Distressed, Trembles, Whimpers at Bedtime.

Millie is a Beagle, a Lemon Beagle, ten years of age. She has lived with my lady client for eighteen months.

She is a sweet and gentle dog but she carries some baggage. Three things in particular make her very distressed. Her bedtime behaviour, her panic when left alone and continuous barking and crying when being driven in the car.

Distressed at bedtime

distressed at bedtimeBedtime is a puzzle. Last thing at night Millie is asleep on the sofa beside the lady and very comfortable. She has to be woken and goes out into the garden calmly.

The lady then fetches Millie’s bed and takes it into her bedroom, followed by Millie. She gets ready for bed then gives the dog a treat for getting into her own bed. She goes to bed herself.

Immediately everything changes. Millie jumps onto the lady’s bed.

She trembles. She whimpers, jumps on and off. Obviously very distressed, she drools.

This can go on for a couple of hours before she gives up. She has done it from the day the lady brought her home eighteen months ago.

Millie has sometimes asked to be let out and then does nothing but mooch around the garden. She doesn’t need to toilet. There is nothing in the bedroom that is different from daytime apart from the fact the lady is in bed. Leaving the light on makes no difference.

Meanwhile the lady is repeatedly saying, ‘Go to bed, Millie’. Understandably she is tired and will be getting a little cross and stressed, unable to do anything about her dog’s distress.

Eventually, after an hour or two, Millie settles on her own bed on the floor. 

The ‘why’.

The same ritual is followed every night and will now be a pattern of learned behaviour. Normally if we can deal with the ‘why’, the behaviour improves. We are doing a bit of detective work along with trial and error in an effort to get to the bottom of why she gets so distressed, so immediately and every night.

The night-time behaviour will most likely have its roots in her past history. (While I am writing this I wonder whether it could be something perfumed on the lady st bedtime that Millie can smell with her Beagle nose. Something she associates with a past terrifying experience).

One thing is certain, if the lady carries on doing exactly what she’s doing now, so will Millie.  Changing the ritual has to be a place to start.

I suggest the lady lets Millie out to toilet a bit earlier and then lets her go back to the sofa for another hour or two. She can ditch her whole bedtime ritual and just get herself ready for bed. Millie can choose for herself what she wants to do.

Shutting her out of the room isn’t an option. The second major problem the lady has with Millie is separation – another matter we will be working on. She can’t let the lady out of her sight.

It will be hard, but I suggest that the lady tries turning over and ignoring all Millie’s distressed pacing, whining and drooling. Her constant trying to tell her to settle doesn’t help at all. It’s just possible that her constant agitation and ‘Go to bed, Millie’ is in some strange way reinforcing.

Could pain be involved?

We also noticed that Millie looks a bit awkward when she sits and when she lies down. She was spayed recently and nothing picked up, but I wonder whether she has pain in her hips. Her distressed behaviour at night is certainly panic, but maybe it’s pain as well. Pain always affects behaviour

The separation problems will also be baggage she brought with her. The way forward is to deal with the emotions she is feeling – the panic – and gradually get her to feel differently about being left.

Getting into such a distressed state at night time and again about four times a week when she is left alone for a few hours, Millie’s stress levels must be constantly raised. Added to this is the car ordeal. This happens daily as they have to drive somewhere for her walks.

Although Millie looked calm and slept while I was there, there will be more going on inside.

All her problems are due to fear in one way or another. Each thing we can do to build up the lovely, gentle dog’s confidence and reduce her stress levels will have a knock-on effect.

A month has gone by and real progress made: ‘An update for you: the night time routine is going well (no more trembling, whimpering or distress). Even when I come home late and go back to the old routine she only stresses for a short time before she settles, so that is good…I am pleased to say that I have been out a few times recently and there hasn’t been any tiddles, I leave her as you said and with a kong….She is much better with other dogs now, if I think a dog is one she doesn’t like I go in a different direction and give her a treat! So things are definitely improving and hopefully her stress levels are beginning to go down.'[divider type=”white”]
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. Fears need professional help. Click here for help.

Left All Alone. Panics. Tries to Escape.

The Beagle can’t be left all alone.

When they adopted Libby a couple of weeks ago, they had no clue they wouldn’t be able to go out to work and happily leave her.

She had previously been fostered out by the rescue – to a home with several dogs. Her history was sketchy; she was from Ireland and had had at least one litter of puppies.

There was no hint of the problems to come.

