Fighting Saint Bernard and Boxer

Harry is a St.Bernard mix

Harry

Great Dane Blue and Boxer Sebastian lived happily together with their owners. Both dogs have their own traits – Blue is a bit needy probably due to health issues when he was a puppy, and Sebastian is very exuberant.

Then, about a year ago, they added Harry, a St.Bernard, to the mix. Things seemed to go very well until about four weeks ago when the St.Bernard and the Boxer had their first big fight. Since then,  as soon as they have come into each other’s presence there has been a big fight and damage, especially to Sebastian. The situation seemed to come out of the blue, but in hindsight the unchecked play between the two dogs was becoming extreme and should have been a warning sign. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I personally nip in the bud boisterous play between my own dogs the minute it looks like getting out of hand with any body-slamming or ‘hunting down’. The problem now with Harry and Sebastian is that their entry level is hackles, snarling and FIGHT.Great Dane and Boxer at the window. They now need to be kept apart

The ingredients seem to a mix of Blue, who keeps out of the way, but generally hypes up the atmosphere with excessive barking and anxiety especially if the lady of the house is out of sight, and Sebastian who tends to be over-excitable. One-year-old Great Dane Harry is a calmer dog, but is now an adolescent challenging Sebastian, and there is a lot of testosterone flying about.

In order to keep the two dogs separate means constantly moving dogs about the house like chess pieces, two in the garden while the third comes downstairs, one in the utility room while two are fed elsewhere, two upstairs while the third is let out into the garden – and so on. Very difficult. The people are incredibly patient and doing everything they can possibly find to remedy the situation between their beloved dogs, but are naturally extremely worried and wonder whether it will ever end.

Not having witnessed the fighting, I have to guess what triggers it. I suspect a cocktail of doggy personalities, over-excitement, stress and teenage testosterone. Most have kicked off in doorways.

We are working on the humans creating as calm an atmosphere as possible. Meanwhile, so that the humans will be able to relax when the rehabilitation process begins, both dogs will be introduced to muzzles in such a way that over the next two or three weeks they will learn to welcome them and happily be able to spend some time muzzled. Sebastian will probably get his off and eat it! However, Harry is the main aggressor and does the most damage.

Now, with a calmer environment, some rules in place and muzzles accepted, they need to work at re-introducing the dogs bit by bit, initially just walking one past the other a few times on lead at home, interrupting any eye-balling, along with parallel walking techniques out in the open. I sincerely hope that this works and that the two dogs, like some humans, do not now hate each other to the extent they simply can’t live together. Splitting up a St.Bernard fighting a large Boxer is no joke.

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 Blue and Sebastian. 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 involved. 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).
 

Over-Arousal Causes Dog to Attack

The over-arousal and stress in one dog is causing the other dog to react.

This is a little different from the last case I went to involving fighting females where I believe the human’s punishing reaction to their two female dogs fighting was actually causing the situation to accelerate.

over-arousal caused her to lose control

Dotty

With Mimi and Dotty the problem isn’t really escalating in that it’s not really becoming more frequent though the most recent caused the most damage. There are several weeks between each episode between which the two bitches get on okay. I watched them and they passed each other in doorways in a relaxed fashion and lay down together.

In this case I’m sure it’s to do with general arousal levels causing things to erupt. When it’s all over and done with it’s like, to the dogs if not to the humans, nothing has happened.

Even after the recent episode where Dotty received a leg wound and had to go to the vet, the dogs were soon back to how they had been together beforehand.

The owners are dog-savvy people who have given four dogs a much-needed home and have made huge advances with them all. They have two boys dogs – quiet and shy smaller Romanian dog Teddy and a large Lurcher-type called Zach, age three, who gets on with them all. Then there are the girls – Staffie Dotty who they took in at four months old from a very abusive start in life and Mimi, a six-year-old Mastiff Rottie mix who was the last to join them.

Mimi

Mimi

Looking for common denominators as well as one can from just four episodes spread over several months, brought me to the conclusion that Dotty’s over-arousal was the final straw at a time when all the dogs were already excited.

Each incident had occurred either immediately or soon after the arrival of the the two young daughters, age 12 and 13 coming in, once alone and other times with parents or grandmother. The girls themselves are excited with the dogs. The most recent incident involved food too which may have accounted for it being the most severe.

Each incident occurred after the four dogs had been left alone for longer than usual, in a smallish room. Perhaps shut together for too long something could have been brewing.

