Can they keep him? They are walking on eggshells

Can they keep him?

Can they keep him?They had decided to take Merlin back to the rescue, but then decided to try for a bit longer. The gentleman called me.

They have had Rottie mix Merlin for about ten days. Before fetching him from the rescue the gentleman had visited him eight times. He wanted to get it right.

They had told him Merlin had shown aggression in the past and that they wouldn’t let him near other dogs. They said he was hand-sensitive around his head.

He had been in the kennels for six months, with just a week out with people who then sent him back.

Despite this, the family felt they would like to take him on and to work with him. Can they keep him? Continue reading…

Guards his food bowl. Resource guarding items.

Hunter guards his food and he guards his food bowl.

(Too often when someone calls me about a problem with their Cocker Spaniel, it’s to do with resource guarding).

guards his food bowlThe thirteen-month-old Working Cocker’s resource guarding problems are almost certainly genetic, possibly made worse by all the sibling puppies competing over the same bowl of food (I’m only guessing).

At nine weeks old he was growling at anyone who came too close while he ate. The lady worked at this and all was okay for a while.

Over the past few weeks Hunter’s resource guarding problems have been getting worse.

She reached down to retrieve something from him…

Continue reading…

Bully behaviour. New Dog is Finding her Feet

A week ago, their new rescue dog began to bully their other dog.

Cookie

Six-year-old Cookie is a cute and somewhat nervous, anxious little terrier. Rudi, a Wirehaired Terrier, joined them six weeks ago.

It began with the calmer and more confident Rudi eyeballing Cookie.

Next, one of the young daughters was fussing both dogs and suddenly Rudi went for Cookie.

The next occasion was triggered by someone dropping and smashing a food bowl. Things then came to a head with a fight over a bone.

Continue reading…

Alarm Barking. They Worry he May Bite

Barney barks with alarm at any sound he hears that could mean someone is approaching the house. It can be a car or footsteps on the gravel.

If outside in the garden, he barks with alarm as someone he doesn’t know approaches the gate. As deliveries or the postman let themselves into the garden, he may sound more fierce.

They are worried he may one day bite.

Continue reading…

Now the two female Pugs fight. Were best of friends

Now the two dogs fight.

Bo

Cherry has lived with Bo and the family for nearly a year and all was well until a few weeks ago. The two four-year-old Pugs played together and slept together.

They noticed little hints of unrest shortly before the day Cherry went for Bo.

Food was involved. A friend’s dog, Skye, was with them.

Soon after this it happened again only this time the fight didn’t involve food.

The family now had to watch the dogs closely to prevent further fights breaking out.

Then disaster struck.

Continue reading…

Newly re-homed German Shepherd barks at cats.

They already have beautiful German Shepherd Dave and, a few days ago, another GSD, Lottie, joined the family.

The most immediate problem is that Lottie barks at cats – they have two that are used to freely coming and going. Now they are scared and Lottie is becoming increasingly reactive.

As she settles in, she behaves like she increasingly regards the cats as scary intruders. Continue reading…

Miniature Dachshund flies at feet. Attacks and bites shoes.

bites feetThe eighteen-month-old Miniature Dachshund flies at people’s feet and bites their shoes.

Little Sugar is extremely jumpy.

He seems also to be on constant protection duty – seemingly guarding both himself and the lady and gentleman too.

This is scary for the tiny dog, so it’s a mixture of emotions.

Imagine being so small and being approached by a tall, looming human with feet almost as big as yourself!

It’s little wonder he attacks and bites shoes.

Continue reading…

Obsessing, stressing, panting, licking

Obsessing; pacing; compulsively licking the floor.

The root to everything is down to Cocker Oli’s permanently aroused and stressed state – he only gets respite at night or when shut away during the day.

If he’s not compulsively bringing things to be thrown he is licking the floor (I suspect this will have started because his own shadow moves) or pouncing on imaginary things outside.

He paces. He pants. He is constantly obsessing on something. His stress infects the other two Cocker Spaniels, Charlie and the younger Billy. There is no respite for him.

Slow massage when the other dogs were out of the way seemed to calm him briefly.

