Of dogs and babies

In my years of engagement in dog behaviour, I’ve heard many stories about owners with newborns having to give up their dog(s), not only because of the dog’s aggressive behaviour, but because of the shedding of dog’s fur. Well we can probably understand the validity of their actions if the dog’s fur is truly affecting the health of their babies.

Living in a city – especially a stressful and performance-driven society, new parents are advised against owning a dog, or to give up their current dog as it is bad for the baby’s health. Unless there are pre-existing medical issues confounded by being exposed to a dog at home, it is fine to have dog(s) around our babies. From a dog behaviour therapist’s standpoint, I will address 2 major concerns new parents may have.

1. Health: All owners should ensure that their houses are kept clean and tidy regardless of whether the dog sheds fur or not. An organised, clean and tidy home primes a more conducive environment for facilitating a dog’s positive behaviour. When the home is kept clean, babies will not be breathing in as much dog’s fur. Contrary to common belief, there are studies that have shown that children growing up with dogs in the home have health benefits (e.g. reduced allergies and improved gut bacterial health). Here’s one of such an article: click here. I would like to encourage more owners to consider the possibility of having dogs and babies co-exist, and also to read up more before giving up their dogs the moment they have children.

2. Bites: A common concern all parents will have is the fear of their dogs biting their babies. We should not wait until we have babies to address a dog’s behaviour issues. This goes all the way back to the fundamentals of training the dog. The moment a dog is introduced into the home, it is of paramount to ensure that the first stage of training kick-starts a disciplined lifestyle – this would include structures and boundaries instilled so that the dog will be well-behaved eventually. I have helped many owners address their dog’s disciplinary issues such as biting and excessive barking. In any case, whether the household has children or not, any behaviour issues is worth addressing and correcting as we wouldn’t want to confine the dog whenever there are guests invited into the house. Or worse, have ourselves forever compelled to restrict all visitations due to a behavour issue at home. Indeed, the best way for bite prevention is to start well with its behaviour training.

Understanding the above two points can help owners better plan and prioritise their efforts in behaviour management when having a dog. With having a better foresight to invest one’s effort in dog training and behaviour management, life having dogs and babies co-existing in the house can be stress-free. That’s right, you heard me – stress-free!

 

*Forgive me if this article is kinda rocky. It’s been 3 years and I’m getting back to it. Give me time 😉

Back with a change!

Hi Everyone! Back with a change!

Some have been asking where have I gone to? Well, in short… I was away and back in Singapore now. I was still doing free lance while fulfilling something that needs to be fulfilled and recently, I’ve decided to revived my site and rebrand everything.

My goal for every dog and owner is still the same. No change. To have us humans and dogs working paw-in-hand together.

I’m still in the midst of updating other changes. So for now, this is the email to contact me: thecaninecounsellor@gmail.com.

No time? Make time!!

It’s time dog owners learn and understand the importance of dogs and mother nature.

Everyone knows that dogs are animals, and dogs are man’s best friend. But are we humans damaging dogs because of our ideology of how we want them to be?

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Dog lovers loves dogs, yes! But do we love them enough to meet their needs. When I say meet their needs, I meant help them fulfill their dog instincts. Giving them love is meeting our own emotional needs more then the dog’s. But yes, I do give my dogs a lot of love, hugging, playing with them, talking to them, etc… you name.. But beyond that, dogs need to be treated like dogs. Not in the negative way, but in a positive way of allowing them to be who they really are. E.g. Taking them for a long walk, doing agility, allowing them to sniff, playing fly-ball, doing positive training, etc…

No time?? Well, you wanted a dog… so make time…

Victoria Stilwell have put it well and right to the point. She’s one of the worlds looked upon positive dog trainer apart from Ian Dunbar, Patricia McConnell and late Dr. Sophia Yin, and this is worth reading and putting into practice!

Click here to read Victoria Stilwell’s published complaint.

 

It’s not a job

Many of you know that I’m overseas for a year. But that will not stop me from doing what I love even if it’s far from home.

