Scared Dog. Jumpy. Nervous. Walks are a Nightmare for Her.

Scared dogBelle was found with her siblings, at just a few weeks old, by the roadside. From the beginning,, in her loving home, the Whippet mix was a scared and nervous puppy – in total contrast to their two Labradors.

When someone comes into the house the scared dog will leap onto the lady’s lap for reassurance.

Belle is now three years old and the behaviours her fear generates are hard for her family to deal with. She is extremely jumpy and scared of many everyday household things.

It’s easy to get cross with too much barking when one seems powerless to stop it.

Emotions behind the behaviour

The main message for helping Belle is for them to consider the emotions that cause her behaviours and deal with them instead of trying to stop the actions themselves. It can help to translate it into human terms. For instance, they wouldn’t scold a child who was crying due to fear. They would address the fear itself. Continue reading…

Pica? Swallow Could End in Tragedy

The dictionary definition of pica in medicine is the “pathological craving for substance unfit for food”

Does he suffer from Pica?

Wilson – one pale eye and one dark eye

I would hardly interpret Wilson’s ingesting of inappropriate items as a ‘craving’. It’s not constant. From my questioning the behaviour is likely to happen under certain circumstances.

Five weeks ago the wonderful young Bernese Mountain Dog had to be cut open for a second time to remove a buildup of things he had swallowed – a child’s sock and a dummy.

Just fourteen months old, Wilson suffers from IBD in the small intestine. He was referred to a specialist vet for his stomach issues and is on daily steroids. For medical reasons they won’t be able to open him up again.

If he gets another blockage it will be curtains for the wonderful Wilson.


Are there degrees of pica?

If from time to time the swallowing of inappropriate objects is pica, then that’s what Wilson has. However, if pica is defined by being a craving, it may not actually be pica.

Not being a vet or expert in this I can’t say. Perhaps someone will enlighten me. There is a list of possible medical causes for pica of which IBD is one.

Malnutrition or vitamin deficiency is another – pica can be caused by lack of nutrition. In this case it does seem a bit chicken and egg. The dog has a delicate stomach so can only eat certain things without an upset so his diet could be better and possibly he doesn’t digest it properly.

In addition to this, I can see a strong behavioural element. Mainly it’s when Wilson becomes frustrated, bored or stressed that the lifting of anything he can put in his mouth objects is triggered. He lives in a family with two very young boys. Noise and excitement could well cause Wilson to steal toys and any rubbish.

The walk situation gives a big clue to the main trigger.

Because he is mostly walked by the lady with a buggy, the big dog’s pulling could be disastrous. He wears a Halti. He hates it. All the way until he’s is let off lead he is trying to scrape it off on the ground.

To see him so unhappy with it is distressing for the lady also.

One can imagine that when he does get the instrument of torture and restriction removed, Wilson will be brimming with frustration and built-up tension.

He is free! The lady may well then be paying attention to the little children. Not to Wilson. About six weeks ago he took the tiny boy’s sock as it dangled from his foot, ran off with it and swallowed it. Later he picked up the child’s dummy from the ground and ate it. Neither items passed through.

Hence the final operation.

When Wilson is walked minus children he is less inclined to pick things up. So long as they call him soon enough he will usually come back. He now has to be much more motivated to listen to them and come away from things every time when called, rewarding to him in terms of food, fun or both.

I suggest they train him to the whistle – something a lot more piercing. Even if the walks have to be shorter, one of them should walk him alone more often and give him their full attention.

They must abandon that Halti. With a bit of practice he will walk a lot better on a Perfect Fit harness with a training lead fastened front and top than he does on a head halter, and they will have just as much physical control. Wilson will then arrive at the park happy and in a good state of mind.


A muzzle is a must.

As it’s so vital he swallows nothing else that might get stuck, if they are walking with the children or any other time they can’t give him their full attention, they must muzzle Wilson so that he simply can’t pick things up.

