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Your Dog does not want to become a President
By Sarah Fisher

Your dog does not want to become a President but he would really like to work.  He has been wired to perform extraordinary tasks such as herding, protecting livestock, hunting, tracking.  His skills have been fine tuned over countless years.  He is a master at survival and is a thinking, sentient being. 

Dogs run into problems because they are bored and because there is a lack of guidance or direction.  They have instinctive desires and drives and a dog who has no outlet to satisfy his natural behaviours will be frustrated and under duress; and a stressed dog is a problem dog.

How you help your dog adapt to life is up to you. At some point you may decide to try agility, working trials or doggy dancing.  You may prefer to simply work with him at home. Regardless of your aims, you will need to be a fair and effective teacher to help your dog fulfill his true potential whether he will become a title winner of the future or be the Champion of your heart.  You know you have to teach him but what kind of teacher do you think your dog would like you to be?

Imagine this.  You have joined a company where no-one speaks your language and no one has actually told you what to do. You have not been given any training and your job description is somewhat vague to say the least.  You cannot call a friend to ask for help so you try to work things out by yourself.  You run around offering to do a bit of everything because you have so many natural, wonderful skills and an innate need to be a part of the social group.  When you leap about frantically trying to protect the property, greet clients by planting two huge smackers on either cheek, barge in on all the board meetings in case they need you, grab everything that your colleagues leave lying around, and help yourself to what you think is your share of the corporate lunch, the company director either hits you or drags you from your desk and shuts you in another room.  You shout at him but he has no idea what you are trying to say.   He leaves you there alone.  And he does this every time you bug him. You have no direction, no defined tasks and you are confused.  You are also getting bored.  You start doodling on the in house publications and you make pretty shapes from the paper in the bin. This is also met with disapproval and you are not allowed to leave the building on your lunch breaks so that you learn submission.  Your boss does not give you anything to do but it seems he does not want you working out a way to fill those endless hours either. 

In time, you learn that it is pointless trying to communicate with other members of the team and your boss seems happier because you are quiet. You have not submitted.  You have given up.  You do nothing.   Suddenly, your boss starts to talk to you again and you are soooooo excited that he is engaging with you once more that you cannot over ride a burning desire to hug him. And you find yourself back in that boring, uninspiring, lonely place once more.  You discover the art of learned helplessness and Depression becomes your middle name. 

If you are lucky, your boss will either fire you and you get to spend some time at an employment agency where they help you learn to utilise all the natural skills you have until a more progressive CEO comes along and picks you, or, better still, your old boss goes on a cracking course that teaches him alternative and more productive, motivational ways of working with the people he employs.

Suddenly you are an in environment where the Big Cheese understands you.  He can communicate! Yippppeeee! He lets you know very calmly and oh so very clearly that you are his PA.  Hurrah!!!! It is your favourite job!  He teaches you how to accomplish every task that he expects you to be able to achieve and he does this, one simple step at a time.  He smiles at you.  He is proud of you.  He thanks you.  He takes you places. You are not weighed down by your responsibilities and every time you do your job correctly you are praised. If you make a mistake your boss does not shout at you or ignore you for the rest of the week or month because he knows it must have been his fault; he obviously didn’t teach you well enough or he confused you. If you do get slightly overwhelmed because it is all so darned exciting he takes you to the staff room so that you can have a break and he gives you biscuits and a lovely cup of tea.

You learn something new everyday so you are never bored.  Your boss gives you lunch breaks and he never over works you.  You love your job.  You love your boss. And best of all it seems as though he loves you too.   He gives you presents – a super duper stapler, a shiny pen.  If you do occasionally slip back into your old habits, you are reminded gently that you do not to have to run the security section nor be the first to do the meet-and-greets, but instead you are redirected to your beautiful desk and that lovely phone so that you can perform the job you have been employed to do. 
There are exquisite office parties.  Team bonding weekends.  Everyone is happy and everything one huge success.

Hopefully, you will never find yourself in this position but many dogs are living through the first part of this scenario because their owners simply do not know what to do.  Ignoring a dog and restricting exercise, or punishing him for unwanted behaviour will not help him learn. Dogs do not want to run the world but they don’t all want to be couch potatoes either.  If we want a dog to stop responding in a certain way we have to teach him something positive and more appropriate that he can do instead.  It really is that simple. 

