Avoid Dog Problems After Christmas

Lonely Dog

Dogs are sensitive to routine changes. Be careful with how you handle your dog during the big holidays, or you’ll risk serious problems when the children go back to school, and you go back to work.

Christmas is a big holiday season in the Western hemisphere. We have more time to give to our pets, which is good, but can also create problem behavior if we are not careful. Having more time at their disposition means that most dog owners spend more time with their dogs—longer walks, maybe a bit more training, but most of all much more time together.

All organisms are more or less sensitive to routine changes—that’s a survival mechanism—and our dogs are no exception. The children staying home from school increases the household activity level and implies some stress. Many dogs do not respond well to that. Some of them become restless, hyperactive.

Another problem occurs with being home alone, which our statistics shows clearly. If June-July and December are low seasons, then August and January are high seasons for canine problem behavior. Many dogs react poorly when school and work routines set in again after having been together with their owners almost 24-7 for a longer period. From one day to the other, without any explanation (for them) all the razzmatazz goes away, and they are left home alone. After having been extremely busy for a period, unexpectedly nothing happens around them.

From having had company around the clock to being left alone eight hours a day, or from having been active most of the day to suddenly having nothing to do, creates problems.

What can we do to prevent our dogs from developing behavior problems during Christmas holidays?

The time we spend with our dogs should be quality time more than quantity time (and this applies to all relationships). More time during the long holidays is good because we can focus on training our dogs in some skills, which we had wished we could have done, but couldn’t because of our busy working schedule.

To prevent home alone problems from showing up after the holiday, we should maintain periods during the day in which the dog is unattended. That will also prevent the worst of the hyperactive behavior that may develop due to the higher level of stimulation. Instruct the children to leave the dog alone at set times and explain to them why this is important.

As to what you can do with your dog, avoid the hollow, stressing activities like ball throwing and chasing. Focus on the more meaningful searching games instead—nose work or scent detection as you prefer to call them. These are activities that tire the dog without creating hyperactive behavior. You can even teach your children these searching games. They will spend some fun times with their dogs developing a healthy relationship. It is my experience that children are great with animals if we, adults, give it the necessary time to instruct them correctly.

If you travel on your holiday, remember that boarding a dog is stressful for the dog independently of the quality of the boarding venue. The best will provide suitable conditions for the dog to satisfy its needs for contact and exercise, but it is still a break in the usual routine. Be prepared to reintroduce the household routines when you return from what I hope has been an enjoyable holiday. It does not need to be difficult if you are aware of it and do it systematically.

Other pets than dogs are also affected by our holidays. Cats may become extremely restless during the holidays and seek refuge. Horses may show stereotypies when returning to the pre-holiday routines if you have spent much more time with them. Even parrots have shown some problem behavior because of the disruption of the daily schedule.

It’s curious how our minds focus on irrelevant contexts and forget essential ones. For example, no canine has evolved to expect food presented at set times, and yet most dog owners insist in serving their dogs the daily rations by the clock. On the other hand, no canine has evolved to see their family-pack increase/decrease their level of activity dramatically from one day to the other (like with holidays) or to be moved suddenly to an unfamiliar location— and yet many dog owners don’t even give it a thought.

Our responsibility toward our dog is a whole year activity (as it is to be a parent). To love those we are responsible for means to provide them with what they need so that they can develop harmoniously. To love is a full-time job with no time off allowed.

Please, share this link with your dog owner friends; and with your clients, if you’re a dog trainer. It would be wonderful if we’d go out of business in what concerns treating problem behavior in pets, wouldn’t it? Alas, I don’t think that to be a realistic expectation anytime soon, but we can all do our part to help it move in the right direction.

Enjoy your holiday and keep smiling. Yes, life is great!

 

ChildAndDog

We want to protect them, who need it most, our children and our animals. We want to keep offering "Knowledge to everyone... everywhere," free courses and blogs. Join us, buy "Dogs And Children," book and course, for the cost of a cup of coffee and a muffin. Help us to help them.

