Changing No to Yes using a clicker

Bella is the most adorable, soft, cute, friendly and totally scrumptious Beagle puppy of six months old.

She greeted me with lots of jumping up. She jumped up at the counters. Bella jumped at and onto the table. 

Bella is told NO. She’s told GET DOWN.

Bella being taught Yes with a clickerWhen I arrive I usually ask the people, where possible, to cease all commands. I like to see what the dog does when not controlled.

Like most people they found this hard. It demonstrates, however, that the commands they are constantly giving her teach her nothing. ‘Get Down’ may work in the moment because she just obeys the word.

It doesn’t stop her doing it again.

In fact, I would say that it might increase the behaviour if attention is what she wants.

Being unable to scold her left them helpless. They can’t simply put up with the behaviour, can they!

They already had a clicker. We were going to turn NO into YES.

The little girl aged eight sat next to me. Her instructions were to click as soon as Bella’s feet were on the floor. She was a little genius.

The child clicked and then I dropped food on the floor for Bella.

Bella too was a genius. She caught on to what clicking was all about very quickly.

Kids in bed, Bella moved on to challenge us all further. She scratched at the door and chewed the mat.

How were we going to stop her without saying NO?

With a clicker we will teach her an incompatible behaviour – a ‘Yes’.

I put out my hand to her. In no time she was touching my palm with her little cold nose. Click. Food. The man took over and he, like his daughter, was a genius too.

In one session Bella and the man, both novices, had learnt what clicker was all about. He was able to put the action on cue with the word Touch’. He was very much on the ball. I took a short video of him.

Bella went to jump at the table, the man called ‘Bella-Touch’ from the other side of the room and she ran straight over and touched his hand. Click. Food.

Soon he will be able to drop the click altogether.

We had a little break with Bella in her crate, then the man carried on. Bella was now looking at me and at the table without jumping up. Yes. Click. Food.

Being constantly told No can be very frustrating for a dog – just as it would be for a child. Bella gets stirred up and may hump the lady. She humped me.

I stood still and froze. She would have to stop eventually. As soon as her feet were on the floor I clicked. Food.

They need food to hand all the time for now – she can earn her meals. If no clicker, the word Yes will do.

They are changing their mindset from No to Yes.

To give Bella something acceptable to take out any frustrations on, she will have a ‘box of tricks’. A carton that she can wreck full of safe rubbish from the recycle bin with bits of food buried amongst it.

She can really go to town on that.

 

 

Humping. Problem or Symptom?

The three Lurchers I have just been to live in Dog Heaven!

In a fairly small environment they are allowed a great deal of enrichment in terms of things to chew and explore with no owner panic if they make a mess!  I have to persuade many people to give their dogs things to do, chew or wreck to keep them busy and to calm them down as it can require quite a bit of clearing up afterwards.

Zak

Zak

Nor is undue pressure put upon the three Lurchers in terms of training or correction. If they have dismembered the stuffed tiger, so be it – it is repaired.

The lady has had Cassie since she was a puppy twelve years ago. Zak, a Lurcher with collie in him has lived with her for two years and young Jerry, eighteen months old, she has had for just ten days.

There is underlying pressure on Zak in particular in terms of stress build-up. This beautiful Lurcher whose life is ongoing rehabilitation from a dreadful past is particularly in tune with the lady. If she is excited, anxious or down, he will pick up on it.

The first prerequisite for a calm dog is for us to be calm ourselves. Even if we don’t feel calm inside (and the dog may not be completely fooled), we need to behave calm.

Humping is the way Zak vents his stress.

Remains of the humping tigerHe has calmed down a lot since the lady adopted him. He used to regularly hump a huge stuffed tiger (dismembered yesterday by one of the dogs and not for the first time). Mostly unchecked, humping has become a well-rehearsed behaviour that has helped him to cope in some way.

There will now be an element of habit to it. It’s his default when over-aroused.

His new target is Jerry.

The past couple of days had been particularly hard on the lady and she has been feeling very emotional. She had discovered there was something badly wrong with young Jerry’s hip and the vet at first feared cancer. It turns out to be an old injury to his hip joint, the femoral head. This is a relief but will involve extensive crate rest after an operation.

