Thursday, 30 October 2008

ICAWC 2008 Presentation: Changing Behaviour Patterns - Steve Goward

Previous presentation: Human-Animal Interaction: PhD Research Findings - Anne-Marie Wordley

Steve Goward is a training and behaviour advisor at Dogs Trust Roden. He'll be giving an overview of the methods used at the centre and a few case studies.

2:25: Immediately, a reminder of Dogs Trusts positive reinforcement strategies. Initially, fear-eliciting stimuli are removed, and there's a cognitive approach to solving behaviour issues including observing maintenance behaviours.

Eating, drinking, sleeping, urination, defecation, social interaction, body care and safety are assessed using a score sheet grading from 1 - 10, where 1 is very poor and 10 is excellent. It's important to choose then the right method (BMP - Behaviour Modification Programme) which allows the dog to achieve more than he fails.

Then exposure can gradually be built up to fear stimuli.

2:30: There's a three-stage approach, starting in the comfort zone, then the stretch zone. The last, to be avoided, is the great unknown.

Steve is presenting a case study of Bill, who was rehomed and returned to kennels three times in six months, and exhibited nervous aggression, obsessive ball play, noise sensitivity due to bad sleeping patterns, food aggression towards people and dogs and severe stereotypical behaviours. We are being shown a video of his behaviour, where Bill stands licking a wall obsessively and hiding in his kennel. "It's not easy to stand there with a video camera and watch this; it's distressing." Steve describes the injuries and lacerations to his tongue. "No wonder he was food aggressive; it probably hurt him to eat and digest."

2:35: Bill got a change of environment to improve safety and sleep - he went to the training block, out of the kennels. He got a new feeding regime, with a change of context, more feeds, easy access and no pressure. He was immersed in a relaxation programme to teach focus and calm, and played games which increased release of serotonin from achieving new tasks. The difficulty is gently increased so there's a high chance of positive achievement.

Interaction with other dogs was also increased to help Bill's feeling of security. We are watching another video of one of the sessions, with Bill responding calmly to simple clicker training, and gradually being introduced to more movement around him whilst still remaining calm and being rewarded from it.

2:40: Food agression was resolved within the first week. Within two weeks, stereotypical behaviours were gone. After three weeks, obsessive ball playing had stopped, and social interactions with other dogs, which he had avoided just days before, were massively improved.

Steve concludes with some videos of Bill's progress, where he sleeps in front of people (a first for this dog in the centre!) and plays with another dog. Bill is now in a home, and although he has a little nervousness with new people, is like a brand new dog.

2:40: Onto another case study! Grandpa Joe was a four-year-old stray who bit two members of staff in the first week. He showed signs of depression and lived in kennels for some time. He would take on any other dog, from Terriers to Great Danes, which is typical for dogs with low serotonin. Joe received a similar programme to Bill, as well as target training, which encouraged him to feel confident moving towards objects with enthusiasm and confidence - "getting his tail wagging". We see a video of this, which is frankly adorable!

Joe is no longer showing symptoms of depression and even lived with another dog at the centre. He is no longer a picky eater, plays with toys and has become intensely affectionate around people he's familiar with. He's now in a loving home at long last.

2:45: David the ex-racing Greyhound who had systematic exposure to impoverishment and poor handling. He was not aggressive, but very depressed, hyper-vigilant (no sleeping in public) and very, very frightened.

A huge change of context was needed and delivered. He had a new highly palatable diet, an appropriate living companion in the form of a calm, friendly Lab and a comfy choice of bedding. A must for a Greyhound! He quickly showed that he was able to play and relax. He was rehomed with another Greyhound where he continues to show much calmer and happier behaviours.

You can email with any questions (or come and meet him next year!).


Next presentation: Worldwide Veterinary Service - Luke Gamble

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