Thursday, 14 November 2019

"He bought it on himself..." (or, why Brian is the worst puppy teacher, ever!)



“Don’t worry,” the woman said cheerily, as Brian angrily barked at the dog hiding behind her leg, “He brought it on himself; he needs to learn to be more polite.”

I could have cried, because it could all have gone so differently.



Not two minutes previously, Brian and her dog had done a perfectly lovely and appropriate greeting.  However, having said hello, Brian had moved on to the more interesting aspects of his walk.  He ignored the dog and moved away as much as he could (he was on lead at the time), communicating disinterest as hard as he possibly could.

The dog didn’t take the hint.  He carried on sniffing and nudging at Brian, who is not renowned for his patience with pushy dogs and who tends to be a little bit OTT with his responses.

Cue an angry and vocal telling off.  Not the best experience for anyone involved.

The thing is, the dog’s owner wasn’t entirely wrong.  Her dog, like all young dogs, DOES need to learn to be more polite.  Puppies aren’t born with perfectly formed manners; they tend to be more sociable by nature than adult dogs and they do need to be taught how to interact appropriately with other dogs.

But it’s not the responsibility of stranger dogs to teach them.


There’s a whole range of problems with leaving our dogs to sink or swim when it comes to their social interactions.  They get very mixed messages, because not every dog will react the same way to prolonged or unwanted attention (Seamus, for example, would have been DELIGHTED to have been at the centre of that much canine focus, but that doesn’t help any dog to learn when to back off).

There’s also always the worry that bad experiences will teach them the wrong lesson (“Got shouted at.  That sucked.  Maybe should shout first?  Yes, shout first”).

In puppy classes we talk about keeping our greeting short, especially on the first meeting (who wants to discuss their life story with a complete stranger?) and teaching our puppies to exercise self-control before they get to say hi to other dogs.

Both of those things require us to carefully manage the situation to make sure that all the dogs involved have a good experience and that our puppies don’t get to reinforce bad habits.  We have to make sure that we’re giving a consistent message, and that we intervene when self-control fails.  We don’t just need to teach them how to greet, but also how to end a greeting and walk away.  If we can make that the habit, we set our puppies up for good experiences and better relationships with other dogs.

And let’s face it, most experiences are better if they don’t start (or end) with being told off by a complete stranger!



Wishing everyone a week of good socialising!

Laura & Brian (the puppy police) & Seamus (the puppy enabler)

P.S.  If you want to practice these important socialising skills (and have fun with other dogs at the same time), we’re offering two Social Skills for Puppies sessions in December (just in time to be ready for meeting all those other family dogs over Christmas!).  If you have graduated (or will graduate) from one of our Puppy classes from October 2019 onwards, you’re welcome to book in and join us to practice nice greetings and nicer play with help from the WCC puppy team!

Limited to four puppies per session (and yes, you can do both). 

Book Social Skills for Puppies here!

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Bang! Yes, it's fireworks season yet again...


What does your dog do when they hear fireworks?


  1. Sleep through them soundly? 
  2. Quiver, shake, drool and try to hide away from the dreaded fireworks?
  3. Or take dreadful offence at the invading noises, and bark to scare them off?
Unless you answered with option 1, you're going to need a survival strategy to put in place fast.

And if your young puppy hasn't experienced fireworks yet - you will want to be prepared to make sure it's fun for them.



Noise fears and phobias are some of the most insidious behaviour problems I see in my clinical practice, and years of living with sensitive collies has given me more practice experience than I ever wanted!

Yes, you should have thought about fireworks before now.

But life is busy, and suddenly it's nearly November *eeek*

Fireworks Fears? Online Help for just £5

Friday 25th October, 7.30pm

 with Morag K Heirs PhD, Clinical Animal Behaviourist


https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=13187434&appointmentType=11695680&fbclid=IwAR3a-bwkpq9aXu3ThRbT1W7Hg_gxnKEtkzivGQoN02MFhK8p5PgqFi54qmQ
You CAN stop the fears getting worse this year AND make a plan to help your dog cope better next year too.