So when I arrived Zak had a head of steam where arousal is concerned. He’s still getting used to the energetic but sweet Jerry. He is picking up on the stressed lady’s own emotions and then I, a visitor, arrives.

His head goes over the back of Jerry. He moves his body around and he starts humping.

Jerry

Jerry

It seems that Jerry, by just being Jerry when he’s moving about, is the trigger. He has only been there for ten days. He is he settling in to his new environment and he is understandably quite excitable himself.

When unable to cope with build up of ‘stuff’, Zak now redirects his arousal and frustrations into humping him – possibly also to control him by stopping him moving about.

Humping must be the very last thing Jerry’s hip needs at the moment so we are in a situation where it’s not good to forcibly pull a dog off but it’s even worse for him to continue. Calling him off for food didn’t work. Once he got started he became deaf. Now as soon as he simply turned towards Jerry we worked on calling him, marking and rewarding as soon as he turned to us instead. Pre-empting is the answer coupled with removal of opportunity which isn’t easy.

It’s hard to redirect him onto something else – something to chew for instance – because it could possibly cause competition between the dogs. A gate should solve that.

Having together managed to get Zak away from him, Jerry would then move back to Zak! Both dogs were now on lead. When the lady is alone how will she cope?

Various management strategies are already being put in place including a gate between kitchen and sitting room. Zak needs a different outlet for his arousal but most importantly, the arousal itself needs addressing.

The lady herself is the key. At important times there will be less loud, excitable talking to the dogs; she will move about much more slowly. This doesn’t mean she can’t generally be her chatty, cheerful self at other times. Dogs, like people, listen and learn a whole lot better when all is quiet, something I made good use of years ago when I was the music teacher in a boys’ school.

Act calm and you start to feel calmer, don’t you.

It’s working already.

Jerry asleep on the stair

Jerry asleep on the stair

A while ago I wrote one of my short Paws for Thought blogs about the subject: Humping – What Is It Really About? To quote Marc Bekoff in Psychology Today, humping is ‘a displacement behavior, meaning that it’s a byproduct of conflicted emotions. For some dogs a new visitor to the house could elicit a mixture of excitement and stress that could make for a humping dog’.

 

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 Zak and Jerry and I’ve not gone into exact precise details for that reason. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good as the case needs to be assessed correctly. One size does not fit all 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)

Is This What We Call Biting?

Beagle's biting is for attentionHow does one really define biting? Is it engagement of teeth or is it to do with the intent behind the engagement of teeth?

From what I had been told on the phone I was going to a dog that repeatedly bit people, especially the man, and I was expecting an aggressive dog.

That very day, the lady had told me, his biting had lost them his daycare.

When I arrived, at my request the one-year-old Beagle was wearing a soft muzzle with a lead attached to his harness. It was unnecessary. I sat down and the muzzle was removed. Benson was immediately all over me, much more interested in the food in my pocket than he was in me.

From when they first got him he was a very nippy/mouthy puppy. Unfortunately, instead of the mouthing being discouraged in an appropriate fashion from the start, it was unintentionally encouraged. Pushing him away and playing hand games was something the men did and until he got bigger it didn’t hurt too much. Loud squeals got him even more excited.

The older he grew, the more he used biting to get the attention he craved and the more it hurt.

As he gets ‘stuck in’, Benson quickly works himself up to a stage where he looses control of himself as his arousal levels simply overwhelm him. He then gets rough and frustrated. He will paw, hump and leap as high as a person’s head. Add to this the human response by way of confrontation, scolding and maybe shouting or grabbing him, he becomes a powder keg waiting to explode.

In a particularly highly aroused state this has, a couple of times, tipped him over into real aggression. Hence the loss of his daycare.

The couple’s life revolves around ‘fielding’ the jumping up, biting and pawing Benson throws at them. When he’s quiet they are so relieved to get some peace they understandably leave him alone. They have now resorted to muzzling him when he gets too much.

As the young dog is seldom offered attention when he’s being good and quiet lest they start him off again, what does this teach him?

