Monthly Archives: December 2015

Introducing your dog to a new dog

(Another part of my assignment for the ISCP‘s Diploma in Canine Psychology course. The question was about how to introduce a dog to another. A harrowing prospect, and quite daunting to think about…but I’m game to test this out on my Shelagh, after a few more sessions of walking in public places getting used to people and other dogs. Poor Shelagh, when I first got her I was working in the City and didn’t have time to bring her to puppy classes for socialisation. I hold my hand up, guilty as charged. Still, we’re making up for lost time, and Shelagh’s made tremendous progress in just a few weeks. Such a clever girl! ❤)


Introducing a dog to another dog can be an intimidating prospect. The thought running through an owner’s mind would be along the lines of “What if the dogs start fighting? How do I separate them without getting bitten myself? What if one dog kills the other?”

Early socialisation is very important for dogs. As puppies, they should be exposed to the company of other dogs, humans, animals, forms of transport, sounds, sights, smells etc. The more they experience as puppies in their developmental stage (6 weeks to 18 months), the more amenable they will become, and better able to cope with everyday life. Dogs from puppy mills will not have had much opportunity to socialise, dogs at pounds and shelters even less so. Dogs accustomed to being handled by humans when they were puppies will be more trusting and outgoing with people, than dogs that were abused or ill-treated, which may be timid or show fear aggression.

Dogs that have not had proper socialisation from a young age tend to be more fearful of their surroundings, more suspicious of other dogs and strange people, more reactive to unfamiliar objects or situations. But dogs are highly intelligent and have a tremendous capacity to learn and adapt, and I believe any dog can be rehabilitated, no matter what their background or history. All that’s needed is love, time, patience, logic and the ability to put ourselves into the mindset of the dog.

When out for a walk with her dog, if an unfamiliar dog approaches on a lead, watch how the other dog’s owner is behaving, and at the same time watch the other dog’s body language. If the other dog’s owner is tightening or shortening the leash, looks despairing/frustrated/angry, and the dog is lunging forward while barking or even frothing at the mouth, it would be wiser to practice avoidance, and take a different route away from that dog. If, on the other hand, the other dog’s owner looks relaxed, the dog is on a nice loose leash, and the dog’s body language is relaxed with a gently waving tail and a soft face, then it will be possible to move closer for an introduction.

To move closer to each other, avoid moving in a straight line directly at each other. Instead, signal to the other owner to move in a curved angle, slowly getting closer to each other. If all is still well, with no lunging forward, pulling on the leash, growling or aggression from either dog, it may be possible for the dogs to meet and engage in their sniff-and-greet ritual. Both owners must make sure their leads are loose and that they are not inadvertantly restricting their dog’s movements, which can cause frustration, leading to aggression. If all is still well after that, the dogs may be let off the leash to play together, as they would have made friends with each other.

If the scenario is one where the owner is out walking her dog regularly, and she wishes to introduce her dog to another dog so they may walk together, then it’s a good idea to follow in the wake of the unfamiliar dog, about 20 metres back, so that her dog is able to get used to the scent of the other dog. If the dog urinates or defecates, her dog will be able to pick up useful information about the dog. Then, on another occasion, she could be the one walking ahead with her dog, while the other dog and its owner follow behind them, so the other dog can get used to her dog’s scent. Once both dogs are accustomed to each other’s presence, if the owners are still apprehensive about introducing them to each other, they could parallel walk the dogs. This is done having the owners walking beside each other, with the dogs walking on the outside. Then, slowly, as everyone becomes accustomed to being in the same space at the same time, the barrier between the dogs i.e the human presence, can be removed, one at a time, until both dogs are eventually walking parallel to each other amicably. So now the dogs are walking side by side, and it is their owners who are walking on the outside.

If the scenario is one where the unfamiliar dog is perhaps a friend’s dog brought to the house for a potential playdate, then all the resident dog’s belongings – bed, blanket, toys, food and water bowls, should be removed beforehand, to simulate a neutral environment. This removes the resident dog’s reason to resource guard or compete for high value posessions. If the dogs have already been introduced at a park or during a walk, let them off the lead in the garden first, before allowing them inside the house.

image

Classic vs Operant Conditioning

(Another piece of research for my ISCP Diploma coursework. This time the question was about the differences between Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning. When I answer these questions, I find it’s always helpful to visualise myself in the situations, and then it’s almost like I’m describing what unfolds before me).

