Barks at People, Distant or Near

By coincidence I have just seen a second dog in three days that is scared of people – even when they are mere specks in the distance.

Robbie’s hackles rise and he barks at people.

He barks at people

People often don’t see things from their dog’s point of view until it’s pointed out. There seems no alternative but to keep walking towards the thing the dog is scared of, perhaps crossing the road. They buy equipment that enables them to physically manage their scared and pulling or lunging dog.

Although they may do their best to avoid people, turning right around and going somewhere else or even going back home isn’t an option. Walkers like their walks to go from A to B.

Sometimes the people, seeing he’s a Labrador, put their hand out to him. He doesn’t like that and he’s snapped a few times.

Robbie has a new harness that says ‘Nervous’. I’m not sure this is direct enough for the person who ‘loves dogs’ and may try to comfort him.

The Yellow Dog Company makes dayglo dog coats that say ‘I Need Space’. Plain florescent yellow coats are easy to obtain. We could make our own with a marker pen to say ‘Please don’t touch me’, making it quite clear to people.

It is very likely that Robbie had inadequate socialisation with new and different people as a young puppy. Possibly some of his problem is genetic. He had one terrifying experience involving a man when he was a young dog from which time things got a lot worse. He’s now five years old and is particularly scared of men which isn’t uncommon.

When I arrived at the house Robbie ran to me, hackles up, barking.

I had a soft dog toy – a squeaky duck in the top of my bag I knew a Labrador would like – and held it out to him.

Robbie took it and he became a different dog!

He paraded the duck, wagging his tail, showing me and the couple his prize. He squeaked it. “What have you got, Robbie?” I said to him. All was well.

The people said this was a very different first encounter than usual with their dog that barks at people who enter the house.

It seems that Robbie, influenced by fear, only barks at people when he can actually see a person. Hearing alone doesn’t seem to worry him.

I noticed that his way of showing he was worried about anything was to go still and look away. Out of sight, out of mind?joneslisa

At home they will work on getting him to look into their eyes the instant they gently say his name. Then, when they are out and he sees someone, they will have the power to get him to look away from the person and to them instead. That will be the first step.

They will make the whole walking experience less stressful. They will teach him to walk comfortably on a loose lead – we practised this in the house – and get rid of the head halter.

He will start to enjoy a lead walk rather than it being the frustration and discomfort of constantly fighting against the restraint. It’s unsurprising that a scared dog, already feeling this tension and stress, barks at people.

I suggest avoiding people altogether on walks for a couple of weeks.

It will allow him to let him settle. They can work on their loose leash technique and learn how to change the emotions inside him that make him a dog that barks at people.

Later and after some work, when he sees anyone, if not too close “Robbie!” should immediately get his attention. They then move onto the next step. This is either feeding him, giving him a toy or throwing something; they will turn around, increase as much distance as they have to and have a party.

Robbie’s humans should keep totally relaxed when they see a person. Calm confidence needs to run down that lead. When Robbie tenses up – as soon as and not before – they then set the wheels in motion to associate the people he barks at – or used to bark at – with only great things.

They may eventually even point the person out to him before going straight into their happy routine, ‘Look- a person!’.

If everyone coming into his house greets him with a special toy that can be given to them in advance, he should begin to associate callers with good stuff too, just as he did me when I gave him my soft squeaky duck.

Robbie is a lovely dog with owners who really care. In time, if his need for distance is respected, he will be comfortable closer to people and may even ignore them. He’s not a particularly tactile dog and this must be respected. He will learn to trust the people holding the lead not to push him over his threshold and then he should no longer be a dog that barks at people.

Feedback five weeks later: The harness came (I had recommended Perfect Fit) and you’re right it’s really good, he barely pulls with it on so walks have been much better and fairly loose on the lead. We continue to practice the calling his name and rewarding with kibble when he looks at us and off the lead he’s been much better at recall. We’ve had a few occasions walking him having seen people, being ready to turn round and go in the other direction but he hasn’t reacted. I was even able to talk to a neighbour as we walked past and he didn’t react at all, all good progress I think!
Three months later: Robbie is still doing great and we are managing his anxiety as you showed us to which makes life so much easier particularly when visitors come to see us.
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 approach I have worked out for Robbie 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear is concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Second Fear Period Maybe

Second fear period and bad timing could be involved.

