Go Away! Dogs Too Close. People at the Door.

Milo barks Go AwayThere are two aims to achieve with little Cavachon, Milo. One is for him to be more tolerant of dogs coming near him. The other is to ensure that no other person coming to the door is bitten by him.

In both cases he barks Go Away. This is constantly well rehearsed as he lies looking out of the window barking at people and dogs going by.

Milo barks. People and dogs go away.

Some people don’t go away immediately though, mainly those invaders who are carrying things – deliveries and the postman. They come to the door. The door is opened. It takes a lot of ‘Go Away’ barking to get rid of them.

The four-year-old Milo is shut in another room when someone comes to the door. Or he should be. With several people in the house there is always the risk of a mistake and one day recently that mistake happened. One family member opened the door. Another was in the garden with Milo but the kitchen door was opened.

As soon as he heard the knock he was from the garden to the front door in a flash, pushing out and latching onto the man’s leg.

They will be working on making Milo feel better about people coming to the door. Most importantly, on preventing further barking Go Away to passing people and dogs – by no longer allowing him to see out of the front window. The more he does it, the better at it he gets.

They will also get a gate for the passage near the front door. If this is shut before the door is opened it will prevent a further crisis. Belt and braces.

Milo wants nothing to do with other dogs.

His attitude to other dogs is interesting. A lot of my clients would be pleased to achieve a dog who behaves around other dogs like Milo does. He ignores them. He stays near the lady although seldom on lead and wants nothing to do with them.

Unfortunately they don’t always get the message. When they come to close he barks ferociously Go Away, Go Away. He looks and sounds like he will attack them (hard to believe, looking at him). He’s worst with large dogs and one day he might meet his match.

It’s unrealistic to expect him to want to socialise with all, or many, other dogs. A fair eventual goal would be to tolerate them closer to him but there must be an escape procedure before he becomes overwhelmed.

Milo also barks at dogs on TV which actually is an opportunity – an opportunity, in a controlled situation, to help him to feel better about dogs in his proximity (counter-conditioning him).

Two Chocolate Labradors.

The real reason they want him to be better dogs now is to do with two particular dogs. Two Chocolate Labradors. They have a nearby friend with the two dogs who is soon moving to the West Country. They want to be able to go and stay with her, taking Milo.

For a dog that doesn’t like another dog anywhere near to him, it seems a big step to getting him living happily in the same house. To make it harder, there are two dogs.

The three dogs will now, before the lady moves away, be introduced on walks – carefully.

The friend will walk her two energetic Labradors first to get rid of some of their natural exuberance. Then they will all meet up at opposite sides of a field. The Labradors will both be on lead. They will then all walk in parallel – in the same direction. The distance between Milo and the Labs will be close enough for Milo to know that they are there, but far enough for him to be comfortable.

Each time they all get to the edge and turn around, they come a little closer. The lady will watch Milo all the time. She can even feed him chicken while he looks at the other dogs to help associate their presence with good stuff.

At some point Milo will be close enough to show signs of stress. Before he can start barking Go Away, the lady will stop. The two big dogs can go on ahead and Milo and the lady will follow. Following is always easier.

What happens next depends. They can gradually start to catch up a little. I suggest calling it a day while Milo is still happy.

After several goes I would be surprised if Milo, who is always off lead, has not caught up with the Labradors and they can then all walk together.

New friends?

Going on from here, in time they could walk back home together and enter a garden. Due to Milo’s territorial behaviour, the easygoing Labradors’ garden would be best. They are very friendly dogs – if a bit boisterous. From there they may even get inside the house without problems.

All the time Milo should be given choice. If he’s not ready they will stop. Choice gives him power.

With patient work, perhaps Milo will be sufficiently confident to go on holiday with new Chocolate Labrador friends before the summer is out.


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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Milo. 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, particularly where fear or aggression of any kind is involved. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Puppy Parenting. Avoiding Future Problems

When I go to a family who simply want to bring their puppies up right with my Puppy Parenting programme, I feel truly blessed in my job.Benfield

Four month old brothers Ronnie and Teddy are a delightful mix of Bichon Frise and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Cavachon).

The only problem that impacts on their family at the moment is that the puppies haven’t learnt that outside is the place to toilet. Their chosen place to wee is inside the back door and their chosen place to poo is by the front door. The gentleman made the mistake of telling them off for doing it by the front door so they now do it on the carpet at the bottom of the stairs – perhaps, if they understood anything about it at all, thinking the scolding was about the location, not the act.

