Preparing Dogs for Baby Twins

Three miniature schnauzers

Dinky, Arthur and Pippin

The three Miniature Schnauzers have been the centre of the couple’s family life for years – the oldest, Albert, is now ten years old. The little dogs’ lives are soon to be turned upside down because they are expecting not one, but two babies in October.

The dogs really are the sweetest, most gentle little things, each with their own traits. Albert is probably the most sensible – he is the oldest. Nine-year-old Dinky, the girl, is a little more sensitive. Pippin is the youngest at just three and more challenging than the other two. He likes to be ahead of the others and wants to control what they have and do – which is no problem. They give in to him.

It’s because of Pippin that I was called. There has been a very recent incident, particularly worrying with the coming arrivals in mind. He nipped a toddler. The child was sitting on the floor at the dog minder’s house where the dogs stay from time to time, ‘doing nothing’. The lady and gentleman were in the room with the baby grandchild.  We don’t know where the other dogs were, but for some reason (we will never know what), Pippin just came running into the room and bit the child through its nappy, resulting in a bruise. One could speculate. Maybe a toy was involved. It was certain that at the time Pippin was already highly excited and stressed with a lot of comings and goings to the house and he’s not used to children. What the trigger was we will never know, but it was certainly completely out of his usual character.

Miniature schnauzers sitting on sofa

Arthur in front, Pippin then Dinky

The minders are fortunately still happy to look after the dogs and say they will keep them and their grandchild apart now. Pippin apparently was following the child around ‘quite happily’, or so they thought. Perhaps the incident was over a toy. Anyway, I suggest the couple carefully weans him into wearing a soft muzzle just in case, so nobody need then worry.

They have about four months to get their dog used to living a rather different kind of life. The couple will stop stirring them up unnecessarily with things such as feeding into Arthur’s toy-chasing obsession which winds Pippin up too, not pumping them up with excitement when it’s food time or when they come home from work.

There will be lots of visitors after they have had the babies, so from now on people coming to the house should be less exciting. They can gradually tone down their own greetings over time so it’s not a shock. Callers will become more mundane if they don’t take too much notice of the dogs initially – so they need training too. Sometimes the dogs are so hyped one may pee.

Several things that happen and cause no problems whatsoever now need to gradually change before the babies come. They have plenty of time. It’s so much better than several cases I have been to who haven’t considered how their dog might feel and its extreme reaction has taken them completely by surprise.

They can buy a puppy pen and teach the dogs that this is their special den, a place where only good things happen. When the babies arrive either dogs or babies can be in the pen – a perfect way to keep them safe and the dogs included in family life.

Looking ahead to when the babies are in high chairs with food (and dropping it deliberately!) they can already start teaching the dogs to keep their distance while people eat.

In the car the dogs won’t be able to jump freely all over the back seat when the babies are on it, so best to get them used to being contained behind a barrier in the back now.

There are plenty of YouTube clips of babies crying and screaming. They can expose the dogs to short sessions, starting soft, pairing crying with food so the sound of babies screaming becomes good news! They can do silly baby talk to a cushion or toy – feeding the dogs at the same time (that would make a good YouTube clip itself!). They can introduce the dogs to the smell of babies. Whenever the dogs see, hear or smell babies – the ‘food bar’ opens.

Bringing the twins home can be planned to avoid easily predictable problems. The dogs will have been staying with the dog minders for a while beforehand, so the babies will already be home. My advice to the couple is try to choose a time when infants are asleep and quiet, safely in the dog pen or behind a gate if it looks like the dogs might be territorial over the pen – so they aren’t being cuddled and so that the dogs can have the couple’s full attention. They should be given time to calm down before everyone goes to the babies. Then the ‘food bar’ opens.

It is very likely that the dogs will take two noisy, crying, sniffling, grunting and deliciously smelling infant humans entering their lives in their stride as so many dogs do, but preparing these dogs for baby twins after years of being the centre of attention is kindest on them – and safest all round.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Pippin, Dinkie and Arthur, 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).

Really Bites Out of the Blue?

Last week three-year-old Cocker Spaniel Pete had been booked in to be putCocker Spaniel's behaviour had resulted in an appointment to have him put to sleep, now cancelled to sleep.

