Defensive Behaviour, Growls When Approached While Resting.

They have done wonderful work with their two beautiful dogs, 18-month-old Cocker Spaniel Pudding and their eight-month-old Australian Shepherd pup.

Both are obedient and polite and were it not for Pudding’s recent ‘defensive behaviour’ problem rearing its ugly head, all would be well.

The young owners are fortunately now nipping this in the bud.

Growling ignored

defensive behaviour when in bedThe incident that started everything was a couple of months ago. Continue reading…

Won’t Give. Guards Resource. Growls Warning. Now Bitten.

Beagle Alfie’s guarding behaviour has been simmering for a good year and still isn’t extreme.

It was brought to a head the other day while a dog sitter was looking after him.

The person had left food in a bag. Alfie had grabbed the bag and they had then tried to overpower him and force the bag off him.

Alfie bit.

Continue reading…

Growls When Touched and Cuddled in his Bed.

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.

People aren’t listening to him.

growls n his bedHe 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.

Star growls.

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.

Star’s bed will become a ‘no-go zone’ for humans.

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.

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 Star. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Help page).

Worsening Behaviour. Toilet indoors. Growling.

What is causing Poppy’s sudden worsening behaviour?

why the worsening behaviourTwo weeks ago a family member came back home. Two weeks ago sixteen-month-old Jack Russell’s behaviour took a turn for the worse. Is this a coincidence?

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.

What is wrong with Poppy?

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.

Could medication have contributed to her worsening behaviour?

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.

A couple of months later: Poppy is a lot calmer. She has stopped all toileting indoors. She is a lot calmer and now no longer growls when family members hug one another, she no longer reacts to traffic and she’s a lot better when meeting other dogs.


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 Poppy and because neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all so accurate assessment is important, particularly where fear or aggression is concerned. 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)

Introducing a New Dog Did Not Go Well

Staffordshire Bull Terrier doesn't like anotehr dog in her home


This is quite a sad story of things not going to plan on the day and of hindsight being a wonderful thing.

Ruby is a five-year-old Staffie cross of brilliant temperament in all but one respect – she is very much on edge around other dogs.  She always has been. I believe this could be something to do with her leaving her litter mates too young and therefore not having company of other dogs in the crucial early weeks. When she meets dogs on walks her hackles go up and she growls – obviously scared.

Ruby’s owners wanted to rescue a dog that was very much in need of a home, so they chose Jojo, a 9-month-old Pointer mix from a rescue centre in Southern Spain.

Jojo arrived last week. She was expected during the day but was delivered by lorry at 11 o’clock at night!

This immediately wiped out any plans they may have had for introducing the dogs in neutral territory in the park.

Rescue Pointer mix from Spain is eager to please


The dogs were crated for the night, and already things were going wrong.  It could well have been easier for Ruby if they had chosen a dog rather than a bitch. The  two dogs could eyeball one another from their crates. Jojo is a mild mannered and easy-going young dog, but Ruby will have been feeling increasingly threatened and territorial.

In the morning the dogs were let out of their crates. There will have been a lot of tension from the humans. Ruby was showing classic signs of anxiety, continually glancing at Jojo and then deliberately looking away. The gentleman stood between the dogs giving what he felt were calming words but the dogs would not have been fooled. Before they knew what had happened, Jojo was screaming in the corner, pinned by Ruby. No damage was actually done so it was probably just  a big warning. Poor Jojo. What a difficult introduction to her new home.

Another more minor episode followed the next day, so now Jojo is temporarily living with the gentleman’s mother. I was called in to help them prepare both dogs for a fresh start.

This is tricky. There are things Ruby does and is allowed to do that could be potential for trouble, and these have to be dealt with first. How the owners now react when they meet other dogs when out is very important. Not only does Ruby’s behaviour need some work, but they need to change things round a bit and gate the kitchen doorway.

We have a plan for a controlled meeting between Ruby and Jojo in the park, initially at a good distance until, hopefully, walking on lead near each and ideally back home together. Once home it will be a bigger problem and they need initially to kept apart so they can see one another but not make contact, separated by a gate or in crates, for as long as it takes to work on the situation. The demeanor of the humans is very important. Patience, calm and quiet is needed and in particular Ruby must not be scolded if she growls.

After the unfortunate start and knowing no different, they did what they thought was best, but the first encounter should have been approached differently. Now that this has happened it will take longer as Ruby will already be on the defensive. It is a blessing that Jojo, who in the rescue centre had been mixing with other dogs, is not unduly fazed by Ruby. What a fantastic temperament she has!

If a dog is already not good around other dogs, another dog suddenly in her own home must be an ordeal for her.

