Over-excited, Frustrated. Habituation and Freedom

Dylan is an enthusiastic, friendly young dog if a little over-excited. He is beautiful.

Someone coming to house is a very exciting thing for the young sixteen-month-old Labradoodle.

When I arrived the lady was doing her best to control him. She repeatedly told him to sit and stay on a mat just round the corner where he couldn’t see me.

She was fighting a losing battle

Over-excited LabradoodleIt’s hard to control a dog that is so over-excited. In this state of mind he can’t be expected to exercise much self-control. He calmed down quite quickly however.

At home they find him no problem at all as like many of us they have few callers apart from family.

The problems they are having with Dylan are due to his being so over-excited when out. Every person he sees he wants to greet. Every dog he sees he wants to play with.

Sadly for him, he is thwarted. For control, the lady has to walk him with a Halti which he hates. This is the way she stops him pulling.

Frustration

Dylan deals surprisingly well with what must be quite a high level of frustration. All he wants is more freedom. He wants to sniff and to be able to get to other dogs in particular. They can’t trust him to come back, so he gets no opportunity to run off lead.

When a dog approaches, the lady holds his head halter tightly. This is the only way she can keep him beside her without him pulling her over.

When younger, Dylan used to go to daycare a couple of times a week where he could play with other dogs. Unfortunately, due to his not being castrated (they don’t want this) daycare will no longer have him. It’s a big ask now to expect the friendly dog to be calm when he does see a potential playmate.

It’s also possible that playing unchecked with other dogs at the daycare may have encouraged uncontrolled, over-excited play with other dogs. This can happen.

Over-excited when seeing people

It’s the same problem with people. The fewer he encounters, the more over-excited and reactive he will become. They are an exciting novelty.

The first thing they will do to help him is to cut down on things that wind him up and make him over-excited at home. They will replace them with activities that get him to use his brain and calm him down instead. Things like working for his food, hunting and brain games.

The second is to start all over again with walks.

Currently he’s forced to walk beside them. He’s trapped on a Halti that restricts his movement and which the lady tightens when a dog or person approaches.

How frustrating that must be for him.

It is nerve-wracking for the lady who isn’t enjoying walks either. If she is nervous, worried or cross – Dylan will get the message.

Better equipment. Different technique.

They will now get better equipment. The lady should feel just as safe if he wears a harness with training lead attached in two places, back and chest, instead of head halter.

They will start with two or three daily short walks near to home, allowing lots of sniffing. They will keep the lead long and loose.

If a person or dog appears they will increase distance immediately. The lady will also work on Dylan’s fear of large or noisy vehicles.

If someone appears and she finds herself getting anxious, she will go back home.

Now, with Dylan more comfortable and the lady herself feeling she’s beginning to enjoy walks also, she can start to work on approaching people and dogs as planned. This will involved increasing distance. She will teach him to stay calm, using either food or giving him his beloved ball to carry.

With a long line, they will work hard on his recall so that he gets some freedom.

Habituation

All this work actually doesn’t address the real reason he gets so over-excited at seeing people and dogs. He needs habituating.

Friendly Dylan needs to meet plenty of people and plenty of dogs. When they are no longer such a novelty he will be sufficiently calm for the couple to teach him better manners.

The gentleman made a good suggestion. They will go back to taking him places with them as they did when he was a puppy. They can take him into town and they can sit outside cafes.

Like many dogs, Dylan can cope with crowds better than occasional people and dogs.  More exposure will get to the root of his over-excitement. Habituation

NB. For the sake of the story and for confidentiality also, this isn’t a complete ‘report’. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog it can do more harm than good. Click here for help

Avoid People and Dogs When Out.

They have to avoid people and dogs? Really?

I found Billie and Shaun the most polite, friendly and chilled dogs anyone could wish to meet.

they avoid people and dogs on walksBillie is a Labradoodle who looks much more like a Labrador, and Shaun a Jack Russell mix. Both are three years of age.

There is a big difference between how the two dogs react to people and dogs passing their gate to how they behave when people are invited into the house. From the garden both will bark. Billie may charge wildly up and down the fence, barking.

