No Impulse Control Around People. Jumps and Bites.

Beau has no impulse control around peopleAbsolutely no impulse control around people, that is the problem.

Beautiful Beau is a big strong Chocolate Labrador. He’s 9 months of age and his teeth hurt. With no impulse control, his biting and grabbing of my clothes would have been nearly constant had not the lady held him back. It was a struggle for her.

I have to call it ‘biting’ because he was using his teeth with some force, but there was no aggression behind it. No growling or hostility. There wasn’t fear either though possibly the level of his arousal involved more than just pleasure to see me. He will have been uncertain as well.

Jumping, biting and no impulse control has become his default response for dealing with the excitement he feels.

Both the lady and her adult son are accustomed to being bitten when Beau gets too excited. He bites sufficiently hard to bruise but not to break skin. He was an unusually nippy and bitey puppy. Like many people, they will unwittingly have encouraged teeth on human flesh through play – contact sports using their hands.

No impulse control.

A stitch in time saves nine, as they say. If, from the outset when Beau was a little puppy, both jumping up and grabbing with teeth were consistently and persistently met with no reinforcement but an acceptable alternative offered, he wouldn’t be doing it now.

Tug of war played properly is a much better game. Puppy has to learn that if teeth even unintentionally touch flesh, all fun immediately stops. He then learns to be careful.

Usually dogs like this will have very high stress levels and constantly be ready to ‘explode’. This doesn’t seem the case with Beau. His home is calm. Generally he’s no more excited than any other 9-month-old Labrador, but when he does get aroused, it’s always teeth.

Beau is given plenty of enrichment and he’s not left alone for too long. He doesn’t do the usual things that build stress in a dog such as excessive barking, getting over-excited before a walk and panicking when left alone.

It’s all around people

He has no impulse control around people. When someone comes to his house or if they meet people when out on a walk he morphs into a different dog.

Why does he find people quite so stimulating, I wonder? He has been very well socialised from the start.

The lady so much wants to have social walks with her lovely dog and to invite friends round, but she can’t because he bites them! Things are getting worse. Could this be that she herself is becoming increasingly anxious? As I sat with her in the kitchen, I could feel her very understandable tension and anxiety. If I could feel it, then so would Beau.

Having been rehearsing the biting and jumping for months since he was a small puppy, it will now be learned behaviour – a habit.

How can we break it?

Learned behaviour – a habit.

What we have to work on is both the cause of the behaviour as well as the behaviour itself – and this cause is over-excitement around people and no self-control when aroused.

To succeed, Beau must be prevented from rehearsing the biting anymore in every way possible. It simply has to be made impossible. Without an experienced professional actually living with them with nothing else to do than work with Beau, I can see no other way than extensive use of a basket muzzle to begin with. When he gets his ‘rough’ times at home with his family, when friends visit and when he’s out and likely to encounter people, his mouth has to be taken out of action.

This will be much better than banishing him.

A basket muzzle is best because he has freedom open and close his mouth, to drink and to eat treats. If introduced properly so that it’s always associated with good things, he shouldn’t mind it too much. I know this could be controversial.

Without now being hurt, they must now teach him different habits and better ways of getting attention. He also needs better ways of relieving his quick-building arousal and frustration levels. In removing the ability to bite from his repertoire, they need to supply replacement activities and outlets.

I suggested a gate for the kitchen so at times when he’s likely to use his teeth or when people come, he can go behind it with something acceptable to chew until he has calmed down. Use of ‘No’ and ‘Down’ can only increase his frustration whilst in a way being reinforcing to him as well.

Self control.

When I was there, Beau held lead on harness to prevent the biting of me, we constantly used his food to reinforce every moment of desired behaviour.  He sat, he got food. He lay down and was silently rolled a piece of his kibble.

The emphasis must now be on reinforcing the behaviour that they DO want. People, when out, will be kept at whatever distance is necessary while they work on his self-control using positive reinforcement. He will learn that sitting or standing calmly brings dividends but this is only possible when not too close.

Jumping and biting is simply Beau’s default both when aroused or when feeling unsure of himself – both at home and when out on walks.

We shouldn’t underestimate the effectiveness of a dog having something in his mouth where the teeth are, whether it’s a ball, something that squeaks or even a bone! It all depends – all dogs are different.

What actually is excitement anyway and is it always pure joy? Wouldn’t we feel excited on a Big Dipper? Wouldn’t we be feeling scared before a bungee jump and isn’t that part of the buzz?

