Bored, Over-excitable and Looking for Trouble

German Shepherd Kerry is bored.

Bored German Shepherd

Kerry

Although it’s natural for adult dogs to sleep for up to eighteen hours a day, this is only so if the rest of the time is filled with stuff natural to the dog – and its breed. Sleep probably won’t be in long blocks of enforced inaction during the day, but dozing between doing other things.

Young dogs in particular need action and fulfilment (just like young humans) or they get bored.

Kerry is a beautiful eighteen-month-old German Shepherd living with another GSD, Lemmy, aged four. They are both gorgeous dogs with lovely, friendly basic temperaments.

Young Kerry, unfortunately, probably isn’t getting enough action in her life and she’s very easily aroused. I saw this by how the smallest thing results in her leaping at someone, me in this case – grabbing my clothes and even hair with her teeth. 

Continue reading…

Never Goes Out Beyond the Garden

Benji is just seven months old and never goes out beyond their garden.

The dog never goes out beyond the gardenThe German Shepherd, Standard Poodle mix lived in a barn on the farm where he was born until he was four months old when he went to the young couple.

He had never encountered the real world of cars, noises, lots of people or other dogs beside the farm dogs and so on. He’d not been walked on lead.

As might be expected from a pup that had not being in a house until four months of age, he still has toilet accidents indoors.

He is scolded for this. They have a cat which he may want to chase but generally he is good with, and again he is scolded for going near it. He may steal socks or other clothes and chew them, which makes the young man angry with him.

A lot is expected of him.

His lifestyle isn’t ideal for a large, clever and active young dog but he is surprisingly good-natured. He greeted me with friendly interest.

At seven months he should be seeing sights and sounds outside and, most of all, he needs the exercise. He would love to play with another dog I am sure.

I suggested to the young man that Benji was probably going out of his mind with boredom and it’s surprising that the worst he does is to occasionally chew up clothes. Can he imagine being shut in all day with no TV or mobile phone and with nobody to talk to who understands him?

Even while Benji never goes out they can do a bit more about fulfilling his needs with appropriate activities and things to chew and do. The house is small and the garden isn’t big either, but they can feed him in a treat ball and sprinkle it all over the grass so that even meals can be used to give him some release.

It’s probably the lack of stimulation for Benji and the resulting stress that leads to some slightly worrying behaviours.

Besides drinking a lot he gets very excited around his water bowl, which is odd. If after a couple of weeks when his general stress levels should be lower this doesn’t change, then they will need to somehow get him to the vet. This is hard while he never goes out.

He pants, he scratches and nibbles himself and he sometimes chases his tail. He has some Punter3patches of skin showing.

The only way the man has managed to get him out at all has been to drag him by collar and lead, but he doesn’t want to do that again. He did once take him out with no lead at all – very risky.

Like all people who call me, they do it for love of their dog and wanting to do their best, and it’s a question of pointing them in the right direction.

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Benji simply refuses to go outside the front door or garden gate.

They will now use comfortable equipment – a harness and a longer lead. The first step is to acclimatise him to the equipment around the house, associating with good things and food.

We have a plan of tiny increments involving, over the days and maybe weeks, holding the lead inside the door and then dropping it, touching the door handle, opening the door and standing in the doorway, letting him listen and look – and eat. Then stepping out. Then at the garden gate and so on – always leaving the front door open so he can bolt back if necessary.

From now onwards he must be allowed to make his own choice about going out – no more force. This is the only way to change a dog who never goes out into a dog who loves his walks.

When he’s no longer a pup that never goes out but a dog that can happily walk down the road and run around the fields, his life and general health should be transformed, but it could well take time. How will he be with other dogs after all this time? How will he be with traffic?

Most importantly, they can now see the benefits of reinforcing Benji with food for doing what they want instead of scolding The young man saw for himself how he himself can cause the dog’s behaviour. He stared at Benji in a ‘warning’ sort of way and the dog immediately ran to find the cat!

I could sum it up my advice in a few words: kindness works best.

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 Benji and I’ve not gone into exact details for that reason. 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. 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)

Don’t Want Their Females Fighting

Females fighting – nipping things in the bud before they escalate to something worse

Rosie

Rosie

I have just been to another family that really pulls together where their dogs are concerned.

They have a situation with two females – a Labradoodle and a Rottie, both a year old.

The two dogs got on very well to start with, but as they reached maturity what was a bit of bullying from excitable Rosie, the doodle, became rougher as she jumped on the more placid Missy.

Predictably there came a time when Missy had had enough and she retaliated. It escalated to growling and snarling with each dog held back on leads as they reared up on their back legs. Now, to make sure there is no chance of their females fighting, the two are kept separate except on certain walks which have to be fairly carefully managed.

It’s a large family with members ranging from their twenties down to three years old. The older teenage girls do most with the dogs. Labradoodle Rosie belongs to the seventeen-year-old who had worked hard with her, teaching all the basic training cues.

Things aren’t so good now for Rosie. The dogs have just the fairly small kitchen area and utility room. The more peaceful Missy lives in the kitchen with people coming and going and Rosie spends all the time she’s not out on a walk alone in the conservatory. She doesn’t seem to expect to come in, but she occupies herself by chewing things. She goes out into the garden for short periods, but due to her digging and eating things they don’t leave her out for long.

