We live in a flat

The Singapore Dog Lifestyle Blog

Category: Behaviour (Page 2 of 12)

Whaddya mean I’m here to therapise people…

Donna passed the temperament test at Therapy Dogs Singapore more than a month back but the tardy, useless humans only managed to take her to her first therapy session yesterday!

It was there that the human realised there was so much to learn about managing patients more than managing the dog!

But you know what, Donna says,

No sweat! I’m just gonna lie here and hope the patients know they are supposed to feed me treats when I’m Relaxing. – –

This is a home picture. But you know what, the dog really did that at the home we went to. Lie on the small platform stage where we were sitting on with the patient, and did Relax just like we were at home and she’s trying to wheedle a treat out of me! Haha!

*Relax is when she is supposed to lie calmly on the  floor or with her head in my lap and not move.

A growling dog is NOT a bad dog

So Donna was invited to a social event recently, where she got to meet up with some new dogs and some dogs that she had met before.

Now every contact with dogs, humans, etc is a socialisation event. But the quality of socialisation differs.

You know, what they say for humans – the first impression is most important.

The same may be said for dogs.

If dog gets a good time, he starts to associate positive feelings to the dogs and humans he met. That is good socialisation.

If dog gets a bad time, he associates negative feelings to the dogs and humans he met. And that is bad socialisation.

None of us want a badly socialised dog. And yet, it is not uncommon to see dog owners who take the dog out to places and then let the dog run around by themselves, seemingly not caring if the dog is having a good time or not, and they call it socialisation.

Donna is my dog, so whatever event I take her to, her welfare is my first priority. Therefore, I follow her almost everywhere she runs and track her activities with the other dogs. I distract her by calling her to me when she starts displaying actions that I do not want reinforced. That is what I feel I need to do as a responsible owner.

They say love me, love my dog. But I had always thought it was a little extreme for people to judge others who are not dog lovers.

But you know what, I do that too in my own way. Guilty, as charged.

Case in point, my dog Donna, here. She has been kindly described by Vanessa of therufusway, as having “such a kind look in her eyes” for this photo on our Instagram account.

But the truth is, there were two to three episodes in that session in this environment the photo was taken, where she was tense and growling at another dog. She certainly did not have a kind look in her eyes then.

Now it can be equally stressful for the human, given the circumstances. A roomful of humans and dogs underfoot, all socialising nicely and then your dog starts growling at the other dog.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s probably not uncommon for most people to jump to the conclusion that the one growling is at fault. Especially when it involves a bigger dog growling at a smaller one.

Mr P also pointed out that I always hastily pull Donna away, which also painted a rather guilty picture.

But you know what? There is nothing else I can do.

A growling dog… is NOT a bad dog.

A growling dog… is NOT an aggressive dog.

A growling dog… is NOT a vindictive dog who remembers past grudges.

A growling dog is being nice by growling to let a human or another dog know that they are making him uncomfortable. That they should back off and give the growling dog more space.

A well-socialised dog would recognise this verbal cue. Perhaps before it escalates into a verbal cue, they would have noted the more subtle behavioural cues like looking away, moving away, not engaging with you and not showing playful behaviours.

One of the incidents occurred while I was squatting down and next to Donna and Donna started growling. The other dog, instead of moving away, came closer and started rubbing against her. And Donna growled even more.

So what was I to do. I did what I had to do. I pulled Donna away.

My first commitment was to her. She was tense and verbalised it. If I don’t remove her, I’m just allowing her stress to build.

There is a quote floating about the Internet by Suzanne Clothier – ”One of the quickest ways to get your dog not to trust you is to keep over riding your dog telling you he does not feel safe.”

*I can’t find the exact instance where she said this, but it does sound like something she would say. :P

So yah, I’m not about to do that. I’m not about to let the growling be reinforced time and time again by a dog who didn’t seem to recognise or care about the other dog’s cues and perhaps eventually allow it to escalate into a bite. I’m not.

