Adjusting to New Environment. Different Routines. Time Alone.

It seems Kirie is finding adjusting to her new life a bit hard. They moved house two months ago.

Adjusting to her new environmentThe seven-year-old Springer Labrador is the sweetest, most gentle dog. It distresses them to see her worried.

One change she finds it hard adjusting to is no longer being able to follow the young couple and their toddler freely around the house. Previously they had lived on one floor. Now they don’t want her upstairs and have gated the stairs.

At the same time as they moved house a couple of months ago, the young lady went back to work. Now they leave Kirie alone for a few hours a couple of days a week.

Things not always what they seem

Continue reading…

Great Progress with Dog Scared of Bangs

Chocolate Labrador is scared of bangsNearly two months ago I visited Poppy, a five-year-old Labrador who seemed constantly haunted by every sound she heard from loud bangs to things we couldn’t even hear ourselves. It probably started with a firework a couple of years ago.

Click here for her story.

Often Poppy would refuse to go out at all and when she did get out most often she would go on strike after a very short distance, or else she would refuse to go in a certain direction. She was so scared of bangs she seemed to be imagining them now.

They have worked very hard with Poppy over the past two months, they had faith and stuck with it, and today I received this update:

“Just thought I would give you a quick update. We have now done a few walks and Poppy has been so much better….. She has heard several bangs in each walk and barely batted an eyelid!! Amazing! They are not overly loud but enough that she would have spooked before. Yesterday on a track some off road motor bikes and a quad bike passed us and she stopped dead and did not want to carry on (she did not shake though I noted), I played running backwards and forwards and doing recall until she ran past the spot where she had stopped and carried on the walk perfectly happy!

It is so nice being able to walk her again and be quite confident that she will actually complete the walk! I am amazed that such small changes have made such a difference! My neighbour even saw her this evening and said she is a different dog! She does still have a wobble occasionally if she hear something like a neighbour bang their bin lid shut outside but she is still very much a different dog!”

It’s a year later and they wanted me to go and see Poppy again, because once more she was refusing to go beyond the driveway. I arrived to find a transformed dog! She was confident and friendly with no sign of any fear at all. Apparently when out she barely reacts to any bangs now. The reluctance to go beyond the driveway is unlikely to be fear. I asked what the lady did. She encourages and entices and gives Poppy a lot of fuss which also puts on the pressure. As it’s getting worse, then this simply isn’t working so I suggested trying the very opposite. Take away all pressure and persuasion.
She starts off happy and pleased to go. The lady will take her on a longish lead and let her make all the choices – no speaking. As soon as Poppy stops the lady will wait and see what happens. If she starts to walk again the lady will follow but if not she will turn around, bring the dog back home and shut her back indoors. Then she will go off again with her little girl but without Poppy.
They will also work on making sure Poppy’s fear of bangs isn’t rekindled now the firework season is upon us, by doing more desensitisation work.

Border Collie Hears Bangs and Drops

Mia is very fortunate to live with such dedicated people who have the time to help her with her fear of bangsMia is a real sweetie. She is an 8-year-old Collie/Shepherd cross and sadly had to be found a new home due to her previous family’s change in circumstances. I could go on and on listing her good points.

However, Mia has a problem and it is getting worse. It started with her hearing a bang shortly after she arrived – a gunshot. She dropped to the ground shaking, and refused to move. Over time she has refused to go to places associated with bangs. Then she refused to go to places not knowingly associated with bangs.  Loud noise as such is no problem. It’s sudden surprise bangs that terrify her.

Now Mia, nine times out of ten, simply refuses to get out of the car. This results in all sorts of ploys from her people like throwing her ball to one another to lure her, enticing her or bribing her. Only sometimes does this work.

Now she even drops down and refuses to move out of their driveway for a walk down the road – unikely to be associated with any bangs.

They feel they have tried absolutely everything. ‘Going on strike’ seems to be growing into a habit, reinforced by so much attention, fuss and concern. Although a dog’s hearing is a great deal more accute than our own, most of the time the people can hear nothing.

Mia is much of the time focussed on her ball, wanting it thrown or kicked. Out on walks there is little sniffing and exploring because of the ball. At home, her clever Collie brain is probably understimulated but she is repeatedly worrying over the ball.

So, they will remove balls and ration ball play, introducing brain and scenting games. They will spend as long as it takes walking her around the house and garden, as many times a day as they can, gradually advancing – out of the door but not attempting to go off the drive. When they do step beyond the drive they will come straight back again. All the time she is walking around calmly she can be earning some of her food.

If they see her slow down as though to go on strike, they will immediately and cheerfully turn around and keep her busy. This is a very good time to bring out that ball! I suggest that if she does drop down, to simply wait it out in silence. When she does eventually move, to turn around and go home without a word – like nothing has happened. Play it down.

Exiting the car will be dealt with in a similar way – broken down into small increments.

Most importantly they will work on the original root of the problem – Mia’s fear of bangs, starting with controlled bangs inside the house. She will learn that bangs are associated with either food or her beloved ball. She will learn to look at her people when she hears a bang.

Mia is very fortunate to live with such dedicated people who have the time to do these things. They love her to bits and recognise that as things are getting worse they need to do things differently in order to help her.

Border Collie’s Life Blighted by Bangs

Border Collie can hear bangs when we can'tPoor Border Collie Sweeper does not feel safe. In some areas of the country automatic bird-scarers and those fired like rockets are going off like fireworks throughout daylight hours. At each bang Sweeper panics.

He can hear them even when we can’t. A dogs hearing can be up to 40 times better than ours.

He came over from Ireland two years ago – he’s now three – and it took them a while to discover the connection between his extreme fearfulness and bangs. He can rally during hours of darkness when bird-scarers are banned and during those few months that are quiet, but it’s only a temporary reprieve – false security. When I was there, with no bang for a while, he gradually became more confident and trusting, came out of hiding and started to play like a young dog should – see on the left. Then there was a bang that we all could clearly hear. Immediately Sweeper ran for cover. He is so brave but keeps getting knocked back! He is a gentle, obedient and sweet dog. No wonder the owners are so distressed for him.Sweeper can relax at home

Asking lots of questions, I dissected the situation in order to work out what we could do. The fact that something must have happened during the first year of his life to cause it is something that is already done, so we devised a plan for moving forward. This involved not so much approaching the problem directly, but working on changing Sweeper’s general stress levels and his confidence in his owners. By their own behaviour they need to convince him that they are ‘his rock’. Until now they had believed it would give him confidence to make all the major decisions in his life when I believe it’s the opposite. He decides when to get the lady out of bed in the morning, when and where he eats, where he sleeps or spends the day, when he is touched and for how long, whether or not he will go outside in the garden and so on.

We can’t merely approach this head on. My reasoning is that a good parent or ‘leader’ would also be the main decision maker – and most importantly the ‘protector’. Sweeper needs to see this as the role of his humans, not himself. His confidence in his owners needs building up. For now, walks need to be only either when it’s dark and there are no bangs, or in town parks where there are no bangs.  If he misses a walk altogether it is much is less harmful to him than panic. In the order of importance to dogs (and to us) food, air and physiological necessities come first, followed closely by keeping safe. Exercise comes down the list.

The problem itself needs to be worked on. How should the owners be reacting when he’s scared at home – let alone when out? How should they deal with it? How can he be desensitised? From a new basis of confidence both in himself and his humans, he will be in a position to move slowly forward.

We have a plan, but it will be ‘slowly slowly catchee monkey’!