Defensive. Unfortunate Incidents. Reactive to Certain Dogs

Poor little Teddy is now on the defensive. He is very small, weighing only about 5kg. The three-year-old is a cross between a Shih Tsu and, surprisingly, a Border Collie – they saw his mother.

The friendly and confident little dog has had two setbacks recently.

Other dogs had never before bothered him.

Two unfortunate incidents

A while ago, the large, friendly and boisterous dog next door had jumped over the fence into Teddy’s garden. He jumped on him, terrifying Teddy. Now Teddy races up and down the fence, boundary barking.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, about to jump into the car, he had an altercation with two larger passing dogs. They jumped on him. They pinned him down and he was bitten on the neck. Teddy screamed and screamed. The young lady says it was one of the most awful experiences of her life.

Since then Teddy has been on the defensive.

They are really worried this may have scarred him for life. Their well-behaved little dog is now tense and reactive. To quote the lady, ‘I’m so upset about it I just done know what to do’.

on the defensive with other dogsWhere before he would walk past a house down the road with barking dogs at the gate, he now barks before he even gets there. He is on the defensive irrespective of whether the dogs are out or not.

Teddy’s defensive behaviour towards certain other dogs is totally understandable as it is all about basic survival and feeling safe. Bad experiences have fallout – a sort of PTSD.  Although the ‘disaster’ itself can be very brief, the effect can take considerable time to recover from. Sometimes it will be permanent unless the dog, like a human, gets specialist help.

Teddy lives in a family of three generations and they all totally adore him! Although they spoil him rotten – he doesn’t actually behave spoilt. They have taken time and trouble training him. He’s beautiful.

Sadly, he has become increasingly territorial and nervous since these incidents.

There is more involved than just dealing with defensive behaviour towards certain other dogs itself. I have broken the work down into about four areas.

A calmer dog

Firstly, if they can keep Teddy as calm as possible it will give him a greater tolerance and he will be less jumpy. This means moderating some of the things they currently do with him that make him wildly excited.

Food

Secondly, key to the whole thing is being able to use food. Food is available all the time to Teddy. His humans share their food with him. He gets chews that are, relative to his size, huge. Food simply has no value as rewards.

This will be a big challenge for one family member in particular!

They will now save the very best food for working with. For instance, if they already add cooked chicken to his meals, what good will cooked chicken be for making him feel better about something he’s scared of? If he’s already full of food and snacks, if he can also help himself to dry food whenever he wants, why would he take any notice of the food they need to use?

Protective

Thirdly, he needs help with his territorial and guarding behaviour which, because the incidents happened so near home, has intensified. They will show him that it’s not his job to protect the garden. This means he shouldn’t for now have free access unless someone is around to help him out.

His humans, the young lady in particular who witnessed the second incident, are themselves nervous. She is not acting like the ‘protector’ that Teddy needs. He will sense everything that she is feeling. She needs to work on acting strong and cool.

Finally, what can they actually do?

What do they do about the big dog next door that jumped over the fence into his garden and terrified him? About the house with the barking dogs that send him into a frenzy of defensive barking when they walk past? What do they do about those dogs and situations they may meet when out?

The work is done using desensitisation and counter-conditioning. This involves keeping within Teddy’s comfort zone – and I would say the young lady’s also. When they near another dog or the garden with barkers, they need to watch him carefully. At the first sign of unease they will increase distance from what is troubling him, before he becomes defensive and starts to bark. It could involve turning around and changing their plans.

This is when food having value becomes vital. Pairing something he should love (food) with something he is uneasy or defensive towards (certain other dogs too close) is the way to go.

Together with the neighbour, they can work on their dogs each side of the now raised fence, using leads, distance and food (or play).

I hope it’s not too long before little Teddy becomes less defensive and can all feel safe on walks and in his own garden again.

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 it can do more harm than good. Click here for help.

 

Easily Aroused Puppy. Rough When Excited. Nipping. Chewing.

It’s a kind of vicious circle. A constantly challenging, easily aroused puppy can get us down. Our resulting loss of patience makes puppy worse.

Days start badly

Easily aroused puppyTheir days with sixteen-week-old Luna start badly as the easily aroused puppy fights against having her harness put on. The exasperated lady admits being driven to shouting and tears by the wriggling, biting animal.

Luna’s life with the first-time dog owners started badly. As soon as she arrived they found she had Giardia. Then, she broke her paw after falling awkwardly and was hospitalised for a week at twelve weeks old.

The couple are extremely conscientious with her training, aware that she is a working dog. They are doing all they can to fill Luna’s life.

