Starting Puppy off the Right Way

cavapoo2Jazz is an adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/Poodle mix – a Cavapoo. She is just thirteen weeks old.

Her owners want to make sure things start off the right way, having had a very difficult time with their previous dog.

Apart from advice regarding feeding, toilet training and walking, there is an even more important area if you want a well adjusted puppy growing into a stable mature dog. It is about how you interact with the puppy.

Just imagine how huge and noisy humans must seem to something so small! If they surround her with too much noise, too many commands and too much excitement, or ‘dominance’ of any sort, one of three things will happen. She may become scared of them, she may stand up to them as she gets bigger and become defiant and difficult, or she may get hardened and take no notice of  them unless they are very exciting or noisy.

The more calm Jazz is the more gentle she will be. The quieter the humans are, the more Jazz will learn to listen. Even praise should be given gently.  They don’t want to overwhelm her because apart from anything else she will be distracted and the reason for the praise will be entirely lost.

The dog is largely a reflection of the owner. Calm, gentle, consistent and patient owners will usually have a stable dog with self-control.

 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.
 

Sleek Ridgeback, Scruffy Labradoodle

scruffy labradoodle

Marley

Sleek Ridgeback

Djembe

What a lovely pair they make. Five year old Djembe is sleek, graceful and aristocratic, and 7 month puppy Marley is a scruffy pup!

It’s hard to believe Marley is so young, not only because of his size but because he is so well behaved. He is cautious and easily scared – you can see by his ‘look-away’ in my photo that he’s is uneasy having the camera pointed at him. Djembe on the other hand is a real poser, but despite of her aloof manner she is not as confident as she seems.

The main problem is Djembe’s increasing protectiveness where other dogs are concerned. She is fine with people so long as they approach in a sensible way – I walked into their gate and the dogs were in the garden. They were curious but that was all.

Djembe lived with another dog who evidently felt protection was her role, but sadly that dog died and Djembe’s behaviour towards certain other dogs worsened. On top of that, six weeks ago they took on Marley and now Djembe has him to look after also.

It really kicked off when, out on a walk, another dog went for Marley. Djembe wasn’t having that. Then they went to a beach and Djembe was a nightmare, instead of being able to run free and happy as she had done last year, now all time protecting the family and Marley from possible approaches from other dogs.

Over the next few weeks and months (it will take as long as it takes and they will need to be 100% consistent), both dogs will learn how good it is to walk on loose leads with no correction, halti or choke chain. They will walk beside their owner wherever he decides to go because it’s pleasant to do so. Djembe will learn to trust him to react appropriately as a leader when they meet other dogs.  Marleys’ general confidence should improve and Djembe, whilst always being protective to some degree because it is in her nature, won’t be constantly on the lookout for trouble when they are out.

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

Misunderstood

Rottweiller, Labrador Collie mixBelle is just fifteen months old and has lived alone with her lady owner’s until a week or so ago. She is a mix of Rottweiler, Labrador and Collie, though looks mainly Rottie. Here she is with a tennis ball.

A week ago the lady’s new boyfriend moved in. Poor Belle is confused and unhappy.

I was called out because a few days ago she had nipped the man – we will call him John. John’s very understandable human reaction was to be confrontational. Already the bar has been raised. Where Belle may now be backing away, she will soon stand her ground I’m sure.

John and the lady like to cuddle on the sofa – the sofa Belle used to share with the lady. Belle jumps between them and gets agitated. She may grab an arm or clothes. The lady says she is jealous. She is certainly trying to split them up. Belle doesn’t understand humans cuddling. The nearest thing a dog would do, using body contact and paws, could be a sign of trouble brewing. In this case another dog would step in and split the pair by getting between them. So, for doing what any good dog in a dog group would do – splitting up potential conflict – poor Belle is in trouble.

To Belle John has become some sort of challenge. The final straw was when John and the lady were mucking about. He picked her up and threw her about and she screamed in play. Belle warned, snarled, growled and then jumped at John and gave him a big nip. Without doubt, because of the squeals, Belle thought the lady was being attacked and was left with no choice other than to protect her. They were left wondering whether they have a dangerous dog, not realising it could have been a lot worse.

I hope I have managed to open their eyes to understanding Belle, and that they will stop to think how what they do might impact on her, trying to see things from her point of view. I also hope she isn’t sidelined in their new life. She needs calm and consistent leadership and quality time spent with her. Being cuddled one moment and then disciplined the next for something she doesn’t understand using confrontation can only lead to bigger trouble.

At the end of the day Belle would be the one to pay the price, and she is a lovely natured dog who deserves to be understood.

