Milo's Dog Training

Dog training in Hampshire, Surrey & Berkshire


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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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Body Guarding and Being Used to Touch

Image courtesy of Willem Siers / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just like people dogs vary in their threshold of what kind of touch they consider appropriate. A dog’s reaction to being touched can range from joy and relaxation to growling and biting and everything else in between. Teaching your dog to be comfortable with touch will make trips to the vets, bathing time and other necessary activities less stressful. Moreover, a dog that has serious body guarding issues can be a threat to your safety. There are a couple of things that you can do to teach your dog to accept and enjoy being touched.

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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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A dog too excited to learn?

One of the common problems in dog trainings is over-excitement. A dog gets too excited by treats or by desire to please and training becomes impossible. For instance, Milo can get so excited by treats, that he would start randomly offering all his tricks. Milo is extremely food motivated, and an opportunity to earn treats is a big deal for him. Some dogs can get too excited during training, because they are too eager to please their owners. Although I am not a fan of submissive and dominant dogs theory, I admit that some dogs are more submissive than others. Submissiveness is demonstrated by body language (lying down, ears down, hiding tail, rolling over etc.) and behaviour (urinating, licking, whining). I will not get into details about treating submissiveness now: it is a complicated and sensitive issue. If you recognise your dog in this description, please, consult a dog trainer in person.

Regardless of the underlying cause of over-excitement, there is one thing you can do: do not reward it. Attention is a reward, hence it reinforces behaviour. If your dog becomes too excited, do the following:

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