What is lacking is sufficient teaching of where they should be going. They aren’t using rewards. If the back door is open it is assumed the dogs will take themselves out. There are things to consider like why, after being accompanied out into the garden, they come straight back in and toilet indoors. When examined there are three very likely reasons. One is that they simply have learnt to go indoors. Another is that they are not rewarded going outside. If the grass is where they should go, then immediately they have been a food reward should be given on the grass. Another possibility is that the puppies will love being outside with their humans so if the job, once completed, results in their humans immediately going straight back indoors, fun finished, then isn’t this another reason for not toileting outside?

I’m sure a couple of weeks of hard work from the whole family will conquer the house training problem, as they take them out very regularly and cut down the puppies’ territory to the kitchen only unless carefully watched.

There are the seeds of a couple of future problems which should be addressed straight away. The puppies are starting to play a little too roughly resulting in recent minor injuries. As the siblings grow older we don’t want them to fight, so rough play needs to be discouraged right now. Little Teddy is already reactive and barking at other dogs on walks, so this needs working on so that he is happy to see another dog and not fearful.

Next time I go, as part of the ‘Puppy Parenting’ programme, we will be looking at more puppy training and teaching them to do a few more useful things, using either luring or clicker training or a mix of both – and rewards of course.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ronnie and Teddy, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own puppies 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 parenting strategies specific to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).

A Little Angel – Till he Sees Another Dog

Cavachon1Considering that little ‘Cavachon’ Chauncey was an impulse buy from a pet shop a couple of years ago at the age of about eight weeks old, he has turned out remarkably well. This is tribute to the hard work and dedication of his lady owner.

Little Chauncey is very friendly if initially slightly wary of men. If they take him out anywhere, to the pub for example, he revels in the attention……until another dog enters. Then he quickly morphs into a barking, lunging and snarling little monster!

Very unfortunately there are a couple of larger dogs that are often running loose in the country area where they live, and Chauncey was first attacked by one of them at about a year old. The other ran through the open door and attacked Chauncey in the house.  Understandably, he changed from being confident and friendly with dogs to being fiercely on the defensive with other dogs.

Chauncey is most reactive to things that happen suddenly – especially dogs suddenly appearing. Paradoxically, he has been walked with several dogs by a dog walker and is perfectly happy, and he mingles with other dogs at the groomers. He also has doggy friends that he plays with.

It is hard to desensitise a dog to the point where he will stop believing other dogs are a threat, given past history, because the reality is that some are indeed a threat. This is where the owner or walker must play their part.  It’s up to them to build up trust and simply ensure, by hook or by crook, that their dog is safe – and that he knows it.

It is very tempting to scold our dog and apologise when he goes off on one at another dog.  It’s embarrassing.  However, we must act as advocate for him, unapologetically keeping unwanted canine advances at bay without worrying whether the owner may find us rude. A Yellow Dog shirt with words like ‘In Training’ or ‘I Need Space’ can help explain why we may suddenly be walking away from another dog owner without explanation.

It could also mean putting in some effort to find ‘safe’ places to walk, or places where any other dogs should be on lead.

Little Chauncey hasn’t been walked at all for several weeks now, so they can start again from scratch. Instead of the constant stress of pulling and being corrected, he will have a loose lead from the start. By whatever means necessary he must not be allowed any nearer to another dog than he can tolerate. This is where the intensive work will start, and a carefully structured plan especially for Chauncey is now in place.

It is so important not to push ahead too fast and take things at the dogs own pace. It is human nature to want measurable and fast progress. However, the more relaxed we are and the less hard we try, the better it will go. To quote Grisha Stewart: The less you are able to ‘want’ progress — the more of it you will have.

Two months later and they are doing well – though still very much work in progress as one would expect: ‘We have donned our yellow jackets and have been going for a great walk every morning through fields and woodland. He’s loving it! Lots to sniff and follow. I saw a couple of dogs this morning going walking 2 large dogs off lead. The man saw my yellow jacket from a distance and turned and walked another way but Chauncey saw them, I kept his attention and fed him and he didn’t react at all.  We are loving our walks and getting fit in the process.
Gradually I am getting him settled into enjoying and being relaxed in the open fields and introducing him at distance to other walkers and dogs.’

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