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

Care Home Dog. Super Friendly. Treated Like Pop Idol.

 

A care home dog? Pip is just that. He doesn’t have an ‘owner’ as such but he belongs to the home. His own care is shared by several members of staff.

Little dog takes the lift

The eight-month-old Cavapoo is absolutely gorgeous; He is hilarious also.

care home dogWhen he feels like going upstairs, he waits for the lift to open on the ground floor he steps in, lies down in the corner and waits until someone calls it up to the first floor.

Up there he visits many residents. They love it and make a big fuss of him. There may well be food to be scavenged or sneaked treats.

He also goes up there for something else. Someone may take him into the garden to toilet. They wait and wait. Nothing. He then will come in, take the lift to the first floor and quietly poo up there!

Adolescent Pip has recently taken to marking around the place too.

No boundaries or restrictions.

With so few boundaries either physically or from a behaviour point of view since he arrived as a little puppy, Pip is surprisingly well-adjusted. He must be one of the best socialised dogs in the land! He is adored like a pop idol but that’s not without consequences.

The other behaviours which are becoming increasingly unacceptable are barking at people and then grabbing trousers or sleeves of some of the staff.

Seeing just how they fuss him and excite him, it’s not hard to see what is happening. Some wind him up wildly as they walk in the door. He barks for attention – and gets it. If by chance someone is unable to obey him, he will leap at their sleeves or grab their trousers. This only happens with the people who stir him up the most.

A calmer dog would be unlikely to do these things. Very possibly even the indoor pooping may be affected by his constantly raised arousal levels. Maybe the marking also. Run of the big building is a lot of space for him to maintain as his territory!

The care home dog’s circle of guardians

I met with about seven people most responsible for looking after their little care home dog. Most were members of staff and there was one resident who helps to walk him.

Though they can’t ‘train’ all the residents and visitors, if they themselves can manage to behave in a different way and keep him calmer he should become more ‘grounded’.

For the reason of grounding I feel he needs a physical base and some routine. He could be safely enclosed at night time – shut in the reception area where he already has a bed and where he is fed. Everything logistically is tricky with so many people including shifts of carers coming and going.

Pip’s ‘circle’ of close people now must ignore his barking for attention if they want it to stop. Best would be to pre-empt it by giving him something better to do in advance. If the manager is having a meeting in the office, Pip will scratch the door and bark to be let in, sometimes with success and sometimes not. Why not get a Kong, ready waiting in the freezer with something tasty inside, and give that to him in another room before the meeting starts?

Calmer greetings

Calmer greetings are essential – if only possible from his most involved humans. It’s not like one or two people coming home after a day at work saying hello and getting him excited. It’s many people – and it’s all day long.

Several in particular wind him up to a state of wild excitement. They may scoop him up or roll around with him. Then when he reacts by getting rough he gets told ‘No!’. This must be very confusing for him. Toning down greetings and rough and tumble, hands-on play, helping him to keep calmer, is actually a lot kinder.

Pip has a great life. He gets plenty of time outside keeping the gardener company until he gets put back indoors for digging up the plants or digging holes. He gets daily walks in a nearby wood.

Working for his food

The little dog’s behaviour would benefit from more in the way of calming enrichment activities including foraging and hunting.

He can now work for his food. It can be in a Kong or a treat ball. They can scatter it over the grass.

Something interesting happened a short while before I left. We were all sitting chatting in the reception area with Pip asleep at our feet. A male carer arrived. Someone said this man always makes Pip very excited. As if on cue, Pip saw him, ran to him and immediately flew at his arm, grabbing his jacket.

This was a very useful and clear demonstration of the way that arousal, caused by his humans, results in the very behaviour that they are looking to eradicate.

To start with, dear little care home dog Pip is sure to get worse. He will try harder and go on for longer when his barking for some sort of attention fails to succeed as it always has in the past.

With more effort and consistency with the outside toilet trips and stopping him from sneaking upstairs until he has done his business, the indoor pooping should stop. Everyone involved with him needs to be on the case!

‘The tactile magic of petting dogs’

The benefits to health of petting a dog are well documented. Here is a nice quote from The Daily Puppy: ‘In case lowering blood pressure isn’t enough, the tactile magic of petting dogs — whether yours or someone else’s–offers other health benefits associated with high blood pressure. For example, loneliness, depression and other stress-related disorders, all of which can lead to elevated blood pressure, can be eased just by touching or petting a canine companion. Just as the hormone serotonin is raised and makes a person feel relaxed, the hormone cortisol is lowered and reduces stress’.

