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Interview with Isla Fishburn
Copyright Jane Ardern 2019
How are you socialising your puppy?
As dog trainers we are seeing more and more dogs coming to classes that are going to doggy daycare.
It is really easy to spot these dogs because they are often totally obsessed with wanting to get to other dogs and totally disinterested in their owners and have no frustration tolerance.
The thing is day cares differ a lot and there are good and bad, for example we have one in Manchester and I can tell if the dog has been going there because they train as well as play which means these dogs come with skills that involve interactions with people in a distracting environment, such as offering eye contact and being able to settle around other dogs.
Some day cares just allow free play all day and the experience is therefore limited. Which is ok, but this means you need to be more proactive in providing what is missing.
Now if your socialisation plan involves sticking your dog into day care a few times a week, you are going to end up with a tired dog you CAN’T take anywhere………Because it’s a pain in the @** and it’s embarrassing.
If you bought a dog and thought you could palm off the responsibility of socialisation to someone else while you are at work, you are asking for trouble, believe me.
What I do love about daycare is there is socialisation with different breeds of different ages. I would choose this any day over a puppy party where it’s just puppies ‘playing’. Puppies are puppies and they really don’t teach each other anything valuable and constructive. Adult guidance is much better IMO.
The research Scott and Fuller did in the 50’s shown that when litters of puppies were left together past 8 weeks old the stronger pups began to pick on the weaker and the Fox Terriers had to be separated because they would have probably killed another puppy.
Puppies during play, learn co ordination skills, they learn about team work, conflict and competitive behaviour, basic survival techniques for animals. It’s all important stuff but it doesn’t all fit into the human world as to what we deem appropriate behaviour for domestic dogs. They can also learn to be bullied and be fearful and then defensively aggressive, or to be the bully and learn to use aggression and intimidation to get what they want in life.
Puppies around adult dogs learn about polite play, they never bully or win, they learn about over stepping the mark and to be apologetic, they become resilient to a telling off in that they listen but are not frightened or traumatised by it and they don’t answer back. They learn that not every dog wants to play and they learn to invite play politely and quit when necessary.
These are skills required for a domestic pet. When I have a litter of puppies they live with my whole pack from 4 weeks old learning appropriate social skills required for our world that is full of high expectation for our dogs.
In this video for the first two minutes you will see the difference in puppy play and adult play, the liver and tan cocker is the youngest at 2 years old. He takes on the role of play with the puppies, like the daft uncle.
Think about what the Puppies are learning through play with each other and then what they are learning with the adults.
Each of my dogs has a different role. The older dogs play less as the puppies get older.
At 2 minutes and 15 seconds you will see there is a puppy by the fence and Stig the oldest male and sire of the puppies is standing over it with a stiff tail, that is because next doors American Bulldog is on the other side, you can just see the white moving through the gap. Families keep puppies safe, that is now your responsibility.
The last part of the video shows that puppies are having plenty of varied new experiences and they have lot more to do than just play fight with each other.
Socialisation is about learning different sets of social skills for different situations
A well run daycare is excellent, ideally one that has some training, equal amounts of human interaction as well as dogs and other activities to do. Make sure your day care provider is giving you the whole package that you need for your puppy. This also goes for dog walkers too. I really like the idea of a dog walker because it keeps the routine of normal daily life , sleep in the day with a couple of walks.
Puppies need a lot of rest and sleep and many problems happen because puppies get tired and crabby. It is shocking how many puppies don’t get the rest they need. Is your daycare provide rest periods in the day?
Then there is your part of the deal.
7 Steps to Appropriate Socialisation
1) Get a trainer and train your puppy, either one to one or classes. Prevention is better than cure
2) Take your puppies places, lots of different places, the city, the country, days out, the park, the countryside, road walks, dog friendly holidays, dog friendly café’s and pubs.
3) Play and interact with your puppy outside and on walks, do your training outside in the real world.
4) Teach them they can sometimes interact with the environment and sometimes they cannot.
5) Teach your puppy to settle and relax everywhere not just a home in a crate.
6) Teach your puppy to watch exciting things, other people, kids playing football, ducks on the lake, other dogs playing and help them learn to cope with not being able to indulge in them.
