Cocker Spaniel feels threatened

Suddenly Aggressive Behaviour

When the elderly gentleman walks into the room, Bella changes personality. She growls, she barks and the other day she flew at him and bit him.

Bella is a typical happy, sometimes demanding, young Cocker Spaniel. She is generally friendly and loving towards the man so this is completely out of character so far as I could immediately see.  I now needed to get to know her a bit better.

As I had no personal history with her she didn’t play me up at all, and she was soon happily dropping things for me (something she may not usually do) and waiting without barking (which was also unusual). She showed me her training tricks after just one, soft request.

Hopefully it is motivating for people to actually see what is possible if their relationship with the dog is a bit different.

Having asked lots of questions and found out as much about Bella as I could, from what she is fed on to how she is out on walks and much more, I then looked into the circumstances surrounding the uncharacteristic barking and aggressive behaviour towards the gentleman.

For starters, Bella only behaves like this towards the man in two particular rooms in the house, a small narrow study and an even smaller ironing room. Secondly, she only behaves like this when the lady is in one of these two rooms too.

We then set the scene so that I could see exactly what happens.

The lady sat at her desk in the little study with Bella beside her. I hovered beside the doorway. The gentleman walked through the door and approached the dog in a friendly manner. Bella licked her lips. He looked at her and talked to her as he usually did, hand outstretched – leaned over her. She barked furiously.

Bingo – I could see what was happening. She felt trapped in the small room and to her he seemed to be bearing down on her. It looked like he was looming (he’s unable to lower himself due to a hip problem). From a dog’s perspective his body language, his full-on approach, his gaze and outstretched arm whilst she was trapped in a very small space simply was threatening.

It seems the man never has cause to go in either of these two small rooms unless the lady is already in there. Was the problem because of the man’s body language and because the space was small alone, or was the lady’s presence something to do with it? We experimented with the gentleman walking into the room with me in there instead of the lady and Bella was fine.

Whilst the lady and Bella were both in the little study, the gentleman practised on the coal scuttle in the other room – the coal scuttle was Bella!  The man rehearsed walking past the coal scuttle (Bella) with the least threatening body language possible, not looking down and

Black Cocker Spaniel lying by the fire

not walking directly at her. All the time he would be dropping food.

Then we tried it for real.  I had first put some little bits of food on the shelf in the study. The man walked into the room, picked up some food near the door, didn’t look at or talk to Bella and moved slowly past her, slightly sideways, until he reached his wife, dropping food all the time. All Bella was interested in was the food.

We then did the same thing in the ironing room, the little room where the man had been bitten. No barking.

When he approaches the room, the gentleman will announce himself with some words or sound so his appearance in the doorway isn’t sudden. If the dog does happen to bark, then the lady needs to take control and teach the dog to come to her and lie down whenever the man enters the room, but I don’t think it will come to that.

His instructions are, for the next few weeks, to ignore Bella totally in these two small rooms – apart from dropping food. They will set up lots of sessions and Bella should soon be thrilled to see him in the doorway!

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

 

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).

 

Freddie is scared of bangs and TV

Can TV be Causing Dog’s Problems?

As I sat down they turned off their TV (as people do).

Freddie was friendly but restless whilst doing some quite determined nudging and nosing for attention before sitting and scratching and chewing himself. The vet wants to investigate further but for now he is on anti-histamine tablets.

After about twenty minutes he settled down, to stretch out peacefully on the floor.

The daughter, on her way out, popped her head round the door and remarked how calm Freddie was. This is quite unusual in the evening.

The five-year-old Border Collie was picked up as a stray in Ireland three years ago and thanks to the care of his loving owners he has fitted into their life really well. He is friendly and gentle, gets on really well with their two cats and is great with other dogs.

Freddie watching for animals on TV

TV has been turned on

Freddie’s two problems are that he is very reactive to animals on TV and he is scared of bangs. He hates the wind because it makes things clatter about. On walks he frequently bolts on hearing a gunshot or bird-scarer. He is a shaking mess with fireworks. Indoors he will suddenly begin to spook at something he has heard outside, inaudible to the humans.

