A Jumping up and Nipping Puppy

Puppy pug Frankie is now twelve weeks old.

AtkinsFrankieIt’s vital that the adorable Frankie stops jumping up and nipping because the lady is a childminder. As it’s so important, they have been trying extra hard to stop her jumping up and nipping for the sake of the little children. This has resulted in a lot of No and Get Down and pushing off.

Term starts this week and the four little children will be coming back. If Frankie jumps or nips they will scream and wave their arms about, making her worse.

The young son and daughter play games that may encourage Frankie to be over-excited, rough and to use her teeth. If we don’t want to be nipped by a puppy, we don’t play hand games. We don’t play contact sports but use an item like a tug toy or a ball. We avoid getting her too excited.

In a way, the very importance of Frankie not jumping up and nipping has actually made the problem worse. She’s learnt that it always gets attention of some sort as they try to stop her.

Frankie isn’t being taught what she should be doing instead of jumping up and nipping.

Jumping up and nipping now has to get no attention whatsoever. With myself she learnt really fast that feet on the floor was the way to get a fuss.

It’s a few hours later and the lady has just emailed to say that the jumping up and nipping is now worse since she has stopped saying NO and pushing Frankie off. This is typical of how things get worse before they get better. Because she has said No in the past and given the puppy a lot of attention for jumping up and nipping, it has temporarily made things worse now that she’s stopped.

Frankie wants her to say No just as she always has done because in a funny way it is rewarding to her.

Now Frankie is not getting the attention she usually gets so she is simply getting frustrated and trying harder.

To get all technical, this is called the ‘extinction burst’. Here is a nice explanation from GreenMountanDaily.com: An extinction burst is a concept from behavioral psychology. It involves the concept of elimination of a behavior by refusing to reinforce it. The best example of this is a child’s tantrum. Parents react to tantrums, which is why they often work, but the point of the tantrum is primarily attention.

The family need to stand firm and it’s not easy. For the first couple of days the lady should wear jeans rather than thin floaty trousers (tempting to grab in those little sharp teeth) in order to protect her legs. Having tried immediately to give her something else to put in her mouth or another member of the family calling her away, if neither of these things do the trick she should simply lift her up in silence, put her the other side of the gate with something to chew and walk
away. Actions speak a lot louder than words.

I imagine that this intensified behaviour was during Frankie’s ‘silly time’, the wild half hour so many puppies have in the evening.

They should have that a bit more under control in a day or two. As soon as they see her getting excited and wild they will react immediately by giving her something else to do, something to attack and wreck like a carton full of safe rubbish – before she gets to jumping up and nipping trousers and legs.

Pre-empting whenever possible is the best advice.

It’s understandable why Frankie wants to jump up, as dogs greet one another face to face. A lot of communication is done at face level. You can’t do much communicating with a human ankle! For this reason it’s helpful if people kneel down.

Feet on the floor is just one of those weird things humans like that Frankie has to learn.

In this first visit we covered all aspect of puppy life making sure everything is in place. The whole family did some lovely loose lead walking in the garden. She has been to a couple of vet’s puppy parties with, I feel, too many puppies off lead all at once in a small space, most a lot bigger than tiny Frankie and she may be intimidated. I hope they will stop going now. This is the kind of socialisation that a puppy doesn’t need. We don’t want her to fear other dogs as she gets older.

Frankie when not jumping up and nippingWe are off to a good start and will pick things up where we left off when I next visit. We discussed putting up a barrier between Frankie and the little children so that she can be kept separate from them whilst not being shut out, just until she grows out of her jumping up and nipping.

With consistency from all the family as regards ignoring jumping up whilst teaching her that feet on the floor or sitting gives her what she wants, helping each other out by calling her away if she’s getting rough or popping her straight away behind a gate with something to do or chew, things should improve fairly fast.

In order to get past this ‘extinction burst’ of frustration and not to prolong it, everyone must be doing the same thing. A tantrum must not work in terms of attention!

Their success also depends upon visitors cooperating (always a challenge) and with the children teaching their friends what to do. If they are unable to keep calm thus discouraging the jumping up and nipping, then Frankie will need to be on lead or behind a barrier.