 

The Coat
By Sarah Fisher

The dog’s coat can give you more information about the dog’s general health, his stress levels, his mobility, and changes to the soft tissue and skeleton. Coat changes are often linked to behavioural concerns.

Dandruff will appear if the dog is stressed, is unwell or where there are areas of tension through the body.  Many dogs shed when they are under duress even though they may not be obviously outwardly anxious about a situation as far as their owner is concerned.  The colour and texture of the coat will also change where damage has occurred or where tension has been present for some time. The coat will also start changing direction where the skin is tight or where there are significant changes to the soft tissue development.  Many older dogs that are losing mobility through the hindquarters will develop a ruff of coarse hair around the neck and shoulders (both in front of and around the back of the scapula in some cases) as muscle development increases around the forequarters to compensate for weakening hind quarters.  This change in the coat may also be present in dogs that have pulled on the lead for a period of time.

Being aware of the coat can help to keep you safe when handling a dog that you do not know.  Dry patches of hair that have changed colour, direction and texture will be present in areas where some damage has occurred or is occurring.  These areas are often sensitive and the dog may react when touched on or near these areas.  The dog may have labelled as unpredictable as he may react negatively to hand contact at times but may also have be accepting of hand contact on occasions as well.  In reality it was probably where and how the dog was touched that provoked a reaction and he may in fact be extremely predictable as a result, although of course there may be other behavioural issues that need addressing too.   

Some dogs have naturally coarser hair over the withers, along the back and around the base of the tail and of course some dogs have natural waves and curls as well.  Even dogs with these natural coat patterns may have changes in the body that exacerbate the natural swirls and texture of the coat. These seemingly normal swirls and coarser areas often change or become less significant as the animal moves into better physical and emotional balance.

Swirls may appear around the stifle joint and rosettes may appear around the upper thigh in dogs that may be susceptible to cruciate ligament and hip joint problems.  Many cruciate ligament problems stem from tension and/or damage in the mid to lower back and a coat change may also be noted in this area. 

Coat changes also appear down the neck in line with the nuchal ligament that runs between C2 and T1.  If this coat change is also accompanied by an unlevel ear position it is highly probable that the dog has sustained some damage to his neck and he may be extremely nervous and therefore reactive when a person attempts to handle the collar or put on/take off a lead.  This will reflect in the dog’s ability to lower and raise his head or move the neck from side to side thus limiting his potential to signal, scent, and work.

Dogs with unlevel ears may also be building uneven muscle through the neck as a result of training and even if the coat change is not obvious there is usually some subtle change in the way the coat lays. It may be lying more to the right or the left.  This change also occurs in dogs that are dropped on one side of the pelvis.  It will usually be accompanied by a change in the gait and a high proportion of dogs have more coat changes on the right hind leg than on the left due to the normal moving pattern of a quadruped. The right hind will also be stiffer and there may be less flexion through the hip and hock.

 

Note the uneven coat through this dog’s hindquarters.  The coat is more raised on the left side of the pelvis than on the right.  This can also be seen in the close up taken from the dog’s right side.  Even the hair on the left side of the tail is different to the lay of the coat on the right side of the tail.

 

In all cases where significant coat changes were present in dogs (and other animals) that had handling issues and where veterinary investigation was carried out, changes to the skeleton and soft tissues were discovered including spondylosis, bone spurs, hip dysplasia, fractures to the spinous processes and tears in the muscle fibres.

Some dogs have raised hair over the scalp when stressed and observing the coat changes through the body can enable owners to see how the work that they do with their dog is having either a positive effect as the coat changes improve or highlight the need to adapt the way they manage and interact with their dog if unwanted coat changes remain or appear.  

The skin and coat combined are the dog’s largest sensory organ and the skin is the receptor for the perception of touch, pressure, vibration, heat, cold and pain.   It makes sense therefore that tension in the skin will have a direct correlation with the appearance and texture of the hair and using body TTouches can have a profound influence on the coat due to their ability to improve circulation.  TTouch obviously also helps to relax connective tissue and as the outer layer of the skin is the largest piece of connective tissue in the body it would therefore follow that body work techniques aimed at releasing tension and increasing mobility through the skin can have an instant effect on the coat.

 

 

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