His Fear of People is Puzzling

I have just met another Henry – a Miniature Schnauzer age two. He is quite unusual to look at, being brown and with a poodle-like curly coat. Cute! fear of people makes him bark at them

Henry was barking behind a door when I arrived. Let out after I had sat down, he came charging up to me, barking quite fiercely. This didn’t last for long and I could see that he was scared whilst also wanting to make friends. He backed away and inched forwards. He licked his lips.

Within a very few minutes of being left to do things in his own time, he was taking food from me and we were friends.

Fear of people when out is causing problems.

Henry is very reactive to anyone he meets when out on walks. It’s even worse if they have a dog.

Unlike some scared dogs that back away and try to make themselves small, like others Henry seems to feel that attack is the best form of defense.

It’s puzzling why he has become like this. His mother has an even temperament. He was introduced nicely to everyday life at a young age and so far as I can see they did everything right. Nothing seemed to scare him early on, it just slowly developed. Nobody has ever hurt him.

On lead he will walk nicely until he sees a person or a dog, and then, while his human traps him tightly on a short lead as they pass, he strains to get to them, barking all the time. Their very common approach teaches him nothing. It won’t be making him feel any less fearful of people and dogs.

The million dollar question is what should they be doing?

It stands to reason that if people continue as they are, nothing will change. The only way is to do things completely differently.

Any continued close encounters with people and dogs will merely go on making things worse. Where can they go to avoid them? There are people and dogs everywhere.

Where there’s a will there has to be a way.

The three choices are stark.

There are three choices when considering what to do about reactivity, barking and lunging through fear of people and dogs when out.

The choices aren’t based on convenience or lifestyle. They are just fact.

One is great, one is dreadful and the third is doing nothing.

Either Henry’s root fear needs changing so that he no longer feels scared. No longer feeling scared, he will no longer be noisy. He will in time be a happy and much more confident dog. Everyone will enjoy walks. Job done.

It’s all about building up trust.

Another possibility (which Henry’s humans won’t be doing!) is to deal with just the symptom – the barking, pulling and lunging – with no regard for the emotions which making him behave like this. This is punishment administered by a human who is simply bigger and stronger and may also have painful equipment to use on the dog.

This is the ‘dominance’ approach used in the bad old days. Cruelty used to force a dog through pain and fear.

This destroys all trust.

It’s hard to believe in this enlightened day and age that there are still trainers and TV programmes that advocate this kind of approach.

Who could want their relationship with their dog to be on that footing? Certainly not Henry’s owners.

There is a third choice which some people understandably end opting for. That is simply to give up and live with things as they are.

Harry has six loving adult humans in his life who have always done their best for him. Between them they will do whatever is required to build up his confidence. They will all need to pull together. Behind his fear of people is a very friendly little dog ready to burst out.

All people must be consistent in keeping the threshold distance for Henry from dogs and people while they work on things. This isn’t optional. The will each know how to react should someone unexpectedly appear or if they have a ‘near-dog encounter’.

Henry is never let off lead although they live very near to parkland. Here they meet few dogs and people which is ideal for a dog with fear of people. They can drive there. They can even jog to get there. He’s not reactive while they are running.

They will get a long line for him so that he has some freedom. This will make his walks fulfilling.

Fear of people doesn’t involve avoiding people altogether but working on them within Henry’s comfort zone. If Henry’s humans all stick to this and take it slowly, his confidence is certain to grow.

They will need to be tough about appearing unfriendly by creating distance between themselves and people who want to talk to them. If they want success they have no choice. Here is a little video about how to increase space without seeming rude.

There are certain sacrifices to be made but it will be so well worth it in the end.

 

Settling In. Won’t Walk

Settling in somewhere so different can be overwhelming.

Poor Peggy. She had only been in her loving new home for a few weeks when her behaviour began to change.

This coincided with her sickening for a serious illness which they didn’t realise at the time. Having had her for such a short while they would not know what her normal behaviour would be when she’d finished settling in.

Miniature Schnauzer settling in to her new home

The four-year-old Miniature Schnauzer has had two litters of puppies and evidently, though kindly treated and with the company of a good number of other dogs, there are a lot of things in everyday life she’s had little experience of including dogs outside her own home.

It seems that walks had been very few and far between.

As soon as she arrived at her new home they took her out – as one does. Initially she was very quiet and compliant. Too quiet. She was, I’m sure, keeping her head down and overwhelmed.

