Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Baby + Puppy = Barking Mad!

I met a couple in the park with a newly born baby and an 8 month mixed breed puppy.
We got onto the subject of barking.

My beagles are driving me mad because they are wired to be extremely vocal when they play and hunt. Dogs are most active in the early morning and late afternoon. I try to walk them as often as possible but they usually return even more hyped up and more noisy. It's the endorphins still rushing around their system says my behaviourist. They are not only driving me mad but my neighbours as well.

The other night the tone of the barking changed from "play" to a "watch dog" bark in the garden. When I went out to investigate I realised my puppies were barking at a disembodied voice shouting from the other side of the fence:"Shut up! shut up!"
This voice also screams at the hadeda birds in my tree who start squawking at sparrows. Of course now every time my dogs pass that part of the garden they give a bark just in case the barker on the other side of the fence wants to play. I did go to bed that night wondering if I was going to have to uproot my whole lifestyle and move to the country.

Back to the couple in the park who said that since their baby had been born, their puppy had started barking "at ghosts".
Of course his hearing is much sharper than humans so he is probably barking at something and using it as an excuse to get attention from his owners who were now focused on their new child (Negative attention is better than no attention at all).

The young mother, looking pale and stressed, said it was driving her mad because he kept waking the baby just as she had managed to get the child to sleep. On top of this, she was feeling so guilty because her emotional state was driving her to scream or smack him. She felt completely unable to cope with her newborn and her dog's constant barking during the day.

They have adopted an option that I think many stressed, pressurised urban dwellers who can't cope with the clash between the demands of a 21st century life style and the needs of a dog bred to work, are also adopting. Puppy and Adult dog day care. On offer are also services such as Specialised dog/cat day care for animals requiring special medical attention and Exercising where someone will take your dog for a walk for a fee.

Apparently the couple's dog is at day care from 9.00am and picked up at 3.30pm in a state of complete exhaustion. This is how this couple has temporarily solved the dilemma of being unable to cope with the needs of their dog and a baby. But just as you would investigate a day care centre for your child, I would investigate these animal day care services. Make sure your dog is not ending up in a worse situation than at home.

Whew, we really need to know what we are taking on when we decide to have pets. Too often their "normal" behaviour is labeled "misbehaviour" because it just doesn't fit in with our lifestyles.
The challenge is to find the balance between our needs and our dog's needs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

When all hell broke loose...

A friend of mine who owns Belgium Shepherds and I were sharing stories about food fights between our dogs. She has to supervise feeding time to ensure that her dogs do not eat each other instead of the food. My dog's bowls have to be out of each other's eye sight but even then there is a lot of looking over the shoulder to see if the other dog's bowl of food is better.

According to the author of Dominance: Fact or Fiction, Barry Eaton many behaviourists believe that dominance in our domestic dogs is about access to or control of resources which can result in "resource guarding". He says this is where a dog has something it prizes (food, shelter, toys, its owner's attention or a potential mate) and may show aggressive behaviour to hang on to it at all costs. It's got nothing to do with status but with the uncharitable desire not to share.

For the first time in my life, my dogs had a serious fight which drew blood. It was all over a bone.
The one had discovered a bone in the park and I foolishly let him bring it into the car. It is always difficult to persuade them to go home after a walk, so I thought of the bone as enticement and bribery.
The next thing all hell broke loose. Pure adrenalin and the fact that they had their collars on allowed me to separate them long enough to chuck out the offending bone. A worried owner dashed over to see if we were all still in one piece.

It was a huge shock to me as my previous dogs had never fought. For the first time I really understood what "resource guarding" really meant.

At the risk of sounding anthropomorphic, we humans aren't much different. We are also driven by the desire for access to or control of wealth and sex. This is one of the biggest causes of conflict in society - crime and divorce because we lust after someone's "resources" or "bitch" or "stud".
It also occurred to me that neutering and spaying is not only about preventing unwanted pregnancies. A female dog in heat can literally drive males in the same area crazy with lust.

So I am going to stop worrying myself to death because my puppies won't share. After all when I was a kid, just because my parents told me to share didn't mean I did as I was told.

http://www.petspublications.co.za sells Mine by Jean Donaldson on Resource Guarding

Monday, September 7, 2009

Do not covert worldly goods !

It's got to a stage when it's no longer funny. It's exhausting being hyper vigilant all the time about one's worldly goods. The other day my handbag was snatched off a table and a very expensive pair of spectacles was destroyed. The bag was so badly mauled, it ended up in the rubbish bin.

Then I woke up this morning to find that I had left the lounge door open over night and my puppies had chewed a huge hole in the armrest of my couch. I went back to bed, pulled the sheets over my head and felt sorry for myself.

A friend of mine is a lawyer. Her most embarrassing moment in a law court was discovering that she was wearing a dress with a hole in it courtesy of her beloved 7 month old puppy.

Puppy also loves shoes, so the whole family regularly replaces shoes with the cheapest they can find. There is no point spending lots of money on things that are not going to last very long.

