Dog Feels Unsafe out on Walks

British Bulldog sitting like a humanWhen I arrived British Bulldog Bentley was very interested in sniffing me as most dogs are – they probably know all about my own four dogs within a few seconds!

He didn’t seem nervous of me initially and was happy with me tickling his chest as he sat on his bed beside me, but when later I asked him to come to me he withdrew and watched me from a distance (as you can see from the photos). He is wildly excited when people he knows come to the house, but is wary of anyone new.

Because he was so quiet I never saw the real dog – who has a full repertoire of gimmicks to get attention! You’d think butter wouldn’t melt to look at him! He will scratch persistently at the door to have it opened but may not then go through, he has a sequence starting with grunts that lead up to barking at the man to get the attention he wants, he won’t let the lady talk on her mobile and he steals then runs off with things – all for the chase, then won’t give them up.

He is quite comical in a way – look at how he sits!

Bentley is two years old, and until the end of last year had the ‘back up’ of an older dog who has now died. His British Bulldogproblems, mostly to do with feeling unsafe, particularly outside the house, seem to have become a lot worse since then.

He is ambiguous about walks. When the harness is produced he runs away to his bed, but once it’s on he seems happy to go out. The further they walk away from the quiet area in which they live however the more anxious he gets, pulling and panting, and getting very noisy when he sees another dog.

They usually route leads beside busy roads or to a local park, which is very popular and noisy with children, people and dogs. Only when they get back near to home again does Bentley calm down a bit.

Both humans and dog arrive back home more stressed than when they started out – certainly not what walks are designed for.

Added to all that, even in the park, fields or woods he is still held on the shortish lead which must be very frustrating for him. They dare not let him off as sometimes it is hard to read his intentions towards other dogs. Because he has a tiny, twisty tail that doesn’t give out the usual signals and a face that whilst looking amazingly cute to us, maybe be difficult for another dog to decipher, he himself may be unwittingly inviting negative responses.

Just as with the two black dogs I went to last week, we will separate the currently stressful pavement walking from the countryside walking so that he can slowly be desensitised to traffic whilst also getting healthy stimulation and exercise. They can pop him in the car and take him to the fields.

So far as ‘normal’ walks are concerned, the bottom line is that he doesn’t feel safe at the moment, and that has to change.

Bit by bit, starting in the garden and then out in the road near their house where Bentley is still reasonably comfortable, they will work on his walking on a longish loose lead. The walk is about the journey, not the destination. Several short sessions on a loose lead with encouragement and food rewards will do much more good than one long session.

They will very gradually go a little further from home., a few yards at a time. As soon as he starts to be even slightly agitated, they should take a few steps back into his comfort zone and then ‘lace the environment’ – sprinkle food about on the ground. He needs to learn that the environment with other dogs, traffic and people at an acceptable (to him) distance is a good place. If he won’t eat, then they need to increase the distance further.

If they take this sufficiently slowly Bentley should gradually be able to get further from home before he starts to get agitated, until the time comes when then can walk instead of drive to the nearest off-road open area. It will take considerably longer to desensitise him and build up his confidence sufficiently to get back to their former route beside the busier roads.

It’s essential that in order to feel safe Bentley trusts the person who is holding the lead to look after him. This requires general relationship building which starts at home. He is a much-loved dog with people who just need pointing in the right direction.

NB. For the sake of the story this isn’t a complete ‘report’, but I choose an angle. Also, the precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bentley. 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 dog (see my Get Help page).

 

 

Adolescent dog gets attention for being 'naughty'

Adolescent Dog Fun Causing Trouble

Irish Wheaten TerrierEleven month old Irish Wheaten Terrier, Barney, is a mischievous adolescent dog who, when his humans are sitting down or busy, is looking for entertainment.

He finds one of the most entertaining things is to have them chase after him to retrieve a tissue, a sock or something else he shouldn’t have. He likes to grab cushions to chew and to drag his bedding about – anything really that gets a reaction!