7) Finally let your puppy, interact with other dogs, adults and puppies. Enable them to build social competence and resilience, learn to walk away from conflict, build up an account of good experiences and mild stress with recovery, so when something unpleasant happens (and it will) and you take a hefty withdrawal from their account, make sure there is plenty left so they can recover.
Raising Puppies not Pussies
Jane Ardern BSc (Hons) Dip CABT
KC Trainer of the Year 2015
The Gundog Club Approved Instructor
Animal Training and Behaviour Council Registered Animal Trainer
Copyright Jane Ardern 2019
So my background is in general obedience training and we have used carpet mats for teaching sendaways and distance work in obedience for as long as I can remember.
The only difference with the placeboard is that it is slightly raised. Target areas are used in many different disciplines having different names and a slightly different look, such as Target mats, Placeboards, Stations, Islands and Platforms. They are used to support lots of training exercises such as Obedience stays, Obedience distance control, Working Trial and Obedience Sendaways, Heelwork to Music positions, distance moves and much more….
I prefer the placeboard to a flat mat as it’s really clear to the dog and handler if the dog is on it properly and by that I mean all 4 paws. What can happen with a mat is the dog may be slightly off such as a paw off and the handler may often reward because it’s kind of on it. This type of inconstancy can cause problems as you progress training so it is important the whole dog is on. With the placeboard being raised you generally see more handler consistency in what is rewarded so the dog finds it easier to learn. Inconsistency is not helpful to dogs.
Placeboards can be used to help and support many gundog training exercises. For me before I even start my first goal is to build what is called a conditioned emotional response to the placeboard. This just simply means making a positive association. I have a video tutorial on how to do this for my community members. For me this is the key to successful placeboard training.
I see many dogs that are on placeboards that are either bored or frustrated. Neither of these emotional states are good or effective if you are training positively. This is because a positively trained dog always has a choice. It has no fear in saying screw you, I don’t want to do this. If a trained behaviour creates a negative emotion , they will never choose that emotion especially when there are alternatives, and there are always alternative positive emotional reinforcers available in the environment for gundogs.
No working gundog will choose to be bored or frustrated, but what they do like is anticipatory, controlled excitement. I want my dog to love the placeboard before I start attaching behaviour to it.
Once I have my conditioned emotional state to the placeboard I can use it to teach a stay. This is an anticipatory stay where the dog is in arousal but controlled. Teaching a gundog to be calm to control them isn’t helpful in a working scenario. If you’re going to the pub though, calm is very helpful. A spaniel needs to be in ‘drive’ and a heightened state of arousal to hunt hard and not feel the pain. Calm dogs don’t hunt cover well. What it needs to learn is to use its thinking brain which is called the cortex when it is aroused.
I will also use it to teach directional control to go out, back , left and right. This enables effective distance and precise directional movement. It also means you can teach this without over doing retrieving. So if you have delivery or retrieve problems you can still teach direction without dummies and not affect your retrieve training. We fade the boards and add the dummies later.
You can use it to teach the stop whistle, dogs trained to stop using the placeboard do not creep. You get precise behaviours and great distances.
You can use them for teaching delivery to hand and sitting at heel
Huey is currently just over 20 weeks old. On Sunday we took him on the shoot ?
Now there are lots of different opinions on when a dog should be introduced to a shoot/gunshot etc and it is often looked upon as early being bad.
Now I can fully imagine this can cause problems with some dogs. Every dog is different and every early experience is different.
Dogs go through two different fear stages where this type of exposure can create problems because the dog is sensitive and fearful to new experiences. In my cockers and the litters I have bred 8 to 9 weeks is the onset of the first fear stage and then again sometime between 7 to 11 months. The second fear stage can be ongoing for a few weeks or just be a few days.
Now when I got Huey he was actually very sensitive to noises and sounds and when we brought him home at 8 weeks he was quite overwhelmed. So I avoided noise, knowing he will be in his first fear stage and trying to fix it by exposure would actually create a problem.
Then from 10 weeks I have actively been working on habituation to noise.
I do this with my puppies from 4 weeks old, we play sounds, youtube is great, watch action movies, crash dog bowls on concrete and general just make a lot of noise. This is all done before the first fear stage which is ideal.
