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


Miniature Daschund


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.

A Border Collie Being a Border Collie

Shy Border CollieSasha is shy. She didn’t like me pointing my mobile phone at her for this photo. She has retreated and is doing a classic ‘lookaway’ that a dog does when feeling uncomfortable.

She lives with Joshua, a terrier. Both are rescue dogs.

Sasha is a two year old Border Collie – biddable but a bit nervous. Her owners have a couple of acres of land and the dogs can have free run. The problem comes when the dogs are alone in the garden and somebody comes through the gate.

Joshua is very vocal and will bark, but Sasha may drop down, or quietly go round behind them and bite. She has now bitten a couple of times including a plumber who had to go in and out of the front  door to his van. They can no longer trust Sasha.

Where Joshua can sound ferocious, quieter Sasha is the risk where visitors to the property are concerned. The problem only happens outside of the house and when the lady or gentleman are not out there with her. She is simply doing what many nervous or protective dogs would do, in a Border Collie sort of way, by going for the back of the legs.

Whilst Sasha’s general confidence is going to be worked on (and Joshua’s growling at his owners if they touch him or move him against his wishes!), sensible management steps need to be taken also. Sasha needs to be saved from herself. All opportunity needs to removed, because each time she nips or bites it is a skill she is improving and it will only get worse if not addressed.  If she were to injure someone seriously mainly out of fear, she could pay the ultimate price.

They are going to fence off the back of their property so that the dogs are unable to get to the gate or the front door. Then Sasha will be safe, visitors can be safe, and everyone can relax.

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

Barking at the neighbours

brianBrian is a terrier mix. Do you remember Greengrass’ dog in Heartbeat called Alfred? Brian reminded me of him.

Brian is a superb little dog and is a tribute to his owners who have had him since he was a puppy. He is excellent with people coming to his house, he’s lovely with children, friendly to people he meets when out and very good with other dogs. He is not so good with the neighbours however, nor with the postman.

This is because they are either in or too near his territory. All that separates the neighbour’s garden is a low fence with a gate, and there is a common pathway through the three gardens at the back of the houses, so the postman has to walk through Brian’s garden to the the other two houses. Brain, usually such a friendly little character, has taken exception to the neighbours just being in their own garden, or even in their conservatory.

When dogs bark they are usually scolded. It seldom does any good. To my mind punishment is unfair because the dog is doing what he feels is a vital job – protection duty. The reason why he has this role is not only to do with his breed and personality, it’s also it’s the role his humans by their own behaviour have given him. He is doing his best job to get the ‘danger’ to go away.

Here is something I ask myself; might shouting at a barking dog perhaps sound like the pack joining in and backing him up? He can hear the shouts. He can sense the aggro. How does a dog know if our noise is directed at him and not the ‘danger’. Is it possible even that we could be encouraging a dog to keep going if we ‘join in’?

Would it not be fairer and more sensible to relieve him of the duty? In a human family it’s the parents who are reponsible for protecting the children and home. In a group or pack of dogs, the ‘protector’ is going to be a leader.

I encourage people to deal not so much with the barking itself as the reason for the dog’s barking and deal with that instead. In Brian’s case, because he feels it’s his responsiblity to guard his garden, Brian feels intimidated by the very nice neighbours who are simply too close – even invading his territory by bending over the fence to try to make friends which he’s having none of. Every week the neighbour wheels a huge thing called a wheelie bin through his garden, and Brian is straight out there through the dog flap, having to confront the noisy enemy all by himself.

Whilst it’s unreasonable to expect Brian not to bark at all – he is a dog after all, Brian’s owners are going to take over the protection role, and also ensure his environment is managed so he’s exposed to as little ‘danger’ as possible. This means limiting his area of patrol and constant access to the garden at certain times of the day in particular, and taking him seriously when in effect he is shouting ‘danger danger’.

So that Brian sees them as leaders who can be trusted to do the protection job themselves, Brian’s owners need to tighten up in a few other important areas, and to work on our strategy for the neighbours. The neighbours themselves are happy to help.

It won’t be too long before Brian and the neighbours are friends, I’m sure.

I have just received this email (just over two weeks after my visit): “Both of us have noticed improvements, the most amazing one is his calmness with neighbours.  Brian hasn’t barked at them once. Will keep you posted”.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Two Shiba Inus

ShibaInusWhat beautiful dogs. This is the first time, out of literally thousands of dogs over time, that I have ever been to a Shiba Inu. They look like little foxes.  Shiba Inu is Japanese for Little Dog.

