Unpredictable Humans so Unpredictable Pup

Unpredictable pupSometimes, just sometimes, things don’t work out as we would like. This through absolutely no fault of our own.

It could be a mismatch or an environment not best suited for a puppy.

There can be all sort of reasons, including lack of company with people being out at work all day.

In the case of 7-month old French Bulldog Ezra, it’s not lack of company that is the problem. It’s too much. Too many people at times. Too unpredictable. Too noisy.

What puppies need more than anything else is predictability (like children). It makes them feel safe and allows them to learn self-control and to be predictable themselves.

Unpredictable. Too noisy, too much happening.

In Ezra’s case, it’s his exposure to unpredictability and occasional chaos that has led him to biting. It’s the only way he can get any control over things that are simply too much for him.

The family is large and extended. One of the younger children has issues that make him unpredictable and noisy.

The other day Ezra bit him on the lip. The ten-year-old was taken to A & E.

The boy himself explained the run-up to this and it included noise, people, loud TV which Ezra hates. The dog was already over-aroused. He had jumped onto the floor probably to get away and the child had slid off the sofa onto the floor beside him. He had pushed his face into the little dog’s and stared into his eyes. He has a sort of compulsion to do those things he knows will upset Ezra.

BITE

Another family member, a young man, had a couple of weeks previously been bitten on the nose quite badly. He said he was doing nothing, but questions revealed a sequence. The dog will undoubtedly have high stress levels to start with. The doorbell had rung, making him very excited. He had been chewing bones. He then jumped up on the young man’s lap (why do people always think this means the dog wants to be touched?). The TV may have been too loud. The man had his hand on Ezra’s back.

Then, for seemingly no reason at all, Ezra flew at his face.

Unpredictable? I’m sure there will have been warnings. Possibly Ezra will have frozen. He is now learning the only way to get away from unwanted attention is to bite.

A habit is forming which started with nipping. Each time he attacks it in effect gives him respite so the more of a learned behaviour it becomes – the more likely it is to happen again unless the various criteria that lead to the behaviour are changed.

Dogs need choice – a say in the matter.

Does he want to be touched just now? Does he want to be left alone just now?

In addition to altering these criteria which won’t be easy (creating calm, choice and predictability) the situation needs to be safety-managed.

A muzzle is good as a safety thing in emergency, but using it so that people can be free to do as they like around Ezra would be very wrong.

Since speaking to me on the phone the other day when Ezra had bitten the boy, the lady has had the pup in a crate in the dining room when the younger kids are about. She will be locking the doors to the room when she’s not in there – Ezra safely shut away with plenty to do.

(This sounds like Ezra is now shut away all the time but that isn’t the case. They are managing to juggle things so that he has plenty of attention and outings).

Dedication, kindness and patience.

The lady is treating Ezra with the same dedication, kindness and patience she treats all the family which includes several young people she has taken under her wing.

The younger family members will be changing their own behaviour where possible as will the older ones. We are looking at ways of using clicker and food to create a more useful relationship between Ezra and the boy.

It may be at the end of the day that they aren’t the right home for Ezra. This happens.

They will know that they’ve not left any stone unturned. Where you can’t fully control the humans and have to rely solely upon management there is always the risk that, in an unguarded moment, management falls down. A door can be left unlocked.

At the end of the day these kind people will be making the right decision for both Ezra and their family.

I received this email out of the blue nine months later: Life is good we have had a long journey with **** & Ezra but we have found some compromise & middle ground. Zones, gates, time out for all & listening to the ladder of communication mean that we are living together peaceful most of the time. Thank you for all your help to find a solution that has enabled us to care for everyone safely & has meant that Ezra can remain with us.
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 Ezra and I’ve not gone into exact precise 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, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are 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 Help page)

Bad Start with New Rescue Dog

Malamute Alaska injured new rescue Shar-pei's faceShar-pei Yoko had been in her new home for one day when she received a bad injury to her face from Malamute Alaska, requiring many stitches. But it wasn’t a fight as such.

What a sad situation. It had started so well. Both dogs had been walked together several times before bringing Yoko home and they had got on well.

What the lady hadn’t been told was that not only did Yoko have a bad ear infection, but in addition to a skin problem she was also in season. So, here was a very stressed dog trying to adapt to home life after nine months in rescue with physical problems as well.