The real challenge is that he’s now had nearly a year rehearsing and strengthening his biting skills. It’s become learned behaviour – a habit. It could be a difficult habit to break. The only way to achieve that is to do exactly the opposite to what has been done so far. They are now going to concentrate on teaching him the behaviour they DO want, reinforcing everything that pleases them (we started this with a clicker), pre-empt when possible and divert his attention if caught soon enough onto other items that he can freely chew.

There must be ZERO TOLERANCE for biting from now on. They have to do something to protect themselves from injury so this it’s very fortunatel he seems to like that muzzle and comes to put his nose into it without being asked. I believe it may act a bit like a calming band because he settles but without shutting down completely which wouldn’t be good.

He should not get away with even two or three bites before they react. NO bites are acceptable. Anything else just gives mixed messages.

At first feel of mouth or teeth they should immediately turn away and withdraw all interaction with him, looking away and ignoring him. At this point he may well begin a very loud bark. Having made it clear by turning away that they don’t want the bite, if he does it a second time the muzzle goes on with no fuss and no words.

Unlike previously, the muzzle should be left on only for as short a time as necessary and can come off again in five minutes or when his arousal levels have dropped sufficiently for them to give him something else to do.

Most importantly, we have made a list of rewarding activities with which they can punctuate their time with him in frequent short sessions which will use his brain or give him gentle exercise without hyping him up, rewarding him for being quiet or for exercising self-restraint instead of as it is at present with the great majority of the attention he receives generated by himself – rewarding and reinforcing his antics.

Basically, the young couple will be replacing the excitement he self-generates by biting, pawing, barking and sometimes humping with healthy stimulation generated by themselves. They will need to make liberal use of food.

They are prepared for this to take some time and a lot of patience! Dear little dog.

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 Benson. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good, particularly where aggression is involved. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Helppage).

Human Control v. Self Control

Pug Jack Russell cross stressed and pantingBecause Pug-Jack Russell mix Freddie wasn’t being ‘controlled’, he was all over the place. He was waiting to be told what to do – or more what not to do. Like so many people, they do their best to control his behaviour by using NO and constant commands like ‘Get Down’, so Freddie is seldom left to work things out for himself and it’s not surprising that he lacks self control.

This isn’t to suggest for one minute that he’s not well treated – he is adored by the whole family who do the best they know how. The bottom line is, though, that if what they currently do worked they wouldn’t need help, so they need to be doing something different.

Freddie is more Pug than Jack Russell

Freddie is more Pug than Jack Russell

While I was there Freddie did all sorts of things ‘he never does anymore’, like jumping up behind me on the sofa and humping my arm, chewing my ear and grabbing and pulling at my sleeve.

I allowed this to happen to show them how to teach Freddie the behaviour that we do want, not because I feel these are in any way desirable behaviours. I needed him to do the unwanted behaviour so I could show him that it got no reaction or attention whatsoever and to show him how much more rewarding it is when he’s not doing it! I used clicker for marking every moment his behaviour was even momentarily what we wanted and both Freddie and the three family members caught on really fast. We can look at teaching him alternative acceptable behaviours when he’s in a calmer state.

He has an almost OCD ritual when he goes out into the garden – he is frequently asking to go out. He flies up at the door handle until it’s opened, then he spins, barking, just outside the door, followed by running a barking circuit of the garden. Then he may either toilet or want to come in again.

Teaching two-year-old Freddie self control and self calm is going to take time and stress reduction is the priority. All evening he was pacing, panting, drinking, asking to gWhat a long tongueo out, barking at TV when it was on briefly, humping me or grabbing my clothes and back to pacing, and so on. Not getting his usual responses was very hard on him so the behaviour intensified. He only settled briefly twice – and we made sure we marked and rewarded those moments whilst not setting him off again.

His high stress levels are at the root of all the things they want to eliminate, his barking at TV, his reactivity to people and dogs on walks, his fear of traffic, his jumping up and so on. Telling him off for barking or sending him to his bed doesn’t help him at all.

He needs to be allowed to work out for himself what works and what doesn’t. Already the 16-year-old lad who is very involved with the little dog has shown him that the door opens when he’s not jumping at the handle – simply by waiting until he’s sitting, saying ‘yes’ immediately and quickly opening the door. He then accompanied the dog out – walked Freddie well away from the door, thus breaking the sequence of his spinning ritual.

