Resource Guards. Protects his Humans.

It’s a tricky situation with Bertie hard to understand.

I first thought that his barking behaviour was driven by lack of confidence and some fearfulness, but as time went on I saw it wasn’t this at all.

The Spaniel mix was fine when I arrived, but when he had checked me out with a lot of sniffing, he barked at me like a warning.

Mixed-up

The more questions I asked of the couple, the more mixed-up Bertie seemed.

Resource guards his humansHe’s a mix of angry, territorial and affectionate. Most of all, he’s fiercely protective of his humans – or of anyone coming too close to them. It’s more than just protective – he resource guards them.

He would bark suddenly at the smallest thing and a moment later be friendly. It’s not that he was fearful of me or that he didn’t like me. He simply wanted to guard his resources – the couple.

We sat and talked. Some of the time he was beside me, friendly. Later he sat in front of the man, looking at me, being fussed by him. The smallest of movements from me triggered sudden aggressive-sounding barking.

I asked for his harness and lead to be put on because I couldn’t be sure that I was safe.

Bertie is completely different when the lady and gentleman aren’t with him. He stays with the father happily – until they come back when he immediately becomes aggressive with him. ‘Keep away from my humans – my food vendors!’. He resource guards them like they are something belonging solely to him and nobody else should come near.

Resource guards one from the other.

Even when the couple are sitting together, he resource guards one from the other. If he’s sitting with them on the sofa and one walks out of the room, he barks fiercely as he or she enters and walks towards them. He/she is MINE! We have quite a simple plan for this.

Like many dogs, Bertie’s not comfortable when someone walks directly towards him when out either. (See The Pulse Project) This is mainly when he’s on lead, so again, he probably resource guards the person holding the lead.

Bertie is now six years old and they adopted him a couple of years ago. Previously he had lived with a sick person who’d died. It’s not a big stretch of the imagination to think perhaps he was very protective of this person.

Bertie also has always had such bad separation issues that the man now works nights so that he can be at home when the lady works. He is never left alone. The three hours each day when neither can be at home, a dog sitter takes Bertie to her house – where he is quite happy with no resource guarding of humans.

They are making huge sacrifices to do their best for him. Very possibly some of these efforts to make him happy is unwittingly contributing to the reason he resource guards them.

Bertie is simply on high alert all the time he’s with his humans, looking out for them. 

Slaves

How the man and the lady behave towards Bertie has a large part to play. They obey his every whim and lavish him with food for doing nothing, pouring attention on him. They behave like his slaves. What are slaves? Slaves are those who are owned and do what they are told. They are belongings.

I believe this is how Bertie perceives them, as his possessions – so he resource guards them in much the same way as he might a big bone.

For all the attention, he appears uneasy and depressed. Always worried about losing them. He’s never playful. He would be a much happier dog if they could be very consistent and given some boundaries.

The start is for them to try to act like they themselves are the ‘protectors’ and not ‘resources’. They must stop feeding him all the time as all they have become are his personal food vendors, apart from making him overweight. It not only makes him possessive of them, constantly demanding food, but also takes away the value of food for the work we need to do.

They should now use food only for rewarding and thanking him – and his meals. Working for some of his meals with it either in Kongs or sprinkled around outside should be very good for him mentally.

Turn the tables.

This should start to turn the tables. If his humans don’t behave like his servants and food machines, he should stop regarding them as his servants and food vendors – the reason he resource guards them.

Bertie now needs things to be consistent and steady. All the work they will be doing should help make him a bit less angry, unsettled and demanding. It will be a bumpy ride to start with as things gradually change and and he tries harder.

There is a lot to do, and when they have made some good progress we will take a fresh look at the situation and begin to work on being able to leave him alone.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bertie. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where any aggression is concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).

A Little Angel – Till he Sees Another Dog

Cavachon1Considering that little ‘Cavachon’ Chauncey was an impulse buy from a pet shop a couple of years ago at the age of about eight weeks old, he has turned out remarkably well. This is tribute to the hard work and dedication of his lady owner.

