Ignores Them. Won’t Come When Called. Unmotivated.

Not only does 9-month-old German Shepherd Max look beautiful, he has a wonderful personality. Like many teenagers he’s full of himself and this is a lot better than being the opposite –fearful. He’s confident and friendly.

Max ignores them!

Max also is a law unto himself! Continue reading…

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).

Three Street Dogs from India. Mum and Two Pups.

S

Ella

Two years ago when the couple were living in India they adopted a street dog – or she adopted them.

After a few days, one at a time, she carried five puppies to them.

Later they returned to England, bringing Ella with them. Her puppies stayed behind.

The two shyest pups still had no home by eighteen months of age, so six months ago the couple shipped them over here to join Ella. They had named them Whitey and Red simply to identify them, and these names have now stuck.

From street dogs from India to house pets.

They have already done exceptionally well in integrating these three street dogs from India into life over here.

street dogs from India

Red and Whitey

Having only mum Ella to start with, they transformed her into a dog who is chilled and secure. Although seldom on lead, she always stays close. They used to take her everywhere with them.

When the two pups arrived things necessarily changed.

Red is soft, friendly and cuddly with people. Whitey is more of a problem. She is suspicious, more scared and very independent. Unlike Red and Ella, Whitey doesn’t seek out human contact.

They live in an open country area with no fences. The couple just open the door for the dogs to go and toilet. They let them out one dog at a time or they will run off together, go hunting and exploring, maybe coming back hours later. Whitey in particular.

Street dogs from India have, after all, been used to coming and going much as they please.

One might think mum Ella would welcome the company of her two female pups, but it doesn’t look like that to me. She has the burden of keeping the other two ‘in line’. She’s ready to step in as soon as play gets vigorous or if one becomes aroused by something. Troubled, she faces them, teeth bared and growling.

When all three together go out on a walk, the non-reactive Ella may now join in the distance-increasing aggression when they see another dog.

Freedom versus safety.

Where letting them all run freely off lead is something they have been used to, it’s not appropriate now. They could run into trouble or danger.

Whitey has already nipped a couple of people. She goes round behind them like a herding dog. Someone merely finding a dog a threat can end in the police taking action according to the new dog law. The dog could be condemned to being on lead always when out and muzzled. It’s not worth the risk.

Recently one of the pups went for a distant dog – joined by the other two, which resulted in them all being kicked by the male owner of the other dog.

They will for now be walked individually, or Ella alone with the two pups together. Going back to her old happy walks, a dog and her humans and without the other two to worry about, will be nice for Ella.

They will work on Red and Whitey’s reactivity to dogs when out by using distance and counter-conditioning.

No more running off.

Recall starts at home. If the pups don’t come to them promptly when just outside the house, then they won’t do so when they see another dog or a rabbit when out on walks.

This means preventing all further rehearsal of running off. Street dogs from India will have no boundaries, but just as the couple brought Ella round with hard work, they now need to work on the two younger girls.

They will make use of a long line with the two pups, both when letting them out to toilet and on walks. One pup can be on lead with the other on the long thirty foot line. They can do lots of recall work and keep swapping dogs from lead to line.

As ‘Come’ (or ‘Biscuits’!) has a history of being ignored until the dog is ready, they will train them to come to the whistle, starting at home.

Underpinning everything is getting the dogs’ attention. A problem with having several dogs is that they can relate to one another rather than to us.

The more the dogs are ‘with their humans’ on walks rather than with their focus upon one another, the better control their owners should eventually have. The more relevant they make themselves the better.

This means working on each pup as an individual – as they did originally with Ella.

They will keep things as calm as possible at exciting trigger times such as before walks and reunitings. These are the times when arousal might erupt, with one over-aroused pup redirecting onto the other and poor Ella feeling she has to step in.

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 these three dogs 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 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. Suspect anyone who promises a quick fix. (see my Help page)

Come. Won’t Come When Called. Runs Off. No Recall

Layla really is the near-perfect little dog for her lady owner, particularly at home. She stable, confident and can be taken anywhere.

