Defensive. Unfortunate Incidents. Reactive to Certain Dogs

Poor little Teddy is now on the defensive. He is very small, weighing only about 5kg. The three-year-old is a cross between a Shih Tsu and, surprisingly, a Border Collie – they saw his mother.

The friendly and confident little dog has had two setbacks recently.

Other dogs had never before bothered him.

Two unfortunate incidents

A while ago, the large, friendly and boisterous dog next door had jumped over the fence into Teddy’s garden. He jumped on him, terrifying Teddy. Now Teddy races up and down the fence, boundary barking.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, about to jump into the car, he had an altercation with two larger passing dogs. They jumped on him. They pinned him down and he was bitten on the neck. Teddy screamed and screamed. The young lady says it was one of the most awful experiences of her life.

Since then Teddy has been on the defensive.

They are really worried this may have scarred him for life. Their well-behaved little dog is now tense and reactive. To quote the lady, ‘I’m so upset about it I just done know what to do’.

on the defensive with other dogsWhere before he would walk past a house down the road with barking dogs at the gate, he now barks before he even gets there. He is on the defensive irrespective of whether the dogs are out or not.

Teddy’s defensive behaviour towards certain other dogs is totally understandable as it is all about basic survival and feeling safe. Bad experiences have fallout – a sort of PTSD.  Although the ‘disaster’ itself can be very brief, the effect can take considerable time to recover from. Sometimes it will be permanent unless the dog, like a human, gets specialist help.

Teddy lives in a family of three generations and they all totally adore him! Although they spoil him rotten – he doesn’t actually behave spoilt. They have taken time and trouble training him. He’s beautiful.

Sadly, he has become increasingly territorial and nervous since these incidents.

There is more involved than just dealing with defensive behaviour towards certain other dogs itself. I have broken the work down into about four areas.

A calmer dog

Firstly, if they can keep Teddy as calm as possible it will give him a greater tolerance and he will be less jumpy. This means moderating some of the things they currently do with him that make him wildly excited.

Food

Secondly, key to the whole thing is being able to use food. Food is available all the time to Teddy. His humans share their food with him. He gets chews that are, relative to his size, huge. Food simply has no value as rewards.

This will be a big challenge for one family member in particular!

They will now save the very best food for working with. For instance, if they already add cooked chicken to his meals, what good will cooked chicken be for making him feel better about something he’s scared of? If he’s already full of food and snacks, if he can also help himself to dry food whenever he wants, why would he take any notice of the food they need to use?

Protective

Thirdly, he needs help with his territorial and guarding behaviour which, because the incidents happened so near home, has intensified. They will show him that it’s not his job to protect the garden. This means he shouldn’t for now have free access unless someone is around to help him out.

His humans, the young lady in particular who witnessed the second incident, are themselves nervous. She is not acting like the ‘protector’ that Teddy needs. He will sense everything that she is feeling. She needs to work on acting strong and cool.

Finally, what can they actually do?

What do they do about the big dog next door that jumped over the fence into his garden and terrified him? About the house with the barking dogs that send him into a frenzy of defensive barking when they walk past? What do they do about those dogs and situations they may meet when out?

The work is done using desensitisation and counter-conditioning. This involves keeping within Teddy’s comfort zone – and I would say the young lady’s also. When they near another dog or the garden with barkers, they need to watch him carefully. At the first sign of unease they will increase distance from what is troubling him, before he becomes defensive and starts to bark. It could involve turning around and changing their plans.

This is when food having value becomes vital. Pairing something he should love (food) with something he is uneasy or defensive towards (certain other dogs too close) is the way to go.

Together with the neighbour, they can work on their dogs each side of the now raised fence, using leads, distance and food (or play).

I hope it’s not too long before little Teddy becomes less defensive and can all feel safe on walks and in his own garden again.

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 it can do more harm than good. Click here for help.

 

Food Glorious Food.

An emergency visit to another biting puppy!

Food works wondersThe young couple have had eight-week-old Springer Spaniel puppy for just four days. His flying at them and grabbing legs and clothes as they walk about has reached such a level that they are wearing their wellies in the house now!

Actually this is sensible. So many people with puppies walk about in bare feet, socks or even fluffy sllppers with pom-poms and suffer.  Puppies instinctively chase and play with moving things.

Their trump card is – food!

Until a few days ago Piper was with her litter mates, all eight of them. She would chase, grab and bite. They would let her know, as would her mother, if she was too rough and she would understand.

