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The Trainer Who Cried Wolf

"How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg?
Four. Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg."

- Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

So, hopefully you've read all about the history of our relationship with dogs and how important they were in the cultures of our ancestors all over the world.  If you haven't, check that out in the 'Dogs' section of the site:

  Now, it’s time to explore the relationship of dogs and wolves.

We've all heard experts telling us that when we live with a dog, we're actually living with a wolf. It's been repeated so often, that it's now part of pop culture knowledge. If you ask most people, they'll believe that is the case. Open a book on dogs, and you’ll often see a chapter dedicated to wolf-pack behaviour and hierarchy.

Wolf-02

So, if we're going to explore how your dog thinks, we really have to determine whether this is true or not. There's no point you following advice which is untrue. Part of what makes this site different is that we'll explain why we work the way we do, and explain with examples where possible, why what we do works.

Seeing as a lot of modern dog behaviour theory is based on the study of 'pack' behaviour of wolves, we really need to see if there's a basis for these theories to be true. We need to know whether it's worth listening to.

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Changing Attitudes Pt2

One woman very courteously approached me in a grocery store, saying, "Excuse me, but I must ask why you've brought your dog into the store." I told her that Grace is a service dog.... A few minutes later, she returned. "Excuse me, but you told me that your dog is allowed in the store because she's a service dog. Is she Army or Navy?"

- Terry Thistlewaite

So, given all these amazing things that dogs have done for us, it’s time that people stop thinking that there’s some sort of ‘Mankind vs Canine’ battle raging across the world, caused by dogs trying to take over and ‘dominate’.

It’s time that we see it for what it really is – a lack of communication between two different species. When humans are communicating properly, all these amazing achievements happen. When humans don’t communicate properly with dogs, problems start, and more often than not, the dog gets the blame.

So, if dogs do all these wonderful things for us, and have advanced the human race in so many ways, why is there so much negativity about dogs?

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A Healthy Dog Pt2

 " A dog has the soul of a philosopher."

- Plato

EPILEPSY
(and other neurological issues)

Another commonly misdiagnosed problem is the onset of epilepsy or any other neurological damage causing pain and discomfort. Your dog cannot tell you he has a headache. They cannot warn you they are going to have an episode. Also, a dog does not need to have a fit to have epilepsy.

Primary, Secondary and Reactive are the three types of canine epilepsy.

Secondary Epilepsy can be caused by problems such as a brain tumour, severe injury or trauma or even a stroke. It is sometimes referred to as symptomatic epilepsy.

Reactive epileptic seizures can be caused by problems such as liver failure, kidney failure, or even low blood sugar.

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A Healthy Dog Pt3

"When old dogs bark, it's time to watch out."

- Unknown

ARTHRITIS

You perhaps would be surprised at how early some dogs can develop arthritis. The pain and discomfort in the joints really can affect a dog’s mood, but you may not notice the outward signs of the problem. As arthritis usually comes on gradually, it can be very difficult to spot. Unfortunately some people believe that because they have a young dog, they do not have arthritis. Arthritic changes can come on for a varied number of reasons, including injuries and poorly formed joints and bones.

Jess01

OTHER COMMON ISSUES

There are some other common issues which can upset your dog, and it may not be immediately obvious. Get your Vet to check your dog’s anal glands. These fill with fluid and can be extremely uncomfortable. Imagine how cranky you’d feel with full anal glands.

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Food For Thought Pt2

Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are God. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are God.

- Christopher Hitchens

BewarePoison01ARTIFICIAL ADDITIVES

By far and away the most harmful of foods are ones that contain artificial additives and ingredients. Have you ever wondered why these foods are multicoloured? After all, dogs don’t care what colour their food is. The colours are only for marketing reasons, to make the consumer think of vegetables and meat, etc.

enumbers01Even foods that look healthy can be just as bad; some foods containing peas and carrots, masquerading as ‘natural’ contain artificial colourings to make the peas and carrots look fresh in the can. It’s a real minefield.

To make matters worse, checking the label won’t necessarily help. By law in the UK, the additives only have to be listed on bags of food larger than 10kgs. This means all the food you see in smaller bags and in tins do not have to list the additives in the food. Despite this, it’s really important to check the labels, because there are a few tell-tale signs…

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Food For Thought Pt3

If you think dogs can't count, try putting three dog biscuits in your pocket and then giving Fido only two of them.

- Phil Pastoret

FOOD INTOLERANCES

Wheat02Don’t underestimate the effects food intolerances can have on your dog. As an example, an increasingly common problem is the wheat or gluten intolerance, known as Coeliac disease.

While there seem to be very few studies on this subject for dogs, the impact gluten has on a dog shouldn’t be underestimated. A wheat and gluten intolerance often presents itself with loose stools, a loss of coat condition and can seriously affect their mood (if you were constantly loose when going to the toilet, it would definitely affect your mood!). Other observed problems can include itching, nausea and it has even been found to bring on fits in dogs with epilepsy, increasing the frequency of fitting.

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The D Word Pt2

The great pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.

