Feels Unsafe. She Runs for Home.

Eight weeks ago Holly came from a pound in Cyprus to live with my lady client. Holly is a Beagle mix, three years of age.

Holly feels unsafe with sudden soundsAlthough initially spending a lot of time in her bolthole under the kitchen table, she didn’t start off particularly spooked by sudden sounds. This is may have been because, trying to adjust, she was simply shut down.

Whilst becoming more confident at home, over the time she has become increasingly spooked outside.

With hindsight things should have been taken a lot more gradually, one new thing at a time, but she seemed to be coping. I believe things have been stacking up to a level where she’s lost her resilience.

It was, and still is, a world of new and unpredictable things. There will have been the cage for the aircraft, the flight, the car journey and then arriving to a house. Had she ever lived in a house before?

She was then taken out for walks. On lead, she was very scared of traffic, particularly lorries. She is scared of all wheels.

To start with the lady would let her off lead in the nearby park and she ran free. She was in her element.

Holly was waiting at the front door.

Then, after just a few weeks, she had run out of sight. The lady, in a panic, called and called, but Holly didn’t reappear.

With much more sensitive ears, Holly must have heard something the lady didn’t hear. It sent her running in panic.

She had run across roads and was waiting at the front door. There were scratch marks on it as she tried desperately to get in to where it felt safe.

It soon became apparent that she was becoming increasingly scared of sudden sounds.

As Holly adapts to her lovely new, but very different, life, increasingly she feels unsafe. Having run for home a second time she now has to remain on lead. A dog that feels unsafe will feel even more so trapped on a lead. It’s most likely, whatever her history, that she will have spent some of her life either as a stray or on the streets. No leash.

Now she is resisting going out on walks. The lady had been carrying her to the car and trying to find new places, not associated with previous fears. She’s now wriggling to escape from her arms.

When I arrived she quietly took herself off out of sight, to one of her sanctuary places.

She did appear eventually and was actually very friendly. ‘Holly-Come’ brought her running for food. People aren’t the problem. ‘Sudden’ things are, noises in particular – and they don’t have to be loud or nearby to spook her.

Poor Holly feels unsafe most of the time when out of the house.

We sat out in the garden, some distance away from the open back door. Holly joined us.

All was well for a minute or two and then there was a noise from a neighbour. It sounded a bit like a metal ladder being moved. It wasn’t loud. Holly turned and slinked across the garden and indoors.

She came back out. This is a brave little dog.

She was aware of other, softer noises and I immediately rained food around her. Fortunately she is very food motivated. If I heard something that she didn’t actually react to, it still produced food.

A little later I tried tapping my hand softly on the metal table, ready to throw food. It wasn’t softly enough and sent her running indoors again. It demonstrated clearly to both of us how, to work on this, we have to begin at an extremely low level.

“Desensitization consists of exposing a subject to the thing they fear in graded exposures, starting with a form that is dilute and non threatening, and working up to full exposure to the scary thing. Counter-conditioning consists of changing an emotional response (usually from fear to neutrality or to a positive response), by pairing the trigger of the undesirable response with something that evokes a desirable emotional response. Combining these two methods creates a non-threatening but very effective way to alter phobic fear responses.” Eileen Anderson

There will be two kinds of sudden sounds, those that the lady generates herself and those uncontrolled sudden sounds that occur in the environment.

Sudden sounds generated by the lady. 

She can control both intensity and the timing. I suggested she sits near the open kitchen door if in the garden. Holly’s feeling safe depends upon an escape route.

She can tap on the table. The tap has to be even softer than mine was. Simultaneously with the tap, she can gently say ‘Yes’ and drop some food. Saying ‘Yes’ with every sound is helpful because it’s not always possible to be sufficiently immediate with food alone.

The lady can gradually increase the heaviness of the tap to gentle bang. She will watch very carefully not to send Holly over her threshold. If she does so, then they go back to a level Holly that happily tolerates before ending the session.

Over the days and weeks this can be expanded to someone else making sounds in another room. They can download or buy sound effects and use it in the same manner – in another room and very softly indeed initially.

Sudden sounds that she has no control over.

Like the neighbour moving the ladder, sounds that ‘just happen’ are a lot more tricky.

If poor Holly feels unsafe in her own garden when there is a fairly gentle noise over the fence and an open kitchen door, imagine how she must feel when out on a walk and something like a bird scarer goes off or a motorbike roars past.