The couple have two beautiful Labradors – black William and golden Sam.

Possibly Samson's behaviour changed due to second fear period

Sam

They can’t understand how the two dogs have turned out so differently when they both came from the same breeder. They say they have treated them both the same.

But have they?

William is now two-and-a-half years old and Sam fourteen months.

They had taken William to puppy classes. They carried him around shops before he could be safely put down. He went most places with them so was well habituated to daily life; all his experiences with other dogs had been good ones.

William is also a placid character which is just as well because soon after they got Sam at eight weeks old, all the boisterous play brought his elbow problems to light and he had an operation on each, resulting in restricted exercise for many weeks.

When Sam became too rough he never told him off. In fact, if he became impatient it was he who was scolded. They realise now that they should have instead have been teaching Sam to play nicely and when enough was enough.

Sam, totally different to William, is scared of anything new. This fear of new things applies particularly to new dogs. Because of the circumstances, Sam not been habituated and socialised at an early age in the way William had.

William

William

Up until eight or nine months of age he had been fine. Then, suddenly, he became reactive. Why should he have changed so quickly?

He had never been like this before apart from, perhaps, the over-boisterous play with William at home. He hadn’t been like this before going to classes. Was it coincidence? Had the first classes coincided with his second fear period?

There he was with a number of dogs he’d not met before in a situation which he could have found very stressful for several reasons.

The dog trainer eventually suggested removing him from the class due to his being too pushy, excitable and noisy.

It was traditional gun dog training and so the methods may well anyway have been stressful to sensitive a dog, particularly if coinciding with that short second fear period. One example of this now outdated training method is a jerk on the slip lead to make the dog walk to heel. Basically, he has to walk to heel to avoid pain, rather than being taught to walk to heel for reward and encouragement.

If the first scary training occasions indeed happened to have coincided with Sam’s short second fear period, a two to three-week period in adolescence, it could have had a huge effect on his future feelings towards new dogs.

It is pure conjecture of course and can never be proved.

So, the couple need help with Sam’s over-excitability when seeing another dog, particularly a dog he doesn’t know. He can be very pushy and intimidating but nothing worse until a couple of weeks ago. He pinned a young Cocker Spaniel down, terrifying it. There was a lot of noise but fortunately no damage. One just has to hope that this wasn’t during the smaller dog’s second fear period also.

Then there was another incident a few days ago. It’s getting worse – as things do.

The wagging tail and excitability he displays upon seeing another dog doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. It’s arousal of some sort. A human equivalent might be someone who is all over a person they have met for the first time, wild with excitement and hugs and forcing them to have a cup of tea even if they don’t want one. I wouldn’t call this friendliness myself, I would call it being over-anxious and trying to get some control over the situation.

Changing things around for Sam.

The slip lead causes discomfort when he pulls. Because of the slip lead, when he strains towards another dog he will be feeling some degree of pain. Is pain something we want him to associate with dogs he doesn’t know? No – the very opposite in fact.

From now, in a controlled way, he will associate something especially good with seeing another dog that he doesn’t know. It will be something so special that Sam won’t get it any other time. (What the special thing is has been chosen specifically to suit Sam).

He will learn to walk on a loose lead with a little freedom away from the human’s left leg! Goodbye slip lead strangulation and Hello suitable harness with a longer training lead hooked at the chest.

Instead of charging up to any dog he sees when off lead, playing if the dog is familiar and overwhelming or intimidating it if it not, he will now always touch base with his human first. He needs to be taught to do this through constant repetition. His otherwise good recall has to be even better. They will call him back at random throughout walks and make it very worthwhile to do so in terms of food or fun. The lead will be put on at random throughout the walk so not associated with the appearance of another dog or with the end of the walk.

Currently when he’s on lead and another dog appears, they continue to walk Sam towards it, slip lead tight, perhaps making him sit, and taking physical control of him. He must feel trapped.

