Belgian Shepherd Keeps Everone in Sight

GSD Collie mix has breed related herding and guarding tendenciesMarley is a beautiful Collie/German Shepherd cross age seven. He has been with the family for two years now.

This was their initial message: ‘Attacking anything that comes through the post slot. Cries and whines every time any family member leaves the house. Unwilling to sleep in his bed, sneaks into daughter’s room in the night or sits outside our bedroom door and whines. Continual whining and jumping over seats in car when someone gets out’.

Marley occasionally toilets in the kitchen in the middle of the night, but only on those rare days when he has not had a good walk. They assume this is down to lack of exercise. My detective work unearthed the connection between lack of a walk and their having been away for longer. It seems a lot more likely due to stress from having lost his ‘flock’.

They have no evidence of him being anxious when everyone is out which I would have expected. No crying and no damage. I suggest they video him. It has been proved that the most distressed dogs may well not be vocal. It could be another angle to work on.

Marely is a great family dog. He is polite and friendly – they have lots of friends and he is very relaxed around children of all ages. He loves the postman – but not those invading objects that crash through the letterbox (I’m a big advocate of having an outside mailbox to save a dog from unecessary extra anguish). They regularly take him to work with them and also to stay with friends. This is where his night time habits can be difficult. They would like him to sleep downstairs in his bed, but he gets too anxious if he can’t regularly do the rounds, checking up on them all.

It’s clear his issues are largely to do with  breed-related shepherding and guarding instincts.  Family members are his flock but he’s without a shepherd to direct him!

For starters they will work on getting him accustomed to being left alone downstairs behind a gate while they go upstairs – very short periods initially. They will leave him shut downstairs when they are out – to get him used to some physical boundaries as well as being left downstairs. They will work on a family member walking out of the house while another family member keeps his interest and makes it fun.

People departing needs to be good news and people returning needs to be boring. It will be hard work, starting with going out, shutting the door and coming straight back in again, increasing the duration of absences very gradually.

The same sort of thing needs to be done with family members getting out of the car, one at a time. He cries throughout the journey – probably in dread because most days he’s left in the car while the lady and her daughter walk away from him to drop the child off at school. For now they can take him to the school gate with them whilst getting him to associate journeys with good stuff (chicken?).

At present Marley’s not much interested in food, but that is because it’s left down all the time. I have suggested more nutritious food as diet can effect mood and not to leave food freely available so that it gains more value.

They feel that they owe it to this lovely, biddable dog to do all they can to reduce his worrying and insecurity. They understand that it will probably take quite a long time to relieve Marley of responsibility for the family’s safety and whereabouts.

From Stray to Kennels to New Home

Leo still for just long enough to take this photoWhen getting a new dog, people sometimes have very high expectations based on their memories of their previous elderly dog. They may remember a placid dog that doesn’t pull on lead and that will come back when called.

Leo is about eleven months old, and a German Shepherd crossed with something else.  He was found as a stray and has spent a couple of months in rescue kennels. A week or so ago he was adopted by his new family. He has a lot of adjusting to do. He is easily aroused and has a great deal of pent-up stress. If people come and go he will start to spin and tail chase, and often does this seemingly for no reason at all.

He is very reactive to hearing dogs barking in the neighbourhood and may go quite frantic.

The main problem the owners are having is that he pulls so much on lead he nearly chokes himself and, when let of, he shoots off like a ball from a canon, charging into the distance. His totally ignores them when they try to call him back, turning up in his own good time.

Having freelanced as a stray, I don’t suppose he sees any reason why he should not be doing his own thing. It’s a big ask for him to have reliable recall straight away. I feel that because of the stress built up in him, and the stressful manner of walks – being yanked back with painful neck and a frustrated and cross owner, when he’s let off lead he is FREE to run off the stress. Built up stress has to overflow somehow, whether it is by charging about, spinning or chewing obsessively.

All the time I was there, for three hours, he was constantly busy. It started with demanding ball play. I suggested they swapped the ball for his bone, and he chewed it obsessively for the rest of the evening, not even stopping when we put a harness on him to demonstrate the kind with a D-ring on the chest.

Like so many, the people were expecting a dog to simply fall into their lives. A dog to take for long walks off lead and who lies peacefully with them in the evenings. They didn’t really bargain for the hard work Leo is going to take. By removing as much stress as possible and not allowing people to hype him up in play especially, by  following my instructions for walking a dog on a loose lead and actively working at recall, they will resolve these problems in time. Leo will not feel the need to charge off when he is calmer. He is an adolescent at present, so he should settle down a bit anyway as he gets older.

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