Fortunately the lady phoned me first. Her dog had bitten her quite badly and it wasn’t the first time. She told me the many time he bites out of the blue – for no reason at all.

I suggested that she asked her vet to give Pete a thorough check including bloods and a physical examination to rule out pain and any other condition that could make him have a short fuse. Unfortunately the vet refused, saying he could see the dog was fine and then gave confusing and outdated behaviour advice.

Pete was jumping at me and grabbing my sleeves as I walked in the door. He does the same with the lady. Yet – if she steps on him by mistake, tries to touch his feet or, as she did once, tripped and fell by him, he bites her.

Should not respect for personal space go both ways?

All the bites and near-bites she listed for me can actually be explained. Most were around resources of some sort and the others around Pete’s not wanting to be touched or moved. There is a strong suggestion that at least a couple of those could involve pain of some sort.

Positive reward-based methods aren’t just some modern fad but based on sound scientific research described in all the up-to-date literature, yet still some people hang on to the old notions.

I would agree in principle that the lady should take control of her dog and be ‘in charge’, but that doesn’t mean acting like a ‘dominant Alpha’ which would undoubtedly make things far worse.  In fact, guarding behaviour often starts when people take the puppy’s food away to show ‘who’s boss’. Why do they do that! If he thinks you’re about to steal his food, wouldn’t it actually cause food guarding?

Leadership as in good parenting means building a bond of understanding and mutual respect, whereby the owner is the provider, the protector and the main decision-maker. All this is done kindly using praise and rewards, being motivational so that Pete is willing and cooperative.

I demonstrated the power of food while I was there, showing the lady how to use a clicker and chicken to get Pete eagerly working for her. What a gorgeous dog.

Nearly all conflict between owners and dogs is so unnecessary because dogs so love to please if they are rewarded and appreciated – just like ourselves.  This isn’t bribery.  At the end of a consultation when I’m paid, have they have bribed me to do my job? No. I willingly and happily do my work for them, knowing I then receive my earned reward – payment.

Unless Pete is vet-checked properly we can’t rule out anything physical and invisible, but all the same it usually is very much a relationship issue too when a dog bites out of the blue. It would be a tragedy if Pete’s life were to be ended when with consistent, kind boundaries and getting him to earn much of his food in return for cooperation and learning things, the lady could slowly gain confidence in him.

It will take time.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Pete, 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).

 

Reinforcing Good Behaviour

Maltese is scared and hides

Lingling

Chihuahua Yorkie mis protects the lady and bites ankels

Benjie

Until the lady picked her up, Lingling (left) was either hiding under the table or peering round the corner licking her lips, yawning and lifting her paw. A scared little dog.

Benjie was protecting the lady.

They are both very reactive to anything happening outside their home and bark madly. Both dogs are frightened of people they don’t know.

They have bitten ankles. Benjie doesn’t like people approaching the lady.

With such a friendly and outward going owner, it’s hard to understand why the two dogs are so wary of people until one looks into their early life.

Maltese LingLing, now three years old, came from a puppy farm and was in a terrible physical state. A year ago Chihuahua-Yorkie mix Benjie joined them. He had been taken from his mother and litter mates too early.

I would guess in both cases they will have inherited unstable genes from fearful parents along with inadequate or non-existent early socialising.

The lady lives in a flat and their barking is causing problems. She has tried everything she can think of, including collars that shoot compressed air at them when they bark and a bottle of stones to shake at them. Because the barking stops for a moment it’s easy to think this ‘works’.

The lady adores her two little dogs and realises that punishing fear is inappropriate and can only make things worse which is why she called me. To them it must be like the very person that they should be able to trust has turned on them.

Now we began to reward quiet instead. Reinforcing good behaviour – or, I should say, reinforcing the behaviour we want, makes the dog much happier and it makes owners happier too.

From his protective position beside the lady, Benjie wasn’t so much barking as grumbling and growling at me. Here is a very short video of the two dogs. Benjie is anxiously lifting a paw and grumbling at me, and Lingling is hiding behind the lady.

Each time he stopped even for a moment, the lady gave him cheese.

