This information was taken from an interview with Danielle Dickinson (Behavioural Trainer – Urban Dog Training) with Dog’s Life Magazine conducted in June 2010:
It’s a pretty frightening thing to be told your ‘fur kid’ has a serious condition such as diabetes. Is there some advice for dog owners whose pets have been diagnosed with the disease in terms of their attitude?
While it is scary to be told your ‘fur kid’ has a serious health condition it is imperative for their long term behavioural health that they are treated as normally as possible. Inordinate amounts of ‘fussing’ over a dog can cause the dog stress and long term behavioural issues such as attention-seeking and separation disorders.
It is entirely possible to provide your dog with the level of care and attention it needs without seriously mollycoddling them. Find a good veterinarian and follow their advice regarding treatment options to get diabetes normalised as quickly as possible.
Do dogs with diabetes (or any serious illness) need ‘special treatment’ in terms of the way the family interact with them, or can they continue to be treated as ‘part of the furniture’?
All dogs, especially those with serious illnesses, need to have a quiet place to rest, away from the noise and hustle and bustle of daily life. Dogs that are not provided with enough opportunities to rest and relax often become stressed and this can exacerbate medical issues. The old saying ‘Let sleeping dogs lie’ is especially true where sick and injured dogs are concerned. They should be allowed to rest, away from noisy children and even other pets.
Often dogs with serious illnesses enjoy having crates that they can access when they feel the need. Crates are ideal in homes with children as the children can be taught not to approach the dog if he’s resting in his crate.
Do parents need to teach children to be gentler with a diabetic dog?
Once diabetes is normalised diabetic dogs are not much different to any other dog. Children should be taught to respect and be gentle with all dogs, not just sick ones – this is how dog bites are avoided.
Is diabetes likely to make a dog behave differently? (If the disease itself doesn’t affect behaviour, could the simple fact that the dog feels unwell make them act differently?)
While the disease itself does not affect behaviour, any dog that is unwell is likely to behave in an uncharacteristic manner. Aggression and anxiety based issues are more common in sick and injured dogs. In fact behavioural issues are often a symptom of an underlying medical issue. Take note of all behavioural changes and discuss them with your vet.
What other tips could help a person caring for a diabetic dog?
Since regular visits to the vet will be required when taking care of a diabetic dog it is important to teach your dog to love visiting the vet. Take your dog to vet when you do not have an appointment for treatment and have the reception staff give your dog a pat or an appropriate treat then leave. When you are visiting ask the vet to give your dog treats or have a brief play (if your dog enjoys play). If all of your visits involve unpleasant procedures such as blood tests etc then your dog will be less than enthusiastic, even hard to handle at the vet which is very difficult if you need to visit the vet regularly.
Keep your eye out for behavioural changes such as lethargy, loss of enthusiasm, increased dependency on you etc as these may indicate changes in your dog’s physical state that may require the attention of your vet.
It’s common for diabetic dog to have house-soiling mistakes, these mistakes should never be punished. If you catch your dog toileting indoors simply encourage him outdoors to finish and provide better access to outdoors in future.
One of the most common toilet training mistakes humans can make when toilet training a puppy is verbally punishing a puppy ‘caught in the act’ of toileting indoors. Most people think that when they catch a puppy toileting that they should yell out something like ‘No! Bad puppy!’ to teach the puppy that toileting in the house is unacceptable.
Let’s look at this from the puppy’s point of view. He feels like going to the toilet so he goes, unaware that he shouldn’t toilet indoors. You come along yelling and scare him. When he toilets indoors and you’re not around he doesn’t get yelled at and now that you ARE around he’s being yelled at. He’s learning that your presence when he’s toileting is a bad thing. You think you’re teaching him not to toilet in the house. The puppy thinks it’s not safe to toilet in front of YOU.
The next time you take him outdoors to toilet and say something like ‘Go do wee!’ the puppy remembers you yelling at him and refuses to toilet in front of you. He holds onto it and after a while you take him back indoors thinking he doesn’t need to go. At the first opportunity your puppy will sneak away from you and toilet undetected. I call this ‘stealth peeing’! He’s simply trying to avoid punishment.
