Jumps Up, Bites, Barks and Digs

EBT Staff mix‘Jumps up, bites, barks and digs’ – this is how the lady described their 8-month-old English Bull Terrier/Staffordshire Bull Terrier mix in their first message to me.

If he doesn’t get the attention he wants he may either bark, or go on the rampage, tearing about from room to room and all over the forbidden furniture. If he is thwarted or disciplined, he may leap up and nip quite roughly in a way one could almost call biting.

His digging in the garden is driving them mad also.

It’s hard not to treat life with an adolescent dog such as Sam like some sort of battle. He is non-stop throwing things at them that they have to ‘stop’ him doing. Our own emotions get in the way as we become increasingly exasperated. We believe that we should be ‘disciplining and controlling’ the dog. This makes him defiant. Confrontational or dominant behaviour from the humans is a slippery slope that too often ends badly.

After about ten minutes of countering his jumping up until he had stopped (as with most dogs that jump up, if the usual pushing them and telling them to get down actually worked they wouldn’t be jumping up anymore), I tried to sit down, but he was on the go all the time and we couldn’t get on. I had a deer antler chew in my bag and gave it to him. He chewed frantically on this for the next two and a half hours with barely a break. EBT mix Chewing Stagbar

If any dog needs a way to unwind, it’s Sam.

I suspect that some of his highly strung nature is genetic, but they are unwittingly responding in such a way that makes him worse.

When he is quiet they are understandably so thankful that they leave him be, so he only gets attention when he is ‘naughty’ so the undesirable behaviour is constantly reinforced.

LIke most responsible dog owners, they feel they must ‘control’ him, but what Sam totally lacks is self control. In order to control him they have become angry. They do this not because they don’t love him – they do, but because they are at their wits’ end with his behaviour.

The first thing they need to do is to completely change things about so that they are watching out for Sam being good, not bad. When you look for good you find there is a lot more of it than you had realised! Each even short moment of calm or self-control should be rewarded – he can earn some of his daily food this way.

Not much can be done until he’s less hyper and frustrated, so he needs proper stimulation of a healthy kind. The days and evenings should be punctuated with the sort of activities that don’t hype him up or make him frustrated, like short sniff walks, hunting games, foraging for food, gentle training games, brief ball play or tuggy and so on. They should only be initiated when Sam is calm and quiet – never as a result of his demanding behaviours.

The gentleman walks him daily on a short lead – and this is ‘power walking’ to keep himself fit. When he comes home Sam is still in an aroused state, not as satisfied as a dog should be after a nice walk and still needing to unwind. On a couple of occasions during the walk he has suddenly leapt at the man and bitten him quite hard. A little clue that this kind of walk not being quite what Sam needs is that he is less keen on the outward journey and he only pulls on the way back home which is unusual.

For the walk to be beneficial to Sam, I suggest the man stops for several five-minute breaks when he can lengthen the lead so that Sam can sniff and do his own thing for a while.

It’s hard, but with some imagination they need to treat every thing Sam does ‘wrong’ as having in it the seed of an idea for something good.

For instance, if he jumps on the sofa (which is out of bounds), the man currently pushes him off and is cross, so there is a stand-off where Sam then may stand and bark at him or may even fly at him. Then it is battle stations. But this can be done differently. The man can stand up, go to Sam’s bed and call him off the sofa and to his own bed, and when he gets there ask him to lie down and reward him. He can them give him a bit of quality time teaching him to stay. When the man goes and sits down again Sam will undoubtedly go back and jump on the sofa again, so patience is needed. The third time Sam can be put in the kitchen for a few minutes – but with something to chew or do – it’s not punishment. It’s to allow him to calm down.

Another example of an unwanted behaviour having in it the seed of a better idea is the digging in the garden (no pun intended). They can get a child’s covered sandpit and bury toys in it. If he starts to dig the earth, they can direct him to the sandpit, perhaps burying something new in there for him to find. If he keeps going back and they repeatedly have to say ‘don’t dig there – dig here instead’, instead of getting cross they can either bring him in or have a tie-out cable to fix him to for a short while so he simply can’t do it.

Being positive doesn’t mean being permissive. Boundaries can be introduced and maintained kindly.

