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

Working dog with no employment.

Bonnie is a working dog without a job.

She is a thirteen-month-old beautiful fox red Labrador.

I always ask my clients what their aim in having me would be if I had a magic wand. Which of course I don’t!

Bonnie’s owners said simply, ‘Happy walks with a happy dog’.

Working dog gun dogOne would think that Bonnie had everything in life a dog could ask for. However, the most important thing, apart from food and keeping safe, is missing.

A job. Continue reading…

Barks with Excitement. Barks for Attention.

Bobby barks with excitement.

Gorgeous little Bobby barks with excitement and he barks for attention.

Cockerpoo barks with excitementI didn’t witness this at all – that often happens! It may have been because we were sitting down peacefully much of the time and people moving about can arouse a dog.

It also will have been because I frequently broke off to do things with him – little training games and a bit of clicker work. He had no need to bark to get attention.

The eleven-month-old Cockerpoo was adopted by my clients five days ago. I am helping to make sure he settles in well and they start as they mean to go on. Mostly it has been general tips but they have one main problem.

Barking. Continue reading…

They leave her alone. She howls, paces, scratches the door.

Context is everything.

Beagle mix Maggie howls, paces and scratches the door when they leave her alone.  They had been advised that Maggie was probably bored.

howls when they leave herExperience really does count in something like this. We need to ask the right questions and do detective work.

Research is really only possible in the person’s home where you can see the layout, the interactions between people and dog and so on.

Five-year-old Maggie was okay initially when they first adopted her eight months ago. The separation problems developed until they could no longer leave her without coming home to a wrecked carpet and damaged door. Continue reading…

Click for Calm. Addicted to Ball Chasing

click for calm helped him to settle

The young couple has a beautiful Border Collie pup called Sabre, soon to be sixth months old.
 
He greeted me outside the house, pulling hard to get to me. Most of the time I was with them he was flying all over the place or barking at the young man in particular. He barked for him to throw a toy.  The man always complies because the barking goes right through his head.

Continue reading…

Gun dog. Easing off the training, giving him choices.

Gun dog Black Lab Bentley is extremely well-behaved and polite, an absolute delight.

The young dog seems, however, careful. He follows anyone who gets up to walk about, looking worried. He can be jumpy.

Gun dog training

gun dogHis young lady owner is very conscientious indeed. She is keen to make a good gun dog out of him and is very disciplined with the training. Each family member helps her by walking him and they are well-trained too – very keen to help. All walks include training sessions.

The girl voiced concern that if she follows my behaviour route, Bentley’s training may go downhill.  I suspect that easing right back on the gun dog training and giving Bentley more choice will instead enhance their training sessions.

Continue reading…

Born to Guard. Big Burden for a Family Pet.

guard dogBaloo is born to guard. His entire life centres around guarding his family. He’s ‘on duty’ all the time.

I sat down at the kitchen table and they opened the door. The most enormous dog charged towards me giving a giant rumbling WOOF.

He stopped short of me (fortunately!). He’s a lot bigger than he looks here – they say he weighs about 11 stone. Continue reading…

Aggressive When People Leave

Polly is aggressive when people leave. I had been sitting on their sofa for a couple of hours and had slowly made friends with Polly.
Then I stood up.

The dog thought I was leaving. She changed in a flash into a snarling, barking, biting dervish.

There is a lot more to it, however

The lady met me at the door with Polly on lead — this being the only way she could open it without her dog running out. As I walked in, Polly bounced off the floor, barking at me, leaping up at me and biting my clothes.

This frenzy didn’t last too long once the lady gave me the tiny bits of chicken I’d asked her to prepare for me. Polly soon got the idea that staying on the floor was a lot more fulfilling than jumping up and barking at me.

Her extreme arousal levels result in poor Polly being super-reactive and constantly on high alert. Stress levels have fallout in other areas. They are a large part of the reason she goes mental when people leave.

