Karen Davison's Blog
December 10, 2017
This guide contains all dogs need to get one step ahead of the game, It explains the feline weapon system, cat ambush techniques and how to avoid them, and how to act to maintain the myth, that dogs, are 'well able' for cats.
Bob the Westie shares some heart wrenching tales sent in by fellow canines and imparts some sage advice to help find solutions to their cat problems.Note from Bob:
As an added bonus, I will also share with you some vital information! I have discovered that our enemy has an Achilles Heel. Yes my friends, cats have a weakness… who knew?
After many years of extensive scientific research and much trial and error, I have taken advantage of this flaw, to design a system to lure cats into a cunning trap, that will give you hours of guaranteed cat-free pleasure.
We stand united
Letter from Sir Cecil of Indigo Moon
November 28, 2017
One lucky person will be in with a chance to win 3 paperbacks from the 'Fun Reads for Dog Lovers' Series.
A Dog's Guide to Humans, A Dog's Guide to Cats and It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog Trainer.
How to enter:
'Like' SmartDog Books facebook page, post a picture of your best friend (the furry four legged one!) in the comments under the competition post and get your friends to vote. The dog (or cat) with the most votes 8pm GMT on Saturday 2nd December wins!
November 10, 2016
While working as a dog behaviourist, I have travelled the length and breadth of rural Kerry, much of it off the beaten track and often in reverse gear. This is usually due to obscure directions resulting in lots of three-point turn practise, or backing up to the last passing place because there is a tractor coming the other way.
Postal addresses in rural Ireland have no house numbers, street names or postcodes. They are simply the general area where the house is located. This means that there can be thirty properties spread over several miles with exactly the same address, which can make finding a particular house a tad challenging.
Ireland has many quaint features, the sense of humour at the road signs department for example. While on main roads, signposts are on every junction, which is most helpful. Once directed off the main road however, you are led down a maze of small roads with many crossroads and junctions where signposts are conspicuous by their absence. The approach seems to be that they point you in the general direction; then you’re on your own.
There are some cultural differences in the Irish approach to pets, which is somewhat more relaxed than I was accustomed to. It took me quite a while to get used to the fact that in Ireland, you see large numbers of dogs running loose all the time. Town dogs take themselves off for walks and meet up with their regular friends to find adventure, while in rural areas you often have to run the gauntlet of sheepdogs and terriers that break cover of concealment to chase your car up the road, trying to bite your tyres.
A good proportion of dogs live outdoors, which means that much of my work is carried out in the elements. In Ireland, this can be an uncomfortable experience. Autumn is the season of constant rain and gale force winds. Winter is like the twilight zone; it never seems to reach full daylight and rains most days. Spring can see rain for weeks on end with no respite and summer can be glorious - if it is not raining. When trudging through muddy fields in the lashing rain, it sometimes occurs that there may be easier ways to make a living.
Occasionally after training I have to call into the supermarket to pick up supplies. I get many sympathetic glances from women who look like something from Vogue magazine with their designer clothes, perfect hair, impeccable make up and high heels. In contrast I stroll up the aisles in my walking boots caked in mud, my dog training coat covered in muddy paw prints and my hair, which looked halfway decent when I left the house in the morning, plastered to my head.
Notes to self:
Should have moved to Spain.
Excerpt from It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog Trainer - Volume 1
October 25, 2016
Blog Post - Roxi's Rants
What has happened to our once proud species?
Our wolf forefathers must be howling in their graves to see how far we have fallen.
We sacrificed much trading the wild for the couch, and frankly we weren’t banking on having to share it with cats.
While our very existence is devoted to pleasing mankind, they are only concerned with their own needs.
How is it then, that cats are treated better than us?
What do cats actually contribute to warrant such special treatment?
I commissioned The Institute of Totally Unbiased Canine Studies to conduct scientific research into the value of cats compared to dogs.
These are their completely impartial findings:
This detailed study proves what I have long suspected - cats are a waste of food.
Food that I could be having.
Food that is considerably better than my food.
Dogs are suffering food poverty, barely surviving on dried out kibble, while cats are served with mouth watering cuisine. Their diet is so superior, their poo is more tasty and nutritious than our dinner.
There is something fundamentally wrong here.