And honestly, I would worry about the little dog if this is a frequent behaviour for him. Not every dog would be so nice to give a verbal warning first.

Some would snap without warning because they got scolded time and time again when they growl, and they’ve learnt to repress the growling.

Unfortunately, I found I had to keep calling Donna away from the trigger after that. And I started feeling rather haunted by the smaller dog. He’s everywhere! Hahaha!

At least I heeded my own advise from the last experience, and put Donna on the lead despite all the other dogs getting the freedom to play. I was too tired trying to track both dogs to make sure they were separate, and I could no longer supervise effectively which led to repeated incidents.

It’s not Donna’s fault. It’s just that the environment that day was not conducive for her to socialise in a positive manner.

I am glad she did at least kindle a budding friendship with Lexie. Lexie is a young dog, so she can be rather unsure about dogs she is not too familiar with and she needs her space. That’s normal. She shows some behaviour like moving away from Donna and jumping onto the doggie playground, perhaps when Donna got too much for her.

And I’m glad that her human thinks that Donna was respecting Lexie’s body language. Donna was sitting, not moving further into her space. Donna was looking directly at her at times, but she also looked away and turned around and looked at me once. She sat and perhaps patiently waited for Lexie to be comfortable to play. Or at least I like to think so. Hah! They did seem to be playing a little at times :P

On hindsight, a video would have been better to study their interaction. :P It was a highly distracting environment for me too. Haha!

 

Note: Donna used to be labelled as dog-aggressive at the shelter she was from. I’m inclined to think the label was just that – a label. Donna has never shown any growling/snarling/snapping behaviour to any dog she has met outside the shelter since we adopted her, with the exception of this small dog.  Her body language has always tended more towards being fearful, rather than aggressive. If you have a dog who reacts to other dogs in an “aggressive” manner, I strongly urge you to learn to read dog body language and their behaviour and consult with a positive trainer on the best course forward for your dog.

And of course, do supervise your dog so that he learns to respect cues from other dogs. Please don’t expect other dogs/humans to teach your dog. This post from Barbara of Goodog Positive Dog Training in Australia sums it up rather well.

I offended a fellow dog owner today. My dog was playing with her doggie friends in one of the enclosed areas at St Ives Showground and she let her exuberant 8 months old teenage dog jump right into Shellbe’s face. When Shellbe growled, she said: ‘That is ok, my dog needs to learn some manners.’
I told her in no uncertain terms that I did not want my dog to have to teach her dog manners. The times when we let them sort it out are well and truly gone and owners have to mange and train their dogs and not rely on other well socialised dogs to teach their unruly teenagers.
Even a well socialised dog can become stressed and growly when exposed too many times to under socialised and rude dogs.
– https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=805403872813598&id=164212460266079

Dog Day Care at Paw Planet

Last year, when we first took Donna to check out the new daycare that a friend recommended. It was a bit of a “culture shock” for Donna.

She had a scare at Bishan Dog Run before that when a pack of dogs released by a dogwalker rushed at her from the entrance. She was leery of compounds with many dogs within ever since.

This is a photo of a fearful dog.
Please notice she is sitting with her tail between her legs, her ears are pinned back and her mouth is clammed shut. 

We left Donna there at daycare, even though she looked like above because after a while, she realised she was not in mortal danger and appeared more active in checking out the other dogs.

And thankfully, subsequent visits to the day care prove beneficial for positively socialising her with a pack of dogs. At first, she still wanted to turn back and go home when she reached the daycare gates, but she recovered fast every time and sometimes, it was the other dog who seemed somewhat uncomfortable with her checking them out.

The other dog was avoiding her slightly, hence crowding by the side of the gate. He had some frown lines on his head.

The last time we went, she didn’t ever bother to turn her head back to look at us when we left! #humanfeelsbetrayedLOL

Of course, the human still found time to stalk Donna on the daycare webcam, so she was a little concerned when she saw Donna sleeping or just lying around everytime she logged onto the webcam.