Freddie’s reactivity is inconsistent – the main variable being, I’m sure, his stress levels at the current time. In the mornings he is a lot calmer both at home and on his walk, having had the night for the stresses of the previous day to subside a bit. As the day wears on, things simply build up. Only when the whole family finally settles will he, too, settle – so long as there’s nothing to bark at on TV.

The ultimate goal is for FFreddiepug3reddie to live happily with the daughter’s dog when the two families move in together. Introducing the two dogs will need to be done very carefully and only after Freddie has made considerable headway.

Five days have gone by and the family is really pulling together. They have a long way to go, but today’s news is really encouraging and they have been doing their best to keep Freddie as calm as possible. They sent me this lovely photo and message: ‘Freddie chilled with me TV quite noisy, he’s had a lot of praise today’.
Two weeks later:  ‘I am curious that over the last few days Freddie has started to sniff and stop more when we are walking,walking along sniffing the floor not pulling.I am taking this to mean he is less agitated and therefore more curious about his surroundings.This morning I chose to walk along by the road away from the path on the grass about 10ft from road.He was sniffing and searching.This totally distracted him from the passing cars,I also praised him for this and gave him chicken. He alerted to one dog although I turned around and he was fine’.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Freddie, which is why I don’t go into exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

 

Cocker Spaniel a Naughty Dog?

Yesterday I visited a 9-month-old Cocker Spaniel called Willow.  Wonderful!  My own irrepressible Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, has given me some good practice.

Here is a list of things Willow does: Jumping up on people, excessive licking of people’s faces, jumping at the table and sides, barking (answering) back when told off, too much noise generally, steaCocker Spaniel Willow's white tailling any items she can get hold of and running off with them, leading the lady a merry dance and getting cross when cornered, humping people, fixating and barking at certain objects, jumping over people and furniture, racing at speed round and round the room and growling when eventually caught and restrained, shoving toys at her people to make them play with her, pulling on lead and, finally, chasing the cat. Oh – and running back to the car on walks.

All this may sound amusing to read, but it can be exasperating and has reduced the poor lady to tears and it’s no wonder she thinks Willow is just a naughty dog.Bored Cocker Willow does everything she can think of to get attention

Willow really is adorable as you can see – and see the white tail? She is a soft, affectionate little girl, However, two or three walks where she’s encouraged to keep moving and not sniff too much, just isn’t sufficient for her. She is not a naughty dog. She is a BORED dog.

The family is on the back foot, trying to ‘field’ the things that Willow throws at them rather than themselves being proactive. She is a clever, working dog with insufficient appropriate stimulation so she is constantly finding ways to fulfil herself. She spends quite bit of time in the ‘naughty’ room.

‘No’ is a much used word.  In the three hours I was there we consistently looked for ways of saying ‘Yes’, and rewarding her with food. The lady was becoming really good at looking for the good rather than the bad and Willow was getting the message, becoming really focussed.

It is only fair on a dog to let her know what you don’t want in a language she really understands. ‘No’ and ‘Get Down’ or pushing are very confusing messages when the dog wants attention, because they ARE attention.

If a dog is jumping all over me I consider how another dog would make his feeling clear to a bouncy adolescent. Would not a stable dog look away, turn away, maybe tip her off and walk away? The other dog would probably signal when he saw her coming, making his feelings clear from the start. Showing the behaviour isn’t wanted is only part of the exercise. Just as importantly we then need to follow-up by showing her just what we do want. If it’s ‘feet on the floor’ we want, then that is when she gets the attention.

Giving Willow a more fulfilled life requires being creative and offering alternative incompatible behaviours instead of scolding or ‘no’, and constantly reinforcing the desired behaviours. They will need to go cold turkey on the barking for attention whilst scheduling into the day the sort of activities that satisfy her canine Spaniel instincts – mostly nose-based. She needs plenty to keep her busy. When the family want to watch TV in peace, they need to instigate short bursts of activity themselves – during the advert breaks perhaps. She could have a hunting game, training games, a short ‘sniff’ walk around the block or a toy or chew kept aside especially.

