Attacked Three Times by Other Male Dogs. Walks Spoiled

Dogs have attacked Coco. Three times.

Off-lead, out of control dogs can cause so much damage. The actions of people who risk letting their own reactive dog run freely up to another dog can completely spoil the future walks of both the dog it attacked and his owners.

The young lady did everything possible to give her beautiful Shiba Inu, now eighteen months old, the perfect start in life.  She chose Coco so carefully from a good breeder and socialised him brilliantly to people, other dogs, noise etc. They lived in a flat in London and took him everywhere with them, habituating him well to daily life.

She really couldn’t have done more.

Attacked three times.

In giving him the opportunity to play and get to know other dogs, like all of us she took the risk of his encountering ‘the wrong’ dogs. On three separate occasions another dog attacked Coco. It seems they were males each time. Continue reading…

Big Change in the Dogs’ Lives. From Free to Restricted.

So much change. The four dogs of interesting mixed breeds were flown over here from South African only two weeks ago and everything is different.

They have generally settled in really well to their new home.

A huge change in their lives.

Big change in the dogs' lives

Bella at the back and Dobby in front

The older two dogs have had previous experience of training, walks and probably traffic. They came from a rescue.

The two younger dogs have lived with the family since they were very young puppies.

Six-year-old Dobby, a cute Pekenese mix, was given to them at six weeks old. Bella, the youngest at fourteen months, was found on the street corner at just three weeks old. Some of her current behaviour is probably due to lack of the beneficial contact with her mother along with what she should have learnt from her siblings.

My client describes Bella as a typical African dog. She’s probably a mix of all sorts of things but looks quite like my little working Labrador in size and shape.

Previously they lived in a big house with a huge enclosed garden. Nobody came knocking on the door but a bell was rung from a distant gate.

The dogs ran free.

Free also to bark at anyone coming too close to their property. There was a lot of action and background noise about the place.

Now they live in a very nice but much smaller house over here. Everything is very quiet. The garden is not big and they are surrounded by neighbours who won’t appreciate barking.

The change from plenty of background noise to quiet means that any sounds tend to be sudden – and something to bark at.

There are two main issues for the family. The first is the noisy and alarmed way the dogs react to anyone knocking on the door and coming into the house. The other is the difficulty in walking the dogs together.

At the front door.

Never before have they had someone knocking on their door. It’s easy to understand how dogs don’t like this sudden banging.

When I arrived we had set it up that I would text outside the door, the dogs would be put out of the way, and only let out to join us when I was sitting in the kitchen. This worked a treat and there was no barking at all. Little Dobby would usually growl and bark at a person for about half and hour. There was one quiet growl and he was taking food from my hand.

This, then, is how I suggest they manage the ‘caller’ situation to start with.

They can get a doorbell which is less alarming I feel than sudden loud knocks. Over time they can systematically work on getting the dogs not to react to the bell. It can be the trigger for the dogs to go into another room, out of the way. A wireless doorbell with two push-buttons is ideal for working with frequent bell-rings. Success will depend upon many repetitions.

Then there will be less chaos when deliveries come.

All dogs were fine with my walking about but went mental when, having gone upstairs, I began to come down again. They have never had stairs before – another change. The way we set up my arrival worked very well. We need to work out something similar for when a person goes upstairs.

They bark also when a male family member comes downstairs, so I suggest for now the man sits on the top stair, calls the dogs up to him and they then can walk down together.

So the ‘manage callers’ part of their aims will be a mix of physically managing the situation along with systematically getting them used to the sound of a doorbell and also feeling good when they hear it.

Walking the dogs.

The ‘walking dogs’ part of their aims boils down to working with the two younger dogs individually until they are less reactive to other dogs and people. When aroused on walks and together, Bella will redirect onto Dobby. These two aren’t used to leads and probably not accustomed to much tarmac and paving, or traffic. The older two are fine.

Bella and Dobby have separate walking plans.

Bella pulls like mad and is very reactive to any dog she sees, even at a distance but is okay with people.

