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The “Reactive” Label.

So why no teeth ?
I’m tired of the pictures I see, that say reactive, then show dogs looking aggressive.

Question. 2020 Labels and Titles. (No right or wrong here, just ideas) How I currently think of this umbrella title is at the end of this short post.

I‘m looking for your ideas FB and cyberspace dog friends. Is there a better word than reactive to describe the mix of dogs that come under this umbrella title?

Reactive. Sensitive. Dogs that need extra support through all or part of their lives. Dog guardians that need to be observant, vigilant and pro active in order to give their dogs a quality life.
There are some really good FB support pages out there, that have “reactive” in the title. These pages support owners of dogs that react to sound, other dogs/people, movement and a whole host of other things.

Some of these pages are really well structured, as in, they have many modules to be read at the beginnings, that answer or give advise on all of the most commonly asked questions.
Plenty of admins to direct people to the appropriate module or to block discussion and answer vir message anything that little bit more complex than the norm.

They do a good job of supporting people whether that’s with a virtual pat on the back or some sound advise.

My view at this time.
I know the word “reactive” is frowned on by many in dog training circles.

Of course they are reacting to something all of the time, so are we all, but many use this term to loosely give an idea that a “reactive dog” (dog trainers street language) is sensitive in some way.

That could be visual, other dogs, men in wide brimmed hats, rubbish bins on the street.
Auditory, fireworks, gun shots, voices, hide or run for your life. It could be temporary or through the whole of the dogs life.
Frustration triggered up the first step by one of the first two, but restrained in some way by fence or lead.
Scent of other dogs that has already left the scene (I have experience of this one)

I see the term reactive as a big label on the front of a pallet, once unloaded by a fork lift, its full of boxes each with there own labels describing the content and appropriate warnings where necessary.

These labels can range from the most delicate, like glass that could shatter in the hand, to explosive that could blast off as the box is opened.
I’m genuinely interested to hear of other ideas. There is a vast world of caring dog owners, trainers and respected names in the dog world, that use this (dog trainer street language) label, and others that refuse to even discuss the word. Discussion and sharing is the way forward. in my view.

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Triggered or Reactive Dogs. CV 19

I know the word “reactive” is frowned on by many in dog training circles.

Of course dogs are reacting to something all of the time, so are we all, but many use this term to loosely give an idea that a “reactive dog” (dog street language) is sensitive in some way.

That could be visual, another dog, man in wide brimmed hat, rubbish bins on the street.
Auditory fireworks, gun shots, voices, hide or run for your life.
Frustration triggered up the first step by one of the first two, but restrained in some way by fence or lead.
Scent of another dog that has already left the scene (I have experience of this one)

I see the term reactive as a big label on the front of a pallet, once unloaded by a fork lift, its full of boxes each with their own labels describing the content and appropriate warnings where necessary.
These labels can range from the most delicate, like glass that could shatter in the hand, to explosive that could blast off as the box is opened.

There will always be some dog street language, not everybody has swallowed the latest book of behavioural terminology, many people out there have been hands on all their animal related lives, most of those can read the labels from the distance.
It only takes a few questions to get to the bottom of the box.

Triggered dogs/Reactive dogs and CV 19

So has distancing helped or hindered your dogs progress.
We don’t come out of the same moulds and neither do our dogs. Their individuals that all have different needs to balance out their world.

How different are we.
There are people who always seem to be the life and soul of the party, yet often there’s another soul behind that mask, only ever seen by their closest friends.
 
Scientists that are doing much valued work, that may never consider giving a live presentation of that work themselves, public speaking way off the agenda, no matter how sort after they may be. Happy for some one else to deal with that side or maybe pre record presentations.

The point being, no part of any of us come out of exactly the same mould, not our brains, nervous systems, throw personal history in the mix……
All living beings are unique.

Trigger happy/reactive dogs are individuals, just like us. The one that shouts the loudest is often the most scared, feels the most threatened, hiding behind that mask, but often not the party mask, more the feeling of being in an alleyway with a gang of hoodies closing in. 

Lumping them together with set approaches and training recipes, not treating them as individuals, is like being in a concert hall full of “music lovers” some that will take their leave when the orchestra and the opera singers are ready to perform, others the Jazz and how many will still be there for the heavy metal band.

Dogs so pick up on the difference in energy, from when your in the company of people you know, to when in the company of strangers. That can be from the vibes/energy coming from either or both sides. You needn’t be chatting all the time for them to feel the difference of the company their in with you.

This has a knock on when it comes to dogs that get triggered by other dogs/people/environments. It shows up in situations you can’t avoid like having to move off a path, to give your acrobatic yodelling dog space, so people and dogs can pass.

From experience of meeting with some great people, that have given as wide a birth as possible while out walking, then stood at a distance to talk, you see the dogs start to relax, as we get into friendly conversation. These conversation can become the thread that links you, dampens the threat, allows time for taking in scent, discovering there was no malice intended, time to process and come down a step or two, as mind and body settle.

I‘ve found in the past and with my current trigger happy four pawed girl, that having a regular dip into the real world but around dog savvy people, has been such a help in building her confidence.

The shows/training shows may be at different venues, but the familiarity that comes and builds with the scents of pretty much the same people and dogs, has helped to create familiar linking threads.

My trigger happy girl Eck travelled and camped up at different venues for many months before she ever entered a building, with eyes in the back of my head, distance kept from others as much as possible around exercising areas.

The build up to entering a building was extremely gradual.  Every step in and out of buildings with a friends help to make sure the way was clear for her.

Her first experience of entering a venue was a training show in Yorkshire, we had camped up overnight and walked all the outside areas before anyone arrived in the morning.

I entered the building without her to view the area which was a  very large sports hall, only half of the hall was being used, fantastic clear space one end for Eck’s first in venue experience.  A friend saw us in to the hall making sure the way was clear, knowing Eck can trigger up the ladder at speed.
You can never predict exactly how real life might play out however well you plan.

No issues entering the hall, dogs to the right we turned in left to the empty end. Eck could not move more than three strides in because of the different coloured lines and curves painted on the sports hall floor, I never expected that reaction. I honestly never considered the floor would be an issue to her.

The first 20 minutes was spent dropping cheese on the floor over the lines, luckily Eck is a real food fiend, the focus had not gone straight to the dogs at the other end of the hall.

If your the guardian of a dog that can get triggered to react for what ever reason, you needs to be very aware, top priority is keeping your dog below thresh hold and feeling safe, but also to make sure other dogs and their people are not worried or affected.
Its just as draining to be the guardian of a nervous dog that shrinks every time another dog barks.

Eck has been a dog that could, in certain circumstances, perform acrobatics while yodelling, I’ve been in on the act and performed a few acrobatics myself, but did leave out the yodelling.  I know its behind the mask stuff, and over time, given the right circumstances and company she can drop the act, and leave the stage, and play in the wings with the rest of the cast.
Never the less in that triggered moment, how she feels is real and genuine for her.

While many dogs quite probably need a break from training and competing in their guardians chosen sport, I’ve seen that little bit more awareness from Eck, since missing out on that regular dip into real life around dog savvy people and their dogs.
I wonder how others are doing.