What a great asset Pip is to that home.

I hope for many years to come the little care home dog will continue to take the lift and visit the upstairs residents, enriching their lives, making the people smile who live there, work there and visit.

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 Pip because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. 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 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)

Unpredictable Aggression. New Baby, New Dog.

 

Unpredictable aggression?

Unpredictable only because they can’t see inside Banjo’s head. If they could, and if stress was visible, they might see a little pressure cooker in there; they would see how over the past five months or so things have simply become too much for him.

Unpredictable also because they don’t realise how small a final trigger has to be to make the pressure cooker blow.

Frenchie Banjo is eighteen months old. He has what sounds like the perfect life, full of people and action.

A new baby – and another dog.

Banjo lives with a young couple and their large family – three generations. There are two or three children. With the couple’s baby born five months ago, Banjo was now no longer their number-one baby.

Unpredictable due to stressShortly after this another family member moved back home with his one-year-old Labrador, Ellie. So now Banjo was no longer number-one dog either.

Life now became a lot more arousing with endless play. Banjo carries on long after Ellie would like to stop.

Then Ellie came into season. They were kept apart, causing Banjo great frustration.

Things now escalated with Banjo growling and flying at and grabbing the sleeve of a family member who was playing excitedly with one of the young children. He became aggressive when she was playing tug with Ellie.

Banjo had got on very well with the cat but now was going for him too.

He was becoming increasingly possessive around chews and food.

Banjo attacked the man’s foot.

It came to a head a few days ago when Banjo was on the floor by the grandfather. Beside him was a chew – a chew that Ellie had left. The man moved his foot towards it and Banjo flew at him.

At that moment this small act pushed him over the edge. He would have bitten repeatedly had the young lady owner not grabbed his collar.

Another contributing factor will be that with each show of aggression the little dog has been misunderstood. It’s understandably been met with a strong reaction. Meeting aggression with aggression can only make things worse.

The vet recommended they re-home Banjo. The thought of this upsets them greatly.

Vets only have what the owners tell them about a dog’s behaviour and what they can see in the unnatural environment of the surgery. A good behaviourist will go to the dog’s home and see the whole situation in context. It is impossible for owners to relay a clear picture of what is happening. They are too close to it.

Going to the little dog’s home and seeing him and the whole set-up for myself, I believe that his continually topped-up stress levels are the cause of his behaviour.

Reducing stress is the place to start.

Banjo won’t understand games like ‘Peep-Bo’ and ‘BOO!’. If someone is playing excitedly with one of the small children or Ellie, instinctively he may try to break up what he sees as ‘potential conflict’. Similarly, when someone dangles the baby he may become concerned. A third dog will split up worrying behaviour between two other dogs.

Banjo stares. Banjo watches.

Baby’s dad buries his face into the baby’s neck to kiss him and Banjo growls. After all, if a dog grabs another dog by the neck, this can be potential trouble. Is he intervening?

They will learn to understand Banjo better. This includes learning to read read him – though a Frenchie’s face may be a bit harder to read than some. Staring with hard eyes will be watched for. Stillness can be a warning.

Looking at things through Banjo’s eyes without our own human interpretation they can look quite different. He’s not an ‘aggressive’ dog at all. He is simply responding in an aggressive manner to things that confuse and upset him in some way.

Work to do! They will work on Banjo’s possessive behaviour around food and chews. They will be doing more to enrich his life. Getting his brain to work and letting him work for some of his meals by foraging and hunting will help him to adjust. They will control the play between the two dogs. 

Unpredictable?

Possibly Banjo’s behaviour is, actually, quite predictable. Too much has changed in the Frenchie’s life. The baby. Another dog. Too much uncontrolled play. Ellie coming into season. Add to this people coming and going. Excited play. Excited homecomings. People winding him up before walks…..

Life has changed in another big way recently with poor Banjo no longer sharing their bed as he has done for the past eighteen months. Might he feel pushed out? He has never shown any aggression whatsoever with baby but they have done this on advice because the dog is ‘unpredictable’. It’s a shame because it was a good baby-bonding opportunity but it’s always best to err on the safe side.

My prescription? A big dose of much less excitement, more quiet and more calmness from all the humans around Banjo. Learn to read him for warning signs of stress – and stop what they are doing if it’s troubling him. Then work on getting him to feel differently about whatever it is.