Based on how frantically he chewed that bone, Sam needs chewables at the ready for times when he’s particularly stressed – something for him to redirect all that boredom and frustration onto.

With imagination, patience and foresight, frantic sessions can mostly be preempted. Doors can be shut, routines can be changed, the dog can be given a rummage box full of rubbish to ‘attack’ and so on.

If everything is done calmly and kindly, if he is recognised and rewarded for all the good things he does, and if a sense of humour can be mustered, Sam will become a lot more cooperative.

It takes time, patience and imagination but the eventual rewards in terms of their relationship with their lovely dog will be immeasurable.

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 Sam. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly in cases involving potential aggression. 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).

Beautiful Dog but Out of Control

English Bull Terrier on the stairsIf a picture could tell a story – this is it!

Sometimes I go to a situation where it’s hard to know where to start, particularly if the dog is jumping up and flying all over the place, desperate for attention – which she’s accustomed to getting in the form of being told off harshly and NO!

We sat down at the dining table and eighteen-month-old English Bull Terrier Millie was straight up onto it. The lady shouted at her to get down which she ignored. She takes very little notice of the lady who has to speak loudly and fiercely to get Millie to take acknowledge her at all. The lady absolutely adores her and it’s hard for her when her dog is so out of control.

It’s amazing what tiny pieces of cheese and a quiet voice can achieve!

It took a long while – most of the three hours that I was there discussing all the things necessary in a consultation – but by the end Millie was sitting down in the corner beside my chair. I did it by simply not trying to tell her to do anything. The lady herself now needs to be able to motivate her to willingly do things without using any force.

First, instead of dealing with the jumping and getting onto the table, I dealt with what we did want – with her getting off the table and jumping onto the floor. Soon we had a reliable ‘Off’ – rewarding with ‘Yes’ followed cheese as soon as her feet were on the floor. I showed the lady how willingly Millie did this when asked once and by then just waiting for her to comply, followed by a food ‘thank you’.

Then Millie came and just happened to sit in the corner beside me. I was waiting for this. I immediately gently said SIT to label what she was already doing and fed her cheese – saying SIT in a very pleased voice and feeding her, loving her, while she remained sitting. Each time she came back and sat I repeated this. It wasn’t long before she realised that just coming and sitting beside me was a lot more rewarding than jumping on me or jumping on the table.

Then towards the end, I had her sitting on cue (when I asked her). I was thrilled. It seems like a small step, but it’s a leap for Milly and for the lady who will continue with this work – starting in Millie’s special ‘sitting corner’ beside the table, speaking to her gently and using food.

The actual problem that has most been distressing the lady is that her black Labrador, Ruby, has had to go and live with her son. Ruby, now three years old, took an instant dislike to the puppy Millie from the moment she arrived. Eventually, at a year old, Millie turned on her. A massive fight ensued so one of the dogs had to go.

The lady pines for Ruby and badly wants her back. There will need to be a very different and much calmer, controlled atmosphere in the house if that is ever to happen.

While Millie is quite so stressed and excitable there is little chance of getting them back together, so reducing her stress levels is our first aim and getting her under some control – particularly self-control. She needs more suitable exercise and fulfilment which we will be looking into next time. We will eventually be working on various protocols with a possible reuniting in neutral territory being the final goal.

Fortunately Ruby is happy living with the son. Millie herself will be a lot happier when she has a bit more healthy stimulation and exercise, and learns what is wanted of her through positive reinforcement.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Millie. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog 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).

An Excitable English Bull Terrier

English Bull TerrierThe afternoon consisted of calm, affectionate moments with the lovely Ty punctuated with fresh attempts to jump all over me – which can be uncomfortable when a dog stands beside you on the sofa, licking your face and trying to nip your ear! Understandably nobody likes this, but if telling him off worked he wouldn’t be doing it any more.

The twenty month old English Bull Terrier didn’t have a good start in life. His first year was with two older, larger dogs and it seems he had to fight for his food and has injuries to show for it. He was very underweight when they got him.

When he was strong enough they had him castrated, a requirement of most rescues, and from that moment Ty, who had previously been absolutely fine with other dogs despite his early months, became fearful and reactive. Castration doesn’t always have positive effects behaviourally – the reduction in testosterone possibly taking away some of his mojo.

