Scared Barking. Fearful. Barks Constantly on Walks

I heard scared barking as I knocked on the door.

too much scared barking

Sid is gorgeous and I was expecting a Cavapoo. I don’t believe he is a Cavapoo though. The scared barking came from a dog looking more like a newly trimmed Cockerpoo.

There is definitely something fishy about his start in life, where they got him from at eleven weeks and the fact he was already incubating kennel cough.

The ‘breeder’ wouldn’t give her address until they were on the road. When they got there Sid was handed over to them straight away. There was a small Cavalier KC that they said was Sid’s father and a small black poodle that they said was his mother. No other dogs.

My suspicion is that this smart house was a front and very likely Sid had been shipped there from somewhere else.

Continue reading…

Care Home Dog. Super Friendly. Treated Like Pop Idol.

 

A care home dog? Pip is just that. He doesn’t have an ‘owner’ as such but he belongs to the home. His own care is shared by several members of staff.

Little dog takes the lift

The eight-month-old Cavapoo is absolutely gorgeous; He is hilarious also.

care home dogWhen he feels like going upstairs, he waits for the lift to open on the ground floor he steps in, lies down in the corner and waits until someone calls it up to the first floor.

Up there he visits many residents. They love it and make a big fuss of him. There may well be food to be scavenged or sneaked treats.

He also goes up there for something else. Someone may take him into the garden to toilet. They wait and wait. Nothing. He then will come in, take the lift to the first floor and quietly poo up there!

Adolescent Pip has recently taken to marking around the place too.

No boundaries or restrictions.

With so few boundaries either physically or from a behaviour point of view since he arrived as a little puppy, Pip is surprisingly well-adjusted. He must be one of the best socialised dogs in the land! He is adored like a pop idol but that’s not without consequences.

The other behaviours which are becoming increasingly unacceptable are barking at people and then grabbing trousers or sleeves of some of the staff.

Seeing just how they fuss him and excite him, it’s not hard to see what is happening. Some wind him up wildly as they walk in the door. He barks for attention – and gets it. If by chance someone is unable to obey him, he will leap at their sleeves or grab their trousers. This only happens with the people who stir him up the most.

A calmer dog would be unlikely to do these things. Very possibly even the indoor pooping may be affected by his constantly raised arousal levels. Maybe the marking also. Run of the big building is a lot of space for him to maintain as his territory!

The care home dog’s circle of guardians

I met with about seven people most responsible for looking after their little care home dog. Most were members of staff and there was one resident who helps to walk him.

Though they can’t ‘train’ all the residents and visitors, if they themselves can manage to behave in a different way and keep him calmer he should become more ‘grounded’.

For the reason of grounding I feel he needs a physical base and some routine. He could be safely enclosed at night time – shut in the reception area where he already has a bed and where he is fed. Everything logistically is tricky with so many people including shifts of carers coming and going.

Pip’s ‘circle’ of close people now must ignore his barking for attention if they want it to stop. Best would be to pre-empt it by giving him something better to do in advance. If the manager is having a meeting in the office, Pip will scratch the door and bark to be let in, sometimes with success and sometimes not. Why not get a Kong, ready waiting in the freezer with something tasty inside, and give that to him in another room before the meeting starts?

Calmer greetings

Calmer greetings are essential – if only possible from his most involved humans. It’s not like one or two people coming home after a day at work saying hello and getting him excited. It’s many people – and it’s all day long.

Several in particular wind him up to a state of wild excitement. They may scoop him up or roll around with him. Then when he reacts by getting rough he gets told ‘No!’. This must be very confusing for him. Toning down greetings and rough and tumble, hands-on play, helping him to keep calmer, is actually a lot kinder.

Pip has a great life. He gets plenty of time outside keeping the gardener company until he gets put back indoors for digging up the plants or digging holes. He gets daily walks in a nearby wood.

Working for his food

The little dog’s behaviour would benefit from more in the way of calming enrichment activities including foraging and hunting.

He can now work for his food. It can be in a Kong or a treat ball. They can scatter it over the grass.

