Frustrated and Bored. Stealing and Biting

Another first! I have been to a Basenji mix before but not a pure Basenji, despite having helped thousands of dogs.

He’s frustrated. This drives Benji’s uncontrolled behaviour.

Benji is frustrated

Benji is born to hunt.

The adolescent Benji will steal anything he can find from table, shelves or floor. He runs of with it or destroys it.  This leads predictably to a chase with Benji cornered. He may then become aggressive when they try to get the item off him.

Benji, when thwarted or told off, can become very frustrated. For example, he may frantically dig the leather sofa. When told off, he then may charge around, jumping at the older lady, grabbing her clothes and biting her.

Seemingly out of the blue, he may do the same thing when she is busy – particularly when she’s moving around outside in the garden or wearing rubber gloves. Benji attack golves.

These things are not really out of the blue. His ‘erupting’ will be the result of a constant internal build-up of stress, invisible and unheard because Benji doesn’t bark. This arousal will result in frequent explosions.

The young lady has worked very hard with Benji from when he was a puppy. He was a very good puppy. When he was at a very formative age certain unfortunate and unavoidable things in their lives occurred. Benji’s behaviour changed.

It was immediately obvious to me that Benji has no physical boundaries where the young lady and Benji are temporarily staying. It’s impossible to escape from him.

I could see also that he must be over-aroused and stressed a lot of the time. He is frustrated. He was born to hunt and has no fulfillment. They dare not let him off lead (though have just recently found an enclosed field to hire on an hourly basis which will be great). 

They will no longer ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ when he’s peaceful!

Understandably they are thankful for the break,

Life with Benji is one of being on the constant lookout for him doing something wrong and trying to stop it. All his attention is generated in this way and he milks it.

No item, even if on the dining table, is out of his range. He simply stands on his back legs and gets it off. Among many other things, he’s ruined the edges of the PVC table protector by chewing it.

Another quote from Wikipedia: Basenjis often stand on their hind legs, somewhat like a meerkat, by themselves or leaning on something..

Benji runs up and down the boundary with the neighbour’s dog barking the other side. They felt this was good exercise and left him outside, unstopped. It couldn’t annoy anyone because Benji doesn’t bark. If he did bark they may see it as being very stressful for him, not fun.

To quote Wikipedia: The Basenji produces an unusual yodel-like sound commonly called a “baroo”, due to its unusually shaped larynx. This trait also gives the Basenji the nickname “soundless dog”.

Benji gets easily frustrated and this builds up. The more frustrated he feels, the more ‘naughty’ he becomes. Stress stacks up inside him – and they probably won’t even notice.

To change Benji’s behaviour we are getting to the bottom of why he does these things. He obviously gets something out of it. It will make him feel better in some way .

They now need to find acceptable things for him to do that also make him feel good.

They need to supply him with many suitable and varied activities to exercise his brain as well as his body. He will then become a lot less frustrated. Here is a great link: 33 Simple Ways to Keep Your Dog Busy Indoors

Instead of constantly fielding the unwanted stuff, they will consciously look out for and reward every little good thing he does whether it’s simply standing still, lying down – or looking at the table without putting his feet on it.

He can earn much of his food in this way.

They will work hard on getting him to come to them when they call him and make it really worth his while. This will be a lot better than cornering him when he runs off with something. They will never simply take things off him. Exchange will be worked on until he enjoys giving things up.

Just as with a puppy or toddler, they will need to be even more careful with leaving things about – he has a particular liking for remote controls, mobile phones or a wallet – all things that smell most of his humans.

Benji needs some physical boundaries.

They need to be able to walk away from him or place him somewhere with things to do.

They will put a gate in the doorway between sitting room and kitchen. They can give him alternatives to the table cloth, books in the bookshelf, remote, paper documents and so on that he manages to get hold of. Gated in the kitchen, he can get to work on a carton of rubbish from the recycle bin with food buried amongst the rubbish. Anything that gives him an acceptable outlet will result in a less frustrated dog.

Keeping him as calm as possible by avoiding situations that stir him up too much, managing the environment so he doesn’t have the opportunity to keep doing these things and adding a lot more enrichment to his life should turn the corner for Benji and his family.

It will take time. The hardest thing is for the humans to change their ways and to be patient!

It’s no good getting cross with the dog for just being a dog (whether a Basenji or anything else). We are the ones who must do things differently.

