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.

A Border Collie Being a Border Collie

Shy Border CollieSasha is shy. She didn’t like me pointing my mobile phone at her for this photo. She has retreated and is doing a classic ‘lookaway’ that a dog does when feeling uncomfortable.

She lives with Joshua, a terrier. Both are rescue dogs.

Sasha is a two year old Border Collie – biddable but a bit nervous. Her owners have a couple of acres of land and the dogs can have free run. The problem comes when the dogs are alone in the garden and somebody comes through the gate.

Joshua is very vocal and will bark, but Sasha may drop down, or quietly go round behind them and bite. She has now bitten a couple of times including a plumber who had to go in and out of the front  door to his van. They can no longer trust Sasha.

Where Joshua can sound ferocious, quieter Sasha is the risk where visitors to the property are concerned. The problem only happens outside of the house and when the lady or gentleman are not out there with her. She is simply doing what many nervous or protective dogs would do, in a Border Collie sort of way, by going for the back of the legs.

Whilst Sasha’s general confidence is going to be worked on (and Joshua’s growling at his owners if they touch him or move him against his wishes!), sensible management steps need to be taken also. Sasha needs to be saved from herself. All opportunity needs to removed, because each time she nips or bites it is a skill she is improving and it will only get worse if not addressed.  If she were to injure someone seriously mainly out of fear, she could pay the ultimate price.

They are going to fence off the back of their property so that the dogs are unable to get to the gate or the front door. Then Sasha will be safe, visitors can be safe, and everyone can relax.

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

Spoiling Dogs isn’t Really Kind

Poodle Bichon mix and a PoochonHere are Frazer and Spencer. Frazer (the nearer one) is a Poodle/Bichon Frise mix – a Poochon! Spencer is a Bichon Frise.

It’s easy to see why little curly haired white dogs are spoilt. Their mannerisms are so endearing and they just look and feel so irresistable.

These two little boys rule the roost. Their every wish is obeyed. They decide what they are going to eat and when, with all sorts of goodies offered to entice them, and they help themselves from plates while people are eating. They have attention and fuss and play all under their own terms, they have few physical boundaries and urine mark freely in the house, and they are barkers. Being ‘in charge’ means they feel that it’s their job to protect the family and the territory.

They also believe they are responsible for all comings and goings into the house, and even out of the sitting room. There is major excitement when the family come in, and prolonged stressed and fearful barking at other people who come in the house. When a family member wants to go out of the room, the dogs will block the doorway and Spencer has even bitten. Family members understandably are either hesitant at the door or running the gauntlet, which of course make matters worse.

All this is very stressful for two little dogs who should be able to chill knowing they are looked after by the humans not the other way around, and that the burden of decision-making isn’t theirs.

Like many owners they do see that the constant attention and ‘homage’ isn’t making the dogs happy, but they don’t know what else to do.  It is a classic case of people with a lot of love to give, who either don’t have children or whose children have now grown up, treating their dogs as their ‘babies’. The owners are willing to make the few sacrifices and changes necessary to take control for the sake of their cherished dogs.

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

Border Collie that Bites

Blue Merle Border Collie sometimes bitesBadger is a beautiful 17-month old blue merle Border Collie.

He bites his male owner.  Everyone else is safe. It was interesting to see just how much of Badger’s day was ruled by Badger’s wishes, and just how much he rules the roost. Like most of us, because we are living in the situation, we just can’t see how much our dogs are controlling us, and it’s not fair on the dog. Children who do what they want when they want, where no doesn’t mean no and who always get what they want if they pester for long enough, who are shouted at one moment and cuddled the next, are not carefree well-adjusted children.

There is mixture of strong harsh-sounding commands and controntational control from the lady and the son, and quiet indecision from the husband who had been quite badly bitten a couple of days ago. The people feared Badger may have to be put to sleep.

On anaylising the biting occasions, they seem to be around the gentleman putting his hand in or towards Badger’s personal space – particularly anywhere he chooses to sleep. Badger is clearly confused.

Badger left is mother and siblings too young, at five weeks of age, so he started life without learning valuable lessons from the others in bite-inhibition and sharing. Things escalated a few weeks ago, and this seems to coincide with their changing his diet to a well-known brand that is full of colourings and additives. Would we feed a hyperactive child with food containing additives and colourings?  I think not. At the same time they had started giving him a very high protein intake of raw meat.

