Puzzling Jack Russell

My gentleman client has had Monty for just six days. Monty is a small and extremely cute Jack Russell. He has previously had two homes that probably had young children and Monty may have felt threatened and shown aggression to protect himself.  He then spent six weeks in Wood Green animal shelter.

Monty puzzled me. He barely moved from his bed. He  didn’t get up when I came in. He didn’t lift his head when either of us moved about or went out of the room. He may be exhausted from the trials of the past few weeks and noise of the kennels. Maybe he is recovering from some sort of trauma. It’s as though he has shut down. When he did get out of his bed it was to do multiple stretches and bows, accompanied by yawning and lifting his paw, calming signals and appeasement. When I tickled him gently with just one finger, he seemed to freeze. He has already bonded closely with his new owner and is very comfortable being touched by him, though he is not interested in any sort of play.

But, yes you can guess, Monty changes personaltiy completely out on walks! He is extremely reactive to other dogs, and taking his owner unawares he yesterday actually bit another small dog which badly shook the gentleman, as did the angry reaction of the other dog’s owner. When Monty sees another dog, even in the distance from the high window, he becomes very agitated. He shakes and salivates. I wonder what has happened in his past life.

Monty’s gentleman is very intuitive and Monty has fallen on his feet. The man is going to refrain from spoiling him or trying to compensate for what has happened in the past, and to behave as a calm, fair and strong leader would. Where other dogs are concerned he will work on building up Monty’s confidence in him, using advance/retreat techniques. A trustworthy leader or dad would not lead his pack or family into danger. Monty perceives other all dogs as a threat at the moment.

It’s certain his owner hasn’t yet seen the true Monty! He will gradually relax and come out of himself as his confidence grows. As he becomes more carefree he may even become playful.

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

Bearded Collie/GSD Crosses

Beardie GSD mix

poppy on the left with Jasper

Jasper and Poppy are Beardie/German Shepherd mixes. They look entirely different though, and their personalities are completely different too. Poppy is dark and largely Shepherd, and Jasper is pale and much more like a Beardie to look at. Poppy is just eight months old, and Jasper is eleven years old.

Jasper always was extremely laid back – or was until Poppy arrived. He takes most things in his stride – or did until recently. Poppy is much more highly strung and generally a bit skittish.  She is scared of new people coming to her house, and scared of people when out.

Walks are becoming a big problem because Jasper has developed aggression to other dogs. He used to be fine, but this started a couple of years  ago. It may be because he was attacked, or even perhaps because he’s a bit older now and may feel a little vulnerable. He has become very protective of Poppy, and trouble can start if she goes to see another dog.  Out on walks he tends to initiate the barking, and Poppy joins in. Her hackles rise and she is scared. Their lady owner is slight in build and the joint weight of the two dogs pulling and lunging is more than her own.

So, it’s the same old problem. Reactivity to other dogs out on walks and to some people also. So many dogs I go to are fine in the dog training class, but totally different out in the real world. Traditional training doesn’t always address the problems and it needs to be approached in a completely different way – without the use of correction or force, but calm leadership techniques.

Both dogs are very well trained in ‘obedience’ and Poppy still goes to classes. What they need is something a bit more basic. I describe obedience training as the icing on the cake. You need to get the cake right. Both Jasper and Poppy need a bit more faith in their owners who are already doing most of the right things, but need a few extra tricks up their sleeves, and for each member of the family to be behaving in the same way – drinking from the same water bowl!