Here is a useful little article from Victoria Stilwell about stopping puppy nipping.

Eating Plaster off the Walls, but Why?

Five year old Golden Labrador Milly has to be just about as near the perfect dog any family could wish for. She is sweet and gentle with their four-year-old boy who, thanks to his parents, treats her with unusual respect for such a young child. She is perfect apart from just one thing.

Eating plaster.

Milly is making holes in the walls.

The young family moved into a brand new house six months ago. There are two holes each side of the front door, one by the back door and damage to the plaster in various rooms both upstairs and downstairs.

Why is a dog that seems so happy and well-adjusted eating plaster?

My detective work could only deduce that it could be any or all of several possible reasons.

My first suspicion before arriving was that it could be something like calcium lacking in Milly’s diet. As soon as I entered the kitchen I saw a bowl of Bakers Complete on the floor.

This immediately gave weight to my first thoughts about nutrition. A good food should have the required amount of everything in it. Bakers for all it’s pretty colours and extra flavouring, is rubbish.

The first time Milly started eating plaster was the day their first baby was born. It would be safe to assume that it was due to stress. She had been left at home alone a lot longer than usual while everyone was at the hospital. It was a one-off.

Then a couple of years elapsed until at a BBQ Milly swallowed what I think was a bamboo skewer. It punctured both her intenstines; she was in vet hospital for days and nearly died. This was undoubtedly a huge upset for everyone.

The eating plaster habit then began.

On the day of their new baby’s arrival, five weeks ago, the plaster eating escalated.

All but one of the incidents occurred on occasions when Milly had been left alone for eight hours – and it didn’t happen every time. Some days it was after she’d had a long morning walk with lots of ball play but other days she has no walk at all. It’s possible that either too much arousal on walks (ball throwing) or no walk at all on the day of the chewing or the previous day may be a factor also.

Possibly she has mild separation issues when left for hours? Could it be boredom? Taking a video could be difficult as she roams the house although they will now restrict her to part of downstairs. Frustration at being shut in one place may cause more trouble, so we won’t risk it.

result of dog eating plaster

Milly’s does have one other fault. She pulls on lead. The young lady is unable to walk her whilst carrying or pushing the baby (something we are addressing). For Milly to be healthy in both mind and body she does need a daily outing and some days walks are missed. I say ‘outing’ because she needs time outside to do dog things. She doesn’t need to be stirred up with too much ball-chasing.

Milly is a sensitive dog and will pick up emotions from her humans who have been through a lot of change recently. Stress builds up and perhaps eating plaster ‘does the job’ for Milly.

Being scolded scares her, isn’t working, and may well be adding to whatever emotions are driving her to do it in the first place. Sadly today she showed fear when they come in the front door.

Eating plaster. What apart from the obvious does Milly get out of it?

Does it just make her feel better? Is it build up of stress? Is she suffering from separation problems? Does it supplement her diet? Does it relieve her boredom? Is it to do with exercise? Is it a habit?

Is it simply a mix of some or all of these things?

As a precise diagnosis into why she is eating plaster is impossible, we will try to cover all possibilities.

HoarMilly1Her food is already being changed in case plaster eating is due to lack of calcium in her diet. Low quality nutrition isn’t good brain food either.

Stress will be reduced in every way possible.

The humans will no longer scold if they again come home to find damage.

Milly will be given regular walks whilst not over-stimulating her and also teach her to walk nicely so that the young lady can walk her with the baby.

Any possible separation issues will be worked on.

She will be left with plenty of stuff to do and chew when they go out, including a marrow bone – lots of calcium – much better than eating plaster!

They are going to make arrangements for Milly not to be left alone for so long on certain days.

Maybe eating plaster is now becoming a habit?

If we cover all angles the behaviour should cease. If it doesn’t, then I suggest she has a thorough vet check to make sure she’s not got anything else going on inside her.

