We all want a well-trained dog. So it helps to understand animal behaviour.Source:istock
AS A vet specialising in behavioural medicine, I see a lot of dogs with complex problems.
About 20% of pets have an anxiety disorders (mental health issues), just like people. But sometimes the problems can occur when owners do not understand the dog’s normal social behaviour.
Here are four things people need to know when it comes to dogs.
PUNISHMENT IN TRAINING
In the past we used to believe that because dogs are ‘pack animals’ that they need to understand who is “boss” or dominant. This was based on what we now call the dominance myth.
But now we know this theory is fundamentally flawed. Dogs have changed a lot since they descended from wolves and were domesticated. And we now know that even wolves live in natural social groups (families) and not fixed dominance hierarchies as was once thought. Aggression is always a last resort as it does not help group harmony.
Using punishment as a training method, instead of positive rewards, can increase anxiety, increase aggression, destroy the human animal bond and decrease the trust of the dog.
Punishing a fearful animal will not help the animal’s emotional state for the better. It is always better to teach the dog how you want it to behave and then reward that behaviour.
CHOKE CHAINS (COLLARS)
Choke collars are usually made of a metal chain, and pull tight around a dog’s neck when the leash is yanked, ‘choking’ the dog.
Choke collars come in many different forms, but they all pull tight around the dog’s neck when they pull on the lead.Source:Supplied
They are still far too popular in Australia, and often exacerbate a dog’s fear and hence an aggressive response.
If the dog pulls on the lead then using a front attaching harness is a much better way to manage most dogs.
THINKING YOU CAN ‘TRAIN-AWAY’ ANXIETY
In clinical practice the most common problems I see are all anxiety based. These can present as separation anxiety, noise phobias, obsessive compulsive disorders and aggression.
Anxiety disorders are medical problems, and are due to a neurochemical imbalance in the brain. They need to be treated the same way as all medical problems and may require medication to help “normalise” the function of the brain.
People often think the dog just needs “obedience training” to resolve these issues but although teaching good manners helps with teaching manners and gives dogs and owners a clearer communication strategy, it cannot resolve an anxiety disorder any more than it can resolve diabetes or thyroid disease (both medical problems).
Socialisation with other dogs, when done correctly, can really help our pets learn about living with us and our community in harmony.
So what a lot of owners do is take their dogs down to the local dog park and let them run free. It seems like a great idea. But what people often don’t realise is that that environment can be very stressful for some dogs. Only socially polite dogs benefit from dog parks, and all dogs need to be closely supervised.
Dog parks can actually be quite stressful for dogs, if they’re not watched closely.Source:News Corp Australia
Tickets are still available here.
Incredibly Patient Dog Balances Biscuits0:52
That this dog didn't instantly devour the food balanced on his nose is a testament to the training he received from The Pinoy Dog Whisperer. It's hard to believe just how many biscuits his owner was able to balance steadily on his nose! Credit: Facebook/The Pinoy Dog Whisperer via Storyful