Another common denominator is that Mimi didn’t seek out Dotty to attack her. They were either already together in a small space or Dotty went over to Mimi.

To break the fights up took a lot of shouting, screaming from the girls and spraying water at the dogs. Afterwards, however, the dogs were just parted for a while. There was no further punishment which I’m sure has something to do with things between the two going so quickly back to normal.

Teddy, Dotty, Zach and Mimi

Teddy, Dotty, Zach and Mimi

Management is the first thing to put in place so not only are the dogs safe, but also the children.

When everyone is out the dogs should be separated in boy/girl pairs in the sitting room and kitchen.

When the girls come home from school they must now be a lot quieter and less excited as it’s likely this is one of the triggers. The two female dogs won’t be together anymore.

Teaching calm greetings without Dotty’s wild jumping up will be a start. Carrying something in her mouth helps her. They should let the dogs out from separate doors to toilet and keep them in their different rooms until the parents get home.

This will also give the dogs plenty of time to calm down before being reunited.

Although Mimi has been the ‘attacker’, Dotty’s behaviour and her over-arousal is at the bottom of it I’m certain, like she ‘asks for it’. The lady has an interesting theory. Mimi has had several litters of puppies in her six years before the family adopted her and she would have dealt with over the top behaviour like Dotty’s from one of her puppies quiet firmly. The puppy wouldn’t have retaliated though.

Mimi has also recently started limping which they will get checked out with the vet – possibly pain is making her less tolerant at times.

Dotty can be helped with her over-arousal.

Because stress inside Dotty continually builds up far faster than she can get rid of it, she’s like a little walking volcano. She is terrified of cars and much of the outside world, and tries to avoid going out. Each day she has to endure at least one walk, involving getting into the car which terrifies her. Once out she will pull like mad so she has a Halti which she hates.

They will start to walk her by herself for very short sessions, initially only in the garden or just outside the house, making sure she is willing and happy. They will get her a very comfortable special harness – not the ‘no-pull’ kind that is merely another restriction. They will desensitise her to their own car and to traffic in general.

The girls can help with short five-minute ‘happy with cars’ outings and teaching her to walk nicely around their own quiet road.

It will take a lot of time and patience.

Only when she is calmer and happy to go out should they take her any further. Only when she’s ready should she join the other dogs in the car and walking near traffic.

When dogs are having their differences and especially where there are several dogs, I feel it’s important for each dog to be deliberately treated as an individual from time to time. When one name is said, eye contact from that particular dog is rewarded and the others ignored. They can be lined up, the names of each dog said in a random order and that dog fed upon eye contact. They will learn they always get their turn and not to compete.

Having an instant response to their individual name is vital to avoid trouble breaking out. Any time they feel at all worried they can gently say the name of the dog who is giving concern. Everything can be calm. The dog will look at them, they can call her to them – and give her a reward.

Trouble averted.

 

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 Mimi and Dotty 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)

Management Comes First

Their aims: for both their Cockerpoos to be calmer.

Cockerpoo's environment needs better management

Eddie

I pushed in past the two barking dogs.

Both young Cockerpoos were so worked up I felt one or both weren’t far short of biting me but instead, black Harry redirected his anger, fear or frustration onto young golden Eddie and a minor fight ensued.

The house was full of people. Family members were moving about. Kids were on their mobiles. I sat at the dining table and we made a start.

It soon became obvious from my first questions that over-arousal and lack of boundaries was at the root of all sorts of problems.

Where do we start?

.

Management.

Management in this case means gating off the front door and stairs so the dogs are contained in the sitting room and kitchen area. They will then have a physical boundary.

Management of this area will make it impossible for them to near-attack people at the front door and prevent Harry from chasing delivery men to the gate where a bite is only a matter of time.

Management means keeping them away from the stairs so that Harry will now no longer regularly pee on the upstairs landing.

Harry

Harry

Management of the environment means that first thing in the morning when they are let out of the utility room, they can’t start off the day in a manic manner, charging upstairs like battering rams at the bedroom doors, waking people.

Another gate can be put in the space between kitchen and dining/sitting room.

Management then means the dogs can’t jump at people when they are eating their food. They can’t jump at the surfaces when cooking is going on. Management means they can be put the other side of the barrier with something to do.