As soon as there is any sudden sound, however soft and even if Holly seems fine, the lady should say ‘Yes’ and drop food. It will undoubtedly take her some practice to perfect her timing and to be consistent.

She will hold back from walks for a while. A walk is useless when the dog feels unsafe. It does more harm than good.

Because of the ladder incident Holly now may be a bit scared of the garden.

Sprinkles! Unseen by Holly, the lady will sprinkle food all over the grass and then let her out, leaving the door open so she always has an escape route. The environment, not the lady, will be delivering the food.

Holly feels unsafe on walks.

It will be like starting all over again, gradually building up Holly’s confidence. Several very short sessions a day will work best, not going beyond the garden. If she is spooked, the lady should stop straight away.

She will begin by walking Holly around the house – being encouraging – and using rewards.

Next they will go around the garden. The door should be open and if there is any sign of fear the lady should say ‘Yes’, drop food and drop the lead.

When it’s going well, she can open the back gate. They can step through it and come back in again, many times, making a bit of a game of it…and so it goes on.

All the time the lady will keep counter-conditioning bangs and anything sudden with chicken raining around Holly!

This is just the start of the plan. How long will it take before she can walk to the park? When getting a rescue dog from a completely different life, people don’t dream of challenges like this. Realistic expectations are vital. It could take a long time to build up Honey’s confidence. There is no quick fix.

 

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 Holly. 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 fear 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).

New Rescue Dog. Reactivity to People Worsening

New rescue dogWith a new rescue dog I have seen this many times. When people first welcome their new dog into their life he is faultless. It’s not until he begins to settle in that unwanted behaviours begin to surface.

In many cases these will be behaviours that contributed to him being given up in the first place.

Unlike many new rescue dogs that find the adjustment from their old lives or rehoming kennels very hard indeed, beautiful Staffie-mix Murphy seemed to settle in easily. He was (and is) friendly and confident. He’s about two and a half years old.

It’s very common for the ‘real dog’ to begin to appear after a few weeks. People understandably don’t give all their reasons for giving up their dog as it may jeopardise finding a new home. Issues like Murphy’s are unlikely to emerge in a kennel environment.

Three trouble-free weeks went by.

The first signs of problems began about three weeks later when the, up to now, very friendly Murphy barked at someone.

Next, and it probably wasn’t brilliant timing for him, they took him away. This now was another new house to get used to in just a few weeks. Unlike at home, he could see people walking past the window. He began to bark at them. They went on their way. Success.

Then, worse, a couple of little children arrived at the house. Murphy went crazy with barking at them. It took them all by surprise. Their new rescue dog didn’t like little children so close to him at all. He was very upset.

On the face of it and from what I saw when he barked at me, the barking isn’t fearful. He was angry. He was loudly shouting GO AWAY.

A few days ago, back home and now on a downward spiral, he then grabbed (almost bit) the arm of a man who came to work in the house. This was someone he’d already met and befriended a few days previously.

In every other respect Murphy really is the perfect dog. He is affectionate and biddable. He gets on beautifully with their other dog, an older female Labrador called Millie.

New rescue dog Murphy is now settling in.

As Murphy gets to feel more at home he seems to be becoming increasingly protective of his humans – and Labrador Millie. I briefly fussed her and this immediately generated a renewed outbreak of barking at me.

I guess it’s logical that the more a place becomes the new rescue dog’s home the more territorial he may become and his new humans also something to protect.

We experimented with various strategies in response to his barking at myself. Each case is different and it’s important to get it right. Food wasn’t appropriate because we weren’t dealing with reducing fear but more with anger. There was no snarling or growling, so not extremely aggressive, but he was making his point. GO!

Driving me away was clearly what he wanted. Instead, we had the lady calmly walking him, Murphy, away instead each time he began to bark. We repeatedly did this, advance – retreat, so he clearly understood the consequence of his barking at me was the opposite to what he was wanting. She didn’t need his protection. He understood and had total control over the situation. It’s important that no force is involved – he willingly walked out with her.

After little more than five minutes of doing this, he settled.

His lead came off and all was well. I could move around with no further reaction from Murphy.

I have found that one of my own dogs, my German Shepherd, may sometimes need me to be decisive in a situation she’s unable to handle (that’s another story for another time). She simply can’t cope with making all her own decisions when she is in a state over something. It seemed that making the immediate decisions about what to do when he barked worked with Murphy.

