Screams With Fear in Crowds. Scared of Traffic.

Archie gets so scared in crowds that he screams.

People tend to think that giving a dog lots of exposure will ‘get him used to it’. Fortunately, Archie’s owners realised when they first took him into a town a few days ago that they needed to do something to help him before doing so again. They do all they know to do everything right for their dear puppy.

Archie is a beautiful little Miniature Schnauzer, not yet ten months old. They live in quite a quiet area and he’s unaccustomed to crowds.

Early exposure to the real world.

Screams when scaredHe was the most timid puppy of the litter and his lack of confidence will probably be genetic. With hindsight, he would have benefited from being much more actively habituated to people, vacuum cleaners, new things, traffic and the bustle of real life in general – but in a structured way – from a few weeks old.

Archie is a delightful little dog. When I arrived I could see how torn he was between fearfulness and wanting to be friendly. Fortunately the ‘friendly’ soon won.

He’s sweetly affectionate without being pushy.

A lot of things scare him. Where other dogs might bark, poor little Archie screams and whimpers.

He daily has to run a ten-minute gauntlet beside a busy road in order to get to the field where they let him off lead. Daily exposure isn’t making him ‘get used to it’ and in fact his screams are getting worse. He will try also to chase the traffic. He is trapped, held tightly by lead and collar, so attack can be the only form of defence left to him.

Slow, systematic work

They will work at getting Archie as confident, least stressed and stable as possible in all areas of his home life. This will give the best basis for working on his fears of people, dogs and traffic when out.

They will teach him strategies that will enable them to get his attention. Screams and barks directed at something or someone are less likely to happen when the dog is looking elsewhere.

The work needs to be done in a very systematic way, starting at the beginning.

Bit by bit they will be habituating, desensitising and counter-conditioning him to those things that scare him.

Walks themselves should be a bit different. For now they will take him to the field only by car while they work on his fearful reactivity to people, dogs and traffic, gradually and systematically.

Lead walks will be near home where it’s quiet and the distance from these threats can be controlled. The more short planned sessions they can fit in, the faster they will make progress.

Panic pulling and screams

They will carefully introduce Archie to comfortable equipment (even introducing the harness will need to be done very gradually). We will look at loose lead walking rather than panic pulling.

No longer will Archie have to endure this terrifying path past people, dogs and vehicles, a gauntlet to run that he has to endure daily in order to get to the field.

Traffic watching

A successful approach to fear of traffic is to find a quiet side road and watch traffic passing by the end from a comfortable distance. Each vehicle will trigger food for Archie. The lead should be long and loose to allow him to feel he can escape if scared – by increasing distance. Bit by bit they will inch nearer to the traffic. On times I have done this, the dog is eventually walking happily along beside the traffic. How soon depends upon the frequency of the short sessions and how fearful the dog is to start with.

To Archie, the world out of his house is generally unsafe. When his panic and stress get simply too much, he screams. Fortunately he is fine with dogs he knows in environments he considers ‘safe’.

With time and patience he should ultimately be able to better cope with the world of people and traffic.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Archie. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear is concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).

Pain Toileting. Poo Related Phobia and Rituals

Pain toileting after castration traumatised poor little Monty

Four weeks ago the 9-month-old Cavapoochon experienced traumatic pain whilst toileting. After that he got into a real state. He squealed and spun, dropping it behind him as he went. If they’re not quick enough, he eats it as he does it – something he never did before.

pain toileting after castrationJust why Monty ended up circling and screaming when pooing is impossible to prove. They assume it had something to do with the castration four weeks ago but maybe it’s not directly that, but the chain of events that followed.

Could it be the trauma of the operation being painful and at just the wrong time, coinciding with a fear period maybe? Combined with this, was it the affect of anaesthetic, the painkiller that upset him followed by wormer, resulting in diarrhoea for days and nights along with the panic of the frequent baths etc.?

Due to pain toileting – or probably now the memory of the pain toileting – poor Monty’s not wanting to walk. As soon as he needs the toilet, he sits down and won’t move.

He has had two very thorough checks by the vet and they can find no cause for pain. The vet suggested a behaviourist now.

It sounds to me like he was so scared with the pain toileting, that the whole poo process and everything associated with it now terrifies him. He even stopped wanting to go into the garden.

