obvious signs of pain include withdrawing from the family, changes in appetite and drinking, licking at joints, reluctance to jump, sleeping in different places, an anxious facial expression, behaviour changes including aggression, house soiling, and the vet’s favourite…just slowing down.

DIAGNOSING PAIN IN PETS

Your vet should do a very careful physical examination. This may start with watching your pet walk in straight lines, in circles, and maybe over obstacles. It can be very useful if you are able to video your pet at home to show how they jump (or don’t!) and move. This is especially useful for cats who often won’t move at the vet clinic!

Next your vet will feel all over your pet’s body and move all the joints. They may ask for dogs to be muzzled as the examination can be painful.

In some cases imaging of joints may be recommended, but in other cases a presumptive diagnosis will be made and treatment started.

TREATING PAIN IN PETS

MEDICATIONS

Don’t be afraid of medications! Modern non-steroidal drugs have minimal side-effects and can be used safely for long periods of time. They may be required for a short period of time if your pet has an injury, or longer with chronic conditions like arthritis. Regular blood tests are recommended with most medications to monitor your pet’s health. Do not use human medications as many are toxic to pets.

FOOD SUPPLEMENTS

Joint supplements are very popular. Few have shown any significant benefit in clinical trials, but most are unlikely to do any harm. Green lipped mussel is better supported by studies than other ingredients. Although most supplements are very safe it is advisable to speak to your vet before starting one to be sure it is suitable for your pet.

HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS

Everyone talks about turmeric, and it is a useful and powerful herb. But other herbs may be more suitable for your pet. Herbs can interact with conventional drugs so always speak to your vet before starting a herbal treatment (or ask for referral to a holistic vet!).

ACUPUNCTURE

Acupuncture can be very useful for muscular pain and is tolerated well by most pets. Pets with chronic pain may need regular treatments to keep them moving comfortably.

LASER

Class 4 laser therapy (also called photobiomodulation) can aid wound healing, improve blood flow to injured areas, and seems useful for painful joint and muscle conditions. Many veterinary practices now offer laser therapy. Red light machines sold for home use are less effective as they don’t penetrate deep into tissues.

PHYSICAL THERAPIES

Hydrotherapy, osteopathy, massage, and physiotherapy can all help your pet build muscle and improve their range of motion. They can also be really useful for pets who need to lose weight.

WEIGHT AND EXERCISE CONTROL

These two are free and are maybe the most important things we can do! Your veterinary practice will be able to advise on safe weight loss and exercise programmes.

WORRIED THAT YOUR PET IS IN PAIN?

Don’t worry any more! Call your vet and find out. Then, if you want to include some evidence based complementary therapy, get in touch with us!

Email health@holisticvetsussex.co.uk

HOLIDAY!

CLOSED UNTIL 29TH SEPTEMBER

Our vet is taking a well earned break!

Four Seasons Holistic Veterinary Care is CLOSED until Tuesday 29th September.

For urgent pet health problems please call your primary care vet.

Email or text with non-urgent enquiries but be aware they will not be dealt with until 29th.