The very excitable Ty lives with the most easy-going Golden Labrador – Amber, age two. They get on famously. The couple’s excellent dog parenting that had worked so well with happy and well-mannered Amber has helped Ty a lot over the past eight months, but they are still struggling. His excitability means he’s a bit unpredictable. His jumping up is a bit crazy, his licking of people a bit manic, he barks at ‘everything’, he sometimes tail-chases when particularly frustrated and he is obsessed with balls. He has shown his wariness to one man in particular by snarling at him. On walks he is anxious around other dogs and they hold him tight – not trusting him. They do join a group ‘bully’ walk of a large group of local bull-breeds. Once the group is on the move, his lead comes off and he is fine.

Golden Labroador on sofa with EBT

Ty with Amber

I feel the unpredictability and excitement need working on at home before they will make much headway when out. It’s not like there is one single problem, though their main wish is to be able to enjoy walks and trust him to come back to them when other dogs are about.

If Ty doesn’t pay attention to them at home, he won’t do so when out. They will work hard at getting and holding his attention – using food. They will be surprised how much more motivated he will become when they use tiny bits of tasty real food as reinforcement. If he doesn’t come immediately or do as asked at home, then he certainly won’t come back when out on walks.  Again – it’s a matter of motivation. If he doesn’t see them as his protectors at home, then he won’t do so when they are out. Everything is interconnected.

Excitement builds up. The jumping, licking, nipping and so on should simply not get results, but when he’s in this sort of mood his excitement should be redirected onto something more acceptable that will help to calm him – like an item to chew or some foraging for food outside.

Walks will only really improve when he learns that they go nowhere until he is calm – so this will take a lot of patience and waiting so he’s no longer so excitable when they leave. They will now help him to gain his confidence at whatever distance he needs to be from other dogs he sees in order to feel comfortable.

He’s a young dog. They have come a long way already and it can only continue to get better.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ty, 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).

Guarding Food and Bowl

English Bull Terrier guards his food bowlI wonder what started Reggie’s guarding behaviour as it’s hard to see how it fits in with the rest of his personality.

The 4-year-old English Bull Terrier is only guarding food related items. He doesn’t guard toys or anything else.

He is an interesting character. Apart from guarding food he is affectionate and gentle. He can also be very demanding, especially in the evenings when he occupies himself with anything that he knows will get a reaction, whether it’s knocking over a flower vase, pushing over a full mug of tea, or fiddling around in a corner where there are cables.

It took a while for Reggie to stop trying to jump onto me, and he just checked again several times during the evening. Mostly he settled beside me – something very unusual with visitors. There was no reprimanding. I simply showed him by my response what I didn’t want and, more importantly, what I did want. He understood.

Strangely, although Reggie is happy to set off on a walk, he’s not gone far before he wants to come home again. He is a heavy dog, and if he goes on strike he’s very difficult to move.

He normally takes little notice of other dogs, though what prompted them to get in touch with me was the other day he attacked a smaller dog – something unprecedented and seemingly for no reason. The dog was on lead, Reggie wasn’t. Reggie refuses to go for walks

Reggie is a dog whose day revolves around his own wishes and much of that is food driven! I know his humans won’t mind my saying that he carries too much weight. He is given treats simply for looking at the cupboard and asking. They all share their food with him while they eat. He may even lunge to snatch something out of their hands like a bag of crisps.

I have created a ‘recipe’ for them to follow to resolve his obsessive behaviour around his food.

They have been tipping his food on the floor so there is no bowl to guard. He goes at it before it’s even hit the floor – like he’s afraid he will lose it. He wolfs it down but freezes and shows the whites of his eyes if anybody goes anywhere near.

The key is to convince Reggie that his humans are ‘givers’, not ‘takers’. We will first get him used to receiving food a bit at a time in an empty bowl.

To stop possible guarding of any one location, they will put the bowl in a different place each time. To avoid possible guarding of a particular vessel, they will use a variety of bowls and pans.

We also considered whether the marble floor which resulted in his bowl sliding around may have encouraged the pushing and guarding of the bowl itself, so bowls will now be placed on a mat.

