Distressed, Trembles, Whimpers at Bedtime.

Millie is a Beagle, a Lemon Beagle, ten years of age. She has lived with my lady client for eighteen months.

She is a sweet and gentle dog but she carries some baggage. Three things in particular make her very distressed. Her bedtime behaviour, her panic when left alone and continuous barking and crying when being driven in the car.

Distressed at bedtime

distressed at bedtimeBedtime is a puzzle. Last thing at night Millie is asleep on the sofa beside the lady and very comfortable. She has to be woken and goes out into the garden calmly.

The lady then fetches Millie’s bed and takes it into her bedroom, followed by Millie. She gets ready for bed then gives the dog a treat for getting into her own bed. She goes to bed herself.

Immediately everything changes. Millie jumps onto the lady’s bed.

She trembles. She whimpers, jumps on and off. Obviously very distressed, she drools.

This can go on for a couple of hours before she gives up. She has done it from the day the lady brought her home eighteen months ago.

Millie has sometimes asked to be let out and then does nothing but mooch around the garden. She doesn’t need to toilet. There is nothing in the bedroom that is different from daytime apart from the fact the lady is in bed. Leaving the light on makes no difference.

Meanwhile the lady is repeatedly saying, ‘Go to bed, Millie’. Understandably she is tired and will be getting a little cross and stressed, unable to do anything about her dog’s distress.

Eventually, after an hour or two, Millie settles on her own bed on the floor. 

The ‘why’.

The same ritual is followed every night and will now be a pattern of learned behaviour. Normally if we can deal with the ‘why’, the behaviour improves. We are doing a bit of detective work along with trial and error in an effort to get to the bottom of why she gets so distressed, so immediately and every night.

The night-time behaviour will most likely have its roots in her past history. (While I am writing this I wonder whether it could be something perfumed on the lady st bedtime that Millie can smell with her Beagle nose. Something she associates with a past terrifying experience).

One thing is certain, if the lady carries on doing exactly what she’s doing now, so will Millie.  Changing the ritual has to be a place to start.

I suggest the lady lets Millie out to toilet a bit earlier and then lets her go back to the sofa for another hour or two. She can ditch her whole bedtime ritual and just get herself ready for bed. Millie can choose for herself what she wants to do.

Shutting her out of the room isn’t an option. The second major problem the lady has with Millie is separation – another matter we will be working on. She can’t let the lady out of her sight.

It will be hard, but I suggest that the lady tries turning over and ignoring all Millie’s distressed pacing, whining and drooling. Her constant trying to tell her to settle doesn’t help at all. It’s just possible that her constant agitation and ‘Go to bed, Millie’ is in some strange way reinforcing.

Could pain be involved?

We also noticed that Millie looks a bit awkward when she sits and when she lies down. She was spayed recently and nothing picked up, but I wonder whether she has pain in her hips. Her distressed behaviour at night is certainly panic, but maybe it’s pain as well. Pain always affects behaviour

The separation problems will also be baggage she brought with her. The way forward is to deal with the emotions she is feeling – the panic – and gradually get her to feel differently about being left.

Getting into such a distressed state at night time and again about four times a week when she is left alone for a few hours, Millie’s stress levels must be constantly raised. Added to this is the car ordeal. This happens daily as they have to drive somewhere for her walks.

Although Millie looked calm and slept while I was there, there will be more going on inside.

All her problems are due to fear in one way or another. Each thing we can do to build up the lovely, gentle dog’s confidence and reduce her stress levels will have a knock-on effect.

A month has gone by and real progress made: ‘An update for you: the night time routine is going well (no more trembling, whimpering or distress). Even when I come home late and go back to the old routine she only stresses for a short time before she settles, so that is good…I am pleased to say that I have been out a few times recently and there hasn’t been any tiddles, I leave her as you said and with a kong….She is much better with other dogs now, if I think a dog is one she doesn’t like I go in a different direction and give her a treat! So things are definitely improving and hopefully her stress levels are beginning to go down.'[divider type=”white”]
NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. Listening to ‘other people’ or finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. Fears need professional help. Click here for help.

Fear of Harness. Fear of Lead

Fear of harness is overshadowing his otherwise perfect life.

Little Reggie is a delightful, friendly little Border Terrier, ten months of age.

fear of harness is overshadowing his life

He has a lovely life in every way bar one. In order to go out for walks he has to have his harness and lead put on.

As soon as they are brought out he runs away.

They then go and pick him up to put the harness on and he shakes.

He was scared of his lead from the very start as a little puppy. They have tried various harnesses but it makes no difference.

Once on, his fear of harness is such that he tries to escape from it. With lead attached he leans sideways.

Out on the road he may pull. This could well be eagerness to get to the nearby park or field where, off lead, he is rid of the restriction.