Gradually, over time and with the help of food rewards, Willow will be looking for ways to get attention by pleasing them.  A different mindset for owners – looking for the good instead of the bad – can really help.

It’s the next day and I have just received this email: ‘We found all you said made absolute sense and we are now looking at interacting with Willow with fresh eyes.  Some things are so obvious it is almost embarrassing to have not realised it! Today we went for a couple of walks and it was so much more relaxed letting Willow do as much sniffing as she wanted rather than thinking she shouldn’t be doing it and trying to get her to walk on.  Also, I did as advised re meal times and she ate the meals!  Amazing! We have bought her a Stagbar and some other toys for playing with in the evening.  At the moment she is lying quieting asleep – perhaps dreaming of the fun day she’s had today! There is obviously a lot of work to do and reinforce but I feel much more confident and relaxed’!
And four weeks after my visit: ‘The advice you gave us has been invaluable and has changed so many things we were doing with Willow and have already seen some good improvement’.
Here is a message eighteen months after I met Willow: I now know we go for ‘smells’ rather than ‘walks’! What I have discovered in the last two years, is what an amazingly intelligent and quick learner she is! She is still challenging sometimes, but we try to preempt her e.g. Making sure we don’t leave dining chairs pulled out otherwise she gets up on the dining table too! Willow and I are still ‘learning’ but it’s been so much fun!
NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Willow, which is why I don’t go into all exact details here of our plan. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dogs can do more harm than good. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get Help page).

Humping? It’s Easy to Jump to Conclusions

Stress takes dogs in different ways. Mungo finds relief in humping. Old-fashioned views would simply write humping off as ‘dominance’.  He’s three years old and probably a Springe/Pointer cross. He came over from Ireland as a puppy, was adopted for a while and ended up at The Dogs Trust in kennels for a year. Although they did a lot of work with him, it’s not like being in a home and part of real life.

Humping and stress relief

It’s a huge adjustment for him and progress has been made over the past couple of months. He gets distressed when people are standing up, particularly moviMungo finds relief form stress in humpingng around or standing talking. He humps the lady if she stands and talks on the phone. Having barked in a scared manner at me when I arrived, he was soon humping me. Previous advice had been to push him off, but after two months of this tactic he still does it. He’s not being taught an alternative and his stress levels which are at the root of it aren’t being taken into consideration.

Over the past week or so the behaviour has intensified as has his barking at people and his refusing to come in when requested

It would be easy to think just standing still and looking at them is stubborness, but I think not. I feel any sort of pressure put on him makes him feel just a little threatened. He has snapped a couple of times when a person has approached him and put out a hand. He seems somewhat aloof. His lady owner, because he won’t come over to her, goes over to his bed to fuss him, assuming that he will appreciate her loving kindness. I believe that if her people hang back, give him time and space, use rewards at every opportunity to mark the right behaviours, he will come around more quickly.

Making assumptions

I myself learnt a lesson. As he did not appear to be nervous and thinking that clicking him for unwrapping his paws from my leg, I brought out my clicker, and he was scared of it. He froze and then took himself off to the other room. His reaction showed clearly that we shouldn’t assume anything.

When he returned and resumed humping me, I quietly used the word ‘Yes’ instead of clicking. Mungo quickly learnt the connection between ‘Yes’ and letting go – to the extent that the clever dog was soon humping me in order to afterwards get the treat! At last he understands what he should be doing. Now it’s a matter of getting him to go down and stay down, making a ‘stop’ hand signal when seeing him approach with ‘that look’ – and rewarding him when he resists.

Most importantly, the root cause – the stress he is trying to relieve – needs dealing with.

Due to his strange past life, he is surprisingly good with some things. On the other hand, very reactive to people and dogs when he is trapped on lead. Off lead, although he doesn’t go far, he may not come back when called.  Like charity, recall starts at home.

Mungo is with a loving couple who are prepared to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to give him the life he deserves.