Classic conditioning in dogs:
Classic conditioning can be described also as “Associative Learning”. If you show a dog a nice juicy piece of steak, he will start salivating and getting excited. It’s an unconditioned response, meaning the dog hasn’t taught himself to do this, but rather his body’s natural response takes over. It is a physical, automatic response to an external stimulus. By adding associations to an action, and by repetition, the dog learns to connect two or more separate events, and give the same response. For example, Dr Ivan Petrovich Pavlov famously conditioned his dogs to drool at the sound of a bell being rung, by exposing them to many repetitions of the appearance of dog food being accompanied by the sound of a bell ringing. The dogs became so accustomed to the sound of a bell being rung coinciding with the appearance of food, that later, when Pavlov rang the bell without bringing any food, the dogs would still drool. They had learned to associate the ringing of a bell with the appearance of food, whether the food actually appeared or not. Another example of Classic conditioning is when the dog has associated the rattling of its leash with the prospect of going out for a walk, and will get excited whenever it hears the leash being rattled. He’s learnt that Leash = Walk.

Operant conditioning in dogs:
For Operant conditioning, the dog has to learn that his actions have “Consequences”. Good behaviour is likely to get rewarded by food or praise; bad behaviour by punishment or being ignored. With repetition and practice, the dog learns which behaviours get rewarded and which won’t. If the experience is unpleasant, for example, the use of a shock/electric or spray collar for nuisance barking, the dog learns by trial and error to associate his barking with a shock, and may stop his behaviour (aversion therapy, besides being cruel, doesn’t always work, some dogs just never figure it out and instead shut down and become withdrawn, and their personalities change). Dogs normally thrive on a “What’s in it for me?” principle, the higher value a reward is, the more likely the dog will want to work towards getting it … so for a dog that barks at the gate for no reason, and its owner shouts at it to “Shut Up!”, the dog learns to associate barking with getting a response from its owner (not with shutting up, as dogs don’t understand English per se). If, however, every time the dog goes out and before it starts its nuisance barking, its owner calls it over and gives it a high value treat, it will learn to associate being outside and quiet with getting called and a treat. By making it unpredictable when the owner will go outside to call the dog and give it a treat, the dog learns to wait in anticipation, may even decide it’s better to just hang around outside the front door, closer to the prospect of that treat, and is less likely to engage in any activity that may disrupt the giving of the reward.

OUTSIDE + BARK = “SHUT UP!” = OWNER IS TELLING ME TO CONTINUE DOING A GOOD JOB, SO I WILL BARK SOME MORE.

OUTSIDE + QUIET + BEING CALLED = YUMMY TREATS AND PRAISE = OWNER WANTS ME TO STAY OUTSIDE AND BE QUIET.

Operant Conditioning can be used alongside Classical Conditioning. For example, if Leash = Walk (Classical Conditioning), then teaching the dog to Sit first, before the leash is attached to his collar, adds an action the dog must perform first before he gets his walk. Thus, Sit + Leash = Walk, where the Walk is the Reward.

With Operant Conditioning, the Rewards may be Reinforcers or Punishers. Reinforcers teach the dog to repeat “good” behaviours, while Punishers teach the dog to not do “bad” behaviours again in a hurry. (As an advocate of Positive Reinforcement, I try always to not use Punishers, but rather reward the desired behaviour with treats, praise and cuddles).

image

Introvert and Extrovert Dogs

(From my coursework for the Diploma in Canine Psychology course with the ISCP. The question was about different personality traits on dogs – introverts vs extroverts. In a sense, our furry four-legged friends are very like us humans. Something to consider, perhaps, when selecting a dog. A match made in (Doggy) Heaven would be when a person’s personality and level of activity/lifestyle matches the dog’s own personality.

An introvert dog can be seen as aloof, the type that doesn’t come up to you with his tail wagging looking for a treat or praise. He prefers to do his own thing, doesn’t compete with other dogs, doesn’t demand attention from humans. As long as he knows he has a safe place to sleep, food and a shelter from the elements, he’s quite happy in his own company. Introvert dogs don’t relish the idea of being cuddled or made a fuss of, and are not inclined to return the favour to their humans. That doesn’t mean introvert dogs are unfriendly or hostile; they simply want to be left alone. Introvert dogs would prefer not to have their routine or lifestyle changed.