- Samuel Butler, Notebooks, 1912

Practitioners of the ‘Dominance’ theory often tell you:

Don’t let your dog on the sofa or the bed; they are raising their pack ranking.

Make sure you eat before your dog does, because the pack leader eats first.

If your dog pulls on lead, it’s because they’re being ‘Dominant’, because the ‘Pack Leader’ is always ahead.

Don’t let your dog go through doors before you do.

Don’t let your dog win if you’re playing tuggy games.

Don’t allow your dog complete access to toys – you must be in control of toys at all times.

You must be able to take food away from your dog at any time.

When you feed, you must only leave the food down for a set amount of time.

Letting your dog jump up is a sign of Dominance over you.

If a dog wees or poos in the house, they’re being Dominant.

A Dominant dog will try to raise their head above yours to assert their dominance.

If a dog tries to raise their head above yours or another dog, they are raising themselves in the pack order.

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The D Word Pt3

In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog.

- Edward Hoagland

Let’s take a real story I’ve heard more times than I care to remember. The pattern is always the same...

Puppies01Mum, Dad and two kids are on holiday, and they see a sign up outside a Farm – “PUPPIES FOR SALE”. The kids ask to see the puppies, and for a quiet life, mum and dad drive in. They see the puppies (but not the parents of the puppies because they’re off working). They choose little Shep, the pup who seems to be most interested in the kids, pay their money, and agree to take the dog home.

First of all, the collie pup suddenly has a culture shock. From being somewhere quiet, with other puppy pals and wide open spaces he is suddenly thrust into a household where everything is busy, busy, busy. The kids are playing with him all the time to start off with, giving him lots of attention. He’s allowed to sleep on the bed, he can run out into the garden before everyone else, they feed him treats and everyone has a great time.

However, after a while the novelty wears off...

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A Healthy Dog Pt1

"As fit as a Butcher's Dog."

- An Old English Saying

A healthy dog is a happy dog.

Conversely, an unhealthy dog can be become unhappy, depressed or even uncharacteristically aggressive. When you think about it, it makes complete sense - when we are in pain, we experience some of those same emotions and feelings.

Unfortunately it is all too common that when a dog is in pain, owners are convinced they actually have an intentionally nasty dog.

Bandaged01By assuming a dog is having behavioural problems before checking out whether a dog is in pain, you can make the problem much worse, and in many cases, aggravate the injury or medical problem.

If you have a dog that is in pain, then as they feel that pain, they can lash out. It’s a perfectly natural instinct to do so. This can happen especially when someone is using harsh methods of handling, jerking their dog on lead or trying to forcibly move a dog by their collar.

The problem with these techniques is that the more you yank, pull, jerk or force your dog around, the more pain they are in, and the more aggressive they get. The unfortunate side-effect of the ‘dominance’ theory and the forceful methods that are often utilised means that as the dog gets more aggressive, the handler can often assume that the dog is becoming more ‘dominant’ over them.

Consequently, the more ‘dominant’ they think the dog is being, the more physical they get, and the more aggressive the dog becomes due to the increased pain. It’s a cycle that will not end well.

When we do tackle the medical route first before going onto the behavioural side of things, people will often say things like “But they don’t have any symptoms” or “they don’t look like they’re in pain.”

If they’re in pain, aggression can be symptomatic of an underlying medical issue. Exactly how does a ‘dog in pain’ look? Some dogs act like big wimps, whimpering if they step on a bramble and others wouldn’t let you know they were in excruciating agony.

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The D Word Pt1

“Many dogs can understand almost every word humans say, while humans seldom learn to recognise more than half a dozen barks, if that. And barks are only a small part of the dog language. A wagging tail can mean so many things. Humans know that it means a dog is pleased, but not what a dog is saying about his pleasedness. (Really, it is very cleverof humans to understand a wagging tail at all, as they have no tails of their own.)”

- Dodie Smith, 101 Dalmatians

Before we move onto what we do to identify and solve genuine issues, we need you to know why we do things differently, and why we hate the D word.

The Dominance theory of dog training and behaviour, on the face of it sounds quite plausible, and it's wrapped up in all sorts of romantic ideas: the concept that our dogs are closely related to wolves is a notion people get quite misty-eyed about.

So when this theory bases dog behaviour on wolf-pack behaviour, people are convinced because it sounds entirely plausible. After all, dogs and wolves are closely related, aren’t they? When you look a little deeper, the whole thing just doesn’t make sense.

A Wolf
A Wolf

Firstly, we have to decide whether comparing dogs to wolves is a good place to start. As we said earlier, it’s been proved via DNA testing that dogs and wolves split as species somewhere around 100,000 years ago. We cannot think of any example where you would rely on information that is 100,000 years out of date instead of using up to date ideas and methods.

So, it stands to reason that if you look at a breed like a Chihuahua for example, they are more closely related to a St. Bernard than they are a Wolf. That makes sense, but if you went to a training class with a St. Bernard, and the trainer started to talk about your dog by comparing them to Chihuahuas, you’d stop listening.

A Chihuahua.  Definitely not a Wolf.
Possum The Chihuahua. Definitely not a Wolf.
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