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

Malinois/Collie

Malinois Collie crossThis is beautiful Lexy. She is a cross between a Malinois and a Collie. Lexy is eight years old and until the beginning of this year had lived all her life since she was a puppy with a very elderly couple until they could manage her no longer. They did well with her but they were unable to take her out for walks.

Lexy is a very polite dog if a little timid. Once her lead is brought out however, she becomes very excited, and once they are out of the door she pulls down the road to the extent her new gentleman owner, a big strong man, now has an injured shoulder. They have resorted to a Gentle Leader head collar which Lexy doesn’t like at all.

When she sees other dogs she may be playful or she may be fear aggressive. She may freeze and refuse to go further or she may lunge towards them. There is no telling what she will do though it does seems that her reactivity is mainly directed towards female dogs. Off lead she will mix with a group of dogs in an excited manner, rounding them up and jumping on them inappropriately. In my mind she does very well considering that for the majority of her eight years she never had interraction with other dogs on walks.

Her new owners are now trying to make up for all those years without walks with long walks daily. I am persuading them that, for a few days or a couple of weeks at most, no long walks will do her no harm while they go back to basics and start all over again with the lead walking, several times a day, for just a few minutes at a time near home. I demonstrated my usual technique with Lexy and she immediately followed me about on a loose lead with no trouble at all – so it will be with the owners when they get the knack!

Owners can always unlearn their old ways, and an older dog is never too old to teach new tricks,

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

Black Labrador and Jack Russell

Black Labrador doesn't like her photo taken

Poppy

JR

Ellie

You can see Poppy the black Labrador felt uneasy having her photo taken! She lives with Ellie, a Jack Russell.

The dogs have two very separate and different lives. During the day they go to work with the male owner to his workshop. He only walks them off lead in fields and he takes them shooting.  I must confess that I’m not easy with some of the methods used with working gun dogs, but they are obviously happy with him and respect him. The dogs have a fulfilled and active life.

The main reason I am uneasy with his approach is that control is from the ‘outside in’ – i.e. forced upon them, and is more of a quick fix. I work on the opposite – from the ‘inside out’ where the dog learns to cooperate through choice. This can take a lot longer and needs great patience, but rests easier with me as the dogs learn self control.

At home they are ‘pets’. The lady is unable to show them leadership in the same way that the man does. Both she and her daughter like to cuddle and make a fuss of the dogs, but walking them on lead is becoming an increasing problem constantly watching out for other dogs and coping with the pulling.

Ellie is a real character. She was the bossiest puppy in the litter and is now, at six years old, very much in charge of the world! Poppy is a lot more timid, and feels threatened if approached too directly by people and is wary of dogs.

So, while the dogs get their exercise and stimulation day to day with the man, the lady can go back to basics with the lead walking. She may well take a couple of weeks just to get out of the gate with a calm Ellie! She will need to work on the dogs one at a time starting in the garden, and only walk them together when loose lead walking is established separately.

The lady is going to show the dogs, through her own behaviour at home, that she is in fact the decision maker and not Ellie. This will give Poppy more confidence in her. She will quietly show the dogs that leadership doesn’t require force. They will need to use their brains – work it out for themselves what works and what doesn’t!

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

Doesn’t Like Being Cuddled by Little Girl

American CockerI have just been to see Max, a two-year-old American Cocker Spaniel.

I was expecting a whirlwind like my own ten month Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, but instead found a quiet and subdued dog. They have had him for a couple of months now. When they visited him initially in his old home, he was very excitable but calmed right down as soon as they picked him up and brought him home. This change in personality may be because he lived with another excitable dog or simply because his new home is a lot calmer. When a dog’s behaviour changes so dramatically the first port of call is the vet to make sure he’s not in ill or in pain. As Max has a persistant ear infection that is being treated, this may be something to do with it. He’s not carefree like you would expect, so maybe he is missing the other dog who may have beeen the more dominant and confident of the two.

Max is fearful of other dogs on walks and this is now going to be addressed over the next few weeks or however long it takes. More worryingly is that he has snapped at the little granddaughter who I will call Cara (not her real name).

Cara was so thrilled when they got him, to her he is a big cuddly toy. She simply would not leave him alone. She had to cuddle him all the time. She would touch him and lie on him. Poor Max gave her all the warning signals he could – from freezing, grumbling to a brief lip curl, but she either didn’t notice or ignored them. Her mother and grandparents had to watch and nag constantly, but in an unguarded moment last week he snapped.