The session includes evidence and experience based techniques to support your dog, when to talk to your vet for extra help, and the chance to ask questions about your own dog.

SESSION WILL BE RECORDED - you can attend live or send in your questions in advance


If you are dreading the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th of November (and the weeks before and after!) then you NEED to attend this webinar.


Fight the Firework Fears





However in some unexpectedly good news, Sainsbury's have announced that they will no longer stock fireworks. I can't tell you how delighted I was to hear this! Let's keep pushing the other supermarkets to step up to the mark.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-50094658


Enjoy the peaceful evenings while you can, and I'm looking forward to seeing some of you online later this week.


Morag, the Collie Girls (one deaf, one much braver than she was) and the Big Yin (what noise?)

What's on in WCC Land?


We're starting to make plans for the annual WCC Xmas activity evening at Yorkshire Museum of Farming.


It turns out the WCC family have some amazing hidden skills including how to make snuffle mats, seriously tough tug toys from old clothes and more.

So we're hosting a festive "come and craft" evening where you can bring your own materials, and we'll help you transform them into amazing canine gifts.
  • PLUS the ever popular "bring and swop" table for all your unwanted dog-related items, with anything left at the end going to local rescue organisations
  • AND Gina will be running the raffle again with all monies going to local rescues.
  • Morag will be baking (for your dogs!) and could be persuaded to bring some recipe sheets?
  • Clare will be in charge of mince pies and gingerbread of course
  • and we might just persuade Laura to bake for you too.

DATE COMING SOON! 



Monday, 14 October 2019

What blind men and an elephant can tell us about living with Laird

In the last blog, I told you about Laird accidentally grabbing my hand (thinking it was part of a food wrapper) and struggling to let go. My hand was sore and a little swollen afterwards, but nothing more.

Our brains love to jump to conclusions, it's so much more comforting (and often efficient) to make an assumption rather than collecting yet more information.


Yet as the parable of the six blind men and an elephant shows, if we only have part of the picture we might make some pretty huge mistakes.

Here's what might have happened if I took the situation with Laird on face value, with a "dominance lens":

  • Laird is unwilling to give things up to me
  • He is stubborn, and does not respect me
  • Laird should have given the wrapper to me, and by refusing to let go of my hand it meant......

and so on...

Stepping back a little, and looking at the whole elephant (situation)

  • Laird was tired, so unlikely to be thinking clearly
  • The kitchen was dark enough it would be hard to see my hand underneath (!) the wrapper (and his beard)
  • On later examination, Laird had a claw split right down to the quick which probably happened on our afternoon walk, pain is well known to decrease tolerance and increase the chance of using an aggressive strategy
  • Laird has NEVER acted in this way before, or since
  • Laird has a history of struggling to give things up especially if he might be able to eat them

Did I have a dangerously dominant dog?

Or a grumpy, tired adolescent dog who was in pain and hasn't entirely learned to surrender treasure...

I hope you can see how badly this could have gone for Laird and I if I acted on that first set of assumptions!

A wee challenge for you
  1. Notice the next time your dog does something that you don't like, or find annoying
  2. And ask yourself why it might be happening?
  3. Don't use labels as 'reasons' (stubborn, stupid, doesn't listen)
  4. Do step back and look at the whole elephant....

I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts, and of course you're welcome to post in our FaceBook group with your examples or questions.

Happy thinking!

Morag, the Collie Girls and the Big Yin



(Freya and Laird showing off their new jumpers from Boo Woo)





Choose a Challenge for your Dog this weekend!


Unusually we have a couple of spaces left on some of our weekend activity workshops, up for grabs to the quickest fingers and keenest dogs.

Click the links for more information and book your space.

