Dog Stares, Transfixed by the Cat

When Johnny sees the cat he is transfixed – they call it trance-like.When Johnny sees the cat he is transfixed

Although the ultimate aim is for dog and cat to live happily together – the cat is confident and placid fortunately – there is a lot of groundwork to do first. The matter can’t simply be approached head-on because he has other issues which I’m sure are associated.

Johnny is a German Shepherd crossed with something – and from his behaviour I would say there is Border Collie in there. He is ten years old. About three years ago his owner moved in with a lady and her cat, and despite numerous efforts and trying different things, the two animals have to be kept apart.

Johnny likes to keep everyone together, rounded up so to speak. If someone goes out of the room he stresses and barks. When I arrived it was strange. He barked at me, but when the lady went out to the kitchen he turned and barked at her instead, like he was upset that she had disappeared. When she came back and we were all together, he went back to barking at me. He howls and yelps when a guest leaves. He does the same thing when one of the couple goes out – but, strangely, is much more accepting when they both go out together and he’s all alone.

I am sure his attitude towards the cat has something to do with his needing everyone to be together, under his eye. A cat is simply too independent. If she moves he will chase. He is transfixed by the cat.

Before they can make any headway with the cat problem they need to do some groundwork on Johnny relaxing his herding, lowering his stress levels in every way they can and on teaching him to give them his full attention.

Actual work on Johnny when the cat is about will start very slowly with the cat safely contained. Johnny’s owner already has been very successful with desensitising him to fireworks using food (they live in an area where bangs go off at all sorts of times) and now whenever he hears a bang he looks to her for food. He loves bangs! Once everything else is in place, the same sort of positive approach, along with patience, will bring success with the cat also.

I am sure that they will be able to teach their old dog new tricks and the two animals will ultimately be occupying the same room in harmony.

This is the situation six weeks later. they are taking their time and have now sowed all the right seeds for the final step – dog and cat being freely together: ‘We are delighted that he demonstrated ‘stay’ with me running around him in both our parents’ gardens. This is quite significant for us because his behaviour sometimes seems linked to location. Needless to say, they were very impressed! We have also had several comments on how much calmer he is now.
We have also been able to start using ‘come away’ as a means to get his attention when out and about. He picked this up in the house very quickly but another rule seemed to apply outside. We practise it every time he sees a cat outside whilst on walks and reward as soon as he looks away.
In a strange turn of events, our cat seems to have gained confidence and seems more interested in him. She has been sleeping on his bed when he is upstairs and she is downstairs (she would previously walk around it), will now go into the bedroom he has been in and have a good look around, and has a new interest in sniffing anything belonging to him, such as his raincoat. Could it be she is picking up on less stress in the household and has a new confidence because of it? We now feel ready to start working on re-introducing them but are heartened by the changes in both their behaviours.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Johnny, 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

External Control, No Self-Control

Monty, a magnificent 20-month-old German Shepherd/Husky/Malamute mixControlled in a dominant, ‘Alpha’ fashion, Monty gets rebellious and angry – and sometimes just a little scared.

He is a magnificent 20-month-old German Shepherd/Husky/Malamute mix. He is a strong dog both physically and mentally.

Doing his best to have his dog under control, the young male owner has been influenced by Cesar Milan, whose extensive TV coverage gives these methods some sort of authenticity. It’s not really suited to the young man’s own personality, but he’s doing what he can to be the ‘dominant Alpha’. Commands are harsh, the shouted word No is frequent and Monty is physically made to submit at times.

The dog isn’t taught what IS required of him and things are getting worse. He now has bitten the father so badly he ended up in hospital simply because the man was doing his best to ‘show who is boss’. In another situation where he ran off with the towel and the mother tried to get it off him, he bit her badly on the leg.

This is the typical and unnecessary fallout of using force and punishment-based methods. This young dog gets all his attention through doing ‘bad’ things.  He gets no reinforcement from being quiet and calm.

The young  owner isn’t happy with his own methods but just didn’t know what else to do. He is taking his responsibilities as a dog owner seriously but has to keep ramping up his own harshness as the dog becomes immune. It totally disempowers weaker members of the family who are unable to do this.

There is just one thing Monty was taught from the start using rewards and that is to go in his crate. It is now the one thing that he does happily and willingly.

Monty isn’t a vicious dog. He is a wilful and frustrated dog that doesn’t have understandable boundaries. Good behaviour, like lying down quietly, not jumping on people, not barking because people are talking and much more, simply isn’t acknowledged.

In my time there we clicked and treated every ‘good’ thing he did. We endured lots of barking in order to reward him when he stopped. When he lay down we rewarded him. When he sighed and relaxed we rewarded him. When he put his feet on the side we waited till they were on the floor and promptly clicked and rewarded him.

We need to turn things on their head – to get the humans thinking completely differently. To start with they will concentrate on’ accentuating the positive’ as the song says and by not inviting confrontation. I want them to drop the word ‘No’. This is going to take time and I hope everyone will be consistent, patient and resist shouting. Monty must be able to work things out for himself.

As our other strategies gradually fall into place, Monty should become a dog with good self-control with absolutely no need to bite anyone again.

Here is a brilliant clip demonstrating the total confusion and frustration that using ‘no’ instead of ‘yes’ can cause.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Monty, 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 dog can do more harm than good – as has happened in this case. 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 dogs (see my Get Help page).

