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Mental well being for dogs

Looking after a dogs mental well being is just as important as looking after a dogs physical well being,

That looks slightly different from dog to dog home to home, but the core values remain the same to ensure that well being is running at it’s optimum.

Healthy consistent boundaries, that ensures every household member is comfortable with day to day living habits and routines.

feedback and guidance that builds and strengthens skills and understanding of the world around them especially their people and how best to connect and “plug in” to them.

Healthy outlets of fulfilment PLAY structure is one of the most over looked elements in a dogs daily life but is a huge game changer when done right.

Solid easy to read and communicate with fellow family members for connection to help satisfy natural social instincts.

And if you don’t put mental well being high on the care checklist of your dog, stress and disconnection can impact on your dogs long term health, stress and anxiety can alter gut health, immunity, and impact on/burn out the nervous system.

Mental well being = physical well being.

It goes hand in hand.

Find your vet important in ensuring physical well being when you need the guidance?

What about a trainer when it comes to your dogs mental well being?

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What we understand of dogs is always evolving

I recently found out that not too long ago 80’s to 90’s it was common practice to believe dogs didn’t feel pain or feel intense amounts of pain, including after surgery, broken bones etc

It actually blew my mind to learn that.

Fast forward to now, it’s standard procedure to administer pain relief before the animal has woken and to send the animal home with roughly three days worth of pain relief just for desexing.

How crazy is that??

And it got me thinking, if we were once in a place where our experts of a dogs body had no real understanding of how much pain they were in,

Can’t our experts in mental wellbeing and behavioural training miss the mark a little as well?

My clients get to get to know their dog on a whole new level, understanding their emotional cues better, to better recognise when their dog is genuinely having a hard time, when they are frustrated, throwing in the towel or simply trying to “win” in the game of who can be more stubborn/patient than the other.

And how that plays a huge part in how the dog interacts and reacts to the world around him.

“traditional” dog training disregards a dogs emotions quite a lot “dogs a dog don’t humanize them”

And yeah I agree don’t make them something that they aren’t but that’s not what the people I work with are aiming for, they are aiming for their dog to have the opportunity to be themselves whilst understanding the boundaries to keep them safe and happy.

And hell even newer aged veterinarian behaviourist work is missing the mark too by heavily working on shifting the brain chemically, by relying quite heavily on meds to “fix” issues, almost completely ignoring the fact that the brain is an ever evolving organ, neurons change, strengthen and weaken all the time, medication can have it’s place but it’s not THE answer.

Nothing is THE answer, like the body the brain is a complex thing, if you want to teach your dog obedience or tricks hell go for gold doing that work on your own,

But behaviour, emotions, reworking the brain,
communication, developing and strengthening bonds?

How good are you at solving rubix cubes?

The more you have going on the more behaviourally with your dog the more different pieces are at play
and this is why after all most 6 months my advanced clients are still seeing shifts and changes in their dog realising that whilst things are getting waaaay easier, and they are doing the things they have always wanted with their dog, the process of having a good relationship with your dog is an ever evolving thing, just like our relationships with people you get back what you put in.

and sometimes we don’t know all the right things to put in to get that return, and that’s ok, it’s more than ok to need help with this stuff, it’s hard and it’s complicated and our professionals in the field of working with animals, medically, behaviourally etc are STILL learning themselves, it’s still progressing and evolving.

When you hire help in that way you’re hiring a head start to get up to scratch with what we understand right now about dogs, but I can bet you in another 10-20 years time it will be different AGAIN.

So do you feel confident that what you know about training, working with and moving through the issues you face with your dog is up to date?

Reactivity – the power of understanding pressure.

It’s hard to believe I picked this big girl up just a week ago and two days prior she had to be sedated the night before AND the morning of to be able to go to the vets without her losing her cool,

At people and dogs.

Callie is our latest Board and Train and a really special one at that,

she currently doesn’t have a home (HINT HINT 😉) and without our help she wouldn’t have had a chance in gaining one given her very serious reactivity issues.

This is her yesterday, in the middle of petstock loving life as she gets thoroughly blow dried.

Hannah and I were almost gagging at the smell of her, I can’t imagine just how uncomfortable she was feeling before the soak and treatment she got for the yeast that been hanging out in those rolls of her.

I was fully prepared not to be able to do this with her and have to walk out before being able to get her into the hydro bath.

I’ve picked my groomer for this very reason, she gets it that some dogs can only handle so much and pushing based that point can have the complete opposite effect.

Even if it just means showing up and standing around for 5 minutes then leaving, that’s better than not going at all, that’s better than causing a bad experience and escalating behaviours.

And it’s exactly why it went so well.

There wasn’t any pressure, any expectation of what Callie HAD to do, it was all based on what she would allow us to do.

On her being willing to follow my lead and trust that I had her back that she didn’t need to hate on everyone and everything around her to protect herself.

Don’t get me wrong, she didn’t sail through the process like this the entire time, she is food mad and she wouldn’t take treats so her stress levels were super clear, she growled and barked at one man but followed me and calmed down super quick, while we were walking her around letting her treatment soak, and a pile of cans in the aisle that she found to be a little scary. She allowed staff to come up and pat her.