What is really entertaining is to bark at the man until, as he always has to do eventually, he gives in and reacts in some way. It may be crossly or it may be to throw a toy. Either way it’s a result!

Barney is absolutely delightful. He is so affectionate and friendly and his coat feels like silk. He is a fantastic family dog.

His super-friendliness is the cause of a lot of jumping up, particularly at people he doesn’t know well. He really wants to get to face level. Again, it gets a result. The consequence is a lot of attention in terms of ‘Get Down’ and being held, and the person petting him.

I showed them how to teach him that the attention comes only when his feet are on the floor. If everyone does this, it shouldn’t take long for Barney to get the message, but it will need to be every time. Just one weakening will prove to him that it’s worth persisting – for the same reason we play slot machines. If you go on for long enough and you always get a result. If we knew there was no money in the machine, would we play it? No.

When he quietly settled for a moment, we quietly ‘marked’ that moment with a tiny bit of food. What is wrong with a dog earning some of their kibble for good behaviour?  As well as rewarding him when he is being good, they will also initiate plenty of activities under their own terms, play, training games, hunting and cuddles, which will more than compensate for any attention lost due to his self-entertaining adolescent dog strategies being ignored.

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

Understimulated Dog Barking at TV

Little dog chewing a plastic bottle Franklyn is alone all day, and when his humans come home he wants FUN.

They on the other hand, after a long day at work, want to RELAX in front of the TV.

Little Franklyn is a cross between a Pug and a King Charles Spaniel, and he is fifteen months old – and no, he’s not a wine-drinker! I gave him a tiny plastic wine bottle with food in it that I had saved especially to keep a dog like Franklyn occupied. On the left he is trying to break his way into the tub holding the tiny bits of food we were using!

He is given a short walk in the morning and another when they get home, but other interaction is mostly generated by Franklyn’s causing trouble! He flies all over them, he nicks things and he barks.

He is very reactive to any small sound he hears, but particularly wound up by the TV – rushing at it and barking constantly.  As the evening wears on he builds up a head of steam, digging into the sofa and getting more and more out of control – until, having lost all patience with him, they shut him away. His barking at TV is driving them particularly mad.

They have bought him lots of games and toys to play with, but doing things by himself isn’t what he needs. Franklyn needs human interaction. It is, after all, what he has been bred for.

The barking at the TV is getting worse as it will – he is getting so much practice. As they also watch TV in bed before going to sleep, the process continues even at bedtime as the little dog becomes more and more aroused. Consequently, while they are asleep he isn’t. He has some unwinding to do. In the morning all his chews and toys have ended up on their bed.

This little dog isn’t getting nearly enough healthy stimulation and one-to-one attention under the young couple’s own terms. They will now deal with the TV barking like the dog is fearful of what he sees – desensitising him, and so he doesn’t get too aroused they will regularly give him (and themselves) short breaks by popping him into the kitchen where he seems happy before bringing him out again and continuing the work. They have agreed not to watch TV in bed any more.

They will arrange for someone to pop in and give him some company in the middle of the day.

We have also drawn up a list of short activities with which they can punctuate Franklyn’s evenings.

The confrontational and controlling methods as used by a certain well know TV trainer are merely teaching Franklyn defiance and inciting aggression, so will be dropped.  These are methods that appeal to people when they feel they are losing control – but the results are short-lived and using force of any kind amounts to bullying. Totally unnecessary and counter-productive when, by understanding how to use positive methods you ultimately end up with a cooperative, happy and calmer dog.

As I write this just one day has passed and I have received this message: ‘It’s amazing how quickly he is responding now. My house feels calmer already’.

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

Chaos with Hyperactive Dog

Hyperactive Staffordshire Bull TerrierJumping all over people, flying behind them around the backs of the sofa, leaping up at faces when they are standing, stealing things then destroying or eating them, tail-chasing round and round, and suckling his blanket, Staffie Marley is a loveable but exhausting, hyperactive dog.