Trauma or pain toileting

I believe the little dog’s screaming and circling whilst pooing is a mix of trying to run away from it and trying to grab it out of himself. A cat of mine once, I remember, had difficult giving birth. She ran in cicrles, crying like she was trying to escape from from the kitten that was stuck on the way out. (I managed to catch her and help her, all was ok).

We can only guess at why Monty rushes to eat it, but I suspect he simply wants to quickly get rid of everything associated with his pastpain toileting. He’s not coprophagic (a poo-eater) as such.

The whole business of their little dog’s toileting has become a centre of huge concern for his owners. Where he would previously go at least twice a day, now it may not even be once.

What should be a natural process is now surrounded by extreme pressure in terms of anxiety, watching and persuasion. Even the fact they anxiously hover to prevent him eating it will add to the pressure.

An obsession with his bottom

For these past few weeks Monty also seems to have become obsessed with his bottom. He circles and tries to ‘catch’ it. His head frequently darts towards like he has a sudden itch.

What I observed was that the slightest bit of frustration, excitement or arousal triggered Monty’s head going round towards his bum. It didn’t seem to happen otherwise. It looks like the tiniest stress has become the trigger for this. He has developed a kind of ritual that gives him displacement behaviours when things get a bit too much for him. Because of his recent experiences lots of things get a bit too much for him at the moment.

The more he practises this behaviour, the more of a habit it becomes, like a default response now.

Is it something to do with humans? I suggest they record him to see if it happens when people aren’t about.

The main work will be to break this ritual by preventing things from getting too much for him – stress reduction. He also needs to be given something else that will serve the same purpose to him as the repetitive habit, that of a displacement activity which helps to calm him. Something incompatible with chasing his bum. I suggested they tried giving him something for his mouth – a yak chew perhaps.

Relaxation and freedom

Dealing with tension and stress is key. A less restricted type of walk will be a good place to start.

Neither Monty nor his owners really enjoy walks anymore because he pulls. Very conscientious with their training, they are struggling with this. I feel he needs a bit of freedom and relaxation in order to get his bowels working!

I suggested (probably for the first time ever because I don’t like them) that they use their old Flexilead from when he was younger – when walks had been relaxed fun. They can continue work on walking nicely as a separate exercise when ready.

He can do more sniffing and foraging in general. The little dog can walk from sniff to sniff and choose where to go. He can be semi-free on a 30-foot long line in open spaces. They will relax around his toileting. (The more they try to pounce on his poo before he does, the quicker he will be to get there first!).

Monty can be taught, as soon as he’s done his job, to run away from it instead whilst associating it with something nice – by their rolling tasty/smelly food past him. It will catch his eye and instinctively a dog will follow something moving. Later, if he still does it which I doubt, he can be taught to run to them instead.

I suggest the owners just try to take it a bit more easy. Their little dog’s dreadful distress has been horrible for them and their own anxiety will be now adding to the situation. If they do miss a bit, never mind. I feel the poo-eating won’t go on for ever. He doesn’t want it for its own sake – just to get rid of it and all it stands for.

To quote, ‘We just want our Monty back to how he was before the op. It is causing us a lot of anxiety to see him struggling so much’.

Six days later: Things are much better with Monty. We are so v pleased. By Thursday he had started squatting to poo again, the spinning & squealing have stopped & instead of eating it, He looks to us for sausage. He does still look behind while pooing.  Walks are much better & he has stopped sitting down. We had been mindful to walk him after he had poo’d in the garden though so he could relax & enjoy his walk. He did poo in public today on the beach & again there was no spinning on squealing. We have been mindful to keep things generally calmer for Monty & have definitely noticed him being calmer. The bottom checking is happening less. We are truly heart warmed at the difference in just 1 week. He is a much happier dog all round. 
Two weeks later: ‘I had a lovely time on the beach with Monty, I think it was wednesday afternoon & I remember feeling so grateful to you that we were able to go away as the week before, I really didn’t think it was going to be possible. He loved the beach, shame we don’t live a bit nearer!
So things are good with Monty, he has continued to be much happier. The toileting issue seems to be pretty much resolved…..He seems to be generally going for his bottom area a lot less’.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Monty. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).

Bang of Exploding Firework. Now Scared of Going Out.

.A big bang started it all.