Alaska, the most polite and confident dog with people who you can imagine, was only castrated recently. Yoko presented herself to him and he started to do what male dogs do. Unfortunately he has a bad hip problem and he will have been in pain also. Things were stacked up against them.

Anyway, the outcome was a sudden angry response from Yoko as she tried to escape, followed by the same from Alaska and at the same time he must have grabbed her face. There is a big discrepancy in the two dogs’ size and possibly because of her baggy skin, what may otherwise have been a puncture wound was a tear, probably caused when they were pulled apart. She has a good number of stitches.

The lady has a £400 vet bill and got off to a very bad start with her new rescue dog.

The final really sad thing about this is that the lady, a very conscientious and caring person who chose the two dogs specifically for their seemingly calm temperament in the kennels and not their breed, worries that she may never be able to trust them together again. She is now so anxious that she keeps the dogs apart unless Alaska is muzzled.

So this is the situation I arrived to. Should she or should she not keep Yoko?Alaska  is accepting of the muzz.e

Alaska himself had been in rescue for over a year before she adopted him last year. He has a few problems which we will work on, including marking in certain parts of the house and being a bit of a bully with off-lead dogs.

There are some very positive things also.

Because she has two children, the young lady has always played very safe. She gradually taught Alaska to welcome wearing a muzzle just in case it was ever needed  – it’s a bit too big and he looked so comical I had to take the photo.

She is a gentle person and the household is calm. Alaska is a quietly confident dog. When I arrived he was lying in the hall and I simply walked past him.

Both dogs showed no animosity to one another and although they are now let outside separately, they walk past each other with no reaction.

New rescue Sharpei,unknown when they fetched, is pregnant

Yoko

At the moment Yoko is very uptight.  Understandably.  When she joined us and a muzzled Alaska in the sitting room, she l ay with her back to us for much of the time.  I then suggested we put Alaska on lead and removed the muzzle. When Yoko was walking about, the only sign of any trouble between the two was when Alaska sniffed her bum and she growled softly.

When the three guinea pigs that are kept in a large cage in the kitchen got active, Yoko became extremely agitated. She began to pace, cry and stress. It takes her a long time to calm down again.

The eleven-year-old daughter did some great calming work with Yoko that I showed her, reinforcing her whenever she sat, lay down or settled.

Whether or not Yoko stays will depend upon how she turns out when she settles in and what behaviours come to the fore. She has so many new things to adjust to.

Whether or not she stays will depend upon how the two dogs get on once her season is over and her body healed.

Whether or not she stays will also depend upon whether the young lady, who lives alone with the two children, ever feels she can relax again and leave the two dogs together – her house is quite small.  She got another dog to be company for Alaska.

If Yoko can’t stay, she won’t be abandoned back to the rescue. The young lady, bless her, has already decided she will get their permission to find the dog she already loves a good home – but not until she is fully healed and is in much better physical condition.

A week later it became apparent that Yoko was already pregnant. She had two puppies and the story goes on. The lady has managed the situation with Yoko and Alaska beautifully and they get on fine. However, she couldn’t find homes with people she felt she could trust for the two puppies so she still has them. Life is hard but she is doing her very best in difficult circumstances.

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

Moving In Together

StaffieSasha

Sasha

She has four children, he has two dogs and they are moving in together.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Suzie is on the left and Ben below  They are beautiful, friendly dogs but too excitable and not a little unruly!

Both dogs jump all over the sofas and all over people. Ben jumps up at the children and can knock the younger ones over.

The 3-year-old child has to be watched because she wants to hug the dogs and they don’t like it.

What worries their mother most is Suzie’s way of snatching food. She is rightly concerned that if a child is walking around with a biscuit for example, that it could unintentionally be bitten.

When I held a tiny treat in my fist, Suzie was absolutely frantic to get it.  It’s like she’s starving hungry. I have seldom seen anything quite like it.

Ben

I’m sure there is more to this although a vet has previously said she’s okay.

Although Suzie eats just the same amount as solid Buster, she is extremely thin. They have much more to pick up after her in the garden than from Ben, so food must be passing through her. She is given very little exercise so she shouldn’t really be so skinny. If a change in diet doesn’t work quickly, then another visit to the vet is called for.

Dog walks have become more and more infrequent for various reasons. These two dogs will be a lot more settled with regular exercise and healthy stimulation to compensate for the hours they spend alone during the day.