When off lead, Layla won’t come when called.

The one and only area where she is less than perfect is that, once she’s free, she may run off and she won’t come back.

Layla has been chased along beaches and chased down busy roads. She is not let off lead at all nowWon't come when called.

The three-year-old Bichon Frise is an independent little thing. She’s not demanding. She may do her own thing but that’s no problem – not most of the time anyway.

To come when called isn’t really about training. Layla knows what ‘Come’ means, I’m sure. She just doesn’t see a sufficiently good reason to do so.

This is about two things: motivation and building up a conditioned response – so that when she hears the word ‘Come’ she reacts more or less automatically.

Motivation.

Where motivation is concerned, the lady needs to make herself as compelling and relevant (to Layla) as possible. Mutual love isn’t quite enough. When out, the lady is competing with the environment of wonderful smells, other dogs, birds and so on.

What can she do?

She can work on getting and holding Layla’s attention at home to begin with. To make herself motivating she can get Layla to work for some of her food – Layla loves her food fortunately.

The lady could also use fun if she could find something they mutually enjoyed. Although it may not be appropriate in this case, here is a nice video showing how play can be used to make the person really desirable to be with and to come back to.

Over the past two years at least, Layla has learnt that ‘Come’ is optional. She comes back when she wants. She has also learnt that the word come will probably be repeated many times “Layla, Layla, Come, Come, Come…”.

This selective hearing now has to be replaced with a new, automatic, response to the word ‘Come’.

There is no quick fix for a dog that ignores being called. The only way to achieve good recall, particularly if one is unable to run about oneself, is through lots of repetition where the dog is only set up to succeed.

When someone says ‘Catch’ we put your hands out without thinking. When the lady says ‘Layla – Come’, Layla needs to run to her almost without thinking.

Frequent short sessions, stopping while it’s still fun.

‘Come’ meaning ‘come’ will be best absorbed by Layla if done in graded steps, over a period of time. It will be a good while before ‘off lead’ is reached.

So, I have created a plan where they start in the house with frequent sessions of walking around. Copying what I did, the lady walks away from her calling “Layla – Come!”. Layla catches up and is rewarded. The lady can then call her from room to room. She can then call her when she’s out of sight. Eventually they can graduate to having Layla on a 30-foot long line, outside where there are more distractions, tied to something like a tree.

Bit by bit you they will be building up an automatic response.

The lady will be motivating Layla: ‘I’ve been called, I will come right away. It will be worth it!”.

She can also reinforce ‘Come’ by calling Layla for anything she likes, like meals, putting her lead on for a walk or going to the car.

When Layla is running on the beach on her long line, the lady should only call “Layla – Come” when she is coming anyway. The competition from the environment makes it too likely that ‘Come’ will be ignored and devalued.

How long will it take? Who knows. It will depend upon how patient the lady is and how many short sessions she can manage – sufficiently short that Layla remains motivated and doesn’t become bored.

Two or more years of freelancing won’t be overturned in just a few weeks.

 

Barking at the Window. Coming When Called

Barking at the window and coming when called sound like two separate issues but are they?

Jack Russell Candy is a near-perfect little dog.

barking at the window causes stressThe lady has had her for about four months because her owner, an elderly man, moved into a home.

She is divine. In the photo I made a little noise and immediately she opened her eyes and the little tail started wagging furiously. So friendly.

Since moving in to the lady’s home the little dog has started barking at the window as people walk past and it’s getting worse as time goes by.

Sometimes the lady just ignores it, sometimes she will loudly go SHHHHH and sometimes the little dog’s barking at the window gets her cross – understandably.

To stop or reduce the barking two things should happen.

First, the environment can be managed better.

Secondly, we need to look at why the dog is barking and deal with that. Barking at the window is a symptom of something else.

All this barking at the window simply raises Candy’s stress levels.

