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Pain in the dog – When the dog does not sit and training is of no use – Guest article Bothshunde

Schmerzen beim Hund zeigen sich nicht nur körperlich. Auch durch sein Verhalten zeigen uns unsere Hunde, wenn sie unter Schmerzen leiden.

Pain in dogs is big topic. Dogs show that they are in pain in different ways. Behavior can also show that a dog is in pain. Since the topics of pain and behavior in dogs are very closely related, I am very pleased that Sarah from the dog blog Bothshunde is publishing a guest article on Doggy Fitness on this topic. But read for yourself about Sarah’s experiences in dog training with pain & behavior:

“It’s maddening – Buddy just won’t sit down when I give him the signal. Can you help me?” That’s how one of my trainings started this year. Buddy is a 6 year old male cattle dog. I knew him already for a long time, because his owner Jasmin and I had already met at some seminars. In everyday life Buddy was an absolutely inconspicuous dog, who was very well behaved. In addition, the two of them did train dog sports together and there, too, Buddy was extremely cooperative and always fully motivated.
The fact that he now won’t sit down when asked seemed odd to me. Jasmin, who actually knows a lot about dog training, was at a loss.
I was excited about the lesson because I didn’t suspect any of the usual problems, but a special case.

Jasmin told me at the beginning of the lesson that Buddy only stopped responding now and then. She suspected other causes and did not relate the “refusal” to this particular signal. The two had not been in training for some time – related to their sport, as Jasmin had been injured. “I let it slide in my everyday life and now I’ve broken all my signals,” she concluded.
I investigated further and found out that all the other signals they use in everyday life still work without any problems. He wouldn’t react as quickly as he used to, but he would do everything (except sit) with no problem.

As a dog trainer, what comes to mind when dogs show sudden changes in behavior?

When behavioral changes occur suddenly and so inexplicably, bells other than “the signal should be rebuilt or a mistake happened in training” ring in my mind at first. Which options I consider and which I try to clarify within the scope of my possibilities, I would like to tell you today.

1) Is the dog in pain?

Dogs are very good at not showing any pain openly and overplaying the existing problem ready for the stage. Only rarely do we humans get to hear about it, as long as it’s not really really bad.

My dog had a displaced thoracic vertebra last summer. Neither did I see that, nor did I really notice anything hurting her. If you’ve ever had problems with displaced vertebrae, you know how uncomfortable it is. The only thing I noticed was that my dog no longer jumped into the car immediately when prompted, but I did not immediately suspect a restriction. Only when she also showed changes in her gait when walking up and down stairs did I really become suspicious and had her checked out by a professional. Lo and behold, the displaced vertebra was discovered and put back in place. From then on, jumping into the car was no longer a problem.

A few weeks ago I had a client whose dog was having trouble with leash walking. The dog had pain when standing and walking slowly because his claws were too long. You can read the full story on “101 Methods for Leash Walking” here.

Pain can arise from various causes

From muscular tension or overload, to injuries, to joint problems, everything is conceivable. Some pains occur only briefly, others remain dully omnipresent. Many – like osteoarthritis – are strongly influenced in their pain intensity by external conditions. Now in the colder season, vet visits will pile up – for dogs that suddenly don’t walk well.
If the dog is in pain, then it is completely normal that certain movements are no longer possible. As a result, the dog will avoid making this movement. It is also conceivable that dogs suddenly react aggressively because certain things hurt them. If a dog is in pain when walking, it may react irritably to other dogs it has otherwise played with because it associates pain with the movement.

– 2) Are there changes in perception?

Gladly seen are also the more irritable older dogs. Sometimes the behavior is then dismissed with “now he’s getting old and weird”. Sometimes, however, there is simply a deterioration in perception behind it. If the dog does not see or hear well, other dogs approaching quickly may startle him. So there is a cause. In that case, the cause can’t be fixed, but it exists and I as a human can help my dog in those situations if I know what is causing him problems. That’s a clear difference from “he’s getting old, there’s nothing you can do”.

Tumors and any tissue changes also bring a heavy burden on the organism and can lead to behavioral changes.

– 3) Were there any drastic experiences/misconnections

In Buddy’s case, it would have been quite conceivable for him to associate the seat with something that frightened him.
Similar to the dog who sees cows as a scare scenario because he once got caught on a power fence when he saw a cow.
Dogs are always learning and especially when there are big emotions involved, sometimes just one experience is enough to make a massive impression. So it could well have been that Buddy sat down and experienced something drastic at that moment – a very loud bang, for example.

In this case, we could have worked step by step to give him positive evidence of setting, possibly even with a new word signal.

Conclusion – training over problems makes no sense, it is necessary to find the cause of the problem!

When it comes to pain and physical change, as a dog trainer I am not the professional to know exactly all the details and certainly not to solve the problems. At the same time, a good trainer should be able to recognize – or at least have the possibility in mind – that a dog’s “refusal” can always have other causes. Here it is important to first clarify all physical issues before going into further training with the dog. Because to go through a training by hook or by crook – as long as there are still physical complaints – is more than unfair in my eyes.

In Buddy’s case, it was finally because of a wild romp with one of the buddies that he had a strain in his thigh and his hip had shifted slightly. After both problems were solved, he ran again without any complaints and also the “sit” he could implement as usual quickly and reliably.

About the person, Sarah Both of Bothshunde:

My name is Sarah Both and I want to help you have a more relaxed interaction with your dog.
In this context, there is nothing more beautiful for me than wordless understanding between man and dog.
My goal is to live in harmony with the dog and nature. I would like to pave the way to this idyll for you and your dog. Especially close to my heart are the nervous (hyperactive, sensitive) dogs of this world. I show you the way to a relaxed everyday life. But even cozier characters can have their little problems. – Solve your everyday dog problems together with me.
The feedback from my clients in the training on site and also online is so great for me, it makes me very happy that I can help many people with my work to live a stress-free everyday life with relaxed dogs.

By the way, you can find many more exciting articles from Sarah on her blog BOTHSHUNDE. I really highly recommend you stop by there!

Would you like to learn more about pain in dogs and how to reliably recognize signs of pain? Then sign up for my free mini course “Recognizing signs of pain in dogs – incl. Checklist” on!


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Dieser Beitrag ist auch verfügbar auf: Français (French) Deutsch (German) Español (Spanish)

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