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).

‘Oldies Club’ Rescue Staffie Has a Home

Tommy has landed himself a comfy sofaTommy is delightful – a small Staffie X aged eight. He has had a hard life but landed on his feet a few days ago with two older gentlemen.

I am helping them to start off right with Tommy – a fresh beginning for him.

They may have a challenge not to spoil him too much in the early days. It’s much better to give a dog some rules and boundaries so that he knows what’s what from the outset. It will help him to feel secure. He also needs to be allowed some independence to avoid him developing separations issues.

There are however big problems with other dogs on walks when Tommy is on lead, and I suspect they were trying to do too much too soon. He will feel trapped on lead, in a strange environment with people he doesn’t know well. This needs to be taken back to basics, loose lead and calmer walking established, and plenty of standing and watching the world go by with the men knowing exactly how to react when a dog appears.

Because he is using aggression to protect himself, they suggested using a muzzle. I see it like this: Imagine a large gorilla is walking you on a chain through a safari park where you know there may be lions lurking. You are trapped, uncomfortable and helpless, all your attempts to pull and escape painfully thwarted. When a lion appears in the distance, rather than putting in some distance the gorilla yanks you to his side and keeps walking towards the lion – jerking the chain if you protest. This is an exaggerated version of how Tommy probably feels when out and on lead. Muzzling him? It’s like the gorilla has made you even more helpless by tying your hands behind your back.

Tommy needs to be able to trust his walker, and his walker needs to know how to react when other dogs are about.

Five weeks later: “I had my first ‘close encounter’ with another dog last night.  But for the first time I didn’t panic or tense up.  Jake was on lead and two dogs were quite a distance away.  I kept walking towards them and as soon as he clocked them I stopped and turned to walk the other way, he just followed!! In the past he would of stood his ground and not moved.  Then to top it all there was another one coming the other way, so did exactly the same.  I did put him in the car (didn’t feel quite ready to deal with 3 dogs off lead running around) and I stood in front the window facing the dogs.  They came bounding up to me, Jake didn’t move – normally he would have barked!!  Made of fuss of a couple of them, Jake just sat there.  I can’t believe how in control I felt”.
A couple of months after my visit: ‘Yesterday was two months to the day. The difference is amazing’.