Fearful of People but Needs Socialising. Conflict.

Lottie is fearful of people.

Fearful of peopleBeing fearful of people is unusual in a puppy of just three months old. It’s very sad to see.

Lottie is already growling when someone looks at her or approaches her, and it’s getting worse.

The beautiful Golden Retrieve puppy is also scared of noises and of anything new.

It’s hard to trace just why this is. Her family had done all the research possible over a long period of time before choosing her and she came from a good environment – from a family home, living with her mother.

She was the last of the litter and they found her lacking confidence from the start.

A puppy of eight weeks old should be confident and fearless.

Perhaps something occurred to make the already sensitive puppy so fearful of people, something during the puppy’s crucial fear period.  Something that nobody was aware of.

Lottie’s fearfulness may simply be genetic.

She should have had early socialising with different people from a few weeks old. She should have had habituating to daily life, people, other dogs and so on. Unfortunately they have been caught in that common trap of believing they can’t take her out to mix until her vaccinations are finished.

Now, at three months old, she’s ‘allowed’ to go out and they are playing catch up. This is what Linda Michaels says about this situation: Puppy socialisation and vaccinations belong together.

Conflict. A dilemma.

Finding the best way to go about helping Lottie creates a dilemma – a conflict between the two things she most needs. One is time to build confidence around people and the other plenty of positive encounters as early as possible.

The need for patience and time to grow her confidence must come first, because without this, encounters are unlikely to be positive for her. They need to go very slowly so that she can get used to the scary world one thing at a time

Combining the two needs will best be done by as many encounters with people as possible but from a ‘safe’ distance, and associated with good things.

I suggest for a start that they put her in a comfortable harness and attach a long lead. They can simply take her to the end of their drive and let her watch the world go by, well back from any cars or people.

With every sound they will drop food. Every car that passes they can drop food. Every distant person she sees – drop food. Any dog she sees – drop food. If she’s scared, the lead is long and loose and she can run back to the house.

If this is still too much for her, they may need to start further back by the front door. It’s vital she’s allowed to choose her own pace.

People must not be allowed to crowd her or touch her. Believing they were doing the right things, they had been carrying her to allow people to touch her. She shook. From now on, getting near to a person must be her own choice and it doesn’t look like this will happen for a while.

They will start to invite people to their house – under strict instructions.

A typical happy Golden Retriever puppy!

Lottie’s not scared all the time however! In her home with her family she can be a typical happy little puppy tornado! She may suddenly race around with things going flying. She chews and she nips when excited! This is a lot easier and more normal to deal with.

 

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 Lottie and I’ve not gone fully 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 fear 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 (click here to see my Help page)

Bites When Touched in his Bed. Warning Growl.

He bites when touched in his bed.

It’s hard to believe!

Will is the most adorable, soft, fluffy, friendly and gentle Pug Poodle mix – a Pugapoo I believe. While I was there it was impossible to see any hint of what I had been called for – growling and biting his two lady owners.

He has a lot of attention and is seldom left alone. He has been to several puppy training sessions and he’s fed on the best food.

This escalated about five weeks ago though he had growled when in his bed and approached before that. 

They didn’t heed his growling

Now one lady has two bite wounds on her hands.

I likened it to my standing in a queue with someone uncomfortably close to me. I would move away. The person then moves near again. I might give them a dirty look (the dog may freeze). If that doesn’t work I might tell the person ‘Back Off’ (the dog would growl). Then, if the person moves right close and touches me despite all this, would I not be justified in slapping the hand away? (The dog snaps).

Then, what if I was accused of assault? Would that be fair?

Will is then scolded ‘No No Naughty!’.

Will only bites when touched in his sleeping place, and mostly when it’s for something he doesn’t want, getting him outside at bedtime or taking off his collar.

We worked on “Will, Come!” back and forth all over the room. This is the key. When sufficiently motivated with food he will do whatever they want. Nobody needs to invade his space.

The other issue is food. He’s a fussy eater and this worries the ladies greatly. Food is left down all the time and he is enticed with chicken. This leaves them nothing for ‘payment’ and motivation. He has a running buffet and his favourite is used for regular meals. Rewards need to be of especially high value whilst also being nutritious. We looked into what to do about this.

One other problem – Will is car sick.

