No Impulse Control Around People. Jumps and Bites.

Beau has no impulse control around peopleAbsolutely no impulse control around people, that is the problem.

Beautiful Beau is a big strong Chocolate Labrador. He’s 9 months of age and his teeth hurt. With no impulse control, his biting and grabbing of my clothes would have been nearly constant had not the lady held him back. It was a struggle for her.

I have to call it ‘biting’ because he was using his teeth with some force, but there was no aggression behind it. No growling or hostility. There wasn’t fear either though possibly the level of his arousal involved more than just pleasure to see me. He will have been uncertain as well.

Jumping, biting and no impulse control has become his default response for dealing with the excitement he feels.

Both the lady and her adult son are accustomed to being bitten when Beau gets too excited. He bites sufficiently hard to bruise but not to break skin. He was an unusually nippy and bitey puppy. Like many people, they will unwittingly have encouraged teeth on human flesh through play – contact sports using their hands.

No impulse control.

A stitch in time saves nine, as they say. If, from the outset when Beau was a little puppy, both jumping up and grabbing with teeth were consistently and persistently met with no reinforcement but an acceptable alternative offered, he wouldn’t be doing it now.

Tug of war played properly is a much better game. Puppy has to learn that if teeth even unintentionally touch flesh, all fun immediately stops. He then learns to be careful.

Usually dogs like this will have very high stress levels and constantly be ready to ‘explode’. This doesn’t seem the case with Beau. His home is calm. Generally he’s no more excited than any other 9-month-old Labrador, but when he does get aroused, it’s always teeth.

Beau is given plenty of enrichment and he’s not left alone for too long. He doesn’t do the usual things that build stress in a dog such as excessive barking, getting over-excited before a walk and panicking when left alone.

It’s all around people

He has no impulse control around people. When someone comes to his house or if they meet people when out on a walk he morphs into a different dog.

Why does he find people quite so stimulating, I wonder? He has been very well socialised from the start.

The lady so much wants to have social walks with her lovely dog and to invite friends round, but she can’t because he bites them! Things are getting worse. Could this be that she herself is becoming increasingly anxious? As I sat with her in the kitchen, I could feel her very understandable tension and anxiety. If I could feel it, then so would Beau.

Having been rehearsing the biting and jumping for months since he was a small puppy, it will now be learned behaviour – a habit.

How can we break it?

Learned behaviour – a habit.

What we have to work on is both the cause of the behaviour as well as the behaviour itself – and this cause is over-excitement around people and no self-control when aroused.

To succeed, Beau must be prevented from rehearsing the biting anymore in every way possible. It simply has to be made impossible. Without an experienced professional actually living with them with nothing else to do than work with Beau, I can see no other way than extensive use of a basket muzzle to begin with. When he gets his ‘rough’ times at home with his family, when friends visit and when he’s out and likely to encounter people, his mouth has to be taken out of action.

This will be much better than banishing him.

A basket muzzle is best because he has freedom open and close his mouth, to drink and to eat treats. If introduced properly so that it’s always associated with good things, he shouldn’t mind it too much. I know this could be controversial.

Without now being hurt, they must now teach him different habits and better ways of getting attention. He also needs better ways of relieving his quick-building arousal and frustration levels. In removing the ability to bite from his repertoire, they need to supply replacement activities and outlets.

I suggested a gate for the kitchen so at times when he’s likely to use his teeth or when people come, he can go behind it with something acceptable to chew until he has calmed down. Use of ‘No’ and ‘Down’ can only increase his frustration whilst in a way being reinforcing to him as well.

Self control.

When I was there, Beau held lead on harness to prevent the biting of me, we constantly used his food to reinforce every moment of desired behaviour.  He sat, he got food. He lay down and was silently rolled a piece of his kibble.

The emphasis must now be on reinforcing the behaviour that they DO want. People, when out, will be kept at whatever distance is necessary while they work on his self-control using positive reinforcement. He will learn that sitting or standing calmly brings dividends but this is only possible when not too close.

Jumping and biting is simply Beau’s default both when aroused or when feeling unsure of himself – both at home and when out on walks.

We shouldn’t underestimate the effectiveness of a dog having something in his mouth where the teeth are, whether it’s a ball, something that squeaks or even a bone! It all depends – all dogs are different.

What actually is excitement anyway and is it always pure joy? Wouldn’t we feel excited on a Big Dipper? Wouldn’t we be feeling scared before a bungee jump and isn’t that part of the buzz?

As Beau gains some self control and is helped to calm down around people, the muzzle can be used less and less until it’s no longer necessary.

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Beau. 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. The muzzle idea may be totally inappropriate in another case. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

 

Rough Behaviour. Jumping. Scratching. Biting. Why?

I came to help with Honey’s rough, uncontrolled behaviour but it soon became apparent that their other dog, 8-year-old Bonnie, was one of the main triggers.

Both are Cocker Spaniels. Honey is already large for a Cocker and still only nine months old.

Rough and uncontrolled when aroused.

some rough behaviour due to over-excitement

Honey

Honey is a delightfully friendly dog but loses control of herself very quickly – and any efforts to try to impose control only make her worse.

