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!

 

 

Changing No to Yes using a clicker

Bella is the most adorable, soft, cute, friendly and totally scrumptious Beagle puppy of six months old.

She greeted me with lots of jumping up. She jumped up at the counters. Bella jumped at and onto the table. 

Bella is told NO. She’s told GET DOWN.

Bella being taught Yes with a clickerWhen I arrive I usually ask the people, where possible, to cease all commands. I like to see what the dog does when not controlled.

Like most people they found this hard. It demonstrates, however, that the commands they are constantly giving her teach her nothing. ‘Get Down’ may work in the moment because she just obeys the word.

It doesn’t stop her doing it again.

In fact, I would say that it might increase the behaviour if attention is what she wants.

Being unable to scold her left them helpless. They can’t simply put up with the behaviour, can they!

They already had a clicker. We were going to turn NO into YES.

The little girl aged eight sat next to me. Her instructions were to click as soon as Bella’s feet were on the floor. She was a little genius.

The child clicked and then I dropped food on the floor for Bella.

Bella too was a genius. She caught on to what clicking was all about very quickly.

Kids in bed, Bella moved on to challenge us all further. She scratched at the door and chewed the mat.

How were we going to stop her without saying NO?

With a clicker we will teach her an incompatible behaviour – a ‘Yes’.

I put out my hand to her. In no time she was touching my palm with her little cold nose. Click. Food. The man took over and he, like his daughter, was a genius too.

In one session Bella and the man, both novices, had learnt what clicker was all about. He was able to put the action on cue with the word Touch’. He was very much on the ball. I took a short video of him.

Bella went to jump at the table, the man called ‘Bella-Touch’ from the other side of the room and she ran straight over and touched his hand. Click. Food.

Soon he will be able to drop the click altogether.

We had a little break with Bella in her crate, then the man carried on. Bella was now looking at me and at the table without jumping up. Yes. Click. Food.

Being constantly told No can be very frustrating for a dog – just as it would be for a child. Bella gets stirred up and may hump the lady. She humped me.

I stood still and froze. She would have to stop eventually. As soon as her feet were on the floor I clicked. Food.

They need food to hand all the time for now – she can earn her meals. If no clicker, the word Yes will do.

They are changing their mindset from No to Yes.

To give Bella something acceptable to take out any frustrations on, she will have a ‘box of tricks’. A carton that she can wreck full of safe rubbish from the recycle bin with bits of food buried amongst it.

She can really go to town on that.

 

 

Stops and Sits. Rolls Onto her Back. Won’t Move

The young Golden Retriever stops on walks.

She sits. She won’t move. When they go to get her, she rolls onto her back.

on the way home she simply stopsThe people I went to see yesterday have just emailed me with something different (Goldie is wary of new things). Their neighbour has had a trampoline erected in their back garden today. Goldie is barking at it – it’s something new that she can see.

The lady has been going out with food and the clicker. She is clicking and rewarding many times while Goldie is being quiet but clearly aware of the trampoline.

I replied, ‘Clicking for quiet is a good way to deal with the trampoline. You are ‘training’ her to be quiet. However, a better way would be to deal with the problem at source –  changing how she feels about it. This would involve, with every look at the trampoline whether she is barking or not, chucking food on the ground or feeding Goldie.’

The case of Goldie going on strike is puzzling.

Since she first went out at three months of age she would sit down and refuse to move. She was little so they were able to pick her up. Now she’s a fully grown Golden Retriever it’s not possible anymore to lift her when she stops.

I would like to deal with this at source too – but where does it come from?

There are a few facts: It’s always on the way home that she stops – after exercise. She has an uncanny sense of knowing when they are on the return journey home or to the car. Putting the lead on at random and going a different way doesn’t fool her.

Her ears go back and, from the sound of it, I would interpret this as looking scared or wary. Why would this be? The rolling onto her back could well be to appease. I’m assured she’s never been punished for it though there has been a lot of enticing and bribing and exasperation for sure.