Raised stress levels cause her to – BARK!

Barking at the window will be reduced, obviously, if Candy can’t see out.

Why does she do it?

Candy will be barking at the window because she feels that in some way passing people are a threat. GO AWAY! And they nearly always do – unless it’s the postman.

Like many dogs, she particularly hates a postman.

I ask people how they would react if their child suddenly screamed ‘there’s a man with a gun coming down the path who may shoot us all dead’!

Would we ignore the child and leave him to get on with it alone? Would we crossly tell him to be quiet?

No! We would help him out.

The lady should react in such a way that shows Candy that she has some support.

Helping Candy out will involve reassurance and calling her away. This is where reliable recall comes in.

When the lady calls her, Candy must know that abandoning her self-appointed job of guarding the house, trusting the lady to deal with it, is worth her while. If the lady calls her and gives her nothing, it will soon be like ‘crying wolf’ and she will be ignored.

Having called Candy, the lady can reward her and then decide what to do next. She may investigate or take her somewhere else. She may even have a game with her.

“Candy – Come!” should bring Candy running.

This means she can be called away from barking at the window. She can be called in straight away from the garden.uttleycandy

It means that eventually the lady should be able to let her off lead. She would dearly love to see her running free. A while ago she had let go of the lead accidentally and Candy was off! Eventually she came back but not sufficiently near to be grabbed before running off again.

The lady will continue to walk Candy on the long line, but will actively work on recall when out also.

Candy didn’t bark at the window at all when the lady first had her. Once it started, the barking has got worse and worse – as things do. With a different approach both dog and human will be a lot more relaxed.

From email: ‘Now that the three months is up may I thank you for the help and support which have made such a difference to the way I relate to Candy.  She’s such a sweetheart that it is really lovely to understand ways of dealing with any awkward issues and to see the progress that we have both made……  I think you and your training of humans are brilliant
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 Candy. 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)

Freedom and Who Pays the Price

They love to see their dog running free, charging about and having fun.

Freedom may come at a price.

They adopted Boxer Bella sixteen months ago and she is having a wonderful life. Being with her for three hours it was hard to imagine her to be anything other than a sweet, soft and gentle dog.

For me she showed none of her usual over-excitement when people visit.

I tend to get back what I give. Calm confidence attracts calm confidence (just as excitement attracts excitement).

There is a price to be paid for all Bella’s freedom however

She has too much freedomAnd it’s not always Bella who pays it.

She lives with a family where, again, the men like to get her excited. When the man gets up in the morning she immediately bounces about. She rushes downstairs to get a toy. Man and dog, they chase around the house and then around the garden.

She loves it, but are the adrenalin highs that good a way to start the day?

Their perceived problem is out on walks where Bella is becoming increasingly aggressive to other dogs. This is both when off lead as well as on lead.

The gentleman, who is the main walker, needs to be able to have her under better control, so their own relationship needs to be a bit more regulated in general.

He can slowly tone down the manic mornings a bit at a time so it’s that not too much of a shock to either of them. He can introduce brain games and things that require some self-control. Stirring her up from the beginning isn’t the best way to start a day, particularly if you want a dog to react to things calmly later on.

They live just a few minutes’ walk from where she’s let off lead. She pulls madly to get there.

Then, off lead, she’s away.

Freedom!

She may run around madly, carry huge logs or disappear, sometimes for several minutes at a time. It’s all high activity stuff where learning to sniff and ‘shoot the breeze’ on a long line may do her just as much good if not more.

She’s stone deaf to being called when on a mission.

Once a dog is used to freelancing, there is little one can do to get her back until she’s finished what she’s doing.

Bella herself paid a price for her freedom a while ago.

The man heard screaming and ran over to find some young girls with a couple of Staffordshire Bull Terriers both on top of Bella. Bella will have been the instigator, she ran over to them after all and they were on leads minding their own business. It was a bad experience for the girls, the Staffies and for Bella who had injuries.