Then, a great surprise to her new humans, she had run out of the front garden, barking ferociously and jumping at a passing small child – terrifying him.

She was now showing fear and reactivity to joggers, other dogs and people – particularly small dogs and children. Unsurprisingly bikes and wheellie bins her.

The man had very wisely sat on a bench away from the action to start desensitising her and was making a bit of progress. However, just sitting and watching is only half of the picture. Peggy needs counter-conditioning as well – pairing these things with something good (special food) from a comfortable distance – so she begins to feel better about them.

She was soon barking at things she heard from the house also, particularly distant dogs.

Then on walks and only a few yards from the house, she began to go on strike, sitting down and refusing to walk.

Then the illness broke out. The vet said she had a stomach bug already picked up by several dogs locally. She was very ill indeed and on a drip for several days. She returned home for a couple of days but had to be re-admitted and put back on the drip.

Poor Peggy. Poor Peggy’s new owners.

Now that she’s back home the problems that were emerging before are getting worse. Would this have happened anyway? Is it made worse by the ordeal she suffered within such a short time of such a major change to her life?

I personally feel this would be happening anyway.

Settling in can go through several phases that are impossible to predict.

It’s always best to go slowly. Too little is better than too much.

It’s tempting to think that if a dog refuses to walk that she is being ‘stubborn’. The gentleman has very kindly picked her up, carried her a little way and put her down again. It went like this all the way to the woods where she would then start to run about freely.

Is it that she doesn’t feel safe on the footpaths with houses and the possibility of encountering people, bikes and dogs?

I believe it’s a bit of this, but also she has quickly become very attached to the lady. I feel if the man takes her out she wants to get back to mum. She is much better when the lady takes her out but still is eager to get home. This is her new ‘safe place’.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I would always advise erring on the boring side. Forget about walks for the first week or two and then introduce them very gradually – particularly in the case of a shelter dog or a dog that’s not been out and about much. Just imagine how everyday things we ourselves don’t even notice are big and novel stimulants to the dog.

The man would really like Peggy to trot off lead beside him while he goes for a gentle run. There is a long way to go.

So, the first step is to get her out and about but in her own good time. It could possibly take weeks. Peggy will decide.

It’s very likely she quite enjoys being carried part of the way to the woods so possibly it’s being reinforced as well. Anyway, this is our initial plan – to be tweaked as necessary – and shows how with this sort of problem we need to be creative. The dog must feel she has freedom of choice even though we ourselves may be manipulating that choice. (I used to say to my children at bedtime when they were tiny, ‘do you want to walk or shall I carry you?’ Crafty!).

The man will put a longish line on the dog – they live in a quiet road with a field opposite. He will open the door and just let her have as much length as she wishes. If she walks he will follow her. Every now and then he will stop so it’s the dog that has to wait. This can often increase a desire in the dog to move on. He may call her back to him and reward her. They can repeat it.

If Peggy herself stops and sits down, she’s saying she doesn’t want to go any further. The man will turn around and go straight back indoors.

On the longer line she won’t feel trapped. There will no longer be any pressure in terms of cajoling or bribing to make her walk on. Left to choose for herself she will go when she’s ready. She shouldn’t really miss walks as she so seldom had them anyway.

Settling in (like breaking up, as the song says) is hard to do. Allowing the dog choice makes it easier for her. Here is a nice article ‘Should my Dog Have Choices‘ by Kristina Lotz.

 

 

Preparing Dogs for Baby Twins

Three miniature schnauzers

Dinky, Arthur and Pippin

The three Miniature Schnauzers have been the centre of the couple’s family life for years – the oldest, Albert, is now ten years old. The little dogs’ lives are soon to be turned upside down because they are expecting not one, but two babies in October.

The dogs really are the sweetest, most gentle little things, each with their own traits. Albert is probably the most sensible – he is the oldest. Nine-year-old Dinky, the girl, is a little more sensitive. Pippin is the youngest at just three and more challenging than the other two. He likes to be ahead of the others and wants to control what they have and do – which is no problem. They give in to him.

It’s because of Pippin that I was called. There has been a very recent incident, particularly worrying with the coming arrivals in mind. He nipped a toddler. The child was sitting on the floor at the dog minder’s house where the dogs stay from time to time, ‘doing nothing’. The lady and gentleman were in the room with the baby grandchild.  We don’t know where the other dogs were, but for some reason (we will never know what), Pippin just came running into the room and bit the child through its nappy, resulting in a bruise. One could speculate. Maybe a toy was involved. It was certain that at the time Pippin was already highly excited and stressed with a lot of comings and goings to the house and he’s not used to children. What the trigger was we will never know, but it was certainly completely out of his usual character.