Millie is no longer the carefree and happy dog that she was.  Already sensitised last November, an unexpected and close firework explosion at New Year when out on a walk did the rest.

Now the six-year-old Collie Corgi mix spends most of her time upstairs, alone, under a bed.

She will come down when called, only to sneak back up again as soon as she can. Her tail goes down and it’s like she doesn’t want to be noticed escaping.

Strange toilet ritual.

A bang has made her fearfulMillie is now scared to go into the garden, particularly during daylight. Bird-scarers and gunshots aren’t happening after dark. She has to be taken out for a short walk out the front on lead for her toilet. She has also had accidents in the house.

A puzzling ritual has evolved around their taking her out the front. She will cross the road and then want to come straight back in. This has to happen about three times before she will ultimately be sufficiently relaxed to toilet the other side of the road.

We looked at ways of changing the routine to see if it would help. It may have become a learned behaviour. They will open the side gate before walking out the front and crossing the road with her. Then see if she will go straight into the garden down the passageway – a route they never take her.

They will also, starting when it’s dark and Millie is more comfortable, lace the garden with food. She will enjoy foraging for it if she’s not scared. They can gradually bring this forward to twilight.

No force and no persuasion,

In order to get her walk through the fields in particular, they have used a degree of force. Walking round the village where there is more background noise and they are further away from a bang from bird scarer and gun – she will walk more willingly.

She currently wears a collar which must be very uncomfortable when, fearful, she pulls for home till she chokes.

Walks can be made more comfortable using a harness. This is important so that she doesn’t get neck pain associating with a bang. Being scared makes her pull. From now on a bang must be associated only with something she likes, not discomfort.

To make progress she should have all pressure removed from her – even in the form of encouragement. No force and no persuasion. They will let her choose if she walks and where she walks. When she wants to abort the walk they will go home immediately.

Working on a bang.

Systematic desensitisation and counter-conditioning means first finding the distance or intensity of a bang where she can be aware of it without reacting. Then it’s letting the bang trigger chicken – ‘chicken rain’ – tiny bits of chicken immediately dropping down around her. Sniffing to pick up the bits will also help her.

The gentleman has already made a recording of the bangs that scare her. Many inaudible to humans can be heard by Millie from their house and garden. For this work they will use this recording, starting very soft indeed, very gradually increasing volume and proximity.

They can also create bangs themselves. They can start by banging something gently many times with Millie beside them as each bang triggers chicken. Then progress to banging something more loudly upstairs, to party poppers or a cap gun from down the end of the garden.

It will be a learning curve as they experiment with distance and volume. She must hear it but be relaxed enough to eat. It’s really important to avoid her going over threshold if they possibly can as this puts things back.

This will take time and a lot of patience.

Go slowly. Too slow is a lot better than too fast, allowing her to rebuild her confidence.

The day after I saw them (a couple of days ago) I had an encouraging message from the man.

That night they re-entered the house via the side gate. He let her off the lead once pass the gate. She went a short way into the garden sniffing, then went to the back door with tail wagging. He repeated this again this morning – in daylight. Again she went down the passage way and once inside the garden seemed to be quite happy. Yesterday evening when she got into the garden she scampered by herself further from the house than the previous night.

So, it looks like the garden approached from the house is ‘haunted’ for her due to frequently heard bangs. They are now are exorcising it. As she now comes back indoors directly from the garden it prepares her way for going out that way also.

Progress on walks will take a lot longer as there are so many variables, not least Millie’s own state of mind when starting out.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Millie. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where any form of fear is concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).

Deprived of Stimuli During First Year.

Cassie is a puzzle.

Everything about Cassie’s behaviour points to her having spent the first year of her life in a crate or very small space, deprived of stimuli. This is an educated guess only. When she was rescued three years ago (she’s now four) her posture was hunched.

Deprived of enrichment as a puppyOn entering the lady’s house, the young dog had immediately found a place in the room where she felt at home. She has mostly stayed there ever since. This is apart from trips to the garden and her walks – and occasionally venturing into the kitchen when their other very elderly dog is being hand-fed.

Cassie never barks.

For over a year she wouldn’t even go into the garden, though somehow the lady managed to walk her. Then the lady adopted Ronnie and immediately Cassie went outside with him into the garden.

Cassie had been fostered for several months with a couple experienced with dogs before the lady adopted her. This was probably her first experience of kind humans. The couple had several Border Collies. Cassie loves Collies.

