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 Reactive Dogs – 4: Triggers.

This is the last part of the series 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 Reactive Dogs – 3: Perception of Other Dogs

This is the third part from the series on lead reactive dogs. 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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Lead Reactive Dogs – 2: Concentration Skills and Stress

This is the second part from the series on lead aggression. Please read 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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Lead Reactive Dogs – 1: Where To Start?

Do you find yourself hiding from other dogs during walks? Keep reading then. One of the most common complaints among dog owners is related to the so-called “lead aggression”. If your dog is lead-aggressive or lead-reactive, your walks can become a nightmare and a source of constant embarrassment. The most frustrating thing for me is to see this on the streets, while I know, that it can be easily corrected. When I say “easily”, I don’t mean “overnight” or “by a wave of a magic wand” kind of “easily”. What I mean is that this issue is curable with some simple adjustments, re-conditioning and commitment.

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How To Use “Time-Out” With Dogs

If I could use just one dog training technique apart from clicker training, I would choose “time-out”. It can be used to correct so many behaviours: inappropriate barking, jumping, aggression… Although it clearly shows the dog that his behaviour is not acceptable, it is quite gentle and does not involve physical force. As my readers know, I will never recommend using physical force for correction, because it leads to aggression and damages the relationship between the dog and the owner.

“Time-out” is a very simple technique that even a child can use. It is a type of negative punishment, which means that you punish behaviour by removing something. In this case, you will remove one of the things your dog values most (besides food, of course!): your attention. You will need a light 5 ft. /1.5 m leash and a designated space. The designated space should be isolated from the rest of the house, and you should be able to physically prevent your dog from leaving it. Let’s try.

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My dog begs. What do I do?

Many dogs have this annoying habit. They would employ all the power of their large sad eyes to get a piece of that you’re eating. They would place their muzzles on your lap and look like they haven’t eaten for a week. They would make you feel ashamed of starving the poor animal. Dogs know how to get what they want. So, why are they begging so persistently? Even dogs that are not as crazy about food as Milo, sometimes beg. The answer is very simple. Dogs beg, because we taught them too. Remember: any behaviour that is reinforced will be repeated. Behaviours reinforced randomly are more likely to be repeated. If you give way to your dog’s begging even on rare occasions, he will continue begging.

How to stop your dog from begging?

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