Miniature schnauzers sitting on sofa

Arthur in front, Pippin then Dinky

The minders are fortunately still happy to look after the dogs and say they will keep them and their grandchild apart now. Pippin apparently was following the child around ‘quite happily’, or so they thought. Perhaps the incident was over a toy. Anyway, I suggest the couple carefully weans him into wearing a soft muzzle just in case, so nobody need then worry.

They have about four months to get their dog used to living a rather different kind of life. The couple will stop stirring them up unnecessarily with things such as feeding into Arthur’s toy-chasing obsession which winds Pippin up too, not pumping them up with excitement when it’s food time or when they come home from work.

There will be lots of visitors after they have had the babies, so from now on people coming to the house should be less exciting. They can gradually tone down their own greetings over time so it’s not a shock. Callers will become more mundane if they don’t take too much notice of the dogs initially – so they need training too. Sometimes the dogs are so hyped one may pee.

Several things that happen and cause no problems whatsoever now need to gradually change before the babies come. They have plenty of time. It’s so much better than several cases I have been to who haven’t considered how their dog might feel and its extreme reaction has taken them completely by surprise.

They can buy a puppy pen and teach the dogs that this is their special den, a place where only good things happen. When the babies arrive either dogs or babies can be in the pen – a perfect way to keep them safe and the dogs included in family life.

Looking ahead to when the babies are in high chairs with food (and dropping it deliberately!) they can already start teaching the dogs to keep their distance while people eat.

In the car the dogs won’t be able to jump freely all over the back seat when the babies are on it, so best to get them used to being contained behind a barrier in the back now.

There are plenty of YouTube clips of babies crying and screaming. They can expose the dogs to short sessions, starting soft, pairing crying with food so the sound of babies screaming becomes good news! They can do silly baby talk to a cushion or toy – feeding the dogs at the same time (that would make a good YouTube clip itself!). They can introduce the dogs to the smell of babies. Whenever the dogs see, hear or smell babies – the ‘food bar’ opens.

Bringing the twins home can be planned to avoid easily predictable problems. The dogs will have been staying with the dog minders for a while beforehand, so the babies will already be home. My advice to the couple is try to choose a time when infants are asleep and quiet, safely in the dog pen or behind a gate if it looks like the dogs might be territorial over the pen – so they aren’t being cuddled and so that the dogs can have the couple’s full attention. They should be given time to calm down before everyone goes to the babies. Then the ‘food bar’ opens.

It is very likely that the dogs will take two noisy, crying, sniffling, grunting and deliciously smelling infant humans entering their lives in their stride as so many dogs do, but preparing these dogs for baby twins after years of being the centre of attention is kindest on them – and safest all round.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Pippin, Dinkie and Arthur, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dogs (see my Get Help page).

Owner and Dog Too Attached

Yorkiepoo is scared and protectiveSeldom do I go to see dogs that so clearly reflect the state of mind of their owners.

Poppy is a ‘Yorkiepoo’, a tiny underage pitiful little puppy for sale three years ago in a shop. One can only guess that she came from a puppy farm somewhere, very possibly shipped over from Eastern Europe as so many are. Not a good start in life.

Ollie is a Miniature Schnauzer, chosen to keep Poppy company and to give her a bit more confidence which hasn’t really worked.

The most concerning thing is how inseparable they are from the adult daughter, Poppy in particular. They are much too attached. Poppy won’t let her out of their sight. If the daughter moves, she moves. All the time I was there Poppy sat beside or in front of her, scared but protective. Even thought the young lady wasn’t touching her, a sort of invisible concern cloaked her.The more stable Miniature Schnauzer hasn't helped Poppy

The girl herself is equally needy of the dogs and worries and watches over them constantly (as do the whole family to a lesser extent). She hates going out to work, conjuring up all sorts of scenarios of their coming to harm when she is out. This started, somewhat understandably, when the tiny, scared and vulnerable Poppy came into their lives.