I feel that, medical issues aside, psychologically Wilson is trying to find some fulfillment in one way that he has control over – by swallowing things. It’s exacerbated by frustration and boredom. It earns attention of a sort. He’s a clever dog lacking sufficient mental activity. This vacuum in his life needs to be filled by his humans with activities that provide him with healthy stimulation.

One walk a day may not be enough. Two shorter ones may be better.

To help him de-stress he needs lots of ‘allowed’ things to chew – marrow bones, Stagbars, stuffed Kongs and so on. They can be rotated to retain novelty value. He needs plenty of games and training in bringing things, ‘give’, ‘drop’ and exchanging things.

With plenty of company and loving owners you would think Wilson had a perfect life, but it’s mostly about fitting in with the family and children. In essence, while he’s young and energetic, Wilson needs more ‘Wilson’ time.

Then he will become a more fulfilled dog with less need to find inappropriate ways of fulfilling himself.


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 Wilson and I’ve not gone into exact 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 health issues of any kind are concerned where consulting a vet is vital. 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 Get Help page)

Manners Maketh Dog!

The stunning German Shepherd lacks manners

Prince is aptly named.

He is treated like a prince and he behaves like a prince!  He lacks what I can only call manners.

About eighteen months ago I regularly saw a lady walking her German Shepherd puppy down my road. Soon, as he grew a bit bigger, she was walking him on a Halti.

I would watch as the pup repeatedly tried to scrape the thing off on the ground or with his paw.

One day, thinkingStunning German Shepherd lacks manners how frustrated and uncomfortable he must be feeling, I stopped to talk to the lady. I told her about a harness with the ring on the front, the Perfect Fit, and that if she wished I would pop in to show her.

The other day, over a year later, she phoned me. She is at her wits’ end with a dog that pulls despite the Halti. The other day he jumped up at the postman and he wasn’t being friendly.

Although I went to help the lady with walks, it was soon apparent that I wouldn’t get far if Prince isn’t treated a bit differently at home by the man in particular, learning some manners. Prince rules the couple’s life.

The retired man, who chose to have a German Shepherd, is unable to walk him due to health reasons so the much slighter lady has the job.

We need to be in control of a powerful dog. In this case Prince is mostly in control of his humans.


It’s like the man is the dog’s – not the dog the man’s!

It’s common for a dog to follow a person about. In this case, if Prince is out of sight for a minute the man gets up to check on him.

The dog jumps all over him, he grabs his arm with his teeth. The man will stir up an already excited dog and, to quote, Prince goes ‘berserk’ when his son calls. He finds it amusing but I find it unacceptable, dangerous even.

The man is at home all day and he and Prince are inseparable. He obeys every whim of the dog but if Prince is asked to do something he’s likely to ignore it. The constant attention and fuss make Prince what he is and it seems the man can’t help himself. He insists his dog is the softest dog who would never really hurt anyone.

We were adjusting his harness when Prince air snapped at me. A warning (which I heeded!).

Oh dear.

It’s so hard for the lady to walk a large dog that takes little notice of her. It’s not only about equipment but also the relationship between human and dog.

She walked Prince around the garden beautifully on the new harness. For the next three days she will be going out several times a day for five or ten minutes instead of one hour-long walk, loose-lead walking outside the house.

Then I shall be going back. We will extend the walk a bit further and look at what to do when passing barking dogs behind garden gates and what to do if something suddenly appears.

I must confess I am worried about this one. Prince’s genetics aren’t great. His mother was so aggressive they couldn’t see her. His father was a police dog. Several of the eleven siblings were returned due to aggression problems – having said which, the couple’s kindness instead of using ‘dominance’ tactics may well have saved him from the same fate.

I really hope the man now realises how important it is for them to control Prince (I don’t mean to dominate the dog but to teach him manners and training in a positive way). He really needs some serious training and brain-work. Internet advice may tell them to be ‘Alpha’. Prince would have none of that! Try dominating him or making him do something he doesn’t want to do and it can only go one way – down the slippery slope to anger.

Unless I am taken seriously I can see somebody getting bitten. I worry for the grandchildren. The gentleman knows the new dog law means someone need only to feel threatened for him to be prosecuted. They were lucky with the jumped-upon postman. Next time they may not be so lucky. I feel he’s in denial.