Things have gone downhill since then but still her freedoms haven’t been curbed. They feel their fit and lean Boxer needs the exercise and understandably they love the joy freedom gives her

Anything could happen. The price paid so far is bad, but it could become a lot worse. According to the recent change in the dog law, someone may only need to feel threatened by a dog now for the owner to be prosecuted. This could end up with Bella permanently on lead and wearing a muzzle.

The catalyst for calling me was recently, again out of sight of the man, Bella went for a small dog. The owner was extremely upset and scared as was the little dog.

Dog-to-dog reactivity is like a disease that spreads.

Now it’s likely the little dog may cause trouble with other dogs, particularly larger dogs, due to its own fear.

With each thing that happens, it simply gets worse, but still Bella is being given her freedom. She freelances.

It’s sometimes hard to convince people who want the very best for their dog, as they certainly do, that the only answer is for her to lose her freedom.

For now I strongly advise Bella to be kept on a long line, dropped perhaps so she can play with familiar dogs. Recall needs to be blitzed for several months at least.

When encountering other dogs the gentleman will himself take responsibility for what happens next. When, on the long line, they see a dog, he will call her and reward her. Maybe this would be a good opportunity for one of his fun chasing games, keeping it short?  She may now associate the other dog with fun times.

Whether on walking lead or long line, he will maintain a comfortable distance between Bella and other dogs and work on her. He will no longer keep walking on towards the other dog, holding her tight as she tries to lunge, hackles up and barking,

Bella’s ideal default over time should be to check in with the man every time she sees another dog. She must learn to keep within a certain distance from him and never go out of sight.

Dog walks would be better for everyone if all owners restricted their dogs’ freedom, if all dogs automatically checked in when they saw another dog and if recall really did mean ‘come’. See this nice little video about recall from Steve Mann.

It is so much harder to reverse a situation like this than not to have let it happen in the first place. I would say a new dog or puppy has no freedom initially and is granted it gradually in a controlled fashion when ready.

Recall is as much about the kind of relationship the dog has with the owner as anything else. This needs working on in all areas of the Bella’s life.

We get what we give.

If we want calm and attentiveness, we act calm and give our full attention.  Encouraging calm and attentiveness, we have better control.

In curbing freedom the dog doesn’t have to feel trapped like a prisoner. We make ourselves relevant so that being near us is just where our dog wants to be. It can take a lot of effort.

 

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 Bella 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)

 

 

 

Coming When Called is Coming When Called

‘Well-trained’ isn’t always enough.

The three dogs, 7 month old Rottie pup Kaiser, Jack Russell Budd, 7 and Jack a Chihuahua Jack Russel mix aged 8 have been taught some impressive training tricks by the lady.

This case is interesting because three problems exist despite the training.

Kaiser will soon be coming when called

Kaiser

Kaiser is so excited to see people he jumps all over them. He’s already large and it won’t be funny to have a full-grown male Rottie jumping up at one. Already it hurts.

Secondly, all dogs need to pay more attention to their humans on walks, Kaiser because he’s so excited to see people and dogs, and the two little dogs because they get scared and noisy when on lead and see a dog.

Thirdly, the dogs come when called but not when it really matters.

When people come to the house Buddy can be taught to calm down before he gets any attention. Even being pushed and being told to get down is attention, isn’t it. It may get him down but won’t stop him next time.

He can be taught to do something polite like to sit before being given attention.

Because he is just so excited, sitting is difficult for the pup, so it’s the excitement that needs to be addressed first. Jumping up is a problem easily solved if all parties are consistent.

Getting the dogs’ attention when out starts at home.

In essence all dogs need to clock in to their humans when asked to. At the moment why should they? What’s in it for them? A quick fussing? They get fussing for free so it’s not a reward.

Jack and Buddy

Jack and Buddy

Each dog should respond instantly to his name when he hears it, with eye contact. Yes – Me? They can work on holding the gaze for a short while. There has to be something in it for the dog, though. or he will soon learn to ignore them.