Now, not before, was the time for food – to associate me with good stuff. I dropped food. I asked him to sit and fed him and I threw food at him to catch. I sprinkled it about.

He was now relaxed and happy.

 

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 Murphy. 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).

Puppy Farm Dogs Used for Breeding

The lady was, to quote her email, at ‘such a low ebb’ as she described what was happening with her two recently adopted puppy farm dogs.

ex puppy farm dogs

Marty and Meggie

Considering the mental condition of the dogs she has taken on, she has already worked miracles. However, without support, she can’t herself see the progress that has really been made or just what to do next.

All these two little dogs have known is confinement in a dark puppy farm building. They probably had never seen the sky, never walked on grass. They may have been forced to mate. Their contact with humans will not have been tactile, loving or friendly.

Then, one day, the puppy farm dogs were released.

They were taken to a shelter. They were handled by staff and a vet. They were neutered. They were ‘ready for adoption’.

Their existence may have been terrible but it was the only life they knew and probably the only life their parents had known also.

The grim buildings would have been their security.

It’s hard to imagine how it must be when every little thing in their lives is new, from obvious things like a vacuum cleaner or traffic to birds flying free or music playing.

Four months ago the lady took on Maggie, a Jack Russell age about four. For the first four weeks the little dog seldom moved from the corner of the settee. She was frozen. Because she was so miserable, the rescue encouraged the lady also to take puppy farm breeding dog Marty, a Cocker Spaniel, about seven years old.

When Marty arrived the real nightmare started. The moment Maggie met him it was as if a cork had been pulled from a bottle of fizz. She was bouncing off the walls and this went on for weeks.

Marty on the other hand was totally shut down – too terrified to go outside at all and when a bit later he dared, would cower and run back indoors at the slightest thing. He has cataracts, his hearing is defective and he has a heart murmer. He came covered all over in fleas. Total neglect. Why hadn’t she been told these things first?

The main problem that has been driving the lady to despair is the marking and urinating everywhere, on furniture, up curtains, on the seat and back of the sofa. She is constantly cleaning. The marking intensifies when there is any change or stress.

She was at her wits’ end. She has large incontinence pads all over the floor and all over the chairs.

Over the three months that she has had Marty, the lady has gradually encouraged him into the garden to toilet. I watched her. He follows as she drops food and she always goes to the same place. She is extremely perceptive and patient. Her environment is perfect because the dogs have a room that with an open door or gate which means they lie in a chair together and can see into the kitchen and the garden without fear of being approached by anyone apart from the lady whose body language is perfect (she lives alone).

She has thankfully resisted friends who say ‘just do it’…..

….meaning grab the dog, force him outside or force the harness on him. If she did that she would blow it all. She is slowly building the trust of both dogs.

She had been looking for guidance on the internet and in books, and came across Lisa Tenzin Dolma’s book Charlie, the Dog Who Cam in from the Wild. This was exactly the kind approach she wanted and through Lisa’s books she found me.

As I discovered when I was with them the other day, the indoor marking was already beginning to reduce and now for regular toileting Marty is taking himself outside. The lady has just told me that he has now had a dry, marking-free day! This is huge progress. Imagine seven years most likely in an enclosure with other male dogs, making claim to his space with marking. After all this time it will be a strong habit to simply empty himself wherever he is, so you could say it’s not much short of miraculous that he’s now learning to go outside.

The lady’s slowly slowly approach is paying off. The two little dogs will lie beside her on the sofa in their ‘garden room’. Maggie even likes her tummy tickled but Marty, who now likes to lie close to her, immediately moves away if even her finger touches him.

She now feels that she has reached a standstill which is why she contacted me and with my help we will slowly advance things with them all.

I watched from the kitchen table as the two dogs, in the chair together, began to play – a very recent development. I am told that the next day Marty himself initiated the play.

Happiness!

It brings a lump to my throat. Marty is at last beginning to feel safer in his immediate world, safe enough to play.

Any small change has to be handled very slowly and carefully or he simply regresses into urinating and looking scared. Maggie then also regresses to bouncing off the walls.

The areas we are now starting on is Marty’s stressing when the lady leaves the dogs – the downside of developing an attachment. We are working on his fear of any human touch, even the lady’s. She will slowly be teaching Marty to go over to her and touch her outstretched hand whilst trusting her not to try to touch him back. It will be entirely his own choice.

