Guarding Food. Guarding Resources.

“We must show the dog who’s boss”.

Rex guards his food.

Guarding food and resources can be a contentious issue where human response is concerned.

Many conscientious dog owners, doing what they believe is best, follow dangerous, outdated notions.

These techniques can involve, right from the start as routine training, interfering with a puppy’s food while he’s eating and forcing objects out of his mouth. An easy-going puppy may simply tolerate it. Another may not. Instead of making the puppy back away from something he values, it can teach him to run off with the item and then, cornered, defend both the item and himself. I’ve seen this many times.

How might we ourselves react if someone tried to take bits of food off our plate or mugged us for something we had picked up?

There is that infamous clip of Cesar Millan ‘dominating’ a Labrador guarding food and his bowl. Guess what happened? Yes, the poor dog ultimately had no choice other than to bite after all his warning signals had been ignored. As a result of the uproar about this, he was interviewed by Alan Titchmarsh which is interesting to watch.

Guarding food when someone is closeSomehow this ‘being the Alpha’ with our dog thing had became popular culture, but it’s been totally debunked over recent years. Not only was it based on false assumptions regarding wolf packs (and domestic dogs aren’t wild wolves), but that using force is the only way to create an obedient dog.

Even this word ‘obedience’ suggests dominance and forced compliance.

Just one problem with this approach to resource guarding is that a strong-minded and confident dog is likely to stand up for himself – eventually. Some dogs genetically are more wired to guard.

If a ‘dominated’ dog backs off due to being overpowered by a particular human, what happens when someone else tries it?

“Why should I want your food anyway”?

How much better and simpler in every way it is to teach the dog that you’re no threat to his food; if nobody wants his food, what’s the point of guarding food after all?

Giant Schnauzer Rex is a very intelligent and energetic adolescent dog. He’s on the go most of the time when people are about, back and forth looking for trouble. This includes nicking anything he can that may be of value to his humans. It triggers a chain of reactions.

He’s probably under-stimulated where appropriate enrichment is concerned, so he orchestrates his own action.

It’s only natural for us to try to control over-excited and aroused behaviour by trying to stop it. Unfortunately scolding and warnings, Uh-Uh and NO, introduce conflict and confrontation. Even conflict can be rewarding and reinforcing in a way (else why do humans enjoy certain sports so much?).

Rex’ owners will now be on the lookout for every little good or desired behaviour to reinforce instead.

It’s proven beyond doubt that removing reinforcement from unwanted behaviours and adding reinforcement to behaviours we DO want leads to success.

Interfering with Rex’ food while he’s eating.

Using the ‘interfering with his food’ technique seemed to work when Rex was a young puppy. Unfortunately, guarding and growling re-appeared big time when he started to be fed something that was, to him, of much higher value.

Instead of leaving him to eat in peace, various suggestions had been given including hand-feeding him, touching him while he was eating and taking his bowl away. Instead of feeding him somewhere out of the way, the bowl is deliberately put where people regularly have to pass by him.

He freezes. He growls. They reprimand him. This can only go in one direction.

He simply needs to know that nobody is interested in his food anymore. He will be fed somewhere out of the way.

After some weeks of this they may from time to time walk past him at a distance, not looking at him, and just chuck in the direction of his bowl something particularly tasty – maybe a leftover from their own meat dinner. The food must be something of higher value to him than his own food. They shouldn’t hover or speak to him.

‘I happen to be passing anyway so here’s something nice’.

Over time they can get a little closer. If he growls, they have got too close or maybe stood still, and will need to leave it for a few days and do it from further away the next time. Any approaching person will deliver something better than what he has.

This really is in case of emergency should later someone, without thinking, get too close to him. They should only do this from time to time – a random and casual thing.

Back in the day people would have said, ‘Leave the dog alone while he’s eating’. We expect a lot from our dogs today.

We may need to do some serious, systematic work on general resource guarding.

‘Operation Calm’ is the first priority.

Rex’ high arousal levels and restlessness make work on his guarding food and other items more difficult.