Management means moving the box that gives them lookout duty from the front windows, the lower part of which can also be frosted. They won’t then spend much of the day winding themselves up by barking.

There is so much going on it’s hard to know where to start with the behaviour work, but the priority has to be all things that will lower their arousal levels.

Then we can see what we have got left.

When they are no longer little volcanoes ready to erupt, it will be easier to deal with things like Harry’s nervousness. Instead of constantly being at each other in play which can deteriorate, something stress seems to trigger, they can be given more constructive activities.

We might then work on impulse control, training them to settle, loose lead walking, coming back when called before they can go off barking at and intimidating another dog – and much more.

However, management and boundaries must be in place first. The dogs’ levels of stress must be lowered.

Then we should get somewhere!

Eventually they will get more of this!

Eventually they will get more of this!

Don’t Want Their Females Fighting

Females fighting – nipping things in the bud before they escalate to something worse

Rosie

Rosie

I have just been to another family that really pulls together where their dogs are concerned.

They have a situation with two females – a Labradoodle and a Rottie, both a year old.

The two dogs got on very well to start with, but as they reached maturity what was a bit of bullying from excitable Rosie, the doodle, became rougher as she jumped on the more placid Missy.

Predictably there came a time when Missy had had enough and she retaliated. It escalated to growling and snarling with each dog held back on leads as they reared up on their back legs. Now, to make sure there is no chance of their females fighting, the two are kept separate except on certain walks which have to be fairly carefully managed.

It’s a large family with members ranging from their twenties down to three years old. The older teenage girls do most with the dogs. Labradoodle Rosie belongs to the seventeen-year-old who had worked hard with her, teaching all the basic training cues.

Things aren’t so good now for Rosie. The dogs have just the fairly small kitchen area and utility room. The more peaceful Missy lives in the kitchen with people coming and going and Rosie spends all the time she’s not out on a walk alone in the conservatory. She doesn’t seem to expect to come in, but she occupies herself by chewing things. She goes out into the garden for short periods, but due to her digging and eating things they don’t leave her out for long.

Missy

She’s a clever dog and she is very bored.

The people don’t know what else they can do. She does have two quite long walks every day. One walk is Rosie alone with her 17-year-old person. The walk is largely spent chasing a ball thrown from a chucker to tire her out, but she doesn’t come home from this walk tired out and satisfied.

I have asked them to leave the ball thrower at home. She doesn’t need it. There is a belief that the more you can tire a dog the better it will be. It can be the opposite – see here. A hyper dog anyway, she needs activities that stimulate her brain and allow her to unwind a bit, not the opposite.

Her second walk is interesting and works better for her. They take both dogs. One daughter has a head start with one dog followed by the other dog some minutes later. They meet up at a field with a pond. The dogs run around off lead and the situation is controlled with the ball chucker. At the first hint of any trouble they throw the ball into the pond and Rosie, who loves water, runs in after it. Missy hates water and thus the dogs are parted.

They walk home together and all is fine.

After the walk, having been hosed down the two dogs are left briefly together in the utility room. Someone watches them through a window. After a shake-off one dog will usually lie down. It takes a very short time before the other dog jumps on top of her and the conflict starts. They are immediately parted and Missy returned to the kitchen.

I see this couple of minutes as a window of opportunity – a time when both dogs are briefly sufficiently calm and already together. They can build on it. The girl can stay in the utility room with the dogs after the walk. When, having shaken off, one lies down, she can ask the other to do the same and reward them both. She can work on a short ‘stay’ before letting Missy out into the kitchen in a controlled fashion. Over the days the duration of the ‘down-stays’ can be extended.

Instead of waiting for the conflict to start thus daily further rehearsing the behaviour, they can be taught a desirable behaviour instead.

When the family has made some progress I will be going back. We will take things to the next stage. It needs to be carefully stage-managed.

Meawhile, the girl has considerably more work to do with Rosie if they are to get these two dogs back together in harmony. While Rosie is so frustrated, stressed and bored, she will lack the self control required. Because she seldom goes into the kitchen, she is understandably extremely aroused when she does so and in the totally wrong state of mind required for getting together with Missy. Both must be calm.

The girl is going to swap the dogs over for a short while each day and give Rosie some quality time in the kitchen – doing ‘clicking for calm’ and other games that require some brain work and some self-control. People will be coming in and out of the room which is necessary for her continued socialisation.

