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.

On High Alert for Other Dogs

On high alert for other dogs when outOdoe is a bit of a mix – a delightful mix! There is certainly Terrier and probably Whippet in there. He had an uncertain first two or three years. Eight years ago he was brought over from Ireland and this was followed by time in kennels and at least one other home before his present owners adopted him six years ago.

He now has a wonderful home with a lovely caring young couple who have put in a lot of time to train him and make him happy.

Unusually motionless

Odoe however doesn’t come over as a very relaxed little dog; he may chase a bird outside followed by some tail chasing, and although I’m sure he’s not like this all the time I found him often unusually motionless. He sits and he stares. When out, he’s on high alert. Possibly when they can relieve him of his daily fears out on walks he will loosen up a bit. I hope so.

He is reactive and scared of other dogs – especially when he is on lead, but it is very likely that they worry unnecessarily and that this is part of the problem. He has never actually harmed a dog. He is also scared of large vehicles and will lunge at them.

This is really very brave. He is a little dog attempting to chase away things that scare him.

On high alert for other dogs

On high alert for other dogs, as they get nearer to him there is a ‘threshold’ beyond which he goes to pieces – hackles, lunging and barking. When they can they avoid this by escaping as soon as they spot a dog. This is a lot better than forcing him onwards, but it doesn’t teach Odie anything that will help him.

Up to a certain distance he is okay, and then he will flip. His owners can see it coming from is body language. This is Odie’s ‘threshold moment’. With a dog that indicates his threshold as clearly as Odie, the job is a lot easier, because it is here the work needs to be done to increase the dog’s confidence, enabling the threshold to expand over time until he can pass by other dogs without reacting – trusting in his owner.

As with many dogs, exactly how far away from the other dog this threshold is will vary from day to day, depending upon how stressed and tense he is and, importantly, how his walker is feeling also.

Odie starts out on walks in a state of high alert, scanning around looking for dogs. A calm dog walking on a loose lead is not looking out for trouble. Just as some people are a bit paranoid, always expecting the worst, a dog can be the same – especially when nervous messages are being sent down the lead.

Another Herding and Scared Border Collie from Ireland

Border Collie spent first year of her life on farm in IrelandIt’s not surprising that a Border Collie who has spent the first year of his life on a remote farm in Ireland is terrified of traffic and wants to round people up like they are sheep. Cabra is one such dog, now aged about two and a half. A few days ago I went to Lottie, another Collie with similar issues. It’s probable, because Cabra has knee problems already, that he was worked from too young an age and then dumped when no longer useful.

What a beautiful looking dog!

The home situation is tricky because he lives with a lady and her very elderly parents, both with mobility problems. Each time the old gentleman gets up and slowly walks towards the door, Cabra circles him and when he’s through the door and no longer in sight, charges from room to room, barking quite ferociously. Cabra has run of the house and circles the man on the stairs too. It’s dangerous – it’s only a matter of time before he causes the man fall.

Cabra is wary of all people except his family and their carer, but he is worst when they leave, with his frantic ’rounding up’ and distress at the door.

The first priority is to manage the situation so that Cabra is out of the way when the gentleman is moving about. He should no longer have free run of the house to come and go as he likes – it’s only his humans who should be able to do that.

Psychologically what needs to be worked on is Cabra’s acceptance that people moving about are not his responsibility, and he needs to learn other behaviours instead that are incompatible with herding. Once he has started into the behaviour he is deaf to instruction, so forward planning is necessary.

Cabra is absolutely terrified on walks, terrified of nearly everything including traffic and other dogs, but this is another tricky aspect as the parent’s carer is having to walk him and hasn’t the time to work on this – and it’s not her job.

They have had him for about a year and he has gained some confidence, but here is a lot of work to do, and the degree to which he improves will depend upon how much the people are able to do, both physically and time-wise. Slowly he should become less fearful and be able to calmly to accept people leaving.

Another Terrier X From Ireland

Anxious looking rescue dog from IrelandHeidi who I saw a couple of days ago came from Ireland and was probably terrier mixed with Collie, and Ben I saw today was also shipped over from Ireland, as a puppy, and may be the same mix if more terrier than Collie. Both dogs are reactive and scared of dogs and people, especially when out, and both live with an older, larger dog. Ben lives with eight-year-old Chocolate Labrador Billy.

As you can see, Ben is lovely. He is affectionate and biddable though can be anxious and over-excited. He is three years old.

Ben barks and hackles at people he doesn’t know entering the house, men mainly, and at people he sees when out. Like Heidi he may rush at them and nip them. Ben’s reactivity to other dogs is spoiling walks. He will bark and lunge. It is obvious that he feels threatened, and simply wants them to go away.

When left alone at home, he is anxious – destroying things and raiding the bin. He has damaged the sofa.

A dog needs to believe in his owners as leaders, I see it like a good teacher with a class of children on a walk. They will stay with the teacher. They won’t be running off in front and they won’t be yelling and shouting at passers by, telling them rudely to get lost (I hope!).  They trust the teacher to make the decisions and keep them safe. If the owners can convince the dog that they are good leaders – and this has to happen at home as well as out on walks – then the dog can relax and stop stressing. It takes time of course.

Too often people make things worse by tightening the lead and forcing the dog forward towards what he perceives as danger.  They compound the problem by being tense and anxious or scolding the dog. If there were genuine danger, our teacher would not lead his class directly into it, would he? If he did, he would soon lose their trust and they may well run away from him. If the danger was not genuine, then it would be his job to convince the children that they were safe. He would be calm and in control. So it is with us and our dogs.

Phone conversation three days after my visit: Off to a very good start. Ben is calmer. Changed his food to something better. Harness has arrived. Bought a long lead.  He was left alone for 5 hours today and no damage or raiding.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

How Can People Do This to a Puppy?