Unfortunately, we humans are speaking an entirely different language. We think, with NO, whisking the hand away and perhaps grabbing her that we are telling her to stop. To her the play-kill game is simply intensifying.

Piper has now had four days honing her ‘grabbing clothes, chasing feet and biting hands’ skills!

In my first visit we dealt with the biting in exactly the same way as I did with Henry a few days ago.

We used food. We used food, not to reward biting but to reward behaviours that involved not biting.

They will also get a pen so she has a small area in which good things happen and in which she has plenty to chew and destroy when she gets over-excited! A sancturary, too, where she can fall asleep with nobody, children in particular, disturbing her.

I am always amazed how quickly such a young puppy catches on to what a clicker is all about.

I use it simply to say ‘Yes!’. If there is no clicker to hand the word can be used. It’s always followed by food. In a few minutes the puppy is looking for ways in effect to please us – looking for ways to make us say ‘Yes’ with that click. Every small wanted behaviour gets a ‘Yes!’ – like walking beside me without flying at my trousers. Very quickly she realised that she earned attention (and food) for sitting or being still.

Adorable.

The food she needs to eat anyway can be used for something useful. It can be used not only to teach her that the best things happen when she keeps her teeth for her toys and chews, but also to help introduce her to the outside world.

There are countless things outside their house and garden that Piper has yet to meet

The earlier the better.

Cars, lorries, wheelie bins, people with hats, other dogs big and small, bangs, smells – the list is endless. What better than to take her tea out in a pouch and with every new thing she encounters give her a bit of her food. She is small and light. She can be carried.

This way she will develop a happy curiosity and confidence in encountering new things – before the fear period hits at about thirteen weeks. Like a baby at a certain age may suddenly start to cry when a stranger says hello, a puppy can suddenly experience wariness. Unfortunately three months of age coincides with when most puppies venture out for the first time after their injections and it can be too late.

I shall visit again next week to see how they are doing. There are lots of things Puppy Parenting entails, including making sure from the beginning that puppy can be left alone for short periods happily, toilet training and walking beside them around house and garden without a lead initally.

The young couple should soon be able to save their boots for the country walks they will be taking with their wonderful Springer in a few months’ time.

 

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 puppy may be different to the approach I have worked out for piper, and group classes may not always provide all the answers for problems in the home. Finding instructions on the internet or TV can do more harm than good. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with your own puppy. (see my Help page)

 

 

Stubborn or Simply Unmotivated?

They would like their two dogs to be more cooperative, to be less demanding for attention and for English Bulldog Winston, age 3, to stop toileting in the kitchen at night time.

Winston is stubborn

Stubborn English Bulldog

Winston

Or so they feel. For the purpose of my story I will concentrate on Winston as apart from being too excitable, their other dog Dylan, an adorable one year old Pug Jack Russell mix, tends to take his lead from Winston. We can probably make a significant change to Dylan’s excitability by changing away from Bakers Complete dog food. (It’s tasty of course, but who would feed this stuff if they knew what it contains)?

Winston’s taxing behaviours are symptoms of the same thing. I would call it mainly lack of motivation. He’s not being stubborn for the sake of it.

Acting ‘stubborn’ gets results. He is under-stimulated both mentally and physically.

He dislikes his harness being put on. Possibly he’s a little intimidated by how it’s used. Possibly he likes the effort his humans have to make in order to get it on him!

Once the harness is on, he may refuse to go to the door whereupon he is dragged, half-carried by the harness. He is put on a flexilead. Once outside, he may not walk. He will simply stop. Once again he is dragged/carried forward in the hope that he toilets before bedtime.

Why does he do this?

I immediately noticed that the dogs took little notice if they were spoken to or called.

When they call Winston or want him to come or to sit, they repeat it over and over and even then he may ignore them.

How can they motivate Winston to be cooperative?

Food!

I gave him a small bit of food so he knew I might be worth listening to, and then a started to call him over to me. Even when he was lying down he would get up and come to me after just one call. I asked him to sit, once, and waited (trying to stop the family repeating the cue because he wasn’t yet doing anything). He had heard me. Half a minute later Winston sat. I rewarded him.

It was mid evening and already dark. I suggested we rehearsed the bedtime outing to see how stubborn Winston really is.