Dobby is hysterical with excitement before even leaving the house. He also pulls and the outside world experience sounds like it’s just too much for him. Whilst he’s okay with other dogs he freaks out when a person walks towards them.

Bella and Dobby, in time, can then be gradually integrated one at a time with the older two, then walked together as a pair, before trying to walk them all together. How quickly they achieve this will depend upon how much time they have to work on it.

Because the dogs have only been over here with them for just a couple of weeks, their behaviour may well change further as they adapt to their new environment over the next month or two.

The dogs are doing really well despite the huge upheaval and change. I’m sure this is because the family of four all work so well together on their dogs’ behalf.

Calm Down. Less Excitement, less Reactivity to Dogs

Calm down, Louis!

Young Staffie Bulldog mix, Louis, is an excitable delight who finds it hard to calm down!

Surprisingly, he does with ease something requiring real self-control that many other dogs would find hard. When the doorbell rings, as they go to open the door he takes himself off into another room! No barking.

He was let out to join me and had a good sniff.

Then the jumping up began.

He seldom jumps up at his owners now but he will invariably jump up at any other people who call at the house.

This is not really about jumping up, is it. It’s about excited, friendly greetings with maybe a tinge of anxiety.

Face to face is where dogs think greetings happen.

Imagine how hard it is for an excitable dog that isn’t shown what the human protocol for welcomes is – in a way that he understands.

Why does he keep jumping up despite scolding? The result must be worthwhile in some way. He gets a result that hypes him up even more. This will be attention of some sort from either the visitor or the couple who feel they need to intervene.

Trying to calm down his excitement

Louis trying self-control while he has his photo taken!

For Louis to gain some self-control he needs to calm down. People need to help him by not reacting to the jumping up but by showing him and reinforcing the greeting behaviours the do want with the attention he craves.

There is a fine line to what they can do! The smallest touch or silent drop on the floor of food may have to be enough. Any more and he will be jumping up with excitement again.

Louis is such a biddable dog. He really does his best. I took the photo of him trying with all his might to sit still for long enough. Look at that ‘trying my damnedest to sit still and please you’ Staffie face!

Louis with his own humans is different to Louis with others.

He jumps up at people but not his own two humans.

However he may react to other dogs when on walks with his owners, particularly on lead, but he’s fine dogs when out with other people. (Louis runs free with other dogs three times a week with a dog walker and is no problem at all).

Their concern started with a fight between Louis and a dog they had walked him with for a couple of months.

The dog he knew, with issues of his own, was muzzled as usual. This time there were two smaller dogs in the group and all four dogs including the muzzled dog were off lead. There was a lot of ball-throwing (guaranteed to wire dogs up) and more humans in the mix than usual.

It was all too much. The excitement sparked trouble. It had gone past the point where they could calm down.

The larger muzzled dog eyeballed Louis who suddenly retaliated. The two dogs were immediately parted – with some minor damage to the human hands that were involved.

Once something has happened, owners very understandably get nervous.

Walks are never quite the same or as enjoyable again.

Now when Louis is on lead and sees another dog, he may lunge and bark. How much of this is generated by the tightening of the lead by his worried humans they can only guess. How near to the other dog that it happens can vary.

I suggested they have a ‘week off’. A complete break from worrying about encountering other dogs. To avoid them altogether for a week. Walks are to mean something different – not simply as much exercise as they can cram in for an hour going from A to B.

Both they and Louis can have time to calm down and enjoy wandering, mooching, going nowhere in particular. Take a look at this: Take time to smell the roses (or pee if you are the dog), by Steve Mann.

Louis, after all, is still socialising with his friends and other dogs three times a week with his walker who has not problems with him at all.

During this week they can rehearse and role-play what they will do when they see another dog. The couple will work on an escape procedure for if they are taken by surprise.

They can do more work on the desensitisation they have already begun – encountering dogs at a distance where he can cope – the threshold. They will now add counter-conditioning – associating other dogs with the good stuff. We have worked out quite a tight plan of exactly how to do this for real.