I attached noise with fun and play. Here is a video of Huey approaching noisy things at WaggaWuffins.
Huey has since been exposed to fireworks with play in the garden , in the dark and he has also been to Mike’s works in the yard and the workshop, exposed to drills, electric saws and other industrial equipment. So currently noise, lots of noise is just a normal part of his life and he is well habituated at this very moment.
So for me it is an ideal to time to add gunshot. You also have to consider that he is at an age where he copies and follows older dog’s behaviour and they know what’s safe and what isn’t from a puppies point of view. This is going to part of his daily life in the future.
Now I can spend months faffing about with party poppers, starting pistols and dummy launchers , none of which sound like actual gunshot and sometimes these can startle more than actual guns do.
So we got up Saturday morning, chucked a dog bowl on the concrete yard, he ran to it to investigate it, Then Mike banged the bowl on the metal table, he ran to that to see what it was. So we packed him in the car and off we went.
Now the set up is ideal. A nearby shoot starts before us so there was shot at a distance while everyone was getting organised and Huey was having fun meeting the experienced older dogs. He was surrounded by calm, confident and experienced adult dogs. An environment that he felt very safe in.
Huey did get told off for sniffing a lady Labradors butt, He didn’t squeal or yelp or snap back, he just apologised and went off doing something else, which was play with another cocker. As a dog from a multi dog household, he has previously overstepped the mark at home, he’s been told and learnt it’s not the end of the world, everyone is still your mate, just don’t do whatever you were doing again. As a boy dog he’s doing to make these kind of errors over the next few months. Interesting that this is something I have been criticised for, because I allow my older dogs to discipline puppies. I mix my puppies I breed myself with my pack from 4 weeks old. For me it builds communication resilience and confidence and my dogs are very nice about it.
So we worked the hedges on the first drive, well away from the guns. Huey was on lead with Mike while I worked Drift. He was on a 6ft lead so could safely mooch, sniff, offer behaviours he has learnt and get sausages off Mike and me, there was gunshot in the distance and we gradually moved closer.
He just took it all in his stride, saw some pheasants and deer and he watched the other dogs ignore them.
All my cockers at around 17 weeks have started to get their noses down and become interested in scent and Huey is, as predicted doing this, so exposure to the scents he will be working with was ideal. The grass and cover is high so he just got to indulge in scent with gunshot going on in the background.
Huey then crashed out in the car in his crate for the rest of the day, just coming out between drives.
Now there was always the risk he might have got worried and I would have taken him out of the situation. If I thought for a moment this would happen, he would not have gone.
So when it comes to socialisation and habituation, pet dog or working dog every dog is different.
Exposure should be tailor made to the dog, understanding development, previous experience, genetics and fear stages can help you make informed decisions about what is right for your dog.
Socialisation for my dogs involves two things:
‘Graded Exposure’ making sure experiences are emotionally positive so positive memories are formed
‘Startle and Recovery’ which is the ability to bounce back from something that might be stressful.
Most people are only advised to do the graded exposure, but things are going to happen in your dog’s life that will startle them. Just like things sometimes make us jump or frighten us because we don’t expect them. This builds confidence and resilience.
Huey had a fabulous day, but there was lots of consideration on if it was going to be right for himbeforee we took him.
I’ve had a busy week, I did classes last week on Wednesday and Gundog Training on Thursday then in between I have been book writing
Mia my female cocker has came into season last Friday
Now I have 6 dogs into total . Snoopy is 14 and neutered. He was neutered at 10 years old when i retired him from showing. Pickles is 9 and she was neutered at 7 when I stopped breeding from her.
So currently I have 3 entire males and 1 entire female.
Neutering is a hot topic and causes lots of debate these days. 15 years ago early neutering was the responsible thing to do. You are probably hearing now that it is best not to neuter early?
I think it can be really hard being a pet dog owner with all the conflicting information out there.
Now there is a lot of research out there now and good information so you can research yourself.
I think neutering is a personal and individual choice. When I did behaviour work I have advised that some dogs are kept entire and I have advised neutering with others and it has successfully and significantly reduced aggression. We have always performed temporary chemical castration first to assess the impact on behaviour.
My behaviourist head says allow the animal to mature fully then neuter at a later date.
