Won’t walk on shiny floor. Slippery floor phobia.

What a joy to meet these three dogs.

Ten-week-old Jack Russell Ozzy was asleep in his crate. Milo, 7 – a Patterdale Border Terrier mix – greeted me politely at the door.

Labrador Scooby was in the open kitchen doorway, tail wagging in a friendly fashion.

An invisible barrier?

won't walk on shiny floorWhy wouldn’t he come out to greet me? One might think there was an invisible gate or electric fence, but no.

Outside the kitchen was the shiny floor leading to the front door and the sitting room. He won’t step on it.

Scooby is scared of shiny floors of all kinds.

To get him down the passage with its shiny floor to the sitting room,  he sits on a sheet and pull him!

They don’t know all Scooby’s past history, but he has been like this for the while they have had him. Now six, he had two previous homes. Possibly in the past he has injured himself on a shiny floor.  Apparently when younger he had hip problems – the vet says he’s okay now.

It’s not just the shiny floor in their own hallway. Scooby’s phobia of a shiny floor restricts what they can do. They have to carry the big dog through the vet waiting room and put him on the table. They like to take their well-behaved dogs out with them, but cafes and pubs may have a shiny floors.

So, the friendly dog is by himself in the kitchen much of the time.

How are we going to get him over his shiny floor phobia?

Like most Labradors, Scooby is very food-motivated.

They will begin with getting a new, rubber-backed runner (it’s strange how when one is living in a situation we don’t see obvious solutions). They will put this down in the passage for a few days so that he becomes accustomed to being able to walk freely from kitchen to sitting room with the other dogs.

Then then will make a small gap between the kitchen and the new mat and work with him. When they stop working, they will close the gap again.

At a distance where he has to reach forward but not so great he has to move his feet, they will wipe peanut butter on the floor. He will have to stretch his neck a bit to lick it up.

Bit by bit, over several days, they will slowly increase the gap between kitchen and new mat. The peanut butter will be just a bit too far to reach without one of his front feet going on the shiny floor.

They should go no further for a while until he looks very comfortable with this.

Bit by bit, an inch at a time

Bit by bit, they will put the peanut butter on the shiny floor, inching a bit further away from the kitchen doorway, increasing the gap between rug and kitchen.

All the time they will close the gap when not working on it. They must at all costs avoid going too far so Scooby gives up and goes back into the kitchen.

While they are working on his phobia and even when he has got over it, they should leave the new rug in place. Just in case. If Scooby slips or slides and suffers any hip pain, that could be disastrous.

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

She Barks at People Despite Being Well Trained

Goldie probably already had the seeds of timidity before they got her as a young puppy. If she had encountered many more people sufficiently early it would have helped, but they were caught in that trap of having to wait for vaccinations before taking her out (another matter I frequently write about). She’s now fourteen months old.

She barks at people.

Goldie barks at certain people when out, not everyone. She barks at people she doesn’t know who come into her she barks at peoplehouse.

One thing is for certain, if they had not been the dedicated owners they are, putting in so much love and training, the small gun dog Golden Labrador could now be a great deal worse.

It didn’t take her long to stop barking at me. It was a treat to visit such an gentle, friendly and well-trained dog.

Goldie has a lovely life, just tarnished by her fearfulness of certain people in certain situations.

Training alone doesn’t address this fear.

When out she will walk nicely, looking up and engaging with whoever is holding the lead. Keeping and holding attention is very valuable for managing situations but it it doesn’t get her to feel differently about an advancing person. It merely takes her attention away from them.

(It’s common for dogs to feel uneasy when approached. See the pulse project).

For what we want to achieve, Goldie needs to change how she feels. Distracting her by getting her to look at them instead is avoidance. It’s like telling a child who has seen a masked man at the window to pay attention to his Xbox.

Emotions drive behaviour. She barks at certain people. This is driven by fear.

To help to address this fear, she needs to register the person. Direct approaches are intimidating so they should always arc. They should keep at a distance where Goldie is aware but not reacting.

Looking at the person will then trigger goodies. Food can rain down.

Training her to keep attention on the handler is perfect if caught unprepared or too close, but it won’t change how Goldie feels. It’s merely management. They want to be able to relax and trust her to react calmly by herself. She won’t unless she loses her fear.

People invading her space.