When aroused (which is much of the time if anyone is moving about), she jumps up constantly. When excited or frustrated she usually picks on the lady. She will fly at her and grab her arms – she has bruises to show for it. If ignored, she scratches frantically at arms. It hurts.

Honey makes it impossible for the lady to get ready for work in the morning. She also attacks the hairdryer.

She did try the same things on me but I always wear tough clothes, just in case. There is no aggression behind it as such. Just an overflowing of arousal and frustration.

I was able to ignore it and start to reinforce any small moments of calm behaviour.

Eventually she was lying peacefully beside the man. Silently so as not to stir her up again, he dropped a piece of food to her.

Everything was going very well apart from Bonnie’s near-constant barking. She could see my car out of the window. She could see movement. She could hear things we couldn’t hear.

We tried everything to stop her but she was in such a state that the best we could do was for the lady to have her on her lap, well away from windows. For a while she quietened down.

Then she heard something else and erupted into a renewed frenzy of barking.

Immediately the now peaceful young Honey jumped up. She was clearly in a state of panic, rushing about, back and forth from Bonnie, licking her face, panting, jumping at us. It was actually quite pitiful.

Bonnie holds the trigger to the starter pistol.

The first obvious thing feeding into the jumping up, mouthing, biting and scratching are Honey’s extreme and near-permanent arousal/stress levels.

There will be such a build-up inside her that it’s like she’s ready to erupt at the slightest thing. People simply moving around or being busy is sufficient to start her off.

Everything will now be done to calm her down.

One main trigger is obviously Bonnie and her own panic barking, so although I was called for Honey, we need to deal with this at source – with Bonnie. Another is the over-enthusiastic behaviour of her humans towards her. They reap what they sow.

The other thing feeding the rough behaviour is that it always, but always, brings a result of some kind. It hurts so people react.

Bonnie

To make things harder, jumping up is strongly reinforced. She is nearly always fussed when she jumps up at them. At other times she’s told to get down. There is no consistency.

Inconsistency adds to frustration..

The couple are out all day but have a dog walker. Each lunch time she takes the dogs out for a lovely walk with other dogs. But still, like many people, they feel guilty having to leave the dogs alone for hours.

Out in the garden after work, the lady, trying to play ball with her, is literally mugged by her.

Protective clothing and ‘money’.

I suggest the lady has a tough jacket to hand to protect her arms. Honey must now realise that all play stops and all attention stops as soon as the rough jumping up and biting begins.

They should also have food on them all the time – to pay Honey for the behaviour they do want.

Honey should be given more appropriate stimulation – encouraging self control and calm. The morning routine can change so the dogs are downstairs with a chew each while the lady gets ready for work. They can then be given a short ‘sniff’ walk around the block before being shut in the kitchen instead of excitable play.

The people will keep actively reinforcing the behaviour they want. I reinforced feet on the floor and then lying or sitting down. Honey soon got the message with myself (until Bonnie set her off again).

The man made a good point. The behaviour is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is ‘wanted’ or ‘unwanted’ behaviour – so we reinforce wanted behaviour only.

Triggers can come from unexpected quarters. Calming Bonnie’s barking will indirectly have a big impact on Honey’s rough behaviour.

This case brought home to me two things. One, it illustrated that the triggers for a dog’s behaviour are often not obvious, especially to the humans closest to the dog. An objective, outside view is necessary.

Scondly it illustrated how important it is with behaviour issues to see the dog in his or her own environment. Had I not been in their own home I would not have realised just what an impact Bonnie’s mental state has on Honey’s.

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Honey and Bonnie. 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where any form of aggressive behaviour is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Bites a Friend. The Result of High Arousal

One of their little dogs bites a friend entering the house. Everything changes.

He is now muzzled when people come and when he’s out.

The whole situation is very stressful for everyone in the family. The first goal, before doing anything else, is to see how much we can calm things down.

He bites a lady

Luka

‘Operation calm’

With calmer little dogs should come a less stressed lady. She and her husband have a lot on their plate with a teenage daughter who needs round the clock care.

The dogs help the girl to feel happy. Some alarm barking makes her feel safe. Unfortunately the barking is uncontrollable.

We sat at the kitchen table and the two dogs rushed into the room, barking. Luka, a 21-month-old Jack Russell Chihuahua mix, was muzzled. Jack Russell Sasha, 5, was friendly and soon stopped her barking.

Luka’s muzzle was removed. He seemed okay with me for a while and then began to bark again. The muzzle was put back on – they are understandably nervous.

The muzzle actually seemed to calm him right down as I have found can sometimes be the case with a certain kind of muzzle. It may work like a calming band. When it came off he was friendly and chilled for a while.

I took my photos when the dogs were being held – the only time they were sufficiently still!

The dogs barked at the slightest sound. They leapt all over us, springing up from the floor, even onto the table itself.

Because the lovely daughter is unable to pick them up, it’s necessary that they jump. They jump onto her lap when she’s in her wheelchair and they leap onto her bed where she spends quite a lot of time. They sleep on her bed with her.

When highly aroused, Luka may also redirect onto Sasha.