Saturday 19th October 13:30- 16:30
Parkour Progressions for Sensitive Dogs (S Rated for dogs that struggle around people/dogs)
PawPark, Sand Hutton

Parkour Progressions (S Rated)
 
Saturday 19th October 13:30- 16:30
That's not a sheep! Herding Dog Games
PawPark, Sand Hutton

Herding Dog Games

Sunday 20th October 09:30-12:30
Salvage Seekers -teach your dog to find your keys!
Sand Hutton Village Hall, just outside York

Salvage Seekers Book Here

Monday, 30 September 2019

New Puppy Adventures with Quest


Quest Adventure Ross has been here for three weeks now….and we've most definitely been having an adventure



Each puppy I get teaches me something new, and Quest is no exception, this time I’ve learnt just how much of an impact the breeder can have on your puppy!

Quest’s breeder followed the Puppy Plan and I can really see how much of a positive impact this has had on Quest’s development in her first few weeks. 

From day one Quest has been happy to settle on her own, often taking herself into a different room to go to a comfy spot for a snooze, she also settled straight into sleeping in a crate next to the bed from the first night. It’s really important to me that my dogs are able to cope being alone, as,  although I spend a lot of time with them, there are times I need to leave them home alone.  I always plan on taking my time to build alone time gradually – but apparently Quest has other ideas 😃

So far Quest has been sociable but respectful with my other dogs, but she’s still making good use of that puppy licence sometimes!!  She’s also really sociable with people, is happy to approach and enjoy a bit of fuss, yet at the same time she also quickly accepts that she can’t go and say hi to everyone she sees.

She’s confident walking on a variety of surfaces, going up and down stairs (yes she thinks it’s a great game and I have to prevent her doing it!), climbing on things and jumping off them. This is great for me, I’ll want us to do a range of different activities with her when she’s older, so she needs to be confident trying new things (without putting herself in danger ideally!)

Initially it was great fun chasing the cats and chickens, but she has very quickly learnt to ignore them with only a small amount of management from me. This is really important, because I don’t want Quest to learn bad habits and I don’t want the other animals to be worried about her.


We live in a pretty noisy place (lots of trucks passing the house and machinery banging around)and she has habituated to those noises really well, initially she was a little unsure of them but now ignores it when huge trucks come past the house . We’ve also been loitering in car parks and she’s relaxed with traffic passing.

She's been for two vet visits already (one for 2nd vaccination and once for a little lump (nothing serious) and she's been relaxed and happy throughout (with help from plenty of tasty cheese!) 





Don’t worry though, she’s not totally perfect, she still likes to sniff out and eat dead things the cats have left  – so lots of work to do there!

She also had a scary incident with a really loud noise in the house, which really spooked her – more about how we worked though that later!

She’s currently attending our puppy classes, because even though I know how to teach all the exercises, puppy class provides a safe environment for her to learn and have new invaluable positive experiences.

More Updates on life with Quest coming soon


Happy Training 

Clare & the Gang


P.s. what's coming up in WCC land? Check out the website for details of all our upcoming classes starting in October! 



Friday, 27 September 2019

How many pounds per square inch can GWP jaws exert? Part two of the progress reports


This is a blog about progress updates, but I figure it's important to be honest about the ups as well as the downs.




Update for Laird

The much loved giant GWP and his ongoing struggles with giving stuff up and love of eating plastic (and anything else that fits in his mouth) have often featured in my writing.


Last week I discovered first hand just how powerful his jaws are.

I have to be honest, it's not a question I’d ever considered before… but it turns out a large adult dog can exert quite a lot of pressure through their teeth.

Laird was behaving out of sorts one evening* - grumbling about a chew, and grumping at his sister Bronte too.  Later on there was a tricky situation involving Laird, my kitchen bin and a large amount of plastic wrapping from some smoked haddock.

It was dark, and while I knew Laird had managed to pull some of the packaging out, I underestimated how much was already in his mouth.

