Aggressive Barking at People. Fear or Anger?

Two-year-old Belgian Malinois Jake’s home is now with people who have considerable experience and knowledge as dog owners. I’m sure if Jake had gone to them as a puppy they would have nurtured him into a reliable and friendly adult dog.

Physical neglect and domestic abuse

Poor Jake spent the first year of his life suffering severe physical neglect and domestic abuse.

This is a far cry from the life he should have had – one where he was loved, given kind training and most of all, socialised with people.

In all respects Jake received the opposite.

My clients have made considerable headway with him, particularly with respect to training. There is nothing they won’t do in order to help him.

Their main problem is Jake’s antipathy to people, demonstrated by his aggressive barking at them.

When out, his lunging and barking has a fear component too. From the moment he leaves the house he is on high alert for people. He is necessarily muzzled and, for control, they use a head halter underneath it.

This is Catch 22. He must be under control to keep people safe, but he’s going to feel trapped and uncomfortable. They can’t do anything about the muzzle, but they can use better handling equipment where they have just as much control should they need it and with Jake feeling comfortable.

Aggressive barking and two attacks

He has attacked a couple of people and only didn’t cause injury because he was wearing the muzzle at the time. On both occasions, to his humans, it seemed without warning.

Jake is constantly ‘living on the brink’ due to his invisible internal arousal levels. On both these occasions there will have been a build-up. One was at the end of a walk with all it’s challenges and the other he was in a situation that was far too much for him. It only takes one small extra frustration to send a dog like this over the edge (see ‘trigger-stacking‘).

When anyone calls to the house, Jake is always shut away. It makes having friends or family visiting very difficult. Catch 22 again. Without encountering people how will he ever change?

Due to the lady’s work, many people do actually come and go. He will bark from behind the kitchen door; he will bark at people and other dogs through the long windows.

This daily and frequent aggressive barking at people in or outside his house, people he can’t get to, will be very frustrating for him. It is also constant rehearsal of the aggressive barking which, he will undoubtedly believe, drives people away in the end.

When I visited yesterday we set things up carefully. I needed to see for myself whether fear was involved or if it was simply rage that another person was in his house. 

It looked like rage.

To Jake, his job was to get rid of me.

They had him muzzled up ready in the kitchen when I arrived, with a training lead hooked to both front and back of a harness and the man for company. I had announced my arrival on my mobile so as not to ring the doorbell. We wanted his arousal levels to be as low as possible.

I sat at a table as far from the door as possible. I could see through the open door and down the short passage from the kitchen.

The lady had instructions not to talk to Jake but just to walk him towards the room. As soon as he barked she was to turn around and walk him out of sight just round the corner.

As soon as Jake caught sight of me he exploded. He barked ferociously, lunging on the lead. The lady had to use her strength to remove him but because of the harness it would cause him no discomfort (discomfort would be yet another reason for him to hate me).

I asked her now to say ‘Jake – come’ each time she turned around and as he got a hang of the process he became less resistant.

Soon Jake was looking at me without barking.

After several attempts there was a distance outside the door where he could see me without any aggressive barking. He was quiet. The lady had worked previously on eye contact and he was looking at her all the time which she rewarded. I now suggested she waited until he looked at me, said ‘Yes’ and then fed him.

We worked on the lady approaching a step at a time, continually reinforcing Jake each time he looked at me. It didn’t take long before she could sit on a chair already placed some way away from me near the door beside the man, and Jake very soon lay down quietly.

After a while I tested this. I moved my legs. I stood up. Nothing. I got up and moved about a little and he was still relaxed.

aggressive barking at people

Jake for the short time his muzzle was off

I suggested the lady, hanging on to the lead, took his muzzle off.

He was fine and I even manged to take this photo (whilst looking the other way). I also chucked him food from time to time. This doesn’t look like a frightened dog, does it.

All went very well until something small happened.

I think the man got up to do something. This little bit of extra arousal suddenly sent Jake over the edge again and he lunged at me with aggressive barking as before. I was doing nothing.

It was almost like he realised he had forgotten himself and his job to get rid of me!

The lady took him straight back out.

We rehearsed the procedure again and then left him in the kitchen. We rehearsed it one more time before I left. Both times we finished at a point where it was going well.

