Dominant Alpha or Friend and Guardian?

Staffie Boxer mix Digby came out of his shell after a couple of hours. What a character.

This is yet another story that could make me cry. A young couple get themselves a puppy. They don’t do this lightly but ‘read all the books’ and look on the internet.

Digby was only six weeks old when they picked him up and it’s probable his fearfulness is partly genetic. He’s now two years old.

The Alpha myth.

Alpha dominance doesn't work on Digby

How can a new dog owner tell if a trainer who sets himself up as an authority won’t do more harm than good?

So concerned were they by Digby’s increasing fearfulness and barking at people that they had a trainer to their home to ‘teach’ them what to do. When the sensitive dog did something they didn’t like, they were shown to throw metal discs on the ground in front of him.

Digby can become very easily over-aroused and will then redirect quite roughly onto the young man in particular, grabbing his arm with his teeth. The poor young man just doesn’t know how to deal with it.

The trainer’s answer to this was to spray him with ‘bitter’ spray (surely also wiping out Digby’s number one sense, his sense of smell, for a long while).

This trainer, in the name of dominance and teaching an owner to be the Alpha, seems to think it’s okay to push the dog over the edge with over-arousal and then to punish it.

That’s just ridiculous. Why not instead limit the arousal so that this redirection onto someone’s arm isn’t necessary? Why not get to the bottom of why it’s happening and use healthy stimulation and calming activities instead?

Here is another thing – another ignored by Dibgy’s owners. Apparently he shouldn’t be allowed to settle in one place for too long before he’s moved to another room. How can an Alpha wolf be blamed for that?

Old wolf-pack theory dominance methods rely on superstitions and quick fixes that may work in the moment. I have been to countless cases demonstrating conclusively the long-term fallout.

So, after the ‘help’ from this individual, the young couple have felt increasingly unhappy about doing this dominance stuff with their beloved family pet but have known no alternative.

Digby goes out for a walk with his tail between his legs.

He shakes when his collar comes out. Out on the street he is scared of everything. In this state he may react by lunging and barking at a person or dog he sees. The trainer’s advice was to put him on a Gencon and basically force control onto him.

This same trainer had advised them not to shut Digby behind the gate anymore when people came to the house. A couple of days after his visit, Digby bit someone coming into the house.

He was in such a state of panic that he emptied his bowels right where he stood in the room.

Poor Digby. His young owners were beside themselves with distress for him.

Anyway, things are now changing.

For the first time since he was very young, a relaxed Digby was wandering around the sitting room and lying down beside a visitor. He began behind the kitchen gate, barking. We started with him brought into the room on lead and muzzled. As the couple relaxed and the lead was loosened, so did Digby relax. The lead was dropped. The muzzle came off. Then the lead was removed altogether.

Digby fished in my bag. He nuzzled me. I gave him food. He did a naughty dash upstairs (not allowed – he was called down and now rewarded for coming). The beautiful dog was so happy.

The power of positive methods unfolded before our eyes,

Looking ahead, all instruments of harshness will be abandoned in favour of rewards and positive reinforcement. Digby will get a comfortable harness and a longer lead. The restricting Gencon will be ditched.

They will be giving him two kinds of walks, field walks and road walks. He’s much more confident out in the fields and going by car. It’s leaving the house to walk along the road and pavements that scares him so much.

They will pop him in the car and walk him on a long line as often as they can.

Meanwhile they will get him happy just standing outside the gate to begin with. They can use his tail as a gauge! If his tail drops between his legs they will turn back.

How to be an Alpha Male according to wolves

 

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 Duke. 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 or any form of aggression 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).

Impulse Control Lacking, at Home and on Walks

Much of Blue’s early life was spent in a crate after he and his brother began to fight. He was rehomed. Next he was in another bad situation before being taken in by a rescue and fostered by someone with fifteen dogs.

Now introduced to a steady home life, it’s little wonder Blue is lacking impulse control. It must be a lot to get used to.

He is amazingly friendly and adaptable considering his life over the past three years.

I would sum Blue up as eager to please and biddable…

…and lacking in impulse control.

Lacking impulse controlThere is a good reason the photos are blurred! He was seldom still.

His new humans are incredibly tolerant, but when he becomes too much, Blue is put in the bathroom so they can have a break. He doesn’t make a fuss. He’s very accepting.

