Archive for the Running and all that jazz Category

Genetic Predisposition and Temperament

Posted in Running and all that jazz on October 31, 2011 by Vancouver Dog Runner

I am always trying to figure out why my beautiful Welsh springer spaniel has a constant desire to follow me from room to room and not be able to be left alone.   Besides the fact that WSS are known as  “Velcro” dogs, there has to be something deeper seated than that.  One can never truely understand our canine buddies, but I strive to continue to learn and improve my understanding of dogs.  I would like to share with you, a bit about what I learnt today.

Each individual – human or animal – is born with a definite tendency toward varying degrees of emotional reactivity in the direction of behavioral inhibition or excitability. The dog’s general emotional reactivity or threshold to emotionally evocative stimulation is definitely a predisposing factor in the development of many common behavior problems. To a large extent, differences in emotional thresholds are affected by a limbic/autonomic inheritance present at birth.  Some individuals are genetically disposed to being more calm and emotionally balanced under the influence of  limbic modulation and parasympathetic tone (parasympathetic dominant), whereas others (sympathetic dominant) are much more sensitive and reactive to fright-freeze-fight stimulation, are hyperemotional, tend to perseverate in negative emotional states, are subject to neurotic elaborations and disequilibrium, and are prone to develop psychosomatic disease. e.g., avoiding something unpleasant.

Approach withdrawal dynamics are regulated according to various threshold differences – differences that are influenced by a dog’s genetic constitution and early experiences.  As development progresses, primitive approach behavior becomes transformed into “seeking” or  appetitive behavior (modified through the incentives of positive reinforcement), while withdrawal is elaborated into various learned patters of escape and avoidance behavior (modified through the incentives of negative reinforcement).  In domestic dogs, approach behavior is perpetuated so the competing withdrawal tendencies (flight, freeze or fight) are kept in check.  In some dogs, as the result of genetic disorders or adverse experiences,
withdrawal thresholds are lowered and flight-fight reactions amplified, thus making the dogs more fearful or aggressively reactive to social contact.  Test revealed that the young of stressed mothers were significantly more “emotional” than pups born to unstressed mothers.

Separation-distressed dogs are highly motivated to re-establish social contact denied to them by isolation or confinement. I know when my WSS was small his previous owners used his crate for confinement.  Under such conditions, dogs may engage in various distressed behaviors like barking, howling, destructiveness, and loss of eliminatory control.  Some dogs simply fall into a state of depression.  This could manifest in the dog not being able to put on any weight.  I know when we rescued our dog from a very busy family he was severely underweight, he weighed 15kg at the time and he should have been approximately 20kg.

The degree of separation reactivity exhibited by a dog is influenced by both genetic variations (some breeds appear more reactive to separation) and experience, with both factors contributing to the determining threshold and magnitude of separation distress.  The most significant variable in analyzing and modifying adjustment problems is the learned component; however, inherited emotional factors cannot be ignored, especially in cases involving severe emotional disorders and aggression.  Statistical evidence suggests that some breeds are more prone to develop behavior problems than others.  These breed variations with respect to the incidence of behavior problems may be the result of selective breeding for potentially problematic traits.  In other cases, abnormal tendencies may have been inadvertently transmitted without intentional selective pressure (e.g., shyness and various common dysfunctional behavior patterns like fear-biting and low-threshold dominance aggression).  References: Steven R Lindsay, Volume One, Applied Dog Behaviour and Training.


Excessive Indulgence and Inappropriate Play

Posted in Running and all that jazz on October 21, 2011 by Vancouver Dog Runner

Excessive Indulgence

Just as neglect and isolation may exert an adverse influence, excessive or inappropriate contact and indulgence can also contribute to the development of maladaptive behavior.   Heightened social dependency may impede a dog’s ability to function independently, thereby impairing its problem-solving abilities.  When performing a simple problem-solving test, dogs most closely bonded with their owners tended to perform worse than dogs having a less intimate bond.  Although moderate amounts of spoiling and pampering are probably not detrimental, excessive dependency-enhancing interaction may adversely affect a puppy’s development, perhaps facilitating the development of certain behavioral deficiencies and problems.  Overly dependent dogs appear to fixate developmentally and remain “perpetual puppies”: they may fail to develop adult like intentional and impulse control abilities, lack appropriate skills, e.g., delay of gratification) need to cope with frustrative situations, respond maladaptively to anxious arousal, and, finally are often prone to exhibit disruptive separation-related behavior when left alone. 