They will now need frequent callers to work on.

Reducing Jake’s stress levels underpins everything.

Unless they can do lots of things to reduce Jake’s stress levels so that he is calmer in general, nothing will change. In this state he’s unable to exercise self-control. They then will be able to introduce activities to a calmer Jake that are incompatible with aggressive barking and lunging, maybe a ritual of some sort.

I did what I call a complete ‘behaviour health check’, looking for all areas where they could reduce excitement, arousal, fear, frustration levels. Accumulating stress levels can make his ‘explosions’ unpredictable – and inevitable.

In those most important very early months of his life, Jake had missed out on socialisation – encountering different people. When he should have been treated kindly and trained using force-free methods for the first year of his life, he received the very opposite.

They are now picking up the pieces. If anyone can do this, they can.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Jake. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression or fear issues of any kind are 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 (click here to see my Help page)

New Rescue Dog. Reactivity to People Worsening

New rescue dogWith a new rescue dog I have seen this many times. When people first welcome their new dog into their life he is faultless. It’s not until he begins to settle in that unwanted behaviours begin to surface.

In many cases these will be behaviours that contributed to him being given up in the first place.

Unlike many new rescue dogs that find the adjustment from their old lives or rehoming kennels very hard indeed, beautiful Staffie-mix Murphy seemed to settle in easily. He was (and is) friendly and confident. He’s about two and a half years old.

It’s very common for the ‘real dog’ to begin to appear after a few weeks. People understandably don’t give all their reasons for giving up their dog as it may jeopardise finding a new home. Issues like Murphy’s are unlikely to emerge in a kennel environment.

Three trouble-free weeks went by.

The first signs of problems began about three weeks later when the, up to now, very friendly Murphy barked at someone.

Next, and it probably wasn’t brilliant timing for him, they took him away. This now was another new house to get used to in just a few weeks. Unlike at home, he could see people walking past the window. He began to bark at them. They went on their way. Success.

Then, worse, a couple of little children arrived at the house. Murphy went crazy with barking at them. It took them all by surprise. Their new rescue dog didn’t like little children so close to him at all. He was very upset.

On the face of it and from what I saw when he barked at me, the barking isn’t fearful. He was angry. He was loudly shouting GO AWAY.

A few days ago, back home and now on a downward spiral, he then grabbed (almost bit) the arm of a man who came to work in the house. This was someone he’d already met and befriended a few days previously.

In every other respect Murphy really is the perfect dog. He is affectionate and biddable. He gets on beautifully with their other dog, an older female Labrador called Millie.

New rescue dog Murphy is now settling in.

As Murphy gets to feel more at home he seems to be becoming increasingly protective of his humans – and Labrador Millie. I briefly fussed her and this immediately generated a renewed outbreak of barking at me.

I guess it’s logical that the more a place becomes the new rescue dog’s home the more territorial he may become and his new humans also something to protect.

We experimented with various strategies in response to his barking at myself. Each case is different and it’s important to get it right. Food wasn’t appropriate because we weren’t dealing with reducing fear but more with anger. There was no snarling or growling, so not extremely aggressive, but he was making his point. GO!

Driving me away was clearly what he wanted. Instead, we had the lady calmly walking him, Murphy, away instead each time he began to bark. We repeatedly did this, advance – retreat, so he clearly understood the consequence of his barking at me was the opposite to what he was wanting. She didn’t need his protection. He understood and had total control over the situation. It’s important that no force is involved – he willingly walked out with her.

After little more than five minutes of doing this, he settled.

His lead came off and all was well. I could move around with no further reaction from Murphy.

I have found that one of my own dogs, my German Shepherd, may sometimes need me to be decisive in a situation she’s unable to handle (that’s another story for another time). She simply can’t cope with making all her own decisions when she is in a state over something. It seemed that making the immediate decisions about what to do when he barked worked with Murphy.

Now, not before, was the time for food – to associate me with good stuff. I dropped food. I asked him to sit and fed him and I threw food at him to catch. I sprinkled it about.

He was now relaxed and happy.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Murphy. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where any form of aggressive behaviour is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Frustration, Arousal and Losing his Temper

frustration makes him biteHenry is a Miniature Bull Terrier. One source describes the breed as ‘Playful, Even Tempered, Energetic, Stubborn, Courageous, Loving’.