We had to put him away for a while because his jumping all over us meant he was such hard work that it was impossible to talk.

They want him to stop jumping all over friends and family who come to their house.

They are doing their best to ‘train’ him out of it, but commands may arouse him even more and also give him the attention he is craving. Also consistency is key – not sometimes with some people, but always with everyone – themselves included. It’s only fair for him to know what is expected of him.

Each time the dog did this to me I turned my head away and gently stood to tip him off. I then was nice to him when his feet were on the floor. He got the message. As he started to understand what was required of him, he began to show just a little impulse control.

They have now had Blue for four weeks and already he’s improved in some areas while maybe getting worse in others.

Blue is scared of the dark, particularly cars in the dark.

They can work on this fear in the safety of just outside their own front door, getting him used to being out at night time and the passing cars from a safe distance.

During the day he’s not too confident either. He will bark at other dogs when he’s on lead. This could well be made worse because when he barks, the lady holds him tightly on a chain lead, her own anxiety rippling down it.

Bit by bit they will help Blue to gain confidence and impulse control. Already he has been taught several cues. Now he needs to learn how to stop, listen and wait.

They will give him a good selection of things to work on and to wreck! Instead of chasing his tail, squirming noisily on his back on the floor, charging up the stairs, raiding surfaces, nibbling people and so on, they can give him alternatives to relieve his stress and frustrations.

A box of rubbish can give him something to attack!

Why throw the recycling rubbish away? Why not give it to the dog first! Milk or water bottles, toilet roll tubes and screwed up paper make a great free toy.

A marrow bone can give him something to literally get his teeth into and will calm him. He can hunt for his tea – see SprinklesTM. They will have tiny food rewards to hand to keep him motivated and to reinforce calm.

One of the first things I look at when a dog is so hyperactive is his diet. In this case the wonderful couple had beaten me to it – they have already put him on the best food they can find. His skin and coat have changed dramatically. When they first took him in four weeks ago his tummy was red and raw and his tail worn hairless. Now his coat is growing shiny and healthy.

Blue is at the start of a very good new life.

Elderly Dog Can Unlearn Old Tricks

An elderly dog, he still has plenty of life in him

An elderly dog, twelve year old StaffI went to a delightful elderly Staffie yesterday, twelve-year-old Barney. I was told that his jumping up was a big problem, particularly for the little grandchildren, and that his pulling on lead was so bad he’d not been walked for nearly two years and that he had now started to destroy the house when they were out.

Prepared, I left my equipment bag in the hallway, safely away from being raided, just bringing with me my notes, treats, pen and mobile. I need not have worried.

Barney was in the living room, sitting at the man’s feet. He hadn’t heard me! So – obviously he’s a bit deaf.

When he did notice me he came over, very friendly, but no jumping up. The elderly dog was more interested in sniffing a day in the life of my own dogs on my clothes.

As so often happens, he had been particularly good in the days since they had booked their appointment. It’s like he knew! I believe that owners, perhaps subconsciously, examine their own behaviour a bit more carefully in preparation for a visit and without having received any advice, the behaviour work is already beginning to take effect!

 

Jumping up and scaring the grandchildren will be easily addressed.

The two little children and the elderly dog get on beautifully once he has calmed down.

There is a history of family members coming in and making a huge fuss of Barney. One young man particularly fires him up with fuss and play. To quote the lady, ‘Barney doesn’t know when to stop’.

Of course he doesn’t. If this were a child he would be in tears by now or else in hysterics or having a tantrum. It will probably take him hours to properly calm down. I know I am a spoilsport but this has to stop if they want to achieve their goals.

If Barney jumps up on adults, family and visitors, then he will jump around the little children too.

Telling him to get down and pushing him whilst at other times playing or fussing him when his feet are on them, teaches him exactly what they don’t want. He will now learning that that feet on the floor works best.

This is the first ‘old trick’ that elderly dog Barney can unlearn. He has, in effect, been taught to jump up.

 

He’s not been out beyond the small garden for eighteen months.

an elderly dog, 12 year old Staff

Camera shy

Everything became harder for Barney when their other elderly dog, another Staff, died a couple of years ago.

