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Miniature Poodle puppies 6-8 weeks

These weeks build on the solid foundation of the previous 6 weeks. If all has been done well then by now puppies are confident, eating well, sleeping through the night, not barking, not whining and interested in exploring new environments, people and animals that come their way. They are not showing signs of being unwilling to go somewhere new and are happy. healthy bouncy puppies.

The highlights of this phrase include:

  • Now actually interacting with adult dogs and learning how to use cut off signals to indicate they are no threat and learning that they can not rush headlong into the face of an adult dog.
  • Learning from their litter mates how to use their teeth in play.
  • Increasing variety of food being introduced
  • More and more outings to puppy safe venues
  • Increased independence from mum and the other puppies
  • Grooming training  starts (this is very important for poodle puppies)
  • Reinforcement of a good day/night routine
  • Being separated from humans and other dogs for part of the time so that separation anxiety is not going to become an issue.
  • Recall training, start of lead training, start of loose lead walking training (being asked to follow a human around without a lead)
  • Introduction of enrichment toys such as food dispensing toys.
  • Spending time as single pups away from other dogs so they can handle being an only dog.
  • Exploring the outside world and finding out about wind, rain, horses, cattle, leaves, trees and that fences mean containment.
  • Learning how not to be afraid during a thunderstorm
  • Learning how not to be afraid when they hear loud sounds like radios, gun shots, trains, cars, trucks, babies crying etc.

Just a quick comment on vaccination. I follow the most up to date schedule for vaccination from Dr Jean Dodds, a world expert on vaccination, and do not give the first vaccination (C3) until puppies are 8 weeks of age. I then only give one more after 16 weeks of life and then no further vaccination for the rest of the life of the dog. I also do not microchip until as close to over 8 weeks as possible as I feel it is fairly traumatic for baby puppies. It is required as a condition of sale in my state. The puppies are wormed at 3 and 6 weeks and then again as they are about to go to their new homes.

Regards
Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) runs the Pet Care Magic club where devil dogs, horrible horses and crazy cats are turned into perfect pets using Relationship Animal Training. The program provides owners and pet professionals assistance with with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas  She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues for owners and also assists pet care professionals in setting up and growing their businesses by the provision of customer handling advice, sales and marketing strategies and up to date product information that allows for the differentiation of their pet care business from their competitors. The Pet Care Magic Club is part of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia but can be found on internet enabled devices worldwide.

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Talk to me about Positive Reward Based Dog Training  | Dogs, Horses, Cats, Pocket Pets +Animal Businesses (Mid Nth Coast NSW) 

Relationship Animal Training TM: Facebook page | Facebook discussion group

About Me 

Training puppies for grooming

Establishing a good relationship with a puppy or dog is not just about teaching them to sit, stay or come when called. Grooming is a vital part of their basic training and in my opinion training adult and puppy dogs to accept the grooming process is very much over looked by groomers, trainers and pet parents. The grooming process is not natural for dogs, especially when very aversive equipment like clippers and high velocity dryers are used in the process. Dogs need to be taught to accept the equipment and the handling that inherent in the grooming process.

Puppies such as poodles, have a coat that requires high maintenance and it is important that a relationship with their owners and/or professionals is established based around grooming  as early as possible. This relationship must be one based on trust that they will not be frightened by the equipment required and that the person undertaking the grooming has an ability to observe and interpret canine body language.  If you are not proficient in understanding what a dog looks like when it is scared and how to stop that from happening then you should not be grooming any dog, let alone a vulnerable baby puppy.

Video One shows how to develop a caring and as stress free grooming relationship as possible for a puppy. This miniature poodle puppy is 7 weeks old and step one is to get it used to being up on  a high table and to accept the attention from brushes, combs and being touched in an way that is not natural for a dog. An important point is this is not done after washing a dog. It is undertaken at a totally different time when the pup is totally relaxed. Stacking the activities of a scary wash and then up on  a high table will increase the stress for the pup and set him or her up for failure before you even start.