Energetic, loving and courageous Henry certainly is. Even-tempered he’s not.

He is very quickly aroused whereupon he then becomes demanding. Anything that works him up starts him off barking or pestering for attention. Not getting the attention he wants leads to him becoming quickly frustrated then angry.

He may grab their ankles when things are not going his way.

More recently he has bitten two people quite badly.

I was very nearly the third.

I have only visited a few dogs that start off very friendly and interested in me, if in an over-excitable way, but whose arousal then gradually escalates into something else.

Instead of calming down, as the minutes went by the more aroused Henry became. I believe he may not have liked being ignored. I wouldn’t normally be touching a dog when I enter his house but would wait for calm. Being left to make his own decisions was something different for Henry. He is usually held while the person strokes him ‘to calm him down’.

I took myself away to a high bar stool at the counter as his arousal levels soared. He was flying all over the sofa. We all continued chatting.

Henry is difficult to read. His face is fairly inscrutable. He barked at me and then became still. His eyes went hard as he stared at me. I looked away.

Then he flew at me. He grabbed my clothes, leaping high to get at my arm (fortunately heavy garments). I sat very still, and quietly asked the man to get his lead. He muzzled him.

Thwarted, Henry was in such a state now that had it not been for the muzzle I know I would have been badly bitten. He charged at me several times while I didn’t react before he was put away in another room for the rest of the evening.

This ‘attack’ had taken the couple completely by surprise – more than it did myself. Although he had recently bitten two people and caused injury, it was two different people who had been looking after him while the family was away. It had never happened to anyone in their own house or in their presence.

These things tend to get worse with each episode. It has escalated from grabbing their ankles to a couple of serious bites of which I could have been a third.

When frustration is making a dog angry, what can you do?

The gentleman himself admits that, in doing what he thought was best by copying Cesar Millan’s methods, he may have escalated things when Henry got rough. If a dog is highly aroused and getting angry, the sure way to make him worse is to pin him down or scruff him.

Because frustration is causing the anger that is causing the aggression, it’s the frustration that needs dealing with. We need to work on the source.

Reacting to the biting itself with any punishment simply doesn’t work long-term. The person who is strong enough to overwhelm and intimidate the dog has always to be on hand to deal with it. It may temporarily put a lid on it but in no way alters for the better how the dog is feeling.

The only real long-term safe solution is for Henry not to feel the need for frustration and anger.

Of prime importance is for their vet to do some very thorough checks to make sure there isn’t something wrong with Henry to cause the dog to explode so violently with so little provocation.

In one way I am pleased he directed the behaviour to myself.

They had not been present when he had gone for the other two people and they couldn’t imagine him doing so. Now they have seen it for themselves. They have seen what happens when their loving dog flies into a rage and how little provocation he needs.

It’s a good thing they have now witnessed it….

…because they have an eleven-month-old baby who will soon be mobile.

Henry has always been fine around the baby, showing no jealousy and not much interest, but the unexpected can happen as it did with me.

The couple are now making a little corner of the room into a safe ‘den’ for Henry, somewhere all good things happen and where he’s fed. It’s not punishment because he’s not ‘naughty’. He can’t help it. They will freely use his muzzle when he’s out of his den. They have started doing this out on walks already.

It’s a sad situation. The beautiful and well-loved dog is gentle and affectionate most of the time. It’s only when something stirs him up that the trouble starts.

They will now do all they can to teach him impulse control and to deal with the normal necessary frustrations that are part of any dog’s daily life. We made a list of the things that get him worked up and many can be avoided. They must get their vet on board for a much fuller check-up and take every practical precaution necessary including the barrier and the muzzle.

This is a cautionary tale. As a general rule, it’s best to remain still and look away from a dog that may bite. In the case of Henry, this wasn’t enough. My doing nothing was in itself part of the problem. He wasn’t used to that.

Here is an article well worth reading: My dog bit my child today.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Henry. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important,particularly where any form of aggression is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page)

 

Stops and Sits. Rolls Onto her Back. Won’t Move

The young Golden Retriever stops on walks.

