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The Listen Dog Blog

Welcome to the Listen Dog Blog!


I'll be keeping it up-to-date with regular catch-ups on what I've been up to, plenty of original articles on obedience training and behavioural best practice, plus top tips and ideas you can work on at home with your own four-legged friend!


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By listendogtraining, Dec 18 2016 02:04PM

When dealing with problem behaviours with their dogs - particularly male dogs - many owners believe, or have been assured that castration is the answer to their problem. Whilst it's true that yes, castrating a male dog can indeed help eradicate some unwanted behaviours, there are many instances in which it will have no effect whatsoever.

As a general rule, castration is more likely to solve an unwanted behavioural problem, if that problem is sexually dimorphic – which means that it is more common in, or specific to, one sex as opposed to the other.

Roaming is a good example of this; this is the act of a male travelling to find an acceptable bitch in season in order to mate. This is noted to be reduced in 90% of cases post-castration.

Scent marking is another good example of a sexually dimorphic behaviour, as it is a male behaviour, influenced by testosterone, and therefore much more likely to be affected by castration. Ben Hart at the University of California notes that urine marking in the house reduced in 50% of cases, with a rapid reduction in 20% and a gradual reduction in 30%.

Inappropriate sexual behaviour, such as excessive mounting or humping of other dogs, people or even objects is also related to sex hormone, and it is noted that post-castration, dogs displayed less mounting of people in 60% of cases.

It must always be noted however, when considering castration, that if the unwanted behaviour cannot be attributed to testosterone, then castration is not the correct solution at all. For example, if a dog is behaving aggressively due to fear rather than sex hormones, then behavioural therapy is the route to take in order to improve the situation.

If in doubt as to the root cause of your dog's behaviour always seek out professional behavioural or veterinary advice, to ensure you make the best decision for you and your four-legged friend!

Should I Castrate My Dog Or Not?

There are arguments on both sides regarding whether or not castration is acceptable. Those opposing may cite that it is unnatural to strip a dog of its reproductive capabilities, and deny it the experience of indulging in the accompanying hormone-related behaviours. Some people believe that it is cruel to never allow a dog to fulfil his instinct to mate, or that denying a bitch the opportunity to ever experience motherhood will leave her in some way discontented. Surgery itself is never without risk, and many might argue that it is not worth putting your dog through potentially life-threatening surgery, when they are in absolutely no state of ill-health.

On the other hand, castration and spaying remove the risk of some cancers of the reproductive organs entirely, and so could be argued as a preventative surgery of potentially life-saving benefit. And from the dog’s perspective, we must also look at the world in which we are asking our dogs to live in, and the social rules we expect them to conform to.

In the wild, for example, it is perfectly natural and acceptable for wolves to attack other wolves they encounter on their turf – whereas we as owners would be quite disgruntled if our dog showed such aggression to every dog he passed on his daily walk.

Competition over resources is also natural in the wild, whereas in a home environment, a dog who becomes dangerously possessive over his food bowl is most unwelcome.

There is also today’s rate of dog abandonment to consider – with rescue centres full to the brim and healthy dogs being euthanized every day, is it morally just to allow your dog to potentially produce more puppies whilst there are already so many dogs out there in desperate need of loving homes?

And if you plan not to castrate but also never to breed... then take a moment to consider how frustrating the experience of being forced to pass by a bitch in heat can be for an entire male!

By listendogtraining, Dec 18 2016 01:56PM

Dogs produce both Cortisol and Corticosterone; these hormones, produced by the adrenal gland have the effect of instigating a fight or flight survival mechanism, so they are often produced in response to the detection of escalating levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone, and the increased excitability or anxiety which this is linked to.

It could be that the dog is experiencing stress or pressure, be it psychological or physical, and so Cortisol and Corticosterone are produced as they reduce the sensation of pain – in terms of functionality, this would help to prepare the dog for a potential attack, which could be the cause of his stress.

However these also have a known anti-allergy quality, and are therefore commonly prescribed by vets for skin complaints. Whilst it would require very high doses to have an adverse affect on the behaviour of the dog being treated, it is worth questioning whether a dog is on any such prescription drug, in cases of sudden unexplained increases in aggression.

Generally speaking, it is always a good idea to get your dog checked over by a vet before you begin any program of behavioural modification, as there are indeed many medical conditions, unnoticed injuries, illnesses and prescription medications that can actually be the cause of your dog’s behavioural problem – especially in cases of sudden and unusual aggression.

By listendogtraining, Apr 1 2016 02:26PM

Most of the time, urine-marking is territorial or sexual. The scent of a dog’s urine contains a lot of information for the next passing dog to pick up, including the reproductive condition of the female and the health or ranking status of the male – leaving their ‘mark’ in a new place, by urinating, is one dog’s way of telling any other dogs in the area of their presence, and sexual position. A female, for example may urinate more frequently when in season, to indicate her receptivity to any males in the area.

Another reason for urine-marking in a new area, however, could in fact be anxiety –a brand new environment filled with completely foreign sights, sounds and scents can seem overwhelming to a dog, so one coping strategy used by dogs is to mark the new place with their own urine, in order to surround themselves with a familiar scent – in other words, they are trying to make themselves feel ‘a little more at home’ by making the alien environment feel familiar.

Bruce Fogle uses the example of the veterinary surgery waiting room – in which otherwise housetrained dogs can suddenly cock their leg against a chair – to further support the idea that it is a response to an anxiety-inducing environment.

So if you are experiencing problems with unexplained house-soiling that you can’t seem to eradicate, try considering whether there is anything that could be causing anxiety for your dog in the locations he is urinating, or perhaps take note of the time of day or night when he is house-soiling, and try and establish whether there is any pattern to his behaviour, that may give you a clue as to whether anxiety is at work.

Remember, NEVER punish your dog for house-soiling – it will only serve to increase his anxiety, and encourage him to find hidden corners of the home to do it in. It will also only serve to make positive toilet training harder, because your dog will be less inclined to toilet in front of you (which you want him to do when in the garden, so you can lavish him with praise!) for fear of your associated response.

Don’t forget that there are many underlying medical issues that could cause your dog’s bladder control to falter too, so it’s definitely worth getting any of these ruled out by your vet first, before you approach a behavioural course of action.

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