I showed the couple how to start a walk without the dog charging out of the door and pulling frantically down the passage. Suzie caught on really fast. This is not easy when a walk has become an exciting rarity. The couple will make themselves a do-able schedule of ‘little and often’ for the dogs involving walks and basic training.

The children also have their own things to learn. The youngest needs to be taught not to hug dogs. Safety first, a gate should be between kitchen and sitting room so that dogs and children can be separated either when any food is about or when an adult hasn’t their eye on them.

With work, I’m sure that these lovely dogs will then calm down and learn some self-control. It’s all up to their humans. It’s great that they love the children.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Sasha and Ben, 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, most particularly where children are involved also. 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).

Very Protective Dog

Daschund Max is on guard dutyUnfortunately Max has recently bitten several people including two young children and two postmen.

Max, age two, was found as a stray and they understandably absolutely adore their little dog.

A few months ago they moved house to a busier street, and now Max is doing a lot more barking. He is getting a lot more worked up. He has taken it upon himself to be on guard duty big time. Any noise sends him flying around the house barking. He barks at passers by when out in the garden. Two different postmen were bitten when they entered ‘Max’s’ garden and put out a hand towards him – but outside his own territory one of these same men is like his best friend. At home he is an extremely protective dog. Outside his own house and garden he is a different dog, and very friendly with other dogs too.

Not only is Max becoming increasingly protective of the house, he is very protective of the lady and most of his growling and biting has happened in her presence. When I sat down Max stood facing me on the lady’s lap, barking while she ‘comforted’ him. I asked her to put him straight on the floor. She should be nice to him when he’s quiet and pop him on the floor when he barks.

Max also growls at the gentleman when he’s on the lady’s lap. He growls at them in their own bed at night – pMax is the centre of the lady's universearticularly at the man. I have nothing against dogs sleeping with people if that is what the people really like, but certainly not if the dog is taking posession of the bed and growling if they dare move!

The lady in particular behaves like Max is the centre of her universe.  She touches him and attends to him constantly. The moment she gets home from work, after a rapturous welcome, although he has had the company of the gentleman for most of the day, she is cuddling and playing with him for an hour before doing anything else. They are doing his bidding all evening until he settles.  All this adoration can, in my mind, be quite hard for a dog. As time goes by Max is increasingly taking on the role of protector and decision-maker.  This is a big burden for a dog and one that should be shouldered by his humans.

Gradually Max’s stress levels should reduce as the barking gets less because the people will now deal with it appropriately. They are dedicated to helping him. As a more relaxed dog he should be more tolerant  – though all people should respect his dislike of outstretched hands and his people must take responsibility for this, even using a soft muzzle when children visit so that everyone can relax. The rule must always be Safety First.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Max, 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 – particularly where issues involved aggression of any kind. 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).

 

Lots of Positive Reinforcement Required

He takes little notice of them when they ask him to do something - and may even do the very opposite! Wilf is a delightful mix of Fox Terrier and PoodleWilf is a delightful mix of Fox Terrier and Poodle He is four years old.

This little dog has had a lot of emotion and change in his life. Shortly after they got him as a puppy there was a family bereavement causing turmoil and grief and the puppy will have picked up on these things.

A year ago they lived in quiet rural North Wales and they have moved house twice since then – now to a much busier town area. Coinciding with the first move Wilf’s behaviour has declined. He has quite a serious skin condition that is also getting worse and this discomfort may be affecting his behaviour; he gets growly if a hand rests on him. Coincidentally, he changed vets and medication at the same time as that first move, and the new vet flipped him onto his back and pinned him down to examine him. Since this, unsurprisingly, he has also became aggressive and fearful of the vet.

Indoors Wilf is no trouble at all. He is quite self-contained and doesn’t seem to want to put himself out much for the mother and daughter who own him – though I found he came alive for cheese! He takes little notice of them when they ask him to do something – and may even do the very opposite! Its a shame because they do a lot of things with him in order to enrich his life, but there is just something missing.

It’s this relationship that needs to be strengthened if he’s to take notice of them when they meet other dogs on walks – or children,  both of which he doesn’t like too close, especially when he’s trapped on lead with someone he doesn’t fully believe in – someone who is herself becoming increasingly nervous. Most recently things have escalated to a little girl simply standing and staring at him being enough to cause him to react ferociously. They will now go near the local school playground and get him associating children with good stuff from a comfortable distance.

