Something So Endearing About a Cocker Spaniel

Show Cocker Spaniel Toby is a beautiful boyThere really is something so endearing about a Cocker Spaniel!

Cockers haven’t been put on this earth to be ignored.

My own Cocker, Pickle, is totally different to Toby in that he’s not a guarder, but he, too, can be a handful. He is a working Cocker and keeps himself, and me, busy. He is the smallest of my dogs but more trouble than my three other dogs put together.

Pickle keeps me on my toes!

Toby is a Show Cocker and a beautiful boy.

His start in life wasn’t ideal in that he was hand-reared along with his siblings. The downside of this is that he hasn’t been taught by his mother when his teeth hurt as usually happens when suckling. If she feels puppy’s teeth, mum gets up and walks away. Puppy learns about teeth because his food supply disappears.

Toby guards people, places, locations, himself.

Their problem with Toby is that he guards things in that he ‘possesses’ them. They are HIS resources; ‘Stay away’. He guards places also, various private bolt-holes in the house where he takes his ‘trophies’. These are places like under the coffee table beside his lady owner (whom he also guards).

The Cocker Spaniel may also guard food while he is eating, he guards chews and bones, he guards his own personal space and he will guard toys. He does quite a lot of growling that they are now immune to – but growling has a purpose, it’s a warning.

Recently Toby bit someone who approached something he was guarding and who ignored his growling.

Toby chooses.

Toby gets what he wants, when he wants. He chooses when he comes in at night, he chooses where he sleeps. Toby chooses when he eats. He chooses when he gets touched. He chooses when he should play ball (but the ball has to be wrestled off him). His demands are nearly always immediately met.

Food is always available and their own food is shared. Nothing has to be earned. If £50 notes were showered on you, would you want to work for two pounds? Their attention is given freely, every time he demands it. How relevant does he find his loving humans when they want his attention?

I asked the man to call Toby to him. Toby just looked at him! (Toby now expected the man to repeat the request and put in a lot of effort). I said to the man, “Toby’s had his opportunity and lost it. Leave him”.

I must say, I can’t imagine any of my dogs growling at me. This isn’t because they are any different from Toby or other dogs I go to. It’ s because I never have used physical force but rewards instead. I mostly save giving them treats for when they do something I like. They are always willing. I am relevant. I hold the ‘cards’.

We control the resources, not the dog

Here is a quote from Jordan Rothman, ‘To control your dog, control what motivates your dog: food, toys, belly rubs, attention, access to other dogs etc.’

I introduced Toby to clicker training. It took a while for him to catch on to the notion of having to EARN food (cheese). Once he got it, he was 100% attention, poised to work for me. It was lovely to see and shows what is possible. He was a focused and happy dog; all I was teaching him as a starter was to look me in the eye, to give me his full attention.

Loving a dog to bits is a bit of a two-edged sword. Indulging a dog’s every whim is actually not good for him. It’s no different than with one’s children.

Frantic Pulling. Nightmare. No Walks Now.

Hector’s frantic pulling on walks seemed hard to imagine when meeting him in the house.

He’s a sweet and sensitive dog, apart from what they say is excessive jumping up at people who come to the house. He wasn’t too bad with me because I kept him calm. 

It’s unfair.

Staffie frantic pulling on walksPeople come into the house and get the friendly dog highly aroused with excitable fuss. Then, when he can no longer control himself, he’s scolded.

Hector’s lack of self-control both when people come into the house and the frantic pulling on walks are due to much the same things. Over-arousal and I, believe, some anxiety too. As he now gets no exercise he must have an excess of energy and no outlet for other stresses.

If the visiting people can be persuaded to act differently, so will Hector.

No more walks due to frantic pulling

The main problem with Hector’s life is walks – or lack of walks.

His walks had become a total nightmare, both for Hector and for his humans. To try to stop the frantic pulling they use a Halti. Between straining, frantic pulling, panting and gasping, he desperately tries to scrape the thing off on the ground.

They used to walk him on the same circuit. He shot out of the front door and the frantic pulling began. Then he pulled all the way, like he was on a mission, until they got back home again. He would not stop even once for a sniff.

The man who did most of the walking, became increasingly frustrated and angry.

Walks had become a battle.

One can imagine how Hector might react if he spied another dog! Added to lunging he would rear up on his back legs, making a choking sound. The man would struggle to hold him.

Going back to the beginning.

Because Hector doesn’t get walks anyway, they can strip things back to the beginning. He has nothing to lose.

Even standing at the open front door will be a bonus.