Three weeks have gone by. From an email: She is doing much better on the loose lead, it does take a lot of patience but it’s definitely better. We are just taking it slow but it’s good to see the progress…. It works best leaving Milly in the lounge when we are out. I will video again this week. But I am happy to say no more damages walls…. She is now eating both her meals and seems to like the duck with rice. (Their little boy) loves getting involved too and helping Milly, he really loves her 🙂

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 Milly 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. 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)

Aggressive Behaviour. Why?

Aggressive behaviour, is it through fear or something else?

Delilah was in another room behind a gate when arrived, barking but not for long. Her lead was already attached to her harness. When the gate was opened she didn’t join us for several minutes. When she did, she was fine. I had laced the floor between the doorway and myself with food so she immediately picked up ‘nice smell’ on entering my presence.

No sign of aggressive behaviourShe sniffed me, wandered about and settled between myself and the lady where we sat at the dining table. She looked just like a Corgi but DNA testing revealed a mix of German Shepherd, Malamute and Miniature Poodle!

I knew that she could bark, snarl and snap at people’s legs or shoes but only in her own house or garden. She is worse with men which isn’t uncommon and she has a particular fear of boots.

As she lay beside us I was looking for signs of timidity and saw none. However, the whole time I was there she was either in front of me facing outwards – it felt like she was blocking me in – or between myself and the lady. At one stage I needed to go to the toilet so asked the lady to pick up her lead and take her out of the room to avoid stressing her until I was sitting again. She returned to the same place  – in the picture the lady is on the chair to my right.

Delilah was a Romanian street dog and for the first months of her life completely unrestricted. She then was in a shelter for nine months, loose with lots of other dogs, followed by a few months in a foster home where again there were lots of dogs and much coming and going of people.

Now she is a single dog living in a quiet cottage with only the lady. For the first two months she was the model dog, happy to see people coming into the house. Fine with other dogs when on lead.

As so often happens with dogs fitting into a completely different world, gradually this began to change.

Although I felt I should be careful indoors, Delilah was very friendly and accepting of me outside the house when we went for a short walk, happily letting me hold the lead and demonstrate loose lead walking with her.

Where indoors she may be reactive to people but not when she’s out, when outside her aggressive behaviour is towards dogs – but only when she is restrained on lead. She may may bark and lunge (not always). Off lead, however, she loves to run about, playing with any dog who is interested – as I saw for myself. She is bold and fearless.

RussellDelThe lady has been exposing Delilah to as many people and dogs as possible. She takes her to some nice training classes. She has friends coming to see her at home.

Worried about her increasing aggressive behaviour to people in the house, the lady has had a trainer visit who advocated spraying the dog with water when she showed aggression.

This tactic of spraying water sums up the very opposite of what I would do to a dog displaying fear or territorial possessiveness or even anger. The way to stop the behaviour (which is a symptom only) is to stop the emotions that cause it.

How will punishment or even a short, sharp interruptor, change emotions permanently for the better?

Okay, it may stop the actual symptom in the moment, but what then? The emotion won’t change and will probably become worse. It will fester and break out somewhere, in some way, for sure.

What about trust?

The dog is feeling deeply uncomfortable about something and then gets sprayed with water, which she won’t like, by the very person she should trust, who has been advised to do this rather than try to understand and help her out!

Fortunately the lady refused to do it.

We have several things to work on and it could take time. We are working on getting Delilah to happily accept people coming into the house with desensitisation work around the front door in particular. It’s like now she has a permanent home which is hers, she is becoming increasingly territorial. Walking legs and particularly feet with boots being a target for her aggressive behaviour which could well be influenced by a herding element in here genes, we will work on boots away from feet first, then boots on the feet of sitting people, and then people walking in boots.

The lady will do her best to show Delilah in every way she can that she doesn’t need protecting and that it’s her own job to protect their territory. The lady herself is in charge of comings and goings. We have a couple of strategies for when people come into the house including more simple management.

On walks Delilah will unfortunately need to lose some of her precious freedom and to be restricted to a long line for a while the lady works on her recall. She is so used to freelancing that she will only come when she is ready. When we were out together I held my breath as she ran off, assured she couldn’t get out of the field. I fear it’s a crisis waiting to happen. Here is a great little video from Steve Mann: ‘A Recall is a Recall‘.

