Excited Dog in his New Home

Excited Bodie taking a rest

Taking a rest

An excited young dog.

After the last four cases, here was a dog who was really pleased to see me!

Beautiful friendly, bouncy, happy and playful Bodie was found by the roadside in November. Since then he has been in kennels and now, for the past week, he’s been in his new home. It’s no surprise that with all the change he can be too excitable – particularly as the younger adults in the family may also be so excited to have him that in their enthusiasm they are winding him up further.

They have been told Bodie is about two years old, but he seems a lot younger to me. He is quite a mix with certainly some collie. The picture doesn’t do justice to his happy nature and athletic build.

His issues are all due to over-stimulation, sensory overload and lack of self control. It’s understandable as in effect he’s been released from prison. He jumps up relentlessly whether one is sitting or standing, he pulls on the lead as he’s bombarded with the smells and noises outside and he will bark non-stop at the sight of another animal. He barks should he even hear another dog. They reckon his time alone in kennels surrounded by other barking dogs may have something to do with this.

It’s fair to guess that Bodie is a dog that had been loved and very well-socialised with people but maybe not so much with other dogs. It’s also a good bet that he’s had a lot of freedom, unrestricted by a leash. How he came to be left by the roadside is anyone’s guess. He’s a gem.

 

Bodie’s time in kennels can be used to their advantage.

Two things are certain. During his time in the kennels he had limited exercise. During his time in kennels he was used to being shut away by himself. Both these things can actually be used to their advantage if not left too late.

When his jumping up became too much and I couldn’t both work on him and talk with them, they shut him in the conservatory for a break a couple of times. He didn’t complain and immediately lay down on the chair, accustomed to being put away.

For the next few weeks I feel they should continue to put him by himself for short periods when he gets too much so that he never develops issues with with being left alone, issues that are hard to deal with later on.

The other point is, having almost certainly been let out or given a walk for only a short time each day, Bodie doesn’t expect lots of exercise. It’s very likely from his behaviour that in his previous life he had been left to do his own thing. As he’s not used to his day revolving around walks, it means that they can teach him to walk nicely and get him desensitised to the outside world gradually with lots of very short sessions.

The gentleman had taken him for three quite long walks in one day the other day to calm him, and in fact, despite of all that exercise (or because of it), Bodie had come home more hyped up than when he left.

Sarah Reusche makes a good case for how exercise and excitement can sometimes be too much of a good thing.

As is so often the case with their new rescue dogs, people in their efforts to get things right actually do too much too soon.

So, without feeling guilty, they can work on loose lead technique around the house and garden, simply standing still outside, working on distance dogs or barking, advancing to walking around outside the neighbouring houses and so on – gradually building it up. When they have time they can pop him in the car and take him to somewhere open and let him explore on a long line.

The more short outings he has, the less excited he will be and the less overwhelming the outside world will become.

The whole family will need to do their bit to help him to become less excited. Instead of vigorous play and encouraging jumping about, they can teach him some self-control by giving him what he wants in a calm fashion when his feet are on the the floor. Understandably and like many girls, the young adult daughter wants lots of cuddles, unable to see otherwise the point of having a dog. That will come if they take it easy now.

With a clicker it was amazing just how soon Bodie got the message and stopped jumping all over me. He first worked it out that sitting worked and then he took it further by lying down as well. It was obviously the first time the clever dog had ever had a clicker used with him. He was really using his brain.

There was no telling him what to do or what not to do – he was working it out for himself.

If they all take their time now and don’t push it, they will be rewarded with a wonderful family pet.

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 Bodie. 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 which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. 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)

Dog Stares, Transfixed by the Cat

When Johnny sees the cat he is transfixed – they call it trance-like.When Johnny sees the cat he is transfixed

Although the ultimate aim is for dog and cat to live happily together – the cat is confident and placid fortunately – there is a lot of groundwork to do first. The matter can’t simply be approached head-on because he has other issues which I’m sure are associated.

Johnny is a German Shepherd crossed with something – and from his behaviour I would say there is Border Collie in there. He is ten years old. About three years ago his owner moved in with a lady and her cat, and despite numerous efforts and trying different things, the two animals have to be kept apart.