Cuddling doesn’t come naturally to dogs. The nearest they do themselves is humping. The front paws grab the other dog and this is usually an act of dominance.  So poor Max would be reading something other than love into Cara’s actions. Unfortunately, if his warning signals are ignored, he can’t talk after all, he will learn that there is no point giving them at all and he may snap straight away another time.

This is a bit different from my usual cases because it involves child-training! Having explained that Max just didn’t like it and that he was scared (hoping she might listen to ‘The Dog Lady’ more than her family!), I then praised her every time she looked at Max and didn’t go to him. It is simpler initially to teach her not to touch him at all. What a good girl! Max was soon happily coming over to her because he wanted to. With lots of reminders and praise Cara was learning! When ‘no touching’ becomes second nature to her, she can then be taught where and how to touch him – and only when he comes over to her through choice. As an extra precaution they will be getting a crate to put Max’ bed in. The door will be open so he can come in and out freely and only shut if the adults are unable to watch. Cara will be taught that this is strictly a Cara Free Zone!

As I left I asked Cara, ‘What does The Dog Lady say?’

Cara said,  ‘Don’t Touch Max’!

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.
 

Harry Can Be a Handful

red labradorHarry is ten months old and a beautiful Red Labrador (his male owners says I should call him handsome, not beautiful!). He has a lovely nature, but the best way to describe him is that he can be a bit ……..too much.

He is very persistent in his jumping onto people both when they are standing and sitting down. The smallest bit of attention gets him very excited. He finds pinching things and running off with them great fun and he sometimes eats unspeakable stuff! Of course he pulls on lead too.

Harry is quite a good example of how, without meaning to, human owners who are trying to do things right actually teach their dogs to do the very behaviours they don’t want. This starts when they get their little puppy home. Boundaries and rules don’t exist. He is encouraged to leap all over people. In no time at all the little puppy gets a bit bigger, and now believes he is the most important member of the family – after all, his every wish is granted. Isn’t the most important member, whose every wish granted, the leader?.

This is what many of us are teaching our puppies.

Too soon he develops behaviours that aren’t so cute in an older bigger dog. We start to make the word NO the most used in our vocabulary. He jumps all over us. We think we are ‘training’ him by sternly telling him down and by pushing him off with our hands. In my opinion this is actually teaching him the very opposite. He may obey briefly, but he’s learnt it’s a sure-fire way of getting attention next time because he has been looked at, spoken to and touched all under his own terms. How would a respected dog get the message over to another dog that he doesn’t want to be jumped on? He certainly doesn’t use hands to push or say Down!

Stealing things is great fun when he’s then chased around the garden for the item. It teaches him to pinch things and run away! Following him on a tight lead or ‘correcting’ him which is uncomfortable, teaches him to pull because forward progress happens when the lead is tight. He may also wish to get as far away from the source of the discomfort as possible – you. Rolling around on the floor with a human who allows the dog to use his mouth and growl teaches disrespect and roughness. A dog like Harry doesn’t need assistance in getting excited! Rushing at him or chasing him when he’s about to pick up something revolting or dangerous, teaches him you want it, that it must be of value, and to swallow it quickly before you can get it.

Dealing with dogs like Harry requires outwitting them, and looking at how another respected, stable dog would deal with him. This is the key.

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

Alfie the Boxer

Friendly BoxerAlfie is a three and a half year old Boxer. He has lived with his new people for eight weeks now and has landed on his four white feet. His new owners have also struck lucky with Alfie!

His good points far outweight the difficulties. He is biddable, friendly and not overly excitable.

The problems they are having with Alfie are, like so many, out on walks. Alfie barks at people in a worrying manner. As they live in a village it’s impossible for them to stop and talk to anyone. He ‘squares up’ to other dogs they meet, though hasn’t shown aggression as such.  A  couple of incidents when he was off lead took them by surprise so they are now wary.

Anticipating problems transfers down the lead to the dog and merely reinforces his fears that other dogs and people could mean trouble. Correcting or using force when he does react doubly reinforces his fears by associating discomfort and stress with other dogs.

What is the alternative, you may ask? We look at it through the eyes of the dog!

Dog training classes can be too stressful for many reactive dogs because they are thrown into the deep end where proximity to other dogs is concerned. It can be noisy and there may be other reactive and scared dogs.  I have been there and I have done it. The whole thing needs to be taken back to basics and done differently.

People worry about ‘socialising’. If a dog isn’t adequately socialised with well-balanced dogs in the early weeks when he is naturally friendly and playful, it is much more difficult. Plunging a dog into threatening situations to ‘force him out of it’ is, at best, unkind. The dog needs to be gently stretched in a controlled fashion in order to improve, and learn to trust you to understand him and to be on his side.  You may never end up with a ‘sociable’ dog that wants to go and play with other dogs, but a dog that ignores them and is happy to be with you instead.

