Cocker is Simply Too Excitable

Cocker Spaniel was pacing, rushing about, panting, drinking, wanting to go out, clamouring for attention, chewingOllie just kept on going! Pacing, rushing about, panting, drinking, wanting to go out, clamouring for attention, chewing…….

Being excitable may be an emotion and part of a dog’s personality – but it can be a learnt behaviour too when it’s constantly reinforced.

Dogs very often mirror their humans. Calm and quiet people very often have calmer dogs, and excitable people dogs that are more reactive themselves. This could of course be because people choose the breeds of dogs that suit their own characters.

Ollie is a two-and-a-half year old Cocker Spaniel, and as the owner of a Cocker myself I know how excitable they can be. In Ollie’s case, his excitement is unwittingly being reinforced. He will always eventually get the attention he wants while excited, demanding or barking. Like many excitable dogs, he can’t be given toys because he then directs his energy to wrecking them, though he was very busy with my unbreakable Stagbar.

When guests come ‘he calms down once they make a fuss of him’.  It might be more accurate to say that ‘he remains excited until they make a fuss of him’!

When I arrived he was very bouncy, tearing about, jumping up on me, going and having a drink, rushing about again and so on.

I said, ‘Let’s ignore what we don’t want – what is it we do want?’  I gave him a tiny bit of biscuit with a quiet ‘Yes’ each time he stopped still even briefly, then when he happened to sit or lie down. His brain was working!

Throughout the evening he was pushing one of the men to respond to him. This gentleman would I’m sure agree that he’s something of a pushover. The downside is that a dog can be less respectful and tries to control him in other ways too. The man can’t walk downstairs without Ollie trying to grab his feet and ankles.At last Ollie lay down briefly

Ollie is over-stimulated in one way and under-stimulated in another.  There is too much exciting stimulation and too little healthy stimulation by way of brain work and breed-specific stuff like nose work. He needs to be left quietly to work things out for himself like ‘good things come to calm dogs‘. He needs to actually be taught how to be calm.

I must say that it’s due to all the good things the men have done with him that Ollie is so friendly, confident and biddable. Absolutely gorgeous. Ollie’s good points far outweight any bad ones he may have. All his problems come down to over-excitement. Now that his owner realises that quietly restraining himself with Ollie will help him, that should help the dog to learn self-restraint.

When Ollie’s excited antics no longer get the attention he craves he will then start to learn. Meanwhile he won’t give up easily I fear. While he still believes excitement and demanding always works in the end, in the short-term he may simply increase his efforts.

They may be in for a rough few days during which they must occupy him with activities and calm attention but under their own terms – and when he’s not hyped up!

He will learn so long as his humans are consistent.

Six weeks later: ‘ Ollie is definitely a lot calmer and ongoing work will definitely give further rewards. The penny has finally dropped that if the ball is thrown and he brings it back and drops it then it gets thrown again …this is his current most favourite thing but we don’t overdo it!  Thanks for all your support over the last few months…Ollie is definitely a work in progress and I’m sure we’ll be in touch!’

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

Staffie Scared of Bangs

If Staffie Dudley were a human he would probably be on Valium! A person like Dudley would be on the go non-stop, nevDudley has to be held to keep him still for the photographer stop talking, chewing their nails, demanding attention all the time, unable to listen properly because so preoccupied, jumping into the air and screeching at sudden sounds and being inappropriately demonstrative to strangers! Dudley is extremely reactive to things. The only time he is still seems to be when he is chewing something – chewing releases pheromones that help to calm him; the things he chooses to chew aren’t always suitable and then getting them off him may be difficult. Dudley never stopped moving all the time I was there. He took a newspaper, a dish cloth, tried to stand up at the side, but his nose in a tea cup, bit my pad, jumped on people, jumped on the sofa – all things he knew he shouldn’t do and all things that usually would win him attention in the form of scolding.

He seems to be calmest of all when the young lady and her mother, who he has lived with since he was a year old, are out or at night when he’s asleep, which seems to indicate that humans cause the problem. During the day when he’s alone with just the mother he’s not too bad, but if she has friends around he goes manic which makes her stressed and anxious too. That will only add to the problem.

Dudley is very reactive to bangs, made far worse a while ago by a bird scarer and now he will frequently freeze on walks if he hears something. He refuses to go anywhere near the field where the bang had occurred.

Soon it will be November 5th and fireworks. He is terrifid and usually runs upstairs and hides in the bath. There are certain strategies here on the ‘Fireworks’ page. In Dudley’s case a DVD of bangs and noises could be very helpful. It could take weeks, starting off very soft and gradually increasing the volume, always ready immediately to take it back a notch if he gets worried. The behaviour of his humans during the firework sounds is key.

When people come to visit they can help him out. Nobody should excite him and if he’s given something special to engage his mouth on, like a bone or antler bar, it should help him keep himself calm. He really does his best. People sometimes think their dogs are naughty and see them in a whole new light when they understand why they are doing the chewing. The lady and her mother need to keep him as calm as possible, and this means they themselves need to be calm around him. His fears of walks need to be dealt with very slowly. Walking him happily out of the door would be a start, and they can build on that in tiny increments.

Dudley is three years old, a young dog. He is gentle and loving and has great potential. He is much loved and I know they will put in the work necessary to give him a calmer, quality life, not frantically stressing when people come or terrified of sounds out on walks and enabling him to relax. Helping him out with special things to chew at stressful times will help, and rewarding good calm behaviour with attention.

Three days later:Amazing response already. Much calmer. Not taking things nearly so much.”. Twelve days later: “I feel that our own behaviour has had a positive impact on Dudley, the way we deal with things now.  Dudley is responding really well to us being calmer”.

