Rough Behaviour. Jumping. Scratching. Biting. Why?

I came to help with Honey’s rough, uncontrolled behaviour but it soon became apparent that their other dog, 8-year-old Bonnie, was one of the main triggers.

Both are Cocker Spaniels. Honey is already large for a Cocker and still only nine months old.

Rough and uncontrolled when aroused.

some rough behaviour due to over-excitement

Honey

Honey is a delightfully friendly dog but loses control of herself very quickly – and any efforts to try to impose control only make her worse.

When aroused (which is much of the time if anyone is moving about), she jumps up constantly. When excited or frustrated she usually picks on the lady. She will fly at her and grab her arms – she has bruises to show for it. If ignored, she scratches frantically at arms. It hurts.

Honey makes it impossible for the lady to get ready for work in the morning. She also attacks the hairdryer.

She did try the same things on me but I always wear tough clothes, just in case. There is no aggression behind it as such. Just an overflowing of arousal and frustration.

I was able to ignore it and start to reinforce any small moments of calm behaviour.

Eventually she was lying peacefully beside the man. Silently so as not to stir her up again, he dropped a piece of food to her.

Everything was going very well apart from Bonnie’s near-constant barking. She could see my car out of the window. She could see movement. She could hear things we couldn’t hear.

We tried everything to stop her but she was in such a state that the best we could do was for the lady to have her on her lap, well away from windows. For a while she quietened down.

Then she heard something else and erupted into a renewed frenzy of barking.

Immediately the now peaceful young Honey jumped up. She was clearly in a state of panic, rushing about, back and forth from Bonnie, licking her face, panting, jumping at us. It was actually quite pitiful.

Bonnie holds the trigger to the starter pistol.

The first obvious thing feeding into the jumping up, mouthing, biting and scratching are Honey’s extreme and near-permanent arousal/stress levels.

There will be such a build-up inside her that it’s like she’s ready to erupt at the slightest thing. People simply moving around or being busy is sufficient to start her off.

Everything will now be done to calm her down.

One main trigger is obviously Bonnie and her own panic barking, so although I was called for Honey, we need to deal with this at source – with Bonnie. Another is the over-enthusiastic behaviour of her humans towards her. They reap what they sow.

The other thing feeding the rough behaviour is that it always, but always, brings a result of some kind. It hurts so people react.

Bonnie

To make things harder, jumping up is strongly reinforced. She is nearly always fussed when she jumps up at them. At other times she’s told to get down. There is no consistency.

Inconsistency adds to frustration..

The couple are out all day but have a dog walker. Each lunch time she takes the dogs out for a lovely walk with other dogs. But still, like many people, they feel guilty having to leave the dogs alone for hours.

Out in the garden after work, the lady, trying to play ball with her, is literally mugged by her.

Protective clothing and ‘money’.

I suggest the lady has a tough jacket to hand to protect her arms. Honey must now realise that all play stops and all attention stops as soon as the rough jumping up and biting begins.

They should also have food on them all the time – to pay Honey for the behaviour they do want.

Honey should be given more appropriate stimulation – encouraging self control and calm. The morning routine can change so the dogs are downstairs with a chew each while the lady gets ready for work. They can then be given a short ‘sniff’ walk around the block before being shut in the kitchen instead of excitable play.

The people will keep actively reinforcing the behaviour they want. I reinforced feet on the floor and then lying or sitting down. Honey soon got the message with myself (until Bonnie set her off again).

The man made a good point. The behaviour is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is ‘wanted’ or ‘unwanted’ behaviour – so we reinforce wanted behaviour only.

Triggers can come from unexpected quarters. Calming Bonnie’s barking will indirectly have a big impact on Honey’s rough behaviour.

This case brought home to me two things. One, it illustrated that the triggers for a dog’s behaviour are often not obvious, especially to the humans closest to the dog. An objective, outside view is necessary.

Scondly it illustrated how important it is with behaviour issues to see the dog in his or her own environment. Had I not been in their own home I would not have realised just what an impact Bonnie’s mental state has on Honey’s.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Honey and Bonnie. 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 aggressive behaviour is concerned. 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).

Changing No to Yes using a clicker

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

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

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

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

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

It doesn’t stop her doing it again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How were we going to stop her without saying NO?

