Attacks Feet When People Leave. Highly Stressed.

Ruby simply can’t cope with life. They rehomed the Lakeland Terrier from an acquaintance at about three years of age – she Attacks feetis now five. Busy people with young children, it seems they ran with her early morning to ‘get rid of her energy’ and then shut her away in a crate for the rest of the day.

As is usually the case, if over-exercised without time to sniff and do dog things, the dog is likely to come home needing to unwind rather than tired and relaxed.

In this state they shut her away and left her for the day.

It’s not hard to attribute the two most significant symptoms of her stress levels to three years of this life.

Ruby licks doors and attacks feet.

She panics when anyone walks towards a door and attacks feet. She has caused injury and destroyed shoes.

When behind a door and unable to get to the person the other side, she will frantically lick it – more dragging her tongue over it than licking.

They tell her ‘no licking’, but with stress levels so high what else can she do to help herself? She spent her earlier days in the crate doing just this to gain some relief.

Trigger stacking

When I was there, the degree to which ‘trigger stacking’ of stress affects why she attacks feet became obvious.

When I first arrived she fairly excited and sniffed me curiously but quiet friendly. Her little body however was stiff with tension – as it was all evening. Her tail constantly quivered.

I needed to read her reactions. I got up and walked slowly for a few steps, dropping food (which she didn’t eat). Nothing. I sat down again.

A bit later the lady got up to show me what happens when she walks out of the room. Instant panic. Ruby stood with her nose against the door; she ran back to us as if to check we were exactly as she had left us and then back to the door. Poor little dog.

After a while the man did the same. Her reaction was even stronger this time. I could see she wasn’t far short of biting his feet. I could also see she was about to lick the door.

stress bucketRuby’s ‘stress bucket’ was now overflowing. So much so that when the lady got up to go to the kitchen Ruby went for her feet, biting a couple of holes in her fortunately padded slippers.

Later I slowly stood up again. I wondered whether throwing something could redirect her away from feet. I threw a squeaky ball as I stepped away from my chair. She went for my foot. (I was wearing tough shoes and didn’t feel it).

The squeaky ball was my idea and not a good one as it was too arousing. It’s a process of learning and investigation.

As soon as I sat down again it was like nothing had happened.

I quietly told her “sorry”.

‘Operation Calm’.

This was proof that reducing stress levels is the only place to start – ‘Operation Calm’.

We will make no progress with Ruby in her current state. They will do all they can to reduce stress and excitement levels for two or three weeks and then I will go again and review the situation. With stress levels this high there is little they can do without making it even worse.

Currently they tell her ‘No Licking’. I said to ignore it completely. It does no damage and if she can’t lick, where does the stress go to now? They can’t give her something to chew instead because she is then on a frantic quest to bury it.

Her ‘thing’ is about people walking away from her and the door shutting behind them. It doesn’t matter who it is when she attacks feet. It’s not like it’s necessarily someone she knows and loves that you would understand her not wanting to lose.

Interestingly she seems relaxed when left all alone, which isn’t often. She settles. It’s a paradox.

She goes frantic when she can’t get to them when they are at home, particularly if she can see or hear them. She can’t handle anyone walking out on her – it’s like she needs to keep an eye on everyone in the house, whoever they are. The real problems start when they have friends round. The more people there are, the worse it is for Ruby.

She gets so distressed that she….attacks feet.

Being on high alert all the time for someone walking out on her and keeping people in sight at all times means she must be seriously sleep-deprived too.  ~We all know how that feels.

Where do we start?

We unpicked Ruby’s days, looking at each thing in her life that stresses her and how she can be helped in every way possible.

If our efforts don’t significantly improve her over the next two weeks, we need talk to the vet with regards to medical help. After all, no human would be expected to live in this state. Like many, they are reluctant to go down the medication route.

For this fortnight I have suggested they try one or two natural things including a Thundershirt, a Pet Remedy plug-in and either Zylkene or L-theanine. When everything is added together one may support another.

Only later can the work on changing the behaviours themselves start. The fact she attacks feet is a symptom of something else and it’s the causes that needs addressing.

Things will be broken down into tiny increments, each stage worked on until she is okay with it before going on to the next. It will probably be a long slow job.

For example, getting her okay with people walking away from her without even going out of the room is a start, teaching her to stay rather than to follow. Then a person getting up quickly. The man or the lady walking towards a door. A guest standing up, a guest walking towards a door. Walking through the door but not shutting it. Shutting the door….and so on.

Ruby’s real nature is very friendly. It would be inaccurate to label her an aggressive dog, but panic takes over.

They give her a lovely home where her needs are always put first. The little dog’s state of mind causes them great distress also.