Molly Panics When Left Alone

Little is known about German Shepherd Cross Molly’s past. She has been in the rescue centre for some months and kennelled with the company of another dog; it is evident she has had puppies.

She is a young dog.

Panics when man is out of sight

panics when left alone

Molly is finding it hard to settle into her new home and panics when her new gentleman owner disappears from her sight. She goes frantic.

In the four days they have had her, the man has been unable to leave her alone at night. Molly panics. She tries to break the door down to get to him. He doesn’t want her upstairs in the bedroom so he is sleeping downstairs in with her.

The lady is not well, and her anxiety is affecting Molly, I feel. It’s quite a clear example of how a dog picks up on the emotions of her humans. The man is calm. The lady is anxious.

Over the past few days things have been getting worse instead of better. The man even leaving the room but especially the house causes Molly great distress, she panics. The lady’s comfort and concern just doesn’t help.

In my photo Molly is still panting and stressed from the man having walked out of the front door for a minute to show me what happens.

Prisoner in his house.

The poor man is a prisoner in the house! To start with I have suggested that he doesn’t let Molly follow him around the house – starting with short absences only.

During the day lots of comings and goings are needed – not only from the room but also out of the front or back door. Absences of a few seconds to a minute only. Molly needs to realise that he man always comes back. The lady will be in the room so Molly won’t be all alone yet.

The lady can help more if she does things differently. At present she so anxious for Molly that she comforts and fusses her in her distress. This is compounding the matter. I have suggested she turns on TV or to reads a book, that she makes nothing of the man’s absence. Act like it’s normal.

It is hard for her because she is a very kind lady and she’s unwell. She adores the dog already and so badly wants to bond with her and help her.

Molly is not accustomed to being the centre of so much attention and love. From her body language I could sense that it’s a bit too much pressure on her. It’s like there are too many expectations of her. Possibly her attachment to the man is because he is more confident and doesn’t put demands upon her so she feels safe with him.

Who knows what baggage she has brought with her?

I’m not sure that dog and this couple are a good match. They are doing their very best.

Ten days later: Unfortunately this story doesn’t have a happy ending. The poor gentleman can’t cope with looking after the house and his sick wife, as well as a dog that needs a lot of time and effort spent on her. The emotionally-charged atmosphere around the lady was just too much for Molly, and due to her weakness she couldn’t physically cope when necessary. My contract with an owner is to help them in any way I can for as long as they need me. Sadly in this case it meant accompanying the man and Molly back to the re-homing kennels, giving them both moral support and helping ease his pain by reassuring him that he was doing the right thing for Molly. On the plus side, Molly seemed pleased to be back! For her it was like she had spent a fortnight away – boarding kennels in reverse! As I held her lead she was quite eager to go through gate to the kennel area with the barking dogs where she had spent so much time.
At least she now has some credentials other than having been found as a starving stray wandering the streets. They now know that she is house trained and well-mannered indoors and that she is friendly with visitors. She needs confident humans who won’t make too much fuss of her while they give her time to settle in. They also know that she needs company – possibly that of another dog. She is very re-homeable and will make a brilliant family pet.
It was sad watching the poor man handing over his beautiful black dog who was still wearing the new red collar he’d bought for her, along with her possessions including a large Stagbar. They had loved her but were just not the right home for her; nor was she the right dog for them. It happens.

From Stray to Kennels to New Home

Leo still for just long enough to take this photoWhen getting a new dog, people sometimes have very high expectations based on their memories of their previous elderly dog. They may remember a placid dog that doesn’t pull on lead and that will come back when called.

Leo is about eleven months old, and a German Shepherd crossed with something else.  He was found as a stray and has spent a couple of months in rescue kennels. A week or so ago he was adopted by his new family. He has a lot of adjusting to do. He is easily aroused and has a great deal of pent-up stress. If people come and go he will start to spin and tail chase, and often does this seemingly for no reason at all.

He is very reactive to hearing dogs barking in the neighbourhood and may go quite frantic.

The main problem the owners are having is that he pulls so much on lead he nearly chokes himself and, when let of, he shoots off like a ball from a canon, charging into the distance. His totally ignores them when they try to call him back, turning up in his own good time.

Having freelanced as a stray, I don’t suppose he sees any reason why he should not be doing his own thing. It’s a big ask for him to have reliable recall straight away. I feel that because of the stress built up in him, and the stressful manner of walks – being yanked back with painful neck and a frustrated and cross owner, when he’s let off lead he is FREE to run off the stress. Built up stress has to overflow somehow, whether it is by charging about, spinning or chewing obsessively.

All the time I was there, for three hours, he was constantly busy. It started with demanding ball play. I suggested they swapped the ball for his bone, and he chewed it obsessively for the rest of the evening, not even stopping when we put a harness on him to demonstrate the kind with a D-ring on the chest.

Like so many, the people were expecting a dog to simply fall into their lives. A dog to take for long walks off lead and who lies peacefully with them in the evenings. They didn’t really bargain for the hard work Leo is going to take. By removing as much stress as possible and not allowing people to hype him up in play especially, by  following my instructions for walking a dog on a loose lead and actively working at recall, they will resolve these problems in time. Leo will not feel the need to charge off when he is calmer. He is an adolescent at present, so he should settle down a bit anyway as he gets older.

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