I have a more relaxed take on what a young puppy needs.

Discovery of what works and what doesn’t

At this age life should be discovering what works and what doesn’t, with perhaps less human direction. They do all they can to try to keep her occupied but she quickly loses interest. She now needs to start keeping herself occupied for a little longer.

In a way I feel they are trying too hard. It’s not often I would say that!

They listed for me the problems they are having with their easily aroused sixteen-week-old gun dog Labrador puppy.

The list of difficulties are all extreme for the same reason – over-arousal/excitement/stress with lack of self-control:

Jumping up at the work tops and table. Leaping at guests or people that want to say hello to her outdoors – she drew blood from someone. Jumping up, nipping arms and ripping at their clothes when excited. Biting when they try to put on or take off her lead or harness. Grabbing her lead and pulling when walking. Chewing on things they would rather she didn’t despite having plenty of toys – she doesn’t play with toys – just chews and tears them.

They are all normal puppy things but, with Luna, excessive.

She was very quickly and easily aroused all the time I was there. She became temporarily responsive to clicking for calm and feet back on the floor. It’s important to reinforce those times when she is simply being calm and still.

I gave her a yak chew which gave short-term respite before she started again.

Easily aroused and the need to chew

Easily aroused dogs have a big need to chew which is one of the most effective ways they can relieve their stress.

We will start by prioritising things most directly associated with Luna getting easily aroused, concentrating on lowering that ‘stress bucket‘.

The couple feel unable to leave her alone which is not helping. They interrupt their night to take her out in the early hours of the morning and are tired.

During the day the lady is constantly in Luna’s company, dealing with the behaviour.

Getting their lives back

I suggested they start to get their lives back. Firstly to try leaving her all night and see what happens.

They should get into a routine of shutting her in her pen after her morning walk with a stuffed Kong for half an hour. They then can go into the other room and relax! From what they tell me, she may bark briefly to come out so they should ignore that. Over time they can extend the time they leave her to two hours.

The lady can then have some freedom.

I suggested changing to better food. Diet can also affect the behaviour of an easily aroused dog.

We have a plan for putting the harness on without drama. Why not simply leave it on for now, eliminating that from the morning’s bad start?

Happier owners will make for a happier puppy, and visa versa.

I saw Luna yesterday and received an email this morning: Luna and I have not had any cross words this morning despite lots of attempts at mischief.  I think it’s the first time I’ve not shouted and cried before 9am in 9 weeks! She had lots of sniffs on her walk…(we’ve kept the harness on throughout to make things easier just for the first few days), and we started transitioning her onto better food this morning too…..Just now as I was writing this email she was jumping and nipping at my clothes and feet to get attention so I left the room for 5 minutes.  After a few whimpers she’s now taken herself off to her crate and is asleep. Peace!

Resource Guarding Puppy. Puppy Love. Puppy Parenting.

puppy loveI walked in through the door to be met by the most adorable 13-week-old Sprocker puppy in the man’s arms. Instant puppy love!

Oscar!

Oscar does all the typical puppy things which we discussed how to address one at a time.

He was jumping up as soon as I sat down. They would prefer him not to jump up so immediately I got my clicker out.

In no time at all he had caught on. ‘So feet on the floor is what you want, is it? Why didn’t you say!’ Randomly telling the puppy to get down is just more human spam to his ears.

Clicker is quite considerable brain work for a young puppy and soon Oscar had fallen asleep on the floor beside us. He stretched out. He lay on his back with his little bare tummy showing. Puppy love!

Evening mischief

At this time in the evening he would usually be pestering for attention and looking for forbidden things to chew.

Just after I arrived he had a session of puppy zoomies, tearing through the house and down the garden, back and forth! I wonder why puppies usually do this in the evening. Possibly energy rush after their tea. Possibly accumulated arousal from the day. Very likely it coincides with owners wanting a bit of peace and quiet and the puppy has different ideas!

Evening mischief can easily be solved with a bit of effort. The humans should at regular intervals initiate a short activity. It can be standing outside watching the world go by. They could have a game of tuggy. Some food could be sprinkled over the grass. They could have a short clicker training session. Best of all to my mind is a cardboard carton food of recycle rubbish with some kibble dropped and hidden in things. This is so much more exciting than chewing wires and what a glorious mess he can make!

Resource guarding

The concerning thing is Oscar is showing signs of ‘aggression’.

This is when he picks up an item that they don’t want him to have. I gave Oscar a present of a piece of Yak chew (a wonderful thing for puppies). When someone walked past him he acted like he thought they might take it from him.