She sits. She won’t move. When they go to get her, she rolls onto her back.

on the way home she simply stopsThe people I went to see yesterday have just emailed me with something different (Goldie is wary of new things). Their neighbour has had a trampoline erected in their back garden today. Goldie is barking at it – it’s something new that she can see.

The lady has been going out with food and the clicker. She is clicking and rewarding many times while Goldie is being quiet but clearly aware of the trampoline.

I replied, ‘Clicking for quiet is a good way to deal with the trampoline. You are ‘training’ her to be quiet. However, a better way would be to deal with the problem at source –  changing how she feels about it. This would involve, with every look at the trampoline whether she is barking or not, chucking food on the ground or feeding Goldie.’

The case of Goldie going on strike is puzzling.

Since she first went out at three months of age she would sit down and refuse to move. She was little so they were able to pick her up. Now she’s a fully grown Golden Retriever it’s not possible anymore to lift her when she stops.

I would like to deal with this at source too – but where does it come from?

There are a few facts: It’s always on the way home that she stops – after exercise. She has an uncanny sense of knowing when they are on the return journey home or to the car. Putting the lead on at random and going a different way doesn’t fool her.

Her ears go back and, from the sound of it, I would interpret this as looking scared or wary. Why would this be? The rolling onto her back could well be to appease. I’m assured she’s never been punished for it though there has been a lot of enticing and bribing and exasperation for sure.

Goldie is fourteen months old so it will now be well ingrained behaviour – a default response when she feels a certain way.

What way is she’s feeling, though?

The other day things took a turn for the worse. She had sat down and as usual rolled over onto her back, making it difficult to get her up. The lady grabbed her harness to try to make her move.

Suddenly Goldie leapt up and at the woman’s face.

Mouth open. Snarling.

It’s happened two or three times within the past few days. The lady is very upset and scared to walk her now.

Why is it Goldie has, since she first went out, stopped and refused to move? We considered various possibilities:

  • She stops because she doesn’t want to go home (that doesn’t work because she always does go home).
  • Or she stops because, when small, she was picked up and carried and she liked it.
  • She stops because it gives her attention.
  • Or she stops because the arousal previously created in her system from her walk has been too much for her.
  • She stops because after exercise she may be uncomfortable in some way.

Each time the only result it’s generated for her is to be made to move.

Recently Goldie has started to do other things she used not to do. She has begun to dig in the garden and to hump the lady. She is whining in the night.

She was spayed shortly before these things started. Could there be a connection? They visit their vet next week who can check.

In the context of the past few weeks there are indications that she has, for some reason, been more stressed in general. She’s a sensitive dog. Something has recently pushed her over the edge. To quote the lady, she’s flipped.

Either Goldie has been unable to handle the frustration of the walk coming to an end and has lost her temper. This is what the owners assume and is very likely.

Or, just possibly, instead of not wanting something to stop (the walk), she doesn’t want something to start (going home) and it’s scaring her.

Her stress levels could come from unexpected quarters, both at home and when out. They could include the fallout from extreme exercise – running free and hunting, being restrained, being forced to do something against her will. Many little things could contribute to the build-up. She doesn’t like the sound of metal on metal, for instance.

Although I can so far only guess at the cause, we can create a plan that should be appropriate anyway.

Our plan uses stress-reduction as a basis to work on, along with relationship building.

We’ll focus on the walker being much more motivating and rewarding.

If she wants to be with her humans more than anything else, then she should want to continue walking with them.

Walks will be done a bit differently in order to try to interrupt the learned sequence.

They will do lots of work walking back and forth near to the house, loose lead, making it fun and with bits of her meal dropped from time to time – but only when in the direction of home. The same thing can then be done on a long line in open places.

The parallel with my trampoline advice is this:

It may be possible to train her to get up and move if they had sufficient time, using a clicker and rewarding. They would need to click and reward every small movement like rolling onto her front, sitting up, then looking ahead, then sitting higher and then standing – then taking a step and so on. This could take much too long in the middle of a field in the dark or on a busy pavement!

However, if they can stop her feeling she needs to sit, roll over and go on strike and prefer to keep walking, they will have dealt with the problem at source.

 

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’ with every detail, but I choose an angle with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Goldie and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where aggression of any kind is concerned. 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)

 

Dog Won’t Get Into the Car

Rosie is now getting into the carRosie swings between being totally relaxed and happy to being a somewhat mixed-up character.