The Vet will look at it purely from a medical point of view and the reduction of unwanted pregnancies. Some will recommend neutering early and others later.
The Rescue look at it from the fact they pick up the pieces of irresponsible owners and they see the thousands of unwanted pets that die every year. Rescues often will neuter early so all dogs are homed neutered, that includes puppies with some rescues.
With all these different views which some people are very passionate about, it can make it hard for pet owners to make a choice.
I personally think that people’s disposable attitude to dogs is the reason dogs die every year in rescue kennels, not neutering.
The key is, the dog is your dog. Not mine, not the vets and not the internet keyboard experts either. You decide.
So for me and my behaviour hat, in an ideal world pet dogs will be left to mature then neutered once matured.
However …………… if your bitch has a season and is a hormonal nightmare , then consider neutering after that season. If your bitch is a bit of clown and an idiot and she calms down after her first season, probably let her have a couple more as the maturity is helping her.
If you are not going to neuter or neuter after a few seasons learn about the signs of pyometra. It’s important.
If you have a male then be aware that just like teenage boys they will be impacted behaviourally through adolescence having surges of testosterone and they will make school boy errors. This will be individual to the dog. Neutering will not change behaviours that are down to a lack of training and manners. I have three entire males here that are trained and can even behave around in season bitches.
If your dog is showing aggression and it fear related then neutering can make it worse as testosterone is confidence. If your dog is full of it and showing aggression that is testosterone driven , especially towards other males, then neutering can help.
If he is randy as hell and embarrassingly humping everything, including your friends then neutering might help. However……Humping can pain related. So again you need to know what is actually driving the behaviour.
The key here is if you have a problem, get a professional behaviourist to assess and advise.
If we look at the situation today , I am seeing many people struggling with adolescent males and their behaviour. They have often been advised not to neuter and that they ‘simply’ will grow out of it.
Now here is the problem. Behaviour is simple, if it gets reinforced it gets stronger, if it doesn’t get reinforced it gets weaker. You don’t grow out of behaviour.
Adolescent boys will make ‘school boy errors’ as surging Hormones hijack behaviour, but reinforcement can maintain it so you need a plan of action when these behaviours appear if you don’t want them to establish themselves.
If your dog is showing aggression towards other dogs and it occurs several times, then it is getting stronger and that learned behaviour pattern will stay.
Then we have another problem, the research says early neutering is detrimental, so then the dog trainers and internet experts who have read these articles are advising pet owners not to neuter early. This blanket advice to all is really not helpful.
Have all these people ever experienced bringing up entire males up to 3 years? I think this is a huge problem for pet owners, being advised to not neuter, but not being given advice on how to manage these dogs through what can be a challenging time.
Because of years of ‘responsible’ neutering not only do pet owners have little experience in bringing up entire adolescents, many dog trainers don’t have either.
If you have a male especially, you can really get it wrong and end up with a problem dog. The assumption of a solution is often more socialisation and we are led to believe socialisation solves everything. Sadly it doesn’t and it can actually, during this time make things worse. If your dog is not coping around other dogs, then less is often more beneficial.
Testosterone levels in an adolescent males can be up to three times higher than that of a mature entire male. If your male wakes up one day with a tonne of testosterone in his blood , this can make other dogs who are a bit insecure feel threatened around him, even though he’s still a friendly goofball and they can attack your dog. This can then in turn cause your dog to become fearful and defensive.
During adolescence with my boys I avoid parks when these kind of inappropriate situations can occur. They spend time with confident girls where they learn to be flirty and apologetic and they spend time around confident males who are not threatened and behave appropriately. My aim is they don’t learn inappropriate behaviour and don’t get opportunity to repeat and practice it.
My aim is they do not get put in situations where they learn to be fearful or aggressive while testosterone is fluctuating.
So I guess my overall advise is if you’re struggling with training and behaviour, get some help and if you want to work through the adolescent male without neutering, get advice off someone who has experience with them.
Hope this was helpful and not too deep……
Often when people contact me because their dog is reactive, they believe the solution is to ‘socialise’ them in a training class.
So here is an explanation as to why many professional and educated trainers don’t do this.
If a dog is reactive which means it lunges, barks, growls, vocalises and generally behaves inappropriately when it sees another dog, then to address this properly we need to firstly find out the cause .
