I was greeted by two very friendly and curious German Shepherds, one of which was jumping up at me while the lady was trying hard to restrain herself from grabbing or scolding her because I had asked her not to.
We sat down at the kitchen table and for a while I didn’t quite know where to start. The situation was worse than usual because six-month-old Cleo, on the right, is coming into her first season and eleven-year-old (castrated) Leo can’t leave her alone. When he does eventually lie down, Cleo then pesters him. The house is small for the family and two large dogs.
At one stage the fire alarm went off and both dogs erupted into frantic barking, followed by a slightly aggressive episode between the two dogs. Cleo has now begun to show her teeth at two of the daughters, once when being over-fussed on the sofa and the other time when being pulled off the sofa.
The lady felt she needed to be on their case all the time with ‘no’ and ‘uh-uh’ etc. She works as a carer and I asked her how she spoke to her elderly people to get them to cooperate. She was brilliant after that! I wanted to start working with rewards. While both dogs are currently driven by their hormones, there was little we could do with both together, so we put Leo into the other room where he cried on and off to come back in.
The plan for the first couple of weeks is to ‘prepare the ground’ so to speak, for the family to work hard on cutting down on scolding, cutting down on too much excitement and on introducing praise and rewards. They will get a gate to go between kitchen and sitting room in order to make separating the dogs easier. They will, hopefully, cut out rough play and look for constructive games along with finding things for Cleo to chew to help calm her and occupy her.
There are problems with walking the dogs which we will need to address when Cleo has finished her first season as she badly needs exercise and stimulation, spending many hours a day in her crate which is the only place she can be trusted not to chew walls and cables. Currently most interaction with their humans is in the form of either fussing, excitement or else being told off. They must have got a lot of things right though – the dogs are so friendly, and each dog when apart from the other becomes biddable and attentive when approached in the right way.
Against a calmer background we can then get down to work properly. What Cleo in particular most needs is basic training presented in such a way that she has something fun and rewarding to work for. Both dogs badly need some rules, boundaries and self-control. It is going to be a fairly long road.
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Cleo and Leo, 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).