She will need to hold back because where her human instinct is to reach out to him physically, to love and reassure, for him this would amount to punishment.

She can’t of course take the dogs out at all – she’s unable get a collar, harness or lead anywhere near Marty in particular. Walks themselves aren’t important though a visit to the vet might be. These two dogs have never had a walk so even the smallish garden is a new world of smells and adventure to them and more than sufficient for now.

Sometimes when we so deeply want to help and encourage a fearful dog it’s hard not to actually put on pressure. It’s a delicate balance.  Perhaps now that huge strides have been made the lady can relax a little and try a little less hard. I did suggest she no longer rushed to clean up those yellow patches on the pads but to wait a while – best of all do it while Marty is out in the garden. To strictly leave him be when he lies next to her and not to be tempted to put out even a finger towards him.

Everything that we normally take for granted is a challenge for these two ex puppy farm dogs, Marty in particular – and a great challenge for the lady too. She is feeling happier now that I have proved to her why her instinct not to push things, to give the dogs time against the pressure of ‘other people’, is the way to get results in the long-term.

Update a couple of weeks later: The poor lady is battling against building noises from next door – sudden and loud and high drilling whining – all of which is very difficult for the dogs. However, I have just received this message, ‘Tuesday I went out for just under 3 hrs, leaving them with Kongs and I’m very pleased to report NO MARKING, simply two dogs pleased to see me.  I am …also going upstairs for different lengths of time – I do feel this is helping with the separation anxiety …. and I have a bit more time to do my own things! Marty is really coming out of his shell Theo, which is soooo uplifting for me to see.  He is often the one to initiate play.  Just like the peeling of an onion, the stressed, fearful layers are beginning to fall away from him ….. I think we may see a bit of a character emerge!’
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Marty and Meggie and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear is concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

 

What Function Does Growling Serve?

It was no start in life for a puppy.

Rose growling? It was hard to believe!

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

What function does growling serve her

Rose

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

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

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

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

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

Bryn and Mouse

Bryn and Mouse

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

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

More recently they have reverted to telling her off.

What function does growling serve for Rose?

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

Molly

Molly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Trigger Stacking

Sassy was fetched on Sunday and on Wednesday I was there with her, the couple and their two children.

Forward planning.

They had done some perfect forward planning in advance of getting their rescue dog home from the shelter.

They are not a family that took a dog into their lives upon impulse. Absolutely the opposite. Over a few weeks they had visited the two-year-old mixed breed several times. She particularly bonded with the little girl, aged 8.

They were told that Sassy is a German Shepherd Husky mix but I can’t for the life of me see any Husky. Staffie maybe. She’s smaller than a GSD – much the size and shape of Zara, my mini Labrador.

There is one particular cloud on the horizon and that is her possible ‘aggression’ to other dogs. This is based on one incident. In order to show the family how Sassy was with other dogs, the shelter staff brought three dogs into the area, one at a time.

The first dog she ignored. They tell me she took no notice of it at all. It’s unusual for a dog to truly ignore another dog suddenly entering her immediate environment. I suspect she may deliberately have looked away from it as dogs do when they feel uneasy about something.

The second dog was large and noisy. It was aggressive and scary but Sassy managed well.

The third dog was brought in, a peaceful Staffie. Sassy hurled herself at it and pinned it down – no actual injury.

This to me spells ‘trigger stacking’, where the events add up.

Already she will have been aroused by being with her visitors and probably a couple of shelter staff. Coming out of her kennel in itself will have been exciting.

To quote Sally Hopkins, each time a dog is over excited or is caused stress, the adrenal and thyroid glands, testosterone and hypothalamus begin to increase their production. The output from these glands reach a peak 10-15 minutes after the incident, and takes between 3-5 days to return to the level they were at before the incident.

trigger stacking

This is why certain dogs can become aggressive for no apparent reason when meeting another dog; they are still experiencing the rush of adrenaline etc. from a build up of small things or an incident that happened 10-15 minutes beforehand (thank you Dog Games for the diagram).

 

Trigger stacking

Trigger stacking will also have been happening from the moment Sassy was let out of her kennel to be taken to her new life.

Just imagine how arousing entering a new home must be to a dog, particularly a dog that has had little variety for months.

First the lead is attached and she’s led away from the place she knows well. Then into the car with the new smells and sounds.

