Jasper is a large Springer Spaniel, seven years of age.
His coat is dull and matted and he has big knots behind under his ears, almost as big as the ears themselves.
Jasper is a large Springer Spaniel, seven years of age.
His coat is dull and matted and he has big knots behind under his ears, almost as big as the ears themselves.
When someone new comes to the door, the two Dalmatians are shut away behind a gate and will be barking loudly as the person enters the house.
Lincoln is barking with excitement. Lucas’ excitement quickly spills over into redirecting onto poor Lincoln, attacking him.
I witnessed this for myself.
Fortunately Lincoln is very easygoing and has not retaliated – yet.
They settled quickly and were both fine when let out to greet me.
Things weren’t so good a few days ago when someone they didn’t know came to the house. While the dogs were still barking she put her hand over the gate. A mistake.
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…
The smallest thing sets anxious Cas off. If he settles for a moment, just the intake of breath from someone is enough to cause him to leap to his feet again. Then he rushes about, mouth wide open, panting.
The Staffordshire Bull Terrier may settle again – briefly. Then a sound from outside starts him off again. When suddenly alarmed, his response may be to charge at somebody, mouth open, and jump on them – usually the young man.
They worry that it’s their fault that their dog bites them.
I’m sure it’s largely genetic. Some dogs resort to biting a lot more readily than others. Some dogs will put up with anything and not bite.
The family has had eighteen-month-old Rough Haired Dachshund Toto since she was eight weeks old. Like many people, they have had dogs before, treated them in the same loving way, but never had this problem. I myself can look back at past dogs of mine and wish I had known then what I know now.
She showed no signs of aggression as a young puppy. If they had predicted how dog bites were going to develop, they would have reacted differently from the very first time it happened, when at about a year old Toto stole a shoe – had they realised there was another way.
Like so many people would do, they chased and cornered her in order to retrieve the item. She will have felt both aroused and scared. She growled and then snapped. The behaviour then escalated quickly. Continue reading…
Trigger has become increasingly grumpy over the past three months. He growls more readily than he used to and has now bitten a couple of times.
They took him to the vet for a thorough check to make sure his change in behaviour wasn’t due to anything physical, and he has a clear bill of health.
Trigger and Biscuit are beautiful Dachshunds, lovely friendly little dogs, Biscuit age three and Trigger six months older. The young couple, conscientious owners, give them the best they can in terms of food, love and care.
The problems they are having now where Trigger and the resource guarding in particular is concerned will have their seeds in his genetics. Although previously lurking, the behaviour surfaces when he’s under stress. Continue reading…
An elderly family member is no longer able to look after her dog and he now has a new home. Cairn Terrier Ben has gone to live with the couple and their dog Bonnie.
Bonnie is a Labrador Cocker Spaniel mix (the Labrador next door called to visit the mother dog!). She’s small, no bigger than a Cocker.
Each dog is great individually but being together is a challenge for both. In the short while that Ben has been living with them, there have been a couple of fights and another few altercations that they have interrupted.
Six-year-old Bonnie is used to being the only dog in the household. She’s extremely well behaved and obedient. However, Ben stirs her up and as soon as there is any arousal in the air it upsets her. She growls at him. Although Ben submits and appeases, once she goes for him he retaliates and she comes off worse.
One of the fights resulted in a hundred-pound vet bill for damage around Bonnie’s eye.
Ben has a lot of habituating to daily life and getting used to things. He lived in a very quiet place with an old lady.
He is terrified of home things like the vacuum cleaner, lawn mower and hose. On walks he is scared of vehicles and bicycles.
Because of the built-up effect of stress and tension, at the moment he will be in permanent aroused state inside.
It’s his inner stressed state and fears that Bonnie is probably picking up on. This makes her reactive.
There was graphic evidence when I was there. The cat who had been keeping out of Ben’s way, got too close to Ben. She jumped up onto the kitchen side in a panic. Bonnie’s immediate reaction was of aggression towards the cat. This never normally happens as she and the cat get on very well.
Bonnie can’t cope with Ben’s arousal and this is causing the fights.
The incidents happen at predictable times when there is excitement or barking. She will hump Ben. I feel she’s attempting to relieve her own inner stress whilst trying to get some control over him.
When the humans are out of the way however the dogs relax. They sleep. When the couple goes out, they come back to drowsy dogs.
Another factor makes it vital that there are no more fights. They have a friend with an eight-year-old boy coming to live with them in the very near future. The child is wary of dogs.
So, we will work on the root cause of the problem that is causing the fights. Ben’s state of mind. He needs desensitising and counter-conditioning to all those fears he’s having to cope with.
The couple should, for now, completely avoid those that they can – like vacuum cleaner and hose. There is enough other stuff to deal with.
Enjoying walks is a priority, so they will work on his fear of traffic. From a distance from them that Ben’s comfortable, they will associate moving vehicles with special tasty food.
Without the deadline and concerns about the child coming, they could have relaxed and taken their time. But this puts a bit of urgency into the situation. However, it’s important they take things a step at a time and don’t rush it (a stitch in time saves nine and all that).
When Ben first arrived the dogs were freely together. Then there were the couple of fights.