“Look – a DOG!” (hooray, wonderful, good news!).

The couple say they have spotted Louis’ thresholds already but they have either kept advancing or avoided the dog altogether. This is just what most people do and why these things usually don’t improve.

Currently they may try to distract him. Although this may keep the peace, it doesn’t teach him anything. Louis needs to know the dog is there, that it’s at a comfortable and safe distance and that he’s not going to be forced too close for comfort.

Then he will be helped to start feeling good about it.

If he’s so relaxed and enjoying his walks as I predict he will be when he has managed to calm down, they may even need to point the dog out to him. This will avoid a sudden surprise. “Look – a DOG!” (hooray, wonderful, good news!).

 

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 Louis. 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).

Training Classes, a Reactive Dog. Compatible?

Bay loves training classes

Ben

I have just come home from seeing three wonderful Border Collies.

They are all rescues and like so many, two are from Ireland.

So often Border Collies I visit, beloved family pets, also live a life of frustration, unable to use their clever brains or fulfill their instinct to herd. The loving hard work the couple has done has paid big dividends. The dogs are given plenty of enrichment in their lives including being regularly taken to training classes. Two of them do agility also.

Their main reason for my visit is for both Ben and Timmy to be less reactive to other dogs – most particularly Ben who will react as soon as he sees another dog in the distance.

Is dog training doing anything for Ben’s reactivity to other dogs?

Ben will soon be nine and has some Australian Shepherd in the Collie mix.

He adores the training itself but takes a while to get used to the other dogs in the class, even those he sees week after week.

Timmy

How can they mix training classes with changing Ben’s reactivity to other dogs?

It’s proven that the way to help a dog with reactivity to other dogs is to work with sufficient distance between them that the dog feels safe and relaxed.

Here is an excerpt from an excellent article by Tobin Foster PhD: ‘Letting another dog approach and greet a fearful (or reactive) dog is too intense!  Quick retreats at the first sight of an approaching dog is too brief!   Letting your dog watch another dog from a distance and for a long time (until he loses interest is best!) will produce the most effective results in most cases.’. Tobin Foster, PhD

Bearing this in mind, how then can Ben manage the classes?

We looked at ways of turning his training classes into a positive.

The lady will see if Ben can now join the final class. He then no longer has to run the gauntlet of other dogs waiting to come in to the next class as he leaves by the only door.

They can arrive very early, watching the other dogs arrive one or two at a time from a distance. Ben can also watch the dogs from the previous class leave – from a distance. The lady can be ready to retreat, putting more distance between them, if he gets agitated.

She can then work at pairing the sight of sufficiently distant dogs with food and happiness.

She can even point them out: ‘Look at that!’.

Now I suggest the lady experiments with walking towards and into the hall, lead loose, being ready to walk out again if Ben ‘tells’ her with his body language that he’s not happy – before he starts to bark if possible.

Fortunately the lady believes that her good, switched-on trainer will be up for this.

Timmy, too, barks at other dogs.

He barks at some dogs, not always and only when they get really close. It’s probable he has caught some of this reactivity from Ben.

Timmy is the most recent to join them and is also two years old.

He adores agility, but gets so fired up that he has nipped several people and gone for another dog. He now has solo lessons.

Just as it’s hard to make indoor training classes compatible with keeping sufficient distance, it’s hard to make agility, particularly when competitive, compatible with lowering arousal levels. Agility requires a dog to become fired up; lower arousal levels are necessary to stop him being so stirred up that he nips. Catch 22.

Tom fixates on the cat, waiting to herd her if she moves.

Tom staring at the cat

Tom staring at the cat

The third dog, Tom, is two years old and is a dream. He is however prone to fixate on the elderly cat, waiting to herd her whenever she moves.

They currently send him to his bed. I prefer to deal with the emotions behind the behaviour rather than simply controlling the behaviour. He goes to his bed willingly enough when asked but doesn’t stay there for long before he’s back staring at the cat.