An extrovert dog is the one that bounds right up to the fence or door, tail wagging enthusiastically, waiting to jump up on people and welcome them. He loves to play with both humans and dogs, often demonstrating with play-bows and excited barking, or running around in circles like a goofball, falling over himself with anticipation. Extrovert dogs have lots of energy to expend, and require routine exercise, and would do well in agility exercises, playing Fetch, going to the dog park or dog beach. They thrive on making friends with everybody they encounter. Extrovert dogs love new experiences.

image

If you’re interested in studying for any of the ISCP’s online courses, check out their website. I’m really enjoying the course, reading has always been a pleasure for me, and now reading books about canine behaviour is really a totally engrossing and fascinating experience.

Old Dogs

I found these beautiful images of old/senior dogs on Google Images. There were quite a few sweet sentiments about old dogs, as well, which leads me to surmise that old dogs do indeed have a place in people’s hearts, a rather special spot that puppies and adult dogs don’t garner.

There is something about the expression in an old dog’s eyes that just melts the heart. What have those eyes seen? Where have they been, what have they witnessed? What joy, or sorrow? There is such dignity, nobility even, in these dogs.

Remember, you will never have a dog for the duration of your entire life, but a dog may have you for its entire life. We ALL get old and die, every living being on Earth. So, learn now to appreciate that our beloved dogs will grow old and die on us some day, and see their beauty and grace even in old age. They will always love you with all their hearts.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Here are some sentimental quotes I found on Google Images, dedicated to old dogs:

image

image

image

image

image

image

A Dog’s Life

It’s always around Christmas time that people start looking for puppies as presents for their children or for themselves. Maybe it’s the images they see on media advertising, with cute labrador puppies wearing reindeer antlers, or Santa hats, or with bells around their necks, gambolling across the screen with such cute clumsiness. And children’s faces lighting up with joy when surprised with a Christmas puppy.

It’s all well and good having a new addition to the family. It doesn’t have to be at Christmas time, though. I mean, surely something as precious as an animal’s life deserves to be celebrated at any time of the year, not just as a nice gimmick to gain brownie points at Christmas?

Do people pause to consider these factors first before buying a puppy? (And I would rather advocate that people ADOPT or RESCUE a dog or puppy, before contemplating BUYING from a breeder. There are way too many dogs languishing in shelters, crying for a family to love. Give THEM a chance first).

1. A puppy is not just for Christmas. It’s for anything between 8-20 Christmasses, and every day in between. That’s a BIG COMMITMENT. It’s like a marriage, really. Are you sure you’re prepared? Remember, if you’re thinking of getting a puppy for a child, you not just have to train that puppy, you will need to also train your child to clean up after it, take it for walks, participate in training and socialisation classes, visits to the vet etc. Are you up to it? Is your child? Remember, children grow up into teenagers who then grow into adults and leave home. The puppy grows into an adolescent and then into an adult, but still remains at home. Who’s going to look after it?

2. Puppies go through growing stages, sometimes not just one but two. Consider the preciousness of your household items. Not just your furniture, but also your personal belongings. Your shoes, socks, underwear, clothes…anything that smells of you. Because puppies want to be near you when you’re not around, and because they need to chew to relieve teething pains. If you live in a home that’s so clean and tidy it’s practically sterile, and you have a dog, it’s probably because the dog has been relegated to some dog house or shed, out of sight of visitors. Which isn’t what the dog deserves.

3. If you RESCUE a puppy, you are helping Shelters give a dog a new lease of life, a chance at having a good home, to be loved and cherished. Instead of the dog languishing at a Shelter, possibly facing euthanasia, or bored out of its mind so as to become destructive, you’ll be providing the care and mental enrichment the dog needs to become your faithful companion and best friend for life.

4. If you RESCUE an adolescent or adult dog, there may be behavioural issues which may involve further training and/or therapy. But, and I’ve witnessed this myself from volunteering at a Dogs’ Refuge, dogs are extremely resilient, adaptable and forgiving. I’ve seen and worked with a few dogs there that were the victims of neglect and abuse, who still managed to spring back from the brink, to become affectionate family pets.