Goldie is fourteen months old so it will now be well ingrained behaviour – a default response when she feels a certain way.

What way is she’s feeling, though?

The other day things took a turn for the worse. She had sat down and as usual rolled over onto her back, making it difficult to get her up. The lady grabbed her harness to try to make her move.

Suddenly Goldie leapt up and at the woman’s face.

Mouth open. Snarling.

It’s happened two or three times within the past few days. The lady is very upset and scared to walk her now.

Why is it Goldie has, since she first went out, stopped and refused to move? We considered various possibilities:

  • She stops because she doesn’t want to go home (that doesn’t work because she always does go home).
  • Or she stops because, when small, she was picked up and carried and she liked it.
  • She stops because it gives her attention.
  • Or she stops because the arousal previously created in her system from her walk has been too much for her.
  • She stops because after exercise she may be uncomfortable in some way.

Each time the only result it’s generated for her is to be made to move.

Recently Goldie has started to do other things she used not to do. She has begun to dig in the garden and to hump the lady. She is whining in the night.

She was spayed shortly before these things started. Could there be a connection? They visit their vet next week who can check.

In the context of the past few weeks there are indications that she has, for some reason, been more stressed in general. She’s a sensitive dog. Something has recently pushed her over the edge. To quote the lady, she’s flipped.

Either Goldie has been unable to handle the frustration of the walk coming to an end and has lost her temper. This is what the owners assume and is very likely.

Or, just possibly, instead of not wanting something to stop (the walk), she doesn’t want something to start (going home) and it’s scaring her.

Her stress levels could come from unexpected quarters, both at home and when out. They could include the fallout from extreme exercise – running free and hunting, being restrained, being forced to do something against her will. Many little things could contribute to the build-up. She doesn’t like the sound of metal on metal, for instance.

Although I can so far only guess at the cause, we can create a plan that should be appropriate anyway.

Our plan uses stress-reduction as a basis to work on, along with relationship building.

We’ll focus on the walker being much more motivating and rewarding.

If she wants to be with her humans more than anything else, then she should want to continue walking with them.

Walks will be done a bit differently in order to try to interrupt the learned sequence.

They will do lots of work walking back and forth near to the house, loose lead, making it fun and with bits of her meal dropped from time to time – but only when in the direction of home. The same thing can then be done on a long line in open places.

The parallel with my trampoline advice is this:

It may be possible to train her to get up and move if they had sufficient time, using a clicker and rewarding. They would need to click and reward every small movement like rolling onto her front, sitting up, then looking ahead, then sitting higher and then standing – then taking a step and so on. This could take much too long in the middle of a field in the dark or on a busy pavement!

However, if they can stop her feeling she needs to sit, roll over and go on strike and prefer to keep walking, they will have dealt with the problem at source.

 

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 Goldie 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 aggression of any kind 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)

 

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)

 

 

Deaf Dog, Old Dog, New Tricks

Golden Labrador Sadie is thirteen years old and the only problems she now has are physical. She used to be anxious and jumpy around loud or sudden noises, but her loss of hearing has taken care of that.

Deaf dog’s quality of life to be the best possible.

The nearly deaf dog is adored by her lady owner who wants to give her what she considers to be the very best quality of life right to the end. She wants to enrich her life as much as she can bearing in mind Sadie’s physical restrictions. Sadie is friendly and interested despite various health problems and medication. She is massaged daily and also has two swims a day which are keeping her relatively mobile.

Deaf dogThe main issue is her deafness. Not being able to get her attention is getting in the way of communication between the lady and her dog.

The lady would also like Sadie to come to her when asked. It could keep her safe.

‘Eye contact’ and ‘coming when called’ were never particularly successful even when Sadie had full use of her ears! I put this down to lack of motivation.

So now the deaf dog can learn a new prompt that makes coming to the lady very motivating indeed. It is vital that any work should be rewarding and fun for both her and for her owner.

Sadie is never on lead. There is no need because she doesn’t go very far and she’s very slow. The old dog chooses where she wants to go and the lady follows which is absolutely fine. Occasionally she may go after a scent, probably where a cat has been, and then may panic because she thinks she is lost.

