A Lovely Dog That is Being Ruined

German Shepherd Shandy has no leadershipShandy is a fourteen month old German Shepherd, a friendly dog who in the circumstances is unbelievably stable. Not only does he lack any sort of boundaries, he  is actively taught to do the very things that should be avoided. It is a tribute to his great personality that he is not aggressive or fearful – or both. In fact, I have very seldom watched while someone behaves in such an inappropriate way with their dog.

That they love Shandy goes without saying. He is adored. At the same time he is not treated with respect, and he is encouraged to show his humans no respect either. They may tell him to do something, but he takes no notice and they give up. He does exactly what he wants.

Shandy jumps up at them, he jumps all over them, he jumps up at visitors, he stands on the sofa pawing the man to share sweets with him; he literally walks all over them. He is encouraged by teasing kind of play to mouth and bite hands and feet.

While his owners are eating he will be staring, drooling and pawing so that they share their food with him.

On walks he is a problem. The only way they can handle him and stop the pulling is by using a Halti. He lunges and barks at cats and shows aggression to dogs he doesn’t know. This is hardly surprising. Outside in the big world he is trapped, attached by his lead to a man who is an unpredictable responsibility not a leader, or to the sensible young daughter who is very frustrated by the whole situation and who contacted me in the first place. She however is slight of build and unconfident when out with Shandy and he will sense this. Needless to say, off lead he only comes back when he is ready.

I can see Shandy’s behaviour taking a turn for the worse as he matures if they can’t somehow quite drastically change their ways which I fear they may not wish to do. He is a powerful dog. He does not need a silly playmate nor a servant. He needs to be taught good manners. He needs responsible ‘parenting’.

Shandy is, quite literally, being spoilt – ruined.

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

Losing Confidence in Your Dog

TwoLabradorsHere the two lovely three-year-old Labradors are sitting so obediently while I take their photo! They are brother and sister, though you would never think so to look at them. It would be hard to find any problem with either dog had it not been for a couple of unfortunate incidents.

Archie, the Chocolate Labrador, is the more laid back of the two. Both are model dogs – most of the time. They have a wonderful life with a caring family and four lovely children. Belle’s personality is more ‘edgy’ and excitable than Archie’s. On two occasions she has attacked a puppy.  When she meets another dog she will bark in a protective way whilst standing in front of her owners. Though the dogs are seldom walked on lead as they live in the countryside, Belle is also very nervous of many things if walked on lead on the street, lunging and barking.

The first troubling incident happened about a year ago. They met a lady with several dogs off lead on a walk. Because it looked as though Belle in particular was getting overwhelmed by a very pushy five-month-old puppy, my lady client, her friend and their dogs tried to turn the other way – but the other dogs followed them, ignoring their owner’s whistle.  The puppy was jumping all over Belle still, and I believe that Belle was provoked and pestered beyond her endurance, and having repeatedly warned and been ignored she turned on the puppy. This resulted in quite an ugly exchange with the other owner and a vet bill, which really unnerved my poor client. Had the other dogs had the sort of reliable recall you need if you are responsibly going to let your dogs off lead and had Belle been less touchy, none of this would have happened.

The second incident was a week ago. Belle went for another puppy on their own land. Apparently she simply saw the puppy from a distance and came running over and attacked it, seemingly for no reason at all. Fortunately there was minimal damage and Belle was grabbed.

The outcome is that the poor lady can no longer trust her lovely dog. She has stopped walking them off her land, although her husband still does so but on lead. She has now attacked puppies twice and who knows what might happen next time.

Most walks consist of going straight out of a gate and into woods, off lead. The dogs tend to do their own thing, checking up on where the owners are from time to time. They freelance.  The dogs’ default position when they are out should be near to their owners (leaders).  At present it is the opposite.  Whenever a dog appears, they should immediately come back when called, and then it’s the owners decision whether or not they go and play.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and one can see how both these incidents could have been prevented, the first by grabbing the lady’s puppy immediately and the second by not assuming she will appreciate dogs she doesn’t know in her territory. I suspect they were both one-off unfortunate incidents, but certainly over all leadership where Belle is concerned is essential so that she doesn’t carry the burden of protection duty.

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

Staffie’s Anxiety Around Children

Staffie Doris can be nervous and scaredDoris is an eight-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Because of her sweet nature, the fact she has been given few rules and boundaries hasn’t really caused them problems until reecently.

Doris can be a nervous and scared dog around certain everyday things, and I have found this is often the case where dogs make most of their own decisions, where they can come in and out of the garden whenever they want through a dog flap, jump up and all over visitors who hype them up whilst the owners are telling them to stop (how confusing this must be), and where the humans fall in line with whatever the dog demands. It’s like it is all too much responsibility and she needs to be gently taken in hand for her own sense of security.