In future when another dog appears they will do their best to make choices based on Sam’s own body language. They will increase distance until he shows that he is comfortable. At that comfortable distance they will start to show him that the presence of a dog he doesn’t know BRINGS ON THE GOOD STUFF.

Whether or not his fears are connected to an unpleasant experience around unfamiliar dogs during the sensitive second fear period, they can now start to reverse this.

Sadly it takes a lot longer to undo damage than it does to cause it.

Feedback five months later: We’ve been diligently working on building his confidence and focus on us with the steps you helped us put in place. Unfortunately last week he injured himself and needed stitches. On 2 visits to the vets for stitches and and dressing change, he has remained focused on me despite being alert to another dog in the waiting room on our way in. Obviously still appearing worried but no lunging, growling or barking. I know this doesn’t mean he’s cured, but it was such welcome relief and huge positive step forward. I’m delighted.

 

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 Sam 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 aggression 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 (see my Help page)

Introducing a New Puppy

Introducing a New Puppy. They were shocked when the older dog growled.

They are very concerned because Fen growled at the new puppy.

introducing a new puppy - Pug

Bailey

I look at this very differently. Hooray for the older dog growling!

The thirteen-week-old pug puppy is let free in the room, in Labrador Fen’s room, and gets a bit too familiar too soon. If Fen didn’t growl they would never know that she was feeling uneasy or threatened and then what might happen?

Bailey is delightful. He is brave and playful as a puppy ought to be. Fen is now eight years old and doesn’t want to be jumped all over and that is fair enough. So she gives a warning growl. The puppy understands what that means but the the humans get alarmed.

Fen has been less patient of late with other dogs when out and they are afraid she may hurt the puppy.

I have seldom met a more patient and tolerant dog than Fen. Even when out she very rarely has reacted to another dog and then only when provoked. Their older dog had died and Fen probably feels a bit more anxious now without her.

The lady and the young daughter in particular are anxious. Very wisely they now have puppy Bailey in a crate when the two dogs are in the same room.

Introducing new puppy to black labrador

Fen

Fen is absolutely fine with sniffing Bailey through the bars. She is perfectly relaxed in the same room as her but she doesn’t want to be jumped on or interfered with. She needs to get used to him first.

.

People often do things the wrong way round.

One thing I find is that people usually restrain the older dog on a lead and let the puppy bound all over the place. This is wrong.

It should be the puppy that is restrained on lead. Fen can then sniff and interact with him if and when she wishes, knowing that she can escape out of his reach at any time.

They also need the kitchen door gated so that puppy can have freedom from the crate and people can relax. If they are constantly worrying and can’t leave both dogs alone, Fen is sure to pick up on it. Introducing a new puppy through a gate works best. Both dogs are free – and safe.

Good associations should be actively built up and with Fen food will work best. At the gate, or when Bailey is in the same room and on lead, she can be fed tiny and specially tasty bits of food – and so can Bailey

The garden is a great place to introduce a new puppy. The puppy on lead with older dog free (perhaps trailing a lead if the people are anxious).

It’s important that little Bailey doesn’t experience provoked aggression or anger from Fen at this crucial stage in her life. She needs to know that other dogs are nice and she should grow up to be a gentle and sociable adult dog herself. A little later when the two are freely together, any play that becomes too rough should be interrupted immediately for the same reason.

I shall go back soon when puppy has settled in. We are already working on toilet training and will look at some clicker training and introducing a new puppy to walking on lead.

We will also do some basic work with Fen on walks, to make sure she’s not put into a position where she is forced to react to other dogs by being too close and unable to escape.

I love jobs where it a case of introducing a new puppy.

Here is a cute video of Bailey. I had given him my puppy toy to keep him busy. Is it alive?

 

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 Bailey and Fen. 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 introducing dogs to one another 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)

Doesn’t Come When Called

LabMontyIn the distance, the other side of a road, Monty saw a dog. Ignoring all calls to come back, he ran off after it. He could so easily have been knocked down by a car.

They don’t let 18-month-old Black Labrador Monty off lead now because they can’t trust him to come back when called – particularly if he sees another dog. He wants to play.

Poor Monty is now unable to have any freedom to run about, sniff, explore, chase and do doggy things.

