Friday, September 23, 2016

Cog Dog Radio's Four Foundations of Good Behavior

This week I was supremely bummed when none of my subscribed podcasts had any new episodes.  What was I going to do!?  Then an internet friend of mine posted about Bad Dog Agility; the particular episode she posted about was actually a guest episode by Sarah Stremming at Cog-Dog Radio, all about behavioral problems in performance dogs.  Okay, so I don't consider Ida to be a performance dog, but it seemed relevant, considering the issues that I want to solve are so that we can perform.  Needless to say, I immediately subscribed to both podcasts.

I wanted to work through some of the things that Sarah considers to be the foundations of dog well-being and how they relate to us.


Diet
It makes sense to me that mental well-being is much more challenging in the absence of physical well-being, and this is echoed in medical literature too.  Patients with chronic diseases are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety, and people who eat poorly are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases.  It is hard to take care of yourself when you feel terrible all the time.

Ida is currently eating Acana Cobb Chicken & Greens.  She scratches occasionally, not where I consider it an issue, but I'm going to make the next bag of food something without chicken, just to see if it makes any difference.  Other than that, she has good poops, good energy, and I am pretty happy with her food.

Exercise
This one is a big fail for us.  Cog Dogs emphasized tiring exercise over taxing exercise. Because of Ida's reactivity and fear of traffic noises, leash walks suck for her - they are taxing, not tiring.  Unfortunately, I'm rarely home early enough to take the dogs to the big park before dusk hits (and all of the parks around here are full of coyotes).  I am sad that daily walks at the big park will likely not happen again for a long, long time.  My dogs are too small and that park is too full of coyotes for me to want to go there before the sun is fully up (which is getting later and later as the year marches forward).

Combined with one off-leash walk at a bigger park with other dogs per week, the fenced field near our house will be a nice compromise during the week. It is close enough to wildlife and has enough trees and brush that there is plenty to see out and explore.

Enrichment
Ida gets fed in puzzle toys.  She also gets chews once or twice a week; she has at least one cow hoof always available.  I should increase the number of "working" chews she gets - raw meaty bones and stuffed kongs.

Communication
Good communication is really important, not just for humans but for dogs too.  Telling dogs that we don't want them to do something may be useful in those few seconds, but it doesn't teach the dog what they should do and as a result isn't much help in preventing the behavior in the future.

I do already try to replace corrections ("No!" "Ida, what are you doing?" etc.) with instructions, but I'm not always successful, especially when it comes to counter surfing/table begging.  Into the future, I am going to work harder at it; for example, I'll send her to her bed immediately instead of telling her to get down first and then sending her to her bed.

I'll post our weekly update soon, it's too much for one post.  Surprising, considering it seems like we didn't do much this week!