Another responsibility of the owner is to protect their dog from unwelcome attention – who doesn’t want to touch a beautiful Labrador, after all. A yellow ‘I Need Space’ vest should help greatly.

Off-lead Goldie is less likely to react to an approaching person as is usually the case. She will have freedom to increase distance, something she doesn’t have when someone comes to the door of her house. At home the stranger is walking directly towards her.

They could of course train her to settle on a mat away from the door when someone comes in, but this is a big ask when she’s scared and reacts with barking rather than hiding.

Training will have its place later. For now she should be kept away from the door when someone arrives. Standing people are more threatening, so she can join them when the person is sitting down. They can then work on the person ‘triggering goodies’. It worked well with me.

They can desensitise her to the knocker too. Starting with Goldie at the door beside them and letting her see them knock whilst dropping food. They can do various kinds of knocks: short, multiple, loud and soft. Then can then have a family member the other side of the door knocking while another feeds her inside. Gradually they can increase distance and later make the knocks unpredictable. This will need hundreds of repetitions over a period of time.

When she eventually becomes more confident and relaxed, training her to go and lie on her bed away from the door when there is a knock on the door would be reasonable.

One last thing. They would like to take her places like the pub or a cafe without fearing she may suddenly have a bout of aggressive-sounding barking when a person approaches.

Goldie should end up with the ideal mix. Emotional stability and great training.

From an email six weeks later: I meant to call you yesterday but suddenly it was way too late. just to say THANKS!!! …..she is improving and I’m confident there’s more improvement to come. Just wanted to say thanks and I wish we’d found you sooner – perhaps our journey now would have been easier had we started sooner!!
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 Goldie and I’ve not gone fully 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, particularly where fear issues of any kind are concerned. 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 (click here to see my Help page)

Deaf Dog, Old Dog, New Tricks

Golden Labrador Sadie is thirteen years old and the only problems she now has are physical. She used to be anxious and jumpy around loud or sudden noises, but her loss of hearing has taken care of that.

Deaf dog’s quality of life to be the best possible.

The nearly deaf dog is adored by her lady owner who wants to give her what she considers to be the very best quality of life right to the end. She wants to enrich her life as much as she can bearing in mind Sadie’s physical restrictions. Sadie is friendly and interested despite various health problems and medication. She is massaged daily and also has two swims a day which are keeping her relatively mobile.

Deaf dogThe main issue is her deafness. Not being able to get her attention is getting in the way of communication between the lady and her dog.

The lady would also like Sadie to come to her when asked. It could keep her safe.

‘Eye contact’ and ‘coming when called’ were never particularly successful even when Sadie had full use of her ears! I put this down to lack of motivation.

So now the deaf dog can learn a new prompt that makes coming to the lady very motivating indeed. It is vital that any work should be rewarding and fun for both her and for her owner.

Sadie is never on lead. There is no need because she doesn’t go very far and she’s very slow. The old dog chooses where she wants to go and the lady follows which is absolutely fine. Occasionally she may go after a scent, probably where a cat has been, and then may panic because she thinks she is lost.

A little brain work could be good for Sadie – particularly now physical movement is no longer so easy. Sessions should be very short and should be terminated immediately Sadie shows any reluctance or tiredness.

The overriding thing is that Sadie should enjoy it.

She must choose to engage in the gentle training – we will call it ‘play session’ – and she must also have the choice to stop at any time.

It should be with full regard to Sadie’s physical comfort. She spends a lot of time lying down – more comfortable for her than sitting – and the groundwork can be done while she’s down. The other work will be done when she is already standing up and active. She won’t be encouraged to get up unless standing is something she has herself offered.

Sadie, at her advanced age, will be introduced to the idea of earning food. She is a Labrador so this shouldn’t be too hard, particularly if these ‘play’ sessions are before meals!

First the lady will work on getting eye contact from Sadie – using a very gentle remote-control vibration. This will be a very slow and gradual process starting with the deaf dog being introduced to the smell and look of the equipment – using constant food reinforcement. Next it will be just held against her so she can gently feel the buzz and paired with food until she is actively looking for food when she feels the vibration, leading eventually to giving eye contact.

I shan’t go into the process in detail here because this isn’t a ‘how to’ manual for other dogs. What will work best for Sadie may not be appropriate for another dog with perhaps a different temperament but here are some general instructions on how to introduce a vibrating collar. We are going to experiment with the gently vibrating box stitched against her body in a soft harness – somewhere less sensitive than her neck. We will see.