You would think that coming when called was a simple, single issue. One of ‘dog training’ – learning to come when called.

Good recall can be a matter of life and death. If coming whenever called is worked on continually from puppyhood (using food), this never becomes an issue.

There is much more to recall than simply ‘training’. Most dogs understand what we want, but many decide to ignore us when there is something they would rather do.

This is more a relationship and motivation issue than lack of ‘training’ as such.

LabMonty2Monty really is a very good dog – particularly for an adolescent. The family has worked hard with him. However, I did notice that he was allowed to over-ride things he was asked to do. Did he want to go out at night? No? Okay. Did he want to come downstairs in the morning? No? Okay. It’s not a big leap to suppose that he would consider coming when called as optional also.

It’s sometimes hard to get Monty’s attention at home, so home is where it has to start. If the family members aren’t sufficiently relevant at home where there are few distractions, they are much less likely to be relevant surrounded by all the distractions of the outside world.

Monty’s humans are not using their main incentive – food!

We work best for money and for appreciation. So it is with dogs. Food is the best currency for most dogs.

When a dog has learnt to be selective whether he comes or not when called, it can be good to start all over again with a whistle. Home work needs to be put in first – lots of it. After a thousand toots of the whistle over a couple of weeks, each time followed by a tiny piece of something tasty (it can be a great family game whistling a dog from room to room), we should be well on the way to creating a conditioned response.

It still won’t be not strong enough to rely upon in the face of the major distraction – other dogs, so the work then needs to be taken onto walks, with Monty on a very long line.

The humans need also to look to themselves. Are they sufficiently relevant and exciting? Can they compete with another dog? Is a walk comfortable for Monty – in other words, are the people great to be with? If the dog is pulling on a collar or Halti, why would he want to come back to that discomfort and stress?

They must convince Monty that they are the very best, most exciting and rewarding option in the world!

So, what looks like a simple issue of not coming when called and a bit of ‘recall training’ out on walks, is actually quite a lot more.

Gaining control of food, requiring the dog to pay attention before he gets something he wants, not negotiating if we ask the dog to do something, teaching instant recall in the home, comfortable loose lead walking and so on, are all part of the picture.

Ultimately when they call him there will be nothing else in the environment that can compete with the importance of his family.

Then he will be conditioned to return when he hears the whistle.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Monty, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can often do more harm than good. 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

Beautiful Labrador Who Can’t Be Left

LabradorOscarI was quite worried before I met three-year-old Oscar and his lady owner. They live in a small flat with no garden, there have been complaints to the landlord about Oscar’s barking and he’s only been there for three weeks. He has already had altercations with a local off-lead Staffie.

Instead I met a young lady who was really switched on where dogs are concerned, having owned a greyhound that then retired with her as a pet and who is a Victoria Stilwell fan (advocate of Positive methods – www.postively.com). Oscar himself was polite and self-controlled.

His problem is that he won’t let the lady out of his sight and he follows her around constantly. She is now house-bound. He had been a show dog and spent a lot of his time in a crate, but, living with three other dogs, was never entirely alone. Life is very different for him now and it’s understandable that he is insecure.

The lady has filmed Oscar when she left him for a short while. The crying starts after a couple of minutes and develops into barking and howling. When she arrives home the floor is soaking wet – probably with drool but possibly pee also. He is beside himself with distress.

Because of the neighbour’s complaint she got a citronella anti-bark collar but she has promised never to use that again as it would make her absence even more scary. To a dog whose most acute sense is that of smell, this would be like someone shining such a bright light into our eyes that we were temporarily blinded.

The only real way to solve the problem is to work on the cause – Oscars feelings; supression is guaranteed to make him feel a lot worse.

Fortunately the young lady is at home just now and she has a determined nature and will be taking it one step at a time, starting by shutting him behind the gate at the sitting room door, turning around, walking a couple steps away and then going back in again. Every time she goes out through the gate she will say ‘Back Soon’ and give the dog a treat. Every time she comes back in she will make it very boring by ignoring him. With baby steps she will eventually go out of sight, and then out of the front door briefly.