From our bantering and friendly conversation I know the very genial man won’t mind me saying that he doesn’t really take the matter, or me, very seriously.

The lady does, however.


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 prince. I don’t go into detail. 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 aggression is 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 (see my Get My Help page)

She Was Attacked by Another Dog

Attacked by another dog Staffie back viewNothing is more important on a walk than for a dog than to feel safe.

A few months ago the young Staffie Boxer mix was attacked by another dog. She was sitting beside the gentleman minding her own business, and off-lead dogs ran up to them. It ended in a fight, followed by angry shouting from the owner of the off lead dogs – which is so often the case!

Attacked by another dog

Shortly afterwards, Roxy was attacked by another dog and she was ready this time – she fought back.

People with uncontrolled, off-lead dogs have so much to answer for. What can conscientious dog owners do to protect their dogs? They have to avoid certain places and times, which is unfair.

The couple have only had Roxy for nine months. She had been picked up as a stray. To start with she mixed well with dogs and there were no problems on walks apart from the pulling on lead.

No longer feels safe

Roxy no longer feels safe, though it may not be as bad as her owners think because they now keep their distance. Although she has several doggie friends that she plays with, they very understandably feel wary themselves now. As soon as they see a dog, even if Roxy isn’t reacting at all, the lead tightens on the Halti as they make their escape. What message is this giving her? That all dogs she doesn’t know are potential trouble.

Along with her humans, Roxy needs to learn that just because two dogs have been bad news, both with a reputation locally, most dogs are fine.

They had been advised to food reward Roxy when she’s stopped barking. Fair enough, but I prefer to feed before she gets to the barking stage, when she is aware of the other dog but at a ‘safe’ distance. This then eases the emotion of anxiety and associates other dogs with good stuff. If food-motivated Roxy won’t take chicken, then they are too close. She is ‘over threshold’.

Whilst avoiding other dogs altogether gets them nowhere, pushing her too close too soon will only make things worse. By ‘reading’ Roxy’s signals and reacting in response to how she is feeling and not preempting, they may even now possibly pass near many dogs with no reaction at all.

Accumulated stress

The tricky thing is that Roxy may react differently at different times. One day she could get quite near to a dog before reacting and the next day she may bark when she sees the same dog at a distance. The main variable will be the level of her accumulated stress levels at the time and all sorts of things can contribute to this.

So – the groundwork is to reduce stress in all areas of Roxy’s life, to make sure the equipment they use causes her no discomfort and the lead should be loose – change the Halti for a comfortable harness with two contact points. This can take time.

The end aim is for Roxy to clock in with her human when she sees another dog and then trust him/her to make the best decision. Even if sometimes ‘life happens’ and things go wrong, both dog and humans should have sufficient bounce-back to dust themselves off so to speak and carry on. Being attacked by another dog can have a devastating effect, but even in times of war a good leader keeps going, is trusted and keeps calm.

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, you can do more harm than good. Click here for help

Dog Reduces Lady to Tears

Black Labrador Busby posing for his photoBusby is a ten-month-old black Labrador, and absolutely gorgeous (most of the time!).  On occasion his behaviour has reduced his poor young lady owner to tears.

Here is a typical morning: The lady lets him out into the garden and then he comes in for breakfast. All good so far. Then she likes to sit down and watch breakfast TV with a cup of tea and this is Busby’s cue! He will jump onto her and nip her and grab her clothes and tear at her slippers. He will leap up behind her on the sofa and if she tries to get him down he’s defiant. He may then fly about the furniture and the house doing what she calls ‘zoomies’!  He will jump up onto the dining table. He may steal something and run off into the garden, initiating a guaranteed chase.

When she gets up and starts moving about, he stops all his nonsense.

This behaviour will also happen in the evening when her husband is at home and they want to sit down in peace, though she is Busby’s main target.

Busby is rewarded with guaranteed attention for these antics, with less reward in the form of attention when he’s calm and good.  He needs alternative activities for his wild moods to occupy him and his jaws, along with plenty of positive reinforcement and reward for calm behaviour.