Inappropriate Play

Many behavior problems can be traced to inappropriate play.  Permissiveness toward undesirable puppy excesses like mouthing, jumping up and teasing displays often lead to persistent problems later.  Although there appears to exist a significant independence between aggressive play (e.g., tug games) and serious aggression,  excessive and aggressive tug-of-war and chase games may inadvertently elevate a puppy’s relative competitiveness, increase its aggressive readiness,
and gradually cultivate its confidence to act out aggressively towards humans.  Hard agitational tug games not only develop aggressive readiness and confidence, they also encourage puppies to bite hard and to struggle with a human opponent.  Puppies being raised for bite work as police or military working dogs are routinely agitated with rag play, thereby promoting aggression that is gradually and systematically shaped through various stages into a full attack response.
Structured and pacifying tug games can perform a useful role in the control of playful aggression, the promotion of bit inhibition, and control over aggressive impulses.  To make such play constructive and avoid untoward side effects, the owner should always initiate play, control the direction and intensity of play, and teach the puppy to release the tug object (usually a ball with the length of rope) on command, thereby promoting impulse control and deference.  Once the object is released, the competitive phase of the play is concluded and is immediately followed by the cooperative phase of the game.   The cooperative phase consists of tossing the ball a short distance and encouraging the dog to return with it.  The owner either proceeds to initiate additional tug activity or trades a piece of food for the ball.  Signs of excessive aggressive effort or unwillingness to release the toy should be appropriately discouraged.

Excerpt from Steven R Lindsey

Day 5 – Off Leash Pikku

Posted in Running and all that jazz on October 21, 2011 by Vancouver Dog Runner

Realising that the weather wasn’t going to be so kind to us today, we decided to head to Brothers Creek on West Vancouver.  However, as we drove closer to Millstream Road it became harder to see for the mist.  Rather spooky but nonetheless quite exciting expecially when you see faces such as these on trees!!!  After 4 days of having Pikku on a long-line I decided it was time for her to go solo on the hike.

Pikku has become accustomed to the pack and sticks really close.  Along the route we came across a dog walker with 10 dogs and Pikku was fantastic with ALL of them.    I did stop to chat to the walker and give Pikku time to socialize.  As I carried up the mountain all I needed to do was to whistle for her and she bounded up after us, leaving the 10 dogs in her dust! On our way down the mountain Pikku was so excited and jumping around that on her decent she accidently landed on Leo who
then ended up face planting into the ground.  Dogs are so resilient that he just picked himself up (iam sure in his head, he dusted himself off) and trotted along as if nothing had happened.  Parts of the forest was thick with fog and
that feeling of the sky falling on your head, however we did come across parts were it was so clear.  It felt like I had put new contact lenses in my eyeballs.

I popped in to meet up with some Saffa Ladies for lunch which was hosted by Mirinda from African Beese Store in North Vancouver.  Guest speaker this month was Kucki Low who went on to become South Africa’s first female Airline Pilot woman South African Pilot: After lunch I headed back over the bridge to Pacific Park on 16th Avenue.  Again Pikku was allowed off-leash the whole time.  It seems her chasing instinct did step up a bit this afternoon, especially after 2 cyclists went past and she went after them!  The next 2 I stopped her and got her to sit next to me while they cycled past.  I think we have a mutual dislike of cyclists in the park cycling at top speed in the dog off leash areas.  Suggested training would be to start off walking Pikku next to a bicycle so she gets used to the bike and then build it up so that she runs next to the bike.  This should condition her to not want to chase bikes.   Her herding instinct also showed up today as she was trying to nip Tedo’s ankles…well he does look a bit like a sheep from behind.

Tomorrow we are off to Squamish for a wee little trip.  We are heading over to to donate some food to their great establishment:

The Canine Valley Re-education and Adventure Centre, CVRAC, is dedicated toproviding activities, equipment and education necessary to balance troubled canines while educating their owners.

Day 4 with Pikku at Fraser River Park

Posted in Running and all that jazz on October 20, 2011 by Vancouver Dog Runner

Fraser River Park : Location : 8705 Angus Drive @ W 75th Avenue.  As we have Pikku with us this week our fitness program has gone from running to a fast pace walk as Pikku is too young to run.  It is suggested to allow the pup to be at least 12 months before you run them, in order for their bones and joints to develop properly.  I have experienced a labrador with hip dysplasia that the vet had not detected, so I know what pain they go through should they not be properly monitered whilst exercising.  Plus I have a cold lingering so thought it best to chill on the running this week.  Sadly I am also not able to walk with my five fingers as its very wet out and they are not waterproof!  Pikku had a great morning running off leash along the tranquil and inspiring spots in the area.  Great boardwalks that cross restored tidal marshes.  Plus there is always a plane landing or taking off at YVR and I just love plane spotting!   Today as we wandered through the crab apple and Nootka rose lining pathways we spotted a barge carrying logs up stream.  Who knows maybe they are destined to build someone a beautiful home.  I had a fleeting thought, that it would be nice if they were to be used for homes for the homeless.  Max and Leo were digging there way to Australia whilst Pikku and Tedo were running up and down the beach.