A strange thing is that, if not pulling, he is constantly marking. I wonder whether this is some sort of displacement behavour to take his mind off his fear of harness and lead.

They try to keep him walking. I say, let him sniff and mark as much as he needs.

Reggie loves his food.

We can use this to our advantage. I carry with me Ziwipeak which most dogs adore. It’s dry and it’s smelly! Reggie certainly loved it.

For now they will reserve Ziwipeak for when the harness and lead are brought out.

Reggie has a Perfect Fit harness and for now they will attach the lead to the front only – it has a D-ring on the chest as well as the back. He should feel less restricted that way.

I thought I would demonstrate how well a dog walks on a loose lead if it hangs loosely from the chest by clipping it to his collar with the ring under Reggie’s chin.

I was expecting some sort of reaction. I called him to me and gave him Ziwipeak.

I let him sniff the lead. Ziwipeak. No reaction.

I took his collar. Ziwipeak. No reaction.

I hooked the lead to the collar. Ziwipeak. No reaction.

Soon I was walking around the room with the little dog on a loose lead, regularly putting bits of food on the floor beside my foot. Then the lady took over.

They couldn’t believe it.

Such is the power of food to reduce fear.

If the dog refuses to eat, then his fear is too great and they need to start things at a level or distance where the dog can cope.

Reggie was coping!

They will change their routine now and put the harness on in a different room. They will use the same technique as I used with the lead, feeding with every movement or click of fastenings.

I suggest they leave his harness on all day for now. They may remove it and put it on again several times during the day – plenty of practice using food. The only time she gets Ziwipeak will be in association with harness and lead.

The next step is to attach the lead and walk around the house and garden. Then in and out of the gate and finally down the road.

If he wants to mark and they make no progress, they should just let him do so. Assuming that he’s scared by the feeling of restriction, choice is important.

They can pop him in the car for a few days for his off-lead walks.

I am sure by associating the harness with food and disconnecting it from the walking routine, his fear of harness and lead will disappear. They can put it on earlier and they will only do so while Reggie is willing and happy about it.

 

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 Reggie. 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 fear issues are concerned. Everything depends upon context. 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)

 

 

Stops and Sits. Rolls Onto her Back. Won’t Move

The young Golden Retriever stops on walks.

She sits. She won’t move. When they go to get her, she rolls onto her back.

on the way home she simply stopsThe people I went to see yesterday have just emailed me with something different (Goldie is wary of new things). Their neighbour has had a trampoline erected in their back garden today. Goldie is barking at it – it’s something new that she can see.

The lady has been going out with food and the clicker. She is clicking and rewarding many times while Goldie is being quiet but clearly aware of the trampoline.

I replied, ‘Clicking for quiet is a good way to deal with the trampoline. You are ‘training’ her to be quiet. However, a better way would be to deal with the problem at source –  changing how she feels about it. This would involve, with every look at the trampoline whether she is barking or not, chucking food on the ground or feeding Goldie.’

The case of Goldie going on strike is puzzling.

Since she first went out at three months of age she would sit down and refuse to move. She was little so they were able to pick her up. Now she’s a fully grown Golden Retriever it’s not possible anymore to lift her when she stops.

I would like to deal with this at source too – but where does it come from?

There are a few facts: It’s always on the way home that she stops – after exercise. She has an uncanny sense of knowing when they are on the return journey home or to the car. Putting the lead on at random and going a different way doesn’t fool her.

Her ears go back and, from the sound of it, I would interpret this as looking scared or wary. Why would this be? The rolling onto her back could well be to appease. I’m assured she’s never been punished for it though there has been a lot of enticing and bribing and exasperation for sure.

Goldie is fourteen months old so it will now be well ingrained behaviour – a default response when she feels a certain way.

What way is she’s feeling, though?

The other day things took a turn for the worse. She had sat down and as usual rolled over onto her back, making it difficult to get her up. The lady grabbed her harness to try to make her move.

Suddenly Goldie leapt up and at the woman’s face.

Mouth open. Snarling.

It’s happened two or three times within the past few days. The lady is very upset and scared to walk her now.

Why is it Goldie has, since she first went out, stopped and refused to move? We considered various possibilities:

  • She stops because she doesn’t want to go home (that doesn’t work because she always does go home).
  • Or she stops because, when small, she was picked up and carried and she liked it.
  • She stops because it gives her attention.
  • Or she stops because the arousal previously created in her system from her walk has been too much for her.
  • She stops because after exercise she may be uncomfortable in some way.

Each time the only result it’s generated for her is to be made to move.

Recently Goldie has started to do other things she used not to do. She has begun to dig in the garden and to hump the lady. She is whining in the night.

She was spayed shortly before these things started. Could there be a connection? They visit their vet next week who can check.

