Nips Legs. Barks at People. Walking Legs

Little Miniature Wire Haired Daschund, Ziggy, is scared of people he doesn’t know coming to his house. Particularly if they are standing up and even more so if they are walking about. He is a brave little dog. Instead of running, he faces his fear. He barks. He nips legs, particularly trousers.

Imagine how intimidating approaching and looming ‘walking legs’ can seem to a tiny dog.

Ziggy may react in much the same way if someone he already knows suddenly appears. If a child runs down the stairs and ‘explodes’ into the room, it will alarm him to the extent that he might rush to them and nip their legs.

A child was bitten on the leg.

Unfortunately this happened with a visiting child and, in the excitement, she received a bite to her leg.

This is a slippery slope. The more Ziggy’s reactive behaviour happens and seems to be successful (to his mind), the worse it will get. Ziggy barks at people as they come into the house through fear and probably some sense of territorial responsibility also. He behaves like he feels he must deal with them.

The adorable little dog is ten months old. He lives with an even smaller Miniature Wire Haired Daschund, Bea, a couple and their two boys.

Ziggy nips legs when people walk about.

His attempt to make people back off nearly always works because at the very least they may stop or recoil. When people and dogs pass by the garden fence he will believe it’s his barking that sends them on their way.

This is the way that matters inevitably snowball in the wrong direction.

To change the now-learned and well-rehearsed behaviour, Ziggy needs to be shown alternative, incompatible behaviours.

But this isn’t enough. Most crucially of all, his wariness of people he doesn’t know needs to be dealt with at source. He needs help to feel differently about them.

He always nips legs in a generally aroused environment. The calmer Ziggy can be general, the more successful the work will be. Calm isn’t so easy with children of around nine years old!

Management.

An important element for dealing with this sort of thing is management. With certain practical precautions in place they will simply make a recurrence of the biting incident with the visiting child impossible.

Practice makes perfect. An interesting read.

They can make the constant rehearsal of barking at their own children when they run downstairs and burst out through that door impossible – with a permanently shut baby gate that has to be opened. The time the kids have to take to open it, throwing food over first, will give Ziggy time to be prepared.

Use of the gate and of a lead will also physically manage Ziggy’s behaviour when visitors come.

Strategies for callers to the house include rolling food away from themselves for Ziggy – this immediately worked for me. He initially returned to barking between times but soon calmed down.

At any break in this barking, they can quickly say ‘Good’ and drop food, reinforcing quiet. This teaches him what they DO want. They can also reinforce him for looking at the person whilst being quiet – or doing anything else that they like.

Standing up and walking about.

I knew that the problem might start again when I stood up so I did so slowly – dropping food as I did so.

I carried on dropping food as I walked slowly about and he was fine.

Ziggy left the room. A minute later he came back in and I was still standing up. He went back to barking at me.

What worked best of all for Ziggy was, each time he began to bark at me, someone called him away brightly and rewarded him for doing so. They had Ziggy on good ‘remote control’. They were helping him out.

Every dog and every situation is different and it’s a question of finding the right individual approach. People probably need professional help for this.

With Ziggy, the physical barriers being in place like the gate will give his family the time, peace of mind and space to do the necessary behaviour work.

The little dogs have a lovely life with their family. No pressure. Nice walks. They have company most of the time and, to loosely quote, ‘they just live with us, keep us company, and have cuddles and love’. The fact that he nips legs demonstrates that things are not quite perfect for Ziggy just now.

 

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 Ziggy and I’ve not gone fully 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 fear issues of any kind are concerned – particularly anything involving children. 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)

Wary of People in Their Home

Two dogs who were picked up as strays

Basil and Rosie

The two stunning dogs of mixed breed, Basil and Rosie, recently came back to the UK with the couple who adopted them in Hong Kong where they had been picked up as strays or possibly street dogs. It’s a pity I didn’t get a better photo of them together.

As you can see, although they were now not barking or backing off anymore, both were looking away as I pointed my phone at them which I was trying to do whilst looking the other way.

As I entered the house, the gentleman was trying to corral the dogs down the passageway into the sitting room whilst also trying to keep them quiet – living in a flat they are conscious of their neighbours. I gave my rather large bag to the lady to carry as carrying a bag (like wearing a hat) can contribute to upsetting some dogs.

The barking stopped very quickly as I sat down, but they were both extremely wary. For a short while Basil was ready to bark again at me whilst Rosie backed away. I won them round with food and by making no effort to touch them when they did, soon, come to me.

The owners are particularly concerned because their dogs’ aggressive-sounding barking means that several friends simply won’t visit anymore. There is one close male friend in particular that the dogs don’t like. Apparently he always wears a baseball cap and he’s very tall which apart from the fact that dogs can be more scared of men anyway could perhaps contribute to their unease.

I suggested they had ‘people-food’ ready-prepared, small and tasty bits of food that they only use for when people come to the flat so the only way the dogs get access to this special treat is when people come in or move about.

By trying various different things we worked on a technique whereby I could walk about the room and the dogs would remain relaxed. They can then now do the same things when the friend comes this evening.

This involves, before the person starts to move, one of the owners maintaining their dogs’ attention by calling them over, asking them to sit in front of them and then gently holding onto them whilst feeding them ‘people-food’. By facing their owner the dogs would be turning their backs to the other person. Now the person can move freely about.

I found that once I was up and walking around the room the owner could release the dogs after a second or two and they were fine. This same technique would need to be used for a few seconds each time the person, having been sitting down, moved.

