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p38.qxp_Layout 1 27/02/2020 12:56 Page 38

Q&A

Dean Hart answers your questions Dean Hart is a Clinical Behaviourist and Tutor at the Canine Studies College and specialises in helping mature students set up and develop their own business within the canine industry. Visit www.thedoghut.biz

Q.

My behaviourist said my dog, a 6-yearold Cocker Spaniel called Alfie, shows ‘approach / avoidance conflict’ towards normal thing like our dustbin. Alfie walks past this every day, he likes ‘helping me’ when I put the rubbish out, but he seems frightened when he gets closer to it, can you explain more? Bless him. If this is the case, then Alfie experiences emotional conflict, meaning he has a desire to investigate things but at the same time he is not sure if he should. Alfie’s approach / avoidance conflict (AAC), is probably rooted in fear or anxiety, but how and why this has developed would need further history taking and access to his medical records. The distance between him and the dustbin and when he first becomes hesitant to approach is important to notice. When Alfie becomes hesitant, this distance is called his ‘critical distance’. Inside critical distance most dogs are highly emotional, usually frightened and their behaviour can alter rapidly. When further away from the dustbin, Alfie’s desire to show interest is higher than the need to avoid. When Alfie gets closer to the dustbin his primary goal becomes avoidance and can probably reach a point where his fear makes him stop or try to escape. Alfie should not be ‘forced’ to get closer to the bin as this is very stressful and will lead to other inappropriate behaviour, including aggression. Understanding Alfie’s AAC does mean you can start to introduce the presence of the dustbin at a distance he does not become fearful and if the dustbin isn’t moved and doesn’t make any noise, Alfie's apprehension should lower over many exposures, shortening his ‘critical distance’. Good luck but remember you will need to carry this out several times every day for positive results.

Q.

Q.

Travelling with my dog in my car has become so difficult because of their excessive barking and ridiculous bouncing and spinning up and down. She is a 2-year-old Collie X GSD, I have paid various dog trainers to help, but they have not managed to stop her – any ideas? I am sure this has become very frustrating for you and makes travelling unpleasant. Firstly, we would need to establish what her drive state is, there are three key states associated with problem behaviours during car travel. 1. She may have experienced an aversive experience linked with a journey to the dog groomer, kennels or vet, or 2. She may be overexcited with excessive, hysterical types of barking or 3. The constant movement of cars, people and other dogs as they pass by stimulates chasing behaviour, typical of collies or collie type dogs.

There are a few approaches you can take to reduce problems like this: 1. Firstly spray inside the car with ADAPTIL and fit her with an ADAPTIL collar. 2. Then spend time feeding her in it with the engine is turned off. 3. Teach her a calm behaviour like ‘lie down and lick a Kong while resting on a rug’ in your home. When her response is positive, consistent and reliable, ask her to do this in the car, reward her for calm behaviour. 4. When she has learnt to stay calm while lying down, gradually introduce putting your seatbelt on, putting keys or card in the ignition, locking doors, opening windows. If she remains calm, then switch on the engine. Desensitisation takes lots of patience, calm behaviour and continuity. This can take several weeks of training every day before taking the car on a short journey with her in it! Remember to only carry out short journeys coming home, not the outgoing journey until she is calmer. If she suffers with motion sickness, then only feed her a very small amount of her food before the journey. If she is reactive and trying to chase passing cars, then make sure she is tethered and cover rear and passenger windows.

My doctor mentioned ‘serotonin’ and how this affects my mood, especially my anxiety would this be is this the same for my dogs?

Thank you for your honest question. Yes, although the role of serotonin is not clearly defined within canine behaviour it is believed to play a part within the modification of anxiety and is involved within social attachment. While neurotransmitters (chemical messengers like serotonin) influence behaviour change there is also evidence that suggests they are affected by prior experience, the body’s serotonergic pathways becoming more sensitive. This is expected to be the same with dogs as it is with humans, especially during puppy development. There is also an interesting link between serotonin production and coat colour, suggesting a dog’s coat colour can influence their mood and levels of anxiety. However, this is subject to early experiences and exposure (habituation and socialisation) during sensitive development periods.

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Rescue And Animal Care magazine 29th February - 29th March 2020 – Issue 152  

Read about some of our favourite animal charities- best enjoyed with a cuppa and curled up with your dear pet and thinking there may be room...

Rescue And Animal Care magazine 29th February - 29th March 2020 – Issue 152  

Read about some of our favourite animal charities- best enjoyed with a cuppa and curled up with your dear pet and thinking there may be room...

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