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An accredited 'Victoria Stilwell' Trainer. Member of Institute Modern Dog Trainers: IMDT

Aggressive to dogs on walks

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

Stressed Jack RussellThe reason I was called to meet and help Hugo was his reactivity to other dogs being such that they now feel they can’t walk him anymore.

However, I soon realised that this was just one symptom of a much wider issue than being aggresive to dogs on walks – the six year old Jack Russell’s general anxiety and stress levels.

He lives with two young ladies who each do things very differently. One gives him firm boundaries and even carries discipline a bit too far in my mind. The other lady, who he actually belongs to, is very soft with him, does just what he wants whenever he wants, and encourages his general excitement with wild greetings and reinforcing behaviours like jumping up on people, lots of barking for attention and to get what he wants and so on.

Like with many people I go to, some of it’s about getting the people to do things the same way – drink from the same water bowl so to speak, and consistency. One is pushing him off the sofa and the other is encouraging him up.  One will entice him to give up stolen items where the other will force things off him then tap him on the nose for being naughty and has been bitten in the process.

This little dog needs to be a lot calmer at home before he can have sufficient self-control when encountering other dogs. They will work hard on loose lead walking around the house and garden, and lots of trips down the garden path and no further – standing still while he does as much sniffing as he wants. If done many, many times the outside world will become less overwhelming and then they can gradually start to go further.

I am trying something a bit different with the manic jumping up and barking, and this is for the sake of his lady owner as well as the dog. I would usually say that from now on he must know that barking and jumping up get no attention at all where feet on the floor and no barking get especially nice stuff.  However, I think they may have to wait too long and meanwhile the frustration could lead to Hugo becoming even more stressed, and because he tugs at her heartstrings the lady herself will not be able to outlast him. Consequently I suggest they work on it in stages.

When he’s jumping and barking at the back door to be let out, instead of opening it immediately as they normally would, I suggest they wait for a slight improvement – feet briefly on the floor or a break in the barking, before opening the door. They can also use ‘Yes’ and food to mark those moments. When he’s used to that, they can wait till his feet are firmly on the floor even if still barking, then they can wait for a second of quiet also….and so on.

It will be the same when the lady comes home. Instead of the rapturous and frenzied greeting he gives her and to which she responds in a similar manner, she can hold back for just a second initially, and then gradually over time, day by day, wait for and reward a bit more calm, until Hugo has better control of himself and can greet quietly with feet on the floor. This way the lady, too, will be able to learn different behaviour!

Dogs do, so clearly, reflect their owners sometimes.


A neighbour has complained about the barking

Friday, September 5th, 2014

FrankieCharlie FrankieCharlie2People often feel, if they are out all day, that their dogs need a lot of space along with access to the garden.

I frequently go to dogs that spend a lot of the long day barking, and often this results in neighbours complaining as is the case with the two little dogs I went to yesterday. Even though it’s probably only in fits and starts, it can seem continuous if you live next door.

Parsons Jack Russell Freda on the left is now eight years old, and Jack Russell Chester two. Although Chester is the more nervous of the two, Freda is the bigger barker, and suffers more when left.

When left all alone it is most likely that the two dogs eventually settle, but they will be vulnerable to all the sounds from outside which will keep starting them off again. Whenever they hear the neighbours feet crunch on her gravel path or a car slowing down outside, the dogs bark. They go quite frantic when someone comes up the path to put something through the letterbox and they can see out through a front window.

Giving the dogs access to the garden will be making things a lot worse in my opinion.  It’s no wonder they feel insecure, left all alone all day with run of the house and garden, having to deal with such a lot of guard duty. Instead of settling the will be alert to every sound, charging in and out of the dog flap barking and getting themselves into a state, with no owners about to reassure them that all is well.

Shutting the dogs comfortably in the large kitchen should be a lot easier on them, although to start with they may be frustrated – barking to get outside through the dog flap because this is what they have been accustomed to. The people can rig up a camera and have a word with the neighbour.

When family members come home it is to give the dogs a huge fuss. I’m sure if they tone down their their greetings to make their coming and goings less of a major event, and if the lady can pop home at lunch time for half an hour, these little dogs will soon quieten down when left alone.

The second issue is about both dogs, Freda in particular, ignoring their humans when called out on walks. There are five family members and the dogs get everything they want upon demand by way of attention. While this is the case and while food isn’t used for rewards but given for doing nothing, the humans don’t have much leverage! They need to be more relevant in terms of getting and holding their dogs’ attention and work on this at home before expecting the dogs to give them attention out on walks – particularly ‘coming when called’ when there is something far more exciting to do like chasing a rabbit!


Vinnie is settling into his new home

Friday, July 25th, 2014

VinnieI suggested they start all over again just as though Vinnie had never been walked before!

They have had the young Jack Russell for just over one week now and he is slowly finding his feet.

It’s very likely that he had seldom been outside his home and garden during the 2 1/2 years of his life which was apparently with a terminally ill person. He is another dog that reacts badly when seeing other dogs and where the groundwork needs to be put in at home first.

Each day he becomes more relaxed with them and although he’s an independent little dog he now will enjoy a cuddle.

He has a couple of strange little quirks.  He is completely quiet when anyone comes up the front path, rings on the doorbell, delivers a package or comes in the front door. However, when there is any noise from out the back – a dog barking or a car door slamming, he will rush out barking.

He’s very reactive to anything sudden, even someone coughing (they will gradually desensitise him to that in very small stages and using food). I do wonder whether the general background noise in his previous home may have been higher. One can only speculate. Now he lives with quiet people in a quiet area and against this background most sounds may well seem sudden.

The other strange thing is that from time to time he stands still, almost trance-like with his eyes closing. I did wonder whether it was because he was anxious, but there were no other indications such as lip licking or yawning. I took a video. On advice, I have suggested they get this checked out with their vet.

They will first start walking Vinnie in the garden until both humans and dog have the technique and a loose lead. As they go along they will work on getting and keeping his attention.

Only then they will venture out of the gate – but they won’t be going very far!