Not Dominance but Lack of Self-Control

The Labrador is a friendly affectionate dog lacking self control

Blake

The three beautiful dogs gave me a polite greeting when I arrived and it would have been hard to guess there were any problems. Fourteen-year-old Border Collie Dizzy is no trouble at all, Yorkie Waffle, age 4, does more or less what he wants but that causes no problems really – but the one who is challenging is three-year-old Labrador Blake.

Despite training and tricks, Blake lacks self-control. He is becoming increasingly edgy with dogs when out and he pulls on the lead. When all three dogs arrive home and rush into the garden, Blake will persistently hump poor Dizzy (he’s castrated). He does this also after he’s been hosed down after a walk.

These two dogs are no trouble at all

Dizzy and Waffle

However, on the occasions when walks end on lead, the humping seldom happens. They hadn’t recognised the connection (it’s hard when you are living inside a situation to see it objectively). They thought for some reason Blake was being ‘dominant’. Charging back into the garden, off lead and without boundaries, Blake can’t cope with the whole uncontrolled thing so he takes it out on poor Dizzy – who sits down! The end of a walk is the culmination of too much excitement, pulling, freedom and worrying about other dogs, and he has a build-up ready to overflow.

A walk that ends with dogs in a very high state has probably been too stimulating.  It’s certainly not done the job it was meant to do. You know when you have got it right because when the dog comes home he has a long drink and then lies down, satisfied. No humping, charging about or unwinding.

Blake is a lovely, biddable dog. Scolding him for humping only adds to his frustrations. Calling him away with encouragement and praise for disciplining himself along with something else to do to redirect his angst is the right way to go. There are a lot of behaviours he could be offering that are incompatible with humping. Lying on his bed with something special to chew is one of them. Meanwhile, he needs to be de-stressed in every way possible.

As with so many of the dogs I meet, walks need to be completely re-thought. It takes a different mind-set and a load of patience, that’s all. When asked what they do when their dog pulls, people usually say the do things like stopping, turning around, saying Sit or Heel, jerking the lead and so on. I ask “well – you have been doing this for three years, has it worked”? No.

So it’s obvious they need to do something completely different about walking Blake. Walks need to start off in a calm controlled fashion, and they need to end in a calm controlled fashion.

They are surrounded by fields and perfect dog walking countryside, but walks are no longer fun and the lady can’t walk all three together any more which is a shame.

A couple of weeks later I received this message: “I have been doing what you have suggested and the change in Blake has been dramatic. I take him on walks on his own and it is working brilliantly ….. He is really learning. Thank you again. I have also been playing with the dogs individually whilst the other is in the kitchen – no humping! Problem solved! I am really pleased with his performance in such a short time”.

Humping Exhausts Both Male Dogs

Ollie pursues BuddyGetting ready to hump BuddyOlly Humping BuddySix-month-old Cocker Spaniel Buddy’s problem was unruliness, flying about and grabbing clothes – pulling on lead and generally lacking control.

I went to see them yesterday because the lady has just taken on Ollie, a beautiful Golden Retriever ‘free to a good home’ whose family were out at work all day. He is three years old.

She has had him for just two days and the relationship between the two entire male dogs is one of continually Poor Buddy is exhaustedjockeying for position. The chasing around isn’t ‘play’. There is no play bowing, play chasing or rolling about – it is non-stop humping until both are exhausted! Although young Buddy does his best to get his own back, Ollie, being the bigger and more determined dog, is in constant pursuit. Buddy gets cornered in the garden and I can see trouble brewing as he either becomes intimidated or even becomes angry which would be totally against his nature usually.

While Ollie settles in the dogs’ time together must be supervised. They will need to go out into the garden separately for a while. As soon as any humping starts, one or other (taking it in turns) needs to be quietly removed and put behind a gate or in the crate with something else to do. It’s not punishment.

Meanwhile there need to be some consistent rules and boundaries introduced because two dogs can be a very different matter from one dog. Instead of just one dog to interact and cope with, there are two, and in addition there is the interaction between the two dogs. I have five dogs and it multiplies up! Ollie has been well-trained and they don’t want to lose that, or for him to begin copying Buddy’s hyper lack of self-control.

I am not a big believer in castration to resolve behaviour problems, but in this case, with so much testosterone flying about, if things don’t calm down quickly this may be the logical step to take.