Left all alone makes her panicThe couple had gone out to work, leaving Libby in the kitchen. They came home to a wrecked bed and chewing around the front door. She had jumped the gate.

It was the same the next day so they had to put her in the crate and set up a camera. Libby again went frantic.

They came home to bent bars where she had tried to get out and only through luck she hadn’t damaged her teeth.

They have since left her with someone else and Libby is fine. It seems she’s not in a panic about losing her new owners so soon after finding them. Her behaviour at the foster home suggests other dogs are sufficient company.

Left all alone. Panic.

In all other respects Libby seems a calm and peaceful dog – perhaps a little ‘careful’. It’s early days. She greeted me with polite interest and lay in her bed much of the time as we chatted.

Being left all alone, in a new place, has set off big panic.

I use an analogy of one of us stuck alone in a broken lift, believing nobody knows we are there nor how long we will be left before being rescued – if ever. We would frantically try to get out, to break the door.

Shut in her crate, all alone, she might be feeling something like this.

Once she’s had the panic attack she will be very alert to the same thing happening again.

They are now making temporary arrangements to avoid Libby being left all alone. She will be going to dog daycare on certain days and will get temporary help from a neighbour.

They face two challenges at present. Firstly Libby now won’t easily trust them not to desert her again. Secondly, they have to go to work.

A systematic approach.

They will work on the crate and on leaving her as two separate things, but concurrently. Then they can integrate the two. Keeping a chart is useful.

Libby doesn’t seem worried by the crate itself so probably has been crated before. She will even choose to go in there at times.

Some things need to be constant each time they leave her sight. Other things need to deliberately be varied.

Constants include ritual when they leave her sight and return into her presence. They will drop food on leaving but be boring when returning.

Variables include randomising the times they put her in her crate, how long she stays for, whether they shut the door or leave it open, whether one of them walks out of the room or house, whether they go upstairs…… and so on.

Our ‘left all alone’ programme.

The aim is to come back before she begins to stress.  Otherwise she could learn that her frantic behaviour, noise etc. actually can get them to come back.

They have a camera and can watch her from their phones.

In the house they will regularly shut doors and the gate on her so she gets out of the habit of following them about. Initially they will do this with someone still in view.

As someone walks out of sight they will drop food (fortunately she loves her food). When they come back in sight they will ignore her.

Gradually they will add to this one person actually going out of the back door and after a short while returning (with someone still in the house). Next with nobody in the house for a few seconds.

They will gradually increase duration left all alone.

Now they do the same with the front door – the door they went out from when going to work.  And so on.

Adding the crate to the process.

Putting her into her crate will continue to be random so it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s going to be left all alone.

When absences get to ten minutes or more they will leave her increasingly good things to do.

I am hoping that, with sufficient time and patience, Libby will be sufficiently happy being left all alone for three or four hours she won’t need the crate at all.

One novel idea is DogTV.  From America, it’s available online and for dogs that are left all alone. If they can get it onto their TV screen it could just be that dogs running about and doing stuff could feel like company.

As the next few weeks go by, other things will very likely develop so we will be ready as so happens with an adopted rescue. She probably hasn’t yet blossomed into her full potential yet – whatever that is.

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 Libby. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog as it can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly. There are various causes and types of separation problems so we need to get it right. 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).

Assistance Dog. Assistance Human. Companion.

The young owner and her dog have a special partnership. Her aim is for the 21-month-old Beagle, Lulu, to become her trained assistance dog, particularly giving her confidence where meeting people when out is concerned.

A Beagle for an Assistance Dog?

Beagles are renowned for being friendly, gentle and affectionate. They aren’t however renowned for great recall – genetically bred to hunt. However, over the past few months Lulu’s young owner has been studying dog behaviour and is already very switched-on. She has been working very hard. Lulu’s recall is great.

Beagle as assistance dogThere are some hurdles to overcome.

Where Lulu may not be so typically Beagle is where her wariness of people is concerned. This is something that will need to be resolved if she’s to make a good assistance dog. The young owner has already made great progress with people approaching directly or coming too close, but there is a way to go.

Most of us know how difficult it is to stop a determined ‘dog lover’ from coming up to our dog, looming over and putting a hand out to touch her. She will need to become accepting of this. A ‘Dog in Training’ vest should help.

Her role as assistance dog will also require Lulu to be fairly bomb proof to sudden noises and appearances. It will require that she is much more chilled about people coming into her home.