Why, when cats are no good to anybody but themselves, do they get all the best grub?
Excerpt from A Dog's Guide to Cats
A Dog's Guide to Cats
July 5, 2016
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May 9, 2016
PUPPY SOCIALISATION - How to help your puppy mature into a well adjusted, confident and well behaved adult.
The following suggested socialisation program is suitable for all breeds, with explanations of the benefits of each element.
SOCIALISATION PROGRAM FOR PUPPIES
Invite people of all ages and both genders to visit and encourage them to greet your puppy only when s/he has got over their initial excitement. Children should be supervised by a responsible adult at all times. It is important to supervise and encourage children in gentle handling, as a bad experience at this point may cause nervousness and fear biting with children.
This will build confidence and prevent nervousness with unfamiliar people.
Not interacting with the pup until he/she is calm, will help to prevent overzealous greeting behaviour.
Exposing to children of all ages will help your puppy get used to the noisy and sometimes unpredictable nature of children.
Provide an interesting and stimulating environment. Provide boxes to explore, different types, sizes, shapes and texture or toys as well as obstacles to climb and explore. Change regularly. Let your puppy experience different types and textures of flooring.
This will encourage your puppy to explore his surroundings and build confidence when faced with new experiences.
It also helps develop coordination and physical dexterity.
Continued Socialisation with Animals
Allow your puppy to interact with other vaccinated dogs of all sizes and ages and introduce to other species. This should be done in a controlled environment and under strict supervision. As with children, it is important to make these experiences positive.
This will encourage continued sociability and develop correct approach/interaction with different species.
Encourage all family members to feed your puppy. Keep a small portion of food back and add to the dish while the puppy is eating.
This will prevent food aggression/resource guarding.
NEVER take food away from your puppy, always add food while they are eating. We want hands near dishes to be positive, not negative or threatening.
When your puppy is tired and relaxed, rub down gently with a towel and introduce to grooming. Just a few strokes with the brush to begin with, if your puppy is inclined to bite the brush, give them something positive to occupy them as a distraction. Begin basic examination - check and handle ears, lift the lips to look at their teeth, handle the tail and feet, check their pads, nails and webbing between their toes. Once the puppy is happy to accept this type of handling, ask other people to do the same.
This will get your puppy accustomed to being groomed and dried and used to general handling.
Veterinary examination will be less traumatic for your dog and much easier for your vet!
Take your puppy out for very short car rides. The inner ears are not fully developed, so puppies can suffer from motion sickness. It is important therefore to keep travel very short to begin with, just a few minutes out and back.
This will get your puppy used to car travel, and allow him/her to observe the outside world.
By keeping the trips short, it will help to prevent feelings of nausea, which can form a negative association with going out in the car.
Positive Controlled Separation
Making sure you use a safe room (i.e no chewable wires etc.) leave your puppy alone with toys and safe chew items for very short periods of time, gradually increase the time that s/he is left alone. If your puppy gets distressed, try using a baby gate, so that they can still see you, leave a radio on in the room and try not to respond to vocalisation during this alone time and where possible wait until they are quiet (even if it is only for a few seconds) before letting them out.
This will get your puppy used to being left alone and prevent separation anxiety.
Visiting your Vet
Take your puppy in to visit your veterinary practice before their first appointment for vaccinations. Keep your puppy in your arms to prevent any risks of exposure to disease and ask your vet and support staff to make a fuss of your puppy and give a few treats. This should be an ongoing event even as your dog matures. Whenever you are passing the practice with your dog, pop in for a few minutes of positive interaction.
If your dog only goes to the vet for treatment, they will form negative associations and can become very stressed each time you have a veterinary appointment.
Positive interactions with the vet and support staff will take the trauma out of the situation when you do need to take them in for treatment.
When the full course of vaccinations is complete, allow your puppy to explore as many different environments as possible, starting with quieter locations and progressing gradually to busier places. Country locations where they may see livestock, forest, beaches and lakes, playgrounds and town parks, dog shows and country fairs, car parks and shopping centres. Get your puppy used to traffic on very quiet roads to begin with and move up to busier locations gradually.
Exposing your puppy to different environments will build confidence, supply interest and mental stimulation.