When I arrived it took Poppy quite a while to stop barking at me, keeping me away from the young lady. When the lady goes out, she cries at the door, even when other people are in the house. She then transfers her ‘following’ onto the mother. The family has not felt able to go out in the evening for two years now. Predictably, Poppy is very scared of people and other dogs, and when off lead may run away and hide. Both she and Ollie bark constantly at anything they see. Ollie is a much more stable character in general, but is affected by Poppy’s barking and panicking.

We discussed ways of dissolving the invisible umbilical attaching Poppy to the daughter because they are literally too attached. We looked at ways of enriching the dogs’ lives and encouraging independence. The humans’ tone of voice and body language can make a huge difference – hellos and goodbyes can be matter-of-fact. The young lady and the little dog are simply over-dependent upon one another. We put in place little changes in many aspects of the dogs’ lives. A bit like a jigsaw puzzle, if all the bits are slotted into place then you start to get the whole picture looking different.

One day later I received this email – before even they had received their written plan: ‘We made all of the changes that we could remember and the transformation with Poppy has been absolutely astounding. It is literally as though someone has pressed a switch. I can’t explain it any better than that. She is like a different, chilled out little dog. Would you believe that neither Poppy or Ollie followed ……… when she came home from work today? They stayed in the living room, sprawled out and (hopefully) carefree. They both ate all of their dinner. The baby was here today but they did not seem as interested in him as they usually would be’.

I did give them one word of warning. A familiar pattern I see is dramatic improvement immediately, followed by a downturn as the dogs start to adjust and test the new boundaries, maybe even becoming frustrated. If this does happen, the people can now see what they are aiming for if they work through this and remain consistent.

A week later I received this: ‘Things have improved SO much that you would be amazed! ‘Annie’ (daughter – not her real name) is on board now… WooO! We had a nice chat and I reminded her what you said about this being very difficult for her and that everyone understood. My giving her some slack and some understanding helped massively. We have not had any pees in the house since Sunday, so fingers crossed…!Another major development is that Poppy will now venture right across the garden, as opposed to staying close to the edges. She has gained so much more confidence than I thought possible at this stage. Walks have been calm and lovely with Poppy happy to wander a little bit, just turning to look at us every now and then. They are hardly barking at noises now and are quiet when people come in. There has been another development which was unexpected…. They both eat all of their food now.’

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

 

Two Miniature Schnauzers, Both Scared of People

MiniSchnauzerAlbert1“Go Away”, “Go Away”, “Go Away”, they bark!

Whilst Bill barks and backs off, Little Ben (now one year old) charges at people coming to the house. The person then recoils of course, and Ben achieves his result – the person backs away. Now he is actually making contact with his teeth.

Both dogs barked frantically for a long time when I arrived – I didn’t recoil when Ben made contact! We tried various strategies. I took no notice of them. I looked away. I stayed sitting down. I moved slowly. Eventually I dropped treats gently onto the floor. Any sudden movement made them jump away.

This isn’t aggression at all – it is pure fear.

I asked the owners to show me what they did when people came. Like many people, they have reinforced the behaviour, maybe sitting on the floor with them and petting them while they growl and bark – in effect backing them up in their belief that the ‘intruder’ is an enemy. Then, having had enough, they will loudly command them to be quiet. How it is currently dealt with must be confusing for the dogs. Reinforcing them for NOT barking makes more sense.

These little dogs nMiniSchnauzerBarnabyeed to learn that visiting people mean good stuff – calm owners, nice treats and eventually fun, but being removed when things become too much for them. The people also need more ‘guinea pigs’ to the house to work with.

Because they have few visitors it’s a vicious circle. The more reactive their dogs are to visitors, the less the owners feel able to involve their friends and family.

Unsurprisingly this fearful and noisy reactivity extends to people on walks – and to dogs.

I would say that old-fashioned formal dog training classes have made things worse, especially with Ben. I felt really sad to hear that, because of his barking, he had been pinned down in the middle of the hall and forced to lie there while the other owners and dogs walked around him. It’s hardly surprising he believes people and dogs are bad news!

Knowledge of what makes dogs tick and how to train them positively based on scientific fact has advanced hugely over the last few years, but unfortunatly a lot of existing trainers simply haven’t kept up. Old-fashioned dog trainers just keep on doing what they always have done, and dog owners, in their ignorance, believe in them.

Another Puppy!

fifteen-week-old Miniature Schnauzer Herbie, in his bed surrounded by toysHere is fifteen-week-old Miniature Schnauzer Herbie, in his bed surrounded by toys!

