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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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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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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Home Alone

A few days ago we received a letter from the local council stating that someone has complained about dog barking. To say that we were shocked is not enough. Milo is never left alone for long periods of time except for the two days this year, when we had to leave him for the whole day. The only people, who could have complained, are our upstairs neighbours. When we asked them about it, they said that they were concerned for Milo’s well-being, because he barked almost every day for 10-15 minutes at a time. I’m not going to share my annoyance with the fact that they failed to tell us first. After all, how on earth could we know that he barks, when we’re not home? Moreover, I seriously doubt, that Milo actually barks that often. Next day after we received the letter, we installed a web-cam. I was on holiday for a few days, and Milo was home alone, while my husband was at work. We haven’t seen or hear him bark once. He was sleeping like a log on the sofa, which is pretty much his favourite pastime. Anyway I’m going to share a few tips on how to make your dog comfortable while you’re gone. From now on, I will make sure that I stick to them myself, although being home alone had never been an issue for Milo before.

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How to choose boarding kennels?

We love travelling. Milo, however, is not the biggest fan of it. Although Milo is used to transatlantic flights and long road trips, today we prefer to leave him in the kennels. Sometimes, we take him with us on short weekend breaks, but taking a dog on a plane is too much of a hassle, especially, when travelling to and from England. Milo has been to a number of pet resorts in England, in Russia and in America. I decided to share my experience in choosing kennels. So, how to choose a pets’ hotel?

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Happy Birthday, Milo!

Milo is 7 today. Over the years he has lived in four countries, chewed numerous useful and expensive things, travelled in planed, came to love cuddling up with us on a sofa, learned a number of tricks, taught us many things (including keeping our staff out of his reach), and, most important, inspired me to become a dog trainer. I wish Milo to live twice as many happy and healthy years!


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Love, Trust and Dogs

Trainer Trisha’s post made me think about the things I have learnt about dog training. I was lucky to begin my journey into dog training, when the harsh and often cruel methods were no longer taught. I wanted to write “no longer used”, but it is not true. Choke collars are still being sold, and I still hear about people giving advice based on the old-fashioned ideas of hierarchy and “what wolves do”. I often face the challenge of persuading the owners that their relationship with their dogs should not involve concepts like “domination” and “punishment”. Relationship with a dog is about leadership and guidance, not dictatorship and competition for the “alpha-male” status. Would you really compete with a creature that is, let’s be honest, intellectually inferior to you? Our dogs look up to us. They want to please us and make us happy, because it makes them happy.

The most important thing that I have learnt is that dogs don’t misbehave, because they want to be mean. They misbehave, because we taught them so.

I have mentioned that Milo’s behavioural problems are to the most part a result of these old-school methods such as choke collars and severe punishment. I didn’t know then, but when I look back at what was going on, I feel terribly sorry for him. He lost his trust in people almost completely and it took us a long time to earn it back. Although he still has some bad habits learnt back then, Milo is the most affectionate and loving dog. Every time he shows his trust and confidence in us, I am sincerely flattered and amazed. I am greatly touched, when he lets us clean his ears, when he asks for help and when he is worried, if he lost sight of us during walks. I think: “Wow, how did I manage to earn it?”.

After all, this feeling of being needed, trusted and loved is the very reason why we want a dog companion, isn’t?