 

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 Ruby and the because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same.  Listening to ‘other people’, finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog 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 (see my Help page)

 

 

Too Much Excitement. Too Much Lots of Things

‘Too much’ results in stress.

Ollie’s stress levels are at the root of the problems. This said, not all stress is bad and a lot is associated with fun – but it’s too much of everythiToo much excitementng that’s the trouble.

So many things add up during the day. The eighteen-month-old Cockerpoo has to have the lady in sight all the time and panics when left alone. He barks at every sound outside. He can’t control himself when other dogs are about.

Their young children are often excited around him. Too much arousal, too much petting (and too vigorous), too much prolonged, rough or repetitive play, too much physical contact. They believe it makes him happy and it does, in a way. But it’s too much.

It was evening, the children had gone to bed and Ollie gradually settled. I watched him go and snuggle on the sofa beside the man who immediately began touching him. Ollie licked his lips, then licked his nose, then yawned. A little uncomfortable? To me it suggested the dog wanted the closeness but wasn’t asking to be touched. He soon jumped down.

When they walk past him, he will roll onto his back. They assume it’s because he wants a tummy rub. Really? It will depend upon context, but often it will be appeasement. “Please leave me alone.”

Why should Ollie be so stressed?

I saw for myself how easily he becomes anxious. Sadly, as a twelve-week-old puppy, right in the middle of his first fear period, he had a painful medical problem that resulted in his being confined for six weeks.

Ollie is a lovely friendly dog. He should be having a lovely life. He has love, attention, play, walks and the best food, so why should he be stressed? It’s about everything in moderation. There is, simply, too much.

There may however be ‘too little’ of the things he really needs – down time, sniffing time, closeness without necessarily being touched, peace and quiet without being alone, brain work, healthy stimulation.

So, I would say that cutting down on the intensity of everything will make a big difference. This has to be the starting point. At the same time, we will introduce activities that help him to reduce stress and to use his brain, instead of working him up into a frenzy of excitement.

One very interesting thing they told me is that Ollie loves a tight-fitting garment they dressed him up in for an occasion last year. Recently, sniffing a box, he dug down and dragged it out. He then he took it off and lay on it. Apparently, when he was wearing it Ollie seemed calm and happy which is why they felt he liked it. This started me thinking. How does he react when his harness goes on, I asked? He’s calmer then also.

From this I just guess that there’s a good chance of him being one of those dogs a Thundershirt or Ttouch wrap could help.

Other dogs send him onto a high

Here is another strange thing. Ollie is only aggressive to other dogs when his humans are eating! If there is dog food or bones about he’s okay.

He has only ever shown aggression to humans when other dogs are around.

Ollie’s arousal levels shoot through the roof when he’s near dogs. He is so desperate to play that he overwhelms them. In his uncontrolled way, he charges about, jumping over them and has nearly bowled over a couple of owners who were not pleased. The presence of other dogs gives Ollie such a high that he’s uncontrollable. The lady is now anxious about walking him.

First things first

Number one priority, then, is to calm him down a bit. Then after two or three weeks I will go again and see what we then have and what we need to do next.

 

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 Ollie and the because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same.  Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog 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 (see my Help page)

Aggressive Barking at People. Fear or Anger?

Two-year-old Belgian Malinois Jake’s home is now with people who have considerable experience and knowledge as dog owners. I’m sure if Jake had gone to them as a puppy they would have nurtured him into a reliable and friendly adult dog.

Physical neglect and domestic abuse

Poor Jake spent the first year of his life suffering severe physical neglect and domestic abuse.

This is a far cry from the life he should have had – one where he was loved, given kind training and most of all, socialised with people.

In all respects Jake received the opposite.

My clients have made considerable headway with him, particularly with respect to training. There is nothing they won’t do in order to help him.

Their main problem is Jake’s antipathy to people, demonstrated by his aggressive barking at them.

When out, his lunging and barking has a fear component too. From the moment he leaves the house he is on high alert for people. He is necessarily muzzled and, for control, they use a head halter underneath it.

This is Catch 22. He must be under control to keep people safe, but he’s going to feel trapped and uncomfortable. They can’t do anything about the muzzle, but they can use better handling equipment where they have just as much control should they need it and with Jake feeling comfortable.

Aggressive barking and two attacks

He has attacked a couple of people and only didn’t cause injury because he was wearing the muzzle at the time. On both occasions, to his humans, it seemed without warning.

Jake is constantly ‘living on the brink’ due to his invisible internal arousal levels. On both these occasions there will have been a build-up. One was at the end of a walk with all it’s challenges and the other he was in a situation that was far too much for him. It only takes one small extra frustration to send a dog like this over the edge (see ‘trigger-stacking‘).

