Adolescent Dog is Uncontrollable

Sammy giving us a break while he chews

Sammy giving us a break while he chews

I was met at the door by the lady restraining a manic, stripey dog! As soon as the door was shut behind me I asked her to let go of him and the tiger was unleashed!

I ignored it as he jumped at me grabbing my arm (I wear tough clothes) and turned away quickly as he leapt to punch me in the face with his muzzle.

This would have been a lot more alarming if there was any hint of aggression, which there wasn’t. The lady has bruises all up her arms and admits she’s now getting a bit scared of her adolescent dog. It’s really all to do with lack of self-control. He has no idea how to inhibit the use of his teeth – or anything else for that matter. This is little surprise considering what little the lady knows of his start in life.

Seven-month-old Sammy, probably a Beagle cross, may have come from Ireland but the story probably shouldn’t be believed. He was going to be ‘sent back where he came from’ and put to sleep if the lady didn’t buy him.  She was told he was eleven weeks old but the vet said he was a lot younger.

I would guess he was removed from his siblings far too soon to have learnt the valuable lessons of bite inhibition and manners, all in order for someone to make a quick buck.

He is a stunning dog and he is clever. However, he is on the go nearly all the time when not asleep at night or when the lady is at work. It is non-stop. She has taken all sorts of advice and also taken him to training classes, but still finds him uncontrollable. He has plenty of exercise. The slightest bit of stimulation sends him over the top.

brindled Beagle mix

I managed to catch Sammy standing still

It was hard to know just how to begin. We couldn’t shut him away because the lady lives in a flat and he can’t be allowed to bark too much. In the end the only thing I could do was ask her to put a lead on him and then stand on it so he simply couldn’t hurt me – we later attached the lead to his harness for the sake of his neck.

Then I did some work with him, walking him around whilst being ready to react fast to being ‘attacked’, rewarding him for sitting and reinforcing times when he didn’t try to jump. It’s so natural to ignore the good behaviour, making the best of any short break, but this means he gets all his attention for the wrong things.

I taught him not to mug my hand with both teeth and nails for the food. Already he was displaying just a little bit of impulse control.

It was a start.

I keep a Stagbar in my bag which I gave him to chew. While the lady held onto his lead and he worked on the Stagbar, we managed to get some talking done and devise an initial plan of action. Until he has calmed down and learnt to control himself a bit, very little more can be done.

The lady will need to wear tough clothes so that she doesn’t have to give in to the rough behaviour by giving him the attention he craves. She may also need to have an anchor point in the room to hook him onto when he goes really wild, for her own protection. She will have a special box of things to keep him busy when anchored as this must not be done in the spirit of punishment

But protecting herself  and containing him is only half the story. Sammy needs to learn that it’s a different sort of behaviour that is now going to get the best results. We have made a list of about ten activities she can initiate at regular intervals, things that will focus his mind and calm him down, so that instead of spending most of the time they are together simply fielding and responding to his antics, she herself will initiate frequent constructive things for him to do in very short sessions. She will keep him busy but under her own terms. She will reward every small thing that she likes – looking out for the good in him.

Eventually, after two hours, Sammy had tired himself out

Eventually, after two hours, Sammy had tired himself out

This isn’t going to be easy because after seven months his crazy behaviours are a habit and won’t be changed easily. She will need to be very patient and persevere, rejoicing in the smallest of improvements as they occur. All she has been able to do in the past is to shout at him and give him commands – he knows to sit and lie down when in the mood but when aroused it simply makes him worse.

I see this as a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. Before real work can be done there are a number pieces to be put in place that will calm him down and focus his brain. These include a suitable diet. One would see the connection between diet and behaviour with a hyperactive child with ADHD, but this doesn’t occur to a lot of us where our dogs are concerned.

Aggression to Dogs on Walks

Hugo is so reactive to other dogs they can no longer walk himThe reason I was called to meet and help Hugo was his aggression to dogs on walks being such that they now feel they can’t walk him anymore.

However, I soon realised that this was just one symptom of a much wider issue than being aggressive to dogs on walks – the six-year-old Jack Russell’s general anxiety and stress levels.

