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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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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Lead Aggression. Part 4: Triggers.

This is the last part of a series of posts on lead aggression. Please read parts 1, 2 & 3 first.

Think about a recent situation, which involved you seeing another owner walking towards you and your dog. What was your reaction? Did you hold your breath for a moment? Maybe you tightened your grip on the lead? Probably, you even pulled the lead a bit or started talking to your dog. Chances are, you did all three and something else, if you were walking a dog that is reactive on lead. The behaviours are not themselves a problem. The issues arise, when your dog learns to associate them with other dogs approaching him. After that you are trapped in a vicious cycle:

In addition to your behaviour and body language, there are other possible triggers for your dog. A common trigger is a certain type of dogs. For example, your dog has been attacked by a large white dog and will display aggression towards similar looking dogs. Another possible trigger is a certain place. For example, your dog may only react to other dogs on a narrow pathway or on a certain street corner.

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Lead Aggression. Part 3: Perception of Other Dogs

This is the third part from a series of posts on lead aggression. Please read parts 1 and 2 first.

Lead aggression is directly related to the dog’s perception of other dogs. Whether it is a learned bad habit or a result of a traumatic experience, aggressive or overly excited behaviour is a reaction to the presence of other dogs. Hence, you will have to change your dog’s associations with other dogs and to teach him an alternative behaviour.

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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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The Three Bases of Dog Training

I’ll be honest: dog training is not that complicated. There is a limited number of tools that every dog owner can learn. The only difference between an experienced dog trainer and an owner is that the trainer is used to spotting opportunities and creative ways of applying the tools. Alright, we, dog trainers, also have experience and theoretical knowledge that allows us to apply our tools to different cases. However, I am convinced that any person can learn to apply the basic tools to their own dog. That is why I would like to share with you the three most important principles of dog training, on which the major part of dog training is based.

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On the importance of setting boundaries

Dogs are extremely conservative. They prefer to stick to their set routine: to take a walk at a certain time, to perform the same dance before each dinner, to sleep in certain places of the house every day… On one hand, dogs are resilient and adaptive, and, probably, this is why they have been our companions for thousands of years. However, they are not as flexible as people. Dogs adapt to change, but they seek stability and consistent routine. Lack of consistency is exactly what caused the majority of behavioural issues. If a dog doesn’t know what to expect and what is expected, because the rules are changing from day to day, he feels insecure. If people fail to set boundaries and consistent rules for the family, the dog will take on this responsibility. The trouble comes from the fact that the dog’s idea of proper rules and boundaries is not what people would consider suitable. Hence, growling, snapping, guarding, battles for sofas and armchairs, terrorized children and pulled backs and shoulders resulting from being dragged on a leash.

The solution comes from the same source as the issue. Continue reading