Regal Alaskan Malamute

Malamute Mia lying on her backSixteen-month-old Mia certainly knows she’s wonderful! What a confident dog!

In the morning when her lady owner comes downstairs, Mia will open one eye and beckon with her paw as if to say ‘You may come here’!

The lady will then go over to her, get down on the floor and make a big fuss of her.  Homage! People often just don’t realise how much their dog controls them until they see it through the eyes of somebody objective like myself.

Mia is adolescent.  She has just had her first season and she is becoming a bit of a bully with some other dogs, especially smaller, less confident ones.  This has escalated and for the first time she has bitten one.  Her owner is devastated, because she has put a lot of effort into socialising and training Mia who has been very popular in the area until recently.

In the nicest way possible Mia needs to be brought down a peg or two without the use of confrontation. If a command is used and she is defiant and refuses, what next? If they back down they have lost, and if they try to insist they risk making her angry. She needs to be eager to cooperate.

At present every resource belongs to Mia, and it’s obvious she considers her lady owner to be a resource also. She objects Malamute Mia is a regal dogwhen one of the young daughters wants a cuddle. She will grumble when one of them walks past her bed. Depending upon her mood, she may grumble when someone comes near her while she has a chew.  She has become very touchy when one of the girls grabs her around her neck to cuddle her.

I suggest that now nobody invades Mia’s personal space, either upon her invitation or not, but that she also is encouraged to respect the personal space of her humans. We don’t want to reduce her confidence in any way but she is beginning to show some instability.  She is too powerful to be allowed to rule the roost. For her to become respectful and controllable out on walks with both people and dogs, she needs to be respectful and controllable at home.  In many ways Mia is a credit to her owner, but this goes a lot deeper than ‘training’. Knowing what is required of her is one thing, but whether she willingly does it or not is another! She is a teenager after all.

Once again, it’s about parenting and leadership.  In Mia’s opinion, just who is the real leader and decision maker in this family? I think we know!

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

Cairn Terrier Chasing Shadows and Biting

Cairn Terrier Charlie looks worried Cairn Terrier Charlie is stressedDuring the whole time that I was there, poor little two year old Cairn Terrier Charlie never settled.

First of all, my arrival stirred him up.  He did a lot of jumping up.  Then he started looking for shadows and reflections and was obessively chasing them barking and growling at them.  He was very restless all evening. He even had to be held still so I could take a photo of him.

Charlie had always been a rather highly strung little dog but a few weeks ago his behaviour took a turn for the worse.  He started to behave in a very agitated manner.  He also felt threatened when two people had leaned over him to touch him so he bit them.  This was entirely out of character.

It seems that the main change in his life was that instead of being shut safely in his crate during the day when they were out, and during the night – something he had been used since he was a puppy, they decided he would be happy with more space, so gave him the run of much of the downstairs.  During the day he was now very likely to be watching out of the window, barking at birds and cats and getting himself into a state. Very likely he no longer felt safe.

Looking back couple of months earlier, he had been encouraged to chase a laser beam in play and this could well have been the start of his obsessive behaviour. It is surprising just how quickly a dog can start something like this.  As his general stress levels had been rising it manifested itself in shadow chasing.

Most dogs need 17 to 18 hours sleep a day.  Imagine that the little dog now is on patrol for most of the day and then, when the family comes home, he is wild with excitement and only settles in the late evening. We know how we ourselves feel when we are sleep deprived, don’t we. He is much more likely to be touchy and scared when someone looms over him and puts their hand out on top of him, something which to a dog can seem like threatening bad manners. We also forget that a little dog only sees somebody up to about knee level and so they will be relying upon their noses, and the first person he bit smelt of cats, one of Charlie’s pet hates.

So they will now reintroduce the crate. I’m sure when they reduce his stress levels the shadow chasing will stop, meanwhile they will use distraction and maybe brief time out for the peace of his crate where he loves to be.

Human visitors will need to be taught how to touch him and not to loom over him.  I am sure this is just a temporary thing.  When a dog bites and is met with anger, which to the dog must seem like unreasonable aggression on our part, he is much more likely to bite again.  I know that to us it seems like we are condoning the behaviour if we don’t punish the dog, but it is far better to keep calm and simply remove him from the situation. Then try to get to the bottom of what is really happening.