In order that I could see how he was with animals on TV, I asked them to turn it on. Although there were no animals yet, within a couple of minutes he was no longer lying stretched out and relaxed. He was becoming increasingly agitated and beginning to chew himself. Then he looked at the TV, saw an animal, crouched, growled and then launched himself at it.

They turned the TV off again.

It took another twenty minutes before he was once more lying relaxed on the floor. The couple were amazed. It was such a graphic demonstration of the amount of stress TV was causing their dog, and like many people they have it on all the time they are sitting down in the evening.

We had tried turning the volume off, but by then he had seen the animal. I believe that the mere sound of the TV tells him that at any minute these beasts may be invading his room. It is possible that high background noise of the TV that we ourselves can’t hear may also trouble him. The TV makes him feel unsafe in his own home.

What can they do? They understandably didn’t feel that watching no more TV was an option, and besides, that would never address the problem. He needs to be desensitised carefully at a level he can handle, and counter-conditioned to accepting it. He already has a crate in the room, out of sight of the TV and where he happily goes at night, so to start with they can have the TV quiet and as soon as he shows any reactivity they can call him into his crate and give him something very special to chew – something like a favourite bone that he never has at any other time.

I strongly suspect that the raw skin condition due to his constant biting and scratching will also resolve itself as his stress levels reduce. With Freddie in a generally calmer state, they should more easily be able to work on the bang problem when they are out – starting by merely sitting on a bench somewhere he is reasonably comfortable, attached to a long line so he can’t bolt, and feeding him – ready to return to the car before things get too much for him.

Avoiding things altogether will get them nowhere, but he can make no progress, not even accept food, while he feels unsafe.

They will take their time and he will learn to trust them to keep him safe.

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

Adolescent dog gets attention for being 'naughty'

Adolescent Dog Fun Causing Trouble

Irish Wheaten TerrierEleven month old Irish Wheaten Terrier, Barney, is a mischievous adolescent dog who, when his humans are sitting down or busy, is looking for entertainment.

He finds one of the most entertaining things is to have them chase after him to retrieve a tissue, a sock or something else he shouldn’t have. He likes to grab cushions to chew and to drag his bedding about – anything really that gets a reaction!

What is really entertaining is to bark at the man until, as he always has to do eventually, he gives in and reacts in some way. It may be crossly or it may be to throw a toy. Either way it’s a result!

Barney is absolutely delightful. He is so affectionate and friendly and his coat feels like silk. He is a fantastic family dog.

His super-friendliness is the cause of a lot of jumping up, particularly at people he doesn’t know well. He really wants to get to face level. Again, it gets a result. The consequence is a lot of attention in terms of ‘Get Down’ and being held, and the person petting him.

I showed them how to teach him that the attention comes only when his feet are on the floor. If everyone does this, it shouldn’t take long for Barney to get the message, but it will need to be every time. Just one weakening will prove to him that it’s worth persisting – for the same reason we play slot machines. If you go on for long enough and you always get a result. If we knew there was no money in the machine, would we play it? No.

When he quietly settled for a moment, we quietly ‘marked’ that moment with a tiny bit of food. What is wrong with a dog earning some of their kibble for good behaviour?  As well as rewarding him when he is being good, they will also initiate plenty of activities under their own terms, play, training games, hunting and cuddles, which will more than compensate for any attention lost due to his self-entertaining adolescent dog strategies being ignored.

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

Barking Dogs Getting Used to New Life

The three dogs bark The dogs’ barking is a problem.

Previously the lady had lots of land where her four dogs could run free, and she spent a large part of the day outside with them and her horses. The dogs lived in a conservatory with access to the outside.  Living out in the country, the dogs’ barking was no problem and was actually welcomed for the security it offered. It was fine life that suited everyone very well.

Then the lady’s circumstances changed, and a couple of months ago she moved to somewhere smaller with just a garden – and near neighbours.