If this has happened to your puppy the first step is to cease punishing your puppy for accidents immediately. Ensure that you have a proper toilet training plan that sets the puppy up for success. This should include confinement and 100% supervision in the absence of confinement. You will then need to take your puppy outside and let him roam far enough away from you so that he feels safe from punishment. When your puppy toilets praise verbally and reward immediately with a high value treat or fun game.
Setting Trevor up for success is crucial to raising a well mannered puppy. We will not put Trevor into positions where he can make bad choices. Here are some of the ways we will set him up for success:
Trevor will not have unrestricted access to our home, not even for one minute! If no one is available to supervise him he will be crated, put into a pen or simply attached to our waist with his lead and keep him with us. This way we can go about our daily business confident in the knowledge that no harm will come to him or our belongings. As he matures we gradually allow extra privileges in our house.
When visitors arrive Trevor will be popped into his playpen. When he is calm he will be let out of his pen and visitors will be instructed to ask him to sit before greeting him and usually giving him a treat. If we have visitors that are non-compliant Trevor will be given a Kong in his play pen where he will remain until the visitors leave.
Trevor will be taken outside every hour AND after meals, drinking, playing or sleeping. If he is having free time in the house he will have either Paul or myself dedicated to watching him 100% of the time. At night time he will sleep in his crate in our bedroom and we will set the alarm to take him out to the toilet a couple of times a night. If we go to bed at 10:30pm and wake up at 7:00am we will set the alarm for 1:30am and 4:30am.
We will puppy proof our home and yard to the best of our ability. Nothing will be left on the floor or anywhere he can reach. Toilet doors will be closed and wardrobe doors will be closed. Although we will supervise him when he’s having free time we don’t want to be constantly calling him or moving him away from things as that will only serve to make these rooms more interesting to him.
Coming when called
From very early days Trevor will get LOADS of time off lead in safe places. We don’t want being off lead to be a novel experience for him. If being off lead is novel he’ll be much less likely to come when he’s called.
Pulling On Lead
Whenever Trevor is attached to a lead we will NEVER take a step forward if there is any tension in the lead. If we need to get somewhere quickly we will pick him up and carry him rather than allow him to pull on lead.
We will constantly trade Trevor for things his has in his mouth. For example, if he has a leaf in his mouth we will pick up another leaf and make a big deal of our leaf. When he indicates he wants our leaf we will trade him for his now boring leaf. We will trade his toys for treats etc.
Before Trevor has impulse control and has been trained to sit at open doors, garage doors, gates and car doors he will be leashed and/or tethered before any door is opened in his presence.
Access to our stairs will be blocked and or baby gated. Puppies can tumble down the stairs in the blink of an eye hurting themselves severely at a minimum. Many puppies can even fit between the railings on staircases.
When we are eating Trevor will be placed into his playpen so that we can eat in peace and not worry about where he might be or have him begging at the table. When we feel up to it we will train him to sit quietly on a mat while we eat.
Puppies get over-tired just like children do and as a result become obnoxious, ill-tempered and upset. Trevor will be put down for a sleep in his crate/playpen area regularly. At 8-10 weeks he will be put down for a sleep after 45mins or so of awake time.
Trevor will be provided with mental stimulation in various different forms on a regular basis. He will have his toys rotated daily to keep interest in them. He will be given different food puzzles regularly. We’ll play fun games with him like hide the treat, hide-n-seek etc. We will also do regular short training exercises. Structured activities stop him from looking for something to do and making a bad choice!
Meeting Other Dogs On Lead
Trevor will only be permitted to meet other dogs on lead if he is calm and responsive to us. He will then be asked to sit after which he will be expected to walk on a nice loose lead to reach the other dog before saying hello. We will keep the leash slack during the greeting.
Trevor will not be fed away from things. He will be fed in a busy area of our house. This is so that he gets used to eating with activity going on around him rather than being alone with his food. Puppies that get used to eating alone in a laundry or outdoors often turn into food guarders.