Missy

She’s a clever dog and she is very bored.

The people don’t know what else they can do. She does have two quite long walks every day. One walk is Rosie alone with her 17-year-old person. The walk is largely spent chasing a ball thrown from a chucker to tire her out, but she doesn’t come home from this walk tired out and satisfied.

I have asked them to leave the ball thrower at home. She doesn’t need it. There is a belief that the more you can tire a dog the better it will be. It can be the opposite – see here. A hyper dog anyway, she needs activities that stimulate her brain and allow her to unwind a bit, not the opposite.

Her second walk is interesting and works better for her. They take both dogs. One daughter has a head start with one dog followed by the other dog some minutes later. They meet up at a field with a pond. The dogs run around off lead and the situation is controlled with the ball chucker. At the first hint of any trouble they throw the ball into the pond and Rosie, who loves water, runs in after it. Missy hates water and thus the dogs are parted.

They walk home together and all is fine.

After the walk, having been hosed down the two dogs are left briefly together in the utility room. Someone watches them through a window. After a shake-off one dog will usually lie down. It takes a very short time before the other dog jumps on top of her and the conflict starts. They are immediately parted and Missy returned to the kitchen.

I see this couple of minutes as a window of opportunity – a time when both dogs are briefly sufficiently calm and already together. They can build on it. The girl can stay in the utility room with the dogs after the walk. When, having shaken off, one lies down, she can ask the other to do the same and reward them both. She can work on a short ‘stay’ before letting Missy out into the kitchen in a controlled fashion. Over the days the duration of the ‘down-stays’ can be extended.

Instead of waiting for the conflict to start thus daily further rehearsing the behaviour, they can be taught a desirable behaviour instead.

When the family has made some progress I will be going back. We will take things to the next stage. It needs to be carefully stage-managed.

Meawhile, the girl has considerably more work to do with Rosie if they are to get these two dogs back together in harmony. While Rosie is so frustrated, stressed and bored, she will lack the self control required. Because she seldom goes into the kitchen, she is understandably extremely aroused when she does so and in the totally wrong state of mind required for getting together with Missy. Both must be calm.

The girl is going to swap the dogs over for a short while each day and give Rosie some quality time in the kitchen – doing ‘clicking for calm’ and other games that require some brain work and some self-control. People will be coming in and out of the room which is necessary for her continued socialisation.

Finally, there is the big question of whether both dogs would be more likely to get on if they were spayed. People have strong feelings and reasons of their own regarding neutering their dogs which I respect and must make their own decisions. I have suggested they have a chat with their vet.

Once the dogs do have one full-blown fight there is no coming back from it – particularly in my experience if it is females fighting. It can’t be undone.

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 Rosie and Missy. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly if aggression of any kind is involved, as the case needs to be assessed correctly which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. 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 My Help page)

 

Yorkie Pup’s Separation Barking

Yorkie pup who suffers separation

Gizmo could fit in my bag

The tiny six-month Yorkie is so beautiful I could not resist three photos.

Gizmo cries when left alone.

The key to relieving him and his young humans from all the anxiety and stress around separation is to find out just why he is unhappy when left.

Separation Anxiety is a blanket term that covers a lot of possibilities.

In many separation cases the dog won’t let a particular person out of his sight. Gizmo is fairly independent and is perfectly happy to go into the garden alone. He’s a confident little fellow and he has a lovely life, being trained and treated as a ‘proper dog’ despite his minute size.

He may cry at the gate, however, if the lady goes upstairs for more than a minute or so. I’m sure he believes that his noise is what brings her back down (because it always does).

From looking at the whole picture of his life, like any puppy he generally doesn’t want to miss anything that could be action or fun, and he’s learnt barking is a way to get it.

Gizmo wearing a hat?

In the early hours of the morning he barks, which results in someone coming downstairs and letting him out, then taking him up to bed with them. For the past week they have tried having him in their bedroom all night, but he’s still barking at the same early hour.

When Gizmo stays with the young lady’s mother for a night or two he doesn’t bark at all and he will sleep in until much later.

These two things rule out the barking at night being due merely to loneliness, and it’s not that he can’t last through without being let out to toilet.

Everything points to the fact that unintentionally they have taught him to call them. Gizmo wants action and company and usually gets it when he barks!

They have very helpfully taken a video of his first ten minutes alone.

The little dog seems unconcerned about being left initially. He starts by working on the Kong he has been left. Gradually he gets tired of that and starts looking around for company. This develops into some wandering around and pacing like he’s looking for them, some crying for them. He gets a bit more agitated, probably because he’s getting no response. Then he eats the food he’s been left.  A really distressed or scared animal would not want to eat. Food finished, he’s barking and wandering almost like he’s looking for something else to do and for some company. He only briefly goes to the back door the lady had walked out of.

Certainly he’s distressed, but not in a real panic.

When the lady does get back after two or three hours, never longer, Gizmo is getting out of his bed.

This pattern seems to be much the same at night when, if left to carry on crying, after about half an hour he gives up and settles.