This is a huge challenge because it’s hard for us humans, like old dogs, to learn new tricks. It also means that Rex will initially become very frustrated when his usual attention-seeking tactics no longer work. He will try harder. They will hold their nerve and add as much appropriate enrichment to his life as possible, activities that don’t depend upon their ‘fielding’ the behaviour he throws at them but instead are initiated by themselves.

I suggest very regular short bursts of activity including mental enrichment, hunting, foraging and sniffing, particularly in the evenings when they sit down and he’s the most trouble. He then won’t need to be pestering for attention.

Guarding food becomes unnecessary.

If he feels it’s not under threat, Rex won’t need to be guarding food. If he has plenty of attention offered, he won’t need so desperately to indulge in the attention-seeking ploys that he knows get the most reaction.

Getting Rex calmer involves most aspects of his life and will be a gradual thing.

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 Rex 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 much 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 any aggression is concerned. 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).

Control – Carrot or Stick?

GSD lying down

Murphy

After a run of German Shepherds who are very reactive to anyone coming into their home, it was great to go to a Shepherd who welcomed me immediately.  Murphy and Mastiff-type Bailey are well socialised, well-trained and gentle with their children.

But it’s a tricky case of finding a compromise between two approaches – what the gentleman himself calls ‘carrot and stick’. He is the stick and the lady the carrot – not really an accurate description in that although he uses a certain amount of force and mild punishment in getting the dogs to do what he wants, I’m sure he would never hit them. He is extremely conscientious and loves them dearly. The carrot implies something dangled in front of the dog to entice him to comply, where the lady feels most comfortable using encouragement and reward.

Rottweiler cross

Bailey

People’s way of interacting with their dogs usually reflects their own personalities. The gentleman, by nature organised and routine-driven, feels he needs control over things around him. The lady is more relaxed, but she is unable to exert the control over the dogs that he can using his ways. So she needs the tools – different tools!

The couple well illustrates the divide between the methods of the past where the owner must be Alpha and ‘in control’, and modern science-based methods that enable dogs to develop ‘self-control’ by giving them encouragement, reinforcement and choices. One teaches the dog to avoid doing something ‘wrong’, and the other focusses on showing the dog how to do ‘right’.

Teaching self-control with reward and encouragement means that physical strength simply isn’t required in order to walk your dogs and manage encounters with other dogs. The young lady no longer dares to walk them on lead now, despite using head halters, after a final incident when she was pulled over as Murphy and Bailey charged excitedly towards a frightened puppy whose owner was not pleased.

The gentleman as a person needs routine, the upside of which has contributed to creating such beautifully mannered and friendly dogs. Where things are coming unstuck is that the lady is unable to match this. We are working on replacing some old routines with some different ones – based a little more on the psychology of dogs than on dominance. We want the dogs to use their brains and not rely on commands. I tried asking Murphy, gently, to sit and then lie down. Nothing. I had to ‘command’ him.

In my own life I have done a complete U-turn from the methods of control and force I, and nearly everyone else involved in training dogs, used many years ago. I can therefore well understand how it can take someone ‘old-school’ quite a lot to be convinced that reward-based, force-free methods work a lot better in the long run (and no thanks here to Cesar Millan). It needs a lot more patience and takes a bit longer as force can seem to produce ‘quick-fixes’, but the results are more permanent in the long run and our relationship with our dogs a whole lot more balanced.

So, now the lady will use different equipment for her walks – no more head halters but a front-fastening Perfect Fit harnesses – and she will take the dogs out one at a time for now. The deal is that if the gentleman doesn’t feel he can go through the necessary steps of letting the dogs walk freely on a longer looser lead, then he can stick with the old equipment. To the dogs, the harnesses should be associated only with a different kind of walking – and not ‘contaminated’. The lady will no longer need to be strong. The dogs will learn that walking on lead beside or near to her, focussing on her when necessary, can be fun and not a matter of ‘being under control’.

I hope that her results will speak for themselves and inspire the gentleman.

A note from the lady about five weeks later: ‘The very fact that I am enjoying my dog walks again is massive. Feeling very positive.’

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Murphy and Bailey, which is why I don’t go into 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 – as this case demonstrates. 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).