Things have become worrying because her lady owner is due to have a baby in one week’s time. Doris has increasingly been showning fear of little nephews and neices who visit and last week nipped a toddler. Doris was on lead and the humans were very anxious which obviously transferred to Doris. Instead of encouraging her with positive associations when she went near the child, they will have been telling her off. She is frantically excited when people come to the house, so she would already have been in a highly stressed state of mind. When young children visit she has no hiding place where they can’t follow her.

Doris needs – you’ve guessed it – leadership. From a practical point of view she needs a ‘safe haven’ where children are simply forbidden to go. It’s the children that need watching. She has a hidey hole under the stairs which could perhaps be gated, or there could be a gate in the doorless kitchen doorway. It’s a small house with no other downstairs rooms.

It should not be too difficult to turn things around for Doris. Preparation for the baby needs to being immediately. They have made a start with Doris no longer sleeping on their bed. She needs positive associations with the smell of the baby, with the Moses basket and the buggy. There will be plenty of visitors when the baby is born, so Doris will need help to calm down quickly which means the visitors will need to be shown what to do. When children come to the house, Doris needs to be left strictly alone, somewhere safe. Seeing that this happens is the responsibility of good leaders.

With more leadership in all aspects of her life Doris should gain more confidence in her owners to understand her and to look out for her.

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



Shar Pei Friendly but then Bites

Sharp Pei Harry may bit if touched on top of his headHenry is a confused fifteen-month-old Shar Pei.

He has been loved and indulged by everyone in the family, but recently has become increasingly snappy and unpredictable. The problem seems to have come to a head when his family moved house a short while ago, grandad moved in and older daughters moved out. His new house gives him a lot more uncontrolled outside space and freedom.

Always a vocal dog, it is hard to tell the difference between his natural snoring type noises due to his physique and growling. I think he has been given the benefit of the doubt for too long and what has been put down as friendly vocalising is actually growling. He will go over to someone for a fuss, and after a minute’s petting, suddenly bite. He seems to indiscriminately bite family and strangers alike if a hand goes over his head.

They think there has been no warning, but with the usual doggy facial features, mouth and eyes lost in folds of skin, it’s hard to see what he’s thinking. This puts Henry at a big disadvantage. I believe he is now biting because he has learnt that warning is useless – his warnings are always ignored. Imagine how frustrating this must be for him. I’m sure to start with he will have tried facial warnings, but these won’t have been visible. Then he will have growled ‘out of the blue’ so far as his humans are concerned, and they have taken it to be friendly vocalising.  All his warnings saying ‘leave me alone’ or ‘get out of my space’  ignored, it seems reasonable from his point of view for him now to go directly to the next level with no preamble – biting. This then makes the person angry, which scares and confuses Henry – because in his mind what he did was entirely reasonable.

Another possibility is, because of his hidden eyes, he can’t see a hand approaching from above, so this intensifies a dislike of being touched on the top of his head or body.

From when he was a puppy members of his family alternated between fussing him, ‘training’ him with repeated commands, and playing the sort of games that have encouraged him to do the very things they now don’t like – growling through tug games, physical play encouraging use of mouth, teeth and growls and playing chasing feet games.

Although he has been to puppy classes and understands commands, giving a dog commands doesn’t make a leader. In fact, a dog like this will choose to ignore them much of the time unless they are repeated over and over, and then it can end in either the owner giving up and not carrying through, or in defiance and confrontation. A lead dog certainly doesn’t give verbal commands! Confrontation and punishment in response to growling or snapping will only make things escalate.

The question is, what DO you do?

How should they be reacting to growling and biting, and how will they avoid it happening altogether by winning Henry’s respect through changes in their own behaviour? This is what we are now working on. Unless in pain, a dog won’t growl or snap at someone he respects and, just as important, treats him with respect too, which means being respectful of the dog’s own comfort zone. This isn’t about love, it’s about leadership – dog ‘parenting’.

NB. Always with any sudden changes in behaviour the dog should first be checked over by a vet to make sure he’s not ill or in pain.

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

Perfect Home, Walks are the Problem

border terrier spent most of the time asleep in his bedJack is a delightful Border Terrier. Having checked me out and sniffed me thoroughly he brought me a toy, and then was so chilled that he spent much of the time I was there asleep!

The couple have had Jack for about three months now – he used to belong to a friend. Previous to that they used to look after him regularly, and cried when they had to give him back, so they were thrilled when the friends said they could have him.

Jack’s life has changed greatly from being part of a busy family without too much attention, to living with a couple and being the centre of their lives. It’s possible this is backfiring a little as the humans are now perhaps dancing a little too much to his tune! A dog, however well behaved he is at home, who has his owners doing his bidding, will be assuming some of the leader’s duties of decision-making and protection. This becomes a problem when leadership is most needed – away from home, out in the big dangerous exciting wide world. I have seen well-behaved calm house dogs changing when out on walks into dog-reactive pullers on lead countless times.

So, in order for walks to be enjoyable, leadership has to be in place at home. By leadership I don’t mean harsh commands and a rigid disciplinary routine but something a lot more gentle. A subtle shift in who obeys whom, who makes the decisions, who is responsible for safety, who is in charge of the food and who initiates most of the play.