Tiptoeing around her adopted dog has taken over the lady’s life.

She can no longer easily mix with people or enjoy her walks.

Cassie is a Cambrian Shepherd, cross between a Pyranian and a Welsh Sheepdog. A designer mix, I believe. She’s four years of age. Breeding beautiful dogs should take a lot more than just leaving them in cages, deprived of all enrichment.

The lady’s patience and love has really paid off to the extent that she can now walk Cassie nicely so long as she gives people a wide berth. However, she is very disheartened because she has now tried everything she can think of and progress has come to a standstill. Previous help she has been offered includes tying her to her waist and making her go everywhere with her. The lady gave up on this after a couple of hours, in tears, because Cassie was so unhappy.

It’s hard to read the beautiful dog’s emotional state. Her demeanour is not so much shut down as very careful. She doesn’t look scared or depressed. Nor particularly happy. She may give a slight twitch of her tail when the lady enters the room or a brief lick of her lips when uncomfortable.

I suspect this lying still on her bed for hours at a time is some sort of learned behaviour, programmed during that first, probably mainly confined, year of her life.

Very likely Cassie’s careful behaviour is being reinforced by the lady’s own careful demeanour around her. 

Deprived of life’s normal stimuli.

This beautiful dog’s being deprived of the normal things puppies and young dogs need during crucial developmental stages of her life will probably have altered the way her brain has developed. She is, however, capable of joy and play. She demonstrates this with certain other dogs when they are out and with the Border Collies in her foster home.

I can see no reason why this joyfulness can’t spread to being with the lady too.

In order to break the current stalemate, she will need to make some very slow and gentle changes. She will encourage Cassie from her comfort zone in such tiny steps she barely notices it.

Cassie, constantly watching from her ‘place’, will be a very good reader of the lady’s mood and emotions. I suggest the lady acts more casual and off-hand, not moving so carefully – ignoring Cassie while she is walking about.

She can slowly begin to alter the current rigid routines, developed for Cassie’s security, so that the dog learns to be a bit more flexible and resilient to change. Slowly is the key word here. Gently the dog can be taught to feel happy when the lady stands up and moves about – without racing back to her refuge as she normally would.

We looked at precise ways in which she can do this using desensitisation and counter-conditioning.

Using a quiet “Good” followed by food, the lady will capture all subtle behaviours that point to Cassie engaging with her and putting a little effort in. Things such as orientating her body towards her, giving her eye contact or moving any part of her body even slightly towards where the lady sits on the sofa nearby. Eventually she will be standing up.

Out in the world of people and action.

Where the real world and meeting people is concerned, they can very gradually move nearer to places with more people about. She will associate people with good things and always allow Cassie choice to increase distance. Although deprived in her early life, I’m sure some real progress can be made with systematic work.

Feeling more free and comfortable with the equipment used should help when out on walks. Currently this is a choke chain and retractable lead. It is virtually impossible to get a harness on her at the moment as she drops flat onto the floor.

(The choke chain is not because she pulls – she doesn’t. A while ago she escaped from her harness and went missing for five days. The story of her recapture is really moving).

This has to be a really gradual process. A continuation of the extremely patient work the lady has already put in. It’s like she now dare do nothing to upset the status-quo, but status-quo doesn’t bring progress.

Very gently Cassie’s boundaries need to be eased outwards.

Four weeks later. The lady is using clicker and it’s like a whole new line of communication has opened with Cassie. The potential is exciting. Her confidence is growing.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Cassie because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).

Fear of People. Separation Distress

Bentley has a fear of peopleBentley barks.

The little dog’s main fears and consequent barking is either directly, or indirectly, associated with his fear of people.

Bentley is an adorable and much-loved Coton de Tulear. In researching the breed, the first site I looked at said that they hate being on their own and that they like the sound of their own voices.

The first, distress at being alone, certainly applies but I don’t think Bentley barks and cries because he likes the sound of his own voice. 

The cause of his barking is his fear of people…

…and things associated with people.

This is whether someone just comes to the door, if someone comes into the house or when they see a person out on a walk. It’s the same with noises that people make, like slamming car doors and voices outside. (This dog that usually barks takes absolutely no notice at all of fireworks!).

His fear of people colours any trips to the vet or the groomer.

