Will the New Puppy Help Bella? Early Socialisation is so Important.

Labrador Springer cross doesn't like being aproached by people when out

Bella

Bella’s sweet looks attract attention when they are out, but she doesn’t like being approached and especially touched.

She barks.

She looks like a long-eared Labrador puppy, but she is actually a two-year-old Labrador Springer cross, much smaller than a Labrador.

The couple, first-time dog owners, admit to not having socialised her when they got her as a puppy, not realising how crucial it was. The lady took her for long country walks with a friend and her dog but she met few people. They didn’t have many callers to the house at that time either.

Now they have a baby and they get more visitors, and Bella is finding them scary. Her barking sounds quite fierce. In his ignorance, a visiting family member tries to grab her while she’s barking and she has snapped at him. She has no choice with all her other warnings ignored. She has nipped a couple of other people who have approached her and tried to touch her at home as well as out.

Her owners now see that it’s their responsibility to protect her from unwanted advances just as they would their baby. Over time Bella should then become less wary.  In addition, a lot of good associations need to be attached to people she meets, both coming to the house and when out.

Bella is very reactive to many things – the vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, hairdryer, garden hose and more. The young man plays wrestling games and hypes her up when he comes home till she’s flying all over him like a wild thing. Inadvertently, through his shouting at a TV football match, she is now really frightened when he raises his voice.

Helping her to be calmer is key.  It is all TOO MUCH. So, sorry, no more wild games. Put her in another room if the match is gripping and put her somewhere else before using any machinery that scares her. They understand and are happy with this, wanting the very best for her.

They will get a little yellow jacket for her saying ‘I need space’ or ‘please don’t touch me’ to help when they are out (maybe even when they have callers!). This way they won’t have to keep making excuses or apologising. For anyone interested, here are a couple of sites to get them from: http://www.coats-4-dogs.com/Space-Dog-Campaign.html or http://www.purechaos2calm.com/store/#.UotiJ-LpWaM

Believing it will be the best they can do for dear little Bella, in a few days’ time they are picking up a new puppy!  A Newfoundland called Brewster. He will be eight weeks old and I guess not much smaller than Bella herself.

They are hoping that a companion will give her more confidence. Maybe. Time will tell.  Crucial will be allowing Bella to make her own advances (or not) and doing much more to avoid her building up stress in general. Watch this space.

I shall be returning in a few days’ time, the day after they bring Brewster home, in order to make sure everything is set in place from the start and that Bella is happy.

Very importantly, we will also draw up a plan for active socialisation – for both dogs.

And here is puppy Brewster. As you can see, both dogs are getting on fine.

Newfoundland puppy

Brewster

Bella is getting on well with the Newfie puppy

Bella and Brewster

 

Yorkie Brother and Sister

Yorkshire Terrier sibling barks too much

Daisy

Yorkie twins Daisy and Cody are now five years of age.

There are well-documented disadvantages of taking on sibling puppies – see here for more information. One common problem is that one of the puppies becomes shy, even when both puppies started off as bold and outgoing. This means that the shy puppy never reaches his or her potential. Another problem is that same-sex siblings in particular can end up arch enemies.

It’s a tribute to their family that these two little dogs have turned out so well.

I would say that although Daisy, on the right (look at that little face), is a lot more nervous than Cody, they are no different many other two unrelated dogs.

Their problem is too much barking from Daisy, particuarly when they are out or when people come in the house. Cody is self-assured and has ‘attitude’ on walks but Daisy is scared.

Because she can sometimes sound quite ferocious when a person or another dog approaches, the lady has been so worried that her little dog is aggressive. She is on lead with a tense and anxious handler and she feels vulnerable.

But it varies. It’s not consistent. Because some days she is fine where other days she is very nervous, it’s useful to look at what is happening in all other aspects of Daisy’s life. There are many things that stir her up daily which don’t affect Cody at all, including the post coming through the door, the vacuum cleaner or lawn mower, and even enthusiastic greetings. Without too much effort the family can save her the build-up from all these stresses and it will make a huge difference to her.

Yorkshire Terrier sibling is the more confident

Cody

The lady in particular is very concerned her little dog could be ‘dangerous’. When they are out or when someone comes to the house she is both nervous and apologetic.