Then into the house. A total bombardment of new smells from all quarters. Her new humans hovering about even if consciously trying to leave her alone. Then where should she toilet? She explores but every now and then meets a barrier – a correction of some sort. She is learning.

She’s very reactive to birds in the garden. I wonder how long it has been since she sat and watched birds? She worries when she hears a dog bark – unsurprising when she had been surrounded by so much barking. There are further new people coming into the house.

I will have barely touched upon all the things she will have been experiencing and processing over the past three days, things that will slowly have been adding to her stress levels. Trigger stacking. She responded initially by having a crazy, manic few hours before settling down a bit.

Such was their forward planning that despite being at work all day they had already made arrangements so Sassy wouldn’t be left for more than a couple of hours at a time. They had also spoken to me and booked me well in advance.

I have given them a few suggestions to get them started off on the right foot and will go again in a couple of weeks when she has settled in and may just perhaps be less acquiescent and accepting.

She is quickly getting the idea of not jumping on the sides and they will now be making what they do want her to do -resisting or getting back down – rewarding.

There are a couple of restrictions that she may balk against eventually.

They have a a small white rug in front of the sofa and they don’t want her on this. It keeps her away from sitting beside them while they watch TV but this may be a big missed opportunity for bonding.

The other rule that may be a challenge is they want her to toilet only in a very small patch of stones behind the shed. They always accompany her at the moment and have so far been successful. They will need not to let her out without them for a while if they want this to become a habit and also reward her actually on the ground as she finishes to emphasise the location. I suggested they put the toileting on cue with special words – ‘be clean’ perhaps.

Apart from some pacing and panting, Sassy seems to be settling down brilliantly. I gave her a bone to chew which she worked on enthusiastically – chewing being a great ‘unwinder’.  She was lying stretched out on the floor in no time, oblivious of people walking around her, like she was exhausted.

I am very happy that the family are keeping the dog in the garden and just outside the gate for now while she adjusts – well away from any other dogs – to give her stress levels time to go right down. A new home is a huge adjustment.

They are not over-fussing her. The children are doing their bit.

In a couple of weeks, in a calm and stable state she can start to be gradually re-introduced to the world outside their immediate environment with as little opportunity for ‘trigger stacking’ as possible.

I wonder what will come to the fore in a couple of weeks time when the ‘real dog’ comes out of her shell?

 

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 Sassy 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. Every dog is different. 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)

Excited Dog in his New Home

Excited Bodie taking a rest

Taking a rest

An excited young dog.

After the last four cases, here was a dog who was really pleased to see me!

Beautiful friendly, bouncy, happy and playful Bodie was found by the roadside in November. Since then he has been in kennels and now, for the past week, he’s been in his new home. It’s no surprise that with all the change he can be too excitable – particularly as the younger adults in the family may also be so excited to have him that in their enthusiasm they are winding him up further.

They have been told Bodie is about two years old, but he seems a lot younger to me. He is quite a mix with certainly some collie. The picture doesn’t do justice to his happy nature and athletic build.

His issues are all due to over-stimulation, sensory overload and lack of self control. It’s understandable as in effect he’s been released from prison. He jumps up relentlessly whether one is sitting or standing, he pulls on the lead as he’s bombarded with the smells and noises outside and he will bark non-stop at the sight of another animal. He barks should he even hear another dog. They reckon his time alone in kennels surrounded by other barking dogs may have something to do with this.

It’s fair to guess that Bodie is a dog that had been loved and very well-socialised with people but maybe not so much with other dogs. It’s also a good bet that he’s had a lot of freedom, unrestricted by a leash. How he came to be left by the roadside is anyone’s guess. He’s a gem.

 

Bodie’s time in kennels can be used to their advantage.

Two things are certain. During his time in the kennels he had limited exercise. During his time in kennels he was used to being shut away by himself. Both these things can actually be used to their advantage if not left too late.

When his jumping up became too much and I couldn’t both work on him and talk with them, they shut him in the conservatory for a break a couple of times. He didn’t complain and immediately lay down on the chair, accustomed to being put away.

For the next few weeks I feel they should continue to put him by himself for short periods when he gets too much so that he never develops issues with with being left alone, issues that are hard to deal with later on.

The other point is, having almost certainly been let out or given a walk for only a short time each day, Bodie doesn’t expect lots of exercise. It’s very likely from his behaviour that in his previous life he had been left to do his own thing. As he’s not used to his day revolving around walks, it means that they can teach him to walk nicely and get him desensitised to the outside world gradually with lots of very short sessions.

