Imbalance. Too Much Excitement. Too Little Enrichment

It was a total pleasure to be in the company of the two lovely Dobermans (or is it Dobermen?) – Doberman Pinschers.

Three-year-old Storm joined them six months ago. It’s hard to believe that he’s on home number four but he’s landed on his feet now.

His first year was spent as a ‘yard’ dog. From his behaviour in the house and with people, I would guess he hadn’t encountered the outside world in the first formative months of his life. That was the first imbalance in his life.

Outside their home is the problem.

Continue reading…

Doberman Not Coping With Life. Puppy Left Alone

He had been a puppy left alone for too longDoberman Rocky is just 9 months old, and he was rehomed by a young couple just two weeks ago.

Puppy left alone for too long

Although he wasn’t physically neglected, he had spent some very formative months of his young life without proper ‘parenting’. Consequently he’s somewhat ‘emotionally damaged’ just as a child might be that had been left alone for too long.

Rocky had spent much of the time as a puppy left alone, outside in a small yard, an environment the lonely puppy will have found scary. Unsurprisingly he barked constantly with probably a mix of fear and loneliness; nobody will have helped him out and it would be a safe guess that he would have been shouted at for barking.

Having lived like this for crucial months in his development, it is unsurprising that barking at everything is his default now. Tail chasing has become his default way of dealing with stress. Rocky can’t cope at all with being left alone, even for a minute, and when the lady comes back into the room he will madly tail-chase. As is so often the case, it goes on in a sort of sequence. He chases round and round with his tail in his mouth. He then freezes and just sucks the tail, maybe making whimpering sounds. It is virtually impossible to distract him.

He doesn’t feel safe

The bottom line is that for much of the time Rocky simply doesn’t feel safe – though things are certainly looking up for him now he has a lovely home. Any sounds outside sends him into a barking frenzy. I caught him, on the right, just as he thought he may have heard something.

Walking, too, is difficult. He walked beautifullly on a loose lead indoors, but was hyper-alert once outside the door. Getting him to feel safe and protected, desensitising and habituating him to normal sounds – kids out the front, dogs barking, bikes and so on – will take time and patience. They have made considerable progress in these two weeks however.  The lady takes him to work so he meets people. He is very friendly and polite for an adolescent pup, and only scared of people if they approach too directly, stare or loom over him.

The panic barking, the hyper-vigilance when out in particular, the panic at being left alone and the tail-chasing are going to take weeks or months of counter-conditioning and confidence-building, the bottom line being to reduce the stress caused by his hyper-vigilance and to make him feel safe. I believe then that everything else will gradually fall into place.

You won’t have a quiet dog if he’s on high alert, and you won’t have a dog that is happy to be left alone that is on high alert either. Walking calmly on a loose lead won’t happen whilst he is on high alert.

Tail-chasing is simply the way, over the months, he has learnt to cope.

Things are now changing for the beautiful Rocky! The future is bright and he should end up a happy, carefree dog.

Doberman Barking in the Garden. Pulls on lead

Barking in the gardenWhat a beautiful dog! Doberman Roxy is two years old and really only gives her owners two problems. It would be far easier to list her good points. She is polite and friendly, she’s good with other dogs and she is clever. She has never shown aggression of any sort. She understands and obeys quite a number of words.

But Roxy barks too much outside and she pulls on lead.

Roxy has been unintentionally led to believe that she controls nearly everything in her life – when and where she eats, what she will eat, when she’s played with, where she sleeps and who with, when she goes outside, when she is petted, when she comes back from playing with other dogs…………and the garden.

Barking in the garden

They hadn’t seen how they have been encouraging the barking in the garden. A Doberman, after all, is a guarding breed and to ask for no barking at all would be like asking a human not to talk.

Roxy looks out in the garden through the conservatory windows, on high alert.  Her tail is up. She is looking for cats or birds perhaps – or even a masked gunman? She agitates to go out until door is opened for her.

If they are sitting watching TV, she has learnt that if she simply keeps staring at the gentleman he will always give in and let her out. She is in a highly aroused state even before he opens the door. She rushes out, hackles up, and charges around the garden, barking.

If Roxy could speak she would be saying to the man, ‘Let me out right now so that I can check the boundaries, chase off the enemy and let the world know whose territory this is’ –  and he does it! I’m sure he won’t mind my quoting him (and he’s a big, strong young man): “I’m so weak-minded Roxy can control me telepathically!”

At night time they worry about the neighbours so need to stop her barking in the garden and have resorted to muzzling her to muffle the noise.

Making the decisions

How much better to take on the parenting and decision-making role themselves!

The young man will need to ignore the staring and let her out when he chooses and when she is calm. He won’t open the door until she has worked it out that it stays shut until she hangs back calmly and he may then step out with her. If she barks outside they will thank her and call her straight back in – rewarding her.

At night time she will need to go out on a long lead so she has no choice but to do as she is asked straight away. No more night-time barking in the garden.

Other little things they do throughout daily life will help too, gaining a bit more control of some of the important things like food and play. Roxy, who is a slightly nervous dog, when she accepts the new way of things should become more confident.

Two Sides to Doberman Ruby

Ruby is the model dog indoorsRuby’s owners have been living the sort of nightmare that would be a dog owners’ worst dream. She has never been good with other dogs, but one day a couple of months ago she killed an elderly Sheltie. One can only imagine what this must have been like for his owner. The repercussions have been huge, involving the police, the council and a local petition to have Ruby put down. The owners are conscientious dog owners and they are devastated. They now walk Ruby on lead only apart from one special place where they have never seen other dogs, and she is then muzzled. She is even muzzled from the house to the car – just in case.

At home, apart from a short bout of wary guard barking when someone arrives, Ruby is the model dog indoors. She is extremely well behaved and peaceful, if aloof. In her quiet way she politely rules the roost, which dog owners often can’t see for themselves when they are living in the middle of it. Once out of the door however, Ruby becomes a different dog. She believes she should decide where to go and she pulls ahead. She believes she is the one on protection duty. She is ready to see off any other dog and I fear in the case of the little Sheltie because he froze, Ruby dealt with him as she saw fit. It could have been exacerbated by the human panic from both owners rushing at her and shouting, as Ruby stood over him. She believes anything that moves is prey for her to hunt.

Ruby is now seven years old and came to live with them at the age of three;  the damage will probably have been done already. Whilst they are doing everything they can to play safe for the sake of any other dogs they may meet and also for Ruby herself, they have now called me out to do something about the root of the problem – controlling Ruby’s prey drive, protectiveness and freelancing. She makes the decisions – so once again it is a leadership (dog ‘parenting’) issue.

Ruby’s owners are prepared to do whatever it takes, and realise that there is no quick fix. Leadership starts at home. If ‘her ladyship’ is selective about coming over to them in the house whilst always getting any attention she wants on her own terms, why would she take much notice of them when called if she has another dog in view or a rabbit to chase?

What we are looking to achieve in the end is for Ruby to be trustworthy so far as taking no notice of other dogs, and to focus on them instead which will require bomb-proof recall. ‘Socialising’ is unrealistic.

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