If they were to engage with Wilf a bit more, use food rewards and lots of positive reinforcement, I’m sure this little dog will liven up and become less touchy. He is another of those dogs that gets too much for nothing and he needs to work for some of his food and attention. This way both will gain value and his people will become more relevant.

They are having a new vet check him today to review the skin meds. He also walks into things which is strange though seems to be able to see okay. The vet will check that too. Maybe there is more going on than we know.

 

Things Get Too Much For New Puppy.

Dolly is an adorable, playful one-year-old Shi Tzu

Dolly

Things get too much

Bella

Dolly is an adorable, playful one-year-old Shi Tzu with no problems at all – a really stable little dog.

A week ago nine-week-old Bella joined the family. She is a Malshi (never heard of that before, but a cross between a Shi Tzu and a Maltese). As you can see on the right – absolutely adorable.

The family has been used to Dolly who has always loved being handled. She lies on her back like a rag doll on their laps!

It was all too much for the new puppy

When Bella arrived they understandably treated her the same way. They have two little boys and many friends, and in the first few days she was cuddled by children, passed about and held high by a man. It was all too much for her.

In these first few days she was also scared of little Dolly, squealing when Dolly went near to her.

Then her behaviour started to change. Now, when someone approached and tried to lift her out of her bed, she growled. Initially they thought it was funny, that is until a child was holding her and she started growling, and when nobody took any notice Bella nipped the little girl.

Bella also was becoming very brave with Dolly and the play was growing rough. People were now getting concerned.

I watched the two little dogs playing and indeed it’s tricky. It was the sort of play you’d find OK between two dogs of the same age, but too rough for a puppy, although Bella herself now instigated a lot of it. It was simply too much for her.

When enough is enough

They will now step in sooner. It’s like you might say to your children, ‘that’s enough, it will all end in tears’, or you would say to your older child, ‘don’t get her too excited, be gentle’. We all felt it was good that the two dogs were getting on so well and sometimes they would be lying down together – but at what stage in play is enough, enough.

At what stage is it too much? The gentleman is inclined to panic where the lady tends to let them get on with it. I stand somewhere between the two.

They have a large wooden floored house. I noticed that with all the doors open and there was a lot of space – too much. Dolly would charge at little Bella from a distance, bowl her over and pin her down with her mouth. She did the same thing to her in the garden. Bella was learning to be rough.

Play would be much more equal in a smaller area. So, for a start I suggested shutting doors when they Malshi2play or putting both together in the puppy pen they have bought. They should not to have them playing freely out in the garden either for now.

When to step in

As I watched, everything would be okay for a couple minutes then, each time, there came a moment when the play tipped over into something more. It needs to be stopped before this point is reached.

They need to limit play to no more than five minutes at a time, possibly only a couple of minutes to start with. This is so puppy isn’t over-tired, over-stressed, over-excited or scared. If possible they will redirect play onto an item they can tug between them rather than play fighting.

Nine weeks old is such a baby and Bella needs to be taught to play nicely with dogs. Dolly has a couple of doggy friends of her own age and size whose play is very noisy and boisterous. She is doing the same with Bella but it’s too much for the tiny puppy. She is learning bad habits.

How to approach and handle Bella

I explained that not only was the approach of large humans very likely to be intimidating to Bella, but not all dogs like to be handled all the time in the way that Dolly does.

Growling is the puppy’s way of saying ‘I’m not comfortable. Please don’t do this’. To laugh or to ignore it is leading to trouble. If growling is ignored or discouraged, what is the puppy forced to do next?

They will now avoid picking her up altogether unless really necessary. They will give her the opportunity to come over to them for a cuddle while they sit on the floor – if she wishes. Guests will be asked to do the same. They will leave her in peace when she’s asleep.

When they lift her in and out of her pen, they will now give her a tiniest bit of chicken as they do so, to associate hands and lifting with something nice. I also showed them how to start teaching Bella to become comfortable with an approaching hand.

This is a crucial time in her life, and her experiences need to be nice ones. At present everything is simply too much

Staffie’s Anxiety Around Children

Staffie Doris can be nervous and scaredDoris is an eight-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Because of her sweet nature, the fact she has been given few rules and boundaries hasn’t really caused them problems until reecently.

Doris can be a nervous and scared dog around certain everyday things, and I have found this is often the case where dogs make most of their own decisions, where they can come in and out of the garden whenever they want through a dog flap, jump up and all over visitors who hype them up whilst the owners are telling them to stop (how confusing this must be), and where the humans fall in line with whatever the dog demands. It’s like it is all too much responsibility and she needs to be gently taken in hand for her own sense of security.