This is a case of picking our battles. We will forget about the jumping up as working on that could cause even more stress for all concerned.

My first goal is to calm everything down. A stressed owner creates stressed dogs and visa versa.

Life changes when our dog bites.

One can imagine how distressing it is when our much-loved dog bites someone. A lady friend was walking into the house. The dogs somehow got out of the kitchen.

It is absolutely certain that this would not have happened were it not for stress. Stress builds up to the point where all self control goes out of the window and one final, sometimes minor, trigger is the last straw.

They have had building work for the past few weeks which has led to constant barking. The highly aroused dogs somehow got out of the kitchen. The person was carrying food. They were jumping all over her – Luka barking. She fussed them. The lady owner will have been extremely anxious. The jumping up may have aggravated Luka’s knee problem.

The lady takes a step forward.

Luka goes for her.

He bites the lady – twice.

They will now gate the kitchen doorway so they have a bit more control over where the dogs go.

The dogs can be helped to calm down with something to chew or do, marrow bones or a stuffed Kong each, for instance. To avoid trouble between them they will be one each side of the gate.

The family has so much on their plate just now that simply calming things down has to be the place to start. After all, arousal and stress is at the bottom of both the barking and bites.

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Luka and Sasha. 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where any form of aggressive behaviour is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Angry When Suddenly Woken. He Bites.

Diego is a cute and characterful Shih Tzu, two and a half years old. He lives with a young lady, her mother and her grandmother. Three generations.

Angry? Diego? You wouldn’t believe it.

He wakes up angryDiego (what a great name) is the youngest lady’s dog. As she is out at work all day, her mother in particular is involved with looking after him.

The elderly lady is scared of him.

The main reason I was called in is due to Diego’s seemingly instinctive angry and aggressive reaction when suddenly woken or disturbed.

He flies at the two older ladies. They have bites to show for it.

The grandmother has a stool on which she puts her feet. Diego’s favourite sleeping place is on the floor by the footstool. If the lady so much as moves her foot Diego may wake and fly at her.

The mother also has bites from when she has moved suddenly.

If it’s the young lady who moves, Diego doesn’t go for her, she goes for one of the others!

She told me that sometimes she whistles to warn Diego. That gave me my idea.

They will buy three cheap plastic whistles and wear them around their necks. Regularly then can whistle and immediately drop something particularly tasty for Diego. In time they can build up a conditioned response: whistle-food.

They can then do the same when he is sleeping – if they want to move. It will give him warning. Waking suddenly, he will look for the food instead of flying at them, angry.

The lady can then move freely.

Diego is much worse in the evening.

I believe from other things they told me that stress is building up in Diego during the day. He is on high alert for outside sounds to bark at.

The ‘angry waking’ is much worse in the evening. His stress build-up accelerates with the young lady coming home from work. She gives Diego a rapturous and exciting greeting.

She then takes him for a lovely walk – but surely too stimulating. They may meet lots of other dogs in the park and he will play frantically. Playing with more than two or three dogs, some much larger than himself, must be very arousing – slightly scary even.

He comes back home highly aroused and then it’s tea time. At about 7.30pm they  understandably want to settle down, but Diego has only just started! Now he begins the stealing of items, hoarding and guarding them.

Dealing with the over-arousal and resource guarding which I’m helping them with will undoubtedly mean that Diego will be better relaxed when he rests. We ourselves know that we don’t sleep well when over-stressed. Better quality sleep must surely help his angry waking problem.

The young lady has made herself very well-informed and it was a pleasure to work with her. She understood what I was talking about as we discussed solutions and ways of de-stressing Diego. For a start, she will ‘redesign’ walks to give him much more time sniffing and exploring in peace.

It’s probably been going on for a couple of years now so waking angry will be a habit – a learned behaviour. By calming him down in general, dealing with the resource guarding and giving him warning when they are about to move, I am hopeful the behaviour will die.

Their three months with me has now come to an end and I have received this lovely email: I really just wanted to drop you a line to thank you – the help and guidance you provided has really helped. The difference in Diego (and me!) from when we first met is astonishing. I firmly believe he is a much happier dog, I know I am a much happier human.
Diego is now happy and balanced enough, that starting daycare didn’t phase him at all. He had his first session and the man who runs it was so impressed at how Diego behaved with his dogs (5 St Bernards) and the other boarders. In fact when I brought Diego home you would never have known he spent 7 hours somewhere new – I firmly believe he wouldn’t have been able to handle that situation 4 months ago. So all in all we’re all a lot happier and most importantly, Diego is happier. It really is lovely to see him smile so much again! 
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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Diego. 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear or any form of aggression is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

 

Puppy Parenting Goldendoodle Puppy

This is the start of my Puppy Parenting journey…

Puppy parenting

Being such a good boy. Loving the clicker

…with the delightful Richie, a Goldendoodle puppy now age 14 weeks.

I usually like to start as soon as the puppy arrives in his new home but often, as in the case of Richie, people put in fantastic work with the toilet training and other training themselves, but aren’t prepared for puppy’s teeth!

They contact me when their attempts to discipline their wayward puppy are making things worse and they are growing desperate.