Finally, there is the big question of whether both dogs would be more likely to get on if they were spayed. People have strong feelings and reasons of their own regarding neutering their dogs which I respect and must make their own decisions. I have suggested they have a chat with their vet.

Once the dogs do have one full-blown fight there is no coming back from it – particularly in my experience if it is females fighting. It can’t be undone.

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 Rosie and Missy. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly if aggression of any kind is involved, as the case needs to be assessed correctly which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. 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 My Help page)

 

British Bulldog Biting Feet

English Bulldogs

Bentley and Flo

Bentley was very excited when I arrived, and his jumping up seemed to be relentless. This was my responsibility because I had asked the owners to leave the dogs alone so I could see what they would do whilst demonstrateing my way of dealing with it.

English Bulldog Bentley is now fourteen months old so if their usual way of stopping him jumping up worked – which was to tell him to get down or to grab him – he wouldn’t be doing it any more. His super-arousal then caused Flo to ‘tell him off’. It is for this reason that I wear tough clothes – to protect my back and my legs from dogs’ nails and of course I would always ask for their help if I needed it.

Scolding the dog may get him down at that moment, but it doesn’t teach him not to jump at people the next time. In fact the attention probably makes it even more likely. The question to ask is, what’s the dog getting out of it (probably attention of some sort) and to remove this reinforcement. To make success quicker, this desired attention can be given to him for doing something more acceptable instead.

The days start calmly enough apart from Bentley’s barking at 3am demanding to be let out, but as the day progresses and people start to move about the dogs become increasingly excitable. This leads to Bentley jumping and grabbing people or chasing and biting feet. He targets the adult son in particular who feels he’s being mugged every time he walks through the door.

I did some ‘walking around’ work with the son, showing him to move more slowly and instead of throwing food across the floor so he can make a dash for it, dropping little bits of grated cheese just behind his feet as he walked. This has the added benefit of rewarding Bentley for following nicely without nipping or jumping. Instead of trying to escape, he can talk to Bentley, call him and invite him to follow him, giving him some of the craved-for attention for doing as he’s asked.

English Bulldog

Flo with a sort jowl

Key to the plan has to be a gate in the sitting room doorway. Currently the dogs have the run of the downstairs and there is no escaping them. The gate should not be opened until they have had time to calm down and feet are on the floor. That will make life far easier for everyone.

There can also be minor fights over bones and chews which means these useful resources for helping a dog to unwind aren’t available to them. A gate means the dogs can have calming things to do and chew whilst not being able to actually get to one another.

When I was there the two had been out in the garden for a while and we heard barking. When they came in Bentley had an extra small cut on his neck to add to existing scars and Flo’s face was red and sore around her jowl. The two dogs are allowed to play too roughly. I would step in a lot sooner because, just like the nipping of feet, the more the behaviour is rehearsed the more entrenched the behaviour becomes.

Removing opportunity for unwanted behaviours is the starting point so the two dogs shouldn’t be left alone together out of sight for more than a couple of minutes unless they are lying down and relaxed. With a bit of forward-planning quite a bit of temptation can be removed. For instance, as a favourite trick of Bentley’s is to attack feet when people go outside to the washing line, why don’t they leave him indoors?

In order to find out more about their dogs, new owners often start by reading breed-specific books and talking to the breeder or other owners of the breed which can give them a skewed view of dogs in general. They often attribute behaviours to inevitable breed traits, excusing things that aren’t really desirable from any dog, whatever the breed. The books may say Bulldogs are ‘stubborn’, but that simply means we need to be more motivating. Other owners may say their Bulldogs like to ‘play rough’, but that merely means we have to be even better ‘dog parents’. Rough play isn’t a good behaviour to rehearse for the sake of other dogs or people – particularly children.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bentley and Flo, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet 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).

Friendly Dogs are Now Fighting

What a puzzle!

Jack Russell/Lancashire Heeler cross

Piggy

Piggy, 2, a Jack Russell/Lancashire Heeler cross and eight-year-old Lenny, a Corgi mix used to get on famously, even sleeping together in the same bed.

They had the occasional minor altercation, but all was fine until a combination of the clocks changing, Halloween and early November fireworks. The fireworks freaked Piggy out.

They have had Piggy for a couple of years and he came from a remote farm. He has had to get used to a lot of new noises, people passing, other dogs and so on – and he can’t cope. He is a very stressed and anxious little dog. Lenny on the other hand had a great start in life and is calm and confident.