He used to get uncontrollably excited even when the drawer containing lead and harness was opened. By the time he was launching himself out of the front door he was so aroused that he was beside himself. His pulling was so severe that the lady said it simply hurt her and with his lunging at any dog he saw, walks became a nightmare. They gave up.

They had taught him the ‘old trick’ of getting excited when going to the drawer by letting him know that a walk would follow. He may even have believed that his manic behaviour was causing the walk. Now they will open and shut the drawer countless times until it’s no big deal. The same process will be used for lifting the lead and harness and then putting them on.

Having not been out on a walk for eighteen months they can have a fresh start.

Barney walked beautifully on a loose lead around the house with me and then with the lady. He needs the right equipment so that he has nothing to pull against and he needs encouragement and praise.

In the past pulling has still resulted in forward-progress, so this is another old trick that can be learnt even by an elderly dog.

When Barney does eventually get to go out, in his new state of mind he will be able to cope a lot better with the appearance of another dog. No longer will the man force him forward, holding him tight – maybe even picking him up. They will increase distance and start to get him feeling good about dogs so long as they are not too close for comfort. Each dog is an individual and Barney has his own things that will help with this which I shan’t share here.

With help he can ‘unlearn’ reactivity to other dogs also. Knowing that he’s not expected to make friends or get too close to them if he doesn’t want to even if they have to go another route, the elderly dog can relax and they can all start to enjoy walks together.

They will change his diet away from Bakers Complete – known to have an adverse effect on the behaviour of dogs.

At home they will train him to the whistle in order to compensate for his reduced hearing. Eventually the elderly dog may even be able to go off lead – or at least on a very long line – and enjoy some freedom to sniff, relax and do doggy things.

The lovely family’s elderly dog will have a new lease of life!

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. 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)

 

 

Young Staffie’s Wild Behaviour

Eight month old StaffieThere is just something about a young Staffie! Butter may not melt at the moment but you can almost see him working out what mischief he can get up to next.

Bolt, well-named, is an eight month old bundle of energy who is fearless and ready for anything. (It’s a nice change just now for me to go to a really confident dog).

The couple have a great seven-year-old son who is really on board. He was very quick to pick up the idea of looking for Bolt doing good things and rewarding with Yes or click and food for the briefest of moments when the dog was either calm or not jumping at the table where we sat which he did relentlessly, using our chairs to get onto it if we stood up.

When excited, Bolt will chase the boy, grabbing his clothes and biting his feet. The child understands that for now it would be best if he didn’t run around the garden while Bolt is out there or on walks, where Bolt is at his worst. For now he should walk beside his mum and dad. It’s a shame and it’s hard because he is only seven after all, but more space in conjunction with fast movement brings out Bolt’s wild behaviour. It’s not forever. Bolt, being just a teenager, will grow up and meanwhile he should get no more opportunity to rehearse his boy-targeted wildness.

What a great kid! He will be a big part of Bolt’s training and he was taking written notes throughout in immaculate writing. He will do brain games with Bolt like hunting for things with Bolt and he has a good grasp of using clicker for marking good behaviour. Next time I shall teach him how to clicker train Bolt to do other things – very good exercise for the brain of an active dog who will then get attention for achieving success rather than causing trouble.

He has a lovely home but, unlike the child, has been given few rules and boundaries. They now have to leave him outside in the garden with the shelter of a kennel when they go out because he wrecks the kitchen and raids the table. His jumping up when they get in is relentless and it’s a big problem when they have friends to the house. There’s not one bit of malice in Bolt, but it’s like being hit by a whirlwind.

He’s another dog where the people unintentionally stir him up thinking enthusiastic welcomes are necessary. This of course makes the jumping up all the worse. To change this they have no choice but to ignore him when his feet are off the floor and make sure to reinforce with attention feet on the floor – but gently! Anything enthusiastic will start Bolt leaping about again as would commands like Sit just yet which is success for Bolt in terms of attention after all.

We know that diet can effect hyperactivity, and at present he’s fed raw which is excellent but it’s mixed with a certain well advertised brand of complete food, full of colourings, e-numbers and bulked out with unsuitable grains. This will be changed.

There are difficulties on walks and he chases their two cats, but this first visit is all about getting a calmer baseline to work from. It’s sometimes hard to know just where to start.