We are lucky there is a dog savvy group not too far away we have walked with in the past,  and she has recently been able to join them again in these strange times (following the rules of the time of course)
We live very rural, but as some areas are looking at further restrictions, who knows how long these walks will continue.


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Work with who they are.

Not instructive, just food for thought.

So many claims out there.
Teacher/trainers have magic wands.
If you have a dog with an issue of any kind you are a crap trainer.
Some trainers would sort any problem if the dog was theirs. REALLY???

Work with who they are.
If life was a big circle and knowledge was the centre point radiating out to the edges as learning happens, what is needed by the individual to put them in the best place/state to help them settle in the centre, grow and fill that circle.

If this was a child, would they enjoy getting creative with painting, scrap books and coloured paper, or modelling clay, to be in a good place, or do they need to run and explore, climb trees, play football, girl or boy.

If this is a dog what out let does it need around the out side track in order for it to settle down in the centre. I think this is where understanding the individual is really important.

Springer spaniel - what you need to know about this gundog breed
Understand the individual and their needs.

For hundreds of years we have selectively bred dogs to work for and with us.

Different breeds and cross breeds have inherited traits which can make training more challenging, especially if these dogs find themselves in homes that don’t provide the work and mental stimulation that they need to live in our world.

We need an understanding of the challenges that inherited instinctive traits may pose, and look for ways to help them live in today’s world.

There is now more research, including MRI, specifically designed to better our understand of canine friends.

Lots of information out there about on going research, below is a small section from one such on going research project.

Canine Behavioral Genetics: Pointing Out the Phenotypes and Herding up the Genes
Tyrone C Spady and Elaine A Ostrander

“For years the dog has been suggested as an ideal system for studies of behavioural genetics. With the genome now mapped and sequenced and tools for building haplotypes and studying expression at hand, it is time to tackle the hard experiments. Why is the basset hound less effective at herding sheep or an Anatolian shepherd less effective as a hunting dog? More importantly, why do Australian shepherd dogs herd and greyhounds chase, both in the absence of instruction? Why did the domestication of dogs lead to a level of loyalty and devotion unrivalled among modern mammals?”

“For many geneticists, the most interesting behaviours in dogs are those that are highly breed associated, such as herding and pointing. For others, the challenge is to understand the genetic variation that contributes to the individual variation between dogs (personality). Still others see in man’s best friend a mirror of our best (loyalty, steadfastness, train ability, strong work ethic) and worst (stubbornness, aggression, and anxiety) qualities. An understanding of the genetics of all of these traits is likely to produce a better understand of not only the canine species, but the human species as well”

Dogs are often taken on without research or guidance.
Cute puppies bred to be working in one area or another, a few months in and it all starts to hit the fan.

Instinctive behaviour. Choosing an alternative behaviour
Finding suitable alternative behaviours that work, is going to depend on how deep and strong the instinct is when out in the real world, and how that individual balances with the ability of the trainer to channel that behaviour into working as a team.

Training and becoming trained is allowing someone else to guide, call the shots, make the rules, take control of the situation, give the instructions, however careful, kind and fair that training is, instinctive behaviours can take over and depending on the individual can block out all else.

This can be hard for dogs that get triggered easily when they are out in the real world too. The feel of needing to be in control of their situation and fight flight etc.
We can surmise but we can’t mind read, much as we’d like to.

Sensory systems
Within each sensory system there is an enormous amount of data being processed all the time. Attention to what is important in the moment is what takes priority. This is known as selective filtering or selective attention, and gating. (NOT selective as in deliberately ignoring) We have bred dogs for specific tasks. Strong instinctive behaviours take priority here.

The role of alpha-band brain oscillations as a sensory suppression mechanism during selective attention
“Evidence has amassed from both animal intracranial recordings and human electrophysiology that neural oscillatory mechanisms play a critical role in a number of cognitive functions such as learning, memory, feature binding and sensory gating”
John J. Foxe and Adam C. Snyder


Remembering we can set up the environment for success in training. But we can’t set up the environment in the real world. It’s the real world that can bite you on the bum.
This is where we need thought out management for possible situations. Obviously this will depend on the individual and any issues involved.

Choosing alternative behaviours
Choosing suitable alternatives for instinctive behaviours can be a hard one.
Chase a ball is a good stand in game, reward through movement, chase and capture. But a dog with an eye and instinct for squirrels or rabbit movement and run, is unlikely to give the ball a second look in that moment.

I think we don’t give enough credit to the differences in individuals, and the innate strength of the draw. Once an experience has been found to be rewarding, in same situations, environments etc episodic thinking and anticipatory pleasure is likely to kick in, as will the seeking.
Hallford, D. J., Farrell, H., & Lynch, E. (2020). Increasing Anticipated and Anticipatory Pleasure through Episodic Thinking. Emotion.

Some adapt beautifully to the alternatives offered.
Does that mean the ones that don’t are bad dogs?
Or the handlers are naff trainers?
Or are they dogs that are just living in their world in that moment not ours?


If only all things were perfect.
If all things were perfect, we could know, when we take on a gun dog, that if we follow to the letter this or that training route, we will get this result. The same with a farmer and his home bred sheepdogs bred from long working lines. But in reality its not always the case.

Dogs bred and raised and trained for a job by experienced trainers in their fields are sometimes passed on.
The care/service dog that doesn’t make the grade. The sheepdog that has no interest in sheep or even appears wary of them (and I have met some) The gun dog that shows no interest in retrieving and hates water. The youngster that starts out with great expectations to be the next light shining in the competition ring, may soon be put to one side when the glitter just doesn’t happen, and the next pup is soon on the horizon.

Have never quite worked out how buying in success makes a good trainer. I must be missing something.

Modern canine sports and activity training are a great substitute/outlet for many dogs.
Work with who they are.

No photo description available.

Living in the real world
I think I must have been extremely lucky with the people I’ve worked for in the past, the clients I’ve had and the friends I have in the animal world.

Maybe that’s because my early working life was very involved with horses and equine folk as well as dogs. Animals of size and capability, so already having an understanding of treating with respect.

I often hear how reward/reinforcement based training suddenly came on the scene as a revolution, and before the clicker landed, people training animals were all hard and heartless.

In my experience this was not the case. I think many of these statements come about from what was seen in the obedience world, that was pretty much the only dog sport to be seen by the public in the past, consequently copied by many, but not all.

They didn’t think then that the training world revolved around what terminology you used. It was more, observation, living with, feel, understanding, and hands on experience, doing.
Of course with research and science we can add the up to date data and clear explanations of the processes. We can also argue the terms that should or shouldn’t be used, and we do.

The clicker was/is a welcome addition to the training tool box, and has been in my tool box, pockets, rooms and vans since the mid 90’s. Introduction to the clicker thanks to Kay Laurence. I clearly remember buying my first bulk buy of 200 clickers in 97 for the classes I had at that time.