It’s normal for dogs to toilet indiscriminately and puppies have no concept of ‘holding it’. We can’t just bring him home and hope for the best and then reprimand him when he toilets indoors. Many people refer to a puppy toileting indoors as a ‘mistake’ – while it IS a mistake it’s not Trevor’s mistake, it’s OUR mistake for not having a plan or for failing to stick to the plan! Toilet training takes more than a just few days and we can’t relax until we’ve had a good three months without any indoor toileting.
Trevor has never spent a single moment alone, he has been with his littermates and mother one hundred percent of the time. For us to dote on him all day long then expect him to sleep alone in a laundry that night is expecting too much! He will be frightened when alone and will naturally call out in distress. Trevor will sleep confined in a crate in our bedroom where he can see us and hear us breathe. He will then be taught to accept being alone gradually. This will include being happy to be in the same house as us but not have access to us (or Stevie).
As part of caring for Trevor and his well-being he will:
- be bathed
- be blow-dried
- be brushed
- have his ears cleaned
- have his nails clipped
- have his coat clipped
- be restrained while we check for ticks, fleas etc
- have tablets administered
- have ear drops administered
- have eye drops administered
- have his temperature taken
- have his teeth checked/cleaned etc
We need to ensure he is comfortable with being handled from an early age. If he happily accepts handling then visits to the vet /groomer will not be traumatic for him or the vet/ groomer.
We have a very short period to shape how Trevor will view the world. We know that his survival instincts will begin to kick in at somewhere around 12 weeks of age and will be in full force by 16 weeks of age. This means that by 16 weeks of age he will be wary of (and quite possibly frightened of) anything new. We will have around 8 weeks to introduce Trevor to, and make him comfortable with new people, animals, things, experiences and places. For this 8 week period all our personal desires will take a backseat unless they fit into Trevor’s socialisation program. It’s only 8 weeks and it will shape the rest of Trevor’s life.
Biting and mouthing are perfectly normal behaviours for puppies. They use their teeth in play and as a means of communication. Trevor needs to learn that when interacting with humans to treat our skin as though it were tissue paper. This is a systematic process. Often people inadvertently teach their puppy to bite by teasing them with hand and feet. When we (or anyone else!) play with Trevor there will always be toy between him and the human.
There’s nothing that saddens us more than little dogs jumping frantically on humans. It never ceases to amaze us how many people find this behaviour ‘cute’ and see it as an expression of happiness. I always imagine Paul coming home after a consultation to me jumping frantically all over him. I’m sure that if I did he would send me off to get some professional help and I’d spend the next two years in therapy working on my anxiety issues. What makes it so different for dogs? Jumping up is often an expression of anxiety in dogs, just as it would be in humans and we would be devastated if our dogs were this anxious to greet us.
Sharing Food Toys etc
It’s normal for dogs to want to keep their resources to themselves. Trevor will be no exception to this. If Trevor were living in the ‘wild’ guarding precious resources would help to ensure his survival. Resources are things dogs like such as food, toys, sleeping &resting places and even humans. It’s our job to teach him that sharing resources is not only ok, it’s beneficial. We will teach him to trust us enough so that he happily surrenders resources to us, rather than tolerates us ‘taking’ them off him. Puppies will tolerate you taking things off them but as they grow and become more confident they may not accept it so well.
When Trevor is unsupervised, whether indoors or outdoors, it is important that we have somewhere safe to put him. Not only can unattended puppies learn bad habits quickly, the can cause damage to household items easily. Injures and even death can befall unsupervised puppies quickly. Puppies die from chewing on electrical cords, suffocate in plastic bags, drown in pools or ponds, get caught up in curtain cords and strangle to death. Just the other day one of our clients found a huge python eyeing up her Golden Retriever puppy in the backyard! Keeping Trevor safe from harm is one of our responsibilities as puppy parents. We can’t supervise Trevor 100% of the time so we need to train him to be happy to be confined somewhere safe and puppy proofed.