Some boundaries are being set such as a gate on the kitchen door. This will prevent Bolt from getting to the front door and mugging people coming in and from chasing the boy up the stairs in rough and playful excitement, grabbing him as he does so. The lady is expecting a baby in the spring and a Staffie flying all over people and sofas isn’t a good idea.

With the help of this very insightful child, I’m sure Bolt will gradually find that being well-mannered and calmer is a lot more rewarding than his current wild behaviour and the boy will have a great pal as he grows up.

He Bites Without Warning?

Henry is a very mixed-up dog. The four-year-old Staffy mix has been with the young lady for three years now and came with a good deal of baggage which we can only guess at. He was terrified wreck initially. The lady has come a long way in making him more confident.

Brindle Staffy mixHenry ‘bites without warning’ and it’s getting worse. It did, to me, ‘come out of the blue’ at the time when he went for my feet under the table because it seemed so out of context with his other behaviour and I wasn’t looking for the right things. Replaying the sequence in my head afterwards I could see there was in fact subtle warning.

Henry, between barks, had happily eaten food that I threw over the gate and made no attempt to back away, so he wasn’t unduly fearful. He was put on lead by the gentleman who took him the other end of the room while I came through the gate to sit at the dining table with the young lady. I lobbed Henry chicken and I threw him a ball. Fine. He had a couple of short barking bouts but soon stopped. I suggested the man dropped the lead.

After a while I watched Henry disappear quietly under the table towards me and he suddenly surprised me by biting first one of my shoes and then the other – hard and in quick succession. My feet hadn’t been moving. Fortunately no harm was done as my shoes protected my feet. I asked the man to get hold of the lead again.

How did I not see that coming?

This seemed very much like anger to me – anger perhaps that his barking hadn’t got rid of me and that I simply carried on sitting where I was, the other side of the table, ignoring him when he barked.

I could now see why they said their dog was unpredictable, ‘biting without warning’. We carefully examined each of the other times he has bitten in detail and found quite a few things in common including (apart from myself) it has been men he attacks and he bites always below the knee and usualy hard enough to draw blood. On each occasion Henry was already very aroused.

Why bite my feet?

Where most dogs, certainly those that have had a more fortunate upbringing, will only bite as a last resort, Henry seems to go straight into biting. It looked very much like some sort of learned behaviour to me. One time when he was held by the collar and couldn’t get to someone he actually bit the sofa instead. I would guess that, at some stage, he has been taught to bite, maybe deliberately.

If has been ‘roughed up’ to encourage aggression with the original owner from a pup, possibly tackled with feet to encourage an aggressive response, my guess is that the mere sight of feet/boots/legs/shoes has in the past had his body drenched with fear of being attacked so he will over time have built up an automatic response. If the stress of feet/shoes and close proximity to the lady he trusts and invasion of space has been niggling, then his warnings to increase distance were ignored (barking), it might have just tipped him over, resulting in defensive, fearful and what seemed a no-warning sudden reaction with no control of his actions to my feet under the table. This is the most likely explanation.

As it had happened to myself, I could re-play the scene in my mind afterwards. I believe, when we know what to look for, there is warning and a context. The usual context is one of Henry already being stressed, being in his own territory and a man being too close to himself or to the lady. The warning: he stares. That’s all. It could be easy for his owner to miss unless she’s watching him constantly.

For important reasons I won’t go into here, the lady has a deadline to make some progress with Henry.

There first thing to ensure is in place is management. He has to be muzzled when they are out, just in case. She already has systems in place for when callers come to the house, a gate, a crate that he’s used to being in, an anchor point and a muzzle he’s quite happy with, but this isn’t really the life that anyone wants with their dog. The young lady works hard to give her dog the best life possible but she unable to have friends to her home and she can’t take her dog away with her.

As stress is playing a such large part, everything must be done to keep Henry’s stress levels down in all areas of his life. Every time he goes mental when seeing a person or even barks at people passing the fence it is ‘loading the gun’.

He needs reprogramming. This is the only way in the long run that he is ever likely to be trustworthy. A process will be taught and repeated over and over, hundreds of times, so that upon a certain cue Henry will immediately and automatically, without thinking, follow a pre-planned sequence that is incompatible with stressing, barking or staring at someone. Whenever he sees a person and is anything other than relaxed, he must be taught a default alternative behaviour incompatible with his current behaviour.