Something interesting happened a short while before I left. We were all sitting chatting in the reception area with Pip asleep at our feet. A male carer arrived. Someone said this man always makes Pip very excited. As if on cue, Pip saw him, ran to him and immediately flew at his arm, grabbing his jacket.

This was a very useful and clear demonstration of the way that arousal, caused by his humans, results in the very behaviour that they are looking to eradicate.

To start with, dear little care home dog Pip is sure to get worse. He will try harder and go on for longer when his barking for some sort of attention fails to succeed as it always has in the past.

With more effort and consistency with the outside toilet trips and stopping him from sneaking upstairs until he has done his business, the indoor pooping should stop. Everyone involved with him needs to be on the case!

‘The tactile magic of petting dogs’

The benefits to health of petting a dog are well documented. Here is a nice quote from The Daily Puppy: ‘In case lowering blood pressure isn’t enough, the tactile magic of petting dogs — whether yours or someone else’s–offers other health benefits associated with high blood pressure. For example, loneliness, depression and other stress-related disorders, all of which can lead to elevated blood pressure, can be eased just by touching or petting a canine companion. Just as the hormone serotonin is raised and makes a person feel relaxed, the hormone cortisol is lowered and reduces stress’.

What a great asset Pip is to that home.

I hope for many years to come the little care home dog will continue to take the lift and visit the upstairs residents, enriching their lives, making the people smile who live there, work there and visit.

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 Pip because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you 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 Help page)

Personal Space, the Dog and the Child

Consideration of Personal space is a one-way street for Dijon!

Cavapoo Dijon is a confident little dog in most respects. He knows what he wants – and usually gets it. The one respect in which he’s not so confident is when the lady is about but he can’t get to her. He stresses.

Caverpoo doesn't like the child invading his personal space Fourteen-month-old Dijon is increasingly treating the lady like some sort of resource belonging to himself when the 5-year-old daughter is near to her mother.

Dijon may fly at the child, snapping, if she goes to her for a cuddle.

Dijon has now bitten the little girl’s nose and this was when the lady wasn’t even in the room. She had left dog and child together on her bed for just a moment when the child screamed.

It seems the little girl ‘won’t be told’ where putting her face up close to Molly’s is concerned. She may also invade the dog’s space and he’s a little dog that likes control of his own personal space – though he has no regard whatsoever to the personal space of humans, whether family or people he’s not met before! He flies all over them.

I suggested that just as we are looking for ways to reinforce Dijon for the behaviours that we like, we need to get the child on board in the same way. Her parents say they just can’t get her to listen (much the same as people say about their dogs!).

Motivation is the key.

Dijon on his bedroom sofa

Dijon on his bedroom sofa

One suggestion I use to help young children to observe their dog’s personal space is to pretend that the dog lives in his own personal bubble. They can perhaps draw a picture of what it looks like. If they burst the bubble a terrible smell escapes – children can use their horrid imaginations!

The little girl must not burst Dijon’s bubble. Only Dijon can step out of his bubble and when he does so there is no smell!

She must keep her distance when Dijon is lying down or doing his own thing. They could make little picture stickers for the Dijon’s favourite sleeping places as reminders: ‘Dijon’s Bubble’. It’s much better to be able to remind the child ‘Remember Dijon’s Bubble’ than to have to keep nagging ‘leave Dijon alone’.

So, positive reinforcement for her also. Whenever she is seen observing Dijon’s bubble she should be praised or rewarded in some way and eventually it will become a habit.

It’s fine to touch theBerridgeBubble dog if he himself chooses to come out of his bubble and to the child, but even then the child should learn what sort of touching the dog likes (and doesn’t like).

There are videos for her the parents to watch with her like this and how to kiss a dog.

To ‘cure’ this problem at source needs Dijon to feel better about the child being near her mother, so two things should happen. His relationship with the lady needs to be a bit different so that she is no longer regarded by Dijon as a something belonging to him, and he needs to feel differently about the child herself.

 

The two humans involved, the lady and her little girl, can change things with Dijon

The lady needs to help release Dijon who currently follows her everywhere, all the time. He sleeps in their bedroom or on their bed and doesn’t always take kindly to the child running into the room and jumping on the bed to cuddle her parents.

