Not an Easy First Dog

Lucy must have once before been loved.

Not an easy dog for first time dog ownersIn the few days since German Shepherd mix Lucy moved in with the young couple she has been through several stages as she begins to settle into a very different new life. She is their first dog so it’s a big adjustment for them also.

For the past six months the young dog has been living in a very ‘basic’ kennel situation. A chaotic and bleak place.

For six months she has had to toilet in the same place where she slept and ate, so it’s not surprising she initially had a couple of accidents in the house. Being their first dog that was something they’d not anticipated.

The young lady contacted me a couple of days after they had picked Lucy up because they were having difficulties on walks with the pulling, with her jumping about and her general excitability. She ‘wouldn’t listen’. She had growled at a friend coming in the front door. She’s their first dog and they weren’t quite prepared for this.

I visited on Lucy’s fifth day. She had already calmed down a bit. All toileting was now outside unless she was scared.

Her fearful reactivity to people coming into the house was increasing however.

When I arrived she barked at me loudly. I didn’t react in any way and, unusually, she didn’t pee with fear. I rBEautiful dog for first time dog ownersestrained the young couple from fussing her as this can transfer their own anxiety and I sat down. Lucy stopped barking. I dropped her a piece of food and she took another from my hand.

Then the beautiful dog came and sat on my foot. She rested with her head lovingly beside my knee.

My heart melted.

Over the next few weeks I shall be helping these new dog owners to field anything that Lady may happen to throw at them as they work through the ‘honeymoon period’. We are working on loose lead walking, a suitable diet, leaving her alone happily and other things.

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We want to nip the fearful reaction in the bud.

The young lady contacted me this morning (the day after my visit) to tell me Lucy is now barking more at people and even cars that pass. The sitting room has a long picture window looking out over the road. Each day it gets worse.

The more frequently Lucy engages in this barking the more of a habit it will become, so now is the time to act. People’s instinct, particularly if it’s their first dog, is to try to stop the dog barking by letting the dog know she’s ‘doing wrong’.

In my opinion the only truly efficient way to change the barking is to change the emotions in Lucy that are driving her to bark. It is certainly fear in her case. There may be a touch of instinctive guarding or territorial emotion too.

When she barks – or better still if they can pre-empt the barking – they need to reassure her and call her away, rewarding her for doing so. If this doesn’t work, they will need to go over to her, help her and remove her. Any scolding will just make her feel worse about whatever she is barking at.

Why not, however, get to the root of the barking – change how Lucy is feeling about the people and cars going past?

I suggest they take her out the front on lead with a pocket of her food.

Stand. Watch. Listen.

With everything that goes past, feed her. If she’s reluctant to eat she needs tastier food and they may need to stand further back, inside the open front door. They can scatter food on the ground so she associates the scary area where she watches people approaching the house with something good.

Then they can come indoors and do the same thing from the sitting room window – watching and feeding, listening and feeding.

They may need to do this exercise very regularly for weeks and any time in the future when she looks like reverting.

It’s easy to see how Lucy’s fear of people both passing the house and approaching the house is linked to her fear of people entering the house. It may also be linked to her having been trapped in a kennel for the best part of each day for six months, unable to escape when someone walked towards her and entered.

With different management of visitors and Lucy feeling differently about  people approaching or passing the house, the fear of callers shouldn’t be too hard to crack. She is wonderfully friendly and affectionate once she’s feeling safe.

She should certainly no longer have access to the view out of that picture window.

Lucy’s reaction to people coming to the house could snowball into a bigger problem if not caught straight away. It’s unlikely that people with their first dog will have sufficient knowledge of systematic desensitisation and counter conditioning without some help.

 

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 Lady. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog along with listening to friends can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, making sure that we are dealing with the real causes. I also provide moral support which people will probably need for a while. 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 My 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!

Two Romanian Street Dogs

Was a Romanian street dog

Roma

The two Romanian Street dogs I have just visited are doing magnificently as are their new custodians, a couple with a large open home, marble floors and furniture!