To start with the dogs were left in the conservatory as before, with access to the garden, but their barking caused problems with neighbours. There were, after all, many new sounds to alarm the dogs. Consequently, their environment has necessarily become increasingly small to limit barking. They will now live in the kitchen where they will hear fewer sounds and any barking will be muffled.

At the moment their life is neither one thing or another. On one hand, gone are the freedoms and outdoor activities of the old life, but on the other hand it has not been replaced by any alternative.  Where they before had outdoor freedom and stimulation and plenty of company, they now have much less of both.

They now need to learn to be polite house dogs and the lady can build her bond with them accordingly.

One of the dogs, four-year-old black Labrador Bramble, is a nervous dog.  She was hand-reared as a puppy, her mother and siblings having died, and she has not been exposed in her early months to enough people and everyday things like traffic so she is scared. She barks Wary of people and too much barkingconstantly in the car at everything she sees. She has snapped a few times when someone has gone to touch her. Her lunging at traffic makes her hard to handle, so these things, along with the barking, are what we will be working on.

On the right was the best picture I could take of Bramble – she didn’t like being photographed!

The lady has two more Labradors, one aged fourteen and the other a strong two-year-old Chocolate  elevn year old Springer SpanielLabrador. She also has an eleven-year old Spaniel (I couldn’t resist taking this picture of him!). Because of their behaviour on walks which now have to be mostly on lead and where they encounter more people, dogs and traffic than they are accustomed to, she is unable to walk more than one dog at a time.

She now therefore has quite a complicated daily dog-walking rota which she admits has become a tedious chore where once being outside with her dogs and horses was a joy.

Because of the constant worry about the barking dogs upsetting the neighbours every time they hear something along with the walks being challenging, neither the lady nor her dogs are enjoying life together quite as they used to.  Dog problems can become quite overwhelming at times, but changing objectives and doing things a bit differently will change all that.

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

Understimulated Dog Barking at TV

Little dog chewing a plastic bottle Franklyn is alone all day, and when his humans come home he wants FUN.

They on the other hand, after a long day at work, want to RELAX in front of the TV.

Little Franklyn is a cross between a Pug and a King Charles Spaniel, and he is fifteen months old – and no, he’s not a wine-drinker! I gave him a tiny plastic wine bottle with food in it that I had saved especially to keep a dog like Franklyn occupied. On the left he is trying to break his way into the tub holding the tiny bits of food we were using!

He is given a short walk in the morning and another when they get home, but other interaction is mostly generated by Franklyn’s causing trouble! He flies all over them, he nicks things and he barks.

He is very reactive to any small sound he hears, but particularly wound up by the TV – rushing at it and barking constantly.  As the evening wears on he builds up a head of steam, digging into the sofa and getting more and more out of control – until, having lost all patience with him, they shut him away. His barking at TV is driving them particularly mad.

They have bought him lots of games and toys to play with, but doing things by himself isn’t what he needs. Franklyn needs human interaction. It is, after all, what he has been bred for.

The barking at the TV is getting worse as it will – he is getting so much practice. As they also watch TV in bed before going to sleep, the process continues even at bedtime as the little dog becomes more and more aroused. Consequently, while they are asleep he isn’t. He has some unwinding to do. In the morning all his chews and toys have ended up on their bed.

This little dog isn’t getting nearly enough healthy stimulation and one-to-one attention under the young couple’s own terms. They will now deal with the TV barking like the dog is fearful of what he sees – desensitising him, and so he doesn’t get too aroused they will regularly give him (and themselves) short breaks by popping him into the kitchen where he seems happy before bringing him out again and continuing the work. They have agreed not to watch TV in bed any more.

They will arrange for someone to pop in and give him some company in the middle of the day.

We have also drawn up a list of short activities with which they can punctuate Franklyn’s evenings.