My job as a general behaviourist is to help the young owner to build up Lulu’s confidence. From there they will get more specialised help from someone who works specifically with this kind of assistance dog.

Arousal

Recently the young owner moved back home where Lulu joins two other dogs, Nettie, a Labrador Staffie mix, and a little terrier.

With three dogs and five people in the household, there is a lot more excitement.

Callers coming to the house are posing a problem at the moment, with both dogs barking initially and again if the person gets up and moves about. Strangely, Nettie didn’t do this before Lulu came to live with them. Now Nettie starts it off!

When the two dogs regularly bark at passing people and other dogs from the window or the garden, they are, to their minds, chasing people and dogs away. It works. Where Lulu reacts to people, Nettie reacts to other dogs.They are rehearsing the very behaviour that’s unwanted when they are out.

Underpinning everything is for all three dogs to be a lot calmer. This can only happen if the humans themselves are calmer with them.

Reducing barking is a large part of the calming down process. Family members can help too by not playing hands-on vigorous games, along with not getting the dogs excited when they return home. It’s not necessary. We humans don’t greet one another in that way after a few hours apart, do we.

Out on walks

Lulu’s assistance dog role will be needed most when they go out.

Both dogs pull on lead and are usually walked separately. When she has calmed down, however, Lulu can walk nicely – I have seen videos.

The road walks will begin with just hanging around near to the house and waiting for calm. Now Lulu needs two things. She needs to learn to walk nicely beside the girl when ‘on duty’. She also needs ‘Lulu time’.

I suggest more frequent very short walks to work on technique, with a Perfect Fit harness (D-rings on both back and chest) and double-ended training lead. Lulu can learn to feel the difference between how the harness is used when being asked to walk nicely and when she can have a bit of freedom – ‘off duty’.

Walking nicely beside the girl can be prompted by attaching the lead both to the front and chest. After a few minutes of this, one end of the lead can be unclipped and left on either front or back only. Lulu can now be given full length and the girl can allow Lulu to lead her where she wants (within reason). Lulu can choose.

Because her recall is so good, Lulu can then be taken to somewhere open where she can be free to let off steam, run around and sniff.

Where encountering people is concerned, they will continue to work with Lulu’s wariness of approaching people using the ‘Engage/Disengage Game‘ which involves keeping as much distance as is required.

Operation Calm

So, it’s ‘Operation Calm’ to start with, to establish firm foundations.

Both the girl and her lovely Beagle can help one another by sending currents of confidence up and down the lead when approached by someone, rather than tingles of anxiety

Lulu may soon be in training to become a proper Assistance Dog; the girl is already Lulu’s Assistance Human!

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 Lulu and the other dogs and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where fear or aggression is 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)

 

Feels Unsafe. She Runs for Home.

Eight weeks ago Holly came from a pound in Cyprus to live with my lady client. Holly is a Beagle mix, three years of age.

Holly feels unsafe with sudden soundsAlthough initially spending a lot of time in her bolthole under the kitchen table, she didn’t start off particularly spooked by sudden sounds. This is may have been because, trying to adjust, she was simply shut down.

Whilst becoming more confident at home, over the time she has become increasingly spooked outside.

With hindsight things should have been taken a lot more gradually, one new thing at a time, but she seemed to be coping. I believe things have been stacking up to a level where she’s lost her resilience.

It was, and still is, a world of new and unpredictable things. There will have been the cage for the aircraft, the flight, the car journey and then arriving to a house. Had she ever lived in a house before?

She was then taken out for walks. On lead, she was very scared of traffic, particularly lorries. She is scared of all wheels.

To start with the lady would let her off lead in the nearby park and she ran free. She was in her element.

Holly was waiting at the front door.

Then, after just a few weeks, she had run out of sight. The lady, in a panic, called and called, but Holly didn’t reappear.

With much more sensitive ears, Holly must have heard something the lady didn’t hear. It sent her running in panic.

She had run across roads and was waiting at the front door. There were scratch marks on it as she tried desperately to get in to where it felt safe.

It soon became apparent that she was becoming increasingly scared of sudden sounds.

As Holly adapts to her lovely new, but very different, life, increasingly she feels unsafe. Having run for home a second time she now has to remain on lead. A dog that feels unsafe will feel even more so trapped on a lead. It’s most likely, whatever her history, that she will have spent some of her life either as a stray or on the streets. No leash.

Now she is resisting going out on walks. The lady had been carrying her to the car and trying to find new places, not associated with previous fears. She’s now wriggling to escape from her arms.