Because he immediately walks away and lies down when he see the harness, we started there. For now they will still need to approach him, but soon, when he realises that having the harness put on is nice, he will come over when asked I’m sure.

We used grated cheese: the man took harness to him-cheese, put it over his back-cheese, did up one clip-cheese, did up the other clip-cheese.

Now comes the crafty bit! Winston will now expect the whole ritual of trying to get him out to start but we walked away and left him.

We need to abandon that flexilead. This will always make him feel restricted as it has a spring and it’s vital he feels that he has a choice, that he’s free. My lead is 8 feet long. We walked to the door calling him as we passed. He got up and followed us. No stubborn dog yet!

We popped the lead on and walked down the path to the village green opposite. As we walked Winston had praise and, at the man’s side, food.  We walked across the green in the dark. the lead went tight and the man stopped. He patted his leg and called Winston to him. Winston came. Reward.

It’s so important to engage with the dog.

The man asked ‘what do I do if I want to turn around?’. I took the lead, walked away from Winston to the end of the eight feet but keeping it loose still and then called him, sounding exciting. I fed him and praised him and made it fun to be with me. Simple!

We had a lovely short walk. If walks are like this every time, Winston won’t be stubborn for long!

What should the man do if Winston still goes on strike and refuses to move? Call his bluff. If one invitation to move is refused, turn around and go home. No walk for now. Try again later.

One reason the evening walk in particular is so important is Winston’s frequent toileting in the kitchen, both pee and poo. They leave a pad on the floor and he always aims for that which makes me feel he’s not marking and that he simply needs to go. There is no evidence of anxiety of any sort.

I know he is a Bulldog with a Bulldog’s body, but to my mind (and looking at Winston’s ‘waist’), I feel he is fed too much. They will cut down, bearing in mind the rewards he now will be eating. They will also try him on another food. The better the food, the less waste will pass through the dog.

Dylan lying at my feet

Dylan lying at my feet

He may refuse to walk, but he constantly demands attention in various infuriating ways, mostly when the lady has her attention on the baby! He is a bored dog. He’s also a clever dog. They do their best, having a dog walker twice a day but because of his being ‘stubborn’ he is usually left at home and Dylan is taken by himself.

The only exercise Winston gets apart from irregular walks that start by car and which he loves, is spasmodic high-energy football out in the garden with the son which isn’t the right sort of thing for a Bulldog at all.

He needs more brain work, more sniffing, more exploring – and motivation.

I’m sure he will soon be joining Dylan for the two daily walks with the dog walker. The family will do less over-arousing stuff and give him more breed appropriate activities and brain stimulation. They will be working hard on teaching him to come immediately when he’s called.

Life should be a lot better for everyone, particularly the lady who, trying to care for a young baby, has found herself spending time upstairs during the day in order to escape from two demanding dogs.

At the end of our three months together: “Both dogs are much better and we’ve come a long way in our ability to train and work with them. We’ve not had a single kitchen accident from Winston since seeing you, the walking is much better and so is the barking. Evenings are also quieter.”
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 Winston and Dylan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page)

The Value of Food Reward

Bichon Maltese mix would work better for food reward

Doug

The smallest food reward is of value and an incentive to any of my own dogs, but not to the dear little Bichon Maltese mix I went to yesterday. Two-year-old Doug lives with an elderly Bichon, Alfie, and it would be safe to say that food has virtually no value to either of them.

Why? Because it’s freely available 24/7 along with all sorts of treats and extras.

There are reasons why this has come about which have to do with their previous very old dog who was diabetic and needed food left down. In the corner of the room there was a generous bowl of cooked chicken, and a bowl of Bakers Complete.

Before they can do much with Doug’s alarm barking and his reactivity on walks to some other dogs and more recently people as well, they need a currency for not only rewarding him but also desensitising and counter-conditioning him – getting him to associate things which which he’s becoming increasingly reactive with ‘something good’ that Doug really values. That way he will learn to feel good when he sees someone. In Doug’s case the ‘something good’ has to be food.

For this to work they need a dog that’s a bit hungrier. A dog whose meals are not too exciting  will find special stuff a higher currency. At the moment both dogs are like lottery winners being asked to work for a tenner!

Doug is rather a jumpy little dog and his stress levels are conintually topped up with the barking and tension on walks. Just as we know that E-numbers and certain ingredients can encourage hyperactivity and nervousness in our own children, so they can with our dogs. Out goes the Bakers! (If interested in better alternatives for your own dog, here are two websites: http://www.allaboutdogfood.co.uk/  and Best Dog Food Review: http://www.best-dog-food-review.com/67901/67927.html).