On a long line she shouldn’t feel trapped when she meets other dogs. If she wants to play it can be dropped. The lady will work on her on-lead reactivity to certain other dogs.

From a noisy life where she has been one of many to a quiet life where she is the only one, Delilah is still having big adjustments to make after only three months still.

I have since been unable to get My My My Delilah out of my brain (thanks Tom Jones!).

 

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 Delilah 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)

Second Fear Period Maybe

Second fear period and bad timing could be involved.

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

Possibly Samson's behaviour changed due to second fear period

Sam

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

But have they?

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

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

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

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

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

William

William

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changing things around for Sam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Sam and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Happy Walks on Loose Leashes

A large labrador mix

Enzo

These two dogs large dogs were adopted by a couple in South America and just a month ago flown back with them to the UK.

Enzo is obviously a Labrador mixed with probably several other things and he looks just like a massive chunky Lab. Until six months ago the three-year-old had a life roaming free, doing his own good-natured thing and probably siring lots of puppies. Everyone in the area knew him. Now he’s been castrated and has adjusted amazingly well to life confined in a small house with nearly all his outings necessarily on the end of a lead. He’s very independent, self-contained but not unfriendly.

18-month-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Timber, is also enormous – more the size of a large Great Dane. The couple have worked hard on his training. Unlike Enzo, when people are about he is wary and watchful. He will bark at someone entering the house and though he didn’t bark at me, he spent much of the time with his back to me, blocking me out.

Rhodesian Ridgeback hiding from me

Timber

When out on walks, both dogs are not at ease near other dogs, particularly if those dogs are loose. Neither Enzo or Timber are used to being constrained by a short piece of webbing attached to a human, with no freedom for avoidance or escape.

Humans tend to react to things a dog may find threatening in precisely the opposite way to how the dog himself might naturally want to react. Humans tend to keep on approaching, not ‘showing weakness’.  A dog is much more likely to avoid, either by making a large arc or turning away.

This illustrates clearly the importance to achieving happy walks of the behaviour of the humans to whom the dogs are physically tied. It also demonstrates how important it is that the dogs should feel as comfortable and as free as possible whilst necessarily being constrained.

Suitable equipment is essential. If a short lead is attached to a collar this will undoubtedly cause discomfort, pain even, should the dog suddenly feel the need to lunge. If a head halter, this may give the human more control but it takes even more control and freedom away from the dog. Imagine the harm a sudden jerk might do to his neck. A normal harness can turn the dog into a kind of carthorse, dragging his human along. There is only one kind of equipment I would use in order to achieve happy walks, particularly in the case of large, strong dogs, and this is a longish training lead attached at the front of a really good harness – maybe clipped to the back also for extra security.

Now the dog will feel comfortable, less restricted; the human has better control in emergency. With this equipment it’s a whole lot easier to teach a dog to walk nicely without using constant corrections.

Even though these two large and lovely dogs understandably can’t be trusted off lead as they have grown up with freedom, they can still surely have about 15 metres of freedom at the end of a long line.

In ‘training’ dogs to behave, the old-fashioned and still widely used methods despite all the scientific evidence, are about stopping the dog from doing things – stopping pulling, stopping lunging at other dogs and so on, using correction techniques or noises. As the gentleman says, ‘it works’. So, often, it does. Just because something works doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to achieve something though. One downside of correction methods is that they may only work in the presence of the person who has applied this particular training. Has the dog actually changed or is he merely ‘under control’? Does it address the root cause of the dog’s behaviour?

Changing to a more positive ‘do this instead’ along with making sure the dog isn’t trapped by us in too close proximity to the things to which he’s reacting whilst we change how he feels about these things will have much more permanent effect in the long run.

One final point. A thing that really does encourage pulling is when two people walk together with one dog each. This will inevitably lead to one dog trying to overtake the other. I suggest the man with Enzo has a head start and goes out first and that the couple meet up on the nearby green. Once there, they can put the long lines on the dogs and give them some freedom before setting off separately again with the shorter leads to do some loose lead walking practice.

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 Timber and Enzo (not their real names). Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog 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).