He lives with two young ladies who each do things very differently. One gives him firm boundaries and even carries discipline a bit too far in my mind. The other lady, who he actually belongs to, is very soft with him, does just what he wants whenever he wants, and encourages his general excitement with wild greetings and reinforcing behaviours like jumping up on people, lots of barking for attention and to get what he wants and so on.

Like with many people I go to, some of it’s about getting the people to do things the same way – drink from the same water bowl so to speak, and consistency. One is pushing him off the sofa and the other is encouraging him up.  One will entice him to give up stolen items where the other will force things off him then tap him on the nose for being naughty and has been bitten in the process.

This little dog needs to be a lot calmer at home before he can have sufficient self-control when encountering other dogs. They will work hard on loose lead walking around the house and garden, and lots of trips down the garden path and no further – standing still while he does as much sniffing as he wants. If done many, many times the outside world will become less overwhelming and then they can gradually start to go further.

I am trying something a bit different with the manic jumping up and barking, and this is for the sake of his lady owner as well as the dog. I would usually say that from now on he must know that barking and jumping up get no attention at all where feet on the floor and no barking get especially nice stuff.  However, I think they may have to wait too long and meanwhile the frustration could lead to Hugo becoming even more stressed, and because he tugs at her heartstrings the lady herself will not be able to outlast him. Consequently I suggest they work on it in stages.

When he’s jumping and barking at the back door to be let out, instead of opening it immediately as they normally would, I suggest they wait for a slight improvement – feet briefly on the floor or a break in the barking, before opening the door. They can also use ‘Yes’ and food to mark those moments. When he’s used to that, they can wait till his feet are firmly on the floor even if still barking, then they can wait for a second of quiet also….and so on.

It will be the same when the lady comes home. Instead of the rapturous and frenzied greeting he gives her and to which she responds in a similar manner, she can hold back for just a second initially, and then gradually over time, day by day, wait for and reward a bit more calm, until Hugo has better control of himself and can greet quietly with feet on the floor. This way the lady, too, will be able to learn different behaviour!

Dogs do, so clearly, reflect their owners sometimes.

NB. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approach I have worked out for Hugo, 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, particularly in cases 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 Help page).

 

Nervous or Friendly Exuberance?

Nervous excitement

Labrador hiding under a chair when the harness came out

Daisy

Could she be nervous?

Because a dog jumps all over you when you arrive, grabs and mouths you and excitedly runs around panting and carrying toys, I don’t believe it is necessarily simply a display of friendliness.

Pale Labrador Daisy was certainly not unfriendly, but all this hyperactivity when I arrived spelt something different to me.

Nervous excitement

I liken dogs like this to the sort of person who opens the door to a guest and then is all over them, kissing them, welcoming them, forcing drink and food onto them, fussing around, talking non-stop and never leaving them alone.

A human doing this would be in a highly anxious or nervous state – certainly not relaxed and simply happy to see her guest.

The reason I was called is that Daisy is erratic with other dogs when out – but not all dogs thankfully. She is fine with some and not with others. I could see that she was also quite highly strung at home.

When I arrived the excitement carried on for about twenty minutes until she lay down and panted for a while before settling.

Daisy lives with 13-year -old Weimaraner Suzy (looking like a queen on her chair!). Suzy is doing brilliantly for her age, but as a younger dog was apparently even more hyped up than Daisy.

Worried before walks

Suzy

I am a believer in a dog being as comfortable as possible when out walking and encountering other dogs, using equipment that also gives the owner maximum confidence. An anxious or nervous dog will immediately pick up on anxiety in her human.

We looked at Daisy’s stiff and rather uncomfortable harness and then I showed the kind I prefer. As soon as the harnesses came out Daisy was looking away, obviously very nervous. She went and hid under a chair.

This is how she is before walks. Worried.

There is a lot of general stuff to be done at home to do to give Daisy maximum faith in her owners and to boost her confidence. At the moment both dogs get everything they ask for in terms of attention on demand, whilst not necessarily cooperating when demands are made upon them.

Nervous Daisy will be happier and more confident with a reward-based relationship where she is happy working with humans who make firm decisions, who don’t give in to her all the time and who help to make her feel safe when out.

It will then be their decision whether or not she should engage with a certain dog and not hers.

Training commands doesn’t always help

Daisy has been to training classes and knows a lot of commands. Some things take more than just training. They take respect and willingness too, so in a way it’s the humans that need to learn.