(the noise in the background of this video is rain on the tin roof)

The second very important point is that restraint SHOULD NOT BE USED during these initial grooming training sessions. My reasoning is that dogs that get frightened of something need to be able to move away from it. Adding any sort to restraint in grooming training will automatically make it an aversive process  so that the pup is unable to learn as it is stuck in fear mode. Learning to handle restraint should be done separately once the puppy is comfortable on the table. The puppy should never be left on the table and all equipment should be placed in advance so that the handler can keep one hand on the pup at all times. This can be done at home by owners using a table with a non slip bath mat. Not only does it train for grooming but it also gives valuable one on one time that enables relationship building. 

The next step in the grooming process is teaching a dog or puppy not to be frightened of a dryer. The high velocity dryer is THE most abusive item of grooming equipment in a dog grooming salon. Most dogs are terrified of it and have every right to be so. It is a piece of equipment designed for groomers who want to do the maximum number of dogs in the shortest period of time. It is one of the big reasons I can no longer subject dogs to the practice of professional grooming. It is vital that any dog that will be attending a professional groomer is trained to accept this practice.  How long it takes for a dog to become ok with this process depends on the skill of the groomer in reading canine body language and the overall socialization and fearfulness of the dog or puppy. This training should NEVER be done when the dog is being presented for its first groom.

The important points to note are:

  • No restraint
  • Diffuser off the dryer
  • Dryer on lowest possible setting
  • Start with counter conditioning to just the noise (i.e. dyer on ground and not pointed at the dog)
  • Dryer aimed at the dog for very short bursts of seconds only and never at the head
  • Watch the dog and stop immediately you see escalation of minor stress signs such as lip licking, freezing,  ears back and yawning.
  • The whole process is performed often for very short periods not rarely for long periods. (This is why is cannot be started in the context of a grooming session)

The next video is with a different puppy and shows some of the signs to look for in a pup that is not ok with the process.

  • Pup stopped eating so counter-conditioning was not being effective as pup was too scared by the process. Dryer needed to be further away.
  • Body Language becomes stiffer, more lip licking, not able to head turn and became stuck in one place on the table.
  • Reward used was not high enough and scary object was too close.
  • Pup startles at 1.30 minutes indicating it went into fear mode.

This is just a quick overview of training puppies for grooming using positive force free methods. It is part of a larger body of work I am putting together. If you need assistance on an particular grooming issues please contact us via the comments section or email.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) runs the Pet Care Magic club where devil dogs, horrible horses and crazy cats are turned into perfect pets using Relationship Animal Training. The program provides owners and pet professionals assistance with with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas  She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues for owners and also assists pet care professionals in setting up and growing their businesses by the provision of customer handling advice, sales and marketing strategies and up to date product information that allows for the differentiation of their pet care business from their competitors. The Pet Care Magic Club is part of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia but can be found on internet enabled devices worldwide.

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Talk to me about Positive Reward Based Dog Training  | Dogs, Horses, Cats, Pocket Pets +Animal Businesses (Mid Nth Coast NSW) 

Relationship Animal Training TM: Facebook page | Facebook discussion group

About Me 

The straw that broke the camel’s back

No I have not started to write about Camel’s as the title would suggest. Mind you I might when I run out of dog and cat topics.

This well known and very old saying has an equivalent in dog training circles where we talk about Trigger Stacking. Picture this scenario.

You have had a very hectic day with twenty million errands to run, the kids to pick up from school, no food in the fridge for dinner, the car is just about to run out of petrol and then…………..your mobile rings and it is your husband asking about something that is of no importance at all and could easily have waited until he got home that night. You didn’t need that interruption right now and so you loose it and start yelling at him, telling him he is a nuisance, time waster  who you regret ever marrying and hang up on him. The kids get into the car and it is immediately “mum, mum, mum”. You loose it again and start to yell at them as you slam the car into gear narrowly missing the other big SUV’s double parked in the no parking zone at the kid’s school. You are still fuming when you get home and all anyone has to do is look sideways at your and you start yelling again. Everyone keeps a very wide berth for the rest of the night.

