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Love is Understanding – how do we learn to understand our beloved dogs better?

Mark Vette, BSc MSc (Hons), is a New Zealand based animal behaviourist and author of bestselling book, Dog Zen. He has been trialling Animo since September 2018 on his three dogs, Reggie, Monty and Tommy, who have been putting Animo through a tough test with their outdoor pursuits!

Mark tells us how he has used Animo, from a house move causing increased barking levels to helping support Reggie with his skin allergy treatment.

What extraordinary companions our beloved dogs are. I marvel at their incredible ability to adapt to our world and how unique our bond is.  40,000 years we have known each other, co-evolving together from hunter gatherer days.  It is one of the most astounding cross species relationships our world has known.  We love our dogs like our children (and our hormone response is nearly identical!) however the key is to ensure we treat them like dogs, understanding who they are and what their distinct needs are.  I love the phrase ‘Love is Understanding’.  I welcome anything that helps me grow in my understanding of my dogs.   

Recently I’ve started using a newly launched dog behaviour and activity monitor called Animo.  This device helps track behaviour indicators like barking, scratching and shaking as well as a dog’s activity levels.  I’ve recently been through a big life change – moving 3 hours south of Auckland to the beautiful Coromandel with my three wonderful dogs Reggie, Monty and Tommy. We are all loving it (lots of swims and walks for all!) however it is a very different context for our dogs (less space and more people) so Animo has been invaluable in helping identify any behavioural issues we need to address.

Mark Vette's dogs

Barking has been a key issue for us. We came from a property with 10 acres, so it hasn’t been much of an issue previously, but now we are in a smaller urban setting with lots of neighbours and it’s been helpful to see if our dogs have been barking before our new neighbours let us know! Knowing the frequency of the barking and when it starts and finishes helps me identify the likely causes of the barking and therefore what I need to do to help manage it. It lets me proactively put a training regime in place for our dogs and ensures they are as happy and as comfortable as they can be.  From there I can then see how effective my training solutions are by viewing the data in Animo to see if the barking has decreased, helping me to learn if I need to adapt anything. Having this kind of information is a behaviourist’s gold!

The scratching function is also very helpful.  Animo picked up that Reggie had been scratching more than normal so let us identify some skin allergies he was experiencing – probably due to all the increased water play he’s been getting, which he loves!  A quick trip to the vet and a dose of medication saw Reggie right.  We’ve been able to monitor Reggie’s progress and he’s now much happier.  It would have been difficult to pick this up early without Animo given Reggie’s thick coat and where the irritation was so I was pretty happy to have the device’s help.    

It’s also been really helpful in checking that our dogs’ activity levels are staying steady – with a new home and routines it’s been helpful to have a device to keep track on their exercise levels to make sure they are getting what they need – particularly useful during such a busy, distracting time in our lives.  I’m pleased to say we are all getting more exercise and are all healthier for the change. 

I’m lucky as I get to spend a lot of time with my dogs and I understand them pretty well but this device has been a great addition to my tool kit and how I care for my dogs. It’s been a very easy to use and a very robust unit. Whether in water and sand, and full on dog-play, this unit has been very hardwearing – and we’ve given it a good go at the beach.  I have to say I’ve been happy to have its help over the last few months. I certainly recommend it for dog lovers and professionals who rely on understanding the dogs in their care deeply.  

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