In too much of a hurry to turn on the light, I approached and asked Laird to target my hand with the plastic in his mouth. Usually if he can do this, he'll also be able to give it up.

That night I mis-read the situation.

As my fingers made contact with the plastic, Laird suddenly pulled away.

I tried to hold on, hoping to prevent him from swallowing it.

Laird re-gripped the plastic to make sure he had a firmer hold (letting go and re-grabbing)

My hand was caught in Laird's mouth, and as he started to squeeze his jaws the pain became incredibly intense.

The next 5 minutes felt like the longest in my life.

He didn't understand why I wasn't letting go of the plastic.

And I physically couldn't get my hand out of his mouth!

At one stage I had both hands trapped.

But eventually, my hands escaped, and yes I abandoned the plastic!

In the two days after the incident, Laird returned to finding and eating rubbish on walks with a vengeance. I couldn't ask him to give anything up in the house.

But four days later we were able to attend a Gun Dog Games workshop all about retrieves, and it went really well.  Both Laird and I have a long way to go, but the setback was much less than I feared.


*later on I discovered Laird had split a claw right down to the quick on his front left paw, so was probably in quite a lot of pain, poor lad




Training, changing or improving our dog's behaviour is a life long challenge.



But even when things go horribly wrong, you WILL land on a cushion from all your previous training, relationship building and more.


And that means it takes less time to recover from each set back, I promise!

Which is where the value of regular, incremental training comes in. Every positive experience you have with your dog is a deposit in your joint trust account.



And there's always something left to build back up from.

Next week I'll tell you about Brian coping with the scaffolders, and Quest facing an unexpected bang!

Happy weekend!

Morag, the Big Yin and the Collie Girls

 

Want to do more training with your dog?

New courses start on Monday 7th October at Yorkshire Museum of Farming

APDT Good Companion Award (weekly class)


Essential real life exercises you and your dog can enjoy learning together in a group setting.

You will both learn: response to name, manners (not jumping up), walking nicely on lead, coming back when called, stay, self-control around food and doorways (including the car) and play manners.
  • 5 week courses
  • Suitable for new starters AND progression students.
  • PLUS you can choose to be assessed for the APDT Good Companion Award at Foundation or Progress levels.
Book APDT Good Companion Class

 

Sniffing School: Bomb Detectors (weekly class)


The dog moves steadily down the line of people, suddenly the tail is going extra fast and the bum slams onto the ground. Those brown eyes are staring hard at your left pocket… that’s a passive indication!

This is where the find stops being the reward - vital for a bomb detection dog, but an extra challenge for your dog to take on!

  • Three week module
  • Pre-req: Dogs can settle quietly in class; can search for at least one target scent; can offer one consistent behaviour (e.g. sit)


Book Sniffing School (Bomb Detection)

Friday, 20 September 2019

How Max and Gina survived the school holidays - part one of the progress reports

An update from Gina with Max, one of our amazing dogsbodies as well as being a dedicated client! 

Laura’s recent blog about how Parkour had made their holiday more enjoyable got me thinking about the last few weeks while the children have been off school. (missed the blog? catch up here)

I guess most people who have a dog, but no children don’t give much thought to school holidays.

However, for me and my dog Max it has previously been a challenge that we have survived, but only just.

The problem is that I live in Bridlington right in the middle of the tourist area and Max struggled around pretty much all dogs and most unfamiliar people, not a good combination on a sunny August day.

Previously we managed the situation by either getting up at the crack of dawn or driving somewhere quiet hoping that we didn’t meet anyone else.

This summer we not only survived the tourists, we have actually made progress towards our goals. 

We started with Well Connected Canine last year, initially with 121 help then progressing on to rehab club.

However, more recently we signed up for the special workshops designed for dogs that struggle in normal class situations such as Scentwork for Sensitive dogs, Parkour and the Foundation Skills weekly classes.