Instead of simply sending him to his bed with the urge to herd or chase unfulfilled, our plan should help diffuse frustration a little.

They will also interrupt the staring a lot sooner to try to break the habit and before it gets to the stalking stage.

Going back to Ben, he loves his training classes once he’s been there for a while and has stopped barking at the other dogs. They are very keen for him to continue and, being a Border Collie, activity is especially necessary for his brain and breed.

Stopping the training classes and agility for now would be the easy way to work on resolving reactivity and over-arousal problems.

But at what price?

 

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 these three dogs. 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. 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)

Excited Dog in his New Home

Excited Bodie taking a rest

Taking a rest

An excited young dog.

After the last four cases, here was a dog who was really pleased to see me!

Beautiful friendly, bouncy, happy and playful Bodie was found by the roadside in November. Since then he has been in kennels and now, for the past week, he’s been in his new home. It’s no surprise that with all the change he can be too excitable – particularly as the younger adults in the family may also be so excited to have him that in their enthusiasm they are winding him up further.

They have been told Bodie is about two years old, but he seems a lot younger to me. He is quite a mix with certainly some collie. The picture doesn’t do justice to his happy nature and athletic build.

His issues are all due to over-stimulation, sensory overload and lack of self control. It’s understandable as in effect he’s been released from prison. He jumps up relentlessly whether one is sitting or standing, he pulls on the lead as he’s bombarded with the smells and noises outside and he will bark non-stop at the sight of another animal. He barks should he even hear another dog. They reckon his time alone in kennels surrounded by other barking dogs may have something to do with this.

It’s fair to guess that Bodie is a dog that had been loved and very well-socialised with people but maybe not so much with other dogs. It’s also a good bet that he’s had a lot of freedom, unrestricted by a leash. How he came to be left by the roadside is anyone’s guess. He’s a gem.

 

Bodie’s time in kennels can be used to their advantage.

Two things are certain. During his time in the kennels he had limited exercise. During his time in kennels he was used to being shut away by himself. Both these things can actually be used to their advantage if not left too late.

When his jumping up became too much and I couldn’t both work on him and talk with them, they shut him in the conservatory for a break a couple of times. He didn’t complain and immediately lay down on the chair, accustomed to being put away.

For the next few weeks I feel they should continue to put him by himself for short periods when he gets too much so that he never develops issues with with being left alone, issues that are hard to deal with later on.

The other point is, having almost certainly been let out or given a walk for only a short time each day, Bodie doesn’t expect lots of exercise. It’s very likely from his behaviour that in his previous life he had been left to do his own thing. As he’s not used to his day revolving around walks, it means that they can teach him to walk nicely and get him desensitised to the outside world gradually with lots of very short sessions.

The gentleman had taken him for three quite long walks in one day the other day to calm him, and in fact, despite of all that exercise (or because of it), Bodie had come home more hyped up than when he left.

Sarah Reusche makes a good case for how exercise and excitement can sometimes be too much of a good thing.

As is so often the case with their new rescue dogs, people in their efforts to get things right actually do too much too soon.

So, without feeling guilty, they can work on loose lead technique around the house and garden, simply standing still outside, working on distance dogs or barking, advancing to walking around outside the neighbouring houses and so on – gradually building it up. When they have time they can pop him in the car and take him to somewhere open and let him explore on a long line.

The more short outings he has, the less excited he will be and the less overwhelming the outside world will become.

The whole family will need to do their bit to help him to become less excited. Instead of vigorous play and encouraging jumping about, they can teach him some self-control by giving him what he wants in a calm fashion when his feet are on the the floor. Understandably and like many girls, the young adult daughter wants lots of cuddles, unable to see otherwise the point of having a dog. That will come if they take it easy now.

With a clicker it was amazing just how soon Bodie got the message and stopped jumping all over me. He first worked it out that sitting worked and then he took it further by lying down as well. It was obviously the first time the clever dog had ever had a clicker used with him. He was really using his brain.

