Siblings Ronnie and Reggie were found dirty and starving at four weeks old. At eight weeks they came to live with my clients.
The brown Springer Spaniels are now two and a half years old.
The couple have done amazingly well. Without help or previous experience they have trained the two polite dogs to do all the important things necessary to fit in with living with humans.
Ronnie is the fearful, reactive one.
Ronnie’s will be helped by both dogs also doing some things in more of a natural ‘dog’ way.
Food need not always be provided in a bowl with a ‘wait till I say you can eat’. This is impressive training but in nature what dog would wait for food? What dog, in fact, would be fed in a bowl and twice a day?
The ‘natural’ dog would need to find and work for his food.
The more we simulate what comes naturally, the better it is for the dog’s general enrichment.
Plenty of sniffing and mooching on walks is more important than walking to heel. ‘Heel’ can be taught any time when the dog is relaxed with walking on a loose, longer lead.
The siblings pull for different reasons
Reggie’s pulling is due to excitement at the prospect of getting to the park and chasing his ball.
Ronnie’s pulling is due to anxiety. Feeling unsafe. He feels he needs to warn off any approaching dog that’s not already a friend of his.
Now the couple will sometimes walk the dogs separately. They will teach Ronnie how to react when he sees another dog and will work on making him feel safe. They will teach Reggie that not all walks lead to the exciting park but are sometimes just mooching and sniffing.
Ronnie will associate ‘good things’ with other dogs at a distance he feels safe. ‘Good things’ will be a relaxed and encouraging human, tasty food – or maybe a soft toy to mimic a caught animal.
Walking equipment is important.
Equipment is important and not necessarily for obvious reasons. At the moment the siblings wear head halters to ‘prevent’ pulling.
The lunging and barking that Ronnie does when approaching a dog will undoubtedly cause him discomfort – the very opposite of ‘good things’.
With the right loose lead work with harnesses that are comfortable – preferably with front D-rings also, the pulling should stop.
Pulling will only stop, though, if the reason for pulling is addressed. With Reggie it’s the excitement and with Ronnie it’s feeling unsafe.
The Springer siblings will now mix their formal training for well-mannered happy dogs fitting into the human world, with things they would do naturally.
Food can be worked and foraged for. Walks can be mooches and sniff walks where encountering other dogs can be turned into something positive.
Ten days later: ‘We found the meeting amazing!
Yeah it’s going really well. So we let him see the dog and if he chooses to get closer we let him but when his tail drops or we see a change in his behaviour we say “let’s go” then move back a bit and reward him. We only move back a few feet so he can still see the dog. The other day we were walking past a group of spaniels and Reggie went straight up to them no problem, Ronnie wasn’t sure then got a little bit closer. He did bark at one dog that was barking at him but we just moved away for a few minutes. Then he got closer and closer without being in the lead, laid down let the other dogs sniff him. He got a bit worried about them all sniffing at once but Michael called him over and gave him some chicken then he just started playing with them. His tail was wagging and he was bouncing about.
So they are both doing really well, we have noticed they are calmer now they are eating out of the Kongs. Ronnie is doing well with other dogs, there has been a few dogs which he has gotten a bit closer to but then he runs back to us. Their harnesses and new leads are working really well!’