Continued Interaction and Socialisation
When out and about, allow your puppy to interact with other dogs. It is best not to let them meet and greet every dog, choose carefully the dogs that you allow them to interact with. You want experiences to be positive. Always ask the other owner if their dog is friendly with other dogs and ask permission to let them greet each other. Check your local area for puppy training and socialisation classes (making sure that the trainer is qualified and uses positive reinforcement methods)
While puppies learn their social skills when in the litter, it is important to allow them to continue to develop these interactions with different dogs.
If you do not allow your dog to interact in this way, these skills can diminish and lead to fear and they can become over reactive and aggressive when they meet other dogs.
By controlling which dogs they are allowed to interact with, prevents bad experiences and teaches your puppy that they can't always interact with every dog they see.
Handling a Fear Response
Remember, your puppy has a limited life experiences. Although puppies are inquisitive by nature, you may get a situation where they seem hesitant or afraid. It is quite normal for puppies to show an initial fear response to something new.
It is important that you do not react to this by making a fuss and trying to reassure your puppy as this will reinforce the fear response, making it more likely to occur. Instead just observe your puppy, s/he should recover quite quickly and then move in to investigate.
If your puppy does not recover however, reduce the stimulus to an acceptable level i.e move further away from the object or situation to a distance that they can cope with. Work gradually closer in increments that your puppy can cope with, rewarding confident behaviour with positive reinforcement.
Excerpt from Companion Huskies, Understanding, Training and Bonding with Your Dog!
Now available at a reduced price for pre-order! Due to be published 27th May 2016. Price increase after release.
August 28, 2014
Have you ever wondered how dogs see us?
A Dog's Guide to Humans - Written by dogs, for dogs!
A lighthearted look at the human species from a dog's point of view. Bob the West Highland Terrier shares some tips and tricks on getting the best out of human beings, and imparts some of his wisdom on manipulation techniques, how to exercise your human and much more....
A must have book for all canines! Take the quiz at the end of the book to rate your human training skills.
FREE kindle versions for a LIMITED TIME ONLY from 30th August until 1st September.
GRAB ONE WHILE YOU CAN!
November 29, 2013
What are pack rules?
This theory states that dogs as pack animals have a strictly structured hierarchy. Alpha's dominate all, betas submit to alphas but dominate omegas, and omegas have to submit to all. Alphas are entitled to certain privileges:-
Alphas always eat first and get the best food.
Alphas get the best and most elevated resting places, and must not be disturbed when at rest.
Alphas instigate all play and social interactions.
Alphas always lead the pack.
Due to the fact that it is still so frequently cited, it is still widely accepted by many people, but does it make sense?
In the first instant we must establish whether dogs are actually pack animals. It is recognised that dogs and wolves share a common ancestry, but evolution and domestication over many thousands of years have removed dogs to such a large extent that it is not reasonable to compare dog behaviour to the behaviour of the modern day wolf.
Coppinger and Coppinger in the study of canine origin, behaviour and evolution state:-
"dogs have diverged, changed, transmutated from their wolflike ancestors. Dogs differ from the other canid species in measurable ways, just as coyotes differ from wolves in measurable ways. But dogs win the prize for being the most measurably different and diverse member of the genus."
"If indeed the science world does insist on renaming the dog Canis lupus familiaris, there is one thing we must all remember: Just because dogs are renamed as a subspecies of wolves does not make them wolves. To say that dogs are descended from wolves does not make the wolves."
Is it not more reasonable therefore to examine social behaviour of dogs by studying free ranging dogs, rather than wolves. In such a study of free ranging dogs in rural and urban sites Daniels and Bekoff reported that dogs tended to remain solitary, avoiding pack behaviour.
"dogs probably were not as social as expected because little advantage was conferred on group-living animals. Scarce resources beyond those provided by human residents at both the urban and rural sites would be exploited more efficiently by individuals than by larger groups."
It has been found that wild dogs were more likely to group. A pack may be defined as a social unit that hunts, rears young and protects a communal territory as a stable group. In a study observing feral dogs in Italy, Boitani et al describes these feral dogs only met this criteria in a very limited sense and the groups that do form seem to consist of members that are transient and of short duration when advantageous. This seems to indicate that dogs, unlike wolves are not strictly pack animals, but rather group by loose association according to environmental needs. There is no doubt that dogs are sociable animals, but these and other studies show that dogs in 'nature' are not pack animals living in organised hierarchical societies, but rather more solitary foragers, coming together to breed and occasionally for other purposes for brief periods when advantageous. This could then more accurately be described as a social group, rather than a pack.
