Attacks the Man. Resource Guarding. Bites.

Pomeranian attacks the manSadie attacks the man. It sometimes looks like she attacks out of the blue. At other times I swear the little dog, a 10-month-old Pomeranian, sets him up!

She mainly targets him, though sometimes the lady too.

The little dog shares their bed and attacks them when they try to get in. She will do the same if one of them has to get up during the night.

She attacks them when they get ready to go out. Sadie will go for the man’s feet and hands even if he’s putting his shoes on to take her out for a walk.

Worst of all is her behaviour around resources.

They leave her food down all the time. She will take a piece of her dry food and jump with it onto the sofa, next to the man. Then, there is only one way of describing it, she taunts him with it! If he moves, she attacks him.

She also treats the lady as a resource and attacks him if he so much as leans towards her.

The poor man has bite marks over his hands and arms. It’s fortunate she not a bigger dog. They’ve had several dogs before, but never one like this. Continue reading…

Attack the Best Form of Defence

Just look at this dog! Isn’t she wonderful?

Billie is a four-year-old Aylestone Bulldog and they have had her for six weeks. Previous to this she had been used as a breeding bitch and ended up in a shelter, so she probably didn’t have a very good life.

She certainly has a good life now.

Scared – attack may be the best form of defense

Attack the best form of defenseShe is sweet-natured dog, maybe a little worried. She is a dream at home, but out on walks she is reactive to other dogs – obviously scared.

She has injuries on her legs which look very much like she’s been attacked or bullied by other dogs in her past life, so it’s no wonder she’s wary. Dogs that are scared, trapped on lead in particular, are very likely to take the approach that attack is the best form of defence.

In Billie’s case she will certainly also be picking up on the anxiety of her lady owner. Their previous rescue dog had escaped out the front and went for another dog, injuring it badly, and the poor lady witnessed this. Understandably, she’s not relaxed with Billie around other dogs and this message is sure to be passing down the lead. She is almost expecting him to attack or be attacked.

The walking equipment they use could be better. If more robust, it would help them to feel more confident. It would also help Billie to feel more comfortable.

Fallout from dreadful advice

With their previous dog they called out a member of the BarkBusters franchise and I don’t mind mentioning them by name because Billie’s humans have been taught by them.

BarkBuster’s system is one of terrorising a ‘disobedient’ dog. They advocate things like throwing chains on the floor in front of the already scared and reactive dog (something Billie’s people don’t do). The use ‘correction’ or spraying  the dog with water when it’s not ‘behaving’. It’s not far short of asking the owners to attack their own dog.

This has made the situation far worse. If a dog is afraid, no amount of bullying will cure the fear. If it seems to work, then it is because the dog is terrorised and has shut down.

How can people be asked to do this to the dog they love? Owners can be so desperate for help that they put their trust in so-called ‘professionals’, but the bottom line is that there is no such thing as a quick fix. Someone said ‘quick fixes usually become unstuck’.

At present when poor Billie reacts to another dog. She will be feeling the tension of her nervous owner down the lead while she’s ‘corrected’. This will be uncomfortable on her neck, she will be told NO and may be sprayed with water. No wonder she is increasingly believing that other dogs mean trouble – because they do!

Attack them and they may go away.

With positive, reward-based and understanding methods they can turn things around for their beautiful dog.

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.

French Bulldog is difficult to read

French bulldog does strange bow with his back to peopleEnzo seems to live in a little world all of his own – probably because his life is just so confusing. He is a four-year-old French Bulldog.

Enzo has a lot of change to get used to. His young owners live in London and have lots of friends. They pick him up, cuddle him and make a lot of fuss; he is taken on the underground and buses.

He will be left with different people in different places. He also stays with the parents and at the moment he is in their large, quiet house in the country for several weeks.

Enzo has problems. He will suddenly attack the two Springer Spaniels where he is now staying. The brother has a young Pug and he goes for him also. On walks he is kept on lead around dogs because of his behaviour. He obsesses with anything that moves, whether it’s leaves or bits of rubbish and will be constantly looking, pulling and pouncing. He chases cars.

He is a very difficult little dog to read. With no tail we get no clues from that end. With his flat face only his eyes give a clue. It is very likely that in the past he thinks he has given other dogs warning signs to keep their distance but they have simply been unable to read them, so now he goes straight into attack mode. The more activity and action there is around him, the more volatile he becomes. But it looks as if it’s out of the blue. Compared to Spaniels he appears inscrutable.