This is from the message I received when they first contacted me:

‘We got him at 8 weeks. He is very excitable at home and when meeting new people and dogs. He is very aggressive with his mouth and we can’t seem to stop him using his mouth when we play with him. We have taken him to a puppy class but he just doesn’t concentrate. All he wants to do is jump all over the other puppies. He gets what we call the crazies and he zooms around the house, biting our pants, socks, shoes, shoe laces, clothes – anything he can get his mouth on. He loses interest in toys very quickly and doesn’t play happily by himself for very long.’

He’s a puppy – being a puppy.

The most immediate thing to address is Richie’s way of, when thoroughly stirred up, flying at the lady and ‘attacking’ her.

What we soon realised was that this only happens when Richie is so excited that he can’t control himself. They also soon saw that his high state of arousal was sometimes caused by themselves. It’s like he’s clockwork and they wind a key in his side until …… off he goes!

One trigger time is when the man arrives home from work. The lady will excite the puppy with ‘daddy’s home’ when she hears his car. The man walks in the gate to give the aroused puppy a huge welcome.

Richie will then fly, not at the man but at the lady, biting her arms and grabbing her clothes.

They have already taught their clever puppy to sit, to lie down and a few other things. This makes people feel, quite rightly, that they have really achieved something. At just fourteen weeks Richie is fully toilet trained.

Just as important as training tricks where his humans are directing him, is the puppy working certain things out for himself.

He does this by experimenting with what works and what doesn’t work.

If jumping up and nipping gives fun and feedback – it works. If barking while the lady prepares his food ends in his getting the meal – it works. If jumping up gets the fuss – it works. If calmly waiting, sitting down or standing gets the feedback – that will work too.

That is the beauty of clicker training. It shows the puppy just what does work. He then starts to find ways of ‘being good’. If the clicker isn’t to hand, the word ‘yes’ will do because all the clicker means, really, is ‘yes’. 

Good recall is like having puppy on remote control.

Making a game of it, using food and constant repetition, Richie can soon be taught to come running when called.

He’s chewing the table leg? Instead of a loud NO, they can call him. He will come. They can then reward him and give him something better to chew.

Too much ‘No’ merely causes confusion, frustration – and wildness. ‘No’ is hard to avoid when we are pulling our hair out!

Puppies notoriously have a wild half-hour in the evening, zooming from room to room and flying all over the furniture. Dealing with the wild behaviour involves avoiding deliberately getting him stirred up, shutting doors as space encourages wildness, and redirecting this pent-up energy onto something acceptable that he can wreck or attack!

A Puppy can soon learn that ‘being good’ isn’t rewarding. Fun or gentle attention can sometimes be initiated when he’s awake but calm.

There are brain games, hunting games and there is clicker training – which to puppy should be a game. Here are some great ideas.

Our main catch phrase for now is ‘Change No to Yes’.

We have only just started. Puppy parenting is largely about pre-empting, diverting problems before they start and laying the foundations for happy walks and self-control.

Puppies can hard work!

From an email about seven weeks later: ‘We are doing great and Richie is becoming a totally different dog to the puppy we struggled with. Your help teaching us to be calm with him has been invaluable….. I don’t have much to add to the plan to be honest, as we have moved on a lot.   The only thing I can think of is Richie is alarm barking, especially from our own garden when he hears noises etc. but we will work on this. I am very pleased with how we and Richie are progressing.  All our friends and family are being calm with him and he is such a good boy around them.  He is growing up fast!

 

 

Food Glorious Food.

An emergency visit to another biting puppy!

Food works wondersThe young couple have had eight-week-old Springer Spaniel puppy for just four days. His flying at them and grabbing legs and clothes as they walk about has reached such a level that they are wearing their wellies in the house now!

Actually this is sensible. So many people with puppies walk about in bare feet, socks or even fluffy sllppers with pom-poms and suffer.  Puppies instinctively chase and play with moving things.

Their trump card is – food!

Until a few days ago Piper was with her litter mates, all eight of them. She would chase, grab and bite. They would let her know, as would her mother, if she was too rough and she would understand.

Unfortunately, we humans are speaking an entirely different language. We think, with NO, whisking the hand away and perhaps grabbing her that we are telling her to stop. To her the play-kill game is simply intensifying.

Piper has now had four days honing her ‘grabbing clothes, chasing feet and biting hands’ skills!

In my first visit we dealt with the biting in exactly the same way as I did with Henry a few days ago.

We used food. We used food, not to reward biting but to reward behaviours that involved not biting.

They will also get a pen so she has a small area in which good things happen and in which she has plenty to chew and destroy when she gets over-excited! A sancturary, too, where she can fall asleep with nobody, children in particular, disturbing her.

I am always amazed how quickly such a young puppy catches on to what a clicker is all about.

I use it simply to say ‘Yes!’. If there is no clicker to hand the word can be used. It’s always followed by food. In a few minutes the puppy is looking for ways in effect to please us – looking for ways to make us say ‘Yes’ with that click. Every small wanted behaviour gets a ‘Yes!’ – like walking beside me without flying at my trousers. Very quickly she realised that she earned attention (and food) for sitting or being still.

Adorable.

