Adolescent Flat Coated Retriever

Flatcoat Barney is simply creating his own fun and ways of getting attentionBarney is a wonderful 7-month-old Flat Coated Retriever. His family are first-time dog owners and like many inexperienced people getting a puppy they make assumptions regarding their puppy’s needs based on their own human perceptions of what a person might need.

Comparing the dog to a young child would be better. One wouldn’t give a little child too much freedom indoors or outside; one wouldn’t leave food available to a small child like a running buffet; we would keep a young child out of trouble by removing everything that might be dangerous or damaged; If the child was bored, we would be giving him things to do.

Because Barney has free run of the downstairs, when he’s bored or not getting attention he steals spectacles, pens, garments and so on – or he wrecks his blanket. When someone comes in the front door he is there. He jumps all over them and sometimes runs out. His food is left down for him to eat when he feels like it. He hasn’t been shown from the start that grabbing and biting hands and clothes simply isn’t fun. He has been running off lead since he was little. Puppies stay close and come when called – adolescents don’t!  During the evening Barney continually asks to go outside and they will be up and down doing his bidding – something they would never do for a child!

When the children’s friends come to the house things are very difficult. Barney is extremely excited and jumps all over them if they sit on the settee. One child in particular is too scared to come any more. It would have been easiest if they had taught Barney right from the start that he gets up on sofas by invitation only but now they should teach him to stay on the floor.

It’s Christmas in three days’ time! Lots of people including children will be there. I have suggested dog gates in a couple of doorways so they can have him under some sort of physical control without banishing him altogether. After Christmas that they will have time to do some real work with him.

Barney is simply creating his own fun and ways of getting attention and his people are ‘fielding’ his attempts to get them to do what he wants, rather than being proactive. He is a working breed. He needs more to do – to stimulate his brain, but in shorter doses because he is very easily over-excited which triggers the very behaviour that they don’t want. A long over-stimulating run for a dog of this age while the man jogs would be much better replaced with two or three shorter walks. At home he can be kept busy with things to chew, hunting for food, being taught to bring things back and let them go and so on.

I found he learnt very quickly that jumping up at me was no fun at all but that listening carefully to me and watching me brought satisfaction (and food). It is much easier for me because I have so much experience and it comes naturally, but people can copy me when I show them.

Barney is a really cracking, beautiful dog. Gates, removing things and wearing ‘sensible’ clothes that don’t temptingly flap about won’t be necessary for ever. The more consistent they all are now the faster they will be able to ditch these things. He has the perfect home, and he will be the perfect family dog.

Young Dalmation Settles In

0-month-old Dalmation Bella has been with them for two weeks now10-month-old Dalmation Bella has been with them for two weeks now, and she is still learning what is wanted of her – or as is so often the case – what is not wanted of her.

Young Dalmation and new home.

There are problems with trying to teach a dog NOT to do something and it’s simply not efficient. One effect of using the negative approach is that the attention she is given by being pushed off and told ‘Down’ and ‘No’ can reinforce the very behaviour that they don’t want. Another problem is that, even if the ‘Uh-uh’ interrupts something like scratching at the door or poking her nose in the wires behind the TV, it isn’t actually teaching her anything useful like what she may do.

Every negative should be replaced with, or followed by – a positive.

“Don’t do that – do this instead”.

In silence I communicated to Bella, ‘Don’t jump up on me’ (because I shall show you with my body language that there is absolutely no mileage in that for you), ‘but sit or stand beside me instead’ (because I shall now give you attention you want).

The couple have got themselves a real jewel with Bella. She apparently came from a family with teenagers so she is quite robust, but probably rules and boundaries were  a bit lax. I gave her new owners general advice on reward-based training, correcting unwanted behaviour, walking nicely and on being well mannered.

If they continue to work with Bella through her adolescence she should become a wonderful companion.

Unruly Two Sprocker Pups. Crated d

Benjie spends most of the day in the crate with his brother


5-month-old Sprocker brothers Ollie and Benjie live in the kitchen, along with 10-year-old Springer Flossie.

The room was crowded with a large table, a small sofa and two crates, three young children, the couple and their adult son.

Spending hours on end in their crates

Because of the family’s work schedules, the young dogs spend hours each day in their crates. They have already been shut in crates for about nine hours at night.

The family member who had joint responsibility, who had initiated getting the two youngsters, had left without warning.

Sometimes a problem can be so overwhelming it’s hard to know where to start. It’s impossible for the puppies not to be unruly when they get some freedom.