Rescue from Ireland isrelaxed and happyHeidi is yet another rescue dog from Ireland. A mixed breed with  some collie in her, she is around one year old and has been in her new home since last March. The poor puppy had been found with wire tied around her muzzle – there are the scars – with stones being thrown at her.

In the circumstances she is amazing. She is lovely – affectionate an obedient. Look at her! The lady, an experienced dog owner, has worked very hard with her. She has been to training classes and did exactly what was required of her, but all the time looking totally miserable. They admit to having over-compensated for her start by giving her a great amount of freedom because she ‘loves to run’.This is often out of sight. She is seldom on lead for long, even when leaving the house – which poses a risk. She has upset a neighbour with her behaviour.

The problem that just won’t go away is Heidi’s rushing aggressively at people, and dropping down and stalking dogs, then charging, hackles up, as though to attack. She makes contact but so far has not actually bitten. She is desperate to make them go away. It’s not every person and it isn’t every dog. It will also depend upon her state of mind. Considering her beginning it is not surprising. Normally her recall is excellent, but if they get the timing wrong it is to late.

We had a good look at the world through Heidi’s eyes, along with why dog training as such does not help in times like this. She needs to be rescued from the fear she feels, and only her humans can do that for her by how they behave. A natural reaction is to be cross out of embarrassment if nothing else, but this will only add further stress to the situation by her associating people and dogs with unpleasant stuff.

For starters Heidi needs to be saved from herself. It needs to be made absolutely impossible for her to do this again, and this means an end to all this off-lead freedom for now.  It will do her no harm at all and in fact may make her feel more secure to have owners who take over the role of decision-making.

How would Heidi expect a leader to behave in the face of perceived danger?

I received this email about seven weeks later: “I am really still so pleased and suprised how much Heidi has changed, the main improvement with her is the calmness that she shows now all the time.  This shows in her behaviour around the home as well as outside and because she is spending more time on the lead, when I do let her off she does not now go far away from me and constantly comes back to check with me besides being very good on her recall.   She only does an initial bark at anyone coming to the door and then looks for me to come and thank her and follows me inside.  She is far more relaxed and I feel that there is a much stronger bond between us now and that she looks to me much more now. We still have good days and bad days with other dogs we meet but there is definite improvement and I do realise that this is going to be the problem that will take the longest but there is definetly a huge improvement and there are instances when she will pass another dog and almost ignore them which never happened before so baby steps but they are going forward”.
I can’t thank you enough for showing me where we were going wrong with Heidi and to be honest I feel so much more relaxed now and have no worries about walking Heidi anywhere and she is sooo worth it. and such an affection little girl and she appears to be far more confident now”.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Stray Border Collie from Ireland

Border Collie Rex lying under a chairRex, a Border Collie found as a stray in Ireland a couple of years ago, shipped to Wood Green Animal Shelter and now four years old, is a dog you would be proud to have. He lives with a more elderly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who is now slowing down.

The dogs belong to a lady and her two daughters who share their care.  At home there are no problems with the dogs, but it’s outside that Rex is causing a few problems. He has some very good points – he is good with most other dogs – if sometimes feeling a bit trapped when on lead, and he responds quite well to a whistle.

A few months ago the poor lady dislocated her shoulder with Rex’ lunging and circling, and she is still receiving treatment. He is a big chunky dog for a Border Collie – he may be mixed with something else. The other day she was pulled over by him as he suddenly crossed in front of her to check out a couple of dogs. The lady has tried all sorts of equipment and methods, all of which rely upon ‘control’ and ‘correction’ to stop him pulling. We need to go back to basics and get him wanting not to pull, to realise how nice walks are when walking like there is no lead at all. We need to change Rex’ mind-set, and that of his humans.

Because of the damaged shoulder (caused by Rex), the lady has to have a special seat belt which costs £200. What has Rex now done? When left in the car he has eaten through two of them!

We need to look at ways to manage this situation so it simply can’t happen again, whilst stopping him feeling that he needs to do it. I think we have got to the bottom of why it happens. If he were calm with no stress and no distress, he would not want do it.

In order to get things right outside, we also need to make sure all the interaction and dog parenting/leadership at home is in place in order to set firm foundations, otherwise it’s like the proverbial ‘house built on sand’.

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

Charlie the Cross Breed

Busy chewingIt was hard to take a photo of Charlie, because she was so friendly and curious that pointing a camera at her brought her over to investigate, so here she is, lying down, busy chewing a toy.

Charlie came over from Ireland and was adopted by her new family about three months ago. She has landed on her feet.

She is largely labrador, but has short legs and could be mixed with Basset Hound, Beagle or even large Daschund. She is very bright and very willing.

Like so many of the dogs I see, Charlie’s problems are out on walks. She pulls on lead, wants to see off cars, joggers and cyclists, and is very reactive to some people and all dogs. I suspect that if she were not trapped on lead, she would be a lot better, but with no reliable recall her new owners are unable to let her off.

Many of the dogs I go to have had traditional training, but not pulling on lead and tolerating other dogs in the class doesn’t always translate to walking on a loose lead down the road, being sociable to other dogs in the park and not chasing bicycles. I am a big believer in front-fastening harnesses for dogs that are stressed on walks. Not only are they more comfortable for the dog, they give the handler a lot more control. However, it’s not a magical quick fix. Equipment doesn’t solve the problem. Only the owner can do that – by behaving as a leader should in the eyes of the dog – which I have proved time and again does not involve correction, lead jerking, commands or force.

Charlie’s owners realise that this will take weeks, months maybe, patiently building up Charlie’s confidence and their own, but in the end they will have a lovely dog who walks beside them like there is no lead at all, will not react to other dogs or approaching people, and who will be able to run freely and safely off lead.

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