Gizmo’s humans will work on him being happy to be by himself for longer while they are in the house. We have worked out a few carefully controlled and graded exercises with them leaving him to go upstairs, leaving him behind the gate in the kitchen and leaving him to go out of the house.

Added to this, more fun things should be available when they’re not there and not always when they are there.

Sleeping Yorkie pup

Gizmo asleep

People have more control over the situation than they realise. Gizmo’s humans can influence what happens before and what happens afterwards.

They can prepare Gizmo for people departing. The exercises will help this. They can put in place much more imaginative things to occupy him when he’s left. There are several things they can work on to help him associate being left alone with good stuff and with relaxing.

They can pre-empt the barking for attention in the evenings by initiating more fun themselves instead of responding to his barking, in order to teach him that barking is not the way to get what he wants. They can rehearse over and over tactics for getting him used to being left for short periods and they can change their rituals immediately before leaving for work. Being left will be associated with all sorts of good stuff.

And what happens afterwards? They have control over that too and how they respond. If reuniting is too big an event, it gives the dog yet another thing to bark for. Barking generally ends up in attention and fun, after all.

With separation issues, whatever the reasons, the dog is not happy. This makes his humans unhappy too.

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 Gizmo. 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 which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. One size does not fit all and there are various causes for separation issues 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 Get Helppage)

Obsessing Over Shadows. It’s a Dog’s Life – or Maybe Not

Border Collie Fudge on the left spends much of her time facing the wall obsessing over shadows

Fudge

I regularly go to see Border Collies who are so very unfulfilled in what they have been bred for – herding and stalking – that they substitute sheep with shadows, lights, joggers, traffic, children or anything that moves.

These two are both much-loved rescue dogs.

Obsessing over shadows

Two-year-old Fudge on the left spends much of her time facing the wall obsessing over shadows. Gemma (3) will be ready to fixate on anything that may be thrown for her, but most particularly the TV.

I suppose that watching TV is better than nothing – and they do have special ‘Dog TV’ in the States – but it seems a rather unhealthy alternative to the real thing and proper mental and physical stimulation.

Gemma is fearful of people approaching her

Gemma

Gemma is also fearful of many things, particularly people walking towards her. She has snapped or bitten several times when a hand has come towards her head.

As the days are now so short, both dogs only have a short morning session off lead in a dark field before school, and that is that for the day. They are left alone for nine hours most days while the family are out. Fudge chews things which I feel is simply about boredom.

High intelligence and trainability

It’s not by chance that many dog trainers have Border Collies for their high intelligence and trainability. They can include them in their work thus keeping them occupied most of the day. The poor ‘pet’ Border Collies with little to do must be going out of their minds and this often results in obsessive behaviours like shadow-chasing. Everyone in this household is so busy that all the dog-care is left to a fourteen-year-old son.

These two clever dogs could benefit from clicker work and more chase and nose games along with much more exercise and constructive time spent on them in general – not just a lot of cuddling. The family will be looking to find a dog walker to break up their long days.

Agitated Akita

The Akita is a restless dogKyra is a two year old Akita who a year ago was picked up as a very skinny stray.

Her conscientious owners started with a problem not created by themselves, and Kyra has come a long way. She is extremely restless and in all the time I was there she only lay down and relaxed properly for a couple of minutes . Because of her behaviour on lead and with other dogs, Kyra is now seldom walked. Because she chews her bed and wrecks her toys, she has no bed and little to occupy herself. She lives with a caring young couple and their three beautiful very small children that are a testament to their parenting skills.

Although she pulls badly on lead and is unpredicatable with other dogs, Kyra is very good with people, if over-excited and jumping up. She is fine with the children too. She seems most excited around the male owner and also a little scared of him. She goads him until he gets cross; she is obedient for him if he is sufficiently forceful. He indulges in hands on, exciting play believing that this is the kind of stimulation she needs to compensate for lack of walks, but to a dog like Kyra I liken this sort of thing to going on the Big Dipper – exciting and terrifying at the same time. When he walks towards her, if he gives her eye contact her she may wee.  If she wees she may be scolded. The lady is less forceful and so Kyra takes less notice of what she asks her to do. Kyra is very confused – and so are they, because they have been doing their very best as they see it.

Their ‘dog parenting’ would work a lot better if they used the same sort of approach as they do with their children! This is a good example of humans giving what they believe to be leadership and it being lost on the confused dog.

They need to do everything they possibly can to reduce Kyra’s stress levels, and in order for this to happen she needs to have more happening in her life. She certainly does need stimulation, but not the kind that gets her hyped up. She needs short controlled sessions of things that encourage her to use her brain and only when she is calm. Because she is no longer walked at all, this actually will help my plan, because I want them to take it back to basics and start again, just as they would a puppy. Where someone who walks their dog for two hours a day might be horrified if I suggesed a few days of just several five-minute jaunts and no ‘proper walk’, to Kyra even one five minute session would be a bonus.

The bottom line here is that the methods they are using to give Kyra leadership so she can relax, respect and trust them, to get her to walk nicely and to calm down in general, are not working – so we need to do something completely different!

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