Johnny likes to keep everyone together, rounded up so to speak. If someone goes out of the room he stresses and barks. When I arrived it was strange. He barked at me, but when the lady went out to the kitchen he turned and barked at her instead, like he was upset that she had disappeared. When she came back and we were all together, he went back to barking at me. He howls and yelps when a guest leaves. He does the same thing when one of the couple goes out – but, strangely, is much more accepting when they both go out together and he’s all alone.

I am sure his attitude towards the cat has something to do with his needing everyone to be together, under his eye. A cat is simply too independent. If she moves he will chase. He is transfixed by the cat.

Before they can make any headway with the cat problem they need to do some groundwork on Johnny relaxing his herding, lowering his stress levels in every way they can and on teaching him to give them his full attention.

Actual work on Johnny when the cat is about will start very slowly with the cat safely contained. Johnny’s owner already has been very successful with desensitising him to fireworks using food (they live in an area where bangs go off at all sorts of times) and now whenever he hears a bang he looks to her for food. He loves bangs! Once everything else is in place, the same sort of positive approach, along with patience, will bring success with the cat also.

I am sure that they will be able to teach their old dog new tricks and the two animals will ultimately be occupying the same room in harmony.

This is the situation six weeks later. they are taking their time and have now sowed all the right seeds for the final step – dog and cat being freely together: ‘We are delighted that he demonstrated ‘stay’ with me running around him in both our parents’ gardens. This is quite significant for us because his behaviour sometimes seems linked to location. Needless to say, they were very impressed! We have also had several comments on how much calmer he is now.
We have also been able to start using ‘come away’ as a means to get his attention when out and about. He picked this up in the house very quickly but another rule seemed to apply outside. We practise it every time he sees a cat outside whilst on walks and reward as soon as he looks away.
In a strange turn of events, our cat seems to have gained confidence and seems more interested in him. She has been sleeping on his bed when he is upstairs and she is downstairs (she would previously walk around it), will now go into the bedroom he has been in and have a good look around, and has a new interest in sniffing anything belonging to him, such as his raincoat. Could it be she is picking up on less stress in the household and has a new confidence because of it? We now feel ready to start working on re-introducing them but are heartened by the changes in both their behaviours.

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

Reactive to Dogs, People and the Unexpected

Collie cross Holly, right, started life on the streets of Romania

Holly

Berry is yet another Border Collie picked up as a stray in Ireland.

Berry

Both Holly on the right and Berry on the left came to live with my clients early last year. Both dogs are between two and three years old.

Berry is yet another Border Collie picked up as a stray in Ireland. Collie cross Holly, right, started life on the streets of Romania. She was picked up at seven months old with a broken leg and then went to live with another English family before moving into her forever home.

Holly quite well illustrates the difference between Romanian street dogs that are used to being around people, and other dogs that are coming from the same part of the world but have been living wild – feral dogs not used to humans. These feral dogs are a lot harder to settle and there have been some heartbreaking stories of failed homings.

Considering their past, these two dogs are doing brilliantly. They get on very well together. The problems their humans are finding manifest themselves out on walks. Both are reactive to people and dogs. In order to make further progress the people need to do things a little differently. If they carry on the same, so will the dogs.

Romanian Holly is a little aloof, but is polite and confident in the house though reactive to dogs outside. Interestingly, she is absolutely fine with other dogs when away from home, so it seems she is being more territorial than fearful. The main barker from inside the house, she is allowed free access to upstairs window where she can bark at passing dogs. She is merely practising the unwanted behaviour and getting better at it.

Berry, on the other hand, is much more excitable in general and reactive to all people and dogs; she is alarmed if anything appears suddenly or looks unfamiliar, irrespective of where this happens to be.

Both are very clever dogs and Berry in particular, who is much more wired up than Holly, needs more controlled stimulation but also better defined boundaries – especially when out. Repeatedly throwing a stick isn’t enough (throwing sticks is dangerous).