I won’t go into the exact detail because it is specifically tailored to Henry, and if lifted and applied to another dog out of context could be inappropriate.

If the technique can be sufficiently ingrained before time runs out, then other people can also use the special cue if they are feeling at all uneasy.

The ‘wrong’ people taking on young dogs for the ‘wrong’ reasons can do untold harm. When they are abandoned, where do many end up? Well-meaning people like my young lady do the principled thing by taking in a rescue dog and then end up condemned to years of heartbreak and worry, unable to live a normal life because of the damage done earlier by someone else to the dog they have grown to love.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’, 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).

Chaos with Hyperactive Dog

Hyperactive Staffordshire Bull TerrierJumping all over people, flying behind them around the backs of the sofa, leaping up at faces when they are standing, stealing things then destroying or eating them, tail-chasing round and round, and suckling his blanket, Staffie Marley is a loveable but exhausting, hyperactive dog.

However, when they are out and he is all alone, Marley sleeps.

As is usually the case, his hyper and stressed behaviour is largely influenced by his human’s own behaviour, completely unwittingly of course. He wants their attention constantly and it seems the more people there are together, the worse he is; this isn’t unusual actually. There were three generations of people in the room. The more that people have their attention on something else – whether it’s talking to someone, on the phone or even watching TV – the more wild Marley gets. The more wild he gets, the more attention in some form or other, he gets – even if it’s to be shouted at or chased.

Marley was taken away from mother at four weeks old and was removed from the next place by someone who saw him being seriously abused at just eight weeks old. What a terrible start. He is now three. His family feel they are paying for ‘over-compensating’ by spoiling him, but I’m not so sure. If the poor puppy had not received lots of love, things could be a lot worse than they are now.

He is obviously highly stressed and confused. This is not helped by the various methods used to ‘control’ him nor by the fact he no longer goes for regular walks. The young man gets impatient and also feels he must be the boss, so is inclined to shout and be rather harsh at times. He feels that his mother, on the other hand, is ‘too soft’.

I am pleased for all of them that they are now getting some help and will now be working together. The young man has taught Marley many tricks and is very concerned for him. He is a clever dog. They have done their very best as they know it, but over the past six months his behaviour has escalated into something new – reacting aggressively when somebody he doesn’t know comes into the house.

I myself did not see so much of the Marley that I describe, because I orchestrated the occasion carefully – as I do!

Marley joined us when I was settled and he was friendly from the start. He had bouts of tearing all over the place, jumping all over us all, but apparently not nearly as severe as usual. In every way possible we created a calm atmosphere, to show him by our behaviour that leaping on us was not to be rewarding in terms of attention – whilst reinforcing the behaviour we did want instead. He had one short bout of tail-chasing and actually did lie down for some of the time – unheard of. He then looked so adorable that it made us want to cuddle and fuss him, but more than a very casual, gentle touch would merely start him off again.

Because he destroys and even swallows anything he can find, he doesn’t have toys and they dare not give him bones, but I found a Stagbar did the trick. It was something more or less indestructible onto which to direct some of his angst. Chewing and sucking are calming activities for dogs – just as they are for humans.

This case is a good example of the manifested behaviour that they wanted help for – that of his deteriorating attitude to people he doesn’t know coming into the house – being really a symptom of other underlying things. An active, clever three-year-old Staffie needs occupying, so daily outings are a must. They need not always be long walks, two or three short trips and loose-lead walking work or casual ‘sniff’ walks would make a huge difference to his well-being, along with evenings being punctuated by other owner-initiated activities, training and play.

With stress-levels through the roof, all sorts of problems can develop. Lowering stress is key. Everything should be done to give him some realistic boundaries in the kindest way possible.

The young man did ask shortly before I left, in reference to not shouting or being ‘firm’ with Marley anymore, ‘So this really means that we no longer try to control him?’ I don’t think he expected me to agree, but my answer was, ‘Yes, because he will be learning self-control instead. He has begun already’.

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

 

Moving In Together

StaffieSasha

Sasha

She has four children, he has two dogs and they are moving in together.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Suzie is on the left and Ben below  They are beautiful, friendly dogs but too excitable and not a little unruly!