Now there are so many different dog sports and activities that any one can take an interest in to suit their dogs and life style, and with a more diverse range of people and characters getting involved in these activities.
Lots of choice when it comes to training establishments, workshops and classes that specialise with trainers that are current in a specific canine sports.

Today, even in the so called “positive” reward based dog sports communities, people can be pretty cutting and cruel to and about each other.

No one has all the answers.

Nobody should feel guilty if they are doing the best they can.

No one should feel bad about asking for help.

Dogs with strong instinctive behaviours have no concept of embarrassment, neither do dogs that get triggered.

Another point to think over. If some dogs bred for the job in hand, trained by experienced trainers in their field, don’t make the grade, there will also be dogs that get the lions share of the genes.

Having had many rescues (not the best title) throw outs, pass through and many that have moved in rather than on, over the years. I have been rewarded by witnessing many light bulb moments, and none of those moments have been started through formal style training. These moments have come about through teaching simple cognitive skills, my words for “brain training” or “tricks” (I’m not hung up on the title)

Most of these dogs have been shut out or shut up somewhere, or have hit adolescence and then ousted. Some have been dogs bred with strong instinctive traits, that have landed in homes that didn’t provide the outlet, that dog needed and was bred for.

These dogs often have learned through experience, that there is no way and no point in trying to communicate with people, but by taking the simplest of moves/tasks, like simply targeting a carpet square with the paws, so easy to set up so it happens for them to start with, and the light bulb moments that tell them we can communicate. I’m all ears and you can enjoy training me to listen, building team work and trust.

Just the start of that conversation and that light bulb moment is so rewarding. It also give them a small starter toolbox when they move on to a new home, a conversation starter for their new family, along with what ever skills we have been able to add to there life time toolbox.

I think also, simple cognitive tasks are just as rewarding to novice or new four paw guardians, to feel confident that they are capable of communicating and teaching their dogs, and it doesn’t need to start with a formal traditional list, but it does need to start with two way communication.

This is often a good start to stepping back and mending the cracks in a relationship that’s been bruised, because of those real life, real world moments.
Dogs with strong instinctive behaviours and dogs that get triggered have no concept of embarrassment.

Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor and nature
Work with who they are.
A repeat.
If life was a big circle and knowledge was the centre point radiating out to the edges as learning happens, what is needed by the individual to put them in the best place/state to help them settle in the centre, grow and fill that circle.
If this was a child, would they enjoy getting creative with painting, scrap books and coloured paper, or modelling clay, to be in a good place, or do they need to run and explore, climb trees, play football, girl or boy.
If this is a dog what out let does it need around the out side track in order for it to settle down in the centre. I think this is where understanding the individual is really important.










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Trigger happy dogs

Flippin Eck
Our dogs are who they are too, living in our modern world is not necessarily so easy for them.

Over many years I’ve lived and worked with many dogs, from easy over friendly with every one and anything living, nervous worriers, part feral, and reactive/trigger stackers, my Flippin Eck being one of those, sometimes getting herself stacked up by the environment, bikes, strange dogs, or strange people.

Of course there are many situations where dogs need to be on lead, for safety or being the rules of a venue. These are the situation where dogs that get triggered feel more insecure, their not in control, the old fight flight option has been taken from them.

These dogs can very often settle on social walks with the right set of dogs all travelling in the same direction wide paths dogs gradually let of lead as they settle. You may find introduced carefully they may enjoy the company of a walking companion after some amount of parallel walking before off lead on a neutral walk, handlers walking on focus forward to start and not walking in. Some dogs build friendships this way, but they don’t have to no more than we do.

I have walked Eck with groups of from 6 to 25 dogs. I choose the right walks for her to feel safe, wide paths, if there’s forestry either side all the better there’s outside interest on each side, dogs aren’t so likely to be focused on each other.

I’m not saying its necessary for them to walk with other dogs to have a good life, what I am saying is they may sound off especially on lead but they are not bad dogs, she has certainly enjoyed these walks. Big BUT on our walk we have been lucky enough to have been part of a group of dog aware people and an established group of dogs and handlers.

So no crowding, no handing out food, no focusing on or interfering with natural dog interactions, no one dog getting toys thrown, dogs moving through the countryside enjoying each other the mud, water, squirrels, nature and the chasing each other or just the leaves through the woods.

Short video of Eck on one of the walks 12 seconds

Eck got to know Ozzy the Doberman in the video as a youngster, she is about 7/8 months younger than him he’s a super temperament. Eck had not seen him for possibly 18 months to two years until this walk once bonded how ever long the gap, they feel at home with old friends, just like we do.

Little things you notice that give the game away on who lives under the mask, as they all come up from the water and move along, Eck’s first move is close to my right hand side under cover to assess the way ahead, as it happened a couple of the others turned back just to check on there handlers, no problem but interesting to see they all took the straight line ahead after coming up from the river

Eck was the only one to head to the right and under my arm, the others taking the straightest route forward. Admittedly I stuck out like a sore thumb in bright pink, hardly country colours, just happened to look like rain when we started out and it was the only light weight shower proof jacket I had in the van left in from a charity walk.

Reactive/trigger happy dogs have different hats.  Different situations spark different reactions. If one of these same dogs that Eck is running with, was seen across a field or walking up ahead towards her on a path, on a different day, the initial response would be high alert, stepping up the first two stacking steps just on sight.

Once there is recognition they come down one step, its not as simple as well they just need to walk with more dogs then,  what has to be thought about in this situation is the body language and pheromones of the other dog,  who has there paws on the ground floor on approach, and is giving out vibes of recognition “we’re on the same team mate” “I know you’re OK” “I know you” “needn’t get ya knickers in a twist”  Who knows what communication is going on.

I think there are different types of reactivity, some could be linked to different life stages.

1) youngsters, adolescence the spooky teens, that’s a different situation, had a few of those for re homing in the past, already labelled aggressive, usually they have been between 7 months and 16 sometimes 20 months, and mild forms in some in old age, probably linked to dementia, or changes in hearing and sight, nerves can play a part here too, just as they do with elderly people.

2) Different states maybe caused through trauma or related to a life experience.

3) Genetic predisposition, live on their wits high inbuilt survival.

Getting triggered
Eck’s had me on the floor on a few occasions in the past, once at the sight of the back end of a dog walking away, so a reaction to a dogs bum, took the skin off my knees (a gravel car park) and then repeated the whole process before my scabby knees had had time to heal
Her legs used to shoot out side ways like stabilisers, it was them that sent you flying, as she appeared to grow five inches, hair on end from the occiput to the top two inches of her tail, a look any hedgehog would be proud of.

I’ve worked with her and others in the past, away from any distraction at first teaching the cue “turn” as I turned in a 1/2 circle food on the nose and reward/reinforce, working from both sides.
Then when we’ve reached the point of giving the cue “turn” and their turning already, good response, I change to some times reward/reinforce, just on the start of the turn, some times on a full circle, some times a 1/2 turn.

Out in the world, events bite you on the bum, the unexpected happens, and dogs that get triggered like my Eck, and others, can go over thresh hold in seconds, fast stackers (supermarket heroes) .