Removing things from a puppy in the wrong way actually creates resource guarding behaviour.

So, whenever Oscar has anything he values like the Yak chew, if they walk past they should drop something small and tasty as they go – without stopping. They ADD; they don’t take away. Givers, not takers.

Firstly and fairly obviously, they need to keep checking the environment. This isn’t so easy when they take him to someone else’s house and where some of the incidents have happened.

Once he has something there are questions. The first thing is, how valuable is it to you? If a sock or tissue, then it’s your fault for leaving it accessible! Neither will kill him, so ignore it. Make sure there are plenty of chew-able and allowed things left about.

If it’s something that will harm him or something of value, it’s a problem. For puppy love sake this could be an emergency. At present all they can do is scatter lots of very tasty bits all around the place so he’s unable to grab all the food and get back to the resource at the same time. It could well be that nothing will lure him away from a particularly valuable prize.

Chasing and cornering

This is when the trouble starts. He is chased and cornered. He becomes intimidated whilst at the same time determined to hang onto his treasure. The large human will then grab him and force the item out of his mouth.

It’s little wonder that the puppy has now learned to growl when approached while he has one of his ‘finds’ in his mouth.

Before things can get any worse, Oscar needs to be given some intensive fun sessions of give and take. This must always be an exchange session. Each time he gives, he gets something in return that is of higher value (to him) than what he had. He can also get the original item back.

With my puppies and some older dogs, when they have something in their mouths, anything, I say Give. I do an exchange for perhaps a bit of food. I then admire, sniff and talk to the item, increasing its desirability, before returning it to the dog!

Tug of war can also be a very good lesson in give and take.

Once the puppy is inadvertently taught to be on the defensive by us humans, it makes other things difficult. Oscar had a bit of stick painfully trapped in his mouth and really fought against having it removed by the man.

Here is a famous example of a dog being virtually forced into resource guarding aggression.

More puppy love

I am so looking forward to my next dose of puppy love with Oscar. We will see how the give and take is going, work a bit more on walks and do some more clicker training.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. Early and comprehensive puppy parenting advice which is much more extensive than puppy classes is invaluable. Click here for help.

Fights. New Home Living With Other Dog. Stress

An elderly family member is no longer able to look after her dog and he now has a new home. Cairn Terrier Ben has gone to live with the couple and their dog Bonnie.

Bonnie is a Labrador Cocker Spaniel mix (the Labrador next door called to visit the mother dog!). She’s small, no bigger than a Cocker. 

A couple of fights

Each dog is great individually but being together is a challenge for both. In the short while that Ben has been living with them, there have been a couple of fights and another few altercations that they have interrupted.

Six-year-old Bonnie is used to being the only dog in the household. She’s extremely well behaved and obedient. However, Ben stirs her up and as soon as there is any arousal in the air it upsets her. She growls at him.  Although Ben submits and appeases, once she goes for him he retaliates and she comes off worse.

One of the fights resulted in a hundred-pound vet bill for damage around Bonnie’s eye.

Ben’s life has changed dramatically.

Ben has a lot of habituating to daily life and getting used to things. He lived in a very quiet place with an old lady.

He is terrified of home things like the vacuum cleaner, lawn mower and hose. On walks he is scared of vehicles and bicycles.

Because of the built-up effect of stress and tension, at the moment he will be in permanent aroused state inside.

Fights when arousedIt’s his inner stressed state and fears that Bonnie is probably picking up on. This makes her reactive.

There was graphic evidence when I was there. The cat who had been keeping out of Ben’s way, got too close to Ben. She jumped up onto the kitchen side in a panic. Bonnie’s immediate reaction was of aggression towards the cat. This never normally happens as she and the cat get on very well.

Bonnie can’t cope with Ben’s arousal and this is causing the fights.

The incidents happen at predictable times when there is excitement or barking. She will hump Ben. I feel she’s attempting to relieve her own inner stress whilst trying to get some control over him.

When the humans are out of the way however the dogs relax. They sleep. When the couple goes out, they come back to drowsy dogs.

A child is coming to live with them

Another factor makes it vital that there are no more fights. They have a friend with an eight-year-old boy coming to live with them in the very near future. The child is wary of dogs.

So, we will work on the root cause of the problem that is causing the fights. Ben’s state of mind. He needs desensitising and counter-conditioning to all those fears he’s having to cope with.

The couple should, for now, completely avoid those that they can – like vacuum cleaner and hose. There is enough other stuff to deal with.