A little brain work could be good for Sadie – particularly now physical movement is no longer so easy. Sessions should be very short and should be terminated immediately Sadie shows any reluctance or tiredness.

The overriding thing is that Sadie should enjoy it.

She must choose to engage in the gentle training – we will call it ‘play session’ – and she must also have the choice to stop at any time.

It should be with full regard to Sadie’s physical comfort. She spends a lot of time lying down – more comfortable for her than sitting – and the groundwork can be done while she’s down. The other work will be done when she is already standing up and active. She won’t be encouraged to get up unless standing is something she has herself offered.

Sadie, at her advanced age, will be introduced to the idea of earning food. She is a Labrador so this shouldn’t be too hard, particularly if these ‘play’ sessions are before meals!

First the lady will work on getting eye contact from Sadie – using a very gentle remote-control vibration. This will be a very slow and gradual process starting with the deaf dog being introduced to the smell and look of the equipment – using constant food reinforcement. Next it will be just held against her so she can gently feel the buzz and paired with food until she is actively looking for food when she feels the vibration, leading eventually to giving eye contact.

I shan’t go into the process in detail here because this isn’t a ‘how to’ manual for other dogs. What will work best for Sadie may not be appropriate for another dog with perhaps a different temperament but here are some general instructions on how to introduce a vibrating collar. We are going to experiment with the gently vibrating box stitched against her body in a soft harness – somewhere less sensitive than her neck. We will see.

When the lady reliably gets Sadie’s attention and eye contact, what next?

It seems the useful thing is for Sadie to come when ‘called’. For this the lady will teach her to come and touch her nose on an outstretched hand. It will be nice and clear from a short distance.

Again, it will be a slow and gradual process using the clicker technique (a gentle finger-flick ‘yes’ on the dog instead of a click which she wouldn’t hear. A light flash may have been another way of telling her ‘yes’ but I have reasons not to use that).

Over time and only if it’s going well, the lady can put the two new skills together – the remote vibration for attention and the hand out to get her to come to her.

They can then progress outside into the garden. She can then try it when Sadie is walking ahead of her, off lead, as she always does.

With lots of rewards, keeping sessions short, only expecting Sadie to move when she’s up and active anyway, they will hopefully have created a new game appropriate to Sadie’s twilight life stage.

 

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)

 

Barking For Attention and Getting it

Barking for attention is ultimately guaranteed to succeed.

Taking a break from barking for attentionWhat constitutes attention to Stella?

Anything involving a human looking at her, talking to her or touching her – or all three at once which is usually the case.

She may be glared at. She may told QUIET. She may be pushed away.

Stella is sixteen months old. She is mostly French Bulldog with a bit of English Bulldog thrown in – which makes her quite a bit taller than a Frenchie. She is remarkably agile and it’s nothing for her to leap from the floor directly onto the table.

In the photo we are have managed a brief respite from the barking by giving her a Stagbar to chew.

Stella lives with several people – a couple with adult sons, two of whom can get her very stirred up. There is also an older calmer dog, a Great Dane.

The family all work together and the dogs go with them, remaining in the office. The dogs have a great life. At work Stella is no trouble. There is no barking for attention at all.

Why is her behaviour at work so different to her behaviour at home? It might be because at work people are busy and regularly moving about. At home it’s when they have sat down that the barking for attention routine starts.

I had not been there for long when the barking for attention began – mostly directed at me.

Stella is not a dog deprived of love and attention – not at all! However, she has learnt that barking brings her results and very likely if she’s quiet she will be ignored.

Let sleeping dogs lie. Why wouldn’t you?

 

Now the family will need to go cold turkey.

If they want the barking for attention to stop, there must be no more responding to it.

They must all ignore her noise and keep their nerve and patience. Very difficult. When I was there it was hard to think, let alone talk.