Bit by bit they will build on this until he is walking happily down the road on a loose lead. Only now will they be ready to work on dogs and Vinnie should be a lot more confident. They must do their best to keep at a distance where Vinnie isn’t too uncomfortable to take food or to give his humans his attention.

The secret to success is being prepared to put in the necessary effort and put in the necessary time – as I know Vinnie’s people are (see my ‘Reality Check’ page).

Over-arousal resulting in barking, obsessive behaviours and tenson between dogs

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

BellaRosieSuzie BellaRosieSuzie2I could hear the three little dogs as I got out of my car down the road!

With the exception of a German Shepherd, I have recently been to a run of little dogs, and one thing many of them have in common is excessive barking!

Two of yesterday’s three little terriers were particularly hyped up, especially Bella (left). Not only do they bark at sounds and people arriving, they bark with excited anticipation whenever anyone moves. Car journeys are a nightmare.

I took Bella’s picture after we had worked with her for a couple of hours, keeping the atmosphere as calm as possible, moving quietly and slowly, and rewarding her when she stopped pawing and scratching for attention. She became calm, undemanding and happy. It’s like at last she had a clue what was required of her.

The barking understandably drives the two ladies with whom they live to destraction. There is quite a lot of shouting! The more worked up the humans become, the more worked up the dogs get too. It’s a vicious circle.

Attempts at some ‘firm’ discipline have led Bella to showing her teeth and she has in fact bitten one of the ladies. A confrontational approach can so often end with the dog standing up for itself.

In the stress-charged atmosphere, Bella and one of the others may break into a fight. Bella can become fixated with her tail, then spins, growls and chews it. She may chew at her feet.

It was wonderful to see the little dog calm down and to demonstrate to the ladies what is possible if positive methods are used. There are kind methods of stopping a dog barking at the gate, of breaking up potential trouble between dogs and of getting a dog off the sofa. These methods require patience but the big difference is that they work, and not just in the moment.

Many humans feel it’s the right thing to do to play wildly exciting games (‘but the dogs love it’) or give manic greetings to dogs, not understanding that they may be pumping them up to a degree that something eventually will have to give. It’s hard to convince people that it’s kinder to wait and respond to the dogs only when they are reasonably calm.

The main aim for now is to reduce the tension and arousal in the household. Having calmer dogs will help their humans – and calmer humans will help the dogs.

Little dog with big ears

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

RagsNot being able to trust your dog can ruin walks. The human is anxious all the time and the dog loses freedom.

Little Jack Russell Rags is nearly 4 years old now, and he has lived with the lady since he was one. To date there have now been four episodes culminating in Rags attacking a dog that he knew.

Each incident had seemingly been over a resource of some sort – a ball or food. From how the lady describes it, it’s probable that in the most recent and worst incident with the friend’s dog that she herself was the resource.

I noticed that wherever we were standing Rags carefully placed himself between us, watching me.

In the most recent and worst incident the lady was with a friend in the other lady’s kitchen. The dogs had met a couple of times out on walks previously and had been fine together. The two ladies were chatting and both dogs were under the table between them. Suddenly Rags went for the other dog’s throat. Being long-haired, the much bigger dog wasn’t hurt and he didn’t retaliate, but it really upset Rag’s lady. She decided she needed to do something about it.

Already she has started to put into place some of my advice over the phone regarding encountering dogs on walks and the situation is getting a lot better. The hackling, lunging and barking has reduced dramatically.

It can seem unfriendly and embarrassing when meeting a person with their dog if you simply walk away from them! For this reason I suggest a ‘dog in training’ yellow vest for Rags. This may help a little too with those off-lead uncontrolled dogs whose owners give one an earful when our own on-lead dog responds to being approached!

The lady now needs to address the issue of Rag’s possessiveness of herself, including guard duty in general. She will work on a couple of training exercises to get and keep his attention and give him a bit more mental stimulation.

Little Jack Russell is the centre of too much adoration

Monday, April 28th, 2014

JRBella2Jack Russell Bella is constantly nibbling and sucking herself – or scratching.

She has many seasonal allergies and allergies to food, but the nibbling and sucking was something else. The intensity of it looked to me like she was deliberately shutting out the world.

How could this be when she is loved so much?

I could see that she was enormously stressed. In fact, the lady and her daughter were also anxious and fearful – mostly about Bella, something she would be picking up on.

The dog is the centre of their universe. She is treated very excitedly whether it is physical play, cuddles or when one of them arrives home.  I have found that constant focus on a dog can be a burden for it – as it would for us. Caring owners however should never beat themselves up when they are doing things with the very best of intentions.

I experimented and found she liked being touched very gently but not vigorously at all. A little tickle behind her ears or a tickle on her chest. A hand stretched out over her made he cower slightly. It is enlightening for people to read a bit more of their dog’s body language.

Little Bella is extremely jumpy. Any small sound of a cooking utensil sends her running and she is also scared on walks – a car door slamming causes her to freeze or try to run for home.

It didn’t help that a while ago when they were out, neighbours reported a break-in and three police officers smashed through the front door with poor little Bella the other side. Also, last year a large dog got into their garden and in protecting little Bella the lady was very badly bitten and is now terrified. Watching out for dogs makes walks a nightmare for her as well. There have been some hard times.

We had a lovely evening. We gave Bella little attention – something they never would normally have considered. Instead of focussing on the scratching and sucking and constantly trying to distract or stop her, the daughter quietly gave her a tiny bit of food each time she stopped.

They said it was the calmest the house had been for years.

I have just received an email to say that Bella slept better than ever last night and didn’t wake until 9.30.

It is my bet that as she relaxes her allergies will improve.

Just a couple of weeks later I have received this message: We are so happy with our beautifully behaved, quiet little dog.  The house is so quiet and calm and we really cannot believe the difference already.  She is doing so well and the only time she slips up is when I am not so on the ball (she has learnt quicker than me), but she is much younger !! it is a real learning curve for us too.

Young dogs’ sociability can be compromised by aggressive encounters with older dogs

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

BearBear on the left is a 4-year-old mix of Jack Russell, Springer Spaniel and Shitzu! He lives with JR Nellie and an older Border Terrier.