Jumps Up and Mouths. ‘No’ and ‘Down’ Fail.

She jumps up and she mouths.

Golden Retriever Tilly, at ten months old, has had a good eight months honing her jumping up skills!

Golden jumps up at peopleShe grabs clothes too when really aroused. She was a challenging puppy from the start and they have come a long way with her.

Stopping her excited jumping up at everyone she meets and gaining some self-control are the two things they still need.

Tilly jumps up at her family, but most of all she jumps up at people she’s not met before or friends.

Her family consists of a couple with their three adult sons.

That’s five humans to confuse her!

She jumps up to say hello in the morning and is fussed. She is given attention when she jumps up at the gate.

When someone comes to the house she will be at the door. She jumps up. Then she is told to get down and may even be shouted at, ‘No!’. They may hang onto her collar.

She likes to jump on sitting people also, so if its visitors her people will be nagging her all the time while at other times letting her have her feet on themselves. I had asked them just to leave her to to do her worst when I came because I can deal with it and they can watch. They found that hard.

Dogs greet face to face.

It’s natural for Tilly to want to get higher, so one way they could reward her for keeping her feet on the floor would be to lower themselves.

They consulted a trainer who said to put an electric collar on her and zap her immediately she jumps up. This is no different to shouting ‘No!’ and with pain added (fortunately they didn’t do this).

As the lady said to me, they want a friendly dog that likes people but they just don’t want her jumping up at them. If Tilly’s efforts to be friendly are associated with pain, it wouldn’t take long for her friendly feelings to turn to fear or even aggression.

Walks with a dog that jumps up at everyone can be difficult. Tilly sees a person approaching and, if on lead, she suddenly jumps up at them as they pass. Off lead she goes deaf to recall if she sees a person. She’s a lot more chilled with dogs than with people.

The people they meet themselves don’t help of course! Most simply can’t resist a beautiful, young Golden Retriever.

I sense that although she is very friendly, this may also mask a bit of anxiety. A stranger approaching can’t surely be solely a matter for joy. Possibly she wants to check them out too.

‘Surely I should expect obedience simply because I’m the boss.’

Having taken old-school advice, this is what the gentleman has believed.

Throughout the time I was there I continually showed Tilly what I did want. I didn’t do it by behaving like a ‘boss’.  I got the people to refrain from any commands and scolding and dealt with the jumping by looking away and waiting, folding my arms because of the mouthing also.

Then I concentrated on reinforcing the behaviour I wanted. Feet on the floor. I gave her the attention she wanted. She chose to sit, I clicked and rewarded her.

They want her to be generally more biddable but are so far missing their trump card – FOOD. What’s wrong with her earning some of her daily food quota?

Not using positive reinforcement is like being expected to work without payment. ‘Will I need to keep feeding her always?’, the man asked. My reply is, yes, most of the time. ‘Because you yourself are good at your job, should your boss now stop paying you?’.

When a dog jumps up, most people do the very opposite of what they should do. They look at her, they tell her to get down and they push her away. Bingo. She gets their full attention. Okay, she may get down, but she for sure will use the same trick for getting attention next time.

NOT jumping up simply needs to be the most rewarding thing.

The dog needs to realise that NOT jumping up is what’s required. I’m sure that few jumpers have been properly shown this.

General excitement is driving the behaviour. There are many ways in which they can reduce her stress levels that will help. One is changing her diet. Another is walking on a loose lead. She would then be a lot calmer when encountering a person when out.

I had her walking around the house beside me with no lead. That’s how it should feel when the lead is loose. It’s not a restraint – it’s merely there for safety. It was easy for me because, unlike them, I used rewards for the behaviour I wanted. I had already built a relationship with her, based on understanding, from the moment I walked in the door.

When Tilly now meets someone on a walk, so long as my strategies are adhered to consistently and by everyone, she will get out of the habit of jumping up at everyone.

Scolding and commands can only add to her frustration and stress. This leads to the mouthing and grabbing clothes. Praise and being shown what to do instead should result in a much better-mannered dog.

With no reinforcement or acknowledgement when she jumps up, she needs the ‘attention vacuum’ filled with more useful activities like brain work, hunting and training games.

 

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 approach I have worked out for Tilly. 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 do.

