Milo's Dog Training

Dog training in Hampshire, Surrey & Berkshire


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Canine dementia: Milo’s case

img_6008_smallMy aim in writing this post is not to educate, but to share my personal experience hoping that it may help someone looking for answers. Milo was officially diagnosed with canine cognitive dysfunction in July 2015 when we decided it was time to deal with his puzzling symptoms. Getting a referral to a pet behaviorist Dr.Jon Bowen at the Royal Veterinary College was part of our preparations for the arrival of our daughter due a couple of months later.

Symptoms

Milo had his first anxiety attack in November 2012. It was triggered by me leaving on holiday after several months of being home with him most of the time. Milo was six years old at the time. After this first episode, he was fine for about a year and a half, and then he started having anxiety attacks up to several times per months.

The anxiety/panic attack would usually start at night some time between one and three. Milo’s symptoms included obsessive digging, scratching at our bedroom door, crying, panting and breathing heavily, a vacant look, restlessness and head shaking. He literally needed to climb onto our heads to calm down just a little bit. Sometimes we had to let him into our bed to get any sleep or to sleep with him on the sofa downstairs.

Treatment

After a few episodes we sought advice from his vet, who suggested we try Zylkene, Selgian and Diazepam (to use when we are desperate). Although there was some improvement, we could not say it was reliable. As a result Milo was referred to the RVC. Dr.Bowen administered a questionnaire to assess Milo’s cognitive function, which turned out to be within the normal range. We were not surprised as we have not noticed any confusion in him. However, Dr.Bowen was convinced that his anxiety attacks were due to his ageing brain and this was just a less typical case of canine cognitive dysfunction. We were to stop Selgian and to replace it with Fluoxitine (anti-depressant) and Activait (a supplement). This scheme seemed to help for a while, but then Milo’s attacks became more frequent again after almost a year of relative stability. I do not know what triggered it – possibly our daughter becoming more mobile. Regardless of the cause, we decided it was time for a follow-up with Dr.Bowen. He listened to our concerns and suggested we add Melacutin (melatonin) to help regulate Milo’s circadian rhythm and coconut oil as another supplement. This was about 6 months ago, and I am pleased to say Milo has had just a couple of minor anxiety episodes since then.

Living with canine dementia

A major issue with Milo is that his self-control is getting worse and worse. This is partly due to the illness and partly due to the side effects of his medication. He cannot resist food (before he would not think of stealing when we are seating right there) and he steals toys. Of course, I absolutely cannot trust him around our daughter. So to make it more manageable we put up a playpen\room divider around his bed.

Overall, however, we are very lucky. We have not seen any confusion or have not had any toilet accidents. It is still very hard emotionally, and I have to constantly remind myself that Milo’s behaviour is not his or my fault, but a result of his illness. It must be very hard for him too. I just hope that the treatment will delay the progression of canine cognitive dysfunction for as long as possible and that Milo will be enjoying himself for years to come.


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Which type of dog lead is the best?

Choosing the right type of lead/leash is as important for dog training as choosing the right type of shoes for running. The wrong type of lead may teach your dog to pull, injure your hands, your dog or other dogs, or even get your dog lost. Leads differ by type, length and material. I will describe the most popular types and the ones I think are useful for a regular dog owner. There are also numerous special use leads, such as the ones used for dog show handling or for canicross, but I won’t cover them as I am not an expert and most people don’t need them.

Types of dog leads

Extending\retractable lead

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Image from flexilead.com

If you have one of these and if your dog pulls on the lead, is reactive/aggressive or just large and bouncy, stop reading and go put in the bin. These leads are OK to use with smaller well-behaved dogs.

Regular lead

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Image from petsathome.com

These can be made from nylon, leather or rope-like material and usually range from 1m to 1.5m (standard 5ft) in length and come in various width. They can be very cheap (thin nylon) or quite expensive (leather with a fancy design). To be honest, I find most of them quite uncomfortable and never use them, but most people do, so it might be worth a try. I only ever use the cheapest thinnest 1m lead, when a dog needs to wear one at home for training or behaviour management purposes.

Adjustable lead (my favourite!)

 

 

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Image from bitiba.co.uk

This type of lead can be adjusted to be a bit shorter or longer and is also useful when you need to secure a dog somewhere (e.g. to a fence or a table). This one pictured is by Hunter and it is my personal favourite. It is just the right length (2 meters longest), made from soft round leather so it doesn’t hurt my hands and lasts years of daily use in all kinds of English weather. I am not being paid bu Hunter or any of the shops that sell it, I just really like it and have been using it for years. It is available from Zooplus and Bitiba.

Training lead 

 

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Image from dogleash.co.uk

 

This is essentially just a very long lead, usually 15 meters long. If you have a puppy, a new rescue dog or a dog that has not yet mastered a recall, you need this one. It will allow you to give your dog a bit more freedom (use it if you are tempted to buy an extending lead). If you’re a bit more confident, you can just drop it on the ground and practice recall.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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How to prepare for a baby when you have a dog

Dogs generally don’t like change, and a new strange family member is the biggest change that could happen to them. Changes in the new mother’s appearance, smell, mood and behaviour, a sudden drop in attention available for the dog, countless visitors, sleepless nights and other disturbances to the usual way of life are all sources of stress for the dog. Any behavioural issues will likely be made worse by the stress, and you can expect new problems emerging. I will share a few practical tips on how to prepare for  your baby’s arrival as a dog owner.

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Back in Business

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It has been a long time since I updated this blog – I took time off to focus on caring for my daughter Sonya, whom we welcomed to our family just over a year ago. This was a huge change for Milo too, and it was interesting to see how his attitude towards Sonya was changing from complete indifference to curiosity to annoyance. Just before Sonya was born Milo was diagnosed with canine dementia. It is under control with medication, but it certainly makes life more challenging for Milo and for us. So there has been a lot going on and I am looking forward to sharing my experience and knowledge with my readers.

I am now ready to get back to work and will be taking on new clients. It would be nice to hear updates from my former clients too!

 

 


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Words Your Dog Does Not Understand

Cartoon by Gary Larson.

Cartoon by Gary Larson.

This post is prompted by my observations of dog owners and how they communicate with their dogs. As humans we talk, and we talk a lot. Overtime dogs learn to ignore most of our neverending blah-blah-blah. However if you want your dog to pay attention and do what you ask, make sure you don’t repeat these five common mistakes.

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A Guide to Your New Puppy

Not sure what to do with your new pup? Once you are able to resist the cuteness of your new family member, it is time to start training. Dogs can be trained from an early age, so begin teaching your puppy about your expectations and the world around them as soon as he or she arrives in your home. The sooner you begin teaching them good manners and social skills, the easier it will be for you when they hit the difficult period of adolescence.

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A Sunny Day Out on the Coast

Today the sky is pouring with rain, and it makes writing a post about a sunny day out on one of Hampshire’s dog friendly beaches so ironic. A couple of weekends ago the weather was the exact opposite of today, and we decided not to miss a chance to enjoy the sea. We are not particularly beach people and we try to avoid crowded places with sand castles and picnics. One reason is that we like to walk on a beach, not to sit on it. But the main reason is that Milo likes picnics very much. He also thinks people’s things lying around are perfect for marking. So, to save us from those awkward moments when we pretended it’s not our dog, we prefer to seek out some remote and semi-wild beaches, where we can let him off the lead.

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