Posted 5 months ago ago
The incredibly sad news about Freddie the seal being victim of a vicious dog attack and later put down left the nation reeling.
Although as dog owners we wouldn’t want to think of our fur babies as anything but affectionate and loving, attacks on other animals unfortunately do happen.
Dogs have a natural instinct to chase, some breeds more so than others, and sometimes that can include other animals.
It’s important as responsible pet owners that we know how to react when the unthinkable does happen and that we ensure our dogs are properly trained and socialised from a young age.
We spoke to Joe Nutkins, Kennel Club Accredited Dog Trainer and Behaviourist, for his advice.
As well as being an experienced dog trainer, Joe also has his own Norwich Terriers which live happily alongside chickens, ducks and quails. This is due to the time spent training his dogs to ensure they don’t become too over excited.
Joe said: “Socialisation is so often thought of by dog owners to be just letting dogs play together as much as possible.
“But in reality, it is helping your puppy to have all kinds of positive experiences which includes people and dogs in a safe manner, as well as different locations, floor surfaces, sounds, smells, distractions.
“This also includes introducing safely to birds, pets and wildlife, but is an area that is sadly often overlooked.”
With any kind of training, the earlier you start the better. It’s a lot easier to train a puppy than it is to teach an old dog new tricks.
Joe said: “As part of socialisation when we have a young puppy we should be helping our dogs to have lots of positive experiences and this should extend to sights and sounds of other dogs and animals.
“While young, a puppy is more likely to want to play or be worried about a new species they haven't seen before and less likely to show an aggressive tendency so this is the best time to introduce and work with them.”
So how can you get your dog used to other animals?
Joe said: “While taking your dog to lots of new places and working on some basic life skills such as ‘watch me’, ‘sit’, and recall, we can be letting them see ducks on a pond, rabbits in a field up ahead, sheep grazing on the other side of a public footpath fence.
“They can look and then receive praise for looking or you can call them to you to receive a reward such as a treat or play with a toy.
“This helps them to learn the animal is just part of life and if they turn their attention to you they get fun stuff.”
Training older dogs
Although older dogs might prove harder to train, it is still possible.
Sharing his training tips, Joe said: “We need to first find out what your dog loves most in the world, aside from a bird or rabbit. We can then work on some fun training using their favourite thing as a lure and reward.
“Tricks like paw, twists and nose touch which are quick and easy to teach and for the dog to do and gets them the reward quickly.
“Obedience exercises such as informal recall, emergency stops and watch me are great safety skills but can also be great to work on with wildlife in the distance, especially when your dog is on lead or long line so you have control over the situation.”
Joe also mentioned the use of scentwork training.
He said: “You can introduce scentwork games to give your dog a fun way to use their nose and have a great time working with you at the same time and scentwork can include search and find, tracking, nosework with specific scents, truffle hunting, interiors work and more.
“Even using a Snuffle Mat with various treats hidden inside can be a form of scent outlet.”
Dogs with a high chase instinct
Some dogs have a greater urge to chase than others. This includes hounds or herding dogs, those which have been bred to chase.
For training dogs with a higher chase instinct, Joe said: “There is a fun exercise called ‘chase recall’ where we use two toys to work on stopping our dog as they think about chasing something for example, one toy.
“Call them to turn to us and chase another toy that we race so your dog still has the thrill of chasing but in a safer way.”
He also added: “Play is a great way to enclose focus with our dogs around big distractions and using toys attached to a bungee handle, on a flirt pole or on a lead can be moved about in a way that makes them look like they have life in the toy.
“By using these types of toys for play with us we can give our dogs the chance to chase and play without them needing to find something to chase on a walk. You can even take a toy out on a walk and have some fun in places where it's safe to do so.
“Utilise any type of distraction during focus work and training - don't just work with birds or animals in the distance but any time your dog stops to check something.”
Distraction exercises can also be practiced around the house, as well as while out on walks.
Joe added: “If your dog notices something on TV, you can call them to play, throw a toy the other way and encourage your dog to race you for it, ask for a nose touch and then do a few things with your dog a little further from the TV and have some play or tricks.
“If you're on a walk and a leaf blows across your path or a plastic bag is caught in a bush and your dog notices, step back and call your dog using a recall, nose touch, squeaky toy or call to go through your legs into heel.
“Praise for giving you attention then continue the walk.
“Anything that your dog is distracted by can be used - it doesn't matter if it is something that can be grabbed or pawed at without issue like a piece of paper or a rogue flower as we want to use it to practise.”