Is Donna depressed because she finally realised the humans are gone? Or is Donna feeling stressed with the change in environment? Some dogs who are newly adopted do sleep more at their new homes as a coping mechanism.

Donna, why do I bother to pay money to send you to daycare when all you do is lie around???

But Melissa, the owner of Paw Planet, assured me that Donna has made more friends compared to previously.


Why so serious? Sure am glad your new friends are smiley. You should learn from them, Donna.


Rub my belly, human. Says the dog with a serious face.


Hey look, it’s Toby (top dog in picture)! Yup, she even managed to meet one of our Insta-friends there, how cool is that?


Haha, this photo looks like an advertisement for Before and After. 

While Donna was never horribly phobic and was still quite sociable, just leery of compounds with many dogs, I definitely think she appeared even more outgoing and socially active every time she comes back from daycare.

So we are very happy to send her there. :)


Video of Donna looking comfortable in daycare and inviting other dogs to play with her.
She tries so hard! :D

We originally found Paw Planet because we were desperately trying to find a place that was friendly to mongrels and who would be gentle with our dog whom we try to ensure is as positively trained as possible. More about our hunt here on my first post on Paw Planet.

And while Donna seemed afraid to approach for first few times we sent her there, she always recovered in minutes and start approaching the other dogs. So we continued to send her there. More about it here on my second post on Paw Planet.

This is my third post, are we great fans or what? HAHAHA.

Pssst, it’s not just us who are fans of Paw Planet. Check out our friends’ Lycan and Lexie’s post here!

An attention-seeking dog is not a bad thing

So what happens when Donna wakes up from a nap or feels bored just lying around by herself?

She looks for the humans!


Don’t be boring, human, come and play! says the attention-seeking dog

That above is Donna inviting you to play fetch or tug with her.

In the early months when we first got her, we did some research and decided it was necessary to teach her the concept of the “invisible door“.

There were various reasons for this decision.

  • The rooms in our flat were pretty small and pretty messy and not very dog-proof.
  • I was also allergic to dust at times and Donna sheds. A lot.
  • Donna does make a mess on the floor when it storms and our cheap laminated flooring cannot withstand a soaking. It will pop out.

So we preferred her not to enter these rooms, even when the doors were opened and the human wasn’t in the room. That of course is the perfect time for any smart dog worth his salt to sneak in. Hah!

It took a lot of patience just going through motion, repeatedly luring her back out of the room when she comes in, making a big deal of it when when she comes out of the room with us and of course, lots of treats. Until slowly, she realised that she wasn’t meant to be in the room. That every time she comes in to find us, we go out of it so she followed us out again. That she gets treated only outside of the room and not within it.

The behaviour sticks until today, which is why even though we’ve pretty much stopped the positive reinforcement for invisible barrier training, she still stops at the door and stares at you from there when she wants your attention.

Depending on how busy we are, sometimes she gets the attention, and sometimes she doesn’t. That’s  when she hunkers down for the long haul.


I have tons of patience, human. You’ll have to come out of that room sooner or later!

But somewhere along the line, I’ve started to feel that this invisible doors thing was creating a distance between us and the dog. I’m not sure if that’s truly the case but when she settles even within the same room, she always settles a distance from us. (And no, the human does not have body odour, thank you very much.)

So for the study at least, where we spend much of our time, we started to let her in the room. That was when I noticed that this was a great space for her during storms. Her thunder phobia got noticeably milder when she is in this room, compared to others.

So we let her in more often after that, but only when we are in the room since it still is not very dog proof. Haha!

She still retains her habit of waiting by the door, although now she knows she has the option of coming in. Sometimes, she sits at the door and stares at me and I wonder if she’s asking for permission to come in or she’s asking for me to go out and play with her.

Eventually when she decided she had waited enough, she would come into the room and poke me with her nose. Interestingly enough, she started doing that after I taught her the nose to hand.


Forget about “nose”, human! Just gimme the treat!