Little Chauncey is very friendly if initially slightly wary of men. If they take him out anywhere, to the pub for example, he revels in the attention……until another dog enters. Then he quickly morphs into a barking, lunging and snarling little monster!

Very unfortunately there are a couple of larger dogs that are often running loose in the country area where they live, and Chauncey was first attacked by one of them at about a year old. The other ran through the open door and attacked Chauncey in the house.  Understandably, he changed from being confident and friendly with dogs to being fiercely on the defensive with other dogs.

Chauncey is most reactive to things that happen suddenly – especially dogs suddenly appearing. Paradoxically, he has been walked with several dogs by a dog walker and is perfectly happy, and he mingles with other dogs at the groomers. He also has doggy friends that he plays with.

It is hard to desensitise a dog to the point where he will stop believing other dogs are a threat, given past history, because the reality is that some are indeed a threat. This is where the owner or walker must play their part.  It’s up to them to build up trust and simply ensure, by hook or by crook, that their dog is safe – and that he knows it.

It is very tempting to scold our dog and apologise when he goes off on one at another dog.  It’s embarrassing.  However, we must act as advocate for him, unapologetically keeping unwanted canine advances at bay without worrying whether the owner may find us rude. A Yellow Dog shirt with words like ‘In Training’ or ‘I Need Space’ can help explain why we may suddenly be walking away from another dog owner without explanation.

It could also mean putting in some effort to find ‘safe’ places to walk, or places where any other dogs should be on lead.

Little Chauncey hasn’t been walked at all for several weeks now, so they can start again from scratch. Instead of the constant stress of pulling and being corrected, he will have a loose lead from the start. By whatever means necessary he must not be allowed any nearer to another dog than he can tolerate. This is where the intensive work will start, and a carefully structured plan especially for Chauncey is now in place.

It is so important not to push ahead too fast and take things at the dogs own pace. It is human nature to want measurable and fast progress. However, the more relaxed we are and the less hard we try, the better it will go. To quote Grisha Stewart: The less you are able to ‘want’ progress — the more of it you will have.

Two months later and they are doing well – though still very much work in progress as one would expect: ‘We have donned our yellow jackets and have been going for a great walk every morning through fields and woodland. He’s loving it! Lots to sniff and follow. I saw a couple of dogs this morning going walking 2 large dogs off lead. The man saw my yellow jacket from a distance and turned and walked another way but Chauncey saw them, I kept his attention and fed him and he didn’t react at all.  We are loving our walks and getting fit in the process.
Gradually I am getting him settled into enjoying and being relaxed in the open fields and introducing him at distance to other walkers and dogs.’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Chauncey, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Muzzle Saved Me From Multiple Bites.

JRRockyIn my years of working with dogs I can remember few dogs quite as aggressively reactive as Rocky .

Usually they would have left the 4-year-old Jack Russell upstairs in a bedroom but I wanted to see him. If they do have him in company, he is always muzzled – thankfully.

As soon as he was let into the room he charged at me and attacked me! Had he not been muzzled I would have had multiple bites. I always play safe, but normally I would advise people to bring the  dog in on lead rather than muzzling him, but they can’t do this with Rocky. If he can’t get at his target he then redirects onto the person holding the lead and attacks them instead.

It’s not only people that he doesn’t know coming into the house that causes this reaction. He goes frantic if one family member so much as stands up to leave the room – and will attack them if they try to go out of the house, again redirecting if someone tries to restrain him and attacks them instead. Triggers such as someone putting shoes on or the lady walking towards her handbag distress him to such an extent that it is pitiful to see. He is beside himself.

The young lady sat on the chair next to mine and Rocky sat in protective pose between us (he now had his lead on as well). He ate a treat. I caught his eye and he flew at me again. This was not fear. This seemed more like rage.

Causes for aggression may be fear, stress, guarding/territorial behaviour or anger. I would say that with Rocky it’s all of these. He’s undoubedly protective. He barks constantly when out at any person or dog he sees. He is held on a tight lead on walks so gets no release of any sort for his frustrations. He can’t be trusted off lead even in the garden in case he escapes – he’s expert at breaching the fence. He barks at any sound out the front of the house and goes mental when post comes through the door.