When barking wasn’t working she would then push her luck by doing other things – jumping on the table, jumping on the seat behind me to get to my treat box on the table, chewing the leaves of a house plant and nicking a wooden clothes peg which she couldn’t be allowed to keep owing to danger of swallowing the metal spring.

Running off with something can be guaranteed to result in a chase!

It’s very hard for them not to keep scolding her and telling her ‘no’ and to get down (all reinforcing to Stella). They will get a harness (Perfect Fit like in the picture below) so they can give her a bit of gentle help ‘Off you Get’ and then ‘Good Girl’ when down. They must act casual and keep their cool!

They may need to resort to shutting her alone in the kitchen with something to do for a while if she pushes her luck too far.

What a little monkey! What a challenge!

 

This is a project requiring a sense of humour and endurance.

To help her learn not to bark, she must learn that what they do want – quiet – is rewarding.

So, in addition to not reacting at all to her barking for attention, we started to mark and reward just moments of quiet – gradually increasing the duration. She kept reverting, but we made a little headway. The lady said ‘Yes’, I used my clicker. It doesn’t matter which is used so long as Stella learns to associate it with not barking and the sound is followed by food.

When people are moving about at work she doesn’t bark, so this gives us another strategy to try. As soon as she starts, the person she’s directing the barking at can move about or walk out of the room.

Stella in my harness

Stella in my harness

I see it as being quite a challenge in so far as the whole family needs to be reliably consistent. ‘Can’t be bothered’ could compromise success.

Stella has two or three walks a day. She comes back from her evening walk wired up. It’s like she has built up a head of steam which she has to release when she gets home.

This of course is when everyone wants to settle down after their day at work.

We have drawn up a list of constructive activities that should help her to calm herself down and keep her more busy. Walks need to be adjusted so that they are less arousing in terms of length, exercise and encountering things she’s reactive to, so that instead of careering around the place when she gets back, unwinding in the only way Stella can, she has a drink and settles for a while.

Instead of responding to any barking for attention, they will respond to breaks in the barking instead with ‘clicking for quiet’ sessions.

They should resist all play activities that over-arouse her. They will do all they can to keep her as calm as possible.

Instead of ‘letting sleeping dogs lie’ they can initiate short useful activities at times when she’s quiet – thereby showing that NOT barking works a lot better than barking does!

 

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 Stella. 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, making sure that we are dealing with the real causes of barking. I also provide moral support and they will probably need it for a while. 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)

No No and No Doesn’t Teach a Dog

NO isn’t conveying to Buster what they do want of him

The word No didn't work. Clicker and food and Beagle is attentive.No No is a sure route to making an already confused dog even more bewildered – and frustrated too.

They picked up Beagle mix Buster from a rescue just a few days ago and though totally in love with him they are a little overwhelmed.

I find it hard to believe that he’s been there for two months and not quickly adopted. He’s beautiful with the softest coat imaginable. Possibly he wasn’t snapped up sooner because of his jumping up and excitability. He is only eleven months old.

You can imagine how an energetic young dog when released from two months confinement might react to being let loose in a house and garden!

He jumps up at people and the more they push him down and say No, the more wound up he gets, eventually using his mouth, teeth and claws on the hands that are pushing him away.

He jumps up at the sides in the kitchen while they prepare food. No No just winds him up.

He has mad tearing about sessions which can result on his leaping onto them or grabbing articles and wrecking them. No No!

They have a hamster in a cage at his head height. He is very curious. No No.

 

Turning No into Yes

Starting right now they will concentrate on three things – strategies to calm him down generally, removing temptation where they can, and turning No into Yes.

People can be quite surprised when I suggest a high rate of food reinforcement for everything they ask the dog to do and even to mark moments when the dog is being ‘good’ – not doing things they don’t want him to do. (This isn’t quite the same as doing things that they do want him to do).

People can also find the idea of constantly carrying food on them a challenge. This isn’t extra food which would merely make the dog fat. Why feed him all his food at mealtimes? Why not let him earn it throughout the day?