He is offered zoopharmacognosy (the process by which animals in the wild naturally forage and select plants to self-medicate) which is helping him.

If we can get him to relax more, other things will fall into place. His arousal builds up to such an extent that in the evening it boils over. Several times he has suddenly gone into the red zone and attacked one of the other dogs for simply being too near either the lady or gentleman when he’s standing or sitting beside them.

On a couple of occasions he has attacked the lady as she has walked towards him. Such a highly aroused dog in his state of constant obsessing will have little control of himself.

In order to reduce the excitement and stress in all the dogs – to create a calmer atmosphere – his humans will adjust too. Changing some of their own actions is also necessary.

‘Project Calm’

We are putting in place ‘Project Calm’ and already, in one day, the couple have made great strides.

also affected by Oli's obsessing

Billy and Charlie

There are trigger points throughout the day when the dogs get much too excited and noisy.

When let outside first thing in the morning, coming back in triggers great excitement because breakfast follows.

Then, because a walk always follows this, more mayhem at 5.30 am as they charge to get into the car.

Things must change.

Now the man will come downstairs, put the kettle on and ignore the dogs. He will wait for calm before letting them outside – first putting Billy’s lead on so he doesn’t tear around the garden barking anymore.

When they come back in, he won’t feed them immediately. He will wait for calm again. He can finish his cup of tea!

Next they now have a calm method for getting the dogs into the car.

Peaceful when humans aren’t about

The dogs have ‘their room’ during the day and in here Oli is calm. Although the lady works from home she has found that Oli is much more at peace in there with the other dogs.

When she lets them out there is bedlam again. They charge out of the door into the garden. Now, before letting them outside, she will ‘lace the grass’ with kibble. The dogs will then spend five minutes’ food-hunting and foraging which will take the edge off their excitement.

The couple will break the connection between their returning home and immediately going out for a walk.

At night-time when it’s time to let the dogs out, they do a very slow robot walk to the back door. When they get there they wait for no jumping up before slowly opening the door.

Robot-walking does wonders for creating calm!

For a couple of days the couple have now been changing their routines and these simple procedures are already working.

A smallish crate in the corner may well help Oli too – somewhere that contains him. They can give him a special tasty filled Kong that he never gets at any other time. At first indication he wants to come out they will open the door. If he knows he is never shut in there against his will he should be happier for longer periods of time. It’s certainly worth a go – in effect saving him from himself – and giving the other dogs a break from him.

They will also try very soft ‘Through a Dog’s Ear’ music in there. It can be therapeutic.

Because the lady walking towards him seems to be a trigger for sudden eruption, she will teach him to like it! Being a Cocker Spaniel I’m sure he’s good at catching things. So, starting from a distance and advancing on him, she will throw food as she goes until she pops a piece in his mouth.

She can do this in various places, particularly if he is near to the man.

The three dogs should be treated as individuals sometimes. One at a time they can come out of their room and have a bit of quality time with the lady while she takes a break from work during the day.

Instead of just ‘coping with Oli’ in the evenings when he’s at his worst, they will plan activities. They will introduce more healthy stimulation – activities that will help him to de-stress himself and to use his brain. It’s impossible to be in a cognitive state and an emotional state at the same time.

They will have zoopharmo sessions; they can let the dogs out of the kitchen individually or in pairs for special attention; Oli can have a hunting game in the garden hiding something smelly; he could take a trip on lead around the block etc. etc.

Giving our dogs enrichment is hard work

He needs a little something to fulfil his breed drives but not feeding his obsessing. A short ball game in the garden – maximum 5 throws with a ball that appears from nowhere as though by magic and disappears again afterwards. After the 5th throw they can chuck some food over the grass so he can unwind.

As with many over-stressed dogs, genetics is certain to play a big part. However, humans have to be at the heart of the problem too, so how the humans behave is crucial. Oli is at peace during the night away from them and during the day when shut in the dogs’ room.

When eventually a much great degree of calm is achieved and Oli is able to settle for himself, other things may well come to the fore. At the moment we can’t see past poor Oli’s arousal levels and his obsessing which is affecting the lives of the other two dogs too.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete report. Details and names may be changed. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good. Click here for help