When I arrived she quietly took herself off out of sight, to one of her sanctuary places.

She did appear eventually and was actually very friendly. ‘Holly-Come’ brought her running for food. People aren’t the problem. ‘Sudden’ things are, noises in particular – and they don’t have to be loud or nearby to spook her.

Poor Holly feels unsafe most of the time when out of the house.

We sat out in the garden, some distance away from the open back door. Holly joined us.

All was well for a minute or two and then there was a noise from a neighbour. It sounded a bit like a metal ladder being moved. It wasn’t loud. Holly turned and slinked across the garden and indoors.

She came back out. This is a brave little dog.

She was aware of other, softer noises and I immediately rained food around her. Fortunately she is very food motivated. If I heard something that she didn’t actually react to, it still produced food.

A little later I tried tapping my hand softly on the metal table, ready to throw food. It wasn’t softly enough and sent her running indoors again. It demonstrated clearly to both of us how, to work on this, we have to begin at an extremely low level.

“Desensitization consists of exposing a subject to the thing they fear in graded exposures, starting with a form that is dilute and non threatening, and working up to full exposure to the scary thing. Counter-conditioning consists of changing an emotional response (usually from fear to neutrality or to a positive response), by pairing the trigger of the undesirable response with something that evokes a desirable emotional response. Combining these two methods creates a non-threatening but very effective way to alter phobic fear responses.” Eileen Anderson

There will be two kinds of sudden sounds, those that the lady generates herself and those uncontrolled sudden sounds that occur in the environment.

Sudden sounds generated by the lady. 

She can control both intensity and the timing. I suggested she sits near the open kitchen door if in the garden. Holly’s feeling safe depends upon an escape route.

She can tap on the table. The tap has to be even softer than mine was. Simultaneously with the tap, she can gently say ‘Yes’ and drop some food. Saying ‘Yes’ with every sound is helpful because it’s not always possible to be sufficiently immediate with food alone.

The lady can gradually increase the heaviness of the tap to gentle bang. She will watch very carefully not to send Holly over her threshold. If she does so, then they go back to a level Holly that happily tolerates before ending the session.

Over the days and weeks this can be expanded to someone else making sounds in another room. They can download or buy sound effects and use it in the same manner – in another room and very softly indeed initially.

Sudden sounds that she has no control over.

Like the neighbour moving the ladder, sounds that ‘just happen’ are a lot more tricky.

If poor Holly feels unsafe in her own garden when there is a fairly gentle noise over the fence and an open kitchen door, imagine how she must feel when out on a walk and something like a bird scarer goes off or a motorbike roars past.

As soon as there is any sudden sound, however soft and even if Holly seems fine, the lady should say ‘Yes’ and drop food. It will undoubtedly take her some practice to perfect her timing and to be consistent.

She will hold back from walks for a while. A walk is useless when the dog feels unsafe. It does more harm than good.

Because of the ladder incident Holly now may be a bit scared of the garden.

Sprinkles! Unseen by Holly, the lady will sprinkle food all over the grass and then let her out, leaving the door open so she always has an escape route. The environment, not the lady, will be delivering the food.

Holly feels unsafe on walks.

It will be like starting all over again, gradually building up Holly’s confidence. Several very short sessions a day will work best, not going beyond the garden. If she is spooked, the lady should stop straight away.

She will begin by walking Holly around the house – being encouraging – and using rewards.

Next they will go around the garden. The door should be open and if there is any sign of fear the lady should say ‘Yes’, drop food and drop the lead.

When it’s going well, she can open the back gate. They can step through it and come back in again, many times, making a bit of a game of it…and so it goes on.

All the time the lady will keep counter-conditioning bangs and anything sudden with chicken raining around Holly!

This is just the start of the plan. How long will it take before she can walk to the park? When getting a rescue dog from a completely different life, people don’t dream of challenges like this. Realistic expectations are vital. It could take a long time to build up Honey’s confidence. There is no quick fix.

 

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 Holly. 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 fear 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).

Waking in the Night Six Times to Go Out

Waking in the night – six times.

The poor lady is waking in the night up to six times to take Beagle Dexter into the garden. He toilets (poo) most times.

Then, long before dawn, Dexter’s day has started. He looks for something to wreck.

The lady is exhausted.

waking in the night

Dexter

She has two beautiful, friendly and very well-loved dogs, Japanese Spitz, Dakota, 3 – and Dexter who is nine months old.