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

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

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

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

Soon he will be able to drop the click altogether.

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

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

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

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

They are changing their mindset from No to Yes.

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

She can really go to town on that.

 

 

Cesar Millan Versus Force-Free

Cesar Millan? No!

Instead – watch videos of Chirag Patel, Victoria Stilwell, Steve Mann, Nando Brown, Zak George – a huge list of modern force-free trainers doing a much better job but without the same publicity machine and sadly not on National Geographic or prime time TV.

Cesar Millan methods not workingThe big question is, do you want an obedient dog that may lick her lips, look away or even cower from you when she is doing something you don’t like, or a confident cheerful dog that happily stops when asked and does something else instead? Who may even, sometimes, dare to be a bit cheeky?

This is a great exaggeration of the situation I found, but when someone says something like they don’t want a dog on the sofa because it will make her dominant I can’t help jumping onto my bandwagon. Not on the sofa? Fine. It can be taught simply and kindly using positive reinforcement. Reason? Plain silly.

I have called to see ten month old Athena a couple of weeks after she came to live with them because she is having separation issues, toileting on the floor when left for a short while and causing damage. This was upsetting for the young couple who are completely committed to giving Athena a good life, whatever it takes. They have a dog walker twice a day and the two dogs aren’t left alone for very long.

As she becomes more confident, as I’m sure when any Cesar Millan methods have been dropped, things will improve.

Very few people I go to use the language of Cesar Millan with the Tch Tch corrections, the Alpha rolls or worry about status. This isn’t because he has fewer followers (his TV programme still glamorises the old-school way dog training was done back in the dark ages when people didn’t know better, using wolf pack theory as an excuse). It’s because I send people here to my website to read some of these stories before booking me. They will know in advance that I use kind, force-free methods only and if that’s not what they want I won’t hear from them again.

Cesar Millan plugs into today’s need for achieving things instantly, but it’s an illusion. Smoke and mirrors. (Incidentally, he invented a special dog collar called an ‘Illusion’ collar that forces up high into the most sensitive area behind the dog’s ears, causing maximum pain if the dog pulls).

Holding an animal down through force, or keeping it down because it dare not get up isn’t teaching an animal to lie down. Correcting a dog that pulls on lead with a little kick, a lead pop with his Illusion collar or a jerk with a prong collar isn’t teaching the dog to walk happily beside you because it wants to. Facing down a dog who is growling isn’t going to make it feel less fearful or less angry.

Cesar Millan is all about (as fast as possible) altering the visible behaviours – the actions. The emotions will get worse.

Modern force-free work is about altering what the dog is feeling inside – the emotions. The emotions drive the behaviours. The behaviours will get better.

I must stress again that the lovely young couple I went to yesterday do none of these things. Not at all. One or two things have prompted this post. Dominance and gentle correction is used like a methodology in the sincere belief that it’s the right thing to do – by the man mostly. The young lady finds it hard.

I have several times seen for myself what can happen with a dog that is controlled by domination when the dominant human isn’t present. I have felt unsafe.

For those interested in how modern dog training and behaviour has got to where it is today, here it is by the great Ian Dunbar.

I’m sure that they aren’t doing as well with Athena as they otherwise might if the man had never, ever watched Cesar Milan but he is already seeing things from a different perspective which is great.

Baxter

Baxter

The main problem now is that over the two weeks they have had her Athena has taken to playing more and more roughly with their gorgeous, good-natured little Border Terrier Baxter. Immediately they are out in the garden together she stands over him before embarking on what can only be called bullying. The previous day she had grabbed his leg and dragged him about; she grabs him around the neck. Where a couple of weeks ago they played nicely it has deteriorated and Baxter is getting scared. Fortunately it’s only happening in the garden (so far).

They police her with frequent NO and Tch Tch so why is it getting worse?

There is no doubt that adolescent Husky mix Athena respects the man and there is no doubt that the man loves her. He makes the Tch Tch noise he’s learnt from Cesar Millan and she stops what she is doing. Success. She will be a little scared of him at times. When he’s not there Athena may however ignore the lady who admits that at times in the garden the neighbours listening to her must think she is constantly telling the dog off.

The couple had asked me would I like to see what happens in the garden? I said no, definitely not.

I don’t want it to happen ever again.

