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

Young Dalmation is Out of Control

When I say ‘ouYoung Dalmationt of control’, I don’t mean Gizmo needs more ‘being under control’. The six-month-old Dalmatian needs more self-control. This is impossible when he is bored stiff and unfulfilled and when his antics are what gets him the craved-for attention.

I go to so many young dogs and puppies who are simply bouncing of the walls and their busy owners just don’t know what to do with them. When they carried the adorable tiny puppy home they had no concept of the time and effort a puppy needs in order for him to grow to be the family pet they dreamed of.

Gizmo’s owners are a young couple with a toddler and a baby now on the way too. In their small house the lady is finding it very hard to fulfill both her little daughter’s needs and her dog’s. If he is shut out of the room he does damage. He flies all over the chairs and all over people. He digs in the garden and he chews up the carpet. He steals and eats the child’s toys and he has now been through several beds.

It can understandably cause some conflict when the man comes home to a big welcome from the dog but has little concept of how it really is for his partner who is trying to cope all day with a demanding baby and even more demanding dog. She can’t exercise Gizmo because she can’t leave baby alone and because of his ‘wild’ behaviour and pulling she can’t take them together.

Things got so bad for the lady, who also worries how they will cope when the new baby in a few months’ time, that a week ago they advertised Gizmo and sold him. They came home in tears.

They then went and fetched him back again and called me out. They hadn’t realised, despite the problems, just how much they loved him until he wasn’t there.

A common problem is that people are resistant to making the necessary changes even though they are only temporary. Crates and gates clutter up the house. Chew toys and activity boxes can make a big mess. It is simpler to put a chain lead on a dog so it can be controlled through force than to change equipment and put time into training it to walk nicely. I am a firm believer in the saying: ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.

We are starting on just three things before I go again next week – three things they should realistically be able to make sYoung Dalmation with Stagbarome headway with so the lady feels a little more encouraged to keep going.

Firstly, they should look for and reward all the good, calm moments including standing still, sitting and lying down – we practised this. Secondly, they must be consistent about Gizmo’s jumping up on people and on the chairs. If they don’t want the dog to do something – then it has to be every time. He also needs to know what it is they do want instead. Thirdly, the poor quality of his diet can only encourage manic behaviour so that needs changing, and with food left down they have nothing left to reward and motivate him with. So, he needs proper meals and proper food.

Next time we will take things further. We will look at ideas for occupying his brain and starting walking work so the lady can eventually take both dog and baby out for walks together safely.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Gizmo, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. 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 dog (see my Get Help page).

Young Dalmation Settles In

0-month-old Dalmation Bella has been with them for two weeks now10-month-old Dalmation Bella has been with them for two weeks now, and she is still learning what is wanted of her – or as is so often the case – what is not wanted of her.

Young Dalmation and new home.

There are problems with trying to teach a dog NOT to do something and it’s simply not efficient. One effect of using the negative approach is that the attention she is given by being pushed off and told ‘Down’ and ‘No’ can reinforce the very behaviour that they don’t want. Another problem is that, even if the ‘Uh-uh’ interrupts something like scratching at the door or poking her nose in the wires behind the TV, it isn’t actually teaching her anything useful like what she may do.

Every negative should be replaced with, or followed by – a positive.

“Don’t do that – do this instead”.

In silence I communicated to Bella, ‘Don’t jump up on me’ (because I shall show you with my body language that there is absolutely no mileage in that for you), ‘but sit or stand beside me instead’ (because I shall now give you attention you want).

The couple have got themselves a real jewel with Bella. She apparently came from a family with teenagers so she is quite robust, but probably rules and boundaries were  a bit lax. I gave her new owners general advice on reward-based training, correcting unwanted behaviour, walking nicely and on being well mannered.

If they continue to work with Bella through her adolescence she should become a wonderful companion.

Loves People, Not So Good With Other Dogs

Milo is good with people but not good with other dogsMilo is quite unusual – a Dalmation Collie cross (called, I think, a Dolly!). Here he is in my demo harness which fitted him so well I left it behind.

His lady owner works from home with people calling frequently; Milo is polite and extremely well socialised. He loves people. If he had frequently met as many dogs from his early months as he had people, then I’m sure everything would be fine with them also.

Milo’s problems are other dogs on walks.

He pulls his owners down the road despite a tight lead and constant correction. If he sees other dogs he lunges and barks. He is then restrained and forced onwards towards or past the dog. Any apprehension he may have when encountering a dog will be intensified by his humans’ reactions.

He currently has either a short lead or a retractable lead. A loose longer lead attached to his chest will give him an entirely different sensation. No more being pulled back. If the lead goes tight, they won’t follow. They will encourage him to walk beside them through choice not force using reward and encouragement rather than force or scolding, and when they see other dogs they will react in such a way that he learns to have confidence in them (and they in him).

There was a very unfortunate incident the other day when, off lead, he met a dog coming round a corner and attacked it, injuring it badly, hence my visit. This must simply never happen again. Recall work is a priority for however long it takes, and Milo will lose his freedom meanwhile – limited by a ten metre long line.

Controlled and comfortable walks

Calling MILO COME is useless because he has learnt to ignore it until he is ready, so they will be using a whistle now. Seeing other dogs must now mean clock in with his humans.

Repeatedly using a whistle for recall games at home, rewarding him with something small but very tasty, they should eventually make running to them at the sound of the whistle an automatic reaction. That is how it has become with my own dogs. I now use it sparingly and I always make it worth their while to come straight away whatever they are doing.

It is hard to believe that the dog I met, and the dog you see in the picture, could behave in such an aggressive manner. Those dogs he has met in a controlled way and knows he’s fine with; otherwise I believe he thinks, ‘I will get them before they get me’.

Preparing the Dogs for the New Arrival

 

I visited a lovely family yesterday – four little girls aged between two and eight and two large gentle dogs – one a Standard Poodle, Max,  and the other a Poodle Rottweiller mix called Alfie. I have never seen that mix before, and to me he looked more like a black Beardie. As you may be able to see from my not very good picture, PoodleRottie2Max is covered in tight curls.

Alfie the Rottie mix is a laid back gentleman. Max, on the other hand, is much more active and a little restless.  He adores the children, and the little girls who have been taught to treat dogs with respect cuddle him, walk him around with him and play with him – and he loves it. Max can be reactive to other dogs – barking but not attacking, and Alfie may then join in.

To add to this mix, they are getting a female Dalmation puppy in a couple of weeks! Knowing that Max is not at ease around dogs he doesn’t know, they want to make sure that both dogs and the new puppy integrate OK.

So, they are putting a few more rules and boundaries in place, themselves making the decisions around food and protection duty – both of which are roles of a leader, along with teaching the dogs who decides where to go when out on a walk (and it’s not them)!

When the new puppy arrives they are going to introduce Max and Alfie to her whilst quietly keeping her safe, and with the little girls out of the way initially as they are bound to be very excited and a calm atmophere is vital.  I shall be on the end of the phone or email to answer any questions or help with any problems over the first few weeks or months. They have already decided to crate train their puppy, and I advise that this crate is out of bounds to children – so the puppy has a bolt hole where she can go for peace and quiet when she is tired.

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