Everything is different and it’s not surprising that they are on high alert at times. At others they are amazingly chilled. It’s hard to believe they were flown over from Romania only three weeks ago.

Having lived on the streets till eighteen months ago and then all that time since in kennels, it’s little surprise that there are toilet accidents in the house. They have been scared of walking beside traffic which makes sense – freely roaming they would have kept away from a noisy road.

Roma is a Romanian Sheepdog of around five years old and Mocca a Collie mix, a year older. They look surprisingly similar really. The two dogs were best buddies during their time in kennels before coming here, which must have a lot to do with how well they are settling in. That, along with great work which must have been done by kennel staff and now by the couple they live with who have been fielding their issues with great sensitivity and insight.

Out in the garden in particular they are very reactivite to the smallest noise, including sounds inaudible to their humans.

Romanian Street Dog

Mocca

We will be approaching the barking situation from three angles. Firstly to reassure the dogs that they can trust their humans to be responsible for protecting them by how they deal with alarm barking.

Secondly, the best way to see this through is for the couple to call the dogs away from what they are barking at and to themselves, so a lot of recall work is needed until responding to being called is immediate. Thirdly desensitisation, removing the feelings of fear associated with noises.

Paired with the recall work the dogs should eventually accept most of the sounds and learn to go to their humans if they are worried. It needs consistency and persistence which these people certainly have.

Walking is the other area of major concern. Now that they have to walk on lead around the streets, we need to get into the dogs’ heads. How will they be feeling? Are they feeling safe? Comfortable?

Having been free-roaming street dogs, they will have been used to meeting and greeting people and dogs if they so chose and avoiding them if they preferred. They are now physically attached to a human – and by short and rather heavy chain leads. The first thing is the for the dogs to feel as free and relaxed as is possible; then to give them back some sense of choice as to whether they approach people and dogs or not.

They need comfortable equipment – I prefer Perfect Fit harnesses – with lightweight, longish training leads that can be hooked both back and chest. Then both dog and humans will feel safe and be safe.

I suggest they take the dogs back to ‘primary school’ with the walking. Why not start ‘walking school’ near home? Several five or ten minute sessions following the protocols just around the immediate locality, one dog at a time and swapping dogs so the one left behind doesn’t get too anxious. This will advance things a lot quicker than a tense mile-long walk with both dogs together, being forced near other dogs and people, and battling against things they hate like cats!

There is always a legitimate worry about whether the dog gets sufficient exercise, but it has been observed that dogs living free to do their own thing actually cover very little distance. We have to prioritise. Exercise with anxious dogs will do a lot less good than gradually acclimatising them with plenty of manageable and low-stress sessions that are both mental stimulation and fun.

If you are particularly interested in street dogs, why not watch the Living With a Street Dog webinar by Lisa Tenzin-Dolma.

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 Mocca and Roma. 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. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Helppage)

Nipping Makes People Back Away

Jack RussellThis is Finley. Finley has quite obviously discovered, wherever he lived before and he has no history, that nipping makes people back off.

The lady has had the six-year-old Jack Russell for one month now. Alone with her, Finley is the model dog. He is biddable and affectionate. He is absolutely adorable – most of the time!

When someone comes to the house – particularly if it’s a man – Finley is liable to jump up and nip them on the hand with no barking or growling first. I expect this is because they put their a hand out to him. Out on a walk he has now bitten a woman on the leg when his new owner stopped to chat with her and Finley sat quietly beside her. All the woman had done was to raise her hand to her hair. Possible Finley had misinterpreted the action and he immediately flew at her leg, breaking the skin.

I was showing the lady how to have Finley walking on loose lead in the front garden when a friend came to the fence – someone who Finley knows. He looked happy and friendly as she said ‘Hello Finley’ and ran over to her, trailing the lead. As soon as she put her hand out over the fence however he leapt up and bit the sleeve of her coat. She narrowly missed a damaged hand and it took me by surprise also. It was like a quick ‘”Back Off – No Hands in My Territory”.