In the context of the past few weeks there are indications that she has, for some reason, been more stressed in general. She’s a sensitive dog. Something has recently pushed her over the edge. To quote the lady, she’s flipped.

Either Goldie has been unable to handle the frustration of the walk coming to an end and has lost her temper. This is what the owners assume and is very likely.

Or, just possibly, instead of not wanting something to stop (the walk), she doesn’t want something to start (going home) and it’s scaring her.

Her stress levels could come from unexpected quarters, both at home and when out. They could include the fallout from extreme exercise – running free and hunting, being restrained, being forced to do something against her will. Many little things could contribute to the build-up. She doesn’t like the sound of metal on metal, for instance.

Although I can so far only guess at the cause, we can create a plan that should be appropriate anyway.

Our plan uses stress-reduction as a basis to work on, along with relationship building.

We’ll focus on the walker being much more motivating and rewarding.

If she wants to be with her humans more than anything else, then she should want to continue walking with them.

Walks will be done a bit differently in order to try to interrupt the learned sequence.

They will do lots of work walking back and forth near to the house, loose lead, making it fun and with bits of her meal dropped from time to time – but only when in the direction of home. The same thing can then be done on a long line in open places.

The parallel with my trampoline advice is this:

It may be possible to train her to get up and move if they had sufficient time, using a clicker and rewarding. They would need to click and reward every small movement like rolling onto her front, sitting up, then looking ahead, then sitting higher and then standing – then taking a step and so on. This could take much too long in the middle of a field in the dark or on a busy pavement!

However, if they can stop her feeling she needs to sit, roll over and go on strike and prefer to keep walking, they will have dealt with the problem at source.

 

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 Goldie 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, particularly where aggression of any kind is 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)

 

Barking at People at Home and on Walks

Hector, the little wire haired miniature dachshund, is absolutely adorable.

His young lady has made every effort to do the very best for him from the start, but at about seven months old he began the barking at people.

Once he starts his barking at people he’s unstoppable.

Barking at people who come to the house. Barking at people on walks.  Even barking at people in the distance.

Believing from their advBarking at peopleertising that they were the best people to help her, Hector’s young owner called in Barkbusters. As soon as he started to bark, the person, who said he was scared, made a loud BAH noise. Why would you want to make a noise like that at a scared dog? Wouldn’t that make him even more scared?

To quote Hector’s lady, he was so petrified of of the Barkbusters person that he was quiet. However, when she herself tried to implement the techniques Hector, predictably, didn’t take any notice of her.

Now this is the trouble with punishment. When something stops working because the dog gets used to it, the punisher has to be increased to be effective. She went on to try a citronella collar that squirts stuff the dog hates up his nose – stuff that lingers long after the barking stops – and then collars that vibrate or make a noise.

She realised that this was just making his barking worse. Why associate people he’s barking at with something so unpleasant. Surely this will increase his fear?

In trying to punish the barking, often don’t see it as it really is. Barking is the symptom of what’s making the dog bark. Usually fear has a lot to do with it. In punishment they merely make the fear worse. A collar squirting citronella up his nose when he barks is merely putting a temporary lid on the noise, it’s making how he feels a lot worse.

Hector’s barking at people means she can’t have anyone to her house.

Because of his barking at people when out also, she doesn’t enjoy walking him either.

The poor girl simply doesn’t know what to do.

I find the situation quite heartbreaking really because she has tried so hard to do her very best for Hector right from the beginning. She received some very bad advice that started her down the punishment route.

I call it punishment, but people who advocate these methods would probably call it ‘correction’. It’s ‘positive punishment’.

Hector’s barking at me was relentless to start with. I worked with him. We had enough breaks in the noise to cover all my questions and to teach the little genius dog something incompatible with barking. We taught him to touch both the lady’s hand and my own using clicker – and he’d never been clicker trained!

One minute he was enjoying a clicker game, running between us to touch our hands, and the next he was barking at me again.

Puzzling.cundallhector2

His initial response was fearful undoubtedly, but not for long. It’s like he simply keeps barking at people until something happens – this ‘something’ will more recently have been punishment of some sort.

He is really a curious and friendly little dog. He wanted my attention and barked for that also! If he doesn’t get what he wants he may then bark because he’s frustrated.

When I got back home I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I wasn’t satisfied that I had fully covered the problem. I had been treating it as mainly fear driven.

Suddenly it dawned on me.

I arranged to go straight back the next evening. This time I was there for just fifteen minutes with a different strategy that worked a lot better.

Basically, barking at people had given him something that made barking at people rewarding to him. It’s impossible to know just what, but he seems to enjoy it. It dawned on me that we should now respond with something completely different, something that has never happened before in response to his barking at people.

She will walk him out of the room straight away when he barks. He has a nice comfortable harness so there will be no discomfort involved.

