5 Freedoms

    Feed your dogs not just in bowls but also in stuffed Kongs or in hollow huge bones, so as to make meals last longer. Your dog will also have more to do. If you feed dry food, put some round the garden rather than just in one bowl. They will be occupied finding food and not bored. If you don’t give a dog a job he will go self-employed!

    Give dogs something to chew – large raw marrowbones, STUFFED Kong and puzzle toys are a great way to keep your dog occupied. Chewing is an important stress reliever for dogs and most dogs find kennels, or new environments very stressful. If there’s nothing to chew they may even chew the beds, blankets, walls, furniture the list is endless!

    The 5 Freedoms

    Behaviourists and welfare workers all believe every animal in our care is entitled to the 5 Freedoms. This is the standard to which we all aspire to providing for our abused and abandoned rescues as well as the well loved family pet.

    The 5 Freedoms make us think about all the things that can affect how animals feel. The 5 freedoms remind us every day that we are caring for living breathing creatures. Use the 5 freedoms to assess the quality of life for your own pet. Is he well fed and healthy? But is he cold and does he have a comfortable bed? What about no.5? Why does the freedom to express normal behaviour matter?

    Think about circus animals, do the Tigers express NORMAL behaviour? When you really look close you can see stress, fear and anxiety. Other circus animals are not allowed to freely express how they would normally behave. Elephants kept chained by the leg swaying back and forth slowly going mad. Think about yourself. If you were healthy, comfortable and had every whim catered to BUT you were not allowed to meet or speak to anyone else, could you be happy? Some behaviour is so important to animals that if they cant perform them they will suffer emotionally and may result in physical problems too.

    These are called behavioural needs, and each species of animal has a different need to another. Cats have many different needs to dogs or parrots or rabbits. Also if we look at the various dog breeds, we are responsible for, behaviour needs vary, different breeds have different needs. Border Collies need to chase, round things up, catch balls. Bassett hounds need to follow a good scent for miles but wont win a sheep trial. Terriers need to dig but your Greyhound needs to run.


    Animals rely on their emotions for survival. The 5 F’s – Flight, fight, freeze, faint or fiddle about, are all survival strategies based on emotions. So when training or dealing with an unwanted behaviour we need to look at the overall life of the animal we are dealing with.

    Animals that are showing signs of one of the 5 F’s or are denied any of the 5 Freedoms cannot be in a state of mind to learn. Pain, stress, hunger, etc will all cause an animal to ‘shut down’ and trying to teach that animal any kind of behaviour is verging on impossible. This is when some owners become frustrated and resort to bully tactics. Pushing the puppy into a sit or a down can be stressful and no one wants a bully for a teacher.

    At COAPE (Centre Of Applied Pet Ethology) we use the EMRA (Emotion Mood Reinforcement Assessment) code to evaluate how an animal is feeling and what is reinforcing the unwanted behaviours. What can we do to improve that animals lifestyle or pleasure budget.

    Quite often by changing our behaviour and the way we deal with our pets behaviour the problem behaviour can be easily dissolved and by teaching the pet to offer an alternative behaviour will result in reward and positive attention. What is reinforcing the unwanted behaviour and how can we change it to result in fading the bad stuff and encouraging the good stuff?

    Chock chains, shock collars, and ‘yank and yell’ methods have been used for years to bully our dogs into compliance and are still being used to day by “traditional” trainers. I do not ever use nor condone the use of this outdated equipment and, to my mind, this is dogs abuse on a daily basis.

    In the last few years or so much more reward-based techniques have been used to turn around training with a much better understanding of how emotions have a huge impact on our companion animals. Science backs up the belief that learning in a rewarding and sometimes fun environment makes lessons learned cement far quicker and for much longer than a fearful mistrust of you trainer and handler. No one wants a bully for a teacher so why should our dogs be any different.

    So if you want to get the best from your pet think about how your behaviour impacts on his. Change the underlying emotional state and you will change the outward behaviour, good or bad it’s your choice.

    Mahatma Ghandi

    Bev Truss CABT (COAPE)