As Beau gains some self control and is helped to calm down around people, the muzzle can be used less and less until it’s no longer necessary.

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Beau. 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. The muzzle idea may be totally inappropriate in another case. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

 

Love to a dog. Is it kisses, cuddles and excitement?

Can we love our dog too much?

We humans are demonstrative with our love in a very different way to dogs, aren’t we. We want to cuddle, touch, stroke, roughhouse, pet – even kiss them.

Feeling guilty at having left them home alone, we may get them really stirred up with wild greetings when we come home.

Affection showered on our dog human-fashion makes us feel good, but does the dog always love it as much as we do?

love

Bea finding it hard to sit still

There can be a downside to ‘too much’ as was demonstrated when I met gorgeous Goldendoodle puppy Bea yesterday.

Bea is 6 months old. She is a great one for jumping up, jumping at the table and leaping onto people which they encourage until they have had enough. However, at times they don’t want her to do it. She may jump at visitors or scare a child when out.

When over-excited or frustrated she may leap on someone and mouth them.

Lack of consistency is confusing. Confusion is stressful. Stress has to vent – somehow.

We reap what we sow.

Sometimes when the lady approaches Bea when she’s resting, the pup may curl her lip and growl. She knows what’s coming – she’s going be showered with human love.

One wouldn’t mix a Poodle with a Golden Retriever if one wanted a quiet life!

Bea is clever, affectionate and biddable. She’s excitable by nature anyway without more help!

The family consists of a couple with their two young adult offspring. They all understandably adore beautiful Bea. Greeting her excitedly, they encourage her to jump up. They play hand games and they get her thoroughly stirred up.

So, Bea is highly aroused, something which takes hours or days to calm. This results in behaviours that they can’t cope with.

The lovely lady just can’t resist her and it’s easy to see why. She wants to fuss and kiss her. Lying still like a ‘good dog’, Bea is irresistible.

From quite a young puppy Bea, from her bed, would tell her in dog language ‘no thanks, not now’.

She would look away or go still. Ignored, she took to showing her teeth. She was very young and they thought it was funny. Now she growls. With her growling scolded or ignored, this can only go one way as she gets older.

Understandably, the lady is quite hurt by what feels like rejection. I hope she now sees that if she plays ‘harder to get’ and invites Bea over to her instead – when she’s not too settled, she will get more affection. We ourselves can feel smothered by too much love and attention. All Bea needs is some choice in the matter.

In the two-and-a-half hours I was there, much of the time was spent showing Bea how to make the right decisions, including learning that having her feet on the floor was much more rewarding than jumping at the table. 

Turning ‘no’ into ‘yes’.

Bea doesn’t give up easily. She is used to getting attention for her antics, even if in the form of scolding. Like so many young dogs, in the absence of being shown what she should do she becomes frustrated. Here again is one of my favourite videos. It demonstrates perfectly and in quite an amusing way just how quickly a ‘yes’ approach works, and how ‘no, no, no’ leads to frustration and failure.

They don’t want Bea digging the flower beds, so – where can she dig? A child’s plastic sandpit with toys and rubbish buried in it? Here is one of my client’s young Pointer digging!  A happy dog! These people have now designated part of their garden to hole-digging as Jojo loves it so much! See the story.

They don’t want Bea jumping all over people, so what should she do? She can get fuss and food only when her feet are on the floor.

We did other little training and impulse control exercises. Bea loved it.

Out now should go all contact sports. Stop winding her up into a frenzy of excitement which they all have to pay for later. Instead, there are brain games, training games, foraging, chewing, hunting and so on.

The family will find being calm with her a big challenge. Love for Bea means exercising some restraint even though it will be very hard!

Again, we reap what we sow.

6-week summary: Bea has improved greatly. Everyone loves her

 

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 with maybe a bit of poetic licence. The precise protocols to best use for your own dog may be different to the approaches I have worked out for Bea. 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, particularly where any form of aggressive behaviour is concerned. Everything depends upon context. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies tailored to your own dog (see my Help page).

Impulse Control Lacking, at Home and on Walks

Much of Blue’s early life was spent in a crate after he and his brother began to fight. He was rehomed. Next he was in another bad situation before being taken in by a rescue and fostered by someone with fifteen dogs.

Now introduced to a steady home life, it’s little wonder Blue is lacking impulse control. It must be a lot to get used to.

He is amazingly friendly and adaptable considering his life over the past three years.

I would sum Blue up as eager to please and biddable…

…and lacking in impulse control.

Lacking impulse controlThere is a good reason the photos are blurred! He was seldom still.