I had previously under estimated the benefits of Max being able to work in safe set up scenarios and the difference has been amazing and lovely to watch.

The classes usually take place at Paw Park, so the open space makes it easier for the dogs to cope and each dog has its own “safe area” allocated which is screened off from the rest of the class.



We are currently working on a “wait” while I peer suspiciously around corners, walls and cars in search of any dogs or dubious looking people before deciding if Max can move forward or we do a quick let’s go in another direction.

So, is everything perfect with Max now?

Not yet - I still have to think about where we will walk, I have to constantly check Max is relaxed and coping when we are out.

The difference now is I have learned to be more relaxed myself and have more skills in my training tool box to use, although scent work is by far the most often used and I can often be found throwing and sticking cheese around Bridlington.



My next goal is to get Max closer to other dogs without him becoming worried, so I have booked on to Social skills for dogs that struggle, I want to be your friend?!

Who knows on my next update Max may have a new friend, that’s if I have not been taken in for questioning regarding my odd behaviour lurking around corners and throwing cheese around the town.

I know there are new classes starting soon and would recommend anyone who has been attending 121s or rehab to talk to Morag, Clare or Laura to see if you and your dog are ready for the next step. 

Gina and Max 

Since this was written Max has also been practicing his small talk at Social Skills for Dogs That Struggle. Learning how to politely greet Seamus, quietly flirt with Summer and more...having a new BFF might not be that far away!
The next blog will have a rather mixed bag of updates from me (Morag), Clare and Laura...

What's on at WCC for Sensitive Dogs?

If you feel like you have a Sensitive Dog, get in touch to talk about how we can help you both enjoy life together with less stress (email: info@wellconnectedcanine.co.uk)

Completed an Orientation or Behaviour Assessment with us already? One of these activities might be just what you’re looking for!  Look in the private Facebook Group or email us for the booking link (that way we can make sure you book onto the most suitable session)

Friday, 13 September 2019

Why labels matter – is your dog “reactive”?

Human language is full of labels. It’s a verbal shorthand, one or two words to use instead of a long sentence of explanation.

But sometimes we might have different understandings of the same word or label.

And then that convenient shorthand gets in the way of developing our understanding.

In the dog world, there’s been a noticeable shift away from describing dogs as aggressive or dominant which might feel like a positive step forwards.

Instead you’re more likely to see words like reactive.

Beware of trainers who use the word “reactive” and then use" dominance reduction" and  punishment as a training technique. 


“Reactive” as a label can feel like it carries less judgement than “aggressive”, but it still fails to accurately describe what our dog is doing and how they are feeling about that.


Reactive usually seems to mean “my dog will bark and or lunge at….” either people, dogs, or both in a particular set of circumstances. So your dog isn't "reactive", they lunge/bark at men walking past wearing hats!


What about the dogs that "react" by going quiet?

Choosing to back away, avoid confrontation, retreat from the situation or even freeze.

So, from now on you’re more likely to see Clare and myself writing and talking about sensitive dogs.

Dogs that struggle in specific situations.

This includes dogs that find life difficult for whatever reason, and whose responses are problematic to both the dog and you.

Sensitive dogs might
  • struggle to concentrate and fool around when they get overexcited
  • lunge or bark when they feel frustrated, or threatened
  • shut down when they feel like there’s a lot of pressure to do something
  • get worried when they hear loud or unexpected noises
 Sensitive dogs often struggle to bounce back from stressful situations-but this reaction can look very different for each dog.

Practically here’s what that means for WCC!

S-Rated
We are updating our courses workshops and classes to clearly label some as S-Rated, that means suitable for sensitive dogs!

Social Skills
Rehab club has been revised and renamed to focus more on social skills for dogs that struggle
  • I want to be your friend (I think!) is designed for dogs who really do want to make friends but might be lacking in the finer social skills. Frustrated greeter is another common label! 
  • I want to be alone is designed for dogs who will have happier lives if they can learn to tolerate the presence of other dogs around them, but have no real interest in making social connections. 