The confrontational and controlling methods as used by a certain well know TV trainer are merely teaching Franklyn defiance and inciting aggression, so will be dropped.  These are methods that appeal to people when they feel they are losing control – but the results are short-lived and using force of any kind amounts to bullying. Totally unnecessary and counter-productive when, by understanding how to use positive methods you ultimately end up with a cooperative, happy and calmer dog.

As I write this just one day has passed and I have received this message: ‘It’s amazing how quickly he is responding now. My house feels calmer already’.

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

Whippet Lurcher is Scared of Men

Tilly was a stray dog found on the streets in Greece along with a male dog from whom she was inseparable and who now also has a new home. She is one year old and some sort of whippet cross.

Tilly is a remarkably stable dog in all respects bar one – she is still, after four months of living with the couple, very wary of the gentleman of the house, this is despite the man doing nearly everything for Tilly because the lady is often away for a week at a time for her work. Many dogs that have not suffered abuse are scared of men.

Tilly is worst of all when he is standing up or walking about. One can only guess at what must have happened to her earlier at the hands of a man, perhaps the dog-catcher. Apparently the other dog is even more scared of men, which is a tribute to the efforts Tilly’s people have put in so far.

Sitting on the sofa with the lady, I watched as the man walked around the room, making us a coffee. Tilly made sure she had the kitchen table between her and him, eyes darting, tail between her legs and licking her lips.

When he sat down on the L-shaped sofa, Tilly jumped straight up too but as far away from him as she could, between the lady and myself. Here was his dog, snuggling up to me and kissing my nose, whereas if the man so much as moved on the other end of the sofa she shrank back into the seat (see her picture). He feels so very hurt. He is the sweetest, gentlest of men and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind my saying that he’s not a macho type. He has tried so hard with her.

The fact that the other two little dogs (photos below) enjoy his cuddles doesn’t seem to help Tilly at all.

Here is a very short video of Tilly thinking the man may be about to stand up, but relaxing when he doesn’t.

He really does adore her, but I feel his efforts to make her accept him are the crux of  the stalemate they have now reached. He needs to start behaving in a way that doesn’t come naturally to him – with some indifference.  I believe that all the effort he makes is, in a way, driving her away. There is too much pressure upon on her (I have had personal experience of this when I took on my German Shepherd, Milly).

Weirdly, off lead out on walks with lots of space she is a different dog, running about and playing, and (mostly) coming back to him when called, but at home, before they can go, she runs around before cowering in a corner for him to put collar and lead on her. Again, it does make one wonder whether it was a dog-catcher that caused her problems with men. Once collar and lead are on, he gives her a fuss – but I did point out to him that at thLittle dog being cuddledis stage a fuss was in effect punishment to her. It can be hard for a loving human to see this from the dog’s point of view.

I am certain that playing harder to get is the answer and to release her of all obligation to come to him or to be touched by him. Easing of all pressure by acting indifferent is one half of the plan for desensitisation. The other is counter-conditioning.

She will now only be fed dog food at meal times and the special stuff – chicken – will be used for ‘man’ work. Starting at a level she could tolerate, each time the man moved and Tilly looked at him, we said a quiet ‘yes’ and fed her. We gradually upped the ante until he stood up and sat down again, all the time feeding her. When he walked around it became too much for her – she ran off to the other side of the kitchen table.

While he walks about, as obviously he must, he will either silently throw food to her as he passes or drop it behind him as he walks, encouraging her to follow him rather than to run away. If he can manage to resist words and eye contact, she will slowly relax I’m sure.

He will become a walking ‘chicken vending machine’! In time she will associate him only with good stuff.Crested Powder Puff

If he resists approaching her in any way for long enough, the time will come when she actively invites his attention, and I feel he should still hold back! To value it, she needs to have to work for it (rather than, as she probably now feels, it being forced upon her). She needs to learn that coming over to him doesn’t result in something that is (to her at the moment) punishing.

I am sure, if he takes things sufficiently slowly and resists showering her with demonstrative love until she is well and truly ready, all will be well eventually. It’s a question of building up her trust.