The gentleman had taken him for three quite long walks in one day the other day to calm him, and in fact, despite of all that exercise (or because of it), Bodie had come home more hyped up than when he left.

Sarah Reusche makes a good case for how exercise and excitement can sometimes be too much of a good thing.

As is so often the case with their new rescue dogs, people in their efforts to get things right actually do too much too soon.

So, without feeling guilty, they can work on loose lead technique around the house and garden, simply standing still outside, working on distance dogs or barking, advancing to walking around outside the neighbouring houses and so on – gradually building it up. When they have time they can pop him in the car and take him to somewhere open and let him explore on a long line.

The more short outings he has, the less excited he will be and the less overwhelming the outside world will become.

The whole family will need to do their bit to help him to become less excited. Instead of vigorous play and encouraging jumping about, they can teach him some self-control by giving him what he wants in a calm fashion when his feet are on the the floor. Understandably and like many girls, the young adult daughter wants lots of cuddles, unable to see otherwise the point of having a dog. That will come if they take it easy now.

With a clicker it was amazing just how soon Bodie got the message and stopped jumping all over me. He first worked it out that sitting worked and then he took it further by lying down as well. It was obviously the first time the clever dog had ever had a clicker used with him. He was really using his brain.

There was no telling him what to do or what not to do – he was working it out for himself.

If they all take their time now and don’t push it, they will be rewarded with a wonderful family pet.

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 Bodie. 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 which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. One size does not fit all 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)

Rescue Dog Not Home Trained

Rescue Rottweiler house-trained not home trained

Missy

Missy is house trained but I wouldn’t say she is home trained.

I had been in the house for just a few minutes when the large three-year-old Rottweiler jumped straight from the floor onto the dining table I was sitting at (to discourage her from jumping on me), probably smelling treats in my bag on the table out of her reach, knocking my cup of tea flying!

They also have another rescue dog, a calmer German Shepherd mix aged five called Duke.

The lady got in touch with me about a week ago – just before she brought Missy home. She was very worried that the two dogs might not get on although she had already taken Duke to the kennels to be with Missy seven times. I advised that the two dogs met up away from her house on neutral territory and then were walked back into the house together and all seems to be going well between them.

Moving into a house is a huge adjustment for Missy and the lady is determined that it’s going to be for keeps. The dog had been passed between several rescue kennels for most of her life before landing on her feet at last with a lovely home and someone who is prepared to do what it takes to give her the life she deserves. It’s hard to see why the gorgeous dog wasn’t adopted a long time ago. She is very friendly but just needs to learn house rules and adjust to home life.  Everyday things like a floor mop or getting into a car are unfamiliar and stressful for her. Considering what must be overwhelming changes in her life and routines she’s having to adjust to, she is managing surprisingly well.

They have had to put two gates in the kitchen doorway, one on top of the other, so that ‘high-jump’ Missy can be kept safe and the two dogs separated when necessary. She is perfectly happy to be left in there as I guess being behind bars is the norm to her. Rescues have obviously done some training with her within the environment of the kennels. She doesn’t pull on lead. She’s polite around food, she understands to sit and probably more besides.

Missy has redirected with some nipping onto Duke when suddenly over-aroused and she may do the same with people – mouthing and nibbling at them. They have learnt not to do certain things that excite her, like ball play. Life for her at the moment is quite exciting enough. There is a little bit of jealousy from Duke when Missy is fussed so the lady will need to make it clear that she chooses who she will fuss and when, not Duke. Missy is a little bit too playful for Duke at the moment. The lady needs to remain alert if their are valuable resources about like a bone or toy but there’s been no hint of any trouble so far.

The only way the two dogs can be walked is separately and Duke gets distressed when left alone, so they will be working on that. Though fine with larger dogs, Missy seems to be somewhat disturbed by little dogs – staring and what the lady describes as fixating on them, so there is work to be done there.

German Shepherd Staffie mix

Duke

One thing that needs to change as soon as possible is Missy’s persistent jumping up whether the person is standing or sitting. If they are sitting down she will leap on top of them – and she’s a big girl! She doesn’t know what it is acceptable to chew and what isn’t. It’s very much like having a huge puppy to train!

