When is a Good Boy not a Good Boy?

Here’s something that bugs me: Finding the right behaviour advice for your dog.

When you have a problem behaviour with your dog, perhaps you do things in the following order:

  • Google ‘how to stop your dog doing xyz’
  • Ask your dog-owning friends
  • Post on a Facebook group
  • Spend endless hours searching YouTube videos of professionals working miracles
  • Buy some books on Amazon you’ll never read

When you ‘should’ be doing the following:

  • Visit your vet to ensure the problem isn’t something internal manifesting itself as poor behaviour
  • Find a professional to help you with training

So here’s a confession. I’ve done all of the above.

My google history is 99% dog behaviour related at the moment, (and 1% red military blazers). I’m going to admit something I haven’t often admitted in public… Chuck, whilst being a wonderful companion and show dog, has behavioural problems. They’ve been there for years, but with a new dog in the house, it’s time to do something about it.

His issue: at certain times of the day, it seems like he will, for no reason, nip at your limbs in a fairly angry fashion, growling and tugging at whatever clothing you have on. Not visitors or strangers, just his family humans. Just us!

However… There’s no such thing as ‘no reason’. Every single time there is an identifiable trigger. Causality, like in the Matrix when the Merovingian states: ‘You see there is only one constant. One universal. It is the only real truth: Causality. Action, reaction. Cause and effect.

And this is sort of important. Triggers and trigger stacking are hugely important in relation to displayed behaviour. The more triggers/actions you layer up, the more of a reaction you’re going to get. But not all triggers are equal and reactions can vary on the scale of 1 to Idiot.

At the start, I’m desperate to know ‘why’, when actually I don’t need to dwell on why, I just need to know ‘what’.

When you focus on ‘why’, you can send yourself down a frustrating path. It’s much easier to logically analyse cause and effect and remove any emotion from it. Be more of a Merovingian.

So for Chuck, what is making him snap?

We kept a diary of his reactions and there are two trigger actions:

  1. Moving too closely around him after meal times
  2. Moving too quickly in his peripheral vision when he’s asleep and close to bedtime

We know that these things cause a certain reaction, we want to modify his behaviour to remove those reactions.

And this is where we loop back round to the start of this blog post. We:

  • Googled ‘how to stop your dog doing biting’
  • Asked our dog-owning friends
  • Posted on a Facebook group
  • Spent endless hours searching YouTube videos of professionals working miracles
  • Bought some books on Amazon which I actually read

And I learned a LOT. But nothing really sang out to me as ‘this is what you need to do!’ So…

We:

  • Visited the vet to ensure the problem isn’t something internal manifesting itself as poor behaviour. And it turns out Chuck needed some seasonal allergy relief.
  • Found a professional recommended by the Vet to help us with training. She visited our house for 3 hours at the start of August. Observed, took notes, asked questions… and we didn’t hear back for weeks. In fact, we still haven’t heard back.

The very expensive professional who visited us for 3 hours (and from whom we still haven’t seen any sort of report or procedural recommendation for behaviour modification) said nothing to me that I hadn’t already read or seen. What I did learn though, was that to many behaviourists, all dogs are just dogs. There’s no specific differentiation for types of dog and what they were bred for, what their genetic traits are and how this will affect things.

So what did I fundamentally learn from all of this?

That yes, all the information I need is already out there. The value of a behaviourist visit was third party affirmation that the processes and activities I am implementing are the right things to do. That’s a very expensive affirmation.

I’d like to think I am not your average pet dog owner. I’m a show breeder. I can tell you more about my breed and type than any behaviourist. I can tell you why a terrier will do something that a gundog wouldn’t and I can tell you what won’t work within these ‘groups’. I can tell you about physiology, psychology and all sorts of genetic concerns within breeding lines. I know why Chuck is predisposed to the behaviours he shows but more than this. I know his behaviour is my fault.

I didn’t put the effort into his training when he was young.

I didn’t listen to those who knew better when I was more green.

I didn’t look far enough ahead into the future of my fluffy little puppy to think about how his puppy interactions would impact his and our lives in the future.

I didn’t learn about the breed before I got him to really understand what Terrierism is. I wasn’t prepared.

Well I am prepared now. I have studied, I have considered, and I have my own behavioural plan to implement! Below is just one of the activities we are doing as part of my new training:

And we shall report back.

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Crufts 2018

What an experience!  I loved every second – my tail was wagging, I was giving everyone lots of kisses and cuddles, mum felt sick with nerves and I came second in my class! You can see the results listed here – I’m Tough Cookie at Bolhaus.

It was a long, long day for the humans.  At least I had my crate trolley to have a nap in, but no chance for M&D!