The food she needs to eat anyway can be used for something useful. It can be used not only to teach her that the best things happen when she keeps her teeth for her toys and chews, but also to help introduce her to the outside world.

There are countless things outside their house and garden that Piper has yet to meet

The earlier the better.

Cars, lorries, wheelie bins, people with hats, other dogs big and small, bangs, smells – the list is endless. What better than to take her tea out in a pouch and with every new thing she encounters give her a bit of her food. She is small and light. She can be carried.

This way she will develop a happy curiosity and confidence in encountering new things – before the fear period hits at about thirteen weeks. Like a baby at a certain age may suddenly start to cry when a stranger says hello, a puppy can suddenly experience wariness. Unfortunately three months of age coincides with when most puppies venture out for the first time after their injections and it can be too late.

I shall visit again next week to see how they are doing. There are lots of things Puppy Parenting entails, including making sure from the beginning that puppy can be left alone for short periods happily, toilet training and walking beside them around house and garden without a lead initally.

The young couple should soon be able to save their boots for the country walks they will be taking with their wonderful Springer in a few months’ time.

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for piper, and group classes may not always provide all the answers for problems in the home. Finding instructions on the internet or TV can do more harm than good. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with your own puppy. (see my Help page)

 

 

Wild Behaviour is Unwittingly Fuelled

Wild behaviour from a dog the size of the adolescent Newfoundland can be scary.

When Beau leaped at the kitchen table she knocked the coffee mugs flying!

Taking a break from wild behaviour

Seven-month-old Beau was chosen from the litter as the most bold and pushy puppy. She organised the others, I am told, by barging them and stirring up trouble – and then sitting back to enjoy the results!

She was a mouthy, nippy puppy. This wasn’t countered immediately or correctly. Hand games and chasing her for things she stole added fuel to her wild behaviour.

As she got bigger and things became more painful, they have had to use more physical force to push her off them, to remove her away from things and to extract things from her mouth. She will do nothing when simply asked.

They can’t have her in the lounge with them for more than a few minutes before she goes wild and has to be put in the kitchen. Her worst wild episodes as so often is the case happen where she has more space – out in the garden. There have been a couple of occasions when the little girl hasn’t been safe.

In the belief that the more exercise and interaction she has, the better behaved she will be, each day starts off with too much stimulation – a prolonged welcome fuss before breakfast followed by ball play in the garden, excitement before getting in the car to take the child to school and then a walk which is probably too long for a pup of seven months.

Anyway, as she got older puppy Beau became defiant when she didn’t get her own way.

The young dog may get angry when thwarted. Several times now she has snarled, showed her teeth and lunged. Her eyes ‘looked funny’.

This is the consequence of using methods of force on a determined and strong dog. How frustrating it is for a dog not to know what she should be doing. (Please take a look at my favourite video showing the power of Yes versus No).

I showed them how we would create a willing and happy dog exercising self-control by using the power of Yes, by keeping Beau as calm as possible, by giving her suitable mental stimulation and by removing opportunities for rehearsing the wild behaviour.

By motivating her.

Almost immediately Beau began to respond to reinforcement for the right behaviour. She was becoming a lot calmer than she had been for a long time, particularly with the little girl present.

This is a typical case of owners getting through the days by fielding everything the dog throws at them so it becomes No No NO Stop, push away, drag off, shut away … and so on, and ‘letting sleeping dogs lie’ when the dog is quiet.

Look at this wonderful face!

It’s just amazing just how quickly a dog responds to Yes Yes Yes and being ‘bigged up’ for each good thing she does so she knows what is required.

Each time the wild behaviour kicked off again we dealt with it by giving the big adolescent other, incompatible things to do instead, making it clear to her what we did want of her.

We soon had Beau coming to us, offering us certain behaviours with little prompting. We had her walking from one of the four of us to another when called gently. We had her responding to understandable instructions and she was loving it.

We used the clicker. The little girl also clicked Beau for sitting – with perfect timing.

Action should be immediate.

It’s no good allowing the dog to rehearse jumping and biting by letting it happen even twice before reacting. It needs to be wiped out completely.

Immediately she jumps she must lose all communication with that person. Immediately she jumps at the table someone must get up, call her off, reward what she should be doing instead and move her onto a different behaviour that is incompatible with jumping at the table.

It takes a huge amount of effort.

Pre-empting and dealing with things before they happen is best of all.

Boosting her for every desirable thing she does must also be immediate – when she sits voluntarily, when she lies down, when she sighs and relaxes. A couple of times she looked at the table which had my smelly treats on it and resisted jumping up. A first! That deserved a jackpot but it must be immediate.

It could help greatly if the little girl didn’t arouse the dog quite so much as the wild behaviour is always far worse when the child is about. She could touch her less, try not to run into the room waving arms, dance around her or do handstands in Beau’s presence. These things quickly send the dog wild.

But this is like asking the little girl not to be a little girl!