And more recently, I’ve started having her on the sofa and do “relax” on my lap because well, the dog probably does not have lap dog in her but the human craves a lap dog :P We do this while we watch TV and I give her treats every time she rests her head on my lap.

The result is, she stopped poking me with her nose when she wants attention. Now she’s started resting her chin on my lap instead!


Hello human! It’s time to stop working and start relaxing with your dog!

And I find this so very endearing and adorable, although half the time she really is distracting me from something I want to get done.

The point to this story?

I just find it intriguing how the dog can take what you have been currently teaching her, and use it quite effectively to get the attention she wants.

I can see how the interaction we have with her changes her behaviour along the way, and to me a lot of these changes are unexpected but not unwelcome.

And that’s also why I like to spend the time training Donna. She is a living, breathing individual of her own. The stimulation of learning new things, learning what is encouraged, continues her development in terms of how she has learnt to interact with the world beyond the shelter and build relationships with the people that she meets.

And that can only be a beautiful thing.


see beautiful  See Beautiful with Sugar the Golden Retriever.

What does your dog do most of the time?

This week on Dogs of Instagram SG @dogsofinstasg, we’re having a hashtag photo activity surrounding the theme of “My favourite pastime”.

I usually like to visit all the submissions when I find the time. So I spent this morning checking them out, and also tabulating them which gives me the graphical view of what our dogs’ favourite pastimes are:

graphical representation of dog's favourite pastime

Definitely not surprising that most humans think their dog’s favourite activity is… Tada! Sleeping!

 

A sleeping dog

Because you know what, lying around snoozing is Donna’s favourite activity too!

Lying around snoozing without ears and lying around with ears. :P dog lying around
dog lying around

And lying around.
dog lying around

And lying around.
dog lying around

I bet even she thinks she is boring, once in a while. :P 
yawning dog

Ahhhh, boring! Let’s go bug the human. you need to stop working now.

So I stopped to take a break and played with her a bit. And then I needed to get back to what I was doing before.

Donna is actually very independent. Once we taught her the invisible boundaries and crate-trained her, she actually preferred to sleep in her crate away from me. But you know what, I enjoy having Donna nearby, so nowadays I have taken to asking her to remain beside me on her towel.

She’s not actually sleeping here. We’re practising relax where she plasters herself on the floor and waits for her treat.dog on towel for matwork

Sometimes, she has less patience and pretends to be resting her head on her legs when she really isn’t. :P
dog on towel for matwork

Eventually, she decides she has eaten enough and moves to lie prone on the floor instead. zzzZZZZzzzzZZZzzzz

a sleeping dog

I have been working with her on the towel consistently everyday. We are supposed to bring it to Basic Obedience Training, which begins in a couple of weeks.

She can rest for fairly reasonable periods of time (I haven’t really timed her) on it at home. But I’m already predicting that she would be too distracted to even Go to the mat when we are outside with other dogs close by. I probably should bring the towel with us on our walks to practise outside by now.  So yes, time to do that.

 

Matwork is great for teaching the dog to stay, settle down and be calm.

Here are some more useful links on how to choose a mat for your dog and how to start teaching it.
How to choose a mat and start teaching matwork
Settle and Matwork
Five steps to teach your dog to “Go to place”

 


The hashtag photo activity ends on Monday. So Singapore dog IGers, there’s still time to hashtag your dog’s favourite pastime photos “#sgdogsfavpastime” on IG and stand to win a pack of Beef Lungs from Feed My Paws. Details here.  

Donna and Cookie get a room :P

So Cookie the Spitz dropped by the flat the other day.

I could hear him from outside, barking excitedly and asking to come in. Haha!

 

Marking and Vinegar

He remained extremely excited once inside and promptly went and peed by the wall. I cleaned up the areas he marked and doused them with white vinegar.