More about an ACD: The Cattle Dog is bred to work long, hard hours every day. Without one to three hours of vigorous activity on a daily basis, he will quickly turn to more destructive outlets for his energy such as chewing through your walls, destroying furniture, or landscaping your garden into a collection of craters and soil piles. This is a real working breed, not intended to be merely a household pet: the dogs need interesting ways to vent excess energy at all times.  I can tell you that Pikku has had a good amount of vigorous activity today.

Your garden will need to be fullyenclosed with a high fence and wire sunk into the ground to discourage digging. ADCs are accomplished escape artists fully capable of leaping five feet with ease; fences must be at least six feet tall. Choosing a solid fence, instead of chain-link, can prevent a lot of irritating barking: if he can’t see people and other dogs walking past, he’s won’t need to announce their presence.

  • Effective watch-dogs, ACDs are naturally suspicious of newcomers and strangers. They require extensive socialization from an early age to prevent this attitude becoming a problem and to teach them to discriminate accurately between friend and foe.  Cattle Dogs are often aggressive towards other animals, particularly dogs of the same sex. You’ll need to be vigilant when he’s off-leash.  I have spent the past three days with Pikku with other dogs and I can say she is quite well adjusted to other dogs and seems to tolerate any of them thrown at her.
  • The intense, high-pitched bark of some ACDs can drive many people up the wall. Excessive barking is one of the less desirable traits of the breed, and, though not all ACDs will give voice for no apparent reason, if left alone most will do so repetitively. If your dog is likely to be alone and unsupervised for more than a few hours a day, and if you have neighbors within earshot, this breed is not recommended.  What I noticed about Pikku is her amazing hearing.  Those ears never seem to sleep..ha ha.  She is very alert and any noise she is up and trying to bark.  I have used a raw meaty lamb neck to get her used to the noise so that while she is chewing on the bone she is still aware of the noises around her.  It has been funny to watch her eat her bone and bark at the same time.

Despite the many challenges of owning a Heeler, they are extremely rewarding dogs to share your life with: loyal, intelligent, and with a huge capacity for affection. Providing that you are prepared to put in the work required: remember, these are not Golden Retrievers – your Cattle Dog will not be a pushover to train! –  the result will be a charming, intelligent, and attractive adult dog.  Pikku is definitley charming and super intelligent.  We have had great feedback from other people who have met her for the first time.  A lot of people have never met a ACD so its a great conversation starter.

Our last stop tonight was Valdez Park.  I was interested to see what sort of “parks” Vancouver has to offer as we had just been at a really awesome enclosed dog off leash park in Burnaby.  Unfortunately this particular park on 23rd and Balaclava is not enclosed however, it is frequented by some lovely people and their dogs.  Pikku was exposed to a Husky, Blue Heeler cross, 2x Golden Retrievers, 2 x American Cockers (well she was with the boyz all day!) and a Spanish Water Dog.  We had a great time at the park with her still “on leash” but in an “off leash” manner.  I did some recall training with her whilst amongst the dogs of Valdez Park and a bit of ball throwing.  Very pleased with her recall and her retrieving.  A remarkable little ACD.

DogGuides – meeting Ian Ashworth

Posted in Running and all that jazz on October 19, 2011 by Vancouver Dog Runner

Saturday : 15th October This was a very special morning for Grete and I, we had the great opportunity to head down to Fido’s casting call out but we were there to meet Ian Ashworth.  Ian was originally trained with the Guide Dogs of England and has been doing his job for a rather long number of years.  And the most amazing part about this was the passion he still had for his job after all these years.  Grete is looking to get herself a Poodle Guide dog from DogGuides who are based in Oakville, Ontario.  She had to give her previous Guide Dog back to BC Guide dogs as she realised how allergic she had become to the Labrador X Retriever she had been living with.  DogGuides not only help with canine vision they also offer other services such as Hearing Ear, Special Skills, Seizure Response and Autism Assistance.    Her application has gone in to DogGuides and once she is selected she will head to Oakville, Ontario for her training.  This is going to be a very exiting time and I am super stoked to be part of watching and learning how these amazing animals can transform our lives.

Should you wish to know more about them please check them out at  These people are doing great things!  They have found their calling in life!

Crate Confinement – Steven R Lindsay

Posted in Running and all that jazz on October 19, 2011 by Vancouver Dog Runner

Although a crate can be a useful training tool, it is too often used as an alternative to proper training and may become a way of life for problem dogs – a steel straightjacket!”