Even if the child can cut back a little on these things it will help and she will be clicker trained too! They will use the word ‘Good’ and she can collect stars. She will now ask her mum to call Beau inside before going out into the garden – and she will make a poster for the door to remind herself

The next morning I received a lovely message from the lady which is proof if any is needed of the powers of positive reinforcement and calmness:

“I am so excited to tell you that we have had the most relaxed morning since we have got Beau. Last night she came into the lounge and not once did she bite. She tried to get on the sofa once but with a little distraction she came away and lay down. 

This morning has been the shocker for me. She has been like a different dog. We have made an extra effort to be calm and relaxed and Beau has been the same. She hasn’t bitten, jumped up, barked…nothing! ……She is now laying peacefully….I know she may relapse and I’m prepared for it but she’s shown me this morning that she is more than capable of being the loving Newfoundland that she should be……I knew she had it in her but to see it is another thing. I am so happy!”

This comes with a little warning. This is probably a glimpse into the future as Beau won’t change overnight. Her wild behaviours will have become well-rehearsed habits, after all, and she will most likely default to them when aroused or wanting attention. They will need to be steadfast and consistent in applying the new strategies.

Message received about three weeks later: ‘I am so happy to tell you that we have a considerably well behaved dog. She has not had an “aggressive moment” since the clicker incident on the first week. There have been times where I have stopped stroking her and she goes to mouth my hand and then realises and stops before her mouth touches me, which I reward….. I can honestly say, I can’t remember the last time she jumped up! She’s learnt to play with her toys by herself and doesn’t ram them in my hand followed by a bite like before. Overall I am delighted with the way things are going. I am still prepared for her to slip back to her old ways but she is surprisingly proving me wrong. I actually think she listens to me now!’

 

We as a family have been very consistent which has been the key I think to the change in Beau. Absolutely.  We also decided to slowly swap the clicker with the word “good” which is much better as I now don’t have to carry the clicker with me everywhere. I agree. She responds just as well and knows there’s a chance she will get something yummy if she listens and does as I ask. There have been 2 times where she hasn’t listened when I’ve called her in at night time but other than that she has been excellent.

 

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 Beau and I’ve not gone into exact 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 aggression or fearfulness is concerned and most especially when it involves children. 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 Get Help page)

 

Frustration Redirected on Nearest Human

The first few weeks of a dog’s life can have lifelong impact.

Sally and Pepper are two adorable and friendly Shih Tzus, ages five and eighteen months respectively.

They came from different breeders and this is reflected in their general confidence and sociability to other dogs. Sally is quite happy carrying her ball and playing games when out. Pepper, on the other hand, is on permanent alert to sounds….and to dogs.

No frustration from the two dogs now

Sally and Pepper

Pepper left his mother and litter a bit early and hadn’t been well cared for, very different to Sally’s start in life.

Walks can be difficult for the young lady in particular. She’s actually scared now when walking little Pepper. When held back from attacking another dog, he has redirected his frustration three times now, resulting in bites.

It’s easy to assume that this is just something to do with ‘training’ out on walks.

I see it as part of a much bigger picture that if they first get all the groundwork in place at home and understand how to approach the ‘other dog’ problem by seeing things through Pepper’s eyes, things should dramatically improve.

Pepper will then have no need for frustration.

 

Frustration constantly rehearsed by Pepper even within his own home

There are two dogs living next door with just a wall between the houses, one dog in particular is very noisy.

Barking is heard intermittently throughout the day, upon which the younger Shih Tzu, Pepper, will immediately react and run around the house barking ineffectually, trying to get to the barking dog the other side of the wall.

Imagine his frustration at failing every time. This may happen many times a day.

Cheeky Sally, too, may give one bark to set him off!

Worse, a while ago the two male dogs would regularly ‘fence-fight’ with much snarling and leaping at the fence from both sides. The large dog had knocked down the old fence and his leaping at the new fence has already exposed gaps at the bottom.

Although Pepper is no longer free to go outside in his own garden, whenever he is let out he’s on high alert. Even from the kitchen French window he can hear the other dog the other side of the fence, and this room is where he and Pepper are left when they go out.

Bouts of frustration will be recurring.

So, it’s against this background at home that makes Pepper’s behaviour out on walks all the more understandable.

Helping him needs to be approached from three angles.

The first is management in order to make Pepper’s environment as helpful as possible – like gating him away from the back window and only letting him out on a lead.

The second is to get Pepper to feel differently so that he no longer feels he needs to bark through the wall and protect himself outside in his garden. This can only be done by desensitising and counter-conditioning.

We made a start, as you can see from the picture. I took the photo when both dogs were sitting in front of me while noises went on from next door.

Changing the emotions that drive him to being so reactive to other dogs also involves reducing Pepper’s stress levels in general so that he becomes a calmer dog.

When he’s no longer reacting to the barking through the wall, they can move on to working in the garden. With time and effort they should have him ignoring the dog behind the fence. Without Pepper retaliating, the next door dog will be quieter.

 

What about encountering dogs on walks, though?

How his humans behave when out on walks and another dog appears is crucial.

At present they hold Pepper tight as they advance on the dog – they may pick him up – and all he wants to do is to get at it. He lunges, snarls and, to quote, ‘barks ballistically’.

At proximity he will never learn to feel differently. It’s how he’s feeling that is driving how he’s behaving.