As I usually do before I come, I asked for a list of issues. In Dexter’s case these included jumping up, stealing washing from the line, chewing the rug on the sofa, eating books from the shelf, destroying shoes, towels and tea towels. He pulls on lead, he bites when he doesn’t get the attention he wants and he howls when not in the lady’s presence. He bites her clothes as she tries to get dressed. He constantly jumps at her when she is trying to eat and when she showers he will remove the toilet rolls.

Since circumstances changed the two dogs are now left alone for many hours every day. Dexter howls. Dakota barks at things she hears – post comes through the door, the dogs next door barking. Stress levels are constantly being topped up during the day.

And – Dexter is waking in the night up to six times to toilet.

Perhaps he, too, is suffering from sleep deprivation, adding to his stress levels.

There are two main issues. One is the night time wakefulness and toileting. The other is the stress and lack of fulfillment that is causing Dexter’s behaviours. All efforts to stop him doing unwanted things result in frustration and he will jump at the lady and bite her.

Clicking for calm.

The lady’s home life revolves around stopping Dexter doing things. There is a lack of communication. What should he be doing? Dexter is confused.

Soon after I arrived it became apparent we would get nothing done unless we worked with the dogs – Dexter in particular.

Soon the lady, instead of watching out for unwanted behaviours, was watching for every small thing Dexter did that she liked, clicking and rewarding it.

At last he was understanding what was required of him. It was lovely.

He soon settled down and slept.

Calming him down and giving his life proper enrichment is one thing. The waking in the night to toilet is another.

The lady shares her bed with her dogs, so this means coming downstairs each time and he usually performs.

Why does he need to go so often? What can the lady do to get a good night’s sleep?

This is something that needs unravelling.

What goes into the dog has to come out!

What does Dexter eat? The food is average nutrition, containing ‘meat meal’ and other bulking things that will merely pass through a dog.

Like many dogs, he also eats dog poo – his own, Dakota’s and any other dogs he can pick up quickly enough when out.

He has a daily Dentastix. Reading the ingredients speaks for itself. Assuming that a man is about ten times the weight of Dexter, it’s like his eating a large lump of junk the size of ten doughnuts.

What can the lady do? For starters she can change Dexter’s diet. I would suggest ready-prepared complete raw food as there will be much less waste. Failing that, a much better kibble.

Dakota

Dexter simply must not be able to eat poo. The only way to stop this, unless he’s tied to the lady’s waist, is for him to be muzzled in the garden until both dogs have performed. He must also be muzzled when out while recall is worked on.

(Possibly a better diet will remove his need to eat poo. ‘Coprophagia’ is a separate issue that can be looked at later).

The last meal of the day can be earlier with the walk afterwards, hopefully getting his bowels moving.

Day and night may be somewhat reversed at the moment. Because of the change in the lady’s circumstances, the dogs are left alone for a very long time. The build-up both of need to poo and of energy will then, fairly logically, come to a head during the night.

They will cut out the Dentastix and use raw marrow bones for cleaning teeth instead. The right bones (never cooked bones) will help occupy both the dogs and calm them down. The lady will install a gate in a doorway so the dogs can be separated. The degree of arousal frequently results in fights which limits the use of food when they are together.

A better night’s sleep.

What Dexter consumes will be controlled carefully.

The day will hopefully be broken up by a dog walker.

Looking for every little good thing the dog does, whether it’s just to stop jumping up and putting his feet on the floor, or simply lying down calmly, will make everyone happier. These things will be clicked and rewarded. Unwanted behaviours will where possible bring no reaction or be replaced with a desirable alternative.

Enriching activities will be added to Dexter’s life. Soon the lady should get a better night’s sleep. She will have more energy for these things.

With a positive approach, cases like this tend to improve quite quickly.

The lady will be getting her life back.

 

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 Dexter. 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 aggressive behaviour 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).

Changing No to Yes using a clicker

Bella is the most adorable, soft, cute, friendly and totally scrumptious Beagle puppy of six months old.

She greeted me with lots of jumping up. She jumped up at the counters. Bella jumped at and onto the table. 

Bella is told NO. She’s told GET DOWN.

Bella being taught Yes with a clickerWhen I arrive I usually ask the people, where possible, to cease all commands. I like to see what the dog does when not controlled.

Like most people they found this hard. It demonstrates, however, that the commands they are constantly giving her teach her nothing. ‘Get Down’ may work in the moment because she just obeys the word.

It doesn’t stop her doing it again.