This seems to be very low on most puppy parents’ list of priorities but it rates very high on ours. We love a calm dog. A calm dog is a dog that can think and respond. A calm dog isn’t running around wildly reacting to the world and everything in it. A calm dog is a joy to be around. Trevor will be a calm dog. It’s worth noting that calm is not a position (sit, drop etc), calm is a disposition. Calm dogs get everything in our house, they get treats, they get played with, they get to go for walks, they get to come inside, they get to go outside, they get to come up and snuggle on the bed or couch, they get to say hello to visitors, they get greeted by us , they get dinner – all the good things happen for calm dogs. Dogs that aren’t calm get nothing. It’s quite simple to teach if you’re prepared to wait initially.
Chew Toy Training
Trevor is a dog and we know that dogs like to chew things. Armed with that knowledge and having a house full of ‘things’ we’d be insane to leave him alone anywhere in our house with our things. Astonishingly easy we know, yet so many people have so many things destroyed by puppies and young dogs. Trevor needs to be taught to make good chewing decisions. Until he demonstrates good chewing choices consistently we’d be mad to allow him unsupervised access to anywhere indoors or outdoors that is not puppy-proofed.
When deciding what breed to buy as our second dog we were tempted by many breeds, including some very large breeds, but just couldn’t go past the wonderful Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the end. The cost and effort that goes into maintaining a Cavalier is minimal when compared to larger breeds and many of the smaller breeds too!
We already have one Cavalier, Stevie, who has been an absolute delight for the past 7 years. Obviously Stevie is more likely to get along with another Cavalier and he’s too old now to tolerate a large dog pawing at him and annoying him.
Cavaliers are portable which makes them easy to fit into our life which can be hectic since we run our own very busy business. We often don’t have time for long walks or big exercise sessions. Also, we are dog trainers that work seven days a week and although we love our job we don’t necessarily want to do it when we get home!
Being a small dog there are many FINANCIAL advantages:
- Feeding them is cheaper
- Buying crates, playpens, beds, kongs, collars etc is cheaper
- Vet bills are cheaper
- Grooming is cheaper
Being a small dog there are many PRACTICAL advantages:
- They can be a lap dog and do ‘big dog’ things such as dog sports, fetch, tug etc
- Small dogs generally don’t require huge yards
- It’s easier to rent or own (where body corporates are involved) with a small dog
- It’s easier to rent a holiday house with small dogs
- It’s easier to find a babysitter among friends/family for two small dogs as opposed to big dogs
- It will be easier to take two small dogs when visiting people’s homes rather than two big dogs
- If they cause damage to the garden it will be small scale damage
- If they chew our things they won’t do much damage
- It’s easy to fit two small dogs in a car
- They don’t take up as much room on the couch or bed!
What we like about Cavaliers
- They’re not known for any behavioural issues such as barking, aggression, separation anxiety etc
- They’re very food motivated and therefore easily trained
- They excel at dog sports like agility, flyball and doggy dancing
- They get along well with other dogs big or small
- They get along well with people of all ages, including children
- They’re very adaptable
- Of the smaller breeds they’re the one of the easiest to own and train’
- Their coats are suited to clipping therefore they drop minimal hair
- Their hair is very fine and dirt seems to just drop off them
- If clipped grooming is easy and don’t take long
We WANT two dogs. We’re not getting another dog to keep Stevie (our current dog) happy or to keep him company. We’re not getting another dog because one of us wants one, or so that we can have a dog each. We have discussed the pros and cons as a couple and decided as a couple that we would like to have two dogs.
We have the means to care for two dogs. Having two dogs costs twice as much money. Every cost you incur you incur twice, food, vet bills, worming & flea treatments, pet insurance and all the other costs associated with having a dog. We have budgeted for this and know we can afford it.
We are ready to raise and train another dog. We have the time to put into it. We know that for at least the next 12 months we will be wholly committed to raising our second dog to be a happy, well adjusted and behaviourally healthy dog. This will mean socialising and training – even when we don’t feel like it. Our puppy’s development will not stop just because we’re busy! We need to make time even if we are tired, busy or working long hours. We will sometimes need to forgo social events or some things we’d like to do in favour of tending to our puppy’s long term well-being.
We know that Stevie will cope well with the addition of another dog to our family. He is behaviourally healthy and well trained. We understand that he may not be thrilled with having a puppy around him constantly, just as we may not be thrilled with having to spend our entire day every day with a one year old child. We have made provisions so that he can have space and time away from an annoying puppy when he needs it.
