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Monday, 12 August 2013

Dog Behaviour Morning Session - with terriers Jack and George

Pam and Alan with Jack and Betsey
Jack and George enjoy the mud with Akina




We had a great morning today. Jack and George arrived early, ready to start in the cool of the morning at 08.00 so that we could work with them around the horses, chickens, various scents of stray cats, farm dogs, sheep and goats. They were stars and they demonstrated well how distraction from scary things, confidence building and our own energy effects often how our dogs respond to things. We worked on helping their confidence at a distance they were comfortable with and rewarding all their focus on us and not on the scary or exciting things. They were able to walk on slack leashes past the horses, no lunging or barking and no worries. They could observe the chickens yet tune into us and were superstars yet again.

For me it also demonstrates how well dogs do when their owners (or foster carers) put in time and care and Pam an Alan have been wonderful at following through with the work. It's also great because Pam and Alan have also done obedience work with the boys and this always makes things run much smoother because there is a foundation to work on when it comes to the behaviour training. They take the boys to Wendy at the Dog Academy (www.dogacademy.es). Without this work, it means we have to work on that at the same time as the behaviour and by combining everything they have learnt, Jack and George have a great foundation for their new home and new owner and will leave Spain armed with knowledge which will help them settle better into their new environment and this in turn usually helps the new owner have a smoother transition also.

It is very important that all dogs have at least the basic obedience and the better we get it the more we can use it in helping them with the psychological side. I really encourage owners to have a go at a class of some kind where they can enjoy time with their dog and build on the work they have been doing - obedience, agility, flyball, tracking or whatever takes their fancy.

Having done this work for a number of years with dogs and prior to that with horses, it's always the same - by using the psychology of how an animal learns, thinks and works among its own kind and then helping the human apply that to their training, it's a winning combination. It's up to the human to understand how the animal ticks and not the other way around! After all, we are supposed to have the brain to do this, the compassion to understand and the ability to think outside the box. The more open minded we are, generally the better the result we get.

Once we had spent some time with the boys in their new surroundings we took them out for a lovely long walk with my own girls and Betsey. The beauty of living here is that we have the opportunity for wonderful off leash walks and all the dogs could run together once we were in open country. Jack and George then spent some time at the house afterwards and also worked on some more confidence building, in particular Jack. He was a little worried about being outside his comfort zone, but we soon had him weaving a fig 8 around two of the young Ridgebacks, Akina and Kaishi, working toward confidence on a slack leash and also confidence in being with the human with him and not just darting back to the support of his brother. Addressing his "avoidance" issues and worry by helping him face up to them by making him part of the decision making process is the real key to giving him self confidence. 

George socialising with Betsey
In 20 years with horses and the last few years with the dogs, helping them be part of this decision making process by using the learning theory of each individual species has never failed to work.

Thanks again to Pam and Alan and to Jack and George for being such great students.

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