Things have got so bad that the two dogs can no longer be in the same room without a fight quickly erupting. Their fighting has changed everything. Even if Piggy senses Lenny’s presence in the house he will mutter, growl and bark. If Lenny barks from upstairs, Piggy is immediately ready for action.

Corgi mix Lenny who fights with Piggy

Lenny

When I was there, despite Lenny now sleeping happily in the shed way down the garden, Piggy was all the time growling and guarding the kitchen doorway where perhaps Lenny would appear – you can see him in the picture. I was there for three hours before he finally settled. It was evident that we couldn’t be bringing Lenny back in for me to actually see the dogs together.

The anomaly is that the two dogs run happily together on walks with no fighting. If they know they are going out they can meet at the door and have leads put on. They also come back in together but then have to be parted immediately. They are okay out in the garden together too.

The problems are only in the house and mostly around doorways.

My educated guess is that Piggy’s instability and extreme stress winds Lenny up who then wants to sort him out resulting in fighting. Lenny himself suffers from arthritis, so possibly he’s not as tolerant as he used to be.

All the time I was there Piggy prowled and he growled. It was virtually impossible to distract him. Although Lenny wasn’t there, it was like his ghost was. It almost seems that although he is obviously scared of Lenny, he also is dependent upon him in some way and needs him to be there.

Where to start with a solution? Nothing much can be done whilst Piggy is so aroused, so reducing his stress by every means possible is the first priority and they should not do anything else meanwhile. Then they can build upon what they have – extending the time the dogs are together after a walk, leaving leads on with one person per dog, feeding both dogs all the time to build up positive associations. Baby steps.

Each dog has his turn in the sitting room, and positive (food) associations can be built up when he hears or senses the other dog upstairs.

Because understandable owner tension will now be playing a part, over the next few days both dogs will be taught to love wearing a muzzle, so that later in the process they can be together in the same room briefly while their owners can drop the leads and relax.  At the first growl from Piggy or eyeball from Lenny the dog can be calmly and kindly walked out of the room. The lesson learnt from this being that either they were together for too long too early, or Piggy was too stressed for work that day.

I have big hopes that because the dogs are such good friends outside, things can return to how they were a couple of months ago.

After a setback a few days after this when they relaxed on their management strategies and allowed another fight,  I received this message – though they can never completely relax their vigilance but it’s a great start and is a good omen for the future: ‘The two of them have been playing together in the house and we have let them roam free but while also keeping a very close eye on them. Piggy tends to go to his room upstairs sometimes when things get too much for him and he does a bit of growling but on the whole there is an improvement.’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Piggy and Lenny, 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 dogs can do more harm than good, particularly where aggression of any kind 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 Help page).

 

Seven Little Dogs and Lots of Barking

Barking and bedlam from seven very small dogsI sat down, the gate in the kitchen doorway was opened and the seven little dogs barking behind it flew out.

Some were jumping all over me and climbing behind me, there were a few potential spats between three of them (I had treats in my pocket) and two – Snowy, the little white one in the photo and Chihuahua Rudi on the right, stood back whilst continuing to bark at me fearfully.

There was so much barking and bedlam it was a while before we could chat. Temporarily settling somewhat, the dogs all started tearing about again at the slightest sound or if I stood up.  There were frequent near spats, all involving French Bulldog Boycie. The lady in particular was constantly on edge in order to pre-empt trouble.

I suggested they put Boycie on lead and the dynamics changed completely.

First they had Rolo, a Chihuahua Yorkie cross, now five. He was a happy dog and they got Honey, a Chihuahua Pug cross. Snowy soon arrived followed by Rudi. A relative bred Frenchies and they decided to add Boysie to the group, not realising that Honey was already pregnant with Rudi’s puppies (they kept two). They sent me this photo – an achievement with five of them including Boycie in one place, lying still and quiet!

Frenchie Boycie is the fly in the ointment. He is now ten months old and increasingly over the past three months has been challenging Rolo in particular, but also Rudi.

There are many other dynamics going on as you can imagine and a fair bit of conflict.  Rolo is constantly pacing and snaps when another dog comes near him, and others pick on Rudi.

At the slightest noise the whole lot immediately charge outside into the garden, barking, then back through house.

There are three family members – a couple and their teenage son. Their main concern is the increasing conflict between the dogs.