Elderly Bichon

Alfie – an old dog now

Cutting the dogs down to regular meals where any unfinished food is immediately lifted is not going to be easy for these people who have come a long way with their little rescue dog who originally came from Ireland. Lavishing their dogs with tasty food and treats is a way they show their love. It will mean putting an end to sharing their own food both during preparation and while eating. Gravy bones and the like should be ditched in favour of tiny bits of real meat or similar – something nutritious – or from their daily food quota. A gravy bone to a Bichon of about 12lbs in weight must be like an adult human eating something well over ten times that size. A large bread roll perhaps?

My inclination is for them to go cold turkey by cutting out all snacks and start by just offering food every couple of hours, lifting it immediately if the dog either shows no interest or walks away, until he realises that he has to eat when the food is about. One secret is to feed very small portions that can easily be cleared. After all, in a ‘pack’ like my own or animals in the wild, if one dog walks away he will never see that food again!

It may be easier and more comfortable for Doug and Alfie’s owners to do this in easy stages, aiming to be down to two ‘proper’ meals and no unearned snacks in a week or two’s time.

Soon food will gain more value. I couldn’t believe it when Doug turned his nose up at the very tasty bit of freeze-dried lamb I offered him.

When food is a workable currency the real work can start.  Doug can be called away from something he’s barking at and he will listen because he knows he will get a food reward. He will be a lot easier to handle on walks if nice walking is rewarded and the sight of a person or other dog is kept at an acceptable distance (to Ralph) and immediately paired with ……..tasty food.

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 Doug. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Discipline – is it Good or Bad?

BEagle drinking from mug on coffee tableWesley left the breeder late. He wasn’t able to interact with the real world until his injections were over at about six months old, so the family have had to acclimatise him to everything from TV to vacuum cleaner and from walking on a lead to encountering traffic. With their love they have done remarkably well with the, now, one-year-old Beagle.

I do love Beagles!

This Beagle has largely been allowed to call the tune. Things have now gone too far and they realise something needs to be done to get him ‘under control’.

What if we tell the dog not to do something and he just looks ar us, basically saying ‘No’!  We have a choice of either backing down or using force – ‘discipline’. Neither works well for us. This young adult dog will now get cross if he doesn’t get his own way. He doesn’t like to be manhandled or grabbed and he delights in stealing and destroying things, guarding his new trophies. This predictably leads to a chase which ends in wrecked objects being forced from a resistant dog.

I had to constantly remember to be careful where I put my pen, my clipboard or my mobile!

They are up and down all evening opening the door to the garden which he may or may not go through. He jumps all over everyone, sometimes encouraged and sometimes told to get down.

He flies over the sofa and over anyone sitting on it, then onto the coffee table, like the people are some sort of pontoon. Saying ‘No’ and chasing him may get him off, but he delights in jumping straight back up again. A great game! They broke something tasty into very small pieces and the son worked at teaching Wesley Up and Off, repeatedly, from chair and sofas. ‘Off’ has to be rewarding – but what is rewarding to Wesley apart from Wesley-generated attention? Petting leaves him cold – he gets too much of that already. Until now food has been his ‘divine right’. I doubt if he’s ever had to work for it, so food has to gain some value.

BEagle standing on the coffee table

BEagle standing on the coffee table

Wesley is fed on demand whenever he goes to the cupboard and paws at it – then he declines to eat.

All sorts of different things are fed to him to in an effort to please him and get hm to eat. Because the cats eat from pouches and he can watch them through the gate, he, too, now has pouches ‘so he thinks he’s eating the same as the cats’. I have suggested moving all the food away from the cupboard and giving him fixed meals only.

He for now should not have any food at all that he doesn’t earn (and no more putting his tongue on their plates while they eat and being given their food while they eat! He will be behind a new gate or in his crate with something of his own to chew).

This will be a lot harder for the lady than it will for Wesley. People can be convinced that their baby will starve and he may not eat much for a couple of days under their terms. Dogs invariably eat up properly within a few days if the food is appropriate and the quantity isn’t too much – and if the humans don’t weaken and mess about.

Wesley’s family will have their work cut out for a while! They have already from the day they got him proved how much patience they have. It’s Day One and they have made a good start. I would expect Wesley to revolt for a few days when he finds that he won’t be getting his own way so readily. They have been prepared for that.