I think that the more background training and associations we can build to help them tackle the world the better, that doesn’t mean they can always listen of course, it depends on how triggered they are on any given occasion, their emotional state, how much stacking has already started.

With dogs that have been given good grounding, you stand a far better chance of redirecting them when there is a potential storm up ahead.

I then use the turn when I need to move my dog to a comfortable distance from a trigger, or to turn and go in the opposite direction, where I can’t move out a good distance from an oncoming dog, I may then turn and walk slower in the opposite direction, depending on state/height of arousal, to avoid walking in face to face and the inevitable stacking up to bursting point.

This allows the other dog to catch up (assuming its minding its own business, and its just my dog that’s likely to get it’s knickers in a twist) and at the point of arriving we’ll turn again and walk on briskly in our original direction, the brisk movement walking on forward helps to bring them down again too.

In different situations, wide path for instance, where I’ve been able to move off the path for others to pass, I have on occasions met some nice people, seeing I’m working with my dog to help her deal with their dogs passing, I’ve had a few lovely calming for the dogs conversations.

Once past I’ve called a thank you if they have taken the trouble to put their dogs on lead and give us as wide a berth as possible, and in these situations where we have stood a distance and talked, the dogs have then settled in each others company, albeit a good distance apart, and you can see them come down in height as they relax and realise there is no threat to them, picking up a link from our conversation that says, friend not foe, your not under threat.

However on the ball you are, proactive, eyes in the back of your head, life bites you on the bum when you least expect it, however disappointed, embarrassed, or any other feelings we may have when that happens, our dogs are not out to make us feel that way, their reaction in that moment is genuine, they are responding to their natural survival instincts.

Some of these dogs would no doubt survive if they lived in the natural world and had to live on their wits as their ancestors did.

One thing that every one needs to be conscious about, is that nobody is inadvertently cuing their dog to trigger up, tight leads, stiffening up when the handler has a visual on a potential issue, if in doubt just move away, even if that means crossing the road or going through a gate, your just looking out for your dog.

There may be many reasons why some dogs are more reactive/triggered. Don’t we just love to have a reason.

Children that are nurtured in very stable families are not all identical, we accept that as brothers and sisters one may be shy, one maybe a handful parents cant take their eyes off for a minute, the confidence of superman, one may need lots of support and encouragement, no belief in themselves.

Our dogs are who they are too, living in our modern world is not necessarily easy for them.

Why do so many dogs now have issues, and why has becoming a behaviour consultant become so popular/lucrative

Many years ago, latch key dogs were not a problem, dogs often met their owners coming home from work or even went with them and came back with them. I’m talking years back my parents & grandparents younger years. I heard many stories of dogs seen waiting outside factory gates and round the dock yards waiting for their person to finish work.

Looking back, in my life time (granted I’m pretty ancient) I remember you couldn’t walk to the park or a shop without meeting loose local, laid back, well balanced dogs on the way, they were as much part of the local community as any one.

Pups would have learned their social skills, from these natural teachers that spoke the same language, with daily practice once old enough to be taken out.

When I look back now I think my mother was quite responsible at a time when it was the norm for dogs to have a lot of freedom, our dog was always accompanied, but still met and interacted with other dogs in lots of space with lots of freedom.

It was safer then the roads were quiet, that way of life couldn’t happen now, I can still remember one of the local dogs, a large brindle mixture, loved to lay in the sun in the middle of the road in the summer, cars would drive carefully round him.

Things have changed so much, as things always will, some for the good but some not so good, we live in a world that has become very anti dog.

The transition through those years has seen a change to puppy socialising classes in halls, without those well laid back, well balanced, natural teachers that speak the lingo.

Modern day trainers often preach theory without ever having seen the other side and the changes that have passed down the line.

There’s a lot of miss information past down too.
Something that bugs me that has been drummed into new trainers is how hard and heavy handed trainers used to be, before the launch of the clicker, in the UK that was the mid 90s, I found early use of the clicker for which I owe thanks to Kay Laurence.

Much has changed and moved forwards again since the early clicker training days.

This miss information I believe came about through the obedience world, the word obedience makes you cringe. This was pretty much the main competitive sport along with working trials, very much military style training, ridged and harsh handling often the norm in obedience and working trail training, and seen because these were the sports on show.

Even the style of teaching was to ridicule and send handlers off in tears, really!

BUT that is not how everyone trained, it is not how everyone treated animals in there care.
In all my years working with animals I can honestly say people I have worked for and with, with horses and dogs, and the circle of friends over those years have put their animals welfare first, cruel or harsh treatment would not be tolerated.

A video of training using games from the 1940’s. No games are not new, things turn full circle don’t they, then they’re brought out as if just invented.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1mU-nw6Mwo

Just as dogs have evolved from their ancestors over hundreds of years, I think these many years of changes has to have had some effect on them as a species. Even comparing the appearance of breeds now and the same breeds 50/100 years back, some bare little resemblance.

Just as we now have many issues with obesity and people who are now either not capable, or can’t muster the energy for physical work when it needs doing, the do as little as you can, for as much as you can get attitude that’s become the norm.

What will it be like in 50/60 years from now I wonder?

I’ll look down from my cloud to see if any lessons have been learned or will there even be dogs in peoples lives?

Weak internet has meant gradual update of missing paragraphs.

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Brain to gut/gut to brain

Pre/Probiotics
Poop Eating Dogs (coprophagia)
Gut Brain Axis

One dog sent me searching in the direction of the gut brain connection.
The conversation that goes on between the two, brain to gut, gut to brain, they seem to go hand in glove.

There is a lot of research out there under the heading of the second brain
which could mean a whole lot of help for nervous or reactive dogs.

One dog sent me searching in the direction of the gut brain connection. The conversation that goes on between the two, brain to gut, gut to brain. They seem to go hand in glove.
There is a lot of research out there under the heading of the second brain, which could mean a whole lot of help for nervous or reactive dogs.

If the oesophagus, small and large intestines, are lined with tissue containing neurons soaked in the same neurotransmitters as the brain, and research has shown that 95% of serotonin and 50% of dopamine is to be found in these gut tissues, then to condition the gut could surely help, and may well have a knock on effect on the state of mind.

Some years back I drove friends nuts, looking into the gut brain link and repeatedly reporting on my findings.

This was for one dog in particular I was working with, that lacked confidence in many areas of his life, his first year was not as I’d planned it to be. That may have had some knock on effect, or it could just be who he was as an individual  (we all like to have reasons we can put into words)  I just could not find a way to help him.

In my search I came across different papers on the gut brain link, and how what happens in the gut can affect mood and emotion.
So the journey began, with working from the inside out, hoping that improving the gut bacteria, would help the messaging between gut and brain, and put his head in a better place.

PRE/PROBIOTICS
Prebiotics are a a sort of dietary fiber, inulin, that is used as food for gut bacteria.
Probiotics contain live organisms usually specific strains of bacteria that add to the population of healthy microbes.
Synbiotics. When a food contains both pre and probiotics the combination is called synbiotic.
Worth giving synbiotics a go I thought.