The people holding the leads will need to keep a close eye on the dogs for their reaction – to nip it in the bud. They must move Daisy away to a distance where she feels ‘safe’ and then work on building up her confidence.  When over-threshold she barks and lunges and snarls – and then may redirect onto poor Cody with a nip.

Work can only be done with the dogs walked separately for a while.

It’s the stress and fear that needs to be addressed – both dog and human! Already the lady has said, “I feel more at ease with the barking knowing it isn’t aggression”.

Already, after one day of implementing a few changes, she says: “We can’t believe how quiet they have been – less stressful today all round for the dogs and me!

When Daisy calms down and everyone gains confidence, they should have no problems on walks – as has already been proved on ‘good’ days.

To change the behaviour we must change the emotion that drives it.

 

Reinforcing the Behaviour We Do Want Rather than Punishing Behaviour We Don’t Want Makes Us Happier also

Maltese is scared and hides

Lingling

Chihuahua Yorkie mis protects the lady and bites ankels

Benjie

Until the lady picked her up, Lingling (left) was either hiding under the table or peering round the corner licking her lips, yawning and lifting her paw. A scared little dog.

Benjie was protecting the lady.

They are both very reactive to anything happening outside their home and bark madly. Both dogs are frightened of people they don’t know.

They have bitten ankles. Benjie doesn’t like people approaching the lady.

With such a friendly and outward going owner, it’s hard to understand why the two dogs are so wary of people until one looks into their early life.

Maltese LingLing, now three years old, came from a puppy farm and was in a terrible physical state. A year ago Chihuahua-Yorkie mix Benjie joined them. He had been taken from his mother and litter mates too early.

I would guess in both cases they will have inherited unstable genes from fearful parents along with inadequate or non-existent early socialising.

The lady lives in a flat and their barking is causing problems. She has tried everything she can think of, including collars that shoot compressed air at them when they bark and a bottle of stones to shake at them. Because the barking stops for a moment it’s easy to think this ‘works’.

The lady adores her two little dogs and realises that punishing fear is inappropriate and can only make things worse which is why she called me. To them it must be like the very person that they should be able to trust has turned on them.

Now we began to reward quiet instead.

From his protective position beside the lady, Benjie wasn’t so much barking as grumbling and growling at me. Here is a very short video of the two dogs. Benjie is anxiously lifting a paw and grumbling at me, and Lingling is hiding behind the lady.

Each time he stopped even for a moment, the lady gave him cheese.

She was surprised how calm Benjie became. He eventually lay down and settled.

Benjie eventually lay down and settled peacefully

Benjie

There were noises outside and neither dog barked. She rewarded them.

She will now save some of their food quota to use specifically to reinforce not barking or growling.

A wonderful thing about reinforcing the behaviour you do want as opposed to punishing the behaviour you don’t want is that it makes you feel good. It rests so much easier with people who love their dogs than does punishment and correction. As the lady said the next morning having changed the way she does things for just a few hours, ‘I feel so happy with myself’.

The Two Little Dogs Rushed into the Room Like a Mini Tornado, Barking

Very excitable miniature daschunds are extreme barkers

Blaze and Rolo

Butter wouldn’t melt!

I didn’t take this beautiful photo – at no stage were the little dogs either still or quiet enough.

Blaze and Rolo, three-year-old Miniature Daschund brothers, are very excitable and extreme barkers. In order to get them to stop even briefly when people visit they have had water sprayed at them, they have been shouted at, they have had a bottle of stones shaken at them and noisy compressed-air ‘corrector’ spray to frighten them out of it. Incessant barking can really drive one crazy.

These’solutions’ may work in the moment but they do nothing at all to ease the real problem apart from making it worse.

The tiniest thing starts them off. Blaze (in front) is probably the instigator, but they charge about in manic barking tandem!

To deal with any behaviour we need to deal the emotion that is creating it. In cases where barking is such an automatic reflex it’s also become a habit. The more they have practised barking, the better they have got at it. Automatic barking can be a difficult habit to break.

The times that worry the family the most are when someone comes to the house (whether familiar or unfamiliar) – and when their grandchildren visit. Blaze may accompany the barking with little nips. He is also obsessed with nappies!

Normally when someone arrives the dogs are put into the garden – or if they do join them it will be hectic. There was the spray water bottle on the side at the ready. I asked for everyone to ignore them. As I usually do, I wanted to see what happened without human inteference. We could hardly speak and I had hoped we would be able to sit it out, but after about ten minutes they were still standing close in front of me as I sat on the pouffe – barking, barking, barking at me.