5. If you RESCUE a senior dog, be prepared for toilet “accidents” in the house, all manner of geriatric diseases and illnesses, vet bills, including the strong possibility of having to put your best friend to sleep. Senior dogs may be eccentric in their behaviour and needs, some can be quite vocal about it, so a good sense of humour and a willingness to accommodate such behaviour is essential.

Remember, a dog really is for life.

image

Quotes on Generosity and Kindness

Just some inspirational quotes on the theme of Generosity (and Kindness and Compassion), that I came across while researching an earlier post. These are from Google Images. Please respect the copyrights of the original creators of these images, and avoid using them for profit or gain to yourself, without permission or due credit.

I hope you’re all still enjoying the Season’s Best! Namasté! 🙇

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

A Most Unexpected Delivery

A few months ago, my friend Colleen and I agreed on an Art exchange. I’d expressed admiration for a beautiful Native American drum that Colleen had painted and posted about on Facebook. She agreed to post it to me. In return I would send her 12 of my Lenormand divination card decks, that I’d designed using my Samsung Galaxy Note 4. The deal was struck, and the packages were duly sent.

Colleen received my package in early November, and posted up reviews of my Lenormand decks. But where was my drum?

Weeks passed, and still there was no sign of the drum. I knew Australian Customs could be very strict, particularly as the drum was made of natural materials, including wood, cow/buffalo hide and sinew. If Customs decided to open the package up for inspection, it would have been subjected to fumigation or, worse, confiscation.

I’d just about put the thought from my mind, and accepted the idea of my drum floating somewhere out there in the Magical Land of Lost Parcels, when on one of the very last postal delivery days before Christmas, I heard a beeping horn at my gate…

Could it be?

Yes, it was! By some miracle, Colleen’s drum arrived! Yay, Happy Days!

Thank you, Colleen! It’s even more beautiful than I imagined! It’s MAGICAL! That Raven may not gave flown the straightest of paths to get to me, but perhaps it took the scenic route so it could appreciate other lands and cultures, and bring with it a wealth of experience and stories to tell. I can’t wait for it to tell me about its adventures! ❤❤❤

image So very well packaged!

image Beautiful, or what? I love Ravens! The Moon behind it, just perfect!

image Close up showing feather details.

image Back of the drum. Note how the natural hide is held together in the middle by sinews.

image Nice detail in the middle.

image Colleen’s signature on the front of the drum.

image Colleen’s signature on the wooden rim of the drum, at the back.

image My Raven, come home to roost.

The True Spirit of the Season

Christianity teaches that the true spirit of Christmas is Love. I have no problem with that at all. I wish more people would embrace that and teach it to their children, friends and family. It’s really easy to teach Love. You do it by demonstrating it in so many different ways – a kind gesture, praise for a small child, generosity, stopping with a homeless beggar for a friendly chat, volunteering at a soup kitchen, paying it forward by buying coffee/pizza/a meal etc for the next customer, giving random gifts to random people, abandoning art in public places for people to find, giving free hugs, I’m sure you can think of many, many more examples.

Christmas is not about giving or getting presents. Sure, it’s always nice to receive things. It’s equally nice to give things away. But don’t worry if you’re cash strapped like a lot of us are these days. There are things you can do for others that don’t cost a thing. And those are the best gifts, believe me, because they truly come from you. No Santa’s elves made them, neither were they made in China or in some sweatshop in India/Indonesia.

Do something generous and kind for someone else, and you will receive a reward far richer than anything of any monetary value. If this sounds alien to you, have a think. People search for Happiness in external things, always hoping to find it in the next purchase. But really I’ve found that it is when you are generous with your time, when you extend your hand to another in friendship, when you open your heart to strangers, when you give freely even if it means you’ll have to sacrifice something of your own or do without…that’s when you will be rewarded by the incomparable feeling of Happiness.

So, you see, Happiness CAN be bought. But not with any money in the world. Instead, in order to release the Happiness that already resides in each and every one of us, but which many of us are not aware of, or afraid to acknowledge, what you have to do is give away something first. What you give away need not have any monetary value either, remember after all, money is just another external concept that people incorrectly worship.