The underlying problem needs to be sorted if the matter is not to escalate. In any sudden change in behaviour, a vet needs to be consulted to make sure there isn’t physical problem.

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

Mouthy Newfoundland Puppy

Newfie puppy is a naughty adorable ball of fluffDashi is sixteen weeks old and already getting big – a large ball of sometimes naughty fluff! Adorable.

She was on her best behaviour when I was there – like so many dogs seem to be – so I didn’t see her at her worst. In most ways she is wonderful. She is already quite good on lead, she seldom jumps up, she is calm around food and already she is completely house-trained.

The problem is that she uses her mouth too freely! She grabs, nips and bites. She grabs trousers, she grabs arms and she bites hands. She chases and bites shoes, and when the little girl is sitting at the tables she goes for her feet which starts a commotion with screaming and scolding which winds her up even more.

‘Discipline’ is lost on Dashi and only makes her worse. I did notice a growl when she nipped the lady as she moved the little girl’s chair out from the table, and I fear this is the direction it will be leading if confrontational ‘dominating’ methods are used – or anger. They have had several Newfies before, but not one as wilful as Dashi.

There needs to be a lot more encouragement and teaching Dashi the desired behaviour as opposed to just chastising for the bad stuff. They are now going to do all they can to reward the positive. With the biting and shoe chasing a replacement behaviour needs to be taught and they are working on an alternative using clicker training which (now day 2) already seems to be getting her attention. The environment itself and daily routine needs tweaking in order to remove as much opportunity for the undesirable behaviours as possible and to keep her busily occupied.

It is hard to remember she is only sixteen weeks old and not to expect too much of her, like not taking the child’s toys or chewing things that are left about, chasing the cat or getting excited when a child is running about. These things have to be taught patiently and kindly over time, using reward and encouragement.

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

Billy, Upset and Scared Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzer is a very uptight little dogBilly is a Miniature Schnauzer of just eighteen months old. He goes frantic when anyone apart from family and close friends come to the house. He lunges, barks and growls, very upset and scared. He has to be restrained until he calms down.

Billy is never taken for walks now because it is such a nightmare. Virtually anything can cause him to lunge and bark with hackles up – people, other dogs, bicycles, joggers – you name it.

He has twice quite badly bitten family members who tried to put a harness on him. On occasions when they need to take him out like a visit to the vet, he will cower, try to hide and do all he can to avoid the lead. Billy also growls around the feet of anyone who is moving about whom he thinks may be leaving the house.

Imagine how it must be, constantly living in such a highly wound up state.

The family thought they had done all the right things when they chose Billy. He was Kennel Club registered. I am sorry to say I don’t feel this is particularly significant if it’s a family pet we want rather than a dog that physically fits the breed standards for looks rather than temperament. The puppies were upstairs in a bedroom. The family did not meet the mother dog. It’s obvious the puppies had little or no socialisation or encounters with everyday things, people or dogs outside that environment. Inadequate exposure to everyday life before eight weeks of age can contribute to a dog being temperamentally fragile.

One very positive thing is that he seems very much at ease with their 10-month-old crawling granddaughter. It seems she is the only person who can touch him freely and his body language is a lot calmer around her – he even brings her his toys which is lovely. He does not feel threatened by her at all.

With an inadequate start in life and possibly unstable genes where temperament is concerned, Billy’s owners have more work to do than most. Billy needs convincing that he is safe in his own house – protected by his humans.  He needs the right sort of calm, encouraging and consistent leadership. He also needs to know that the family can come and go as they like and he need not worry.

Introducing him again to his harness and preparing him for going out on walks will be an exercise in patience and kind encouragement.

It is so easy to get cross and shout at a dog when he growls or shows aggression. Unfortunately this can only make things worse. The dog isn’t bad, he’s scared.

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

Westie – A Very Important Dog

Westie Hamish is the KingLook at him! This is Hamish, a Very Important Dog, and he knows it.

He is no trouble at all most of the time but he has his family jumping to his bidding.  He has them up and down opening the garden door, and then may decide he doesn’t want to go out anyway. He takes them his food bowl when he wants food, and obediently they fill it. Whenever he brings them a toy, they will always play. When he wants to be fussed or touched, they always oblige.