Avoiding dogs altogether will get them nowhere, though I do suggest a couple of dog-free weeks to build upon. Why?

Then, as with the dogs next door, it’s slow, patient work that is required so he is never pushed beyond his comfort threshold and eventually comes to feel differently about them.

Thirdly, after management and working on changing how Pepper feels, comes teaching him actions that are incompatible with the unwanted behaviour (like ‘sit’, ‘come’, ‘stay’ and so on) or removing himself from trouble if the neighbour’s dog is in their garden.

Within a few minutes yesterday, using appropriate harness and lead, they were walking a much calmer dog on a loose lead down the road. Pulling against a tight lead causing discomfort to the neck from a collar is not conducive of a relaxed walk. When he lunges at a dog it will hurt his delicate little neck. From now on, if another dog suddenly appears and they can’t react in time, he will feel no discomfort.

He will be taken to what he considers is a safe distance. If they watch him he, he will let them know where this distance is.

At this distance the work they will have been doing with the dog next door can be replicated out on the walk.

In all areas of Pepper’s life they will do their best to keep his arousal levels down. Stress and frustration go hand in hand. Being on constant alert also means he could well be sleep-deprived, which will not be helping his stress levels either.

The ‘stress circle’: barking creates stress and stress creates barking! Stress creates more reactivity to other dogs and reactivity to other dogs creates more stress…. and so on.

 

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 Pepper. I don’t go into detail. 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 fearfulness 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 Get Help page)

Redirected Frustration Biting

Frustration builds up all day, flooding his brain with stress hormones

Beautiful Finnish Lapphund Teemu is now nine months old. If things continue in the direction they are going, they worry that either the lady or one of the children will be hurt. So far blood hasn’t been drawn, but if things continue as they are it is only a matter of time.

He gave me an excited welcome with some jumping up – no more than many adolescent dogs that I go to. However, quite soon it became apparent just how stressed he is. He paced, he panted, he looked for trouble and he kept barking to be let out, then barking with frustration when the door wasn’t opened.

The problem is – CATS.

They sit up on the fence, staring down at him as he goes berserk. They come into his garden and stare brazenly through the window at him.

Teemu goes mental.

All day he is stressing through the French windows over cats.  If no cat is there, he is waiting for one. If he sees a cat he would break the window down if he could and the noise of his barking blocks out everything.

When he’s let out, even if there are no cats Teemu won’t come back in just in case one might appear.

They stay just out of reach, teasing him.

Hour by hour as the day progresses he becomes more stressed. Then the kids come home and boom – it’s all stacked up and he explodes. He has pinned the lady to the wall, snarling. Mornings can be over-exciting too. The other day before school he turned on the little girl though stopped short of biting – this time. She was throwing his ball and he lost his temper.

He calms down in the evening. At first I thought it may be because the kids have gone to bed, but probably it’s because, when it’s dark, he can no longer see out of the window so he has a break from cat-lookout.

 

Management is the first step and should make a huge difference.

Frustration building up he watches out of the window

A CAT!

I predict that three simple things, nothing to do with training or behaviour therapy, will make a big difference and enable them to make real progress with the work we need to do.

Firstly, if Teemu can’t see out of the window he can’t be on ‘cat-watch’, can he.

As soon as I left they were going out to buy some plastic window frosting which can go on the lower part of the French windows.

Secondly, you can get prickly plastic thingies to put on top of fences that make it too uncomfortable for a cat to sit on the fence.

Thirdly, for now when they let him out it can be on a retractable lead – the only good use for one! – the handle perhaps shut in the door. As soon as he barks or sees a cat, in he comes before he has a chance to get too wound up.

 

Teemu shouldn’t be labelled ‘aggressive’. The behaviour is redirected frustration.

Down the road from me there are two Boxers left out all day in a front garden. They bark madly when another dog passes and then, because they can’t get at their real target – the passing dog – one Boxer dog goes for the other and it ends in a fight. Why the man lets it happen I really don’t know.

This is the sort of thing that is happening with Teemu. He can’t get to his real target so he redirects onto something else, but not something stronger than himself like the very tall man. The lady is petite and the children are small.

Reynolds3He has already had some good puppy training and they have used clicker. With this his humans can now reinforce the behaviours that they want – all the good things Teemu does.

They will work on doing things calmly at certain trigger points – for instance, when people come down in the morning, when their cat is about (their cat stands up for himself and Teemu would like to play), when callers come to the house and so on.

If they can drastically reduce his frustration and stress, he will have nothing to redirect. He should become a lot more accepting of things he doesn’t much like – such as being groomed.

With management in place, a pot of good food, a clicker, the good exercise he already gets and plenty of patience along with a list of healthy activities that aren’t too arousing, they will win! They will have a calmer dog and a dog that they can trust.