Enjoying walks is a priority, so they will work on his fear of traffic. From a distance from them that Ben’s comfortable, they will associate moving vehicles with special tasty food.

Without the deadline and concerns about the child coming, they could have relaxed and taken their time. But this puts a bit of urgency into the situation. However, it’s important they take things a step at a time and don’t rush it (a stitch in time saves nine and all that).

When should the dogs be together?

When Ben first arrived the dogs were freely together. Then there were the couple of fights.

Next the dogs were kept totally apart if not on lead.

Just before I came this had progressed back to the dogs being together – separated if there were signs of trouble. I am worried this could be too late.

In addition to helping Ben, there are the usual flash points of arousal that could result in fights. These include when someone comes to the house, if they rush out into the garden barking and if someone walks past the fence.

Resources cause fights, so no balls, toys or food should be about when the two dogs are together.

Dogs separated by a gate unless all is calm.

I prefer for now keeping the two apart at times when they can’t be sure things will be fairly calm. ‘Apart’ should be the new default with ‘together’ only at selected and safe times. Until the child and his mother have settled in anyway.

It’s vital the two dogs no longer rehearse the behaviour. Removing rehearsal will help to remove fights from their repertoire rather than the opposite.

I witnessed just how good they are with one another in the short periods when nothing was stirring them up. In many cases dogs can’t be in the same room – or even look at one another – without breaking into an attack of rage.

It’s a good sign.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. any form o aggression needs professional help. Click here for help.

Distressed, Trembles, Whimpers at Bedtime.

Millie is a Beagle, a Lemon Beagle, ten years of age. She has lived with my lady client for eighteen months.

She is a sweet and gentle dog but she carries some baggage. Three things in particular make her very distressed. Her bedtime behaviour, her panic when left alone and continuous barking and crying when being driven in the car.

Distressed at bedtime

distressed at bedtimeBedtime is a puzzle. Last thing at night Millie is asleep on the sofa beside the lady and very comfortable. She has to be woken and goes out into the garden calmly.

The lady then fetches Millie’s bed and takes it into her bedroom, followed by Millie. She gets ready for bed then gives the dog a treat for getting into her own bed. She goes to bed herself.

Immediately everything changes. Millie jumps onto the lady’s bed.

She trembles. She whimpers, jumps on and off. Obviously very distressed, she drools.

This can go on for a couple of hours before she gives up. She has done it from the day the lady brought her home eighteen months ago.

Millie has sometimes asked to be let out and then does nothing but mooch around the garden. She doesn’t need to toilet. There is nothing in the bedroom that is different from daytime apart from the fact the lady is in bed. Leaving the light on makes no difference.

Meanwhile the lady is repeatedly saying, ‘Go to bed, Millie’. Understandably she is tired and will be getting a little cross and stressed, unable to do anything about her dog’s distress.

Eventually, after an hour or two, Millie settles on her own bed on the floor. 

The ‘why’.

The same ritual is followed every night and will now be a pattern of learned behaviour. Normally if we can deal with the ‘why’, the behaviour improves. We are doing a bit of detective work along with trial and error in an effort to get to the bottom of why she gets so distressed, so immediately and every night.

The night-time behaviour will most likely have its roots in her past history. (While I am writing this I wonder whether it could be something perfumed on the lady st bedtime that Millie can smell with her Beagle nose. Something she associates with a past terrifying experience).

One thing is certain, if the lady carries on doing exactly what she’s doing now, so will Millie.  Changing the ritual has to be a place to start.

I suggest the lady lets Millie out to toilet a bit earlier and then lets her go back to the sofa for another hour or two. She can ditch her whole bedtime ritual and just get herself ready for bed. Millie can choose for herself what she wants to do.

Shutting her out of the room isn’t an option. The second major problem the lady has with Millie is separation – another matter we will be working on. She can’t let the lady out of her sight.

It will be hard, but I suggest that the lady tries turning over and ignoring all Millie’s distressed pacing, whining and drooling. Her constant trying to tell her to settle doesn’t help at all. It’s just possible that her constant agitation and ‘Go to bed, Millie’ is in some strange way reinforcing.

Could pain be involved?

We also noticed that Millie looks a bit awkward when she sits and when she lies down. She was spayed recently and nothing picked up, but I wonder whether she has pain in her hips. Her distressed behaviour at night is certainly panic, but maybe it’s pain as well. Pain always affects behaviour

The separation problems will also be baggage she brought with her. The way forward is to deal with the emotions she is feeling – the panic – and gradually get her to feel differently about being left.