Giving eye contact when he hears his name needs to become an automatic reflex, just the same as you would blink if someone pretended to throw something into your face.

An automatic reflex only happens if it is practised enough times. Hundreds of times.

Coming when called starts at home too.

Reliable ‘coming when called’ is a lot harder and the work also starts at home.

They can work on a ‘coming when called’ reflex in the same way. For these three dogs I have suggested they charge a whistle by pairing the whistle with tiny special food hundreds of times.

Meanwhile if the dog’s not certain to come – don’t call. They won’t set themselves up to fail and thus lose the power they are building up. In places where running off could be a problem, like chasing children he wants to play with, Kaiser should be kept on a long line for now.

Getting attention and coming when called are the solution to other minor problems they are having. Kaiser likes to eat dog poo (coprophagia). Instead of yelling NO and giving it value, they can call him away and reward him. In fact, repeated sufficiently often he can be taught to automatically come to them for a piece of his kibble when one of the other dogs does his business. Obviously in order to avoid rehearsal Kaiser needs to be accompanied when outside.

By saying ‘Kaiser’ and getting instant eye contact, they can call him away when he’s about to jump on the sofa. Problem solved.

When he sees a child out on a walk, instead of running excitedly up to it and possibly chasing it, they call ‘Kaiser!’ ‘Yes – Me?’ ‘Come’. Reward. Problem solved.

Here is a nice little video: ‘A recall is a recall‘.

Ultimately the family should be able to blow the whistle and all three dogs will come running to them EVERY TIME, regardless of other dogs and things to chase and best blown before they are in full flight. Obviously some breeds are easier to train to come back than others, notably retrieving breeds. I know people who will correct me and say their breed will never reliably come back when called, but I still need to be convinced.

Ultimately the family should be able to call just a chosen dog, calling his name, get his instant attention and then ‘COME’. Reward.

Most people I go to say their dog has good recall – except when he sees another dog or has something better to do. That to my mind isn’t good recall. It’s a dog that has been ‘trained’ to understand coming when called and may be brilliant in the environment of his training class, but has chosen to do so in his own good time when out in the real world.

Training is largely about the dog’s relationship with his humans – and that is home stuff.

My own dogs’ formal training is limited to sit, down and stay, but coming when called is something they do reliably(and one is a Lurcher). Coming when called is basic for their own safety and for my sanity.

Aggressive Behaviour. Why?

Aggressive behaviour, is it through fear or something else?

Delilah was in another room behind a gate when arrived, barking but not for long. Her lead was already attached to her harness. When the gate was opened she didn’t join us for several minutes. When she did, she was fine. I had laced the floor between the doorway and myself with food so she immediately picked up ‘nice smell’ on entering my presence.

No sign of aggressive behaviourShe sniffed me, wandered about and settled between myself and the lady where we sat at the dining table. She looked just like a Corgi but DNA testing revealed a mix of German Shepherd, Malamute and Miniature Poodle!

I knew that she could bark, snarl and snap at people’s legs or shoes but only in her own house or garden. She is worse with men which isn’t uncommon and she has a particular fear of boots.

As she lay beside us I was looking for signs of timidity and saw none. However, the whole time I was there she was either in front of me facing outwards – it felt like she was blocking me in – or between myself and the lady. At one stage I needed to go to the toilet so asked the lady to pick up her lead and take her out of the room to avoid stressing her until I was sitting again. She returned to the same place  – in the picture the lady is on the chair to my right.

Delilah was a Romanian street dog and for the first months of her life completely unrestricted. She then was in a shelter for nine months, loose with lots of other dogs, followed by a few months in a foster home where again there were lots of dogs and much coming and going of people.

Now she is a single dog living in a quiet cottage with only the lady. For the first two months she was the model dog, happy to see people coming into the house. Fine with other dogs when on lead.

As so often happens with dogs fitting into a completely different world, gradually this began to change.