They will gate the stairs so there is now somewhere that the lady can go without being followed. She should be able to come and go out of sight without it being an issue, starting slowly with very short breaks. Walking out on him can be associated with something nice.

Dijon can be invited upstairs only at bedtime.

When in the bedroom he will learn that he no longer gets on their bed at all.

I’m not against dogs being on beds if that’s what people like unless the dog reacts negatively to any other person (or dog) on the bed.

Keeping him off can be done kindly because there is a comfortable sofa in their bedroom that Dijon also sleeps on. For the child’s safety, management by way of physical precautions is vital. Dijon can be anchored to the sofa area by a lead so he simply can’t chase the child or leap on the bed.

Loving Dijon without bursting bubble

Loving Dijon without bursting bubble

The alternative is to leave him downstairs. They are reluctant to do this because of the panic he gets himself into.

The other thing that needs to happen, in addition to Dijon feeling a bit more independent of the lady’s comings and goings, is for Dijon to feel differently about the child herself.

The little girl is going to learn about counter-conditioning!

When she comes home after school, Dijon jumps all over them with no regard at all for their personal space! They want this to stop. Ignoring him isn’t enough and the little child finds this impossible anyway. She can’t be sufficiently calm and quiet either. Instead, she will be shown something that she can do. She will be given pieces of his dry food. When his feet are on the floor she will drop food. When he’s jumping up she can wait for his feet to be on the floor again. She might even earn a little reward herself.

When she wants a cuddle with her mum, the little girl can tell Dijon. ‘I want to cuddle Mummy’ and as she does so throw a handful of his dry food onto the rug. She can have a tub of ‘cuddle food’ to hand. This will not only help Dijon to associate the occasion with something nice, it will also send him away to the rug – away from leaping up at the her, air-snapping or nipping.

The stair gate is a must. Even when we are in the same room we can’t watch dog and child every second. Shutting a door on Dijon isn’t yet an option. There needs to be somewhere in the house where the little girl is 100% safe and need not be watched.

Like all my stories, this is nowhere near a complete report. I pick an aspect.

A week later I have visited again – with a photo of Dijon printed on a piece of paper. The little girl drew me a picture of ‘Dijon’s bulbble’ around his picture and of herself outside it. Mum will laminate copies of it and put by Dijon’s resting places as a reminder. All off her own bat, the little girl drew hearts, love, from herself to Dijon without breaking his bubble.

 

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 Dijon. I don’t go into detail. 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, particularly where aggression or fearfulness is concerned. 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)

Over-Enthusiastic Puppy Greetings

CavapooIf our puppy is given rapturous welcomes by all who come to the house – being picked up and encouraged to jump at them rather than (along with those guests!) taught some restraint – isn’t it likely she may think this is the way to greet all people she meets?

Looking at 19 week old Cavapoo Molly, you can see that she is absolutely irresistible.

Another concern of the couple is that she may be getting a little fearful of larger dogs. She tries to greet them in the same exuberant way, by jumping all over them, and recently has encountered a dog that was not so friendly.

She really is the sweetest, friendliest little dog and very gentle for a puppy.CaverpooMolly

I do sometimes wonder whether extreme excitement upon meeting people and dogs doesn’t actually mask a touch of anxiety. If a human were to greet someone at the door in this rather frantic and over-enthusiastic manner, would it be pure happiness? May it not betray some unease?

I picked her up briefly myself and did sense she wasn’t really enjoying it. Immediately I put her down she started scratching herself which I suspect she uses as a displacement activity when things are getting just a little bit too much for her. I suggest that Molly isn’t picked up unless really necessary.

I also suggest she learns that hellos at home don’t happen until she has calmed down a bit – and this is so hard to explain to callers who instantly fall in love with the delightful puppy.

Out on walks her ‘parents’ now need to take charge of who she interacts with, just as they would a toddler, and restrain her gently, only allowing her to greet those people and dogs they know feel the same way about her. Later when she’s a little older and no longer quite so aroused, she can be taught to sit, give owners her attention or to walk on.