Getting into such a distressed state at night time and again about four times a week when she is left alone for a few hours, Millie’s stress levels must be constantly raised. Added to this is the car ordeal. This happens daily as they have to drive somewhere for her walks.

Although Millie looked calm and slept while I was there, there will be more going on inside.

All her problems are due to fear in one way or another. Each thing we can do to build up the lovely, gentle dog’s confidence and reduce her stress levels will have a knock-on effect.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. Fears need professional help. Click here for help.

Puppy Joyfulness Lost. Tail Between Legs. Acts Careful

Hettie is an adorable Cockerpoo puppy, now sixteen weeks old.

Why has she lost her puppy joyfulness?

For the first four weeks that Hettie was with them (eight to twelve weeks old), she was a typical confident, happy and energetic puppy. She would fly around in puppy joyfulness, grab things and cause the usual puppy chaos.

she used to be filled with puppy joyfulness

Before getting her, they had already booked their holiday. While they were away, they left her in what they believed was the best place possible. This was a well respected daycare and kennels.

From what I observed of Hettie’s new careful, tail-down behaviour, something must have happened while they were away. She had come back a different puppy. Not to be too dramatic, it’s like something had broken her spirit. She had lost her joyfulness.

Her tail goes between her legs even when the lady owner appears.

It could have been that this holiday care was totally the wrong environment for a young puppy. Too many dogs all at once and too much noise, perhaps.

It can only be guesswork.

Hettie’s not scared of dogs, however. It’s people she’s wary of now; she’s generally reserved and what I can only call careful.

Sensitive period for socialisation

The damage done resulting in her fear of humans won’t have been anything deliberate.

To quote Dr. Sophia Yin: ‘From about 3 weeks to about 3 months of age, puppies are primed for bonding to other animals and individuals, for learning that objects, people, and environments are safe, and for learning what the body cues and signals of others mean. It is their sensitive period for socialization and it is the most important socialization period in a dog’s life. …….but what types of interactions should puppies actually have? ……it’s important to actually make sure that the puppy is having a positive experience and learning something good.’

For the first four weeks the family did all the right things, exposing Hettie gradually to the outside world of traffic, noise, people and other dogs.

During her stay away there could have been one or two single incidents that were negative and scary to Hettie. It could be that the whole thing – the number of big dogs and the barking may have just been too much for her.

Could this explain why Hettie has lost her puppy joyfulness?

Building up her confidence with people

The priority now is to build her confidence in every way possible. They will always use encouragement and avoid scolding. They will put no pressure on her. When the lady approaches she will throw food to the puppy; I’m sure her tail won’t be between her legs for long.

Most importantly, they must train all visitors. Knowing what to expect, I had avoided walking towards her. When I did move, it wasn’t directly. I avoided eye contact and spoke quietly. As I moved about, I leaked food from my hand onto the floor.

Hettie was very soon quite literally eating out of my hand.

What we would love to see is a return of the enthusiastic, excited puppy she had been before they went away. A return of a her puppy joyfulness.

PS: From an email that evening: ‘Hettie has been much more ‘naughty’ this evening and stolen lots of items from the sitting room plus made a break for upstairs – quite a relief after such a withdrawn persona earlier on’.

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

Something So Endearing About a Cocker Spaniel

Show Cocker Spaniel Toby is a beautiful boyThere really is something so endearing about a Cocker Spaniel!

Cockers haven’t been put on this earth to be ignored.

My own Cocker, Pickle, is totally different to Toby in that he’s not a guarder, but he, too, can be a handful. He is a working Cocker and keeps himself, and me, busy. He is the smallest of my dogs but more trouble than my three other dogs put together.

Pickle keeps me on my toes!

Toby is a Show Cocker and a beautiful boy.

His start in life wasn’t ideal in that he was hand-reared along with his siblings. The downside of this is that he hasn’t been taught by his mother when his teeth hurt as usually happens when suckling. If she feels puppy’s teeth, mum gets up and walks away. Puppy learns about teeth because his food supply disappears.

Toby guards people, places, locations, himself.

Their problem with Toby is that he guards things in that he ‘possesses’ them. They are HIS resources; ‘Stay away’. He guards places also, various private bolt-holes in the house where he takes his ‘trophies’. These are places like under the coffee table beside his lady owner (whom he also guards).

The Cocker Spaniel may also guard food while he is eating, he guards chews and bones, he guards his own personal space and he will guard toys. He does quite a lot of growling that they are now immune to – but growling has a purpose, it’s a warning.

Recently Toby bit someone who approached something he was guarding and who ignored his growling.

Toby chooses.

