Clever Westie Needs More to Do

WestieFraserOh Joy! This was one clever little dog.

Eighteen-month Westie Fraser that I went to yesterday lives with a couple and their 3-year-old son. He has two different traits, both of which result in toileting indoors.

When the little boy is up and about Fraser can become very amped-up. The child is bright, talkative and energetic just as little boys should be, and he is very hands-on with the dog. Mostly it is a lovely relationship, but at times I feel it gets a bit too much for Fraser, who, during the day can be displaying stress-related behaviours whereas in the evening, with the little boy in bed, dad at home and less happening outside, he is altogether a more peaceful little dog.

Fraser has developed a sequence of behaviours beginning with his hearing or seeing something outside the sitting room window and ends with his toileting on the floor. They live on a corner so there is plenty passing by.  Fraser first starts to bark, he carries on being agitated and barking for several minutes, then he starts pacing and compulsively sniffing the floor. His agitation ends with him either peeing or pooing – or both.

The other thing he does that also results in toileting is in the kitchen when they are busy cooking or doing something with the little boy. Fraser’s not getting their attention – they will be ignoring his usual squeaking and whining (something that usually ends in getting what he wants), so he pees – or poos. He may even look at them as he does so. Although they don’t scold him as such, he certainly gets a reaction! Whatever they are doing stops for a while.

When he is left all alone in the kitchen at night time or when they are out, the place is always clean so this backs up my theory. At most other times his squeaking and whining at them will get him the desired result.

The bottom line I feel is that Fraser doesn’t have enough to occupy his brain so he’s fairly frustrated. I thought we would just try some clicker work to see how he got on. In the past he would sit and stay on request but he refused to lie down.

This little genius got the hang of earning clicks (hence food) in no time at all. He was lying down/getting up/lying down repeatedly, really chuffed with himself.  The couple also caught on very quickly and soon the lady was teaching him to touch her hand (‘touch’) and to look into her eyes (‘watch me’). The options are endless.

We now have a tool for interrupting the alarm-barking routine and teach him to do something else instead – which this morning the lady told me is already working. The other thing they will do is to put static plastic window frosting on that window so he can’t see out.

So far as whining for attention is concerned, he needs to realise in all other situations as well as when they are busy in the kitchen, that it doesn’t work. He will actually be getting far more attention and mental stimulation, but not instigated always by himself, and certainly not as a result of whining and squeaking.

The lady will also be clicker training the little boy with Smarties (and the word Yes instead of clicking so as not to confuse the dog)! She will reward him when he gives the dog space, when he lets him eat in peace and so on.

I was really excited at how quickly this little dog picked things up, and the couple were amazed. We actually carried on for far longer than I would normally without a break, and he still wasn’t ready to stop. There are all sorts of things he can learn to do.

Fraser has a very rosy future and I’m sure it won’t be long before their floors are clean!

GSD Barks Fearfully at People

Bella barks fearfully at people German Shepherd Bella only lies still if I don't moveBella still barks fearfully at people.

I went to see Bella three months ago when she arrived at her new owners, and they have come a very long way. The couple have worked very hard indeed and it’s not been easy. They have developed a firm bond.

However, Bella is still barks fearfully at people, especially people coming to her house. Today she was fine if she couldn’t see me – even though she could hear me – but went into manic barking if she sighted me.

She was okay if I sat still

After a while she got used to me sitting down and lay down seemingly relaxed so long so long as I sat still, a great improvement on last time; as soon as I stood, though, the barking started.

Whilst the couple have made brilliant progress considering what she was like three months ago, it is now time to advance things further. Bella needs to learn to be more confident around visitors to the house.

We worked at my going out, ringing the doorbell and coming back in again. When I last came she was in such a state that we had worked by removing her because she was so frantic; now we all felt it was time to progress forward. With me as the ‘guinea pig’, we used a clicker to reward her for calm behaviour in my presence.

Because she is such a clever dog, Bella soon realised that barking and then stopping barking would be followed by a click and a treat! It’s called chaining. She was barking in order to stop barking in order to get the click and then the treat! So, we had to get her to wait for the click and wait for the treat. I took a video of her wonderful lady owner’s attempts. The timing will improve with practice – the click and reward should come for having looked calmly at me for several seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGl8BiDECuc

100% committed

Now, after a very shaky start, Bella’s new owners are 100% committed and have made great progress already. When they took her on they were told she was socialised. It was a big shock to discover what she was really like, but after a lot of soul-searching they decided to keep her and to give her their all.  Confidence building can be very, very slow.