He bites when touched in his bedHe drools as soon as he is put in which to me suggests fear – maybe in anticipation of the motion. We have a plan. First the car will be parked about 50 yards down the road and on the way back from their regular walks he can be popped in the car and driven home – taking about half a minute. After several days he should know exactly what to expect and feel chilled with this. No drooling.

Next I suggest that at the start of the walk they pop him into the car and drive this fifty yards, park the car and, again, pick it up on the way home.  When he’s happy they can increase distances and go further.

It’s so hard to believe that the adorable Will bites when touched in his bed. He clearly, in dog language, says what he’s feeling. His body language is misread. Growls aren’t taken seriously. Just because he has rolled onto his back  it doesn’t mean he’s asking for a tummy tickle. He’s much more likely thinking ‘uh-oh, I don’t want to be fussed just now, please, I give in, no…..!’.

As ignoring his signals continues, the dog can become increasingly defensive. I’m sure if Will’s lady humans now no longer approach him to touch him but wait till he comes to them instead, he will become more relaxed about it.

Who can resist touching a little dog who looks and feels like this, after all!

 

New Puppy. Existing Dog Isn’t Happy

A new puppy isn’t what Jack Russell Charlie wanted at all.

There were two older dogs in the house when he himself arrived as a puppy ten years ago. The three dogs got on fine. A couple of years ago both older dogs died and now they have a new puppy, Daisy.

Daisy is the sweetest nine-week-old Miniature Schnauzer.

The couple were determined that the two dogs should integrate from the start.

Unfortunately, Charlie wasn’t consulted.

the new puppy

Daisy – and temptation!

His very obvious warnings and signs of unhappiness were ignored. Instead, he was forced to accept the puppy near to himself in his own special places, like on their bed in the morning and on the sofa.

He was scolded for growling at her.

Things reached crisis point the day before I came. The man was getting ready to take him for his morning walk. Before walks there is a kind of battle that I witnessed. Charlie barks frantically and is shouted at to make him stop (if it worked he would no longer do it).

Arousal levels will have been very high.

Daisy was at the bottom of the stairs and Charlie had to get past her. He attacked the new puppy, grabbing her by the neck.

The man smacked him.

Poor Charlie. He’s never been relaxed around dogs, he has a new puppy in his house and now the man ‘attacks’ him.

This new puppy really is very bad news for poor Charlie.

looking at the new puppy

Still unhappy

This the situation I came into:

Daisy was on on the man’s lap. Charlie was on the back of the sofa, high up where the puppy can’t yet go and as far away from her as he could get. I have no doubt he chooses to be behind the man for protection.

New puppy Daisy has free roam of the open-plan house. Charlie can’t escape her. He spends a lot of his time up on the back of the sofa now.

Three things must happen if Charlie is going to eventually relax and be happy with the puppy.

Firstly Charlie must be consulted.

He is giving out strong signals. He’s trying to tell them. From the back of the sofa he was licking his lips and his body was tense. He was deliberately looking away from Daisy.

My two photos are after he had relaxed a little and Daisy was no longer on the sofa. They were taken after we had done some work with him but he still looks unhappy.

The couple can’t understand why the little dog they love is being so difficult. I wish I had a tenner for everyone who said ‘I never had any trouble like this with my previous dogs’!

By ‘consulting’ Charlie, I mean they must watch his body language. They now know what they are looking for so will see when she is too close or doing something that worries him.

They will now help him out by moving her further away to a comfortable distance.

The second thing is that Daisy needs a pen in the large area where they sit as there is nowhere to put a gate. If she is contained then Charlie can again move around freely in his own home.

They must now change how Charlie feels about the new puppy.

Looking away

Lastly and most important of all, they can change how Charlie feels about the puppy. They need to watch him carefully because in his own way he will be speaking to them.

Keeping at a distance where he’s not exhibiting fear or unease by looking away, licking lips, yawning and stiffness, they can start to make good things happen.

I helped them feed Charlie every time he glanced at Daisy before quickly looking away again. A clicker was useful to mark the exact moment because it was sometimes fleeting. He visibly relaxed a little.

With Daisy in a pen, they can reinforce much more interaction because Charlie will be more confident, eventually leading to encounters nose to nose through the bars.

He should gain confidence so long as they don’t suddenly destroy his trust again by forcing him to have her too close before he is ready. It’s so important that they take this slowly as they first have to rebuild trust already lost.

Every time that force has been used will have made Charlie feel worse.