When the lady reliably gets Sadie’s attention and eye contact, what next?

It seems the useful thing is for Sadie to come when ‘called’. For this the lady will teach her to come and touch her nose on an outstretched hand. It will be nice and clear from a short distance.

Again, it will be a slow and gradual process using the clicker technique (a gentle finger-flick ‘yes’ on the dog instead of a click which she wouldn’t hear. A light flash may have been another way of telling her ‘yes’ but I have reasons not to use that).

Over time and only if it’s going well, the lady can put the two new skills together – the remote vibration for attention and the hand out to get her to come to her.

They can then progress outside into the garden. She can then try it when Sadie is walking ahead of her, off lead, as she always does.

With lots of rewards, keeping sessions short, only expecting Sadie to move when she’s up and active anyway, they will hopefully have created a new game appropriate to Sadie’s twilight life stage.

 

Eating Plaster off the Walls, but Why?

Five year old Golden Labrador Milly has to be just about as near the perfect dog any family could wish for. She is sweet and gentle with their four-year-old boy who, thanks to his parents, treats her with unusual respect for such a young child. She is perfect apart from just one thing.

Eating plaster.

Milly is making holes in the walls.

The young family moved into a brand new house six months ago. There are two holes each side of the front door, one by the back door and damage to the plaster in various rooms both upstairs and downstairs.

Why is a dog that seems so happy and well-adjusted eating plaster?

My detective work could only deduce that it could be any or all of several possible reasons.

My first suspicion before arriving was that it could be something like calcium lacking in Milly’s diet. As soon as I entered the kitchen I saw a bowl of Bakers Complete on the floor.

This immediately gave weight to my first thoughts about nutrition. A good food should have the required amount of everything in it. Bakers for all it’s pretty colours and extra flavouring, is rubbish.

The first time Milly started eating plaster was the day their first baby was born. It would be safe to assume that it was due to stress. She had been left at home alone a lot longer than usual while everyone was at the hospital. It was a one-off.

Then a couple of years elapsed until at a BBQ Milly swallowed what I think was a bamboo skewer. It punctured both her intenstines; she was in vet hospital for days and nearly died. This was undoubtedly a huge upset for everyone.

The eating plaster habit then began.

On the day of their new baby’s arrival, five weeks ago, the plaster eating escalated.

All but one of the incidents occurred on occasions when Milly had been left alone for eight hours – and it didn’t happen every time. Some days it was after she’d had a long morning walk with lots of ball play but other days she has no walk at all. It’s possible that either too much arousal on walks (ball throwing) or no walk at all on the day of the chewing or the previous day may be a factor also.

Possibly she has mild separation issues when left for hours? Could it be boredom? Taking a video could be difficult as she roams the house although they will now restrict her to part of downstairs. Frustration at being shut in one place may cause more trouble, so we won’t risk it.

result of dog eating plaster

Milly’s does have one other fault. She pulls on lead. The young lady is unable to walk her whilst carrying or pushing the baby (something we are addressing). For Milly to be healthy in both mind and body she does need a daily outing and some days walks are missed. I say ‘outing’ because she needs time outside to do dog things. She doesn’t need to be stirred up with too much ball-chasing.

Milly is a sensitive dog and will pick up emotions from her humans who have been through a lot of change recently. Stress builds up and perhaps eating plaster ‘does the job’ for Milly.

Being scolded scares her, isn’t working, and may well be adding to whatever emotions are driving her to do it in the first place. Sadly today she showed fear when they come in the front door.

Eating plaster. What apart from the obvious does Milly get out of it?

Does it just make her feel better? Is it build up of stress? Is she suffering from separation problems? Does it supplement her diet? Does it relieve her boredom? Is it to do with exercise? Is it a habit?

Is it simply a mix of some or all of these things?

As a precise diagnosis into why she is eating plaster is impossible, we will try to cover all possibilities.

HoarMilly1Her food is already being changed in case plaster eating is due to lack of calcium in her diet. Low quality nutrition isn’t good brain food either.

Stress will be reduced in every way possible.

The humans will no longer scold if they again come home to find damage.

Milly will be given regular walks whilst not over-stimulating her and also teach her to walk nicely so that the young lady can walk her with the baby.