Walks will be broken down into small stages. They will keep working on each little step until it is mastered before going on to the next.

The Halti won’t be needed. They will get a comfortable harness that attaches both front and top – a Perfect Fit. They will ditch the flexilead and use a double-ended training lead, at least six feet long.

Hector will be introduced to two new concepts on walks – freedom and choice.

Work will start with his simply wearing the harness around the house – not associating it with a walk at all. Next, when he’s calm, the lead can be popped on with no fuss.

They will stand at the closed door. Hector won’t walk calmly on a loose lead if he can’t even stand still on a loose lead!

A relaxed leash?

Steps to loose lead walking, no more frantic pulling, will move on to simply standing by the open front door and doing nothing. They will hang on and wait for the lead to slacken just a moment (as it will eventually) – then CLICK and feed something small and special.

(Some people tell me they bought a clicker but it doesn’t work. A clicker is nothing in itself. It’s how the clicker is used).

So Hector will now be learning that standing still, by the open front door on a loose lead is rewarding.

Next they can step outside and he can find that standing on the garden path on a loose lead is rewarding.

Opposite the house is a small grass area. They can then go and work the same magic there.

This could possibly take weeks but the more short sessions they can fit in the better. Currently anything outside the house is over-stimulating due to lack of acclimatisation. Because Hector sees so few now, people and dogs are a major event.

Going somewhere

Gradually they can walk a little way – but no more straight lines. No more predictable A to B. Hector will now start to enjoy his walk. It’s about information – smells and sounds. It should be about the journey, not the destination.

Hector will no longer expect to ‘get somewhere’. Frantic pulling will be unnecessary.  If they use encouragement, both dog and humans will begin to enjoy the walk for its own sake.

They can follow Hector sometimes – so long as the lead is slack. He can choose where he goes.

A special bonus will be going somewhere open and popping a long line on the back of the harness. Some freedom!

With loose lead walking under way and without the over-excitement and anxiety, they can work on what to do when he spots another dog. Very likely, due to his improved mental state, he will be less reactive.

They should make some really good progress if they take their time and are sufficiently patient.

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 Hector. 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. 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).

Chase and Attack Bouncing Footballs and Geese

Jasper is a wonderful Border Collie. He is beautifully suited to life as a house pet in his particularly lovely home environment. They have a big garden with a stream running through it, lots of lawn with rougher areas, two alpacas and a couple of geese.

chase and attack footballsAs soon as I arrived and walked through the garden, sun shining (at last), having said a polite hello the super-friendly Jasper leapt into the stream! I’m sure he has a sense of humour. They will play a game where Jasper hides the ball and the lady has to find it!

Jasper’s ‘Border Collieness’ breaks through just sometimes. Whether his attitude to the geese and alpacas is prey driven or herding gone wrong, something instinctive kicks in. He goes deaf to being called. It’s the same when he hears a football bouncing. He’s off!

Apart from being a talented escape-artist, the young dog has just these two failings. He will chase and attack the geese if he gets the chance. Jasper gets very aroused at the sound of a bouncing football; he will chase and attack that also. He flattens it – kills it!

Chase and attack and kill that football!

They have inadvertently taught him to chase and attack a football!

Their previous dog had loved playing with a flattened football and Jasper was introduced to this at a young age. It’s not surprising that the sound of a football bouncing gets him going. A dog’s hearing is so much better than our own that they often get no warning when he suddenly runs off.

He could then scare children if he leaps up at them to grab their ball. He is such a gentle and friendly dog, a complaint would be dreadful.

The geese are a different matter and he is drawn to them. Their flapping of wings when they are alarmed he finds highly arousing.

Rock solid recall.

The couple need Jasper on ‘remote control’ which means rock solid recall. Over time they can condition him to respond to a whistle followed by food, as the sharp sound is much more likely to interrupt him if caught quickly enough. He will build up an automatic response to the sound of the whistle.

They will also use clicker for work with both the geese and the ball – where, although he’s not actually clicking it himself, Jasper in effect works the clicker by behaving in a certain way, thus earning food. By looking away and staying calm he will in effect cause the click which will result in food.

They will start work well away from the geese with Jasper on lead. I suggested a squeaky ball if suddenly a goose flaps its wings. Squeak to get his attention. Then roll the ball the other way, thus redirecting his urge to chase onto something acceptable.

The aim is for Jasper to not only gain self-control around the geese, but also to have something alternative to redirect onto. something that is incompatible with the chase and attack on a goose.

Differentiate between inflated and flattened footballs.

