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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 

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Winter comes again!

It feels like is was only yesterday and we were in the middle of winter 2012, yet here we are back again facing winter 2013.

Not much has changed except that we are all one year older and one year more creaky and less able to cope with the cold. Our dogs and cats that is of course !

What are the major issues that older animals have to cope with:

1) Arthritis

As nutrition and veterinary care becomes better our animals are living longer and longer. It is not uncommon to hear of dogs living until nearly 20 and cats for even longer. However their bodies were not designed to live that long. Their major joints such as back, hips and knees are prone to arthritis which is very susceptible to cold weather.  As your dog or cat ages they will not handle winter nearly as well. The first line of defence is to provide better bedding to take away the cold hard feeling of the floor and to elevate them off the floor. Then comes the addition of food additives such as Joint Guard and Sasha’s blend. As they age and these measures no longer give relief then it is time to progress to anti-inflammatory tablets and then finally to injections. Older animals need to go to the vets each winter for a checkup and discussion about their needs.

 

2) Grooming

Dogs that are clipped off during summer (to cope with the heat supposedly  still need regular grooming over winter. In fact they  need more grooming as longer coat means more matting. Please do not leave long coated dogs to become horrible matted messes that you think can only be removed when the weather gets warmer. Well trained and knowledgeable groomers can take of as much or as little coat as you like as they work with blades of varying lengths. The most common request over winter is FFB (meaning face, feet and bottom). I have a number of customers who I see all year around and in winter the coat is left much longer than in summer but still fully groomed out. Matted coat is not healthy and leads to skin issues and pain for the dog or cat.

 

3) Feeding quantities may vary over winter with some dogs being more sedentary and needing less calories to meet nutritional needs. Dogs or cats who are in pain and stressed as a result may however need more. If they are on anti-inflammatory medication make sure that they are taking this with food so as to avoid gastrointestinal side effects. You may have to consider smaller meals more often to compensate.

Here are the links to a few articles I have written in previous winters:

A solution to the smelly damp winter dog : click here 

I only want a bit off this time- a groomer’s winter lament: click here

And for all those groomers who find it hard to get up and think about dealing with water all day and are suffering aching backs, knees and shoulders from a lifetime of grooming!

It’s winter and I really have a problem getting out of bed: Click here

There is one good thought to hold onto and that is Winter will be shortly over and we will be back to the craziness of summer and all the winter clip offs of horribly matted dogs who went through winter.

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

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 

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 

Are our dogs affected by stress?

Christmas has just finished and for many people that is a very stressful time of year. We know how it feels to be stressed suffering with headaches, tiredness, sweaty palms, irritability but what is actually going on in the body biochemically when under stress? Is all stress bad? Crashing the car, losing a job, trashing the remote control (OK that is just the guys) are clearly incidences of bad stress, also called Distress.  Good stress or Eu-stress is getting married, having a fantastic holiday or even winning a million dollars. The chemical reactions occurring in the body during either are identical.  Dogs also experience stress any time they are threatened and the flight or fight response kicks in. That might be in a veterinary surgery, at the groomers or even at the dog park when a gang of not so nice dogs comes running. It might even be when the next door kid jumps all over the dog in a not so enjoyable hug.

Hans Selye (1907-1982) is generally considered one of the key investigators into the human stress response with his work on the General Adaption System (GAS). He observed that the body responds to any external biological source of stress with a predictable biological pattern that attempts to restore the body’s internal homeostasis. The initial hormonal reaction is the fight or flight stress response and it evolved to handle stress quickly. Cavemen needed to fight the scary monster or flee rapidly.

There are three stages in the GAS reaction:
1) ALARM STAGE –

Recognition of the danger and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) kicks into gear which then influences the nervous system and adrenal glands. Cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenalin are released to provide instant energy. This stage is subdivided into two phases:

  • Shock phase: in which a stressor effect occurs that resembles Addison’s disease. The body goes into a level of circulatory shock that results in changes including reductions in blood volume , sodium, osmolarity,  blood chlorine and blood sugar.
  • Antishock phase: The threat or stressor is identified and the body becomes alarmed. The sympathetic nervous system is activated and adrenaline is produced resulting in the fight-or-flight response with increases in muscular tonus, blood pressure and blood glucose.  Glucocorticoids such as the stress hormone cortisol are produced.