Any possible separation issues will be worked on.

She will be left with plenty of stuff to do and chew when they go out, including a marrow bone – lots of calcium – much better than eating plaster!

They are going to make arrangements for Milly not to be left alone for so long on certain days.

Maybe eating plaster is now becoming a habit?

If we cover all angles the behaviour should cease. If it doesn’t, then I suggest she has a thorough vet check to make sure she’s not got anything else going on inside her.

Three weeks have gone by. From an email: She is doing much better on the loose lead, it does take a lot of patience but it’s definitely better. We are just taking it slow but it’s good to see the progress…. It works best leaving Milly in the lounge when we are out. I will video again this week. But I am happy to say no more damages walls…. She is now eating both her meals and seems to like the duck with rice. (Their little boy) loves getting involved too and helping Milly, he really loves 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. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Milly 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. 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)

Scared of the Stairs

Golden Labrador

Lily

Until one week ago, four-year-old Lily lived in a house that had carpet wall to wall and a gate at the bottom of the stairs. Now circumstances have meant she’s had to move in with the gentleman who has her brother, Sox.

He lives in a town house with the living area upstairs, which requires climbing a narrow and longish flight of stairs. Only the kitchen is on the ground floor.

In Lily’s old home where she had lived since she was a puppy, the stairs were gated and the man is sure that she had never in her life been upstairs. Another difference is that her old home was carpeted throughout. Only the stairs are carpeted here and she’s only just getting accustomed to walking on the laminate floor.

On the day she arrived, a week ago, after hesitating for a few minutes Lily ran upstairs after Sox. All was well until they wanted to come down again. She refused. She quite literally dug her heels in. The gentleman put her harness on in an effort to walk her down, but she was in a blind panic.

Eventually after over four hours and knowing she must need to go outside, the man picked her up and carried her down. She froze, terrified.

Now, knowing that going up the stairs will mean coming back down again, she simply refuses to lift her back feet off the floor – not even for food, and, a typical Labrador, she loves her food. She will stretch forward but not take even one step with her back legs. The man has tried all the bribery he can think of.  When everyone else including Sox is upstairs in the evening, Lily will cry for a little while at the bottom of the stairs before taking herself to her bed.

Because her history is known, it’s pretty certain Lily has had no previous negative experiences with stairs. She has happily run up and down narrow flights of stone steps when out, so pain isn’t involved.

The gentleman had a gate at the bottom of his stairs to shut Sox down during the night, so I suggested he removed it just in case Lily’s previous programming meant she would be reluctant to pass it. We tried putting it about eight steps up instead, hoping this would raise the barrier.

Asking the man to stay in the kitchen in case she associated negatives with him when he had carried her down, I sat a few stairs up to call her to me, to see if had any better luck.

Golden Labrador with ball

Sox

She did come to me for food – her back legs climbing to the third stair – and then she turned around and ran back down again!  She did the same thing a second time. She wouldn’t do it a third time.

I continued on and off over the next two hours, taking a break from my conversation with the man about one or two other issues, using food and also playing ball around the stairs, but Lily just felt unable to do it again. I suggested he has a rug on the floor at the bottom of the stairs to make it as easy for her as possible.

If my strategy worked a couple of times then it has the potential to work again, so for the next week the gentleman is going to continue with what I was doing, in the hope that Lily will repeat the process for him.

If things go as planned, he can, one step at a time, gradually work his way up the stairs. When she does eventually get a bit higher, it could be best if he sat in front of her and went back down the stairs on his back side with the dog behind him!

Although she left the floor a couple of times for me we don’t know yet whether this will work for the gentleman, but from my own assessment at the time it seems the simplest and quickest method to give Lily confidence in going up, and most particularly back down, the stairs.

If no progress is made after a week or so I shall go again and we will work out another, less direct, tactic and one that may not involve work actually around the stairs themselves initially.

Lily is a happy, friendly dog and will have a great life living with the man and her brother, Sox. She has some adjusting to do and could well be feeling generally unsure with having lost her previous owner and all the new things in her life at the moment.

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 Lily. 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).

An Excitable English Bull Terrier

English Bull TerrierThe afternoon consisted of calm, affectionate moments with the lovely Ty punctuated with fresh attempts to jump all over me – which can be uncomfortable when a dog stands beside you on the sofa, licking your face and trying to nip your ear! Understandably nobody likes this, but if telling him off worked he wouldn’t be doing it any more.