The seven-year-old Springer Labrador cross’ problems have been coming to a head over her reluctance to get into the lady’s car. Interestingly she is okay getting into the man’s car and the daughter’s, but she won’t get into the lady’s car. From my questions it seems this is not to do with the vehicle itself, but the human. With the lady there has been an undercurrent of shortage of time at the start of the day before she leaves for work, where when the man takes her after work or at the weekend he is unlikely to have deadlines.

Several times the lady said to me ‘Time is precious’ as she explained her frustrations at Rosie’s behaviour where she won’t get into the car has culminated in her being bitten.

A ritual has built up over the past couple of years in order to get Rosie into the car.

All her walks started with a car journey – to somewhere she would toilet (another pressure).  Initially it was enough to throw a biscuit into the car to get Rosie to jump in. She would put her front feet up and the lady then lifted her back legs in. She is a nimble little dog who loves agility – and certainly could jump in for herself.

As time went by she began to refuse even to put her front feet up. Over time the lady was opening the boot, taking Rosie away from the car and then making an enthusiastic game of running up to the car to get her in.  The number of times Rosie got her to do this increased.  However, there came a point when she started to refuse to get in the car even after all this and was snarling and growling at the lady. The final straw was when the lady shut the boot instead and tried to walk Rosie away from the car, whereupon Rosie became very angry and grabbed her arm.

I would say that Rosie is totally confused. Due to the understandably exasperated lady feeling the pressure of time, Rosie is under a lot of pressure as well. To the lady, the toileting was dependent upon that off-lead run. ‘You would think she’d know that with all this messing about at the start of a walk (up to 20 minutes sometimes) she’d get a shorter walk’.

The ritual has to be broken and actually fate has stepped in. Poor Rosie has had stitches after cutting herself jumping over barbed wire so had to be road-walked on lead for the past three weeks. It has proved that she can toilet without running round the fields. It has also shown that life goes on without these car journeys for off-lead walks. The pressure is off somewhat.

Our plan is to carry on with road walks only whilst building in-car work; by merely touching the boot initially whilst feeding Rosie, gradually and incrementally doing a little more – opening the boot and feeding Rosie, opening it and shutting it again, all the time feeding Rosie.  At home they will be teaching her to jump on and off things on cue. Considerably later the lady can introduce opening the boot, feeding, then casually saying ‘up you get’, waiting a moment (no pressure) and if she doesn’t jump in continuing with the road walk, and so on.

It could take a long time to undo two year’s worth of ritual where Rosie’s own behaviour has dictated the amount of effort the lady put in, until she sort of lost control of the lady and understandably became very confused and frustrated – angry.

The lady felt very pressurised, understandably – and so did Rosie.  People and dogs in a close relationship so bounce of one another!

At home the lady will now spend more time encouraging Rosie to give her her full attention and to enjoy doing little things for her – for rewards. The family can show Rosie that from now on they won’t always do what she wants, when she wants it but that it’s fun and rewarding to do things for her humans when they ask her. Currently Rosie, in her own sweet way, calls the tune.

The lady need no longer be thinking ‘time is precious’! If she has an hour, she has an hour. If this starts with a short road walk, followed by an invitation to Rosie to get into the car which she declines, they can carry on with more lead-walking instead, so be it.

About 8 weeks have now gone by and i have just received this email: ‘Thought I’d let you know that although we are still taking it very slowly and carefully, Rosie has been behaving perfectly with the car for about a week now – getting in with no problem both before her walk and again on returning from it.  We’re beginning to feel that we’re really made some progress with this, thanks very much for your support and suggestions!’ and a months later: ‘Just thought I’d give you a quick update on how things are with Rosie. She has been really settled for the last couple of months; (the lady) takes her to the back of the car and opens the hatchback, and the habit we have is just to leave her sat there for a moment or two and she then gets her front paws onto the boot floor and is then quite happy to be helped in’.  

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Rosie, 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, particularly where there is any aggression involved. 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).

Friendly Dog Has Changed and Bitten

Bruce

Archie

Archie

Bruce he has now bitten four people.

The 3-year-old Golden Labrador was a friendly and well socialised dog up until about 9 months ago when things started to change.

He lives with a couple and their other dog Archie, an easy-going Chocolate Labrador.