Because he so loves playing with his flattened ball, they will differentiate between flat footballs and round ones. He’s such a clever dog this should be no problem. Any new football will now need to be flattened before he’s given it.

As with the geese, they work slowly from a distance where he doesn’t react, Jasper on lead. They can start by holding the ball, then putting it down somewhere out of reach but not moving. The clicker will mark and shape every little bit of desired behaviour like relaxing or looking away.

When he no longer is excited by the sight the stationery football and when he can calmly sniff it, they can introduce a small bounce from behind their trellis. And so on. A bouncing ball will become the signal for Jasper to run to them for fun of a different kind rather than chase and attack the ball. ‘Fun’ will be things that are specifically fun to Jasper.

For now, when they are out anywhere they think there may be a football, Jasper must be on a long line. This is so he is no longer able to rehearse his football chase and attack.

With a bit more brain work in other areas of his life, clever Jasper should be less in need of getting gratification from the behaviours they want to avoid.

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 Jasper 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. 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).

Barks Go Away at People. Fearful Puppy.

As I walk in the door, the puppy barks as he backs away. He barks Go Away to me.

It is suggested that taking a puppy from his mother and siblings a bit too early may, in special circumstances, be actually be better than leaving him a bit later than usual. This depends upon what the breeder is doing.

Rough and tumble with siblings can teach puppy to be gentle, give and take and so on. If, until he is ten weeks old, puppy sees nobody apart from the other dogs and a couple of family members in the breeder’s house in the middle of nowhere, the outcome can be a lot more serious than a nippy puppy.

A puppy needs early habituating to the outside world and to a variety of people including children. For psychological reasons, the earlier this begins the better despite vaccinations not complete.

Four month old Bear is a typical case in point. They picked him up to join their other Miniature Poodle, Teddy, at ten weeks of age. He is very gentle, not a nippy puppy at all and perfect with Teddy.

The four-month-old puppy barks Go Away.

However, Bear is very scared of people. He even initially barks Go Away to familiar people coming into his home.

he barks Go Away at people

Bear

Normally they stop him with a mix of saying Shhh and fuss. I asked them to leave him which meant he carried on a lot longer.

Now the work started. He was going to learn not to be scared of me.

The lady had my clicker and some grated cheese. Each time Bear looked at me he got a click then, a moment later, cheese.

Each time he barked, as soon as there was a break she clicked. Then cheese. Soon she was clicking and I was delivering the cheese.

It was complicated a little by the need to give Teddy cheese as well, but that is the rule of clicker. The click is always followed by food. We may want to give Teddy some clicker fun at a later date. The room was small and there was nowhere else for him to go, and Teddy loves his food so can’t be left out.

Joy and laughter.

Teddy and Bear give their retired owners great happiness and loads of laughter. The little dogs have wonderful lives with them. Understandably, they want Bear’s life to be as good as it possibly can be which means his becoming less fearful of people, including children.

Teddy

This can only be done by associating them with ‘good stuff’. It needs lots of patient work from his humans who will do their best not to push him ‘over threshold’ by getting so close that he then barks Go Away.

They have actually made good headway on walks and he can now accept several people he knows without barking. The big difference when out in the park is that he’s off lead and free to escape.

They can use the people he meets on walks to build up his confidence by pairing his looking at them with food. The lady may find the clicker one thing too many to handle – as well as two dogs, leads, poo bags and treats – so she will say ‘Yes’ instead.

They will find a bench at a comfortable distance from the kids’ play area and get out the clicker and cheese. We are using tiny bits of cheese for working on people because he likes it better than anything else. The only way he can now get cheese is when he sees a person.

Rehearsing Go Away barking.

The more Bear barks Go Away at people, particularly as they nearly always do go away, the more he’s going to do it.

When people go past the house, he barks Go Away – and they go. Success. When the mail comes through the door, he barks Go Away – and the postman goes. Success.

The view out of the window will be blocked and an outside letterbox installed. The constant daily rehearsal of succesfully barking at people to go away must be reduced.

When I got up to go, I wanted to get out without any of the usual barking from Bear. I did it in small stages starting by gathering my things. The lady clicked and fed as he watched me. As I slowly stood up she did it again. As I slowly walked to the door she continued.

I let myself out.

No barking!

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 Bear 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, particularly where fear 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 Help page)

 

 

Waking in the Night Six Times to Go Out

Waking in the night – six times.

The poor lady is waking in the night up to six times to take Beagle Dexter into the garden. He toilets (poo) most times.