The twenty month old English Bull Terrier didn’t have a good start in life. His first year was with two older, larger dogs and it seems he had to fight for his food and has injuries to show for it. He was very underweight when they got him.

When he was strong enough they had him castrated, a requirement of most rescues, and from that moment Ty, who had previously been absolutely fine with other dogs despite his early months, became fearful and reactive. Castration doesn’t always have positive effects behaviourally – the reduction in testosterone possibly taking away some of his mojo.

The very excitable Ty lives with the most easy-going Golden Labrador – Amber, age two. They get on famously. The couple’s excellent dog parenting that had worked so well with happy and well-mannered Amber has helped Ty a lot over the past eight months, but they are still struggling. His excitability means he’s a bit unpredictable. His jumping up is a bit crazy, his licking of people a bit manic, he barks at ‘everything’, he sometimes tail-chases when particularly frustrated and he is obsessed with balls. He has shown his wariness to one man in particular by snarling at him. On walks he is anxious around other dogs and they hold him tight – not trusting him. They do join a group ‘bully’ walk of a large group of local bull-breeds. Once the group is on the move, his lead comes off and he is fine.

Golden Labroador on sofa with EBT

Ty with Amber

I feel the unpredictability and excitement need working on at home before they will make much headway when out. It’s not like there is one single problem, though their main wish is to be able to enjoy walks and trust him to come back to them when other dogs are about.

If Ty doesn’t pay attention to them at home, he won’t do so when out. They will work hard at getting and holding his attention – using food. They will be surprised how much more motivated he will become when they use tiny bits of tasty real food as reinforcement. If he doesn’t come immediately or do as asked at home, then he certainly won’t come back when out on walks.  Again – it’s a matter of motivation. If he doesn’t see them as his protectors at home, then he won’t do so when they are out. Everything is interconnected.

Excitement builds up. The jumping, licking, nipping and so on should simply not get results, but when he’s in this sort of mood his excitement should be redirected onto something more acceptable that will help to calm him – like an item to chew or some foraging for food outside.

Walks will only really improve when he learns that they go nowhere until he is calm – so this will take a lot of patience and waiting so he’s no longer so excitable when they leave. They will now help him to gain his confidence at whatever distance he needs to be from other dogs he sees in order to feel comfortable.

He’s a young dog. They have come a long way already and it can only continue to get better.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Ty, 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).

Won’t Come Back When Called

Labrador Marley doesn't come back when calledWhen they opened the door for me to go, Marley simply walked out and down the road, coming back home about fifteen minutes later. We may have done some loose-lead walking but he didn’t consider that to be his morning walk, so he went by himself.

The previous dog I went to, a mixed breed called Milly (see previous story), looked like a Labrador but wasn’t – Marley is the real thing.

Needless to say, one of the two problems I was called to help with is the fact he just won’t come back when called. I had seen it for myself. As we all called him, he looked round at us, grinned, and ran around a corner leading to the field.

The other issue is pulling on lead. They want walks to be enjoyable and have tried ‘traditional’ training which involves correction and holding the lead tight, with no success at all.  With a different mental approach and different equipment, we walked Marley about the front of the property on a loose lead.

Just like Milly, Marley is two and a half. They have had him for six months before which he lived on a farm and one can guess he had a fair amount of freedom. Another thing he has in common with Milly is that his only problems occur outside.

Marley has come a long way in the past six months. They have resolved many issues including begging for food and jumping up on people. Like many Labradors he is simply full of life and enthusiasm. He needs a good run and chase which he can’t do anymore due to his running off and ignoring them.

Working on the recall will be a lot longer process because things have happened the wrong way around. My feelings are that puppies should have very restricted physical boundaries and freedom should be introduced gradually (with a bit of reining in again when the dog becomes adolescent) so that ‘not coming back when called’ simply never becomes an option. In Marley’s past life, due to the freedom he very likely had, he expects to freelance. The only way to deal with this is for him to lose freedom for as long as it takes while they work on it, using a very long line, so he has no option of escaping.  At present he’s on a retractable lead which by definition is never slack. We can’t do proper work on recall if the dog doesn’t feel free.

