Won’t Come When Called. She Freelances.

Lily won’t come when called.

The word here is Won’t. Lily hears. Lily understands. Lily decides not to.

She has been taken to special recall classes and was a star pupil in that environment.

She won't come when calledEighteen month old cream German Shepherd Lily and was a joy to meet. She had the ideal start in life. Her mother and father were both friendly family pets so she has inherited great genes temperamentally.

I don’t see a fair example of dogs, particularly German Shepherds, because I go to help sort out problems. It’s was real treat to be welcomed so happily.

The problem with Lily is that she won’t come when called.

Lily has got out of the front door. She then ran from garden to garden as the lady called her frantically. She sat in the middle of the road and just looked at her. Eventually a neighbour caught her.

Chasing cows.

What brought this to a head is that recently Lily got into a field full of cows and was chasing and barking at them. What a nightmare! She had run off, out of the field they were in and into a cow field. The lady, uselessly, was running after her, shouting for her to come back.

The lady loves to see her beautiful young dog running freely but that can no longer be possible if she won’t come when called. People with children can be intimidated as can someone with a small or nervous dog when a large dog runs up to them, barking.

So long as she’s off lead she loves other dogs. On lead, she will lunge and bark.

The fact Lily won’t come when called on walks will be part of a bigger picture. I did a bit of digging (something Lily likes to do but that’s another story!).

Lily won’t come when called in from the garden.

When out in the garden, particularly at bed time, young Lily won’t come in until she is ready. She may even enjoy refusing – playing games, teasing.

If she won’t come in from the garden when called, then there is little hope that she will come away from a rabbit running towards a road when they are out.

That Lily often won’t come when called isn’t due to lack of ‘training’. Good recall is about motivation and habit. Lily is constantly rehearsing not coming when called. She understands what is wanted and then decides to comply when she is ready.

When off lead, Lily may sometimes chase off people on bikes, people with dogs on lead or children – or cows. She is rehearsing this same behaviour at home by barking at people passing her garden fence. It works and the people go.

Despite training classes, Lily is such a puller that the lady can’t cope without using a Gentle Leader head halter.

She showed me what Lily does when she picks it up. The dog runs away from it. She hates it. This in itself is an eye-opener. It’s like she is being called for punishment.

Lily doesn’t display the usual doggy joy preceding a walk.

She walks down the street, restrained by something that is uncomfortable and makes her feel trapped. Stress builds in both her and the lady. Now she may react to a dog, something she never does if off lead and the dog is free too. She is held tight by the nose. More stress.

Then….off lead at last…she has freedom!

She runs. She plays with other dogs.

Then lady calls her. She won’t come back.

If I were Lily I wouldn’t want to come back to have the leash attached to that head halter again.

Lily will be introduced to a Perfect Fit harness and learn to walk nicely on a loose and longish lead – in total comfort. With a little work, both will enjoy walks a lot more.

At home Lily must lose her freedom in the garden. No more rehearsing the unwanted behaviour. She can be out on a long line (or retractable lead to avoid tangling) so recall is no longer optional. The lady will call her in immediately each time she barks.

Lily will be paid for coming. She will always be rewarded with food as she steps over the threshold.

Lily simply must lose opportunity to rehearse chasing dogs away and ignoring being called in – for a some time.

Indoors the lady has work to do too. She will repeatedly call Lily and reward her, ‘Lily Come’. Lily can earn some of her food. She can be ‘programmed’ to come to a whistle which hasn’t a history of being ignored, with constant repetition and reward.

In open spaces the long line will be attached to the harness so she can have partial freedom. Now the recall work can really begin – building on what they are already doing at home. Lots of repetition and lots of reinforcement.

To come back when called must be worthwhile to Lily.

Being called should never herald ‘time to go home’, or ‘I see another dog’. It must be random as can the reward. It need not always be food.

Lily will lose the option to decide ‘no, I won’t come when called’, because she will be on the line.

Importantly, her brain and her life will be enriched in every way possible with stimulating activities to compensate for what she lacks in off-lead freedom.

Dogs that freelance can cause real problems for other people, dogs, and other animals. We do things the wrong way around. We give our puppies freedom (puppies tend to stay close), and as they become teenagers, too late we then try to rein them in!

It’s so much better to give puppy very little freedom and gradually introduce more distance in a controlled way, reinforcing recall constantly. We are prepared for some teenage rebellion and having to reintroduce temporary restrictions! Lily is still an adolescent too.

Recall is recall. Recall is not ‘come when you are ready’.

Reliable recall is the key to freedom.

Feels Unsafe Around Other Dogs

Roots is a delightful and friendly three year old Collie/Husky cross – with stunning pale eyes outlined in black.feels unsafe around other dogs She had to be removed from her mother at six weeks old and they have worked very hard with her. She was the star of her puppy obedience classes.

Increasingly reactive to other dogs

However, as time has gone by and despite their efforts, she has developed more and more reactivity to other dogs, This is any dog in fact that shows any reaction to her whatsoever, friendly or otherwise, particularly if she is on lead.

She’s okay with dogs that totally ignore her and with some dogs when she is off lead. Otherwise her hackles rise, she lunges and if she could she would attack. The lady has been bitten on the leg for being in the way. Roots feels unsafe.

Changing how Roots feels about walks

The whole walk scenario needs to be changed. In order to give better control she now wears a ‘Gentle Leader’. As soon as she sees it come out, she backs away.

The lead that is attached is a retractable lead which by its very nature is always tight. So, Roots walks down the road, held tight beside them on this contraption and one can imagine how it must be for her when they see another dog.

No wonder, trapped, she feels unsafe. The lead will tighten. It will be uncomfortable on her face – especially if she lunges and is dragged past.