When anyone calls to the house, Jake is always shut away. It makes having friends or family visiting very difficult. Catch 22 again. Without encountering people how will he ever change?

Due to the lady’s work, many people do actually come and go. He will bark from behind the kitchen door; he will bark at people and other dogs through the long windows.

This daily and frequent aggressive barking at people in or outside his house, people he can’t get to, will be very frustrating for him. It is also constant rehearsal of the aggressive barking which, he will undoubtedly believe, drives people away in the end.

When I visited yesterday we set things up carefully. I needed to see for myself whether fear was involved or if it was simply rage that another person was in his house. 

It looked like rage.

To Jake, his job was to get rid of me.

They had him muzzled up ready in the kitchen when I arrived, with a training lead hooked to both front and back of a harness and the man for company. I had announced my arrival on my mobile so as not to ring the doorbell. We wanted his arousal levels to be as low as possible.

I sat at a table as far from the door as possible. I could see through the open door and down the short passage from the kitchen.

The lady had instructions not to talk to Jake but just to walk him towards the room. As soon as he barked she was to turn around and walk him out of sight just round the corner.

As soon as Jake caught sight of me he exploded. He barked ferociously, lunging on the lead. The lady had to use her strength to remove him but because of the harness it would cause him no discomfort (discomfort would be yet another reason for him to hate me).

I asked her now to say ‘Jake – come’ each time she turned around and as he got a hang of the process he became less resistant.

Soon Jake was looking at me without barking.

After several attempts there was a distance outside the door where he could see me without any aggressive barking. He was quiet. The lady had worked previously on eye contact and he was looking at her all the time which she rewarded. I now suggested she waited until he looked at me, said ‘Yes’ and then fed him.

We worked on the lady approaching a step at a time, continually reinforcing Jake each time he looked at me. It didn’t take long before she could sit on a chair already placed some way away from me near the door beside the man, and Jake very soon lay down quietly.

After a while I tested this. I moved my legs. I stood up. Nothing. I got up and moved about a little and he was still relaxed.

aggressive barking at people

Jake for the short time his muzzle was off

I suggested the lady, hanging on to the lead, took his muzzle off.

He was fine and I even manged to take this photo (whilst looking the other way). I also chucked him food from time to time. This doesn’t look like a frightened dog, does it.

All went very well until something small happened.

I think the man got up to do something. This little bit of extra arousal suddenly sent Jake over the edge again and he lunged at me with aggressive barking as before. I was doing nothing.

It was almost like he realised he had forgotten himself and his job to get rid of me!

The lady took him straight back out.

We rehearsed the procedure again and then left him in the kitchen. We rehearsed it one more time before I left. Both times we finished at a point where it was going well.

They will now need frequent callers to work on.

Reducing Jake’s stress levels underpins everything.

Unless they can do lots of things to reduce Jake’s stress levels so that he is calmer in general, nothing will change. In this state he’s unable to exercise self-control. They then will be able to introduce activities to a calmer Jake that are incompatible with aggressive barking and lunging, maybe a ritual of some sort.

I did what I call a complete ‘behaviour health check’, looking for all areas where they could reduce excitement, arousal, fear, frustration levels. Accumulating stress levels can make his ‘explosions’ unpredictable – and inevitable.

In those most important very early months of his life, Jake had missed out on socialisation – encountering different people. When he should have been treated kindly and trained using force-free methods for the first year of his life, he received the very opposite.

They are now picking up the pieces. If anyone can do this, they can.

 

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 Jake. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression or fear issues of any kind are 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 (click here to see my Help page)

Odd Behaviour. Dog Shuts People Out.

Odd behaviour. Another puzzle.

The four-year-old Jack Russell had been in rescue kennels for months. Then he had been adopted for just four days before the odd behaviour landed him back in the kennels. My clients have endured it for three months now.

Normally when a dog does something regularly we can get some clue as to why from what happens (in his mind) as a result of the behaviour. It does something for him.

The odd behaviour – what is ‘in it’ for Max?

In this case, the obvious consequence, losing the person, can’t surely be what’s ‘in it’ for Max. He’s not happy to be left all alone.

The odd behaviour happens when someone is walking out of the room. He barks frantically and leaps at the the door. It slams shut. Usually the person is therefore shut out of the room.

As the door always closes after the person is gone, so his aim is unlikely to be to keep the person in.

He suddenly becomes extremely anxious when someone approaches the door. It makes no difference if someone else is still in the room with him, so it’s unlikely to be fear of being left all alone.

He did the same thing when I left the room too, so it’s unlikely to be about the fear of losing someone he cares about.

What if Max went through the door with them? We tried the lady going through the door whilst inviting him to go with her. He wouldn’t go. He just barked and leapt at the door, slamming it. We tried the same thing with the man.