At the moment calling Marley in the usual way is a waste of energy. To him whether he comes or not is optional.  They will now use a whistle – first charging it like battery so running to them immediately for something especially tasty becomes an automatic response when he hears it.  For the forseeable future they will not use it unless they are sure he will come or unless he’s on the long line and has no choice.

The loose lead walking is more of a technique to teach a dog to do something that doesn’t come naturally – to walk at a human pace when he is eager to get somewhere or play with another dog, and to walk near his humans because he wants to and not because he is forced to.

I predict that it will be months before they dare let him off, even briefly. If meanwhile he gets the opportunity to run off again they will set things right back.

This isn’t merely a matter of training though. Marley already has ‘learnt’ what coming when called means. He simply doesn’t do it.

Why would that be? Because what he wants to do is far more relevant and exciting to him than coming back to his humans. In general he gets their attention whenever he asks for it, rather than the other way around – his humans getting HIS attention when they ask for it.  In order of relevance to Marley when he is out, his humans come way down the list.  With people to greet, smells to explore and dogs to play with, it’s a no-brainer to Marley!

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Marley, 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).

Nervous or Friendly Exuberance?

Nervous excitement

Labrador hiding under a chair when the harness came out

Daisy

Could she be nervous?

Because a dog jumps all over you when you arrive, grabs and mouths you and excitedly runs around panting and carrying toys, I don’t believe it is necessarily simply a display of friendliness.

Pale Labrador Daisy was certainly not unfriendly, but all this hyperactivity when I arrived spelt something different to me.

Nervous excitement

I liken dogs like this to the sort of person who opens the door to a guest and then is all over them, kissing them, welcoming them, forcing drink and food onto them, fussing around, talking non-stop and never leaving them alone.

A human doing this would be in a highly anxious or nervous state – certainly not relaxed and simply happy to see her guest.

The reason I was called is that Daisy is erratic with other dogs when out – but not all dogs thankfully. She is fine with some and not with others. I could see that she was also quite highly strung at home.

When I arrived the excitement carried on for about twenty minutes until she lay down and panted for a while before settling.

Daisy lives with 13-year -old Weimaraner Suzy (looking like a queen on her chair!). Suzy is doing brilliantly for her age, but as a younger dog was apparently even more hyped up than Daisy.

Worried before walks

Suzy

I am a believer in a dog being as comfortable as possible when out walking and encountering other dogs, using equipment that also gives the owner maximum confidence. An anxious or nervous dog will immediately pick up on anxiety in her human.

We looked at Daisy’s stiff and rather uncomfortable harness and then I showed the kind I prefer. As soon as the harnesses came out Daisy was looking away, obviously very nervous. She went and hid under a chair.

This is how she is before walks. Worried.

There is a lot of general stuff to be done at home to do to give Daisy maximum faith in her owners and to boost her confidence. At the moment both dogs get everything they ask for in terms of attention on demand, whilst not necessarily cooperating when demands are made upon them.

Nervous Daisy will be happier and more confident with a reward-based relationship where she is happy working with humans who make firm decisions, who don’t give in to her all the time and who help to make her feel safe when out.

It will then be their decision whether or not she should engage with a certain dog and not hers.

Training commands doesn’t always help

Daisy has been to training classes and knows a lot of commands. Some things take more than just training. They take respect and willingness too, so in a way it’s the humans that need to learn.

Things like the mouthing and jumping up have been unwittingly reinforced. If telling her to ‘get down’ or to ‘stop’ happened to work, she would no longer be doing these things after two years.

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.

Jumping Golden Labrador

A typical young Labrador, friendly and bouncyThirty-five years ago, long before I had even heard of dog training let alone behaviour work, I had a large and boisterous Golden Labrador called Paddy. He was wonderful with my children but a devil for jumping up. 18-month old Dotty, the dog I went to see last night, reminded me so much of him!

The owners – the gentleman in particular – had taught her to jump up at people by exciting her, catching her feet and dancing about and allowing her to jump on them when sitting down. She is wildly excited and jumping on them when they come home – and rewarded with fuss. Even when people didn’t want her to be jumping up, their way of trying to stop her was merely reinforcing it.

This behaviour is especially difficult around guests who may not like being jumped up on by a large dog – and she is just the same when she meets people out on walks.