However, when they are out and he is all alone, Marley sleeps.

As is usually the case, his hyper and stressed behaviour is largely influenced by his human’s own behaviour, completely unwittingly of course. He wants their attention constantly and it seems the more people there are together, the worse he is; this isn’t unusual actually. There were three generations of people in the room. The more that people have their attention on something else – whether it’s talking to someone, on the phone or even watching TV – the more wild Marley gets. The more wild he gets, the more attention in some form or other, he gets – even if it’s to be shouted at or chased.

Marley was taken away from mother at four weeks old and was removed from the next place by someone who saw him being seriously abused at just eight weeks old. What a terrible start. He is now three. His family feel they are paying for ‘over-compensating’ by spoiling him, but I’m not so sure. If the poor puppy had not received lots of love, things could be a lot worse than they are now.

He is obviously highly stressed and confused. This is not helped by the various methods used to ‘control’ him nor by the fact he no longer goes for regular walks. The young man gets impatient and also feels he must be the boss, so is inclined to shout and be rather harsh at times. He feels that his mother, on the other hand, is ‘too soft’.

I am pleased for all of them that they are now getting some help and will now be working together. The young man has taught Marley many tricks and is very concerned for him. He is a clever dog. They have done their very best as they know it, but over the past six months his behaviour has escalated into something new – reacting aggressively when somebody he doesn’t know comes into the house.

I myself did not see so much of the Marley that I describe, because I orchestrated the occasion carefully – as I do!

Marley joined us when I was settled and he was friendly from the start. He had bouts of tearing all over the place, jumping all over us all, but apparently not nearly as severe as usual. In every way possible we created a calm atmosphere, to show him by our behaviour that leaping on us was not to be rewarding in terms of attention – whilst reinforcing the behaviour we did want instead. He had one short bout of tail-chasing and actually did lie down for some of the time – unheard of. He then looked so adorable that it made us want to cuddle and fuss him, but more than a very casual, gentle touch would merely start him off again.

Because he destroys and even swallows anything he can find, he doesn’t have toys and they dare not give him bones, but I found a Stagbar did the trick. It was something more or less indestructible onto which to direct some of his angst. Chewing and sucking are calming activities for dogs – just as they are for humans.

This case is a good example of the manifested behaviour that they wanted help for – that of his deteriorating attitude to people he doesn’t know coming into the house – being really a symptom of other underlying things. An active, clever three-year-old Staffie needs occupying, so daily outings are a must. They need not always be long walks, two or three short trips and loose-lead walking work or casual ‘sniff’ walks would make a huge difference to his well-being, along with evenings being punctuated by other owner-initiated activities, training and play.

With stress-levels through the roof, all sorts of problems can develop. Lowering stress is key. Everything should be done to give him some realistic boundaries in the kindest way possible.

The young man did ask shortly before I left, in reference to not shouting or being ‘firm’ with Marley anymore, ‘So this really means that we no longer try to control him?’ I don’t think he expected me to agree, but my answer was, ‘Yes, because he will be learning self-control instead. He has begun already’.

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

 

Cocker is Simply Too Excitable

Cocker Spaniel was pacing, rushing about, panting, drinking, wanting to go out, clamouring for attention, chewingOllie just kept on going! Pacing, rushing about, panting, drinking, wanting to go out, clamouring for attention, chewing…….

Being excitable may be an emotion and part of a dog’s personality – but it can be a learnt behaviour too when it’s constantly reinforced.

Dogs very often mirror their humans. Calm and quiet people very often have calmer dogs, and excitable people dogs that are more reactive themselves. This could of course be because people choose the breeds of dogs that suit their own characters.

Ollie is a two-and-a-half year old Cocker Spaniel, and as the owner of a Cocker myself I know how excitable they can be. In Ollie’s case, his excitement is unwittingly being reinforced. He will always eventually get the attention he wants while excited, demanding or barking. Like many excitable dogs, he can’t be given toys because he then directs his energy to wrecking them, though he was very busy with my unbreakable Stagbar.