All three dogs are very friendly without being pushy and life would be fine if Bear could be trusted with other dogs when out on walks. Unpredictably, he can mix with some other dogs when they are all off lead, but more often he is reactive and aggressive, particularly when either he or the other dog is on lead.

It probably all started when Bear was a very young dog; he would race up and down the fence with the neighbour’s very dog-aggressive larger dog doing the same thing the other side.  There would have been lots of barking and snarling. With hindsight it would have been a lot better if Bear had not been allowed to do this because he was already honing his hostile dog-to-dog skills – learning from the older dog. Nellie

Bear has attacked a couple young dogs out on walks which may well be doing them the harm that the big dog next door did to Bear.  It’s important that he never has the opportunity to do this again.

In order for Bear to learn reliable recall, working for food is the easiest and most efficient incentive (play and praise also can be used).

One might think that the work starts outside the house, but no.  A dog that is pandered to where food is concerned isn’t going to want to work for it. Bear won’t eat his very good food unless extra fish is added. I offered him a piece of cheese and he just  walked away!

Soon he will eat what he is given, he will go to his bowl rather than having it brought to him and he will eat it up without tasty extras added. Only then he will begin to value the more tasty stuff and they can then start to work on his dog-reactivity.

It is essential that he comes when called – not just when he feels like it but when there is another dog about. If he ignores them at home when they call him or want him to do something, he certainly won’t come running back when called if he’s spotted another dog.

When food gains value as a currency and they themselves gain more relevance so he more willingly does their bidding, they can then be using the special tasty stuff for rewards and reinforcement rather than bribes added to his food to make him eat!


If Rocky hadn’t been wearing a muzzle, I would have received multipe bites.

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

JRRockyIn my years of working with dogs I can remember few dogs quite as aggressively reactive as Rocky .

Usually they would have left the 4-year-old Jack Russell upstairs in a bedroom but I wanted to see him. If they do have him in company, he is always muzzled – thankfully.

As soon as he was let into the room he charged at me and attacked me! Had he not been muzzled I would have had multiple bites. I always play safe, but normally I would advise people to bring the  dog in on lead rather than muzzling him, but they can’t do this with Rocky. If he can’t get at his target he then redirects onto the person holding the lead and attacks them instead.

It’s not only people that he doesn’t know coming into the house that causes this reaction. He goes frantic if one family member so much as stands up to leave the room – and will attack them if they try to go out of the house, again redirecting if someone tries to restrain him and attacks them instead. Triggers such as someone putting shoes on or the lady walking towards her handbag distress him to such an extent that it is pitiful to see. He is beside himself.

The young lady sat on the chair next to mine and Rocky sat in protective pose between us (he now had his lead on as well). He ate a treat. I caught his eye and he flew at me again. This was not fear. This seemed more like rage.

Causes for aggression may be fear, stress, guarding/territorial behaviour or anger. I would say that with Rocky it’s all of these. He’s undoubedly protective. He barks constantly when out at any person or dog he sees. He is held on a tight lead on walks so gets no release of any sort for his frustrations. He can’t be trusted off lead even in the garden in case he escapes – he’s expert at breaching the fence. He barks at any sound out the front of the house and goes mental when post comes through the door.

All four family members have been bitten repeatedly and clothes torn.

He has been gradually getting worse since they took him on from friends a year ago. He had been passed around from one family member to another and they have proof that he was badly treated. He has been punished and hit for showing aggression which will without doubt have escalated things.JRRocky1

This poor little dog is only relaxed when the whole family is together later in the evening with no risk of anyone going out.  Much of the time he is living a nightmare. The family acknowledges that there are things they have been doing that haven’t helped and really want to help him. From a behaviour point of view they now have a plan of action for desinsitising and counter-conditioning. He will be very gradually desensitised to people going out, a tiny step at a time.

Rocky is in such a stressed place and is so conditioned to react aggressively in so many circumstances, that in order for the family to make any progress with the behaviour work he may need some back-up medication of some sort in order to allow them to work with his problems. I have advised a vet visit to ensure there are no medical issues as some disorders can cause aggression. His case is so extreme that natural things like Zylkene, DAP and so on I don’t feel would touch him.

Without some drastic steps being taken, Rocky’s days may be numbered.

Both Jack Russells go crazy when anyone, including family, walks up the stairs into their flat

Saturday, January 18th, 2014

JRElmo JRRocket2I followed the gentleman up the stairs to join the family, and towards two little dogs at the top, barking frantically.

We all went into the kitchen (there were five or us) and the dogs carried on and on barking. Younger Rocket, age five (left) stopped first and was suddenly quite friendly and interested. Older Elmer (16) who in other ways is the more relaxed of the two, carried on. Rocket is the instigator of barking, but when Elmo joins in he doesn’t stop. We wonder whether it now may be somewhat age-related behaviour or, as it’s been going on for years, simply entrenched

Eventually all was quiet. Elmo chose to stay in his bed in the kitchen and Rocket came with us into the sitting room – friendly and cuddly.

I soon found out that both dogs also were very noisy when any family member came in the front door down below, and walked up the stairs to them.

After a while I decided to see what would happen if I visited Elmo in the kitchen; he opened his eyes but seemed relaxed. I did it again when the daughter was in the kitchen to see if maybe he was being protective. I walked towards her. No reaction. Very strange.

There were a other anomalies, one being that they were quieter when everyone was out and the first person came home, and also quieter in the morning.

One can guess that it’s the presence of people that stirs them up and  that as the day wears on they become more stressed. There will be five people coming home, one at a time. The more stressed the dogs are, the more reactive they will be – and barking itself raises their stress levels even more.

It seems the stairs are a big part of the problem. There the dogs stand, at the top, barking at people advancing on them.

So – we have plan! Each family member is going to work on this. A step at a time they will begin with frequently (maybe be TV advert breaks) just walking downstairs, picking up a dog treat by the front door and coming straight back up again – feeding the dogs as they walk past them. Gradually they will progress to opening the front door, going out, staying out and so on – always treating quiet dogs as they come up the stairs, and never going to the next stage until the dogs are not barking at the previous one.