 

Cesar Millan Versus Force-Free

Cesar Millan? No!

Instead – watch videos of Chirag Patel, Victoria Stilwell, Steve Mann, Nando Brown, Zak George – a huge list of modern force-free trainers doing a much better job but without the same publicity machine and sadly not on National Geographic or prime time TV.

Cesar Millan methods not workingThe big question is, do you want an obedient dog that may lick her lips, look away or even cower from you when she is doing something you don’t like, or a confident cheerful dog that happily stops when asked and does something else instead? Who may even, sometimes, dare to be a bit cheeky?

This is a great exaggeration of the situation I found, but when someone says something like they don’t want a dog on the sofa because it will make her dominant I can’t help jumping onto my bandwagon. Not on the sofa? Fine. It can be taught simply and kindly using positive reinforcement. Reason? Plain silly.

I have called to see ten month old Athena a couple of weeks after she came to live with them because she is having separation issues, toileting on the floor when left for a short while and causing damage. This was upsetting for the young couple who are completely committed to giving Athena a good life, whatever it takes. They have a dog walker twice a day and the two dogs aren’t left alone for very long.

As she becomes more confident, as I’m sure when any Cesar Millan methods have been dropped, things will improve.

Very few people I go to use the language of Cesar Millan with the Tch Tch corrections, the Alpha rolls or worry about status. This isn’t because he has fewer followers (his TV programme still glamorises the old-school way dog training was done back in the dark ages when people didn’t know better, using wolf pack theory as an excuse). It’s because I send people here to my website to read some of these stories before booking me. They will know in advance that I use kind, force-free methods only and if that’s not what they want I won’t hear from them again.

Cesar Millan plugs into today’s need for achieving things instantly, but it’s an illusion. Smoke and mirrors. (Incidentally, he invented a special dog collar called an ‘Illusion’ collar that forces up high into the most sensitive area behind the dog’s ears, causing maximum pain if the dog pulls).

Holding an animal down through force, or keeping it down because it dare not get up isn’t teaching an animal to lie down. Correcting a dog that pulls on lead with a little kick, a lead pop with his Illusion collar or a jerk with a prong collar isn’t teaching the dog to walk happily beside you because it wants to. Facing down a dog who is growling isn’t going to make it feel less fearful or less angry.

Cesar Millan is all about (as fast as possible) altering the visible behaviours – the actions. The emotions will get worse.

Modern force-free work is about altering what the dog is feeling inside – the emotions. The emotions drive the behaviours. The behaviours will get better.

I must stress again that the lovely young couple I went to yesterday do none of these things. Not at all. One or two things have prompted this post. Dominance and gentle correction is used like a methodology in the sincere belief that it’s the right thing to do – by the man mostly. The young lady finds it hard.

I have several times seen for myself what can happen with a dog that is controlled by domination when the dominant human isn’t present. I have felt unsafe.

For those interested in how modern dog training and behaviour has got to where it is today, here it is by the great Ian Dunbar.

I’m sure that they aren’t doing as well with Athena as they otherwise might if the man had never, ever watched Cesar Milan but he is already seeing things from a different perspective which is great.

Baxter

Baxter

The main problem now is that over the two weeks they have had her Athena has taken to playing more and more roughly with their gorgeous, good-natured little Border Terrier Baxter. Immediately they are out in the garden together she stands over him before embarking on what can only be called bullying. The previous day she had grabbed his leg and dragged him about; she grabs him around the neck. Where a couple of weeks ago they played nicely it has deteriorated and Baxter is getting scared. Fortunately it’s only happening in the garden (so far).

They police her with frequent NO and Tch Tch so why is it getting worse?

There is no doubt that adolescent Husky mix Athena respects the man and there is no doubt that the man loves her. He makes the Tch Tch noise he’s learnt from Cesar Millan and she stops what she is doing. Success. She will be a little scared of him at times. When he’s not there Athena may however ignore the lady who admits that at times in the garden the neighbours listening to her must think she is constantly telling the dog off.

The couple had asked me would I like to see what happens in the garden? I said no, definitely not.