Although I felt I should be careful indoors, Delilah was very friendly and accepting of me outside the house when we went for a short walk, happily letting me hold the lead and demonstrate loose lead walking with her.

Where indoors she may be reactive to people but not when she’s out, when outside her aggressive behaviour is towards dogs – but only when she is restrained on lead. She may may bark and lunge (not always). Off lead, however, she loves to run about, playing with any dog who is interested – as I saw for myself. She is bold and fearless.

RussellDelThe lady has been exposing Delilah to as many people and dogs as possible. She takes her to some nice training classes. She has friends coming to see her at home.

Worried about her increasing aggressive behaviour to people in the house, the lady has had a trainer visit who advocated spraying the dog with water when she showed aggression.

This tactic of spraying water sums up the very opposite of what I would do to a dog displaying fear or territorial possessiveness or even anger. The way to stop the behaviour (which is a symptom only) is to stop the emotions that cause it.

How will punishment or even a short, sharp interruptor, change emotions permanently for the better?

Okay, it may stop the actual symptom in the moment, but what then? The emotion won’t change and will probably become worse. It will fester and break out somewhere, in some way, for sure.

What about trust?

The dog is feeling deeply uncomfortable about something and then gets sprayed with water, which she won’t like, by the very person she should trust, who has been advised to do this rather than try to understand and help her out!

Fortunately the lady refused to do it.

We have several things to work on and it could take time. We are working on getting Delilah to happily accept people coming into the house with desensitisation work around the front door in particular. It’s like now she has a permanent home which is hers, she is becoming increasingly territorial. Walking legs and particularly feet with boots being a target for her aggressive behaviour which could well be influenced by a herding element in here genes, we will work on boots away from feet first, then boots on the feet of sitting people, and then people walking in boots.

The lady will do her best to show Delilah in every way she can that she doesn’t need protecting and that it’s her own job to protect their territory. The lady herself is in charge of comings and goings. We have a couple of strategies for when people come into the house including more simple management.

On walks Delilah will unfortunately need to lose some of her precious freedom and to be restricted to a long line for a while the lady works on her recall. She is so used to freelancing that she will only come when she is ready. When we were out together I held my breath as she ran off, assured she couldn’t get out of the field. I fear it’s a crisis waiting to happen. Here is a great little video from Steve Mann: ‘A Recall is a Recall‘.

On a long line she shouldn’t feel trapped when she meets other dogs. If she wants to play it can be dropped. The lady will work on her on-lead reactivity to certain other dogs.

From a noisy life where she has been one of many to a quiet life where she is the only one, Delilah is still having big adjustments to make after only three months still.

I have since been unable to get My My My Delilah out of my brain (thanks Tom Jones!).

 

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 Delilah and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are concerned. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

Family Dog, Consistency is Key

The importance of consistency.

I sat with the family – parents with late-teens son and daughter – and their dear little Tibetan Terrier, Archie.

Tibetan Terrier in need of consistency

My first question was, as always, ‘What would you like to achieve from my help?’  The answer was for Archie to be more relaxed around other dogs and to be trusted to come back when called.

Exactly the same aim as so many people I go to.

This sounds simple and straightforward but it isn’t. It’s unlikely to be just a question of going out on a few walks with someone. For a dog to be relaxed around other dogs he must feel safe and this has a lot to do with his relationship with his humans.

Poor Archie was attacked by two dogs a couple of months which has not only upset Archie but it’s really shaken the lady who had him at the time.

In order to feel safe the dog should not feel trapped and helpless on the end of a tight lead, particularly one attached uncomfortably to a collar, held by someone he may not completely trust to keep him safe (in his mind). In order not to feel trapped he should learn to walk in a more relaxed fashion on a loose lead. In order to walk on a loose lead he should no longer expect to make progress when the lead is tight; in order to walk on a loose lead he shouldn’t be too excited before starting out. In order to trust his humans when out, they themselves need to be confident; they need to show him who protects him and motivates him back at home.