Much more rehearsal and it will become a habit more difficult to break..

I had food in my pocket (yes – food, Cesar Millan). We stood in the garden and I called Athena to me so she knew that coming to me would be worthwhile next time. Sod’s law, we were out in the garden and Athena was taking little notice of Baxter!

This is what I was preparing to do. As soon as Athena looked like advancing on Baxter, I would have called her gently to me. I would do this repeatedly. I would either reward her with food or maybe a short game of tug if play is what she really wants.

I would have a long line ready just in case. She must never never have the opportunity to do it again. The two dogs should not be in the garden together without supervision for the foreseeable future.

Tch Tch and ‘No’ teaches her nothing at all but just stirs her up further. Athena’s behaviour is doubtless due to stress. She is trying to get used to her new life after all.

If they treat Athena like they would a young child and not as something to be kept at the bottom of the pack, using only encouragement and kindness, they will end up with a confident and outward-looking dog. I can’t imagine anyone saying a child can’t get on a sofa because it might want to take over as ruler of the household.

You just have to watch this video of Steve Mann of IMDT to see that a strong man can be empathetic and force-free with his very well-trained little dog.

Quite simply, it works the best.

 

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 Athena and Baxter and I’ve not gone into exact details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good (Cesar Millan being one such example) 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)

People Walking Away, the Dog Attacks

People walking away from him causes Barney to lose it.

Barney’s lady owner had been so sure that due to his odd behaviour he had something either wrong with his brain or a chemical imbalance in his body, that he has undergone extensive tests including an MRI scan. All is clear.

People walking away from him cause Harvey to attack them

Harvey

His behaviour however is troubling. I suspect this is because he himself is troubled – an upsetting thought for his dedicated lady owner.

Six-year-old Hungarian Vizsla Barney is very well-trained as a gun dog, but training alone doesn’t make a well-adjusted and happy dog. In fact, I have been to dogs where the opposite is the case. Sometimes the owners just try too hard.

The lady is an exceptionally conscientious dog owner and has structured her life around Barney. They have been more or less inseparable for the past four years. He has always been panicked by his people walking away so she has avoided it as much as she can.

People walking away from Barney triggers an attack. One can safely assume this is in an effort to prevent them from leaving.

When they shut the boot of the car and walk away, even if only to go to the driver’s door, Barney goes wild with barking and panic. The whole car rocks.

Recently the lady has gone back to work full time and Barney is getting worse.

He does other odd things. Each evening he will have a lengthy bout of staring and fixating at the garden window, drooling. He will then do the same to his humans. They don’t let him out, they ignore it believing it to be the right thing to do. It’s almost like a contest where he must not win.

If a child were behaving in this troubled fashion, the parents would help him out. If they don’t want the dog to rush out barking at pigeons or trying to kill a hedgehog (he has come back in covered in blood), they can call him away and do something else with him. Currently he’s so fixated he may not even be aware of them calling, but fortunately he’s food driven and we found when I was there that it was easy to get his attention with food.

Having called him away, they can give him something else to do, incompatible with his obsessing. They will cover the lower part of the windows.

The ordeal of going out

At present when they need to go out they have a ritual. Amazingly, having watched the picking up of keys and all the other signals that they are about to go and when the front door is opened, Barney has been successfully taught to go to his bed in the sitting room. They then go back and give him a carrot (the one time when food is used to motivate him) and rush out of the room and out of the front door.

However, if he finishes the carrot before they are out of the door they have to try again.

For now the problem can be temporarily managed by the use of a gate in the sitting room doorway. They can also make the carrot-eating slower by stuffing it into a Kong.

For Barney’s mental health and general stress levels the panic and emotions that drive him to behave like this need to be worked on, slowly and gradually, desensitising and counter-conditioning until he accepts and ultimately even enjoys people walking away.

They believe he is fine once they have gone, but I’m not convinced and have asked them to video the first fifteen minutes or so. A dog walker calls daily and he’s the same with her when she goes.

‘Operation Calm’

Life must be a bit confusing for the highly-strung dog. He is ruled by commands whilst at the same time being worshipped. I would reverse both. I would work on motivating him by using food so he makes more of his own choices with fewer commands, and I would advise worshipping him less!

Humans relax. Stop watching and worrying over him.

