DOG WELLNESS AND BEHAVIOUR WITH GUEST EXPERT, DOG MUM MINDSET

We had the pleasure of chatting with clinical animal behaviourist, Lauren from Dog Mum Mindset to discuss all things dog wellness, behaviour, how to help your pet as we transition back to the office in some form and more!  

1. Explain to us in a nutshell what you do and how you got started, what was your inspiration to go into dog behaviour?

Great question! I’m a clinical animal behaviourist specialising in separation anxiety & I mentor Dog Mums to live an incredible life with their pups. I always loved animals so much (of course!), and so decided to take Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter which was incredible. That was mainly wild animals, and it was only when I got Alto as a puppy that I started to think about a career with dogs, instead. I started with Puppy School, started running puppy classes - and it all went from there.

2. Why do you think dog wellness is so important?

I think there is a huge shift from just looking at issues in isolation - like behaviour and training - to actually now identifying that a completely holistic approach is needed. Dogs are so much part of the family & I think where wellness is is important for us - the yoga, the nutrition, the self care practises - we have started to want to treat our companions with the same care, too. It’s basically an extension of how we treat ourselves, I think.

3. What are some key tips in understanding body language when grooming?

There can be some subtle signals which are so easily missed, and can be confusing because they can be used in lots of contexts (the Ladder of Aggression is super useful to learn more). When in a grooming context, I would look for micro signs like yawning, turning away, standing very still, ‘whale eye’ (showing the whites of the eyes), panting, licking lips. If your dog is trying to move away and escape, that’s a more overt sign and I would suggest you need to take it a little slower to build their trust. 

4. How do you stop the reliance on a certain member of the household, following room to room, crying the second they leave and not relaxing even when with other household members?

I would suggest you look at dividing the tasks you do with your dog amongst other members of the household - so get other people to help with feeding, training, playing, walking etc. Things that make your dog feel confident, like a new trick, will help your dog learn that you are not the only person who makes them feel safe. Another thing you can do is try and reduce your dog’s need for attention from you - if they are always sat with you when relaxing, for example, could another family member take over that role every so often? If they want attention mainly from you, could you recruit other people to help with that so they learn not to be so focused on you? These ways will help your dog learn not to be so focused on one person and instead spread the focus across the family, instead.

5. We recently got a weird behaviour from our dog - she started defending us on a walk through jumping at random people and growling. She won’t bite them but it’s almost like she learnt it works for them to go away, she also does it if somebody tries to touch her or comes to our house. What would you suggest we do?

Firstly, I would suggest a vet check if there is ever a change in a dog’s behaviour, to rule out any issues. I would also look and see if there has been a change e.g. from puppyhood to adolescence (around 6 months) which causes a change in strategy when they are worried. The main thing is that you need to make her understand that you will keep her safe and you won’t let people approach. Maybe teach her something else to do when people approach, like go behind you, so she has something she can concentrate on, and I would take tasty food out and reward her every time you walk past someone so she learns a) to focus on you and b) people = nice things to make a new association. Lastly, I would maybe suggest getting some support from an ABTC behaviourist so you both feel supported with a behaviour plan & can help her feel better.

6. My dog follows me everywhere, even to the bathroom. I don’t mind as long as she stays alone when we leave the house and she stays fine for up to 4 hours. I was wondering if perhaps me not doing anything about her being so attached leads to other issues like her being overly protective?

I would suggest that you check that she is absolutely ok when you leave by filming (I am sure she is but always good to rule out any issues!) It would be good for her to be able to rest, so that she is getting enough sleep in the day rather than always alert; if she is always alert, she is going to be in a state of high stimulation which might lead to other behaviours. Perhaps you could give her a safe place in the home away from you, so that she learns to really settle there? I would say it’s an issue that could be linked with a lack of confidence in the home, so potentially could lead to more territorial type or anxiety led behaviours, so I would suggest you look at teaching her to feel more relaxed in the home. If she is showing protective type behaviour, it would be good to look at this in more detail too, maybe with a behaviourist, to see what other things can be done.

7. What to do if your dog barks at lots of different noises? Is this something an owner can help with at all? Our dog is so sensitive to sounds like airplanes, any nearby neighbour activity and the sound of the iPhone ringtone on TV.

Bless her, it can be really hard when they are reactive! Firstly, I would look at creating a safe, calm routine each day (many dog shelters have a period of time where they put on classical music, turn down the lights and remove all people and find that the dogs truly settle better!) I would look at her energy budget - is she trying to do a ‘job’ and needs a different outlet for this? Is she better when tired and does she do it when she’s alone? If it is anxiety (all her needs are met and it is more of a panic response), then you could try using the Dog’s Trust Sounds Scary/Sounds Sociable procedure to try and desensitise her to the noises as that might be really helpful.

8. As many people start to go back to the office in some way or another, what are your key tips for this transition to not spending as much time with your pet?

Great question! I would really focus on teaching your dog to have time away from you within the home. This might be in a particular room, or downstairs if you work upstairs. You need your dog to learn to be able to cope when they do not have access to you. Settle them with a Kong or chew and gradually build up the amount of time. You can also do some short absences away from the home routinely and film your dog to see how they react to these absences. If you know you will be out for 4 hours at a time, then build up now to that time so when you go back to the office, your dog has already practise this absence and is able to relax rather than a sudden sharp increase in time.

9. If I want to learn more about dog behaviour, do you have any resources I can refer to?

Wonderful! A few places to start would be the APBC Facebook page & website, which has all the updated information about animal & canine behaviour. There is also the Puppy School YouTube channel which is amazing for puppy behaviour help. Finally, you can find me at www.dogmummindset.com and I have a free download all about teaching your dog how to settle which will be super useful for many of the above issues.

10. What offerings do you have to assist with seperation behaviour?

There is a whole range of offerings - and we are continually adding to them so there will be something to meet your needs! We have the online assessment which gives my eyes on your dog when left alone to give you some info on what sort of issue is happening; perfect if you aren’t sure what is best for you. There is Separation Anxiety School, which is a guide through leaving your dog alone & getting them successful when solo, starting at £56 monthly. Finally, for anyone who needs real, consistent, unwavering 1:1 support, there is my full access mentoring programme for separation issues, too.

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