A WOLF IN DOG'S CLOTHING?
DOG A TRUE PACK ANIMAL?
WHAT DOGS REALLY NEED
THE HUMAN-CANINE BOND
STRESS & COMPULSIVE
KONG STUFFING RECIPES
QUOTES & TESTIMONIALS
|WATER, FOOD & SHELTER
|Clean drinking water, a high quality, nutritious
diet and shelter from the elements are fundamental needs and essential
to the dog’s overall health and well-being.
Like us, dogs are social creatures.
They need to spend the majority of their time in the company of
others, whether of their own kind or of different species.
Many of the dogs that I am called in to work with spend far too
many hours of their daily lives in lonely isolation.
If you have to regularly leave your dog alone for more than four
hours per day, consider employing a dog-sitter or dog-walker, or
ask a family member, neighbour or friend if they are able to spend
some time with the dog while you are apart.
If you are considering getting a dog, please ensure that you either
have the time to provide it with company for most of the day, or
the means or money to employ someone else to keep it company.
Rules let the dog know what it mustn't do. Rules
set behavioural limits and social boundaries. Rules are established
through discipline, body language and daily rituals such as greetings
and mealtimes. Rules constitute the dominant-subordinate dimension
of the human-canine bond.
The vast majority of dogs are natural
born followers. Followers need leadership.
Leadership lets the dog know what it may do. Leadership provides
the basis for social cooperation and interactive harmony.
Leadership constitutes the leader-follower dimension of the human-canine
Many people associate the concept
of leadership with dominance or social status, however it is neither
of these things. What leadership is, is a person's ability to successfully
direct and manage a dog (or dogs) for the mutual benefit of both
parties. This requires appreciating and accepting a dog's individual
temperament and needs, recognising what a dog is good at and setting
it up for success, knowing how to get the best out of a dog by finding
out what motivates it, and getting a dog to want to work for you.
ATTENTION & AFFECTION
As humans, we often feel that if
we are not fussing and petting our dogs at every opportunity or
buying them new toys each week, we are not giving them enough attention.
However, a dog's idea of attention means being included in daily
activities, being given social boundaries, leadership, regular playful
interaction, and having its basic, physical needs recognised and
The dog in the picture to the right is helping me to hang the laundry
on the line by passing me clothes pegs from a basket on the ground.
Simply allowing a dog to be involved in mundane, daily activities
is a great way to provide attention and affection (and leadership),
and makes household chores so much more enjoyable for us humans
Love is ... companionship, respect, teamwork and
trust, as well as affectionate fuss.
Affection constitutes the nurturance-dependence dimension of the
Many behaviour problems can be eased
and even solved by increasing or changing a dog’s physical
exercise. Scientific studies have shown that long-term, moderate,
daily physical exercise causes the body to release beta-endorphins,
enhances noradrenergic activity (increasing the production of noradrenaline)
and increases serotonin metabolism in the brain. What this means
is that over time, moderate, daily physical exercise directly and
beneficially affects the dog's brain chemistry, counteracting the
adverse effects of stress, enhancing the dog’s general mood,
raising tolerance levels, and controlling impulses. Put simply,
the right kind of regular, daily physical exercise naturally makes
dogs (and humans) feel good.
Brisk walking or the 'dog-trot' is the ideal ‘feel-good’
exercise. Walking together is also an ideal opportunity to strengthen
the human-canine bond whilst fulfilling the dog’s need to
travel and explore. The amount of time per day that many owners
spend walking their dogs isn’t sufficient to change or sustain
a stressed dog’s brain chemistry for the better ~ a 30-40
minute walk is generally the ideal for a fit and healthy dog's main,
daily walk. A brisk walking pace provides near to the ideal level
of physical exertion to cause the maximum release of 'feel-good'
hormones. A faster pace requires increased physical effort, and
if the sustained pace is too fast or hard it doesn't benefit the
dog's neuroeconomy, which means that 20 minutes of fast running
doesn't produce the long-term, sustainable feel-good factor of 30-40
minutes of dog-trotting. A dog's main form of exercise shouldn't
be aimed at tiring the dog out so that it has no energy left to
'misbehave' ~ it should primarily be about changing the dog's mood
for the better.
Whilst brisk walking helps to keep
the dog's mind fit, more demanding forms of exercise such as swimming
help to keep the dog's body fit. Physical fitness is important to
good health, however, hard or fast exercise does put the dog's body
under varying degrees of physiological stress, and so it's important
that following strenuous activities, a dog has plenty of time to
rest and recover, for example, if a dog spends a couple of hours
racing around an agility course one day (whilst at the same time
having to deal with the intense social environment of an agility
club), the following day should involve lots of rest and just a
couple of short walks. Just bear in mind that the dog's muscles
and joints will almost certainly be aching after a sustained bout
of physically demanding exercise!