I’ve been able to manage a few online consultation. I do this because it is part of me and what I love. Importantly is, I can continue to help educate and equip owners with detailed understanding of a dog’s behaviour and their psychology, and I’m enjoying every bit of it.

Well, only little problem is, there will be lots of reading and typing. It looks something like this:

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My appreciation and thanks to those who have contact me, as this will only help me improve further in how I deliver trainings and program. It is very important to have a continual learning journey and never be proud to think that I know it all, because no one does. If animal behaviourist PHD Patricia M., Dr. Sophia, and Dog behvaiourist, Veterinarian Ian Dunbar says they are always on a learning journey and they will never know it all about dogs because there’s always new research and studies about dog behaviour, then what more about trainers and behaviour therapist who only attain certifications or diplomas in related fields.

Therefore, I urge not just dog owners but trainers and behaviour therapist to continue learning and progress, come out from comfort zone and explore new methods that will only help dogs live a fulfilled life and not in fear of the next throw chain, jerk on a collar, heel tap on the dog’s butt, etc… We are living in a progressive nation, and progressing times, we can’t be stuck in our own comfort zone.

Dog to dog aggression – a growing behaviour

Laura Brody have put this in such a clear and accurate explanation that touches deep on the root cause of many dog to dog aggression cases. This is a growing behaviour issue in Singapore, and it’s a worrying problem as population of dog owners grow. IMG_4286

To understand more, click on the link below. Although she is touching on dog in America, but what we experience in Singapore is as bad, or maybe worse. Please take the time to read and understand how important it is to admit that there is a problem and take responsibility for it.

Click HERE: Are Domestic Dogs Losing the Ability to Get Along with Each Other?

 

Responsive and Calm Dog

Positive reinforcement and training creates a responsive and focus working dog.
Apart from the “awwww”, “Oooooo”, “CUTE DOG!” Observe the dog’s body language. This service dog does his job without feeling fearful, but he does it with confidence and calmness. This is how consistent training, and taking things a step at a time with positive reinforcements do wonders in helping our best friend know what we really want from them, or want them to do.

It’s been a long time!

My apologies for the long absence in articles and updates. I’ve been recently been very busy clearing cases and preparing to leave for the UK. As some of you might know, my wife will be taking her masters in dance arts therefore I’ll be joining her in UK. Nope, I’m not dancing, but I’ve registered with my college to take an upgrade in dog behaviour. What’s great is, my college is in UK too.

In the meantime, I will not be taking in any cases until I’m back in Singapore. However, I will be taking in dog behaviour issues for online consultation at no charge for the duration of my time in UK. You can write to me and I’ll reply you as soon as I receive your email.

In this 1 year, I will try to put up articles when possible and share my experiences.

God bless!

Punishing Dogs for not Obeying Your Command?

Recently I’ve seen and heard about a post going around social media regarding the way an owner train her dog to obey her command. Most of you would have seen it. However, I will not go into details on it.

My observations and thoughts on the method used to correct the dog was totally an abuse. If an owner punishes a dog using an intensity greater than needed, it’s pure abuse. Or if a dog is fixated or obsess with a bad behaviour which requires a very hard physical correction, that’s pure abuse! What then, many will ask… is the best way? Well, as Ian Dunbar always say; there are many things that motivates a dog. It can be food, toy, swim, etc… Use these things to lure and reward them, rather then physical punishment. That being said. It can be difficult to understand how to use such reward at the right time. Of course, it’s safer to approach a professional. But it’s important to understand the methods different behaviourist or trainer is using and adopt.

Having been to many homes, I’ve noticed that most people make the same mistake. They reprimand, or spank their dog on the butt. Both methods are as good as useless. The dog is always losing, never winning and never able to understand what he/she did wrong, and nothing is rewarded for the right behaviour at the right time. Human hands are one of the most untrustworthy parts when it comes to correcting a dog’s behaviour. When a human reaches frustration, it doesn’t matter if you are using a gentle leader, chest harness or even the usual harness. A human’s hand can turn into an abuse, tugging on the leash so hard that the dog flies, using the leash as a punishment tool, etc… This are the actions I’ve seen while observing dog owners walking their dogs on any normal day.