Scolding Charlie for reacting aggressively to the new puppy does no good – the opposite in fact. The very person Charlie should trust when he’s finding things difficult suddenly seems to turn on him where he should be giving him protection. He will be associating Daisy with bad things.

It’s very confusing for a dog to be spoiled and loved one minute then unaccountably punished the next just by trying to show how he’s feeling.

He adores the man and the feeling is mutual.

So they must now work hard on getting Charlie to feel differently. They have some other things to put right, not least working on Charlie becoming calmer at certain flash points like before walks. This will never happen using shouting.

I’m sure now that they understand and have seen Charlie relax when I was with them, that they will do this sensitively and gently.

Here is a favourite video of mine graphically illustrating desensitising and counter-conditioning from Donna Hill.

 

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 Charlie. 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, most particularly where either fear or aggression 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)

Guarding Human Resource is Stressful Work

Hector sees her as his human resource

Hector guards his human resourceThe lady hadn’t seen this as the cause of his growling.

She has two adorable and adored French Bulldogs, brother and sister aged nine months, Hector and Annie.

As is often the case with siblings, their nature and behaviour is entirely different.  As one may grow more overbearing, the other goes in the opposite direction.

Like many people, the lady shares her bed with her dogs. I have nothing against this at all – so long as no aggression is involved.

I would usually say that if a dog growls at the person in their own bed, then the dog should sleep elsewhere. It’s the same if the dog growls at another dog on the human’s bed.

Sometimes however we have to work our way around things if the obvious solution isn’t an option.

What happens is that Hector climbs up the little steps onto her bed, put there especially for the dogs. He has to be first up. Annie will climb up and Hector growls at her.

Hector will lie right on top of the lady, on her neck, during the night. He will growl at her if she manually tries to move him. He will growl at Annie if she comes near the lady so she has to lie down the end.

Everything points to Hector regarding the lady as his human resource. She sleeps in room with a glass roof. Small things dropping onto it make a noise and lights reflect. Hector stares upwards. He barks at sounds. He is on alert at night time

What a difficult job it must be to be the owner a wayward human!

No wonder Hector is stressed.

AnnieIn order to keep the dogs on her bed without Hector’s guarding of his human resource getting worse, she needs a plan.

During the day she will play ‘bed training games’ with the dogs.

She will teach them ‘up’ and ‘down’ the steps individually using rewards. Fortunately she has a very wide bed against a wall and can put two dog beds on it.

She will teach Hector ‘Bed’ to go into his own bed and reward him. The same with Annie. With lots of daytime repetition they will go up the steps and into their beds when asked.

At bedtime Annie should go up first.

The dogs may not stay in their beds but Hector will be sent back to his bed any time he growls. It’s not punishment and will be done kindly with rewards. He’s not being naughty after all. He is doing his best to do the impossible job that he’s unintentionally been given. If he lies on top of the lady’s neck she can roll over or sit up to tip him off (he growls if manhandled). She can send him to his bed and he should take himself there happily if properly trained using food reinforcement.

It will be hard work but the necessary price she must pay if she wants to keep him on her bed.

It will surely ultimately be a great relief to Hector.

The lady behaves like his slave. He regards her as his human resource.

As I’m always saying, you get back what you give.

This is the only shadow on their otherwise perfect life.

She takes them both to work with her where they spend a lot of time outside having fun. The two little dogs sit on the seat beside her in her van. Hector is always lifted in first and growls at Annie when she is put in.

The same human resource guarding also happens here. She gives the man who works with her a lift. Hector is between him and the lady. He growls at the man as he gets in and goes for him every time he so much as moves his arm or hand.

The lady is adamant that she doesn’t want the dogs crated in the back, so again we have to work around the obvious solution by being more creative.

Hector will be put in the foot well where he seems to be more relaxed and further away from the lady. Annie should be lifted into the van first.

As the man gets in, to help Hector to feel good about him he will drop a piece of food.

If he still growls when the man gets in, the lady will need to lift her little dog out and let the man get in first.

In other aspects of his life we have discussed how the lady can to stop Hector regarding her as his human resource.

Resource guarding isn’t always food and bones of course. It can be over a person, a place or even the dog’s own personal space.

Guarding his human resource is a big job for a little dog! Hector will be a lot happier when relieved of it.