We want him to associate her departures with good stuff (not the torture of citronella) and to learn that however long she is away she always returns.

Possibly he is missing the crate – we are going to try that too because a crate can be a sort of safe den to dogs that are crate-trained from puppies. There are some other day to day things the young lady can do to increase Oscar’s confidence in her and to help him over his fears when he is on lead.

In a recent programme on Channel 4, The Secret Lives of Dogs, they proved by filming a number of dogs that about 80% of dogs suffer separation issues. They are left alone all day and their owners aren’t even aware of their suffering because many are silent and don’t do any damage. They may spend all day pacing and quietly crying, and nobody knows. Here is a short summary of the programme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NUFyMNK8oE

We bred dogs to work for us or to be our companions, and now in modern life we go out to work and leave them alone – ill-prepared.

 

Unruly Young Black Labrador

I soon taught Peppa, instead of jumping on us, to sit and then lie down instead. I fell in love (again)! This time it was with 8-month-old black Labrador Peppa.

Her increasingly demanding attention-seeking behaviour was becoming potentially dangerous for their six year old daughter.

It tends to be worse in the evening – as it often seems to be with many young dogs. There is a lot of jumping up in general, but when the little girl sits down to do her homework or watch TV and mum is trying to cook tea, the battle commences. Peppa flies all over the child if not closely controlled. By the time dad has come home and the adults sit down in the evening for some peace and quiet Peppa really gets stuck in.

She starts with climbing on them whereupon she is told to get down and pushed off. Commands make her defiant (she is a teenager!). Soon this escalates to grabbing clothes, barking for attention, air snapping and even nipping. It goes on and on until they get so exasperated they shout at her. She is getting their undivided attention now!

Understandably they are only too pleased when she is quiet so when she’s being good they leave her alone. That way Peppa learns that the best attention happens when she is annoying. She isn’t shown an acceptable alternative way to get their attention.

It is a bit like goalkeeper fielding all the balls. Instead of waiting for Peppa to instigate something, they need to behave more like forwards. They need to instigate attention at times to suit them and they need to teach her alternatives incompatible with her demanding  behaviour.

I soon taught her, instead of jumping on us, to sit and then lie down instead. Each time the urge came to demand attention by jumping she was redirected to lying down whereupon she was, of course, rewarded with attention and food. Soon she was doing this of her own accord. We then added ‘stay’ which will be gradually increased over time. She liked that game! I also taught her the ‘touch’ trick which she learnt in just a few minutes. She was literally lapping it up and eager to learn. She is a very clever dog with a brain that is not sufficiently exercised. One thing that may be adding to the problem is that she’s not fed until the evening, so it’s possible the late food is giving her an energy rush of calories.

So, on one hand Peppa needs to learn self-control and to understand that good things happen when her feet are on the floor and she’s polite, and on the other hand she needs a vacuum in her life filled with some constructive stimulation.

Not Dominance but Lack of Self-Control

The Labrador is a friendly affectionate dog lacking self control

Blake

The three beautiful dogs gave me a polite greeting when I arrived and it would have been hard to guess there were any problems. Fourteen-year-old Border Collie Dizzy is no trouble at all, Yorkie Waffle, age 4, does more or less what he wants but that causes no problems really – but the one who is challenging is three-year-old Labrador Blake.

Despite training and tricks, Blake lacks self-control. He is becoming increasingly edgy with dogs when out and he pulls on the lead. When all three dogs arrive home and rush into the garden, Blake will persistently hump poor Dizzy (he’s castrated). He does this also after he’s been hosed down after a walk.

These two dogs are no trouble at all

Dizzy and Waffle

However, on the occasions when walks end on lead, the humping seldom happens. They hadn’t recognised the connection (it’s hard when you are living inside a situation to see it objectively). They thought for some reason Blake was being ‘dominant’. Charging back into the garden, off lead and without boundaries, Blake can’t cope with the whole uncontrolled thing so he takes it out on poor Dizzy – who sits down! The end of a walk is the culmination of too much excitement, pulling, freedom and worrying about other dogs, and he has a build-up ready to overflow.