Walks can be nightmare, so the couple simply avoid people and dogs when they go out.

The much bigger Billie, in particular, is variable. Some days she barely reacts at all and on others she’s nearly impossible to hold. They need her to be consistent.

They now have acquired a camper van and want to travel with their lovely dogs. At the moment it would be impossible.

To avoid people and dogs altogether will get them all nowhere. Forcing them too near, unprepared, is even worse.

Avoid people and dogs no longer. New strategies.

They have already come a long way since adopting the two dogs. Now it seems to have flat-lined and they need some new strategies to take things forward again.

As in most cases, it’s more than just attacking the problem itself head-on. There will be other contributory factors which my questions are designed to bring out.

Here there are three main areas to work on.

First is to make sure that both dogs are in the most stable state of mind possible as a ‘normal’ base level. There isn’t a lot to change in this respect.

Their relationship with food can change a bit however. Our work needs food and with meals already containing all the luxuries, what can they use?  We discussed a change which will give them a highly nutritious staple diet whilst leaving the most tempting stuff for reinforcement – for associating with people and dogs.

People-watching.

The second area is working towards the dogs being less reactive to people and dogs near to their own territory. They will work on passing people and dogs – and to people and dogs the dogs can hear or see from their house or garden.

Finally, systematic desensitisation and counter-conditioning needs to take place away from home.

To avoid people and dogs altogether will get them nowhere, but to push them over-threshold could make things even worse.

Systematic work will start just outside the gate with one dog at a time, progressing to walking down the road.

Working sessions must be done one dog at a time. They will use the ‘engage-disengage’ game. This involves distance and – food.

Over time they will be able to encounter people and dogs more closely but in a controlled fashion.

Their ‘normal’ walks, consisting of going by car to somewhere they can avoid people and dogs altogether, can carry on as before.

From inside the camper van they do some ‘people-watching’, parking it in a carefully chosen location and working on the same principles. They can be ready to draw the curtain to block the view before people or dogs come too close.

They will continue to work in a systematic, incremental way, using this different approach to that they previously used which was simply to avoid people and dogs or to hang on tight if a dog or person suddenly appeared.

When progress has been made with the dogs individually, they can then work with them together.

This is a case of slowly slowly catchee monkey!

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 Billie and Shaun. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good. 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 Help page).

Dog Behind the Fence. Barking Dog. Lunges

I have just been to a couple of Labradoodles, Sol and Cristal. What the owners would like to achieve is much less barking at home and, from Sol, on walks also. He may bark and lunge at other dogs but only when he’s on lead and when they get too close.

A big problem is a dog barking behind the fence on the corner of their road.

They have worked hard training their lovely dogs. The problems they are facing are, to my mind, less about training than about the emotions that drive the behaviour.

Emotions not obedience.

The older training methods don’t take account of the dogs’ emotional state but are more about ‘obedience’. Commands don’t really alter the feelings that drive the behaviour.

Labradoodle barks at dog behind the fence

Sol at the back, with Celeste

The ‘behaviour’ approach is holistic – covering all aspects of the dogs’ lives, because everything is connected like a jigsaw puzzle. The dogs now will be helped to make their own correct decisions without commands or correction. This is done by emphasising what they are doing right. Also by giving them choice, on walks in particular.

Anyway, in this story I am just picking one aspect of what we are working on. This is Sol barking and lunging at the dog behind the fence on the corner.

Sol and Crystal have lovely runs in the park with their doggy friends, but to get there they have to pass a house with a terrier that barks like mad from behind the fence. This dog had attacked the, now much bigger, Sol when he was a puppy.

Sol alerts well before he gets there, even when the dog isn’t out and behind the fence.

How can they get past without Sol barking and lunging? Commands and physical control aren’t helping at all. (The strategy for Sol isn’t the only way to work on this kind of thing, but having met Sol and his owners it seems the best fit).

First the two dogs should be walked separately for a while – the lady can for now make the journey to the park by car.