This is from an email I received three and a half months after my visit: “When we go out together, the dogs are on their leads and walk so well together – Ruby tends to lead the way, Jojo likes to follow her, sniffing where she sniffs etc.  When we get home, we all go in together – the dogs are ‘nose to backside’ as we go in! ….In the evenings we do still rotate the dogs in/out of their pens. …. they still just take it turns to be penned downstairs, maybe an hour at a time.  Now and again
Staffordshire Bull Terrier doesn't like another dog in her home


I’ve had Jojo on my lap on the armchair while Mike and Ruby are on the sofa – they seemed relaxed with it.  The other night all four of us were on the sofa – dog/human/dog/human – both Ruby and Jojo very chilled – so nice!
We’ve discovered Jojo likes to dig!  She has made a great big hole in the lawn which we’ve decided to leave in case she wants to make other holes.  She enjoys herself so much, dropping one of her chewy bones in it, then digging it out again – doggy bliss! Today we took Jojo to a Fun Day at a local RSPCA centre and entered her into the ‘fun dog show’.  We had a lovely day and she won 1st place for Best Condition Mixed Breed!
So that’s the story so far Theo….not quite living freely together yet but a pretty relaxed household, so watch this space!
The two dogs lying together
Six months after my visit: “In the evenings both dogs are now out of their pens : ) Mike and I on sofa with one or both of us between them – Ruby pretty chilled about it now and Jo not so conscious of her. ….They have actually been left a few times dozing on the sofa togetherfor a few minutes. We’re still trying to keep that calm atmosphere which we know now is SO important with Ruby….We don’t take the muzzle on walks anymore. She rarely even whines now when she sees other dogs and is keen to go and meet them….. Theo – really pleased with the way things are still going – still heading in the right direction!  Thanks so much again for your ongoing help”. Here is a photo – and whilst Ruby isn’t totally relaxed a huge step forward.
And nine months after my visit, “Just to wish you a merry Christmas and a very happy new year! All is great here, can actually say that Ruby and JoJo are now living freely together. They seem relaxed with eachother – nice content dogs”.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

A Complicated Situation to Unravel

Cocker Shadow is protective of the lady


The couple have two young rescue dogs. Cocker Spaniel Shadow joined Terrier Duchess under two weeks ago. Duchess herself has only been with the couple for about nine months, but it is Shadow’s so-called aggression that is concerning them.

It seems to them that Shadow is protecting the lady – something he probably did in his previous home. Whenever the man approaches the lady, Shadow growls – or attacks him. There was an occasion where Shadow had gone into full attack mode. The man felt he solved that by holding Shadow down for about twenty minutes until he finally gave in.

The gentleman feels that he must, in order to show he’s boss, be confrontational with Shadow. He sets him up deliberately. He tried sitting in front of the lady so Shadow couldn’t get to her, which made Shadow pace in panic until eventually he took himself off. These techniques seem to work on the surface as a ‘quick fix’, but I can see that Shadow is very wary of the man who, following his interpretation of a certain TV programme, with the best intentions is doing what he thinks is necessary to solve the problem.

The more I watched and listened, the more complicated a situation it became to unravel. As the evening wore on I began to feel that Shadow was actually wary of the man approaching him – not so much the lady, but he is usually in front of her or by her.  Shadow was near me at one point and the gentleman experimented with walking towards me – and Shadow growled. Shadow also growled when I approached him, away from the couple, but was friendly if I called him over.

I believe any physical dominance is merely like putting a cap on a volcano. It doesn’t solve the problem, and the eruption is inevitable. What is happening here is that the dog is becoming more and more wary of the gentleman. When he growls, he’s not being a bad dog trying to be dominant, he is a scared and confused dog. He doesn’t growl when approached by the lady, and I think this is to do with her manner and body language. Possibly he is not used to men. She doesn’t walk up to Shadow, loom over him and stare him in the eye. He probably feels he’s safer near to her.

I am really happy that the man is now going to use a different technique and give the little dog time to settle in and become more confident. He needs nurturing, not dominance. At the moment they have deliberately been pushing Shadow into situations to ‘force him out of it’ and ‘show who’s boss’. I believe they need to do the very opposite.  Avoid putting Shadow into stressful and scary situations that make him growl. Growling is saying ‘I’m scared, keep your distance’. The sure result of continuing as they are means that Shadow will learn that growling is ineffectual and pointless, so he will then bite straight away instead. This technique teaches aggression.

The lady needs to be more proactive if she feels the dog is growling because she is being approached. It’s her job to show him that she doesn’t need protecting, not the gentleman’s job to force Shadow to back down.

To further complicate things, the other rescue dog, Duchess, has her own issues. She is already trying to ‘sort out’ Shadow when he starts to growl. I fear if they don’t turn this around and work on giving Shadow more confidence, the relationship between the two dogs could escalate into something worse.

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


A Very Good Dog

Lurcher Berkley is settling well into his new home Berkley is a brindled lurcher. He had been in rescue kennels for seven months before his new owners found him three weeks ago. Seven months! I cannot understand why nobody wanted him. He is beautiful, confident, friendly; he is calm – and he has been well trained by someone.