The use of crate confinement should always signify that some active and purposeful training is being accomplished by its implementation and, further, a plan is in place to ensure that the dog is eventually released from such close quarters – a philosophy of crate confinement referred to as constructive confinement. Admittedly, some dogs, appear to adjust well to life in a crate, and, in other cases, it is justified as a means to control an ongoing behavior problem, especially in cases involving destructive behavior or house-training difficulties.  In general, though, a crate should not be used in a cavalier manner or employed for everyday confinement without good reason. Dogs need daily attention. They thrive on the variety and stimulation provided by social contact, long walks, and structured activities like obedience training and ball play. Dogs are first and foremost social animals whose primary identity is experienced in their immediate social relations and cooperative activities. If they need to be left alone for long periods during the day, then efforts should be made to ensure that they obtain sufficient social attentions, exercise and environmental stimulation when the family returns home from work or school. The combination of crate confinement and neglect may adversely affect the bond between the owner and the dog. Patronek and colleagues (1996) found that dogs confined to crates were at an increased risk of relinquishment to animal shelters.

Thousands of family dogs spend 10- 18 hours or more every day confined to wire or plastic cages. Paradoxically, the daily tedium and loneliness of crate confinement may cause dogs to gradually acquire a dependency on such restrain, an outcome that their owners may wrongly interpret as a sign of positive adjustment to crate confinement. Such dogs may become bizarrely aroused with evident distress (pacing and panting) when they are let out of their crates alone or when access to them is prevented. Consequently, when dogs that had been previously confined to a crate are permitted to move about the house, instead of relaxing and quietly enjoying their new liberty, they may instead become highly active and exploratory, perhaps becoming destructive or eliminate, even though they do not soil the crate. Likewise, after months of crate confinement at night in a kitchen or worse in a basement, access to the bedroom to sleep may result in restlessness and an inability to sleep. Some of these dogs may even rub against walls and
furniture, seeming to seek the contract comfort of crate walls. These signs of distress and disorientation continue until the dog is put back into its crate, thereby confirming the owner’s belief that the dog likes its crate. Finally, although crate confinement may prevent some destructive behavior and elimination problems, its benefits may be offset by many untoward side effects associated with excessive isolation of the dog from family members and the home environment.

Day 3 with Pikku the Australian Cattle Dog

Posted in Running and all that jazz on October 19, 2011 by Vancouver Dog Runner

This breed was born and bred to use its mouth when working, so it is not uncommon for an ACD, especially young pups, to nip or “mouth” alot. Therefore, it is not unusual to see the herding instinct emerge when there is alot of activity, like young children running around in the yard. Today Pikku was allowed to “roam” free with her 25ft leash attached to her. We spent the morning walking around Jericho Beach again. Here is the blossom posing for the camera. What an amazing morning it was on the beach. Water was crystal clear and the air was crisp. Great weather for Tedo to find squirrel’s, after all it is Squirrel month!

Pikku just loves the sea sand under her paws and when she reaches the beach she dives around flicking up the sand here and there. She has ventured into the ocean twice now for a swim. I think the first time by surprise, the second by choice.  This morning she decided to just plod around on the shoreline. Here she is hidden amongst the sand! Question is can you spot her!

Back home for her morning snooze. Her crate is always available to her to snooze in and occasionally she takes her self off to her crate to sleep. Fully loaded and ready to go, we drove over to pick up Max and Leo and headed to Burnaby Lake.
Met up with an old friend of mine from H Street Media. First stop was a dog park at Burnaby Lake which is fully enclosed and properly puppy proofed so all the dogs could run free. Max and Leo of course are obsessed with their ball so I kept that going whilst Pikku and Tedo went hunting! We met a fantastic man doing great work for senior citizens and owns a very sweet 13 year old Schnauzer (mini). The Schnauzer wasn’t too fussed about Pikku who was having a good sniff of him. After a good run around in the park, we popped them back on the leashes and headed towards the lake. Kinda got lost but found ourselves back at Costco! Thankfully as we were pretty starving at this rate. One just have to love Costco hotdogs and whilst I was waiting for Roxanna to buy the hotdogs I was standing outside the entrance a few people couldn’t believe how well behaved the dogs were. All four of them were just sitting waiting patiently. As we had the dogs Roxy and I found a table and chair to sit on and found ourselves chatting to another senior citizen. Very interesting gentleman who had lost his wife 2 years ago. My question to him was how did he cope after the passing of his wife. What do our senior citizens go through when they loose a loved one. He said he found solace in the bottle of whiskey he used to drink every night. It took him a year to realise that he was trying to dull the pain with alcohol and he is now glad to admit he no longer needs to drink.

Dinner has been served and they are now fast asleep at my feet.  What a great day!