We hope to be able to use our puppy to demonstrate with in classes and as he gets older to take some of the workload off Stevie’s shoulders.
The breeder we chose, Bob Krapp from Kabob Kennels, has bred and exhibited Cavaliers for almost 30 years. Bob is very successful and active in the show ring producing twenty five Australian Champions. He has also bred two USA Champions, four Canadian Champions and one Malaysian Champion. He imports dogs to keep his bloodlines fresh. All seven of his UK imports subsequently became Australian Champions. Of his five New Zealand imports two became Australian Champions. While the show champions mean nothing to us since we’re buying a ‘pet’ dog they are important in so far as they show his dedication to the breed.
Having already had a Cavalier that died from a serious genetic health condition, a breeder that focused on health in conjunction with conformation was paramount to us. Cavaliers suffer from a myriad of genetic conditions including mitral valve disease (MVD, early onset heart murmur), eye diseases (including cataracts and retinal dysplasia), chiari malformation (CM), and syringomyelia (SM) to name a few. Bob is very aware of these conditions and others affecting Cavaliers and not only ensures his dogs do not have these conditions, actively campaigns to educate everyone including vets about these conditions – particularly syringomyelia. His main focus is on health as he strives to improve Cavaliers, only then does he consider the show ring. He was instrumental alongside another good breeder, Carol Yates, in introducing ‘Heart Clinics’ at club shows. Good breeders will be very aware about the health conditions affecting their chosen breed and will be actively striving to improve the overall health of their breed.
It is very difficult to get a puppy from Bob, as it should be with good breeders. Typically a good breeder will put you on a waiting list, you cannot buy one of their puppies on impulse. When you want a puppy from a respected breeder it should feel like a job interview! If you don’t feel like you’re being interviewed you’re not dealing with a breeder who cares what happens to their puppies once they leave the litter. Don’t be surprised if they ask for references. A good breeder will also want to remain in touch and keep tabs on their puppies.
Our breeder only breeds Cavaliers, nothing else. Never buy from a breeder that breeds more than two breeds since this is verging on a puppy mill. He owns both the sire and the dam, which is often unusual in breeding. We were able to view both parents.
Bob registers his puppies with the Australian National Kennel Council (AKNC) and our puppy will sold with pedigree ‘papers’ from the ANKC. Our puppy will be sold to us on ‘limited register’ which means he cannot be exhibited at any shows nor have any of his puppies registered with the AKNC (i.e. with pedigree ‘papers’). Again, this is not an issue to us since we do not intend to show or breed our puppy. Bob also belongs to professional bodies including the Cavalier King Charles Club of Queensland and abides by their code of ethics to strive for improvements to the breed.
Our vet knows him and recommended him highly. He has treated some of our breeder’s dogs in the past and cannot remember any significant health issues with them. Other people active in showing and breeding also highly recommend our breeder, saying he is one of the best in the Cavalier world.
Bob breeds only when he wants a dog for himself and his breeding program is not the primary source of his income. He will not accept any money upfront as a deposit, preferring to wait until his puppies have had their final heath check and heave been cleared. This is a quality breeder with good morals who cares about his chosen breed.
Ever played a poker machine (also known as slot machine or fruit machine)? They can teach us a lot about how to keep our dogs interested in us and training!
These clever machines have Fancy Graphics, Sounds, Music, Lights, Mega Jackpots, Maxi Jackpots, Mini Jackpots, Free Games, Bonus Rounds, Features, Double Ups, Scatters, Wild Symbols, Multipliers and more, all designed to keep you entertained, feeling like you’re winning, therefore playing more. People play these machines for hours upon hours often against their will or better judgement. Many people are utterly addicted to them.
Now imagine yourself as the poker machine that your dog is playing. What fancy gimmicks do you have? How do you keep your dog interested in playing the training game with you? Have you become boring with your reinforcements? Do you automatically reach for the liver treats to reward your dog for everything? Worse still do you expect your dog to work for praise alone now? Yawn.