Dogue de Bordeaux Mix Puppy

Dogeu de Bordeaux cross is a large twelve week old puppy At just twelve weeks old, BlahBlah is already the size of a Cocker Spaniel! In deciding whether she should be jumping on sofas and over people, one needs to consider the size she will eventually grow to be! Look at the size of those feet!

Also, because she is already so big, it’s easy to expect too much of her. At twelve weeks old toilet training is ‘work in progress’! The seven-year-old son said something very wise: how can she know what words mean if she’s not been taught (perhaps he knows the feeling!)?

I feel there is a big difference between a ‘command or order’ and an ‘invitation or request’. If they wanted their boy to come to them, would it be a command or a request? If they wanted him to bring them something or put something down, would it be a command or request? Would they not say thank you? Puppies respond so well to gentle requests once the action has been taught, and a thank you by way of a small piece of food for doing it. BlahBlah already had learnt Sit in the week since they have had her, but she was fast learning that it was Sit Sit Sit that was the actual command! In five minutes I had taught her Down (with no pushing) and had her Come, Sit and Down all with single gentle requests, with a treat ‘thank you’ BlahBlah playing with a plastic bottleafterwards. She is a clever girl!

While I was there she was nibbling at the cane garden table.  A harsh ‘No’ sounds cross but she doesn’t understand. If shouted at she may even shout (bark) back! With a very young child one would gently say ‘no’ or ‘uh-uh’ or ‘don’t do that’ and immediately either distract or praise for stopping. She went back to nibbling three or four times, just to check, and now this is another thing she has learnt not to do in her new home. Nibbling and chewing is a natural puppy thing and also a way of exploring, so they need a lot of legitimate things to use their mouths and teeth on. The kibble in plastic bottle is always a fun and noisy distraction (see photo)!

So, we are setting everything off in the right direction for BlahBlah and her family, and I shall go again in a few weeks when BlahBlah is ready for the next stage. So far it has just been my ‘puppy visit’. I shall continue to be there for them with other visits and help as their puppy grows to maturity.

BlahBlah must be nearly 8 months old now! “Just to let you know that Blah Blah is doing very well. Everyone always remarks on what a pleasant dog she is and she is fantastic around other dogs and children. I believe that it was the time you spent with us that allowed us to get off to such a great start and for this we are very grateful”.
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.

Ten week old Cocker Puppy

Ten week old Cocker Spaniel puppyLook at her! How wonderful! Rosie is a ten week old Cocker Spaniel puppy and she has been in her new home for four days.

I really like it when I am called in at the beginning. Starting off right saves so many problems later on.

I have been able to give Rosie’s family a few tips on the basics – toilet training, no teeth, chewing, retrieving things from her and having her walking around next to them without a lead. Visitors should not be allowed to overwhelm her.

Having had two puppies in two years myself means I have recent personal experience and have learnt a few little tricks of my own! Pickle my own Cocker Spaniel is now fifteen months old, and Zara is my nineteen week old Golden Labrador puppy. Because of how I have been with her since she was eight weeks old, she will follow me if I wish her to, she will come to me when I click my tongue or call, she never nips and she will ‘go pee’ when I ask her to – even if it is only to squeeze out a drop!

Now is the time to discourage Rosie from jumping up. It’s so much easier if, from the start, attention is given with her feet on the floor. If she sits on laps at the kitchen table then she will learn to jump on people while they are eating, so that’s not a good idea! There won’t be indoor toileting problems later on because she will be taken out very frequently. When Zara was Rosie’s age I kept a chart for a few days – she peed on average eighteen times a day! This proves just how often a puppy needs to be taken out in her waking hours. She needs to walk and not be carried, and she needs to know which door she is going out of, so she will learn for herself where to go.

When she runs off with things like shoes, which she surely will, they need to know how to get them from her without chasing, cornering or being confrontational – or making it into a game. Rosie is already very happy sleeping quietly in her crate (safe comfy ‘den’) all the night, and crating is a great help with toilet training.

It is tempting to carry a little puppy everywhere – but she has legs!

Rosie seems a very calm and stable puppy. I shall visit again in a few weeks when she is in the next stage of her development. Meanwhile I shall be at the end of the phone or email for support.

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

Gentle Giant

Great Dane Troy lying down amongst the baby toysToday I met Troy! What a treat. Look at that face! When I sat down he towered over me.

The Great Dane lives with a couple who have an eighteen week old baby and a toddler – people with their hands full at the moment. Troy at only fifteen months old himself may not have quite enough to keep his clever mind occupied, so he is finding things for himself to do. Things like wrecking beds when he is left alone and chewing the kitchen table and chairs.  Chewing the children’s toys hasn’t occured to him fortunately, and he’s very gentle around the baby and the little boy.

It’s great fun pretending to want to come in from the garden and then giving the run-around when they open the door – especially when after several circuits of the garden it means causing chaos by running in over the carpet with huge muddy feet! It’s great fun running off to play with other dogs and giving the run-around when they want to get him back. It’s great fun to cause chaos in the kitchen with little polystyrene beads from a destroyed bed all over the floor like snow. His owners’ response when they get home isn’t quite so much fun though – but at least it’s attention.

Giving Troy commands merely gives him the opportunity to refuse, so we are finding ways to outwit him. When your dog exasperates you, you perhaps don’t realise just how many times you are saying No, or Down, or Bed! As with a child, it’s good to think of ways to show him what you would like him to do instead. Rather than being cross when Troy doesn’t come in from the garden, they are going to teach him that it’s rewarding to come in straight away when called, and no fun at all if he doesn’t.

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