 

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 Hector 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. EVerything depends upon context. 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)

Possessive and Agitated; Puppy, Toys and Food

Ollin is a Xoloitzcuintli. I have never even heard of a Xoloitzcuintli before let alone visited one.

Where did the possessive behaviour come from?

possessive over food and toys

Ollin

Ollin has been perfectly happy with her humans touching something she’s eating should they need to. She lets them take her toys.

She’s having none of it however with Toto, the eleven week old Xolo puppy they picked up from the breeder a few days ago.

This possessive, guarding behaviour seems to have come out of nowhere. It’s aimed solely at Toto.

The two dogs play continuously – perhaps a bit too much – and it’s Ollin who intitiates it. They sleep curled up together. With the toys all been put away they get on famously – until food appears.

I watched as the gentleman prepared the two dogs’ meals in the utility room behind a baby gate – puppy Toto in there with him. Ollin was in the kitchen with us, watching through the gate.

Ollin’s demeanor had completely changed.

Looking at Toto through the gate while the food was being prepared, the gentle, delicate and friendly little dog was growling and getting increasingly agitated. She became even more fierce when she saw Toto’s bowl put down.

Then the door was shut on Toto. Ollin’s own food was put down on the kitchen floor. She walked back and forth from the utility room door and her food bowl in an agitated manner a few times. She then took a few bits of food out of her bowl and took it around the corner out of sight of the utility room. Jumping on the sofa, she ate them there.

Xoloitzcuintli puppy

Toto

A very happy dog usually, she wasn’t happy now.

It was useful to watch. A different routine should over time stop Ollin being possessive over Toto’s food – food that she’s unable to get to. This is roughly how it will go:

Because they are feeding Toto four times a day, they will divide Ollin’s food into four also. She will then get as many meals as he does.

Because she gets so agitated while the food is prepared and when Toto’s bowl is put down, I had an idea. For now they will prepare the following meal as soon as the dogs have finished the previous one. The dishes will then be ready to put down straight away next mealtime without causing Ollin the build-up of possessive panic.

Ollin’s food will go down first and then they will put Toto’s over the gate. They will shut the door.

She will be hearing him eating the dry food from his metal bowl the other side of the door. All the time they will drop tiny bits of chicken into Ollin’s bowl while she is eating. She needs to associate Toto eating food with herself receiving something.

She must not think that he is getting something that she is not.

As time goes by they can open the door and move the bowls closer – still one each side of the gate. Hopefully they can eventually be fed together in the same room.

Ollin was with the breeder until she was several months old and all the puppies were fed out of one large dish. This encourages competition, guarding and can make dogs become possessive.

On the phone I had advised them to lift all toys until I came. They are now issuing them two or three at a time and supervising both dogs. Sitting on the sofa yesterday, one each side of the lady, both dogs chewed the toys. They swapped.

All will be well.

Feedback nine days later: ……we have had such a great improvement and seen fantastic results from what we have implemented. I cannot thank you enough for making us aware of our mistakes and amazed how such small changes to our approach has reflected so positively on Ollin. 

 

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 Ollin and Toto 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. 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)

 

Calm People for a Calm Dog

I am getting a little run of cases involving dogs growling at the kids – probably a sign that it’s time for them to go back to schooPenny is fine when things are calml after six weeks at home with the dog!

Penny is a fifteen-month-old Beagle Jack Russell mix. She is a sweetie – friendly and bouncy if a bit lacking in self-control. She lives in a family household that at certain times can get her too aroused.

Along with over-arousal come the unwanted behaviours. She may steal something and run off with it. As a puppy they would chase her and corner her, forcing the item off her with no exchange. This can often develop into possessive behaviours as the dog gets a bit older, particularly if food isn’t routinely used for exchange and reward.

Calm people, calm dog.

Each incident they told me about seemed to be when the atmosphere was far from calm, which in a house with kids is often the case.

There are particular flash points during the day, the first when the children are getting ready for school which is a very common time for trouble with young, excitable dogs.  Another time when it’s not calm is in the evening when the young boy becomes noisy or erratic as his ADHD medication wears off. Penny may leap at the boy’s clothes and nip him. On these occasions she can be put behind the gate with something to chew.

Both children can learn about Penny’s ‘smelly bubble’. If she’s resting they must not burst this invisible bubble which is about a meter in diameter. If they do a revolting smell comes out – the young boy gave his suggestion as to what that might be! Mum will need to be quite alert and help Penny out when the children, particularly the boy, is too hyped up.