What has happened?

All your triggers have stacked up into a huge pile that resulted in the final one pushing you over the edge. Each on its own you could have coped with but when they all came at you on the same day they pushed you over the edge into a screaming wreak that wanted to run and hide from the world. Does this sound familiar to the mums out there ? If this can happen to a well adjusted, well resourced intelligent human then it stands to reason exactly the same thing can happen to a dog. However in dogs it is called Trigger stacking and is seen often in scared dogs.  The issue  however is that we don’t always recognize what the triggers are and out of the blue we have a dog that is going ballistic barking (canine equivalent of screaming)  or worse has bitten someone, for no apparent reason. They have reached the point of no return and have tipped over into reactive mode, for some that means aggressive action. Once they are there the only way out is to totally remove them from the environment, keep all other environmental stimuli away and let them calm down. For some dogs this might means days as cortisol levels in stressed dogs can often take some time to return to normal. The amount of time the stress levels stay elevated for is very individual and many dogs hide all signs that tell you they are stressed. The only real way of knowing is to know your dog extremely well and that includes being able to read very subtle signs that they are not happy.

The level at which they tip over into reaction, often with aggression or a bite is called their threshold. This threshold level is very individual for dogs and can vary from day to day. The only way to prevent these type of reactions is to manage your dog and the stresses it is exposed to each day as well as learning how to read canine body language that will enable you to detect the subtle signs of stress. The other excellent way to protect your dog is to ensure they were well socialized during the critical 8-16 week age period. It is during that time that exposing the puppy to as many strange things as possible builds up a positive bank of weird experiences that they can tap into in later life.

Want to read more about trigger stacking. Check out his excellent post by Casey Lomonaco on Dogster

 

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    www.petcaremagician.com |  Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Groomers who chose to use positive methods to groom dogs and cats

Australian Pet Professionals

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors. About Me 

Puppy Grooming tips guest article on about.com

I have had the pleasure of being invited to write and article for About.com Puppies site this week. The article is titled Puppy Grooming Tips -How to Prepare Puppies for Grooming and can be viewed here. It out lines a protocol that teaches pet owners the steps they can take to ensure they will have a puppy that will accept grooming techniques or handling at vet visits. This protocol is however also useful for all puppies, especially those living with children. Puppies and dogs do not always accept hugs from humans and this can be the reason why children and adults get bitten. If a puppy is trained using this protocol they can become accepting of the way humans approach them and need to hug and hold them.

My thanks to Amy Shojai who hosts the site for the opportunity and to Karen Deeds from Canine Direction for the inspiration for the article.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    www.petcaremagician.com |  Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Groomers who chose to use positive methods to groom dogs and cats

Australian Pet Professionals

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors. About Me 

Is force free grooming a reality?

I spend many hours on Facebook talking to force free (or positive reward) trainers from all over the world and there is an opinion that professional grooming is a very negative thing for dogs to experience. and that groomers cannot work force free.

I can understand this to a certain extent due to the fact that canine and feline behavior is fairly rare to see offered in grooming courses.  There is plenty about equipment, how to shampoo a dog, the correct way to scissor but not much, if any, about how to read the stress signals in a dog or cat. When I certified as a groomer many years ago I was taught nothing about canine behavior. Talking to groomers and we agree that is is very difficult to groom in a totally force free way. We don’t like using force but often we are faced with severely matted, aggressive and untrained dogs that we have to remove severely matted coat from.  When it comes to those groomers who do cats the situation is even worse, as there is not many courses on feline behavior out there in the world, let alone Australia and who trains a cat for handling let alone grooming.

Where does that leave groomers?

I am very pleased to tell you that in the world there are enlightened groomers who seek out this information on their own. They are committed to doing their job in as force free a manner as possible and are actively seeking out ways to improve their processes. Sadly there are many who are not willing to work in a force free manner and adopt the attitude that says
“I do what it takes to groom the animal” They are backed up by owners who often say exactly the same thing and what it takes may mean the groomer ends up being badly bitten and the dog traumatised.