We think labels matter.

Labels can make it easier to communicate about our dogs, their needs, and find effective interventions.

Labels can also conceal acres of misunderstanding, influence your attitude to your dog (are they stubborn or struggling to hear you) and sometimes accidentally exclude the very dogs we want to help.



If you feel like you have a Sensitive Dog, get in touch to talk about how we can help you both enjoy life together with less stress (email: info@wellconnectedcanine.co.uk)

Completed an Orientation or Behaviour Assessment with us already? One of these activities might be just what you’re looking for!  Look in the private Facebook Group or email us for the booking link (that way we can make sure you book onto the most suitable session)

Have a wonderful weekend with your dogs!

Morag and the beasties




Tuesday, 10 September 2019

New member of the team


The well connected canine team has a new member, meet Quest

Quest Adventure Ross




She’s an 8 week old working cocker spaniel and a new addition to our family. We are absolutely in love with her. My dogs on the other hand, not as much!

Poppy, Spencer, Summer and Scout are not really sure about the new addition yet!

Scout (Border Collie) just wants to herd her, so follows her around moving from side to side as he moves behind her. We’re interrupting when we need to and limiting how much he practices this behaviour, as I’d prefer him to relax around the puppy rather than constantly watching her every move.

Poppy (Cocker Spaniel) is pretending she doesn’t exist, she’ll tolerate the puppy being around her, and even lying with her, but will tell the puppy off appropriately if she starts to jump on her or bite her ears. We’re making sure Poppy can escape the puppy if she wants to, but the puppy is being pretty respectful so we don’t need to step in too much.

Summer (Flat Coated Retriever) thinks the new puppy is OK. They’ve had some really nice play together. Summer has been gentle with her and even self-handicapping during play by lying down so they can have little wrestling sessions. She’s not been doing her usual body slams and neck grabs, it’s nice to see that she’s able to moderate her play style for the puppy.

Spencer (German Shepherd) is still a bit concerned about her. He spends his time avoiding her and sniffing her when she’s not looking or asleep. For such a large dog is really is a worrier. The puppy isn’t really pestering him, so we’re just supervising and making sure he has a safe place to move away to if he needs it.

My dogs could easily find this new addition overwhelming, especially Spencer. He can be quite an anxious boy, and used to really struggle with meeting new people and other dogs. He still shows some signs that he feels uncomfortable when the puppy approaches him, like turning his head away, avoiding her or moving away, but I’m really happy he is able to make those choices as they tell me is coping much better than he used to, previously he would bark and charge towards something which worried him.


Spencer being brave while the puppy sleeps!
If you’ve got a ‘Spencer’ – a dog that struggles – don’t forget to check out the exciting activities and sessions we’re running specifically for dogs that can’t cope in standard class or workshop settings yet.

Practical skills sessions for dogs that struggle

These group sessions are specifically designed to progress the training you've already started with one of the team, in a safe and secure environment. 

Social skills sessions are designed to help your dog to learn to relax around other dogs and/or people, whether they are a frustrated greeter (I think I want to be your friend) or a wallflower (I want to be alone) 


Social Skills for Dog that Struggle - I want to be alone

Social Skills for Dogs that Struggle - I think I want to be your friend?

Essential Skills is a 4 week class working on some of the core skills required for having more enjoyable walks with your dogs, including; recall, loose lead walking, settle and emergency stop & escape. 

Essential Skills for Dogs That Struggle (4 week class)



Activity classes and workshops, because all dogs deserve to have fun :) 


Activity Foundations for Dogs That Struggle (4 week class) 

Introduction to Sniffing School for Sensitive Dogs 


Parkour Progressions for Sensitive Dogs


Parkour Fundamentals for Sensitive Dogs



Happy training

Clare, Poppy, Spencer, Scout, Summer and Quest