Then, long before dawn, Dexter’s day has started. He looks for something to wreck.

The lady is exhausted.

waking in the night

Dexter

She has two beautiful, friendly and very well-loved dogs, Japanese Spitz, Dakota, 3 – and Dexter who is nine months old.

As I usually do before I come, I asked for a list of issues. In Dexter’s case these included jumping up, stealing washing from the line, chewing the rug on the sofa, eating books from the shelf, destroying shoes, towels and tea towels. He pulls on lead, he bites when he doesn’t get the attention he wants and he howls when not in the lady’s presence. He bites her clothes as she tries to get dressed. He constantly jumps at her when she is trying to eat and when she showers he will remove the toilet rolls.

Since circumstances changed the two dogs are now left alone for many hours every day. Dexter howls. Dakota barks at things she hears – post comes through the door, the dogs next door barking. Stress levels are constantly being topped up during the day.

And – Dexter is waking in the night up to six times to toilet.

Perhaps he, too, is suffering from sleep deprivation, adding to his stress levels.

There are two main issues. One is the night time wakefulness and toileting. The other is the stress and lack of fulfillment that is causing Dexter’s behaviours. All efforts to stop him doing unwanted things result in frustration and he will jump at the lady and bite her.

Clicking for calm.

The lady’s home life revolves around stopping Dexter doing things. There is a lack of communication. What should he be doing? Dexter is confused.

Soon after I arrived it became apparent we would get nothing done unless we worked with the dogs – Dexter in particular.

Soon the lady, instead of watching out for unwanted behaviours, was watching for every small thing Dexter did that she liked, clicking and rewarding it.

At last he was understanding what was required of him. It was lovely.

He soon settled down and slept.

Calming him down and giving his life proper enrichment is one thing. The waking in the night to toilet is another.

The lady shares her bed with her dogs, so this means coming downstairs each time and he usually performs.

Why does he need to go so often? What can the lady do to get a good night’s sleep?

This is something that needs unravelling.

What goes into the dog has to come out!

What does Dexter eat? The food is average nutrition, containing ‘meat meal’ and other bulking things that will merely pass through a dog.

Like many dogs, he also eats dog poo – his own, Dakota’s and any other dogs he can pick up quickly enough when out.

He has a daily Dentastix. Reading the ingredients speaks for itself. Assuming that a man is about ten times the weight of Dexter, it’s like his eating a large lump of junk the size of ten doughnuts.

What can the lady do? For starters she can change Dexter’s diet. I would suggest ready-prepared complete raw food as there will be much less waste. Failing that, a much better kibble.

Dakota

Dexter simply must not be able to eat poo. The only way to stop this, unless he’s tied to the lady’s waist, is for him to be muzzled in the garden until both dogs have performed. He must also be muzzled when out while recall is worked on.

(Possibly a better diet will remove his need to eat poo. ‘Coprophagia’ is a separate issue that can be looked at later).

The last meal of the day can be earlier with the walk afterwards, hopefully getting his bowels moving.

Day and night may be somewhat reversed at the moment. Because of the change in the lady’s circumstances, the dogs are left alone for a very long time. The build-up both of need to poo and of energy will then, fairly logically, come to a head during the night.

They will cut out the Dentastix and use raw marrow bones for cleaning teeth instead. The right bones (never cooked bones) will help occupy both the dogs and calm them down. The lady will install a gate in a doorway so the dogs can be separated. The degree of arousal frequently results in fights which limits the use of food when they are together.

A better night’s sleep.

What Dexter consumes will be controlled carefully.

The day will hopefully be broken up by a dog walker.

Looking for every little good thing the dog does, whether it’s just to stop jumping up and putting his feet on the floor, or simply lying down calmly, will make everyone happier. These things will be clicked and rewarded. Unwanted behaviours will where possible bring no reaction or be replaced with a desirable alternative.

Enriching activities will be added to Dexter’s life. Soon the lady should get a better night’s sleep. She will have more energy for these things.

With a positive approach, cases like this tend to improve quite quickly.

The lady will be getting her life back.

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Dexter. 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where any form of aggressive behaviour is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Novice Dog Owners Wanting to Get it Right.

I was greeted enthusiastically by the most adorable little dog. Six month old Bertie, a Dachshund Jack Russell mix, leapt up at me in joy.

All my usual rules went out of the window. I just had to fuss him.

Novice dog owners, they want to get things right.

Adorable dog with novice dog ownersThis was an unusual case for me in that there was no crisis and neither were they at their wits’ end. They are novice dog owners just wanting to get everything right.