As companion animals, dogs in multi-dog households do live together as a fixed social group, the members of which are determined by the owners. When dogs live together in these forced social groups, do they have a defined structured hierarchy? Do groups of dogs have defined alpha, beta and omega members? Do they live by the definition of pack rules? The answer is no. Like human beings, dogs have individual personalities, and individual dogs value different resources to varying degrees. For example in my own household consisting of 6 dogs: Storm will assert himself when it comes to toys - his favourite resource, Buddy will assert himself in competition for human touch, Suzie and Charlie are food orientated and will steal food off other members and Mings' favourite thing to do is rush out of the door first and jump on the next dog out the door for a game. They will take it in turns to instigated play and social interactions, and they will all at one time or another show either assertive or submissive behaviour to each other depending on which dog values the current specific resource. The notion that dogs have a linear hierarchical system i.e. alpha dominates all, beta dominates omega and omega gets no say in anything and must submit to everyone else is not apparent at all.
Despite the fact that several of the so called 'pack rules' are broken on a daily basis - they get fed before the family, are allowed on the sofa when invited, get a game or fuss sometimes when they ask for it, humans will engage in tug of war games (and sometimes the dog is allowed to win) they are all well behaved and generally obedient as they have been taught the rules of acceptable behaviour with positive reinforcement. So despite the fact that they are allowed theoretical privilages according to pack rules, we do not experience any so called dominant issues.
If an owner is experiencing a problematic behaviour, that individual behaviour must be looked at as an individual event and treated accordingly. There cannot be a 'cure all' treatment for all training and behaviour problems, especially when trying to apply rules that have no foundation in the reality of how dogs interact with each other socially.
Pack rule theory has been used to explain every problem; the dogs status is too high if:-
The dog ignores the owner's commands (more likely to be a lack of training)
Showing aggression (which could be for a number or reasons - including fear or resource guarding)
Jumping up, attention seeking, begging (far more likely because the dog has been rewarded for these actions in the past),the list goes on.
Unfortunately applying a rank reduction program does appear to work in many instances, but not because the owner is asserting their authority and reducing the dogs status, it is far more likely that by changing the behaviour of the owner, we are changing the response of the dog. By applying a rank reduction program the owner is actually using punishment, which can seriously damage the bond and relationship between the dog and the owner, and can also stop activities that both owner and dog enjoyed and consequently remove much of the pleasure from the relationship.
Perhaps an owner might consult a dog trainer because the dog pulls on the lead and when off lead will not come back when called. Pack rule theorists will say that the dog is ignoring the owner and pulling on the lead as the dogs' status is too high, and the dog is showing dominant behaviour. In conjuction with dealing with the specific problem, the trainer might also ask the owner to assert their authority by applying rank reduction based on pack rule theory, for example stopping the dog getting on the couch. The owner probably enjoyed having the dog on the couch and is now made to feel that this is not only unacceptable, but indeed that this may have been one of the contributing factors of the dogs' disobedient behaviour. By suddenly denying the dog access to the furniture, this could potentially cause confrontational resource guarding, which is a far more serious and upsetting problem. They may be asked also to change feeding regimes by making the dog wait hours later than their usual feed time to ensure that the humans eat first, thus denying the dog the expected reward which constitutes punishment. Ignoring the dog when it seeks attention - withdrawing expected reward = punishment and also possibly causing housetraining problems as the dog may be asking to go out.
In my opinion it is irresponsible for professionals to be using these rank reduction protocols based on a theory that can not possibly apply to domestic dogs. From the owners perspective, they are made to feel guilty for causing the problem in the first place through mismanagement according to pack rule theory, and are made to feel that activities that they really enjoyed engaging in with the dog are unacceptable, while the dog has undergone some major lifestyle changes, is being punished for no apparent reason, causing stress, anxiety or possibly aggression. This approach will damage the bond between the owner and the dog, when in actual fact all that needed to be done was to train the dog in the specific tasks ie to walk to heal on the lead, and to recall with positive reinforcement.
