LSPCA's Centre for Animal Welfare .....
provides a practical skills development platform for veterinary training institutions in Malawi, and implements animal welfare education programmes alongside delivering much needed veterinary care to thousands of dogs and cats, farm animals and donkeys each year. During 2017 our donkey project aspires to provide donkey owners with the knowledge and means to use a correct cart and harness for their donkeys and by improving the welfare of donkeys, improve the livelihoods of people. We work very closely with the government of Malawi's Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development to collect and disseminate data that monitors herd health, disease prevalence and outbreaks of notifiable diseases.
Animal welfare is the well-being of animals and quality of life. The standards and guidelines on how to examine and measure animal welfare is under constant review and continually reviewed. One of the guidelines LSPCA uses to assess and promote animal welfare is the Five Animal Freedoms. Originally developed in 1965 by the UK Government in response to a report on livestock husbandry, the Five Animal Freedoms are now widely used throughout the world by authorities and organisations.
The Five Animal Freedoms are:
- Freedom from Fear and Distress
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
- Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour
- Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease
- Freedom from Discomfort
Enrichment For Your Pet
Animals that are bored will get into trouble. A bored dog will bark, chew destructively, dig or try to escape from the yard. A bored cat will destroy your furniture or excessively vocalise. Both may develop self-destructive habits too, including excessive grooming or intercat/dog aggression. Boredom can be lessened by keeping your pet’s brain busy with training, playtime and mentally challenging games, as well as making sure your dog gets enough daily exercise so that his body is tired when you leave the house and that your cat has access to the outside world.
Environmental enrichment is the process of making the animal’s living space interesting and stimulating so as to decrease boredom and its subsequent problems. Making things more interesting for your pet isn’t hard but you do need to be creative and vary what you do. If you do the same thing every day that too can quickly become boring. Food dispensing toys are great for relieving boredom and stress. At the same time, they make your pet’s environment more interesting. A few treats – or an entire meal – in the toy will keep your dog busy while you’re gone and, since this is the time when most dogs get into trouble, can be a big help. A scratch post, a “cat tree” or light party strings that easily move in the wind, will keep your cat entertained and away from destroying furniture.
LSPCA’S Enrichment Area
Do you wonder where you can take your dog for a safe play date, or want to be more productive and fun when you exercise your dog? LSPCA has a dedicated enrichment area for all of those needs. With tunnels and hills, a swing bridge, digging pit, aromatic plants and much more our enrichment area allows your dog to see and smell the world like he never has before! The swing bridge and digging pit will strengthen his muscles, whilst the swimming pool and tunnels offer some cooler fun. This secured area is also designed in a way that if you wish to start agility with your dog, our obstacles allow you and your dog to flow accurately and between, gaining a fair amount of speed!
LSPCA offers booked group socialisation classes and dog training in the enrichment area. If you are interested in hiring out the space or coming along to one of our socialisation classes, contact LSPCA here
Did you know that one hour of positive reinforcement training is equivalent to five minutes of physical exercise, which means you have a very tired dog after just 30 minutes of dog training! And a tired dog means one happy owner!
LSPCA offers basic dog training which is primarily based on positive reinforcement (giving a reward) thus producing quick and reliable skills that are welcomed by the whole family! LSPCA opposed the use of Alpha Theory and Dominance training methods (such as negative reinforcement and positive punishment) as it can pose a serious problem; if owners believe that a dog does something to ‘achieve status’, ‘control them’ or ‘be the boss’ it naturally tends to lead people to use coercive training techniques (such as shock collars and hitting with sticks). This technique relies on inducing a negative emotional state (fear or anxiety) in a dog in order to inhibit a behaviour. However, all that is happening is that a behavioural symptom is being supressed instead of addressing the underlying cause which in turn will increase anxiety and fear in your dog even further! This is now a welfare issue which will cause your dog to become (more) aggressive and produce other unwanted behaviours, leading to greater frustration between yourself and your dog. Eventually this dog will be surrendered to LSPCA or abandoned on Lilongwe’s streets.
LSPCA actively encourages optimum health care and welfare and is happy to give any advice you require if you are experiencing a problem with your dog. For a one-to-one consult or to enquire about our dog training services, please contact us.
Unwanted behaviours are behaviours that, although are unwanted from our point of view (e.g. digging in the garden) are completely natural for your dog and can usually be “solved” through positive reinforcement and/or teaching your dog to perform an acceptable alternative behaviour. It is important to realise that a behaviour problem is a SYMPTOM, not a cause. The cause could be a result of illness, pain or stress from the environment (either what he is experiencing now or has learnt from an experience in the past). So the first thing LSPCA recommends is to take your dog to the vet for a health check; no amount of behavioural counselling or dog training will “cure” your dog if there is a medical problem.
It must be highlighted that punishment for any unwanted behaviour will only exacerbate the problem. Whilst punishment is a widely-used tool in Malawi, this can be detrimental towards your dog’s well-being and your relationship with him. If your dog has learnt an unwanted behaviour from previous experiences, and continues to use this behaviour automatically when under stress (or another trigger), this means your dog has no choice when displaying that behaviour; it is his coping mechanism. If punishment is used to try to supress this unwanted behaviour (i.e. his coping mechanism), it will increase the stress levels and fear in your dog even further! This is now a welfare and legal issue. Try to imagine yourself in a stressful situation; at the dentist, before an interview or during an exam. You show signs of nervousness by pacing the room or cracking your fingers. Sometimes you may take deep breaths to calm your nerves. These are coping strategies and if taken away, your stress levels will naturally increase. It is therefore important to first diagnose the reason for the unwanted behaviour in your dog before you can solve the problem; by hitting your dog to stop him barking will result in a more nervous dog showing aggressive behaviours (e.g. biting).
If you are experiencing a behavioural problem, please contact us for advice or to set up a one-to-one consult with our canine behaviourist.