Eventually they should be able to knock on the front door, call out ‘Hello’ (something that always starts the dogs off), walk upstairs and they won’t bark.

Perhaps the family should also be positively reinforcing themselves with a treat waiting at the bottom of the stairs – from a box of chocolates maybe!

When visitors arrive and because Elmo bounces off Rocket, I suggest separating the dogs initially and keeping them away from the top of those stairs.

I am sure so long the all family members have sufficient patience, they will end up with two much quieter and much more relaxed little dogs.

Dear little Jack Russell with just a few common issues that still need addressing.

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

JRFinn2What a dear little dog! Finn is about one year old and was found as a stray on the streets of Dublin. Over the past six months the couple have come along way in building up his confidence.

To look at his expression you wouldn’t think he had been flying all over me when I first sat down, and then lay down on my own knee. He’s a very friendly little dog, whilst from time to time also showing little signs of anxiety when he looked at me – lip licking and yawning in particular.

The front door of their cottage sitting room opens straight onto the road and Finn is very alert to sounds outside the front. He is worried and he growls and barks. He is also fearful of some dogs when out along with things that are unexpected or different. No more so than many dogs though.

There are various little issues to be worked on. He was very wary of being touched on the back of his neck and they wonder whether he had at some stage been ‘scruffed’ or harshly disciplined. He is a lot better now although he still doesn’t like things put over his head, so he needs help with that. We have strategies for the barking at things outside and the flying all over people and chairs (which has been encouraged by a game they play).

Use of mouthing and teeth has also been actively encouraged by the gentleman playing hand games. Finn has unintentionally nipped a child’s hand when jumping to get something she was holding, so he needs to learn to be very careful.JRFinn

No more games involving chasing and grabbing hands. ‘Non contact sports’ are a lot better. They do some very inventive hide and search games already and I have given them a few more ideas.

The lady feels all the dogs they meet on walks are calm and sociable, and feels Finn is in some way unusual. He is in fact very usual.  With gradual work to continue building up his confidence he will be fine I’m sure. Every dog will have his own little individual quirks and it’s good to relax a little and appreciate what we do have.

Finn so wants to please, and I would say he is actually quite restrained for an adolescent Jack Russell with an uncertain past. With Finn they have a little gem.

Barking at anything and everything when out

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

How adorable is this? Little Patsy, age about 6, is a very small Jack Russell.  Her owners of one year got her from the pound. They said they wanted a Jack Russell but weren’t allowed to see the dogs. Patsy was thrust into their arms and that was that! She was skin and bones and in a terrible condition, and most of her rotten teeth had to be removed.

It is thought that Patsy had been left behind by travellers which could explain her behaviour. She is extremely good with children and, an independent little dog who loves being fussed but isn’t in the least demanding. One can imagine her living outside,  running free with a gang of excitable, barking terriers. She has had at least one litter of puppies.

Mostly when people tell me their dogs are ‘perfect at home’ I can uncover some things that could be changed for the better, but in Patsy’s case, apart from the barking, there really is nothing. She is wonderful. For some of the time she lay on my lap. She has this cute way of communicating when on the floor by doing a ‘play bow’ and creeping forward.

Patsy, however, gets very hyped up before walks and on leaving the house it is constant barking and vocalising all down the road.  She barks if the gentleman stops to say hello to someone. She is ready to react to anything and everything.

Her owners spend may weekends away caravanning, where Patsy has to be tied out, and she is constantly barking.

I had a call from them in the evening and already, by using a few new tactics, they were making progress with the barking. The primary tactic is to work at general calmness. No walks should be embarked upon until she is calm. This requires patience!

The ‘Be Quiet’ approach to barking may temporarily halt it, and it may make the humans feel better, but it does nothing for the long term barking problem. Dogs need to be taught that being quiet is good. Being quiet brings results that are rewarding. If they bark in alarm it should be taken seriously. It’s a survival mechanism.

If our child were to scream ‘Help! There’s a man with a machine gun coming down the path and we are all going to die!’, would we command him to be quiet, or perhaps ignore him altogether? No. As parents we would deal with it appropriately.

The daughter, a nanny, can appreciate what is needed

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

It is sometimes hard to determine whether changes in a re-homed dog’s behaviour after a couple of weeks or so is due to settling in and old traits resurfacing, or to something the new people are themselves are doing. Probably a mix of both.

They have had delightful two-year-old DJ for about six weeks now and a couple of behaviour problems have surfaced that are getting worse.

He is becoming increasingly obsessed with balls – but only as a tool to get people doing what he wants. As soon as anyone sits down he is constantly dropping the ball on them, waiting for it to be thrown. He is very winning and it’s hard not to do it – see the photo!

He’s not interested, however, if someone other than himself chooses to get a ball and throw it for him!

Less experienced people often believe extreme excercise is the cure to behaviour issues when in fact it can be the opposite. There is a happy balance. TV trainers with gimmicks are partly to blame. ‘Exhaust the dog and he will be good’! How do you feel if you are exhausted?

JD is much more strung up after his long walks with lots of stick-chasing than before he goes out. On the way back home he may lunge and bark at cars, something he doesn’t do on the way out. Then, once home, instead of being satisfied, he’s is in a very highly strung and agitated state, desparately seeking to unwind. If he can’t find a ball he shakes. He may chew his feet.

We are working out whether to go cold turkey with the balls, whether to offer him very short ball sessions but only instigated by the owners and not in the sitting room, or whether to give him something good to chew to distract him. I favour the latter if he will have it because the act of chewing produces calming chemicals in the body.

The second problem is that they are now wary of touching him. He leaps onto them whenever he feels like it, which would be okay if he didn’t then growl if they move, especially if he’s sleepy.

It seems the more they fall over themselves to please him and make him happy, the worse he gets. The daughter, who is a nanny, understood quite quickly what he needs – very much the same as the two children in her care need in order to feel secure, calm and happy. This isn’t constant attention, the grown-ups obeying their every demand, over-stimulating exercise and play, eating whenever they like and so on. It is quality time, play times, peaceful times, meal times, rules, boundaries and consistency, trusting the adults to make the important decisions – and plenty to occupy their brains!