I put him on a sensitive gut formula diet, he showed no signs of a sensitive gut, but if I was to see a difference, I decided I should go the whole hog.

I added pre/probiotics supplements, then started to culture goats milk kefir (probiotic) to add to the diet.Within a couple of months I could see a difference, a few months more and the difference in him was noticed, and remarked on by people that only saw him at venues we travelled to.

Being such a worried little man, there were life events in his first year, that would have had an impact on him, and needed addressing, but with his renewed confidence, we were armed to tackle these.

Over the coming months I had some emails and FB messages, from friends who had noticed the difference in him (so it wasn’t just me) wanting to know about the pre/probiotics I was adding to his food, the interest was because of dogs of their own they thought may benefit.

I‘m privileged to have witnessed this change with one of my own dogs, rather than to have read about somebody else’s dog. It’s not a magic cure for all dogs, but worth digging into, for any dog with emotional or behavioural issues.

He is who he is, and I recognise and respect his limits,  as I keep telling him, he’d hate the crowd crush at Crufts.

Gut Brain Axis (simplified)
Gut bacteria make chemicals that communicate with the brain through nerves and hormones. The connection between the gut and brain is called the Gut-Brain Axis.

The gut is full of bacteria, working away like a little factory,  making the chemicals that communicate with the brain, but it depends on what bacteria is in the gut, as to what chemicals are being made, and what messages are being sent, calm, happy and serene, stressed, anxious or depressed.   

The brain in the head may do the thinking, being aware of the environment and possible threat, or fun to be had,  but the gut brain can influence the emotions that arise in the head brain.
It was not until the 19th century,  that the enteric nervous system (ENS) was discovered, it’s a widely distributed network of neurons spread throughout two layers of gut tissue. It is part of the autonomic nervous system. 

Research with both animals and humans are finding important connections between gut bacteria and the brain that influence emotions, including psychological disorders and mental illness, there are studies that link the gut to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s too.

Gut instincts
D
opamine is associated with pleasure and the reward system in the brain, it also acts as a signalling molecule in the gut, coordinating contractions of muscles in the colon. Serotonin is also sending signals via the ENS, known as the “feel good” molecule involved in preventing depression, regulating sleep, appetite and body temperature.

There’s more evidence of links between the two brains in our response to stress, “butterflies” in the stomach, is the result of the fight flight response, diverting blood away from the gut to the muscles in preparation for action. A good reason for losing appetite when you or your four footed friend are stressed.

Poo Eating Dogs Nature knows best
The dog that started me on this search was and still is a mega poo eater.

Looking into pre and probiotics, and the history of FMT transplants, and the way nature has of looking after nature, I think it’s safe to consider that dogs that are attracted to poo eating, are most probably just self medicating to balance their gut microbiome, especially when we look into the fecal microbiota transplantation treatments of today.

While I endeavor to “pick up” I don’t freak out at not beating him to the spoils, which I may add is never his own produce.

FECAL MICROBIOTA TRANSPLANTATION
All the rage now.
Plain poop to us, dogs have inside information, taught by nature.

Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is being developed as a technique to transfer slightly processed faeces from a healthy donor to a recipient. The aim of the procedure is to establish a healthy diverse microbiome within the gut.

An ancient Chinese researcher Ge Hong first used what he called  Yellow soup, he used this to treat patients with severe diarrhea, administered orally,  as one can imagine although effective, it wasn’t popular,  and this method of treatment died out.


Camel faeces were used by German soldiers in  world war II, to treat bacterial dysentery, so quite a history of recycling.
In 1958 a paper was published  by Eiseman et al, reporting on his FMT treatment of patients with antibiotic associated diarrhea, treatment delivered by retention enemas. The patients recovered almost immediately

Despite the volume of evidence,  it was only in 1978 that the value of FMT was widely recognised.  In over 95% of cases treated the cure was quick and permanent.

Current modifications to the technique include the use of a stool banks, and the use of frozen feces rather than fresh (obviously not where the saying “fresh is best” came from)

Following the recognition of FMT, its applications are being currently explored in many fields of therapy, including both chronic intestinal and extra-intestinal conditions, which may be caused or contributed to by alterations in the gut microbiome, and may be restored by renewal of normal gut flora patterns.

An interesting read, nature knows best although I don’t intend joining in, I’ll stick with the kefir.

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Featured

Gifted dogs & filters.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SCENT or SIGHT TAKES OVER 
Looking at the process of what happens when scent or sight takes over and the dog appears to ignore all else.

Once upon a a time anyone who wanted help training their dog, had no choice but to find a dog obedience club. Now there is access to an overload of choice, incorporating science based training and welfare awareness.

Many different breeds, cross breeds and rescues are being encouraged to join in with dog club and group activities, eventually dipping their toes in the competition ring. Theses activities are a great way of maintaining or improving the dogs physical condition, while expanding opportunities for mental stimulation, play and enriched bonding.

Different breeds and cross breeds can have strong, instinctive inbred traits that can make training more challenging, and I think we need an increased understanding of what those challenges may be and look for ways to help them.

Most data and research we have has been set up for the better understanding of conditions in people, however we are now on the edge of exciting times with more research, including MRI, now specifically designed to better understand our canine friends.

Whenever I have hit a problem with a dog, I’ve tried to look at what makes that dog as an individual tick. One dog took me travelling through the world of feral dogs, another led on a journey of the gut-brain link, right now I’m looking into what floats the boat of a nose on four legs.
But it’s not the case of looking at one sense. Everything is linked, even in my search of the link between the olfactory and auditory senses, I have been waylaid by research that comes up on sound sensitivity.

Most people that teach, work with all sorts of people and all sorts of dogs, and a thorough understanding of how one sense can affects another sense must give us a better understanding of some of the training challenges our gifted dogs are working with.

There’s a wealth of knowledge, experience in research papers out there that can help to fit the pieces of the jigsaw together.

Searching
I have been searching for the process of what happens when scent or sight takes over and the dog appears to ignore all else.

Within each sensory system we are processing an enormous amount of data all the time. We pay attention to only a small proportion of that information, this is known as selective filtering or selective attention, and gating. (NOT selective as in deliberately ignoring)

I’ve been offered many leads to investigate but most research has been done with humans, mice and monkeys, there is now more interest in the canine world, hopefully this will lead to better understanding in the future for dogs genetically geared to a preference to use their noses or their sight.  

Much of the research has been set up for greater understanding of schizophrenia and autism. How the Brain filters out unimportant details 

Although there are several parts of the brain involved, the part of the brain that is involved with selective filtering is where all of these senses intersect (Daniel Huss 2015). This area is the thalamus, this is also thought to be involved in consciousness. In addition to connections from the thalamus to the cerebral cortex, there are also connections from the cortex to the thalamus, this can be explained by selective filtering.

When the cortex receives priority information, it signals back to a part of the thalamus known as the reticular nucleus, the structure uses the neurotransmitter GABA to inhibit transmission of other irrelevant signals from the thalamus to the cortex.

