Sometimes I go to a situation where it’s hard to know where to start, particularly if the dog is jumping up and flying all over the place, desperate for attention – which she’s accustomed to getting in the form of being told off harshly and NO!
We sat down at the dining table and eighteen-month-old English Bull Terrier Millie was straight up onto it. The lady shouted at her to get down which she ignored. She takes very little notice of the lady who has to speak loudly and fiercely to get Millie to take acknowledge her at all. The lady absolutely adores her and it’s hard for her when her dog is so out of control.
It’s amazing what tiny pieces of cheese and a quiet voice can achieve!
It took a long while – most of the three hours that I was there discussing all the things necessary in a consultation – but by the end Millie was sitting down in the corner beside my chair. I did it by simply not trying to tell her to do anything. The lady herself now needs to be able to motivate her to willingly do things without using any force.
First, instead of dealing with the jumping and getting onto the table, I dealt with what we did want – with her getting off the table and jumping onto the floor. Soon we had a reliable ‘Off’ – rewarding with ‘Yes’ followed cheese as soon as her feet were on the floor. I showed the lady how willingly Millie did this when asked once and by then just waiting for her to comply, followed by a food ‘thank you’.
Then Millie came and just happened to sit in the corner beside me. I was waiting for this. I immediately gently said SIT to label what she was already doing and fed her cheese – saying SIT in a very pleased voice and feeding her, loving her, while she remained sitting. Each time she came back and sat I repeated this. It wasn’t long before she realised that just coming and sitting beside me was a lot more rewarding than jumping on me or jumping on the table.
Then towards the end, I had her sitting on cue (when I asked her). I was thrilled. It seems like a small step, but it’s a leap for Milly and for the lady who will continue with this work – starting in Millie’s special ‘sitting corner’ beside the table, speaking to her gently and using food.
The actual problem that has most been distressing the lady is that her black Labrador, Ruby, has had to go and live with her son. Ruby, now three years old, took an instant dislike to the puppy Millie from the moment she arrived. Eventually, at a year old, Millie turned on her. A massive fight ensued so one of the dogs had to go.
The lady pines for Ruby and badly wants her back. There will need to be a very different and much calmer, controlled atmosphere in the house if that is ever to happen.
While Millie is quite so stressed and excitable there is little chance of getting them back together, so reducing her stress levels is our first aim and getting her under some control – particularly self-control. She needs more suitable exercise and fulfilment which we will be looking into next time. We will eventually be working on various protocols with a possible reuniting in neutral territory being the final goal.
Fortunately Ruby is happy living with the son. Millie herself will be a lot happier when she has a bit more healthy stimulation and exercise, and learns what is wanted of her through positive reinforcement.