His new humans are incredibly tolerant, but when he becomes too much, Blue is put in the bathroom so they can have a break. He doesn’t make a fuss. He’s very accepting.

We had to put him away for a while because his jumping all over us meant he was such hard work that it was impossible to talk.

They want him to stop jumping all over friends and family who come to their house.

They are doing their best to ‘train’ him out of it, but commands may arouse him even more and also give him the attention he is craving. Also consistency is key – not sometimes with some people, but always with everyone – themselves included. It’s only fair for him to know what is expected of him.

Each time the dog did this to me I turned my head away and gently stood to tip him off. I then was nice to him when his feet were on the floor. He got the message. As he started to understand what was required of him, he began to show just a little impulse control.

They have now had Blue for four weeks and already he’s improved in some areas while maybe getting worse in others.

Blue is scared of the dark, particularly cars in the dark.

They can work on this fear in the safety of just outside their own front door, getting him used to being out at night time and the passing cars from a safe distance.

During the day he’s not too confident either. He will bark at other dogs when he’s on lead. This could well be made worse because when he barks, the lady holds him tightly on a chain lead, her own anxiety rippling down it.

Bit by bit they will help Blue to gain confidence and impulse control. Already he has been taught several cues. Now he needs to learn how to stop, listen and wait.

They will give him a good selection of things to work on and to wreck! Instead of chasing his tail, squirming noisily on his back on the floor, charging up the stairs, raiding surfaces, nibbling people and so on, they can give him alternatives to relieve his stress and frustrations.

A box of rubbish can give him something to attack!

Why throw the recycling rubbish away? Why not give it to the dog first! Milk or water bottles, toilet roll tubes and screwed up paper make a great free toy.

A marrow bone can give him something to literally get his teeth into and will calm him. He can hunt for his tea – see SprinklesTM. They will have tiny food rewards to hand to keep him motivated and to reinforce calm.

One of the first things I look at when a dog is so hyperactive is his diet. In this case the wonderful couple had beaten me to it – they have already put him on the best food they can find. His skin and coat have changed dramatically. When they first took him in four weeks ago his tummy was red and raw and his tail worn hairless. Now his coat is growing shiny and healthy.

Blue is at the start of a very good new life.

A message five weeks later from a couple who have worked very hard with their new dog – and this is just the beginning: He is getting so good he puts himself in the bathroom when the door knocks and on walks if we see or hear another dog he looks to me for a treat and calms down a lot quicker than at first.

Impulse Control Comes First

She may ignore her humans and lacks impulse control.

Eighteen-month-old German Shepherd Diva is a great personality. She is friendly, confident and fearless.

She is also very demanding. They have had several German Shepherds in the past, but never one like Diva.

Juno lacks impulse controlShe has become increasingly hostile to other dogs. In order to achieve their end goal of Diva becoming less reactive and coming back when called (she will, but when she feels like it), these matters of impulse control and paying attention need first to be addressed at home.

I saw a Diva who was actually more aroused and lacking in self control than she usually is. That was my own doing.

I had prevented people from giving in to her. She became increasingly frustrated by not getting what she wanted – attention under her own terms. Her methods, not addressed when she was a puppy and now harder to undo, are jumping on people – she’s very big – leaping onto their chair behind them, mouthing, nipping and grabbing – and then yipping and barking endlessly when the other tactics don’t work, until put out of the room.

She now will be given as little opportunity as possible to rehearse these behaviours (I don’t go into detail here because what works with one dog may not work with another).

I was called in for what seemed a relatively straightforward if time-consuming problem – that of halting Diva’s increasing antipathy towards other dogs like they shouldn’t be in her vicinity. The issue is actually far more complex.

Matters came to a head the other day when she ran after a very small dog she had spied in the distance, possibly thinking it was prey because she ignored a larger dog. Sadly, it resulted in the little dog needing veterinary treatment for its injuries.

As soon as Diva spotted the dog, her human called her. She halted, looked back as though to consider whether to obey or not, and decided no.

When I was there the lady called Diva, the dog looked her in the eye and then turned around and walked away. If she does this at home, what is likely to happen when, off lead, she sees another dog.

This highlights the two main underlying issues which are allowing the behaviour. Firstly, her humans are not sufficiently relevant to her so she’s insufficiently motivated to do as they ask. What’s in it for her? After all, they always do just what she wants if she is sufficiently pushy, so why should she do what they want?

Secondly, she acts on impulse at home so she is unlikely to have impulse control when out where the stakes are far greater.