He was beside me staring out of the window. He lay down, still staring. Then his head dropped onto his bed. I silently fed him. Each time he relaxed I did this. He now needs positive guidance into how to relax.

I’m sure the very caring lady will herself also feel a big sense of release and relief if she can let go a bit and stop worrying so much. Instead of stressing because Barney is stressing, they can work on Operation Calm, silently feeding when he relaxes and settles. They will give him activities that will help him to calm himself down including chewing and foraging. He has three walks a day – could this actually be too much?

I am sure that if they now use motivation and food and work hard at teaching him that people walking away from him results in him getting something nice – and that they always come back – they won’t need that gate in the doorway for ever. Here is a great little video about motivation.

One strong influence is the lady’s following of breed-specific Facebook groups which has coloured her life with Barney. These groups spread the idea that a Vizsla isn’t the same as other dogs, like it’s a different species. Individuals in these groups can give mis-information and outdated training advice still unfortunately prevalent in the gun dog world.

Primarily Barney is an animal. Secondarily he’s a dog. The fact he’s a Vizsla and a gun dog doesn’t affect the basic principals of behaviour, that positive reinforcement teaches a dog what we want in a way that is most successful both in terms of him understanding what is wanted and in his feeling of fulfillment.

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 Barney 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)

Wild Behaviour is Unwittingly Fuelled

Wild behaviour from a dog the size of the adolescent Newfoundland can be scary.

When Beau leaped at the kitchen table she knocked the coffee mugs flying!

Taking a break from wild behaviour

Seven-month-old Beau was chosen from the litter as the most bold and pushy puppy. She organised the others, I am told, by barging them and stirring up trouble – and then sitting back to enjoy the results!

She was a mouthy, nippy puppy. This wasn’t countered immediately or correctly. Hand games and chasing her for things she stole added fuel to her wild behaviour.

As she got bigger and things became more painful, they have had to use more physical force to push her off them, to remove her away from things and to extract things from her mouth. She will do nothing when simply asked.

They can’t have her in the lounge with them for more than a few minutes before she goes wild and has to be put in the kitchen. Her worst wild episodes as so often is the case happen where she has more space – out in the garden. There have been a couple of occasions when the little girl hasn’t been safe.

In the belief that the more exercise and interaction she has, the better behaved she will be, each day starts off with too much stimulation – a prolonged welcome fuss before breakfast followed by ball play in the garden, excitement before getting in the car to take the child to school and then a walk which is probably too long for a pup of seven months.

Anyway, as she got older puppy Beau became defiant when she didn’t get her own way.

The young dog may get angry when thwarted. Several times now she has snarled, showed her teeth and lunged. Her eyes ‘looked funny’.

This is the consequence of using methods of force on a determined and strong dog. How frustrating it is for a dog not to know what she should be doing. (Please take a look at my favourite video showing the power of Yes versus No).

I showed them how we would create a willing and happy dog exercising self-control by using the power of Yes, by keeping Beau as calm as possible, by giving her suitable mental stimulation and by removing opportunities for rehearsing the wild behaviour.

By motivating her.

Almost immediately Beau began to respond to reinforcement for the right behaviour. She was becoming a lot calmer than she had been for a long time, particularly with the little girl present.

This is a typical case of owners getting through the days by fielding everything the dog throws at them so it becomes No No NO Stop, push away, drag off, shut away … and so on, and ‘letting sleeping dogs lie’ when the dog is quiet.

Look at this wonderful face!

It’s just amazing just how quickly a dog responds to Yes Yes Yes and being ‘bigged up’ for each good thing she does so she knows what is required.

Each time the wild behaviour kicked off again we dealt with it by giving the big adolescent other, incompatible things to do instead, making it clear to her what we did want of her.

We soon had Beau coming to us, offering us certain behaviours with little prompting. We had her walking from one of the four of us to another when called gently. We had her responding to understandable instructions and she was loving it.

We used the clicker. The little girl also clicked Beau for sitting – with perfect timing.

Action should be immediate.

It’s no good allowing the dog to rehearse jumping and biting by letting it happen even twice before reacting. It needs to be wiped out completely.

Immediately she jumps she must lose all communication with that person. Immediately she jumps at the table someone must get up, call her off, reward what she should be doing instead and move her onto a different behaviour that is incompatible with jumping at the table.