Both dogs jump all over the sofas and all over people. Ben jumps up at the children and can knock the younger ones over.

The 3-year-old child has to be watched because she wants to hug the dogs and they don’t like it.

What worries their mother most is Suzie’s way of snatching food. She is rightly concerned that if a child is walking around with a biscuit for example, that it could unintentionally be bitten.

When I held a tiny treat in my fist, Suzie was absolutely frantic to get it.  It’s like she’s starving hungry. I have seldom seen anything quite like it.

Ben

I’m sure there is more to this although a vet has previously said she’s okay.

Although Suzie eats just the same amount as solid Buster, she is extremely thin. They have much more to pick up after her in the garden than from Ben, so food must be passing through her. She is given very little exercise so she shouldn’t really be so skinny. If a change in diet doesn’t work quickly, then another visit to the vet is called for.

Dog walks have become more and more infrequent for various reasons. These two dogs will be a lot more settled with regular exercise and healthy stimulation to compensate for the hours they spend alone during the day.

I showed the couple how to start a walk without the dog charging out of the door and pulling frantically down the passage. Suzie caught on really fast. This is not easy when a walk has become an exciting rarity. The couple will make themselves a do-able schedule of ‘little and often’ for the dogs involving walks and basic training.

The children also have their own things to learn. The youngest needs to be taught not to hug dogs. Safety first, a gate should be between kitchen and sitting room so that dogs and children can be separated either when any food is about or when an adult hasn’t their eye on them.

With work, I’m sure that these lovely dogs will then calm down and learn some self-control. It’s all up to their humans. It’s great that they love the children.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Sasha and Ben, 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 dog can do more harm than good, most particularly where children are involved also. 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).

Fight When the Man is at Home

When the man comes home Rufus becomes demanding and insecure

Rufus

If Tibetan Stoker is to have some time in the sitting room with the lady, the man has to go upstairs with Rufus.

Stoker

When they are alone – or just with the lady, these two dogs get on famously, but when the man is at home which due to work is only three days a week, the dogs fight ferociously and Rufus becomes demanding and insecure – not letting the man out of his sight, whilst poor Stoker has to be shut away.

They only fight when the man is at home.

This is one of my ‘distance help’ Skype cases. The case of 8-year-old Tibetan, Stoker and Staffie Rufus (age 3) is about the clearest illustration I have ever come across of dogs’ behaviour being the consequence of their humans’ behaviour.

It wasn’t hard for the man to see that because all this only happens around him, he needs to be doing some things differently.

He agrees that from the moment he arrives home with a wild greeting for Rufus, he is the dog’s slave. Rufus follows him everywhere and cries outside any door that shuts him out of the man’s presence.  Because the dogs have to be kept apart, if Stoker is to have some time in the sitting room with the lady, the man has to go upstairs with Rufus.

Letting the dogs outside is a management challenge of moving dogs up and downstairs so that they don’t meet.

Both humans and the two dogs can never spend a nice evening together. But, when the man goes away again for four days a week, both dogs are back in the sitting room. They both then sleep in the same room. They then go outside together. They play together nicely.

One other puzzling thing is that the dogs are okay going for walks together with both their humans. They all get into one car (one dog and human in the front when the other dog is brought out) and there is no trouble between the dogs when walking in the fields.

For four days a week the lady is unable to walk Rufus so this needs working on. But when the man comes home, Rufus has three days of two-hour-walks. He is played with constantly, and pesters and barks to keep the man’s attention on him. He is fed from his plate. They play wrestling games. If Rufus spots Stoker he gets angry – keep away from ‘my’ man! Stoker promptly retaliates. There have been some quite scary fights.

The poor gentleman is going to forego some of his fun for the greater good. Calm is going to be rewarded with attention – and with food taken from the dog’s daily quota. All attention isn’t going to be Rufus-generated from now on! Overdoing the walks just makes him even more hyped-up when they get home; he needs his exercise spread throughout the week somehow. Most importantly, the man needs to work on going out of sight briefly – and on getting Rufus to Sit and Stay while gradually, over time, he can disappear without Rufus following him or barking.

When the man has done his groundwork, getting the dogs back together again could start after a walk. Instead of bringing them back indoors one at a time as they have to now, they could walk them back into the house together before separating them – and gradually advance from there, using lots of praise and reinforcement whilst also watching carefully for any signs of tension between the dogs.

