Dog to Dog Encounter. Small Event Big Fallout

The chance dog to dog encounter was simply at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

This has set off a chain reaction leading to Paz now barking at other dogs she sees and her anxious owner’s walks ruined.

A single dog to dog encounter can be the start of something big.

dog to dog encounter has made her wary of other dogsI have seen a young man walking his gorgeous large dog of mixed breed around my village for a couple of years now.

I have always thought how happy the dog looks and how nice the man is with her.

Too often I’m tempted to stop and tell people what I think about their forcing their spaniels that would rather potter and sniff, to run beside bikes. Or to tell the owners of a poor dog trying to scarpe off his Halti on the path about Perfect Fit harnesses. Or to show someone jerking the lead how easy it is to get a dog to walk on a loose leash.

I have also wanted to stop this gentleman to say how I enjoy seeing him walking his lovely dog around my village.

Paz and her gentleman wander. She’s allowed to sniff. She wears a comfortable harness. I have seen them at all different times of day and evening. I thought that the man must spend all his time walking her. The fact is, he works shifts and still manages to walk her three times a day.

The young man found Paz in a bin six years ago. She was about one day old.

He hand-reared her. He has done miracles with her, somehow avoiding the pitfalls of hand-reared puppies that haven’t had the interaction with mother or siblings.

A couple of years ago they came over here from Italy. Paz adapted well to the change. She really has had no problems until something that was triggered a couple of weeks ago.

In a narrow alleyway, two small dogs suddenly came out of a gate and Paz pounced on them, seemingly aggressively.

This is a classic example of ‘trigger stacking‘ where a sequence of events builds up stress in the dog. Stress ‘loads the gun’. One occurrence too many can then be the final straw.

These two dogs were the final straw for Paz.

She will undoubtedly have been less relaxed than usual. Her gentleman was away for a while which will have been unusual. He had arranged for another person to walk her which hadn’t happened before.

The previous day these same two little dogs had barked at Paz but she hadn’t taken any notice.

This day, however, as they came out of the gate Paz lunged at them. No doubt the inexperienced dog walker will have reacted in a harsh way, something the young man would never have done. Maybe it was his human reaction that triggered the final bullet, so to speak.

A single unfortunate dog to dog encounter in the wrong place at the wrong time that’s caused fallout. 

Now Paz is alert and ready to bark at other dogs she meets.

The poor man is very unhappy. For Paz’ sake he is now avoiding dogs wherever possible. I feel sad for him.

His own tension will certainly be transferring to Paz and making things worse. They must be very close.

We have a couple of Boxers near to my house that are left in the garden. When someone walks past they get so angry they then start fighting one another. Many local dogs have been ‘contaminated’ by them, now being wary of dogs they pass. Paz, however, would walk past and ignore them but not any longer.

Paz no longer feels safe.

From this single badly-timed dog to dog encounter her life has changed.

Fortunately it’s not gone on for long enough to become ingrained. Instead of simply avoiding all dogs now, the man will be watching and reading her. He will give her the space she needs, but only if she needs it. Seeing other dogs at a comfortable distance he will pair with food – she will do anything for food!

He will be happy and upbeat when they see a dog approaching and hopefully this little nightmare will soon end. Paz will be back to her old self.

The person walking her at the time of her dog to dog encounter very likely reacted in a way that scared her more than the encounter itself. Paz’ gentleman needs to keep reassuring her that he will keep her safe – just as he always has done.

If it turns out to be not that simple to reverse the situation, I will go out with them and we can work on it in more depth.

From being found in a bin, hand-reared and walking happily around other dogs for six years, one unfortunate dog to dog encounter can’t be allowed to cast this shadow on their lives.

Sprocker Jumps Up, Nips, Steals

Sprocker Milo is a very good natured and friendly dog - but he is a handfulMilo is a beautiful 14 month old Cocker-Springer mix. His family adopted him from Wood Green three months ago at eleven months of age. It became obvious very soon just why his previous owners had given up on him, but fortunately the members of his new family are giving it all they can and have already made progress.

Milo didn’t have a good start in life because his mother died when he was born and consequently he was hand-reared. It is almost impossible for a human to replace the lessons taught by his mother. From his behaviour it also seems likely that he didn’t have the rough and tumble, give and take and bite inhibition lessons learnt from being reared with siblings.