I’m hoping that better understanding of selective filtering/gating may help us fine tune training plans so that we can interrupt at the start of the filtering process. This is assuming we can recognise the signs early enough, but that’s the hard bit as it is usually a split second.

Scent can trigger strong emotions and memories
Due to the brain’s anatomy incoming smells are first processed by the olfactory bulb. The olfactory bulb has a direct connection to the amygdala and hippocampus areas that are strongly implicated in emotion and memory. We can trigger strong emotional responses through scent, often used as an illustration are the scent of a particular flower at funerals. Do dogs have the same responses to scents of veterinary clinics, scent of stress from the handler or other dogs?
Interestingly, auditory (sound) visual and tactile (touch) information does not pass through these areas. (Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience 2014 Ann-Lise Saive. Jean-Pierre Royet and Janet Plailly) Surprising considering how easily music triggers emotions. Source

Attention
At the national eye institute in Maryland, Kerry McAlonan and colleagues, experimented with Macaque monkeys. Their results showed quick surges of activity in the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) that relays information to the cortex, and a split second later a drop in activity in the TRN a satellite structure, known to turn off information during sleep. The team believe that when paying attention, the TRN glances at the images coming through the thalamus and selectively turns on or off relays to pass on only the bits that deserve attention. Robert Wurtz co-author on the paper says “If the thalamus is the gateway to the cortex, the TRN is the gate keeper”  
A 1950s experiment with cats also points to an attention filter and possible block. (Hernandez-peon. Scherrer and Jouvet study on attention. P123-126 google books.)

Visual Filter, Sensory Gating
As you read, your mind homes in on each word and blots out the rest of the page. This roving spot of attention tames the flood of visual information that hundreds of thousands of nerves fibers attached to the back of your eye’s retina stream into the brain. (Devin Powell)  In 1984 the co-discoverer of DNA, Frances Crick, suggested the thalamus could play a part in this process, once thought only to connect the eyes to the cortex, it could contain a searchlight that filters what we pay attention to. Source

“Sensory gating describes neurological processes of filtering out redundant or unnecessary stimuli in the brain from all possible environmental stimuli. Also referred to as gating. Sensory gating prevents an overload of irrelevant information in the higher cortical centers of the brain” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensory_gating

Would attaching an antecedent verbal cue to a high pitch whistle, (breakthrough sound) have an impact in other scenarios, much the same as adding a performance cue to a training cue, with the dog that gets distracted by scent or vision in the competition ring?  Would the brain then start to register that antecedent cue and mentally arrive back with us in the real world?
With some dogs a squeaky may work, obviously in training away from other dogs.

Sight Hounds and visual streak
Sight hounds are thought of as independent thinkers, because of mostly working at a distance. A study done by Paul McGreevey, Alison Harman and Grassi TD noticed that only dogs with long noses have a visual streak, this is a horizontally aligned area in the retina lined up with ganglion cells. Dogs with short noses such as Pugs, Pekes, and Boxers have their ganglion cells densely packed in one spot “areacentralis”.

Diet
Not something one thinks about when it comes to olfaction, but the deeper you look the more you find. I’ve come across different studies that have suggested that a higher fat diet aids olfaction, useful to know if you are hoping to keep your dog’s nose with you and not on the floor.

“Corn oil has lots of polyunsaturated fats, similar to what you’d find in a lot of nuts and common grocery store seed oils,” said Wakshlag. “Past data from elsewhere suggest that these polyunsaturated fats might enhance the sense of smell, and it looks like that may be true for detection dogs. It could be that fat somehow improves nose-signalling structures or reduces body temperature or both. But lowering protein also played a part in improving olfaction.” Source

We also know from experience that high fat treats trigger a great interest from the dogs, and that most dried dog food are sprayed in fat to evoke appetite.

Whistles as a breakthrough?
One can understand the long-established early whistle training used with gun dogs to breakthrough. (Breakthrough is a term I remember an old gamekeeper used to use). It seems widely accepted that a whistle became the tool of choice for distance training, because there was a need for minimal verbal noise during hunting or shooting. Nothing scarier to a wild animal than the sound of a human voice. In addition, dog’s ears are more tuned to the higher frequencies of whistles than they are to voices.·

This is the questioning I wanted to look at, think about and dissect. The advantages to a whistle are that the tone doesn’t vary.  To be honest I’ve never been a whistle user, BUT I’m open minded and searching. We have clickers that give clear information, they don’t vary in sound, or bring emotion into the equation. 

Sound being caused by air vibrations, the more vibrations per second the higher the sound and the higher the frequency. If whistles have a clear distinctive, consistent high frequency sound that the auditory system is sensitive to, could we use whistle training with high reward association, and then attach the verbal cue in the same way that we would attach a performance cue to a training cue.

Could that whistle cue help a dog, that appears to have selective hearing when olfaction or visual disruption takes over?

Since digging into the post above I have found a sound, that cuts through to one of my own dogs that loves to run, and covers a lot of ground in safe forestry. A good subject for experimentation. BUT this dog has instinctive traits that in given situations, I think the filtering/gating may take over.

They are who they are. What we see as issues, is often the result of mans selective breeding over hundreds of years. While some may not have enough traits for the jobs we need them for, some may have a lions share.

Featured

The Black Dog Syndrome

Photo Bear by Sheila Waller

When one of my prominently black dogs was young and muscular, people and dogs would tend to step back and leave her space,  the butch muscled  look probably didn’t help.
Looking at the history of survival, coat colour and the journey to domestication, could it be a genetic down load that instinctively causes this reaction, in some but not all dogs/people.

Thinking about the natural world, how many backgrounds are black? We don’t have black sand or fields or woods.
Looking back in time most animals coat colours would reflect their habitat, they would blend in, be they prey or predator, they would need cover to survive.

Synaesthesia.  The ability to join senses.

I put the “Black dog” question on my timeline a while back, and the  suggestion was made that maybe dogs can smell colour, if that’s the case, is this an aversive scent? 
Something to think about.

Some people have experienced synaesthesia of two or more senses and our sense of smell is not a patch on our dogs olfactory system.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170821105523.htm

Different Blacks?
Many collies are predominantly black, but don’t seem to have the same effect, as other black dogs, could that be because of the way they move, or that there are a good number to be seen on a regular basis?
Rarely seen completely black at the head, and that would be seen first, when travelling towards.

Could different blacks elicit different responses?
Hair colour is the pigmentation of hair follicles due to two types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Generally, if more eumelanin is present, the colour of the hair is darker, if less eumelanin is present, the hair is lighter
https://www.combibreed.com/…/…/Coat-colour-and-variation/Dog
From
Dr. van Haeringen Laboratorium B.V.  (genetics in practice)

Green Dogs
Thinking of colour and camouflage for hunting/hiding and past survival needs, we don’t have green dogs either, but that could reflect how their predators or prey see colour.

Another thought on black, having looked at green, is from what we know, most animals don’t see all colours, so maybe it is just black catches the eye, draws them in, makes them stand out, hides features that show them clearly, difficult to define facial expression,  harder for an artist to capture expression too.