In order for him to come when called when off lead, he must take notice of them at home and reliably come when called around the house and in from the garden etc. etc. Each family member must be consistent.

It’s anything but simple.

It’s great to go to a family where all four members pull together with a walking rota. Archie gets two walks a day.

For a plan to work, each walker must have the same walking system. Each needs to wait for calm before leaving. Each needs to use the same technique for teaching loose lead walking. Each needs to react in exactly the same way when Archie sees a dog – he alerts, he may pull and then he drops down flat. It’s vital none of them use force.

Each should carry food on walks.

Each should give Archie their full attention for that twenty minutes and not be occupied with something else like a phone.

 

A ‘walk’ now mean something different.

Walks will occupy the same amount of time as before but no longer go from A to B. It will be about the journey, not the destination. So what if the dog wants to sniff for five minutes? Whose walk is it? A dog that is pulling with a walker who is in a rush is bound to be reactive to things. A dog having a relaxed sniff walk on a loose lead with someone who is relaxed is much more likely to walk past other dogs without a reaction.

It was fun to see the family begin to see why Archie actually does things – what functions his actions have for him. Why does he jump up? It gets him the attention he wants. Why does he run off with a sock? It starts a game. Why does he pull on lead? It gets him somewhere. Why does he bark at people who walk past? It chases them away. Why does he keep scratching at the door? It makes someone get up.

He can learn that something they prefer will give him the same result. Sitting and not jumping will get attention. Stealing a sock gets ignored but a toy may start a game. Pulling on lead will get him nowhere, but a loose lead will. Scratching the door doesn’t get him let out, but sitting politely may and so on.

Why does Archie sometimes get cross when made to go out at night? Because gentle force is used and there is nothing in it for him. He will happily do as asked when they work on his ‘coming when called’ routine at home, using food.

Getting him to earn some of some of his food (and that doesn’t mean commercial rubbish treats or anything large that fills him up, but tiny bits of real food) is a recipe for a motivated and happy dog.

This brings us back to his mild reactivity to some dogs when out on walks. Whatever he is doing, whether it is dropping down, pulling to the dog or barking at it, he does it because it has a function for him, probably that of keeping the dog at a greater distance – or giving himself some control at the very least, particularly if he’s being held close on a tight lead.

What if he was given something more acceptable to do that provided the same function? Turning to look at the handler for instance? Or perhaps standing still and not lying down? Or looking away from the other dog and down at the ground to forage for food? The handler should be sufficiently on the ball to sense the distance t which Archie has clocked the dog but isn’t yet reacting.

Archie would learn that the alternative behaviour would be grant him his wish, that of increasing distance, whilst associating the other dog with something positive and nice.

Another reason they should be alert is that sometimes Archie, depending upon his mood and upon the dog, may ignore it and walk past. Other times he may want to play. The response has to be appropriate to the occasion and well-timed, and this takes practice.

I would err on the safe side in favour of too much distance rather than too little.

Sadly, when your dog has been attacked and injured by another dog that has just appeared, off-lead, out of the blue, walks may never be quite so enjoyable again.

Walking Two Dogs Together

Two young black dogsYesterday I went to two beautiful young dogs. Wilson is a three-year-old Flatcoat-German Shepherd mix and Springer-Labrador Cooper is twenty months of age. They get on great with one another.

They live near open spaces and until recently the dogs ran free, seldom on lead. Circumstances have changed for their young lady and she has not the confidence let them run off lead now, mainly because she fears Cooper won’t come back to her.

She needs to be able to walk them on lead now without Cooper pulling like mad unless restrained with a head halter which he hates, or Wilson, who has had puppy training and does walk nicely on lead, lunging and rushing at cats or joggers.

For the lady to control them both together through her own physical strength alone would be impossible.

A common problem with walking two excitable dogs together who have not been taught to walk nicely individually is that each one may want to get ahead of the other.