When guests come ‘he calms down once they make a fuss of him’.  It might be more accurate to say that ‘he remains excited until they make a fuss of him’!

When I arrived he was very bouncy, tearing about, jumping up on me, going and having a drink, rushing about again and so on.

I said, ‘Let’s ignore what we don’t want – what is it we do want?’  I gave him a tiny bit of biscuit with a quiet ‘Yes’ each time he stopped still even briefly, then when he happened to sit or lie down. His brain was working!

Throughout the evening he was pushing one of the men to respond to him. This gentleman would I’m sure agree that he’s something of a pushover. The downside is that a dog can be less respectful and tries to control him in other ways too. The man can’t walk downstairs without Ollie trying to grab his feet and ankles.At last Ollie lay down briefly

Ollie is over-stimulated in one way and under-stimulated in another.  There is too much exciting stimulation and too little healthy stimulation by way of brain work and breed-specific stuff like nose work. He needs to be left quietly to work things out for himself like ‘good things come to calm dogs‘. He needs to actually be taught how to be calm.

I must say that it’s due to all the good things the men have done with him that Ollie is so friendly, confident and biddable. Absolutely gorgeous. Ollie’s good points far outweight any bad ones he may have. All his problems come down to over-excitement. Now that his owner realises that quietly restraining himself with Ollie will help him, that should help the dog to learn self-restraint.

When Ollie’s excited antics no longer get the attention he craves he will then start to learn. Meanwhile he won’t give up easily I fear. While he still believes excitement and demanding always works in the end, in the short-term he may simply increase his efforts.

They may be in for a rough few days during which they must occupy him with activities and calm attention but under their own terms – and when he’s not hyped up!

He will learn so long as his humans are consistent.

Six weeks later: ‘ Ollie is definitely a lot calmer and ongoing work will definitely give further rewards. The penny has finally dropped that if the ball is thrown and he brings it back and drops it then it gets thrown again …this is his current most favourite thing but we don’t overdo it!  Thanks for all your support over the last few months…Ollie is definitely a work in progress and I’m sure we’ll be in touch!’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ollie, 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 often 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).

Their Dog Bit Someone

Beagle Molly barks fearfully both at people she doesn't know coming to the house and people she sees out on walkA couple of days ago to the total horror of the young couple who own her, their dog bit someone.

Their reaction was very natural but to the more enlightened completely inappropriate and can only encourage further aggression, and things now are definitely heading in the wrong direction unless the way her humans behave with her is completely reversed.

Little Beagle Molly is fifteen months old. On the left is her in her favourite look-out place for barking at passing people and dogs, and on the right briefly taking a break after going through all her attention-seeking repertoire and relaxing happily after some clicker work.

I need to say before I go any further what great and dedicated owners little Molly has. They recognise they’ve not got the knowledge and things are going wrong, and they are making big sacrifices to put this right. This is the mark of good dog parents.

They love Molly to bits, but simply don’t know how to ‘bring up’ a dog. She is totally confused. She can receive cuddles, shouting at her, rough and tumble play, scMolly is confusedolding, kissing, more cuddling and punishment all from the same person.

Like so many people I go to, they say ‘everyone tells us different things’ and seldom are any of these things helpful as they are mostly dominance based and involved punishment. They are at their wits’ end. In the evenings all Molly does is to run rings around them in order to get attention, and apart from over-boisterous hands-on play that encourages the mouthing and nipping, it is No, No and No. She nicks the remote or she will steal the man’s shirt and the way they retrieve the items invites defiance.

Wouldn’t it be great if people could attend positive ‘dog-parenting’ classes before they picked up a puppy or new dog? They would then start off using positive methods and reading the right books, they would know how to give their dogs the right amount of stimulation and exercise (not too much and not too little), and I would bet dogs treated like this from the start would never bite and their carers would be a lot happier.