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Question: Is it necessary to use brute force to punish a dog for not obeying your commands? Does using brute force makes you more frustrated? Does shocking your dog makes you more sadistic?

There are many gentle and respectful ways to manage behaviours and/or cases where your dog disobey your command, or not acting on your command on time. It’s all about respect that we humans have to learn to give before receiving. Every behaviourist and trainer knows that dogs do not have deductive reasoning. So the best way is to use rewards to lock-in a desired behaviour. Yes, sometimes dogs need to be discipline. But discipline or punishment can be as gentle as holding back food, treating the dog later, ignoring the dog until the desired behaviour, etc… the list goes on… There are so many gentle methods of disciplining a dog by not even touching the dog and hurting the dog. These are ways of communicating with your dog whats desired and whats not. It’s much calmer, and more fun.

Therefore, my conclusion to such training from the video that has been circulating around is pure abuse! It’s not sportsmanship in anyway and it’s 100% disrespectful to God’s creation and gift to us humans. The dog is doing out of fear rather then respect. And here at The Dog Behaviourist, and I believe many of my other trainer friends agree as well, we as humans must respect dog’s natural needs and instincts before receiving the respect back from them. We must stop being egoistic when it comes to dog training.

Note: Someone has to speak out about such form of training. Even if it causes unhappiness, I stand for what is right and what our wide range of sources can provide in terms of dog behaviour and training. If the world class behaviourist and trainers do not need to use such abusive methods, then no one needs!!

By Ezra Koh

Time-Out!

I believe many owners have heard of and maybe even used this form of discipline on their dogs. It is called the “time-out” corner. As smart as it sounds, it is actually not
if the owner is not taught the right way of doing it.

A few of my clients were previously taught to discipline their dog by putting them in a time-out corner or room. Time-out originates from sports such as ice hockey or basketball. In such sports, the time-out box allows the player to cool down before getting back into the game, hence a similar idea was conceived for dog training.

Every trainer or behaviourist has our own methods and philosophy to help
owners with their dog’s behaviour. However, what is often missing is the understanding and psychology of how the time-out is going to work for the dog.
I am not a firm advocator of time-out because eventually, the time-out corner becomes a punishment corner for the dog if the owner fails to follow through with rewarding the right behaviour.Kerb-0001

A mistake I have often observed with this practice is, for example; Sam (owner) walks over to Buggy (his dog) because Buggy has been barking non-stop at Sam’s guest. Sam takes Buggy to his time-out corner which is a playpen. Sam closes the playpen and walks over to entertain his guest. At this point, Buggy has stopped barking because he is in his time-out area. After a couple of minutes, Sam walks over to Buggy’s playpen and invites Buggy to come out. The moment he comes out, Buggy runs all over the place excitedly and starts barking again. The cycle repeats and eventually, Buggy is left in the playpen until the guest leaves.

Do you think Buggy understood that he was not supposed to bark when a guest is present? Or did Buggy get to reflect long and hard enough in his time-out corner to learn that barking at guests is an inappropriate behaviour? No, Buggy did not get the message! All he got was a punishment which did not lead to a reward when he behaved. He was not rewarded for his calm behaviour before being let out of the playpen, that is supposed to be his calm and secure corner, now gets negatively associated with being punished. A follow-through with the discipline that you want to enforce is very important. After the follow through, as equally important is the reward for the right behaviour.

The right thing to do would be; use a sound to get Buggy away from the door. Lead Buggy to his resting area and reward him for staying calm. Give him a stay command. Then confidently turn and walk towards the door and attend to your guest. If Buggy gets up, repeat the process. He will soon begin to understand that he gets a fair treatment for being in the best behaviour, and he gets rewarded for it. Of course, this is just one out of several methods to help Buggy associate the right behaviour positively.Kerb 0002

To set the perception right, I prefer to call that time-out corner as “the dog’s sanctuary” instead. Your dog should relate that “sanctuary” as an area where it finds comfort and rest, with a very positive association. Some dogs like mine, relate that area with sleeping and chilling the whole day. Other dogs relate to that area as lots of food. Once your dog is able to associate the area positively, it will be a walk
in the park asking your dog to go to that area.