 

A Jumping up and Nipping Puppy

Puppy pug Frankie is now twelve weeks old.

AtkinsFrankieIt’s vital that the adorable Frankie stops jumping up and nipping because the lady is a childminder. As it’s so important, they have been trying extra hard to stop her jumping up and nipping for the sake of the little children. This has resulted in a lot of No and Get Down and pushing off.

Term starts this week and the four little children will be coming back. If Frankie jumps or nips they will scream and wave their arms about, making her worse.

The young son and daughter play games that may encourage Frankie to be over-excited, rough and to use her teeth. If we don’t want to be nipped by a puppy, we don’t play hand games. We don’t play contact sports but use an item like a tug toy or a ball. We avoid getting her too excited.

In a way, the very importance of Frankie not jumping up and nipping has actually made the problem worse. She’s learnt that it always gets attention of some sort as they try to stop her.

Frankie isn’t being taught what she should be doing instead of jumping up and nipping.

Jumping up and nipping now has to get no attention whatsoever. With myself she learnt really fast that feet on the floor was the way to get a fuss.

It’s a few hours later and the lady has just emailed to say that the jumping up and nipping is now worse since she has stopped saying NO and pushing Frankie off. This is typical of how things get worse before they get better. Because she has said No in the past and given the puppy a lot of attention for jumping up and nipping, it has temporarily made things worse now that she’s stopped.

Frankie wants her to say No just as she always has done because in a funny way it is rewarding to her.

Now Frankie is not getting the attention she usually gets so she is simply getting frustrated and trying harder.

To get all technical, this is called the ‘extinction burst’. Here is a nice explanation from GreenMountanDaily.com: An extinction burst is a concept from behavioral psychology. It involves the concept of elimination of a behavior by refusing to reinforce it. The best example of this is a child’s tantrum. Parents react to tantrums, which is why they often work, but the point of the tantrum is primarily attention.

The family need to stand firm and it’s not easy. For the first couple of days the lady should wear jeans rather than thin floaty trousers (tempting to grab in those little sharp teeth) in order to protect her legs. Having tried immediately to give her something else to put in her mouth or another member of the family calling her away, if neither of these things do the trick she should simply lift her up in silence, put her the other side of the gate with something to chew and walk
away. Actions speak a lot louder than words.

I imagine that this intensified behaviour was during Frankie’s ‘silly time’, the wild half hour so many puppies have in the evening.

They should have that a bit more under control in a day or two. As soon as they see her getting excited and wild they will react immediately by giving her something else to do, something to attack and wreck like a carton full of safe rubbish – before she gets to jumping up and nipping trousers and legs.

Pre-empting whenever possible is the best advice.

It’s understandable why Frankie wants to jump up, as dogs greet one another face to face. A lot of communication is done at face level. You can’t do much communicating with a human ankle! For this reason it’s helpful if people kneel down.

Feet on the floor is just one of those weird things humans like that Frankie has to learn.

In this first visit we covered all aspect of puppy life making sure everything is in place. The whole family did some lovely loose lead walking in the garden. She has been to a couple of vet’s puppy parties with, I feel, too many puppies off lead all at once in a small space, most a lot bigger than tiny Frankie and she may be intimidated. I hope they will stop going now. This is the kind of socialisation that a puppy doesn’t need. We don’t want her to fear other dogs as she gets older.

Frankie when not jumping up and nippingWe are off to a good start and will pick things up where we left off when I next visit. We discussed putting up a barrier between Frankie and the little children so that she can be kept separate from them whilst not being shut out, just until she grows out of her jumping up and nipping.

With consistency from all the family as regards ignoring jumping up whilst teaching her that feet on the floor or sitting gives her what she wants, helping each other out by calling her away if she’s getting rough or popping her straight away behind a gate with something to do or chew, things should improve fairly fast.

In order to get past this ‘extinction burst’ of frustration and not to prolong it, everyone must be doing the same thing. A tantrum must not work in terms of attention!

Their success also depends upon visitors cooperating (always a challenge) and with the children teaching their friends what to do. If they are unable to keep calm thus discouraging the jumping up and nipping, then Frankie will need to be on lead or behind a barrier.

Here is a useful little article from Victoria Stilwell about stopping puppy nipping.

Coming When Called is Coming When Called

‘Well-trained’ isn’t always enough.