Changing his fear of people gets to the root of the barking problem and is the challenge. People should now be associated with things that Bentley likes and whenever possible on walks at a distance where he feels they are no threat to him. This threshold distance is important.

Here is a very short excerpt from my BBC 3 Counties Radio phone-in on the subject (referring to encountering other dogs, but it’s the same principal). https://youtu.be/7HNv-vsnn6E

Most unusually, when I came to the house he barely barked at all, although he was still wary of me. This is because of how we set it up. They will now use the same technique with other callers.

How they actually respond to the barking will also help his fear of people and the sounds he can hear.

All alone, Bentley probably feels vulnerable.

This can only be guesswork, but he invariably toilets soon after he is left. He’s very attached to the lady and follows her everywhere. It’s most likely he feels safest when with her.

They will be getting a camera so they can watch what happens when he’s left. This will tell us more.

Separation problems are slow to work on, particularly if it can’t be done systematically due to people having to go out to work. However, the more Bentley associates their leaving with good things and their returning as no big deal, the better.

He currently has run of the house when left. I suggest keeping him away from the front door area. This is where scary people may come and go and where people have pushed items through a hole in the door.

The higher are Bentley’s general stress levels, the less he will be able to cope with his fear of people and being left. Lowering arousal/stress is key. This may sound a bit boring at times but over-exciting activities can be replaced with those that help him to be calmer and more confident.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bentley because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear is concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).

Three Street Dogs from India. Mum and Two Pups.

S

Ella

Two years ago when the couple were living in India they adopted a street dog – or she adopted them.

After a few days, one at a time, she carried five puppies to them.

Later they returned to England, bringing Ella with them. Her puppies stayed behind.

The two shyest pups still had no home by eighteen months of age, so six months ago the couple shipped them over here to join Ella. They had named them Whitey and Red simply to identify them, and these names have now stuck.

From street dogs from India to house pets.

They have already done exceptionally well in integrating these three street dogs from India into life over here.

street dogs from India

Red and Whitey

Having only mum Ella to start with, they transformed her into a dog who is chilled and secure. Although seldom on lead, she always stays close. They used to take her everywhere with them.

When the two pups arrived things necessarily changed.

Red is soft, friendly and cuddly with people. Whitey is more of a problem. She is suspicious, more scared and very independent. Unlike Red and Ella, Whitey doesn’t seek out human contact.

They live in an open country area with no fences. The couple just open the door for the dogs to go and toilet. They let them out one dog at a time or they will run off together, go hunting and exploring, maybe coming back hours later. Whitey in particular.

Street dogs from India have, after all, been used to coming and going much as they please.

One might think mum Ella would welcome the company of her two female pups, but it doesn’t look like that to me. She has the burden of keeping the other two ‘in line’. She’s ready to step in as soon as play gets vigorous or if one becomes aroused by something. Troubled, she faces them, teeth bared and growling.

When all three together go out on a walk, the non-reactive Ella may now join in the distance-increasing aggression when they see another dog.

Freedom versus safety.

Where letting them all run freely off lead is something they have been used to, it’s not appropriate now. They could run into trouble or danger.

Whitey has already nipped a couple of people. She goes round behind them like a herding dog. Someone merely finding a dog a threat can end in the police taking action according to the new dog law. The dog could be condemned to being on lead always when out and muzzled. It’s not worth the risk.

Recently one of the pups went for a distant dog – joined by the other two, which resulted in them all being kicked by the male owner of the other dog.

They will for now be walked individually, or Ella alone with the two pups together. Going back to her old happy walks, a dog and her humans and without the other two to worry about, will be nice for Ella.

They will work on Red and Whitey’s reactivity to dogs when out by using distance and counter-conditioning.

No more running off.

Recall starts at home. If the pups don’t come to them promptly when just outside the house, then they won’t do so when they see another dog or a rabbit when out on walks.

This means preventing all further rehearsal of running off. Street dogs from India will have no boundaries, but just as the couple brought Ella round with hard work, they now need to work on the two younger girls.

They will make use of a long line with the two pups, both when letting them out to toilet and on walks. One pup can be on lead with the other on the long thirty foot line. They can do lots of recall work and keep swapping dogs from lead to line.

As ‘Come’ (or ‘Biscuits’!) has a history of being ignored until the dog is ready, they will train them to come to the whistle, starting at home.