I recently started a facebook group for groomers who want to expand out their knowledge and look at better ways to do what they are doing. It is a dynamic and exciting group containing many individuals from all over the world who are interested in examining their techniques and trying new things and already we have made some interesting changes to our way of working.

Is it possible to work force free as a groomer?

Yes and no is my answer to that. Yes if the client has presented with a dog that has been well handled and trained as a puppy to grooming techniques or is willing to put in the time and effort to do the training required in an older dog. No if it is the client who leaves their dog to get into a matted mess and then tells us to do “whatever it takes” and doesn’t care about how aggressive their dog becomes in the process.  Clearly I and most groomers who love to see more of the first and so much less of the latter. There are ways a groom can be conducted in a less forceful way but it takes willingness on the part of groomers and our clients to do that.

One can only wish and in the meantime keep educating  pet owners and groomers.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    www.petcaremagician.com |  Like us on Facebook

Facebook groups: Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Groomers who chose to use positive methods to groom dogs and cats

Australian Pet Professionals

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors. About Me 

Understanding of Canine behavior becomes more widespread.

What happens to your puppy in its first 14-16 weeks or life are critical to the personality it will develop as an adult. (Read more here) This is independent of where the puppy may have been born but is particularly important if they have had a less than ideal start in life e.g. as a puppy mill rescue dog. The way dogs are now viewed is considerably different to the way they were when I was growing up over 40 years ago. Dogs are no longer “Just a dog” There is now increasing understanding and treatment for dogs who are fearful, scared, aggressive (dog or human) or phobic. Because of this pet care professionals are now training in pet behavior so that they can appropriately attend to the needs of all pets that come into their care.  No longer are animal and veterinary behaviorists the only pet care professionals looking at canine body language and considering how their actions impact on the pets in their care and how well animals are coping with the procedures that are required to achieve the service. Groomers, trainers, boarding kennel operators and pet walking and sitting professionals are assessing their processes, procedures and knowledge to provided an improved quality of service for all types of dogs.

When a dog first arrives at the groomers, boarding kennel or veterinary practice it is common practice for a client card containing dog details such as age, sex, breed and dietary requirements etc to be filled out. With the increasing knowledge about the effects of adequate or inadequate socialization and the increasing understanding of other factors in dogs it is now not uncommon for pet owners to be asked the following questions as well:

  • Where did your dog come from?
  • What age was he when you got him?
  • Does he react fearfully in any situations?
  • How does he get on with other dogs and humans?
  • Is he on any medications either long or short term, including medications for anxiety?
  • (If at the groomers) Has he ever been clipped and HV dried before and how did he react?
  • Has he been crate trained? (groomers, vets and kennels)
  • How does he like machines such as the washing machine, vacuum cleaner?
  • Is he frightened of thunderstorms?
  • Has he ever been to dog obedience lessons/puppy preschool/private trainer/other trainer?
  • If yes to the one above then – what method of training was used?

This is a large number of questions and you can see that dog groomers, veterinary technicians, kennel operators, even dog walkers and home sitters need to be highly skilled in canine behavior as the world we live in with our best friends is getting more and more complicated as we learn more about their individual behaviors and seek to make the best possible lives for them.

The big questions however are:

  • Is there too many dogs being bred?
  • Is the no kill policy of shelters allowing more damaged dogs to stay in our community?
  • Does the way dogs live now (as against how they lied 40 years ago) leading to dogs who are less well socialized?

All of those issues are for another day and another blog.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    www.petcaremagician.com

Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Like us on Facebook

Groomers who chose to use positive methods to groom dogs and cats

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors.