The problem with trying to ‘discipline’ an unruly dogs is that it’s all about preventing the dog from doing unwanted things in a ‘disciplinarian’ sort of way which implies being confrontational. A confrontational approach can generate an aggressive response in a strong-minded dog. ‘Discipline’ does not teach the desired, other, preferred behaviours.

Self-discipline is a different matter.  Dogs learn self-discipline by being allowed to find out what works and what doesn’t.

Five weeks have passed and we are now getting somewhere: ‘I think you will see things are getting better. People are starting to say, “he’s a lot calmer” and “I thought you had a problem, you should see how our dog behaves”. This is good news as we now feel we are getting somewhere, although occasionally he will test us’. 

NB. The exact protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have planned for Wesley, which is why I don’t go into exact detail here of the strategies we will be using. Finding instructions on the internet that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. To get on top of this sort of behaviour you will need help from an experienced professional. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help (see my Get Help page).

Indoors, Outdoors, Jekyll-Hyde

dogs were scary enemies and traffic terrifying.Rosie, the Border Terrier, is the friendliest, softest, most biddable little dog you can imagine. Below on the right she is lying on her back at my feet. Oh – I love her.

The couple have had four-year-old Rosie for about 7 months. She came from a household with several children and lots of people coming and going….but no dogs. She was seldom taken out anywhere.

Without this vital habituation from an early age, other dogs were scary enemies and traffic terrifying. The couple have worked hard at getting her used to traffic – but the ‘other dog’ situation gets worse.

So, we have a dog that is wonderfully socialized to people – old and young, and used to all household things like vacuum cleaners – completely fearless at home, but a dog that is very reactive and scared of other dogs when out.

Put the lead on and open the front door, and Rosie completely changes.  She is on ‘dog-watch’.  She goes mental if she sees another dog.

Soon after she arrived in her new home, little Rosie rushed out of the front door to attack a Labrador that lives opposite. Undaunted by the dog’s size, she apparently had it by the throat. Not good for neighbourly relations!

Like many modern houses, theirs is surrounded by houses with dogs – statistically there is a dog living in every 3 or 4 houses in the UK.  Every morning ‘before-work’ walk is an adventure, avoiding dogs where possible or dragging a frantic lunging, barking Rosie past one dog after another. The lady holding the lead may as well not exist where Rosie is concerned. The difference between the dog indoors and the dog out on walks is like Jekyll and Hyde

The first point to address is the relevance of Rosie’s humans and the second is the value of the currency that will be used to desensitise Rosie to other dogs – food.  Only then can they use food and attention when they find the distance (threshold) at which Rosie knows there is another dog but can tolerate it.  Then the real work begins – that of holding her attention and associating the dogs with good stuff whether it’s food or fun – not  the usual pain in the neck as the lead tightens and anxiety of owner going down the lead.  Someone had advised spraying water at her – disaster! It may temporarily interrupt the behaviour by intimidating her, but long-term be yet one more negative associated with other dogs and eventually she would become accustomed to it anyway and ignore it.Border Terrier is lying on her back at my feet

Both food and attention need to gain much more value at home. Currently they are constantly seeking to give Rosie the food she likes best for her meals where they could be saving the most tasty stuff for dog encounters. They are lavishing the little dog with attention whenever she asks for it when they should be saving some of it for getting her attention when another dog is about.

This will be long-haul. Every unplanned encounter will set things back, but each controlled, properly managed encounter will advance things.

The magic ingredient is patience. We can’t reverse four years in four weeks.

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

 

Reward Based Training For Puppies

Ralph2Like all puppies, Cockerpoo Ralph can change from a manic foot-chasing, hand-nipping whirlwind to a sleeping ball of fluff in an instant.

Sometimes they have their special ‘victim’ – often someone who lavishes the most love on them. Frequently this is the lady, but not always. I have known it to be a child but less often a man.

It can be upsetting when our new ‘baby’ seems to turn on us.

I was with them and Ralph for over three hours but as is often the case I never actually witnessed the behaviour. We preempted it once by giving him something to concentrate on, in this instance learning to touch a hand using a clicker.

Brain exercise can often do more good than physical exercise whRalphich can fire a puppy up even more. He needs pacing – attention, exercise and training projects little and often, using reward based training.