I went back and found that worked. He really didn’t want to miss all that food on the floor and and he really wanted to be with me. His barking being a learnt response meant Hector and his young lady walked in and out of the room quite a few times before he got the message.

This isn’t the protocol I would use if the barking was simply fear. Because I suggest removing him from something he actually wants – me – this would be termed ‘negative punishment’. I would handle it a bit differently if he was really fearful.

This is a good example of why it’s not wise for me to go into too much detail in my stories. Even I hadn’t got it quite right the first time round. The protocols have to be tailored to the individual dog. Like other stuff people find on the internet, it could do more harm than good otherwise.

The basic principles we are using is to address both the barking at people in the home and people out on walks.

The young lady will now use willing friends as human Guinea pigs, dropping in for about twenty minutes at a time initially.

Over time, as Hector relaxes and learns to enjoy their company quietly, the young lady should be able to enjoy having her friends round again.

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 Hector 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, particularly where aggression of any kind is 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)

Border Collie Being a Border Collie

Border Collie Holly has several of the more difficult traits in Collies without work that I go to, bearing in mind that I only go to dogs that need help in some way.  This won’t represent the majority of their breed out there.

A Border Collie, being a Border Collie, is bred to herd sheep isn’t she.

Border Collie wants her ball

Where is my ball?

If she has no sheep to herd then Holly may find other things to round up – people, animals or objects.

Four-year-old Holly goes into herding mode when her stress levels tip over and this is mostly when the gentleman comes home from work or when she is even more aroused than usual.

She will then immediately begin to circle and nip the heels of the older lady in particular. She may also pick on this lady when they are all sitting down eating. Holly will, in effect, be making sure her sheep stays put! The dog puts her head on the lady’s lap but not to be touched. If the lady moves she will growl, show her teeth and snarl.

The lady is scared. Holly will know this.

Someone else will sternly command her ‘AWAY!’ which resolves the situation in the present but doesn’t prevent it from happening the next time.

It’s only a matter of time before she bites unless things are done differently.

A Border Collie, being a Border Collie, is bred to focus.

Hollie is bred to focus on and to control sheep. She is also bred to follow a human’s subtle directions.

So many Border Collies who are family pets have no substitute activity for their brains. They so very easily become obsessed with something of their own making.

I have been to many a Border Collie that fills this vacuum by obsessing over shadows, lights or reflections. One dog would stand all day simply looking at a wall, waiting for a flicker.

Holly’s obsession, like that of many another Border Collie, is her ball, or failing that, any throw-able toy. With this ball she constantly and persistently demands the attention of her humans. They must throw it over and over. She never has enough.

If her four humans don’t comply immediately, Holly barks. She has learnt that they have a breaking point and if she persists for long enough they will feel forced to give in.

My advice is to put all the balls and toys away in the garage.

Everyone, including Holly, will need to go cold turkey. They will have to put up with the barking until she realises it no longer works.

The constant throwing is like winding a large key in the side of a clockwork toy. The more you wind the faster it goes – until it’s over-wound and something snaps.

Perpetual activity – and their are four family members at her beck and call most of the day with the ball play – means also that she is sleep-deprived too which won’t be helping.

Just ceasing throwing the ball for Holly isn’t nearly enough. It needs to be replaced with other things – activities that will stimulate a Border Collie’s clever brain whilst also teaching her to be able to settle.

Holly is walked three times a day which sounds great but isn’t.

She is very scared of traffic.

She used to do another Border Collie thing – try to chase the wheels, but now she will hang back, cower away and have to be dragged and enticed for the five minute walk beside a busy road, necessary to get to the park.

The whole walk thing is an ordeal for her three times a day; each time she tries to avoid having her lead put on.

A Border Collie is the dog of choice for many trainers because it’s so clever and so receptive to training. It relishes the challenge, the directions and the brain work which compensates for the lack of sheep to work with.

As family pets, many are simply frustrated. Holly, I know, would far prefer to be working than to be cuddled.

She was so quick learn an alternative behaviour to all the barking at the toy cupboard where the balls had been put away. I taught her to settle on a towel, quietly and kindly. With the smallest gesture she understood what was being asked of her. Being quietly on that towel was a rewarding place to be.

There will be a lot more emphasis on reinforcing all the wanted behaviours and finding ways of giving her better things to do instead of scolding her.

Peaceful at last, on her new 'mat'.

Peaceful at last, on her new ‘mat’.

Being able to send her to her mat for a reward and with something to do at those tricky moments will solve the herding problem when the man comes home. They will get a gate for the sake of safety and all welcomes will be low-key now.

Holly is sure to revolt but they must persist.

Currently Holly’s walks are doing her more harm than good.

Exercise isn’t always the cure-all people think it is – read this. They will for now pop her in the car to get to the park whilst working on hear fear of vehicles. I suggest they take a chair and sit in the pathway beside their house, well away from the road. Holly can be on a long loose lead so if a vehicle is too noisy she can run away. Each vehicle she looks at can be associated with something nice. Food.