All four family members have been bitten repeatedly and clothes torn.

He has been gradually getting worse since they took him on from friends a year ago. He had been passed around from one family member to another and they have proof that he was badly treated. He has been punished and hit for showing aggression which will without doubt have escalated things.JRRocky1

This poor little dog is only relaxed when the whole family is together later in the evening with no risk of anyone going out.  Much of the time he is living a nightmare. The family acknowledges that there are things they have been doing that haven’t helped and really want to help him. From a behaviour point of view they now have a plan of action for desinsitising and counter-conditioning. He will be very gradually desensitised to people going out, a tiny step at a time.

Rocky is in such a stressed place and is so conditioned to react aggressively in so many circumstances, that in order for the family to make any progress with the behaviour work he may need some back-up medication of some sort in order to allow them to work with his problems. I have advised a vet visit to ensure there are no medical issues as some disorders can cause aggression. His case is so extreme that natural things like Zylkene, DAP and so on I don’t feel would touch him.

Without some drastic steps being taken, Rocky’s days may be numbered.

He Bit the Postman

Rory is a handsome German Shepher Husky mixHere is two-year-old Rory, a German Shepherd/Husky mix. A very handsome dog! He lives in a family with two kids aged fifteen and ten.

Rory is becoming increasingly protective and this has culminated a few days ago with his biting the postman. This is very serious, not least because the law is in the process of being changed so that owners are liable whose dogs attack even on their own property (and even if the person shouldn’t be there).

From Rory’s point of view, life should be blissful but in actual fact, in his mind, he is burdened with huge responsibility. He keeps an eye on each family member’s every movement. He patrols back and forth as they move around the house, and if they settle in different rooms he places himself strategically in a central spot.

He likes to lie on the landing watching the front door. He likes to be higher. He likes to be ahead also. When someone gets up he is instantly ahead at the door, pushing through the door first.

He simply never rests when people are about until everyone is in bed, asleep – and even then he’s not off duty as he sleeps in the son’s bedroom.

Rory is reserved and slightly aloof by nature, but suddenly fires into life if someone comes up the drive or to the door – hurling himself at the door, hackles up and barking ferociously. He believes it’s his job to protect his family and the territory.

Although he is a guarding breed, in a family environment it’s not safe to have a guard dog. Moreover, it’s unfair to allow the dog to believe the job is his and then to punish or scold when he is driven to execute his job to the best of his ability. Rory needs to learn that his owners are their to protect him and not visa versa. He can be a very good burglar alarm, but he needs to know that they deal with the problem and not him.

It’s a ‘leader’ who is the protector, provider and decision-maker. Rory needs to be of this duty.

About six weeks later: “Rory is actually doing very well, calmer, obedient and generally so much easier. My son has noticed that he does not pull when he takes him for a walk.  Dog walker thinks he is an angel (biased I suspect). We are still following everything to the letter!! ……quite a few friends have commented on how much calmer he seems. We will keep going!!
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

A Complicated Situation to Unravel

Cocker Shadow is protective of the lady

Shadow

The couple have two young rescue dogs. Cocker Spaniel Shadow joined Terrier Duchess under two weeks ago. Duchess herself has only been with the couple for about nine months, but it is Shadow’s so-called aggression that is concerning them.

It seems to them that Shadow is protecting the lady – something he probably did in his previous home. Whenever the man approaches the lady, Shadow growls – or attacks him. There was an occasion where Shadow had gone into full attack mode. The man felt he solved that by holding Shadow down for about twenty minutes until he finally gave in.

The gentleman feels that he must, in order to show he’s boss, be confrontational with Shadow. He sets him up deliberately. He tried sitting in front of the lady so Shadow couldn’t get to her, which made Shadow pace in panic until eventually he took himself off. These techniques seem to work on the surface as a ‘quick fix’, but I can see that Shadow is very wary of the man who, following his interpretation of a certain TV programme, with the best intentions is doing what he thinks is necessary to solve the problem.