It would be a great shame if, at this sensitive time in her development, she were to meet an adult dog that showed aggression towards her. Her encounters should as far as is possible all be positive. If there is any doubt, more distance should be put between her and the possible ‘threat’.

Two important rules are: don’t give puppies too much freedom to soon. Start with restricting them in small areas at home (which also aids toilet training) and keep them nearby on a long lead when out. Gradually, as one would a child, expand the available space as they learn to handle it, without giving complete freedom for several months at least.

The second rule is to work constantly on recall using tiny bits of something tasty as a reward or play, both at home and out, thousands of times over the days, weeks and months, until when the dog is called it is a conditioned response to come.

Coming when called is the key to managing much unwanted behaviour. If the puppy is doing something like chewing a chair or chewing stones as Molly does, all one needs to do is to call her and she will come running over (dropping the stone). Then she can be rewarded for coming away and given an acceptable alternative.

A bomb-proof recall will keep her safe on walks. It should override the instinct to chase or desire to play if caught in time – before she’s in another zone altogether when she may become so focussed that nothing will get through.

About 6 weeks later: ‘We are still enjoying Molly I can’t believe she is now 6 months old, she is getting much better at entertaining herself and as I write is quietly sitting with me amusing herself. She seems very happy so we must be doing ok! 

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

Terrier Poodle Had Been Attacked

You can just see TerrierPoodle cross Tilly's nose if you look carefully

Tilly

Harry is a pale Cavapoo

Harry

Two divine little tousled looking dogs!  Tilly is a three-year old Terrier Poodle cross, and Harry is five months old – a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle. If you look carefully at Tilly on the left – you may just find her nose!

Their lady owner is worried that some of Tilly’s not so good traits are rubbing off on Harry. These are mainly fairly manic barking when she hears noises, people or dogs from inside the house or garden, and her reactivity to other dogs on walks.

A year ago Tilly was attacked by an off-lead dog whilst she herself was on lead, suffering a nasty wound to her back. The lady was afraid she would be killed. Ever since and somewhat understandably Tilly has been much more wary of many dogs, though not all. She is infinitely patient with puppy Harry and always ready to play.

So many people I go to have had problems with their dog having been attacked which has resulted in walks where they have to be constantly on the lookout for other dogs. In an ideal world, if a dog owner sees another dog on-lead he should realise that there is probably a good reason and call his or her own dog back. Unfortunately many dogs with otherwise good recall go deaf when they see another dog. Even more unfortunately there are people who simply don’t care and have no control over their dogs – even being angry with the owner of the on-lead dog that shows fear aggression when their off-lead dog bounds up to it!

Life happens. You can’t go out anywhere nice without risking meeting dogs. Your choice is to play safe and only take road walks, or have a strategy for both dealing with approaching dogs and with rebuilding the confidence of your own dog in you. You should be seen as the leader and protector, and behave and act accordingly.

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

Starting Puppy off the Right Way

cavapoo2Jazz is an adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniel/Poodle mix – a Cavapoo. She is just thirteen weeks old.

Her owners want to make sure things start off the right way, having had a very difficult time with their previous dog.

Apart from advice regarding feeding, toilet training and walking, there is an even more important area if you want a well adjusted puppy growing into a stable mature dog. It is about how you interact with the puppy.

Just imagine how huge and noisy humans must seem to something so small! If they surround her with too much noise, too many commands and too much excitement, or ‘dominance’ of any sort, one of three things will happen. She may become scared of them, she may stand up to them as she gets bigger and become defiant and difficult, or she may get hardened and take no notice of  them unless they are very exciting or noisy.

The more calm Jazz is the more gentle she will be. The quieter the humans are, the more Jazz will learn to listen. Even praise should be given gently.  They don’t want to overwhelm her because apart from anything else she will be distracted and the reason for the praise will be entirely lost.

The dog is largely a reflection of the owner. Calm, gentle, consistent and patient owners will usually have a stable dog with self-control.

 I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog. Please just check the map and contact me.