Straight away they are changing his diet to the best quality. They are going to try to cut down on commands, to talk quietly and gently to Badger and through their actions rather than words to allow Badger’s clever brain to work out for himself what is and is not acceptable. The man is understandably on tenterhooks, so initially he is going to have little to do with Badger until he is able to send out more confident vibes. Badger’s personal space will be respected. The play with the son is going to be toned right down – why encourage Badger to do the very things we don’t want – grabbing and biting. Everything possible will be done to reduce Badger’s stress levels. The calmer he is, the less touchy he will be.

Three months later: ‘hi haven’t spoken for ages. just thought would share this as a proof of how far things have gone: Simon (name changed) was just putting on his shoes to go out and bent to tie his laces. Unprompted, Badger walked up and licked his nose! He also allows Simon to fix on his lead and comes to him when called! (and to all!) He likes Simon to fuss him but Simon keeps those to a minimum.
We have a lot of activity at the moment as we have builders in and one forgot where the dogs were and walked in there without warning. Badger was silent and sat to wait to be allowed to greet him! When I said ok, he went up, sat and was fussed for his good behaviour. Progress! As I write this he is asleep at my feet, his favourite spot.

If you live in my area and have a dog that bites family members, please give me a call. There is no magic wand or quick fix, but in nearly every case if the owners change their own behaviour, then the dog’s behaviour will gradually change also.


English Bull Terrier

EBT Ben is taking a rare breakBen, a rather mixed up two-year-old English Bull Terrier, lives in a busy household with four generations of people. Grandad is very old and uses a walking stick around the house that Ben dangerously likes to grab, Mother consequently keeps him out of the way in his crate because getting cross with him makes him worse; she is unable to do her garden without Ben grabbing her trousers and nipping her feet, his young gentleman owner is away from home much of the time, the lady has been bitten a couple of times due to Ben’s possessive guarding of his bed, and he jumps up at the children.

On the plus side he’s not a big barker, he is friendly with people if a bit pushy and he is good with other dogs.

There is often a lot going on in the house, but it is around Ben rather than with him. He’s in the way. He is very demanding of attention which he always ultimately gets but under his own terms just so they can have a bit of peace. He is obsessed with his ball.  He crate guards also which has been made worse by family members teasing him. Ben also is a humper, and due to his strength this can be difficult. The family are reluctantly considering castration, and although I personally am not a great advocate, I feel in this case it could well make a difference so long as the behaviour work is put in as well.

Recently they have moved house which has added to Ben’s confusion, so much so that he is now reluctant to walk down the road. He pulls on lead, much of time dragging back in the direction of home. He is scared to go out in the garden after dark.

So, Ben needs some quality time and consistent boundaries from all family members and no mixed messages. An alternative to his crate is being organised so he can be safely out of the way when necessary without being excluded form the family. His owners will work  to give Ben the leadership he so needs so that the family can enjoy having him and so that he has a fulfilling life himself.

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


Protective Nervous Border Collies

Two challenging Border ColliesI have just had a challenging evening with two border collies, Will and Ruby. Their owners have not had a guest to their house for two years now because of their dog’s behaviour. They both lunge and bark at people in a scary way and have bitten, and they can’t even be left in another room because Will panics, makes a lot of noise and is destructive in his panic to get out.  Both dogs have crates. Ruby is happy to be in her crate, but Will makes a lot of noise in his desperation to get out. He suffers from separation anxiety and has actually broken out on a couple of occasions, injuring himself trying to escape when left alone.

The gentleman first brought Will into the room on lead (I was furthest from the door), and by using the advance/retreat technique Will eventually calmed down sufficiently to stop barking at me and lie down. The owner then brought Ruby in and we went through the process again. Eventually both settled (held firmly on leads) – until I moved! It is hard to talk without moving and I know I can be quite animated.  I kept sending the dogs all the calming signals I know, and instructed the owners in keeping calm and quiet – though it is very difficult not to jump and scare a skittish dog when she is quietly sniffing you and then suddenly gives a loud bark right in your ear! One dog set the other off again.

This is a challenging situation because the lady owner is unwell and unable to do much with the dogs. In fact, it has got to the stage where she doesn’t really want them, though the man who is stronger feels differently. Will, who was rescued at five months, originally accompanied the man to his work as a groundsman in a country park, but soon had to be left at home because of his guarding and aggressive behaviour towards people. Neither dog can be walked on lead by anybody except the man who is strong enough to handle the excessive pulling and aggressive reactions to dogs and people, and the chasing behaviour with wheels and joggers. People have been nipped and bitten.

We have created a plan that, with the help of her family, will encourage the lady not to give up on her dogs; something that gives the dogs a bit more stimulation and leadership but within her capabilities, including strategies to deal with Will’s separation problems and both dogs’ fearful behaviouron walks and towards any people who do not live in their house. It is going to take a considerable length of time, and I hope they will stay the course.

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