For working with Sol and the dog behind the fence she will take a clicker because I would prefer she doesn’t talk. Let Sol work things out for himself. (See here for an intro into what clicker is about).

The enemy behind the fence: ‘Engage’.

This is the game stage one:

They will start out calmly, letting Sol sniff and walk about a bit on a loose lead before heading towards the terrier’s garden.

As soon as Sol looks in that direction, engages, the lady will click and drop some food. This food is dropped rather than fed for two reasons. One, that the food should be associated with the terrier and not the lady. Secondly, dropping the food means Sol looks away and down at the ground, ready to look back up again and earn another click.

Slowly they can advance – clicking each time he looks in the direction of what may be the dog behind the fence, dropping food. If the terrier comes out it will bark and they will have to quickly retreat and start this game from a lot further back.

They will gradually work their way nearer the house on the corner. At some stage Sol will start to react as he looks for his enemy behind the fence. He will go stiff, stare, ‘get big’ with ears and tail rising.

He is now about to go over threshold. He’s too close.

They should back off a little to where Sol is comfortable again, and continue with the game. Bit by bit he will get closer.

This game should be played daily for five or ten minutes at a time – the more sessions the better. The main rule is not to push him over threshold – get too close. If they do, they are back to square one – a bit like going down a snake in snakes and ladders!  Listen to this very short excerpt from my BBC 3 Counties Radio phone-in. It’s only just over a minute long.

‘Disengage’.

Now for stage two.

Sol, after a two or three weeks of hard work, should now have the hang of the ‘engage’ game, even when the little dog is out and barking behind the fence if from sufficient distance .

They will stand still as before. Sol will look in the direction of the dog’s garden. Is his enemy behind the fence? But now the lady won’t click.

If Sol is ready for stage two in the game of ignoring the dog behind the fence, he will now look round, “Where’s my click and food?”.

Now the lady will click eye contact instead.

Stage two teaches Sol to look away from the dog behind the fence, even if he’s out and barking.

With patience they should soon be walking past that garden, the other side of the road is sensible. They will need to do some work with Celeste before walking them both together to the park to play, past the house with the dog barking behind the fence.

Sol may in the future regress, so they must top up again with a couple of days of the ‘engage/disengage’ game.

2 months later: We just got back from Cornwall and tho we had a few hiccups everyone noticed a big difference in their behaviour. No barking in apartment , no jumping up people, only a little barking from crystal on beach if someone passed unexpectedly which I feel to be expected. She was fabulous with marks nephews. Normally she would be barking at their every mood. She was playing with them and they were enjoying her playfulness without over doing things. We are learning how to keep her calmer which really has paid off. We even managed to walk them to beach together, was a pleasure to be around them.. Thank you for your help and support over the six week period.
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 Sol. Neither dog nor situation will ever be exactly the same. If you listen to ‘other people’ or find instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog, you can do much more harm than good. The case needs to be assessed correctly, particularly where any form of fear or aggression 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 Help page).

 

 

 

Dog and New Baby. Not a Happy Dog

This is just the start of the story of beautiful Labradoodle Byrne and the new baby.

When they brought their baby home just three days ago, Byrne barked frantically at him and they didn’t know what to do. In desperation they phoned me but I couldn’t see them until today.

I suggested they got someone else to have Byrne for a couple of days until I could come.

He came back home just ten minutes before I arrived.

For the dog to be relaxed around the baby requires him to be driven by different emotions. Currently fear, arousal and probably a mix of other uncomfortable things are flooding him – it’s been proved that dogs feel jealousy. Scolding and commands, due to natural human anxiety, can only make things worse.

Just home with a new baby is not an easy time for very worried people to be calm..

Management

The first priority is management. Barriers in the form of gates and an anchor point will be installed straight away. The lady can then begin to relax.

Helping Byrne to feel at ease will be a gradual process – a gradated or incremental plan – aiming at keeping him (on lead of course) within his comfort threshold all the time.

We worked with a clicker and the baby asleep in his pram, occasionally making little noises as babies do. Byrne looked at the pram, the man clicked. As Byrne looked around the man fed him.