One month later: ‘Tilly is doing exceptionally well and is turning into a fantastic lady. She is incredible on recall and sits down for her lead in the morning. She sits for her treats etc on the run and walks beautifully. She still goes under the bed but is first on the bed in the morning to lick JIms’s face and licks his hands a number of times during the night to say hello. We are delighted with the progress. Jim is grinning from ear to ear and is very proud of ‘their’ progress. As I write Tilly is lying with her head on Jim’s lap.’

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

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).

 

They Come Home to Destruction

Staff mix is destructive and bored

Lola

The young couple, with their dog, are caught up in a downward spiral of manic behaviour, destruction, scolding and nearly tearing their hair out. The young lady is reduced to tears.

They have a well-behaved but slightly odd Staffie called Saxon, 5, and Border Collie/Staffie Mix, Lola – a one-year-old adolescent behaving badly.

I say Saxon is odd, because his normal lying position is with his back to people, and every now and then, whatever he is doing, he may freeze or shake. These are thing which we can look into later, but at the moment their main issue is with Lola.

Saxon lies with his back to people

Saxon

Over time, in addition to wrecking other furniture, Lola has destroyed one sofa and has now started digging a big hole under the cushions of the new one. This has happened when they are out. She is bored and alone despite the company of Saxon, and if she’s feeling restless (which she is much of the time) she will start to chew furniture.  It could also now have become a habit.

Yesterday she started chewing on the bottom stair while the lady was upstairs – the stair gate was open and she was free to follow. Once Lola starts a ‘project’ she will continue!

When they go out she is left with food in various places with the intention of keeping her busy, but she starts on it before they have even left and has finished it all soon after they are out of the door. They have videoed her.

They have a little girl age three and the young man works shifts, so finding time to give Lola the amount of daily stimulation and exercise she needs is difficult.  It’s not safe for the lady to walk Lola if she has the child with her.

Lola is constantly on the move. She may prance about and make little growly sounds if someone is on the floor playing with the little girl and ignoring her. Saxon takes as little notice of her as he can! In this state she is just constantly looking for ‘trouble’ – stuff to occupy her and to release some of her stress. At my suggestion they will now have a gate on the sitting room doorway so Lola can be removed if necessary to avoid possible accidental danger to the little girl (a child who gives the dogs space and who both are very good with).

While I was there we ignored jumping up – looking away and tipping her off, whilst constantly rewarding calm behaviour. She became more settled than they had ever seen her. As often happens, the day after I left she was so much calmer and happier, and so were the people. Then the next day, yesterday, she chewed the stair carpet. Then they had an excitable visitor and the day continued to go downhill.

There is a common pattern where things start off brilliantly then go rapidly downhill for a couple of days. This is the time that people must hold firm and keep faith – and consistently stick to the plan until they work their way through this until things start to improve steadily, if slowly. There are all sorts of other related things to be dealt with at the same time that when established should influence the eventual outcome.

Because the lady goes to work a couple of days a week, Lola has to be left alone and logistically there is nowhere else other than the sitting room to leave the dogs. Whenever she is left they could either come home to destruction or to no damage at all. I suggest for now leaving her all sorts of items she can chew and destroy – cardboard cartons, toilet roll tubes, empty water bottles with lids removed, maybe stuffed calcium bones. I am always wary of dogs being injured by chewing on things left for them, but in this case stuff around the room could be a lot more dangerous. I so hope that this helps while they work on her.

I have also lent them a crate. I have known very restless dogs who, when crated, settle. They won’t be able to use it straight away though. If they can spend the next couple of weeks getting Lola to love that crate (and it is possible if taken slowly enough and associated with fun and food), they can start to leave her shut in there for the shorter absences.

If Lola is happy in the crate they can relax. If she is given more exercise and stimulation this will help her mental state – and they will have to find a way somehow if they want to improve the situation. If she simply has no opportunity to chew inappropriate things for long enough, she should get out of the habit too.

It is going to be hard work.

