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  1. As many of you reading this will be aware, physical stimulation is something which is very 
    important for any dogs and some breeds more so than others. A tired dog is a well behaved
    dog. But what about mental stimulation? Mental stimulation is a fantastic tool to keep your dogs occupied, focus their attention and
    give them something to do when we are busy or out the house. Think of it this way, someone who works in an industry that isn't physically demanding will still
    go home and be shattered, this is because they have worked their brain and not their feet.
    If we can tire your dog out physically as well as keeping them engaged mentally throughout
    the day, you will have one tired and happy dog. So what can we use for mental stimulation? There are plenty of mentally stimulating activities you can take part in with your pooch,
    anything that gets them thinking and isn't as straightforward as tug this rope or chase that
    ball is going to be very effective. Games such as scent work can provide a fun and engaging source of mental stimulation.
    Scent work can be used to find hidden treats, toys or even everyday objects if trained
    correctly. As you play this game you will see the cogs turning and your four-legged friend
    trying to find those pesky hidden rewards. This is a fantastic game where you can see the
    mental simulation taking place. Agility is another option. Many people look at agility and think it is all about the physical
    attributes of the dog and handler, however this is not the case, it is so much more. During
    agility both handler and dog have to work together to overcome obstacles, tight turns and
    complex routes before reaching the finish line. Not to mention the initial confidence building
    it takes to jump, climb and weave their way to success using obstacles most dogs will never
    have encountered before. These are just two examples of activities you can get involved in as well as your dog but
    there are many more. So what about mental stimulation your dog can acquire without the need of their owner? Mental stimulation specific games/toys are designed to test your dog's ability without the
    need of your help. Kong as a brand have many of these available on the market and are a
    fantastic place to start. A generic Kong toy can be stuffed with food/treats and your best
    friend has to work out how to get them out. A toy such as this can last as long as an hour
    before your dog has completed it. If your dog spends this much time working their brain, that
    is the equivalent of a 45 minute walk for their brain! The nice thing about these types of mental stimulation is that they are infinitely customisable.
    By keeping what treats you put in them different every single time, you also keep your dog's
    interest and motivate them again and again to keep working their brains. By all means you don't need to head out and buy a thousand things to stimulate your dog,
    try to be creative, anything that gets them thinking and working hard will give them a good
    amount of mental stimulation and the more you can give them the better.

    George Rooke - Head Behaviour Counsellor
     
  2. A lot of the questions clients ask me are to do with stopping unwanted behaviour. There are 
    two ways to change behaviour in dogs –

    Punishment: something that decreases the likelihood of unwanted behaviour being repeated
    due to an unpleasant consequence.

    Reinforcement: increasing the likelihood of good behaviour being repeated due to a nice
    outcome.

    Punishment can often be seen to have quicker results but it also comes with a number of
    risks. First we need to look at what is punishing to a dog. Punishments can range from ignoring or
    taking away attention to the use of a shock collar. What do we mean by aversive punishment?
    It is simply something that causes avoidance of a behaviour through the use of unpleasant
    stimuli. So in this sense even ignoring or timing out your dog is unpleasant, in particular with
    dogs that suffer from separation anxiety. The impact of the aversive is dependant on the dog
    it is being applied to and this in itself can cause unexpected consequences. Here are some
    examples of aversive punishments: sharp lead corrections hitting or kicking electric shock collar submissive down or alpha roll shouting threatening stares or growls use of water sprays or air cans grabbing by the scruff or jowls and shaking. I am sure we can all see why these methods would discourage a dog from performing a
    behaviour. Think of having these techniques applied to you because you had misunderstood
    or done something that somebody else didn't like? In this regard using aversive punishment
    can be very effecting in stopping unwanted behaviour but it can also have a great deal of
    side effects and even effect a dogs welfare. The punishment may not always be consistent or start to become bearable for the dog in
    order for him to get what he wants – A dog that still pulls on the leash to get to exciting smells
    even when the owner performs leash corrections. Aggressive methods, things that cause pain and/or fear encourage an aggressive or
    defensive reaction from a dog. A dog may make an unwanted, negative association with the stimuli surrounding the
    correction or just learn to shut down. Aversive methods can be reinforcing to the person applying them. Aversive can create anxiety and fear in dogs and they can generalize this to similar stimuli –
    eg shake cans and loud noises. Can interfere with a dogs ability to learn as the dog shuts down, this will also impact on the
    owners relationship with the dog. The defensive behaviour created by aversive method is difficult to reverse as it works for the
    dog. Snapping at something it is fearful of or that might cause it pain will make it go away. Causes stress in dogs. A minimal level of stress in dogs or humans is useful for learning but
    when this is increased as with the desire to avoid the punishment it can become a big barrier
    to learning. When an unwanted behaviour is suppressed through punishment, a dog will find a new way
    to fill this void, and this may well be with another undesirable behaviour. Eg a dog is punished
    for digging in the garden. He is still bored. So he starts to chew things instead. Suppressing behaviours that are there as a warning or out of a reaction to something.
    Barking due to a fear reaction to other dogs for example, may well cause a dog to escalate
    the behaviour as the emotion behind the reaction is still present. Rewarding a positive alternative carries much less of a risk and is much more likely to
    encourage a cooperative leaning experience for dog and owner.

    Kerry Walker - Behaviour Counsellor