The three dogs, 7 month old Rottie pup Kaiser, Jack Russell Budd, 7 and Jack a Chihuahua Jack Russel mix aged 8 have been taught some impressive training tricks by the lady.

This case is interesting because three problems exist despite the training.

Kaiser will soon be coming when called

Kaiser

Kaiser is so excited to see people he jumps all over them. He’s already large and it won’t be funny to have a full-grown male Rottie jumping up at one. Already it hurts.

Secondly, all dogs need to pay more attention to their humans on walks, Kaiser because he’s so excited to see people and dogs, and the two little dogs because they get scared and noisy when on lead and see a dog.

Thirdly, the dogs come when called but not when it really matters.

When people come to the house Buddy can be taught to calm down before he gets any attention. Even being pushed and being told to get down is attention, isn’t it. It may get him down but won’t stop him next time.

He can be taught to do something polite like to sit before being given attention.

Because he is just so excited, sitting is difficult for the pup, so it’s the excitement that needs to be addressed first. Jumping up is a problem easily solved if all parties are consistent.

Getting the dogs’ attention when out starts at home.

In essence all dogs need to clock in to their humans when asked to. At the moment why should they? What’s in it for them? A quick fussing? They get fussing for free so it’s not a reward.

Jack and Buddy

Jack and Buddy

Each dog should respond instantly to his name when he hears it, with eye contact. Yes – Me? They can work on holding the gaze for a short while. There has to be something in it for the dog, though. or he will soon learn to ignore them.

Giving eye contact when he hears his name needs to become an automatic reflex, just the same as you would blink if someone pretended to throw something into your face.

An automatic reflex only happens if it is practised enough times. Hundreds of times.

Coming when called starts at home too.

Reliable ‘coming when called’ is a lot harder and the work also starts at home.

They can work on a ‘coming when called’ reflex in the same way. For these three dogs I have suggested they charge a whistle by pairing the whistle with tiny special food hundreds of times.

Meanwhile if the dog’s not certain to come – don’t call. They won’t set themselves up to fail and thus lose the power they are building up. In places where running off could be a problem, like chasing children he wants to play with, Kaiser should be kept on a long line for now.

Getting attention and coming when called are the solution to other minor problems they are having. Kaiser likes to eat dog poo (coprophagia). Instead of yelling NO and giving it value, they can call him away and reward him. In fact, repeated sufficiently often he can be taught to automatically come to them for a piece of his kibble when one of the other dogs does his business. Obviously in order to avoid rehearsal Kaiser needs to be accompanied when outside.

By saying ‘Kaiser’ and getting instant eye contact, they can call him away when he’s about to jump on the sofa. Problem solved.

When he sees a child out on a walk, instead of running excitedly up to it and possibly chasing it, they call ‘Kaiser!’ ‘Yes – Me?’ ‘Come’. Reward. Problem solved.

Here is a nice little video: ‘A recall is a recall‘.

Ultimately the family should be able to blow the whistle and all three dogs will come running to them EVERY TIME, regardless of other dogs and things to chase and best blown before they are in full flight. Obviously some breeds are easier to train to come back than others, notably retrieving breeds. I know people who will correct me and say their breed will never reliably come back when called, but I still need to be convinced.

Ultimately the family should be able to call just a chosen dog, calling his name, get his instant attention and then ‘COME’. Reward.

Most people I go to say their dog has good recall – except when he sees another dog or has something better to do. That to my mind isn’t good recall. It’s a dog that has been ‘trained’ to understand coming when called and may be brilliant in the environment of his training class, but has chosen to do so in his own good time when out in the real world.

Training is largely about the dog’s relationship with his humans – and that is home stuff.

My own dogs’ formal training is limited to sit, down and stay, but coming when called is something they do reliably(and one is a Lurcher). Coming when called is basic for their own safety and for my sanity.

Over-Arousal Causes Dog to Attack

The over-arousal and stress in one dog is causing the other dog to react.

This is a little different from the last case I went to involving fighting females where I believe the human’s punishing reaction to their two female dogs fighting was actually causing the situation to accelerate.

over-arousal caused her to lose control

Dotty

With Mimi and Dotty the problem isn’t really escalating in that it’s not really becoming more frequent though the most recent caused the most damage. There are several weeks between each episode between which the two bitches get on okay. I watched them and they passed each other in doorways in a relaxed fashion and lay down together.