At the moment, before we can do anything else, ways have to be found to calm everything down. The spats mostly occur when the dogs are aroused which is much of the time. There is a crate in the sitting room and any of the three main male protagonists is happy to be in it – more relaxed crated than out in fact. I suggest ‘zones’ for the dogs and they rotate with two crates in the sitting room, one on top of the other and Rolo (the oldest) in the top crate where he won’t feel the need to growl at other dogs that get too close. Boycie can go in the bottom crate and the third male freely with the other dogs either in the sitting room or behind the kitchen gate. The boys can be regularly rotated. One boy can be released from the crate and another put in – so none are away for too long, and so no two boys are out together.

This simple strategy alone will calm things down enormously.  Food rewards have been impossible because food starts fights – even a crumb on the floor – but with the dogs in their zones some rewards can now be used. With food they can get much more control of their dogs and the barking. Crates can be ‘special places’, the only places with chews or bones.

There needs to be no shouting (difficult) and family members need to encourage calm and quiet by walking slowly when doing something like letting the dogs out or feeding them. The humans should simply wait for some semblance of calm before doing anything the dogs want.  The dogs need over time to learn some self-control. We have worked out strategies for when someone rings the doorbell, for when people come into the house and for when family members come home.

When I got up to leave we saw a good example of how organising things better – quietly and calmly – could work.  I stood up and the dogs, by then seemingly quiet and relaxed, immediately started flying around and barking, so I sat down again. I asked them to put Boycie in the crate, to pick up the most scared little barker Snowy as this helps her, and to put the others into the kitchen behind the gate.

I then stood up to go again – silence!

Three weeks after my visit: ‘We have been getting on REALLY well! Boycie is a changed dog….a joy to have around, no aggression in sight, such a relief as I was really contemplating rehoming him. He has stopped guarding things, chewing has calmed down, overall a completely different dog. He has a daily car ride and daily walks, such a different dog 🙂 Currently working on “come” and again, this is working really well, puppies responding nearly all the time. Rudi also changed, so much calmer and happier. Rolo calmer also, all three males have adapted to their crate routines, so no problems here.’
Six months later a lovley photo and message on Facebook: ‘Who would have thought these two boys would be lying together like this Theo !11083668_10152670294781175_8441389294347107715_n

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for these little dogs, 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 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).

Tension Between the Dogs

Jack Russell Bella is a very hyped up and stressed little dog

Bella

I could hear the three little dogs as I got out of my car down the road!

With the exception of a German Shepherd, I have recently been to a run of little dogs, and one thing many of them have in common is excessive barking! The problem with all this tension between dogs is that it can then lead to conflict.

Two of yesterday’s three little terriers were particularly hyped up, especially Bella (left). Not only do they bark at sounds and people arriving, they bark with excited anticipation whenever anyone moves. Car journeys are a nightmare.

I took Bella’s picture after we had worked with her for a couple of hours, keeping the atmosphere as calm as possible, moving quietly and slowly, and rewarding her when she stopped pawing and scratching for attention. She became calm, undemanding and happy. It’s like at last she had a clue what was required of her.

The barking understandably drives the two ladies with whom they live to distraction. There is quite a lot of shouting! The more worked up the humans become, the more worked up the dogs get too. It’s a vicious circle.

Attempts at some ‘firm’ discipline have led Bella to showing her teeth and she has in fact bitten one of the ladies. A confrontational approach can so often end with the dog standing up for itself. Fights can break out Between Bella and one of the other dogs

In the stress-charged atmosphere, Bella and one of the others may break into a fight. Bella can become fixated with her tail, then spins, growls and chews it. She may chew at her feet.

It was wonderful to see the little dog calm down and to demonstrate to the ladies what is possible if positive methods are used. There are kind methods of stopping a dog barking at the gate, of breaking up potential trouble between dogs and of getting a dog off the sofa. These methods require patience but the big difference is that they work, and not just in the moment.

Many humans feel it’s the right thing to do to play wildly exciting games (‘but the dogs love it’) or give manic greetings to dogs, not understanding that they may be pumping them up to a degree that something eventually will have to give. It’s hard to convince people that it’s kinder to wait and respond to the dogs only when they are reasonably calm.

The main aim for now is to reduce the tension between dogs and arousal in the household. Having calmer dogs will help their humans – and calmer humans will help the dogs.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bella and the other little dogs, which is why I don’t share all the exact details 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).