Things were understandably a bit more chaotic than usual because of my arrival. It also was nearly bedtime for the three young children which was noisy. I saw the young dogs at their worst and most unruly which is probably a good thing.

unruly puppies


When they are let out of their crates the unruly puppies are completely out of control. They leap all over people, up at the table and sides. They nick anything they can reach and toilet anywhere. This is due both to excitement and the fact nobody thinks to put them outside regularly enough.

For this reason, even when the family is in the kitchen, the young dogs are crated or outside.

Unruly because their needs are not met

The people don’t let them out of their crates separately, feeling it’s unfair. However, I found having them out together impossible so we shut one away at a time. I lent the crated one my Stagbar to chew which he loved.

Then, while we talked and after the children had gone to bed, I worked on the other dog. I showed the people how their own reactions to the jumping up is giving the dogs the only real attention they get. I showed them how we could give the pups even better attention when they were behaving well.

We worked mostly on their jumping at the table and sides.

This will be a big challenge, taking time, patience and consistency from the three adults. These puppies need a lot more time spent on them.

In the short time I was there I had taught both dogs to sit and one of them to lie down upon request. I used rewards, something they are not used to.

Ollie was doing all he could to be good. He was like a sponge. Sitting deliberately instead of jumping up. Bless him. He managed to sit still for long enough for me to take a photo of him (above).

Motivating them

From now on the dogs should be earning some of their food – being rewarded all the time they behave well. This will be very difficult in the bustle and noise when young children are about, but one dog at a time can be free. The other given something satisfying to do or to chew in the crate.

Because of the unruly situation, unsurprisingly the two dogs sometimes fight. Unchecked, this will probably get worse as they get older. Poor older Flossie is terrorised.

The pups fly all over children on the sofa and I am concerned a child may get hurt unless just one is out at a time.

The dogs have just one short outing each day – you can’t really call it a walk. The front door is opened and the unruly puppies simply fly out to the adjacent park, off lead, doing their own thing. They are puppies but already barking at people and other dogs.

There was one surprisingly good thing – showing what these dogs are capable of when given time and trouble.  I watched the adult son preparing their food. They sat calmly and waited!

Is this the right home for them?

This is not a situation the family had envisaged when they got the puppies. If they can’t find a lot more quality time for their dogs then they would be better with just one pup – or maybe even re-homing them both.

This would both give the dogs the lives they deserve and it would give the family their lives back.

Thank Goodness Chihuahua Twinkle Isn’t a Great Dane!

Chihuahua Twinkle is a clever little dogThey are expecting a baby in six weeks’ time, and have left it a little late to do something about little 8-month-old Chihuahua Twinkle. He flies all over the place and it is impossible to check him. He may grab hair and nip. They see him as exuberant and happy; I saw him as highly stressed and anxious, with too much stimulation of the wrong sort – exciting him and winding him up – and not enough constructive stimulation and doggy stuff. He has quickly learned to ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ for the lady. He is a clever little dog and she will enjoy teaching him new things – the right way.

Twinkle never goes for a walk. He is carried everywhere, so no doggy sniffs and no socialising of any sort. He is house trained in a way, but to do all his toileting indoors on newspaper (not something that would be happening if her were a Great Dane I’m sure) and this won’t be good when Baby is crawling about. When he is taken out, it’s in a carry bag.

I noticed how he merely tolerated being cuddled. The lady says he’s ‘had to learn to let me love him’. She felt it was important to make him accept it even though he doesn’t like it (which I’m not sure is my definition on love). As she held him up like a baby under his arms to kiss him, his little head was turning away from side to side and he was licking his lips – both strong signals that he was not happy with it.

Recently he nipped a child which isn’t a good omen. Unfortunately he was smacked – a very common human response when people don’t know what they should do and guaranteed to make things worse. It is very clear that he barked and warned them ‘I’m scared, I’m scared’ and he was ignored. The child approached him with a treat and he nipped.

So, my ‘preparation for baby’ plan is first for Twinkle to be treated a bit more like a dog and not only given a few rules and less over-exciting play from the man, but also for his dog-language signals to be respected. Secondly, his world needs slowly opening up a bit.  I suggested starting by standing in the garden for five minutes with him on lead to let him get used to it, and gradually increase the size of his world as he relaxes. Thirdly, Twinkle needs to get accustomed to the lady cuddling a baby and talking baby talk to it, so amongst other things I suggest a doll and screaming babies on YouTube!  Finally, When Baby does come home Twinkle needs some sort of restraining and I feel a puppy pen would work best. There is no way realistically they will ever be able to teach him to stay on the floor and nor would they want to.  Baby could even sometimes go in the pen instead! Twinkle needs to get used to being in it well in advance so it becomes his ‘safe den’.

All in all they have some hard work to do and it’s fortunate the lady is on maternity leave. As soon as Baby arrives I shall call again, because we can only guess at how Twinkle will actually react when it happens.