It takes a huge amount of effort.

Pre-empting and dealing with things before they happen is best of all.

Boosting her for every desirable thing she does must also be immediate – when she sits voluntarily, when she lies down, when she sighs and relaxes. A couple of times she looked at the table which had my smelly treats on it and resisted jumping up. A first! That deserved a jackpot but it must be immediate.

It could help greatly if the little girl didn’t arouse the dog quite so much as the wild behaviour is always far worse when the child is about. She could touch her less, try not to run into the room waving arms, dance around her or do handstands in Beau’s presence. These things quickly send the dog wild.

But this is like asking the little girl not to be a little girl!

Even if the child can cut back a little on these things it will help and she will be clicker trained too! They will use the word ‘Good’ and she can collect stars. She will now ask her mum to call Beau inside before going out into the garden – and she will make a poster for the door to remind herself

The next morning I received a lovely message from the lady which is proof if any is needed of the powers of positive reinforcement and calmness:

“I am so excited to tell you that we have had the most relaxed morning since we have got Beau. Last night she came into the lounge and not once did she bite. She tried to get on the sofa once but with a little distraction she came away and lay down. 

This morning has been the shocker for me. She has been like a different dog. We have made an extra effort to be calm and relaxed and Beau has been the same. She hasn’t bitten, jumped up, barked…nothing! ……She is now laying peacefully….I know she may relapse and I’m prepared for it but she’s shown me this morning that she is more than capable of being the loving Newfoundland that she should be……I knew she had it in her but to see it is another thing. I am so happy!”

This comes with a little warning. This is probably a glimpse into the future as Beau won’t change overnight. Her wild behaviours will have become well-rehearsed habits, after all, and she will most likely default to them when aroused or wanting attention. They will need to be steadfast and consistent in applying the new strategies.

Message received about three weeks later: ‘I am so happy to tell you that we have a considerably well behaved dog. She has not had an “aggressive moment” since the clicker incident on the first week. There have been times where I have stopped stroking her and she goes to mouth my hand and then realises and stops before her mouth touches me, which I reward….. I can honestly say, I can’t remember the last time she jumped up! She’s learnt to play with her toys by herself and doesn’t ram them in my hand followed by a bite like before. Overall I am delighted with the way things are going. I am still prepared for her to slip back to her old ways but she is surprisingly proving me wrong. I actually think she listens to me now!’

 

We as a family have been very consistent which has been the key I think to the change in Beau. Absolutely.  We also decided to slowly swap the clicker with the word “good” which is much better as I now don’t have to carry the clicker with me everywhere. I agree. She responds just as well and knows there’s a chance she will get something yummy if she listens and does as I ask. There have been 2 times where she hasn’t listened when I’ve called her in at night time but other than that she has been excellent.

 

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

 

No No and No Doesn’t Teach a Dog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Turning No into Yes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Replace Bad Habit With Good Habit

Anything repeated often enough can become a habit.

I totally fell in love with scruffy ten-month-old Jack Russell mix Max yesterday. I had the perfect evening with him and his humans.

It began with just me and the daughter who is in her late teens. Then mum arrived followed by twSitting still is a better habit than jumping abouto male school friends of the girl’s and later a man – all people closely involved in the dog’s life. Lucky little dog!

As each person joined us I was working with Max. He had jumped up at me in a madly friendly fashion as I walked in the door and I immediately showed him that this didn’t work with me if it was my attention he wanted. More importantly, I concentrated on showing him what did work.

As more people arrived and as I worked with him, instead of jumping up at them, becoming increasingly excited and silly as would normally be the case, he was becoming more and more settled.

When finally the man joined us, he said Max must be another dog.

It won’t take much of this to build up a new habit when people arrive, so long as everyone is consistent. They have a lot of people coming and going so training the humans is the main problem here!

All I did was to consistently reinforce the behaviour I wanted. As you can see from the photo, Max became FOCUSED! He was sitting looking up at me as we all chatted. From time to time I reinforced the continued calm behaviour with Yes or a click and the tiniest bit of food.

Now he can develop a new habit, that of sitting at someone’s feet looking adorable in order to get his attention fix!

BanceMax1I then tried him on an antler chew. Chewing is such a great and natural way for a dog to relieve stress and to occupy himself. Max worked away at it for maybe an hour after which he simply lay down and settled.