Over time she will be sufficiently confident to get nearer to the passing vehicles.

Another common Border Collie trait that I have found (not only Border Collies of course) is a particular sensitivity to bangs. One explosion of a bird-scarer sets up a lifelong sensitivity. Poor Holly now even retreats at the sound of a click, a door shutting, a child bouncing a ball and so on. Fireworks are a nightmare.

I did notice however that after she had been calm and settled on her mat for a while I repeated a click that had sent her running behind the sofa earlier, from a distance, throwing her food at the same time. She ate it and she held her ground.

This is yet more proof that a generally calmer dog can cope a lot better with the things life throws at 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 approach I have worked out for Holly 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, particularly where fear is 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)

 

Importance of Early Socialisation

Canaan puppies

The other three ears should come up soon!

I have just been to two five-month-old siblings. Before the family picked them up about four weeks ago, despite being brother and sister each puppy had had a very different life.

They are Canaans, a rare and ancient breed. Lapidos is confident and friendly, Leah is afraid of everything – of people and anything new, noisy or sudden.

Lapidos had been bullied by the other puppies in the kennel, so was brought into the house to live with the family.

Leah had remained outside with the other puppies. All her physical needs were met but I would guess she had little interaction with the normal things of daily life at that very crucial time before about thirteen weeks old when the ‘fear period’ kicks in. She is such a clear demonstration of the importance of early socialisation.

These puppies are are settling in well with a lovely family with four very young little children in a well-organised environment. Leah has made considerable progress thanks to the love and patience of her new family so far as relaxing with them is concerned.

But she is very scared of anyone new.

She is often too frightened to go out into the garden, particularly during the day – but strangely she is more courageous outside after dark. She shies at gusts of wind, sounds, anything moving, anything new or sudden.

Leah lying where she feels safe

The two pups lived exclusively in the utility room which is off their large kitchen and they had not been allowed into the house. They are quite content to be in there without crying to come out and join the family, probably because that’s how it’s been from the start. All their encounters with the little children and other people have either been in that room, out in the garden or on walks.

There are downsides to this. When friends and even the children go into their utility room Leah, in particular, has nowhere to escape to if scared unless the back door is open which she is sometimes too anxious to go through anyway. When I came I was immediately introduced to the dogs in the utility room and Leah ran to the furthest bed, the best she could do to hide. Other people who don’t know better will no doubt try to approach and befriend her.

After I had been there a while they opened the gate so the dogs could join us in the kitchen. Lapidos was in with us straight away, friendly, curious and testing new boundaries. Leah ventured in and kept running back out again. I rolled food to her which she ate and at one stage she dared come near to me as I sat still and looked the other way.

I suggested that the dogs now have monitored sessions in the kitchen, both separately and together, where they can begin to learn a few cues and interact with their humans and with new people in a calmer environment than the garden and in a less trapped environment than the utility room.

The kids should be taught to read how the dogs are feeling and whether, at any particular moment, they want to be touched or approached. From what I saw from their body language with the very little girl who joined us, both dogs, even Leah, welcomed her proximity. Dogs and children should never be left alone together unsupervised.

Leah with the dog food they will be returning

If Leah can’t gradually socialise with new people in an environment where she feels safe, it will make things very difficult for them all as she grows older. Now that they understand the way to deal with a fearful dog, they will no longer make her go anywhere she doesn’t want to go but give her time and always an escape route.

When out, these unusual and beautiful puppies are like a magnets to people and Leah can’t escape the scary attention. It’s the owners’ job to protect her as they would their children.

If something scary happens to a dog when one of their humans happens to be present, the dog can associate the person with the fear even though they had nothing to do with it. There was an incident where a child tied Lapidos’ lead to a chair in the garden and went away. The pup pulled the chair over which terrified him and the lady was nearby and rescued him. For the following week he tried to avoid her.

We looked at all aspects of the puppies’ lives to make sure they get off to the best start, including diet. In the picture is Leah, venturing out of the utility room and past a new large pack of Baker’s Complete dog food. Diet affects the dogs both physically and mentally, and food like this is made to be tasty and pretty, but contains little proper nutrition and even some harmful stuff and additives. They will return it.

So, we have made a start. The purpose of having me to help are for the humans to be able to teach the pups basic training cues, to walk nicely on lead and for the beautiful Leah to gradually grow in confidence. Finally, and understandably with such young children playing outside, they would like the dogs to toilet in one area only in the garden.

Terrified Outside Their Home

Two cavalier king charles spaniels

Ben and Evan

The two five-year-old Cavs had been left in a garden in London and not taken outside for a long time, if at all. They were picked up in an unkempt condition and with very long nails.

