Redirecting Onto His Brother

Redirecting onto Lincoln is how Lucas deals with arousal.

Lucas and Lincoln. Calm.

When someone new comes to the door, the two Dalmatians are shut away behind a gate and will be barking loudly as the person enters the house.

Lincoln is barking with excitement. Lucas’ excitement quickly spills over into redirecting onto poor Lincoln, attacking him.

I witnessed this for myself.

Fortunately Lincoln is very easygoing and has not retaliated – yet.

They settled quickly and were both fine when let out to greet me.

Things weren’t so good a few days ago when someone they didn’t know came to the house. While the dogs were still barking she put her hand over the gate. A mistake.


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Excitable Dalmatian. Loses Self-Control. Humans Wind Him Up

excitable DalmatianExcitable Dalmatian Milo can get from zero to a hundred in a second!!

He barks persistently at people coming into the house- though didn’t at me. I’m calm and the lady and her adult son were asked to ignore him initially. Nobody was stirring him up. It was in the morning and there had not (yet) been any build-up of excitement. Milo was still relatively calm.

He has recently become a little bad-tempered when approached by another dog on a walk. This has only happened a few times but it’s spoiling walks for the lady who is now on the constant look-out.

Milo now barks at dogs on TV – even at the theme music introducing Supervet. He barks at dogs passing his house.

He has always been great with dogs and regularly goes on ‘Dally Rallies’. The three-year-old dog has a couple of particular dog friends he meets and plays with every week.

Telling another dog ‘Go Away’

The first incident occurred when the excitable Dalmatian and his special dog friend were playing. A young dog ran up to them and Milo saw it off. The owner wasn’t pleased but no harm was done.

The other couple of occasions have each been when another dog has come up close – a big dog. On one occasiona he and an approaching Boxer had to be pulled apart. It’s such a rare occurrence so far that I’m convinced it’s to do with the excitable Dalmatian’s arousal levels at the time making him grumpy. As we know, stress levels stack up.

The lady fears he will be labelled as aggressive locally which he plainly isn’t. He is, however, sometimes much too quick to react.

Winding up the excitable Dalmatian

For instance, when Milo meets this dog friend, another Dalmatian, the lady gets him excited with eager anticipation before even leaving the house. She says ‘we are going to see Benji!’ and the excitable Dalmatian is already beside himself before the two dogs even meet up.

Key to their success both with the occasional ‘other dog’ issue and with his reactivity to people coming into the house is not stirring him up. It may seem fun at the time, but the fallout comes later in some form or other and is inevitable.

Over-excitement and self-control are incompatible

These two things are incompatible: over-excitement and self-control. They simply don’t go together.

If they want the end result badly enough, then the son in particular needs to sacrifice some of his own fun.

I had given Milo a couple of chew items to help him calm while we chatted. This worked until the young man began to use these same items to generate a game. He feigned throwing the antler chew until the dog was really excited and then skidded it along the wooden floor. Milo then took it back for more.

Result: loss of self-control.

The chew items are meant to be associated with calm. Chewing is a major way the excitable Dalmatian can calm himself down. If they then use the antler for play instead of for calming him, it will do the opposite. Milo will demand continued throwing until people have had enough of him.

Then, like a pressure cooker, he blows.

The dog then raids the bin and jumps to see what he can siphon off the counters. He can’t help himself.

This ends in commands and scolding.

Enriching activities using brain and nose

The family can replace this arousal with the kind of activities that are enriching to Milo and require him to use his brain or nose. This is, actually, a lot kinder.

He is a beautiful boy – and clever. The lady worked hard on his training and now the family should work together for calm. Without a concerted effort to keep Milo’s arousal levels down it’s hard to see how they will make progress. Excitement and over-arousal are the main emotions driving the barking at people coming into the house, the dogs on TV and the reactivity to some dogs on walks.

We discussed how the lady can enjoy walks again without worrying about whether her excitable Dalmatian will be reactive towards an approaching dog. When calmer, he’s more tolerant.

Milo’s recall is excellent, but what they can’t control is the behaviour of other dogs.

Stress builds up over time so it’s not only what the lady does immediately before they leave the house. When everyone replaces winding him up with giving him calming, sniffing, chewing, foraging and brain activities they should find things improve. (Maybe more boring for a young man – but a lot better for Milo).

The key is simple. It’s about keeping their excitable Dalmatian calmer which will allow him to gain self-control. 