It could be fear, frustration or over excitement.
You need to find the cause to find the solution
Reactively is a symptom of an emotional state that is triggered by the sight of another dog.
If the dog reacts to the trigger of one dog in the street , what do you think is going to happen when you times the trigger by 7 or if you turn up to one of those classes with 20 dogs?. Yes you will intensify the trigger and therefore the emotion and reaction will intensify too.
To be able to learn effectively and change behaviour, you need to start in an environment that supports learning for both the dog and handler. This enables new skills and behaviours to be learnt and practiced. This wont happen in a class. The trainer will not have the time to give you the support you need.
Imagine something that frightens you
Say I put you in a room with 7 Pennywise’s and asked you to be calm and behave yourself while learning some new skills.
- What will you learn?
- What will learning in this environment feel like?
- Will you want to go back next week?
Fear in a dog can be irrational like it can in us, but it doesn’t mean it’s not real to the animal experiencing the fear. The whole body prepared for action, staying in a fear state for a long time is exhausting physically and mentally. If you are in danger you don’t hang out there for an hour, you take action.
So are you going to begin to relax and feel more comfortable with all these Satanic Clowns milling around? Will you eventually want to ‘play’ with them?
Probably not, but I bet your clown phobia will get worse? This is called flooding, it’s very traumatic and can make the problem worse.
If the reactivity is frustration driven by a desire it interact with the other dog but the lead stops the dog. If you intensify the excitable trigger (dogs) by 7 or 20 the frustration will also escalate.
As an emotion what does frustration lead to?
Anger, yes anger which is aggression, so the once very friendly excitable dog with no self control is now angry. Angry dogs bite!
Are you getting the picture?
So let also look at the other dogs in the class now , the ones with no behaviour problems , there there just to learn to behave and be obedient. These people have paid the trainer money to help them train their dog. They are not there to be guinea pigs and help resolve aggression in someone else dog. Most good trainers have highly trained stooge dogs for this task .
So if you have a quiet sensitive collie in the class learning to behave and suddenly one evening some aggressive nutcase walks in and spends all night kicking off with everyone. That collie is going to be scared and traumatised, just like if you asked me to spend the night in a pub where your feet stick to the floor and everyone is leathered and then a fight breaks out.
When a dog lunges and barks it’s no different that someone threatening you, it will be scary.
So if you went into a social setting like this and you were threatened what would you do?
We would all be different right, depending on experience and genetics?
I don’t like conflict so I would leave. A scared Collie on a lead does not have this option, unless their owner is smart sees they are scared and takes them out.
The alternative is to crumble in the corner shaking or fight back, defend yourself, this is what the other dogs in the room might do.
So they turned up to class to learn some obedience and now they have gone home with a scared reactive dog. Not really what people expect to pay for is it?
Sadly many people turn up to these types of classes week in week out and the dogs just get worse, however the owners feel they are doing something so keep going. Everyone’s dogs are kicking of so people begin to think it’s normal. Well it’s not. If you want to learn about good and bad classes go and watch different ones and ask yourself which environment would you like to learn in?
So if a class isn’t the solution what is?
One to one behaviour training.
Now another problem is the industry isn’t unregulated which means there are ‘Behaviourists’ out there with Bachelors and Masters Degrees, Some with years of hands on experience. Some who have been assessed for their competence in the field and some who haven’t. Then there are some who did an unregulated course online, answered 10 questions and got a certificate, or maybe they just watched a couple of seasons of the Dog Whisperer or It’s Me or the Dog and tried it with their own dog and bam! They are now a self declared ‘Behaviourist’.
Now I watch 24 Hours in A&E but I’m no emergency ward doctor.
It is a buyer beware market. If you are wanting help with a behaviour problem it’s really important you get it right first time and choose the right trainer.
To be able to work with reactively successfully the dog needs skills and the handler needs skills, sessions needs to be set up and practiced. This requires one on one tuition from someone who knows what they are talking about and knows what they are doing.
You need dogs that are trained and can cope around reactive dog, these are called stooge dogs, because subjecting an animal to threats that cannot cope is just cruel and unethical.