I visited them on just the fourth day in Missy’s new home, so we don’t yet know exactly what we are dealing with yet. When the dust has settled we will be able to work on training and play to help equip her for her new life and things that will focus her brain rather than stir her up. She will gradually become habituated to everyday things, I’m sure.

This purpose of this first visit has been to put things in place so that they start off right and pre-empt any obvious problems that could develop. There are lots of other things we can work on in the future when the time is right and depending upon how long the lady wants me to help her for.

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 Missy and Duke. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good, particularly where aggression may be involved. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).
Artie can't be left alone

Can’t be Alone Even at Bedtime

Artie lay beside me, obviously exhausted. So were the young couple who adopted him just four days ago – four days and three long nights to be precise. Three sleepless nights.

The lady has taken him to work with her each day.

The six month old Rottie Husky cross has probably never in his entire life been all alone. If the humans were out there were always other dogs and puppies to snuggle up with and to play with.

On the first night, because of his crying, the young couple eventually let him sleep on their bedroom floor. The second night they shut him away in an empty room having taken ‘advice’ to leave him to cry. He barked and howled all night. On the third night they could stand it no longer so one of them came downstairs and let him into the sitting room, sleeping on the sofa. They are well aware that the howling will have been keeping neighbours awake too.

They don’t want him to be sleeping in their bedroom, but realise they now have a choice to make. He will need to start off up there or else they will need to be sleeping downstairs for a while. They can’t just leave him to cry. That does Artie no good at all, and it does them no good either.

They decided that starting in the bedroom was the better option.

The plan is to have his blanket on the floor near the bed, and over the days or weeks to each night move this to the door and then just outside the door. They will have a gate in the doorway which will be open to start with, and when he’s ready they will shut it so that he won’t be totally excluded.

The master plan, though, is for him to decide that it is better downstairs. From the moment he enters their bedroom at night they will ignore him – it will be the most boring place there is. If he comes over to their bed, they will turn away. In the morning, once downstairs they can give him attention again.

Artie tired after three nights crying for company

Artie exhausted

The other dimension of the problem is that he needs, over time, to be chilled when left alone for reasonable periods of time. This, too, needs working on gradually. It is fortunate that he can go to work with them and also that he is happy to be left with other people. Just not all alone.

They are so lucky to have found such a wonderfully good-natured, friendly, well-mannered dog and Wood Green who rehomed him must know that they are the perfect owners. They may be at the start of a honeymoon period, so as he settles in to his new life and loses the stresses of the night-time panic, he may become more playful and cheeky.

We have looked at all aspects of his new life from diet to walking nicely and training, and I shall be helping as he settles in and matures.

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

 

Old Dog Intolerant of Younger Dog

Elderly German Shepherd is finding life hard with new younger dog

Chloe

I felt quite inspired being with this couple and their two rescue dogs – one elderly German Shepherd who without their offer of a home would have been put to sleep and a younger Belgian Shepherd who was found in a canal.

Since the four-year-old Jack arrived from Wood Green a couple of weeks ago, Chloe’s barking has escalated. It is hard for an old dog like Chloe to accept an energetic younger dog in her home.

The couple badly want both dogs to be happy together. They already have a very ‘positive’ outlook on dog communication, but some things need an outsider’s perspective.

This is quite a challenge. Many of the options for the sort of behaviour exhibited by GSD Chloe are impossible due to her being in quite a lot of pain from arthritis despite being on the maximum dosage of Metacam. Even getting up is a labour, so they are working on getting eye contact and reinforcing quiet.

The constant discomfort together with lack of mobility I’m sure will be contributing to Chloe’s intolerance of active new boy Jack.

To help her properly, they need to change the emotions that are driving her barking behaviour.

Newly rehomed Belgian Shepherd feels uneasy around their elderly German Shepherd

Jack

Seeing Jack petted and fussed may be upsetting Chloe. She barked at him when he was excited around me. She barked at him when he was chewing a toy. She barked whenever he came back into the room from the garden. She sometimes barks when he just walks about. She barks constantly on walks with him.

As we could see from his body language, Jack at times feels a little uneasy when entering the room or walking past her.  He is treading carefully – for now.

Their way to make him feel at home has been a lot of touching and petting, he’s certainly irresistible – but they are fair.  Chloe gets her share also. However, something tells me that it would be best for now if the fussing of Jack was kept to a minimum, best for him and best for Chloe.