Ralph isn’t too keen on being stroked. He is so soft, silky and fluffy it’s almost impossible to keep ones hands off him. He has started to quietly growl if touched when asleep and when he’s had enough of being stroked.

Here are a few of the basic tips I have given them and which are applicable to a lot of cases.  It would be good if Ralph had to put in some effort for his attention. The lady in particular should refrain from going over to where he is lying and touching him. She should wait until he comes to her. She can call him, but if he says ‘no thanks’ it’s not a good idea to cajole and beg him.

If touching and stroking is given to him on a plate, pushed onto him even, he won’t value it.

They should avoid picking him up and moving him which also makes him cross. If they make use of his food as rewards he will willingly come of his own accord, and isn’t ‘willing’ just what  we want?

Another thing is that a puppy’s environment should start small and gradually open out. Time and again I find a puppy in a large garden chasing human feet and clothes. It’s like the lack of physical boundaries brings out something wild in him. Trying to ‘tire him out’ with chasing and games will only make him worse. Having an anchor point can help when puppy starts to get excited and silly (lead hooked to harness not collar for safety), and he then needs to be occupied with the sort of thing that can calm him down – hunting and foraging for bits of scattered food or something nice to chew.

The question people always want answered is, ‘what do I do when he’s actually biting me’?

Immediately withdraw all attention. Immediately – not after one or two bites. Look away. If it’s a hand you may do a soft squeal and fold your arms (anything louder might be too exciting!).  If it’s feet – freeze. For now it’s sensible to wear clothes that give a bit of protection.

This is only half the story though. He needs to learn what he should do. ‘Food is your Friend’! Reward based training.

As soon as he backs off or stops, silently give him a piece of food. Do it over and over – he will get the message. It may seem like rewarding the biting, but it’s not so. You are rewarding NOT biting.  Add to this distraction. Immediately put something acceptable into his mouth, a chew or a toy.

It all requires forward planning. You need big pockets or a bum bag so you can keep food and toys on your person all the time! It’s not forever. He will grow up all too soon.

Ralph is a clever little dog. He was soon learning using clicker. He also walked nicely in the garden – with none of his usual grabbing and tugging on the lead, demonstrating the power of positive reward based training.

This is yet another instance of the actual problem they wanted help for – nipping and chasing feet – being more than just that.  A holistic approach comes from all angles and enables us to work on the underlying causes. It shows the humans how their own behaviour can affect the puppy’s behaviour, as well as showing the puppy what we do want of him.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ralph, which is why I don’t share all the exact details of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own puppy 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 puppy parenting specific to your own puppy (see my Get Help page).

Walking Nicely

Having lived in a barn till 5 months old, Duke lacked socialisation

Duke

Previously the GSD had been beaten for destroying things when left alone all day

Princess

The last of German Shepherd Princess’ eight puppies went to a carefully checked home a couple of weeks ago and she has now been spayed.

Duke on he right (the puppies’ father) and Princess, both three years old, had the wrong start in life. Duke was in a barn and then not taken out until five months old which left a big gap in his vital socialisation, and Princess  had been left alone for hours and was beaten for destroying things.

The family have made huge headway with both dogs. Unsurprisingly, their main hurdle is socialisation and reactivity to other dogs when out, particularly Duke.

There are five family members who are all involved and adore the dogs, but they have been missing the vital ingredient to real success – positive reinforcement, particularly food.

Although their sole aim in asking for my help is to be able to enjoy walks, this is where I take a holistic approach.

A dog walking nicely is about much more than ‘dog training’.

The relationship with the human is particularly important when a dog is ‘trapped’ on lead. Firstly, the dog needs to find them relevant so that they can get and hold his attention. Secondly, the dog need to trust the human to whom he’s attached not only protect him and themselves, but also to make the decisions when out. If off lead, this also involves coming straight away when called rather than putting the owner somewhere lower on his list of priorities!

In order for the human to be trusted, they must be confident and this is one big problem here in this case.

Ever since Prince had been attacked by another dog, the lady who does much of the walking has been extremely anxious whenever they see one and admits that her reactions could well be part of the problem. Even discussing it made her tense up.

The business of decision-making, trust in the owner or walker and their being ‘relevant’ in order to get and hold a dog’s attention begins at home. If these things are not in place within the safe and distraction-free home environment, seeing the person on the end of the lead as ‘decision-maker and protector’ will not happen when out in the big world in the face of potential threats.