A calmer dog is unlikely to show unpredictable aggression. A calmer dog will be a lot more tolerant. There are no guarantees, but with work and with the whole family pulling together, Banjo should hopefully get back to being his old self.

 

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 Banjo because neither the dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. Listening to ‘other people’, 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, particularly where aggression are concerned. 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)

Redirects Frustration. Can’t Reach Cat, Turns on Owner.

Redirects frustration

Letting sleeping dogs lie

Lurcher Rufus is a wonderful dog whose only problems are as a result of over-arousal. He then redirects frustration, using his teeth.

The two-year-old had been picked up, abandoned, eight months ago and has settled into his new life beautifully.

A lovely, friendly dog, he’s confident and curious. Rufus can get very excited when he sees people. He was unusually calm when I arrived – but I didn’t fire him up! He sniffed me thoroughly and gave me a little ‘kiss’ in the ear. I began to respond with some attention and he quickly became excited. I felt his mouth on my hand.

His lady and gentleman are finding it hard to stop him mouthing their hands and their arms – sometimes quite roughly. The more aroused he becomes, the rougher he gets.

Rufus redirects frustration using his teeth.

If he’s not getting attention, he will demand it using his mouth. If he is thwarted or ignored, he redirects frustration using his teeth.

The biggest problem however is cats! Their house is surrounded by cats that seem hell-bent on winding up Rufus. He may be controllable past one or two, but by the time he’s encountered the third that may be waiting in his drive as they arrive back home from a walk, his chase instinct is in full gear.

The other day when he lunged at a cat, his lady owner held on as tightly as she could. Rufus’ head swung round and she received a nasty bite on her arm.

Holding on tightly with a harness that tightens as he pulls may save the day at the time, but isn’t a way to change the behaviour of a dog that redirects frustration onto you. The frustration itself has to be addressed and this takes time. The people themselves must be able to get and hold their dog’s attention, taking action before he gets anywhere near this state of arousal.

This is easy to say, but not always so easy to put into practice.

Better equipment will give better control.

The first thing they will do is to get a harness where a longer lead can hook both front and back. They will then have more control in emergency and the dog will be more comfortable. Then they should keep those walks near home where they may encounter cats very short indeed to avoid ‘trigger stacking’. This is where his stress and excitement builds up until he explodes and he redirects frustration onto the person holding the short lead.

Instead of being held tight, the dog actually needs to feel free while they work on their own relevance and teaching him behaviours that are incompatible with lunging at cats.

This work will start at home. There should be no more reinforcement of any kind for the rather excessive and uncomfortable mouthing which is quite obviously a habit and his default when aroused. You could say that he’s ‘mouth happy’. The more stressed he becomes, the harder the grip with his teeth. I don’t like to call this a bite.

When it happens they need to be immediate. They recognise the signs. Even as his mouth approaches they must withdraw themselves and look away. No more scolding or ‘No’. Currently when they may leave their hand in his mouth before removing it. They need to change their own habits and respond a lot more promptly.

It must be hard being a dog, having no hands, only mouth and teeth!

It looks like Rufus generates much of his attention by mouthing or bringing toys to throw or tug. The man has a nasty bite on his thumb he received while playing with him – it was a mistake. Rufus has not learnt to be careful with his teeth. From now onwards all play instantly stops if teeth or even open mouth are felt.

The tuggy game played properly is a great way to teach this.

Just as important is to regularly offer him plenty of interaction when he’s calm. Already his humans they have started hunting nose-games games with him.

Although he has bitten a few times, I would never label Rufus an ‘aggressive dog‘. A dog that redirects frustration is a dog that is unfulfilled. In Rufus’ case, when out, it’s his drive to chase that’s unfulfilled.

They will get a long line so Rufus can have a degree of freedom when they take him by car to more interesting places where he can sniff and explore. Chase and recall can be worked on too. Always restrained on a short lead must in itself be frustrating for him.

They have strategies now to help Rufus to calm himself down and they know how to handle the mouthing. Communication with humans must be frustrating for a dog too – with no hands and with no language that humans seem able to understand!

He must gradually learn that it’s times he’s not using his mouth that things happen. It’s not always a good idea to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ if there is nothing in it for them!

Like charity, impulse control starts at home. Over time and with work, they should be able to manage the cat situation too.