Underpinning everything is getting the dogs’ attention. A problem with having several dogs is that they can relate to one another rather than to us.

The more the dogs are ‘with their humans’ on walks rather than with their focus upon one another, the better control their owners should eventually have. The more relevant they make themselves the better.

This means working on each pup as an individual – as they did originally with Ella.

They will keep things as calm as possible at exciting trigger times such as before walks and reunitings. These are the times when arousal might erupt, with one over-aroused pup redirecting onto the other and poor Ella feeling she has to step in.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for these three dogs because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear or aggression is concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog. Suspect anyone who promises a quick fix. (see my Help page)

Barks Go Away at People. Fearful Puppy.

As I walk in the door, the puppy barks as he backs away. He barks Go Away to me.

It is suggested that taking a puppy from his mother and siblings a bit too early may, in special circumstances, be actually be better than leaving him a bit later than usual. This depends upon what the breeder is doing.

Rough and tumble with siblings can teach puppy to be gentle, give and take and so on. If, until he is ten weeks old, puppy sees nobody apart from the other dogs and a couple of family members in the breeder’s house in the middle of nowhere, the outcome can be a lot more serious than a nippy puppy.

A puppy needs early habituating to the outside world and to a variety of people including children. For psychological reasons, the earlier this begins the better despite vaccinations not complete.

Four month old Bear is a typical case in point. They picked him up to join their other Miniature Poodle, Teddy, at ten weeks of age. He is very gentle, not a nippy puppy at all and perfect with Teddy.

The four-month-old puppy barks Go Away.

However, Bear is very scared of people. He even initially barks Go Away to familiar people coming into his home.

he barks Go Away at people

Bear

Normally they stop him with a mix of saying Shhh and fuss. I asked them to leave him which meant he carried on a lot longer.

Now the work started. He was going to learn not to be scared of me.

The lady had my clicker and some grated cheese. Each time Bear looked at me he got a click then, a moment later, cheese.

Each time he barked, as soon as there was a break she clicked. Then cheese. Soon she was clicking and I was delivering the cheese.

It was complicated a little by the need to give Teddy cheese as well, but that is the rule of clicker. The click is always followed by food. We may want to give Teddy some clicker fun at a later date. The room was small and there was nowhere else for him to go, and Teddy loves his food so can’t be left out.

Joy and laughter.

Teddy and Bear give their retired owners great happiness and loads of laughter. The little dogs have wonderful lives with them. Understandably, they want Bear’s life to be as good as it possibly can be which means his becoming less fearful of people, including children.

Teddy

This can only be done by associating them with ‘good stuff’. It needs lots of patient work from his humans who will do their best not to push him ‘over threshold’ by getting so close that he then barks Go Away.

They have actually made good headway on walks and he can now accept several people he knows without barking. The big difference when out in the park is that he’s off lead and free to escape.

They can use the people he meets on walks to build up his confidence by pairing his looking at them with food. The lady may find the clicker one thing too many to handle – as well as two dogs, leads, poo bags and treats – so she will say ‘Yes’ instead.

They will find a bench at a comfortable distance from the kids’ play area and get out the clicker and cheese. We are using tiny bits of cheese for working on people because he likes it better than anything else. The only way he can now get cheese is when he sees a person.

Rehearsing Go Away barking.

The more Bear barks Go Away at people, particularly as they nearly always do go away, the more he’s going to do it.

When people go past the house, he barks Go Away – and they go. Success. When the mail comes through the door, he barks Go Away – and the postman goes. Success.

The view out of the window will be blocked and an outside letterbox installed. The constant daily rehearsal of succesfully barking at people to go away must be reduced.

When I got up to go, I wanted to get out without any of the usual barking from Bear. I did it in small stages starting by gathering my things. The lady clicked and fed as he watched me. As I slowly stood up she did it again. As I slowly walked to the door she continued.

I let myself out.

No barking!

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bear because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear is concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

 

 

Nervous Dog. New Puppy. Early Exposure.

What is it with so many Staffies? Is it a genetic tendency I wonder? Nervous dog Tom is yet another Staffie who is fearful of the outside world and reluctant to walk.

Tom drools when he is scared. He does a lot of drooling on walks.

A new Staffie puppy

The other day they brought home a new Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppy. Buster is a nine week old heart-breaker with a coat of grey velvet.

