Good home. Only on a sheep farm could be better.

As I left, they asked me whether I felt they were a good home for their young Welsh Sheepdog, Taffy.

Taffy has found a good homeI can’t think of a better place for the recently adopted dog – apart from living with a sheep farmer maybe. She is very lucky to be re-homed by the conscientious and caring young couple who are doing their best to understand her needs.

Taffy has landed on her feet in a very good home.

From the couple’s own point of view, however, there is a downside. The reality of what they had done soon kicked in. Instead of having a dog they can take everywhere with them, they have lost their freedom. Taffy’s restrictions have overtaken their lives. Continue reading…

Insufficiently motivated. Why not work for his food?

I’ve just visited Jake, a delightful, friendly and clever young Cockerpoo. A real character.

What cheerful Jake lacks is self-control. They have given him basic training, but self-control is not about people controlling him or doing tricks. He’s simply not sufficiently motivated.

not motivated to be goodHe eats well, so taking food from his daily quota will do.

The clever dog needs a lot of stimulation in order to receive the fulfilment his breed needs. Working Cocker mixed with Poodle. He generates his own attention and fun with his excited behaviour and demand barking. Continue reading…

Barking in the car. The lady wears earplugs.

At six months old, Daisy came over from Eastern Europe. She lived with a someone nearby before the lady took her in three months ago.

Daisy is now one year of age – a beautiful mix of many breeds.

barking in the car

She is polite, friendly and absolutely lovely – a real tribute to the lady who has worked hard. She can be taken anywhere.

Apart from one problem. Barking in the car.

She barks so much in the car that the lady has to wear earplugs! Continue reading…

Barks at People, Distant or Near

I love happy endings so I have brought this story of three years ago to the front.

Robbie’s hackles rise and he barks at people.

He barks at people

People often don’t see things from their dog’s point of view until it’s pointed out. There seems no alternative but to keep walking towards the thing the dog is scared of, perhaps crossing the road. They buy equipment that enables them to physically manage their scared and pulling or lunging dog.

Although they may do their best to avoid people, turning right around and going somewhere else or even going back home isn’t an option. Walkers like their walks to go from A to B.

Sometimes the people, seeing he’s a Labrador, put their hand out to him. He doesn’t like that and he’s snapped a few times.

Robbie has a new harness that says ‘Nervous’. I’m not sure this is direct enough for the person who ‘loves dogs’ and may try to comfort him.

The Yellow Dog Company makes dayglo dog coats that say ‘I Need Space’. Plain florescent yellow coats are easy to obtain. We could make our own with a marker pen to say ‘Please don’t touch me’, making it quite clear to people.

It is very likely that Robbie had inadequate socialisation with new and different people as a young puppy. Possibly some of his problem is genetic. He had one terrifying experience involving a man when he was a young dog from which time things got a lot worse. He’s now five years old and is particularly scared of men which isn’t uncommon.

When I arrived at the house Robbie ran to me, hackles up, barking.

I had a soft dog toy – a squeaky duck in the top of my bag I knew a Labrador would like – and held it out to him.

Robbie took it and he became a different dog!

He paraded the duck, wagging his tail, showing me and the couple his prize. He squeaked it. “What have you got, Robbie?” I said to him. All was well.

The people said this was a very different first encounter than usual with their dog that barks at people who enter the house.

It seems that Robbie, influenced by fear, only barks at people when he can actually see a person. Hearing alone doesn’t seem to worry him.

I noticed that his way of showing he was worried about anything was to go still and look away. Out of sight, out of mind?joneslisa

At home they will work on getting him to look into their eyes the instant they gently say his name. Then, when they are out and he sees someone, they will have the power to get him to look away from the person and to them instead. That will be the first step.

They will make the whole walking experience less stressful. They will teach him to walk comfortably on a loose lead – we practised this in the house – and get rid of the head halter.

He will start to enjoy a lead walk rather than it being the frustration and discomfort of constantly fighting against the restraint. It’s unsurprising that a scared dog, already feeling this tension and stress, barks at people.

I suggest avoiding people altogether on walks for a couple of weeks.

It will allow him to let him settle. They can work on their loose leash technique and learn how to change the emotions inside him that make him a dog that barks at people.

Later and after some work, when he sees anyone, if not too close “Robbie!” should immediately get his attention. They then move onto the next step. This is either feeding him, giving him a toy or throwing something; they will turn around, increase as much distance as they have to and have a party.

Robbie’s humans should keep totally relaxed when they see a person. Calm confidence needs to run down that lead. When Robbie tenses up – as soon as and not before – they then set the wheels in motion to associate the people he barks at – or used to bark at – with only great things.

They may eventually even point the person out to him before going straight into their happy routine, ‘Look- a person!’.

If everyone coming into his house greets him with a special toy that can be given to them in advance, he should begin to associate callers with good stuff too, just as he did me when I gave him my soft squeaky duck.

Robbie is a lovely dog with owners who really care. In time, if his need for distance is respected, he will be comfortable closer to people and may even ignore them. He’s not a particularly tactile dog and this must be respected. He will learn to trust the people holding the lead not to push him over his threshold and then he should no longer be a dog that barks at people.