Counter-conditioning a dog to a crate

Recently I commented on the use of Flooding as a technique used by dog groomers. (Read article)  It is apparent from the uproar that the post caused on a closed Facebook groomers group that the post hit a few nerves and it is also apparent that some groomers do not understand what flooding looks like. We are used to seeing a certain television personality fighting with red zone aggressive dogs until they “submit”. Experienced trainers and behaviorists agree that this is not a suitable technique to use in dogs unless it is totally a last resort and conducted by trainers highly experienced in its use..

I have shot some video to show what minor flooding looks like in a day to day grooming situation.

Meet River my noise phobic non-crate trained 3 yr old Belgian Shepherd farm dog. River was taken into the grooming salon on this day and forcibly pushed into the crate, which is a not an uncommon practice in pet establishments.  This is a fairly common technique in grooming salons as many dogs fight when it comes to going into crates. Note not all salons use crates and of course mobile groomers rarely do. The video shows the result.

Watch video on Youtube here

Here is the observation of the stress signs seen in this dog.

Rapid respiration in the absence of heat, tongue widened, lip lick, blinking, unable to settle, turning around, ears back, tense, sniffing, ears flicking around, sniffing, ears further back, lip licking, starts to look for way out, more ears back and moving, pacing, whale eye, lip licking, yawing, more lip licking, sniffing, still heavily panting, scanning area.

Groomer walks out of sight: starts worried barking, now groomer is back in area he won’t respond to hand, whale eye, ears back, asking for reassurance, whining, looking around, agitated. After 30 mins finally lying down ears still back, still panting but less tightness at mouth corner, ears held with less tension but still not really settled.

Here is the same dog but this time desensitization (DS)  and counter conditioning (CC) are being used to set up a positive association with the crate. The door is kept open and the dog is free to go in and out as far as he feels comfortable. The pace at which he gets used to the crate is totally up to him. The dog will tell me when it is no longer fearful of the crate. In some dogs this can be minutes in others it may be a few short sessions.

Watch counter conditioning video on YouTube here.

Step 1: feeding at crate with open door. Dog won’t eat at first then eats from hand in vicinity of crate. Ears still back and somewhat unsettled, but ear posture further forward than in previous video, less panting.

Step 2: treats now put on floor near crate, dog scratches (stress) still unsettled, dog puts head in crate but refuses next time, won’t put more than head in crate, ears better. Body less tense, treats now into crate, dog allowed to go towards and away from create as often as he wants in his own time. Some stop to the panting from time to time. Food bowl put just inside crate and dog allowed to eat and leave.

Step 3: dog now enticed further into crate by treats and he goes right in and comes out no longer panting, ears forward engaged in game, does this a number of times. Groomer attempts to shut door slightly but makes a mistake and slams it – back track required as dog got frightened. Dog into and out of crate happily with door half shut. Dog happily eating and going in and out of crate with minimal stress. All food now coming in crate not from groomers hand. Speed he is being asked to go in and out increased. He starts to balk indicating he has taken enough for one session.

Further steps would be to increase the period of time the dog stayed in the crate and to gradually shut the door. At first the door would be shut only briefly and then immediately reopened working up to door being shut for longer and longer periods. This dog could initially only be left in the crate for short periods of time with a filled Kong to ensure it continues to have a positive association with the crate. This process could also be done at home by the dog’s owner.

A couple of days after this video was shot I came back to the salon after mobile grooming to find that River had actually gone into the crate to sleep while I was out. Clearly he now had a more positive association with it and no longer has to be physically forced into it. When the door is opened and I ask him to get in by a show of my hand he willingly walks in and lies down much more relaxed.

Here is the final video of River now happily walking and and out of the same crate without the use of treats.

I will continue to give him treats for a while yet however just to ensure that positive association remains as it is fragile in the early days with a dog that is in an alien environment such as the grooming salon is for a farm dog such as River.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au

Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Like us on Facebook

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors.

A Reactive Dog, No Power and No Internet – Help!