She was surprised how calm Benjie became. He eventually lay down and settled.

Benjie eventually lay down and settled peacefully

Benjie

There were noises outside and neither dog barked. She rewarded them.

She will now save some of their food quota to use specifically to reinforce not barking or growling.

A wonderful thing about reinforcing the behaviour you do want as opposed to punishing the behaviour you don’t want is that it makes you feel good. It rests so much easier with people who love their dogs than does punishment and correction.

As the lady said the next morning having changed the way she does things for just a few hours, ‘I feel so happy with myself’ and more recently, about six weeks later, ‘We have had a few weeks just being a quiet family. Benji has been much better at home. Much less barking .’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Lingling and Benjie, 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).

Frustrated Puppy

Cavalier puppy and his big toy dogWhat do normal puppies do?

They toilet indoors, they have manic sessions tearing around the place, they may fly at you and nip, they chew the carpet, they bite you with their sharp little teeth, they get over-excited and they may even get cross when they are told off.

What usually happens? “No, No, No, No, STOP”.

“How otherwise can I teach my dog NOT to do these things,” people ask?

It’s not that I don’t take it seriously, but I say that the unwanted behaviours are unimportant.

“You teachAfter manic sessions of tearing around the place, Cavalier King Charles puppy sleeps him to do other things instead”. If you just keep telling him off, you create a frustrated puppy that either gets worse and worse or becomes fearful.

Here is adorable eleven-week-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Hassle. Hassle (self-named like my Cocker Spaniel Pickle!) plays nicely until he gets over-excited and then he flies at them. Too much hand play and touching simply encourages him to go for hands. He may bite, nip feet and grab socks; he tugs at the lady’s hair. When they try to stop him firmly, Hassle gets cross. They feel he’s becoming aggressive.

The problem with all ‘don’t’ and no ‘do’ is that a dog can become bewildered and frustrated.

Puppy does one thing and the humans react in a way which causes puppy to try harder. Human reaction escalates all the problems until they have a battle of wills on their hands.

It can be so hard but they need a new mindset, one of: “Do do do do YES”.

They will keep half of his food back to ‘mark’ quiet moments. When he gets over-excited they can scatter some in his large crate and, shut in there, he can then be busy ‘hunting’ which will calm him down. He can learn how to take food gently from hands. They can show him what he can chew and make sure there are plenty of options. They will remove temptation.

One big problem is that Hassle toilets all over the place, day and night. They live in an upstairs flat with no garden so he is expected to go on puppy pads. At the moment he ignores them.

Hassle has too much space. From the start the puppy’s environment should start small and gradually increase in size as he becomes trained. His environment needs to be controlled so that initially, unless he is closely watched, he has two just choices for toileting – in his bed or on pads.  It’s very unlikely he would go in his bed so he will be choosing to go on pads. Gradually, one sheet at a time, they can be lifted until there is just one left – and that will become his necessary indoor toilet place until he realises that walks are for toileting.

Of course – Hassle loves destroying puppy pads, so what should they do? Scold? No (it only makes him worse). They should ‘mark’ the moment he stops with a piece of food and offer him something he can chew!

So far he has learnt that he’s let of his crate out as soon as he cries, so now he can learn how to be quiet before he is let out of his crate. How? By rewarding just a moment of quietness and then letting him out – and building up from there.

Until he can stay happily in his crate at night-time and when they aren’t watching him, they may have little success with the toilet training.

The quality we need above all others with a puppy, is patience.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for Hassle, 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 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 puppy parenting strategies specific to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).

Friendly Dog Has Changed and Bitten

Bruce

Archie

Archie

Bruce he has now bitten four people.

The 3-year-old Golden Labrador was a friendly and well socialised dog up until about 9 months ago when things started to change.

He lives with a couple and their other dog Archie, an easy-going Chocolate Labrador.

What could have caused such a big change in him? The very first time he showed aggression to anyone was when a man put his hand through the open car window – despite the dog’s warnings he wouldn’t move away. That man asked for that bite.

Could this have been the turning point?