The lady took them out of the room and put them into their crate.  They still barked. We got on with the consultation.

Eventually they were quiet so I asked the lady to let them in again. This time we had tiny bits of cheese prepared and fortunately both dogs are very food orientated.

They came charging back into the room, barking.

I held bits of cheese out to them. They couldn’t bark and eat at the same time – but they could still bark between bits of cheese!  They also snatched the food, so I taught them a bit of inhibition and manners which meant they had to be quiet and back off for a moment before I opened my hand with the cheese – a few moments of blessed silence.

Soon we were at the stage when as soon as they started to bark again the lady called them back out of the room. They were reasonably willing because of the food reward – something they don’t usually get. After they joined us for about the fifth time the barking was minimal and the lady herself was doing the feeding. Progress.

These little dogs will be associating people coming to the house with panic and scolding. Blaze was even driven to bite a friend who insisted on picking him up against instructions. The aim now is for the dogs to begin to associate people with good stuff – food.

When the grandchildren visit the dogs will either be the other side of a gate or brought in on leads and taught not to nip fingers and jump on them using positive methods. Currently they have never been taught what IS wanted of them – only punished for what is NOT wanted.

The underlying problem of extreme excitement and stress has to be dealt with. This won’t be easy.  No more rough play from the teenage members of the family which is encouraging the mouthing and nipping.

Being so hyped up is not good for the dogs any more than it would be good for us, and not not only causes problems for the family but also for friends, the neighbours and on walks.

From now on the motto should be ‘good things come to quiet dogs’. Food won’t go down until they are quiet. They won’t step out of the front door until they are quiet. They won’t be let out of their crate until they are quiet, they won’t be greeted until they are quiet, and so on.

If the people themselves are quiet, calm and consistent these adorable little dogs should eventually get the message.

Both Jack Russells Go Crazy When Anyone, Including Family, Walks Up the Stairs Into Their Flat

Jack Russel Rocket starts the barking

Rocket

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

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

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

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

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

When people arrive, Elmo bounces off Rocket

Elmo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reactive to Dogs, People and the Unexpected Out On Walks

Collie cross Holly, right, started life on the streets of Romania

Holly

Berry is yet another Border Collie picked up as a stray in Ireland.

Berry

Both Holly on the right and Berry on the left came to live with my clients early last year. Both dogs are between two and three years old.

Berry is yet another Border Collie picked up as a stray in Ireland. Collie cross Holly, right, started life on the streets of Romania. She was picked up at seven months old with a broken leg and then went to live with another English family before moving into her forever home.

Holly quite well illustrates the difference between Romanian street dogs that are used to being around people, and other dogs that are coming from the same part of the world but have been living wild – feral dogs not used to humans. These feral dogs are a lot harder to settle and there have been some heartbreaking stories of failed homings.

Considering their past, these two dogs are doing brilliantly. They get on very well together. The problems their humans are finding manifest themselves out on walks. Both are reactive to people and dogs. In order to make further progress the people need to do things a little differently. If they carry on the same, so will the dogs.

Romanian Holly is a little aloof, but is polite and confident in the house though reactive to dogs outside. Interestingly, she is absolutely fine with other dogs when away from home, so it seems she is being more territorial than fearful. The main barker from inside the house, she is allowed free access to upstairs window where she can bark at passing dogs. She is merely practising the unwanted behaviour and getting better at it.

Berry, on the other hand, is much more excitable in general and reactive to all people and dogs; she is alarmed if anything appears suddenly or looks unfamiliar, irrespective of where this happens to be.

Both are very clever dogs and Berry in particular, who is much more wired up than Holly, needs more controlled stimulation but also better defined boundaries – especially when out. Repeatedly throwing a stick isn’t enough (throwing sticks is dangerous).

In order to keep their dogs focussed on them when out, their humans need to be more relevant to them – starting n the home. At present the dogs probably feel that they are the main decision-makers. The decision-making and protection side of things needs to be the responsibility of ‘mum and dad’, and needs to be in place before they can expect to successfully convince their dogs that they also have this role outside when faced with perceived threats.