The reactive dog need to learn to manage its emotions around the triggers so you can then build on the intensity of them and eventually your dog will be at a stage where it can cope in a class, and you as the handler will have the skills to handle the dog as well as the dog having the skills to handle itself. This is when you get great results because you are a team working together.
Do your research and get a good trainer
Jane Ardern BSc (Hons) Dip. Cabt
Member of the APDT UK
Registered Animal Trainer with the ABTC
Kennel CLub Dog Trainer of the Year 2015
I’m beginning to see more and more dogs who are attending doggy daycare that lack appropriate social skills. I’m not knocking doggy day care as it has many benefits and can support socialisation in a big way. The problem appears to be with the lack of understanding of what socialisation actually is.
The socialisation stage of development begins around 4 weeks and the window closes around 16 weeks.
The aim of socialisation is about appropriate positive exposure. The social skills that our society now demands a pet dog are quite complex. Many years ago the pet dog lifestyle was different and therefore the demands were different.
Sound temperaments are not a common as they used to be either, I believe this is because of three factors.
Responsible neutering has pretty much wiped out the family pet mutt. Dog are now mostly bred for working purposes, showing, fancy designer names and fancy rare colours. The genetic selection of a sound bomb proof family pet is rare.
Years ago there was less tolerance of poor temperament and these dogs were often removed from the gene pool!
Puppy farming is bigger than ever, it’s a booming business in this I want it and I want it now society
So some dogs start with not so good genes! Then sometimes questionable rearing by breeders who are breeding for money or success.
This means extra effort with training and socialisation is required!
It is drummed into owners to socialise their dogs. Most owners think socialisation is about puppies playing. So they ship them off to doggy daycare a few days a week and tick off the socialisation box.
This is where the problem starts. Socialisation is about your puppy learning different sets of social skills for different situations and day care is just one of them.
Doggy day care is a bit like night clubbing, it is an intense social situation. Some dog will love it, some will hate it.
Dogs have different personalities, imagine a party and the people who attend. Which is your dog?
- The people watcher
- The party animal
- The one who is waiting for a polite time to leave
- The one who just turned up for the buffet
It’s only fun if you like party?
It doesn’t matter how many times you take me nightclubbing I’m not going to learn to like it. In fact, I might get pretty aggressive if some drunk bloke thinks he can touch my bottom at the bar…………….
I’d much prefer a quiet country pub with food and couple of friends for company a bit like an old farm bred border collie, I just like to work and rest.
Now my daughter she loves to party, she’s like a red cockapoo that come out of the womb social!!
Partying is good, it’s fun, but if your dog just learns to party, it will want to party everywhere!!!
Daycare will enable your dog to interact and play with other dogs in that environment. Those skills will need to be transferred and other skills learnt.
You dog still needs to learn how to behave walking down the street, in the vets waiting room, in a dog friendly pub, days out with the family, learn and concentrate in a training class, settle at home, travel in the car, visit friends, leave distractions in the park, not chase joggers and cyclists and most importantly see dogs in a huge range of environments and be able to be calm, ignore them and most importantly tolerate the frustration that you cannot always play.
Dog day care has benefits but also limitations so it does not tick the socialisation box as a stand alone solution.
Copyright Jane Ardern BSc (Hons) Dip. CABT
Puppies can be hard work.
Here are 5 Key steps to avoiding puppy problems
1) Choose the right puppy.
Research your breed, make sure it’s going to be suitable for your family and lifestyle. Speak to a professional trainer first for advice if you are unsure.
2) Get a puppy, not livestock
Research your breeder, make sure they health test, see the parents, ask about how and where they rear the puppies. Are they following an early neurological stimulation and socialisation program?
3) Be proactive not reactive.
Get your training and socialisation support from a professional from day one. Don’t wait till classes or a problem appears, get a home visit or two straight away.
4) Be wary of free advice.
Avoid free advice off Internet forums, groups and self acclaimed experts in the park. When it comes to dog training everyone is an expert and there is alot of bad advice out there. What might have worked for one dog might not work for another, it might even make things worse.
5) Do your homework.
The dog training industry is unregulated and it’s a buyer beware market. Make sure your trainer is experienced, skilled, has regulated qualifications and uses up to date modern methods.
Jane Ardern BSc (Hons) Dip.CABT Kennel Club Dog Trainer of the Year 2015