You can see from my photo how focused he became when I started working with my clicker and tiny food rewards. I had asked him to Sit (which he knows) and Wait (which I’m sure he doesn’t know) – and he did it!

Buster needs to constantly be shown what IS required of him. If jumping on the sides is not wanted, what is? Feet on the floor. But – what’s in it for him? Jumping up at the sides, the chaos it can cause and the possibility of a stolen snack is very rewarding to him. No No is just background noise.

This is my favourite video demonstrating the confusion No can cause and the success of Yes instead.

I suggest a sort of swear box. Whenever anyone says No to Buster they have to put 50p in the box. They can then treat themselves to a meal out. If they do very well, it might only be a coffee!

Bark Bark Bark

Welsh TerrierAs I came in the door, Welsh Terrier Taffy was behind the kitchen gate – barking. The lady was embarrassed but she need not have been – this is something not uncommon for me to walk into.

The five-year-old dog was then brought into the sitting room on lead to join us – barking. He barked and barked as we experimented with various things that might give us a break that didn’t involve shutting him away (he would probably have continued barking from there anyway).

We tried repeatedly taking him out of the room which stopped him briefly but he started as soon as he was back so had to go back out again.

What halted the barking most effectively was the lady getting up and walking out of the room, leaving him behind. He would stop for a couple of minutes before starting again.

Was he simply barking for attention of some sort? He barked at me in exactly the same way as he barked at the lady and her daughter. I detected no fear and no aggression. When he barked at me it wasn’t like he wanted to get rid of me. It was almost like he was frantically trying to get an important message across – VERY LOUDLY!

Within a few minutes of my arrival it was obvious that he didn’t need to be held back on a lead. He was actually quite friendly between bouts of barking – in fact in the photo he’s lying across my lap. He really did seem to be wanting attention of some sort.

For some reason this barking has escalated over the past couple of months. He will now, in the evening, obsessively bark at ‘nothing’, facing into the corners of rooms.

Trying to watch TV in the evenings is near impossible. He barks at them all the time they are eating so has to be bribed with their food. As soon as all is quiet, the barking into corners will start. He will eventually settle down, but someone only has to move and off he goes again. They have a supply of toys filled with food and other things, but these distractions only work for a very short while.

He has bitten family members a few times in the past – not badly. If someone makes a sweeping action with a hand or a foot he may bite it. Sweeping actions are things we do without thinking, so he needs to be desensitised to this for peoples’ safety. He jumps at any sudden movement and hates people cuddling. Amongst other things he goes frantic when the lady tries to lift the black bin liner out of her rubbish bin.

He is one mixed-up little dog.

After about an hour and a half of mixed success I got my clicker out. We ignored as much barking as possible with the lady walking out when it simply got too much in order to give us that break. Every small lull, looking away, sitting down or hint of relaxation we clicked and then fed him.

A dog that is quite so aroused is incapable of learning anything much so it took time, but after about two hours from my arrival, as though a cloud suddenly lifted from him, Taffy stopped panting, sat down and then lay down. Peace.

Phew.

The rubbish bin can be worked on very gradually, desensitising him over time. He needs to be relieved of the barking into corners compulsion. Catching it before he gets started is the best thing.

What will probably be the best therapy of all is the list of very short and non-exciting activities that we have drawn up – little hunting games, gentle training sessions, foraging for bits of food, sniffs walk round the block and so on. For no more than two or three minutes at a time but at very regular intervals whenever they are home the lady and her daughter can initiate these things – picking moments when he happens to be quiet. This way, his fulfillment and attention should be addressed but not in response to barking and he will get plenty of it. There will be no need to crave it.

This isn’t going to be quick and it will take hard work. The barking could well get even worse before it starts to get better.

It’s all a great shame because he’s such a good little dog in other ways. He walks nicely and has no problems with people when out – or with other dogs.