The humans need to be a lot more involved, proactive and relevant in the face of things that the dogs are wary of – particularly if the dog is on a lead.  They need to make themselves irresistible (food/fun/action/attention).  Tightly holding the lead makes things worse. Forcing the dog to sit can make things worse. Avoiding situations altogether is useless.

They need to avoid pushing the dog over her comfort threshold and work at it. Using this method, that threshold will gradually diminish.

Are Training Classes Making Barney Worse?

This photo doesn’t do justice to beautiful 15-month-old Border Collie Barney.Border Collie sees another dog approaching

Barney was re-homed by my lady client just two months ago and is becoming increasingly reactive to other dogs when out. When they first had him he was playing with them. He also has started to bark at people.

The lady has been taking him to training classes – of the traditional kind – and I can only wonder whether being physically controlled around dogs, being told to ‘Leave’ them rather than politely allowed to sniff and say hello which is a lot more natural, along with being ‘corrected’ to stop him pulling on lead rather than teaching him to walk like there is no lead at all through choice, isn’t actually making him worse.

For many years I did traditional dog training. I know all about it!

Barney is playful and extremely biddable. The lady herself is serene and gentle, and having met many of the Border Collies of his age, I am sure he would be a lot more excitable and hyped up had he gone somewhere else. My modern gentle, non-coercive methods will suit her down to the ground.

Barney is also scared of traffic and will lunge at it. It seems he had a very sheltered life previously with little enrichment. The lady has, very sensibly, got him a harness so he doesn’t hurt his neck, but he rears up and he is strong. I have recommended a better kind of harness, one where the lead is attached to the chest, along with a simple procedure to follow each and  every time he looks like reacting to a vehicle. He needs to know that his lady is in control of the situation. Then, over time but only within his comfort threshold, his exposure to traffic needs gradually be increased so that he is habituated.

It is a shame that old-fashioned training classes make walking the dog seem like a battle. He must be to heel or else he will be ‘corrected’. But, if the lead isn’t too short and so long as he doesn’t pull, why should he be stuck to the walker’s left leg? Does it matter if he is sometimes ahead so long as the lead is loose? Why shouldn’t he stop to sniff and explore? It is a dog walk, after all. If reacting to traffic, people and other dogs is treated with understanding of just how the dog is feeling and the emotion which is driving the behaviour is addressed, a result may take a bit longer than using force, but it will be permanent and not a temporary fix that is dependent upon his being ‘dominated’ by a bullying handler (which fortunately this gentle lady just cannot be).

I have yet to discover modern, reward-based classes in my region, classes with small numbers that will use clicker, luring and reward to teach the dogs.

Two Miniature Schnauzers, Both Scared of People

MiniSchnauzerAlbert1“Go Away”, “Go Away”, “Go Away”, they bark!

Whilst Bill barks and backs off, Little Ben (now one year old) charges at people coming to the house. The person then recoils of course, and Ben achieves his result – the person backs away. Now he is actually making contact with his teeth.

Both dogs barked frantically for a long time when I arrived – I didn’t recoil when Ben made contact! We tried various strategies. I took no notice of them. I looked away. I stayed sitting down. I moved slowly. Eventually I dropped treats gently onto the floor. Any sudden movement made them jump away.

This isn’t aggression at all – it is pure fear.

I asked the owners to show me what they did when people came. Like many people, they have reinforced the behaviour, maybe sitting on the floor with them and petting them while they growl and bark – in effect backing them up in their belief that the ‘intruder’ is an enemy. Then, having had enough, they will loudly command them to be quiet. How it is currently dealt with must be confusing for the dogs. Reinforcing them for NOT barking makes more sense.

These little dogs nMiniSchnauzerBarnabyeed to learn that visiting people mean good stuff – calm owners, nice treats and eventually fun, but being removed when things become too much for them. The people also need more ‘guinea pigs’ to the house to work with.

Because they have few visitors it’s a vicious circle. The more reactive their dogs are to visitors, the less the owners feel able to involve their friends and family.

Unsurprisingly this fearful and noisy reactivity extends to people on walks – and to dogs.

I would say that old-fashioned formal dog training classes have made things worse, especially with Ben. I felt really sad to hear that, because of his barking, he had been pinned down in the middle of the hall and forced to lie there while the other owners and dogs walked around him. It’s hardly surprising he believes people and dogs are bad news!