Today in the natural world we have the Arctic fox and Arctic wolf that blend in with the snow, many other examples can be found in the natural world, coat colours changing with the seasons.

Looking at the history of survival, coat colour and the journey to domestication, I think man chose black not nature. 

The Arctic Wolf


Their all very individual.
Looking into the differences in the olfactory, visual and auditory systems of dogs that are selectively bred for various tasks,  there are marked differences, compared to dogs bred to be companions, as one would expect, so that then raises the question, how thorough and varied has the research been into how dogs see colour?

Was it a vast number of breeds and types? 
Dogs with and without visual streak?
Dogs bred to use their noses against dogs bred to use their eyes?
Or just dogs in general?  Could this make a difference to the research outcome? 

Could there be any variation, that could make some react more than others to black?Who knows?
                                                                     
How dogs see in colour from research done.
https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsos.170869
https://www.youtube.com/watch?

Animal Shelters/Sanctuaries
Added to the “Black Dog/Cat” superstition and myths, animal shelters/sanctuaries find black dogs and cats are often overlooked, they don’t stand out, they blend in with the background, but that’s looking through human eyes.

Wonder if colour blind people are more likely to notice black dogs in a shelter (just a thought)
Their characters are missed, because their facial features and expressions are less clear, its not so easy to see the eyes.
They don’t photograph so well for promotion.
 
Folklore
Black dogs have a place in folklore as being bad luck, I’m thinking there are many dogs that have a black dog best friend they walk with or are family members,  just as they may have their own family cat, but woe betide any other cat that crosses their path.

Interesting article by Kristin Urban  Black dog mythology
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When I grow up, I’m going to be a “big black dog” 

Black cats have a place in mythology too, article by Franny Syufi
      

Black dogs used to describe the overwhelming weight/pressure that depression can cause.  Health Organisation
I had a black dog, his name was depression

Black dog (ghost)
Black dog (ghost) – Wikipedia

Featured

Triggered dogs

Part 1

Triggered/ reactive dogs, behavioural and fitness businesses.

I would hope there is a sharing of knowledge, so a complete package of canine body and mind could be put in place.
After all, there’s a whole dog, muscle and mind thrown in with reactivity, these two subjects should go hand in glove.

Loaded and ready

Looking at muscle and mind.
Dogs that have lived, or started out, largely in a reactive state, seeming to be doing daily work outs of isometric stress held muscles and then the changes in muscle as the stressed behaviour, reactivity improves.

With behavioural and fitness businesses booming, I would hope there is a sharing of knowledge. After all, there’s a whole dog, muscle and mind thrown in with reactivity

What I have noticed in some reactive/trigger happy  dogs, is pretty hard muscle packs that you can recognise, there’s similarities in other reactive dogs you meet.

They are on high alert, putting the triggered, reactivity into practice often. compared to dogs that relax in environments, and are working fit muscled, using those muscles only when movement is required.

Warm Ups.
Working sensibly with our dogs on fitness of any kind, we would warm up the muscles, in doing so we would be stretching and softening the fascia, ready to start work.

D
ogs that are reactive/triggered throw the body into tense action, possibly many times in each day, without any warm up at all, the whole system regularly flooded with stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

This is something I’ve seen for myself with more than one dog.
As very trigger happy, reactive dogs improve, settle, begin to relax and accept what used to trigger, along with the world,  the bouts of intense muscle pumping lessens or stop altogether, so that muscle starts to soften, as does the dogs shape over time, from the hard outlined of the dog that was constantly on red alert

Accepting and being comfortable with what used to trigger, doesn’t affect them all the same way.
The extra sparkle that went with the muscled self, sometimes seems to disappear too. I had thought this may be for other reasons and not connected, but in general conversations with trigger happy/reactive dog guardians, when I’ve mentioned these changes, others have experienced the same, although nothing researched as I can find on this specific subject.

As the triggering side of behaviour improves, there’s sometimes a knock on effect in confidence.
One would expect more confidence, but it often goes the other way.

It’s as if, as they stop so much triggering off, they start noticing more in and around the environment, they become a little more sensitive to things they never bothered about or noticed before, while they have lived on red alert, or in shout first ask questions later mode.

At this point I will add that I am sensitive to the dogs in my care, I’m pro active, have almost grown eyes in the back of my head, aware of space, aware of environments and come down times after life has bitten us all on the bum, life happens all the same.

This is different from the teenage stages often experienced, where some dogs go through various stages, some showing spooky cautiousness or teenage “bring it on” challenging behaviour, that’s no different from two legged teens, the age of stressed parents, where dogs are given up to shelters and two legged parents wonder where they went wrong.

One of my many questions has been, with all the chemical flooding that is happening in these dogs, how are these hormones that are pumping round in the system affecting their health?
What effect are they having on internal organs?
Will the muscles and joints be more vulnerable to damage later?

In this modern world of canine research and behaviour does any info exits on this specific subject, the muscle and mental, build and breakdown, when confidence seems to be lost. Those behavioural changes that have come along with their less triggered selves, and what implications does this have on their health and mental state in the future. 
Not the reactivity, that’s a different subject, they are who they are probably for many different reasons.

There has been so much interest in the last 12,15 years in various canine massage courses, and the last 6 or more years fitness has really taken off, a lot of that I feel is unfortunately for commercial gain, with designer equipment.

Muscle Tension
Experienced dog guardians often notice that their dogs suffer muscle stiffness after a reactive episode.

Watching some dogs in competition that are tense, there is a defined  back arch that can be clearly seen, not all stressed/tense dogs hold themselves this way, but this is quite a noticeable outline when you see it.

I think some things we notice and think about but never get to discuss with others, or maybe we do but it just gets dismissed.
Noticing similarity in muscle build in reactive dogs (observation over many years) I have just decided this must go on to my DDL. “Dig deeper list”

Fascia
I’ve had sound advise that fascia is now thought as, or, more important than muscle.
Fascia is a network of connective tissue that surrounds body organs, muscles, groups of muscles, nerves, etc.  a dense maze of collagen fibres, these fibres provide structure and support for internal body parts.

Chronic stress causes the fibres to thicken in an attempt to protect the underlying muscle. Poor posture lack of flexibility and repetitive movements, such as reactive, trigger happy dogs practise, pull the fascia into ingrained patterns.

With Fascia that has thickened, hardened and has impaired gliding ability,  a tight connective tissue chain can distort the skeleton so that wear in the joints occur and the balance is disturbed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzy8-wQzQMY&fbclid

Fascia and the horse.
Dr. Vibeke Sødring Elbrønd 
https://www.atlasbalans.com/fascia/research/myofascia-the-unexplored-tissue/
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In 1936  Canadian biochemist Hans Selye of McGill University in Montreal, defined two types of “stress” eustress (good stress) and distress (bad stress).Both eustress and distress release cortisol. Once the alarm to release cortisol has sounded, the body becomes mobilized and ready for action but there has to be a physical release of fight or flight. Otherwise, cortisol levels build up in the blood.