Her Latest Dog is a Challenge

AshcroftDogs1

The lady I have just visited feels her latest dog is a challenge. Doberman Maddie’s owner has had several Dobermans but never one quite like two-year-old Maddie.

I think she must have been very lucky with her previous dogs if Maddie is the worst. She is gorgeous. Although with certain issues, she is no big problem – yet. The main worry is her increasing reactivity to other dogs when out when she’s on lead and her wariness of new people. Very sensibly the lady wants to nip things in the bud before they get any worse because her other Doberman, Tia, is now copying her.

Tia is five. She barks at dogs on TV and she is a big hunter when out and off lead but generally a lot calmer. The TV problem can be resolved fairly easily with patience, desensitisation and counter-conditioning. The running off after pheasants and not coming back for an hour and a half isn’t so easily or quickly solved!

This story is all about preventing things from developing and making walks more enjoyable for the lady – and for the dogs.

Like most people who have difficulties with their dogs when they are out, the roots of these problems can be somewhere else. Simply going out on walks and encountering other dogs and doing training doesn’t resolve the complete issue. Because we are dealing with the emotions that cause the dog to behave in a certain way when out, the home end of things can be very important also.

If the dog can’t give the owner her full attention when required indoors, then it won’t happen when out. If the dog is stressed at home, then she will be stressed when out. If the dog is either pulling down the road or the lead is at all tight at the start of the walk, then the stress levels will be rising. If the dog is physically and uncomfortably prevented from pulling with a gadget such as a head collar – then the walk could be doomed from the start because of how the dog will already be feeling.

Domberman sucking a toy

Maddie sucking her toy

In Maddie’s case there is a strong element of the stress that builds up over the days due to other things that are happening. Stress isn’t only bad stuff – with a sensitive dog it can be too much excitement, play or noise.

The lovely Maddie works very hard at keeping herself calm. She spends a lot of time chewing or suckling a cuddly toy.

Her reactivity is variable. Some days she can encounter a dog when she is on lead with no fuss at all and on other days she will react to the very same dog. This must be due to her own state of mind at the time, along with that of her human on the end of the lead who may be having a bad day or be more anxious. It could be that she has simply encountered one dog too many on that walk and can’t manage another.

There are quite a number of small things that can be done to ease Maddie’s stress levels in general. Her food could be better – this can make a huge difference.

With a calmer dog and with comfortable equipment, with calm loose-lead walking techniques used from the start of the walk along with a walk where she can sniff rather than a march forward, things will start to improve I’m sure. The lady will now have ways of keeping and holding her dogs’ attention and she will give them plenty of space from other dogs when needed, taking her cue from Maddie. Anything Maddie’s uneasy about can be worked on with positive associations at a distance where she feels safe.

Tia doesn't like having her photo taken

Tia doesn’t like having her photo taken

Recall work starts at home too. A big part of ‘coming when called’ is to do with the relevance of the person calling the dog – their relationship. Repeatedly calling or whistling at home in return for small high-value food gradually ‘charges the battery’ and then can be reinforced when out by the lady repeatedly calling them when knows they will come and simply not giving them freedom when she fears they won’t. (Each time she calls and they ignore her, the ‘battery’ is discharged a little).

Having just one dog off lead at a time can be an extra incentive for the other dog to come back too.

The lady will watch Tia closely for taking off after a pheasant or a jogger and preempt her. In addition to very high value food she can also redirect the drive to chase onto either a ball or even onto herself, making herself fun, making silly noises perhaps and running away! If these things don’t work, then I fear it will be a few months work on a long line for Tia.

These are fantastic dogs with a fantastic owner who is lucky to have a friend who walks the dogs everyday with her own dogs, who sat in on our meeting and will do her bit too. These dogs have a very good life!

Puppy Parenting – Puppy Training

Petite Brabancon Griffin puppy

Jack

I had a real treat yesterday. I went to fourteen-week-old Petite Brabancon Griffon siblings, Jack and Coco.They were absolutely adorable. Apparently there are only about seventy-five of the breed in the country.

There were no problems to address but the couple had missed out on their choice of local puppy classes this time round and wanted to make sure they were going in the right direction meanwhile.