I don’t want it to happen ever again.

Much more rehearsal and it will become a habit more difficult to break..

I had food in my pocket (yes – food, Cesar Millan). We stood in the garden and I called Athena to me so she knew that coming to me would be worthwhile next time. Sod’s law, we were out in the garden and Athena was taking little notice of Baxter!

This is what I was preparing to do. As soon as Athena looked like advancing on Baxter, I would have called her gently to me. I would do this repeatedly. I would either reward her with food or maybe a short game of tug if play is what she really wants.

I would have a long line ready just in case. She must never never have the opportunity to do it again. The two dogs should not be in the garden together without supervision for the foreseeable future.

Tch Tch and ‘No’ teaches her nothing at all but just stirs her up further. Athena’s behaviour is doubtless due to stress. She is trying to get used to her new life after all.

If they treat Athena like they would a young child and not as something to be kept at the bottom of the pack, using only encouragement and kindness, they will end up with a confident and outward-looking dog. I can’t imagine anyone saying a child can’t get on a sofa because it might want to take over as ruler of the household.

You just have to watch this video of Steve Mann of IMDT to see that a strong man can be empathetic and force-free with his very well-trained little dog.

Quite simply, it works the 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 Athena and Baxter 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 (Cesar Millan being one such example) 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)

Positive Associations With Children

Chocolate English Working CockerHow strange. My very next appointment after having written my Paws for Thought on Citronella anti-bark collars was a dog who had been trained not to bark using one.

The two-year-old English Working Cocker Spaniel (isn’t he beautiful) lives with his young lady in a flat and when he was a puppy there were complaints about his noise. It’s hard when someone has to go out to know best solution when the choice could be either lose your dog or lose your flat.

What is certain is that although unable to bark, he will feel just as anxious inside, probably more so if rendered helpless, and will need to find other ways to express this.

At home Henry won’t bark now even without the collar, but I have seen the pattern before. Maybe now the empty collar will be sufficient to remind him, but in time he will surely bark at something and find there is no spray. Then the citronella will need to be added again. He may well learn to tolerate the spray and bark through it which then renders it useless too, and solving the emotion which drives the barking will be a lot harder now. It’s nearly always the same with quick-fix ‘punishment’ methods. There will be fallout somewhere. ‘Punishment’ being the administering of something unpleasant in order to stop the dog from doing something you don’t want him to do, rather than showing him what it is you do want him to do.

The fallout is because whatever he is feeling that is the cause of the barking is simply stifled and will be erupting elsewhere.

Cocker Spaniel looking up at his ownerThe young lady, like so many, is an avid watcher of a TV trainer who advocates ‘correction’ with constant interrupters like ‘Tch Tch’  – sounds that say ‘no no’ –  in order to control the dog. Because of so much exposure, many people take this as the accepted way to behave towards their dogs.

Modern, enlightened behaviourists and trainers, however, do things very differently. People who were not up to date with modern practice are surprised at how biddable and obedient a positively trained dog can be, and there is an important extra ingredient – simply the dog’s joy at working for and with their person.

The reason I have started this story with my thoughts about dominance methods and punishment is because it’s relevant to the main issue I was called out for. Henry, so friendly in every other way, doesn’t like children. It’s almost certain that in the first few months of his life he won’t have come across kids. When they come running up to him when they are out he will growl in warning which is fair enough. He is trying to say that he feels uncomfortable and wants more space. Unfortunately the young lady, not wanting to seem rude, will then scold or correct him – ‘Tch Tch’.

The biggest alarm was the other day when a friend brought a six-month-old baby to visit. All was well until they all went to sit on a bench in the garden. The owner sat beside the friend who had the baby on her lap. She remembers that Henry came and stood, quiet and still, between her friend with the baby and herself. Nobody took any notice of him while they probably talked to the baby in the way one does.

The baby waved his arms about and towards Henry – who snapped the air.

Oh dear. There was big drama afterwards. If Henry was unsure of the infant before, he certainly was now. Whatever he was feeling about the baby (anxiety? jealousy?) will have been compounded by what will, to him, have been a totally irrational and scary reaction from the humans.

