Confrontation and control from the man has recently started to bring out aggression and defiance in Connor. The more defiance he displayed, the firmer the gentleman became. Continue reading…
Confrontation and control from the man has recently started to bring out aggression and defiance in Connor. The more defiance he displayed, the firmer the gentleman became. Continue reading…
Jonny is a gorgeous, friendly dog – looking and behaving a lot younger than his supposed ten years. The elderly couple who had him previously could no longer keep him.
He has a lovely home now with activity and enrichment.
His two problems are around guarding, growling warning and chasing shadows – or just charging about chasing nothing.
Cockers haven’t been put on this earth to be ignored.
My own Cocker, Pickle, is totally different to Toby in that he’s not a guarder, but he, too, can be a handful. He is a working Cocker and keeps himself, and me, busy. He is the smallest of my dogs but more trouble than my three other dogs put together.
Pickle keeps me on my toes!
Toby is a Show Cocker and a beautiful boy.
His start in life wasn’t ideal in that he was hand-reared along with his siblings. The downside of this is that he hasn’t been taught by his mother when his teeth hurt as usually happens when suckling. If she feels puppy’s teeth, mum gets up and walks away. Puppy learns about teeth because his food supply disappears.
Their problem with Toby is that he guards things in that he ‘possesses’ them. They are HIS resources; ‘Stay away’. He guards places also, various private bolt-holes in the house where he takes his ‘trophies’. These are places like under the coffee table beside his lady owner (whom he also guards).
The Cocker Spaniel may also guard food while he is eating, he guards chews and bones, he guards his own personal space and he will guard toys. He does quite a lot of growling that they are now immune to – but growling has a purpose, it’s a warning.
Recently Toby bit someone who approached something he was guarding and who ignored his growling.
Toby gets what he wants, when he wants. He chooses when he comes in at night, he chooses where he sleeps. Toby chooses when he eats. He chooses when he gets touched. He chooses when he should play ball (but the ball has to be wrestled off him). His demands are nearly always immediately met.
Food is always available and their own food is shared. Nothing has to be earned. If £50 notes were showered on you, would you want to work for two pounds? Their attention is given freely, every time he demands it. How relevant does he find his loving humans when they want his attention?
I asked the man to call Toby to him. Toby just looked at him! (Toby now expected the man to repeat the request and put in a lot of effort). I said to the man, “Toby’s had his opportunity and lost it. Leave him”.
I must say, I can’t imagine any of my dogs growling at me. This isn’t because they are any different from Toby or other dogs I go to. It’ s because I never have used physical force but rewards instead. I mostly save giving them treats for when they do something I like. They are always willing. I am relevant. I hold the ‘cards’.
Here is a quote from Jordan Rothman, ‘To control your dog, control what motivates your dog: food, toys, belly rubs, attention, access to other dogs etc.’
I introduced Toby to clicker training. It took a while for him to catch on to the notion of having to EARN food (cheese). Once he got it, he was 100% attention, poised to work for me. It was lovely to see and shows what is possible. He was a focused and happy dog; all I was teaching him as a starter was to look me in the eye, to give me his full attention.
Loving a dog to bits is a bit of a two-edged sword. Indulging a dog’s every whim is actually not good for him. It’s no different than with one’s children.
Star is a beautiful and unusual mix. He looks like a black Labrador. The Dalmation in him is given away by his white spotty chest and a couple of white spotty feet.
He’s been very well socialised with people and other dogs from an early age. He is friendly and mostly confident.
Over the past few months he has however become increasingly growly.
He growls when someone touches him when he’s lying in his bed. When he’s asleep on the sofa and someone wants to move him he growls. He now also growls at some dogs they encounter on walks – those he doesn’t already know. This is all quite recent.
The behaviour seemed to begin at doggy day-care where maybe he sometimes wanted his own space from the other dogs and was unable to get it.
There is a belief that growls make a bad dog. In fact, I think it’s the opposite.