About four months ago Dotty was attacked out of the blue by another dog.  She had always been great with dogs. But, from that time, she has decided to get it in first and has lept on dogs she doesn’t know, grabbing them and pinning them down, looking and sounding aggressive. As one might expect, she is highly excited before leaving for a walk, grabs the lead and pulls, so this has to change before she can be expected to be relaxed around other dogs – or people.

All this bouncing about isn’t through pure joy. I read in it a certain amount of frantic anxiety. If a human was so unable to control herself she may well need some sort of counselling! Her owners need to earn her trust and respect by giving her better leadership and behaving more calmly around her. She needs rules and boundaries. She is a bit like a loose canon with little self control or inhibition apart from, fortunately, when she’s around the little three year old daughter. Dotty is a dream with her. She is gentle. She never jumps at her. She follows her and her friends about and even jumps on the trampoline with them. They have a wonderful relationship.

Doitty is a highly trainable dog. I managed, with rewards, to teach her to lie down in about two minutes. She has not had training. She has been lavished with food from the table but never had to earn anything. Seeing her focused on me was a joy – both for me and for Dotty.

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

Labrador Wrecks the Sofa When Home Alone

Charlie doesn't like to be left aloneThey pulled the throw off the back of their leather sofa to reveal a gaping hole full of white stuffing, like snow, and the wooden frame!

This was Charlie’s handiwork over the past four weeks since he arrived from the Blue Cross. He was originally brought over from Ireland at three months old with his mother and has been in kennels for the past nine months – nine important months in the life of a one-year-old adolescent dog.

When Charlie is left alone he may chew the door frame and leave puddles of drool on the floor due to his stress, or he may chew the sofa. Because it doesn’t happen every time I suspect there may be two separate issues here – separation distress and boredom. After all, he has probably never been alone before as he was kennelled with his mother. In a kennel he will not have been taught some basic rules of living in a house – like don’t eat the furniture, nor reshape it into a comfortable nest full of comfy white stuffing!

On one occasion they videod him and he mooched about and lay down – chilled and settled. Possibly an external noise starts him off, or possibly he simply gets bored. In the kennels they were shut down at 4pm and left alone until the morning. I expect anything in the kennel availabe to chew would be fair game to a young dog.  He needs to be caught in the act – set up intentionally perhaps.  He needs to be taught that furniture isn’t for chewing and shown what can be chewed instead, using patience and encouragement.

Separation issues need working on also. He has only been with them for a month and has settled in amazingly well considering his nine months living in rescue kennels. He is obedient, friendly and not over-excitable. He doesn’t jump up and he’s not demanding for attention. He pulls on walks but has probably never been shown otherwise and is another case of correction and force having the opposite effect to what is wanted. Someone said that if you pull a dog back, his brain says forward.

Charlie is brilliant with other dogs. He has no ounce of aggression in his body. A wonderful dog.

I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.
About six weeks later: “Charlie, high and (not low) lows, mostly high points though.  The good points there has been a significant reduction in any new damage we still have to make sure things are put away when we leave, the slobbering has again significantly reduced when we are out and he is more than happy to go to his bed of his own accord in the evenings and the day even when we are here.  Walking is much much better. He is good with other dogs when out and will come back to me without being called until we get close, this gives me an opportunity to decide whether he plays or not.  His recall is the one issue, its getting better and I have to say even when he does go his return is much quicker, the dog walker says he is much calmer and I have to agree.  We don’t overly fuss him but he is more than happy for a play and cuddle when we want. We will stick with the programme and review in a couple of weeks, the lighter evenings will make it easier to train him when we get back from work”. About five weeks after this I was told that Charlie had started to damage the sofa again. This is what happens if the people go back to their old ways – so does the dog. Lack of consistency is very difficult for a dog.
It’s now eleven months since I started working with them, and I have just had this email: ‘Sorry it has been so long since we contacted you but after the last advice we just got stuck in and can’t believe how the time has gone.  Anyway we thought you may like to see a couple of photos of our wonderful HAPPY dog Charlie.  We have overcome the chewing and separation issues, he is settled very happy, his return is still being worked on but improves each week, indeed he does always come back. I am so glad we stuck with him, despite loosing a whole leather settee as he is a wonderful companion and quite a character…….. I took him back to Blue Cross where we got him from and they could not believe the difference.  He is now a confident, happy pooch who is an established family member. Thanks for the advice, we have followed it and the results – well you can see’.