Jack Russell growls at toddler now that she’s moving about

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Here is nine-year-old Pippa, watching the little girl. What is the child going to do next? Is she going to toddle towards her? Pippa doesn’t like that. She growls.

Things are getting worse. The other day the child was beside her dad, and Pippa rushed between them, curling her lips as she growled at the toddler.  As we know, a growl is a warning. I suspect that the situation is snowballing because of the understandable anxiety displayed by the family and their strong reactions when Pippa does growl. By being punished for growling she’s being taught not to give warning, so what might she do instead?

Like many dogs, Pippa always has been uncomfortable when approached directly, stared at or loomed over, but one can’t teach a fifteen-month-old and somewhat unpredictable baby not to do this. In the picture you can read Pippa’s concern as she watches the child from her bed. Normally she wouldn’t be in her bed while the child was about. She would constantly be circling her, head down and with her tail between her legs – growling. It is an accident waiting to happen.

I didn’t see it for myself which was unusual. I encouraged calm and positive messages using call-aways, reward and praise with no warning commands or scolding (I actually did much the same with the little girl when she approached Pippa)!

There is a quote from somewhere, ‘Change the state of mind and you change the behaviour‘. Pippa needs to associate the child with good stuff like relaxed people, praise and food – not a threat, scolding and anxiety. She simply doesn’t feel safe around the child and needs help. She is a stressy little dog, so reducing her stress levels in every way possible will go a long way towards making her more tolerant. This of course is not enough. The situation meanwhile needs to be managed by means of equipment like gates and a pen, to ensure that both the child and the dog are 100% safe - the baby from injury and the dog from the ultimate punishment for a dog that bites a child.

Just over a week later:  “So much better. Pip is no longer corralling (the toddler) and has completely stopped the stalking. We feel she is generally calmer but we still quite a way off from pip being calm and happy but its very early days and we are really pleased with her progress”.

Away from mother and siblings at 6 weeks is too young

Friday, November 30th, 2012

They have had Jack Russel X Alfie for a week now and he’s still only seven weeks old. He should not yet have left his litter mates. Consequently, he’s not had a chance to learn stuff he should be learning from other dogs, especially regarding the use of his sharp little teeth!

When people have not not had a puppy before, how can they know who to listen to and what information is correct? The breeder said feed him chocolate and whenever he poos indoors to rub his nose in it. The pet shop said pick him up by the scruff of his neck. Someone else said don’t shut him in his crate. Unbelievable. TV programmes and internet all give conflicting advice.

Today I worked on a ‘starter’ puppy plan with the lady and her eight-year-old daughter – a very switched on and willing little girl where their animals are concerned. They have two rabbits and a guinea pig running free in the garden along with two cats, all of which Alfie must learn to get along with. I found a small rabbit harness in my bag of bits that fitted him so that we had something to attach a lead to without causing him discomfort, and so he can happily get used to the other animals in safety. The family must now provide Alfie with what he should be learning from his ‘dog’ family – behaving a bit as other puppies would when he nips or grabs and won’t let go. In this way he will understand what is required of him.

I shall be visiting again in about three weeks because he will then be old enough to learn a few basics like how to walk nicely beside them – off lead initially, and to get used to a lead.

A tiny puppy can change a lot it three weeks!

Obsessing Jack Russell is to go cold turkey

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

About six weeks ago Digger went for someone who bent down to touch him. It has happened a couple of times since, and the gentleman has noticed ‘that look‘ about him several times – especially when he wants to touch him – to wipe his feet or brush him perhaps.

Sixteen-month-old Jack Russel Digger is very little – the picture doesn’t do his beautiful soft coat and lovely little face justice. It was hard catching him still. He was on the go the whole time I was there.

Usually his male owner is throwing him a ball or toy to fetch all the time he’s in – almost on automatic whilst he watches TV. Digger drops it to be thrown over and over again.

Yesterday evening when I was there I asked the man to remove the toys. It was like Digger was going cold turkey. He was climbing the back of the chair, he peed on the floor several times and then he’d settle for a frantic chew to try to calm himself down before starting again with jumping behind me, licking my ear and biting my hair and whining to go out, only to come straight back in again.

If and when this ball game is introduced again it should be instigated by the gentleman only, and limited to five minutes in an evening. It is like Digger has a key in him and he’s being over-wound to breaking point. Meanwhile he needs plenty of things to chew, because chewing produces pheromones that help to calm him down.

I touched him gently and watched. After a while he subtly changed. He went still and his pupils dilated. I removed my hand.

Because the onset of this behaviour seemed so sudden and because there was no change in the dog’s life at the time so far as the man can see, I have suggested he takes Digger to the vet – just to make sure he’s well. If we have a headache we may well be less tolerant – just as if we are highly stressed we may be bad tempered. Digger looks fine but there may be something going on we can’t see.

Whatever the cause if it’s ever discovered, the treatment is much the same. Digger needs to be allowed to calm down. Family members make a huge fuss of him. He is adored. One minute he rules the roost – everything he wants he gets if he pesters for long enough – and the next minute he may be shouted at for jumping up and using his teeth.

I detect a rather confused, anxious little dog.

Email a few weeks later: ‘Thank you so much for your emails and words of encouragement. Digger is like a different dog within, i believe about 6 weeks ! I have taken an approach to the way i am with him thanks to yourself. We are now enjoying each others company so much more and you wont believe the tricks he has learnt already now he’s calmed. He also seems to really enjoy the tricks and is great at working out what i want him to do for me. He still has a bit of attitude but in a much nicer and different way than before and im happy with that as i feel he’s smart little fella and does have his own mind! Thanks again…’

Barking and a neighbour has complained

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

What a lovely little dog Jack Russell Tilly is! She is friendly and biddable. She is also inclined to be excitable and a barker, but a lot of this is because her humans don’t understand her needs. They are imposing human values on her – assuming what would be important to a person is also important to a dog and often it’s completely the reverse.

The other day they received an anonymous complaint from someone living nearby, about Tilly’s barking. It’s surprising how many people I go to where the neighbours haven’t the guts to knock on the door and resort to anonymous notes. Tilly’s owners hadn’t realised that Tilly was barking so much and the last thing they want is for her to be distressed – or for neighbours to be disturbed.