What a little character!

His lady is a first-time dog owner and over some things she is being very sensible and over other things she has picked up mis-information. For instance, she is running him with other dogs for an hour a day when at four months old Herbie’s limbs are not up to this, and she may scold him for toileting indoors – both of which I believe to be wrong. She wants to do her very best so that Herbie grows into a stable and happy companion.

Puppies can be exasperating – especially when they are grabbing clothes, biting feet or latching onto jewellery! People can feel helpless because repeated use of the word ‘no’ only makes matters worse, and they don’t know how to stop their little terror from doing these things.

Herbie was a ‘solo’ puppy – he had no brothers or sisters on whom to learn bite-inhibition, so ideally his early humans should have been filling this role. It’s all very well to be cross with a puppy (and those little teeth both hurt and can do quite a lot of damage to clothes), but this doesn’t teach the youngster what he should be doing, especially when his antics are getting him so much attention.

Already Herbie is on sentry duty, barking at passing children and dogs from the large upstairs window, and at people coming into the house.  He can be intimidated by people approaching him too directly and by being loomed over, and he may leap up and snap at a hand that is held out over him.

We have worked on basic ‘dog-parenting’ rules and strategies, on removing temptation for now so that it’s not such hard work (why set him up to fail) – not wearing flowing clothes, boots with dangly zips, hanging neck chains and so on. A gate to pop him behind while he calms down will work wonders when he is being challenging.

Jumping up on people, flying all over furniture, barking at people walking towards him and so on are perhaps cute in a fifteen week old puppy but not so good in an adult dog, so the basics in rules and boundaries, taught by using positive reinforcement for the desired behaviour, need to be set in place immediately.

I shall be helping this lady and her lovely puppy for months to come, through the various stages of his growth.

Another young Miniature Schnauzer reactive to people

Miniature Schnauzer Basil is scared of people coming to near himWhat a cutie! Basil is only seven months old and life isn’t always easy for him. Mainly, he’s scared of people coming too near to him or into the house and he barks like mad. First time dog owners, they have taken advice from a so-called trainer/behaviourist who advocated things like teaching him impulse control by having him on lead, putting his food down and as soon as he goes for it to jerk him back and shout Leave It. How cruel and pointless is that! Fortunately his caring owners, who only want to do the best for him, didn’t follow these instructions.

Other advice, this time from the breeder, has included using a pet-corrector when he barks both at home and on walks where he barks at people (this is punishing fear rather than getting to the root of the problem and dealing with that!). A trainer advocated forcibly controlling him on walks with a Gentle Leader not used ‘gently’. Poor Basil started to run away when the lead was brought out – and no wonder. Thankfully they also abandoned this a week ago and already Basil is happier before walks. They now need to go back to the beginning and teach him to walk comfortably on a loose lead, and then work on his apprehension of approaching people.

One very good thing in Basil’s life is he goes to a good doggy daycare once a week where he mixes with plenty of dogs and they are grouped according to size and temperament, so they don’t need to worry about his socialising with other dogs whilst they work on his lead walking.

There is another challenge for them all. They have an autistic ten-year-old whose actions must baffle Basil. She is noisy and ‘sudden’ – her actions can be random. Basil barks at her also. He needs helping out.

Let’s look at it from the perspective of a small dog. Large unpredictable humans approaching and looming, maybe shouting or moving suddenly, would scare any dog. We worked on his barking at myself and he calmed down surprisingly quickly. They could see by the way I moved slowly, didn’t go up to him, looked away and talked calmly whilst they also quietly followed certain procedures, that Basil quite soon was happy around me and taking treats. I am sure that, dealt with right and with the pressure taken off him, with the humans around him now helping him out through understanding not force, gadgets, commands or punishment, he will become more trusting and less fearful.

 I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.
 

Big Changes in Miniature Schnauzer’s Life

Miniatures Schnauzer Max isn't the happy dog he once wasMax is four years old and for the first two years of his life he was the most important thing in his owners’ lives. He had three long walks a day and they took him everywhere with them.

Then they had their little girl and now a four-month-old baby. They have also moved house.

Max now is not the happy little dog as he used to be and this is demonstrated by his change in behaviour. Because of his behaviour, his owners are not enjoying him any more, to the point where he’s almost too much trouble. Consequently their own behavour towards Max has changed. It’s Catch 22.