Here is some typical early feedback from a client: I had my first “close encounter” with another dog last night.  But for the first time I didn’t panic or tense up.  Jake was on lead and two dogs were quite a distance away.  I kept walking towards them and as soon as he clocked them I stopped and turned to walk the other way, he just followed!!  In the past he would of stood his ground and not moved.  Then to top it all there was another one coming the other way, so did exactly the same.  I did put him in the car (didn’t feel quite ready to deal with 3 dogs off lead running around) told him to sit and I stood in front the window facing the dogs.  They came bounding up to me so I just turned my back on them, Jake didn’t move – normally he would have barked!!  Made of fuss of a couple of them, Jake just sat there.  I can’t believe how in control I felt.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Two Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Two Ridgebacks on their bedsI am just back from an enjoyable visit. Sally has two entire male Rhodesian Ridgebacks – big dogs and a lot of testosterone! They are well behaved and friendly in the house on the whole, though because of their size visitors may find them intimidating. In company Sally is keen that her lovely dogs don’t let her down, so she is constantly on edge.

Sally had Weston as a puppy three years ago, and then a year later she got another puppy – Sidney. Where Weston was a cooperative, gentle natured giant, Sidney has been the opposite from the start. He is highly strung and restless, and cries when Sally is out of sight.  It just shows how two dogs of the same breed can be so very different. The trouble is that now he is mature he is leading Weston astray too.

Outside in the garden there is a lot of barking – initiated by Sidney. Weston seldom used to bark before.

Sally’s problems are mainly out on walks, and especially when they see another dog. Then there is pulling and barking. Sally is slight in build and no match for the two dogs who have to be physically restrained by their collars and could so easily pull her over. Sidney’s hackles go up, and if he off lead he would dominate and maybe bite other dogs.

So, it’s the same story as with many of my clients of going back to basics and showing the owners how to teach their dogs that if they want to progress forward, it will only happen on a loose lead.  There is a direct correlation between dogs, tense on tight leads and being constantly corrected, being reactive to other dogs, and dogs walking calmly on a loose lead being chilled on seeing another dog. Sally’s work will take time and patience, but will be well worth it in the end. My clients that succeed are those who are consistent, where everyone who walks the dog is using the same approach, and who are prepared for it to take as long as it takes.

Sally has previously taken the view, which is opposite to my own, that exercising a dog for a sufficient number of hours will eventually calm him down; with Sidney the excessive exercise is proving to have the opposite effect, that of over-stimulating him.

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

A Lurcher, a Greyhound… and a Hen!

Hen in the house with the dogsThis evening I have been to see two beautiful dogs – a lurcher and an ex-racing greyhound who came from Ireland three years ago. And a red hen. They are all treated like royalty and waited on hand and foot by their elderly owners. What was so surprising was that these dogs were in fact so well-adjusted. There is a bit of grumbling when the lady’s foot may nudge Jessie in bed at night, and Charlie may growl slightly if someone sits next to him on the sofa, Jessie will steal any food she can see (but then she is hand fed from the table) and Charlie barks when they come home (but they make a big fuss of him).

The people and dogs seemed happy with the two dogs being King and Queen and the owners being their loyal servants – apart from Charlie’s attitude towards other dogs when out on walks. Having been kennel-bound all his young life, civilised country walks were not something he had grown up with. He is very wary of dogs and his attitude is that he will bark at them and try to get rid of them before they have a chance to attack him – or more particularly Jessie who unlike Charlie loves other dogs. The nearer she gets to them the more frantic and aggressive Charlie becomes. A while ago he bit a man who was trying to protect his dog, so now poor Charlie, who can live in harmony with a chicken in his house, has to be muzzled to protect other dogs – and this will make him feel even more vulnerable.

They have a wonderful dog walker who was also at our meeting and who does much of the walking. She is going to help the owners work on treating their dogs a little more as dogs, and dealing with Charlie’s fearfulness with other dogs – so that the lady, in time, will be able to enjoy walking her own dogs together.

If you live within my area, would you like me to help you too?

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.
 

Charlie the Cross Breed

Busy chewingIt was hard to take a photo of Charlie, because she was so friendly and curious that pointing a camera at her brought her over to investigate, so here she is, lying down, busy chewing a toy.

Charlie came over from Ireland and was adopted by her new family about three months ago. She has landed on her feet.

She is largely labrador, but has short legs and could be mixed with Basset Hound, Beagle or even large Daschund. She is very bright and very willing.