New puppy with nervous dogThey first brought home something that smelt of the puppy to introduce his scent to Tom. Tom drooled.

When puppy arrived, the poor nervous dog was really scared of him. Tom drooled continuously.

Over the past three days he has improved but still likes to keep out of the enthusiastic puppy’s way.

One surprising development is that Tom himself sometimes now initiates play. Strangely he’s not a nervous dog with Buster when they play. He bows and barks to Buster to get him to chase him.

There is only so much he can take though, and then he’s back to his nervous, quiet self and retires.

Buster follows him into the corner and Tom then drools or tries to escape. It’s like he is expecting to be told off or punished when the puppy is near him (something which definitely isn’t happening).

The big outside world.

They have had the four-year-old Tom for five months now and it’s clear he didn’t get the best start when he was Buster’s age. With my help they will make sure Buster is properly introduced to the outside word of dogs, people, vehicles, wheelie bins, paper bags, buggies and so on. All the experiences should be positive.

They should start this right away. The clock is ticking. Buster needs plenty of early exposure before he is fully vaccinated and ready to put down on the ground. They will have to carry him.

Poor Tom is scared of so many things, particularly when out of the house.

The main priority at present is to get the nervous dog’s stress levels down. To build up his confidence. Then he will be in a better state of mind to cope with Buster and to enjoy his company.

Every time Tom has to face things he is scared of without the opportunity to escape, it makes him worse. Every day he has to face the ordeal of a walk, particularly as it means going under a scary underpass if they are gong to get to the green. This is much too big a price to pay for exercise.

Building confidence in the nervous dog.

They will go back to basics with him and build up the nervous dog’s confidence immediately outside the house, going no further for now. Without this daily stress Tom should then become more resilient around Buster.

Buster fortunately seems a very confident puppy though he hates being alone. After all, he had lots of siblings and had never been alone before. He has adopted a bean bag as his favourite sleeping place, snuggling into it like it’s a pile of puppies.

Patiently and gradually they will wean him into being alone. Over the next six weeks I shall be helping them with all the usual puppy things, a mix of settling into his new life and pre-empting any future possible problems. We will start loose lead walking and basic training.

Confident little Buster may well, in the future, be a real confidence booster to nervous dog Tom – and even bring out the inner, carefree puppy in him.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Tom and Buster and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fearfulness is concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

 

All Alone, he Howls Cries Shakes. Life Without Daisy.

 

Nine years ago Banjo came to live with their other Jack Russell, Daisy. She was four years old at the time and all his life Badger lived with her and relied upon her. Daisy was the in charge.

Daisy has died.

Badger never before had been left all alone.

His young couple have to go out to work and Badger howls and cries. The young lady sneaked up to the window and looked in when he was quiet. He was sitting on the rug, shaking. This was the rug where he had last seen Daisy when the vet came to put her to sleep a couple of weeks previously.

unhappy left all alone

His life has been torn apart in more ways than just being all alone when his humans go out. Daisy was the dominant dog of the pair. All Badger’s life he has been used to following her and now he’s alone. It has left a big void with both her humans and with Badger and I’m sure he feels insecure without her. The separation problem is part of the bigger picture.

Without Daisy beside him, the previously calm dog is now on alert when out on walks.

Without this strong influence, Badger is lost. He is, in his way, grieving.

All alone without Daisy

He is now on window guard-duty alone. He has to deal with the invasion of post through the letterbox alone. They will block his view, put up an outside mailbox and help him out when he becomes alarmed.

The lower his stress levels are in general (I keep banging on about stress levels don’t I), the better he will be able to cope with this huge change in his life.

You might think now that they take him out everywhere with them – something they couldn’t do with Daisy – it would compensate for life without her.

Banjo needs time.

Introducing him to activities that suit his brain should help to enrich his new life without his strong-willed companion to control him – things to do with sniffing, foraging. He doesn’t play.

Helping to get him used to being all alone is tricky when they both work. They have arranged cover for the next couple of weeks and after that will take him to doggy daycare twice a week. He can then be without Daisy but somewhere he’s never had her with him – he loves other dogs.

A controlled and systematic plan.