Ten days have gone by, during which time poor Rufus was attacked by another dog and has two sizeable gashes in his side. Despite this, great progress already: Rufus seems much more relaxed in his new harness and I am gaining confidence with it too. We went to Milton Park yesterday and had a very pleasant walk together. The park has open spaces and woods also lakes.He saw coots with chicks and just watched them calmly: not interested in pulling to get nearer or show any interest in chasing.Friends have been most understanding and cooperative when visiting and I can see improvements with Rufus. He has also improved in not mouthing or nipping so much.Considering  we have only been putting your instructions in place for just over a week (and him being bitten into the bargain), I feel Rufus has made a promising start.
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 approaches I have worked out for Rufus. 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, particularly where aggression of any kind is involved. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Rough Behaviour. Jumping. Scratching. Biting. Why?

I came to help with Honey’s rough, uncontrolled behaviour but it soon became apparent that their other dog, 8-year-old Bonnie, was one of the main triggers.

Both are Cocker Spaniels. Honey is already large for a Cocker and still only nine months old.

Rough and uncontrolled when aroused.

some rough behaviour due to over-excitement

Honey

Honey is a delightfully friendly dog but loses control of herself very quickly – and any efforts to try to impose control only make her worse.

When aroused (which is much of the time if anyone is moving about), she jumps up constantly. When excited or frustrated she usually picks on the lady. She will fly at her and grab her arms – she has bruises to show for it. If ignored, she scratches frantically at arms. It hurts.

Honey makes it impossible for the lady to get ready for work in the morning. She also attacks the hairdryer.

She did try the same things on me but I always wear tough clothes, just in case. There is no aggression behind it as such. Just an overflowing of arousal and frustration.

I was able to ignore it and start to reinforce any small moments of calm behaviour.

Eventually she was lying peacefully beside the man. Silently so as not to stir her up again, he dropped a piece of food to her.

Everything was going very well apart from Bonnie’s near-constant barking. She could see my car out of the window. She could see movement. She could hear things we couldn’t hear.

We tried everything to stop her but she was in such a state that the best we could do was for the lady to have her on her lap, well away from windows. For a while she quietened down.

Then she heard something else and erupted into a renewed frenzy of barking.

Immediately the now peaceful young Honey jumped up. She was clearly in a state of panic, rushing about, back and forth from Bonnie, licking her face, panting, jumping at us. It was actually quite pitiful.

Bonnie holds the trigger to the starter pistol.

The first obvious thing feeding into the jumping up, mouthing, biting and scratching are Honey’s extreme and near-permanent arousal/stress levels.

There will be such a build-up inside her that it’s like she’s ready to erupt at the slightest thing. People simply moving around or being busy is sufficient to start her off.

Everything will now be done to calm her down.

One main trigger is obviously Bonnie and her own panic barking, so although I was called for Honey, we need to deal with this at source – with Bonnie. Another is the over-enthusiastic behaviour of her humans towards her. They reap what they sow.

The other thing feeding the rough behaviour is that it always, but always, brings a result of some kind. It hurts so people react.

Bonnie

To make things harder, jumping up is strongly reinforced. She is nearly always fussed when she jumps up at them. At other times she’s told to get down. There is no consistency.

Inconsistency adds to frustration..

The couple are out all day but have a dog walker. Each lunch time she takes the dogs out for a lovely walk with other dogs. But still, like many people, they feel guilty having to leave the dogs alone for hours.

Out in the garden after work, the lady, trying to play ball with her, is literally mugged by her.

Protective clothing and ‘money’.

I suggest the lady has a tough jacket to hand to protect her arms. Honey must now realise that all play stops and all attention stops as soon as the rough jumping up and biting begins.

They should also have food on them all the time – to pay Honey for the behaviour they do want.

Honey should be given more appropriate stimulation – encouraging self control and calm. The morning routine can change so the dogs are downstairs with a chew each while the lady gets ready for work. They can then be given a short ‘sniff’ walk around the block before being shut in the kitchen instead of excitable play.

The people will keep actively reinforcing the behaviour they want. I reinforced feet on the floor and then lying or sitting down. Honey soon got the message with myself (until Bonnie set her off again).

The man made a good point. The behaviour is not ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It is ‘wanted’ or ‘unwanted’ behaviour – so we reinforce wanted behaviour only.

Triggers can come from unexpected quarters. Calming Bonnie’s barking will indirectly have a big impact on Honey’s rough behaviour.

This case brought home to me two things. One, it illustrated that the triggers for a dog’s behaviour are often not obvious, especially to the humans closest to the dog. An objective, outside view is necessary.