This is why a holistic approach works best. The process isn’t just about walks and other dogs alone.

Princess and Duke will be learning to respond to a whistle which will be throughly ‘charged’ at home – using food.  To teach them to really listen, they will learn to do their usual training tricks for one quiet request – and food. They will learn to give their humans eye contact and hold it upon request, they will learn to come immediately when called at home and they will learn that although they are the alarm system, their humans are ultimately in charge of protection duty.

Associating other dogs with nice stuff (food) will be part of the solution. Perhaps the lady would like to take a bag of her favourite sweets out on walks also and to pop one into her own mouth instead of reacting in panic!

This all takes time of course, but with these basics in place and calm loose lead walking established, these dogs will eventually be in a very different state of mind when meeting other dogs than they are now – as should their lady owner.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Princess and Duke, which is why I don’t share all the exact details of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV 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).

Recall Could Save his Life

RockyCh1If a dog won’t come to you from the other side of the room when called, he’s unlikely to do so when out and chasing off after another dog!

They call him and little Chihuahua Rocky may just stand and look. If he does come he will stop short by several feet and then they will go over to him. Mind you – his humans give him attention whenever he chooses so in a way they are teaching him that he doesn’t need to do things when they choose.

What a great little character Rocky is.

The other day he ran out the front, and ignoring their calls was nearly run over. This prompted them to get in touch with me.

His ‘not coming when called unless he feels like it’ is also a problem out on walks. He is very reactive to other dogs (scared but brave) and will chase after them barking.

WRockyChhat’s the secret? Food! There must be something ‘in it’ for him if they want him to come back.

The tone in which he’s called has to be clear and encouraging too but not repeated over and over. Being given several chances looked like he was being begged to come – and Rocky just turned and walked away!

Whilst he’s fine and friendly meeting new people when out, Rocky is barky and wary when they come into his house.  Although he quickly accepted me, he started barking again when I walked towards the lady. He alerted to every sound outside and does a lot of barking in general.

We worked on rewarding not barking with food – particularly when he alerted having heard something, catching it immediately before the barking started with an ‘okay’ and food.

Where reliable recall is concerned I introduced a little game. The process needs to be done over and over (I usually say a thousand times) before it becomes sufficiently engrained to be a conditioned response which can be relied upon to work when really needed.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Rocky, which is why I don’t share all the exact details of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV 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).

Starting Off Right With a New Puppy

Nine week old Tibetan TerrierYesterday I visited nine-week-old Tibetan Terrier Molly’s new home just a couple of hours after she arrived. The couple want to do all they can to start off the right way with their gorgeous little ball of black fluff.

We were able to work out the best place in the house for her to spend most of her time – somewhere she can easily get to the door leading to the garden and somewhere that her inevitable toileting mishaps won’t spoil the carpet.

We worked out where she would sleep at night-time. They are using a crate. Molly has never been all alone before and we want her to feel secure. It is a lot better to give a puppy company to start with and gradually wean her into independence, rather than to force her into hours of solitude, howling for company. This can easily then lead to panic whenever she is left alone.

From the start she needs to be shown that use of teeth and mouthing isn’t welcome, but in a fair and kind way that a puppy understands and without scolding. She needs to be gently discouraged from jumping up. She is already grabbing trousers and feet, so playing chase games will only encourage this. It’s important she’s not taught through play the very things they don’t want her to do.

I gave them tips I have gathered for successful toilet training including some that people don’t think of, like if the dog is always carried outside she will find it harder to learn to walk to the right place herself; like when praise is lavished on her for ‘going’, she might think this is for the act itself rather than for going outside.

It’s important to give her quiet times in their company without too much fussing and to take no notice of her sometimes so she learns independence and self-confidence; to teach her what behaviours are NOT wanted by showing her instead what IS wanted – ‘come away – good girl – do this instead’.

We discussed the best food for Molly. Cheap food is false economy. Her little body and bones will thrive best on good nutrition, and it can affect her behaviour as well.

Finally, the next few weeks are crucial for introducing her to people, children, cars, bikes, vacuum cleaners and so on in a careful way so that she grows up to be a confident dog. Her early experiences need to be positive ones. They should not let friends and family overwhelm her with lots of excited noise, too much picking up and especially teasing. They should keep calm, allow her to sniff them and explore them, and if they have to pick her up to do so gently. Don’t allow children to get too excited or noisy.

In a couple of weeks I shall be going again.

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