He slams the door, shutting the person out.

The door was beside a chair and Max leapt onto the arm in order to fly at the door.

If the door is held open so he can’t slam it shut, he will jump down and bark at the open doorway as the person disappears around the corner. If the door is too far away from a chair for him to jump at and close, he will get behind the door to slam it shut after the person.

Odd behaviour

Lady leaving the room

He acts like there is an invisible barrier in the doorway and that there may be danger beyond that could be triggered by someone going out of the room.

He only does this on downstairs doors, never upstairs.

It’s never good to use guesswork – we should stick to the facts we actually can see. I do however wonder whether in his past life someone has used an electric shock barrier on him. Electric shock punishment that can come out of the blue to the dog can result in unexplained, odd behaviour.

With most behaviours it is easy to see what the dog gets out of it – what drives the behaviour. Not so in this case.

How can we make Max feel better about people walking out through doors? One way to get him to feel better is to associate it with something especially nice.

I devised a game (I might also use clicker, but not appropriate in this case).

‘Rules’ of the game:

  • Do this every time you go through a door – morning or evening – whether or not he’s likely to bark.
  • Use food (chicken) or a ball (squeaky perhaps), something you never use any other time. It must be special.
  • Starve him of ball play altogether for a while. This makes the ball more desirable.
  • Both people wear a bum bag all the time containing chicken and special ball.
  • No talking, no commands, no shouting if he barks!

How you play:

You want to go out of the room? Stand up and drop chicken or throw him the ball. Take a couple of steps towards the door. Drop more chicken or throw the ball. Get to the door. Sprinkle some bits of food or throw him the ball. As you walk through the door, drop food or throw the ball.

Antecedents and consequences.

If things aren’t showing significant improvement in a couple of weeks we will try a different tack.

The consequence of the odd behaviour is always a person walking out of the room. Maybe they can do the opposite and walk back in again instead? The trigger for the odd behaviour is someone walking directly towards the door. They will already have tried changing this be throwing food or the ball on the way to the door. They can try walking away from the door and around the room before approaching it – maybe even walk backwards!

Here is a good blog from Mutt About Town (Maureen Backman): ‘Antecedants – cracking the behaviour puzzle‘.

There must be a way of cracking this odd behaviour.

 

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 Max and the because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same.  Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog 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 (see my Help page)

 

Scared Dog Indoors

Poor Boris looked uneasy all the time.

His family, unable to read his subtle signals just hadn’t realised how his uneasiness went a lot further than the problem I was there for – his fear of going near particular pieces of furniture and on certain routes through the house.

When they first adopted him a month ago he was very reluctant to enter the house at all.

He may be a very scared dog indoors, but outside Boris is a different dog. He loves to be outside in the garden.

The three-year-old Labrador Boxer mix has now landed on his feet with a couple, their two young daughters and a lovely home.

As soon as I arrived, the young girls cuddled and fussed him, probably for my benefit. Neither they nor mum could see that with his looking away, lip licking and even freezing he wasn’t enjoying it at all. He was wagging his tail, but taken in context this was more in appeasement than joy. Then Dad arrived home and welcomed him with rather vigorous stroking and again he looked away and licked his lips. I would say he was simply enduring the fuss.

Boris sleeps and eats in a utility room at the back of the house, but won’t go through the kitchen and down a short passage to get in there. He will only walk around the outside of the house and in the back door.

We sat in the kitchen – another room where he’s not happy – and because we were all there he did venture in. As he crept through the door, warily, he wouldn’t turn around but would then back out again. Reading him, he seemed to want the company without the fussing. He eventually quietly sat between the gentleman and the lady, away from me, but his eyes were constantly darting.

Each doorway or corner to another area seems to hold terror for Boris.

His behaviour looks to me very much like that of a dog that has been punished by someone unpredictable, not knowing when something might happen and why, which may tie in with what is known of his past. His body language and the backing away is symptomatic of the use of a remote-controlled electric shock collar – a beep comes out of the blue to the dog followed by a zap if he doesn’t comply. Possibly as a puppy he had been shocked to stop him chewing furniture or zapped for going into forbidden areas.

I usually avoid conjecture but want to explain what it looks like. One can only guess and the past is the past, but his behaviour is typical of fallout from the use of excessive or unpredictable punishment of some sort. Whatever it was will only ever have happened has caused  indoors which would explain why he’s so much more comfortable outside.

His new family’s kindness and wish to make him happy has resulted in rather a lot of added pressure on him. The enticing in an excited voice to encourage him out of his room and through the passageway is making things worse as is too much fussing in general. We listed the things where he may be feeling pressure, and they need working on.