He was lovely with me from the moment I entered the door – but, then, I would never dream of putting my hand out to a dog at that stage. I would stand still and let him sniff me – which he did – probably learning all about my own four dogs!  I also know not to walk towards the owner. Before I move I always say “I’ll follow you” so that the person turns around and leads me into the room, the dog following.

From chatting to the lady and watching him, I’m sure the nipping behaviour is because the dog is becoming increasingly protective of her and his new territory.

What can she do about this?

Firstly, if she behaves like his slave, jumping to his every demand, topping up his food bowl and fussing him constantly, he may well feel she’s some sort of resource belonging to him that he will want to guard. In every way possible she should be showing Finley that she is there to protect him and not the other way around.

She should show him, too, who is the protector when he barks at sounds and passing people and dogs by how she reacts. If he’s at the window barking at passing people and particularly dogs whenever they pass, he is surely just getting better at barking at people and dogs. He’s firing himself up to drive people away. To him the barking always works because whoever it is does go away if he keeps barking until they do.

If Finley spends much of the day on guard duty, waiting for a dog to pass, it’s hardly surprising that he’s a handful on walks when they sees a dog.

Where food is concerned, she should, instead of allowing him to graze all day, leave the best stuff for him to earn – for work around barking, people approaching – and other dogs on walks.

At home the groundwork should be in place and then, out on walks, everything done to associate other dogs with nice stuff and not with discomfort or panic. Currently he’s on a retractable lead on a thin collar. If he lunges, on reaching the end of the lead the jerk will hurt his neck. So now the other dog causes him pain to his neck as well. I would prefer a longish normal lead, long enough so he feels some freedom – and a harness (not the sort of ‘no pull’ harness that causes pain by tightening under the arms when the dog pulls).

Already she is taking Finley for three short walks a day as any more she herself finds it too stressful. She is a retired lady and is happy to give him even more even shorter outings. They can come straight home as soon as he has been stressed by something. Each subsequent thing he encounters will add to his build-up of stress as he becomes increasingly out of control.

The day’s barking in the garden or at the window will mean he starts the walk a stressed dog. Unlike humans who can warn you when they are reaching their breaking point, dogs are silent; they talk more with their bodies but often we simply can’t read them.

This case is a good example of how much of what a person does at home with her dog can influence what happens out on walks. She can work at getting and keeping his attention, at getting him to come to her straight away whenever she calls him and at motivating him with food and fun. Boundary and window barking at people and dogs should be controlled and he can be desensitised instead.

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 Finley. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving potential aggression. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Another Rescue Can’t Be Left Alone

Young Rottie has been in her new home for one weekIt’s hard to believe that dear little Rottie (perhaps Rottie mix) Dotty had been languishing in Wood Green Animal Shelter for four whole months. Not only is she beautiful to look at, she is amazingly calm for a dog who is probably less than eighteen months old.

Dotty had been picked up as a stray, but obviously had enjoyed home life before. She has had some training and has very good manners. I can’t imagine how anyone could abandon a dog like this. If someone had been looking for her they had plenty of time to find her.

She has landed on her feet with experienced dog owners, people I in fact helped about six years ago with their previous dog who was a much greater challenge.

Very wisely they decided to start as they mean to go on. Because of the level of management their other dog needed, it’s possible they are actually trying a little bit too hard and need to relax a bit. Just let Dotty settle in gradually. I don’t feel there is any risk of her going off the rails!

The main, overwhelming need, is to be able to leave her alone. This seems to be fairly common with dogs who have been in rescue kennels for a while, and nobody knows until the dog is in a home that separation will be an issue.

On the third morning the lady needed to go out. She walked Dotty and then shut her in the crate (where Dotty happily goes voluntarily). She had done no more than pick her bag when, in the lady’s words, Dotty had a meltdown. She went frantic. Needless to say, the lady didn’t go out.

It is fortunate that she works from home, and that her husband can cover for her if she needs to go out, because ideally this sort of thing needs to be done gradually. Already, and I only saw her a couple of days ago, Dotty is happily left downstairs while the lady is upstairs. She is behind a gate.