A slowly slowly plan involving desensitising him to the triggers that precede their going out is fundamental. They will repeatedly go through each thing individually, coats on, checking the house, lifting keys etc. and then the whole sequence without actually going out of the door to begin with. Then they will add going out of the door – for one minute only initially. They will use food.

They can watch him from through a camera and an app their phones. This will enable them to time their returns, to be back before he panics.

When they are gone they can leave Badger a stuffed Kong and a chew, though it’s likely in his state he won’t yet be interested in food when all alone. Departures should be associated with good things and returns fairly boring.

There are other things things they can try that may help to comfort him when left:

  • Thundershirt. It works brilliantly with some dogs and not at all with others. First associate wearing it with calm and happy times. so that it doesn’t become yet another trigger ‘oh heck, they are leaving me all alone now are they?’.
  • Pet Remedy plug-in Watch this video explaining it.
  • Dog Music – downloadable. Why does Through a Dogs Ear music work to relieve canine anxiety?
  • Song for Daisy and see this explanation.
  • Continual boring talking like a speaking book is said to keeps some dogs company and calm.

We can review the situation in a couple of weeks. We may need to get the vet involved. The fact Badger will still have to be left all alone for several hours some days will unfortunately slow things down, but it is what it is.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Badger and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important as not all separation issues are the same. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

 

Fear of the Vet. Panicked. Struggled.

has developed fear of the vetBeautiful Jack Russell Jojo is nine years old and the friendliest, easiest little dog you could hope to meet.

Unfortunately she has developed a fear of the vet. She was taken for her regular yearly check and vaccinations but went into a flat panic.

Why, after all these years?

She has never enjoyed being at the vet but has tolerated it. The previous year she saw a different vet who, seeing she was uneasy, got down on the floor with her and all was well.

That previous time the waiting room had been full and busy. Sociable Jess was very happy with that.

This most recent time the waiting room was empty and quiet.

Sudden direct approach into a quiet room.

The vet came out of his room and walked directly towards Jojo. She immediately went and hid under the lady’s chair. Most unusual.

I see two things here. The appearance of the vet into the quiet room may have been a bit sudden. The direct approach towards Jojo will have scared her.

Then, when carried into the vet’s room, Jojo struggled frantically to get out of the lady’s arms as she was lifted her onto the table. They couldn’t hold her sufficiently still to do anything and had to give up.

It looks like she was sensitised to the actual vet himself by the manner and suddenness of his approach. It’s very likely, however, that in addition to fear of the vet she will also now be sensitised to the whole premises.

Maybe another time he can be asked to stay in his room and maybe the receptionist can send them in – or maybe just put his head around the door instead?

Direct advance can be intimidating. See this – the Pulse Project.

A dog can be a lot more confident if a person is already in a room, seated even, when the dog enters.

Getting over her fear of the vet.

The lady will now be working on getting Jojo not to have fear of the vet but to positively like him instead.

They will break a vet visit down into the smallest increments. This is a framework:

  • Have a word with the receptionist. Find out the best time of day.
  • Short walk first – fifteen minutes max. Keep it relaxed if possible.
  • Park outside vet. Walk around the immediate area. Drop food on the ground as they pass the vet’s step. If she’s totally chilled with the area around the step, open the door next time. If not, keep on walking past each session until she is.
  • Next, with lead long and loose, walk in. She can follow if she wants. Turn around if she’s not ready. If she goes in, feed her. Ask the receptionist to feed her. She’s such a friendly dog she will love a fuss.
  • Let her wander about. It would be good if the surgery room was empty and she could go and walk around there too. Make good things happen – special food.
  • Do these things several times on several different occasions.
  • When she is very comfortable, lift her onto the table and feed her there. It would be best of all if she could be taught to jump into the lady’s arms then put on the table. She can then have a choice. If she doesn’t jump up, she doesn’t go on the table.
  • Eventually they may be able to arrange that the vet is in there already. She can walk on a loose lead so she can escape immediately if she wants to. The vet also could feed her (she wouldn’t eat last time – much too scared). The vet did in fact recommend me for helping Jojo so I’m sure will be happy to help.

What led to Jojo’s fear of the vet can be diagnosed fairly accurately, so we know exactly what it is that needs to be reversed. It’s not what a vet does with her that scares Jojo but the vet himself. With some work and with the help of the vet, little Jojo should go back to tolerating him again – maybe even liking him.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Jojo and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear is concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)