Toby gets what he wants, when he wants. He chooses when he comes in at night, he chooses where he sleeps. Toby chooses when he eats. He chooses when he gets touched. He chooses when he should play ball (but the ball has to be wrestled off him). His demands are nearly always immediately met.

Food is always available and their own food is shared. Nothing has to be earned. If £50 notes were showered on you, would you want to work for two pounds? Their attention is given freely, every time he demands it. How relevant does he find his loving humans when they want his attention?

I asked the man to call Toby to him. Toby just looked at him! (Toby now expected the man to repeat the request and put in a lot of effort). I said to the man, “Toby’s had his opportunity and lost it. Leave him”.

I must say, I can’t imagine any of my dogs growling at me. This isn’t because they are any different from Toby or other dogs I go to. It’ s because I never have used physical force but rewards instead. I mostly save giving them treats for when they do something I like. They are always willing. I am relevant. I hold the ‘cards’.

We control the resources, not the dog

Here is a quote from Jordan Rothman, ‘To control your dog, control what motivates your dog: food, toys, belly rubs, attention, access to other dogs etc.’

I introduced Toby to clicker training. It took a while for him to catch on to the notion of having to EARN food (cheese). Once he got it, he was 100% attention, poised to work for me. It was lovely to see and shows what is possible. He was a focused and happy dog; all I was teaching him as a starter was to look me in the eye, to give me his full attention.

Loving a dog to bits is a bit of a two-edged sword. Indulging a dog’s every whim is actually not good for him. It’s no different than with one’s children.

Boundary Bark. Boundary Chasing

One year old Cocker Spaniel Lucky will chase people walking past the fence and boundary bark. He is a lovely dog, doing exactly what most other dogs in his position would do. Particularly a working Cocker Spaniel with loads of energy both mental and physical.

Boundary bark

Give a dog free access to fences, where people with their dogs walk past, he will very likely boundary bark and chase. No doubt from Lucky’s perspective he believes he is chasing them away – they always go, after all.

With each time he does it, the behaviour becomes more established.

They have had him for three months now. He’s landed on his feet with a wonderful home, and they have got themselves a wonderful dog.

I was called in order to do something about his general excitement and the boundary barking.

Uncontrolled arousal

Boundary bark and chase dogs and peopleFrom the point of view of Lucky’s stress levels, this frequent charging from gate, up the side fence and back to the gate is not good. He gets so frantic he tries to dig out underneath.

The gentleman’s way of dealing with this is to chase after him with a slip lead and corner him. In such an aroused state Lucky sometimes gets to a stage where he can no longer control himself. On a couple of occasions he has redirected his frustration onto the man and bitten him.

It’s a bit like a child having a tantrum kicking out.

With frequently topped-up stress levels, Lucky will be much more nervous and jumpy in general, just as we would ourselves. Things that we consider may be fun for the dog – like repetitive or exciting hands-on play – can actually be adding to his general arousal levels. This will build up and remain in his system for days. Trigger Stacking.

Enrichment and fulfilment

A working dog needs breed-appropriate things to direct his energy onto. I understand this well, having a working Cocker Spaniel myself. He needs to hunt, forage, explore and to use his brain. Adding this kind of enrichment will tire him out in a much healthier way than simply exercise and physical play. It’s a lot harder work however than just letting the dog run around freely, doing his own thing.

A large aspect of Lucky’s life will be frustration. He will boundary bark but be unable to actually get to the person or dog.

As they can’t let him off lead on walks for fear that he would go off on a chase and not come back, walks must be frustrating for him also. Currently he is held close on a slip lead. With no freedom there will constantly be things out of reach that he can’t get at or sniff. I suggest giving him time on a long thirty-foot line in the woods or fields where he can make his own choices – and the man can follow him. This should enrich Lucky’s life greatly.

The line should be attached to a harness – a tightening collar could badly damage his neck.

Management gives less work to do

The first priority where the boundary chasing itself is concerned is to manage the situation better and to remove opportunity.

Allowing Lucky access to that gate when they aren’t right there on hand to deal with it immediately is simply asking for more trouble. Lucky has an anchor cable in the garden which gives him a lot of scope but keeps him away from the gate where the barking ritual kicks off. They should use this more. They may also be able to fence off the front part of their garden. 

Chasing the dog

When Lucky does boundary bark, it needs to be dealt with appropriately. The man may be able to catch him eventually, but it doesn’t get to the root of the problem at all. It won’t stop happening. It will intensify.