However, things are a bit different if they want to do something with him, if his own space is invaded.  He has bitten several times, mostly when they take his collar to either inspect his feet or groom him. When they go into his space he may back into a corner and bite. He has been chewing his back feet, but they can’t inspect them.

He went absolutely frantic at the vets recently, biting his male owner in the car park and having to be restrained with a catch pole in the surgery. This sort of experience will guarantee future vet visits will be even worse, if that’s possible.

If his owners give him better leadership and make him work a little for some of their attention, Hamish should then start to value them when they want to attend to him. They need to learn not to corner him – we wouldn’t like that either. He needs to want to come over to them – to please them. He needs to learn that to get attention he sometimes has to work for it.

For dogs that have problems with people invading their personal space, you need to work slowly and imagine how it feels to the dog. First, I would say that putting him somewhere high to groom him, maybe a garden table, would be less challenging for him. It all has to be done in tiny increments, starting with him being happy simply being lifted on and off the table. Then he can be massaged and touched in areas where he’s less touchy – no brush or scissors in sight. All the time he needs to be watched for signs of stress, as that is the time to stop that particular session.

He needs to change vets to give him a fresh start. There is a vet nearby at the back of a pet shop. This would mean he first would smell toys and treats, he could be called through at the last moment. He could be taken there beforehand a few times to buy his dog food. He also needs to be weaned into wearing a muzzle, and this also need to be done in tiny increments, until he’s happy wearing it around the house. It’s essential that the muzzle is not associated with going to the vet.

In other respects Hamish is a chilled and confident little dog and no trouble at all (apart from being another Westie like I met a couple of weeks ago that barks at animals on telly!). A beautiful boy.

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

Biting Labrador and Timid Border Collie

Border Collie lacks confidence

Maisie

People say their dogs are ‘members of the family’ which is why they treat them as they do. But do they really treat their family members the way they treat their dogs?

Black Labrador mix sometimes bites

Barney

When you come home, do you welcome your teenagers with ecstasy, kissing them and fussing them while they jump all over you so that the whole thing becomes almost unbearable with excitement? When you eat your meals, do you have your children jumping on yohttp://www.dogidog.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Barney-300×190.jpgu, letting them help themselves from your plate? Do you expect your children to keep a look out for danger approaching, and then when they alert you, tell them to shut up? Do you let your children jump about and scream at you until you take them out for a walk? Would you have your children dragging you down the road, kicking and screaming at people you pass? Do you share your bed with your teenagers and do they have a tantrum if told to go? If you want to watch TV in peace, are your kids jumping all over you and demanding attention, and while they sit beside you are you touching and cuddling them all the time? With humans this would probably be considered abuse!  Would your teenagers follow you all over the place and make a fuss if you disappear out of sight? I could go on and on!

I guess there may be families where the kids are like this, but certainly not the lovely family I went to today!  I exaggerate to make my point, but they admit that over the couple of years or so since they have rescued their two dogs, after a sensible start, they have slowly relaxed the rules and boundaries, hardly realising they were doing so.  It’s easy to do. This can be unsettling and confusing for dogs. Dogs without boundaries and given the responsibility of decision-making can develop problems that are inexplicable to the owners who believe they are simply being loving. Two common results are nervousness and aggression – both of which are fear-based.

Barney, a Labrador mix, is always on the alert and he may bite. He has drawn blood several times. Things certainly can’t carry on as they are.  Maisie the Border Collie is nervous. Lack of leadership and too much fussing on demand can be scary for a dog like Maisie, especially if mixed with being scolded. She is hyper-sensitive.  There is lots of appeasingly lying on her back to have her tummy tickled ‘love me love me I’ve done nothing wrong have I’.

Both dogs need a dose of old-fashioned calm, quiet and kind leadership and being treated in the way that people really treat their well-behaved and happy kids. The dogs need to be treated with respect, not touched too much and to learn respect. Then Barney won’t need to bite and Maisie will be more confident.

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

Shar Pei Friendly but then Bites

Sharp Pei Harry may bit if touched on top of his headHenry is a confused fifteen-month-old Shar Pei.

He has been loved and indulged by everyone in the family, but recently has become increasingly snappy and unpredictable. The problem seems to have come to a head when his family moved house a short while ago, grandad moved in and older daughters moved out. His new house gives him a lot more uncontrolled outside space and freedom.