The dog was fine.

Next we took it to the next stage. With Byrne out of the way in the garden, mum picked up her new baby and settled down to feed him – well away from the door.

Byrne was brought in. While the baby was still, quiet and feeding, the dog was fairly relaxed even quite near to him. He was repeatedly clicked and rewarded.

We then removed Byrne from the room again while the lady lifted her baby against her shoulder. He was brought back in.

This was too much for him. He began to bark.

I feel he’d actually done very well indeed for his first day, particularly as the original encounter a couple of days ago had been so distressing for him.

An incremental plan and the new baby

In order to build Byrne’s confidence and acceptance of the baby they need to work a step at a time. This is how I see these steps at the moment, but some more may need to be added. Each step has to be achieved before embarking on the next. Calm with……..

  1. Baby in pram in the same room – making sounds
  2. Baby being fed
  3. Quiet baby in seat and not held.
    Stressed by the new baby

    Looking at the new baby

  4. Doll held in arms and moved about and talked to – using a doll to mimic the lady’s behaviour with the baby. It could even be dressed in used baby clothes.
  5. Quiet baby being held in arms – maybe the man holding him initially
  6. Noisy baby in pram
  7. Noisy baby in seat
  8. Noisy baby in arms

Whenever baby moves or Byrne is aware of him, they should give the dog food. The new baby triggers chicken!

It is vital, if Byrne’s emotions towards the new baby are to be resolved, that positive methods are used. It’s too tempting to discipline and try to teach the dog what he must NOT do instead of what he should do.

If it were a snake and not a baby, for instance, and if Byrne could die if he touched it, then there may be justification in sudden shouting or punishment because they would want him to hate and to avoid snakes forever. The opposite is the case here with a new baby.

Too many changes

Poor Byrne is unhappy if not in the same room as the young couple, so will no doubt complain behind the gate.

He sleeps in their bedroom – and this is where the baby’s crib now is. He may need to sleep somewhere else and this could make him unhappy too.

Hindsight always being so easy, this is a good example of where thorough preparation can prepare the dog. Weeks before the arrival of the new baby Byrne could have been introduced to being left behind gates and sleeping somewhere else at night. He could now feel pushed out just when the opposite is needed.

This has all come as a very sad surprise for the young couple who adore their beautiful and very well-trained dog and assumed he would be fine.

New unforseen challenges will no doubt occur but overall, if they can be patient and never push ahead too fast, Byrne should learn accept the new baby.

The story has just begun.

Four weeks have now gone by. Byrne is back on their bed again at night, peaceful, happy and calm while the lady feeds her beautiful month-old baby.
From email three weeks later: Things are going better with Byrne each day. 

 

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 Byrne 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 fear or 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)

Don’t Want Their Females Fighting

Females fighting – nipping things in the bud before they escalate to something worse

Rosie

Rosie

I have just been to another family that really pulls together where their dogs are concerned.

They have a situation with two females – a Labradoodle and a Rottie, both a year old.

The two dogs got on very well to start with, but as they reached maturity what was a bit of bullying from excitable Rosie, the doodle, became rougher as she jumped on the more placid Missy.

Predictably there came a time when Missy had had enough and she retaliated. It escalated to growling and snarling with each dog held back on leads as they reared up on their back legs. Now, to make sure there is no chance of their females fighting, the two are kept separate except on certain walks which have to be fairly carefully managed.

It’s a large family with members ranging from their twenties down to three years old. The older teenage girls do most with the dogs. Labradoodle Rosie belongs to the seventeen-year-old who had worked hard with her, teaching all the basic training cues.

Things aren’t so good now for Rosie. The dogs have just the fairly small kitchen area and utility room. The more peaceful Missy lives in the kitchen with people coming and going and Rosie spends all the time she’s not out on a walk alone in the conservatory. She doesn’t seem to expect to come in, but she occupies herself by chewing things. She goes out into the garden for short periods, but due to her digging and eating things they don’t leave her out for long.