When the man arrived he gave Penny such an enthusiastic welcome that she peed.

Reunitings need to be calm also.

Penny’s good points outweigh any negatives. She is great on walks, so good that the young daughter can walk her and she’s not a big barker. She is extremely friendly and would be very willing and trainable giving sufficient motivation.

She’s not really aggressive either. She has been inadvertently taught to defend things that are in her mouth, particularly if she has pinched them. They will now actively do exchange games and never again take anything off her without swapping for something she likes better and if the item isn’t important they will walk away and ignore it. There will be no fun in that!

I was with them for over two hours and saw no sign of possessiveness. We kept things quite calm and I used food to reward her for everything I asked of her and she was like putty in my hands. I did ‘give and take’ using food, allowing her to keep the item at the end.

When she’s excited, as she will be when they have friends or family round, she may growl and snap if someone drops something then goes to pick it up – Penny will have got there first.

She may also nick something if she’s getting insufficient attention.

If she is resting or asleep and calm, when a child suddenly leans over the sofa back to touch her or goes over to fuss her, she may growl. And why not? Growllng is talking. She is saying ‘go away and leave me alone’. That’s okay surely.

So, Penny needs ‘protecting’ from the situation when there is too much noise and excitement by being removed with something to do, she needs to be left alone when she’s resting and she needs to know that no longer will anyone take something off her without giving her something in exchange.

Nicking things will become boring if ignored.

They, like me, will use food to thank her for her cooperation when they ask her to do something and I feel she will soon be a different dog.

Here is a great little article from 3LostDogs.com on the subject of resource guarding.

 

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 Penny 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 any form of aggression 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)

 

Snapping at the Kids and Growling

Things are a whole lot more serious when children are involved.

Alfie lunging and snapping at child was a complete surpriseThis is from the original email the lady sent me: “Alfie has started growling around his food, toys and bed since June. He is very possessive and he bit me once as well. We have been trying to stop him from growling especially with his food, using technique like sit and stay before feeding him, stopping him when he is eating to give him treat, feeding him by hand. We really love Alfie, but because of his snapping I can’t relax when the kids want to play with him and I really don’t know how to stop him growling. I am concerned about my girls safety”.

Some weird advice had been given to them as I could see from the message. They were also told the dog had to be made to sit and watch them eat before being fed himself. Oh dear.

9-month-old Cockerpoo Alfie greeted me with enthusiasm and some jumping up – a little mouthing. A gorgeous, playful, friendly little dog. It was hard to see how he would ever be aggressive.

A couple of hours later, I saw it for myself.

If something suddenly changes in a dog’s behaviour, the first step is a full vet check. Their vet had given him a clean bill of health and advised them to get behaviour help.

The growling, lunging and snapping had started quite suddenly three months ago when he bit the lady’s arm. He had walked away from his still full food bowl, she had walked towards him and he flew at her, biting her arm and drawing blood. It was a huge shock as he had never shown any aggression previously.

After discussion and dissecting each incident it seems that, although food may sometimes be involved, it’s more about Alfie guarding entrances/doorways, mostly from the two little girls aged 6 and 8. It is also possible he’s guarding his own space. Maybe he is guarding the mum or dad who on several occasions had been beside him as a child approached and he growled. This was the case when I saw it happen myself. What a shock.

Being approached directly is what each incident has in common.

Alfie has been scolded for growling so he may now be taking it to the next stage – snapping. A couple of times he had sprung towards a child, growling and snapping at her arm. The change from friendly playmate to growling and snapping dog is sudden and unpredictable.  They can’t be looking at him all the time for subtle signs.

Fortunately no harm has been done yet. It’s still a warning. ‘Go away’.

There have also been a couple of incidents around food. I watched him eat his dinner and he kept breaking off to look around at where the children were playing.

On the first occasion it almost certainly was associated with over-arousal. The family had been away and Alfie had stayed with the doggy daycare. He normally is there for a couple of days a week but this time it was for five days and nights. Daytime there are around fifteen dogs, all loose in a field doing their own thing all day. We know that unsupervised dog play very often gets out of hand, particularly when there are lots of dogs involved.

What, too, about sleep deprivation and the ongoing effect this may have had? Most dogs in a ‘normal’ environment spend a great portion of the day asleep.

What else may Alfie be learning? He has been going there since he was three months old and was six months when the first incident happened.