Like so many of the dogs I see, Charlie’s problems are out on walks. She pulls on lead, wants to see off cars, joggers and cyclists, and is very reactive to some people and all dogs. I suspect that if she were not trapped on lead, she would be a lot better, but with no reliable recall her new owners are unable to let her off.

Many of the dogs I go to have had traditional training, but not pulling on lead and tolerating other dogs in the class doesn’t always translate to walking on a loose lead down the road, being sociable to other dogs in the park and not chasing bicycles. I am a big believer in front-fastening harnesses for dogs that are stressed on walks. Not only are they more comfortable for the dog, they give the handler a lot more control. However, it’s not a magical quick fix. Equipment doesn’t solve the problem. Only the owner can do that – by behaving as a leader should in the eyes of the dog – which I have proved time and again does not involve correction, lead jerking, commands or force.

Charlie’s owners realise that this will take weeks, months maybe, patiently building up Charlie’s confidence and their own, but in the end they will have a lovely dog who walks beside them like there is no lead at all, will not react to other dogs or approaching people, and who will be able to run freely and safely off lead.

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

Nightmare Walks

Lurcher and brindled cross breed on their bedI had a relaxing Sunday afternoon with two friendly dogs. Sitting there with Noodles the lurcher asleep much of the time and Tofu a brindled cross breed a bit more active but happy, it was hard to imagine that these same two dogs could be so fear aggressive to other dogs when out on walks.

I briefly walked in the garden with Noodles. She was so tall it was like leading a pony!

Noodles had been attacked several times by off lead dogs so was very much on the defensive.  They had recently acquired Tofu from Wood Green for company for Noodles. In many ways this has helped Noodles enormously, she is much more relaxed in the house and when the owners go out. However, Tofu isn’t an altogether good influence on her! Egged on by Tofu, the two together are a menace when out on walks. They pull and lunge at dogs and would attack if they could get to them. It is a dangerous situation for the owner who may also be pushing a buggy, and the chaos upsets their little girl.

At home there are excessive bouts of barking, with the slightest noise setting them both off, rushing from the front of the house and out through the dog flap into the garden.  I only witnessed this once in the three hours or so that I was there. This is because we had created a calm atmopshere so the dogs chilled. Both dogs, incidentally, are wonderful with the two-year-old daughter. They love her and she loves them.

The people have worked very hard with both dogs from the start, and have made great progress already.  We are now filling in a few of the basics which are less to do with training the dogs, more to do with changing their own behaviour, so that the dogs see them as the protectors, providers and decision-makers. We have worked out a strategy for making walks enjoyable – basically by going back to square one and starting all over again in a totallyl different way than ‘dog training’ and ‘correction’,  a step at a time, with the dogs understanding that the only way to get anywhere will be on a loose lead. The work has to start before they even step out of the door. It will take time!

If you live within my area, would you like me to help you too?

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

Protective Nervous Border Collies

Two challenging Border ColliesI have just had a challenging evening with two border collies, Will and Ruby. Their owners have not had a guest to their house for two years now because of their dog’s behaviour. They both lunge and bark at people in a scary way and have bitten, and they can’t even be left in another room because Will panics, makes a lot of noise and is destructive in his panic to get out.  Both dogs have crates. Ruby is happy to be in her crate, but Will makes a lot of noise in his desperation to get out. He suffers from separation anxiety and has actually broken out on a couple of occasions, injuring himself trying to escape when left alone.

The gentleman first brought Will into the room on lead (I was furthest from the door), and by using the advance/retreat technique Will eventually calmed down sufficiently to stop barking at me and lie down. The owner then brought Ruby in and we went through the process again. Eventually both settled (held firmly on leads) – until I moved! It is hard to talk without moving and I know I can be quite animated.  I kept sending the dogs all the calming signals I know, and instructed the owners in keeping calm and quiet – though it is very difficult not to jump and scare a skittish dog when she is quietly sniffing you and then suddenly gives a loud bark right in your ear! One dog set the other off again.