This is the start of a long journey. A couple of days later I received this very empowering email – empowering to myself and to anyone using old-fashioned methods of force and punishment:
“Since your visit I have been looking at books, websites etc that you recommended and I have found them very enlightening. I really think that for Taffy its an escalation of lots of things over time which have filled his stress bucket to overflowing.
The major thing for me is the removal of the terms “dominance” and “pack” leader. As a first time dog owner I  tried to make sure I was doing the right thing and felt that these words were the things I should be striving for and imposing on Taffy. I used methods recommended which I now realise were ill advised. Water sprays, loud noises such as tins filled with keys to stop undesirable behaviour, pinning down and citronella collars are amongst these. When I contacted you I was was at my wits end, having tried so many things I no longer knew what to do for the best for Taffy.
We are starting to use the methods you gave us and yesterday I distracted and avoided and there was no barking in corners – hooray!
My regret now is that I did not find you and these methods sooner in Taffys life, and that positive training is not advocated as the norm for every dog. I am looking forward to enjoying my lovely little dog now I understand him better.”

Separation Problems and Fresh Ideas

Louis‘The Samoyed is gentle and dependable in heart and mind — robust and spirited in body’. I would say this sums up on-year-old Louis perfectly. He is little more than a puppy with abundant energy.

He was initially stirred up because, over-excited when people visit anyway, he is usually made to stay on his bed until the person goes over to him, and because I didn’t want him ‘controlled’ – wanting to see what he was really like – the break in routine may have unsettled him. Now, fully fired up, he was jumping about and chasing the cat. The cat teases him.

During the evening we worked on coming away from the cat using clicker and also worked on teaching him to self-calm, again using the clicker. Only when we put the clicker away did he start again to walk about panting, yawning and stressing. Eventually a time-out break in the kitchen did the trick.

Ever since they had him as a puppy they have had to work on both separation and toileting issues. They are extremely switched-on, having done a lot of online research. The downside of this is that there is so much conflicting advice and it’s not tailored to their own situation.

They both go out to work, so Louis has to be left alone. Someone comes home for half an hour at lunch time but then he’s alone again until the man comes home from work.

His barking when alone used to be so bad that the neighbour complained. As he’s got older things are a lot better but the toileting indoors still continues – but now only when they are out. The crying and barking continues, but strangely doesn’t start until late afternoon – and this is a regular pattern.

They have already tried all the obvious usual things. They video Louis each day when they are out to see if there is any trend.

I would say that Louis is a dog of routine. In the morning he is only settled if the lady goes to work first and the man follows about twenty minutes later. She is usually in a rush but the man takes it calmly which could have something to do with it. After that he is quiet and settled all morning. If they break this routine as they will at the weekend when they leave together, he starts barking almost immediately.

In the afternoon he may toilet as soon as he is left. Then, either through boredom or maybe some sound (I wondered whether it may even be the neighbour’s central heating coming on as dogs have fantastic hearing), he starts to bark at around 4pm. He then will bark until someone gets home. He has doubtless learnt that it’s his barking which has brought them back.

It may well be the same with the toileting. Since he was a puppy toileting has brought his humans to him – to clear it up.

So, a couple of my suggestions were that they don’t go straight to him when they come home in the evening, but wait for him to quieten down first. I also suggested they don’t clear up any mess until the dog is somewhere else. Give him no feedback for either barking or for mess. I suggested that when they want to go out at the weekend they copy their weekday leaving rituals. With further strategies they can slowly and gradually change these rituals until they are able to leave together – but it will take time.

With a bit of lateral thinking we thought of a few more ideas to try that may help them through the toileting and separation problems, including sprinkling food around the area he’s left in when they are out in the hope that he won’t want to soil where he eats.

They have worked extremely hard with Louis and he can do all sorts of training tricks. I now feel he needs to learn to de-stress, to be better equipped to handle exciting or stressful situations like the arrival of people to his house. Sometimes commands can amount to pressure, so helping him to work things out for himself will be great exercise for his brain and have a calming effect. Clicker training is perfect for this.

I would say to anyone reading this that it’s not a question of just picking up a clicker and then having a magic tool. It’s not the clicker itself – it’s the technique and ideally people need help with this from someone who themselves has been trained in its use.

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