Missy

She’s a clever dog and she is very bored.

The people don’t know what else they can do. She does have two quite long walks every day. One walk is Rosie alone with her 17-year-old person. The walk is largely spent chasing a ball thrown from a chucker to tire her out, but she doesn’t come home from this walk tired out and satisfied.

I have asked them to leave the ball thrower at home. She doesn’t need it. There is a belief that the more you can tire a dog the better it will be. It can be the opposite – see here. A hyper dog anyway, she needs activities that stimulate her brain and allow her to unwind a bit, not the opposite.

Her second walk is interesting and works better for her. They take both dogs. One daughter has a head start with one dog followed by the other dog some minutes later. They meet up at a field with a pond. The dogs run around off lead and the situation is controlled with the ball chucker. At the first hint of any trouble they throw the ball into the pond and Rosie, who loves water, runs in after it. Missy hates water and thus the dogs are parted.

They walk home together and all is fine.

After the walk, having been hosed down the two dogs are left briefly together in the utility room. Someone watches them through a window. After a shake-off one dog will usually lie down. It takes a very short time before the other dog jumps on top of her and the conflict starts. They are immediately parted and Missy returned to the kitchen.

I see this couple of minutes as a window of opportunity – a time when both dogs are briefly sufficiently calm and already together. They can build on it. The girl can stay in the utility room with the dogs after the walk. When, having shaken off, one lies down, she can ask the other to do the same and reward them both. She can work on a short ‘stay’ before letting Missy out into the kitchen in a controlled fashion. Over the days the duration of the ‘down-stays’ can be extended.

Instead of waiting for the conflict to start thus daily further rehearsing the behaviour, they can be taught a desirable behaviour instead.

When the family has made some progress I will be going back. We will take things to the next stage. It needs to be carefully stage-managed.

Meawhile, the girl has considerably more work to do with Rosie if they are to get these two dogs back together in harmony. While Rosie is so frustrated, stressed and bored, she will lack the self control required. Because she seldom goes into the kitchen, she is understandably extremely aroused when she does so and in the totally wrong state of mind required for getting together with Missy. Both must be calm.

The girl is going to swap the dogs over for a short while each day and give Rosie some quality time in the kitchen – doing ‘clicking for calm’ and other games that require some brain work and some self-control. People will be coming in and out of the room which is necessary for her continued socialisation.

Finally, there is the big question of whether both dogs would be more likely to get on if they were spayed. People have strong feelings and reasons of their own regarding neutering their dogs which I respect and must make their own decisions. I have suggested they have a chat with their vet.

Once the dogs do have one full-blown fight there is no coming back from it – particularly in my experience if it is females fighting. It can’t be undone.

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 Rosie and Missy. Finding instructions on the internet or TV that are not tailored to your own dog can do more harm than good particularly if aggression of any kind is involved, as the case needs to be assessed correctly which it’s hard for someone to do with insufficient experience and living too closely to their own situation. One size does not fit all. If you live in my own area I would be very pleased to help with strategies specific to your own dog (see my Get My Help page)

 

Changed From Pulling on Lead to Walking Nicely

pulling on lead to walking nicelyI don’t remember, out of all the Labradoodles I have been to, going to a black one. Audrey is gorgeous (the lady joked on the phone that the name was so that her husband would have to call ‘Audrey’ on walks!).

Funnily enough, not coming when called until she feels like it is one of the problems I was called out for and I don’t think a different name would help much! The other day she chased after a deer, and no amount of shouting could get her back.

Over-excitement

The other issue is over-excitement when meeting people, either visitors to the house or when out on walks. Being mugged by an over-excited big dog, however lovely, isn’t so nice when she has just been in the river.

Audrey really is a fantastic dog – a wonderful, gentle family pet for the children, and in all other respects she’s very biddable. However, more could be done with her if she understood that unwanted behaviours get her nothing, and, even more importantly, that desired behaviours get her rewarding reinforcement. If how they currently deal with the mugging of people worked, she wouldn’t still be doing it after three years.