Unless dogs are to be our ‘slaves’ they surely should be allowed choice where being touched is concerned. See this consent test. Affectionate humans so often assume that dogs can be fussed any time they choose to go over to them. If they don’t like it, there is something wrong with them. There can be no other animal – including humans – that is touched as much as a dog. A cat perhaps, but a cat can more easily escape – or bite – when it’s had enough.
Part of Star’s bedtime ritual is, having been out to toilet, being sent to his bed with a biscuit. Then they fuss him there – possibly for several minutes.
It probably starts with a simple look-away, a clear ‘go away’ to another dog, which isn’t noticed by Star’s humans. So, he next growls – softly. This will be like a gentle whisper of ‘no thanks, not now’.
This is ignored. There is still an old-school notion that the dog should be dominated and that we mustn’t back down or ‘growling works’. Over time the growling has got louder – he’s now in effect having to shout.
They carry on touching him in his bed, despite the increasing growls. Other people touch him in his bed and he growls. He has now snapped, once.
This can only ultimately go in one direction. When he has really had enough there is only one way left to him to show them. That is by snapping.
Star has actually shown great tolerance and amazing bite-inhibition. Few humans would have been that patient when their repeated requests for someone to leave them alone were ignored.
If from now on he is left strictly alone when in his bed or lying asleep, he should become less defensive. (No more ‘oh dear here they come again’). This means that should someone unknowingly go to his bed he should have a lot more tolerance.
If they want him off the sofa, they need not manhandle him. They can call him off and thank him with food.
His worsening reaction to certain other dogs on walks may be part of the same thing – not wanting his personal space invaded. Nearly always this has been when he is ‘trapped’ on a lead.
Again, instead of listening to what he has to say which is that he needs a bit more space, the lead is tightened. He is walked on. When he growls and then barks, he may be scolded.
This makes it sound like his owners aren’t sensitive to him but the opposite is the case. They give him a great life and are very conscious of fulfilling his needs. Theirs is a universal misunderstanding by many people of what you should do when your dog growls. There are certain TV programmes that perpetuate this dangerous nonsense.
Allowing Star to be himself and respecting his wish not to be disturbed in his bed etc. should make a big difference all round.
Work on walks also requires observing his feelings. Looking out for how he feels when they approach another dog, taking note and acting accordingly if necessary.
Growls are communications and should be listened to. Whatever is causing the growl should be immediately addressed. Growls should work.
Nellie isn’t very happy.
This is despite being treasured, along with their other two tiny dogs, Luna and Sandy.
Nellie is a two-year-old Pomeranian, the last to join their little dog family of three. Luna is a Chihuahua Pomeranian mix and Sandy a Chihuahua.
Luna is Nellie’s problem. Tiny Sandy keeps well out of it. Every time the young couple sit down Luna is on them – the lady in particular. She is cuddled and fussed. Nellie herself isn’t a dog that likes so much fuss, but she doesn’t like Luna getting it either.
I’m pretty sure it’s not that she doesn’t like Luna herself (she’s absolutely fine with her when they are shut in the kitchen; they play together). She is jealous.
Jealousy is a horrible emotion that eats into you, isn’t it. It’s like Nellie is bearing a grudge. She seems to choose to act like she’s an outcast, lying away from Luna and the young couple.
Luna for her part may be tormenting her! She is obviously ‘revelling’ in her attention, rolling on her back, eyeballing Nellie, rubbing it in (that’s my interpretation). Nellie turns her back, shutting it out.
Over the past few months this has degenerated into fights, sometimes several times in one day. Damage is only prevented because these fights only happen when the dogs are with the couple and they are sitting down. Someone is always there to grab them.
Reducing overall stress levels should help greatly. At present dog to dog play with Luna goes on for far too long unchecked. Human to dog play is far too vigorous also.
Giving Nellie individual attention with things she herself likes to do will help her, things like going for a walk or hunting for food. She’s not a dog that much wants cuddles.
They will cut down on the constant fussing of Luna too. The lady is having a baby soon so Luna will have to get used to this. We have a plan for preparing Nellie in particular for baby.