Berkely confidently knows what he wants. His new owners are being a little too obliging and I could see that he is beginning to call all the shots. I was called out because they want to get things right, and because they are worried about his reaction to other dogs when they get too near and are too boisterous, pushy or impolite. Berkely is quite happy to ignore them altogether and he makes this quite clear.  Because, if they push it, he snaps at them and growls, his new ownerLurcherBerkley11s are concerned he may bite one. They hold his lead tight. He is never yet off lead, and the dogs in question are all off lead dogs, so Berkley is at a disadvantage. He can’t escape and he can’t after all say ‘Go away, I don’t want you sniffing my bum!’ The owners need to be in control and save Berkley from awkward situations rather than push him into them. If he were free I am sure he could deal with dogs himself without a fight. This isn’t aggression. Understandablly they don’t yet dare let him off lead yet, so there is work to be done!

We had a very good evening looking at things from Berkley’s perspective so they could see if he continues to make all the decisions  – when to be touched, when to be walked, when to play and when to stop playing, where to walk when they are out and so on, they could actually spoil a very sound dog.

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

Aggression at Home is Escalating

Newfoundland trying to adjust to new lifeIt is a difficult situation for Kaloo, a Newfoundland. Until recently he lived with another Newfie and their male owner. Recently they moved in with a lady who has two Springer Spaniels and two children, so two ‘packs’ are merging.

For Kaloo there are two areas of stress. One is the competition for ‘top dog’ status with Springer Pip, the other is being in a much more, to him, stressful environment with excitement, noise, boy shooting toy gun, trampoline and so on.

Kaloo is two and a half years old; until he went to live with the gentleman about 9 months ago he had been in rescue kennels for a long while, with a previous history when still a pup of guarding.

Now things are beginning to get dangerous. He is targeting the lady and has bitten her twice. He growls quite ferociously at her and at the two children. This mostly takes place when they want to walk past him – and he usually occupies the main access route to the doors.  He has now begun to fly at people when they move suddenly, without the warning growl. He has occasional spats with the male Springer who has started to scent mark in the house and there has been blood. Kaloo is not a happy dog.

The lady is understandably very wary of Kaloo now which is making things worse, and quite rightly worried for her children as is the man.

It is always difficult to feel you are doing right by your own dogs when new dogs join your household. Things they were able to do before may now no longer be possible. The lady feels afraid to walk around her own house.

Poor Kaloo is confused and stressed. By understanding him better and by both working on human leadership as well as safety measures to manage the situation, I sincerely hope that this can be resolved. The man must take much better charge of Kaloo, work on getting him to come straight away when called so that he can avert trouble (at present he comes if he feels like it). Kaloo needs some form of physical restriction or containment when the man isn’t about. When he does growl the humans need to respond appropriately, taking charge whilst not retaliating with anger which would very quickly escalate things.

Growling isn’t for fun – it’s a warning. ‘Go away’. ‘Don’t move suddenly’, ‘Don’t come near me’. ‘Don’t walk through this door’. ‘Don’t come near this person’. It’s Catch 22. If the warning is obeyed then it reinforces growling.  If it’s not obeyed the dog may then take it to the next step and if it is never obeyed the dog may well drop out warning altogether and go straight to biting, which I think is now happening with Kaloo and the lady. It’s moving in a dangerous direction.

The whole family needs to change the way they behave with the dogs – especially Kaloo, and to some extent the boy Springer.  Meanwhile, ‘play safe’ is the golden rule.

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

Being King Isn’t All it’s Cracked Up to Be

Giant Schnauzer is ver larger and very regalYesterday it was a Miniature Schnauzer and today a Giant Schnauzer!

Benson is very Big and very regal. He is magnificent – a really lovely boy, and a teenager! He runs the show. After being let outside in the morning he runs upstairs and leaps all over people in bed, may even hump them and may growl if removed. He jumps up and barks while his meals are being prepared (ignoring repeated commands to sit and wait). He jumps up and barks while they try to put his lead on to go out and then pulls like a train down the road until he reaches the park. When let off lead, he may jump up and grab his owners. There is nowhere indoors he is not allowed to go. Benson and the other dog can’t have toys or chews because Benson commandeers them and becomes possessive. He is becoming increasingly protective and wary both when meeting people outside and at home. His owners are getting worried because signs of aggression are increasing.

He has some major plus points. He is aloof and ignores other dogs, so no trouble there.  He can be very affectionate. He likes to keep an eye on his human family, so apart from one time when he was spooked by a bicycle and took it upon himself to run home, he stays near them when out. When called, he comes – but only to within a few feet. Then they have to go over to him! He is still an adolescent and is pushing his luck. The power takeover can creep up on people as they give way bit by bit until they suddenly realise they are being controlled by their dog!

For Benson there is a downside to being King in that without leadership he feels exposed and unprotected so easily scared of things like bikes, pushchairs, umbrellas and so on.  He also is scared when certain people, men mainly, look at him or lean over, approach directly or enter his personal space. A dog with convincing human leadership is much more relaxed and less touchy about his own personal space, less likely to worry about collecting and possessing trophies, jumping up, humping and dominating.

I read somewhere that a leader has a much greater need to lead than a follower has to follow. It can be a long job gently and fairly convincing a dog like this relinquish his responsibilites – to be more relaxed. Trying to do it through domination and force would make things a hundred times worse.

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