In order to keep their dogs focussed on them when out, their humans need to be more relevant to them – starting in the home. At present the dogs probably feel that they are the main decision-makers. The decision-making and protection side of things needs to be the responsibility of ‘mum and dad’, and needs to be in place before they can expect to successfully convince their dogs that they also have this role outside when faced with perceived threats.

The humans need to be a lot more involved, proactive and relevant in the face of things that the dogs are wary of – particularly if the dog is on a lead.  They need to make themselves irresistible (food/fun/action/attention).  Tightly holding the lead makes things worse. Forcing the dog to sit can make things worse. Avoiding situations altogether is useless.

They need to avoid pushing the dog over her comfort threshold and work at it. Using this method, that threshold will gradually diminish.

Collie Cross Growls and Barks at Boy

Border Collie mix that growls and barks at the boy They have had four-year-old Ben for about three weeks now and he is settling in quite well, though as time goes by he is becoming increasingly reactive to anyone coming in the front door.

He stops barking when he sees the person is family – apart from the son, age twelve. He is a quiet, thoughtful boy and desperately wants to share cuddles with the dog like his sister does, so when Ben growls and barks at him it is upsetting for him and the whole family. When the child walks in the door, Ben may growl, bark and sometimes even curl his lips. He has also snapped at him.

Ben came over from Ireland where he lived on a farm, and has since been in a foster home and also kennels. He has a lot of adjusting to do. All they have been told about him is that the original home had a disabled son, and Ben used to try to round up the boy’s friends.

I am pretty sure that Ben has been punished around boys of a certain age – probably physically. He now associates them with bad stuff and is probably showing the true reason he was given up. It is a clear example of the bad fallout from punishment causing fear and aggression. There are other indications that the dog will have been punished for things. For instance, his recall is usually very good, but if he is chasing something and comes back late, he cowers and won’t come right up to them – and may even take himself off to the field gate and wait there.

He has a wonderful home now, and the purpose of my visit is primarily for boy and dog to build up a good relationship. Other issues are around the front door and lunging at traffic.

The boy will work on his own body language. He may be a bit timid with Ben which the dog will certainly pick up on. I suggested he tried modelling himself on Superman! He will play hard to get for a while – no trying to persuade Ben to be friends. He will sometimes feed Ben.

I gave him a clicker and showed him how to use it. This will enable Ben to do things for the click rather than directly for the boy which should take the pressure of both of them. The boy will also help with doorbell work – so much ringing that Ben becomes desensitised! The dog will learn to go into the kitchen when he hears the bell and associate it (and later anybody coming in) with food (nice stuff).

I am sure the two will soon start to build a very solid and trusting boy/dog relationship.

Problems on Walks

Heather is a beautiful Collie Retriever crossThese three things – pulling on lead, being reactive to other dogs and unreliable recall usually all go together. One seldom sees a dog that is walking calmly on a slack lead who is also on the alert for other dogs. A calm dog would have a certain relationship with the walker or owner – to do with respect and trust. This calm dog would be more likely to come back when called.

Heather, probably a cross between a Collie and some sort of Retriever, really is the model dog most of the time. It is her behaviour outside which lets her down. At home she is a polite dog, not pushy but not wanting too much touching and cuddling, but in a subtle way she rules the roost. She is, understandably, adored. Four young adults live in the house and all pay her homage! She has her owners working for her – doing things her way. They need to start to get her working for them instead! So long as dogs know what is required of them, they love this.

I demonstrated in the house how to get Heather following or walking beside me all over the place, longish lead completely loose. She was very happy with it. This exercise demonstrates the kind of relationship between dog and handler better than anything else. Initially most dogs will do this calmly for me but not for their owners. It is to do with how I have been behaving towards the dog from the moment I entered the house. She wants to work for me. This is the reason the owners need training as much as, if not more than the dog!

If they apply themselves Heather will soon be walking beautifully – relaxed and happy. They will know exactly how to react when they see another dog – but only if they need to. They will also work on Heather’s recall – and this will improve if in the house when they ask her to do something they only need to ask once – and they follow through. They should be sparing in their demands on her, but when they do ask her to do something, mean it.

If she ignores them at home – is it likely she will take note of them when they are out?

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