In this case I’m sure it’s to do with general arousal levels causing things to erupt. When it’s all over and done with it’s like, to the dogs if not to the humans, nothing has happened.

Even after the recent episode where Dotty received a leg wound and had to go to the vet, the dogs were soon back to how they had been together beforehand.

The owners are dog-savvy people who have given four dogs a much-needed home and have made huge advances with them all. They have two boys dogs – quiet and shy smaller Romanian dog Teddy and a large Lurcher-type called Zach, age three, who gets on with them all. Then there are the girls – Staffie Dotty who they took in at four months old from a very abusive start in life and Mimi, a six-year-old Mastiff Rottie mix who was the last to join them.

Mimi

Mimi

Looking for common denominators as well as one can from just four episodes spread over several months, brought me to the conclusion that Dotty’s over-arousal was the final straw at a time when all the dogs were already excited.

Each incident had occurred either immediately or soon after the arrival of the the two young daughters, age 12 and 13 coming in, once alone and other times with parents or grandmother. The girls themselves are excited with the dogs. The most recent incident involved food too which may have accounted for it being the most severe.

Each incident occurred after the four dogs had been left alone for longer than usual, in a smallish room. Perhaps shut together for too long something could have been brewing.

Another common denominator is that Mimi didn’t seek out Dotty to attack her. They were either already together in a small space or Dotty went over to Mimi.

To break the fights up took a lot of shouting, screaming from the girls and spraying water at the dogs. Afterwards, however, the dogs were just parted for a while. There was no further punishment which I’m sure has something to do with things between the two going so quickly back to normal.

Teddy, Dotty, Zach and Mimi

Teddy, Dotty, Zach and Mimi

Management is the first thing to put in place so not only are the dogs safe, but also the children.

When everyone is out the dogs should be separated in boy/girl pairs in the sitting room and kitchen.

When the girls come home from school they must now be a lot quieter and less excited as it’s likely this is one of the triggers. The two female dogs won’t be together anymore.

Teaching calm greetings without Dotty’s wild jumping up will be a start. Carrying something in her mouth helps her. They should let the dogs out from separate doors to toilet and keep them in their different rooms until the parents get home.

This will also give the dogs plenty of time to calm down before being reunited.

Although Mimi has been the ‘attacker’, Dotty’s behaviour and her over-arousal is at the bottom of it I’m certain, like she ‘asks for it’. The lady has an interesting theory. Mimi has had several litters of puppies in her six years before the family adopted her and she would have dealt with over the top behaviour like Dotty’s from one of her puppies quiet firmly. The puppy wouldn’t have retaliated though.

Mimi has also recently started limping which they will get checked out with the vet – possibly pain is making her less tolerant at times.

Dotty can be helped with her over-arousal.

Because stress inside Dotty continually builds up far faster than she can get rid of it, she’s like a little walking volcano. She is terrified of cars and much of the outside world, and tries to avoid going out. Each day she has to endure at least one walk, involving getting into the car which terrifies her. Once out she will pull like mad so she has a Halti which she hates.

They will start to walk her by herself for very short sessions, initially only in the garden or just outside the house, making sure she is willing and happy. They will get her a very comfortable special harness – not the ‘no-pull’ kind that is merely another restriction. They will desensitise her to their own car and to traffic in general.

The girls can help with short five-minute ‘happy with cars’ outings and teaching her to walk nicely around their own quiet road.

It will take a lot of time and patience.

Only when she is calmer and happy to go out should they take her any further. Only when she’s ready should she join the other dogs in the car and walking near traffic.

When dogs are having their differences and especially where there are several dogs, I feel it’s important for each dog to be deliberately treated as an individual from time to time. When one name is said, eye contact from that particular dog is rewarded and the others ignored. They can be lined up, the names of each dog said in a random order and that dog fed upon eye contact. They will learn they always get their turn and not to compete.

Having an instant response to their individual name is vital to avoid trouble breaking out. Any time they feel at all worried they can gently say the name of the dog who is giving concern. Everything can be calm. The dog will look at them, they can call her to them – and give her a reward.

Trouble averted.

 

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 Mimi and Dotty 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, particularly where aggression issues of any kind are 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 Help page)

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.

.

 

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)

Barking at Me. Why?

Cocker Spaniel Archie’s barking at me was erratic and a little puzzling.

