Dog to Dog Encounter. Small Event Big Fallout

The chance dog to dog encounter was simply at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

This has set off a chain reaction leading to Paz now barking at other dogs she sees and her anxious owner’s walks ruined.

A single dog to dog encounter can be the start of something big.

dog to dog encounter has made her wary of other dogsI have seen a young man walking his gorgeous large dog of mixed breed around my village for a couple of years now.

I have always thought how happy the dog looks and how nice the man is with her.

Too often I’m tempted to stop and tell people what I think about their forcing their spaniels that would rather potter and sniff, to run beside bikes. Or to tell the owners of a poor dog trying to scarpe off his Halti on the path about Perfect Fit harnesses. Or to show someone jerking the lead how easy it is to get a dog to walk on a loose leash.

I have also wanted to stop this gentleman to say how I enjoy seeing him walking his lovely dog around my village.

Paz and her gentleman wander. She’s allowed to sniff. She wears a comfortable harness. I have seen them at all different times of day and evening. I thought that the man must spend all his time walking her. The fact is, he works shifts and still manages to walk her three times a day.

The young man found Paz in a bin six years ago. She was about one day old.

He hand-reared her. He has done miracles with her, somehow avoiding the pitfalls of hand-reared puppies that haven’t had the interaction with mother or siblings.

A couple of years ago they came over here from Italy. Paz adapted well to the change. She really has had no problems until something that was triggered a couple of weeks ago.

In a narrow alleyway, two small dogs suddenly came out of a gate and Paz pounced on them, seemingly aggressively.

This is a classic example of ‘trigger stacking‘ where a sequence of events builds up stress in the dog. Stress ‘loads the gun’. One occurrence too many can then be the final straw.

These two dogs were the final straw for Paz.

She will undoubtedly have been less relaxed than usual. Her gentleman was away for a while which will have been unusual. He had arranged for another person to walk her which hadn’t happened before.

The previous day these same two little dogs had barked at Paz but she hadn’t taken any notice.

This day, however, as they came out of the gate Paz lunged at them. No doubt the inexperienced dog walker will have reacted in a harsh way, something the young man would never have done. Maybe it was his human reaction that triggered the final bullet, so to speak.

A single unfortunate dog to dog encounter in the wrong place at the wrong time that’s caused fallout. 

Now Paz is alert and ready to bark at other dogs she meets.

The poor man is very unhappy. For Paz’ sake he is now avoiding dogs wherever possible. I feel sad for him.

His own tension will certainly be transferring to Paz and making things worse. They must be very close.

We have a couple of Boxers near to my house that are left in the garden. When someone walks past they get so angry they then start fighting one another. Many local dogs have been ‘contaminated’ by them, now being wary of dogs they pass. Paz, however, would walk past and ignore them but not any longer.

Paz no longer feels safe.

From this single badly-timed dog to dog encounter her life has changed.

Fortunately it’s not gone on for long enough to become ingrained. Instead of simply avoiding all dogs now, the man will be watching and reading her. He will give her the space she needs, but only if she needs it. Seeing other dogs at a comfortable distance he will pair with food – she will do anything for food!

He will be happy and upbeat when they see a dog approaching and hopefully this little nightmare will soon end. Paz will be back to her old self.

The person walking her at the time of her dog to dog encounter very likely reacted in a way that scared her more than the encounter itself. Paz’ gentleman needs to keep reassuring her that he will keep her safe – just as he always has done.

If it turns out to be not that simple to reverse the situation, I will go out with them and we can work on it in more depth.

From being found in a bin, hand-reared and walking happily around other dogs for six years, one unfortunate dog to dog encounter can’t be allowed to cast this shadow on their lives.

Learned Behaviour and a Lovely Lurcher

Learned behaviour that needs to be un-learned.

Four months ago a dishevelled, grey, skinny dog in dreadful condition stepped out in front of my client’s car.

After a visit to the vet and a bath, he turned out to be a mostly white Lurcher.

They traced his past from a microchip and were able to keep him.

What a great life Alfie now has.

Alfie has brought with him what I’m sure is some learned behaviour from his past life and it’s now causing problems.

The lady is a dog walker and has two other dogs of her own.

The young Lurcher pesters other dogs with too much excited and mouthy play, whether they want it or not. He seems unable to pick up their signals. He won’t leave them alone and he will scruff them, irrespective of the size of the dog.

Alfie just won’t take no for an answer unless a dog gets very cross with him.

This is bad news for the lady who is a dog walker.

This learned behaviour is constantly rehearsed at home. Tiny Yorkie Chihuahua mix Pip is very playful and sometimes even goads him into it.

Play consists of Alfie grabbing her by the her neck or she puts her head in his mouth. He doesn’t shake her. He self-handicaps because she is so small and she is a willing participant. He doesn’t hurt her.

However, not all other dogs are willing participants like Pip. Alfie just doesn’t seem to get this.

He simply won’t leave them alone.

While he still rehearses the learned behaviour it will continue – it may even get worse.

This type of play can be better controlled at home with Pip. The lady can work on a method at home to teach Alfie stuff he should have learned when a puppy. She can adapt the same process when she is out, when Alfie either is with the dogs she walks and with dogs they meet.

Alfie and Pip will learn a STOP signal when she feels enough is enough. She will call both dogs to her and reward them for dong so.learned behavour

If Alfie then goes straight back, I suggest the lady walks out of the room for a couple of minutes. He will stop anything he is doing to follow her if he can.

Four months ago the lady couldn’t even walk out of sight without Alfie panicking. She has done very well and can now leave him for up to an hour so long as he’s with the other dogs.

If, after walking out, Alfie goes straight back for more, she can separate the two dogs for a while to calm down.

The more arousal there is ‘in the air’ the more this sort of play happens, so avoiding winding him up is vital. When left alone, away from humans, the dogs don’t do it (they have videoed them). Often dogs only play when their humans are about.

It will be hard work but if this is a habit to be broken the couple must be consistent and work at it.

On walks they have tried muzzling Alfie to spare other dogs, but he goes wild and body-slams them instead. He will now be on a long line attached to a harness. She can call him to her as soon as (or before) he starts. She will always reward him even if he needs to be reeled in.

If he goes straight back for more she can walk off briskly in the opposite direction. Knowing Alfie, he will forget about the dog if he thinks she might leave him.

This learned behaviour needs to be un-learned.

It has probably been rehearsed over and over for much of his eighteen months, so it’s only constant repetition of a different behaviour that will stop it. It’s also possibly a sighthound ‘thing’.

It sounds to me like he may have lived with lots of dogs in his early days, mainly unsupervised. Just guesswork of course.

Here is a nice quote from a Dog Trust fact sheet: ‘Sometimes the unwanted behaviour can become learned by the dog, and then he will use it automatically when under stress or motivated. This means that the dog has no choice over whether he shows that behaviour or not under those circumstances, which makes punishment very unfair and ineffective. If punishment is used, it can make the problem much worse since this will increase stress and fear in the dog even further.’

When Alfie is playing nicely or just politely near to another dog, this should be recognised and reinforced too. Good Boy. Well Done. Food. He’s not interested in playing ball. If he were, she could reward him with a game instead.

In time he should learn to play nicely so long as they help him to read when the other dog isn’t willing or the play isn’t equal by calling him away.

Alfie has settled into his new life so well in just four months. His separation issues are improving and the only real shadow over them is his behaviour with other dogs.

 

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 Alfie 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. 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)