Things have become worrying because her lady owner is due to have a baby in one week’s time. Doris has increasingly been showning fear of little nephews and neices who visit and last week nipped a toddler. Doris was on lead and the humans were very anxious which obviously transferred to Doris. Instead of encouraging her with positive associations when she went near the child, they will have been telling her off. She is frantically excited when people come to the house, so she would already have been in a highly stressed state of mind. When young children visit she has no hiding place where they can’t follow her.

Doris needs – you’ve guessed it – leadership. From a practical point of view she needs a ‘safe haven’ where children are simply forbidden to go. It’s the children that need watching. She has a hidey hole under the stairs which could perhaps be gated, or there could be a gate in the doorless kitchen doorway. It’s a small house with no other downstairs rooms.

It should not be too difficult to turn things around for Doris. Preparation for the baby needs to being immediately. They have made a start with Doris no longer sleeping on their bed. She needs positive associations with the smell of the baby, with the Moses basket and the buggy. There will be plenty of visitors when the baby is born, so Doris will need help to calm down quickly which means the visitors will need to be shown what to do. When children come to the house, Doris needs to be left strictly alone, somewhere safe. Seeing that this happens is the responsibility of good leaders.

With more leadership in all aspects of her life Doris should gain more confidence in her owners to understand her and to look out for her.

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

 

 

Aggression at Home is Escalating

Newfoundland trying to adjust to new lifeIt is a difficult situation for Kaloo, a Newfoundland. Until recently he lived with another Newfie and their male owner. Recently they moved in with a lady who has two Springer Spaniels and two children, so two ‘packs’ are merging.

For Kaloo there are two areas of stress. One is the competition for ‘top dog’ status with Springer Pip, the other is being in a much more, to him, stressful environment with excitement, noise, boy shooting toy gun, trampoline and so on.

Kaloo is two and a half years old; until he went to live with the gentleman about 9 months ago he had been in rescue kennels for a long while, with a previous history when still a pup of guarding.

Now things are beginning to get dangerous. He is targeting the lady and has bitten her twice. He growls quite ferociously at her and at the two children. This mostly takes place when they want to walk past him – and he usually occupies the main access route to the doors.  He has now begun to fly at people when they move suddenly, without the warning growl. He has occasional spats with the male Springer who has started to scent mark in the house and there has been blood. Kaloo is not a happy dog.

The lady is understandably very wary of Kaloo now which is making things worse, and quite rightly worried for her children as is the man.

It is always difficult to feel you are doing right by your own dogs when new dogs join your household. Things they were able to do before may now no longer be possible. The lady feels afraid to walk around her own house.

Poor Kaloo is confused and stressed. By understanding him better and by both working on human leadership as well as safety measures to manage the situation, I sincerely hope that this can be resolved. The man must take much better charge of Kaloo, work on getting him to come straight away when called so that he can avert trouble (at present he comes if he feels like it). Kaloo needs some form of physical restriction or containment when the man isn’t about. When he does growl the humans need to respond appropriately, taking charge whilst not retaliating with anger which would very quickly escalate things.

Growling isn’t for fun – it’s a warning. ‘Go away’. ‘Don’t move suddenly’, ‘Don’t come near me’. ‘Don’t walk through this door’. ‘Don’t come near this person’. It’s Catch 22. If the warning is obeyed then it reinforces growling.  If it’s not obeyed the dog may then take it to the next step and if it is never obeyed the dog may well drop out warning altogether and go straight to biting, which I think is now happening with Kaloo and the lady. It’s moving in a dangerous direction.

The whole family needs to change the way they behave with the dogs – especially Kaloo, and to some extent the boy Springer.  Meanwhile, ‘play safe’ is the golden rule.

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

Poor Little Dog. Unreal Expectations.

PuggleI went to see Dandy, a Puggle (Pug Beagle cross) back in January, and because things were not going well I visited again yesterday. Due to his excess excitement they still felt unable to walk him out beyond their large garden. I knew as soon as I walked in and he was jumping excitedly up at me and on the lady, that they had not been following my instructions.

Dandy is easily stirred up when there are several people about, most especially the children and their friends, and commands and frustration hype him up further. He is very receptive to atmosphere.