Novice dog owners tend to turn to the internet. Anyone who has done this knows the vast range of conflicting advice available. For this reason they may dip into one thing and if it doesn’t ‘work’ quickly, they then try something else.

There is a huge divide between old-fashioned strict training and harsh discipline, and modern force-free training allowing the dog choices and using rewards.

Novice dog owners can’t be convinced, out of the array of advice available, whether they have hit on the best solution. They may lack the conviction needed to keep going and to see it through. The choice also can encourage disputes between the humans as to what is the best approach.

Bertie is somewhat excitable as one would expect and the things he does that worry them are mostly as a result of this. They may be novice dog owners, but they have done a lot of good things.

For a mix of Daschund and Jack Russell Bertie does very little barking. They have a puppy that is house trained. He is extremely gentle with no nipping anymore. They also have a pup that is happy to be left by himself.

Advice tailored to the dog.

The sort of advice I have given them so far includes nutrition. Not only does the right food help him to grow strong and healthy physically, it also affects his mental state. Good quality protein is vital. We know what colourings and e numbers can do to kids’ behaviour, don’t we.

Bertie likes to chase the cat – because of course the cat runs. We looked at a bit of ‘cat and dog’ training. We looked at things to keep Bertie’s jaw busy, to redirect stress and excitement at key times like when visitors arrive. Things like a Kong, filled then frozen.

We looked at games and activities that would satisfy his need for appropriate simulation without leaving him over-aroused. Sprinkling his food over the grass is a great activity.

Finally, I got out my clicker and in no time at all Bertie had learnt to target an outstretched hand on cue.

I had a wonderful two and a half hours with the delightful couple and adorable little dog, and can’t wait to see them again. We can then go further with the clicker training and address anything new that may have cropped up.

Just as with children, with a dog we can never say ‘job done!’

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog will very likely be different to the advice I have given for Bertie. 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Changing No to Yes using a clicker

Bella is the most adorable, soft, cute, friendly and totally scrumptious Beagle puppy of six months old.

She greeted me with lots of jumping up. She jumped up at the counters. Bella jumped at and onto the table. 

Bella is told NO. She’s told GET DOWN.

Bella being taught Yes with a clickerWhen I arrive I usually ask the people, where possible, to cease all commands. I like to see what the dog does when not controlled.

Like most people they found this hard. It demonstrates, however, that the commands they are constantly giving her teach her nothing. ‘Get Down’ may work in the moment because she just obeys the word.

It doesn’t stop her doing it again.

In fact, I would say that it might increase the behaviour if attention is what she wants.

Being unable to scold her left them helpless. They can’t simply put up with the behaviour, can they!

They already had a clicker. We were going to turn NO into YES.

The little girl aged eight sat next to me. Her instructions were to click as soon as Bella’s feet were on the floor. She was a little genius.

The child clicked and then I dropped food on the floor for Bella.

Bella too was a genius. She caught on to what clicking was all about very quickly.

Kids in bed, Bella moved on to challenge us all further. She scratched at the door and chewed the mat.

How were we going to stop her without saying NO?

With a clicker we will teach her an incompatible behaviour – a ‘Yes’.

I put out my hand to her. In no time she was touching my palm with her little cold nose. Click. Food. The man took over and he, like his daughter, was a genius too.

In one session Bella and the man, both novices, had learnt what clicker was all about. He was able to put the action on cue with the word Touch’. He was very much on the ball. I took a short video of him.

Bella went to jump at the table, the man called ‘Bella-Touch’ from the other side of the room and she ran straight over and touched his hand. Click. Food.

Soon he will be able to drop the click altogether.

We had a little break with Bella in her crate, then the man carried on. Bella was now looking at me and at the table without jumping up. Yes. Click. Food.

Being constantly told No can be very frustrating for a dog – just as it would be for a child. Bella gets stirred up and may hump the lady. She humped me.

I stood still and froze. She would have to stop eventually. As soon as her feet were on the floor I clicked. Food.

They need food to hand all the time for now – she can earn her meals. If no clicker, the word Yes will do.

They are changing their mindset from No to Yes.

To give Bella something acceptable to take out any frustrations on, she will have a ‘box of tricks’. A carton that she can wreck full of safe rubbish from the recycle bin with bits of food buried amongst it.

She can really go to town on that.

 

 

Barking at People at Home and on Walks

Hector, the little wire haired miniature dachshund, is absolutely adorable.

His young lady has made every effort to do the very best for him from the start, but at about seven months old he began the barking at people.