A walk that ends with dogs in a very high state has probably been too stimulating.  It’s certainly not done the job it was meant to do. You know when you have got it right because when the dog comes home he has a long drink and then lies down, satisfied. No humping, charging about or unwinding.

Blake is a lovely, biddable dog. Scolding him for humping only adds to his frustrations. Calling him away with encouragement and praise for disciplining himself along with something else to do to redirect his angst is the right way to go. There are a lot of behaviours he could be offering that are incompatible with humping. Lying on his bed with something special to chew is one of them. Meanwhile, he needs to be de-stressed in every way possible.

As with so many of the dogs I meet, walks need to be completely re-thought. It takes a different mind-set and a load of patience, that’s all. When asked what they do when their dog pulls, people usually say the do things like stopping, turning around, saying Sit or Heel, jerking the lead and so on. I ask “well – you have been doing this for three years, has it worked”? No.

So it’s obvious they need to do something completely different about walking Blake. Walks need to start off in a calm controlled fashion, and they need to end in a calm controlled fashion.

They are surrounded by fields and perfect dog walking countryside, but walks are no longer fun and the lady can’t walk all three together any more which is a shame.

A couple of weeks later I received this message: “I have been doing what you have suggested and the change in Blake has been dramatic. I take him on walks on his own and it is working brilliantly ….. He is really learning. Thank you again. I have also been playing with the dogs individually whilst the other is in the kitchen – no humping! Problem solved! I am really pleased with his performance in such a short time”.

Growling and Snarling When His Food Goes Down

In most respects Alfie is a friendly and biddable dogThree year old Black Labrador Alfie is in nearly every respect a good natured and biddable dog. However, in one respect, his behaviour has been worsening over the past year or so. They can’t pinpoint when it started.

He behaves aggressively around his food and they are no longer able to give him bones or chews.

All the time he’s eating he is growling and snarling, and he’s gulping like he’s expecting his bowl to be removed at any moment. This has never happened, and I’m assured his food has never been interfered with while he’s eating. They certainly wouldn’t dare go near now!

The very first time he did it his humans’ response will have, unintentionally, made it worse. If they had known how to react back then, the behaviour would never have developed, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

In response to the growling, instead of feeding him by himself in the utility room as they used to, they have moved his bowl into the kitchen, near to where they may be moving about. Before the bowl is put down, Alfie is sent the other side of the room and told to sit and wait. The bowl goes down. He still must sit and wait until the man walks away from the bowl and says he can GO. Alfie will then charge to his bowl, growling ferociously and gobble up his food, snarling all the time. It seemed to me that he feels he’s waiting on a starting block, and there may be a race as to who gets the food first once the starter pistol goes off.

Where is the logic, in a dog’s mind, to being told to sit, wait, and so on before being allowed to eat his food once it’s been put down? Humans do it as a sort of ritual. I prefer to do things in such a way that they have some meaning to the dog. I prefer for the dog to be calm before the food goes down, and to work it out for himself without commands.

While I was there it was Alfie’s dinner time, and we tried something different. The bowl was put down in the large kitchen, but well away from us all. Alfie was ignored – there was no telling him to go away, to sit or to wait. I suggested the man stood and held the bowl for a few seconds before putting it down. Alfie was standing quietly and politely beside him. I wanted Alfie to realise that the food, before it was down, belonged to the man – but once down it was all his. I wanted him to use his brains.

The food went down, Alfie moved straight in, the man came away and sat down with us and we ignored Alfie. There was one initial very short growl, out of habit, but that was all! He didn’t even bolt his food.

The food itself needs to be changed to something better. We will be following up with further strategies until Alfie is relaxed while people are moving around near him while he eats.

A couple of weeks later,The thing we are most pleased about is that he no longer barks and growls at feeding time….He’s also a lot calmer and in the evenings just sits peacefully on his mat. We’re very pleased with the progress we’ve made in a very short time since you visited us”.

Dog Reduces Lady to Tears

Black Labrador Busby posing for his photoBusby is a ten-month-old black Labrador, and absolutely gorgeous (most of the time!).  On occasion his behaviour has reduced his poor young lady owner to tears.