In analysing the fights there are certain common denominators. Fights only happen when the young lady is about, never the man alone or when the dogs are by themselves. Fights happen when the lady is sitting down (hence cuddling Luna).
I watched to see exactly what the dogs were doing – things that people hadn’t noticed. It began with some lip-licking from Luna and some displacement behaviour from Nellie – she licked herself. Someone passed the house and both dogs rushed to the window barking.
Nellie, now more unsettled walked about growling softly. She disappeared out of Luna’s view. The owners thought she was asking to go out, but no.
Nellie reappears, still growling on and off. Luna was stretching on her back. She looked at Nellie. Eyeballing and stillness. Then it exploded like the cork removed from a bottle of fizz.
The fight was immediately interrupted, not hard because Luna was already on a lap and could not leap onto the floor to get at Nellie.
It was about to erupt again a short while later – unfinished business. We put our plan into action.
As the fighting always involves eyeballing, I immediately put my clipboard between them, breaking eye contact. As the fighting never happens when either of them is walking about, the young man immediately got up and walked out of the room, calling Nellie who follows anyone moving about.
Where shouting may be necessary simply to interrupt them, I feel there are better ways which we discussed (not listed here because what works here may not be the best plan for other fighting dogs). Ideally they should nip it in the bud before it erupts. Better still, to help Nellie with her jealousy.
It’s like Nellie resents the ‘favourite child’ and like a jealous child this brings out the worst in her. One can see from her body language she’s not happy as she watches and licks her lips, or turns her back on them.
Unfortunately, the more this sort of thing is repeatedly practised, the more it becomes hardwired into the brain response, increasing the likelihood of the behaviour recurring. This is why things seldom get better by themselves but go on a downward spiral.
Our work will be like a jigsaw of bits to gradually put into place, concentrating mostly on Nellie. She will need positive associations with the baby from the beginning in order to avoid jealousy. They have two months before baby is due, so work starts now.
Some people dispute that dogs have feelings like jealousy which I find ridiculous. In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin noted that ‘everyone has seen how jealous a dog is of his master’s affection, if lavished on any other creature.’ See the Daily Telegraph article written by Sarah Knapton. To read more about dogs and jealousy, see Stanley Coren in Psychology Today.
What is causing Poppy’s sudden worsening behaviour?
The tiny dog is now getting much more attention and is left alone by herself much less. Surely that’s good. Could the big change in routine be affecting her however.
Already there were three big humans giving her attention along with a visiting young child, all getting her excited and giving her attention. Now there are four – and the fourth is at home much of the time.
The lady phoned me, really worried. In just two weeks Poppy had started growling when people touched or hugged each other; she is barking at people coming into the house; she had nipped the little boy and had attacked a couple of dogs when out. What gets them most exasperated of all is her increased toileting in the house.
There are various possibilities as to why she now poos indoors and maybe it’s a mix of several things. She may feel unsettled. She may have some form of separation anxiety. Poppy may simply not be getting outside when she needs to or for long enough. Anxiety can be a cause of pooping indoors and as she’s been scolded this could add to anxiety.
What she eats and when she eats could have something to do with when she defaecates too. Stress could be a big factor.
We will cover all angles.
Too much attention, particularly of the exciting kind, will raise her stress levels. There are a lot of people giving one tiny dog fuss and vigorous play. Once she’s aroused the damage is done; it stays in her system for days. She can never get fully calm as more things keep happening. Stress isn’t only bad stuff. It can be too much of anything – play, fussing, attention, exercise. See this: What is Arousal in Dogs and Why Should I Care.
In an excited state Poppy is going to be much more reactive and intolerant to things like people hugging. It troubles her and she doesn’t understand it. Is it potential conflict? She wants to try to stop it.
In a stressed state she will be a lot more unpredictable with other dogs too.
Her growling, barking and aggressive responses then make those same humans that fuss and cuddle her, angry. How confusing life must be to a dog sometimes.
The first thing they all should do is to work together at calming her down. With several people involved a group effort is vital. Reducing stress levels underpins everything.