Nothing happened for a few more months though they report he was becoming more growly. Maybe because the growling made them cross he’s learnt not to growl. Growling is good. It gives us a chance to work out why and deal with that, and to save the dog from situations he can’t cope with.

The next three bites were on people in the house or the garden who he didn’t already know. Each incident has happened in the presence of the man, not the lady. One, a lady friend, was apparently just sitting still in a chair talking and the dogs were playing with a toy. As the man remembers it, the next moment, out of nowhere, Bruce had flown at her.

The most recent time, a few days ago, he broke a repair man’s skin.

Any angry reactions towards Bruce after each incident will undoubtedly have helped to push things in the wrong direction. People don’t realise this – they mistakenly think punishment will teach the dog not to do it again.

At first I thought that this was just going to be a case of over-attachment towards the man and territorial protectiveness. We would also work on the dog’s confidence along with the man altering his own behaviour.

Then I very nearly experienced for myself what Bruce had done to that lady and could have been bitten too.

Initially the man had brought Bruce into the room on lead. I sat still and avoided eye contact. Very soon he settled and I got absolutely no vibes of trouble that with my experience I am very tuned in to, so I said to the man to drop the lead.

Bruce seemed fine for a few minutes.

He ate a treat I rolled to him. He came calmly up to me and sniffed me. Then, all of a sudden and out of the blue, with no growling, he flew at me. Fortunately he didn’t use teeth. I gently asked the man to casually come over and pick up the lead. From then on he held onto it.

The very odd thing is that throughout the evening Bruce seemed mostly fine, playing with the other dog even – punctuated by similar outbursts. Each time it was without any warning or provocation that I could see – and I have seen a lot of dogs. The inconsistency and unpredictability are really very puzzling.

We will work on the behaviour issues – his confidence and protectiveness, and they will change his diet.

A visit to the vet is now a priority just to make sure nothing else is going on with his body, something that we can’t see but could be affecting his behaviour.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Bruce, 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 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

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).

Very Protective Dog

Daschund Max is on guard dutyUnfortunately Max has recently bitten several people including two young children and two postmen.

Max, age two, was found as a stray and they understandably absolutely adore their little dog.

A few months ago they moved house to a busier street, and now Max is doing a lot more barking. He is getting a lot more worked up. He has taken it upon himself to be on guard duty big time. Any noise sends him flying around the house barking. He barks at passers by when out in the garden. Two different postmen were bitten when they entered ‘Max’s’ garden and put out a hand towards him – but outside his own territory one of these same men is like his best friend. At home he is an extremely protective dog. Outside his own house and garden he is a different dog, and very friendly with other dogs too.

Not only is Max becoming increasingly protective of the house, he is very protective of the lady and most of his growling and biting has happened in her presence. When I sat down Max stood facing me on the lady’s lap, barking while she ‘comforted’ him. I asked her to put him straight on the floor. She should be nice to him when he’s quiet and pop him on the floor when he barks.

Max also growls at the gentleman when he’s on the lady’s lap. He growls at them in their own bed at night – pMax is the centre of the lady's universearticularly at the man. I have nothing against dogs sleeping with people if that is what the people really like, but certainly not if the dog is taking posession of the bed and growling if they dare move!

The lady in particular behaves like Max is the centre of her universe.  She touches him and attends to him constantly. The moment she gets home from work, after a rapturous welcome, although he has had the company of the gentleman for most of the day, she is cuddling and playing with him for an hour before doing anything else. They are doing his bidding all evening until he settles.  All this adoration can, in my mind, be quite hard for a dog. As time goes by Max is increasingly taking on the role of protector and decision-maker.  This is a big burden for a dog and one that should be shouldered by his humans.

Gradually Max’s stress levels should reduce as the barking gets less because the people will now deal with it appropriately. They are dedicated to helping him. As a more relaxed dog he should be more tolerant  – though all people should respect his dislike of outstretched hands and his people must take responsibility for this, even using a soft muzzle when children visit so that everyone can relax. The rule must always be Safety First.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Max, 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 dog can do more harm than good – particularly where issues involved aggression of any kind. 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).

 

External Control, No Self-Control

Monty, a magnificent 20-month-old German Shepherd/Husky/Malamute mixControlled in a dominant, ‘Alpha’ fashion, Monty gets rebellious and angry – and sometimes just a little scared.