This is a clear case of the presence of another dog being associated with all the wrong things. Owner tension, discomfort, and from the young man an angry reaction when she acts in what is to her, self-defence – going for the other dog before it gets her. She simply feels unsafe.

Cat-watch

Because Roots is okay with some dogs, this situation isn’t as bad as it may seem. Some days she will already be more wound up than others and therefore more reactive.

From the moment she leaves the house she’s on ‘cat-watch’ – cats really hype her up. This needs to be tackled. She needs to be stirred up less at home so she is in a calmer state of mind in general; she needs to be comfortable in the equipment used and her walker needs to be relaxed and in control. Roots needs to associate other dogs with nice stuff and not with discomfort, panic or anger.

I sometimes wonder why that head halter is called a ‘Gentle Leader’. As people mainly use them to physically pevent dogs from pulling there isn’t much ‘Gentle’ about it – and ‘Leader’? Jerking the lead on a head collar is hardly leading, is it.

Malinois/Collie

Malinois Collie crossThis is beautiful Lexy. She is a cross between a Malinois and a Collie. Lexy is eight years old and until the beginning of this year had lived all her life since she was a puppy with a very elderly couple until they could manage her no longer. They did well with her but they were unable to take her out for walks.

Lexy is a very polite dog if a little timid. Once her lead is brought out however, she becomes very excited, and once they are out of the door she pulls down the road to the extent her new gentleman owner, a big strong man, now has an injured shoulder. They have resorted to a Gentle Leader head collar which Lexy doesn’t like at all.

When she sees other dogs she may be playful or she may be fear aggressive. She may freeze and refuse to go further or she may lunge towards them. There is no telling what she will do though it does seems that her reactivity is mainly directed towards female dogs. Off lead she will mix with a group of dogs in an excited manner, rounding them up and jumping on them inappropriately. In my mind she does very well considering that for the majority of her eight years she never had interraction with other dogs on walks.

Her new owners are now trying to make up for all those years without walks with long walks daily. I am persuading them that, for a few days or a couple of weeks at most, no long walks will do her no harm while they go back to basics and start all over again with the lead walking, several times a day, for just a few minutes at a time near home. I demonstrated my usual technique with Lexy and she immediately followed me about on a loose lead with no trouble at all – so it will be with the owners when they get the knack!

Owners can always unlearn their old ways, and an older dog is never too old to teach new tricks,

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

Little Staffie

Sophie is a perfect example of how wrong is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier’s reputation for aggression. It is the owners, not the dogs.  I have been to a good number of Staffies, and in only a very few cases was aggession involved, mostly between siblings of the same sex.

Sophie was rescued by Wood Green Animal Shelter and went to live with her new family at the age of fourteen weeks – she’s now a year and a half old and still quite small. She is very restless indeed. She rarely settles. She flies all over people, leaps right over the chairs, she chases her tail, licks people compulsively and chews her feet. She spends a lot of time pacing about and whining. She also has a skin condition which I’m sure is made worse by her general stress levels.

When I was there she settled a lot sooner than usual when people come to the house because I insisted everyone, including the two children, took no notice of her until she had relaxed – which took a long time. Of course, one touch or word, or even eye contact and off she went again – patrolling, whining, pacing, licking, chewing.

Sophie is a mix of playful and submissive with other dogs on walks, though tends to get excited and jump up at people. She pulls so much she has to wear a Gentle Leader which she hates. After most of my recent cases, it is nice to go to a dog that has no aggression issues towards other dogs – and this a Staffordshire Bull Terrier!

Walks, given because they are meant to calm her down, are having the reverse effect. When she gets home it takes her a long time to unwind – she is even more manic than when she started out. This is a clear indication that walks, as they are now, are doing her no good at all. It’s a case of ‘less is more’ for the time being.

Sophie has a lovely home with a lady who is conscientious in trying to do the right thing, and two helpful children.  This family would like another Staffie puppy in the fulness of time, but agree they must get Sophie ‘fixed’ first, and then they will know how to get things right with a new puppy from day one.

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

Comical Boxers

Comical BoxersBoxers Ollie and Tess are real characters. Their dobs of black on white give them a comical expression, Ollie in particular.  Brother and sister, they were rescued together a couple of years ago. Tess is a much calmer character, more confident, while Ollie is more reactive, more attention seeking and inclined to bark and jump up.

Their owners are keen walkers who would love to enjoy walking with their dogs, but they are becoming increasingly unhappy about Ollie’s behaviour on walks. Where Tess is friendly towards dogs and people, Ollie is very defensive. He will bark, lunge, and if he can get to another dog he will jump on it and make a lot of threatening noise. He’s not yet actually done any damage. He also has a habit, when another dog is nearby, of lying down and refusing to budge until the dog is nearly on top of him – and then he will lunge. He is a heavy dog. A Gentle Leader head collar is used, but that does not give the control and Ollie’s face just isn’t really the right shape for it.

So, once again, it’s a question of a dog being uncomfortable, stressed, defensive and scared around other dogs. Like with most of the other dogs I go to, the owners have done what most people traditionally think is the right thing to do. It’s what some of the TV programmes say. To hold on tightly and to keep going. To correct with the lead. If this hasn’t worked for a couple of years, if things are actually getting worse, then something different needs to be done.  There is a quote I read somewhere, ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you will get what you’ve always gotten’.

A dog that is hyped up from the start of the walk, who is uncomfortable due to tight lead on a collar or head collar and whose owner is tense, isn’t going to be in any right state of mind to encounter another dog. So, what would a wise and kind leader do in the circumstances?

If you live within my area, would you like me to help you too?

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