After several weeks probably, they will move on to placing all the food into the empty bowl.  Next they will fill the bowl before they put it down and gradually teach him some impulse control so he doesn’t dive in too fast. They will walk about and they will stand still – regularly dropping good stuff in. Instead of taking the bowl away from him, they will call him away and out of the room before lifting it. Ultimately they will be able to take up the bowl in return for something else – chicken maybe.

When Reggie knows that people near his food mean better stuff is always added and when access to all food will be under the control of his humans and not himself, he will stop all this I’m sure.

I believe that all dogs should be left to eat in peace, and that a lot of guarding behaviours have been triggered by humans ‘training’ their dogs to have their food taken away from them by interrupting the meal. It somewhat predictably often has the opposite effect.

Our ‘slowly slowly’ strategy is much the same with Reggie’s walks. He will start with many short sessions near home where he is happy, and only very gradually, a few yards at a time, will they take him further afield – always coming home before he’s had enough.

He has a life of too much fussing, too much food, and too little to occupy himself in terms of healthy stimulation. Change this, and most other things will fall into place.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Reggie, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good – most particularly where any aggressive behaviour is concerned. 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).

Another Dog that Growls and Barks at People

he growls and barks at peopleAnother puzzle insofar as it’s impossible to work out just why miniature English Bull Terrier Vinnie’s behaviour changed so drastically three years ago.

The growls and barks began upon his reaching maturity

A couple of things may have contributed to it. They moved house to somewhere a bit more busy, and Vinnie, now four, was reaching sexual maturity. I do find that some dogs who had previously been relaxed with other dogs and with people may change in adolescence or upon reaching maturity.

Vinnie growls and barks aggressively at people he doesn’t know coming into the house.

When I walked in he sounded quite scary. He has not yet bitten anyone and his owners didn’t describe the noise as fierce and warning but as barking ‘in an excited, naughty way’. It didn’t sound like that to me.

He also growls and barks at people and some dogs when they walk their usual walking routes near to home.

He’s a different dog away from home

Another part of his mystery is that at the lady’s mother’s house he doesn’t bark at people at all. Nor does he on holiday. Neither does he bark or stress when in the car and people and dogs pass by.

When he goes out for walks Vinnie drags his heels. He ‘will only walk one particular route’. He is reluctant to move – worse for the young lady although at home he follows her about. The gentleman puts pressure on him if he dawdles.

Then, at a certain distance from the house, Vinnie perks up and starts to take an interest in the walk, only to revert to his noisy growls and barks at people when on the way back and in sight of home.

More and more puzzling. If either the lady or gentleman takes him out alone, he doesn’t bark much although he still shows reluctance. When they walk him together he growls and barks at people he sees.

My best guess is that it’s to do with being protective and territorial. He shows none of the usual body language signs associated with fear or anxiety, and is very easily distracted with food.

Really scared dogs or really angry dogs are unlikely to eat.

What does the behaviour actually do for him?

Whatever the reasons, our plan is based around the principal that reinforcement drives behaviour. Dogs don’t do something for no reason at all.

We can try to look at what is actually happening rather putting interpretations on it. Just the specifics. We look at what result, in his mind, he gets out of the behaviours. That is what needs to be changed and alternative incompatible behaviours put in their place.

People often don’t realise that they are unintentionally giving their dogs most attention for doing unwanted behaviours in the form of commands and scolding. He growls and barks at people and he gets a result. They will give him much more attention by way of encouragement and reward for desired behaviours.

PS. I spoke to colleague, behaviour trainer, author and close friend of mine Lisa Tenzin-Dolma about this puzzling case and she feels that it’s the house itself needing to be examined. They could look into its history. Could it perhaps have been built on landfill? Would the radon levels be worth checking? The couple are going to do some research. One must bear in mind that a dog’s senses are many times more acute than our own. One other strange thing came to light. A previous owner some years ago had been stabbed to death across the road. Believing in the psychic may be a step too far for some, but who knows.

Ten days have gone by: “We feel that Vinnie is listening to us more and is quicker to respond to us as well as seems calmer, we are very surprised to be honest as we feel everything we have done has been very easy and was expecting it to be harder some how but we have been doing just about everything you suggested. i feel that we have also changed and are calmer and reward Vinnie much more which he is responding to”.