The best thing, if it can get even better, that is, is that you don’t even have to give your gift away. You can choose to share it with as many or as few people as you want to. You can even do it secretly so the recipient never realises it was you. You can go completely incognito, and watch people’s happy reactions.

If you’re still thinking about this concept in terms of material goods, then I’ve lost you. If you’re following every word I’ve said so far, and nodding your head in agreement, then I call this lesson a success.

So, with Christmas and the New Year upon us, I’ll start the ball rolling. Take this digital artwork I’ve created on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Feel free to copy and print it out for your own use, or why not print cards out of it to give away to your friends and family? Remember, the Spirit of the Season is one of GIVING, so take my gift to you and give it to your loved ones. Pay it forward!

image

❤ Namasté ❤.

Christmas Future

Forget the presents. Forget the partying. Forget the holidays. Forget the rushing around buying things that people don’t really need. Forget pretending to be nice to your office co-worker because they happen to be your “Secret Santa” this year.

That’s how many of us celebrate Christmas. It’s not called the “Silly Season” for no reason. There are still people who hold fast to the true spirit of Christmas and what it symbolises. I respect their beliefs and traditions, just as I respect other religions and faiths. But, for every 1 who is a true believer of Christ, there are 5 who observe Christmas as just another excuse to practice wanton excess and waste. No, that doesn’t sound right. Make it 10 who celebrate Christmas as yet another Retail Capitalist’s Dream.

The Urge To Splurge seems to be a backward-creeping contagion. By this I mean that in many Western countries with each passing year, for any major celebration that garners consumer interest, i.e Christmas, Easter, Halloween etc, the food, decorations and gift ideas seem to appear on the shelves earlier and earlier.

For example, at my local shopping mall, hardly has Easter gone that Halloween items begin to appear. There always seems to be a rush with Halloween, as retailers need to move stuff off their shelves fast, in order to make way for Chistmas items. In November, mind you.

Christmas, for some, is just a long 7 day blur of partying and boozing. Again, not quite in the spirit of things. Spirits, yes, to be sure. Just not the right kind. And then suddenly on the 2nd of January, in a brand spanking New Year, everything not sold from Christmas is half-price or even less. Wandering along the aisles picking up cheap Christmas pudding and cake for storing in the pantry, what does one spy in the bakery section?

Hot cross buns. And in the confectionery aisle…chocolate Easter Bunnies.

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

(Bah, humbug??) 😄

Here’s how I propose we all spread our Christmas cheer. In fact, why leave it at just Christmas? Why not make the following your everyday, anytime of the year philosophy?

1. Be kind to others. It costs nothing and can mean everything to someone. You can always be kind, even to your enemies.

2. Be generous. If you can’t be generous with your money, be generous with your time. Your time means more to others than any material gifts you could ever buy.

3. Be inclusive. Have a thought for the less fortunate, and try to understand what they must be going through. If you can’t understand, then emphatise. Embrace your differences, don’t deny or try to suppress or oppress them.

4. If you can help in any way, do so. If you can share a skill, do so. If you can lend a hand, do so. If you can sponsor a cause or a person or animal, do so.

5. Volunteer at human and animal shelters, soup kitchens, charity and thrift stores. You will meet the most wonderful and kindhearted people there.

The Golden Rule of all this is:

Do not go into this expecting anything in return, as that goes against the whole principle of the idea. Expecting to be rewarded is a fault of the Ego, and nothing good will come of it. Be aware that you WILL be rewarded richly in many other ways, ways you may not have even considered.

image

Christmas Present

This Christmas, I give you…

Presence

Lots of Presence

No, it’s not a typo, I typed it twice. Presence. Now thrice.

Seeing as we can only be Here
In the Now
No matter where we are
I choose to give you
All my attention
Whenever I’m in Your Presence

And I hope you will return the favour

It’s easy enough to do
Just put away your Technology
Turn off all Notifications
Put it on Silent, or Vibrate
Let the Call Waiting wait
Let us Appreciate
And Acknowledge
The company we’re in
And engage in the lost art
Of Conversation
Let us be fully Here and Now
Let us be Present

We don’t need presents
Just Presence

image