All the triggers like picking up a handbag or keys need to be associated with good stuff and commonplace. They will now be working on closing doors with a departure signal – or more accurately a ‘certainly coming back’ signal. Whenever they go out of her presence they already are saying ‘Back soon’. This signal, accompanied by food, will gradually make their departures pleasurable and reassuring for Dotty and with the work they are going to put in she will, in time, be convinced without doubt that they are definitely going to return.

Returns from all these short exits will be boring – nothing to get excited about – something that is ‘a given’.

It is very early days and impossible to tell whether Dotty being okay left alone will take weeks or even months, or whether they will get a sudden breakthrough as she begins to trust the routines of her new life.

It is now almost two months later, and this is the latest feedback on Dotty’s separation issues: ‘Home alone is better – she has gone from ‘don’t leave me’ to ‘put the toy box down and get out!’. Asleep when I get back and not out of her mind to see me.  I make a ‘toy box’ – treat ball, yummy bones, toys etc that she only gets when I go out. Hide the lot in a cardboard box so she has to work to get at them. She has a great time with that lot and then climbs on the kitchen chair and goes to sleep.’

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

Rescue Dog Settling In

VinnieI suggested they start all over again just as though Vinnie had never been walked before!

They have had the young Jack Russell for just over one week now and he is a rescue dog slowly finding his feet.

It’s very likely that he had seldom been outside his home and garden during the 2 1/2 years of his life which was apparently with a terminally ill person. He is another dog that reacts badly when seeing other dogs and where the groundwork needs to be put in at home first.

Each day he becomes more relaxed with them and although he’s an independent little dog he now will enjoy a cuddle.

He has a couple of strange little quirks.  He is completely quiet when anyone comes up the front path, rings on the doorbell, delivers a package or comes in the front door. However, when there is any noise from out the back – a dog barking or a car door slamming, he will rush out barking.

He’s very reactive to anything sudden, even someone coughing (they will gradually desensitise him to that in very small stages and using food). I do wonder whether the general background noise in his previous home may have been higher. One can only speculate. Now he lives with quiet people in a quiet area and against this background most sounds may well seem sudden.

The other strange thing is that from time to time he stands still, almost trance-like with his eyes closing. I did wonder whether it was because he was anxious, but there were no other indications such as lip licking or yawning. I took a video. On advice, I have suggested they get this checked out with their vet.

They will first start walking Vinnie in the garden until both humans and dog have the technique and a loose lead. As they go along they will work on getting and keeping his attention.

Only then they will venture out of the gate – but they won’t be going very far!

Bit by bit they will build on this until he is walking happily down the road on a loose lead. Only now will they be ready to work on dogs and Vinnie should be a lot more confident. They must do their best to keep at a distance where Vinnie isn’t too uncomfortable to take food or to give his humans his attention.

The secret to success, particularly with a rescue dog, is being prepared to put in the necessary effort and put in the necessary time – as I know Vinnie’s people are (see my ‘Reality Check’ page).

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Vinnie which is why I don’t share all the exact details 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).

Older Chocolate Labradors in their New Home

2choclabs1 2choclabs2.jpgLily, 9, and Jack age 12 do everything in tail-wagging tandem! It is such a good thing that these two older dogs were rehomed together and hopefully they both have quite a few years left in their wonderful new home of just three months.

They must have been well loved in their previous life as they are friendly with all people and adore children. They walk beautifully on lead and come back when called.

This job was a real delight for me. The people want to make sure that the rest of their new dogs’ lives are as good as they possibly can be whilst ironing out one or two problems.

They bark at 5am for the day to start and, until I suggested they were ignored, someone has come down to them so that inadvertently they were teaching them to keep barking early morning.

They also jump up at the lady in particular and she is bruised. Again, their reaction is reinforcing jumping up and not showing them what to do instead. So long as they are consistent and patient (which they are) jumping up will soon be a thing of the past. Excitement and jumping is also rewarded with meals and walks, so they will wait for calm and feet on the floor now.