They shouldn’t wind her up with rough play or allow her to play chase games with the four-year-old boy. He has now been nipped. When she’s lying down peacefully, they should leave her in peace. This also means not making noises to get her attention.
She had developed a rash a few weeks previously. It’s possible that the steroids played a part in triggering her worsening behaviour. Too many things have come at once and to top it all, there have been a couple of nights of strong wind in the past two or three weeks. Wind really scares her.
After two or three of weeks with the whole family working hard at keeping Poppy calmer and working on the strategies given, I will go again to take a new look. More may then need to be done.
Lottie is already growling when someone looks at her or approaches her, and it’s getting worse.
The beautiful Golden Retrieve puppy is also scared of noises and of anything new.
It’s hard to trace just why this is. Her family had done all the research possible over a long period of time before choosing her and she came from a good environment – from a family home, living with her mother.
She was the last of the litter and they found her lacking confidence from the start.
A puppy of eight weeks old should be confident and fearless.
Perhaps something occurred to make the already sensitive puppy so fearful of people, something during the puppy’s crucial fear period. Something that nobody was aware of.
Lottie’s fearfulness may simply be genetic.
She should have had early socialising with different people from a few weeks old. She should have had habituating to daily life, people, other dogs and so on. Unfortunately they have been caught in that common trap of believing they can’t take her out to mix until her vaccinations are finished.
Now, at three months old, she’s ‘allowed’ to go out and they are playing catch up. This is what Linda Michaels says about this situation: Puppy socialisation and vaccinations belong together.
Finding the best way to go about helping Lottie creates a dilemma – a conflict between the two things she most needs. One is time to build confidence around people and the other plenty of positive encounters as early as possible.
The need for patience and time to grow her confidence must come first, because without this, encounters are unlikely to be positive for her. They need to go very slowly so that she can get used to the scary world one thing at a time
Combining the two needs will best be done by as many encounters with people as possible but from a ‘safe’ distance, and associated with good things.
I suggest for a start that they put her in a comfortable harness and attach a long lead. They can simply take her to the end of their drive and let her watch the world go by, well back from any cars or people.
With every sound they will drop food. Every car that passes they can drop food. Every distant person she sees – drop food. Any dog she sees – drop food. If she’s scared, the lead is long and loose and she can run back to the house.
If this is still too much for her, they may need to start further back by the front door. It’s vital she’s allowed to choose her own pace.
People must not be allowed to crowd her or touch her. Believing they were doing the right things, they had been carrying her to allow people to touch her. She shook. From now on, getting near to a person must be her own choice and it doesn’t look like this will happen for a while.
They will start to invite people to their house – under strict instructions.
Lottie’s not scared all the time however! In her home with her family she can be a typical happy little puppy tornado! She may suddenly race around with things going flying. She chews and she nips when excited! This is a lot easier and more normal to deal with.
It’s hard to believe!
Will is the most adorable, soft, fluffy, friendly and gentle Pug Poodle mix – a Pugapoo I believe. While I was there it was impossible to see any hint of what I had been called for – growling and biting his two lady owners.
He has a lot of attention and is seldom left alone. He has been to several puppy training sessions and he’s fed on the best food.
This escalated about five weeks ago though he had growled when in his bed and approached before that.
Now one lady has two bite wounds on her hands.
I likened it to my standing in a queue with someone uncomfortably close to me. I would move away. The person then moves near again. I might give them a dirty look (the dog may freeze). If that doesn’t work I might tell the person ‘Back Off’ (the dog would growl). Then, if the person moves right close and touches me despite all this, would I not be justified in slapping the hand away? (The dog snaps).
Then, what if I was accused of assault? Would that be fair?
Will is then scolded ‘No No Naughty!’.
Will only bites when touched in his sleeping place, and mostly when it’s for something he doesn’t want, getting him outside at bedtime or taking off his collar.
We worked on “Will, Come!” back and forth all over the room. This is the key. When sufficiently motivated with food he will do whatever they want. Nobody needs to invade his space.