In less modern times this energy produced would be used in physical action by either fleeing or fighting. In the modern world the stress response has become mal-adaptive in that fleeing and fighting are frequently no longer appropriate responses in either dogs or humans. Or in the case of dogs they are prevented from fleeing due to being trapped on leads and behind fences or worse on prong or shock collars. Therefore this response becomes harmful to the body in the following ways:

  • The blood pressure surge due to adrenalin damages blood vessels of the heart and brain potentially leading to heart attack and stroke.
  • Damage to cells and muscle tissues due to cortisol release which has been implicated in cardiovascular conditions, stroke, gastric ulcers and high blood sugar levels.

2) RESISTANCE STAGE –

This stage occurs when the source of stress is possibly resolved due to the fight or flight response being enacted. Homeostasis begins restoring balance and a period of recovery for repair and renewal takes place. Stress hormone levels may return to normal but you may have reduced defenses and adaptive energy left. However if the stressful condition persists the body may adapt by continuing to resist the stressor and staying in a state of arousal. If this process repeats too often with little or no recovery then problems will occur as seen in the final stage.

3) EXHAUSTION STAGE –

If the stress continues for so long the body’s ability to resist is lost as the adaptation energy supply is depleted. Stress levels go up and stay up in what is commonly called overload, burnout, adrenal fatigue, mal-adaptation or dysfunction. I believe in dogs this is what happens when they shut down due to chronic stress such as that experienced when flooding occurs in what is commonly called freeze. The ability to react stops but hormones continue to circulate. This is the stage of the general adaption syndrome that is most hazardous to health. It looks like the fight is over physically but biochemically the body is stuck in a vicious feedback cycle.

Chronic stress can damage nerve cells in tissues and organs with the hippocampus section of the brain being most vulnerable   Thinking and memory are likely to become impaired, triggering anxiety and depression in dogs and humans. Adverse effects on the autonomic nervous system can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis and other stress related illnesses.

Cortisol levels, with a primary function to redistribute energy (glucose) to regions of the body most needing it to flee or fight e.g. major muscles and the brain,  stay high. It also acts to suppress the body’s immune system. Hence organisms under chronic stress may succumb to immune complex diseases such as Addison’s and Cushing’s diseases both of which are on the rise in the dog population. The body becomes vulnerable to immune system attacks.

Signs of stress may be cognitive, emotional, physical, or behavioral  (Items in bold are of particular interest in dogs)

Cognitive symptoms

  • Memory problems 
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Pessimistic approach or thoughts
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

 

Emotional symptoms

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of l loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness

 

Physical symptoms

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Indigestion
  • Low blood sugar
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Irregular periods.

 

Behavioural symptoms

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping  too much or too little
  • Isolating oneself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing, self mutilation)

There is a clear link between levels of stress, especially chronic stress, and the production of disease. This list of effects reads like a who’s who of all the diseases that are on the rise not only in the canine population but also in humans. I am sure if we could get dogs to tell us how they are feeling we would also find many more of the symptoms of excessive stress also being present.

The conclusion to this long list of biochemical processes and diseases is what?

Understanding that EXCESSIVE levels of stress are bad for all animals (two and four legged) and that we need to reduce them wherever possible. Stress exists for a reason and all stress is not bad but chronic stress is and the more we force dogs to exist in our world by relying on stressful equipment such as electronic fences and collars and ensuring that dogs live in a way far removed from their natural way of life the more disease we will see in the canine population. The more humans place themselves in situations of excessive stress the sicker they will become. We also need to see research into the effects of chronic stress on dogs and the link in dogs between stress and disease.

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.

More information

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serotonin

http://www.essenceofstressrelief.com/general-adaptation-syndrome.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Selye

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_adaptation_syndrome#General_adaptation_syndrome

http://www.mindalive.com/articleseven.htm

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

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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.

Facebook saves Pets

I spend a lot of time on Facebook,  all of course in the name of research and education. A story  in The Standard Newspaper was posted in a link by a pet journalist that I follow. Read story here It was a report quoting the Lost Dogs Home in Victoria talking about lost dogs on New Years Eve. Nothing strange about this, all rescue services hate New Years Eve as many dogs get out and have to be housed temporarily. What caught my eye however was the following comment;

General Manager Sue Conroy said the North Melbourne Home had received just under 50 dogs since New Year’s Eve, with one dog arriving dead after being hit by a car. The Cranbourne Shelter had 36.

“It’s about a third of what we’d normally get by this time,” said Ms Conroy. “We are thrilled.

