Unpredictable Humans so Unpredictable Pup

Unpredictable pupSometimes, just sometimes, things don’t work out as we would like. This through absolutely no fault of our own.

It could be a mismatch or an environment not best suited for a puppy.

There can be all sort of reasons, including lack of company with people being out at work all day.

In the case of 7-month old French Bulldog Ezra, it’s not lack of company that is the problem. It’s too much. Too many people at times. Too unpredictable. Too noisy.

What puppies need more than anything else is predictability (like children). It makes them feel safe and allows them to learn self-control and to be predictable themselves.

Unpredictable. Too noisy, too much happening.

In Ezra’s case, it’s his exposure to unpredictability and occasional chaos that has led him to biting. It’s the only way he can get any control over things that are simply too much for him.

The family is large and extended. One of the younger children has issues that make him unpredictable and noisy.

The other day Ezra bit him on the lip. The ten-year-old was taken to A & E.

The boy himself explained the run-up to this and it included noise, people, loud TV which Ezra hates. The dog was already over-aroused. He had jumped onto the floor probably to get away and the child had slid off the sofa onto the floor beside him. He had pushed his face into the little dog’s and stared into his eyes. He has a sort of compulsion to do those things he knows will upset Ezra.


Another family member, a young man, had a couple of weeks previously been bitten on the nose quite badly. He said he was doing nothing, but questions revealed a sequence. The dog will undoubtedly have high stress levels to start with. The doorbell had rung, making him very excited. He had been chewing bones. He then jumped up on the young man’s lap (why do people always think this means the dog wants to be touched?). The TV may have been too loud. The man had his hand on Ezra’s back.

Then, for seemingly no reason at all, Ezra flew at his face.

Unpredictable? I’m sure there will have been warnings. Possibly Ezra will have frozen. He is now learning the only way to get away from unwanted attention is to bite.

A habit is forming which started with nipping. Each time he attacks it in effect gives him respite so the more of a learned behaviour it becomes – the more likely it is to happen again unless the various criteria that lead to the behaviour are changed.

Dogs need choice – a say in the matter.

Does he want to be touched just now? Does he want to be left alone just now?

In addition to altering these criteria which won’t be easy (creating calm, choice and predictability) the situation needs to be safety-managed.

A muzzle is good as a safety thing in emergency, but using it so that people can be free to do as they like around Ezra would be very wrong.

Since speaking to me on the phone the other day when Ezra had bitten the boy, the lady has had the pup in a crate in the dining room when the younger kids are about. She will be locking the doors to the room when she’s not in there – Ezra safely shut away with plenty to do.

(This sounds like Ezra is now shut away all the time but that isn’t the case. They are managing to juggle things so that he has plenty of attention and outings).

Dedication, kindness and patience.

The lady is treating Ezra with the same dedication, kindness and patience she treats all the family which includes several young people she has taken under her wing.

The younger family members will be changing their own behaviour where possible as will the older ones. We are looking at ways of using clicker and food to create a more useful relationship between Ezra and the boy.

It may be at the end of the day that they aren’t the right home for Ezra. This happens.

They will know that they’ve not left any stone unturned. Where you can’t fully control the humans and have to rely solely upon management there is always the risk that, in an unguarded moment, management falls down. A door can be left unlocked.

At the end of the day these kind people will be making the right decision for both Ezra and their family.

I received this email out of the blue nine months later: Life is good we have had a long journey with **** & Ezra but we have found some compromise & middle ground. Zones, gates, time out for all & listening to the ladder of communication mean that we are living together peaceful most of the time. Thank you for all your help to find a solution that has enabled us to care for everyone safely & has meant that Ezra can remain with us.
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 Ezra 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, particularly where aggression 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 (see my Help page)

Another young Miniature Schnauzer reactive to people

Miniature Schnauzer Basil is scared of people coming to near himWhat a cutie! Basil is only seven months old and life isn’t always easy for him. Mainly, he’s scared of people coming too near to him or into the house and he barks like mad. First time dog owners, they have taken advice from a so-called trainer/behaviourist who advocated things like teaching him impulse control by having him on lead, putting his food down and as soon as he goes for it to jerk him back and shout Leave It. How cruel and pointless is that! Fortunately his caring owners, who only want to do the best for him, didn’t follow these instructions.

Other advice, this time from the breeder, has included using a pet-corrector when he barks both at home and on walks where he barks at people (this is punishing fear rather than getting to the root of the problem and dealing with that!). A trainer advocated forcibly controlling him on walks with a Gentle Leader not used ‘gently’. Poor Basil started to run away when the lead was brought out – and no wonder. Thankfully they also abandoned this a week ago and already Basil is happier before walks. They now need to go back to the beginning and teach him to walk comfortably on a loose lead, and then work on his apprehension of approaching people.

One very good thing in Basil’s life is he goes to a good doggy daycare once a week where he mixes with plenty of dogs and they are grouped according to size and temperament, so they don’t need to worry about his socialising with other dogs whilst they work on his lead walking.

There is another challenge for them all. They have an autistic ten-year-old whose actions must baffle Basil. She is noisy and ‘sudden’ – her actions can be random. Basil barks at her also. He needs helping out.

Let’s look at it from the perspective of a small dog. Large unpredictable humans approaching and looming, maybe shouting or moving suddenly, would scare any dog. We worked on his barking at myself and he calmed down surprisingly quickly. They could see by the way I moved slowly, didn’t go up to him, looked away and talked calmly whilst they also quietly followed certain procedures, that Basil quite soon was happy around me and taking treats. I am sure that, dealt with right and with the pressure taken off him, with the humans around him now helping him out through understanding not force, gadgets, commands or punishment, he will become more trusting and less fearful.

 I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.