The more I watched and listened, the more complicated a situation it became to unravel. As the evening wore on I began to feel that Shadow was actually wary of the man approaching him – not so much the lady, but he is usually in front of her or by her.  Shadow was near me at one point and the gentleman experimented with walking towards me – and Shadow growled. Shadow also growled when I approached him, away from the couple, but was friendly if I called him over.

I believe any physical dominance is merely like putting a cap on a volcano. It doesn’t solve the problem, and the eruption is inevitable. What is happening here is that the dog is becoming more and more wary of the gentleman. When he growls, he’s not being a bad dog trying to be dominant, he is a scared and confused dog. He doesn’t growl when approached by the lady, and I think this is to do with her manner and body language. Possibly he is not used to men. She doesn’t walk up to Shadow, loom over him and stare him in the eye. He probably feels he’s safer near to her.

I am really happy that the man is now going to use a different technique and give the little dog time to settle in and become more confident. He needs nurturing, not dominance. At the moment they have deliberately been pushing Shadow into situations to ‘force him out of it’ and ‘show who’s boss’. I believe they need to do the very opposite.  Avoid putting Shadow into stressful and scary situations that make him growl. Growling is saying ‘I’m scared, keep your distance’. The sure result of continuing as they are means that Shadow will learn that growling is ineffectual and pointless, so he will then bite straight away instead. This technique teaches aggression.

The lady needs to be more proactive if she feels the dog is growling because she is being approached. It’s her job to show him that she doesn’t need protecting, not the gentleman’s job to force Shadow to back down.

To further complicate things, the other rescue dog, Duchess, has her own issues. She is already trying to ‘sort out’ Shadow when he starts to growl. I fear if they don’t turn this around and work on giving Shadow more confidence, the relationship between the two dogs could escalate into something worse.

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

 

Biting Labrador and Timid Border Collie

Border Collie lacks confidence

Maisie

People say their dogs are ‘members of the family’ which is why they treat them as they do. But do they really treat their family members the way they treat their dogs?

Black Labrador mix sometimes bites

Barney

When you come home, do you welcome your teenagers with ecstasy, kissing them and fussing them while they jump all over you so that the whole thing becomes almost unbearable with excitement? When you eat your meals, do you have your children jumping on yohttp://www.dogidog.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Barney-300×190.jpgu, letting them help themselves from your plate? Do you expect your children to keep a look out for danger approaching, and then when they alert you, tell them to shut up? Do you let your children jump about and scream at you until you take them out for a walk? Would you have your children dragging you down the road, kicking and screaming at people you pass? Do you share your bed with your teenagers and do they have a tantrum if told to go? If you want to watch TV in peace, are your kids jumping all over you and demanding attention, and while they sit beside you are you touching and cuddling them all the time? With humans this would probably be considered abuse!  Would your teenagers follow you all over the place and make a fuss if you disappear out of sight? I could go on and on!

I guess there may be families where the kids are like this, but certainly not the lovely family I went to today!  I exaggerate to make my point, but they admit that over the couple of years or so since they have rescued their two dogs, after a sensible start, they have slowly relaxed the rules and boundaries, hardly realising they were doing so.  It’s easy to do. This can be unsettling and confusing for dogs. Dogs without boundaries and given the responsibility of decision-making can develop problems that are inexplicable to the owners who believe they are simply being loving. Two common results are nervousness and aggression – both of which are fear-based.

Barney, a Labrador mix, is always on the alert and he may bite. He has drawn blood several times. Things certainly can’t carry on as they are.  Maisie the Border Collie is nervous. Lack of leadership and too much fussing on demand can be scary for a dog like Maisie, especially if mixed with being scolded. She is hyper-sensitive.  There is lots of appeasingly lying on her back to have her tummy tickled ‘love me love me I’ve done nothing wrong have I’.