On walks she won’t come back until she’s ready when she sees a person or dog. If she gets the scent of a rabbit or deer she goes deaf. In fact, a dog fired up on a chase just won’t hear our call. We have left it too late. We must keep our eye on the ball. We have a plan, but it will take time to condition Audrey.

Pulling on lead

Pulling on lead, the other problem – magic! It was so satisfying just how quickly she changed from a dog that pulls on lead despite constant correction and being told ‘Heel’, to a dog walking beautifully beside them on a loose lead with encouragement only. Both dog and humans caught on immediately.

It is all about having a different mind-set.

Audrey had been expected to work for nothing – not even encouragement. They were trying to make her do what they wanted. Now they were making her WANT to do what they want. Using reward and encouragement results in a willing dog enjoying herself.  She has to eat anyway, so why not earn some of it?

On a first visit I usually don’t get much further than walking around the garden, but the lady and Audrey then progressed to the front door and, after a false start, down the steps. No pulling. On a loose lead she walked beside the lady across the road.  Beautiful. The lady, who had been used to the pulling, agreed that it felt wonderful.

It is all about having the right technique, the right equipment – and most of all, the right mental approach.

Encouragement, feedback for doing it right and reward, in place of correction and impatience.

Aggressive Reaction to Being Touched

automatic aggressive reactionThe delightful Marty is now six years old. When he was about two-and-a-half he was diagnosed with Addison’s disease. A couple of months later he displayed aggression for the first time.

Could it be a coincidence, or could it be to do with either a chemical imbalance in his system or the effect of the medication?

Marty has a short fuse

Sometimes Marty has a very short fuse. He also gets stressed and hyped up very easily.

Over the past three years there have been around nine incidents, each a little more serious than the last. Several have involved children. He has a sudden automatic aggressive reaction if touched whilst asleep.

Although his teeth had previously engaged, only three months ago did he actually puncture a friend’s skin. A few days ago he snarled and snapped at the teenage son.

There seems to be nothing separating Marty not liking something and his immediately reacting.

The situation must be managed sensibly by playing safe. As being disturbed causes an automatic aggressive reaction, he should be left in peace when asleep.

However, there is a lot more that can be done, especially in reducing Marty’s stress levels. I found that he couldn’t tolerate any activity for more than a few minutes without beginning to pace and pant.

Petting forced on him
labradoodle doesn't want' to be petted

Marty needs to learn to value human touch. At present it is always freely available – he is never turned down when he demands attention. Added to this, petting is pushed onto him by people he doesn’t want to be touched by (he certainly does look and feel lovely). The family, too, simply touch and pet him too much and for too long.

Because Marty chooses when he is touched and when he gets attention, it’s logical to assume he chooses when he’s NOT touched too. Attention doesn’t have to be in the form of touching.

If our dog behaves in a hostile or aggressive manner it can be so upsetting. In order to show the offended person we are taking it seriously, we go overboard in our own reaction to our dog, punishing the dog. Unfortunately this only confuses him more and makes things worse. This isn’t to say we don’t deal with it – but not like this.

As the automatic aggressive reaction is probably a reflex, any punishment is only going to make things worse.

We expect so much from our dogs don’t we.

This is from The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. ‘All dogs have a threshold at which they will bite. This kind of breaking point also exists for you and me….the point is that absolute pacifism is not the yardstick we use to describe ‘normal’ human behaviour…The Walt Disney ideal would have us believe that absolute pacifism is the norm for dogs with the exception of extreme provocation. Announcing that nice dogs don’t bite and vicious dogs do is like saying nice people never argue or get angry and vicious people do…..Real dogs have a bit threshold’

Wild Labradoodle. Trying to be Good!

Labradoodle taking a short break from jumping upPoppy is a cross between a Labrador and Standard Poodle, eighteen months of age – a big dog. She’s a very clever dog too.

Still having wild Labradoodle bouts.

I went to see her a few weeks ago – The lady is still unable to control her wild Labradoodle. At certain times of day, especially in the evening or when the lady is out in the garden with her, Poppy will jump up and grab her with her teeth, roughly. The lady is covered in bruises.