Zoe and Harvey are very good little dogs. They both go to work with their male owner most days, spending time both in the van and the office, and they cause no trouble at all. They are very well cared for in every way. They should be having a lovely life.

I was called out because they feel Harvey is withdrawn and miserable. They naturally have tried to jolly him along, by lifting him up and trying to get him excited for example, and the gentleman in particular gives him a lot of attention – responding to all Harvey’s demands. Harvey can be quite needy.

I didn’t see a miserable dog. I saw a dog that is quietly in charge, and with that sort of responsibility he is serious-minded, a little aloof and not playful. Also a little scared.

I see a little dog who, when relieved of his responsibilities, should relax and become more playful and less withdrawn. Making their own decisions around the things that are important in life can be scary for a dog, and it is the same old thing – a question of leadership/dog parenting.

It is even more confusing for a dog when the owner will be fussing and cuddling him on demand, allowing him to walk all over him quite literally, but then is also a little harsh with discipline. Domination techniques like pinning down can result in problems including shutting down and even retaliation. People are unfortunately persuaded to use these methods by TV programmes.

If you have a dog that seems ‘shut down’, withdrawn or sad and if you live in my area, I can help you.


Spoiling Dogs isn’t Really Kind

Poodle Bichon mix and a PoochonHere are Frazer and Spencer. Frazer (the nearer one) is a Poodle/Bichon Frise mix – a Poochon! Spencer is a Bichon Frise.

It’s easy to see why little curly haired white dogs are spoilt. Their mannerisms are so endearing and they just look and feel so irresistable.

These two little boys rule the roost. Their every wish is obeyed. They decide what they are going to eat and when, with all sorts of goodies offered to entice them, and they help themselves from plates while people are eating. They have attention and fuss and play all under their own terms, they have few physical boundaries and urine mark freely in the house, and they are barkers. Being ‘in charge’ means they feel that it’s their job to protect the family and the territory.

They also believe they are responsible for all comings and goings into the house, and even out of the sitting room. There is major excitement when the family come in, and prolonged stressed and fearful barking at other people who come in the house. When a family member wants to go out of the room, the dogs will block the doorway and Spencer has even bitten. Family members understandably are either hesitant at the door or running the gauntlet, which of course make matters worse.

All this is very stressful for two little dogs who should be able to chill knowing they are looked after by the humans not the other way around, and that the burden of decision-making isn’t theirs.

Like many owners they do see that the constant attention and ‘homage’ isn’t making the dogs happy, but they don’t know what else to do.  It is a classic case of people with a lot of love to give, who either don’t have children or whose children have now grown up, treating their dogs as their ‘babies’. The owners are willing to make the few sacrifices and changes necessary to take control for the sake of their cherished dogs.

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

Baxter was like a different dog

Today I visited Baxter again – the delinquent young Rottweiler I wrote about a few days ago. I must confess I was feeling a little apprehensive on the way there, knowing what a big undertaking this is going to be for his new owners.

For the past week his they have worked hard at being non-confrontational and keeping Baxter as calm as possible, doing all they can to give him kind, consistent, convincing leadership and keep his stress levels down. Four days ago I had a message from the lady saying he was being so bad she felt she couldn’t cope.  I begged her to stick with it.  Any attention she did give him immediately turned him into a growling, barking and biting demon, yet he did the same when she ignored him.

This is a familiar pattern, where things go worse before the corner is turned.

They have just had two good days without the manic episodes where Baxter loses control of himself, jumping and biting when he can’t get his own way.  This might just be two days’ grace and a flash in the pan, but if he can be like this for a couple of days now, it can later be three days, then four – and is an indication of his true potential as his stress levels reduce, and he learns self-control and respect.

Baxter’s new owners are learning the very delicate balance between the amount of attention they can safely give him and overstimulating him – which quickly turns him into a dervish!

I could see a huge difference to the dog I met just one week ago. Today he was quickly calm, he only jumped on me a couple of times instead of the persistent fight I had last time, feeling his teeth and mouth and repeatedly having to tip his heavy weight off me.  Today he didn’t use his mouth on me once.  He was affectionate and biddable.

We must be under no illusion that there won’t be very challenging times ahead, but I am much happier about Baxter.

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