The lady is of the belief that Tilly needs lots of freedom and space when they go out. She has run of the whole house, from their bedroom, down the stairs, to the sofa overlooking the front window and then out the dog flap and open access to the garden. So it is, for the hours when her people are out, she will be charging about barking at sounds. She is reactive to most noises as many Jack Russells are and she’s being given guard duty.

She will be a whole lot more settled shut in a smaller, less stimulating and more den-like area without the stresses of noisy neighbours, dogs barking, pigeons, cats teasing her from the fence and so on. Humans may feel shutting her in and away from windows is unkind, but from the dog’s perspective it is a lot kinder. She will feel safe.

Just to double-check that there are not other issues causing her to bark when she’s left alone, the teenage son will rig up his iPod to record exactly what she does when they are out. This will be easy now that she will be contained in a smaller area.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

Jack Russell scared and reactive around all other dogs

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Yesterday I visited Rambo, a dear little Jack Russell and not at all suited to his name. He is now three and came from the RSPCA a year ago. Like many Jack Russells he’s very active, but a little too restless I feel. He’s obedient and affectionate and the the family loves him dearly, and the couple are doing their best to give him fair boundaries, sufficient stimulation and exercise.

He is looked after the couple’s parents during the day when they are at work, at their own house, so Rambo has two different environments, and there needs to be continuity in how he is treated. His persistent jumping up on everyone is a bit too much, but it would be very hard to stop unless everyone deals with it the same way whether family or visitors (and this isn’t by commands or scolding), otherwise it would simply confuse him and make matters worse so may be impractical in the circumstances.

Against a background of being already excitable and fairly easily scared by things at home, walks can be very stressful due to his fear of other dogs. Who knows what his past life consisted off, but his extreme reactivity to all other dogs seems to indicate that he didn’t have good experiences in the past.  As soon as he sees any dog his hackles rise, he lunges and he barks. His defensive behaviour may attract the attention of off-lead dogs and if they approach him it is a nightmare. Poor Rambo, of course, is trapped on lead – it would be far too risky letting him off.

Rambo really isn’t a good name! It suggests tough and brave, but this poor little dog is plain scared. He first of all needs to learn to walk nicely (who ever sees a dog calmly walking on a loose lead, minding his own business, suddenly exploding when spotting another dog?). Avoidance of close encounters for now is key. Rambo needs lots of controlled exposure to other dogs at a sufficient distance not to worry him, whilst his owners behave in a way that convincing ‘leaders’ would. Opportunities can be engineered. ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’ as they say.

He most likely will never get to actually playing with other dogs, but being calm around them and ignoring them whilst relying on his humans to look after him would be a realistic, if long-term, goal. Things over time will slowly but surely improve if the humans stick to the plan.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

Fearful Jack Russell barks at people

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Here is Rosie, a two-year-old Jack Russell re-homed from Wood Green a couple of weeks ago.

She has landed on her feet with a lady who is very empathetic to her needs and who instinctively understands the balance between loving Rosie and giving her space.

Previously Rosie had been living much of the time in a crate, muzzled. Because of how she drinks water in a strange way with her head on one side, she must have worn the tight muzzle for a long time.

She is an extremely well-behaved little dog when not stressed. She’s not demanding, she is polite around food, she doesn’t bark at passers by, she can be left alone without crying, she never damages things, she never toilets in the house and, as you can see, she is beautiful!

However, she is very scared of people. She barks frantically at anyone coming into her house and has now nipped a guest. When I arrived she was barking and growling from behind the gate. We worked on this until, by the end, I was walking around the room without a reaction. You can see she was now quite relaxed!

She needs to be gradually desensitised. They need plenty of callers who are willing to behave exactly as requested, friends popping in for half an hour whilst the lady follows our plan. There is a thin line between pushing Rosie beyond what she can cope with, whilst stretching her a little. I know her new owner will be getting this right.

Rosie has similar problems when encountering people out on walks, and dogs. She’s not consistent however. She is worse at the end of a walk – an indication that the walk is too stimulating or too long.

With work, patience and given sufficient time, I am sure that Rosie will eventually be happy for people to come into the house and that outside she will not react adversely to people and other dogs.

Here is an email I have recived two days later: ‘Now, a remarkable walk this morning.  I put Rosie on a long lead like the one you showed me.  I held it loose and Rosie did not pull.  As we got to the end of the Chinese Bridge we were approached by two people and two greyhounds.  Still on the loose lead Rosie did not show any calming signals.  As we got nearer she did then prick up her ears and so I did the arc movement.  Amazing, she then walked past the dogs without looking at them!!  … I kept her on the loose lead whilst we walked.  Two dogs in the distance both on long leads.  She showed no interest.  When they had gone, I let her off the lead and we played with a frisbee type toy.  … as you suggested I called come and each time she came I rewarded her for the ‘come’ rather than asking her to sit.  It works!!  Heading back home we came across two more dogs, both on long leads.  Rosie seemed calmer and only ‘looked’ and as she moved forward again I used the arc movement.  Miraculous.  I know it is early days, but I cannot even explain how much better this makes me feel.  It is so demoralizing to have an aggressive dog, but today was a pleasure’. I replied to be prepared for there to be many lapses. It would indeed be an unusual miracle if a permanent corner were turned quite so easily, but you never know, a combination of appropriate strategies and the lady’s own karma may be the perfect mix!
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

Troubled Jack Russell

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Little Jack is ten years old and lives with Jill who is also ten.

They are both very good little dogs as far as obedience is concerned, but both, Jack in particular, is troubled. Although both dogs have a very good life with a loving and sensible owner, it is possible that something in the past is overshadowing their present life, because their change in behaviour coincided with that particular time.

Jack is unsettled and this is manifesting itself in regularly marking and peeing indoors, in growling when he is made to do something and by compulsively licking himself. There are one or two people he is scared of to the point of aggression.

He looks relaxed on the right, as he was when I took the photo, but one can see his red and sore front due to the obsessive licking.

Jill also is stressed but to a lesser extent. They may be left alone for a long time and bark and cry intermittently throughout the day.