Scondly it illustrated how important it is with behaviour issues to see the dog in his or her own environment. Had I not been in their own home I would not have realised just what an impact Bonnie’s mental state has on Honey’s.

 

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 approaches I have worked out for Honey and Bonnie. 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, particularly where any form of aggressive behaviour is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Love to a dog. Is it kisses, cuddles and excitement?

Can we love our dog too much?

We humans are demonstrative with our love in a very different way to dogs, aren’t we. We want to cuddle, touch, stroke, roughhouse, pet – even kiss them.

Feeling guilty at having left them home alone, we may get them really stirred up with wild greetings when we come home.

Affection showered on our dog human-fashion makes us feel good, but does the dog always love it as much as we do?

love

Bea finding it hard to sit still

There can be a downside to ‘too much’ as was demonstrated when I met gorgeous Goldendoodle puppy Bea yesterday.

Bea is 6 months old. She is a great one for jumping up, jumping at the table and leaping onto people which they encourage until they have had enough. However, at times they don’t want her to do it. She may jump at visitors or scare a child when out.

When over-excited or frustrated she may leap on someone and mouth them.

Lack of consistency is confusing. Confusion is stressful. Stress has to vent – somehow.

We reap what we sow.

Sometimes when the lady approaches Bea when she’s resting, the pup may curl her lip and growl. She knows what’s coming – she’s going be showered with human love.

One wouldn’t mix a Poodle with a Golden Retriever if one wanted a quiet life!

Bea is clever, affectionate and biddable. She’s excitable by nature anyway without more help!

The family consists of a couple with their two young adult offspring. They all understandably adore beautiful Bea. Greeting her excitedly, they encourage her to jump up. They play hand games and they get her thoroughly stirred up.

So, Bea is highly aroused, something which takes hours or days to calm. This results in behaviours that they can’t cope with.

The lovely lady just can’t resist her and it’s easy to see why. She wants to fuss and kiss her. Lying still like a ‘good dog’, Bea is irresistible.

From quite a young puppy Bea, from her bed, would tell her in dog language ‘no thanks, not now’.

She would look away or go still. Ignored, she took to showing her teeth. She was very young and they thought it was funny. Now she growls. With her growling scolded or ignored, this can only go one way as she gets older.

Understandably, the lady is quite hurt by what feels like rejection. I hope she now sees that if she plays ‘harder to get’ and invites Bea over to her instead – when she’s not too settled, she will get more affection. We ourselves can feel smothered by too much love and attention. All Bea needs is some choice in the matter.

In the two-and-a-half hours I was there, much of the time was spent showing Bea how to make the right decisions, including learning that having her feet on the floor was much more rewarding than jumping at the table. 

Turning ‘no’ into ‘yes’.

Bea doesn’t give up easily. She is used to getting attention for her antics, even if in the form of scolding. Like so many young dogs, in the absence of being shown what she should do she becomes frustrated. Here again is one of my favourite videos. It demonstrates perfectly and in quite an amusing way just how quickly a ‘yes’ approach works, and how ‘no, no, no’ leads to frustration and failure.

They don’t want Bea digging the flower beds, so – where can she dig? A child’s plastic sandpit with toys and rubbish buried in it? Here is one of my client’s young Pointer digging!  A happy dog! These people have now designated part of their garden to hole-digging as Jojo loves it so much! See the story.

They don’t want Bea jumping all over people, so what should she do? She can get fuss and food only when her feet are on the floor.

We did other little training and impulse control exercises. Bea loved it.

Out now should go all contact sports. Stop winding her up into a frenzy of excitement which they all have to pay for later. Instead, there are brain games, training games, foraging, chewing, hunting and so on.

The family will find being calm with her a big challenge. Love for Bea means exercising some restraint even though it will be very hard!

Again, we reap what we sow.

6-week summary: Bea has improved greatly. Everyone loves her

 

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 approaches I have worked out for Bea. 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, particularly where any form of aggressive behaviour is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Impulse Control Lacking, at Home and on Walks

Much of Blue’s early life was spent in a crate after he and his brother began to fight. He was rehomed. Next he was in another bad situation before being taken in by a rescue and fostered by someone with fifteen dogs.

Now introduced to a steady home life, it’s little wonder Blue is lacking impulse control. It must be a lot to get used to.

He is amazingly friendly and adaptable considering his life over the past three years.

