Practise a different way of reacting. (Practice makes better, if not perfect).

They have had two-year-old Springer Spaniel Ben for one week now.  He is a beauty; polite and friendly.

I sensed that some of his quietness is due to being a bit careful and still finding his feet. Ben may well be a bit different when he has properly settled in.

He could become more confident which may well work in their favour where his explosion into barking and lunging when getting too close to another dog is concerned. Continue reading…

Blind German Shepherd. Unable to read other dogs.

Blind German sShepherdToday I met a blind dog, a wonderful thirteen-month-old German Shepherd called Bear. He lives with Stan, an equally lovely young Golden Retriever.

Both dogs are a real tribute to their owners. It was lovely to be greeted so happily and politely by both dogs.

Blind Bear occasionally but increasingly feels threatened by certain other dogs on walks. If this weren’t the case they wouldn’t need me at all.

Being blind, Bear feels more vulnerable

Continue reading…

Working dog with no employment.

Bonnie is a working dog without a job.

She is a thirteen-month-old beautiful fox red Labrador.

I always ask my clients what their aim in having me would be if I had a magic wand. Which of course I don’t!

Bonnie’s owners said simply, ‘Happy walks with a happy dog’.

Working dog gun dogOne would think that Bonnie had everything in life a dog could ask for. However, the most important thing, apart from food and keeping safe, is missing.

A job. Continue reading…

Click for Calm. Addicted to Ball Chasing

click for calm helped him to settle

The young couple has a beautiful Border Collie pup called Sabre, soon to be sixth months old.
 
He greeted me outside the house, pulling hard to get to me. Most of the time I was with them he was flying all over the place or barking at the young man in particular. He barked for him to throw a toy.  The man always complies because the barking goes right through his head.

Continue reading…

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!”

Message received 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!’
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)

Bored, Over-excitable and Looking for Trouble

German Shepherd Kerry is bored.

Bored German Shepherd

Kerry

Although it’s natural for adult dogs to sleep for up to eighteen hours a day, this is only so if the rest of the time is filled with stuff natural to the dog – and its breed. Sleep probably won’t be in long blocks of enforced inaction during the day, but dozing between doing other things.

Young dogs in particular need action and fulfilment (just like young humans) or they get bored.

Kerry is a beautiful eighteen-month-old German Shepherd living with another GSD, Lemmy, aged four. They are both gorgeous dogs with lovely, friendly basic temperaments.

Young Kerry, unfortunately, probably isn’t getting enough action in her life and she’s very easily aroused. I saw this by how the smallest thing results in her leaping at someone, me in this case – grabbing my clothes and even hair with her teeth. 

Continue reading…

Persistent Barking. Barks at Man While he Talks. Barks in the Car.

If it weren’t for her persistent barking, Elsa would be the perfect pet.

The young Parson Terrier is friendly, enthusiastic and non-aggressive. She is great company for the disabled gentleman who spends all day with her while his wife is at work.

Some barking is welcome. Some simply too much.

Persistent barking Elsa has different barks for different things. Some of her barking is very welcome. With no teaching or prompting, the little dog alerts the man with a special short bark when his insulin levels are wrong.

Because the man feels unwell and is in pain a lot of the time, Elsa’s barking is a real issue. Continue reading…

Consequences Drive Behaviour. Teaching Unwanted Behaviour

Consequences drive behaviour.

consequences drive behaviourUnwittingly the young couple have made a rod for their own backs.

They are first time dog owners and hadn’t realised that something only needs to be reinforced just the once to create a behaviour. If the dog barks in the night – that ‘come and talk to me’ bark …and if they go to her just once …she will very likely do the same thing the next night!

Now Freya has them up shortly after 5 am each morning. One of them comes down, maybe lets her out, gives her something nice to chew while they lie on the sofa trying to get a bit more sleep. If it’s a bit later she may immediately get a walk.

What very rewarding consequences for barking at 5 am!

Behaviours harder to undo than to create

It takes a lot more work to undo a behaviour that has been reinforced by enjoyable consequences than it does to cause it in the first place. Continue reading…

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.

Dog Behind the Fence. Barking Dog. Lunges

I have just been to a couple of Labradoodles, Sol and Cristal. What the owners would like to achieve is much less barking at home and, from Sol, on walks also. He may bark and lunge at other dogs but only when he’s on lead and when they get too close.