We looked at all the possible causes of stress in the little dogs’ life at the moment – and this includes anything that stirs them up in any way, and the list can be surprisingly long. Here are some of them:  being left alone, post coming through the door, scolding, being told off and commands, humans being cross, Jill obsessively licking Jack, Jack persistently licking or humping Jill, Jack chewing and licking himself and being told off, behaviour of visitors and family, going to other houses, vacuum cleaner, excitement before walks or going in the car, discomfort and tension when being walked on lead, agility classes, obsessive ball play, barking itself increases stress, constant jingling of collar tags.

So we are finding ways of reducing stress in every way possible. Being consistent is essential. Using encouragement and reward rather than commands and scolding is also key.

There is the dear little Jack on the left, and lying in their bed with Jill below.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

Little dog living in a tent.

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Pip is a dear little scruffy-haired Jack Russell, one year of age, who has been in his new home for one month. Home is a Mongolian Yurt – a round tent. It was minus 5 degrees last night and I went expecting to be cold, but with a log burner in the middle it was snug and warm and surprisingly spacious.

After a rather excitable start, Pip settled down in front of the fire.

When he arrived a month ago Pip was totally hyper. He leapt and flew all over the place, grabbing and mouthing. Patience and hard work has really calmed him down at home although there is still a way to go, but he is after all little more than a puppy.

It is out on walks that the problems really  start.

He behaves almost like he has never been on a lead before. He pulls frantically. At the sight of another dog he is very unpredictable and I believe he feels insecure – as well he might, held tightly by an anxious human with no freedom to escape. At other dogs he tends to bark, rear up and go frantic. He has nipped two or three times. The final straw was when he got himself so worked up that he wound his lead around the lady’s legs, and when she accidentally trod on him he bit her – totally out of character but indicating just how fired up and stressed he was.

Certain TV programmes promote extreme exercise as the way to deal with problems such as this – long hikes, treadmills and the like. Apart from anything else, this is not what a terrier has been bred for. I have found time and time again that long walks, unless calm and happy, can over-stimulate a dog. It is no surprise that so many incidents happen at the end of a walk when he the dog is supposed to be tired out.

When I can get people to trust me and to see this, to go back to basics with several very short expeditions whilst teaching loose-lead walking and the joy of stress-free walking with a ‘leader’, dogs like Pip eventually are a dream to take out. It can take a lot of time. Unfortunately too many people give up too soon – or are persuaded by well meaning ‘experts’  and ‘dog-loving friends’ that they should be taking their dogs for long walks to to tire them out. Would you put a disturbed or hyperactive child on a treadmnill to tire it into compliance? No! I rest my case.

Pip’s owner was already very switched on before I visited, so it will be interesting to chart Pip’s progress.

She has worked very hard for the past six or seven weeks, two steps forward and one back. The yurt is not soundproofed which means that Pip hears all the night time noises. Here is the latest email: “Things here are ticking along ok and I am realising that my mood effects Pip. Had a family dinner at my uncles and ended up taking pip home….. Definitely only pip with the family at small calm gatherings for now.  On a positive note Pip is really good in the yurt and garden i love him in these situations he’s so good and often just sits and sun bathes!! he’s learning lots of new tricks has plenty to entertain himself with and at least now when I hear him barking I call him and he comes back in the yurt. We had no nighttime barking since we spoke, fingers crossed for tonight!”


I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.


Two very well-loved little Jack Russells

Monday, December 19th, 2011

Both George and Ruby have come to their new home in the past year. George is confident for the most part but Ruby, who had been found wandering on a dual carriageway, is easily scared.

If it were not for the fact that at times of high arousal George will go for Ruby – nothing too serious as yet – their owners could carry on as they are.

Ruby is easily intimidated if approached directly or when she knows something is required of her – most especially when they want her to go either out into the garden to toilet or for a walk. She needs to be treated sensitively and carefully, without too much in the way of demands made upon her. There are other ways to go about getting her outside happily with a bit of forward planning.

George is King of the Castle! A bit too much homage is going on! He is twelve years old, in very good shape for his age, and it’s hard for them not to dance to his tune!

Some basic rules and boundares along with removing all the decision-making from their shoulders is going to make all the difference to these two little dogs. The episodes of George going for Ruby only happen when the two dogs are stressed or aroused – and only when the owners are about. This is a clue as to where the pressure is coming from, in spite of – or because of – the great love they have for their dogs. Too much is being asked of them, and they need to be allowed a bit more time just to be….dogs.

They are incredibly lucky to have ended up in such a wonderful and caring home and have certainly landed on their four feet!

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

Jack Russell and New Baby

Friday, November 18th, 2011

This is Becky, a four-year-old Jack Russell. She is a superb little dog – very biddable – perhaps a little spoilt!

Becky is, however, easily stressed. This was evident by her excessive nose-licking. Her family hadn’t realised that this was a sign of anxiety – of Becky trying to calm herself.  She can be thrown into a hyper state very easily. In the past this has unwittingly been encouraged. For instance, she will go over the top when she sees a bird or squirrel out of the window and start running from door to door, barking frantically. They let her out. Once outside she has to redirect this overwhelming stress onto something else so she attacks a toy instead. Rather than dealing with this so that Becky can calm down which would be a lot kinder, they believe that doing what Becky is demanding is kind – letting her out to deal with it herself.

As a dog she is naturally on look-out duty, but she shouldn’t then feel it’s her responsibility to deal with the problem. Imagine you have a child and you tell him – ‘keep an eye open for the lion that has escaped from the zoo’. Then, at the window, he starts yelling, “The lion! The lion! It’s in the garden”. What do you do? Let your child out to deal with it? Or do you tell him to shut up? No – I think not!

However, this is not the reason I was called – but amongst other things contributes to how she’s reacting to a new baby in the family. The have a tiny grandchild now, weighing less than Becky. Becky is fixated. In the same room as the baby Becky is very anxious as one can tell from the nose-licking and paw-lifting. She whines. She had tried to grab the baby’s foot. She’s not being aggressive, but here is something that smells fascinating and that makes noises she simply doesn’t understand which she can’t control. And Becky is accustomed to controlling the people around her!