Once he starts his barking at people he’s unstoppable.

Barking at people who come to the house. Barking at people on walks.  Even barking at people in the distance.

Believing from their advBarking at peopleertising that they were the best people to help her, Hector’s young owner called in Barkbusters. As soon as he started to bark, the person, who said he was scared, made a loud BAH noise. Why would you want to make a noise like that at a scared dog? Wouldn’t that make him even more scared?

To quote Hector’s lady, he was so petrified of of the Barkbusters person that he was quiet. However, when she herself tried to implement the techniques Hector, predictably, didn’t take any notice of her.

Now this is the trouble with punishment. When something stops working because the dog gets used to it, the punisher has to be increased to be effective. She went on to try a citronella collar that squirts stuff the dog hates up his nose – stuff that lingers long after the barking stops – and then collars that vibrate or make a noise.

She realised that this was just making his barking worse. Why associate people he’s barking at with something so unpleasant. Surely this will increase his fear?

In trying to punish the barking, often don’t see it as it really is. Barking is the symptom of what’s making the dog bark. Usually fear has a lot to do with it. In punishment they merely make the fear worse. A collar squirting citronella up his nose when he barks is merely putting a temporary lid on the noise, it’s making how he feels a lot worse.

Hector’s barking at people means she can’t have anyone to her house.

Because of his barking at people when out also, she doesn’t enjoy walking him either.

The poor girl simply doesn’t know what to do.

I find the situation quite heartbreaking really because she has tried so hard to do her very best for Hector right from the beginning. She received some very bad advice that started her down the punishment route.

I call it punishment, but people who advocate these methods would probably call it ‘correction’. It’s ‘positive punishment’.

Hector’s barking at me was relentless to start with. I worked with him. We had enough breaks in the noise to cover all my questions and to teach the little genius dog something incompatible with barking. We taught him to touch both the lady’s hand and my own using clicker – and he’d never been clicker trained!

One minute he was enjoying a clicker game, running between us to touch our hands, and the next he was barking at me again.

Puzzling.cundallhector2

His initial response was fearful undoubtedly, but not for long. It’s like he simply keeps barking at people until something happens – this ‘something’ will more recently have been punishment of some sort.

He is really a curious and friendly little dog. He wanted my attention and barked for that also! If he doesn’t get what he wants he may then bark because he’s frustrated.

When I got back home I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I wasn’t satisfied that I had fully covered the problem. I had been treating it as mainly fear driven.

Suddenly it dawned on me.

I arranged to go straight back the next evening. This time I was there for just fifteen minutes with a different strategy that worked a lot better.

Basically, barking at people had given him something that made barking at people rewarding to him. It’s impossible to know just what, but he seems to enjoy it. It dawned on me that we should now respond with something completely different, something that has never happened before in response to his barking at people.

She will walk him out of the room straight away when he barks. He has a nice comfortable harness so there will be no discomfort involved.

I went back and found that worked. He really didn’t want to miss all that food on the floor and and he really wanted to be with me. His barking being a learnt response meant Hector and his young lady walked in and out of the room quite a few times before he got the message.

This isn’t the protocol I would use if the barking was simply fear. Because I suggest removing him from something he actually wants – me – this would be termed ‘negative punishment’. I would handle it a bit differently if he was really fearful.

This is a good example of why it’s not wise for me to go into too much detail in my stories. Even I hadn’t got it quite right the first time round. The protocols have to be tailored to the individual dog. Like other stuff people find on the internet, it could do more harm than good otherwise.

The basic principles we are using is to address both the barking at people in the home and people out on walks.

The young lady will now use willing friends as human Guinea pigs, dropping in for about twenty minutes at a time initially.

Over time, as Hector relaxes and learns to enjoy their company quietly, the young lady should be able to enjoy having her friends round again.

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Hector 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. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where aggression of any kind 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)

Biting Puppy Just Being a Nipping Biting Puppy

I have just met Henry.

Henry is the most adorable ten-week-old Labrador imaginable – with some of the sharpest teeth!

Biting puppy just being a puppy

Butter wouldn’t melt!

When he’s excited, Henry morphs into a nipping, biting puppy.

Faced with him in this mood, his family feel helpless.

People instinctively quickly withdraw their hands away from the sharp biting puppy teeth. The teenage daughter has learnt that this isn’t a good thing. She has understandably been getting quite upset and nervous of him.