Always a vocal dog, it is hard to tell the difference between his natural snoring type noises due to his physique and growling. I think he has been given the benefit of the doubt for too long and what has been put down as friendly vocalising is actually growling. He will go over to someone for a fuss, and after a minute’s petting, suddenly bite. He seems to indiscriminately bite family and strangers alike if a hand goes over his head.

They think there has been no warning, but with the usual doggy facial features, mouth and eyes lost in folds of skin, it’s hard to see what he’s thinking. This puts Henry at a big disadvantage. I believe he is now biting because he has learnt that warning is useless – his warnings are always ignored. Imagine how frustrating this must be for him. I’m sure to start with he will have tried facial warnings, but these won’t have been visible. Then he will have growled ‘out of the blue’ so far as his humans are concerned, and they have taken it to be friendly vocalising.  All his warnings saying ‘leave me alone’ or ‘get out of my space’  ignored, it seems reasonable from his point of view for him now to go directly to the next level with no preamble – biting. This then makes the person angry, which scares and confuses Henry – because in his mind what he did was entirely reasonable.

Another possibility is, because of his hidden eyes, he can’t see a hand approaching from above, so this intensifies a dislike of being touched on the top of his head or body.

From when he was a puppy members of his family alternated between fussing him, ‘training’ him with repeated commands, and playing the sort of games that have encouraged him to do the very things they now don’t like – growling through tug games, physical play encouraging use of mouth, teeth and growls and playing chasing feet games.

Although he has been to puppy classes and understands commands, giving a dog commands doesn’t make a leader. In fact, a dog like this will choose to ignore them much of the time unless they are repeated over and over, and then it can end in either the owner giving up and not carrying through, or in defiance and confrontation. A lead dog certainly doesn’t give verbal commands! Confrontation and punishment in response to growling or snapping will only make things escalate.

The question is, what DO you do?

How should they be reacting to growling and biting, and how will they avoid it happening altogether by winning Henry’s respect through changes in their own behaviour? This is what we are now working on. Unless in pain, a dog won’t growl or snap at someone he respects and, just as important, treats him with respect too, which means being respectful of the dog’s own comfort zone. This isn’t about love, it’s about leadership – dog ‘parenting’.

NB. Always with any sudden changes in behaviour the dog should first be checked over by a vet to make sure he’s not ill or in pain.

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

Leonberger Born to be King

leonberger Leo wearing muzzle and standing over the other dogHere is Leonberger Leo, making sure even larger Irish Wolfhound Pluto knows his place – beneath him!

Leo is another example of people who chose the bravest and pushiest puppy in the litter now finding him hard work. At two years of age he has grown into his early promise – a very kingly dog, making use of all the doggy dominance tricks. As with a King, it’s unwise for someone to approach or touch him uninvited, particularly if they lean over him.  He has bitten non-family members a couple of times, and together with the much more docile Pluto, he is kept well out of the way when people come to their house. When in doubt, he is muzzled.

First Pluto joined us and when he had calmed down, Leo was brought in on lead, muzzled just in case. I myself wasn’t worried as I knew with the signals I give out, not taking any notice of him and avoiding eye contact in particular, that I would not be bitten, but it helped the family not to be tense which is key. The lady dropped the lead. Very soon both dogs were lying down and the family relaxed.

I am sure that Leo would make an excellent leader of a pack of wild dogs, but in the human environment it is an impossible task for him. He simply cannot do the job. Just imagine yourself being employed to do life-or-death job where you had no freedom nor the required tools to fulfill the role. The kingly role Leo has been born into, subsequently reinforced by humans, involves protecting his pack, being in charge of all resources including food, areas like doorways, people and Pluto, leading when out and decision-making.  Poor Leo is thwarted on all counts. Imagine his frustration. It is actually surprising his behaviour isn’t a lot worse.

They have tried choke chain and the ‘police dog training’ type of approach and it’s simply not worked. It is neither appropriate nor possible for a dog looked after mainly by a slightly built lady and her two teenage daughters. Having just the man of the family treating Leo in this fashion can make the dog respect the others even less. Moreover, it is not the human equivalent to the way a stable dog leader would behave towards other dogs.