Some dogs have other ideas and still want to tear about instead
of rest, but including some extra psychological exercise such as
20 minutes obedience work, or giving the dog something else to do
such as chewing, is usually enough to keep most dogs happy while
they take it easy.
Dogs are intelligent creatures
and thrive on psychological challenge.
Psychological challenge helps to keep the neural pathways
and connections in the brain strong and healthy. Psychological
challenge differs from mental stimulation in that it is structured,
mental activity that teaches the dog self-control and a willingness
to work or problem-solve through positive reinforcement. Mental
stimulation on the other hand, is any activity that stimulates
the dog’s senses as opposed to employing the 'thinking'
parts of the brain.
Mealtimes can be made more challenging whilst
satisfying the dog’s natural instinct to work for its
food by using a ‘smart’ dispenser-type toy such
as a treat ball, Buster Cube or Dog Pyramid. Food is placed
inside the toy and the dog has to ‘work’ to release
the food through a hole by nosing and pawing the toy.
I have tested many of these toys and the Dog
Pyramid comes out on top, being large enough to dispense
a whole meal of many brands of complete, dry kibble, whilst
being easily controllable by the dog and less noisy than treat
balls and the Buster Cube. These smart toys are also an excellent
way to feed greedy dogs, and those that have a tendency to
‘wolf’ their food. A meal can last up to 20 minutes
when trickle fed by a smart toy, whereas in a bowl, it's usually
gone in a matter of seconds. When for most dogs, mealtimes
are a primary, daily highlight, it makes sense to prolong
|Other ways to psychologically challenge your dog and
strengthen the human-canine bond include …
~ Obedience/basic training. This utilises all three dimensions
of the human-canine bond ~ the dog learns what not to do (e.g.
not jump up), what it may do instead (e.g. jump up on cue) and
what it gets for cooperating (e.g. attention and affection).
~ Teaching a new ‘trick’
every few weeks (e.g., shake hands, rollover, play dead, etc,)
using praise, touch, play and/or food as reinforcement.
~ Hiding your dog’s favourite toy, and then directing her
to find it. This differs from allowing the dog free-rein to seek
out the toy by herself.
By directing her, you are providing leadership, for which she
will receive a reward (i.e. play with the toy) for her attention
~ When playing ball or Frisbee, include a few basic obedience
commands between throws to keep your dog focused on you and 'earning'
All of the above will fulfil most
dogs’ psychological needs without having to employ specialised
training techniques, however, if you want to challenge your dog
further, you could try activities such as heelwork to music, or
, tracking, working trials, gun-dog training and
search & rescue to utilise his senses and instincts too.
REST & SLEEP
The average amount of daily rest
(lying down relaxing, dozing and sleeping) that most dogs require
is about 17 hours. Rest and relaxation is important to the management
of biological and emotional stress as it allows the body to recover
from releases of ‘stress’ hormones such as adrenaline
and cortisol. Whilst the release of these and other substances in
response to stress is normal, the levels can build up and become
abnormal if the body is denied sufficient time to rest and recover.
Dogs suffering from long-term stress often display exaggerated behaviour,
and are more prone to aggress because stress lowers emotional and
impulse thresholds ~ in other words, as well as developing compulsive
behaviour, stressed dogs are more likely to overreact in certain
situations, react with less and less provocation each time, or react
Quality sleep is vital to the dog's psychological and physiological
well-being. During sleep, and especially at night, an important
neurohormone called melatonin is released into the body from the
pineal gland. Melatonin helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
This means that not only it is needed to promote quality sleep,
sleep is required for its production. Melatonin also protects the
body's cells and strengthens the immune system.
It is so important to provide a
dog with its own comfortable, resting place in a quiet area of the
house where it can go and relax and not be disturbed, during the
daytime and at night. Based on research into human sleep and dream
patterns, I believe it's also important not to wake a dog when it
is in what is known as REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), which in
dogs is often characterised by a combination of flickering eyelids,
bodily twitches, yipping, growling and 'sleep running'. Dream-sleep
studies have shown that human subjects repeatedly woken up at the
REM stage commonly experienced feelings of fear and paranoia, and
after only a few nights of dream-sleep disturbance, they become
increasingly ill-tempered and depressed. What follows REM sleep
is a vital, secondary, 'silent' dream-sleep phase that appears to
counteract the effects of the emotions experienced during REM sleep.
So please ... let sleeping dogs lie!
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Lizi Angel 2007-2018