In fact, I would say that it might increase the behaviour if attention is what she wants.

Being unable to scold her left them helpless. They can’t simply put up with the behaviour, can they!

They already had a clicker. We were going to turn NO into YES.

The little girl aged eight sat next to me. Her instructions were to click as soon as Bella’s feet were on the floor. She was a little genius.

The child clicked and then I dropped food on the floor for Bella.

Bella too was a genius. She caught on to what clicking was all about very quickly.

Kids in bed, Bella moved on to challenge us all further. She scratched at the door and chewed the mat.

How were we going to stop her without saying NO?

With a clicker we will teach her an incompatible behaviour – a ‘Yes’.

I put out my hand to her. In no time she was touching my palm with her little cold nose. Click. Food. The man took over and he, like his daughter, was a genius too.

In one session Bella and the man, both novices, had learnt what clicker was all about. He was able to put the action on cue with the word Touch’. He was very much on the ball. I took a short video of him.

Bella went to jump at the table, the man called ‘Bella-Touch’ from the other side of the room and she ran straight over and touched his hand. Click. Food.

Soon he will be able to drop the click altogether.

We had a little break with Bella in her crate, then the man carried on. Bella was now looking at me and at the table without jumping up. Yes. Click. Food.

Being constantly told No can be very frustrating for a dog – just as it would be for a child. Bella gets stirred up and may hump the lady. She humped me.

I stood still and froze. She would have to stop eventually. As soon as her feet were on the floor I clicked. Food.

They need food to hand all the time for now – she can earn her meals. If no clicker, the word Yes will do.

They are changing their mindset from No to Yes.

To give Bella something acceptable to take out any frustrations on, she will have a ‘box of tricks’. A carton that she can wreck full of safe rubbish from the recycle bin with bits of food buried amongst it.

She can really go to town on that.

 

 

No No and No Doesn’t Teach a Dog

NO isn’t conveying to Buster what they do want of him

The word No didn't work. Clicker and food and Beagle is attentive.No No is a sure route to making an already confused dog even more bewildered – and frustrated too.

They picked up Beagle mix Buster from a rescue just a few days ago and though totally in love with him they are a little overwhelmed.

I find it hard to believe that he’s been there for two months and not quickly adopted. He’s beautiful with the softest coat imaginable. Possibly he wasn’t snapped up sooner because of his jumping up and excitability. He is only eleven months old.

You can imagine how an energetic young dog when released from two months confinement might react to being let loose in a house and garden!

He jumps up at people and the more they push him down and say No, the more wound up he gets, eventually using his mouth, teeth and claws on the hands that are pushing him away.

He jumps up at the sides in the kitchen while they prepare food. No No just winds him up.

He has mad tearing about sessions which can result on his leaping onto them or grabbing articles and wrecking them. No No!

They have a hamster in a cage at his head height. He is very curious. No No.

 

Turning No into Yes

Starting right now they will concentrate on three things – strategies to calm him down generally, removing temptation where they can, and turning No into Yes.

People can be quite surprised when I suggest a high rate of food reinforcement for everything they ask the dog to do and even to mark moments when the dog is being ‘good’ – not doing things they don’t want him to do. (This isn’t quite the same as doing things that they do want him to do).

People can also find the idea of constantly carrying food on them a challenge. This isn’t extra food which would merely make the dog fat. Why feed him all his food at mealtimes? Why not let him earn it throughout the day?

You can see from my photo how focused he became when I started working with my clicker and tiny food rewards. I had asked him to Sit (which he knows) and Wait (which I’m sure he doesn’t know) – and he did it!

Buster needs to constantly be shown what IS required of him. If jumping on the sides is not wanted, what is? Feet on the floor. But – what’s in it for him? Jumping up at the sides, the chaos it can cause and the possibility of a stolen snack is very rewarding to him. No No is just background noise.

This is my favourite video demonstrating the confusion No can cause and the success of Yes instead.

I suggest a sort of swear box. Whenever anyone says No to Buster they have to put 50p in the box. They can then treat themselves to a meal out. If they do very well, it might only be a coffee!

Is This What We Call Biting?

Beagle's biting is for attentionHow does one really define biting? Is it engagement of teeth or is it to do with the intent behind the engagement of teeth?

From what I had been told on the phone I was going to a dog that repeatedly bit people, especially the man, and I was expecting an aggressive dog.

That very day, the lady had told me, his biting had lost them his daycare.