Eustress creates a kind of “fun, excited, anticipatory, party time” heightened state of arousal, with cortisol levels then returning to normal.
Distress, which was designed to insure survival, fight, flight, freeze doesn’t provide an outlet, cortisol levels can take seconds to flood the system but days to leave, causing repeated triggering reaction to stack up.

When reactivity is triggered, the hypothalamus, a tiny region at the base of the brain, sets off an alarm system in the body, through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts the adrenal glands, located at the top of the kidneys, to release a surge of hormones.

Adrenaline increases the heart rate, and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream. Cortisol also suppresses the digestive system , and dulls the immune system, basically knocks out any non essentials, to free up all energy for fight or flight
 
The body’s stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Once threat has passed, hormone levels return to normal. As adrenaline and cortisol levels drop,  body and mind return to normal, but when stressors are always present, fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on.

The long-term activation of the stress-response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones that follows can disrupt almost all of the body’s processes.
Stress hormones cause blood vessels to constrict and divert more oxygen to the muscles to add strength ready to take action.

With behavioural and fitness businesses booming, I would hope there is a sharing of knowledge, so a complete package of canine body and mind could be put in place. After all, there’s a whole dog, muscle and mind thrown in with reactivity, these two subjects should go hand in glove.

Featured

Standing up for the head collar.

We have all no doubt come across people that just want a quick fix, but others have a very valid reason to choose the head collar.

Iris Maxfield

I’ve read a few trainers posts this last year, that include a mention of head collars, usually just a few words, but their implication, is that a head collar is worn because the handler has not put the time and commitment in to train.

We have all no doubt come across people who just want a quick fix, but others have a very valid reason to choose the head collar.
In the phase of training we are travelling through now, it only takes one person of standing to suggest that all who use head collars are lazy trainers, and just like many people believe, if its written in the news papers, seen on TV or some one got it published in a book, it must be true.

This is in defence of the head collar used appropriately.

Just wearing a head collar is enough to calm some lead reactive dogs, the head collar allows you to gently redirect your dog, so they don’t fixate on triggers, if you can gently redirect before your dog reacts, you stand a better chance of persuading them to move away or do something more appropriate, depending on the given situation.

The head collar helps to encourage turning away, in itself a calming signal to any dog trigger they may have started to fix on.

There are so many different designs, and it is important to find the right make and model to fit the individual comfortably.

Not all designs close around the nose, some are stitched, just like a horses head collar, some are designed like a figure of eight, and on some the lead attachment is higher up near the top of the head.

Don’t just knock the head collar, because you have not had a dog that needed the benefit of wearing one.

If you don’t know all the designs, then the criticism is coming after watching from the next field, so not a clear view.

A flat collar is not so innocent.

The flat collar can also be a second trigger. The throat is very vulnerable, its a place where if attacked, a good bite can cause a a large and fast blood loss, that will weaken and bring down.
Even historic paintings have images of dogs used for guarding livestock, that have broad leather collars with spikes, to protect their throats in case of attack by wolves or bears.

Anyone who’s grabbed a collar of dogs sizing each other up, will have experienced this act as the trigger to fly. No wonder pressure on the collar can be a second trigger to a dog already in a heightened state.

However much we are proactive, careful, grow eyes in the back of our heads, work to keep our reactive dogs under threshold, un triggered and in the space they need, life happens, and we need to manage that in the best way we can.

Dogs have seven cervical vertebrae in the neck, the spinal cord passes through the column in the centre of each vertebrae, this cord carries messages from the brain to the rest of the body, when dogs pull or lunge against a collar, as a triggered dog might, they can cause a lot of damage.

“Eye and ear problems may also be related to pulling on the leash” writes Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM. “My experience is that pulling decreases the energy and lymphatic flow to the head, which leads to ear and eye conditions”

Most people do not know that leashes and collars can cause so many problems.
This link is from Pressure and force on the canine neck when exercising using a collar and leash. Authors A.HunterS.BlakeR. FerroDe Godoy

This is a passage from the link above, from Veterinary and Animal Science.
Volume 8, December 2019, 100082
“Pulling or tugging from the dog or handler onto a narrow collar can cause major trauma to the neck, with research suggesting that just over 2 g of weight can suppress a nerve’s function by up to 50% (Kaufman, 2007). This is particularly relevant when discussing pressure on the neck as the cervical and accessory spinal nerves run under the collar (Goody, 2013). Head collars, in comparison to the neck collar, are designed to put pressure on the back of the neck, as a straight-line force is exerted, and minimal pressure on the neck and nose strap (Ogburn et al., 1998). The resultant effect is for the dog pull back on the head collar, rather than forwards when pulling against the neck restraint, significantly reducing the pressure exerted on these nerves.”


Laryngeal paralysis, By Dr. Becker “In my experience, cervical or neck trauma is the most common reason for acquired laryngeal paralysis, and it can often be traced to an acute leash accident involving the neck. Perhaps a dog was tied outside, took off running, got to the end of the leash or rope and didn’t realise it, and choked.
Just a single episode of severe acute trauma to the neck, even if it happened years ago, can cause laryngeal paralysis”.

The incident may not have even seemed like a big deal at the time. The dog may have coughed for a day or two afterwards. He may have even coughed up some blood, but otherwise seemed fine” https://youtu.be/tXkV2R_pu4Y

The neck and cervical spinal is one of the most important channels in the body, containing that spinal cord for supply to the whole of the body, it is where the front leg nerves originate from, when these nerves are damaged, it can cause tingling in the paws, because of the irritation dogs will lick or chew their paws.
It is also the channel where the nerves controlling the internal organ function pass through.

A dog that lunges or takes off and hits the end of the lead can get a whiplash effect that can manifest in problems later down the line.
The collar pushes on the throat exactly in the area of the thyroid gland, he thyroid gland governs the metabolism of every cell, it can affect the whole body, this gland gets traumatised every time a dog pulls or lunges against the collar, the thyroid can become inflamed and consequently destroyed, leading to hypothyroidism.

In all honesty, if down the line a dog has thyroid problems, how many of us would think the collar could be guilty?

While harnesses are recommended, its important to ensure a good fit, one that rest on the dogs throat could cause just as much damage, too low on the shoulders can interfere with the dogs action, too close to the armpits can cause rubbing and soreness.

A well fitting harness with front lead attachment, is the type most often recommended for reactive/trigger happy dogs, BUT however proactive and on the ball you are, a dog that is truly triggered, then has a head that can dart in all directions and in seconds can have worked up to blowing a fuse.

A combination of front fastening harness and head collar or collar is more sensible, but which combination will depend on the individual, and their level and speed of triggering.

A few years back a friend was walking her two large well behaved gentle dogs through the village where she lives, when a goat shot out from a drive way across the road in front of her, now who could of predicted that? 
One dog shot back in shock one shot to the side out in the road, she sustained a shoulder injury that has proved a long term issue, it knocked her confidence just knowing if a car had come along at that moment, her dog would have been hit, because of the weak shoulders she now walks them on head collars, this gives her back the confidence to walk them through the village to the off lead walks they love so much.

So there is another reason a head collar my be chosen, she is definitely not a lazy trainer.