His body language is unusual. He does a strange little bow – see the picture. With most dogs this would be an invitation to play, but with Enzo he has his back to the people.

The parents want to spend the time he has with them helping him to become calmer and happier. With people he is gentle and obedient if somewhat disengaged; lots of pampering, being carried about and play fighting may be fun for the young people, but it’s not good for Enzo. After one day here he already seems calmer. They will work on his behaviour with their own dogs and dogs outside. They will work on his obsession with chasing things. With lower stress levels in Enzo, the poor Springer Spaniels will be able to relax again in their own home.

Six days after my visit: For two days Enzo hasn’t gone for the other dogs once. What I didn’t mention here is Springer Willow’s pulling on lead. Willow had a ‘no pull harness’ and short lead but she still pulled. Her lady owner did my what she calls ‘crazy walking’ for a few days and then the recommended soft harness with ring on the chest arrived. “After I spoke to you I decided to try Willow out with her new harness and lead, and I can honestly say I am amazed! There was absolutely no pulling, and it was the most enjoyable walk I have ever had with her!”
Twelve days after my visit: Enzo now has a harness like Willow’s, and I took them out together today and it was all fine, very little pulling from either. I also took Enzo alone, just 100m and back to do a little leaf/car chasing avoidance, and he responded really well, so I am planning this maybe a few times a day… I can’t believe how calm everything is, thanks for your help and support, we both feel really positive about how the training is going feel confident now about addressing Enzo’s car/leaf/rubbush issues, and even encountering other dogs. In fact we met another dog in the field today, Enzo and the other dog were on leads, I called to explain that I was training Enzo to be better around other dogs and explained that I was going to arc around them, this Enzo managed calmly, he looked across at the other dog but did not seem to get stressed or anxious- he didn’t pull on the lead, or stare, or bark, and the hairs on the back of his neck stayed down, so that felt good!
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Staffie May Redirect onto Whippet

Staffie Maddie has extremely high stress levels


Over the months the stress both in and between these two 9-year-old dogs has been building up.

Staffie Maddie is almost impossibly noisy, pushy, barking and jumping up when the lady owner has guests – if she is allowed to join them at all – and little Misty, a Terrier Whippet cross, is also very vocal but with more obvious fear. People can’t hear themselves speak. The way they try to calm Maddie is to do as she demands and keep stroking her as she lies beside them. Not only is it giving her a very good reason to behave like this, but also, even while she is being given the attention she’s demanding, she is getting more and more worked up!

When I initially arrived Misty came through alone and she was quiet, relaxed and sniffing. It was only when Maddie rushed in that she, too, started to bark at me. Once little Misty has stopped barking, she watches Maddie. Sometimes she shakes. Maddie intimidates her when she’s like this. See how anxious she looks.

Misty is intimidated by Maddie


Maddie’s stress levels are extreme much of the time. Small things set her off. This is now increasingly being redirected onto Misty and there have been a couple of incidents, one resulting in blood.

Ten days ago I went on a fascinating weekend seminar by Dr. Susan Freidman about behaviour, consequences and reinforcement. It was like she was sitting on my shoulder. The more noise Maddie makes, the more attention she gets – sometimes scolding sometimes petting – but reinforcement either way. The more anxious Misty becomes, the more attention and fussing that earns also.

As soon as the lady comes downstairs in the morning, Maddie starts the day by rushing at the gate separating her from Misty and giving her a loud, warning bark. When she comes in from the garden, she noisily demands her breakfast – which she gets. Quite simply, barking works.

Maddie excelled at dog training classes. This is another example where traditional dog training is largely irrelevant, especially if it doesn’t take into consideration the home dynamics. Commands don’t reduce stress. In fact, ‘silence is golden’. Both dogs get a lot of excercise with lovely long country walks.

Whilst I was there Maddie was learning very quickly that the only attention she got from me was when she was still and quiet. She tried so very hard, bless her. She was distracting herself with a bit of displacement scratching and chewing in her efforts to keep calm while she was beginning to understand what was required. I, too, was learning just what level of gentle attention was enough not to break through that fine line and fired her up again. She is so eager to please and only needs to understand what is required, and then for all the humands to be consistent.

It can be so hard for us humans to break our own old habits.

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

Two Boxers with Too Much Freedom

The two Boxers have too much freedomHoney and Millie are both six years old. They were brought home on the same day, but they are not sisters. Millie came from a good breeder and nice home environment, whereas Honey missed out on some vital early input from siblings and mother, and had to be hand reared. What happens during the first twelve weeks or so of a dog’s life makes a huge difference and I don’t believe can ever entirely be reversed. A dog without proper early interaction with siblings and mother will be harder work.