He may well be learning or even copying behaviours involving guarding areas or resources along with protecting his personal space and probably his food. He also will have learnt that growling and snapping at the other dogs keeps them away. Being dogs and not children, they would understand and get the message.

Alfie’s arousal levels will have been through the roof after five days of this.

The more questions I asked the more it became evident that most of the episodes they could remember came after Alfie having stayed at the daycare.

The first step is to leave daycare and find a dog walker who will come once or twice a day, take him out with no more than two other dogs then bring him home again.

Because children are involved, the priority has to be their safety, so management must be put in place straight away. There is one doorway where could put a gate, allowing the dog to be separated from the kids and the lady to relax. It is putting a terrible strain upon her now.

Alfie suddenly flew out from under the table, snapping at the child’s arm.

I sat chatting at the kitchen table. All was peaceful, the little girls were upstairs amusing themselves. The couple were the other end of the table nearest to the door and Alfie was under the table between them.

The eight-year-old opened the door and walked in. With no warning that I could see (he was under the table), Alfie sprung out, growling, snapping at the child’s arm. Thank goodness no harm was done. This is a good example of how children may not always be safe even with their parents right beside them.

The man himself hadn’t actually witnessed more than growling before and now was understanding a lot better his wife’s anxiety and why she is constantly on edge.

BenbowAlfie1

Again, Alfie had been at daycare for several days and nights and the lady had only returned from overseas the day before I came. Alfie’s ‘stress bucket’ will have been full already. The children had been on school holidays for several weeks now so there was more excitement……and the I arrived!

After the gate, the second management thing is to wean Alfie into wearing a muzzle. Muzzling him for short periods at a time will allow the lady some respite. Alfie will certainly be picking up on her tension, adding to the stress. She is watching all the time ‘No Alfie!, No Alfie!’.

In addition to management, reducing Alfie’s stress levels in every way possible, working directly on Alfie’s guarding behaviour, the behaviour of the little girls has to be modified as well.

Instead of feeding him in the kitchen where everyone walks past, they will now feed him out of the way in the utility room – and leave him strictly alone. If anyone has to walk through, they will just drop something very nice either in or near to his bowl as they pass. No more silly tricks around food and meals.

They will work at getting him to give up and exchange things willingly. They will use food to motivate and reward him – something they don’t currently do.

As well as the work with Alfie, the little girls have their own tasks. Holding a child’s hand, I rehearsed walking towards an imaginary Alfie but in an arc or to the side of him, then with the dog himself, avoiding eye contact.

If he is lying or sitting very still, staring, they should turn around and go away. If he growls they should turn around and go away.

Before opening the gate they can call him over, drop him a treat (some will be on the shelf nearby) before opening it. This will break any staring; in addition Alfie should begin to feel good about the girls walking in the door. Mum can do some work with them too. Sitting facing a doorway with Alfie on lead, her little girls can rehearse over and over how they should walk in and past Alfie.

Child training! They are very young and will still need constant reminding.

Here is a video for them to watch.

I sincerely hope with no more bad habits and over-arousal from the daycare, with some positive training around resources and people coming through doorways, the much-loved Alfie will stop all growling and snapping, that he will go back to being the trustworthy, child-friendly dog he used to be only three months ago.

 

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 Alfie 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)

What Function Does Growling Serve?

It was no start in life for a puppy.

Rose growling? It was hard to believe!

Lurcher Rose, now four, came over from Ireland as a seven-week old puppy, already separated from mother and siblings and having been in one or even two shelters.

What function does growling serve her

Rose

She lives with Molly an elderly Collie mix, an older Chocolate Labrador called Bryn and an excitable Jack Russell called Mouse. All are rescues. The couple have done wonders with these dogs – particularly with Bryn who was totally shut down when they first took him in a few years ago.

Lurcher Rose’s behaviour is what has been causing them concern for a while.

From the start she might growl when people approached. This developed into growling at the other dogs also. She will growl at them if they enter a room after herself, if they enter a room with her particularly if they try to go in ahead of her, and she may growl even if she is lying down and one of them gets up to do something.

The intimidation is affecting the lives of Molly, Bryn and Mouse.

The couple have successfully cured the growling at people by, every time someone entered her presence, that person giving her a treat.

Bryn and Mouse

Bryn and Mouse

They had been using same idea when she growled at the other dogs – feeding her while she growled. Unfortunately I think this may have backfired. What probably has happened is reinforcement for growling.

