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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Lead Aggression. Part 2: Concentration Skills and Stress.

This is the second part from a series of posts on lead aggression. Please read “Lead Aggression. Part 1” first.

Since I’ve been writing a lot about focus, concentration and stress, I will just briefly summarize the main points. Improving concentration will involve some actual training and exercises, while stress management will be focused mostly on lifestyle adjustments. I believe, that the easiest way to deal with dog behavioural issues is to create such an environment, which will set the dog up for success.

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How to housebreak a dog (puppy or adult).

As the excitement of bringing home a new puppy wears off, many owners face an annoying task of cleaning up the accidents and housetraining. The sooner you start teaching your dog appropriate toilet behaviour the better.  If you are lucky to have a garden or at least to live on the ground floor, you task is much easier. But don’t worry; living in a flat shouldn’t be a problem.

Most owners will face the task of housebreaking only once in their dogs lifetime. However, sometimes stress, moving to a new house or illness can cause problems in adult dogs as well. This post will cover the main principles of housetraining, which apply to both puppies and adult dogs.

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Common signs of illness in dogs.

Last weekend Milo felt so bad that we had to take him to our local emergency hospital. He ended up having abdominal surgery, but he is on the road for recovery now. Hopefully, he will be discharged from the hospital today. I decided to write a post on how dogs let us know about the way they feel.

Unfortunately, dogs can’t tell us, when they feel unwell or what exactly is bothering them. Or can they? If you know your dog well, you should be able to spot signs of illness. As our dogs learn to understand us, we learn to understand their body language and habits. I am sure that most owners can communicate with their dogs in much the same way as they communicate with people. Remember Gromit and his eyebrows? Gromit is a beagle and I can assure you that Milo talks using his eyebrows in exactly the same way as Gromit. Other dogs may use their tails or ears more than eyebrows. Does your dog talk to you?

So when the dog becomes sick or just doesn’t feel well, he will tell you. You just have to listen… or watch. Several typical signs of illness or pain exist. I am not talking about obvious medical signs, such as vomiting, fever or blood in stool. I will describe some behaviours that may indicate that your dog is not feeling well and that you should call you veterinarian.

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