It’s natural when faced with nipping behaviour to try and teach the biting puppy ‘not to bite’. The family’s advice from internet and friends has included tapping Henry’s nose, shouting ‘no’ and generally scolding him. If trying to stop him biting worked, Henry wouldn’t be getting worse.

How about trying to start him being gentle instead?

Firstly, all people with young puppies need a degree of temporary environmental management for their own sanity if nothing else. There are a few basic things that an experienced puppy owner would have in place from the start, the most important being a smaller ‘puppy-proof’ area where puppy can be contained and can do no damage.

Like little children, the more tired and excited the puppy gets, the more out of control he becomes. It’s when he is stirred up that the nipping and biting is worst. He flies at ankles and hands, chews the carpet and does all the other puppy stuff that will then make his humans add to the excitement themselves as they try to control the painful little hurricane in their midst.

Instead of stopping unwanted behaviour, why not start desired behaviour instead?

It will be only a matter of days before Henry is big enough to leap up onto the sofas, so they will be trying to stop him doing this too. The teenage girls will then have no sanctuary.

Up until two weeks ago he had his siblings to play with and diffuse any wildness. They will have told him when ‘enough is enough’ in a way that he understood. Now he has a lot to learn.

Henry’s family have an open-plan house with quite a big garden. There are few physical boundaries unless he is in his crate by himself in another room. Playing ball games in the big garden can get him hyped up as can the girls coming home from school. It’s at times like this that he is least able to control himself.

Because the biting puppy gets worse the more excited and aroused he is, then the logical first step is to cut down excitement as much as possible.

I suggest a pen in the sitting room. He won’t then be isolated. The carpet can be protected and he can have a bed in there. When he gets over-tired or wild he can be popped into his pen with something to chew (or a carton to wreck!). He will be teething, so needs appropriate things to get those little sharp biting puppy teeth into.The family will be able to walk around freely without the puppy nipping their feet. They can go upstairs without wondering what mischief he might be up to downstairs – pale-carpeted throughout.

Removing temptation is key.

It’s not forever.

How can they get their biting puppy to be more gentle?

What did I do when I was with Henry and his family to show them how to make their biting puppy more gentle?

The girls want to touch him without getting nipped or bitten – it gets worse by the day which sort of proves that they aren’t reacting in the right way. One way or another they are giving him a lot of feedback for his biting puppy behaviour when the very opposite should be the case.

Within about ten minutes both one daughter and Henry had mastered the meaning of the clicker. He now was clicked and fed for all the good, controlled or calm things he was doing. He loved it and was transformed for a while into a calm and focused puppy.

When he was tired, they put a fulfilled and happy puppy into his crate with a Kong to chew. He went to sleep.

Instead of hearing the word ‘No’ or scolding, he was being shown what was wanted and was super-motivated to work at achieving it.

While we were at it, we also taught Henry to take the food gently out of someone’s hand. Keeping quiet and not opening the hand until the puppy has momentarily backed off soon gives him the message. Puppy backs off and the hand with the food in it opens. Eureka.

Actions speak a lot louder than words.

Here is a good demo by Victoria Stilwell.

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for Henry, and group classes may not always provide all the answers for problems in the home. Finding instructions on the internet or TV can do more harm than good. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with your own puppy. (see my Help page)

Wild Behaviour is Unwittingly Fuelled

Wild behaviour from a dog the size of the adolescent Newfoundland can be scary.

When Beau leaped at the kitchen table she knocked the coffee mugs flying!

Taking a break from wild behaviour

Seven-month-old Beau was chosen from the litter as the most bold and pushy puppy. She organised the others, I am told, by barging them and stirring up trouble – and then sitting back to enjoy the results!

She was a mouthy, nippy puppy. This wasn’t countered immediately or correctly. Hand games and chasing her for things she stole added fuel to her wild behaviour.

As she got bigger and things became more painful, they have had to use more physical force to push her off them, to remove her away from things and to extract things from her mouth. She will do nothing when simply asked.

They can’t have her in the lounge with them for more than a few minutes before she goes wild and has to be put in the kitchen. Her worst wild episodes as so often is the case happen where she has more space – out in the garden. There have been a couple of occasions when the little girl hasn’t been safe.

In the belief that the more exercise and interaction she has, the better behaved she will be, each day starts off with too much stimulation – a prolonged welcome fuss before breakfast followed by ball play in the garden, excitement before getting in the car to take the child to school and then a walk which is probably too long for a pup of seven months.

Anyway, as she got older puppy Beau became defiant when she didn’t get her own way.

The young dog may get angry when thwarted. Several times now she has snarled, showed her teeth and lunged. Her eyes ‘looked funny’.