Just like so many dogs I go to, Max generates nearly all his own attention with tactics like constantly asking to be let out and then back in again, jumping up behind people, mouthing, digging the sofa – anything he can think of.

If instead his humans initiate frequent short activities that he finds rewarding and that exercise his brain, he will no longer be driven into goading them for the attention and action he craves.

 

They can convert any unwanted habit into a good habit.

The small dog has fantastic humans in his life who have put time and effort into teaching him training tricks. Now they need to incorporate work on keeping him a bit calmer and making the desirable habits the rewarding ones.

At last he settles

At last he settles

Here are a few examples where his bad habit can be changed into a good habit.

Before bed and before they go to work, like so many dogs Max will refuse to come in from the garden. With a bit of management by way of a long lead so he can no longer rehearse the behaviour and food so that he’s motivated, this habit can soon be changed to him running in as soon as they call him.

While they eat their dinner, he has a habit of sitting on the back of the sofa behind them and trying to get their food! This habit can be changed with a mix of management and training. So he can no longer rehearse this behaviour he can be put somewhere else while they eat. He can then be taught a much better habit instead.

Whenever he sees a person out on a walk he will jump up at them. This habit can be changed through a mix of management and teaching him something better that earns him fuss.

Even pulling on lead is a habit. He is forced to walk beside them and the short lead is tight so that pulling against it is constantly rehearsed on every daily walk. A new habit can be established using management – better equipment – and a loose leash that is repeatedly reinforced by earning him forward progress along with plenty of encouragement, attention and reward.

Near the end of our session yesterday I put one of my Perfect Fit harnesses on Max and attached a training lead. Within a few minutes the now calm Max was walking beautifully for me and then for the daughter outside the front of the house.

Already a new and much better walking habit has been born.

It was quite touching how he was with me by the time I was ready to leave and we had removed the harness. He lay beside me, his head on my foot. What had I done to him?

We had a mutual understanding. Max felt quietly understood.

 

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 Max. 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 Get Help page)

 

Too Much Excitement

Young English BulldogJess is a very friendly one-year-old English Bulldog. Although bold and friendly with people and other dogs, she is unfortunately becoming increasingly fearful of certain things, with new fears being added to the list as time goes by. Just the other day on her walk she bolted when she saw a plane flying above with a vapour trail. She hates traffic. Now she’s become scared of the microwave beeping.

Their adult daughter was leaving as I arrived and had just been engaged in some rough and tumble play with the dog.  I can’t prove this, but I would be willing to bet that Jess’ jumping up at me would have been lot less persistent and frantic had this kind of play not just taken place.

Even happy excitement is stress of a kind and, overdone, fills the brain with an increase in adrenaline and cortisol. Fear is also a kind of stress and does just the same thing to the system. Because stress builds up, not only continuing to flood the brain even for a short while after the arousal has happened, these chemicals can take days to dissipate – particularly when they are constantly being topped up.

Although on the face of it seemingly something  quite different, one can see how too much rough or exciting play can directly affect a dogs fearfulness and nervousness. We know with ourselves that if we are in a highly emotional state we are for more vulnerable to tears, fears, hysterics and so on!

When Jess did eventually calm down she was peaceful. In many ways, if she were allowed she could be quite a placid dog. She is very accepting of certain things that might upset more highly-strung dogs.

This brings me to the next difficulty for this family. There are three young grandsons who come round every day after school. The youngest in particular loves to wind Jess up and he has even been injured – by mistake. She jumps on him and they roll around the floor. They treat Jess like an animated fluffy toy. From the moment they arrive there is a daily injection of high excitement.

The retired couple themselves strike just the right balance with the kind of attention they give Jess. With some new rules in place for visiting family she should be in a better state of mind where the work with desensitising to traffic and other scary things is concerned.

I suggested they made a chart for the little boy so he can earn stars or whatever kids nowadays like to earn – for keeping Jess calm. The children need positive reinforcement just as much as the dog.

It will be most logical to start by getting Jess okay with things in the house like the microwave and the noise made by builders across the road.

