Every Dog Every Day

is good intention enough ?

 

We are all striving to make our dog’s lives a pleasant experience.

This takes more than good intention. If we are not paying close attention to the experience our puppy or dog is having we cna inadvertently set them up for poor experiences.

These experiences can be linked by the dog to circumstances that we never intended.

Making a happy experience

Just because the collar is pretty and of lovely soft fabric it does not make it pleasant to wear. At the least it will irritate. I have a lovely necklace on a delicate chain that I would enjoy wearing more often if the chain didn’t seem to catch those very fine hairs on the back of my neck.

Goodness knows what a dog’s collar all around the neck can do – particularly if the collar wears away the guard fur to a bristly length. Then we also have the jingling discs, for some dogs every movement is a jingle. They wear their collar 24 hours a day, with some serious metal work clanking under their chin.

Dogs can wear a collar and enjoy both the pleasant and unpleasant aspects of life – a pleasant poottle around the garden first thing in the morning checking out the overnight wildlife, through to an unpleasant grab and yank to be stopped from snatching the custard tart dropped on the floor. Often the collar itself does not represent punishment or pleasure since both emotions are experienced when wearing a collar. But once we attached the collar to a lead it changes context and we begin a catalogue on unpleasant associations.

1. Frustration.

Prevention from going to explore, investigate, chase and play; the main pleasures of being out and about. Going for a walk is to go shopping for sniffs – reading the myriad of scents and stories left by other animals.

Frustration can begin with very young, inquisitive puppies, designed to learn from the experience of smell – taste – touch. Just the time when they are introduced to the collar being attached.

The symptom of frustration on a lead / leash is often the leash-biting.
Please do not try to attempt to remove the symptom, this tells us how the pup is feeling, but instead look at why the frustration is happening and work to alleviate that.

2. Being pulled around.

The lead-collar is used to pull the dog where the person wants to go, at the speed the person wants, which removes choice for the dog. The direction the person chooses may give every signal of “avoid” to the dog but they have no choice and are dragged along; into traffic, busy pavements, hot tarmac.

3. Trapped.

Being fondled by Stranger. This also goes under the euphemism of “socialisation”. I was also exposed to “socialisation” as a child. I do not fondly remember Uncle Frank who stank of booze grabbing me, nor Auntie Edna who insisted on rubbing her whiskery cheek on mine. As a young child I put up with it, but at 15 years old I had learned avoidance.

The same with puppies, they will tolerate invasive greeting when they are young, but learn that this is not good manners as they grow older and try every form of communication to say “no thanks”, but because these socialisation experiences are happening when on-lead and next to the owner, they cannot avoid with grace, they may need to resort to avoid by threat.

4. Forced rudeness.

Dogs are extremely skilled social creatures and when their skills are developed in the right environment they can move around mutual territories without causing offence or extreme reactions.

The scenario would be:

~ stand-off on initial awareness, probably a good 15m (40ft) away
do some air sniffing

~ stand still with a pleasant tail wag (Hey, we OK?) wait for a response before proceeding any closer

~ move to the nearest scent point and leave more liquid information

~ if the other dog has already done so, move over to read their information

It is gradual, respectful and allows for an escape if things don’t pan out.

Now you are walking along the street with your dog trotting at your side and you see another dog coming towards you. The progress you make towards each other is double the speed you are walking (remember the trains heading towards each other in Maths class?). Your dog will see a strange dog heading directly at them, with a speed indicating serious intent, a hostile approach. The width of our pavements prevents the space that represents respect and good manners. Before you know it the dogs are far too close, uncomfortable and forced to react.
People are very often the engineers of “reactive dogs”.

5. Walking out of balance.

Dogs have four gaits: walk, trot, canter, gallop. When moving with their walking human pack, we usually see walk and trot.

For dogs larger than a Cocker Spaniel and a person less than 2m/6ft their trot is slightly faster than the human-walk and the dog’s walk speed is too slow. At the other end of the scale the very large breeds can walk with our walk.

The restriction of the lead in conjunction with punishment based head halters and harnesses prevents the dog from either of their natural movements, walk or trot and they are forced to pace. This is the same as if you were using your left arm going forward with your left leg and right with right leg etc. After 20 paces, your back will begin to tighten up and probably your fists clench in frustration.
Now imagine a group of people walking towards you very fast, with that peculiar pacing action – be suspicious huh?

If you have a dog unable to pace the outcome is yo-yo walking. Dog goes to end of lead, stops, waits for you, or is pulled back to your side, over the next 10 steps the dog is back at the end of the lead again.
On-lead, next to you – uncomfortable.

6. Training.

Not what I would call training, but often deliberate punishment through the equipment for human-perceived transgressions. On lead, next to you. Training class, chaos, shouting, barking, being bum-sniffed without warning, too close to other dogs. Yeah, love being on-lead.

7. Visiting the torture clinic.

Aka The Vets.

Which has every indication of being a Very Bad Place from the fear-scent of previous visitors. Drag, pull, collar tight.

On lead, next to you.

8. Street walking.

Breathing pollution. Sneeze, yuck. Bad smells, squealing brakes. On lead, next to you.

Connection is about being aware of each other. All the time

Off-lead is heaven

Explore, run, walk, trot, stop, start.

No pacing.

Follow, search, aaaah, read a good article, add perfume to your neck and shoulder. Pleasure.

Chase a pigeon, nibble some sheep poo, move away from weird oncoming dog.

Free choice, to be touched or not.

Free choice to be sniffed or not.

Unlimited credit card in favourite shop.

Without thinking we exaggerate the pleasure of being off-lead in comparison to on-lead. All the bad things happen on-lead and all the true pleasures are off-lead. Any wonder that the dog’s behaviour is quite different?

Not only is the association with the equipment but also next to you. This is worrying, if your dog spends most of the time trying to move away from you we should take notice.

Additionally there are often specific occasions and environments when this association is predictable – walking down the street, training classes, meeting people and dogs.

The reality is we need to use equipment to keep the dogs safe from threats they cannot understand or have the skills to avoid. Make sure you do not unbalance the association with this equipment with most of the unpleasant events in outdoor life happening on-lead next to you and all the most pleasant events off-lead away from you.

Make the effort to have a really good time when the dog is on-lead, and try to avoid causing them unhappiness for any reason.

The question may be whether the dog pulls to take you places or simply does not want to be near you?

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sounds like a biscuit …….

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