What could have caused such a big change in him? The very first time he showed aggression to anyone was when a man put his hand through the open car window – despite the dog’s warnings he wouldn’t move away. That man asked for that bite.

Could this have been the turning point?

Nothing happened for a few more months though they report he was becoming more growly. Maybe because the growling made them cross he’s learnt not to growl. Growling is good. It gives us a chance to work out why and deal with that, and to save the dog from situations he can’t cope with.

The next three bites were on people in the house or the garden who he didn’t already know. Each incident has happened in the presence of the man, not the lady. One, a lady friend, was apparently just sitting still in a chair talking and the dogs were playing with a toy. As the man remembers it, the next moment, out of nowhere, Bruce had flown at her.

The most recent time, a few days ago, he broke a repair man’s skin.

Any angry reactions towards Bruce after each incident will undoubtedly have helped to push things in the wrong direction. People don’t realise this – they mistakenly think punishment will teach the dog not to do it again.

At first I thought that this was just going to be a case of over-attachment towards the man and territorial protectiveness. We would also work on the dog’s confidence along with the man altering his own behaviour.

Then I very nearly experienced for myself what Bruce had done to that lady and could have been bitten too.

Initially the man had brought Bruce into the room on lead. I sat still and avoided eye contact. Very soon he settled and I got absolutely no vibes of trouble that with my experience I am very tuned in to, so I said to the man to drop the lead.

Bruce seemed fine for a few minutes.

He ate a treat I rolled to him. He came calmly up to me and sniffed me. Then, all of a sudden and out of the blue, with no growling, he flew at me. Fortunately he didn’t use teeth. I gently asked the man to casually come over and pick up the lead. From then on he held onto it.

The very odd thing is that throughout the evening Bruce seemed mostly fine, playing with the other dog even – punctuated by similar outbursts. Each time it was without any warning or provocation that I could see – and I have seen a lot of dogs. The inconsistency and unpredictability are really very puzzling.

We will work on the behaviour issues – his confidence and protectiveness, and they will change his diet.

A visit to the vet is now a priority just to make sure nothing else is going on with his body, something that we can’t see but could be affecting his behaviour.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bruce, 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 dog 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 dogs (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.

Weimerana panics when home alone

weimeranaPoor Chloe is a very stressed eighteen month old Wemerana. She has chronic separation problems and because of the damage she has done she is now crated when her owners are out at work. I go to many dogs and even puppies whose owners, having to go to work, are out for eight or more hours a day, and for some dogs this can be a nightmare. Many people unwittingly take on a dog without thinking that it is unatural for a sociable animal to be left alone for too long.  I can also imagine how stressful it must be to be out at work, worrying about the dog you love being frantic and wondering what you will find when you get home.

Separation anxiety is a difficult problem to solve because it has to be done gradually.

Chloe always was unhappy and maybe bored when left alone. She would sometimes toilet in the house or chew. She used to have the run of the house and her male owner, who was normally home first, never quite knew what damage he was going to find.

She had done hundreds of pounds worth of damage already when one day, three weeks ago, the gentleman arrived home to find total chaos. There was toilet mess downstairs but no sign of Chloe. Upstairs there were clothes and belongings all over the floor, along with more toilet mess. Chloe was cowering in the bathroom, urinating. The gentleman was so angry that he lost his temper and laid into poor Chloe. It was the final straw.

He felt absolutely terrible when he discovered that all the mess wasn’t done by Chloe. They had had a break in and poor Chloe was traumatised. Where before she was distressed at being alone, now she was also terrified of her owner coming back.

To keep their house safe they bought a large crate. I was finally called in because Chloe was damaging herself trying to get out of it. She managed it once, cutting her nose and blood all over the place from her tearing a toe nail and now they have had to padlock the crate to keep her in.

Chloe has other stress-related problems – she is obsessed with eating wood when out, she tail-chases and does a lot of ear shaking and licking herself.  Chloe badly needs help.

They are going to find a dog walker to come each day now and they are going to work very hard at getting Chloe used to being alone in the sure knowledge that they will return. In reducing her stress in all other areas also, she will gradually become a happier dog.  I have spoken to their vet who is also involved and prescribing Zylkene to help tide them over the first few weeks.

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