Jumping Golden Labrador

A typical young Labrador, friendly and bouncyThirty-five years ago, long before I had even heard of dog training let alone behaviour work, I had a large and boisterous Golden Labrador called Paddy. He was wonderful with my children but a devil for jumping up. 18-month old Dotty, the dog I went to see last night, reminded me so much of him!

The owners – the gentleman in particular – had taught her to jump up at people by exciting her, catching her feet and dancing about and allowing her to jump on them when sitting down. She is wildly excited and jumping on them when they come home – and rewarded with fuss. Even when people didn’t want her to be jumping up, their way of trying to stop her was merely reinforcing it.

This behaviour is especially difficult around guests who may not like being jumped up on by a large dog – and she is just the same when she meets people out on walks.

About four months ago Dotty was attacked out of the blue by another dog.  She had always been great with dogs. But, from that time, she has decided to get it in first and has lept on dogs she doesn’t know, grabbing them and pinning them down, looking and sounding aggressive. As one might expect, she is highly excited before leaving for a walk, grabs the lead and pulls, so this has to change before she can be expected to be relaxed around other dogs – or people.

All this bouncing about isn’t through pure joy. I read in it a certain amount of frantic anxiety. If a human was so unable to control herself she may well need some sort of counselling! Her owners need to earn her trust and respect by giving her better leadership and behaving more calmly around her. She needs rules and boundaries. She is a bit like a loose canon with little self control or inhibition apart from, fortunately, when she’s around the little three year old daughter. Dotty is a dream with her. She is gentle. She never jumps at her. She follows her and her friends about and even jumps on the trampoline with them. They have a wonderful relationship.

Doitty is a highly trainable dog. I managed, with rewards, to teach her to lie down in about two minutes. She has not had training. She has been lavished with food from the table but never had to earn anything. Seeing her focused on me was a joy – both for me and for Dotty.

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

Dog From Spain and Too Much Jumping

Perro is a remarkably stable little rescue dog from SpainI have fallen in love, again! Little 7-month-old Perro was found in sad circumstances in Spain, quarantined, and brought home by friends of the couple who have now had him for one month. He is a terrier of some sort.

He is remarkably stable and resilient considering what he has been through in his short life. He is very fortunate with his new home with the patient couple who have already come a long way with him in just one month.

The main problem is his over-excitement and jumping up – sometimes grabbing with his mouth also. It’s especially difficult because they have a three-year-old daughter who gets scratched by his claws. He is extremely good with her – he adores her – and she has already been taught to be gentle and respectful around him.

People seldom realise that they are actually reinforcing the jumping up. If a dog does it this persistently, then they must be. It has be rewarding for him in some way. So, they need to be just as persistent in their own new responses to his jumping up for as long as it takes. Perro will naturally begin to try even harder when he finds what usually works no longer works, and he may even get frustrated and get worse temporarily. Keep calm – and see it through!

The other thing that needs working on is walks. He is currently on an extendable lead and pulls all the time – and why not? An extendable or flexilead has a spring that ensures it’s always tight so it simply teaches the dog to resist. Pulling away a reflex action in response to being pulled back. There is no such thing as loose lead walking on a flexilead, unless it’s locked, and then why not use a proper lead of a good length that is more comfortable to hold? Perro also gets very excited when he sees dogs and people – straining towards them and then jumping all over them.

He has so many good points. He’s not a big barker, he’s scared of nothing apart from the car, he eats well, he doesn’t beg, he is biddable, very friendly and affectionate. Just look at him!

A couple of days later I called in again to work on giving Perro a behaviour incompatible with jumping up, using a clicker. Clickers are often used in the wrong way, but used correctly clicker training is very useful because it encourges the dog to make his own right decisions and isn’t about us giving him commands. This way he learns self control rather than people trying to control him – which very often will hype a dog up even more.
Ten days after my visit I have feedback on his walking is going: “I have been working on this walking out the back and am seeing real improvements, it will take time especially when there are distractions, but he is not pulling continuously anymore”.
Three and a half weeks have now gone by: Perro is getting on really well………We are on holiday at my parents at the moment and Perro is behaving very well. I have asked my family to get up and fold their arms, giving him no attention if he jumps up  and they are all being fantastic with it. I have just had a lovely walk with him, he is walking really well on the short lead. I am remaining very determined to keep him walking on a loose lead, We saw some cars go by while we were walking and he didn’t leap at the at all and paid them hardly any attention at all which is fabulous. I have been doing as you suggested clipping his lead on him first thing in the morning to stop him jumping at us and this is working really well …. I am also still working at the impulse control training as in the video and he is responing very well to this……We are remaining calm and consistent and i feel are making steady progress”.