Amazingly, they are very friendly with all people and dogs so long as it’s in their own home and garden where they feel safe, but once a lead goes on them and they know they are going out of the gate, they become different dogs. Excitement doesn’t necessarily mean happiness, which is something dog owners don’t always realise. The two are walked down the road together, squealing and yapping, and to quote the lady, all hell breaks loose if they see another dog.

Their new humans, wanting to do all they can for the little dogs, have cast about to find ways to solve the problem. The first thing people often try is dog training and they have been going to classes but find that ‘training’ doesn’t help at all. At their wits’ end, they have tried anti-bark collars to make them quiet. Nothing works.

Nothing is working because they have not been addressing the cause, the root, of the problem. Terror. They are just trying to eradicate the symptom – the noise. Like many people, they simply hadn’t correctly interpreted from the dogs’ body language and stress signals just how scared they were feeling.

Although happy little dogs in the house, because they are so terrified outside the daily build-up of stress generated by walks is spilling over into other habits, things they do in order to relieve their stress such as licking and sucking themselves until they are raw.

One at a time we put a comfortable harness on each little dog (with the short leads on thin collars, when they do lunge at anything that scares them it will be hurting their little necks). We first took Lenny outside into the garden so I could show the lady how to walk him on a loose, longer lead giving him the feeling of more freedom. Being less ‘trapped’ should eventually allow him to feel less unsafe..

Before even leaving the garden Lenny was panting and agitated, frequently shaking himself and scratching as a displacement activity to help himself cope. He did calm down sufficiently to follow the lady around on the loose lead and for us to open the gate and walk him out into the garage area.

We got to the opening and then he saw a cat. He exploded. It sounded like he was being murdered. It was perfectly clear to me that even just past the garage we had pushed too far too fast, but now I had seen and heard for myself just what happened and we had established the ‘threshold’ at which we should have stopped – the area behind which the real work would now need to start.

Little Evan was even worse. As soon as the lead went on in the garden he was nervous wreck. He screamed. He bit at the lead. To try to stop these things they tug back at the lead and scold him but he’s so agitated he really can’t help himself. I showed them how to stand still and calm and to reinforce not screaming and not biting the lead. He quietened down a bit and walked around the garden a few times, but we never even got out of the gate.

Evan ended up by sitting down, refusing to move and shaking, so we took the lead off and went in.

The poor little dog is in this state before a walk even starts, so no wonder he is hyper-vigilant and reactive once out. A dog with this level of stress is incapable of learning anything – it does things to the brain. See this.

The cornerstone to their success will be to give their little dogs choice and a way out – an escape. If the dog doesn’t want to move, then the walk should be abandoned.

The lady’s day starts with about half an hour of mayhem as she walks the dogs together before going to work. It’s a nightmare for her too, but she does it as a caring dog owner believing that she’s doing her best for them. She hadn’t seen that where they are concerned this sort of walk is doing more harm than good. A walk should leave a dog happy, relaxed and satisfied, not a nervous wreck needing frantic activity afterwards in order to unwind.

Plenty of happy, short five-minutes sessions is what these little dogs need for now. With lots of repetition and keeping well within the threshold where they feel safe, they can slowly  become acclimatised to the outside world at their own pace. It will be great when they at last feel sufficiently safe to start sniffing as dogs should do. They should always feel they have an escape route. So far they have in effect been ‘flooded’ – with the best of intentions forced into a situation they can’t cope with.

We can’t undo five years in five weeks or probably even five months. It will take time.

Our little experiment with each dog showed the people just how slowly they will have to take things and in what tiny increments, but it’s encouraging, too, because at last they have a plan to work on that makes sense and is kind.

It will all now need some really careful planning. They will have a routine for getting the dogs out one at a time with as little stress as possible. Although walks are an ordeal, neither dog wants to be left behind. I feel they should always go out in the same order so they learn just what to expect and the second one out always knows his turn will come.

There is one big positive. This is that they Lenny and Evan are fine when other dogs have come to their house, proving they are not scared of dogs per se but only when they are feeling unsafe in the scary outside world and trapped on the end of a lead.

Feedback nearly three weeks later: I feel that the boys have made sooooo much progress already, I know its a slow progress and I have all the patience in the world….but to date, I am very happy. We have been able to move to full round the block walks with both of them quiet and they are indications that they are enjoying it too. They are starting to sniff a lot. Alfie sniffs more than bert, bert is watches me.
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 these two. 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).

Another Dog Scared of People

Today I met yet another dog who wasn’t happy to see me. This time, though, it was more straightforward. It was fear alone Black Labrador with a little Border Collie in the mix– there is nothing territorial or protective about Alfie’s behaviour.

Alfie is an eighteen-month-old mix of mostly Labrador with a little Border Collie in there somewhere. It’s hard to understand where the fear comes from. He was born into a family home and had plenty of human contact from the start. Perhaps it’s simply in his nature to be a bit timid. He is playful and loving and absolutely fine with people he has known since he was a puppy.