I would sum Blue up as eager to please and biddable…

…and lacking in impulse control.

Lacking impulse controlThere is a good reason the photos are blurred! He was seldom still.

His new humans are incredibly tolerant, but when he becomes too much, Blue is put in the bathroom so they can have a break. He doesn’t make a fuss. He’s very accepting.

We had to put him away for a while because his jumping all over us meant he was such hard work that it was impossible to talk.

They want him to stop jumping all over friends and family who come to their house.

They are doing their best to ‘train’ him out of it, but commands may arouse him even more and also give him the attention he is craving. Also consistency is key – not sometimes with some people, but always with everyone – themselves included. It’s only fair for him to know what is expected of him.

Each time the dog did this to me I turned my head away and gently stood to tip him off. I then was nice to him when his feet were on the floor. He got the message. As he started to understand what was required of him, he began to show just a little impulse control.

They have now had Blue for four weeks and already he’s improved in some areas while maybe getting worse in others.

Blue is scared of the dark, particularly cars in the dark.

They can work on this fear in the safety of just outside their own front door, getting him used to being out at night time and the passing cars from a safe distance.

During the day he’s not too confident either. He will bark at other dogs when he’s on lead. This could well be made worse because when he barks, the lady holds him tightly on a chain lead, her own anxiety rippling down it.

Bit by bit they will help Blue to gain confidence and impulse control. Already he has been taught several cues. Now he needs to learn how to stop, listen and wait.

They will give him a good selection of things to work on and to wreck! Instead of chasing his tail, squirming noisily on his back on the floor, charging up the stairs, raiding surfaces, nibbling people and so on, they can give him alternatives to relieve his stress and frustrations.

A box of rubbish can give him something to attack!

Why throw the recycling rubbish away? Why not give it to the dog first! Milk or water bottles, toilet roll tubes and screwed up paper make a great free toy.

A marrow bone can give him something to literally get his teeth into and will calm him. He can hunt for his tea – see SprinklesTM. They will have tiny food rewards to hand to keep him motivated and to reinforce calm.

One of the first things I look at when a dog is so hyperactive is his diet. In this case the wonderful couple had beaten me to it – they have already put him on the best food they can find. His skin and coat have changed dramatically. When they first took him in four weeks ago his tummy was red and raw and his tail worn hairless. Now his coat is growing shiny and healthy.

Blue is at the start of a very good new life.

A message five weeks later from a couple who have worked very hard with their new dog – and this is just the beginning: He is getting so good he puts himself in the bathroom when the door knocks and on walks if we see or hear another dog he looks to me for a treat and calms down a lot quicker than at first.

Excited Dog in his New Home

Excited Bodie taking a rest

Taking a rest

An excited young dog.

After the last four cases, here was a dog who was really pleased to see me!

Beautiful friendly, bouncy, happy and playful Bodie was found by the roadside in November. Since then he has been in kennels and now, for the past week, he’s been in his new home. It’s no surprise that with all the change he can be too excitable – particularly as the younger adults in the family may also be so excited to have him that in their enthusiasm they are winding him up further.

They have been told Bodie is about two years old, but he seems a lot younger to me. He is quite a mix with certainly some collie. The picture doesn’t do justice to his happy nature and athletic build.

His issues are all due to over-stimulation, sensory overload and lack of self control. It’s understandable as in effect he’s been released from prison. He jumps up relentlessly whether one is sitting or standing, he pulls on the lead as he’s bombarded with the smells and noises outside and he will bark non-stop at the sight of another animal. He barks should he even hear another dog. They reckon his time alone in kennels surrounded by other barking dogs may have something to do with this.

It’s fair to guess that Bodie is a dog that had been loved and very well-socialised with people but maybe not so much with other dogs. It’s also a good bet that he’s had a lot of freedom, unrestricted by a leash. How he came to be left by the roadside is anyone’s guess. He’s a gem.

 

Bodie’s time in kennels can be used to their advantage.

Two things are certain. During his time in the kennels he had limited exercise. During his time in kennels he was used to being shut away by himself. Both these things can actually be used to their advantage if not left too late.

When his jumping up became too much and I couldn’t both work on him and talk with them, they shut him in the conservatory for a break a couple of times. He didn’t complain and immediately lay down on the chair, accustomed to being put away.

For the next few weeks I feel they should continue to put him by himself for short periods when he gets too much so that he never develops issues with with being left alone, issues that are hard to deal with later on.