Knowledge of what makes dogs tick and how to train them positively based on scientific fact has advanced hugely over the last few years, but unfortunatly a lot of existing trainers simply haven’t kept up. Old-fashioned dog trainers just keep on doing what they always have done, and dog owners, in their ignorance, believe in them.

A Meerkat? No, a Scared Chihuahua

Just like the two German Shepherds I went to over the weekend, Buddy, a little Chihuahua this time, is very chihuahua Buddy doing his Meerkat actscared and very noisy when someone comes to the house. Because of this, like so many dogs I go to, they have few guests. Buddy may fly at one friend and bite his trousers. This then creates panic which only goes to confirm Buddy’s belief that this human is there to cause trouble.

Over the two years of his life has learnt that he always gets what he wants when he barks. So, here is another dog whose barking wavered between fearful ‘go away’ barking to demanding ‘do as I say’ barking.

If a dog is taking food from me, I know that he isn’t totally terrified. Animals won’t eat if they feel their life is in peril. So, to associate myself with something nice I gave him tiny pieces of cheese. He was a very brave little dog, and eventually took a piece from my hand before rushing off and barking at me again  – see this (back arrow to return here afterwards). When I took a break I could swear his barking changed to ‘give me cheese’ barking! Fifteen minutes later, after the odd spook, here he is (and my David Attenborough voice!).

The owners admBuddy was very scared of meit that this little dog knows how to get them to work for him! Barking always gets a result. One of his favourite tricks that always gets attention or food is to beg like a cute meerkat. Being allowed to make most of the decisions and always being obeyed is actually a big burden for any dog to carry, as it would be for a child. Moreover, he is constantly in their company, virtually 24/7, and this can make a dog dependent and needy. Buddy needs some boundaries in order to increase his belief and trust in his owners to look after him.

This is a good example of how the particular problem I was called out for – reactivity to guests in this case – is actually part of a much larger issue that needs approaching from several angles.

Buddy soon learnt to touch my hand with his nose – we used clicker technique using gentle noise with the tongue lest the sudden clicker sound spooked him. As a dog that is fearful of people and especially approaching hands, this exercise is good in that it encourages him to associate hands with something nice and it also gives him a choice in the matter. He was soon touching my hand held out over his head, doing his ‘meerkat’, and a bit higher still so he had to stretch or jump to touch it with his nose. Simples!

I also managed to stand up for a short while with Buddy being quiet. It’s a start. When I had to get up to walk about, I found if they picked him up he was silent. He felt protected. The deal here is that they don’t talk to him or fuss him – they merely lift him out of  harm’s way.

The bottom line is that Buddy needs less stress, less exciting play, less attention, less reinforcement for barking, less being obeyed, less stressful walks – and more proper nurturing. Gradually, he needs to be exposed to more people (and other dogs) but in a controlled way.

Another German Shepherd Barking Fearfully at People

Beautiful but disturbed dog German Shepherd Bella only lies still if I don't moveI went to see Bella three months ago when she arrived at her new owners, and they have come a very long way. The couple have worked very hard indeed and it’s not been easy. They have developed a firm bond.

However, Bella is still very fearful of people, especially people coming to her house. Today she was fine if she couldn’t see me – even though she could hear me – but went into manic barking if she sighted me.

After a while she got used to me sitting down and lay down seemingly relaxed so long so long as I sat still, a great improvement on last time; as soon as I stood, though, the barking started.

Whilst the couple have made brilliant progress considering what she was like three months ago, it is now time to advance things further. Bella needs to learn to be more confident around visitors to the house.

We worked at my going out, ringing the doorbell and coming back in again. When I last came she was in such a state that we had worked by removing her because she was so frantic; now we all felt it was time to progress forward. With me as the ‘guinea pig’, we used a clicker to reward her for calm behaviour in my presence.

Because she is such a clever dog, Bella soon realised that barking and then stopping barking would be followed by a click and a treat! It’s called chaining. She was barking in order to stop barking in order to get the click and then the treat! So, we had to get her to wait for the click and wait for the treat. I took a video of her wonderful lady owner’s attempts. The timing will improve with practice – the click and reward should come for having looked calmly at me for several seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGl8BiDECuc

Now, after a very shaky start, Bella’s new owners are 100% committed and have made great progress already. When they took her on they were told she was socialised. It was a big shock to discover what she was really like, but after a lot of soul-searching they decided to keep her and to give her their all.  Confidence building can be very, very slow.