Max barks excessively. He has become touchy. He snaps at the little girl and he snaps when he’s disturbed. His walks are no longer so enjoyable and he is unpredictable with other dogs.

In response and in order to try to do something about the situation, they have watched Cesar Millan. Cesar makes things look so quick and easy on TV. Copying some of the dominance techniques on our own dogs can cause much more harm than good. Humans trying to act like ‘Alphas’ have caused defiance and an escalation in aggression. I would ask people – is this the way you would treat your child if he was frightened, misunderstood and unhappy?

In no time at all, this little dog quickly became eager to cooperate with me. He came alive. He looked joyful and attentive. And all because I showed him just what I wanted of him – in ways that he understood; I encouraged him and I rewarded him.

I hope Max’ people can now see that if they treat him with understanding, patience and encouragement they will see a huge difference.  At the same time they must play safe. I suggested a small dog pen for their big sitting room with his bed in it, a child-free area where he can come and go freely but shut in when necessary, so that children are always safe but at the same time he can remain part of the family.

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

Billy, Upset and Scared Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzer is a very uptight little dogBilly is a Miniature Schnauzer of just eighteen months old. He goes frantic when anyone apart from family and close friends come to the house. He lunges, barks and growls, very upset and scared. He has to be restrained until he calms down.

Billy is never taken for walks now because it is such a nightmare. Virtually anything can cause him to lunge and bark with hackles up – people, other dogs, bicycles, joggers – you name it.

He has twice quite badly bitten family members who tried to put a harness on him. On occasions when they need to take him out like a visit to the vet, he will cower, try to hide and do all he can to avoid the lead. Billy also growls around the feet of anyone who is moving about whom he thinks may be leaving the house.

Imagine how it must be, constantly living in such a highly wound up state.

The family thought they had done all the right things when they chose Billy. He was Kennel Club registered. I am sorry to say I don’t feel this is particularly significant if it’s a family pet we want rather than a dog that physically fits the breed standards for looks rather than temperament. The puppies were upstairs in a bedroom. The family did not meet the mother dog. It’s obvious the puppies had little or no socialisation or encounters with everyday things, people or dogs outside that environment. Inadequate exposure to everyday life before eight weeks of age can contribute to a dog being temperamentally fragile.

One very positive thing is that he seems very much at ease with their 10-month-old crawling granddaughter. It seems she is the only person who can touch him freely and his body language is a lot calmer around her – he even brings her his toys which is lovely. He does not feel threatened by her at all.

With an inadequate start in life and possibly unstable genes where temperament is concerned, Billy’s owners have more work to do than most. Billy needs convincing that he is safe in his own house – protected by his humans.  He needs the right sort of calm, encouraging and consistent leadership. He also needs to know that the family can come and go as they like and he need not worry.

Introducing him again to his harness and preparing him for going out on walks will be an exercise in patience and kind encouragement.

It is so easy to get cross and shout at a dog when he growls or shows aggression. Unfortunately this can only make things worse. The dog isn’t bad, he’s scared.

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

The Importance of Early Socialisation

Miniature Schnauzer Bertie is starting to get used to meWhen Miniature Schnauzer Bertie, now fourteen months old, was picked up at the breeder at eight weeks old, he was shaking with fear. This is not a good start. Already he should have been handled and played with by various different people, adults and children, he should have been introduced to household things like vacuum cleaners and maybe even taken for a brief ride in a car. He should have spent time in the the house and time outside so that he learns to tell the difference for toileting purposes.

There is a critical time in a puppy’s development for introducing new things, and experiences both good and bad can have a lasting effect. Ideally there should be a variety of experiences – all good ones.

A consequence is that, through fear, Bertie will nip people – especially the couple’s grandchildren. He may suddenly fly at them from across the room. He barks and growls when people come in the house.  He is scared of everyday items and unknown things. He is very protective and on guard which can be a big burden brought about by insecurity. Looking at his picture it’s hard to believe, but day times are spent in quite a highly aroused state – often looking for trouble! A stable, calm dog will probably sleep about seventeen hours a day.

Bertie now needs to learn that he is not the centre of the universe along with the responsibilities that carries, and to become more confident in general. He is a well-loved little dog whose owners are already doing many of the ‘right things’.  A puppy that is already scared of people at eight weeks is going to be harder work. I have already experience of this with my own German Shepherd, Milly, who was born in a puppy farm and had no real human contact until she was twelve weeks old when her first owner bought her.

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