Next the dogs were kept totally apart if not on lead.
Just before I came this had progressed back to the dogs being together – separated if there were signs of trouble. I am worried this could be too late.
In addition to helping Ben, there are the usual flash points of arousal that could result in fights. These include when someone comes to the house, if they rush out into the garden barking and if someone walks past the fence.
Resources cause fights, so no balls, toys or food should be about when the two dogs are together.
I prefer for now keeping the two apart at times when they can’t be sure things will be fairly calm. ‘Apart’ should be the new default with ‘together’ only at selected and safe times. Until the child and his mother have settled in anyway.
It’s vital the two dogs no longer rehearse the behaviour. Removing rehearsal will help to remove fights from their repertoire rather than the opposite.
I witnessed just how good they are with one another in the short periods when nothing was stirring them up. In many cases dogs can’t be in the same room – or even look at one another – without breaking into an attack of rage.
It’s a good sign.
I wonder who would ever say that a dog bite could have been a good thing! This time it may have been so.
The elderly couple have had two-year-old Millie for just a couple of weeks. They wanted company for Wirehaired Pip, age four; the two dogs get on famously.
Very rarely would a dog bite with no warning at all. Usually there will be a subtle signal at least – if you know what you are looking for. Not so with Dachshund Millie.
This is what happened.
They had her in another room with Pip until I had settled at the kitchen table.
Millie made no noise. She rushed into the kitchen. Without even stopping to look or sniff who I was, she flew up at my arm and bit me. Because the elderly couple couldn’t catch her quickly enough, she attempted another couple of quick bites to my legs.
I always wear tough clothes just in case, so my legs were protected. It’s too hot however to wear a thick top. Just a bruise and a nick on my upper arm. Entirely my own fault because I was there on account of Millie having bitten the daughter who had walked in the door. The lady had been standing, looking down at the new rescue dog.
That won’t have been a dog bite without any warning – there would have been signs if you knew what to look for.
Usually if a person is sitting and already in the room and ignoring the dog, it’s a lot easier on the dog. I took what I thought was a calculated but very low risk.
In a way it’s a good thing it happened! Someone else would undoubtedly very soon have been bitten who probably wouldn’t know how to react. It could have been the grandson. Now at least we know exactly what were are dealing with.
She now sat on the lady’s lap, lead on and her harness held tightly. She reacted aggressively when I moved and would certainly have bitten me again if she could. Meanwhile the lady was trying to pacify her which I feel could be perceived by Millie as anxious rather than calming. She would be transmitting her own feelings to the dog.
I’m pretty sure Millie is being increasingly protective and territorial. Possibly this is partly genetic – maybe her mother or father had been the same. Apparently she had previously lived in the middle of a confrontational relationship that had broken down and there may have been some violence.
That was a first! They had shut Millie out of the room for a while with something to chew and wanted to let her back in. They had removed the lead.
Not quite sure that she wouldn’t wriggle through the gap in the door before they could catch her and fly at me again, I took refuge on the table!
Becoming increasingly protective suggests fear of losing something. Unsurprising, as in her short life she’s had four living situations already. She has lived with the original couple before they split, then with the lady alone, then in rescue and now with my clients.
She’s a lot more protective of the lady than the man as a little experiment demonstrated. He took the dog and I moved about and she didn’t react at all.
It looks very likely that with each day she’s with them this guarding and protecting will intensify, unwittingly encouraged by the lady. Instead of encouraging dependence, they should consciously break some of the ties that are growing. She won’t let the lady out of her sight, for instance. Everything possible needs to be done now, before any more time goes by, to stop her increasingly feeling she must guard her new humans. The same applies for her new territory.
There is little they can do about the actual biting itself, apart from management. They will physically prevent anyone receiving a dog bite by muzzling her. This they will introduce gradually. They will also put a gate in the kitchen doorway. This way anyone coming into their house will be safe.
Any biting, particularly a dog bite without time to see any warning, needs to be dealt with at source. We need to deal with the state of mind that causes her to do it. She was certainly not scared of me. She had very confident body language.
They still don’t really know what they have got with Millie. Things tend to surface over a period of weeks as the new dog settles in.
The very worst scenario is that she will continue to be affectionate with the couple in her lovely new home and a great playmate for Pip. When people including family and grandchild are about she is either muzzled or behind a gate. She would be muzzled when out also.
The best scenario is that, with work on their part, she can let people into their house. That they could walk past people when out – though they may not be able to invade her space.
Going for feet is recent. They have come a long way with their four-year-old rescue English Bull Terrier in the year or so they have had him. He no longer pulls on lead and is a lot better when they meet other dogs.
However, this behaviour has developed in the last couple of months. Possibly it’s something resurfacing that he did in his previous two homes.
Casper started going for feet. Now it’s faces too. He’s not yet drawn blood but it is only a matter of time.
We need to look at why he does it, and deal with that.
It seems that when he’s sufficiently aroused he just can’t help himself. Like a pressure cooker, he explodes.
One is that he only attacks feet when other people are in their house. He then goes for feet of both both his owners and the visitors.