But what actually is puppy training? Is it ‘commands and tricks’ or is it about the puppy learning for himself what works and what doesn’t work? Parenting puppies is about more than just training tricks so we will be giving them a really stable home base from which to learn and these particular excellent classes will continue where I left off – being totally force-free and reward-based. Griffon, Petite Brabancon puppies

We looked at ways to make sure that the puppies didn’t become so attached to one another (one of the common problems when adopting siblings) that they would one day take no notice of their humans and could become vulnerable should they need to be separated. Short periods apart and some walking individually will be built into their days.

Another sibling problem is that one can become overshadowed by the other and never really shine in her own right (Coco could potentially be the one here), another reason for sometimes treating them as individuals rather than a ‘pair’.

Both dogs are scared of traffic so we discussed how they can be desensitised. They have the perfect spot for this where they can stand well back from a road and observe passing traffic from a distance the dogs are comfortable. Working on desensitising, they can gradually work their way nearer as and when the puppies are relaxed and ready.

I demonstrated teaching Jack to sit to the point where he wouldn’t stop sitting! First I lured him, then just waited and marked and rewarded the moment he sat, then added the cue, then he was responding to the cue – and all in no more than ten minutes. Now we had taught him to beg – ‘if I sit I get fed’ – so now he will only get the food when he’s asked to sit!

We did a little off lead walking beside us and then loose-lead walking around the room.

I can’t wait to go again in a couple of weeks!

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have planned for Jack and Coco, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own puppy 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 and training tailored to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).

 

Puppy Parenting Little Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise puppy under coffee tableEven the little black pads on fourteen-week-old Scooby’s feet are cute!

I love doing Puppy Parenting consultations, particularly as I am likely to keep in touch for many months – seeing them through adolescence to adulthood.

There is a lot to cover – all the usual things like toilet training and jumping up, the best sort of nutrition for the puppy and walking happily on a loose lead, but also preempting future possible problems from ever developing like guarding behaviours, fear of other dogs and running off.

Scooby has already been taught to sit and I showed them how to teach him to lie down. The next step is to work on ‘stay’.

fourteen week old Bichon Frise

Scooby with a favourite ‘toy’

Most importantly he needs to respond when he hears his name and come to them when he is called. They have a large open-plan house and very large enclosed garden and the lady worries that he might get into some sort of trouble when he is out of sight.

People often don’t realise that in order to get a puppy to come immediately they must not only sound exciting but also have something very rewarding to come to – food or fun. This needs a lot of repetition until coming when called becomes automatic – it can be made into a game as the puppy is called from one person to the other around the room and then house and garden. The man finds the ‘exciting voice’ impossible so I suggest he uses a whistle instead!

Scooby has been to two puppy classes where walking involves the puppy choking on his thin collar as he is ‘corrected’ and forced to walk to heel. That will now change.

He walked around the house beside me like a dream with no lead at all, with encouragement and rewards (placed on the floor where I want him to be). The next step is to simply clip his lead onto his harness and continue with the walking beside them – they will need a normal lead that hangs loose and not the retractable. Once good indoors it can be taken to the garden and then outside. There is absolutely no need at all for ‘correction’ of any sort if this is introduced correctly.

I look forward to my next Puppy Parenting visit.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have planned for Scooby, which is why I don’t go into exact detail details here of Scooby’s puppy plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own puppy may be inappropriate. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with the parenting of your own puppy (see my Get Help page).

Loose Lead Walking – a Game?

Show Cocker Field Cocker mixI have just been to a much more straightforward case though one that could take a while for the desired result to be achieved. Beautiful Archie – a mix of Field and Show Cocker Spaniel – has seldom needed to be walked on lead as they live in a country area and he never runs off. Now his young lady wishes to take him on holiday with her and needs him to be walking on lead without nearly strangling himself.

Teaching a dog who is used to being on lead, albeit pulling, is a different story to teaching a dog, who over five years has always free-lanced and had freedom to run and sniff where he wants, to accept the restraints of a lead .

Loose lead walking, therefore, needs to be less about ‘training’ than about learning a new game to play. It involves the young lady motivating her dog to walk beside her because he wants to and not because he’s being restrained, even when she is in competition with the normally freely available environment.