 

The Misadventures of Bongo

Bongo Home Alone

Bongo Home Alone (Illustration by Henriette Westh)

 

In 1994, I created Bongo to illustrate the various situations dog owners and dogs get into and how to get out of them the best possible way. My objective was to explain and illustrate that many dog problems (maybe most) were the result of misunderstandings between us and them. If we spoke a better “Doguese,” we could certainly avoid the worst troubles. I paired up with Henriette Westh, a brilliant Danish illustrator, and she gave Bongo more than a form; she gave him a character of his own.

Bongo is a nice, friendly and naughty English Cocker Spaniel (orange roan, the original drawings were in color) with his own mind. He’s a good dog and loves his family very much, but he gets often in trouble, mostly because of misunderstandings as you can see in “Bongo Home Alone.”

“Bongo Home Alone” was first published in 1994 in my book “Hunden, ulven ved din side” (Borgen Publishers). Coincidentally, the editor of the book was none other than Henriette’s brother, Poul Henrik Westh. The book never appeared in English, but Bongo did.

Enjoy this bit of history and nostalgia and have a good laugh!

 

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The Misadventures of BongoClick the icon to read the book on your mobile device (iOS, Windows and Android). Please, note that the ease of read will depend on your device’s screen size and resolution. To get the full experience of the flip-pages book, you must read in on a computer.

 

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Love Your Dog the Whole Year

Dog Love - Lauren Grabelle.

Love is a full-time job (photo by Lauren Grabelle).

 

The big summer vacation is setting in all over most of the western world. Children have finished school for this (school) year. It’s a good, but also a stressful period.

At the Institute, every year, our IT department experiences its ‘low season’ in June-July and again in December. For us, IT does not stand for Information Technology, but Individual Training. Our activity of treating problem behavior individually predates the upsurge of computers and their IT acronym.

June-July is the big summer holiday season. Those who stay home have more time to give to their pets, which is good, but can also create problem behavior if we are not careful. Having more time at their disposition means that most dog owners spend more time with their dogs—more and longer walks, maybe a bit more training, but most of all much more time together.

All organisms are more or less sensitive to routine changes, and our dogs are not exceptions. The increase in activity with the children at home can imply some stress, and many dogs do not respond well to that. Some of them become restless, hyperactive.

Another problem occurs with being home alone, which our statistics shows clearly. If June-July and December are low seasons, then August and January are high seasons for canine problem behavior. Having been together with their owners almost 24-7 for a longer period, many dogs react poorly when the school and work routines set in again. From one day to the other, without any explanation (for them) all the razzmatazz disappears, and they are left home alone. They have been extremely busy for a period, and unexpectedly nothing happens around them.

From having company around the clock to being alone eight hours a day, or from being active most of the day to suddenly having nothing to do, creates problems.

 

Dog And Family.

Summer holiday—a great time for the whole family, including the dog. However, we must be attentive to problems we may be creating without being aware of it.

 

What can we do to prevent our dogs from developing behavior problems during the long holidays?

The time we spend with our dogs should be quality time more than quantity time (I guess this applies to all relationships). More time during the long holidays is good because we can focus on training our dogs in some skills, which maybe we’ve wished to do, but couldn’t because of our busy working schedule.

To prevent home alone problems from showing up after the holidays, we should maintain periods during the day in which the dog is unattended. This will also prevent the worst of the hyperactive behavior that may develop due to the higher level of stimulation. Instruct the children to leave the dog alone at set times and explain to them why this is important.

As to the activities, you can do with your dog, try to avoid the empty, stressing activities like ball throwing and chasing. Focus on the more meanings full searching games instead—nose work or scent detection as you prefer to call them. These are activities that tire the dog without creating hyperactive behavior. You can even teach your children these searching games. They will spend some good times with their dogs developing a healthy relationship. It is my experience that children are great with animals if we, adults, give it the necessary time to instruct them correctly.

If you go abroad on holidays, remember that boarding a dog is stressful for the dog independently of the quality of the boarding venue. The best of them will provide suitable conditions for the dog to satisfy its needs for contact and exercise, but it is still a break in the usual home routine. Be prepared to reintroduce the homely routines when you return from what I hope has been an enjoyable holiday trip to an inspiring foreign country. It does not need to be difficult if you are aware of it and do it systematically.