Here is a typical morning: The lady lets him out into the garden and then he comes in for breakfast. All good so far. Then she likes to sit down and watch breakfast TV with a cup of tea and this is Busby’s cue! He will jump onto her and nip her and grab her clothes and tear at her slippers. He will leap up behind her on the sofa and if she tries to get him down he’s defiant. He may then fly about the furniture and the house doing what she calls ‘zoomies’!  He will jump up onto the dining table. He may steal something and run off into the garden, initiating a guaranteed chase.

When she gets up and starts moving about, he stops all his nonsense.

This behaviour will also happen in the evening when her husband is at home and they want to sit down in peace, though she is Busby’s main target.

Busby is rewarded with guaranteed attention for these antics, with less reward in the form of attention when he’s calm and good.  He needs alternative activities for his wild moods to occupy him and his jaws, along with plenty of positive reinforcement and reward for calm behaviour.

Fortunately Busby loves his large crate so I have devised a temporary alternative morning routine! When they go to bed they should block the dining table by tipping the chairs, ready for the morning. After his breakfast, when the lady sitting down is the trigger for his behaviour, he should for now go straight away into his crate which is with her in the sitting room, with something special to chew, She can now watch TV in peace until she’s ready to start her day. Both the lady and Busby will then have a happy stress-free start to the day.

They are a very conscientious couple and have taught Busby many things but his training is only any use when he is in the right mood. They now need to work on gaining his cooperation, especially out on walks which currently are not enjoyable for anybody – especially Busby who can no longer be let off lead because he won’t come back, and who spends all the walk trying to remove the Halti – the only way the lady can stop him pulling.

He won’t need that Halti any more!

Message ten days later – off to a good start. The gentleman has worked very hard and patiently at the walking and is building a very good relationship with him: “We feel that we have made progress in all areas, some progress is quicker than others. Overall we have noticed that he is much calmer now than he was before. Especially pleased with the progress we have made with walking. Walking has actually gone very well, I worked lots in the garden. But he soon began to bite the lead, lose focus and jump up on bite me, so ignore him, took off his lead and went inside, leaving him on his own in the garden.  Returned 5 mins later and repeated until he didn’t jump up.  By the 2nd day, we had progressed out of the garden gate and into the street.  This weekend was a real break through, we managed to get all the way to the field where the town hall is and done lots of lead work in the big car park before walking back.  Laura has notice a huge difference in his pulling and lunging “.
After Christmas – about seven weeks after my visit, and they are now beginning to enjoy their dog: “Well Christmas could have been a disaster but it actually went very well with an 11month old puppy in tow.  He was very very well behaved, we only had to put him into his travel crate 3 times over Christmas day and Boxing day which was fantastic. He was very polite around people, especially my elderly grandparents, everyone commented on how well behaved he was, how much progress we have made with him and how calm he was with all the exciting things going on around him. We had a prefect walk on christmas morning, made it round our 45min circuit with no pulling at all”.

Jumping Up and Pulling on Lead

Givvy and Angus are beautiful chunky Black Labradors, four year old brother and sister. They do what a lot of Labs (and other dogs) do – jump up and pull on lead.

Black Labrador brother and sister lying togetherImagine how a dog would feel, already very excited before leaving the house, pulling madly down the road, being corrected painfully with perhaps a choke chain while a stressed owner shouts ‘Heel’…..and then a person with a dog appears in front of him. More discomfort as the anxious owner immediately yanks the lead and holds on tight. The dog is more or less set up to be reactive – to lunge and bark.

How often do we see dogs walking on loose leads, being allowed to stop and sniff and do what dogs like to do, walking like there is no lead at all, barking and lunging at another dog?

I rest my case!

A family member is now pregnant, so the jumping up has to stop. ‘Dog training’ methods have been used for four years of their lives – one dog has a choke chain. They are corrected, the lead is jerked and they are told ‘heel’. They pull so badly, especially when they see another dog or a person, that they can’t be walked together and even the young man is too anxious to walk them down their own lane.

Have four years of correction, ‘heel’ and tight leads worked? No. Have four years of being told ‘Off’ or being pushed down when they jump up worked?  No.

It stands to reason that a different approach is needed.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.