This is a case of desensitising Henry to children and babies. Next time when the friend visits with her baby, Henry’s owner won’t sit next to them but a little way away. Henry will be on a loose lead. All the time he’s around the baby he will be fed or dropped little bits of food. There will be absolutely no ‘Uh-Uh’ or ‘leave’. If the lady is worried at any stage, she can kindly call Henry to her – ‘Come’ – followed by food. This way she can begin to wipe out the previous bad association with possibly the first baby Henry had ever met.

Henry needs lots of positive associations with children. When out the young lady can start desensitising him at a comfortable distance around the local school playground at playtime, where no child can actually get to him nor him to them. She can then work on him in the park, but be ready to increase distance and to be firm if children run up to him. It’s not a time to be polite – we have to look out for our dog and keep children safe. We need to be our dogs’ advocate and not care what others think (easier for me at my age – just one of the very few advantages of getting old!).

Later, when he’s ready, children can invite him to them so he has a choice, then they can drop food or throw his ball – he would probably like that. With the patience, time and effort the young lady has always given him but now using positive methods, she will get there I’m sure.

She has worked extremely hard with her beautiful dog to good effect. It’s not that correction and punishment don’t work at all. They do. However, for permanent success and relaxed and happy dogs, a little more time and effort using force-free methods pays off big time long-term. It’s far better for our relationship of trust with our dog.

The young lady will be surprised at how much more she can achieve by just using rewards and encouragement.

NB. For the sake of the story this isn’t a complete ‘report’, but I choose an angle. Also, the precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Henry. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good, particularly ones that involve punishment. 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).

Understimulated Dog Barking at TV

Little dog chewing a plastic bottle Franklyn is alone all day, and when his humans come home he wants FUN.

They on the other hand, after a long day at work, want to RELAX in front of the TV.

Little Franklyn is a cross between a Pug and a King Charles Spaniel, and he is fifteen months old – and no, he’s not a wine-drinker! I gave him a tiny plastic wine bottle with food in it that I had saved especially to keep a dog like Franklyn occupied. On the left he is trying to break his way into the tub holding the tiny bits of food we were using!

He is given a short walk in the morning and another when they get home, but other interaction is mostly generated by Franklyn’s causing trouble! He flies all over them, he nicks things and he barks.

He is very reactive to any small sound he hears, but particularly wound up by the TV – rushing at it and barking constantly.  As the evening wears on he builds up a head of steam, digging into the sofa and getting more and more out of control – until, having lost all patience with him, they shut him away. His barking at TV is driving them particularly mad.

They have bought him lots of games and toys to play with, but doing things by himself isn’t what he needs. Franklyn needs human interaction. It is, after all, what he has been bred for.

The barking at the TV is getting worse as it will – he is getting so much practice. As they also watch TV in bed before going to sleep, the process continues even at bedtime as the little dog becomes more and more aroused. Consequently, while they are asleep he isn’t. He has some unwinding to do. In the morning all his chews and toys have ended up on their bed.

This little dog isn’t getting nearly enough healthy stimulation and one-to-one attention under the young couple’s own terms. They will now deal with the TV barking like the dog is fearful of what he sees – desensitising him, and so he doesn’t get too aroused they will regularly give him (and themselves) short breaks by popping him into the kitchen where he seems happy before bringing him out again and continuing the work. They have agreed not to watch TV in bed any more.

They will arrange for someone to pop in and give him some company in the middle of the day.

We have also drawn up a list of short activities with which they can punctuate Franklyn’s evenings.

The confrontational and controlling methods as used by a certain well know TV trainer are merely teaching Franklyn defiance and inciting aggression, so will be dropped.  These are methods that appeal to people when they feel they are losing control – but the results are short-lived and using force of any kind amounts to bullying. Totally unnecessary and counter-productive when, by understanding how to use positive methods you ultimately end up with a cooperative, happy and calmer dog.

As I write this just one day has passed and I have received this message: ‘It’s amazing how quickly he is responding now. My house feels calmer already’.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Franklyn, 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).