As soon as Archie was let out of the sitting room to where I was in the hallway, he was barking at me loudly, jumping up at me and although I was aware of his mouth he stopped short of nipping.

Taking a break from barking at meI initially assumed he may be scared but by both watching him and talking to the lady it soon became obvious that he was mostly protective and possessive of her. I guess that is fear in a way – fearful of losing a resource.

This analysis is backed up by the fact that Archie is looked after by the lady’s parents every morning. He is much less reactive to people coming to their own house.

What did the beautiful two-year-old dog hope to gain with all the barking at me? It’s safe to assume an element of it was telling me to go away. As this didn’t succeed he would surely be getting increasingly anxious, cross and frustrated.

We look to see ‘what’s in it for him’ when deciding on treatment and this is hard. The only function that could be served for him by this behaviour was attention from the lady herself and an outlet from his own emotions.

He soon stopped barking at me and became very friendly, encouraging me to fuss him. Really sweet. A different dog.

Then he would suddenly break out into barking again.

I can only think of a couple of occasions when I was there that he hadn’t placed himself between me and the lady.

My standing up was guaranteed to start him off barking at me again.

I experimented with desensitisation. When he was quiet, I began by standing and feeding as I did so, thinking if I did this over and over he would feel better about it. This didn’t work.

Next, I called him (he came happily) then asked him to sit so as to give him warning and take the sudden element out of it. I then slowly stood up and fed him as I did so. I tried half standing and feeding him. It became apparent that trying to desensitise him this way was doing no good at all – increasing his stress even.

As soon as I moved, he was barking at me.

So, what to try next?

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Reinforcing calm and something he can do instead of barking

Until he calms down and gains confidence in the presence of visitors, he will need a comfortable harness and lead on him so he can be held back from people with no discomfort or interaction with lady whatsoever. How she does things is important. It’s vital he doesn’t pick up signals from her that he can interpret as either backing him up or anxiety.

She can walk him out of the room and bring him back in again when he’s quiet – he won’t be left alone because we don’t want to stress him further.

She can show him the benefits of being quiet. This can be done by using clicker and food. Because in between sessions of barking at me he might pick up a toy – likely trying to self-calm himself – offering him something special to chew will help him.

In order to teach him something else he can do instead of barking, the lady will work on a kind of ‘drill’, a silent sequence of behaviours that, when she gives the signal, he can instantly fall into and perform that gives him something to concentrate on that is both fun and reinforcing for him and incompatible with barking at someone.

This is a very interesting case because the lady herself has done a lot of research, is very well informed and has tried many things. It’s hard to see how her own behaviour is influencing Archie’s behaviour as one might expect.

My visit was about seeing things objectively through different eyes and trying to come up with something else.

I looked at the bigger picture – not just the barking – and we have different angles to work on.

Very important is keeping Archie’s general overall stress levels down as much as possible.

The relationship between the lady and Archie needs to change so that he comes to feel more independent of her, thus altering the emotion driving the possessive behaviour. By getting him to use his brain for her and by discouraging him to constantly be at her heels when she’s with him, she can show him that it’s her job to make decisions and to protect him and not the other way around.

Eventually this should give him a sense of release.

We are working on actual tactics and techniques to help Archie cope with encountering people, most particularly when they come into their house but also when out.

Barking For Attention and Getting it

Barking for attention is ultimately guaranteed to succeed.

Taking a break from barking for attentionWhat constitutes attention to Stella?

Anything involving a human looking at her, talking to her or touching her – or all three at once which is usually the case.

She may be glared at. She may told QUIET. She may be pushed away.

Stella is sixteen months old. She is mostly French Bulldog with a bit of English Bulldog thrown in – which makes her quite a bit taller than a Frenchie. She is remarkably agile and it’s nothing for her to leap from the floor directly onto the table.

In the photo we are have managed a brief respite from the barking by giving her a Stagbar to chew.

Stella lives with several people – a couple with adult sons, two of whom can get her very stirred up. There is also an older calmer dog, a Great Dane.

The family all work together and the dogs go with them, remaining in the office. The dogs have a great life. At work Stella is no trouble. There is no barking for attention at all.

Why is her behaviour at work so different to her behaviour at home? It might be because at work people are busy and regularly moving about. At home it’s when they have sat down that the barking for attention routine starts.