Like most "parents" you get to a stage when you think that you are the one doing something wrong. Am I not stimulating, exercising, training my puppies enough ?
Then I met a lady in the park who had a 3-year old beagle called Sam. The conversation went something like this:

"How old are your puppies?"
"They're about 7 months" I said.
"Oh Gosh! I remember when Sam was a puppy. He was so destructive!"
"Tell me about it! I am beginning to think it's my fault because I'm not exercising them enough," I confessed.
"Well we used to live on a farm when Sam was a puppy," she said. "Everyday he used to chase through the fields after the truck and when he got home he was exhausted. But he still chewed!"
"Oh nooo..." I said. "When did he stop chewing?"
"At about the age of 3 years."

So I have decided that the lesson I'm being taught by my puppies (and the recession) is that I must not covert worldly goods.
My couch does not love me, but my dogs do.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Running with Dogs...

My guest blogger's animal focus is usually the wildlife she spots on mountain bike trails. But now she is spending less time on the bike and more time with her dogs in a manner typical of an athlete...
MA Beagle.

Running with Dogs....
Hmmm, that sounds like a way out band or cult movie. But no, its the intricacies of running (with dogs).
I haven't been able to get back on the bike for a whole pile of reasons but mainly, I just don't feel like it. Also, I now prefer to ride my road bike for a change but that group has disintegrated and I will have to attach myself to others soon. Spring is here and I don't want to miss out.

So in the meantime, I am running. Carefully at first as I don't want a re-occurrence of the calf problems that plagued me before the Freedom Challenge. So I have built up oh so slowly. The upside is that the dogs have been able to join me with a slow build up in their fitness too.
I admit they have been under exercised and must be completely bewildered by this change in their fortunes. The problem is always leaving one behind. They just don't get it - "tomorrow is your day". So, after locking one hysterical dog in the house (to be let out once I have left), I head out with the other 35kg of dog muscle raring to go.

Nyx is pretty cool. Essentially a timid dog unless there is a gate between her and the "enemy", she jogs along without tugging on the leash. She's not much interested in the cacophony of dogs barking at us as we run past and is quite ladylike with her ears alert and neat foot action. But every now and then, she stops or swings in a circle to check on me and I have to do some fancy footwork to avoid being tripped up.

But Trinity, oh my. She stares down every dog as we pass, superior in her attitude that she is out there and they are, well, in there. She pulls on the leash until we hit the first hill and only then begins to slow down to a pace I feel comfortable with. I must admit to acting the dead weight to get her to tire sooner. She runs in a straight line with the occasional bound at some dog behind a gate, but a stern "LEAVE!" brings her back on track and we're on the way again.

This week, they have graduated to the 8km route which is interspersed with stretching sessions.But what a treat for them as this route passes the local river and I let them off the leash for a swim. They just radiate joy stretching their legs at speed and lunging in and out of the water. I swear I hear them laughing. Then it is my turn to keep jumping out the way to avoid have water sprayed on me as they shake their coats.

And then its time for the home stretch and the reunion with the dog left behind.
--Posted By Santacruzrulz to Dash For Freedom

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The problem with car sick dogs...

I cannot afford to have a dog that has a phobia about getting in a car. My dogs need to go to parks for exercise, to the vet when they get sick and on holiday.

But Jamie hates my car. I have analysed that this is due to a couple of bad experiences as a puppy when he was stressed, overheated and car sick. A fatal combination which has led to this phobia. I have been told that any one of the above can trigger his resistance to getting in the car.

So how to try and cure the problem. The combined advice I have received is the following:

  • De-sensitise him to the car slowly.

  • Use the TTouch elastic bandage on Jamie when he is in the car as this gives him a sense of security (see picture).

  • Stroke his ears to calm him.

  • Give him Rescue Remedy before a trip.

  • In the case of a major trip, give him anti-nausea drugs.

The De-sensitisation process:

  1. Get him to enter the garage without trepidation then leave it.

  2. Let him get used to the exterior of the car.

  3. Let him get used to the car with the doors open.

  4. Try to persuade him to put his paws on the back seat.

  5. Try to persuade him to enter the car and sit.

  6. Persuade him to enter car, close doors then let him out.

  7. Persuade him to enter the car, start the engine without moving and then let him out.

  8. Persuade him enter the car, start the engine, drive out the garage and straight back in.

  9. Persuade him enter the car, go for a short ride and come back home etc. etc. etc...

Well so far it has taken me a week to get him to enter the garage but he is still not enthusiastic about the idea to put it mildly.

Jemma (who loves the car ) and I sit in the back with lots of treats appearing to have lots of fun. If Jamie happens to appear at the door he gets an enthusiastic greeting and a treat. But the smallest mistake such as moving too fast or a noise from outside will send him into retreat. Jemma and I have even fallen asleep in the back of the car.

The De-sensitisation process is going to require GREAT patience and MEGA treats. It could also take a LONG time. So far it has been a matter of one paw forward and three paws back.