Other pets than dogs are also affected by our long holidays. Cats may become extremely restless during the holidays and seek refuge. Horses may show stereotypies when returning to the pre long holiday routine, if you have spent much more time with them. Even parrots have shown some problem behavior because of the disruption of the daily schedule.

It’s curious how our minds focus on irrelevant contexts and forget essential ones. For example, no canine has evolved to expect food presented at set times, and yet most dog owners insist in serving their dogs the daily rations by the clock. On the other hand, no canine has evolved to see their family-pack increase/decrease their level of activity dramatically from one day to the other (like with holidays) or to be moved suddenly to a totally unfamiliar location with a new fauna, and yet many dog owners don’t even give it a thought.

Our responsibility toward our dog is a whole year activity (as it is to be a parent). To love those we are responsible for means to provide them with what they need so that they can develop harmoniously, and, hopefully, create their own happy life. To love is a full-time job with no time off allowed.

Please, share this link with your clients, if you’re a dog trainer, and with your dog owner friends. If it only can help a few, preventing their dogs to develop problem behavior, then it’s worth it. It would be wonderful if we’d go out of business in what concerns treating problem behavior in pets, wouldn’t it? Alas, I don’t think that to be a realistic expectation anytime soon, but we can all do our part to help it move in the right direction.

Enjoy your holiday and keep smiling. Yes, life is great!

 

ChildAndDog

We want to protect them, who need it most, our children and our animals. We want to keep offering "Knowledge to everyone... everywhere," free courses and blogs. Join us, buy "Dogs And Children," book and course, for the cost of a cup of coffee and a muffin. Help us to help them.

 

Warning—You May Be Teaching Your Pet to Be Superstitious

Dog barking.
Warning: superstitious behavior is easy to create and extremely difficult to extinguish.

 

Superstitious behavior is behavior we erroneously associate with particular results. Animals create superstitions as we do. If by accident, a particular stimulus and consequence occur a number of times temporarily close to one another, we tend to believe that the former caused the latter. Both reinforcing and inhibiting consequences may create superstitious behavior. In the first case, we do something because we believe it will increase the odds of achieving the desired result (we do it for good luck). In the second case, we do not do something because we do not want something else to happen (it gives bad luck).

In 1948, B.F. Skinner recorded the superstitious behavior of pigeons making turns in their cages and swinging their heads in a pendulum motion. The pigeons displayed these behaviors attempting to get the food dispensers to release food. They believed their actions were connected with the release of food, which was not true because the dispensers were automatically programmed to dispense food at set intervals.

 

Dog barks at door.

Some cases of CHAP (Canine Home Alone Problems) could be superstitious behavior. The dog believes that if it barks long enough at the door, someone will open it because it has happened before. Many CHAP cases are not even remotely connected with anxiety as the dog owners erroneously presume.

 

Yesterday, we saw two of our Guinea pigs displaying superstitious behavior. One of them would place a paw on the tin containing the target scent and would swing its head repeatedly in the direction of the trainer. The piggy created the superstition because the trainer presented the reinforcers (“dygtig” and food) when it swung its head and not when it placed the paw on the tin right after sniffing the target scent. It did not take many repetitions before the animal had created an erroneous association. Another would walk over the tin if it didn’t get a reinforcer right away.

Superstitious behavior is extremely resistant to extinction. Skinner found out that some pigeons would display the same behavior up to 10,000 times without reinforcement. Displaying a behavior expecting a reinforcer, and receiving none, increases persistence. It’s like we (as well as other animals) feel that if we continue long enough the reinforcement will follow sooner or later.

As always, being an evolutionary biologist, the first question that comes to my mind is, “what conditions would favor the propagation of superstitious behavior?” Making correct associations between events confers a substantial advantage in the struggle for survival. That is what understanding (or adapting to) one’s environment means. The benefits of getting one association right outweigh the costs of making several wrong associations, so much that natural selection favors those who tend to make associations rather than those who do not—and that’s why superstitious behavior is highly resilient to extinction.

ลูกปุย (Lūk puy) not only survived the day before yesterday but seems to be in top form, charming as always and showing his skills in scent discrimination.

 

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