When I arrived, at my request the one-year-old Beagle was wearing a soft muzzle with a lead attached to his harness. It was unnecessary. I sat down and the muzzle was removed. Benson was immediately all over me, much more interested in the food in my pocket than he was in me.

From when they first got him he was a very nippy/mouthy puppy. Unfortunately, instead of the mouthing being discouraged in an appropriate fashion from the start, it was unintentionally encouraged. Pushing him away and playing hand games was something the men did and until he got bigger it didn’t hurt too much. Loud squeals got him even more excited.

The older he grew, the more he used biting to get the attention he craved and the more it hurt.

As he gets ‘stuck in’, Benson quickly works himself up to a stage where he looses control of himself as his arousal levels simply overwhelm him. He then gets rough and frustrated. He will paw, hump and leap as high as a person’s head. Add to this the human response by way of confrontation, scolding and maybe shouting or grabbing him, he becomes a powder keg waiting to explode.

In a particularly highly aroused state this has, a couple of times, tipped him over into real aggression. Hence the loss of his daycare.

The couple’s life revolves around ‘fielding’ the jumping up, biting and pawing Benson throws at them. When he’s quiet they are so relieved to get some peace they understandably leave him alone. They have now resorted to muzzling him when he gets too much.

As the young dog is seldom offered attention when he’s being good and quiet lest they start him off again, what does this teach him?

The real challenge is that he’s now had nearly a year rehearsing and strengthening his biting skills. It’s become learned behaviour – a habit. It could be a difficult habit to break. The only way to achieve that is to do exactly the opposite to what has been done so far. They are now going to concentrate on teaching him the behaviour they DO want, reinforcing everything that pleases them (we started this with a clicker), pre-empt when possible and divert his attention if caught soon enough onto other items that he can freely chew.

There must be ZERO TOLERANCE for biting from now on. They have to do something to protect themselves from injury so this it’s very fortunatel he seems to like that muzzle and comes to put his nose into it without being asked. I believe it may act a bit like a calming band because he settles but without shutting down completely which wouldn’t be good.

He should not get away with even two or three bites before they react. NO bites are acceptable. Anything else just gives mixed messages.

At first feel of mouth or teeth they should immediately turn away and withdraw all interaction with him, looking away and ignoring him. At this point he may well begin a very loud bark. Having made it clear by turning away that they don’t want the bite, if he does it a second time the muzzle goes on with no fuss and no words.

Unlike previously, the muzzle should be left on only for as short a time as necessary and can come off again in five minutes or when his arousal levels have dropped sufficiently for them to give him something else to do.

Most importantly, we have made a list of rewarding activities with which they can punctuate their time with him in frequent short sessions which will use his brain or give him gentle exercise without hyping him up, rewarding him for being quiet or for exercising self-restraint instead of as it is at present with the great majority of the attention he receives generated by himself – rewarding and reinforcing his antics.

Basically, the young couple will be replacing the excitement he self-generates by biting, pawing, barking and sometimes humping with healthy stimulation generated by themselves. They will need to make liberal use of food.

They are prepared for this to take some time and a lot of patience! Dear little dog.

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 Benson. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good, particularly where aggression is involved. 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 Helppage).

Discipline – is it Good or Bad?

BEagle drinking from mug on coffee tableWesley left the breeder late. He wasn’t able to interact with the real world until his injections were over at about six months old, so the family have had to acclimatise him to everything from TV to vacuum cleaner and from walking on a lead to encountering traffic. With their love they have done remarkably well with the, now, one-year-old Beagle.

I do love Beagles!

This Beagle has largely been allowed to call the tune. Things have now gone too far and they realise something needs to be done to get him ‘under control’.

What if we tell the dog not to do something and he just looks ar us, basically saying ‘No’!  We have a choice of either backing down or using force – ‘discipline’. Neither works well for us. This young adult dog will now get cross if he doesn’t get his own way. He doesn’t like to be manhandled or grabbed and he delights in stealing and destroying things, guarding his new trophies. This predictably leads to a chase which ends in wrecked objects being forced from a resistant dog.

I had to constantly remember to be careful where I put my pen, my clipboard or my mobile!

They are up and down all evening opening the door to the garden which he may or may not go through. He jumps all over everyone, sometimes encouraged and sometimes told to get down.