While I was there we worked at stress relief around the baby and associating Becky being relaxed around her with nice things. We watched out for and respected Becky’s stress signals.

I happened to call later in the day and they had been making such good progress that they pushed ahead too fast, letting their guard down and putting Becky into a situation she was not ready to cope with. This was a warning that these things take time. Becky needs to be well within her comfort zone, on lead around the baby whilst out of actual reach before getting near enough to sniff her, and then only when she’s asleep and quiet  – long before removing the lead. This will take days, maybe weeks, not just a couple of hours. One thing at a time!

The whole process needs to be against a background of general de-stressing and Becky learning that she doesn’t actually need to be in control of the humans in her life. What a relief that will be to her.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

Two Jack Russells, and a Jack Russell/Chihuahua X

Saturday, November 12th, 2011

This is the second home for all three little dogs. They have had the eldest, Jimmy, for several years – he is twelve. Tina on the left, age two, came to live with them about seven months ago, and Guy (below), a one-year-old Chihuahua Jack Russell X, joined them a few weeks ago.

They are lovely little dogs, all of them. They are friendly and affectionate, though Jimmy is now old and may keep himself to himself.

What is worrying Guy’s owners is that when he is comfortably asleep on the sofa, he bites when he doesn’t want to be picked up, especially when they want him to go out before bedtime. They have worked out ways of tricking him like putting a soft igloo bed on the sofa for him to sleep in, and carrying it to the door and tipping him out, but this doesn’t solve the problem of his not wanting to go. He should not need to be carried – he should walk. It seems he is quite scared of going outside in the big garden at night. We have a plan that I am sure will work, and he needs to be accompanied until his confidence grows. It is early days.

Another thing that needs working on is Tina’s recall. She does come back – but not until she is ready!

The final point that I feel needs work – but doesn’t so much concern them – is the jumping up both at them and at visitors. Because the dogs are so small they find it acceptable – nice even – for welcomes to be like this. However, they might see it in a different light if they were German Shepherds or Labradors! It would be consider pushy and impolite rather than endearing. Would our children be allowed to jump all over people when they arrive and fly all over them when they sit down? I don’t think so. I am a believer in ‘four on the floor’ unless invited otherwise.

Do we want our dogs, quite literally, to be ‘walking all over us‘? Guy is wanting respect for his personal space, hence the biting, but we should also expect him to respect ours.

About a month later: “Guy is just so much better in his obedience and behaviour. His growling and biting has improved tremendously and he is generally much better behaved. He is, in fact, becoming a very loving and friendly dog on the whole. We are both much happier that we understand Guy better and that both dogs seem much more settled”.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

A black Labrador and a Jack Russell

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Black Lab Daisy, four, and older Jack Russell Betty have a wonderful life. They run beside the family’s horses each day, and accompany them to the stables. They are loved dearly. So long as they are not over-excited, they are polite and sociable.

To start with, sitting peacefully in the sitting room with the lady, gentleman and their teenage daughter I was wondering why I was called out. Then the eighteen-year-old son came home with massive excitement, sat down and roughed the dogs up – stirring Betty in particular into a frenzy. He then departed as quickly as he had come in, leaving Betty to unwind somehow, which she did by taking it out on Daisy.

Just imagine tickling and throwing a young child around until it was hysterical and still not stopping? It would end in tears for sure. It may be done in the name of love, but is it kind? No!

This was something I noticed, but not what I was called for. There are two issues that trouble them. One is quite persistent barking at the window – initated by Jack Russell Betty, through the garden fence at the dog next door and at the front door. Barking causes yet more barking. Stressed dogs bark and barking makes dogs stressed!

The second issue is that they are unable to take Daisy out with them away from home, because she is impossible on lead. They had her from about eighteen months old and she had probably never been on a lead prior to that. She pulls so much it’s painful to hold her. They recently tried a trip to the pub garden where Daisy became stressed  at people or dogs coming towards them where they sat. It is no wonder, given the state she must have been in by the time she got there.

Because these dogs have plenty of exercise, this is easier for her people than most as they can take their time, working at it bit by bit. The golden rule of  ‘never again does your dog go anywhere on a tight lead‘ (I show them how) won’t mean that it’s a trade-off between exercise and walking nicely.

At least twice a day they go though the door to go over to the stables where they keep the horses – and Daisy is away! She leaps into other people’s gardens, scavenges for bread put out for the birds, charges all over the place – ending up at the stables ahead of them. When loose lead walking is established in the garden and out the front, it can slowly be introduced, a few yards at a time, into the journey to the stables!

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.

Two little Jack Russell/Parson Terriers

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Lugh and Idris are gorgeous very well-loved 14-month-old Jack Russel/Parson mix Terriers with a few unwanted behaviours creeping in.

The owners are ‘bringing them up’ in a fair and caring way and th dogs are mostly well-behaved, although they may be doted on a little too much by the lady in particular. She gets very worried, especially out on walks, because both have slipped their harnesses on occasion.

It is always strange to see two siblings living identical lives with such different personalities. However, different personalities cope with being ‘worshipped’ in different ways. Lugh is more confident and calmer. Idris is more highly strung.

I took no notice of the dogs when I arrived and this spooked Idris – used as he is to everyone paying homage.  He barked at me. Lugh was much more chilled. Idris has started to play ‘owenership’  games over food resulting in a couple of fights between the two dogs. On walks Idris pulls and pulls though not Lugh. He is very hyped up when he sees other dogs, hackles up and barking.  The dogs are never off lead and seldom go anywhere open because it requires a car journey – and neither dog travels well. Lugh is sick almost immediately and Idris panics. Both have slipped their harnesses in the street and the lady who is the main dog walker now feels so worried about this that along with the pulling walks are not enjoyable at all.

They will go back to the beginning with the walking so that Idris no longer pulls, with a strategy for when they encounter other dogs, along with equipment which gives the lady confidence that the dogs can’t possibly be Houdinis. They also have a plan to gradually work on the dogs’ anxiety in the car. Backing all this up, leadership skills at home need working on, especially around food.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.