When nobody is about he has, on a couple of occasions, ventured out of his room and they have found him at the front door when they arrived home. He has never, though, gone back into his room from indoors.

That route from hall to his back room needs ‘exorcising’. I have suggested they lace the area, starting near the door where he’s least wary, with his favourite food chopped up small. They should scatter it there with him out of the way and then leave him to discover it, always with an escape route back into the hall. This way it is the room and the floor that is offering him the food, not his humans using bribery. (See more about Sprinkles TM here).

Eventually, if taken gradually enough, they should be able to lay a trail down that passage so long as they themselves keep out of the way.

If this psychological approach is very slow, then we have another tack using clicker training – a way in which he won’t suspect that he’s being lured into ‘danger’.

Boris’ body language must be respected and I have sent a couple of excellent videos for the children to watch – mum and dad too, helping them to read dogs. As little pressure as possible should be put on him while he builds up trust in humans and in the safety of his environment. This will take time because things that may have happened to him at a young age will be fairly well implanted in him now. There may be a genetic element to this, but I’m am pretty sure that humans have not always been nice to him. It’s a big tribute to his lovely nature that it’s not resulted in aggression.

Feeling unsafe overwhelms everything else. It’s a survival thing. An animal that feels unsafe won’t even eat. Changing this is a priority. Over time he should be getting his trust back in humans.

In some areas they have already made some great progress in the month he’s been with them.

Wary of New People Unless on the Train. Puzzling!

Wary of people

Crumpet

Crumpet is a Cockerpoo. Crumpet (I just love her name) is three years old.

She scares easily – apart from the very times when most other dogs would be frightened. On trains, on the underground and on the busy streets of London she is absolutely fine!

At home where it’s quieter she is spooked by anything different or unusual and is very wary when a person appears. She may rush at them, barking.

She is like this also when someone calls at their house.

The lady takes her to work and Crumpet reacts in the same way when someone enters her office. Though tethered, she rushes at them, barking.

The more people there are, the less wary Crumpet seems to be

The very strange thing is that in a crowded train she is friendly! She will even go to people for a fuss and sit on the floor beside them. The more people there are, the less wary Crumpet seems to be.

It does seem like there is a territorial element to it and she feels more threatened by people near to or in her home – the same at the office. Commonly dogs are worse when a person is standing. Understandably this is particularly the case when she is in an enclosed space or on lead (train carriage and London streets excepted).

It’s an odd thing, but often the fewer people there are the more threatened the dog feels, particularly if they appear suddenly or move quickly. Perhaps this is the same with ourselves? We can feel invisible in a crowd.

Reading the dog.

Because of how I set things up when I arrived, she was fine with me from the start. However, it was a bit different when I got up to go. I saw for myself just how easily Crumpet scares. She was sitting on the lady’s lap and I was now standing up. As I talked to the lady, standing quite close to her, I watched Crumpet. My nearness and the fact I was standing started her lip-licking and yawning. Then there was a little growl. All were clear signs that she was feeling very uncomfortable.

Had I not taken heed and backed away, no doubt next she would have rushed barking at me too.

Is she being protective? It’s possible. Whatever the reasons behind it, Crumpet should be helped in situations like this. This means learning to read her subtle signals, before it gets to the rushing and barking stage if possible. They should save her from any unwanted attention or increase distance.

She looks so gorgeous that she is a magnet for ‘dog-lovers’!

Sometimes Crumpet can cope better than at other times.

Crumpet is variable. There are occasions when she is less wary and reactive than others. This can only be to do with her own mental state at the time. The calmer, less-stressed and more confident she is in all aspects of her life, the better she will be able to cope with the things that scare her.

The nearer to home she is the more wary of people in particular she seems to be.

We will be concentrating on lowering her stress and excitement levels whilst also counter-conditioning her to things she’s wary of – people in particular – by building up positive associations and doing everything to keep her feeling safe. If she no longer sees people as a threat, then she has no need to feel protective – if protectiveness is part of it.

Crumpet is in such a frenzy of excitement before she even leaves the house, barking her way down the road. In this state one wouldn’t then expect a calm and considered reaction to anyone she might meet.

Progress is fastest when things are broken down into small steps.

The lady will work on getting through the door with a quiet dog! I have invented a sequence, like kind of game, involving waiting for quiet by a door, opening it, walking through with a quiet dog and returning again – over and over. Starting with inside doors, then the back door and finally the front door.

Next she will progress to walking Bracken quietly away from the door a small way before turning back – until they get to the end of the road.

I’m still puzzled by why Crumpet is so comfortable in the train! Possibly it’s because there is no territorial element.