Excitement When People Come to House

Sleeping EBT

Lenny

Over time I have realised certain patterns in dog behaviour difficulties. For instance, it is more unusual for a dog who walks casually and peacefully on a loose lead to be scared or aggressive towards dogs it meet on walks.

Another is that most dogs with problems relating to stress in the house mostly also have problems out on walks.

Staffie Lyra looks away when I point my phone at her

Lyra

English Bull Terrier Lenny and Staffie Lyra are exceptions to this – and it applies to both dogs, which points to it being more to do with the owners’ own behaviour than their dogs’, and is testament to their owners’ better guidance skills when outside on walks.

Lyra is extremely agitated, anxious and excited when ‘outsiders’ come into the house, (you can see her looking away when I pointed my phone at her for the photo). Initially she flies all over the place barking, and then she redirects her frustrations and energy onto Lenny, licking, chewing and goading him. He is a much calmer dog but may eventually start on her also.

It took Lyra a long time to settle down when I was there.

It’s the ‘at home’ PG (Protection and Guidance) Leadership that needs attending to. This sort of interaction which is the equivalent of human quarrelling, pushing and shoving needs to be nipped in the bud, not by using scolding or commands but by splitting them as another dog would do. They simply need to learn not to do it, and Lyra needs an acceptable replacement activity on which to unwind. It would be quite bad manners for humans to be carrying on like this when people came to the house!  It may initially mean waiting for quite a while with the dogs in another room before Lyra in particular is sufficiently calm to be brought in. They also need more visitors, ‘guinea pigs’, so people visiting becomes more commonplace.

One month later: “Since your last visit our house is so much calmer, you have given me the skills & confidence to be a good leader/parent to my dogs & they are much happier now as a result of it. Visitors who have come round have ALL commented at how calm Lyla is, in fact my 4 year ‘dog phobic’ niece came on a dog walk with us on Sunday- their was NO barking & they just walked along as normal practically ignoring her.  On the walk we went to town, sat outside a coffee shop & had a drink & biscuits – the dogs remained calm & just sat down quietly…. we then all came into the house where my niece fed the dogs a biscuit each.  The dogs remained calm & did not jump up or bark…VERY IMPRESSED!!
Also even the barking at the window etc has now been controlled by the ‘Thank You’ technique, and the barking when we come home from work is now minimal or non existant. I have been singing your praises to anyone who listens”.
 I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
 

Tension Between Three Females

There is an uneasy atmosphere between the two EBTs

Chelsea and Peaches

Chelsea and Peaches are English Bull Terriers, aged two years and Peaches, on the right, one. They live with Angel, an elderly American Bull Dog.

There is an uneasy atmosphere. There is an unnatural stillness between all the dogs and the humans are on edge. Chelsea is fine if she’s not with Peaches, and it would be the same the other way around. Peaches is still a youngster and can be a bit annoying, but Chelsea is intolerant. Not only does she growl at Peaches, she growls at her humans when they move her and she growls at the children. She guards bones and she guards her crate. She even guards her place on the owner’s bed.

One dog will deliberately stand in a doorway – usually Peaches. Chelsea won’t have this so she too has to stand in the doorway. It’s now a stand-off about ownership of the doorway. This can only end one of two ways. Either Peaches will back down and move away, or there is a fight. Whether it’s a fight or not depends upon how aroused the dogs are.

If they are about to fly out of the door into the garden, Chelsea barking, it could well result in a fight. They may redirect their frustration onto each other if there is a noise outside or if they are not getting the attention they want.

Even Angel is less than tolerant, lying too still and watching the other dogs, growling at them if they go somewhere she doesn’t want them to be, and maybe snapping if they are near.

The family have been doing all they can to train their dogs, but the final straw was when they attacked two Staffordshire Bull Terriers in the park. The owners have gone down the ‘training’ and ‘discipline’ route. I believe de-stressing and calm, quiet leadership is what is needed.

A lot of the problems start with Peaches, but only develop because of Chelsea’s intolerance and belief she is in charge. She needs to be less defensive and more easy-going, and Peaches needs to learn to give her space.  Both dogs are extremely stressed by one another.

The humans now know how to interrupt things as soon as they start to brew, as well as emergency measures if they are too late or somewhere else, and a fight has already begun.

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