The humans should show Lucky that it’s their own job to protect him and the territory, not his. Their role of ‘protector’ can’t be just when they feel like it so they must be consistent and ready to react immediately he starts. If they delay he will have become so aroused that he will unresponsive and not even hear them.

Chasing and cornering him is the worst thing you can do with a dog. Lucky’s family will now work hard at getting him to come to them as soon as they call him.

They will condition Lucky to come to a whistle immediately and make it very worthwhile for him. As soon as he charges down to the gate they can whistle. Then, instead of chasing him, he will come to them. They can experiment with what works best as a reward. It could be a special treat, it could be scattering food around the place or it could be throwing him a ball.

Then, as well as relieving him of any boundary duty, passing people and dogs will be associated with something happy. This will result in them becoming less troubling to Lucky.

In time, if they do this every single time, he will be hearing someone approach and instead of chasing come straight to his humans for a reward instead – without having to be called.

Summing up

So, Lucky boundary barks and chases which is the behaviour they want to stop. As well as approaching this directly there are other things to do. They won’t excite him unnecessarily. They’ll enrich Lucky’s life as much as they can. Importantly, they will use management to prevent free access to that gate whilst reacting to any boundary barking appropriately.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. it’s obvious professional help is needed in a case like this of a dog bite with no warning. Click here for help.

Dog Bite. No Warning. Re-homed Dachshund

dog bite with no warning

Millie

I wonder who would ever say that a dog bite could have been a good thing! This time it may have been so.

The elderly couple have had two-year-old Millie for just a couple of weeks. They wanted company for Wirehaired Pip, age four; the two dogs get on famously.

Very rarely would a dog bite with no warning at all. Usually there will be a subtle signal at least – if you know what you are looking for. Not so with Dachshund Millie.

This is what happened.

They had her in another room with Pip until I had settled at the kitchen table.

The dogs were let out

Pip

Millie made no noise. She rushed into the kitchen. Without even stopping to look or sniff who I was, she flew up at my arm and bit me.  Because the elderly couple couldn’t catch her quickly enough, she attempted another couple of quick bites to my legs.

I always wear tough clothes just in case, so my legs were protected. It’s too hot however to wear a thick top. Just a bruise and a nick on my upper arm. Entirely my own fault because I was there on account of Millie having bitten the daughter who had walked in the door. The lady had been standing, looking down at the new rescue dog.

That won’t have been a dog bite without any warning – there would have been signs if you knew what to look for.

Usually if a person is sitting and already in the room and ignoring the dog, it’s a lot easier on the dog. I took what I thought was a calculated but very low risk.

A dog bite a good thing?

In a way it’s a good thing it happened! Someone else would undoubtedly very soon have been bitten who probably wouldn’t know how to react. It could have been the grandson. Now at least we know exactly what were are dealing with.

She now sat on the lady’s lap, lead on and her harness held tightly. She reacted aggressively when I moved and would certainly have bitten me again if she could. Meanwhile the lady was trying to pacify her which I feel could be perceived by Millie as anxious rather than calming. She would be transmitting her own feelings to the dog.

I’m pretty sure Millie is being increasingly protective and territorial. Possibly this is partly genetic – maybe her mother or father had been the same. Apparently she had previously lived in the middle of a confrontational relationship that had broken down and there may have been some violence.

I took refuge on the kitchen table

That was a first! They had shut Millie out of the room for a while with something to chew and wanted to let her back in. They had removed the lead.

Not quite sure that she wouldn’t wriggle through the gap in the door before they could catch her and fly at me again, I took refuge on the table!

Insecurity

Becoming increasingly protective suggests fear of losing something. Unsurprising, as in her short life she’s had four living situations already. She has lived with the original couple before they split, then with the lady alone, then in rescue and now with my clients.

She’s a lot more protective of the lady than the man as a little experiment demonstrated. He took the dog and I moved about and she didn’t react at all.

It looks very likely that with each day she’s with them this guarding and protecting will intensify, unwittingly encouraged by the lady. Instead of encouraging dependence, they should consciously break some of the ties that are growing. She won’t let the lady out of her sight, for instance. Everything possible needs to be done now, before any more time goes by, to stop her increasingly feeling she must guard her new humans. The same applies for her new territory.

A muzzle and a gate

There is little they can do about the actual biting itself, apart from management. They will physically prevent anyone receiving a dog bite by muzzling her. This they will introduce gradually. They will also put a gate in the kitchen doorway. This way anyone coming into their house will be safe.

Any biting, particularly a dog bite without time to see any warning, needs to be dealt with at source. We need to deal with the state of mind that causes her to do it. She was certainly not scared of me. She had very confident body language.