Despite the Metacam, Chloe was stressed and restless the whole evening. It ended with a spat between the two dogs over a toy she had been chewing and which Jack then took and started to destroy. (They dealt with it beautifully – immediately and calmly separating the dogs).

Chloe’s barking on walks when she sees other dogs has escalated these past two weeks. This is a shame because she used to be so well-socialised and friendly as for now, fortunately, is Jack.

The couple is afraid that he will learn the wrong things from her.

For now the two will be walked separately in order to work on Jack’s loose lead walking and give him the exercise he needs, and to properly work on Chloe’s barking and reactivity. You can teach an old dog new tricks – with patience and kindness.

Then, all being well, they will be able to walk both dogs together again.

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

Bad Start with New Rescue Dog

Malamute Alaska injured new rescue Shar-pei's faceShar-pei Yoko had been in her new home for one day when she received a bad injury to her face from Malamute Alaska, requiring many stitches. But it wasn’t a fight as such.

What a sad situation. It had started so well. Both dogs had been walked together several times before bringing Yoko home and they had got on well.

What the lady hadn’t been told was that not only did Yoko have a bad ear infection, but in addition to a skin problem she was also in season. So, here was a very stressed dog trying to adapt to home life after nine months in rescue with physical problems as well.

Alaska, the most polite and confident dog with people who you can imagine, was only castrated recently. Yoko presented herself to him and he started to do what male dogs do. Unfortunately he has a bad hip problem and he will have been in pain also. Things were stacked up against them.

Anyway, the outcome was a sudden angry response from Yoko as she tried to escape, followed by the same from Alaska and at the same time he must have grabbed her face. There is a big discrepancy in the two dogs’ size and possibly because of her baggy skin, what may otherwise have been a puncture wound was a tear, probably caused when they were pulled apart. She has a good number of stitches.

The lady has a £400 vet bill and got off to a very bad start with her new rescue dog.

The final really sad thing about this is that the lady, a very conscientious and caring person who chose the two dogs specifically for their seemingly calm temperament in the kennels and not their breed, worries that she may never be able to trust them together again. She is now so anxious that she keeps the dogs apart unless Alaska is muzzled.

So this is the situation I arrived to. Should she or should she not keep Yoko?Alaska  is accepting of the muzz.e

Alaska himself had been in rescue for over a year before she adopted him last year. He has a few problems which we will work on, including marking in certain parts of the house and being a bit of a bully with off-lead dogs.

There are some very positive things also.

Because she has two children, the young lady has always played very safe. She gradually taught Alaska to welcome wearing a muzzle just in case it was ever needed  – it’s a bit too big and he looked so comical I had to take the photo.

She is a gentle person and the household is calm. Alaska is a quietly confident dog. When I arrived he was lying in the hall and I simply walked past him.

Both dogs showed no animosity to one another and although they are now let outside separately, they walk past each other with no reaction.

New rescue Sharpei,unknown when they fetched, is pregnant

Yoko

At the moment Yoko is very uptight.  Understandably.  When she joined us and a muzzled Alaska in the sitting room, she l ay with her back to us for much of the time.  I then suggested we put Alaska on lead and removed the muzzle. When Yoko was walking about, the only sign of any trouble between the two was when Alaska sniffed her bum and she growled softly.

When the three guinea pigs that are kept in a large cage in the kitchen got active, Yoko became extremely agitated. She began to pace, cry and stress. It takes her a long time to calm down again.

The eleven-year-old daughter did some great calming work with Yoko that I showed her, reinforcing her whenever she sat, lay down or settled.

Whether or not Yoko stays will depend upon how she turns out when she settles in and what behaviours come to the fore. She has so many new things to adjust to.

Whether or not she stays will depend upon how the two dogs get on once her season is over and her body healed.

Whether or not she stays will also depend upon whether the young lady, who lives alone with the two children, ever feels she can relax again and leave the two dogs together – her house is quite small.  She got another dog to be company for Alaska.

If Yoko can’t stay, she won’t be abandoned back to the rescue. The young lady, bless her, has already decided she will get their permission to find the dog she already loves a good home – but not until she is fully healed and is in much better physical condition.

A week later it became apparent that Yoko was already pregnant. She had two puppies and the story goes on. The lady has managed the situation with Yoko and Alaska beautifully and they get on fine. However, she couldn’t find homes with people she felt she could trust for the two puppies so she still has them. Life is hard but she is doing her very best in difficult circumstances.

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