Another important contributor to her behaviour is the dog next door.

From the start Diva has been confident and a bit bossy with other dogs. She then had her first season and she became more assertive. How much this has to do with the dog next door, both dogs barking and snarling at one another as they tear up and down their own sides of the fence, I don’t know. One sure thing is she’s daily been rehearsing the very behaviour they don’t want – aggression towards another dog.

As I drove home I tried to work out the best place to start.

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Changing too much at once could well make her even more stressed so would be self-defeating.

The first couple of weeks should be dedicated to showing her that she only gets things she wants when she is calm and to reducing her stress/arousal levels in every way possible. Her humans owe it to her not to stir her up unecessarily.

Humans and dog wOrchardJuno2ill need to go cold turkey!

Before the lead goes on she should be calm. Before the door is opened she should be calm. She can get no greetings until she isn’t jumping up and nipping. Training her the necessary alternative incompatible behaviours will be taught in the next stage.

Basically, Diva will learn that her pushy behaviour isn’t going to get results.

She will learn the behaviours that will work for her.

Bit by bit, against a calmer background, they can introduce impulse control exercises, training that requires patience like Stay and lots of coming when called or whistled around the house and garden. Here is a nice little video from Tony Cruse with an impulse control game.

They will also do their best to prevent any further rehearsal with the dog next door and in fact use it to their advantage. They will begin teaching her that good things happen when she ignores it and gives them her attention instead. Meanwhile she simply must not be off lead alone in the garden when the dog is likely to be out there. It’s a nuisance, but not impossible.

Out on walks Diva should no longer have complete freedom until she can be trusted to come back. She will need to be kept on a long line.

This case is such a good example of the benefits of taking a holistic type of approach. If we had gone straight in to the ‘stop her reactivity towards other dogs’ without dealing with her lack of impulse control, basic training manners and the relationship she has with her humans, I don’t think she would ever be able to go off lead again and they would never again be able to walk calmly past other dogs.

When they have got through the first few difficult days with Diva very likely becoming increasingly frustrated when her wild attempts for attention no longer bring results, they will then have a firm basis to build upon in order to achieve the original goals, that of enjoying their walks with their stunning Shepherd and being able to trust her.

 

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 Juno 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 aggression of any kind 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 Help page)

Lurcher in a Lampshade

Lurcher in a lampshadeThey have had two-year-old Lurcher Lena for four weeks. There is no history of her previous life.

She is a delightful dog, full of character – friendly and funny, but will be a lot easier to live with when she calms down and develops some impulse-control. She pulls terribly on lead and will generally do as she pleases. To quote her new owners, ‘she is totally unresponsive to our commands. She needs to learn some manners’. I found that she simply does as she likes despite their best efforts. She lacks self-control

A major problem is she torments their cats. She obsessively looks around for them when she leaves the house; she barks and whimpers when she sees one and lunges after it.

Lena was certainly active when I arrived! She was flying all of the sofa and vigorously shaking a rope toy, or charging around dropping a bone on the hard floor and skidding about after it. Manic! All this was made worse because she’s having to wear a lampshade that added to the chaos as she crashed into people and furniture. Out on a walk she had gashed her side badly on barbed wire, and whilst under anaesthetic the veLurcherLena1t spayed her as well. It certainly hasn’t affected her energy levels!

I found her very responsive to a quiet voice and rewards.

A while ago I went to two whippets who similarly were on obsessive ‘cat-watch’ when they left the house. The people carefully stuck to the plan with great results (you can see the story)

Lena’s new owners know that this is going to take time and are prepared to put in whatever effort it takes. I only saw them yesterday and already Lena is testing the new boundaries!

Parsons Terrier to Learn Some Self-Control

Parsons Terrier Hardy sitting in his bedParsons Terrier Jack is a perky little dogHardy is a wonderful, perky little dog. He is also a bit ‘all over the place’. He reminds me a little of my Cocker Spaniel, Pickle, who is so enthusiastic that he seldom thinks before he acts!

Hardy is still only ten months old. He flies all over the place, he pulls badly on lead and may be unpredictable around other dogs – largely I believe because he picks up on the anxiety of his lady owner.

He is very open to encouragement and reward. It works so much better with him to call him away from something and reward him, than to command him Down or Off. He needs to be shown what he should do, not only what he should not do.

One problem is that Hardy doesn’t really know what is expected of him, because the rules are not consistent and the boundaries blurred. He has a very empathetic owner who was already learning quickly while I was there, and two lovely children who will help her.

Already Hardy was learning some impulse control.

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