I commented on the status and was got a reply from Brian Pickering, from Boomerang ID -(pet ID tags that ensure no dog stays lost) who also confirmed that they had seen a significantly reduced number of calls this year as well.

Wow that is great I thought and then I started to think why would that be the case.

I work extensively with pet shops, groomers, trainers and boarding establishments and as part of this work I follow their business Facebook pages. I had noted without really thinking about it the number of pet care professionals who in the week leading up to New Years Eve had posted  great hints on how to keep a pet safe on New Years Eve. I skim read most of them as they did not contain any new information for me. But there were many of them, here in Australia and overseas. Then out comes the article and I think it is no surprise the Lost Dogs Home has reported fewer lost pets this year. Love or hate Facebook it is a valuable tool when it comes to keeping your clients and customers informed in a timely manner.

To all those pet care professionals using Facebook to educate and inform their clients and customers – Keep up the good work.

To those who aren’t ask me how I can help you get onto Facebook with minimal pain.

Meanwhile I have some status updates to check and make.

Regards

Louise Kerr
The Pet Care Magician

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

Promoting Positive Reward Based Dog Training

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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.

Do dogs get PTSD?

I have been writing lately about fearful versus aggressive dogs and also about how the grooming process can flood dogs and set up unwanted aggressive behaviors  It is not uncommon in a grooming salon to have a new dog in and when you start to do something like check in their ears or scissor or clipper near their face the dogs go ballistic. Screaming and throwing their bodies around, even biting. Why would the dogs do this when the groomer has never touched them before and didn’t touch them in an aversive way?

Not all dogs are flooded in professional settings and not all dogs react to aversive events in the same way. In humans a disorder known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is well known. It is commonly seen as a result of being involved in traumatic events. There will be a number of PTSD cases as a result of the tragic school shooting recently in the US. It is well known in soldiers and policeman who are regularly involved in traumatic events. What is not understood is why PTSD affects some individuals and not others even thought they have been through the same experiences or why a person can get PTSD from one traumatic event whereas others who get it experience months or years of trauma before being affected. Even people who do not witness the event but are affected by it can get PTSD.

PTSD is not well documented or understood in dogs. Do dogs get PTSD? If you take a dog that has lived many years in a puppy mill situation regularly being punished with lack of food, heavily matted coats causing pain, fleas, worms and even dog fights, or suffering spacial deprivation it would stand to reason that the repeated trauma to those dogs would result in some degree of PTSD. Do dogs that attend a groomer that regularly exposes them to forceful procedures that the dogs are forced to endure, such as dryers and clipping get PTSD? Do dogs that are harshly punished day in and day out at home for simple normal doggy behaviors such as barking get PTSD?

View the video from Channel 7’s Better Homes and Gardens show where Dr Harry recorded a segment on a dog that had a traumatic grooming experience. View video here

Go back to the example I started with, a dog that when you put scissors to its face goes ballistic and bites. Some years ago this happened to me when grooming and after finishing the groom I returned the dog to the owner and asked why he was so upset about scissors near his face. The owner then told me that they had been trying to trim the dogs face and had cut his face a few times. I also regularly see this effect of dogs retaining memory of trauma when it comes to issues with feet. If I get a dog that fights badly over a particular foot it is not uncommon for the owner, when asked, to tell you the dog hurt that foot badly years ago. A puppy that was living with me years ago broke her front leg and to this day she panics whenever that leg is about to be touched. This is not a physical issue as the panic starts before touching the leg.

The work I have been doing with River demonstrates this as well. River is a farm dog, rarely goes into town and in order to take these videos and have him see a vet for allergies I had to forcibly put him into the car crate to take him to town.  He was not impressed but eventually I got him in and traveled the short distance with no ill effect. However on every day since then when he gets into the car crate he lets go of his bowels. I have had to perform the desensitization/counter-conditioning process for the car crate as well as the grooming salon crate. One bad experience and he was traumatized, likewise one bad experience for a dog when being groomed and they may be traumatized. One bad experience or ten of an owner who is trying to clip their dogs face or pluck ear hair and they may be traumatized  This may well fit the diagnosis of PTSD in dogs. There is very little in the literature about this disorder in dogs.  How often do we force our dogs to do something they don’t like and how often do we think about the consequences of doing this and find a more humane way to do it or do we just adopt the attitude “they will deal with it” Luckily many dogs do deal with it and do get over it but not all do.

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.

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