The electrical providers are performing major work on the power lines over the last two days so we are into our second day with no electricity. There have also been moderate thunderstorms for the last week so the atmosphere is also electrically charged. When you are in a house out of town with the only sounds being the cows, birds and the very rare passing car when the electricity goes out it demonstrates the type of hum that a normal house has all day every day. This background noise is much more evident to the dogs than us due to their enhanced hearing.

 

So that would make for a  much more relaxed environment you would think, that is unless you have a reactive miniature poodle that does not cope at all well with any changes to her environment. Poor cherry is not having a good day today reacting to every outside noise by trying to jump up and run down the corridor barking out of control. White noise (background noise) is used as a very effective calming technique for reactive dogs. I use it extensively for her, always leaving a radio or television on so there is an ambient level of noise in her environment. It also works well for me as having PTSD and its associated anxiety I find that I am calmer when there is some noise around me. Not to mention that no computer, no internet, no television and no cup of tea has made me a bit on the stressed side today.

 

Luckily I have a store of good books to catch up on and Cherry and I are lounging around with her snuggled up next to me getting a nice calming massage while I read about canine body language and, until the phone battery gives out, my iTunes library.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au   |    www.petcaremagician.com

Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

Like us on Facebook

Groomers who chose to use positive methods to groom dogs and cats

Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors.

 

Are dogs being groomed aggressive or just scared out of their wits?

Grooming dogs as a professional is not an easy task. It is a physically demanding job that frequently involves working with dogs considered aggressive. Society labels any dog that is performing actions, that we believe, are designed to hurt us as aggressive. The owners of these dogs are often at a loss when the groomer tells them their dog is aggressive. The general comment is “But fluffy is never like that at home”

Are these dogs aggressive or are they just scared and exhibiting aggressive behavior?

More often than not these dogs are just plain frightened and the only way they can show this is by using aggressive behavior  in an attempt to get what is scaring them to stop. They are scared because they are anticipating danger, pain and/or they are in a totally unfamiliar environment. They are also scared because their normal pattern of dealing with what they see as an aggressive act towards them is not working and they are unable to flee from the aggressor. They do not understand that what is being done is for their own good.

 “Fear elicits a series of physiological and anatomical processes aimed at the best possible solution for survival. Fear usually leads to flight or immobility and sometimes to displacement behavior.” 1 p.18

Dogs are hardwired with an aggression inhibition system which means that when faced with aggressive acts they undertake behaviors that are designed to stop that aggression by the opposing dog.

Roger Abrantes in Dog Language – An Encyclopedia of Canine Behavior provides an excellent description;

“Puppies play by tumbling around and biting one another. Suddenly one of them gets a grip on the other’s ear. It bites hard and the poor brother or sister howls in pain. The other puppy succeeds in getting its teeth in the tender skin of its sibling’s belly. Much whining and yelling follow. They stand still for a short while, then let go.

Next time they act slightly differently. One will gasp the other’s ear only until the puppy begins making noise. It will react to the sibling’s vocal distress, which works as a mechanism to inhibit or control aggressive behavior  Previous experience showed the puppy it is better to let go at the first signs of vocal behavior, or its belly will hurt“1 P.23

Evolution has designed dogs to avoid threatening situations they believe will lead to injury by setting them up with strong behaviors that act to moderate any aggression from others in their social group, including humans. Sadly evolution forgot to teach those communication skills to humans.

Consider then a dog or puppy that has learnt this behavior but is now in a grooming salon. It is frightened by the strange person, the weird noises and the process that is occurring. It considers the loud clippers or dryer hose to be identical to the threat posed to it by an aggressive sibling. It wants to flee but is prevented by the grooming noose or the big scary monster holding the dog in place. It initially displays calming behaviors,2 such as lip licking, looking away and yawing, all of which normally work to defuse a potential situation. Confused by the humans inability to understand its communication signals it is then forced to move to the next level by growling and then possibly nipping. This dog is doing what it is hardwired to do, enacting the aggression inhibition system, but it is totally confused as to why it isn’t working. In a best case scenario, for the groomer, they shut down. Shut down is however not a best case scenario for the dog as the stress hormones signalling the need to fight or flight are still circulating. In a worst case scenario you have a groomer, unskilled in canine body language and failing to understand these calming signals who exacerbates the problem by failing to understand how a dog’s aggression inhibition system works. They push the dog harder and harder to submit to the process and in so doing undermine the learning system of this dog. They teach a dog that calming signals, whining and growling don’t work and force it into more aggressive behavior such as biting.