Feedback five weeks later: The harness came (I had recommended Perfect Fit) and you’re right it’s really good, he barely pulls with it on so walks have been much better and fairly loose on the lead. We continue to practice the calling his name and rewarding with kibble when he looks at us and off the lead he’s been much better at recall. We’ve had a few occasions walking him having seen people, being ready to turn round and go in the other direction but he hasn’t reacted. I was even able to talk to a neighbour as we walked past and he didn’t react at all, all good progress I think!
Three months later: Robbie is still doing great and we are managing his anxiety as you showed us to which makes life so much easier particularly when visitors come to see us.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Robbie and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear is concerned. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

His Fear of People is Puzzling

I have just met another Henry – a Miniature Schnauzer age two. He is quite unusual to look at, being brown and with a poodle-like curly coat. Cute! fear of people makes him bark at them

Henry was barking behind a door when I arrived. Let out after I had sat down, he came charging up to me, barking quite fiercely. This didn’t last for long and I could see that he was scared whilst also wanting to make friends. He backed away and inched forwards. He licked his lips.

Within a very few minutes of being left to do things in his own time, he was taking food from me and we were friends.

Fear of people when out is causing problems.

Henry is very reactive to anyone he meets when out on walks. It’s even worse if they have a dog.

Unlike some scared dogs that back away and try to make themselves small, like others Henry seems to feel that attack is the best form of defense.

It’s puzzling why he has become like this. His mother has an even temperament. He was introduced nicely to everyday life at a young age and so far as I can see they did everything right. Nothing seemed to scare him early on, it just slowly developed. Nobody has ever hurt him.

On lead he will walk nicely until he sees a person or a dog, and then, while his human traps him tightly on a short lead as they pass, he strains to get to them, barking all the time. Their very common approach teaches him nothing. It won’t be making him feel any less fearful of people and dogs.

The million dollar question is what should they be doing?

It stands to reason that if people continue as they are, nothing will change. The only way is to do things completely differently.

Any continued close encounters with people and dogs will merely go on making things worse. Where can they go to avoid them? There are people and dogs everywhere.

Where there’s a will there has to be a way.

The three choices are stark.

There are three choices when considering what to do about reactivity, barking and lunging through fear of people and dogs when out.

The choices aren’t based on convenience or lifestyle. They are just fact.

One is great, one is dreadful and the third is doing nothing.

Either Henry’s root fear needs changing so that he no longer feels scared. No longer feeling scared, he will no longer be noisy. He will in time be a happy and much more confident dog. Everyone will enjoy walks. Job done.

It’s all about building up trust.

Another possibility (which Henry’s humans won’t be doing!) is to deal with just the symptom – the barking, pulling and lunging – with no regard for the emotions which making him behave like this. This is punishment administered by a human who is simply bigger and stronger and may also have painful equipment to use on the dog.

This is the ‘dominance’ approach used in the bad old days. Cruelty used to force a dog through pain and fear.

This destroys all trust.

It’s hard to believe in this enlightened day and age that there are still trainers and TV programmes that advocate this kind of approach.

Who could want their relationship with their dog to be on that footing? Certainly not Henry’s owners.

There is a third choice which some people understandably end opting for. That is simply to give up and live with things as they are.

Harry has six loving adult humans in his life who have always done their best for him. Between them they will do whatever is required to build up his confidence. They will all need to pull together. Behind his fear of people is a very friendly little dog ready to burst out.

All people must be consistent in keeping the threshold distance for Henry from dogs and people while they work on things. This isn’t optional. The will each know how to react should someone unexpectedly appear or if they have a ‘near-dog encounter’.

Henry is never let off lead although they live very near to parkland. Here they meet few dogs and people which is ideal for a dog with fear of people. They can drive there. They can even jog to get there. He’s not reactive while they are running.

They will get a long line for him so that he has some freedom. This will make his walks fulfilling.

Fear of people doesn’t involve avoiding people altogether but working on them within Henry’s comfort zone. If Henry’s humans all stick to this and take it slowly, his confidence is certain to grow.

They will need to be tough about appearing unfriendly by creating distance between themselves and people who want to talk to them. If they want success they have no choice. Here is a little video about how to increase space without seeming rude.

There are certain sacrifices to be made but it will be so well worth it in the end.

 

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…

He panics when the lady moves out of sight

Six months ago they had to go away. They left their easy-going young Samoyed, Rex, in the care of a dog trainer.

They came home to a terrified dog.

Panics when the lady disappearsThe don’t know what happened. Now the previously friendly dog is very reactive to people coming to the house. He panics if dogs get too close to him when out.

Most of all, he panics if his lady owner is out of sight. Continue reading…

Terrorises the cats and barks at people coming to the house

Barks at catsHarley is a two-year-old German Shepherd who lives with an adult family and four cats.

People coming to the house – and their cats

Before I came I knew that they wanted Harley to be better with people coming to the house and not to go mental when she saw their cats. They find they can’t ask people round.

I was expecting the  young German Shepherd, as often happens, to bark at me so much that we couldn’t talk! What a nice surprise to find her shy rather than territorial or aggressive. Continue reading…

She runs and she chases. Suki is a super-fit dog.

Suki runs.

She is a super-fit Whippet Saluki mix who loves to chase a ball on walks. She runs beside the man’s bike.

runs with a bike

Like many Sighthounds, Suki likes to be covered

They used to live in London. She was accustomed to all the city noise, lots of people and plenty of other dogs. 

They then moved to a small, quiet town near myself.  She encounters far fewer people or dogs and is gradually becoming reactive to other dogs.

On lead, she may now growl, lunge or snap at them if they come too close. When off lead she’s fine. She merely puts a comfortable distance between them. She’s not trapped. If she wishes, she runs.

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…