Isn’t he beautiful!

Alfie’s young owner, still at school, has done brilliantly with Alfie. She started by taking him to puppy classes and she has kept up the work conscientiously since. She is his chief walker and apart from his wariness of some people he meets when out, walks are good. He’s great with other dogs.

People are the problem. When someone new comes to the house (like myself) Alfie barks at them whilst backing off with his hackles up. I had arranged it so that I was settled and sitting down before he was brought in so he only gave a couple of barks at me. Without looking at him I was rolling small bits in his direction of the chicken that they had prepared for me in advance. Should he bark or should he eat the chicken? He is mostly greedy Labrador after all! It was not long before he was eating from my hand. I could even stand up and walk around without much reaction.

When I went to the loo I took the tub of cheese with me so that when I re-entered the room I could help him out. It’s hard to be fearful and chase bits of rolling cheese at the same time! When he then started to woof I pointed to pieces of cheese he had missed.

I am sure with more practice and plenty of tasty little morsels that Alfie’s being scared of people coming into his house will improve.

Outside things need to change a bit. Though he has never bitten anyone he is muzzled just in case. It may not look handsome but I was pleased to find they had a basket muzzle – he can still drink and pant. I suggested cutting some of the front out so he could eat too. He wouldn’t be able to bite anyone unless they were silly enough to put their hand in (he never has bitten anyone after all), but it means he can forage for food scattered on the ground when someone walks past or when they may want to stop to talk.

They find the muzzle is more a deterrent to keep people away. A Yellow Dog Champaign fluorescent vest reading ‘I Need Space’ could also help to repel those ‘dog lovers’ who bear down on dogs (‘Oh I love dogs, all dogs love me’).Labrador Border Collie mix with head on girl's shoulder.

There was one unfortunate incident the other day which prompted them to call me.Two little girls were playing in the road near Alfie’s house. One saw Alfie, who had just come out to the car, and started running towards him screaming ‘Alfie, Alfie’. He barked at her ferociously, hackles up, and frightened the child. Unfortunately his humans did a very ‘human’ thing. They were very cross with Alfie. If children were bad news to him before, they will be worse bad news now.

The family now understands that it’s not actually the barking at people who needs to be addressed – it’s the emotion that causes the barking which is fear. Punishing or scolding fear can’t help at all. Reducing the fear with positive associations is the way to go!

Reduce the fear and the fear-induced behaviour will reduce also.

About seven weeks later: ‘Overall we are seeing much calmer behaviour. He is much less aggressive/fearful in response to strangers’.

 

NB. The exact protocols to best and most safely use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for Alfie, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here of the strategies I used. One size does not fit all. With this kind of issues, I suggest you find help sooner rather than later from an experienced professional. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help (see my Get Help page).

Little Dog Barks at Everything

Scared Shihuahua Yorie mix

Freddie

Sometimes people can be at their wit’s end with a dog that seems to bark incessantly, particularly when they know it affects the neighbours. This is the case with the owners of little Chihuahua Yorkie mix Freddie, on the left. He is only ten months old and lives with thirteen-month Westie/Yorkie Belle, who is now joining in.

Actually, although Freddie spends a lot of time barking, he’s not a barker as such. At times when other dogs would be barking, he is quiet – like when he is put in the kitchen alone. He doesn’t bark for attention either. He has a lot of attention and gentle training so isn’t lacking stimulation. It is very evident that the one and only cause of his barking is fear.

If fear is causing barking, then it’s the fear that needs to be dealt with rather than the barking as such. His barking is basically yelling ‘go away, go away, I don’t feel safe’. On the left I just caught a break in his barking at me for this photo,

Westie Yorkie cross

Belle

When I arrived and for much of the time I was there, Freddie was so aroused that it was hard to do anything at all about it, so we experimented with various approaches before popping him into the kitchen for a break where he calmed down, eventually leaving him in there. It seems that so many things alarm Freddie that he’s in a permanently heightened state, most particularly when he hears any sound, when he meets a new person – particularly someone coming into his house and also people, dogs and noises when he’s out on walks.

The five-minute walk to the park is yet another story of barking that needs working on! The lady has resorted to carrying him so he can be off lead to play with Belle. I am a believer in little dogs walking, but in this case I would say that anything that can be done to reduce Freddie’s stress and anxiety is valid just now.

We ‘unpicked’ Freddie’s day and found quite a few little things that, when added together, should make him calmer. The two main ones were to block the dog flap so that he hasn’t constant access to the outdoors even when they are out and can bark at everything he hears, and to control the two dogs’ unchecked and prolonged wild play when they are out in the park.