Fight When the Man is at Home

When the man comes home Rufus becomes demanding and insecure

Rufus

If Tibetan Stoker is to have some time in the sitting room with the lady, the man has to go upstairs with Rufus.

Stoker

When they are alone – or just with the lady, these two dogs get on famously, but when the man is at home which due to work is only three days a week, the dogs fight ferociously and Rufus becomes demanding and insecure – not letting the man out of his sight, whilst poor Stoker has to be shut away.

They only fight when the man is at home.

This is one of my ‘distance help’ Skype cases. The case of 8-year-old Tibetan, Stoker and Staffie Rufus (age 3) is about the clearest illustration I have ever come across of dogs’ behaviour being the consequence of their humans’ behaviour.

It wasn’t hard for the man to see that because all this only happens around him, he needs to be doing some things differently.

He agrees that from the moment he arrives home with a wild greeting for Rufus, he is the dog’s slave. Rufus follows him everywhere and cries outside any door that shuts him out of the man’s presence.  Because the dogs have to be kept apart, if Stoker is to have some time in the sitting room with the lady, the man has to go upstairs with Rufus.

Letting the dogs outside is a management challenge of moving dogs up and downstairs so that they don’t meet.

Both humans and the two dogs can never spend a nice evening together. But, when the man goes away again for four days a week, both dogs are back in the sitting room. They both then sleep in the same room. They then go outside together. They play together nicely.

One other puzzling thing is that the dogs are okay going for walks together with both their humans. They all get into one car (one dog and human in the front when the other dog is brought out) and there is no trouble between the dogs when walking in the fields.

For four days a week the lady is unable to walk Rufus so this needs working on. But when the man comes home, Rufus has three days of two-hour-walks. He is played with constantly, and pesters and barks to keep the man’s attention on him. He is fed from his plate. They play wrestling games. If Rufus spots Stoker he gets angry – keep away from ‘my’ man! Stoker promptly retaliates. There have been some quite scary fights.

The poor gentleman is going to forego some of his fun for the greater good. Calm is going to be rewarded with attention – and with food taken from the dog’s daily quota. All attention isn’t going to be Rufus-generated from now on! Overdoing the walks just makes him even more hyped-up when they get home; he needs his exercise spread throughout the week somehow. Most importantly, the man needs to work on going out of sight briefly – and on getting Rufus to Sit and Stay while gradually, over time, he can disappear without Rufus following him or barking.

When the man has done his groundwork, getting the dogs back together again could start after a walk. Instead of bringing them back indoors one at a time as they have to now, they could walk them back into the house together before separating them – and gradually advance from there, using lots of praise and reinforcement whilst also watching carefully for any signs of tension between the dogs.

As these two dogs aren’t really enemies – they are fine together for half the time – the outcome should be good, provided that the humans can be consistent with the new rules and boundaries (rules and boundaries that are as much for the gentleman as for the dogs!).

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Rufus and Stoker, 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 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

‘Failed’ Police German Shepherd

Cora is a failed police dog

Cora

German Shepherd Cora is a four-year-old ‘failed’ police dog. Who knows what her puppyhood was and what essential socialising she missed out on?

Like so many German Shepherds I go to, she is reactive to people coming to the house though she settles quickly. She is also very wary and barks at anything that worries her – and a lot does: people who look different when out, new objects in different places, anything sudden, other dogs when she is on lead, vacuum cleaner, fireworks, the neighbours. The list goes on.

She lives with young Wheaten Terrier, Molly, who a couple of times has received the fallout as Cora redirects her stress onto her and they end up fighting. Molly herself is quite good also at winding Cora up and a couple of fights have been over bones. She, too, is a barker – particularly indoors at every little thing she hears. Understandably, the neighbours aren’t happy.

Wheaten Terrier Molly barks at everything she hears

Molly

Our starting point is to calm everything down in every way possible. The barking needs to be addressed. Telling a dog to be quiet when barking at sounds outside may stop her briefly but it does nothing to resolve the problem. Holding a frantic, barking dog on a tight lead does nothing to teach the dog to be chilled around other dogs, traffic and approaching people.

Cora’s owner admits that had she known just what she would be like she wouldn’t have taken her on, but they love her and are now fully committed to do all they can to give her a good life – to help her to become more relaxed so that eventually they can enjoy walks, take the dogs camping and be confident that there will be no more fights.