I checked to see how they were doing six months after I first met Teemu, and this is the reply: We are doing great thank you. I can’t believe it has been six months already. Teemu has been amazing and incredibly well behaved. He has his moments (as we all do) but they are very short lived. We revert back to your plan to refresh our minds every now and again and even the children are still following your advice. We’re very grateful for your follow up to check how we’re doing, it’s lovely that you still care so much. We have ourselves a lovely, affectionate four legged member of the family and we are indebted to you for all your help.
Message to me the next morning: So far so good. The children were brilliant this morning before school and Teemu was just as good. We have had a foraging game in the garden and a packed Kong and he is now relaxing. The window covers are amazing and have had an immediate effect. We cannot thank you enough. There has been no frantic barking either. 
Later the same evening (day two): Just an update from our first full day of implementing “Plan Calm” (as we’ve called it), and it has been really positive. Today has been the first day in I don’t know how long that Teemu has not bitten myself or the girls. He had a few minutes a couple of times when I had to turn away at his barking but other than that he has been incredibly calm and has responded well to the changes. I know there will be times when he tries to push the boundaries again but today has given me more confidence with how to deal with those times if/when they occur. He is currently exhausted from all the foraging and finding today and is sprawled across our feet fast asleep on the floor! As far as Day 1 has gone, we are thrilled. Huge Thank yous are sent your way.
Telephone conversation 5 days after my visit: They have had a great week. No biting. He is a different dog. The children can already move about freely and they, too, are being wonderful. The lady had her best walk ever yesterday with no pulling. It’s like they have found the key. Very pleased. It’s not often that things begin to work so quickly but in this case it’s purely because the dog was misunderstood.
Over three weeks have now gone by:  Overall, I think we’re doing great! We have a much happier household, the children are confident around Teemu now and have all done incredibly well with not over exciting him. We have not experienced any biting at all since your visit and I feel that Teemu now has respect for us all and not just the males in the family.
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 Teemu. I don’t go into detail. 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 fearfulness 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 Get Help page)

Is This What We Call Biting?

Beagle's biting is for attentionHow does one really define biting? Is it engagement of teeth or is it to do with the intent behind the engagement of teeth?

From what I had been told on the phone I was going to a dog that repeatedly bit people, especially the man, and I was expecting an aggressive dog.

That very day, the lady had told me, his biting had lost them his daycare.

When I arrived, at my request the one-year-old Beagle was wearing a soft muzzle with a lead attached to his harness. It was unnecessary. I sat down and the muzzle was removed. Benson was immediately all over me, much more interested in the food in my pocket than he was in me.

From when they first got him he was a very nippy/mouthy puppy. Unfortunately, instead of the mouthing being discouraged in an appropriate fashion from the start, it was unintentionally encouraged. Pushing him away and playing hand games was something the men did and until he got bigger it didn’t hurt too much. Loud squeals got him even more excited.

The older he grew, the more he used biting to get the attention he craved and the more it hurt.

As he gets ‘stuck in’, Benson quickly works himself up to a stage where he looses control of himself as his arousal levels simply overwhelm him. He then gets rough and frustrated. He will paw, hump and leap as high as a person’s head. Add to this the human response by way of confrontation, scolding and maybe shouting or grabbing him, he becomes a powder keg waiting to explode.

In a particularly highly aroused state this has, a couple of times, tipped him over into real aggression. Hence the loss of his daycare.

The couple’s life revolves around ‘fielding’ the jumping up, biting and pawing Benson throws at them. When he’s quiet they are so relieved to get some peace they understandably leave him alone. They have now resorted to muzzling him when he gets too much.

As the young dog is seldom offered attention when he’s being good and quiet lest they start him off again, what does this teach him?

The real challenge is that he’s now had nearly a year rehearsing and strengthening his biting skills. It’s become learned behaviour – a habit. It could be a difficult habit to break. The only way to achieve that is to do exactly the opposite to what has been done so far. They are now going to concentrate on teaching him the behaviour they DO want, reinforcing everything that pleases them (we started this with a clicker), pre-empt when possible and divert his attention if caught soon enough onto other items that he can freely chew.

There must be ZERO TOLERANCE for biting from now on. They have to do something to protect themselves from injury so this it’s very fortunatel he seems to like that muzzle and comes to put his nose into it without being asked. I believe it may act a bit like a calming band because he settles but without shutting down completely which wouldn’t be good.

He should not get away with even two or three bites before they react. NO bites are acceptable. Anything else just gives mixed messages.

At first feel of mouth or teeth they should immediately turn away and withdraw all interaction with him, looking away and ignoring him. At this point he may well begin a very loud bark. Having made it clear by turning away that they don’t want the bite, if he does it a second time the muzzle goes on with no fuss and no words.

Unlike previously, the muzzle should be left on only for as short a time as necessary and can come off again in five minutes or when his arousal levels have dropped sufficiently for them to give him something else to do.

Most importantly, we have made a list of rewarding activities with which they can punctuate their time with him in frequent short sessions which will use his brain or give him gentle exercise without hyping him up, rewarding him for being quiet or for exercising self-restraint instead of as it is at present with the great majority of the attention he receives generated by himself – rewarding and reinforcing his antics.

Basically, the young couple will be replacing the excitement he self-generates by biting, pawing, barking and sometimes humping with healthy stimulation generated by themselves. They will need to make liberal use of food.

They are prepared for this to take some time and a lot of patience! Dear little dog.

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 Benson. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good, particularly where aggression is involved. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Helppage).