I believe food is still the answer, but the timing was wrong.

More recently they have reverted to telling her off.

What function does growling serve for Rose?

Starting so early in her life, its roots are surely either genetic or behaviour the little puppy learnt for her own survival in the first few weeks of her life – or both.

Molly

Molly

It will undoubtedly also, after all this time and with so much rehearsal, be a learned behaviour, a habit.

We looked at what function the growling can possibly serve for Rose – what’s in it for her.

During the day when people are busy all seems to be fine. The dogs can all be closely together with no trouble at all though Rose does prefer to take herself out of the way much of the time. The others are together, she is apart.

The intimidating, growling behaviour starts in the evening when humans and dogs all go into the sitting room together for a quiet evening.

She directs her growling at all the dogs – she doesn’t have one particular ‘victim’. This doesn’t seem to be a girl thing as she includes Bryn.

She (most likely) only does it when people are nearby. She possibly is worse when additional people are there; she also may guard a new person from the other dogs by growling. She never now growls at people.

In one respect growling is good in that it is a warning, which in this case the other dogs fortunately take heed of. If extinguished rather than being understood and resolved the dog may feel forced to take things further.

So what function can growling at the other dogs possibly serve for Rose?

One function it successfully serves is to keep the dogs out of her own personal space or directs them away from herself and possibly away from a particular person. She also is in control of where they are and what they do. It worries them, poor Molly in particular.

Another function is that growling gets reinforcement by way of attention of some sort from the humans. This is something they can work on.

A third function is that it may simply make her feel better and this another thing they can do something about. They can make not growling feel better still.

All the time that I was there Rose lay spread out on a sofa as Lurchers do, beside the man. Typically she showed me none of her usual behaviour towards the other dogs until the end when I got up to go. They did plan her entry well, though. First Mouse was with us, then the other dogs joined us and were settled before the friendly and inquisitive Rose came in. She ignored the other dogs, jumped up on the sofa, stretched out on her back and stayed like that all the time I was there!

I shan’t go into detail here because our plan is very specific to this particular case, but in general they will be working on their own relationship with the dogs. They can take ‘responsibility’ away from Rose by showing her that they make decisions. This involves treating all the dogs as individuals rather than a gang, getting and holding attention, cutting out free food etc. so that it can be used for working on her growling issue.

It’s the humans’ job to control the other dogs should control be needed and not Rose’s job.

We need to deal with Rose’s emotions that are driving her to behave like this, pairing negative feelings with good things. Teaching her to cope.

They need to do their very best to prevent further rehearsal of the behaviour as I am sure that, in addition to any actual function growling serves, it’s now a habit. Something she simply automatically does now.

 

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 Rose 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)

 

Poppy Doesn’t Like Being Touched

Border Collie with German Shepherd EarsPoppy is a Border Collie with German Shepherd ears. Look at them – and at that face!

Just as not all of us like too much fussing, pulling about and excitement, Poppy is a sensitive and somewhat fearful dog who isn’t keen on being touched unless she so chooses (to many of my friends a weekend of being pampered and massaged at Champneys would be heaven but to me it would be hell. I, unlike Poppy, have free will and can refuse).

There have been several biting incidents, on family members, and all have involved her being touched in some way when she doesn’t want to be touched – having touching forced upon her. All bites have also involved her already being in a highly aroused and stressed state.

She belongs to a couple with the man’s mum, a warm, effervescent and tactile lady who plays a big part in Poppy’s life, living just down the road. Unhappily, she is the receiver of the worst bites and understandably it upsets her greatly. Her manner is simply ‘too much’ for Poppy who probably feels overwhelmed.

Each incident has taken place when Poppy was already stirred up by something. She has undoubtedly given plenty of warnings over her three years which have been unheeded or punished. Sadly they have been watching the popular TV trainer who advocates dominance and pinning down and they are suffering the fallout.

The final and worst incident is an absolutely perfect example of how one thing leads to another as fuel is added to the fire, until some sort of explosion is inevitable.

Every day at lunch time the mother comes to the couple’s house to walk Poppy. Poppy may initially stay up the stairs growling at her. The lady does everything she can to get her to coax her down – and then the drama starts.