The little dog who spooks at a rubbish bag appearing on the footpath is unfazed by the hiss of closing underground train doors. The dog who rushes at a person walking towards them in their own road is untroubled by people packed into a carriage.

We need to bottle this and take it home and to the office!

 

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 Crumpet and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog 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 (see my Help page)

 

Shock. Terror. Horrifying Event for the Dogs

Less than two weeks ago a huge shock event devastated the couple’s lives. It was all over the local and national news:

Shock of van driving into front door

‘A van has crashed into a 16th century cottage in Bedfordshire, smashing through its front door and becoming lodged in the wall.

The driver, a 34-year-old man, has been arrested and is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

(The lady) told the BBC she heard a noise “like an earthquake” when the van smashed into her property.

“This van came flying over a hedge and crashed into our hall and kitchen,” she said.

“If I had (not) left the room I don’t know what would have happened.”

What the news didn’t cover was that their two Airedale Terriers were there also.

Afterwards there was panic and shouting: there were fire engines, sirens, flashing blue lights, police and fire crew. The driver was apprehended. Only the van was holding up the front of the house.

Dogs Clem and Rupert had been put out of the way in the back garden in the dark. When the daughter came to take them away to her own house, she found them cowering and shaking.

To get to her car the two terrified dogs had to be walked through all this.

Can a dog be psychic?

A very strange thing happened that evening, beginning a couple of hours before the huge shock crash. Older Airedale Rupert, usually quiet and calm, stood staring at the couple, barking repeatedly at them.

Then….BANG!

Rupert had never behaved in this way before.

The house was propped up, tidied up as far as possible and the dogs were brought home a week later.

Clem hasn’t been herself since.

Placid Rupert now continues to stare at them in an evening, barking.

I met the two gorgeous dogs a couple of days ago, less than two weeks later. Rupert, more self-contained, took himself off having had a good sniff of me. Clem is the more needy. She was agitated in a friendly way and she wanted attention.

Already a sensitive dog, the recent events have caused her the most trauma. She undoubtedly doesn’t feel safe. 

After Shock.

This is a brief taster of what it must be like for dogs in natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, or dogs in war zones. Something sudden happens that they don’t understand and their world goes mad.

Clem

A couple of days after the two dogs were back home a picture, all by itself, fell crashing down from the wall. The wall must have been shaken. Fresh panic for Clem in particular.

She is very receptive to the emotions and behaviour of her humans and the upset following the event has really affected the lady and the gentleman. Picking up on this will be adding to Clem’s inability to calm down at certain times.

She always has had a habit of leaping up and ‘biting’ arms when over-excited or aroused. Now that her stress levels are so high it’s happening even more. It really hurts. The lady cries out and there is shouting. Consequently Clem gets even more worked up.

When I was there we concentrated on showing her that jumping up at or on me didn’t work, got her no attention, but feet on the floor did. She was very persistent but she was also a very fast learner. In no time she was choosing to sit or stand calmly instead.

Knowing how this kind of dog can be strongly influenced by my own behaviour, I spoke quietly and really engaged with her. I gave her things to chew. Chewing helped her enormously.

The lady said she’d not seen Clem happy like this since ‘it’ had happened.

Our sensitive dogs mirror us.

Behaving quietly and calmly around Clem will make a huge difference over time. The couple’s nerves are understandably still very much on edge with the shock. Their lovely cottage is the product of years of hard work.

The number one priority for now where Clem is concerned is to do all they can to reduce her stress levels, very importantly by being quiet and calm around her. Any stress is cumulative and can last for days (for both humans and dogs). The stress of a shock like this will last far longer.

Working on stress-reduction by doing several small things which may not make a big difference individually should produce results when added together.

Dogs can get PTSD too.

Some symptoms of PTSD in dogs are listed in vetinfo.com.

I’m sure they will all get themselves back to normal before too long and, with luck and with work, Clem may actually end up more calm and confident than she was before the incident. Her humans will now act differently at those times when she can’t control herself, most particularly when they come down in the morning, come in from having been out and before meals.

Instead of entering the room to jumping and arm-grabbing from a hyper Clem with poor Rupert trying to intervene, they will now have a gate in the doorway. They won’t open the gate until Clem’s feet are on the floor and she has calmed down a bit. They can then help her out by giving her something to chew as they step through.

Human noise, crying out, shouting at her to stop and so on, can only intensify the dog’s arousal.

(Bonfire night and fireworks in a few days’ time may well be the very last thing Clem needs just now).

 

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 Clem and I’ve not gone fully into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear issues of any kind are 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 (click here to see my Help page)

‘Go Away’ he Barks. Often it Works. They Pass By.

Go Away!

The big dog stands on the chair looking out of the window. When someone goes past he barks ‘Go Away!’. They go. Success.