Where previously the lady felt that making Jess walk by a busy road would ‘get her used to the traffic’, it’s proved not to work, with her growing increasingly fearful. They will now be finding places where Jess is at a comfortable distance from vehicles and begin the strategies which will get her to feel differently about traffic. It may mean changing routines for now to something less convenient and it may not be quick – but it’s what works!

8 months later – review on Yell:  We nervously contacted Theo, The Dog Lady to help us with our English Bulldog puppy.Jess would drag us along the road, completely out of control. She didn’t enjoy her walkies and was terrified of just about everything. Traffic was a nightmare for her, everyday she adopted a new fear. One day while we were out walking, she became terrified of vapor trails from planes in the sky. She completely freaked out! Theo totally ignored Jess until she had calmed down, and no longer jumping up. The advise she gave us was invaluable, from changing her harness and lead which would give us more control, to suggesting a different food and how to use food from her daily allowance to use as treats. Every time we heard a car when on a walk Theo suggested throwing food on the ground so that she associated cars as something good. It has taken a while but Jess is a delight. She walks beautifully and although she is still nervous around traffic she no longer drags me along.Thank you so much Theo!
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 Jess. 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).

Jumping Up at People

Six month old white standard poodle

Sunny

I’m sure most of us who, over time, have had several dogs from puppies, forget what monkeys they can be when young. I have just been to see two wonderful friendly, gentle Standard Poodles – Asia is eleven years old and Sunny a large, adolescent six months.

Compared to the majority of dogs I have met of that age, Sunny is an angel! His only two ‘crimes’ are jumping up at everyone and jumping up at the sides to nick things – counter-surfing.

Inadvertently he has been taught to do both through reinforcement.

‘Get Down’ may make Sunny get back down again once up – he’s a very biddable young dog, but ‘Get Down’ doesn’t teach him not to jump up again the next time he feels like it.

Jumping up at people is his most trying habit. The lady herself had begun to ask Sunny to Sit before touching him, but the clever dog has merely learnt that, with her, the sequence is ‘to jump up, be told to sit possibly several times, to then sit down, to get fussed, then possibly to jump up again’!

If sitting is what she wants and sitting is incompatible with jumping up after all, he needs to learn to sit straight away without jumping up first. Having already on several occasions asked him to sit, if she now just waited and ignored the jumping, he would soon work it out for himself that sitting does the trick. Unfortunately there are quite a lot of people in Sunny’s life who all, unwittingly, encourage the jumping up.

Why does he do it? He is a lovely, gentle and friendly dog and it’s probably merely because dogs may greet face to face (if not face to bum!), and he wants to get to face level. He doesn’t jump at children who are already level with the tall dog’s face. Sunny merely needs to learn that to welcome humans there is one rule that may seem weird to him but is necessary if he wants his welcome to be reciprocated.

White standard poodle

Asia

The rule is that his feet must be on the floor.

The attention he expects and gets is by way of being touched, looked at or spoken to. He usually gets all three! Dogs are experts at reading body language. Looking away and waiting usually gets the message across about what he should not be doing, but that’s only half the story. He also needs to know what he should be doing, so feet on floor needs to get him what he wants.

I am a great believer in dogs working things out for themselves rather than being constantly told or ‘commanded’, and Sunny will soon get the hang of what’s expected if everyone is consistent. Currently when he jumps up, one person puts his hand up above him as though to push his head down (ah – a hand to jump up at), and other people give him quite a wild or exciting welcome whilst he is jumping up, even though they may at the same time be saying Get Down!

I predict that if the humans can be trained (always the hardest bit) Sunny will soon politely keep his feet on the floor when people come in.

Jumping up at the sides is the other jumping problem, something all the lady’s Standard Poodles have done. They do it because the can – they are tall – and there is sometimes food up there so it’s reinforced. Sunny will actually nick anything so long as it’s on the side, food or not – stuff like paper that he would not be interested in anywhere else!

The easy solution is to remove all opportunity by shutting him out of the room when unsupervised and keeping the surfaces completely clear. It’s one of the things that becomes a habit and he will have seen Asia doing it too. Stop him doing it for long enough and the habit should become unlearned – along with more reinforcement for keeping his feet on the floor!

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 Sunny. 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).

 

Positive Associations With Children

Chocolate English Working CockerHow strange. My very next appointment after having written my Paws for Thought on Citronella anti-bark collars was a dog who had been trained not to bark using one.