It is true to say that individual dogs may be more assertive or submissive in character (just as humans show these individual tendencies of character) but dogs are not pack animals and do not display structured hierarchical social behaviour.
If dogs do not display pack behaviour as proposed in pack rule theory, how then are we to expect that they will recognise the significance of those rules when applied by their owners?
In conclusion, in my opinion pack rule theory is most definitely not applicable to dogs and I would question the validity of applying it to wolves.
If you are interested in exploring this subject in more detail, you can find an in-depth article on Dominance Theory at:-
March 8, 2013
During my career as a professional dog trainer and canine behaviourist, I have been battered, bruised, flattened, tied up in knots and found myself in some funny, strange and sometimes painful situations, that celebrity trainers would probably not care to admit to.
It can be a very rewarding job as well as a challenging one, often you have to think on your feet and you certainly can’t afford to be a shrinking violet.
It is difficult to describe that sinking feeling, when you hear the splash of urine a split second before the warmth soaks through your jeans, trickles down your leg and into your boot. I also have to say, that my legs have seen more action from male dogs than I care to think about.
I will share some of the most funny, embarrassing and surprising moments of my journey, as well as some of the frustrations of the job in my new book - It Shouldn't Happen to a Dog Trainer, which will be available soon! I hope it will give you some insight into a life working with dogs and their owners.
One of the most mortifying incidents involved a sign post, a middle aged Polish gentleman and a very large dog - which turned into one of those 'you couldn't make it up' moments.
What is involved?
To neuter (spay) a female dog means to do a complete ovariohysterectomy. Which means the surgical removal of the ovaries and the uterus.
There are some distinct physiological advantages to neutering females, but few behavioural benefits. For some bitches with behavioural issues such as aggression or nervousness neutering can actually be detrimental.
Spaying certainly can benefit bitches with regard to reducing the risk of mammary and ovarian cancer. It also reduces the risk of pyometra - this can occur in bitches following a season and can be life threatening if not caught early. It can be said that these advantages have to potential to increase life expectancy. The other obvious advantage is the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, and unwanted attention from males.
Potential Physical Disadvantages
If spaying occurs too early, it is common for females to suffer oestrogen deficient urinary incontinence. The lack of oestrus can cause a weakness in the sphincter muscles causing urine leakage and lack of bladder control. If this occurs it is a permanent condition that may require long term medication.
Unlike males, spaying bitches does not have a calming effect on behaviour. In fact neutering can have adverse affects on serotonin levels in the brain which can result in increased aggression, and can also increase nervousness in females that show these tendencies prior to neutering.
Spaying before the development of sexual maturity can also cause paedomorphic behaviour, (locking dogs into a juvenile psychological state) preventing natural emotional maturity. Dogs will remain 'giddy' and retain low attention spans.
It is important to allow females to mature both physically and mentally before considering surgery. Many vets recommend spaying at six months - this is far too early. Bitches should be allowed to mature enough to have had at least one season. The age that this occurs will depend on the breed and the individual. Once the bitch has had a season, you should wait at least 3 months before neutering. Bitches will produce progesterone for the normal gestation period of a pregnancy (9 weeks) following a season, whether they are pregnant or not. You should NEVER spay a bitch during this period of hormone production. Cutting off hormones in the middle of the cycle can CAUSE long term behavioural problems. Once the bitch has had a season, there is absolutely no rush.
Neutering and weight gain
This is one concern that many people have in connections to neutering their dogs. It is true to say that some dogs may experience changes in their metabolism following neutering. This is not a problem in itself. Weight gain will occur however if the feeding levels remain the same. It is important to monitor dogs post neutering as it may be necessary to adjust food intake to balance out metabolic changes. Often it is just a case of a slight reduction of the amount of daily food given. I always neuter my dogs, and have never had an overweight dog!
Before deciding whether to spay your female dog, carefully consider all the pros and cons. If your bitch is of sound temperament, there certainly are health benefits that could potentially increase their life span.
Bitches that display aggression or nervouseness, seek the advice of a qualified canine behaviourist before making any decision, as spaying may make these problems more severe.
If you have any questions on this subject, please feel free to post a comment.