The other point is, having almost certainly been let out or given a walk for only a short time each day, Bodie doesn’t expect lots of exercise. It’s very likely from his behaviour that in his previous life he had been left to do his own thing. As he’s not used to his day revolving around walks, it means that they can teach him to walk nicely and get him desensitised to the outside world gradually with lots of very short sessions.

The gentleman had taken him for three quite long walks in one day the other day to calm him, and in fact, despite of all that exercise (or because of it), Bodie had come home more hyped up than when he left.

Sarah Reusche makes a good case for how exercise and excitement can sometimes be too much of a good thing.

As is so often the case with their new rescue dogs, people in their efforts to get things right actually do too much too soon.

So, without feeling guilty, they can work on loose lead technique around the house and garden, simply standing still outside, working on distance dogs or barking, advancing to walking around outside the neighbouring houses and so on – gradually building it up. When they have time they can pop him in the car and take him to somewhere open and let him explore on a long line.

The more short outings he has, the less excited he will be and the less overwhelming the outside world will become.

The whole family will need to do their bit to help him to become less excited. Instead of vigorous play and encouraging jumping about, they can teach him some self-control by giving him what he wants in a calm fashion when his feet are on the the floor. Understandably and like many girls, the young adult daughter wants lots of cuddles, unable to see otherwise the point of having a dog. That will come if they take it easy now.

With a clicker it was amazing just how soon Bodie got the message and stopped jumping all over me. He first worked it out that sitting worked and then he took it further by lying down as well. It was obviously the first time the clever dog had ever had a clicker used with him. He was really using his brain.

There was no telling him what to do or what not to do – he was working it out for himself.

If they all take their time now and don’t push it, they will be rewarded with a wonderful family pet.

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 Bodie. 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 which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. 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 Get Help page)

Walking the Two Dogs Together

Akita mix

Raven

The young lady came back from overseas just a couple of weeks ago with her two wonderful dogs. She is seven months pregnant. They are now settling in their new home.

I will give you a little of her story which I find quite moving. Back in Greece they had adopted Macey, a Springer cross, who is now eleven months old. Soon after that they saw a litter of beautiful little white Akita mix puppies, only a few weeks old, wandering in the middle of a road. They tracked down the owner whose attitude was that if they were run over then it would be one less problem for her.

The girl and her husband took all five puppies home and fed them for the next three weeks until they were ready to be homed. They managed to find good homes for them all apart from Raven, whom they chose to keep.

Springer mix lying down

Macey

Because her two young dogs would need to be crated in order to fly them back to the UK, she had for two months acclimatised them to the crates they would be flown in. She did such a good job that apparently they were the most relaxed dogs the transport people had handled. They stepped out of their crates like nothing had happened.

The girl is also preparing her dogs for the baby. Already gates are up to accustom them to the restrictions they will necessarily have;  From the start she has made sure the pups are very comfortable and happy being touched anywhere and gently pulled about.

They have spent a lot of loving effort training and socialising the two – in very much the same way as I would have advised. Consequently, they now have two adolescent dogs that are friendly and relaxed with people and amazingly chilled.

Unfortunately there two new problems she hadn’t anticipated.

Against a quieter backdrop now, any sounds or people passing outside are more noticeable to the dogs, and Macey in particular is having fits of barking.

What worries her most of all is that at times Macey barks during the night and she fears she will get complaints, even being forced to give up her beloved dogs. I can’t see that happening at all. I hope I convinced her that the barking is nowhere near that excessive and that by both limiting their access to ‘guard duty’ places and also by how she reacts when they do bark, the problem will be under control and Macey happier for it.

She has worked so hard in preparing them for their new life that it’s understandable she’s now feeling overwhelmed by coping with the new unforseen problems by herself.

The second issue is that walking the two dogs together is now impossible, due to the fact that at seven months pregnant she is unable to hang onto Raven who is a puller. Previously they didn’t spend much time on lead and are so used to freely playing with other dogs that when they see a dog they can become frantic with excitement to get to it.

The girl can’t walk them separately either. These two dogs have never been apart. Raven was already with Macey before his siblings had left and he goes into meltdown if she is out of sight. Human company is no substitute.

They have a dog walker who takes them for a good run with other dogs three times a week and sometimes days the lady walks with a friend, one dog each. Her husband works abroad so can only help when he’s home.