External Control, No Self-Control

Monty, a magnificent 20-month-old German Shepherd/Husky/Malamute mixControlled in a dominant, ‘Alpha’ fashion, Monty gets rebellious and angry – and sometimes just a little scared.

He is a magnificent 20-month-old German Shepherd/Husky/Malamute mix. He is a strong dog both physically and mentally.

Doing his best to have his dog under control, the young male owner has been influenced by Cesar Milan, whose extensive TV coverage gives these methods some sort of authenticity. It’s not really suited to the young man’s own personality, but he’s doing what he can to be the ‘dominant Alpha’. Commands are harsh, the shouted word No is frequent and Monty is physically made to submit at times.

The dog isn’t taught what IS required of him and things are getting worse. He now has bitten the father so badly he ended up in hospital simply because the man was doing his best to ‘show who is boss’. In another situation where he ran off with the towel and the mother tried to get it off him, he bit her badly on the leg.

This is the typical and unnecessary fallout of using force and punishment-based methods. This young dog gets all his attention through doing ‘bad’ things.  He gets no reinforcement from being quiet and calm.

The young  owner isn’t happy with his own methods but just didn’t know what else to do. He is taking his responsibilities as a dog owner seriously but has to keep ramping up his own harshness as the dog becomes immune. It totally disempowers weaker members of the family who are unable to do this.

There is just one thing Monty was taught from the start using rewards and that is to go in his crate. It is now the one thing that he does happily and willingly.

Monty isn’t a vicious dog. He is a wilful and frustrated dog that doesn’t have understandable boundaries. Good behaviour, like lying down quietly, not jumping on people, not barking because people are talking and much more, simply isn’t acknowledged.

In my time there we clicked and treated every ‘good’ thing he did. We endured lots of barking in order to reward him when he stopped. When he lay down we rewarded him. When he sighed and relaxed we rewarded him. When he put his feet on the side we waited till they were on the floor and promptly clicked and rewarded him.

We need to turn things on their head – to get the humans thinking completely differently. To start with they will concentrate on’ accentuating the positive’ as the song says and by not inviting confrontation. I want them to drop the word ‘No’. This is going to take time and I hope everyone will be consistent, patient and resist shouting. Monty must be able to work things out for himself.

As our other strategies gradually fall into place, Monty should become a dog with good self-control with absolutely no need to bite anyone again.

Here is a brilliant clip demonstrating the total confusion and frustration that using ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ can cause.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Monty, 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 dog can do more harm than good – as has happened in this case. 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).

Big Changes in Miniature Schnauzer’s Life

Miniatures Schnauzer Max isn't the happy dog he once wasMax is four years old and for the first two years of his life he was the most important thing in his owners’ lives. He had three long walks a day and they took him everywhere with them.

Then they had their little girl and now a four-month-old baby. They have also moved house.

Max now is not the happy little dog as he used to be and this is demonstrated by his change in behaviour. Because of his behaviour, his owners are not enjoying him any more, to the point where he’s almost too much trouble. Consequently their own behavour towards Max has changed. It’s Catch 22.

Max barks excessively. He has become touchy. He snaps at the little girl and he snaps when he’s disturbed. His walks are no longer so enjoyable and he is unpredictable with other dogs.

In response and in order to try to do something about the situation, they have watched Cesar Millan. Cesar makes things look so quick and easy on TV. Copying some of the dominance techniques on our own dogs can cause much more harm than good. Humans trying to act like ‘Alphas’ have caused defiance and an escalation in aggression. I would ask people – is this the way you would treat your child if he was frightened, misunderstood and unhappy?

In no time at all, this little dog quickly became eager to cooperate with me. He came alive. He looked joyful and attentive. And all because I showed him just what I wanted of him – in ways that he understood; I encouraged him and I rewarded him.

I hope Max’ people can now see that if they treat him with understanding, patience and encouragement they will see a huge difference.  At the same time they must play safe. I suggested a small dog pen for their big sitting room with his bed in it, a child-free area where he can come and go freely but shut in when necessary, so that children are always safe but at the same time he can remain part of the family.

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