Things like the mouthing and jumping up have been unwittingly reinforced. If telling her to ‘get down’ or to ‘stop’ happened to work, she would no longer be doing these things after two years.

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 it can do more harm than good. Click here for help.

Very Excited Around People. Adolescent Labradoodle

very excited around peopleWhat a character Labradoodle Poppy is! Here she is chewing something in our attempt to keep her calm (it didn’t last for long).

A very excited adolescent

Poppy is a sixteen months old adolescent and she has a wonderful temperament. She is a very stable dog in the main with few of the usual problems I go to.

She can be happily left alone for several hours a day in her crate. She’s extremely friendly. She has never shown any signs of aggression. She’s good if over-boisterous with other dogs. She’s not much of a barker.

It’s her over-excitement that is causing problems. She is very excited and hyped up around people, especially unfamiliar ones.

Her excitement and restlessness her seemed out of sync with her other traits and it was a bit puzzling.

Poppy lives with a single lady but is not over-indulged or spoilt; the atmosphere is calm although the lady does a lot with her. As an intelligent young dog, she may need more mental stimulation than she’s getting.

She may need to see more people to make them less exciting. It’s Catch 22, because due to her very excited behaviour, they avoid people.

If a human were this manic and excitable when I first met them, I would imagine them to be anxious and not really very confident. I think, under the bluster, it’s thus with Poppy. She sent subtle body language signals that backed up this theory.

Self-control and de-stressing

Poppy continued to pace and demand attention for a long time – until she was put in her crate. She instantly settled down, like she was relieved. It seems she goes to pieces unless she is externally controlled with commands. She has no self-control.

So, self-control and de-stressing are the angles we are working on.

On walks, despite wearing a Gentle Leader which she keeps trying to remove, Poppy pulls. She is so very excited when she sees a person that she has pulled the lady over a couple of times, resulting in injury. When she sees someone, if they take any notice of her at all she lunges, spins around and jumps about. She seems overjoyed.

She can’t be let off-lead because she would overwhelm people and other dogs with her excitement and jumping about.

Walks need to be done entirely differently, ‘self-control’ starting before leaving the house. I suggest the forget heel work for now and concentrate on walking on a loose lead, focusing on the lady and not other people.

This will take time, but we have a plan!

Poppy has been to lots of training classes. ‘Heel’ to Poppy means come back, receive a treat and then start to pull again! She’s not silly!

There is a saying – to alter the behaviour we need to alter the emotion. I did also wonder whether a change in diet might make a difference so the lady will try that too.

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”.

Springy Springer Spaniel

Springer Sophie can't settleSophie is a 7-year-old Springer Spaniel. She is stressed and hyperactive for much of the time, panting, pacing and crying. This can continue for hours and she only really settles within the confines and restrictions of her crate. It can be very tiring for her family. Sophie is also friendly and gentle. She’s adorable but for some reason troubled. Possibly some of it is genetic as apparently she was even worse when she was younger and they have had help from two or three trainers over the years. Instead of improving she is now getting worse.

Because out on walks she has taken to literally screaming and lunging whenever she sees one of the many cats in the neighbourhood or other dogs, and because her pulling on lead is such a strain, she no longer is taken on walks. All that ‘training’, along with having tried most gadgets they can get such as head halters, various leads and harnesses, has not stopped Sophie pulling. This is because she still wants to pull! I would be willing to guarantee, if they put in the time and effort to do it my way, that she will eventually be walking nicely and willingly beside them on a loose lead, not wanting to pull. I have many many successful cases to prove this. Time and patience are the two operative words – along with knowing the technique. Sophie now is taken out so seldom that the outside world is simply a sensory overload of smells, action, sSpringerSophieounds and potential danger.

Calm walks don’t start at the door, they start with a calm dog at home who has impulse control before encountering all the added stimulation of the outside world – so at home is where it starts. Sophie’s stress levels need to be reduced dramatically and she needs to learn to focus on her owners and what they are asking of her. To achieve this, they will need to earn her respect and attention by how they themselves behave with her.

Sophie is a clever dog but a frustrated dog, with no outlet for her energy or her brains. This will now change (I hope).

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

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.