Cocker Spaniel Monty Has Regressed

cockerMontyI visited Monty 18 months ago and he was something of a puppy nightmare – see here for his story back then: http://www.dogidog.co.uk/?p=2778.

Following instructions, Monty and his family were doing so well that bit by bit they departed from our plan, thinking it no longer necessary. Gradually his old problems returned, and instead of going back to the plan which had worked so well before, they have been ‘listening to people’ and ‘looking on the internet’ (one suggestion given to the young adult daughter was to stare him out which is an extremely aggressive and confrontational thing for one dog to do to another and which I would never, ever do with a dog).

Monty has been receiving a lot of confusing mixed messages.

Things have now have reached crisis point. Monty attacked the daughter twice last week; he is highly stressed. He growls constantly which is ignored as ‘not serious’. Unwittingly it’s being reinforced with lots of attention and the poor dog is now totally confused. He’s a mix of wilful and anxious – he jumped at me, nipped and humped me when I arrived, apparently because I was taking no notice of him; he is very persistent in getting his own way. We put him on harness and lead. He settled down. Later, he growled and lunged at the daughter; he was really scared afterwards and all I did was to silently lead him away.

We looked in detail at events that led up to each of the attacks and exactly what happened afterwards; these two areas need carefully working on against a backdrop of respecting his efforts to communicate, and taking as much general pressure off him as possible.

Monty never has liked invasion of his space; his growls are always ignored. One of the attacks happened on a day when he was already probably over-stimulated by other things and after he had been approached and touched in his bed – despite his warnings. He can’t talk, after all. Soon afterwards the daughter bent over to touch him. Explosion. What more can a dog do when he’s never listened to?

Because of how he was when I first met him aged 5 months, I just wonder whether there may be a touch of ‘Cocker rage’ – just enough for him to ‘unpredictably’ fly off the handle if his stress levels are sufficiently high.  Should this be the case it’s even more important that his humans are consistent and whilst giving consistent rules and boundaries they are also respectful of his needs.

When things go pear shaped it’s usually because owners have been treating behaviour modification a bit like giving antibiotic for an infection and once clear the medication stops. They need to regard it more like insulin – something that has to be administered for the rest of his life for a permanent condition.

So, it’s back to square one with Monty, and always harder the second time around.

Staffie Too Pushy With the Older Dog

Hyperactive Staffordshire Bull Terrier is lying down now

Bella

The only way to get a photo of Bella was to wait until she was lying down! She is a small seven month-old Staffie who isn’t a bad dog really, but in most respect she is just ‘too much’.

She is particularly ‘too much’ for their other, older Staffie Marvin – age 9.  She constantly pesters him to play, she humps his head, she sits on him.

She is also ‘too much’ for the family when she flies around the sofas and launches herself onto people. When the lady is reclining on the sofa watching TV Bella jumps onto her, and when she is told to get off she curls her lip and snaps.  She is also ‘too much’ on walks! Despite being quiet a small dog, she pulls like a train.

Bella didn’t have the best start in life, having been separated from her siblings at five weeks of age. Instead of learning how to play nicely and to be gentle with the other puppies, it was up to her new human family and poor Marvin to teach her, and they weren’t giving her what she needed.

Older Staffie Marvin getting some peace

Marvin

Bella also has too much in the way of stimulation. It is like she is being fed rocket fuel. They feel, like many people do, that lots of play and exercise is going to tire her out and make her quiet, but the opposite happens. She has been taken for four mile runs in a field to save them from lead walking. While out in the field she will plague poor Marvin by hanging onto his face and going for him. Apart from anything else, it’s not good for a young dog’s joints to be over-exercised.

I didn’t see Bella at her worst because already for the past few days the lady has been acting upon my telephone advice and she was generally calmer. This evening while I was with them, apart from a bit too much playing with Marvin to the point where they needed to be broken up, she was a good little dog.

This is another case of leadership/parenting needed. Manners and rules need to be established around food, jumping up, excitement before going out and the pestering of Marvin. They need to be consistent, avoid confrontation and be encouraging, use rewards and stick to their guns.

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