This is the consequence of using methods of force on a determined and strong dog. How frustrating it is for a dog not to know what she should be doing. (Please take a look at my favourite video showing the power of Yes versus No).

I showed them how we would create a willing and happy dog exercising self-control by using the power of Yes, by keeping Beau as calm as possible, by giving her suitable mental stimulation and by removing opportunities for rehearsing the wild behaviour.

By motivating her.

Almost immediately Beau began to respond to reinforcement for the right behaviour. She was becoming a lot calmer than she had been for a long time, particularly with the little girl present.

This is a typical case of owners getting through the days by fielding everything the dog throws at them so it becomes No No NO Stop, push away, drag off, shut away … and so on, and ‘letting sleeping dogs lie’ when the dog is quiet.

Look at this wonderful face!

It’s just amazing just how quickly a dog responds to Yes Yes Yes and being ‘bigged up’ for each good thing she does so she knows what is required.

Each time the wild behaviour kicked off again we dealt with it by giving the big adolescent other, incompatible things to do instead, making it clear to her what we did want of her.

We soon had Beau coming to us, offering us certain behaviours with little prompting. We had her walking from one of the four of us to another when called gently. We had her responding to understandable instructions and she was loving it.

We used the clicker. The little girl also clicked Beau for sitting – with perfect timing.

Action should be immediate.

It’s no good allowing the dog to rehearse jumping and biting by letting it happen even twice before reacting. It needs to be wiped out completely.

Immediately she jumps she must lose all communication with that person. Immediately she jumps at the table someone must get up, call her off, reward what she should be doing instead and move her onto a different behaviour that is incompatible with jumping at the table.

It takes a huge amount of effort.

Pre-empting and dealing with things before they happen is best of all.

Boosting her for every desirable thing she does must also be immediate – when she sits voluntarily, when she lies down, when she sighs and relaxes. A couple of times she looked at the table which had my smelly treats on it and resisted jumping up. A first! That deserved a jackpot but it must be immediate.

It could help greatly if the little girl didn’t arouse the dog quite so much as the wild behaviour is always far worse when the child is about. She could touch her less, try not to run into the room waving arms, dance around her or do handstands in Beau’s presence. These things quickly send the dog wild.

But this is like asking the little girl not to be a little girl!

Even if the child can cut back a little on these things it will help and she will be clicker trained too! They will use the word ‘Good’ and she can collect stars. She will now ask her mum to call Beau inside before going out into the garden – and she will make a poster for the door to remind herself

The next morning I received a lovely message from the lady which is proof if any is needed of the powers of positive reinforcement and calmness:

“I am so excited to tell you that we have had the most relaxed morning since we have got Beau. Last night she came into the lounge and not once did she bite. She tried to get on the sofa once but with a little distraction she came away and lay down. 

This morning has been the shocker for me. She has been like a different dog. We have made an extra effort to be calm and relaxed and Beau has been the same. She hasn’t bitten, jumped up, barked…nothing! ……She is now laying peacefully….I know she may relapse and I’m prepared for it but she’s shown me this morning that she is more than capable of being the loving Newfoundland that she should be……I knew she had it in her but to see it is another thing. I am so happy!”

This comes with a little warning. This is probably a glimpse into the future as Beau won’t change overnight. Her wild behaviours will have become well-rehearsed habits, after all, and she will most likely default to them when aroused or wanting attention. They will need to be steadfast and consistent in applying the new strategies.

Message received about three weeks later: ‘I am so happy to tell you that we have a considerably well behaved dog. She has not had an “aggressive moment” since the clicker incident on the first week. There have been times where I have stopped stroking her and she goes to mouth my hand and then realises and stops before her mouth touches me, which I reward….. I can honestly say, I can’t remember the last time she jumped up! She’s learnt to play with her toys by herself and doesn’t ram them in my hand followed by a bite like before. Overall I am delighted with the way things are going. I am still prepared for her to slip back to her old ways but she is surprisingly proving me wrong. I actually think she listens to me now!’

 

We as a family have been very consistent which has been the key I think to the change in Beau. Absolutely.  We also decided to slowly swap the clicker with the word “good” which is much better as I now don’t have to carry the clicker with me everywhere. I agree. She responds just as well and knows there’s a chance she will get something yummy if she listens and does as I ask. There have been 2 times where she hasn’t listened when I’ve called her in at night time but other than that she has been excellent.

 

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 Beau 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 as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression or fearfulness is concerned and most especially when it involves children. 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)