If she turns away, Poppy attacks her back.  There is no malice in it but she simply has not learnt manners or teeth inhibition. In her wild Labradoodle bouts she seems to do all she can to wind the lady up – and her behaviour is getting her the desired results!

Poppy also does wild Labradoodle behaviour to people who come to the house, resulting in her spending a lot of her time in her crate.

It is a shame that this lack of teeth inhibition wasn’t dealt with appropriately when she was a young puppy in a positive way that meant Poppy would get the message.

Teaching Poppy the desired behaviour

Anyway, today I took along my clicker. Usually I would use this to teach specific skills, but today I was going to work on Poppy’s general behaviour. I would simply click and treat her for being ‘good’.wild Labradoodle

While she was still in her crate I taught her that the click meant food was to follow – just a tiny soft treat.

Then I let her out!

She immediately did her wild Labradoodle act. She jumped at me and grabbed my arms.  I folded them and looked away. As soon as she stopped I clicked and dropped a treat on the floor.

Soon she was not only calming down, but sitting in between bouts of craziness too. ‘Click treat’ all the time she was not mugging me.

Brain exercise

I slowly made it more difficult by walking about, then feeding her by hand but not opening it until she was gentle. Each time she grabbed my hand I removed it and froze – and when she let go and I clicked and treated her. This way she was learning not only what she should NOT do, she was also learning what she SHOULD do.

In an effort to control her own mouth, she picked up a soft toy – ‘click treat’. Whenever she approached me politely, ‘click treat’. Soon I was walking around the garden, the place where she it as her wildest, with a polite and attentive dog. This was all within the space of about twenty minutes.

The brain exercise is just what she needs.

The lady is going to use part of Poppy’s food allowance and get her to earn it in this way. I feel sure we have found the ‘key’ to resolving Poppy’s hyper habits and getting her brain into gear.

Very Excited Around People. Adolescent Labradoodle

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

A very excited adolescent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self-control and de-stressing

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

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

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

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

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

This will take time, but we have a plan!

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

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

Like a Big Teddy Bear…..With Teeth

When I arrived the jumping up and mouthing with teeth was manic – Misty is already a big dog. She was incredibly persistent and it was quite painful!

8-month-old LabradooLabradoodle lying down at lastdle Misty came to them a couple of weeks ago. Not much about her previous life is known, but I would be willing to bet that she was either removed from mother and siblings at too young an age or was an only puppy. Her total lack of bite inhibition points to this. I would guess her first owners couldn’t cope with it because the one thing we do know is that she most of her life in a crate.

Bit by bit and with the help of a lead and harness (it had to be a thin chain lead I carry with me because she would have been chewed through a normal lead immediately) she calmed down. I started working on showing her what behaviour would get my attention as opposed to that which wouldn’t.

I can guess that Misty has spent a puppyhood of being told off and scolded; nobody has shown her what she should be doing. Her default was to approach with mouth open and grab. All the time while she was being polite I fed her tiny bits of food. For now she can earn some of her daily food quota for good behaviour.

Misty is so gorgeous I have to show you three pictures. She eventually settled down with the Stagbar I carry – the sequence of picture shows her gradually relaxing!Now she stretches out

In her eight months she has had very little time spent on her. The neglect is evident in her knotted coat as well as behaviour. She has now landed well on her feet with very understanding pLabradoodle fully relaxedeople who accept her as she is, have rearranged their house and garden accordingly and who are prepared to go the extra mile for her. Her new owners may be skipping ahead too fast, especially with the walking; the missing groundwork needs to be filled in first.

She is highly excitable when she sees people and especially other dogs. She’s clearly had little socialisation. Even her own image in a mirror causes her alarm. She literally helps herself to their food while they eat at the table. She so obviously has come from an impoverished environment.

Greatly in her favour is she has not an ounce of aggression. She is an affectionate teddy bear. I know that she will be very eager to please when she knows what it is people do want of her, not just what they don’t want of her.