For instance, with my dog Vogue; each time my wife and I reach home, Vogue will run to the kitchen (due to the layout of our house, she has a very comfortable space
in the kitchen), hop onto her bed and sit. She will then wait for us to put our stuff down before she comes out again calmly. We have helped her associate her bed as a safe and positive place to be, rather than being at the door.

It takes consistency and patience to help a dog associate a right behaviour with the right discipline. Give yourself a realistic timeline to successfully help your dog the right way, and don’t rush it. Even if it takes 2-3 months, that is still better in the long run than rushing it and doing everything wrongly.

by Ezra Koh

*No dogs was harm in the process of taking the pictures. The dog is a good actor when there’s treats 😉 (he is an obedient dog)

Doorbell Obsession…

Ding Dong….. Woof woof woof woof woof woof…..

DoorbellHaving problems with your dog barking non-stop when the doorbell rings or when guest arrives? Here are 3 methods that we suggest you can try. However, always remember that you are helping your dog to associate positively to different / strange sounds in the house. Therefore, this will take time and consistency. We do not condone physical & hysterical practices such as caning, rolling newspapers, tennis rackets, spanking, kicking, pushing hard, shouting your lungs out, or banging your room doors down to get your dog’s attention. We want your dog to learn calmness and associate that doorbell, door knocking and guest entering the house are positive experience.

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Method 1: The Delicious Bell!
When doorbell rings or when guest arrives knocking on the door and your dog starts to bark non-stop, whether your dog shows signs of fear towards the sound or guest or whether your dog shows over-excitement – use a food lure. Something that your dog cannot resist. Something that’s so heavenly to your dog that your dog rather follows the food and not the doorbell or the guest. Use that to lure your dog to his/her resting area yet door is still visible to your dog and you. Lure your dog into a sit – down position will be the best, but we’ll start with the sit first. At this point, do not let your dog have the food/treat yet. Continue with the lure, then invite the guest in. Once your guest have entered your house, your dog can have the food/treat. Immediately, but calmly take out another food/treat and lure your dog to the guest (you can get your guest to sit or stand) and reward him/her with the food/treat. Following that, give a food/treat to your guest and ask your guest to lure your dog into a sit position and then feed him/her. You can repeat the exercise with your guest giving your dog food/treats as many times. What we want to achieve is for your dog to understand that the sound of doorbell or the sound of door knocking presents a reward with the right behaviour. After which, we will also achieve to help your dog understand that as long as you, the owner allows the guest to enter the house, your dog gets a reward for following your response to the guest by being calm. (By Ezra Koh)

Method 2: My Owner is the Doorbell!
Have one universal command for your dog to stop what they are doing and follow you – whether it’s attention to other dogs, squirrels, food in the ground or people at the door. When the bell rings, go to your dog, use the command from the hallway and walk away from the door. Whether to the kitchen, or to your room. If your dog follows you to the kitchen, reward your dog with a treat and have your dog wait while you answer the door. If your dog walks back to bark at the door, do it again – go to your dog, use the command from the hallway and walk away from the door. Before this exercise becomes possible, you can simply ring the bell and knock on the door every time you walk through the doorway or when you come back home. Now they hear the door bell it’s not such a big deal. (By Soubhik Banerjee)

Method 3: My Dog Warns!
After your dog barks twice or thrice when the doorbell rings, say “OK” firmly to stop/acknowledge your dog. If your dog stops barking, reward your dog immediately and ensure that your dog stops barking after that. If your dog continues, follow method 1 or 2, but after your dog barks twice or thrice. This is when you want your dog to warn your of strangers or when there’s someone at the door. (By Jeremy Lim)

Note: These methods work with consistency and a lot of practice, but it goes a long way. Of course you can only start using this methods if your dog do not present defensive behaviour or guarding behaviour at the door or to guest. If they do, consult a professional.

This article is put together by our team of dog behaviourist!