The other issue is food. He’s a fussy eater and this worries the ladies greatly. Food is left down all the time and he is enticed with chicken. This leaves them nothing for ‘payment’ and motivation. He has a running buffet and his favourite is used for regular meals. Rewards need to be of especially high value whilst also being nutritious. We looked into what to do about this.
He drools as soon as he is put in which to me suggests fear – maybe in anticipation of the motion. We have a plan. First the car will be parked about 50 yards down the road and on the way back from their regular walks he can be popped in the car and driven home – taking about half a minute. After several days he should know exactly what to expect and feel chilled with this. No drooling.
Next I suggest that at the start of the walk they pop him into the car and drive this fifty yards, park the car and, again, pick it up on the way home. When he’s happy they can increase distances and go further.
It’s so hard to believe that the adorable Will bites when touched in his bed. He clearly, in dog language, says what he’s feeling. His body language is misread. Growls aren’t taken seriously. Just because he has rolled onto his back it doesn’t mean he’s asking for a tummy tickle. He’s much more likely thinking ‘uh-oh, I don’t want to be fussed just now, please, I give in, no…..!’.
As ignoring his signals continues, the dog can become increasingly defensive. I’m sure if Will’s lady humans now no longer approach him to touch him but wait till he comes to them instead, he will become more relaxed about it.
Who can resist touching a little dog who looks and feels like this, after all!
A new puppy isn’t what Jack Russell Charlie wanted at all.
There were two older dogs in the house when he himself arrived as a puppy ten years ago. The three dogs got on fine. A couple of years ago both older dogs died and now they have a new puppy, Daisy.
Daisy is the sweetest nine-week-old Miniature Schnauzer.
Unfortunately, Charlie wasn’t consulted.
His very obvious warnings and signs of unhappiness were ignored. Instead, he was forced to accept the puppy near to himself in his own special places, like on their bed in the morning and on the sofa.
He was scolded for growling at her.
Things reached crisis point the day before I came. The man was getting ready to take him for his morning walk. Before walks there is a kind of battle that I witnessed. Charlie barks frantically and is shouted at to make him stop (if it worked he would no longer do it).
Arousal levels will have been very high.
Daisy was at the bottom of the stairs and Charlie had to get past her. He attacked the new puppy, grabbing her by the neck.
The man smacked him.
Poor Charlie. He’s never been relaxed around dogs, he has a new puppy in his house and now the man ‘attacks’ him.
This the situation I came into:
Daisy was on on the man’s lap. Charlie was on the back of the sofa, high up where the puppy can’t yet go and as far away from her as he could get. I have no doubt he chooses to be behind the man for protection.
New puppy Daisy has free roam of the open-plan house. Charlie can’t escape her. He spends a lot of his time up on the back of the sofa now.
Three things must happen if Charlie is going to eventually relax and be happy with the puppy.
He is giving out strong signals. He’s trying to tell them. From the back of the sofa he was licking his lips and his body was tense. He was deliberately looking away from Daisy.
My two photos are after he had relaxed a little and Daisy was no longer on the sofa. They were taken after we had done some work with him but he still looks unhappy.
The couple can’t understand why the little dog they love is being so difficult. I wish I had a tenner for everyone who said ‘I never had any trouble like this with my previous dogs’!
By ‘consulting’ Charlie, I mean they must watch his body language. They now know what they are looking for so will see when she is too close or doing something that worries him.
They will now help him out by moving her further away to a comfortable distance.
The second thing is that Daisy needs a pen in the large area where they sit as there is nowhere to put a gate. If she is contained then Charlie can again move around freely in his own home.
Lastly and most important of all, they can change how Charlie feels about the puppy. They need to watch him carefully because in his own way he will be speaking to them.
Keeping at a distance where he’s not exhibiting fear or unease by looking away, licking lips, yawning and stiffness, they can start to make good things happen.
I helped them feed Charlie every time he glanced at Daisy before quickly looking away again. A clicker was useful to mark the exact moment because it was sometimes fleeting. He visibly relaxed a little.
With Daisy in a pen, they can reinforce much more interaction because Charlie will be more confident, eventually leading to encounters nose to nose through the bars.