After your puppy has an accident in the house, he may return to the same spot to potty. Even if you clean the spot with regular soap, the dog may still smell his scent unless you also neutralize the odor. White vinegar is a chemical-free way to disinfect and neutralize the odor of urine and feces. – daily puppy

And the interesting thing is, Cookie, who actually likes the taste of vinegar went near it and perhaps it was too strong for him because he was suddenly rubbing his face on the floor continuously. Donna has never shown this sort of behaviour before. I found it funny and strange at the same time.

It seems dogs may rub their faces on the carpet/floor for the following reasons:

  • Messy face Dog feels something foreign on his face and wants to get rid of it
  • Parasites or skin disorder Fleas, canine lice and other parasites. Also skin disorders like mange, yeast infections and dry skin
  • Allergies Dog may be reacting to something in his environment or in his food
  • Discomfort May be a symptom related to infection, watch our fot discharge, swelling, ear twitching and lack of appetite
  • Harmless Dog just feels good rubbing his face on a surface

So anyway, Cookie stopped rubbing his face on the floor after a while so we guessed the discomfort caused by the vinegar had diminished.

And the other good thing is, once he figured out we wanted him to only pee on the pee tray set up in the toilet, he started doing that more consistently by the end of the day. Yay!

 

Donna and Cookie – Different reactions to the crate

Crate training Donna was a gradual process. Just getting her to be comfortable to go into the crate took a couple of hours over the course of a full day. Even then she was uncomfortable in it for a few weeks as she slowly got used to being inside it.

Not so with Cookie.

Cookie was not crate-trained but we had no problem luring him into the crate. He made himself at home the first time!

Of course, if we were to close the door and leave him alone there, he probably would start whining. But he certainly had more of a headstart than Donna, who could only be persuaded to stick her head in to pick at a few treats when I first started with her.


Donna says: Sheesh, human. Stop waving the treats outside the crate already and dole them out NOW. I’m not as gullible as silly Cookie.


Donna settles down for the long haul, knowing these humans and their obsession with the camera!
Cookie is still relaxed in there.

My favourite of the photos Cookie’s human was taking must be this one:


Both of them focused on the unseen treats hanging over the top of the crate. :P

I didn’t take any photos, so many thanks to somewhitecookie for the use of hers.

You disappoint me, human.

1 Day 1 World Project: Donna at 06:00am – 07:00am

The human is awake!!! Let’s go out, human!!!! Let’s eat fooodddd!!! Let’s go patrol our territory!!!! Let’s eat food again!!!

Wait, why are you just standing there?

Oh no, no! No, no, no, no, no, no, dont’… don’t switch on the camera until you’re outside!!

Hmmmppfff, humans! You never listen, do you?

I’m sitting on my hip because I know we’re not going anyway. Boo you!

Human’s note: I have no defence, sleepwalked, took photos, crept back to bed. ZZzzz …

For 24 weeks, weliveinaflat will post photos taken for a specific hour in that week.
We will cover 24 hours in 24 weeks.
More about the 1 Day 1 World Project here.

Oh no, Donna growled

The humans met up for BBQ, and the dogs had a chance to mingle in the temporary play area.

The temporary dog playpen


Play pens courtesy of Mango the Sheltie and Lycan and Lexie.

 

Although after a while, most of them appeared to be more interested in being outside than inside. Haha!


Let us out so we can go to our humans!

Donna wasn’t in there for a few reasons:

  • She would keep badgering them to play with her, even if they don’t want to and keep avoiding her.
  • She doesn’t like to be air lifted by humans, so I wasn’t about to dump her over the play pen.
  • She is wary of the noise by the unfamiliar movable “unstable” playpens, and hence hesitant to approach to walk in there by herself.

So she could only stand outside and look in at them.


Well, technically, I think she was thinking about food in this picture, hence the drool – – 

Yes mostly, she’d rather spend her time productively begging for food anyway.


Ever optimistic that the human race should starve themselves and donate all their food to her.

Donna doesn’t often vocalise

She was her usual quiet self. But she did have fun playing with her Japanese Spitz friend, Kanon, and begging for food in between rounds of playing with him.