The two-year-old English Working Cocker Spaniel (isn’t he beautiful) lives with his young lady in a flat and when he was a puppy there were complaints about his noise. It’s hard when someone has to go out to know best solution when the choice could be either lose your dog or lose your flat.

What is certain is that although unable to bark, he will feel just as anxious inside, probably more so if rendered helpless, and will need to find other ways to express this.

At home Henry won’t bark now even without the collar, but I have seen the pattern before. Maybe now the empty collar will be sufficient to remind him, but in time he will surely bark at something and find there is no spray. Then the citronella will need to be added again. He may well learn to tolerate the spray and bark through it which then renders it useless too, and solving the emotion which drives the barking will be a lot harder now. It’s nearly always the same with quick-fix ‘punishment’ methods. There will be fallout somewhere. ‘Punishment’ being the administering of something unpleasant in order to stop the dog from doing something you don’t want him to do, rather than showing him what it is you do want him to do.

The fallout is because whatever he is feeling that is the cause of the barking is simply stifled and will be erupting elsewhere.

Cocker Spaniel looking up at his ownerThe young lady, like so many, is an avid watcher of a TV trainer who advocates ‘correction’ with constant interrupters like ‘Tch Tch’  – sounds that say ‘no no’ –  in order to control the dog. Because of so much exposure, many people take this as the accepted way to behave towards their dogs.

Modern, enlightened behaviourists and trainers, however, do things very differently. People who were not up to date with modern practice are surprised at how biddable and obedient a positively trained dog can be, and there is an important extra ingredient – simply the dog’s joy at working for and with their person.

The reason I have started this story with my thoughts about dominance methods and punishment is because it’s relevant to the main issue I was called out for. Henry, so friendly in every other way, doesn’t like children. It’s almost certain that in the first few months of his life he won’t have come across kids. When they come running up to him when they are out he will growl in warning which is fair enough. He is trying to say that he feels uncomfortable and wants more space. Unfortunately the young lady, not wanting to seem rude, will then scold or correct him – ‘Tch Tch’.

The biggest alarm was the other day when a friend brought a six-month-old baby to visit. All was well until they all went to sit on a bench in the garden. The owner sat beside the friend who had the baby on her lap. She remembers that Henry came and stood, quiet and still, between her friend with the baby and herself. Nobody took any notice of him while they probably talked to the baby in the way one does.

The baby waved his arms about and towards Henry – who snapped the air.

Oh dear. There was big drama afterwards. If Henry was unsure of the infant before, he certainly was now. Whatever he was feeling about the baby (anxiety? jealousy?) will have been compounded by what will, to him, have been a totally irrational and scary reaction from the humans.

This is a case of desensitising Henry to children and babies. Next time when the friend visits with her baby, Henry’s owner won’t sit next to them but a little way away. Henry will be on a loose lead. All the time he’s around the baby he will be fed or dropped little bits of food. There will be absolutely no ‘Uh-Uh’ or ‘leave’. If the lady is worried at any stage, she can kindly call Henry to her – ‘Come’ – followed by food. This way she can begin to wipe out the previous bad association with possibly the first baby Henry had ever met.

Henry needs lots of positive associations with children. When out the young lady can start desensitising him at a comfortable distance around the local school playground at playtime, where no child can actually get to him nor him to them. She can then work on him in the park, but be ready to increase distance and to be firm if children run up to him. It’s not a time to be polite – we have to look out for our dog and keep children safe. We need to be our dogs’ advocate and not care what others think (easier for me at my age – just one of the very few advantages of getting old!).

Later, when he’s ready, children can invite him to them so he has a choice, then they can drop food or throw his ball – he would probably like that. With the patience, time and effort the young lady has always given him but now using positive methods, she will get there I’m sure.

She has worked extremely hard with her beautiful dog to good effect. It’s not that correction and punishment don’t work at all. They do. However, for permanent success and relaxed and happy dogs, a little more time and effort using force-free methods pays off big time long-term. It’s far better for our relationship of trust with our dog.

The young lady will be surprised at how much more she can achieve by just using rewards and encouragement.

NB. For the sake of the story this isn’t a complete ‘report’, but I choose an angle. Also, the precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Henry. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good, particularly ones that involve punishment. 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).