She is unduly worried that her dogs are suffering due to the lack of regular exercise but to me they show absolutely no signs of dogs that are lacking anything in their lives. When they can’t be walked the young lady gives them sensibly stimulating things to do and balls to chase.

She can now put her excellent dog skills into gradually getting Raven used to being away from Macey – in a very similar fashion to the two dogs I met a few days ago – Wilson and Cooper.

In principle she should pop one dog behind the gate or in her crate, pop the lead on the other dog and walk around the same room and then into next room – out of sight for one second before walking back in again – and then swapping over the dogs. I would introduce scattering food for the dog left behind when I got to the stage of walking out of the back door. When the absences become longer – and this could actually take weeks – I would leave the crated dog something like a bone. The act of chewing helps a dog to self-calm and will also help her to associate the departure of the other dog with good stuff.

Where the two dogs’ excitement at seeing another dog is concerned, she will be teaching them to focus on her early, before things get out of hand whilst making herself as exciting and rewarding as that other dog!

The young lady has a lot to cope with at the moment, but being one hundred percent dedicated to her gorgeous dogs she will be just as successful with the barking issue, with getting Raven to walk nicely and with both dogs showing some self-control when encountering another dog as she has with everything else she has done with them to date.

British Bulldog Biting Feet

English Bulldogs

Bentley and Flo

Bentley was very excited when I arrived, and his jumping up seemed to be relentless. This was my responsibility because I had asked the owners to leave the dogs alone so I could see what they would do whilst demonstrateing my way of dealing with it.

English Bulldog Bentley is now fourteen months old so if their usual way of stopping him jumping up worked – which was to tell him to get down or to grab him – he wouldn’t be doing it any more. His super-arousal then caused Flo to ‘tell him off’. It is for this reason that I wear tough clothes – to protect my back and my legs from dogs’ nails and of course I would always ask for their help if I needed it.

Scolding the dog may get him down at that moment, but it doesn’t teach him not to jump at people the next time. In fact the attention probably makes it even more likely. The question to ask is, what’s the dog getting out of it (probably attention of some sort) and to remove this reinforcement. To make success quicker, this desired attention can be given to him for doing something more acceptable instead.

The days start calmly enough apart from Bentley’s barking at 3am demanding to be let out, but as the day progresses and people start to move about the dogs become increasingly excitable. This leads to Bentley jumping and grabbing people or chasing and biting feet. He targets the adult son in particular who feels he’s being mugged every time he walks through the door.

I did some ‘walking around’ work with the son, showing him to move more slowly and instead of throwing food across the floor so he can make a dash for it, dropping little bits of grated cheese just behind his feet as he walked. This has the added benefit of rewarding Bentley for following nicely without nipping or jumping. Instead of trying to escape, he can talk to Bentley, call him and invite him to follow him, giving him some of the craved-for attention for doing as he’s asked.

English Bulldog

Flo with a sort jowl

Key to the plan has to be a gate in the sitting room doorway. Currently the dogs have the run of the downstairs and there is no escaping them. The gate should not be opened until they have had time to calm down and feet are on the floor. That will make life far easier for everyone.

There can also be minor fights over bones and chews which means these useful resources for helping a dog to unwind aren’t available to them. A gate means the dogs can have calming things to do and chew whilst not being able to actually get to one another.

When I was there the two had been out in the garden for a while and we heard barking. When they came in Bentley had an extra small cut on his neck to add to existing scars and Flo’s face was red and sore around her jowl. The two dogs are allowed to play too roughly. I would step in a lot sooner because, just like the nipping of feet, the more the behaviour is rehearsed the more entrenched the behaviour becomes.

Removing opportunity for unwanted behaviours is the starting point so the two dogs shouldn’t be left alone together out of sight for more than a couple of minutes unless they are lying down and relaxed. With a bit of forward-planning quite a bit of temptation can be removed. For instance, as a favourite trick of Bentley’s is to attack feet when people go outside to the washing line, why don’t they leave him indoors?

In order to find out more about their dogs, new owners often start by reading breed-specific books and talking to the breeder or other owners of the breed which can give them a skewed view of dogs in general. They often attribute behaviours to inevitable breed traits, excusing things that aren’t really desirable from any dog, whatever the breed. The books may say Bulldogs are ‘stubborn’, but that simply means we need to be more motivating. Other owners may say their Bulldogs like to ‘play rough’, but that merely means we have to be even better ‘dog parents’. Rough play isn’t a good behaviour to rehearse for the sake of other dogs or people – particularly children.

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