The two dogs used to get on brilliantly. They had puppies at the same time  – even putting all their puppies together in one whelping box and sharing the maternal duties.

Unfortunately things have gone downhill.  Honey, predictably, is a much more stressed dog. A short while ago, due to complications in a pregnancy, Millie had to be spayed, and the imbalance of hormones between them may be adding to the growing tension between the two dogs.

Honey will suddenly just go for Millie. Sometimes she gives ‘that look’ first, sometimes it seems to happen out of the blue. There are a couple of common denominators – the lady is always present and it seems to involve comings and goings, either of people or one dog returning into the presence of the other.  On most occasions the house has been busy and Honey will have had a build up of stress.

To my mind the biggest contributor of all to Honey’s stress levels in particular is the enormous amount of freedom the two dogs have. They have quite a large area on the estate where they freely roam – controlled only by an electric barrier. They are left out all day with an open kennel for shelter. They are there at the gate whenever anyone arrives and it is a busy place. Honey barks, growls and hackles – scared and warning. It’s quite surprising that all her stress is taken out on poor Millie and that she’s not actually gone for a person by now. There is a public dog walking path through the estate that they can see but not reach, which also causes barking and stress.

These two dogs are in charge of the territory, no question about it. Without realising it, the people are often allowing the dogs to be in charge of them also. If it were just the much more stable Millie it may not really matter as she can handle it. Honey can’t.

I am hoping that they can find a way of enclosing the dogs during the day when they themselves are not about and that they feel happy with, and of keeping them well away from the gate area when people come and go so they are let ‘off duty’.  My own dogs are peacefully contained in quite a small area in the house when I am out and I wouldn’t have it any other way for their own sakes – and for the most part when they are anywhere further afield than my garden, I accompany them.

Ruling the roost really isn’t easy on a dog. With some indoor leadership work as well as limiting physical boundaries, Honey’s stress levels should then reduce and I am sure she will not feel the need to take it out on poor Millie. Possibly spaying her in a couple of months’ time when the time is right could help, but I don’t believe this alone is the answer as the dogs already had had a few differences earlier. It needs to be done in conjunction with the behaviour work.

Rearing littermates usually comes with problems, and even though these two weren’t actually from the same litter, because they were adopted together at the same age there will be little difference.

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

Giant Dogs

Irish Wolfhound and Great DaneYesterday I visited the largest Wolfhound I have ever seen, and a nearly as large Great Dane X.  Monty, the Great Dane, was rescued from a life of neglect and possibly abuse just a year ago, and you can see from the photos what state he was in – and how good he looks now, a year later. (To get a sense of scale, the two big dogs are sitting in the photo with their other dog Tess who is the size of a Springer Spaniel). Not only does Monty now look good, but his owners have worked so well with him that he is a chilled, well-mannered, cooperative giant in all aspects bar one – his very occasional unpredictability towards other dogs and a couple of times with Freddie, their Wolfie. When the dog the size of Monty wants to attack, it is serious!

These people have had many large dogs, but mostly from puppies. They have always felt proud walking out with their well-behaved, well-socialised giants. Starting with an attack on Freddie over a toy resource, the incidents have now escalated to two or three dogs out on walks. Monty had been mixing beautifully with a great many dogs, and the three that have been on the receiving end were all dog-reactive themselves. His very power makes this dangerous, and the lady owner who does most of the walking is shaken and nervous which obviously transfers to Monty, so the situation is slowly gathering momentum.

Monty now is walked on lead only, and because word has got about, previously friendly dog walkers are avoiding them and this is very upsetting.

It is quite hard to find what these very switched-on people could be doing differently, but what is certain is that if they carry on as they are, so will Monty. He obeys coming back when called when he is ready so he freelances. He is a big hunter in every sense of the word. He won’t have other dogs dominating him – which seems to be the trigger for his aggressive spats – which end as quickly as they begin. The lady in particular will need to work at her leadership skills and calm confidence, whilst carefully managing Monty so that the situations simply can’t arise.

I hope by walking him calmly by dogs he shows no reaction to (on a loose lead), letting him mingle with his doggy friends, and most importantly walking away from dogs as and when they choose, over and over, the owners can condition Monty to look to them for guidance and to walk away from trouble when called, so that eventually he can once more be trusted off lead.

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