Molly is becoming increasingly scared of people and it’s no wonder. She will be associating them with her humans’ anxiety and anger rather than with good stuff. She barks fearfully both at people she doesn’t know coming to the house and people she sees out on walks. The barking at the window will only be making this worse.  She is punished for being scared. People don’t realise what they are doing. The bite occurred when they were out and a woman came up behind them unexpectedly and put her hand down to Molly. It was dark. Fortunately the skin wasn’t broken. The reaction of all the people involved was very unfortunate. One even said she should be put to sleep. Unbelievable.

The couple were absolutely devastated.

Things now will turn a corner, I know. These people are totally committed to changing things around, and after we looked at things from Molly’s perspective it was a like a light came on. I showed the young man how to use a clicker, starting with a simple exercise which Molly picked up almost immediately, and during the evening he was constantly clicking her for doing good things.  For instance, instead of yelling at her for putting her feet up on the table, he waited until the moment her feet touched the floor and clicked and rewarded that – teaching her what he did want instead of scolding. And best of all, he really enjoyed it.

She was using her brain to seek ways of being ‘good’!

This is going to be very hard work because several areas of the dog’s life need an overhaul, but I am sure they will get there and I shall continue to help them in every way I can for as long as they need me. From now on it’s going to be Yes Yes Yes.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Molly, 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

Adolescent Flat Coated Retriever

Flatcoat Barney is simply creating his own fun and ways of getting attentionBarney is a wonderful 7-month-old Flat Coated Retriever. His family are first-time dog owners and like many inexperienced people getting a puppy they make assumptions regarding their puppy’s needs based on their own human perceptions of what a person might need.

Comparing the dog to a young child would be better. One wouldn’t give a little child too much freedom indoors or outside; one wouldn’t leave food available to a small child like a running buffet; we would keep a young child out of trouble by removing everything that might be dangerous or damaged; If the child was bored, we would be giving him things to do.

Because Barney has free run of the downstairs, when he’s bored or not getting attention he steals spectacles, pens, garments and so on – or he wrecks his blanket. When someone comes in the front door he is there. He jumps all over them and sometimes runs out. His food is left down for him to eat when he feels like it. He hasn’t been shown from the start that grabbing and biting hands and clothes simply isn’t fun. He has been running off lead since he was little. Puppies stay close and come when called – adolescents don’t!  During the evening Barney continually asks to go outside and they will be up and down doing his bidding – something they would never do for a child!

When the children’s friends come to the house things are very difficult. Barney is extremely excited and jumps all over them if they sit on the settee. One child in particular is too scared to come any more. It would have been easiest if they had taught Barney right from the start that he gets up on sofas by invitation only but now they should teach him to stay on the floor.

It’s Christmas in three days’ time! Lots of people including children will be there. I have suggested dog gates in a couple of doorways so they can have him under some sort of physical control without banishing him altogether. After Christmas that they will have time to do some real work with him.

Barney is simply creating his own fun and ways of getting attention and his people are ‘fielding’ his attempts to get them to do what he wants, rather than being proactive. He is a working breed. He needs more to do – to stimulate his brain, but in shorter doses because he is very easily over-excited which triggers the very behaviour that they don’t want. A long over-stimulating run for a dog of this age while the man jogs would be much better replaced with two or three shorter walks. At home he can be kept busy with things to chew, hunting for food, being taught to bring things back and let them go and so on.

I found he learnt very quickly that jumping up at me was no fun at all but that listening carefully to me and watching me brought satisfaction (and food). It is much easier for me because I have so much experience and it comes naturally, but people can copy me when I show them.

Barney is a really cracking, beautiful dog. Gates, removing things and wearing ‘sensible’ clothes that don’t temptingly flap about won’t be necessary for ever. The more consistent they all are now the faster they will be able to ditch these things. He has the perfect home, and he will be the perfect family dog.