There have been some problems with indoor toileting in certain strategic places – marking possibly – and I’m sure this is just due to their settling in to their new life after a time in kennels.  Jack is on some medication which is upsetting his tummy.

The retired couple are absolutely in love with their new dogs and their family and grandchildren adore them. They really are the perfect family pets.

By the way, the couple found their dogs through the The Oldies Club.  If you would like to give a dog a home for the latter part of his or her life, take a look.

Trying Too Hard to Have a Perfect Dog

Ridgeback-Pharoah Hound mix This dog is incredibly obedient, is repressed and over-controlledThey think Otis is a Ridgeback crossed with a Pharaoh Hound. This wonderful young dog has been through a lot in the one year of his short life. He started life in a puppy farm, ended up in a shelter for several months, and a couple of months ago was adopted by a young couple – my clients.

He was in a woeful, thin state having hated being kennelled. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, they discovered he had a congenital heart disease so he needed major surgery.

The gentleman is with Otis all day as he works from home and has worked very hard training him to be a house dog and to be obedient. He has done amazingly well. All was going more or less to plan until three weeks ago when Otis went back to the shelter in order to be castrated.

Since then he has become anxious and needy, developing separation problems; understandably insecure.

This dog is incredibly obedient, I would say somewhat repressed and over-controlled. With anxiety now part of the equation, the man has been becoming increasingly frustrated because this is an aspect of Otis’ behaviour that he is unable to control. The anxiety is affecting the dog’s behaviour towards people he meets or hears and how the gentleman feels about his dog.

Otis has been kept in the kitchen even when they are in the sitting room. He has been trained to stay in the crate even though the door is open. The reasoning being that if he’s allowed to join them once he will expect to be there all the time. When they go out for a smoke in the garden, they may leave Otis in the kitchen, watching out of the window, thinking that if they always let him out it will create a precedent.

I think this is backfiring on them. Just as something that is too freely available loses value, the converse must be true and if a dog is starved of something (company) he will crave it more and hence his increasing neediness for company. There is also inconsistency between the couple resulting in conflict. The lady is much more relaxed and wants cuddles while the man has been set on creating the perfect dog. I felt terrific sympathy for both of them.

At the end of our time together, he volunteered that he was banging his head against a brick wall of his own making. Otis had to be in the sitting room all the time I was there and he was as good as gold. With the ongoing self-imposed pressure to ‘get it right’ the man has been pushing himself and Otis much too hard, but in treating Otis in a way that rested comfortably with her, his wife was in effect undermining him. She, too, has compromises to make.

In his efforts to do his very best for his dog the poor man had lost his way and lost sight of the reason they got the dog – to enjoy family life with his lovely wife and their happy dog.

Their first task is to look for every GOOD thing they can see their dog doing and immediately reward it with a piece of his kibble which they should keep in their pocket – whether it’s watching the cat walk by without moving, settling down after pacing or not barking when he hears something outside.

It’s amazing what a different mindset can do. I had an email this morning: ‘It was great to meet you last night. I can’t tell you how much things have improved already! Otis seems much happier and in turn so are we’.

Dog From Spain and Too Much Jumping

Perro is a remarkably stable little rescue dog from SpainI have fallen in love, again! Little 7-month-old Perro was found in sad circumstances in Spain, quarantined, and brought home by friends of the couple who have now had him for one month. He is a terrier of some sort.

He is remarkably stable and resilient considering what he has been through in his short life. He is very fortunate with his new home with the patient couple who have already come a long way with him in just one month.

The main problem is his over-excitement and jumping up – sometimes grabbing with his mouth also. It’s especially difficult because they have a three-year-old daughter who gets scratched by his claws. He is extremely good with her – he adores her – and she has already been taught to be gentle and respectful around him.

People seldom realise that they are actually reinforcing the jumping up. If a dog does it this persistently, then they must be. It has be rewarding for him in some way. So, they need to be just as persistent in their own new responses to his jumping up for as long as it takes. Perro will naturally begin to try even harder when he finds what usually works no longer works, and he may even get frustrated and get worse temporarily. Keep calm – and see it through!