Go Away, he barkedHe prances and jumps around a jogger and they run away. Success.

Why is Einstein like this? Great name, isn’t it, probably reflecting the Poodle component of his mix which includes Rottweiler and Doberman.

There is guard dog in his genes but there is more to it. In a yard with guard dogs is where Einstein spent the formative first five months of his life. He will undoubtedly have been taught by them to bark ‘Go Away’ at anyone daring to come into the yard.

I found two-year-old Einstein’s barking at me rather curious. It’s like he wasn’t serious. It sounded quite fierce but his heart wasn’t really in it. He isn’t as emotional as he sounds. His body language didn’t back up his vocals.

If he was really intent on guard duty he wouldn’t take a break to sniff around for a bit of dropped food.

It’s tribute to the work and love of his young owners that, considering his start in life, he’s not a lot worse. He is affectionate and friendly to people he knows and okay with people when out so long as they don’t invade his space and aren’t running.

Behaviour learned from when he was a young puppy.

Experiences, particularly early ones, actually change the brain: see Changing behaviour from the neurobiological perspective.  It will be difficult to break.

The way to deal with Einstein’s Go Away barking involves a ‘jigsaw’ of pieces that, when added together, should help the situation. Here are some:

His bed is placed against the front door – the most important guarding location in the house. I suggest they move it. They will prevent him looking out of the window to bark Go Away at passing people. They will get their neighbour to throw him a ball (Einstein barks for him to go away too).

When he sees a jogger, instead of barking Go Away he will be given something different to do.

Gradually people coming to the house should become a positive thing. At present they have few visitors for obvious reasons. They now need plenty of people calling to their house.

Using myself as a guinea pig we devised a plan. When I arrive I never have a dog like this in the room. I like to sit down first and then the dog is brought in. A sitting person is less of a threat.

He soon found that his initial bout of barking brought no result. I didn’t go away. I was relaxed and casually threw a couple of bits of food away from me. He ate them. There was none of the usual fuss and comforting he might get from his lady owner who was holding his lead. 

Reinforcing him for not barking.

At each break in barking she now clicked and dropped food. She clicked when he briefly sat and settled. He was up again and barking. She clicked and fed when he stopped.

Now it was obvious that he wasn’t seriously aroused – it was like he did it out of a sense of duty, so when he started again I asked her to immediately walk him out of the room. In and out. In and out. The fifth time he no longer looked at me when he came back in. Click and treat. Settle, click and treat.

Like many dogs with this behaviour, if he is out of the room for a few minutes it’s like he’s forgotten the person is there so he starts again. They can take advantage of this with their guinea-pig guests by leaving him out for five minutes and bringing him back in, then going through the whole procedure again.

Interestingly, he is fine at a couple of other houses where he spends time. The only occasion when there was an incident with a person arriving there was when the lady owner was present. Very possibly he’s protective of her also. She will no longer ‘pander’ to his barking at people with fuss and comfort. He’s not scared after all. It’s like she’s in cahoots with him. She should act cool and unconcerned!

Einstein should be left to work out for himself what works (quiet – click and food) and what doesn’t work (you want ‘Go Away’? Ok, but it’s you who leaves).

This two-year-old big teddy bear really is a gorgeous dog. He has so many good qualities. He’s great with other dogs, he is biddable, he comes back when called. He is cuddly and affectionate.

They just don’t want or need a guard dog, that’s all.

 

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 Einstein and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. As in this case, it’s could be very easy to jump to the wrong conclusions.  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)

 

She Barks at People Despite Being Well Trained

Goldie probably already had the seeds of timidity before they got her as a young puppy. If she had encountered many more people sufficiently early it would have helped, but they were caught in that trap of having to wait for vaccinations before taking her out (another matter I frequently write about). She’s now fourteen months old.

She barks at people.

Goldie barks at certain people when out, not everyone. She barks at people she doesn’t know who come into her she barks at peoplehouse.

One thing is for certain, if they had not been the dedicated owners they are, putting in so much love and training, the small gun dog Golden Labrador could now be a great deal worse.

It didn’t take her long to stop barking at me. It was a treat to visit such an gentle, friendly and well-trained dog.

Goldie has a lovely life, just tarnished by her fearfulness of certain people in certain situations.

Training alone doesn’t address this fear.

When out she will walk nicely, looking up and engaging with whoever is holding the lead. Keeping and holding attention is very valuable for managing situations but it it doesn’t get her to feel differently about an advancing person. It merely takes her attention away from them.

(It’s common for dogs to feel uneasy when approached. See the pulse project).

For what we want to achieve, Goldie needs to change how she feels. Distracting her by getting her to look at them instead is avoidance. It’s like telling a child who has seen a masked man at the window to pay attention to his Xbox.