Fortunately these two dogs were not nearly as wary of people in their home as many dogs I go to and this wouldn’t work in more severe cases. It just suited these two. Every case and situation is a bit different.

brown dog

Basil

As always, the guests need training too. They should be asked to move slowly and casually, to give no eye contact to the dogs and when they arrive not to walk too directly or deliberately towards them or the owner. Instead, the owner should turn around and take the dogs with him so that the person follows. Until the dogs get comfortable with someone, they should try not to move too suddenly and to give warning before they stand up. The guest can drop or roll pieces of food.

In a very short while both dogs were actually eating out of my hand.

The barking and anxiety starts with the intercom bell. This is something they can work on easily. Repeatedly one of them can go downstairs and ring the bell while, as soon as the dogs hear it, they get food from the other person. Every time one of the owners either goes out or comes in, they can ring the bell. Because the bell will then only very occasionally mean someone is visiting it will no longer be a trigger, so when a caller is let in the door the dogs aren’t already pre-aroused.

Like everything to do with desensitising and counter-conditioning it takes a lot of repetitions and work. Unless they have a regular run of callers to get the dogs thoroughly at home with people coming and going, it may always need working on to some extent.

Their second issue which I shan’t discuss in much detail now is that Basil, in particular, ignores all calls to come back when he’s on a hunt. The other day he nearly got killed when a chase after a muntjac deer took him across a busy road, followed by Rosie. As a stray who probably had to rely upon hunting for food he will most likely have the chase in his blood.

They have only two safe options really which is hard because dog walks to many people are something where the dogs run free, getting plenty of exercise and doing their own thing. Now they should only ever let Basil off lead in places where there is no escape. If they want him to come back when called, they will need to put in months and months of recall work with Basil. What, after all, is in it for Jack to come back before he’s finished what he is doing? The man’s tone of voice wasn’t such that I, if I were a dog, would find sufficiently inspiring to tempt me to come back! I may not even hear him.

Recall is about much more than just training; it’s also about the dog’s relationship with the person who wants him to come back. To a dog with a high prey drive, it’s quite a challenge for someone to be more relevant, exciting and rewarding than a running muntjac or rabbit!

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’, but I choose an aspect. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be very different to the approach I have worked out for Basil and Rosie. 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).

 

Lots of Barking

Tibetan Terrier Evie feeding her puppies

Evie feeding her puppies

Evie has just had her second litter (it is hard to see which end is which but her head is on the left). On the right she is teaching three-month-old Lara some manners. Evie is the mother of Milo who is the main barker and most excitable of the dogs, and they also have six-year-old Ruby.

It takes very little to set Milo and Evie off barking. Ruby will join in. They bark whenever they hear any sound outside. Milo stands and barks in the garden whenever he goes out, joined by Evie who runs around barking. They bark frantically when someone comes in the house.

There is bedlam before taking them out for a walk – with all three adult dogs jumping and barking and it’s a fight to attach collars and leads onto Milo in particular. Milo keeps barking all the way down the road.

Tebetan Terrier puppy Lara

Lara

Evie and her puppies are kept separate from the other dogs in the dining room and hall. Three month old Lara is kept behind a gate in the kitchen, and the other two are behind yet another gate in the utility room. It is a logistical challenge! Milo who is only eleven months old pester Ruby, and to give her some peace she spends time in a crate which she then guards.

The situation is a melting pot of noise and excitement and it has been getting too much!

We broke things down and looked at each element, combining different behaviour from the humans with some ways of managing things better.  It will take time and work which the lady understands. She loves her dogs and not only breeds but also shows them.

Garden barking needs to be controlled so they can be brought in as soon as they start. Shouting ‘be quiet’ has to stop as it doesn’t help at all and a different approach used. Before walks the dogs need to be separated and shown that nothing at all is going to happen until they are quiet. Once through the gate, Milo needs to understand that as soon as he starts barking he will be going back in.

With time and patience a much calmer household should result – quieter too, although not a silent one!

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

Attacks Other Dog When She’s Fussed

Westie cross rules the roostCharlie is a thirteen-month-old Westie/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix. The cutest looking little dog you can imagine. He shares part of his life with an older Cavalier KC called Tess who is nine and who was taken on by the couple’s mother a year ago.

Charlie barked madly at me when I arrived – I had asked them to take no notice of her so I could see what he would do if not checked. Usually when a dog barks like this it is because he is scared, but when Charlie finally stopped – I asked the lady to put his lead on to take him out but he then quietened straight away – it was very strange because he was showing no signs of stress or anxiety at all. No panting. Nothing. He sat down calmly. This was my first clue as to what Charlie was like!

He is used to humans paying massive homage and I was ignoring him!

Charlie is a Very Important Dog. He makes most of the decisions in his life and his owners do his bidding. This is no real problem at home and Charlie, being a confident little character, copes well. However, when he’s with the lady’s mother, sister and Tess he is a different dog. In some ways he can’t cope with the adulation. When out, he is really scared of other dogs like he feels exposed and unprotected. His problems are most apparent by his behaviour around poor Tess. Tess is terrorised by Charlie.

When Tess is given attention, mostly by the sister or when Tess is either on her or in front of her, Charlie will go for her. He goes for her ears and has inflicted injury on both poor Tess and the sister when she separates them, resulting in a visit to hospital. On walks and off lead, he body slams Tess and now she is limping. In nearly every case the attacks happen in the presence of the sister. She makes the most fuss of him but also gets the most impatient with him. He will see her as unpredictable and confusing.

There are a lot of things in Charlie’s life that need changing. He needs more proper parenting and less adoration! He is a cracking little chap and deserves to have the weight of responsibility taken from his little shoulders.

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