He is a magnificent 20-month-old German Shepherd/Husky/Malamute mix. He is a strong dog both physically and mentally.

Doing his best to have his dog under control, the young male owner has been influenced by Cesar Milan, whose extensive TV coverage gives these methods some sort of authenticity. It’s not really suited to the young man’s own personality, but he’s doing what he can to be the ‘dominant Alpha’. Commands are harsh, the shouted word No is frequent and Monty is physically made to submit at times.

The dog isn’t taught what IS required of him and things are getting worse. He now has bitten the father so badly he ended up in hospital simply because the man was doing his best to ‘show who is boss’. In another situation where he ran off with the towel and the mother tried to get it off him, he bit her badly on the leg.

This is the typical and unnecessary fallout of using force and punishment-based methods. This young dog gets all his attention through doing ‘bad’ things.  He gets no reinforcement from being quiet and calm.

The young  owner isn’t happy with his own methods but just didn’t know what else to do. He is taking his responsibilities as a dog owner seriously but has to keep ramping up his own harshness as the dog becomes immune. It totally disempowers weaker members of the family who are unable to do this.

There is just one thing Monty was taught from the start using rewards and that is to go in his crate. It is now the one thing that he does happily and willingly.

Monty isn’t a vicious dog. He is a wilful and frustrated dog that doesn’t have understandable boundaries. Good behaviour, like lying down quietly, not jumping on people, not barking because people are talking and much more, simply isn’t acknowledged.

In my time there we clicked and treated every ‘good’ thing he did. We endured lots of barking in order to reward him when he stopped. When he lay down we rewarded him. When he sighed and relaxed we rewarded him. When he put his feet on the side we waited till they were on the floor and promptly clicked and rewarded him.

We need to turn things on their head – to get the humans thinking completely differently. To start with they will concentrate on’ accentuating the positive’ as the song says and by not inviting confrontation. I want them to drop the word ‘No’. This is going to take time and I hope everyone will be consistent, patient and resist shouting. Monty must be able to work things out for himself.

As our other strategies gradually fall into place, Monty should become a dog with good self-control with absolutely no need to bite anyone again.

Here is a brilliant clip demonstrating the total confusion and frustration that using ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ can cause.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Monty, 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 dog can do more harm than good – as has happened in this case. 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).

Suffered Abuse from Young Men as a Puppy. Fallout

Suffered abuse as a puppyTwo year old Mastiff X Bobby is a delightful, gentle dog who understandably is wary of men – most especially young men wearing hoods.

Abuse at the hands of male youths

He had an tragic start in life, suffering cruel abuse. He belonged to a group of youths who tried to force the gentle dog to be aggressive.

The lady has had him for one year now. At home he is calm, and he’s quite relaxed with a lot of physical attention and fussing from the teenage daughter. He fine with lady visitors. He is very uneasy around men, however particularly any man walking directly towards him or putting his hand out to him. Each time the son comes home from uni, it still takes Bobby a couple of days to relax with him.

The lady has worked very hard with Bobby over the past year and he has already come a long way. To start with he was so scared that he would frequently urinate when any sort of pressure was put on him. Now it seems that only high voices cause him to pee and occasionally interaction with a man. One has to wonder what sort of teasing and goading he must have endured.

The fallout from the abuse as a very young dog still has a hold on him.

Increasing distance from men

Unfortunately over the past few weeks there have been several incidents where he has ‘air-snapped’ warnings at men.

In one case his teeth met the man’s knuckles – if he had intended to bite there would have been more damage. Another man approaching and carrying a can of beer resulted in Bobby crouching and running at him, catching his leg before running off very scared.

The behaviour has started to include male neighbours and a man in their house.

It is a sort of vicious circle. Bobby feels threatened and is doing what comes naturally to a dog in the circumstances in order to protect himself – giving a warning by way of air-snap. The understandably emotional reactions of the men and his lady owner are increasingly making his apprehension of men worse.

Bobby needs help

Bobby needs to know that his lady owner is there to look out for him and protect him – in ways that he understands. He needs to be able to trust her.