She takes Poppy out for a walk while the couple are at work. It is always the same ritual and route. The dog bolts out of the gate to the car. She is so wild in the car that in order to stop her redirecting her stress onto chewing the upholstery the lady muzzles her. At the field, she removes the muzzle and immediately throws Poppy a stick, otherwise she will attack the car tyres.

On this particular occasion she had her two grandchildren with her (8 and 10 – she never growls at them) who will, being children, have been playful and talkative – just as the lady is herself! They reached the river to find some excitable kids in a boat on the usually quiet river. Then a bird-scare gun went off. Poppy dropped to the ground. The lady bent over her to comfort her and she grumbled, but that was all. Then there was a second bang, the lady cuddled Poppy who immediately bit her on the hand which is now black and bruised. The dog then lay there and shook.

The lady, though scared by now, pinned Poppy to the ground – because she, like so many others taken in by the showmanship of this TV man, believed it was the right and only thing to do in the circumstances.

When she let go of her, Poppy bit her other arm.

A totally different approach is needed.

So today I was on the end of the phone with the lady and we did lunchtime differently. The emphasis was on quiet and calm with no pressure whatsoever being put on Poppy. She came in the front door and ignored Poppy grumbling up the stairs. No jolly, excited hellos or trying to entice her down – just ‘Hi, Poppy’ and walking on into the kitchen.

We had played a ‘Come when Called’ game yesterday and the lady did this from the kitchen with exactly the same words and tone of voice as we had used. Poppy came willingly for her – a first. She was learning that she was rewarded with a tiny bit of food instead of noisy enthusiasm and touching (which to her, because it seems to intimidate her, amounts to punishment not reward). Already she was choosing to come to the lady and be with her rather than lurking, grumbling upstairs.

As Poppy gets two other walks during the day, we have decided it’s best for the lady not to walk her for now, so we have thought up some calm home activities for lunchtimes with some mental stimulation but no excess excitement.

What if Poppy were a deer not a dog?. The lady would move slowly, speak quietly and not try to touch it because if she did the deer would run off.

She is feeling happy because already their relationship, based on better understanding, is improving.

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 Poppy. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving potential aggression. 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).

Barking and Biting

chipoo

Dobby

The family has two adorable little Poodle Chihuahua mixes they believe originally came from a dubious breeder or puppy farm about three years ago and who are both highly strung. Although it looks surprising from my photos, the smallest thing winds them up.

I was called out because of their barking and biting – Dizzy’s barking and Dobby’s biting which has been getting worse over the past few weeks.

Dizzy instigates the barking at anyone who passes the house and any dog he sees on walks – most particularly when he is on lead – and Dobby joins in. They get too much practice of their ‘barking at people skills’ at home. It’s not surprising that dogs who spend a lot of their time looking out of the front window, waiting for people and dogs to walk past to bark at, become very short-fused.

Chipoo

Dizzy

Human reaction is to shout at them which may work in the moment but only make things worse long-term. If shouting worked, why are the dogs still barking so much?

Dobby never has liked being touched – unless he chooses, and he has used growling to say so since he was a puppy. Some family members scold him for growling.

There have now been about five episodes where he has snapped at someone – including a person who insisted on touching him when they were out, a neighbour and a friend – all people who reached out to touch him when he didn’t want to be touched.

Human reaction was to be very cross. People understandably feel ‘this sort of behaviour can’t be accepted or go unpunished’. The little dog should see his humans as ‘protectors’, but it must seem like all his efforts to tell people how he feels by way of body language and then growling are ignored or scolded. So now he’s forced to take it to the next level to make the person entering his personal space go away, so he snaps. Then it must seem like his own humans attack him. These are the same humans who love him dearly and give him so many cuddles at other times.

Just as with the barking, the growling and snapping should be treated completely differently. As Dobby is fearful, what should they be doing about that? For starters, they should make sure he’s able to be at a distance from people where he feels safe even if it does seem rude. They should be helping him out and not getting cross. Growling is good! Teach a dog not to growl and you teach him to bite.

We wouldn’t like people coming up to us and touching us. If we turned away or said ‘I don’t want you to touch me’ we would expect that to be respected. What would we do if the touching didn’t stop? Slap the person?

Interestingly, with the groomer who also may look after them in her own home, they are completely different dogs. They don’t bark, they run around happily with other dogs and there is no growling from Dobby. This seems to confirm that if their own family does things a bit differently, the dogs could be behave differently also.

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 these two. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving potential aggression. 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).