The other thing that needs working on is walks. He is currently on an extendable lead and pulls all the time – and why not? An extendable or flexilead has a spring that ensures it’s always tight so it simply teaches the dog to resist. Pulling away a reflex action in response to being pulled back. There is no such thing as loose lead walking on a flexilead, unless it’s locked, and then why not use a proper lead of a good length that is more comfortable to hold? Perro also gets very excited when he sees dogs and people – straining towards them and then jumping all over them.

He has so many good points. He’s not a big barker, he’s scared of nothing apart from the car, he eats well, he doesn’t beg, he is biddable, very friendly and affectionate. Just look at him!

A couple of days later I called in again to work on giving Perro a behaviour incompatible with jumping up, using a clicker. Clickers are often used in the wrong way, but used correctly clicker training is very useful because it encourges the dog to make his own right decisions and isn’t about us giving him commands. This way he learns self control rather than people trying to control him – which very often will hype a dog up even more.
Ten days after my visit I have feedback on his walking is going: “I have been working on this walking out the back and am seeing real improvements, it will take time especially when there are distractions, but he is not pulling continuously anymore”.
Three and a half weeks have now gone by: Perro is getting on really well………We are on holiday at my parents at the moment and Perro is behaving very well. I have asked my family to get up and fold their arms, giving him no attention if he jumps up  and they are all being fantastic with it. I have just had a lovely walk with him, he is walking really well on the short lead. I am remaining very determined to keep him walking on a loose lead, We saw some cars go by while we were walking and he didn’t leap at the at all and paid them hardly any attention at all which is fabulous. I have been doing as you suggested clipping his lead on him first thing in the morning to stop him jumping at us and this is working really well …. I am also still working at the impulse control training as in the video and he is responing very well to this……We are remaining calm and consistent and i feel are making steady progress”.

Cane Corso’s Protective Instinct

Cane Corso had been in rescue for fourteen monthsA Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff) was bred to guard the property and hunt. Taken into a family home, she is bound to be a challenge as Brooke’s original owners probably found out. She had been in the care of a rescue organisation for fourteen months before coming to her new home. She is now three years old.

It’s not surprising that, due to a mixed past and her genetic inheritance that she is suspicious of strangers and dogs. Suspicious implies fearful and protective.

Brooke’s new owners knew what they were taking on four or so months ago. They have already made terrific progress. They know that there is still a long way to go, particularly where Brooke’s encountering people, dogs, traffic, bikes and so on is concerned. They can’t predict what her response will be.

After one unfortunate incident when someone came to the house, they are also very careful to train their visitors!

I am making Brooke sound like a difficult and touchy dog, but for the most part this isn’t the case. She is highly intelligent, loving and gentle with the people she knows. I found her friendly and biddable.

A dog like this makes a nonsense of ‘dominance’ techniques (confronting a dog, facing or pinning it down to ‘show who is boss’). That would be the fast track to a nasty bite and a dangerous dog. Fortunately Brooke’s owners would not consder doing these things, but in some respects they are not clear what they should be doing.

Effective leadership has nothing to do with dominating, though it does mean making decisions and standing firm; encouraging a dog to be respectful where our own personal space is concerned – especially a dog of such strength and power.

Leadership is about consistency, calmness and confidence. Most dogs are predisposed to wanting to please their humans, so we tap into this. We cut down on confrontational commands and enlist her cooperation with encouragement and reward. Whilst demonstrating to Brooke that her warnings of danger are valued, actually dealing with the danger is not her job – it is that of the leaders. Brooke should be ‘off duty’ and trusting her humans to see to things – especially when out on walks where, on lead, effectively she is trapped.  She is trapped, attached to someone who is nervous and worried, who may not react as a leader should in the eyes of a dog when encountering things she perceives as a threat. It is no wonder an already protective breed can go into full guarding mode.

Leaders are not nervous or worried. Leaders are decisive. It’s a sign of strength and not weakness to walk away from possible trouble.

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