He’s a very good natured and friendly dog – but he is a handful! His ‘crimes’ include jumping up, mouthing and nipping; stealing things for the attention and the chase; nip-biting when examined or groomed, and grabbing a hand that takes his collar; jumping up at work tops to steal food; he jumps all over visitors and they are afraid to have their young nephews and neices visit them. At the start of walks he is flying about, leaping up and grabbing the lead, nipping arms and maybe humping the person holding it. Basically he lacks self control or any form of impulse control.

His is a perfect example of reinforcement driving behaviour.  Attention of any sort will do! When looked at like that the solutions become clearer. We unintentionally reinforce unwanted behaviour so need to reinforce with attention desired behaviour only. This may be easier said than done – which is where I come in with strategies.

Milo has some very good traits. He is affectionate. He never barks for attention and is peaceful in his crate – very necessary when they aren’t about to watch him! Neither is he a big barker generally. The things that most stimulate him need reducing so that he can calm down. It’s not a good idea to play tug games or chase games with a dog that mouths, nips and grabs, or who steals things and runs off with them – winding you up for a chase.

He needs rules and boundaries in terms that he understands – provided more by the actions of his humans than by words and commands. Good self-controlled behaviour needs to become more rewarding than bad behaviour.

About 5 weeks later – some good progress with lead walking: ‘We see lots of progress compared to where we were and are confident your plan is working.  One proud moment yesterday was when we watched our son taking Milo out for a short walk. The whole process was a result of the training plan – Milo allowed him to fit the harness without any fuss, he sat and waiting while the lead was attached.  He remained calm, and followed my son out of the door with a slack lead, we watched them go off down the driveway, Milo walking at his side, lead slack and a general confident look.  Matt had a treat for him and he certainly deserved it!.
 

Two Boxers with Too Much Freedom

The two Boxers have too much freedomHoney and Millie are both six years old. They were brought home on the same day, but they are not sisters. Millie came from a good breeder and nice home environment, whereas Honey missed out on some vital early input from siblings and mother, and had to be hand reared. What happens during the first twelve weeks or so of a dog’s life makes a huge difference and I don’t believe can ever entirely be reversed. A dog without proper early interaction with siblings and mother will be harder work.

The two dogs used to get on brilliantly. They had puppies at the same time  – even putting all their puppies together in one whelping box and sharing the maternal duties.

Unfortunately things have gone downhill.  Honey, predictably, is a much more stressed dog. A short while ago, due to complications in a pregnancy, Millie had to be spayed, and the imbalance of hormones between them may be adding to the growing tension between the two dogs.

Honey will suddenly just go for Millie. Sometimes she gives ‘that look’ first, sometimes it seems to happen out of the blue. There are a couple of common denominators – the lady is always present and it seems to involve comings and goings, either of people or one dog returning into the presence of the other.  On most occasions the house has been busy and Honey will have had a build up of stress.

To my mind the biggest contributor of all to Honey’s stress levels in particular is the enormous amount of freedom the two dogs have. They have quite a large area on the estate where they freely roam – controlled only by an electric barrier. They are left out all day with an open kennel for shelter. They are there at the gate whenever anyone arrives and it is a busy place. Honey barks, growls and hackles – scared and warning. It’s quite surprising that all her stress is taken out on poor Millie and that she’s not actually gone for a person by now. There is a public dog walking path through the estate that they can see but not reach, which also causes barking and stress.

These two dogs are in charge of the territory, no question about it. Without realising it, the people are often allowing the dogs to be in charge of them also. If it were just the much more stable Millie it may not really matter as she can handle it. Honey can’t.

I am hoping that they can find a way of enclosing the dogs during the day when they themselves are not about and that they feel happy with, and of keeping them well away from the gate area when people come and go so they are let ‘off duty’.  My own dogs are peacefully contained in quite a small area in the house when I am out and I wouldn’t have it any other way for their own sakes – and for the most part when they are anywhere further afield than my garden, I accompany them.

Ruling the roost really isn’t easy on a dog. With some indoor leadership work as well as limiting physical boundaries, Honey’s stress levels should then reduce and I am sure she will not feel the need to take it out on poor Millie. Possibly spaying her in a couple of months’ time when the time is right could help, but I don’t believe this alone is the answer as the dogs already had had a few differences earlier. It needs to be done in conjunction with the behaviour work.

Rearing littermates usually comes with problems, and even though these two weren’t actually from the same litter, because they were adopted together at the same age there will be little difference.

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