Unruly Adolescent Black Labrador

unruly adolescentI fell in love (again)! This time it was with 8-month-old black Labrador Peppa.

Her increasingly demanding attention-seeking behaviour was becoming potentially dangerous for their six year old daughter.

Behaviour worsens in the evening

It tends to be worse in the evening – as it often seems to be with many young dogs. There is a lot of jumping up in general, but when the little girl sits down to do her homework or watch TV and mum is trying to cook tea, the battle commences. Peppa flies all over the child if not closely controlled. By the time dad has come home and the adults sit down in the evening for some peace and quiet. The unruly adolescent really gets stuck in.

She starts with climbing on them whereupon she is told to get down and pushed off. Commands make her defiant (she is a teenager!). Soon this escalates to grabbing clothes, barking for attention, air snapping and even nipping.

It goes on and on until they get so exasperated they shout at her. She is getting their undivided attention now!

Understandably they are only too pleased when she is quiet so when she’s being good they leave her alone. That way the unruly adolescent learns that the best attention happens when she is annoying. She isn’t shown an acceptable alternative way to get their attention.

She needs more planned interaction and stimulation

It is a bit like goalkeeper fielding all the balls. Instead of waiting for Peppa to instigate something and responding to her, they need to behave more like forwards. They need to instigate attention at times to suit them and they need to teach her alternatives incompatible with her demanding  behaviour.

When they simply want peace, they will first find a bit of time for Peppa. They can also give her things to chew and to do.

I soon taught her, instead of jumping on us, to sit and then lie down instead. Each time the urge came to demand attention by jumping she was redirected to lying down whereupon she was, of course, rewarded with attention and food. Soon she was doing this of her own accord.

We then added ‘stay’ which will be gradually increased over time. She liked that game! I also taught her the ‘touch’ trick which she learnt in just a few minutes. She was literally lapping it up and eager to learn. The unruly adolescent when bored is a very clever dog with a brain that is not sufficiently exercised.

One thing that may be adding to the problem is that she’s not fed until the evening, so it’s possible the late food is giving her an energy rush of calories.

So, on one hand Peppa needs to learn self-control and to understand that good things happen when her feet are on the floor and she’s polite. On the other hand she needs a vacuum in her life filled with some constructive activity.

Bites ‘out of the blue’. Manners. Self control.

Bites out of the blue?

Patch

Reserved crossbreed Freya

Freya

Yesterday I met beautiful two year old rescued Boxer/Staffie cross Patch who lives with delightful but more reserved crossbreed Freya.

I knew that I was there because Patch had bitten four people. It was just so hard to imagine him being a dog that bites. There were absolutely no vibes around him.

Adorable.

Behaviour ‘health check’

I like to take all the background first before focusing on the perceived problem. Usually the problem (Patch bites) is a symptom of other things, not the cause.

The dogs live with a family of four, the youngest being seventeen. It was evident that certain members of the family give the dogs, especially Patch, non-stop attention.

They give him attention whenever he demands it and the give him attention when he’s not demanding it. Sometimes he may wish to be left alone. It’s all a bit high key. He jumps all over them and it’s encouraged.

This leads to a certain lack of manners and self-control which affects Patch’s reactivity of other dogs when out.

We picked apart each of the four occasions when Patch had bitten someone. We need to find out everything possible running up to the bites, during the bite, and what happened immediately afterwards.

Bites out of the blue?

The strange thing is that the biting really does seem without warning, out of the blue. Twice he launched himself at someone’s stomach and the other two times it was as the person walked away from them. There was no growling. Nobody was looming over him or trying to touch him. They didn’t react angrily.

There were only a few common denominators: the victims were people he didn’t know and each person had been standing. Freya had been present and on the run-up Patch may have been a little more stressed than usual.

Apart from that I could see no obvious cause and nothing more in common between the incidents.