A week has gone by and I received this message: ‘We are really good, feeling a lot more positive and actually enjoying our dogs which is great, dont get my wrong we still have a long way to go but the change in a week has been amazing!  Since Tuesday the dogs have been left on there own on the Thursday, Friday, Tuesday and today. Now I do not want to jinx anything however so far no damage at all.  
Lola and saxon are left in the lounge with the babygate closed. They have a box of toys and chew left the room, I have found if I leave it in the box lola likes to help her self its more exciting for her, we also leave milk cartons with a few biscuits in (no lid) and the odd toilet roll etc. we also put our ironing board and washing basket on the sofa and our washing airer in front of  it to stop them jumping up.  We have had a couple of sucessful trips in the car without any dribbling or sick ( this is a true turning point for her)’.

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

 

Friendly Dogs are Now Fighting

What a puzzle!

Jack Russell/Lancashire Heeler cross

Piggy

Piggy, 2, a Jack Russell/Lancashire Heeler cross and eight-year-old Lenny, a Corgi mix used to get on famously, even sleeping together in the same bed.

They had the occasional minor altercation, but all was fine until a combination of the clocks changing, Halloween and early November fireworks. The fireworks freaked Piggy out.

They have had Piggy for a couple of years and he came from a remote farm. He has had to get used to a lot of new noises, people passing, other dogs and so on – and he can’t cope. He is a very stressed and anxious little dog. Lenny on the other hand had a great start in life and is calm and confident.

Things have got so bad that the two dogs can no longer be in the same room without a fight quickly erupting. Their fighting has changed everything. Even if Piggy senses Lenny’s presence in the house he will mutter, growl and bark. If Lenny barks from upstairs, Piggy is immediately ready for action.

Corgi mix Lenny who fights with Piggy

Lenny

When I was there, despite Lenny now sleeping happily in the shed way down the garden, Piggy was all the time growling and guarding the kitchen doorway where perhaps Lenny would appear – you can see him in the picture. I was there for three hours before he finally settled. It was evident that we couldn’t be bringing Lenny back in for me to actually see the dogs together.

The anomaly is that the two dogs run happily together on walks with no fighting. If they know they are going out they can meet at the door and have leads put on. They also come back in together but then have to be parted immediately. They are okay out in the garden together too.

The problems are only in the house and mostly around doorways.

My educated guess is that Piggy’s instability and extreme stress winds Lenny up who then wants to sort him out resulting in fighting. Lenny himself suffers from arthritis, so possibly he’s not as tolerant as he used to be.

All the time I was there Piggy prowled and he growled. It was virtually impossible to distract him. Although Lenny wasn’t there, it was like his ghost was. It almost seems that although he is obviously scared of Lenny, he also is dependent upon him in some way and needs him to be there.

Where to start with a solution? Nothing much can be done whilst Piggy is so aroused, so reducing his stress by every means possible is the first priority and they should not do anything else meanwhile. Then they can build upon what they have – extending the time the dogs are together after a walk, leaving leads on with one person per dog, feeding both dogs all the time to build up positive associations. Baby steps.

Each dog has his turn in the sitting room, and positive (food) associations can be built up when he hears or senses the other dog upstairs.

Because understandable owner tension will now be playing a part, over the next few days both dogs will be taught to love wearing a muzzle, so that later in the process they can be together in the same room briefly while their owners can drop the leads and relax.  At the first growl from Piggy or eyeball from Lenny the dog can be calmly and kindly walked out of the room. The lesson learnt from this being that either they were together for too long too early, or Piggy was too stressed for work that day.

I have big hopes that because the dogs are such good friends outside, things can return to how they were a couple of months ago.

After a setback a few days after this when they relaxed on their management strategies and allowed another fight,  I received this message – though they can never completely relax their vigilance but it’s a great start and is a good omen for the future: ‘The two of them have been playing together in the house and we have let them roam free but while also keeping a very close eye on them. Piggy tends to go to his room upstairs sometimes when things get too much for him and he does a bit of growling but on the whole there is an improvement.’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Piggy and Lenny, 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, particularly where aggression of any kind is 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).