The outcome

They still don’t really know what they have got with Millie. Things tend to surface over a period of weeks as the new dog settles in.

The very worst scenario is that she will continue to be affectionate with the couple in her lovely new home and a great playmate for Pip. When people including family and grandchild are about she is either muzzled or behind a gate. She would be muzzled when out also.

The best scenario is that, with work on their part, she can let people into their house. That they could walk past people when out – though they may not be able to invade her space.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. it’s obvious professional help is needed in a case like this of a dog bite with no warning. Click here for help.

Ten Week Old Puppy. Clever Puppy. Nipping Feet.

They have had ten week old puppy Cavapoochon, Isla, for less than two weeks.

Already she takes herself out to toilet. She sleeps through the night, no mess. A dream of a puppy.

A ten week old puppy and socialisation

Ten week old puppy‘Puppy Parenting’ isn’t only about changing things she’s doing now, it’s also about avoiding certain things happening in the future.

The main and most important thing that should start, ideally even before puppy leaves the breeder, is socialisation.

People can assume socialisation to mean meeting some other dogs but it’s a lot broader than that. It also involves meeting people of all different sizes and ages, traffic, noises and so on. The PPG (Pet Professional Guild) has a very ambitious checklist.

This isn’t as easy as just ticking off things from a list.

It’s important that these encounters don’t frighten a ten week old puppy. People she meets should be gentle and quiet with her. Over-boisterous dogs or bullying puppies avoided. They should pair anything slightly scary with food – at a comfortable distance – before attempting to get closer.

This leads me to something many people are resistant to.

Carrying food

Rewarding the puppy with food is proved to be the fastest way to motivate and teach her. Rewarding with food shows the puppy what you DO want rather than what you DON’T want.

The delivery has to be instant – no time to walk across the room and open a tub.

They can cut up tiny bits of something nourishing, soft and nutritious and wear a treat pouch or similar. I recently discovered Feelwells grain free treats. They can be broken up tiny and Isla loved them. 

Every time they ask Isla to do anything, they will reward her. Every time she happens to be doing something they like they reinforce it.

The power of food and motivation was demonstrated while I was there. Early on, the teenage daughter wanted Isla outside for a toilet break. She called her, but it was more fun indoors with us and Isla ignored her.

A little later, after we had been working with food on something else, the daughter called her outside. She went out with her immediately.

Nipping feet.

The only thing the ten week old puppy does that the family would like to change is nipping – particularly feet.

Isla only becomes nippy when people come home or when they have visitors. She then goes for feet. They are a household who take their shoes off indoors and Isla loves toes and socks!

They are already, a couple of days later, resolving this by dealing with the excitement that causes it. When anyone comes in they tone down their welcomes and avoid stirring her up. At the same time they have something ready that she can chew instead.

A puppy tornado!

A ten week old puppy may suddenly race around through the house and garden like a little tornado. For some reason this often happens in the evening.

When she’s all fired up with excitement, they will give her something she can attack or destroy! I suggest a ‘rummage box’ – a cardboard cartoon containing rubbish like water bottles, cardboard tubes and bits of food so that she can chew, rummage and wreck.

Clever puppy Isla caught on to clicker training straight away, like she was born with it! She was soon lying down and even learning ‘touch’, touching a hand for click and reward. Isla found this fun. There should be no pressure on a ten week old puppy to learn tricks. There is plenty of time later to teach ‘commands’ (which I prefer to call ‘cues’).

Being left alone

Preempting future separation problems is very important. She needs to get used to being happily left alone for short periods without pining. They are already achieving this, particularly at night.

Walking

Isla has finished her injections now and can walk outside.

Like many people, they started by attaching a lead. This will feel very odd to a ten week old puppy and Isla plays tuggy with it.

To my mind, putting the lead on first is the wrong way round to do things. First they should be walking around the house and garden with Isla beside them – off lead. This is achieved with kissy noises, calling her, patting legs and food.

Soon she will learn that walking near to somebody is fun. She won’t need coaxing unless she wanders off to do something else. Only now is the time to introduce the lead – carrying on exactly the same way as before.

I demonstrated and the daughter copied. Isla quickly caught on.

Heel work is pointless and unnecessary for a ten week old puppy. Walking happily near to someone on a longish lead will make walking a happy experience. Later on she can be taught to walk to heel for when it’s important, near traffic for example.

Twelve week old puppy

When I next visit the ten week old puppy she will be about twelve weeks old.

We will do more work on her lead walking, paying attention, coming when called – and clicker training.

What fun!

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