Acknowledging his fear of males, she will now be sensitive when approaching a man directly. She will make sure the man understands the situation and ask him not to come too close, to avoid eye contact and to keep his hands away. She will explain the past abuse.

Whenever there is any doubt Bobby will for now wear a muzzle so that there is absolutely no risk whilst he learns to feel protected. The lady will do everything to help him overcome his fear of all men. She will make sure he comes immediately to her side when called, no matter what.

She loves him dearly and knows that if he bites someone for real, poor Bobby, despite the abuse, will pay the ultimate price

Trauma at the Groomer

LlasaJust look at this for a face! Llasa Apso Charlie is eighteen months old and lives with a young couple who describe themselves as ‘virgin’ dog owners. They have read books and taken advice in their efforts to do their very best for Charlie and in respect of teaching many commands and tricks they have done brilliantly. He’s a clever little dog – and a bit of a monkey!

He has always been a somewhat nervous dog, but something really bad happened to him about six weeks ago, and since then he’s not been his old self at all. He went to the groomer just as he had many times before, but this time something was different. Perhaps something that happened before they got there that the people are not aware of had stressed him, perhaps he had reacted to another dog there or maybe there were just too many people and dogs in the place. Anyway, as far as I understand it, the moment the groomer tried to touch him he flipped. He went mental.

His owners can’t understand why they hadn’t immediately stopped and phoned them but instead carried on. It took two or three people to hold him down and ‘double-muzzle’ him while they clipped him.

When the couple fetched him up he was like a different dog. He was terrified. At bed time he wouldn’t go in the kitchen nor near the crate which up till then he always slept in. He would run, cower and shake. He would no longer tolerate his harness being put on. He had suddenly turned and bitten the gentleman when he accidently knocked into him as he slept. Already a restless dog, he was now extra hyper – charging around the furniture which he had never done before.

I can only think, that to Charlie, what happened at the groomer’s had seemed like he’d been pinned down and physically ‘dominated’ and it so clearly demonstrates the possible fallout from sorts of training methods that use force. It also shows how long the effect of extreme stress can last for.

He needs to learn again to trust, and to appreciate being touched and handled – and not only when he himself chooses, which can only be done if it’s not pushed onto him. His lovely owners are very distressed and have understandably over-compensated. His recent phobia of having a harness on or anything else on his body needs to be addressed very slowly and sensitively.

With the techniques I have taught them, Charlie should gradually get his confidence back and put this unfortunate experience behind him.

Almost two months have gone by: “Things are going much better with Charlie, he even has moments of being a really well behaved lovely little dog!!  I’ve noticed he is much happier to let me pet him (and pulls away much much less) and also comes to me and sits by me more often which is really nice…..He comes to us every time in the house now when we call him, and this is very useful if we see him heading for a potentially naughty situation. He generally seems much calmer and I often see him sitting nicely, either on his new bed in the living room, or when he is with me in one of the bedrooms. The hint about dropping a treat down for him when he is sitting nicely works really well and he is jumping up and stealing things much less now. On the occasion he manages to  get something we ignore him completely and that works very well – I usually find it left somewhere where he has lost interest and abandoned it, so it’s much less stressful. I am up to step 5 of your walking plan, taking things very slowly……it just makes a change to get to go for a walk and also to practice recall, which again is working really well….walks are a lot more fun and enjoyable now, it’s nice.
We really appreciate your advice and support, and all the good tips which have worked so well. Life does feel more manageable with Charlie and he seems much calmer and less growling and reactive. Meeting and greeting is much calmer too, and there is less barking.  He is also much better around the cats. ..There was a lot of information in your booklets and notes, and we are working through it – all the tips you have told us have worked really well.  As I go through your notes I pick up on new things and try to work it into our everyday life, so it becomes a habit”.
Nearly 3 years later! “Just thought I’d drop you a quick line about Charlie as its been a few years. He’s a lovely dog now – very loyal and well behaved and we can’t thank you enough for getting us started on the right path to training and working with him day to day. He comes when he is called and walks lovely on and off the lead now. He also has a good relationship with our cat Alfie and sits with him watching the world go by!”