Fortunately Busby loves his large crate so I have devised a temporary alternative morning routine! When they go to bed they should block the dining table by tipping the chairs, ready for the morning. After his breakfast, when the lady sitting down is the trigger for his behaviour, he should for now go straight away into his crate which is with her in the sitting room, with something special to chew, She can now watch TV in peace until she’s ready to start her day. Both the lady and Busby will then have a happy stress-free start to the day.

They are a very conscientious couple and have taught Busby many things but his training is only any use when he is in the right mood. They now need to work on gaining his cooperation, especially out on walks which currently are not enjoyable for anybody – especially Busby who can no longer be let off lead because he won’t come back, and who spends all the walk trying to remove the Halti – the only way the lady can stop him pulling.

He won’t need that Halti any more!

Message ten days later – off to a good start. The gentleman has worked very hard and patiently at the walking and is building a very good relationship with him: “We feel that we have made progress in all areas, some progress is quicker than others. Overall we have noticed that he is much calmer now than he was before. Especially pleased with the progress we have made with walking. Walking has actually gone very well, I worked lots in the garden. But he soon began to bite the lead, lose focus and jump up on bite me, so ignore him, took off his lead and went inside, leaving him on his own in the garden.  Returned 5 mins later and repeated until he didn’t jump up.  By the 2nd day, we had progressed out of the garden gate and into the street.  This weekend was a real break through, we managed to get all the way to the field where the town hall is and done lots of lead work in the big car park before walking back.  Laura has notice a huge difference in his pulling and lunging “.
After Christmas – about seven weeks after my visit, and they are now beginning to enjoy their dog: “Well Christmas could have been a disaster but it actually went very well with an 11month old puppy in tow.  He was very very well behaved, we only had to put him into his travel crate 3 times over Christmas day and Boxing day which was fantastic. He was very polite around people, especially my elderly grandparents, everyone commented on how well behaved he was, how much progress we have made with him and how calm he was with all the exciting things going on around him. We had a prefect walk on christmas morning, made it round our 45min circuit with no pulling at all”.

A Lovely Dog That is Being Ruined

German Shepherd Shandy has no leadershipShandy is a fourteen month old German Shepherd, a friendly dog who in the circumstances is unbelievably stable. Not only does he lack any sort of boundaries, he  is actively taught to do the very things that should be avoided. It is a tribute to his great personality that he is not aggressive or fearful – or both. In fact, I have very seldom watched while someone behaves in such an inappropriate way with their dog.

That they love Shandy goes without saying. He is adored. At the same time he is not treated with respect, and he is encouraged to show his humans no respect either. They may tell him to do something, but he takes no notice and they give up. He does exactly what he wants.

Shandy jumps up at them, he jumps all over them, he jumps up at visitors, he stands on the sofa pawing the man to share sweets with him; he literally walks all over them. He is encouraged by teasing kind of play to mouth and bite hands and feet.

While his owners are eating he will be staring, drooling and pawing so that they share their food with him.

On walks he is a problem. The only way they can handle him and stop the pulling is by using a Halti. He lunges and barks at cats and shows aggression to dogs he doesn’t know. This is hardly surprising. Outside in the big world he is trapped, attached by his lead to a man who is an unpredictable responsibility not a leader, or to the sensible young daughter who is very frustrated by the whole situation and who contacted me in the first place. She however is slight of build and unconfident when out with Shandy and he will sense this. Needless to say, off lead he only comes back when he is ready.

I can see Shandy’s behaviour taking a turn for the worse as he matures if they can’t somehow quite drastically change their ways which I fear they may not wish to do. He is a powerful dog. He does not need a silly playmate nor a servant. He needs to be taught good manners. He needs responsible ‘parenting’.

Shandy is, quite literally, being spoilt – ruined.

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

Good With People, Not With Other Dogs

Tasha is the perfect dog at homeGerman Shepherd Tasha was happy to see me when I arrived as she is with all people. When her new owners inherited her about four months ago she would jump up, but no longer.