An additional snag here is that the dogs don’t like to be separated. The young lady had been walking them individually in order to work on Cooper’s pulling and Wilson’s cat-chasing, but the thing that sapped her confidence to the extent that she feels she can’t walk them at al now was that on her last walk with Cooper, Wilson suddenly appeared. Instead of just crying as he watched Cooper and the lady walk off down the road from an upstairs window, he leapt out of it. The vet thought it was a miracle he wasn’t seriously injured.

Since then she hasn’t dared to take one out without the other, so has done her best to give them exercise by way of games and training at home and in her garden. She is extremely dedicated.

This is one of those cases where people sometimes can’t see the wood for the trees. Apart from adding a few things to her home schedule that encourages Cooper in particular to find her relevant and take notice of her, there are things she can do to make the environment itself easier. For a start, when she goes out with one dog, she can shut the other well away from any windows where he can see them disappear down the road.

The issue of the dogs being so unhappy when parted merely adds stress to an already difficult situation, so, before she does anything else, she should punctuate her day by putting the lead on one dog as though for a walk, then just walk him out of one door and straight round and back in another (she has three doors to choose from so she can make it fairly random). She can drop food as she leaves to encourage the dog to associate their departure with something good. Then she can change dogs – or not – maybe repeat with the same dog. When the dogs are thoroughly used to this, probably after several days, bit by bit she can then make her absences a bit longer and start loose lead walking work.

We did some lead work in the garden, using the principal of having a longish lead, hanging loose from the front which encourages the dog to follow, rather than the current short lead attached to a collar that merely facilitates pulling. We aim for walking within the length of the six-foot lead and the only criteria is that it’s loose – the dog can be either in front, to the side or behind. ‘Heel’ can be used as a separate cue when necessary, near a road for instance.

And….. the young lady can stop feeling guilty about her dogs getting so little exercise and outside stimulation! While she is doing the short walking training sessions in and out of the doors and near to home, there is no reason why she shouldn’t go back to their old country walks so long as she keeps Cooper on a long line – at least ten to fifteen meters in length. She can work hard on his recall, and when she eventually does let him off briefly she should make sure Wilson is already on lead. When she calls Cooper, if she also turns away and takes Wilson with her, Cooper will undoubtedly come.

There are some other pieces of the ‘jigsaw’ that makes up the complete picture of her dogs’ lives that she can work on at home and which will enable her to get each to focus on her when necessary. On big advantage is that neither dog is particularly reactive to other dogs. With her dedication and given time, she will for sure ultimately be walking her beautiful dogs together down the road on loose leads.

Here is an email just over one month after my first visit:
Well what a difference a week makes (since my second visit). Since I last e-mailed I’ve took the boys to the beach and walked them in the field every day.
I took your advice and started driving the short distance to the field. It means I can get them off the lead quickly, let them get their beans out of their system and then (wait for it) watch them calmly walk on the lead back to the car!! As the week has progressed they’ve even started walking by my side off the lead, never going ahead but mooching around the verges!!
The beach was very interesting. As you know, this was my ultimate objective and I’ve achieved it. What was brilliant was how revealing it was. They ran around off the lead for nearly two hours, and in that time Wilson would usually stroll by my side and Cooper looked like he was on an invisible bit of 50 ft string, running ahead but coming back to check in. Once, he ran quite far and I deployed the ‘running in the opposite direction’ which worked instantly. Again, both trotted back to the car on the lead really nicely.
Overall, things are so much calmer and the boys seem a lot happier. My confidence is growing everyday. I’ve still a lot to do, and I realise this can only be maintained by keeping up with the training, but I’m in a much, much better place to do this.
I think really you’ve helped me to gain my confidence, and my life back!  I’ll keep you posted, but I hope you’re as pleased as I am.
NB. For the sake of the story this isn’t a complete ‘report’, but I choose an angle. Also, the precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Wilson and Cooper. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good, particularly ones that involve punishment. 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 dog (see my Get Help page).