There was no telling him what to do or what not to do – he was working it out for himself.

If they all take their time now and don’t push it, they will be rewarded with a wonderful family pet.

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 Bodie. 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 which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. 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 Get Help page)

Walking Nicely

Having lived in a barn till 5 months old, Duke lacked socialisation

Duke

Previously the GSD had been beaten for destroying things when left alone all day

Princess

The last of German Shepherd Princess’ eight puppies went to a carefully checked home a couple of weeks ago and she has now been spayed.

Duke on he right (the puppies’ father) and Princess, both three years old, had the wrong start in life. Duke was in a barn and then not taken out until five months old which left a big gap in his vital socialisation, and Princess  had been left alone for hours and was beaten for destroying things.

The family have made huge headway with both dogs. Unsurprisingly, their main hurdle is socialisation and reactivity to other dogs when out, particularly Duke.

There are five family members who are all involved and adore the dogs, but they have been missing the vital ingredient to real success – positive reinforcement, particularly food.

Although their sole aim in asking for my help is to be able to enjoy walks, this is where I take a holistic approach.

A dog walking nicely is about much more than ‘dog training’.

The relationship with the human is particularly important when a dog is ‘trapped’ on lead. Firstly, the dog needs to find them relevant so that they can get and hold his attention. Secondly, the dog need to trust the human to whom he’s attached not only protect him and themselves, but also to make the decisions when out. If off lead, this also involves coming straight away when called rather than putting the owner somewhere lower on his list of priorities!

In order for the human to be trusted, they must be confident and this is one big problem here in this case.

Ever since Prince had been attacked by another dog, the lady who does much of the walking has been extremely anxious whenever they see one and admits that her reactions could well be part of the problem. Even discussing it made her tense up.

The business of decision-making, trust in the owner or walker and their being ‘relevant’ in order to get and hold a dog’s attention begins at home. If these things are not in place within the safe and distraction-free home environment, seeing the person on the end of the lead as ‘decision-maker and protector’ will not happen when out in the big world in the face of potential threats.

This is why a holistic approach works best. The process isn’t just about walks and other dogs alone.

Princess and Duke will be learning to respond to a whistle which will be throughly ‘charged’ at home – using food.  To teach them to really listen, they will learn to do their usual training tricks for one quiet request – and food. They will learn to give their humans eye contact and hold it upon request, they will learn to come immediately when called at home and they will learn that although they are the alarm system, their humans are ultimately in charge of protection duty.

Associating other dogs with nice stuff (food) will be part of the solution. Perhaps the lady would like to take a bag of her favourite sweets out on walks also and to pop one into her own mouth instead of reacting in panic!

This all takes time of course, but with these basics in place and calm loose lead walking established, these dogs will eventually be in a very different state of mind when meeting other dogs than they are now – as should their lady owner.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Princess and Duke, which is why I don’t share all the exact details 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).

Beagle’s Unpredictable Barking at Dogs

Beagle Harvey is subduedThere is something so endearing about a Beagle!

Harvey is only three years old and has been on steroids for months during which time he has been very subdued. Now that he is being weaned off them he is livening up and his barking and lunging at other dogs is worsening. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern. He has many dogs he loves, but with others he can be unpredictable. I wonder whether he may not feel 100% still and could some days be more touchy than others, or whether on certain days he is more stressed. His lady owner in particular is on edge now when she takes him out, and this will not be lost on Harvey.

Harvey has had extensive training before he fell ill, but it simply did not address this problem. However well trained he is, ‘training’ can’t alter how a dog feels inside. He probably feels threatened and wary, maybe grumpy. Training can’t get rid of this. However, if his owners abandon trying to train it out of him and start to look at things from Harvey’s point of view, to understand him and to deal with his behaviour as a leader would, things will surely be changing. Time and patience is  required. Harvey will start to look to them for guidance and protection, and his owners will be able to relax on walks again.

Basically, if a course of action has been followed for months, years even, and it hasn’t worked – then it’s time for something completely different!

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