A big problem is a dog barking behind the fence on the corner of their road.

They have worked hard training their lovely dogs. The problems they are facing are, to my mind, less about training than about the emotions that drive the behaviour.

Emotions not obedience.

The older training methods don’t take account of the dogs’ emotional state but are more about ‘obedience’. Commands don’t really alter the feelings that drive the behaviour.

Labradoodle barks at dog behind the fence

Sol at the back, with Celeste

The ‘behaviour’ approach is holistic – covering all aspects of the dogs’ lives, because everything is connected like a jigsaw puzzle. The dogs now will be helped to make their own correct decisions without commands or correction. This is done by emphasising what they are doing right. Also by giving them choice, on walks in particular.

Anyway, in this story I am just picking one aspect of what we are working on. This is Sol barking and lunging at the dog behind the fence on the corner.

Sol and Crystal have lovely runs in the park with their doggy friends, but to get there they have to pass a house with a terrier that barks like mad from behind the fence. This dog had attacked the, now much bigger, Sol when he was a puppy.

Sol alerts well before he gets there, even when the dog isn’t out and behind the fence.

How can they get past without Sol barking and lunging? Commands and physical control aren’t helping at all. (The strategy for Sol isn’t the only way to work on this kind of thing, but having met Sol and his owners it seems the best fit).

First the two dogs should be walked separately for a while – the lady can for now make the journey to the park by car.

For working with Sol and the dog behind the fence she will take a clicker because I would prefer she doesn’t talk. Let Sol work things out for himself. (See here for an intro into what clicker is about).

The enemy behind the fence: ‘Engage’.

This is the game stage one:

They will start out calmly, letting Sol sniff and walk about a bit on a loose lead before heading towards the terrier’s garden.

As soon as Sol looks in that direction, engages, the lady will click and drop some food. This food is dropped rather than fed for two reasons. One, that the food should be associated with the terrier and not the lady. Secondly, dropping the food means Sol looks away and down at the ground, ready to look back up again and earn another click.

Slowly they can advance – clicking each time he looks in the direction of what may be the dog behind the fence, dropping food. If the terrier comes out it will bark and they will have to quickly retreat and start this game from a lot further back.

They will gradually work their way nearer the house on the corner. At some stage Sol will start to react as he looks for his enemy behind the fence. He will go stiff, stare, ‘get big’ with ears and tail rising.

He is now about to go over threshold. He’s too close.

They should back off a little to where Sol is comfortable again, and continue with the game. Bit by bit he will get closer.

This game should be played daily for five or ten minutes at a time – the more sessions the better. The main rule is not to push him over threshold – get too close. If they do, they are back to square one – a bit like going down a snake in snakes and ladders!  Listen to this very short excerpt from my BBC 3 Counties Radio phone-in. It’s only just over a minute long.

‘Disengage’.

Now for stage two.

Sol, after a two or three weeks of hard work, should now have the hang of the ‘engage’ game, even when the little dog is out and barking behind the fence if from sufficient distance .

They will stand still as before. Sol will look in the direction of the dog’s garden. Is his enemy behind the fence? But now the lady won’t click.

If Sol is ready for stage two in the game of ignoring the dog behind the fence, he will now look round, “Where’s my click and food?”.

Now the lady will click eye contact instead.

Stage two teaches Sol to look away from the dog behind the fence, even if he’s out and barking.

With patience they should soon be walking past that garden, the other side of the road is sensible. They will need to do some work with Celeste before walking them both together to the park to play, past the house with the dog barking behind the fence.

Sol may in the future regress, so they must top up again with a couple of days of the ‘engage/disengage’ game.

2 months later: We just got back from Cornwall and tho we had a few hiccups everyone noticed a big difference in their behaviour. No barking in apartment , no jumping up people, only a little barking from crystal on beach if someone passed unexpectedly which I feel to be expected. She was fabulous with marks nephews. Normally she would be barking at their every mood. She was playing with them and they were enjoying her playfulness without over doing things. We are learning how to keep her calmer which really has paid off. We even managed to walk them to beach together, was a pleasure to be around them.. Thank you for your help and support over the six week period.
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 Sol. 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, particularly where any form of fear or aggression 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).