I had not been there for long when the barking for attention began – mostly directed at me.

Stella is not a dog deprived of love and attention – not at all! However, she has learnt that barking brings her results and very likely if she’s quiet she will be ignored.

Let sleeping dogs lie. Why wouldn’t you?

 

Now the family will need to go cold turkey.

If they want the barking for attention to stop, there must be no more responding to it.

They must all ignore her noise and keep their nerve and patience. Very difficult. When I was there it was hard to think, let alone talk.

When barking wasn’t working she would then push her luck by doing other things – jumping on the table, jumping on the seat behind me to get to my treat box on the table, chewing the leaves of a house plant and nicking a wooden clothes peg which she couldn’t be allowed to keep owing to danger of swallowing the metal spring.

Running off with something can be guaranteed to result in a chase!

It’s very hard for them not to keep scolding her and telling her ‘no’ and to get down (all reinforcing to Stella). They will get a harness (Perfect Fit like in the picture below) so they can give her a bit of gentle help ‘Off you Get’ and then ‘Good Girl’ when down. They must act casual and keep their cool!

They may need to resort to shutting her alone in the kitchen with something to do for a while if she pushes her luck too far.

What a little monkey! What a challenge!

 

This is a project requiring a sense of humour and endurance.

To help her learn not to bark, she must learn that what they do want – quiet – is rewarding.

So, in addition to not reacting at all to her barking for attention, we started to mark and reward just moments of quiet – gradually increasing the duration. She kept reverting, but we made a little headway. The lady said ‘Yes’, I used my clicker. It doesn’t matter which is used so long as Stella learns to associate it with not barking and the sound is followed by food.

When people are moving about at work she doesn’t bark, so this gives us another strategy to try. As soon as she starts, the person she’s directing the barking at can move about or walk out of the room.

Stella in my harness

Stella in my harness

I see it as being quite a challenge in so far as the whole family needs to be reliably consistent. ‘Can’t be bothered’ could compromise success.

Stella has two or three walks a day. She comes back from her evening walk wired up. It’s like she has built up a head of steam which she has to release when she gets home.

This of course is when everyone wants to settle down after their day at work.

We have drawn up a list of constructive activities that should help her to calm herself down and keep her more busy. Walks need to be adjusted so that they are less arousing in terms of length, exercise and encountering things she’s reactive to, so that instead of careering around the place when she gets back, unwinding in the only way Stella can, she has a drink and settles for a while.

Instead of responding to any barking for attention, they will respond to breaks in the barking instead with ‘clicking for quiet’ sessions.

They should resist all play activities that over-arouse her. They will do all they can to keep her as calm as possible.

Instead of ‘letting sleeping dogs lie’ they can initiate short useful activities at times when she’s quiet – thereby showing that NOT barking works a lot better than barking does!

 

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 Stella. I don’t go into detail. 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, making sure that we are dealing with the real causes of barking. I also provide moral support and they will probably need it for a while. 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)

No No and No Doesn’t Teach a Dog

NO isn’t conveying to Buster what they do want of him

The word No didn't work. Clicker and food and Beagle is attentive.No No is a sure route to making an already confused dog even more bewildered – and frustrated too.

They picked up Beagle mix Buster from a rescue just a few days ago and though totally in love with him they are a little overwhelmed.

I find it hard to believe that he’s been there for two months and not quickly adopted. He’s beautiful with the softest coat imaginable. Possibly he wasn’t snapped up sooner because of his jumping up and excitability. He is only eleven months old.

You can imagine how an energetic young dog when released from two months confinement might react to being let loose in a house and garden!

He jumps up at people and the more they push him down and say No, the more wound up he gets, eventually using his mouth, teeth and claws on the hands that are pushing him away.

He jumps up at the sides in the kitchen while they prepare food. No No just winds him up.

He has mad tearing about sessions which can result on his leaping onto them or grabbing articles and wrecking them. No No!

They have a hamster in a cage at his head height. He is very curious. No No.

 

Turning No into Yes

Starting right now they will concentrate on three things – strategies to calm him down generally, removing temptation where they can, and turning No into Yes.

People can be quite surprised when I suggest a high rate of food reinforcement for everything they ask the dog to do and even to mark moments when the dog is being ‘good’ – not doing things they don’t want him to do. (This isn’t quite the same as doing things that they do want him to do).