If you want to keep your dog interested in you and training then you’d better get creative with your rewards. When you’re predictable your dog gets to make an easy choice between what you want him to do and what he wants to do. Why would he come away from the smelly dead thing in the bushes when he knows the reward will be a tiny piece of liver, or worse – nothing? If he’s never sure of the payout and occasionally he wins a Mega Jackpot he may be more inclined to participate with more enthusiasm in the future.
Keep your reinforcements interesting and varied. Don’t fall into the trap of using food rewards all the time. Work out what your dog likes and use these things as rewards and stop giving them away for nothing. Does your dog like to play tug, fetch or ‘go find it’? Does your dog enjoy treat dispensing toys, puzzle toys, interactive toys? Does your dog like car rides, walks, meeting people and other dogs, sniffing trees etc? Does your dog like petting, attention, sitting next to you on the couch, having a cuddle in the bed, going outside, coming inside? Use these rewards as gimmicks to keep your dog interested. Keep him guessing so he’ll keep playing with you.
What’s that you say? You want him to work for praise huh? Oh ok then, well next time you’re sitting at poker machine I trust you’ll settle for a cheery ‘Good Person’ as you sink your money into the slot. Hopefully you’ll find the praise motivating enough to keep you playing.
Reading through literature on dogs you often come across authors who refer to some dogs as ‘Head Shy’. The theory is that a ‘head shy’ dog finds being petted about the head unpleasant or aversive. I would argue that the absolute majority of dogs are ‘head shy’; rarely do I encounter a dog that actually enjoys being petted about the head, especially by strangers. I know of some dogs that will tolerate it but the dogs that actually enjoy it are few and far between.
In dog training classes I watch with dismay as handlers click, reward and then apply an aversive – the head pat. Often I’ll try to explain to the handler that the dog does not enjoy the head pat and may therefore avoid repeating the same behaviour in the future for fear of the same outcome. Usually the handler is quite shocked by this revelation, often to the point of complete denial. “But he loooves it!” they claim, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I then point out the ways in which the dog is trying desperately to communicate his utter distaste for the head pat which include one or more of the following:
- Ducking away from the hand
- Lip Licking
- Turning away
- Jumping up
- Frantic behaviour
- Rolling onto its back
- Flattening itself on the ground
Occasionally the client will heed my advice and cease petting the dog about the head, much to the dog’s relief. Often my advice falls on deaf ears and clients continue to ‘reward’ their dogs in this manner only to later claim there’s something wrong with the training method because their dog still won’t ‘obey’ despite being ‘rewarded’.
Recently I had a client claim their Beagle was ‘dominant’. Puzzled, I asked the client how he had arrived at that conclusion. The client explained that the dog would ‘drop’ on command for his partner and other people but not for him. He had read somewhere that the ‘drop’ position is a ‘submissive’ position and since the dog would no longer drop for him he assumed it was trying to assert its ‘dominance’. I recognised this client was probably doing something the dog didn’t like since he would ‘drop’ for everyone else except this handler so I asked him to cue his dog to drop and nag if necessary until the dog complied. It was clear the dog did not want to comply; he turned his head, avoided eye contact, licked his lips and yawned. Finally, under pressure, the dog slowly complied. Immediately the reason he was avoiding ‘dropping’ became apparent. His owner was excited (he has a BIG personality) and squealed and petted (read roughed him up!) around the head! Case solved. The dog had come to predict that dropping for this guy meant getting roughed up about the head as a ‘reward’ and since the dog found the ‘reward’ aversive he avoided it at all costs.
I also observe this frequently in Recall classes. Excited by their dog’s willingness to come when called, clients drop down onto their knees to hug it and rough it up around the head. The result is a dog that is unwilling to come all the way and will usually stop around a metre and a half short of the handler or do a ‘drive by’ to avoid this display of affection.
Often what you perceive as rewarding and what your dog actually finds rewarding are two different things. All humans love to show their dogs affection but it’s important to understand that not all dogs like receiving affection the way humans display it. In my experience most dogs would rather forgo any type of petting when there are food rewards involved. Just as you would not want someone man-handling you while you enjoy a nice meal. Once you really understand what your dog finds reinforcing you will deepen your bond and your dog will be more willing to participate in training activities.