As these two dogs aren’t really enemies – they are fine together for half the time – the outcome should be good, provided that the humans can be consistent with the new rules and boundaries (rules and boundaries that are as much for the gentleman as for the dogs!).

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

Settling Into His New Home

Maybe STaffie Mastiff mix will open up a bit more during the next two weeks as he settles in. Other things may surface.Baxter had been found as a stray. He had been in kennels for one week and then a foster home for a few days, during which time another dog had attacked him – he bears the scars.

This doesn’t seem to have caused him to bear a grudge against other dogs. He has a lovely gentle nature. I feel someone has loved him sometime in the past.

Baxter is a somewhat camera-shy one-year-old Staffie Mastiff cross and the couple have had him for just under one week. They are fans of Victoria Stilwell (I am one of her UK trainers) and want to start their relationship off on the right foot making sure they are using positive methods similar to Victoria’s.

It was a very enjoyable evening, and a red-letter day for me – the lovely couple are my 2,000th clients! His look is saying 'Should I be here?'.

Underneath a quiet exterior I could read some signs of slight unease – it’s like he’s being careful. In the picture he has crept onto my coat beside me, and his look is saying ‘Should I be here?’. He is sussing out his new home.

He is growing increasingly anxious if the man goes out of the room, particularly if the dog knows he is still about somewhere. He whines the whole time the man is absent. If the couple goes out together and they creep back later to take a look, they find Baxter happily asleep on the sofa. Before this gets any worse the gentleman needs to take measures so that Baxter doesn’t grow too attached, including shutting doors behind him regularly. Instead of the persistent whining when he goes out driving the poor lady mad, she should watch for and acknowledge every time he stops and briefly settles with some sort of positive reinforcement.

By and large he has very few problems. Already, by using the right methods, he’s stopped pulling on lead.  He’s fine with other dogs. He is polite around food and very calm for an adolescent dog. He has proved himself something of a Houdini and they need to work hard on his recall if he’s is to run free.

Maybe he will open up a bit more during the next two weeks as he settles in. Other things may surface.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Baxter, 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 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

At About Ten Months Old he Changed. He Became Wary of People

BossBoss, an American Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross is now two years old.

Despite getting him at the tender age of five weeks old, Boss was very well socialised as a pup. They lived in London and took him out to pubs with friends and running in Regents Park. He was used to traffic and crowds.

Boss’ fear of people kicked in at about ten months old, coinciding with when he was castrated. There may or may not have been a connection; there is a probability that early removal from mother and siblings will have contributed, but I have sometimes found that this an age when perfectly friendly dogs can ‘turn’.

The first sign of ‘aggression’ or fear towards a human is a crucial time. How it is dealt with can set the pattern for future encounters. Sadly, people instinctively show anger and dismay, they feel some sort of punishment is expected by the other person, and it is downhill from there. They only get advice on the best way to react when things have escalated out of their control.

With a dog of Boss’ physique they need to be especially careful because of the ridiculous laws of diagnosing Pit Bulls by their body measurements alone.

When Boss was brought in on lead to join us he was doing classic and prolonged ‘look-aways’, his whole body saying he didn’t want to be anywhere near me. He was yawning loudly. I took this photo after he had settled down a bit, but you can see he’s not happy – just look at his tail, his ears and his whole demeanor. It wasn’t long however before he was near to me accepting food, sniffing my face even, and though he seemed relaxed I didn’t push my luck! I sat still and avoided eye contact.

In cases like this the owners understandably avoid people when really the dog needs plenty of contact with people. He needs to associate people with fun and food, not fear. It’s hard to find acquaintances and friends who are sufficiently relaxed and brave to work with, so creating positive associations with more distant people must be the start.

It is just such a shame the problem wasn’t tackled immediately, with understanding, the very first time it reared its head.

It’s good to hear back from people after quite a long time. Sixteen months have elapsed: ‘He has made amazing progress…He is now able to walk past people and dogs without launching or showing signs of aggression. His recall is much better, thanks to the juicy treats! We are slowly making him realised who is the boss and its our judgement that he has to trust and not his own! And now that you have explained that its Fear Agression/ Anxiety that he’s experiencing we are able to judge the situation/ his body languages and moods’