He should gain confidence so long as they don’t suddenly destroy his trust again by forcing him to have her too close before he is ready. It’s so important that they take this slowly as they first have to rebuild trust already lost.
Scolding Charlie for reacting aggressively to the new puppy does no good – the opposite in fact. The very person Charlie should trust when he’s finding things difficult suddenly seems to turn on him where he should be giving him protection. He will be associating Daisy with bad things.
It’s very confusing for a dog to be spoiled and loved one minute then unaccountably punished the next just by trying to show how he’s feeling.
He adores the man and the feeling is mutual.
So they must now work hard on getting Charlie to feel differently. They have some other things to put right, not least working on Charlie becoming calmer at certain flash points like before walks. This will never happen using shouting.
I’m sure now that they understand and have seen Charlie relax when I was with them, that they will do this sensitively and gently.
Here is a favourite video of mine graphically illustrating desensitising and counter-conditioning from Donna Hill.
She has two adorable and adored French Bulldogs, brother and sister aged nine months, Hector and Annie.
As is often the case with siblings, their nature and behaviour is entirely different. As one may grow more overbearing, the other goes in the opposite direction.
Like many people, the lady shares her bed with her dogs. I have nothing against this at all – so long as no aggression is involved.
I would usually say that if a dog growls at the person in their own bed, then the dog should sleep elsewhere. It’s the same if the dog growls at another dog on the human’s bed.
Sometimes however we have to work our way around things if the obvious solution isn’t an option.
What happens is that Hector climbs up the little steps onto her bed, put there especially for the dogs. He has to be first up. Annie will climb up and Hector growls at her.
Hector will lie right on top of the lady, on her neck, during the night. He will growl at her if she manually tries to move him. He will growl at Annie if she comes near the lady so she has to lie down the end.
Everything points to Hector regarding the lady as his human resource. She sleeps in room with a glass roof. Small things dropping onto it make a noise and lights reflect. Hector stares upwards. He barks at sounds. He is on alert at night time
No wonder Hector is stressed.
During the day she will play ‘bed training games’ with the dogs.
She will teach them ‘up’ and ‘down’ the steps individually using rewards. Fortunately she has a very wide bed against a wall and can put two dog beds on it.
She will teach Hector ‘Bed’ to go into his own bed and reward him. The same with Annie. With lots of daytime repetition they will go up the steps and into their beds when asked.
At bedtime Annie should go up first.
The dogs may not stay in their beds but Hector will be sent back to his bed any time he growls. It’s not punishment and will be done kindly with rewards. He’s not being naughty after all. He is doing his best to do the impossible job that he’s unintentionally been given. If he lies on top of the lady’s neck she can roll over or sit up to tip him off (he growls if manhandled). She can send him to his bed and he should take himself there happily if properly trained using food reinforcement.
It will be hard work but the necessary price she must pay if she wants to keep him on her bed.
It will surely ultimately be a great relief to Hector.
As I’m always saying, you get back what you give.
This is the only shadow on their otherwise perfect life.
She takes them both to work with her where they spend a lot of time outside having fun. The two little dogs sit on the seat beside her in her van. Hector is always lifted in first and growls at Annie when she is put in.
The same human resource guarding also happens here. She gives the man who works with her a lift. Hector is between him and the lady. He growls at the man as he gets in and goes for him every time he so much as moves his arm or hand.
The lady is adamant that she doesn’t want the dogs crated in the back, so again we have to work around the obvious solution by being more creative.
Hector will be put in the foot well where he seems to be more relaxed and further away from the lady. Annie should be lifted into the van first.
As the man gets in, to help Hector to feel good about him he will drop a piece of food.
If he still growls when the man gets in, the lady will need to lift her little dog out and let the man get in first.
In other aspects of his life we have discussed how the lady can to stop Hector regarding her as his human resource.
Resource guarding isn’t always food and bones of course. It can be over a person, a place or even the dog’s own personal space.
Guarding his human resource is a big job for a little dog! Hector will be a lot happier when relieved of it.