The other common denominator is that every time, without exception, he has been petted and fussed by the people. On one occasion a caller even continued to fuss him while Casper was repeatedly going for his sturdy work boots.
It’s possible he is being mis-read. He may lie on his back and this is taken for an invitation for a tummy tickle. This very often isn’t the case.
The fussing and touching, combined with people moving about, preparation of food and metallic kitchen noises which he hates can be the final straw. Then a visitor just coming down the stairs may send him over the edge.
If the ancestors of an English Bull Terrier, like other bullies, were originally bred for fighting other dogs as well as bull baiting, possibly when he loses it Casper defaults to breed instinct by going for feet and faces.
I also believe that it’s not caused only by what happens immediately before the incidents, but by the build-up of stress from one, two or more days beforehand.
In order to work on this he must not be allowed to rehearse going for feet anymore. For now this will involve keeping him on lead or muzzled when people come, behind a gate or tied to an anchor point.
They can train him something incompatible with going for feet when people move about, like lying down with something to chew.
Most importantly, all guests including family must be asked not to fuss and touch him at all for now.
They will need lots of friends to act as guinea-pigs, coming and going, until Casper realises that people coming to his house is no big deal and nothing to get worked up about.
Unpredictable only because they can’t see inside Banjo’s head. If they could, and if stress was visible, they might see a little pressure cooker in there; they would see how over the past five months or so things have simply become too much for him.
Unpredictable also because they don’t realise how small a final trigger has to be to make the pressure cooker blow.
Frenchie Banjo is eighteen months old. He has what sounds like the perfect life, full of people and action.
Banjo lives with a young couple and their large family – three generations. There are two or three children. With the couple’s baby born five months ago, Banjo was now no longer their number-one baby.
Life now became a lot more arousing with endless play. Banjo carries on long after Ellie would like to stop.
Then Ellie came into season. They were kept apart, causing Banjo great frustration.
Things now escalated with Banjo growling and flying at and grabbing the sleeve of a family member who was playing excitedly with one of the young children. He became aggressive when she was playing tug with Ellie.
Banjo had got on very well with the cat but now was going for him too.
He was becoming increasingly possessive around chews and food.
It came to a head a few days ago when Banjo was on the floor by the grandfather. Beside him was a chew – a chew that Ellie had left. The man moved his foot towards it and Banjo flew at him.
At that moment this small act pushed him over the edge. He would have bitten repeatedly had the young lady owner not grabbed his collar.
Another contributing factor will be that with each show of aggression the little dog has been misunderstood. It’s understandably been met with a strong reaction. Meeting aggression with aggression can only make things worse.
The vet recommended they re-home Banjo. The thought of this upsets them greatly.
Vets only have what the owners tell them about a dog’s behaviour and what they can see in the unnatural environment of the surgery. A good behaviourist will go to the dog’s home and see the whole situation in context. It is impossible for owners to relay a clear picture of what is happening. They are too close to it.
Going to the little dog’s home and seeing him and the whole set-up for myself, I believe that his continually topped-up stress levels are the cause of his behaviour.
Banjo won’t understand games like ‘Peep-Bo’ and ‘BOO!’. If someone is playing excitedly with one of the small children or Ellie, instinctively he may try to break up what he sees as ‘potential conflict’. Similarly, when someone dangles the baby he may become concerned. A third dog will split up worrying behaviour between two other dogs.
Banjo stares. Banjo watches.
Baby’s dad buries his face into the baby’s neck to kiss him and Banjo growls. After all, if a dog grabs another dog by the neck, this can be potential trouble. Is he intervening?
They will learn to understand Banjo better. This includes learning to read read him – though a Frenchie’s face may be a bit harder to read than some. Staring with hard eyes will be watched for. Stillness can be a warning.
Looking at things through Banjo’s eyes without our own human interpretation they can look quite different. He’s not an ‘aggressive’ dog at all. He is simply responding in an aggressive manner to things that confuse and upset him in some way.
Work to do! They will work on Banjo’s possessive behaviour around food and chews. They will be doing more to enrich his life. Getting his brain to work and letting him work for some of his meals by foraging and hunting will help him to adjust. They will control the play between the two dogs.
Possibly Banjo’s behaviour is, actually, quite predictable. Too much has changed in the Frenchie’s life. The baby. Another dog. Too much uncontrolled play. Ellie coming into season. Add to this people coming and going. Excited play. Excited homecomings. People winding him up before walks…..
Life has changed in another big way recently with poor Banjo no longer sharing their bed as he has done for the past eighteen months. Might he feel pushed out? He has never shown any aggression whatsoever with baby but they have done this on advice because the dog is ‘unpredictable’. It’s a shame because it was a good baby-bonding opportunity but it’s always best to err on the safe side.
My prescription? A big dose of much less excitement, more quiet and more calmness from all the humans around Banjo. Learn to read him for warning signs of stress – and stop what they are doing if it’s troubling him. Then work on getting him to feel differently about whatever it is.
A calmer dog is unlikely to show unpredictable aggression. A calmer dog will be a lot more tolerant. There are no guarantees, but with work and with the whole family pulling together, Banjo should hopefully get back to being his old self.