Both dogs need a dose of old-fashioned calm, quiet and kind leadership and being treated in the way that people really treat their well-behaved and happy kids. The dogs need to be treated with respect, not touched too much and to learn respect. Then Barney won’t need to bite and Maisie will be more confident.

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

Rottie taught Dominance and Aggression

16 month old Rottweiler in his third home alreadyBaxter is a 16 months old Rottie and onto his third home already. His new owners have had him for just five days, and are determined to turn his life around.

It is evident that Baxter has been abused in the past by humans using force and dominance to control him. Because of this, aggressive human control is the only ‘language’ he really understands. It has to be increasingly forceful for him to even take notice.

Unfortunately, if you continue down that route (domination, force, pinning down and so on) where does it end?  Shock collars? Beatings? The situation escalates and will almost certainly get out of hand – to the point where Baxter wins through sheer strength and determination, eventually doing someone serious damage.

That would be the end of Baxter.

Baxter’s new lady owner is covered in bruises from nips and grabs. He’s not aggressive as such. He is a big teenage bully –  like a human adolescent who has grown up in a violent family. Like most bullies, he is also a coward and is easily spooked.

The lady is up for it, and I shall be working closely with her while she starts to show Baxter by her own behaviour that she is to be respected. Leadership has to be earned, and requires calm confidence. Baxter needs to learn straight away the behaviours that are unacceptable. At present he starts to lick, then mouth, then grab, then nip and there is a sequence. It is allowed to continue until it hurts and becomes a battle of wills and strength. They must react immediately, but calmly. Zero tolerance.  Otherwise how can Baxter learn?

He loses control of himself very quickly, so they must watch for signs of stress and immediately stop what they are doing, whether it’s going straight back home having been out for just a couple of minutes, coming in from the garden even if in the middle of doing something, or walking out of the room even if they are in the middle of a good TV programme.

Punishment, shouting ‘NO’, pushing him away, pinning him down are all ways of giving him attention under his own terms, in a ‘language’ he is already good at and gets better at all the time, and simply reinforces his bad behaviour.

But what can they do instead? That is what we are working on together.

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

Protective Nervous Border Collies

Two challenging Border ColliesI have just had a challenging evening with two border collies, Will and Ruby. Their owners have not had a guest to their house for two years now because of their dog’s behaviour. They both lunge and bark at people in a scary way and have bitten, and they can’t even be left in another room because Will panics, makes a lot of noise and is destructive in his panic to get out.  Both dogs have crates. Ruby is happy to be in her crate, but Will makes a lot of noise in his desperation to get out. He suffers from separation anxiety and has actually broken out on a couple of occasions, injuring himself trying to escape when left alone.

The gentleman first brought Will into the room on lead (I was furthest from the door), and by using the advance/retreat technique Will eventually calmed down sufficiently to stop barking at me and lie down. The owner then brought Ruby in and we went through the process again. Eventually both settled (held firmly on leads) – until I moved! It is hard to talk without moving and I know I can be quite animated.  I kept sending the dogs all the calming signals I know, and instructed the owners in keeping calm and quiet – though it is very difficult not to jump and scare a skittish dog when she is quietly sniffing you and then suddenly gives a loud bark right in your ear! One dog set the other off again.

This is a challenging situation because the lady owner is unwell and unable to do much with the dogs. In fact, it has got to the stage where she doesn’t really want them, though the man who is stronger feels differently. Will, who was rescued at five months, originally accompanied the man to his work as a groundsman in a country park, but soon had to be left at home because of his guarding and aggressive behaviour towards people. Neither dog can be walked on lead by anybody except the man who is strong enough to handle the excessive pulling and aggressive reactions to dogs and people, and the chasing behaviour with wheels and joggers. People have been nipped and bitten.

We have created a plan that, with the help of her family, will encourage the lady not to give up on her dogs; something that gives the dogs a bit more stimulation and leadership but within her capabilities, including strategies to deal with Will’s separation problems and both dogs’ fearful behaviouron walks and towards any people who do not live in their house. It is going to take a considerable length of time, and I hope they will stay the course.

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