At home she can encourage him to anticipate what she wants of him without using commands. If she stops and waits, what does she want? If he usually sits before food, she can wait for him to work it out for himself. If he jumps at the door before she opens it, she can step back and wait for him to work it out. So, if the lead goes tight and she stops – he will know he has to work something out for himself.

It’s a bit like learning to drive a car, it will take plenty of practice. While the lady gets confident with the technique the dog will learn the rules of the game. These rules are simple really: No Go if the lead tightens, the lady decides The Moves – which direction they go in, and Bonus (food reward) for walking nicely or for coming back to her side.

Very short sessions are best, in non-stimulating environments and after he has been exercised, finishing while he’s doing well and before boredom or silliness sets in. She should engage with him and use food – making it as much fun as possible. The lead needs to be long enough to allow him choice and some freedom and the type of harness is very important. (‘No Pull’ harnesses are all about forcing the dog not to pull, and that’s the opposite to what we want).

When loose lead walking is established the lady can add walking to ‘heel’ beside her as a sort of training trick for use only when needed in towns and near to traffic.

I’m sure with time and patience she will be able to take her happy, lively and friendly dog on holiday to places where dogs must be kept on lead.

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

Won’t Come Back When Called

Labrador Marley doesn't come back when calledWhen they opened the door for me to go, Marley simply walked out and down the road, coming back home about fifteen minutes later. We may have done some loose-lead walking but he didn’t consider that to be his morning walk, so he went by himself.

The previous dog I went to, a mixed breed called Milly (see previous story), looked like a Labrador but wasn’t – Marley is the real thing.

Needless to say, one of the two problems I was called to help with is the fact he just won’t come back when called. I had seen it for myself. As we all called him, he looked round at us, grinned, and ran around a corner leading to the field.

The other issue is pulling on lead. They want walks to be enjoyable and have tried ‘traditional’ training which involves correction and holding the lead tight, with no success at all.  With a different mental approach and different equipment, we walked Marley about the front of the property on a loose lead.

Just like Milly, Marley is two and a half. They have had him for six months before which he lived on a farm and one can guess he had a fair amount of freedom. Another thing he has in common with Milly is that his only problems occur outside.

Marley has come a long way in the past six months. They have resolved many issues including begging for food and jumping up on people. Like many Labradors he is simply full of life and enthusiasm. He needs a good run and chase which he can’t do anymore due to his running off and ignoring them.

Working on the recall will be a lot longer process because things have happened the wrong way around. My feelings are that puppies should have very restricted physical boundaries and freedom should be introduced gradually (with a bit of reining in again when the dog becomes adolescent) so that ‘not coming back when called’ simply never becomes an option. In Marley’s past life, due to the freedom he very likely had, he expects to freelance. The only way to deal with this is for him to lose freedom for as long as it takes while they work on it, using a very long line, so he has no option of escaping.  At present he’s on a retractable lead which by definition is never slack. We can’t do proper work on recall if the dog doesn’t feel free.

At the moment calling Marley in the usual way is a waste of energy. To him whether he comes or not is optional.  They will now use a whistle – first charging it like battery so running to them immediately for something especially tasty becomes an automatic response when he hears it.  For the forseeable future they will not use it unless they are sure he will come or unless he’s on the long line and has no choice.

The loose lead walking is more of a technique to teach a dog to do something that doesn’t come naturally – to walk at a human pace when he is eager to get somewhere or play with another dog, and to walk near his humans because he wants to and not because he is forced to.

I predict that it will be months before they dare let him off, even briefly. If meanwhile he gets the opportunity to run off again they will set things right back.

This isn’t merely a matter of training though. Marley already has ‘learnt’ what coming when called means. He simply doesn’t do it.

Why would that be? Because what he wants to do is far more relevant and exciting to him than coming back to his humans. In general he gets their attention whenever he asks for it, rather than the other way around – his humans getting HIS attention when they ask for it.  In order of relevance to Marley when he is out, his humans come way down the list.  With people to greet, smells to explore and dogs to play with, it’s a no-brainer to Marley!

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