Again, like a jigsaw, there are several small pieces that when added together can create a better picture.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Freddie, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Young Dog Scared of Everything

Young British Bulldog chewing Stagbar This British Bulldog is only seven months old and is scared of everything. He’s also very brave. Facing fears takes a lot of courage. When I came to the door his flying all over me and humping was fuelled not only by friendliness but also by anxiety, I’m sure. There was so much panting, drinking, jumping and stressing that I eventually offered him a Stagbar to chew. He went at it like his life depended upon it, and gradually he calmed down a bit.

It was hard to know where to start because Reggie wasn’t really interested in any food – not even in cheese. Possibly he was too fired up and probably due to how he currently receives his food, it has little value to him.

The list of things he is scared of could fill a page. The most difficult thing is that he is so worried outside that he has to be forced out into the garden. Consequently he pees in his crate – on newspaper – not because he wants to but because he has no choice. An example of his strange ways is that when he goes to someone else’s house – and this is quite frequent – he will go to one spot and freeze for the whole time he’s there. Even the presence of another dog makes no difference.

It seems that his parents were stable and relaxed, but Reggie was an anxious puppy from the moment they got him home. Despite being loved dearly and the couple doing everything they can to make him happy, he spends much of his life feeling unsafe. He has a pen which is his haven, but even there he will spook if there are shadows on the wall or if he hears something bang upstairs or a vehicle outside. Ironically, the one place he feels safe and happy is in the woods, where he may meet and play with other dogs and sniff and run about happily. Getting him there, though, is an operation in itself and it has to happen daily because he can’t relax sufficiently to poo anywhere else.British Bulldog chewing Stagbar

When his harness is brought out he runs and hides (I suggest they put this on earlier now and leave it on). He very slowly creeps to the front door, ‘grumbling and begrudgingly’ and they then lift or push him out. He still needs pushing or pulling until he nears the parked car where he makes a rush for the open car door and for safety. At the other end he is very scared of getting out of the car because he will hear traffic. He then makes another dash for safety – the safety of those woods. Whenever they try to take him for a short walk around the block, it is a matter dragging him. As soon as they turn for home, he is pulling like a train to get back.

Because of his refusal to go out – or often to move at all – there is a lot of cajoling and enticing, and I feel this puts added pressure on him in a way. There is anxiety because he may not eat so his meals contain the tastiest of stuff and there is more cajoling. We really do need food and fun to start working on his fears, but at present food has no value. Keeping his meals basic and the tastiest food not available at any other time unless associated with desensitising work is the way to go.

We are starting on a ‘Plan A’. It will take time because he has probably been like this all his short life.

Reggie needs to spend more short spells in his pen – his ‘den’ where he feels the safest – each time he gets too aroused and needs rescuing from himself. This place should be associated with good stuff – with a special box of things to chew and do. In order that he goes in willingly, they will do a training game of ‘in and out of the pen’ using high value rewards. Because he ignores them when they call him (what’s in it for him, after all?), they will do lots of short ‘come’ games using food or fun as incentives. When they want him off the sofa they have to drag or push him, so they will now do ‘up and off’ games. Slowly he should become a bit more motivated and willing – and trusting also as he becomes allowed to make his own choices without any force being used.

Most importantly, they will do doorway games. He is terrified of moving doors and of going through certain doors, particularly the door into the garden. They can play ‘out and In’ games with easy indoor open doorways first, moving on to more difficult doors, gradually building into the process doors moving, opening and closing and so on. Then there is desensitisation to all sorts of sounds and objects in different places to work on. A big task. All family and friends must be taught not to stir him up unnecessarily or reward hyper behaviour with attention so that his basic arousal levels can be kept as low as possible which will help him to cope.

I am really hoping the confidence he will be slowly gathering will snowball, leading to a breakthrough. It could however take many months even for Reggie to actually ask to go out into the garden, let alone to be happily walking down the road, oblivious of traffic.

One month has gone by and I have just called in to see Reggie. I found quite a different dog. He greeted me much more calmly, more interested in sniffing than jumping up or humping me. He did have his over-excited moments later on, but was happy to go to his pen for a short while. He is now going willingly outside into the garden apart from times he wants to play the lady up – he is a teenager after all – but it’s not due to fear, and although he may run in again if there is a loud noise from somewhere, he is coping with a lot more.
The front door holds no fear fo him anymore and in fact he was beside me at the door as I was leaving and a car drove past – Reggie didn’t react at all. His wariness of traffic in general has improved although there is still a long way to go, and we have adjusted the plan for further progress.  Another great bit of progress – because he now is okay going into the garden there is no more toileting in his pen! They take him for walks in places where there are no cars, and are still working on getting him from and back to the car with more desensitisation work with any other cars that may be passing at the time.
I can see an eventual rosy future for Reggie and his walks due to the patience and dedication of his owners.

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 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).