However, the next day in conversation with a colleague, it hit me! On each occasion Patch was being ignored!

Spoiled dog ignored

On three occasions the family members’ attention was on the other person and not on Patch. On the fourth, the person was walking away from him. I believe that just like a spoilt child that might kick someone if he doesn’t get his own way, Patch launches himself and bites.

I have asked the family to work on behaviours incompatible with launching and biting someone; they will put a few demands and constraints upon him.

In time they should be getting Patch to work for them by teaching him to do things they want, exercising his brain. They will use rewards so that good things are earned and not always free. He then should better be able to cope with the frustration of not being the centre of attention.

If by any chance I am wrong, our strategies are still appropriate. He will become a dog with better self-control, healthy mental stimulation and better manners…and no bites.

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help.

A Novel Way to Approach Constant Attention-Seeking

Cocker Buddy lying down thinking about what he can get up to nextCocker Spaniel Buddy wants attention all the time. When they take no notice of him he jumps the stair-gate, rushes upstairs and raids the bedrooms for something to parade. It always ends in a chase with Buddy hiding gleefully under the daughter’s bed, ‘Catch me if you can!’

I asked the lady to shut the bedroom doors. As we sat talking, doing our best not to react to the jumping and barking, Buddy leapt over the gate and rushed upstairs. We took no notice! I then opened the gate and left it open. He ran up and down a couple of times before settling down on the floor near us. I expect he was figuring out what he could get up to next!

I went to see 9-month old Cocker Spaniel Buddy about six weeks ago, but the situation then was very different http://www.dogidog.co.uk/?p=10932 . He already had been trying the lady’s patience to the limit when she took on Golden Retriever Ollie. Buddy and Ollie exhausted each other, but the previous people changed their mind and wanted him back which was actually rather fortunate. The lady had hoped that another dog would calm Buddy down, but now she had double trouble.

I came up with a plan using a bit of reverse psychology. ‘Let’s shower him with things to do under our own terms and keep him busy’.  So I called him over which meant he had to get up. He ran over eagerly – it looks like something is going to happen! I quietly asked him to sit which he did instantly, and treated him. I experimented to see if he understood ‘Down’ when asked the once and gently. Yes. Treat. I then left him and went and sat back down again. Buddy settled once more.

I didn’t leave him for long. I repeated the process every five or ten minutes, adding variations to the ‘tricks’ and teaching him to roll over as well – a thing he does when he wants to be uncooperative so that now he’s doing it upon request instead.  Again I let him rest and we continued talking. Next I called him and we did a couple of minutes of lead work around the room. Once more I went and sat down and Buddy settled. The lady can gradually add play and games and teach him all sorts of fun things. I feel certain that when he is almost overdosed with attention he will stop looking for it so desperately. He is a clever working dog and needs frequent sessions of activity.

If at those times when he is most demanding, two or three bouts of constructive attention is lavished on him but under their control – not petting but by getting him to work for it – Buddy will become a much happier and more fulfilled dog. Gradually the intervals between sessions can be lengthened and Buddy will learn to be patient and wait – knowing that his turn will come when the lady is ready – because it always does. He really does want to please given the chance. He will bond better with his humans and he should no longer feel the need to pester.

A couple of weeks have gone by and I have just received sort of email that makes me feel so happy:“….. its like having a different dog. The times he has got into the bedrooms he just steals a slipper or shoe and most of the time brings it to us. so we say thank you and he seems very pleased with himself :). When we eat at dining table he doesnt jump up he just lays underneath until we finished …. Getting him to do things, sit and down is going well, rolling over is getting there……jumping all over us has stopped a lot. I know we have got a long way to go but im feeling so much more happier and i know buddy must be to as he now getting so much attention for being good. I have forwarded your website and contact number to everyone i know who owns a dog and has problems lol”.
And a couple of weeks after this: “Just a quick one but we have No howling or barking in mornings and now even get a lie in at weekends yipppeee”.