A dog that is very excited before leaving the house, that charges ahead through the door and who pulls down the road to the extent that his tight collar is making him gag, is not a dog confidently walking with a leader. He is tense. His neck must be uncomfortable. When they see another dog the discomfort and tension increase as the owner thinks ‘heck- a dog!’ and passes the message down a tightened lead.

In Jack’s case his recall is excellent, and he is only reactive or aggressive to certain dogs on certain occasions. His ‘unpredictabilty’ will be to do with stress build-up. He is very obsessed with a particular ball that they take and which they use to ‘tire him out’. Like with a key on clockwork, overdoing the chasing games stimulates his prey-drive and can wind up a dog until he is so highly sprung he’s ready to go for almost anything.

I know from extensive experience that dogs who are not over-stimulated, who do natural doggy things like sniffing, marking, short bursts of hunting and running at their own pace exactly as they would if left to their own devices, are in a far better state of mind when it comes to encountering other dogs.

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

A Withdrawn Patterdale/Jack Russell X

The Patterdale Jack Russel mix seems withdrawnThere was something sad about Janie. She seems over the past few months to have lost her joy in life, and she is only sixteen months old. She is not playful any more, and out on walks she pulls ahead and worries about other dogs being too near.

She has a beautiful home and the family love her dearly. One would normally expect terriers like Patterdales and Jack Russells to be bouncy and full of energy and fun, but all the time I was there Janie lay behind the lady on the back of the sofa, quiet and watchful.

At the end I wanted to demonstrate my favourite harness so I lowered myself to the floor. Her owner gently fetched her and put her down in front of me. She lifted her front paw which is a sure sign of uneasiness so I stopped immediately. Her little tail went between her legs. She was scared.

Fearfulness is one of the things that can happen when a dog is adored and spoilt, and given the notion that she is the most important member of the family, with all her wishes obeyed from the moment she arrives as a puppy. The member of any group who is obeyed is going to be the leader. It can give the dog a huge burden of responsibility and this can be very scary. There is no way a little dog can fulfill the functions of a leader which are to protect, provide and lead when out. It’s almost like Janie has shut down.

Being loved and constantly cuddled and touched may be nice – for the humans anyway, but too much can be like homage, and she will see you as a servant rather than a leader. Having leadership is much more important to her mental wellbeing than having adoring slaves.

Bit by bit the family will be showing her that she can trust them to make the important decisions and to protect her, by behaving a bit more like leaders, and by allowing her to be a bit more independent.

It is now one month since my visit and I have just received this email: “Yes all well and going really well with Jazz. We were out on saturday at a big park with friends and lots of other dogs around, and she just ignored them all, she was off lead as her recall is great and if she didnt for some reason come back straight away I put her back on the lead for a while. So far in the last week she has not wanted to attack any other dogs so we feel like we are getting there.We are praising her she does see another dog and just calling her to us so she stays close, and we are not allowing her any balls as this seems to be the trigger of her getting over excited and hyper”. There is still a long way to go, but they are sticking consistently to their plan and already re4aping great results.
I can help you, too, with these problems or any other that you may be having with your dog.

Two Dogs Called Bracken

Japanese Akita now lives the good life


This week I visited two dogs called Bracken. Both were gorgeous and they were completely different. The first was a beautiful Japanese Akita. He did not have a good start in life.  As a puppy his first family lost interest in him and he was shut outside in the garden by himself for hours on end until they got rid of him. He then went to live with a man who was unwell, and ended up shut in the bathroom day and night. He is now in his third home living with a lovely couple who are determined to give him a good life. Unsurprisingly he has separation anxiety (barking and howling when left alone in home) and due to lack of contact with other dogs, he is fearful and aggressive to dogs when on a walk . In addition to this, children worry him. Bracken will now be learning that his humans are there to look after him and not visa versa, that if they go away they will always come back, and that as leaders they make all the important decisions.


The second Bracken I went to help is a ‘Red’ Labrador, and only seven months old – almost the same age to the day as my Cocker Spaniel puppy, Pickle.  Bracken is becoming a teenager and has started to bully his lady owner. He had always been a bit of a nipper and grabber. The fact he left his litter early did not help, because his siblings would have taught him that if he hurt them they would squeal and stop playing. It is difficult to imagine how upsetting it must be to be scared of your own young dog, the puppy you have fed, walked and loved.  Some dogs more than others need positive leadership and direction, and Bracken is one of them. With my own puppy Pickle I started off the right way by not spoiling him and by giving him fair rules and boundaries in terms that he understands right from the beginning.

Three days have gone by and I have just had a phone call from Bracken’s lady owner. He hasn’t jumped on her, barked at her or bullied her since I went! She says he is a thousand times better, and this is because they now know what to do. Bracken is calmer. It must be a relief for him too not to be in control.

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