Tasha is similar to other two dogs I’ve most recently visited in that she is fine at home, good with people, but not so good with other dogs out on walks. When this is the case I can usually bet that before even encountering other dogs things aren’t going as well as they should.  The dog will not be walking on a loose lead, sniffing and doing doggy-walk things. She will be pulling and she will be on the alert. A tight short lead gives no freedom and a retractable/extendable/flexi lead that is never loose will only compound the problem.

The owners had their previous two German Shepherds from puppies but Tasha is five years old. They were taken by surprise when she suddenly lunged and snarled at another dog. It seems likely that in the past Tasha was seldom walked on lead. She lived happily with another Shepherd. A dog on lead she is trapped and can’t freeze or flee, and there is a good chance that if she were free she would be quite OK with other dogs. Naturally they can’t test that yet. From that first lunge the lady owner in particular is scared and won’t walk Tasha alone any more. The gentleman holds the lead short and tight as soon as they spot another dog, irrespective of whether Tasha might be OK. They are in effect telling her that all dogs mean trouble, and Tasha will be reacting accordingly. It is a vicious circle.

Tasha now wears a Halti head collar which she tries to remove. Walks are increasingly stressful for both Tasha and her owners.

Once again we humans need to see things from the dog’s point of view and react appropriately.  Firstly, in all areas of life, in behaving like leaders the will give Tasha the opportunity to make the right decisions because she wants to please, rather than having them imposed upon her. For instance, instead of charging out of the door first at the start of the walk, she will work it out for herself that the door simply won’t open for her until she hangs back so they can go out together. The same rule applies to pulling down the road. She will work it out for herself over the next few days that she will only progress anywhere when the lead is loose (which is easier than it sounds so long as handlers stop all ‘correcting’and ‘training’ ).

Without walking out calmly and nicely and without then walking happily on a loose lead, Tasha is going to be in a stressy state of mind when she is confronted with possible trouble – other dogs. Finally they will work towards being able to trust Tasha to come back when called, so that she can be off lead. I am pretty sure other dogs will then seem far less of a threat to her.

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

Change of Personality Outside

Cleo looks like a long legged StaffirThe photo doesn’t show how beautiful Cleo is, with her expressive ears and shiny brown coat. She is a Staffordshire Bull Terrier/Labrador cross – but looks like a leggy Staffie.

Cleo has lived with her new owners for just three weeks and they are at least her third home. She is eight years old. At home she is the model dog. They are out all day at work and Cleo takes this in her stride. She is polite around food, she doesn’t bark excessively. She is friendly and confident, maybe a little aloof and independent. Possibly the whole of her real character hasn’t yet had time to surface.

Before walks she is calm and cooperative.

But, once the door opens and she is outside, she is almost uncontrollable. She becomes a law unto herself.

Previously Cleo had been a stray. Clearly she had to find her own food by hunting and scavenging.  She has a strong prey drive. She became very self-sufficient. As a stray she could go where she liked, she could chase what she liked and she could stop to rest when she liked. She had to look out for trouble in order to protect herself.

This then is the dog that Cleo becomes as soon as she is out of the house. It is no surprise that she freelances. She pulls and she puts the brakes on, she jumps up at walls and gates and would leap over if she could, she wants to run to other dogs. It is as though her owners don’t exist apart from their being dead-weight on the end of her lead that she has to drag along behind her.

She is a strong dog and her pulling on lead is such a problem that they have resorted to a Halti so they can physically prevent poor Cleo from pulling so much, but it is like putting a plaster on a dirty wound. It doesn’t address the problem itself.

And then there are CATS! If Cleo sees a cat she trembles and probably wants to kill it. I’m not sure whether this is because she sees cats as a threat or prey, or both. Around Cleo’s new home there are a lot of cats!

So we are working at all aspects of Cleo’s life so that her new owners become more relevant to her so that she sees them as the decision makers, so that eventually she walks nicely beside them because she wants to, not because she is forced to – and to learn that cats are not her responsibility to deal with for whatever reason!

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