Most dogs who are a problem on walks are over-excited before they leave the house. Not so Alfie. He is calm as they leave the house and can walk nicely when there are no distractions. He is halfway there already.

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

Worried Little Lizzie

patterdale Staff mixLizzie is a Patterdale Staffie X.  Her previous owners split up and Lizzie has now lived in her new home for four weeks. She used to live with another dog.

Lizzie is a quiet little dog. She also seems a rather worried little dog. She is only three years old and should perhaps be a bit more carefree. She sometimes seems to shake with fear for no apparent reason. When her very loving gentle owners come home she sometimes cowers slightly, she has peed, or she may lie on the floor and wriggle appeasingly towards them – especially the man.

In the time I was there Lizzie looked asleep but you could tell by her ears she wasn’t really relaxed. She likes to jump on the people and to sit on them, but doesn’t seem to enjoy being stroked so much. While being stroked she was yawning and licking her lips – classic signs of unease. By reading her body language, her people can learn when to just let her be near them without constantly petting her.  A little gentle tickle from time to time seemed to work best.

We assume that because our dogs like to be beside or on us that they want to be petted, but this isn’t necessarily so. We also assume they jump onto us and even walk all over us because they love us, where they might be simply be showing us our place – ‘beneath them’. Just sometimes this is the case, not always. A dog does not necessarily jump onto us because it wants affection.

Constant petting may even be telling our dog that we are needy which is a big sign of weakness and no good to the dog at all. Playing a little hard to get can be a good thing! It’s very hard for us humans to resist a lot of touching of our dogs – they do feel so nice!

Lizzie is increasingly showing wariness of other dogs. This may just be because, having had time to settle in her new home, her true traits are now coming to the fore; it may also be because with ‘weak’ owners she feels both unprotected and that she has to protect them. She is very submissive as soon as she sees a bigger dog but may grab smaller dogs by the neck and try to dominate them. The incidents are increasing.

Lizzie’s behaviour with other dogs is the only behaviour that actually impacts upon them, but this case is a good example of how nothing can be taken in isolation and is part of a bigger picture. Lizzie needs to be more confident at home, more confident in her owners’ leadership and generally more chilled. In a less stressed and more confident state of mind, along with owners who know how to react appropriately as leaders when other dogs are about, she will then be better equipped to face the big outside world and other dogs with confidence.

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

Barking Miniature Daschunds

Miniature Daschund

Mozart

Miniature Daschund

Milly

Mozart, on the left, and Milly are two adorable long-haired miniature daschunds. Mozart at nine months old is little more than a puppy, but already he is taking on the world – barking at people and sounds, and sometimes, it seems, at just nothing at all. Milly who is sixteen months old now was quiet and calm until they got Mozart. Now he is leading her astray!

Both dogs, led by Mozart, go ballistic before walks, barking and jumping all over the place, and once out of the door Mozart in particular is straining ahead on his lead. Barking starts before they leave the house and continues all down the road. Tiny Mozart even took on an off-lead Staffordshire Bull Terrier and bit it! Fortunately the Staffie was good-natured.

The people like to take the dogs with them to work at their shops, where they are put on the counter, safe from human feet and from running out of the door. Milly loves the attention and fuss she attracts, but it’s a different matter for Mozart. He is in a very vulnerable position for a dog that is more nervous. People, children in particular, can spook him. They come up to him and put their hands out over him to touch him.  Usually he is already barking as they come into the shop. He will also bark at people and dogs going past the window.

Mozart needs everything done to reduce his stress levels. I fear that by whilst he is being subjected to unwanted attention and the stress of being in the shop, this won’t happen. Accompanying them to work to be placed on the counter is probably much more stressful than being left at home, even if the day is long.  The dogs do have one another.  Understandably the owners are not happy about leaving their dogs alone for hours and nor would I be. They are going to consider various different options for them.

Meanwhile both dogs will be learning that walks don’t happen until they are calm and quiet, and that if they bark once outside the door they will come straight back in again. There is no hope of calm happy walks if there is bedlam before they even step out! The owners realise that this will need a lot of patience and there will be little in the way of ‘proper’ walks for a while which is OK – the dogs only have little legs! Loose lead garden work with calm dogs is the way to start, with lots of ‘ins and outs’ through the front door. If they can find a happy alternative to taking the dogs to work, then they should make very good progress.

Little Mozart should then start to calm down, and little Milly can go back to being her laid-back old self.

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