The gentleman had a labrador as a child and his memory was of a large placid dog that calmly fitted in with everything the family wanted to do. Dandy is himself and can never be changed into something he’s not, and trying to supress his enthusiastic personality is in my mind making him ten times worse.

Little Dandy has absolutely no vices in my eyes! He is gentle, never aggressive, and biddable. He is a wonderful little character and if he were my dog I would find him great fun. He is very receptive if treated kindly. I hope they now try to help him out a little more and ease off. Allow him to have scatty times within reason and be himself. I found that by giving him positive encouragement we were out walking on the pavement in no time. He kept grabbing the lead, and I taught him kindly ‘drop’ it using tiny rewards.

This was fairly typical of a repeat visit to someone who is not doing well – in that the careful plan I had devised for them simply wasn’t being followed. They had their own ideas. I may be big-headed in saying that I probably know best! Having been to nearly nine hundred clients which means thousands of dogs, I have seen countless successes with owners taking their time, using patience and positive reinforcement. Little Dandy is only playing the cards he’s been dealt by the humans around him. Even after my efforts I’m still not sure the gentleman appreciates that we owe it to our dog to consider his doggy needs; he believes it is all about the dog fitting in with all their requirements. I remember as a teenager saying to my father after a row, ‘Well, you didn’t have to have me!’ If Dandy could speak, he may be saying the same thing.

The bottom line here is that they don’t actually seem to be enjoying their little dog. The couple don’t ‘drink from the same water bowl’ where he is concerned and it is causing conflict between them. This is adding more tension to the atmosphere which is effecting Dandy’s behaviour. I suggested they sat down over a bottle of wine and listed all his good points. To work at finding pleasure in him and treating his antics with a sense of humour. As in my previous post, to give him the sort of parenting they give to their children.

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

Stress, a Jack Russell and Biting.

Stressed Jack Russell

Milo

Milo is a Jack Russell aged just seven months. It is hard to believe he is little more than a puppy.  He lives with another Jack Russell called Snoopy.

Both dogs show classic signs of stress. Milo is now biting people entering their house, he has bitten family members and he drew blood from a boy who came to play. The dog warden has become involved, and the distressed family were on the point of taking Milo to Wood Green.

The family moved house a week ago and this was the final straw for poor Milo. The whole family is under a lot of pressure.  There are four children and, quite naturally for kids, they can be noisy and excitable with the usual squabbling and so on.

Milo sleeps inside the parents’ bed and snarls if a child comes near; the dogs make it impossible for anyone to get out of the front door they are so frantic and sometimes they redirect their stress onto one another. They are picked up, fussed, teased and played rough with. The owners have given up on walks due to the level of excitement before leaving and the noise Milo makes when out.

When I rang the door bell there was bedlam behind it – dogs barking, children shouting in their efforts to put  the dogs behind the gate in the kitchen so they could open the door. We had Milo on a long lead to start with, but when he calmed down it was dropped. He ignored me and I ignored him. You can see from my photo that he may have been lying down, but he wasn’t relaxed.

Then an interesting thing happened. Someone came past the side window and Milo went into full guard and attack mode, charging at the window and then to the front window where I was sitting – and bit me! I’m always prepared and wear tough clothes so he only bit on my sleeve. I believe he was so fired up that I was the nearest thing when the stress ‘overflowed’.

Many people underestimate the devastating effect stress can have on a dog, and are often unaware of the sorts of things that constitute stress. It’s not only stuff associated with fear. Exciting play that the dog seems to love can cause stress as can walks, and they also pick up on the stress  of the owners.

I see it like a bucket of water. Each time something excites, stimulates or frightens the dog, some water drips into the bucket. In dogs stress can take a long time to dissipate – days – so that water stays there! Bit by bit the bucket fills until it is near overflowing and just one more drop will cause it to flow over. The slightest thing can then cause the dog to fly off the handle. This is why some dogs seem ‘unpredictable’. How they handle something they may meet one day when the bucket isn’t full to overflowing will be different to how they react to the same thing another day when it’s brim full.

Stress reduction in every way possible is the only option for Milo, difficult with such a busy and noisy household. However, they have no choice. If it can’t be achieved, he may actually be better off in a calmer home. He is only seven months old and as he gets older he can only get worse if something isn’t done quickly; he will be the one to pay the price.  Both little dogs are very well loved and it’s extremely distressing for owners to have a biting dog.

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