People can also find the idea of constantly carrying food on them a challenge. This isn’t extra food which would merely make the dog fat. Why feed him all his food at mealtimes? Why not let him earn it throughout the day?

You can see from my photo how focused he became when I started working with my clicker and tiny food rewards. I had asked him to Sit (which he knows) and Wait (which I’m sure he doesn’t know) – and he did it!

Buster needs to constantly be shown what IS required of him. If jumping on the sides is not wanted, what is? Feet on the floor. But – what’s in it for him? Jumping up at the sides, the chaos it can cause and the possibility of a stolen snack is very rewarding to him. No No is just background noise.

This is my favourite video demonstrating the confusion No can cause and the success of Yes instead.

I suggest a sort of swear box. Whenever anyone says No to Buster they have to put 50p in the box. They can then treat themselves to a meal out. If they do very well, it might only be a coffee!

Replace Bad Habit With Good Habit

Anything repeated often enough can become a habit.

I totally fell in love with scruffy ten-month-old Jack Russell mix Max yesterday. I had the perfect evening with him and his humans.

It began with just me and the daughter who is in her late teens. Then mum arrived followed by twSitting still is a better habit than jumping abouto male school friends of the girl’s and later a man – all people closely involved in the dog’s life. Lucky little dog!

As each person joined us I was working with Max. He had jumped up at me in a madly friendly fashion as I walked in the door and I immediately showed him that this didn’t work with me if it was my attention he wanted. More importantly, I concentrated on showing him what did work.

As more people arrived and as I worked with him, instead of jumping up at them, becoming increasingly excited and silly as would normally be the case, he was becoming more and more settled.

When finally the man joined us, he said Max must be another dog.

It won’t take much of this to build up a new habit when people arrive, so long as everyone is consistent. They have a lot of people coming and going so training the humans is the main problem here!

All I did was to consistently reinforce the behaviour I wanted. As you can see from the photo, Max became FOCUSED! He was sitting looking up at me as we all chatted. From time to time I reinforced the continued calm behaviour with Yes or a click and the tiniest bit of food.

Now he can develop a new habit, that of sitting at someone’s feet looking adorable in order to get his attention fix!

BanceMax1I then tried him on an antler chew. Chewing is such a great and natural way for a dog to relieve stress and to occupy himself. Max worked away at it for maybe an hour after which he simply lay down and settled.

Just like so many dogs I go to, Max generates nearly all his own attention with tactics like constantly asking to be let out and then back in again, jumping up behind people, mouthing, digging the sofa – anything he can think of.

If instead his humans initiate frequent short activities that he finds rewarding and that exercise his brain, he will no longer be driven into goading them for the attention and action he craves.

 

They can convert any unwanted habit into a good habit.

The small dog has fantastic humans in his life who have put time and effort into teaching him training tricks. Now they need to incorporate work on keeping him a bit calmer and making the desirable habits the rewarding ones.

At last he settles

At last he settles

Here are a few examples where his bad habit can be changed into a good habit.

Before bed and before they go to work, like so many dogs Max will refuse to come in from the garden. With a bit of management by way of a long lead so he can no longer rehearse the behaviour and food so that he’s motivated, this habit can soon be changed to him running in as soon as they call him.

While they eat their dinner, he has a habit of sitting on the back of the sofa behind them and trying to get their food! This habit can be changed with a mix of management and training. So he can no longer rehearse this behaviour he can be put somewhere else while they eat. He can then be taught a much better habit instead.

Whenever he sees a person out on a walk he will jump up at them. This habit can be changed through a mix of management and teaching him something better that earns him fuss.

Even pulling on lead is a habit. He is forced to walk beside them and the short lead is tight so that pulling against it is constantly rehearsed on every daily walk. A new habit can be established using management – better equipment – and a loose leash that is repeatedly reinforced by earning him forward progress along with plenty of encouragement, attention and reward.

Near the end of our session yesterday I put one of my Perfect Fit harnesses on Max and attached a training lead. Within a few minutes the now calm Max was walking beautifully for me and then for the daughter outside the front of the house.

Already a new and much better walking habit has been born.

It was quite touching how he was with me by the time I was ready to leave and we had removed the harness. He lay beside me, his head on my foot. What had I done to him?

We had a mutual understanding. Max felt quietly understood.

 

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 Max. 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 Get Help page)