A picture says so much more than any words, so here are some highlights… not all of these photos were taken by Dad, so he’d like to thank Archie’s Dad, Mollie’s PA and anyone else who took photos of me and sent them to us!

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All the Gear, No Idea?

At these shows, we’ve seen a lot of “kit”.  We’ve adapted out kit list to make sure we have everything we need, made sure it’s top notch to last a long time into the future but Mummy is in marketing… she LOVES a bit of ‘stash’…

So this happened…

 

Now, the crate cover is a practical thing – it shields from the sun and the rain and offers security – nobody knows what’s in the crate so it reduces the theft potential and mummy can put her bags and valuables inside and lock it when we are in the ring and nobody will know her phone might be inside…

The gilet (and jacket) – pure vanity!!!

Southern Counties Championship

After the disappointment of coming 3rd and 4th at Reading & District, to say mummy was nervous about appearing in the Southern Counties Champ. show would be an understatement.

It rubbed off on me slightly, I had uh… a squitty rear end… and that’s NOT fun when you’re at a show.  I do hold it in until I can find a spot of grass, but to mummy’s horror – the show rings were on grass.  Crispy grass too as it was quite warm.  I’ve never done a show walk on grass before and was skittering around because I don’t like crispy grass.

To try and remedy this, Mummy sped up, which made me bunny hop round the ring at times.  Not ‘appropriate’ apparently.

And I was up against Ben the Welsh again.  He beat me.  Again.  And he deserved to – he’s a much better structured Welsh than I.  I like him a lot, and his human offers us lots of handy tips and tricks.  They’re good eggs.

Despite all of this – I came second in PGD Welsh (behind Ben) and then 1st in Open Welsh.  So I got beautiful rosettes, mummy was pleased and I got lots of kisses from random humans.

Turns out, Southern Counties is a bigger affair than most shows i’ve been to in the past.  Lots of stalls to buy things (I got a new show lead), lots of visitors who come to see the dogs, and Dad saw a pal from work who breeds Rottweilers!

And my bottom behaved itself within a few hours.  Phew!

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Points of the Dog

Apparently you can’t just say “nice chap, isn’t he?”… There’s a whole vocabulary of doggy anatomy when judges look at us, and it’s called “Points of the Dog”.  In America, it’s called Conformation.

People say things about me, which mummy didn’t understand, like “good stifle”.  WHAT?  I’ve got a nice stifle.  Where is that?  So…

We all have a Breed Standard… Here’s ours for Welsh Terriers.  This tells us how we should look and move.

The Breed Standard will use words from the Points of the Dog anatomy vocabulary.  Here’s a good explanation.  The Kennel Club runs tests and training for judges to learn these terms!

Basically, I have nice knees…

Oxfordshire Show

show5Second Show ever.  Another Open show, another AVNSC class.  This time the Oxfordshire And District Canine Society on 5 March 2017.  More on offer for AV Terriers here, so we entered me into Postgraduate Dog and Open Dog.  I was the only entrant in AVNSC PGD and won the class, only to come third (!) in Open.

When you win a class, that entitles you to be judged ‘best of’ AV alongside the winners of all the other classes within that group.  If you win best AV, you then get judged alongside all the other breeds to become Best Terrier, and so on and so forth until Best in Show (like Crufts, yeah?).

What mummy didn’t realise is that if you win one class and then don’t come first in another, you’re a beaten dog, so you can’t move up the judging scale.  We should have withdrawn after winning PGD.

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But at least we won a class!  And daddy even came to this one!  He took pictures.

Onwards!

Starting a Show Career

In January, we started going to Ringcraft classes.  Primarily to socialise me better after I got into a few fights over the Summer last year.  Also, I quite like ‘standing’ and everyone always said how nicely I stood.  After all, 90% of a dog show is just standing in a lineup, right?!  I’ve attended Crufts before, as a breed representative for Welsh Terriers in their Discover Dogs stands, and I always enjoyed that.  Mummy thought that would be all we’d ever manage.  Not so!

show1So, we started Monday night “school” with the Buckinghamshire Canine Society, who run ringcraft classes locally.  At just over 3 years old, I was almost certainly the oldest pupil there… mostly lots of puppies of various sizes.  And absolutely no other Welsh Terriers.  Lots of Italian Greyhounds, Frenchies, retrievers etc… In fact, I think I was the only terrier of any breed!

Safe to say, I absolutely LOVED it.  Like, really really loved it.  I was fed cheese cubes to stand nicely, I got to meet other dogs who liked to stand around, and got touched by strangers.  The Society were holding a show later that month, so I got entered into that…

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