Emotions drive behaviour. She barks at certain people. This is driven by fear.

To help to address this fear, she needs to register the person. Direct approaches are intimidating so they should always arc. They should keep at a distance where Goldie is aware but not reacting.

Looking at the person will then trigger goodies. Food can rain down.

Training her to keep attention on the handler is perfect if caught unprepared or too close, but it won’t change how Goldie feels. It’s merely management. They want to be able to relax and trust her to react calmly by herself. She won’t unless she loses her fear.

People invading her space.

Another responsibility of the owner is to protect their dog from unwelcome attention – who doesn’t want to touch a beautiful Labrador, after all. A yellow ‘I Need Space’ vest should help greatly.

Off-lead Goldie is less likely to react to an approaching person as is usually the case. She will have freedom to increase distance, something she doesn’t have when someone comes to the door of her house. At home the stranger is walking directly towards her.

They could of course train her to settle on a mat away from the door when someone comes in, but this is a big ask when she’s scared and reacts with barking rather than hiding.

Training will have its place later. For now she should be kept away from the door when someone arrives. Standing people are more threatening, so she can join them when the person is sitting down. They can then work on the person ‘triggering goodies’. It worked well with me.

They can desensitise her to the knocker too. Starting with Goldie at the door beside them and letting her see them knock whilst dropping food. They can do various kinds of knocks: short, multiple, loud and soft. Then can then have a family member the other side of the door knocking while another feeds her inside. Gradually they can increase distance and later make the knocks unpredictable. This will need hundreds of repetitions over a period of time.

When she eventually becomes more confident and relaxed, training her to go and lie on her bed away from the door when there is a knock on the door would be reasonable.

One last thing. They would like to take her places like the pub or a cafe without fearing she may suddenly have a bout of aggressive-sounding barking when a person approaches.

Goldie should end up with the ideal mix. Emotional stability and great training.

 

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 Goldie and I’ve not gone fully into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear issues of any kind are 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 (click here to see my Help page)

Fearful of People but Needs Socialising. Conflict.

Lottie is fearful of people.

Fearful of peopleBeing fearful of people is unusual in a puppy of just three months old. It’s very sad to see.

Lottie is already growling when someone looks at her or approaches her, and it’s getting worse.

The beautiful Golden Retrieve puppy is also scared of noises and of anything new.

It’s hard to trace just why this is. Her family had done all the research possible over a long period of time before choosing her and she came from a good environment – from a family home, living with her mother.

She was the last of the litter and they found her lacking confidence from the start.

A puppy of eight weeks old should be confident and fearless.

Perhaps something occurred to make the already sensitive puppy so fearful of people, something during the puppy’s crucial fear period.  Something that nobody was aware of.

Lottie’s fearfulness may simply be genetic.

She should have had early socialising with different people from a few weeks old. She should have had habituating to daily life, people, other dogs and so on. Unfortunately they have been caught in that common trap of believing they can’t take her out to mix until her vaccinations are finished.

Now, at three months old, she’s ‘allowed’ to go out and they are playing catch up. This is what Linda Michaels says about this situation: Puppy socialisation and vaccinations belong together.

Conflict. A dilemma.

Finding the best way to go about helping Lottie creates a dilemma – a conflict between the two things she most needs. One is time to build confidence around people and the other plenty of positive encounters as early as possible.

The need for patience and time to grow her confidence must come first, because without this, encounters are unlikely to be positive for her. They need to go very slowly so that she can get used to the scary world one thing at a time

Combining the two needs will best be done by as many encounters with people as possible but from a ‘safe’ distance, and associated with good things.

I suggest for a start that they put her in a comfortable harness and attach a long lead. They can simply take her to the end of their drive and let her watch the world go by, well back from any cars or people.

With every sound they will drop food. Every car that passes they can drop food. Every distant person she sees – drop food. Any dog she sees – drop food. If she’s scared, the lead is long and loose and she can run back to the house.

If this is still too much for her, they may need to start further back by the front door. It’s vital she’s allowed to choose her own pace.

People must not be allowed to crowd her or touch her. Believing they were doing the right things, they had been carrying her to allow people to touch her. She shook. From now on, getting near to a person must be her own choice and it doesn’t look like this will happen for a while.

They will start to invite people to their house – under strict instructions.

A typical happy Golden Retriever puppy!

Lottie’s not scared all the time however! In her home with her family she can be a typical happy little puppy tornado! She may suddenly race around with things going flying. She chews and she nips when excited! This is a lot easier and more normal to deal with.

 

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 Lottie and I’ve not gone fully into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear issues of any kind are 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 (click here to see my Help page)