Polly scratches herself raw

The vet has prescribed all sorts of things to no avail. I guess most dogs are stressed at the vet so it would be harder to tell, but watching her in her home environment, it was obvious stress was involved to large degree.

As soon as she had got over a bout of barking or there was any pressure on her, Polly scratched.

The lady tries to stop her with a command or a distraction — or by holding her foot to restrain her. As Polly only scratches to try to relieve her stress. stopping her without providing an alternative only adds to it.

I suggested a dog T-shirt with sleeves. She could then scratch without harming himself and the lady could relax about it while working to help relieve Polly’s stress.

Bearing in mind that the lady is so upset by the situation, anything that helps her will help Polly, and visa versa. Our own emotions can have a big effect on our dog.

I was sure that as she worked on everything else, the scratching would reduce or even stop altogether. I was right.

Constant barking

The next problem is constant barking at every sound. How can someone stop a dog like this from barking?

A previous trainer had suggested spraying water at her. She’s already in a panic. How can scaring an already aroused and panicking dog not make her even more frantic?

There are predictable triggers. They live by a school. For half an hour each morning and half an hour each evening Polly goes mental in the garden.

She goes mental with barking when letters drop through the front door.

There is a public car park out the front and she reacts to every car door she hears shutting. She runs back and forth from kitchen to front door and then into the garden, barking.

While I was there she barely barked at all — and that is because I worked on it.

At every sound, even before she could bark if possible, I reassured her with ‘Okay’, called her and dropped her a bit of chicken.

Car doors slammed outside and the lady couldn’t believe — Polly wasn’t reacting. On the occasions when she rushed out into the garden I called her in immediately. I called her before she had time to get stuck in — and rewarded her. We shut the door.

Simple management

If the lady keeps her eye on the ball and cuts down on all barking opportunities, she will find things very different. It will be hard work and every little bit helps.

She will immediately install an outside letterbox. She will keep Polly shut away from the front of the house at school-run times.

I also advised her not to give Polly free access to the garden unless she is at hand to help her out.

When she goes out and leaves Polly alone, it should in the quietest place — the sitting room — well away from the front of the house, passing people and slamming doors.

Aggressive when people leave

The third big issue I discovered towards the end of my visit. Having been sitting down for a while, I stood up.

Polly thought I was leaving. She changed in a flash from this little dog who was doing so well with me, into a dervish.

She barked ferociously — even worse than at the start when I arrived. The little dog flew at me, grabbing my clothes. She was in total panic.

Standing still and using my original technique, I eventually calmed her down again. All was well for a while until, still seated, I slowly picked up my keys to see what she would do. That was enough. She went frantic once more.

The lady understandably wanted to know why her dog does this whenever someone gets up to go. Why is she so aggressive when people leave? What memory might it trigger?

Who knows what the rescued dog’s previous life had been like.

It’s complicated.

In her panic, Polly has bitten the lady several times at the gate or at the front door. She had gone to move Polly during one of her ‘mad sessions’.

(Many years ago I inherited an old Labrador when we had bought a house from an elderly lady who went into a home. Her dog stayed. I used to say that Angus would rather kill someone than let them leave).

Back then I didn’t know what I know now.

Cutting down on Polly’s stress levels is the key

So, all in all, just by reducing the barking alone the lady will cut down a lot of Polly’s stress.

Cutting down on her stress will contribute to her not being aggressive when people leave.

Polly needs more exercise and freedom to be a terrier — away from the confines of a small bungalow. Her walks aren’t daily. They are currently along the roads on a short, tight lead attached to her collar.

She will feel a lot better when the lady gets her a comfortable harness and a long training line and takes her somewhere more open. She will have thirty or more feet of freedom to sniff and to explore. This way she won’t escape whilst having some enrichment in her life.

I visited this dog two months before writing this article. Polly now is a lot less excitable when someone comes to the house. She still barks but it lacks the panic and the lady, who has worked very hard, can reassure her so she stops. She seldom scratches.

Best of all, when she has a caller and they get up to go, Polly is chilled. She has learnt to associate people leaving with two good things — play and food.

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