Despite how she was feeling she was willing and able to trust Hannah and I, allow us to wash her, soak her, blow dry her AND clip her nails. Really Hannah did all the work, I just made it look like I was working just as hard haha
I’ll remind you again this same dog had to be sedated a week ago for everyone’s safety

and I am all for safety as I said if needed I would have bailed on the grooming session if she couldn’t handle it but she so needed it, and I knew she would feel sooo much better afterwards.

I was so happy with this outcome.

It was made possible with the right structure, the right communication, I was able to check in with Callie when she needed it, help her move through things that were hard, and we were able to take pressure off of her by taking our time and doing things she was able to show us she was fairly comfortable with.

Hannah and I are a great team with these types of dogs it’s only because we get that when we put pressure on a dog when they are already feeling pressure from outside sourcing that we can’t control –

Strangers, other dogs and animals, the wind blowing etc
It makes it even harder for the dog to cope with the situation.

Time, structure, guidance and trust building all made this possible and I can’t wait to see where this dogs at in a couple more weeks time.

The best part to all of this?

None of the work is complicated, it’s not something only a dog trainer can do and it’s going to take hours out of your day to train.

I get my clients working no more than 5 minutes per day and I remind them to have a “couple of days off” to step back and refresh themselves from the work.

Board and Trains make the process go just a little faster but

it’s something any owner can do for and with their dog, you just need to know how.

 

Prong collars, oh my!

Lifting the collar
Lifting the collar with man hand.

Prong collars – that and e-collars have to be the two most misunderstood and controversial pieces of walking/training equipment.

Prong collars has been a topic that has come up a few times in my program groups and 1 on 1 chats of late and its had me thinking about you guys, and how much or even how little you may actually know about this bad boy.

So I wanted you guys to be apart of the conversations we have been having behind the scenes this past week.

I have had many people assume I am a purely positive trainer.

For you guys as a dog owner you may not even quite understand what that means, or you may have some of an idea, heard that reward based training, positive reinforcement is one of the best ways to train a dog.

And to look for a trainer that does that instead of harsh methods, dominate ways of training.

And I agree.

But that doesn’t make me a 100% positive, reward only trainer, if that’s what you are looking for you have stumbled onto the wrong dog trainers.

Soz.

However despite that fact I am an absolute softey, and I have found myself sharing with my clients this week a “back in the day”  story of when I was looking for answers for Bundy.

I was criticised about how gentle I was with him, I was too soft, too forgiving, too nurturing and motherly with him and I needed to be harder on him. I was the reason why he was so f’d up and if I got it right things would be fixed.

I knew with Bundy after 12 months that only rewarding his behaviour and ignore the bad wasn’t enough, I could see it was leaving out some of the picture and basically he just didn’t get how to life outside of what I was teaching him was good,

Ignoring “bad” behaviour, which was him just really struggling in knowing what the bloody hell to do left him out in the open floating with no guidance and no idea what to do.

But when I worked with balanced trainers, I felt the emotional gap between Bundy and I grow.

He understood more, but we as owner and dog, we who were meant to be best buds, didn’t come closer through that work. Admittedly it worked with the fact he was easier to handle, I didn’t feel so stressed and anxious about him especially taking him out of the house.

I stopped doubting myself as his trainer, but as an owner I still felt a disconnection between us.

It absolutely sucked, and I had no idea how to fix it, maybe it was just a thing that happened with some dogs and not others, maybe this was just always going to be us.

I spent years avoiding training with a prong collar, I wasn’t that sensitive that I thought they were barbaric.

Although when showing people I do tell them I agree it looks like a medieval torture device.

Keeping in mind LOOKS and IS are two very different things.

I had tried all other pieces of walking equipment, he found a way around all of them to pull and lunge at people and he was hurting himself on them.

I remember years before that when I was promised a head halti was the best way to go.

I spent hours getting him comfortable with it at home I even watched the DVD it came with TWICE.

The first time out of the house he was triggered several times, by the time we got home his nose was cut and bleeding I was like f’ that and didn’t use it again, and yeah I still came home with blisters on my hands. That was a regular occurrence for at least the first couple of years.

It was roughly 4 years in and honestly not enjoying using a check chain which was what I found to work the best but I still wasn’t happy with using it, I finally tried the prong collar.

Which funnily enough it was the prong collar that brought us closer together.

The thing is this the prong wasn’t what fixed things.

There isn’t a single tool that magically fixes anything.

But because of the way it looks my mindset changed and I knew we needed to work as a team instead of looking for tools to just fix them dam problem.

I knew there had to be a greater structure put in place so that this whole weird walking thing that we make dogs do – because lets face it a leash is just not natural in any way for a dog.

It motivated me to get really serious about it to dig more into connection, team building, working together not just I say and you do kind of attitude whether that be for treats or not

but to be honest I could have had this mind set with ANY tool I put on him.

It changed how I structured our training, that I didn’t want it to be formal and bossy not only did I want that team work feel when walking I wanted it every time I spent time with him.