This is a challenging situation because the lady owner is unwell and unable to do much with the dogs. In fact, it has got to the stage where she doesn’t really want them, though the man who is stronger feels differently. Will, who was rescued at five months, originally accompanied the man to his work as a groundsman in a country park, but soon had to be left at home because of his guarding and aggressive behaviour towards people. Neither dog can be walked on lead by anybody except the man who is strong enough to handle the excessive pulling and aggressive reactions to dogs and people, and the chasing behaviour with wheels and joggers. People have been nipped and bitten.

We have created a plan that, with the help of her family, will encourage the lady not to give up on her dogs; something that gives the dogs a bit more stimulation and leadership but within her capabilities, including strategies to deal with Will’s separation problems and both dogs’ fearful behaviouron walks and towards any people who do not live in their house. It is going to take a considerable length of time, and I hope they will stay the course.

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

Little Dogs, Big Barkers

This has been a week for small dogs needing help, including two miniature daschunds.  Digby was an unusual brindled colour. I was called out because he barks at passers by, he barks at the letter box, he barks at cars and animals on TV. He goes into a panic. He also barked at me. He cries and barks when he is left alone. He also persistently toilets in the house.

It is five days later and I have just spoken to them. No toileting in the house since I saw them. They are following the plan and working consistently on the barking in a kind and fair way.

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This picture is of Bailey, the dUnusually quiet for Miniature Daschund Baileyaschund I visited this evening. His problems are very similar to those of Digby, though his barking is more excessive. Like Digby, his barking is all through fear. He gets very excited and when he is stressed he compulsively licks himself. Initially he was barking continuously at me as I sat on the sofa, but soon we had a quiet evening  – unusually quiet for Bailey – after I showed Bailey’s lady owner how to relieve him of his fearful barking at me.  Bailey was then relaxed until I stood up to go.  He was rather suspicious about having my camera pointed at him for a photo before I left!

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

Big Baby

Today I had a treat.

I went to see a fifteen week old Dogue de Bordeax called Porter. He is a very big puppy and he’s going to grow into a huge dog! His owners want to make sure that they start off the right way, so that he grows up to be a well-mannered friendly dog who, though will bark if he hears something, won’t assume the role of guard duty or be a threat in any way.  He is also going to learn to walk nicely on a loose lead.Dogue de Bordeaux, a very large puppy

At just fifteen weeks old he is already a little wary of people coming up too close to him and he may bark at them. We are working to make sure he grows up to be confident and self-controlled. It is so tempting to play exciting and rough games with a puppy like this, but tug games not done properly encourage mouthing, grabbing and biting, and chase games encourage a puppy to run away or even to get scared if cornered – and this invites aggression.

He is unusually lazy for a puppy, he is house trained already, he doesn’t jump up and he doesn’t chew much – apart from socks – when they have feet in them!

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

Tail-Chasing Stressed Jack Russell

Tiny Jack RussellIt was hard to take a photo of Tiny because he never remained still for long enough in the entire three hours I was there today. The little Jack Russell is one of the most stressed little dogs I have seen. He has a tail chasing ritual that is more or less continuous over long periods of time. He can only be distracted with other obsessive things like ball chasing. He pants and he barks.

You can see from his picture the tension on his face and around his eyes, and his panting tongue. If he were a human in this state, he would be getting help. Tiny now is.

He is a well loved little dog who lives with another terrier. Unfortunately his manic behaviour has an effect on her too. The dogs are seldom walked, due to both Tiny’s anxiety and the other little dog’s fear and aggression towards other dogs. A lovely park just nearby is impossible because of the number of off-lead dogs that run up to them. Now the two dogs will work towards going for very short walks again, in a way that is kept within their comfort zones.

Little Tiny will be learning how to calm down. His owners will be doing all they can to help him avoid obvious triggers for stress, and to take as much pressure of him as possible by giving him the calm type of leadership that he needs.

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