This is going to be hard work. In essence, Leo has to be kindly and patiently deposed, his crown removed, so that over time he is relieved of the burden of responsibility. He will then become more tolerant of being touched, wanting less to do such things as kill passing cars and chase off joggers. He will stop his pacing, cease his bouts of destruction, humping and weeing on poor Pluto and so on, and RELAX!

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

Rescue is Not What She Signed Up for

It can be heartbreaking for someone who, rather than getting a puppy, rescues a dog in need of a home, only to find out that there are hidden agendas that start to come to the surface after a week or two. By this time it’s often too late because they have fallen in love with the dog, and anyway the dog probably may well not be rehomable if biting is involved (knowing this, biting was probably the reason the previous owners didn’t come clean to the rescue centre).Rescue dog is proving a challenge

So it is with Simon, an enchanting terrier mix who is cat obsessed and hates other dogs with a vengeance. He has bitten his new lady owner when fired up over another dog on a walk. What the lady, a first time dog owner, naively thought she was getting in Simon was a dog she could take camping with the family, who would sit quietly with them in a pub garden and walk off lead. Instead, she has a dog that is pulling, lunging and wanting to attack any dog, and who can’t be taken out with them for fear of going ballistic if he spots another dog. She is even unable to go on holiday this year because she can’t leave Simon in kennels. He was so distressed around other dogs during his short stay in rescue kennels that they had him in the office, so kennelling isn’t an option. Leaving him with a dog sitter is clearly out of the question.

The lady has already been with another trainer but in some respects Simon is getting worse, and the methods don’t rest easy with her. It seems that nobody has really looked at things from the dog’s point of view, behaving as the dog would expect a leader to behave rather than by using domination techniques. A good mum or dad can instill discipline, set boundaries and earn respect whilst still being kind, without being ‘dominant’ or over-controlling. So it is with a good dog leader.

There are so many good points about this dear little dog, far outweighing the bad. The lady is committed. With time and patience I am sure they will bring him around.

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

Aggression at Home is Escalating

Newfoundland trying to adjust to new lifeIt is a difficult situation for Kaloo, a Newfoundland. Until recently he lived with another Newfie and their male owner. Recently they moved in with a lady who has two Springer Spaniels and two children, so two ‘packs’ are merging.

For Kaloo there are two areas of stress. One is the competition for ‘top dog’ status with Springer Pip, the other is being in a much more, to him, stressful environment with excitement, noise, boy shooting toy gun, trampoline and so on.

Kaloo is two and a half years old; until he went to live with the gentleman about 9 months ago he had been in rescue kennels for a long while, with a previous history when still a pup of guarding.

Now things are beginning to get dangerous. He is targeting the lady and has bitten her twice. He growls quite ferociously at her and at the two children. This mostly takes place when they want to walk past him – and he usually occupies the main access route to the doors.  He has now begun to fly at people when they move suddenly, without the warning growl. He has occasional spats with the male Springer who has started to scent mark in the house and there has been blood. Kaloo is not a happy dog.

The lady is understandably very wary of Kaloo now which is making things worse, and quite rightly worried for her children as is the man.

It is always difficult to feel you are doing right by your own dogs when new dogs join your household. Things they were able to do before may now no longer be possible. The lady feels afraid to walk around her own house.

Poor Kaloo is confused and stressed. By understanding him better and by both working on human leadership as well as safety measures to manage the situation, I sincerely hope that this can be resolved. The man must take much better charge of Kaloo, work on getting him to come straight away when called so that he can avert trouble (at present he comes if he feels like it). Kaloo needs some form of physical restriction or containment when the man isn’t about. When he does growl the humans need to respond appropriately, taking charge whilst not retaliating with anger which would very quickly escalate things.

Growling isn’t for fun – it’s a warning. ‘Go away’. ‘Don’t move suddenly’, ‘Don’t come near me’. ‘Don’t walk through this door’. ‘Don’t come near this person’. It’s Catch 22. If the warning is obeyed then it reinforces growling.  If it’s not obeyed the dog may then take it to the next step and if it is never obeyed the dog may well drop out warning altogether and go straight to biting, which I think is now happening with Kaloo and the lady. It’s moving in a dangerous direction.

The whole family needs to change the way they behave with the dogs – especially Kaloo, and to some extent the boy Springer.  Meanwhile, ‘play safe’ is the golden rule.

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