Three weeks have gone by. “I’ve had the most lovely weekend with Milo where he has enjoyed some lovely sociable walks, greeting confidently many new dogs and playing beautifully with 2 new dogs – that I haven’t seen him do for a very long time. He is more ready when walking alone with me to smooch off ahead to do his own thing rather than stick by my side which he has increasingly done over recent months. He is without doubt calmer, more relaxed and seemingly more confident; we are all feeling the benefits of the advice and tips you have given us.
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. 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. Click here for help

Old Dog Doesn’t Like New Puppy

Dalmation in crateDalmatian Merlin lost his soul mate, a female goldie, a couple of months ago. The two dogs had been inseparable for eleven years of Merlin’s life. Without his friend, Merlin’s confidence has dipped – particularly on walks.

After a lot of research and reading in order to do things right, they have just brought home a Black labrador puppy, Millie, to keep him company. Millie is just over eight weeks old.

Unfortunately this isn’t the match made in heaven they had hoped for. From the outset it looked like Merlin would kill the puppy if he got the chance. Hindsight is a great thing but information gleaned from breed-specific books and the internet isn’t always the best as circumstances differ, so the actual method by which the two were introduced could have been made easier for him.

Millie had been there for just one night only when I went to see them yesterday.

Basically the puppy is very bad news so far as Merlin is concerned. They now need to change this so he begins to see the new puppy as good news instead.

Blac Labrador pupy playing with toy


I eventually want to help with Merlin’s confidence issues on walks in particular and with puppy parenting for Millie, but before we can do anything the two dogs have to be able to coexist. Any further outbreaks of snarling and barking that drive Millie to run, screaming, to the back of her crate will do her own future confidence no good at this sensitive stage of her development.

The logistics of the house are tricky and management at this stage is the first priority.  It’s ‘belt and braces’ so that Merlin is simply unable to get into the same room as Millie, even if she’s in the crate. They can’t rely on even a high dog gate in the doorway because Merlin, a door-opening Houdini, can leap any gate (even at eleven). Consequently, both dogs are crated and both crates had been put in the same room. I suggested on the phone that they immediately cover Millie’s crate so Merlin can’t see her and so that she won’t be intimidated by him.

Actually visiting a house introduces new possibilities. I could see how a gate could work if Merlin wore his harness all the time and they doubled up with an anchor cable attached to the stair rail so he had free roam of the room but would be unable to leap the gate into the kitchen. The two crates should be kept apart in separate rooms so that every encounter between the dogs is under control and so that at night-time both dogs can relax without smelling and hearing the presence of other.

All the time I was there we worked on Millie becoming ‘good news’ to Merlin.

I had brought with me cooked chicken which we cut up into tiny pieces. Merlin doesn’t usually get chicken, so it’s special.

Whenever Merlin is anywhere near to Millie or when he hears her or looks at her, the ‘chicken bar’ opens. So we fed him. We sprinkled chicken on the floor around Millie’s covered crate. We lifted the cover for a short while and continued with the chicken – throwing occasional pieces in for Millie too but being careful that this didn’t upset Merlin. I repeatedly walked him out of the room and all chicken feeding stopped. I walked him back in and the chicken bar opened again.

When Millie had to come out of her crate to be taken outside or simply because she was bored and getting noisy, Merlin had to go back into his. However, we kept dropping chicken into his crate when Millie was about. We called it a day when he began to show more tension, but there was not one growl or bark in well over two hours.

This is going to be hard work, but with the two crates a couple of rooms apart and with a gate and anchor point, all encounters can be under control. We will need to tweak things as we go along, but I’m sure that if they don’t push it and take their time, older dog and new puppy will soon be happily touching noses through the gate.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for integrating your own new puppy may be different to the approach I have planned for Millie and Merlin, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here as to the methods I have suggested. Finding instructions on the internet 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).

Two dogs lying together

The two dogs are now happy together

It’s three months later and they have stuck carefully to the routines and look how the two dogs are getting on now! Merlin is a little watchful but any dog would be with a bouncy and wakeful pup beside him!
Four months have gone by : ‘Just thought we’d give you a little update on Millie. We’ll she is well and truly Merlin’s best friend now……She has developed into the most easy going dog, who is a constant joy and everyone has fallen in love with her including our friends. We believe this is due to your hard work and advice, so a big thank you. Dogs happy together