He flies over the sofa and over anyone sitting on it, then onto the coffee table, like the people are some sort of pontoon. Saying ‘No’ and chasing him may get him off, but he delights in jumping straight back up again. A great game! They broke something tasty into very small pieces and the son worked at teaching Wesley Up and Off, repeatedly, from chair and sofas. ‘Off’ has to be rewarding – but what is rewarding to Wesley apart from Wesley-generated attention? Petting leaves him cold – he gets too much of that already. Until now food has been his ‘divine right’. I doubt if he’s ever had to work for it, so food has to gain some value.

BEagle standing on the coffee table

BEagle standing on the coffee table

Wesley is fed on demand whenever he goes to the cupboard and paws at it – then he declines to eat.

All sorts of different things are fed to him to in an effort to please him and get hm to eat. Because the cats eat from pouches and he can watch them through the gate, he, too, now has pouches ‘so he thinks he’s eating the same as the cats’. I have suggested moving all the food away from the cupboard and giving him fixed meals only.

He for now should not have any food at all that he doesn’t earn (and no more putting his tongue on their plates while they eat and being given their food while they eat! He will be behind a new gate or in his crate with something of his own to chew).

This will be a lot harder for the lady than it will for Wesley. People can be convinced that their baby will starve and he may not eat much for a couple of days under their terms. Dogs invariably eat up properly within a few days if the food is appropriate and the quantity isn’t too much – and if the humans don’t weaken and mess about.

Wesley’s family will have their work cut out for a while! They have already from the day they got him proved how much patience they have. It’s Day One and they have made a good start. I would expect Wesley to revolt for a few days when he finds that he won’t be getting his own way so readily. They have been prepared for that.

The problem with trying to ‘discipline’ an unruly dogs is that it’s all about preventing the dog from doing unwanted things in a ‘disciplinarian’ sort of way which implies being confrontational. A confrontational approach can generate an aggressive response in a strong-minded dog. ‘Discipline’ does not teach the desired, other, preferred behaviours.

Self-discipline is a different matter.  Dogs learn self-discipline by being allowed to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Five weeks have passed and we are now getting somewhere: ‘I think you will see things are getting better. People are starting to say, “he’s a lot calmer” and “I thought you had a problem, you should see how our dog behaves”. This is good news as we now feel we are getting somewhere, although occasionally he will test us’. 

NB. The exact protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for Wesley, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here of the strategies we will be using. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. To get on top of this sort of behaviour you will need help from an experienced professional. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help (see my Get Help page).

Too Reliant Upon Commands

They don't want Terrier mix to jump up at people

Billie

The decision was that Billie shouldn’t jump up at people anymore.

Up until now jumping up has been very rewarding in terms of attention. The 6-month-old terrier cross (right) is looked at, spoken to in terms of reprimands and also touched – pushed off.

She may get down but it doesn’t teach her to stay down or not to jump up another time.

The lady even, without thinking, caught herself automatically fussing Billie as she jumped up.  Modifying behaviours like this need consistency and patience. That’s it.

The dog should get absolutely no reinforcement for jumping up from anyone – no family members and no guests.

But, most importantly, what about letting the dog know what it is we DO want?

Jumping up is natural behaviour to dogs. Puppies in particular want to get level with our faces where so much communication takes place – just as they do with other dogs.

The most powerfully effective way to teach Billie not to jump up is to reward and reinforce her for feet on the floor. We worked on this continually all evening while Billie, unused to the jumping getting no results, tried harder and harder – in effect becoming more and more frustrated as is to be expected.

Beagle mix on crate rest due to neck injury

Harvey

She was waiting for the usual instructions or reprimand, but nothing was happening!

We simply outlasted her. Every time her feet were on the floor we rewarded her immediately. We turned, looked away or tipped her off each time her feet were on us.

She was learning to work things out for herself.

Beagle

Sadie

A dog that has been ‘trained’ using commands can often find it bewildering when left to think for herself.  She is used to being ‘directed’ and it can take a while for the penny to drop.

Eventually Billie was sitting on her bed nearby and even lying down. All the time she was earning her food.  She had the self-control to sit still while I took the photo.

Billie lives with Beagle Sadie and Beagle cross Harvey. I arrived to find poor Harvey on crate rest due to a neck injury. Harvey and Billie are a ‘terrible twosome’ when Harvey is fit, so I will need to go back when he is mobile again. Meanwhile, this very active dog has nothing to do, so he will need mental stimulation.

All are rescues with pre-existing baggage. Work needs to be done in other areas, particularly with walking nicely and reactivity to other dogs.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Billie, Harvey and Sadie, which is why I don’t go into the exact details of your plan here. 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).