The other dogs were not so comfortable with her having only met her perhaps once or twice before.

I could see Kooky Sheltie moving out of her way every time Donna approached.

Lexie the Border Collie was also slightly nervous, but hopefully they will warm up to each other when they had more time to spend together since they are attending the same Basic Obedience Training in October.

Lucky the Yorkie spent his time chilling out on the bench when he needed space or happily scampering after his human when they take time outs away from the party. And Cobie the Pomeranian spent a lot of time being fussed over somebody’s lap, barking when another dog comes near.

But Donna had some fun playing with Kanon and Nugget the Sheltie so I thought it was a fine evening for her. Echo the Sheltie seemed to have a tendency to rush at dogs who are playing and barking at them, which sometimes break up the play. Neither Kanon or Donna reacted to Echo though, which was good.

Maybe because the dogs seemed to get along or just move on when they didn’t click, I allowed myself to get more distracted as the evening wore on.

Perhaps just like humans will get tired and grumpy, dogs could too?

Because suddenly, Donna was growling continuously away from me and I quickly went over to pull her away from the trigger. I wasn’t watching so I had no idea what led up to her growling.

Doesn’t mean I didn’t ask myself the same question, why did Donna want to eat Echo?

Perhaps Donna just got too frustrated with Echo who kept intruding when she wanted to play?

But that is just pointless conjecture which really isn’t constructive at all. I wasn’t there to observe the cues and body language that each dog was sending which ended up in the escalation.

Who knows what really happened?

I guess my key takeaways are,

  • no matter how tired I get, I still need to be watchful and supervise Donna’s interaction with other dogs.
  • And in future, I need to be mindful enough to realise that I am tired and no longer alert or sharp enough to supervise, and that at that point, Donna should be returned on the lead and stay beside me.

Cookie the Japanese Spitz certainly had more self-awareness than either Donna or myself. Towards the end of the evening, he decided he had enough and sat there whining to go home. :)

Good for you, Cookie!


Back home, Donna half-heartedly chased her bone a couple of times before deciding that she was finally tired. THAT is a GOOD doggie day, I agree, Mel.

 

Related post

We all have our moods

1 Day 1 World Project: Donna at 05:00am – 06:00am

One of the reasons why it was so difficult for me to deal with a thunder phobic dog in the first year of adoption is that when I lose it, I really lose it.

When the rainy season comes around, I start losing sleep because the dog makes a racket and a mess of the house when it thunders in the middle of the night. The loss of sleep hours accumulated and eventually the human is pushed past her threshold.

My dog is not aggressive.

But I am, when I get to that point.

Which basically unravels all the good work I put in with desensitisation and dog regresses.

I find myself at that point again today, unfortunately, after a week of extremely poor sleep patterns and long hours. The best I can do for Donna is to distance myself.

This is Donna at about 5:30am sometime in the last week. I was woken by the thud of potted plants toppling due to strong winds and rain. Donna was looking only mildly worried, but happy to find me checking on her.


Welcome, human.

Since it was close to daybreak, there was no point going back to bed.

You know that when she stands pointing towards the study, she wants to go hide in the room. She feels safest there but isn’t as comfortable in there by herself if I’m not in there with her.


Let’s go to my safe place, human


I don’t like the weather outside, human


Now that you’re in your chair, you should start giving me treats, human.

While each dog is an individual, if you are interested to know what helped with Donna’s awful thunder phobia so that nowadays she only shows mild worry around humans – read this:
– Donna finds shelter from Thunder Phobia

I hope one day she would be worry free, even when the humans are not home.

Note: Despite the human’s bad humour today, the good news is Donna has passed the temperament test today at Therapy Dogs Singapore. Hopefully she will be comforting to the people she is suppose to therapise.

For 24 weeks, weliveinaflat will post photos taken for a specific hour in that week.
We will cover 24 hours in 24 weeks.
More about the 1 Day 1 World Project here.

 

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