Animal Management

Managing Animals within the Household

I have been recently reminded about one of the many reasons why dog and cats are surrendered to animal shelters; toileting in the house.

I was talking with a client about their dog who is boisterous, and does everything at 200 miles an hour, and about teaching their dog Quiet (stop barking) and Settle (asking it to stop what it’s doing and curl up for some quiet time). During this session they explained that their flatmate had had an issue with their older cat and had had it put down.  I listened to their relaying of the story with interest as they explained that the cat was introduced into the house after the dog and initially there were a few teething problems with the cat threatening the dog, and not using the cat flap for toileting.  The toileting was resolved by providing a dirt box and sorted that out without too many issues, and eventually the cat had gone outside through the cat flap, but only when the dog was inside.  The issue of the boisterous dog was obviously a very big issue for the cat but thought that management of the toileting was good and provided the cat a toileting area without being harassed or threatened by the dog. However,  a few weeks after the toilet box had been removed and the cat was using the cat flap, it starting toileting inside, in wardrobes or under beds. The cat was old so they took the cat to the vet for a non-return visit.

Why did this happen? When animals have been toilet trained and they are successful at going outside of their own accord and suddenly start urinating or defecation in the house, there has to be a reason.  It could be medical, because of the age of the cat, it could be environmental (someone or something in the house or garden), or behavioural (needs some retraining). From the explanation from the flatmate,

  • the boisterous dog had started harassing the cat when it was asleep on its owners bed
  • when the cat tried to go outside, the dog started blocking the cats access to the cat door
  • when the cat was outside, the boisterous dog would chase the cat up a tree and then sit there barking at it until someone took the dog away

Although the cat was having the accidents, you can see from above that it didn’t appear to be a medical or behavioural issue as the cat was trying to get out of the house.  It was the dogs behaviour that had changed and it was now bullying the cat at every opportunity it could.  The cat was having to search for quiet places to go to the toilet and unfortunately the wardrobes and under the bed were the places that it used.

Management

When issues start with our animals, we have to take a step back and look at the situation and say “what’s changed here for this to start happening?”.  It may well be one of the other areas of medical or behavioural, but look around at the animals home first and think about what has changed in the past day, week, month that may have affected the animals environment…you might have new neighbours that have an unfriendly cat, or another boisterous dog next door, the accidents could have happened during a thunderstorm, or a very stormy few days…”What’s different?”. Once you think you know what is different, implement some changes, ideas into place.

In the above scenario, you might:

  • put the dog out for an hour, and when you bring it in, then put the cat outside;
  • separating the front and back of your section may give the cat and dog an area to themselves, then gradually bring them together.
  • creating separation in the house, may also work
  • train the dog a behaviour that doesn’t support chasing or blocking the cat

If you cannot  think of anything that could of caused the cat toileting in the house, then ask your vet to check your animal. Age is one factor for toileting in the house, but there are many others, and a vet will be able to check the health of your animal to remove illness as a cause.

There are cat behaviourist around that can help you if it is a behavioural problem, but I think that if the person in the above situation had put the toileting box back into the house, created a safe haven for the cat, and the dog had had some behavioural training, the cat could have lived for a few years longer.

Steve White’s Seminar 2013

Post Steve White’s seminar in Feb 2012…

Steve was in New Zealand for the first time to share his passion and enjoyment in training dogs. With his vast experience in training dogs in various service related roles, he captured people’s training imagination within a short time on the first day when working through reading a dogs body language.  Fluency and generalisation in training were covered on day two and three in Auckland, including the introduction of forms to assist with record keeping and understanding base lining of our dogs.

Some people attended Auckland’s Friday session only whilst others attended all five days in Auckland and Wellington.

Friday 17 Feb – Thousand Hour Eyes: a combination of theory and practical, using demo dogs who did a great job of showing the participants different body language which allowed the participants to identify and share their findings to the rest of the group.

Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 Feb – Raising the BaR: Steve started by helping us understand the importance of working through what our expected training outcome is and then breaking it down into bite size chunks.  He gave the participants a form to complete, and then they worked in groups with the five people that had their dogs as part of this two day workshop.  Groups of participants without dogs worked with each of the people with dogs to review their training requirement and then report back on it.  It was a very interactive session and once the first form had been filled, each group reported back on what they saw during the session.  This session alone helped people understand the importance of understanding exactly what the trainer is trying to achieve before they start training.  Some of the reporting identified the different expectations of change between the trainer, the coach and the rest of the team.  Mind blowing.  As this two day session evolved so did the expectations within each of the groups.  The groups trainer (with dog) was giving more details of expected outcomes of behaviours in very specific terms allowing the coaches and reviewers to utilise a more detailed report allowing a better understanding of achievement in the training.

The Wellington sessions consisted of a one day scent workshop and a one day tracking workshop.

Saturday 25 Feb: Scentsational  The scent workshop opened our eyes to accessing the power of the dogs nose and an extraordinary number of opportunities for us to utilise this skill in our everyday lives.  Five dogs were used for this workshop: four of them using operant conditioning and one using classical conditioning.

Sunday 26 Feb: HITT Workshop The scent workshop led nicely into the tracking workshop on the Sunday.  Some attendees were already involved in tracking, however, the Hydration Intensified Tracking Training method focuses on teaching you how to build your training skills to the point where you can concentrate on the art of training rather than the mechanics. Special emphasis is made on how to teach yourself to make good training decisions quickly with the minimum amount of information necessary.

Steve’s trip down under was short but full of great information with fun filled sessions, lots of great questions, humour galore and so, so much learning.

In between the two seminars Steve and I travelled slowly down the North Island from Auckland to Wellington via Hamilton, Rotorua and Levin.  As we travelled down country we went through the corrugation iron art capital of NZ, Tirau.

Steve was amazed by the variety of different sculptures that were created, including videoing the giant iron dog as I slowly drove down the empty mainstreet! There were other examples of artists corregated work throughout Tirau.

Rotorua was a definite high spot where we stayed with friends of mine who live the good life…amazing veggie gardens that produced everything for dinner.  It was hard to leave the next day after an amazing breakfast with a table again groaning with lots of fresh food…and best of all the awesome company of my friends and theirs who also stayed.

A trip to Huka falls, and stopped at Hunterville, the home of the Huntaway was the full extent of sight seeing as it rained all the way down and Mt Ruapehu certainly didn’t look like this as it was shrouded by low cloud as Steve drove the desert road!

Steve was an exceptional speaker who shared his learning successes with us. We look forward to Steve and Jen returning to Middle Earth at some stage in the not too distant future.

Sit

Why teach your dog to sit (or another strong behaviour)?

Whenever I train a new dog, I always place great emphasis on one behaviour over any other…and that is the Sit.  I work really hard to get the dog to sit in-front, behind, at the side, away from me, with duration, and have the ability to sit anywhere that I ask on the first request and fast.

But why is this so important.  I believe that when you have a dog, you should always have safety at the back of your mind. Safety for both of you, not just yourself.  So here are some of the many reasons why I train dogs to have a really strong sit:

Sit at the doorway

  • To allow you to enter or exit the doorway either first or last (your choice).  If they are sitting at the doorway, it means that if you have your hands full, you can walk through the doorway safely without having a dog trip you over halfway through.
  • If you have multiple dogs that are sitting at the door waiting to go out, it allows you to release them individually when you say their name…this one takes a bit of practice
  • If you have friends coming round, you don’t want a dog to be jumping up on them, so ask the dog to sit at the doorway and allow your friends to enter before you release your dog

Sit before exiting the car:

  • If the leash is not already attached to the dog, asking the dog to sit allows you to attach the leash
  • A training opportunity where the dog doesn’t get out of the car before it has presented you with a really strong sit…there is a really strong and exciting reward outside of the car (unless you are at the vets but that’s another blog)

Sit anywhere:

  • Practice the sitting both on and off leash everywhere that you go.  Do this is small chunks though, do not go from the lounge to the local park and expect your dog to sit the same as it does at home
  • Practice in the kitchen, lounge, balcony, back and front garden, etc. and get them consistent in each of those places
  • Practice the sit in different rooms in the house, then ask for the sit whilst you are not in the room.  Use someone else or a camera to check that they are sitting, but only try this exercise once the dog is working well
Most importantly, if you have a strong sit (or other behaviour) it means that you have the ability to stop your dog in its tracks and prevent it from running across a road and being hit or causing an accident, or chasing animals…don’t let this happen to you….Fenton