Dogs do what works and repeat behaviors that gain them the outcome they prefer. A dog that is finally forced into a bite wins as biting is a sure fire method to stop the unwanted interaction. In an older dog this is less concerning however if this is a puppy, especially if it is in a fear period, can be disastrous. Over time this dog learns to forgo all the initial methods of communication and go straight to the bite. In a vicious circle the groomer then mark this dog as aggression, or worse all dogs as aggressive, and develops harsher grooming methods.

So what is a better way to manage this interaction?

  • Learning about calming signals and low levels of aggressive behavior and understanding that when given they mean the stress level is rising and the dog needs some time to become more comfortable and that alternative handling procedures need to be employed.
  • Not pushing a dog until it is past the point of no return and the encounter ends up with either a shut down dog or a bitten groomer
  • Learning how to apply counter-conditioning and massage methods in a grooming situation.
  • Running a salon or mobile van that has a calming environment with staff that have calming energy.
  • Encouraging owners to bring their dogs in before they are horribly matted and before they are older and having them on an appropriate schedule so they are less stressed during grooming
  • Teaching owners the importance of socialization so that their dogs are exposed to unusually situations from an early age and develop the ability to deal with them.

 Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

www.elitepetcare.com.au

Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

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Louise Kerr (aka The Pet Care Magician) is the owner of Elite Pet Care & Education based in the Nambucca Valley NSW Australia. She consults and writes widely on a range of pet care issues including feeding, training and grooming dogs and cats. Her online pet care magic subscription program deals with common pet behavior  training, feeding and grooming issues such as barking, escaping, scratching, aggression and fleas. Pet care professionals are trained to handle customer issues by the provision of up to date programs to differentiate their pet care business from other competitors.

Further Reading:

1Roger Abrantes Dog Language – An Encyclopedia of Canine Behavior. Wakan Tanka 1997

2 Turid Rugaas – Calming Signals official site

Back and blogging

It has been awhile since my last blog due to a combination of factors. Firstly my two laptops both chose to go belly up at the same time and secondly it is the conference / show season in spring in Australia and I needed to check out all the new products at PIAA Pet Expo and also top up my knowledge at the  APDT Australia conference. With Grisha Stewart, Pat Miller and Dr Sophia Yin on the guest list along with 200 or so positive reward based trainers it was a great opportunity to increase my knowledge. This I achieved ten fold with the presentations from Grisha Stewart on BAT for reactive and aggressive dogs plus puppies, Dr Yin discussing low stress handling for dogs and cats and Pat Miller taking about Dog Play. My head is spinning with new ideas and techniques. I brought nearly $500 worth of new books and equipment, all of which needs reading and testing over the next few months.

PIAA Pet Expo on the Gold Coast was also a great event. It was fantastic to see the amount of interactive treat toys for dogs and cats now on offer, of which I had to buy one of each to test of course. The industry has come a long way in the last 10 years. There was as usual a terrific line up of extremely talented groomers who produced very impressive grooms. I also had the chance to catch up with colleagues that I have not seen in some time.

My next big projects are the preparation of a low stress handling outline for Pet Groomers which takes the principles outlined by Dr Sophia Yin in her book “Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behaviour Modification of Dogs and Cats ” and expands them for pet groomers. I am also working on an online module of my Understanding Canine Body Language Course for groomers. These two projects are interlinked as without the understanding of canine and feline body language you can not be aware of how to implement low stress methods.

So my next blog is about the duty of care pet care professionals, such as trainers and groomers have when it comes to interacting with the dogs we handle.

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