And thus began structuring exercises and concentrating on training methods that carried out into our every day life so I could just be in the moment with him, relax and enjoy him and his every quirk without having to be switched on and demanding on him.

It stopped being about positive vs balanced, harsh vs soft, it became about me getting to be who he is and him getting to be who he is and us learning to work together to move in and out of the house more harmoniously together.

Because of that I am happy to say 6 years in I finally had my best mate, it finally came together.

For my clients who do use them – keep in mind we have clients spread across Australia and the laws differ in each state on both e-collars and prong collars.

They feel the same.

But heres the thing.

That started forming before the prong was introduced.

I often refer to our training especially our leash skills element of our program like a dance.

All be it an awkward dance at first – even for me with every boarding dog I work with sometimes I even stumble and get the steps wrong as we learn to work together.

And not all of my clients use it. I have one badass client who is in a wheelchair and she handles her two large breed dogs like an absolute boss on a flat collar and a halti.

It’s such an individual thing but the tool is such a small part of the whole picture.

If you came to me and said “should I buy a harnerss” “would a halti work for me” “should I go get myself a prong”

My answer would be hold up, we need to work out whats going on, how much your dog actually understands about what the leash and whatever it is the leash is attached to actually means to the both of you.

If you have been around for a while now you know with me, we dig deep, I don’t have a quick fix, this will do it answer for you, so I don’t encourage to just go out and get a prong collar, or throw your halti in the bin because of my bad experience.

What I would LOVE for you guys to do is question, try to step into you dogs paws, try to see it from their perspective, try to see how much they truly understand about the world around them especially that darn leash, those things that trigger them.

That’s where the solutions are born in getting a deeper understanding for your dog and where the gaps in communication, in your relationship and team work lay.

And if you are like my clients and you don’t want to have to wait as long as I did to discover the methods that really dig in and help not just now but long term.

You know where to find me 😉

 

Kids and Dogs

There has been a lot of traction and talk and knowledge and training around safety with kids and dogs, bite prevention etc

I haven’t bothered to mention it on here because well, I figure I will probably sound like a broken record.

You know how to teach your kids not to be assholes to dogs, that stuff toys are for squeezing jumping on and pulling ears, tails etc

Living breathing animals need and deserve respect, care and a gentle approach.

So what does it look like when your dog(s) has a really healthy relationship with your kid(s)?

I was thinking about this yesterday as I was hanging out the washing, I wish I had of had my phone on me because it was such a sweet moment I wanted to share.

I have two beautiful kids Mason 5, Eleanor 3, Eleanor came outside with me and sat on the grass to watch me, after trying to “help” me and it just wasn’t working out.

Jax our Staffy came over and sat on her lap, she has just been learning about where dogs love to be scratched the most, so as soon as she sits, he knows he is in for a treat.

They were both calmly enjoying each other’s company when Bundy came to join them laying beside her and placing is head on the other leg Jax hadn’t plonked his big butt on and she started scratching him behind the ears.

No in your face business, no over excitement, no being too rough or worrying that one may upset the other, no over excitement I got to hang out the washing in peace and both dogs and child got to plug in and connect with someone else.

Never underestimate how powerful connecting through touch really is.

My kids also play with the dogs, one of there favourite games is chasey, were they run and Jax plods behind them knowing he could easily catch up to them but is enjoying just being in the moment with them.

Or fetch where the dogs will patiently sit there and wait for the dogs to throw the ball, they have been taught not to taunt or tease the dogs with the toy and to play by the rules both dogs and kids have been taught or they just simply aren’t allowed to play.

Because they can play together well, hang out quietly and calmly well, or sometimes completely ignore one another and go about their business, my kids can freely come in and out of the house, yes I check on them but with 2 kids, 2 dogs and a busy schedule running a biz etc I don’t always have the time to sit and watch every thing they do, if I did have to do that, my kids wouldn’t get to spend as much time outside.

Now I’m not saying any of this to say through your kids outside unsupervised and she’ll be right.

A lot of work went into both kids and dogs to achieve this dynamic and I am so thankful for it.

Running a business takes up a lot of time and I don’t always have the time or energy to exercise the dogs the way I would love to,

In fact you may have noticed I have been pretty quiet recently, and it’s because I have been struggling with chronic pain issues just recently I was stuck in bed for three weeks.

Thank goodness I have incredible clients who were still learning, working and making progress even with me being bed bound you guys are rockstars.

And I’m on the way to recovery.

But I have also been incredibly grateful that the kids can help me out by playing with the dogs and spending time with them, which relieves so much stress from myself and the guilt of “not doing enough”

It was hard work to get the structures and foundation in for both kids and dogs but in the bigger picture of things is has made my life easier.

The best part is the older they get the more that they can do with the dog, wearing them both out so if I’m tired or just wanting to chill I can enjoy them both in their quieter moments.

because sometimes we want to muck around and play with our kids and dogs and sometimes we have had a big day and our body is asking for rest, and every mumma is more than deserving of some down time.

especially you.

If you have kids especially of primary school age but you aren’t taking advantage of how much they can actually help you out with your dog(s) we should definitely have a chat x

 

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